the whipping boy

Nathan’s father barked at him in his southern accent to go get the whipping boy. He ran out the front door and across the farm in the cool autumn air with his head down. His feet were collecting drops of water off of the grass. It rained earlier and the clouds were still grey. When he looked up he saw the small shed where the whipping boy lived, it was pretty small compared to his house, really small. It looked all wet and stunk like dogs. If he hadn’t got in trouble just then he probably would have gone and dug a hole somewhere while the soil was loose and maybe caught some worms.

He pushed open the shed door, without knocking, and almost ran into Moses. He quickly looked away from his black leather-like face and down at his worn out shoe. “My Pa made me to fetch your son,” he said, which was followed by silence. Nathan looked into the corner and saw the whipping boy staring straight at him. He broke eye contact and shallowed his breathing, and quickly stepped outside.

Every time they walk back to the house Nathan never knew if he should walk in front of, or behind the whipping boy. He always ended up walking in front of him. Walking next to him was just plain uncomfortable. He sometimes wished he had a leash or something. Pa says Nathan needs a whipping boy so he feels guilty for doing things wrong. When he does something wrong Pa whips the whipping boy. Makes him sit and watch. Nathan looked back at the whipping boy and looked at his feet. No shoes, just wet feet. Nathan stepped onto the porch and heard the whipping boy stop on the wet lawn.

“Pa...” Nathan called into the house. “Pa...” he said again while he kept an eye on the whipping boy like he was going to run away or something. Nathan didn’t want him to get away. He liked the whipping boy. Finally Pa came out onto the porch.

“You sit on that bench son,” his Pa said twisting the whip in his hand. “Take your shirt off and turn around boy,”  Pa said as Nathan scratched some dirt off his shirt. The first whip made Nathan jump, but he didn’t look up. He didn’t like to watch, but his face was hot. The second whip made the whipping boy scream. Nathan stared hard at the wood porch. Another whip and scream, and he tucked his lip between his teeth. Lightning struck bright enough in the distance to break Nathan’s blank deep stare, and he flicked his eyes up for a second. The whipping boy was on his hands and knees and the blood trickled down his back. Nathan shifted on the bench. Another whip, but this time he saw the whipping boy scream “Pa!” and the rumbling thunder finally followed the lightning. The whipping boy was sobbing “pa...pa...pa...” with as much snot and tears dripping off his face as there was blood dripping off his stomach. Then another whip.

“Pa!”

Nathan looked at the shed expecting to see Moses running to save his son. He squinted his eyes and saw, past the sheets of rain, Moses standing outside the shed.

“pa...” the whipping boy spluttered in the rain, blood, tears and snot. Nathan looked back at him and saw him collapsed on his side on the ground with his hands clasped behind his head on his neck. Nathan looked at his pa and heard the crack of the whip again and looked back at the whipping boy  who was now silent. Nathan noticed his hands weren’t clasped any more. He was just there bleeding, soaking in the rain and in the mud. His pa turned and looked at Nathan.

“Here,” he said as he threw the whip at him. It sort of landed on his lap. Nathan looked at it in his hands. “You do the whipping boy,” he said pointing at the whipping boy.