The Office in the Clock Tower

          “What is this?” A stapled pile of papers landed in my carrel. I recognized the title; it was my paper.

           “Well,” I said, straightening up to look at my advisor. “I believe that’s the research paper you assigned. Is there a problem?”

           Jason looked even taller than usual looming over me. “It’s not your best work, is it? Please tell me you didn’t write it all in one night.”

           “So what if I did?” I asked. “Was it really that terrible?”

           “Of course not,” he said. “It was one of the best in the class. But I also know that you’re capable of a lot more than this.”

           I frowned. It was Jason’s harshest criticism of me, and the one that I fought the most viciously: that I could do better, no matter how good my work. “You’re not being fair,” I told him.

           Then again, Jason was rarely fair when it came to me. I was his only graduate advisee, and he’d only taken me on—he said—because he firmly believed that I was wasting my potential. Even for classes he didn’t teach, he made me turn in a copy of my papers to him, and he was very firm with me when he felt that I hadn’t done my work to the very best of my abilities. In fact, I dreaded what he was going to say next.

           “What are you doing right now?” he asked.

           “Research,” I said.

           “What research?”

           “Personal research,” I snapped.

           “Let me see your laptop.” He came around to look at my screen. Facebook was pulled up. “Right,” he said. “Looks like you have some time to meet with me in my office. I’ll see you there in fifteen minutes.”

           Jason’s office was, thankfully, quite secluded. He was, as far as I could tell, the only professor who would agree to an office in the clock tower. Honestly, I wondered if he had taken the office because he suspected he would someday engage in the kind of mentorship he offered to me.

           It took me a good five minutes just to climb the stairs, so that by the time I knocked on his door, almost exactly fifteen minutes had passed. He called me in through the partially open door, and when I entered, the room smelled of that peculiar scent of books warmed by the sun, the kind of scent you only find on the top floor of a library.

           As I shut the door behind me, I felt my bravado leaving me. One of the things that made Jason’s mentorship so effective on me was his seemingly effortless ability to reduce me to a state of abject vulnerability.

           I moved to stand in front of his desk. Just his piercing green eyes meeting mine made me hang my head, and he hadn’t even said anything yet.

           “Tell me why we’re meeting right now.”

           I could tell that it absolutely wasn’t the moment for a quip, so I forced out the words he was waiting to hear.

           “I wrote a paper in one night, and it wasn’t my best work,” I said, my voice barely more than a whisper.

           “And that is absolutely not acceptable, is it?” he asked, leaning forward over his folded hands. “So what are we going to do about it?”

           I shuffled my feet. I hated this question; it made me sullen and frustrated. I suspected that he knew this, and that was why he asked.

           “Well?” he prompted.

           “I’ll do better next time,” I mumbled.

           “Tell me what the consequence is for sloppy work,” he said, his tone just a little more firm than a moment ago.

           It took a moment, but I said it. “A spanking,” I muttered, crinkling my forehead in consternation.

           “Use a complete sentence, young lady,” Jason said, ever a stickler for the details.

           “The consequence is a spanking,” I retorted.

           “You’re damn right,” said Jason, standing up. His office wasn’t palatial, but it was roomy enough to house, besides his desk and several bookcases, a single straight-backed chair in the corner, which is where he now sat himself. “You’re too smart to turn in work that doesn’t live up to your potential, and you’ve wasted an excellent opportunity to improve your academic skills. I won’t allow it. Get over my knee.”

           Though he had taught some of my undergrad classes, I had only been his graduate student for just under three months now. He had disciplined me in this way probably over half a dozen times, and it still felt childish as I went to him and tipped myself over his lap. The first time he had done it, he had explained that if I insisted on behaving like a lazy and unruly schoolgirl, that he would treat me like one.

           He continued to scold me as he started to spank my backside with his open hand. “How many times have we had this discussion, young lady?” he asked without pausing, briskly smacking each side of my bottom in turn. “This is a habit you must break to be successful in academia, and I will not sit by and watch you be surpassed by others simply because you won’t put in the effort.”

           “I thought you said it was the best in the class!” I cried, indignant.

           “Maybe this time, but it won’t be long before someone else who puts in more work than you do comes in at the top of the class instead of you. Are you prepared for that? Do you think you can skate by with your lazy work forever? Get up and get these down,” he said, giving my jeans a tug.

           I pushed myself up from his knee and wriggled my jeans down to mid-thigh, reluctantly settling myself back down onto his lap. He lifted his knee a little higher to angle up my bottom and promptly began again. It hurt more this time, now that I didn’t have the protection of my jeans, and I found myself with one hand on the floor to steady myself and the other hand clutching Jason’s leg for comfort. In a minute or so, he stopped to slide my panties down to meet my jeans. I groaned.

           “Are you embarrassed, young lady?” he asked. “Are you ashamed to be over my knee, getting your bare bottom spanked?” I didn’t answer, and he leaned over to look at me. “Well?”

           “Yes,” I mumbled. It was, in fact, highly embarrassing, and I wished he hadn’t called attention to it.

           “That’s what you can expect every time you turn in lazy work,” he said. “Am I making myself clear?”

           My answer was a yelp because he had resumed spanking me, harder than before.

           “I won’t have you being lazy and undisciplined on my watch, and your having got away with it up until now is no excuse in my book. You can expect to be turned over my knee every single time that you let your laziness get the better of you. I expect much more from you, and I won’t accept any less than your best.”

           His words, as always, were having the intended effect. I felt lower and lower with every sentence, absolutely ashamed of myself. I was kicking my legs and on the verge of tears when he let loose one last hard round of spanks and stopped. He rested his hand on my back momentarily. “I expect a lot from you, and I’m confident in your talents. I wouldn’t be so dedicated to instilling discipline in you if I weren’t. And I’m warning you now, if I have to spank you again, I’ll take a hairbrush to your backside and really set it on fire. Understood?”

           “Yes,” I choked out, struggling to get myself under control again.

           “Good. Get up.” He got up after me and spun the chair around so that it was facing into the corner. “You can sit yourself in this chair and think about your behavior for the next half hour, and after, you’ll be rewriting your paper to my standards. If I were you, I’d prepare myself for a long evening of sitting on that sore behind.”

           I winced as I lowered my stinging backside into the chair. Staring at the wall, I heard Jason moving quietly around the office behind me. I knew it was a strange mentorship, and one that would be frowned on if anybody knew, but somehow it was exactly what I needed. I had never wanted to work hard for anybody but Jason, and I understood that his unusual methods were for my own benefit.  

           I left his office some time later and headed straight back to my carrel, where I got right to work, writing furiously. I’d slip again, I was sure of it, but tonight I was going to make Jason proud of my work.