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"Your wife," said Julie, and I inwardly groaned, having a suspicion about what sort if opinion she might have formed regarding Barbara. There were occasions when Barbara was a mite less than diplomatic with me and I'd had a suspicion that the party had given Julie the chance to see that.
Julie worked in the office across the hall and she and I had made a habit of having lunch together. I enjoyed the conversation and she appeared to like me and sometimes I even sensed she might like to get our spouses together, perhaps for an evening at the movies or something. She'd met Barbara before, but the party had likely been her first opportunity to see Barbara at any length and now I was slightly embarrassed by what I suspected Julie'd sensed. "She's occasionally a touch abrupt with you," she said.
"I know," I added, and lest you think Julie a bit forward, the truth is, given that the party wasn't one of Barbara's better outings, Julie was actually showing some tact.
"Listen," said Julie, "I know I'm sticking my nose where it clearly doesn't belong, but have you ever considered couples counselling?"
"What?" Sometimes I answer too quickly, of course I could figure out what she was talking about even if I wasn't used to the term.
She smiled, seeming to know that no explanation was really necessary. "I'm going to do you a favor." And she dug into her purse and pulled out a paper and pencil. "This is a woman Carl and I go to. I never thought I'd suggest such a thing, but believe me, she's exactly what Barbara needs." I looked at the paper she put in my hands, trying to imagine Barbara going along with such a thing. Trying to imagine me going along with such a thing. "Do it," said Julie, taking my hand in hers. "Things'll turn around, you can count on that."
I was a bit amazed at her apparent concern and perhaps gave it more consideration than I otherwise would. "You aren't going to do it, are you?" she said. I guess my natural tendency to doubt such things showed. "At least think about it," she said, looking not too hopeful.
Barbara and I sat in front of Denise's desk. Yes, I finally did pursue it after a bit of thought, and while Barbara hadn't seemed enthused, she'd accompanied me to two sessions already. "Well," said Denise, "I've had the chance to talk to each of you at a bit of length, which naturally helps me determine what we can do about you two." She paused, taking a breath, then smiled. Her smile certainly encouraged me but even so, as natural as it appeared, I wondered if it were simply one of her techniques. Perhaps I had a natural suspicion of therapists. "What I find," she said, "is that you two do harbor a touch of hostility toward each other that you haven't succeeded in expressing through reasonable means. In Barbara's case, it comes out with a nasty word or two, and in Jim's case, it comes out in an occasional unwillingness to converse. Naturally, both such behaviors are counterproductive since they tend to escalate little scenes into something worse."
She paused again, but neither Barbara nor I responded. Perhaps I relaxed a bit since what Denise said made perfect sense so far. "The question," continued Denise, "is what to do about it." Another pause, though her face told us she was about to provide us with an answer. "It happens I utilize what must certainly be called an unconventional procedure, but I've found it extremely effective. Now I want you to trust me and hear this out."
I glanced at Barbara, seeing immediately that Denise had roused her curiosity as much as mine. I couldn't imagine where Denise was going. "I find that just a touch of physical expression of one's hostility works wonders dissipating it. What we're going to do here is a type of exercise, a communication of sorts." Now I wondered whether she knew what she wanted to say, or whether she were showing some reluctance. "What we're going to do is a spanking."
Barbara made a sound, something like a snort. I stared at Denise, probably open-mouthed. "I told you to hear me out," she said. "It's a very effective little exercise and I guarantee you'll see results that weeks of talk wouldn't bring. Unconventional as it sounds, I've had a lot of success with it."
"I don't think it's for us," I said, turning to Barbara expecting agreement. And I could see she did, but I also seemed to sense that she might be showing a touch of doubt. I looked at her, then back at Denise, and found both of them looking at me.
"At least hear me out," said Denise. And I sat there, not believing what I was doing. "What we do is this," said Denise. "I flip a coin. If it's heads, Barbara spanks Jim, if it's tales, Jim spanks Barbara. An amazing thing about the procedure is that it really doesn't matter who does it, both parties benefit either way. It's the physical aspect that makes it work, it works on your subconscious very effectively.
"Now I'm going to insist that you try it once to see what it's all about. Nothing extreme, in fact, there's very little to it."
I looked at Barbara, "I don't know..." I said. And I saw a brief flash across Barbara's face that suggested to me that she was definitely staying on her best behavior for Denise or I would have been the target of a stinging remark. That reminded me of why we were there in the first place.
"Give it a try," said Denise. We both said nothing, and she smiled briefly and went on. "It's very little, really. I flip the coin. The spankee then lies across the lap of the spanker and receives five swats. All over in a minute. Ready?" She had the coin in her hand.
I looked at Barbara again. She looked at me and this time I clearly saw question in her eyes. I sensed she might actually be willing if I were. But it was so crazy, despite how reasonable sessions with Denise had been so far, this was totally off the wall. She said that just a small amount of physical communication would satisfy us deep inside. Spanking Barbara? Denise flipped the coin, catching it and opening her hand to show it to us. "Heads," she said.
.... There is more of this story ...