Mr. Moto’s stick
In 6th grade, we had a new teacher, Mr. Moto. He was in his twenties, tall and athletic. He was often funny, and kids liked him, but he was also as dogmatic as other teachers I had known.
Mr. Moto had a spanking stick. At the end-of-the-day meeting. He’d call the kids one by one who misbehaved or skipped homework or forgot to bring things like a signed paper for vaccination. The punished had to stand in front of the class, facing the chalkboard, pushing their rear toward the audience. Mr. Moto then gave one spank on their bottom with his stick. The stick was about 20 inches long, looked like a leg of a coffee table.
Tsuyoshi was a regular receiver of the punishment. He never took it seriously. Instead, he used the occasion to make a spectacle of himself. It wasn’t only Tsuyoshi who made the bottom spanking a form of comedy. Most of the kids that received the punishment were boys, and all of them made it look funny. Even girls took it lightly and laughed at themselves.
I got the spanking once. The reason was as petty as forgetting a notebook. I walked to the front of the classroom and stood with my back toward the class. Like everyone else, I put my hands at the edge of the desk at the podium. Everyone fell silent, except for a few snickers of discomfort. Even Mr. Moto looked uncomfortable but kept his sneer from the previous execution.
The stick was swung, and I felt a sting just below my buttocks. I pressed my lips and returned to my seat. Mr. Moto moved on to the next kid, and the class relaxed into a usual laugh.
I wished I could have laughed it out as others did. If I could make it a comedy, I wouldn’t have felt this ashamed, and it wouldn’t have hurt more than the sting on my buttocks. Or was comedy how other kids endured physical punishment from teachers and parents?