Catherine came to the old house on Oak Street in Spring, a month before her thirtieth birthday, just after she received a masters degree in sociology and decided she never wanted to teach again.
Mrs. Sullivan, having once had seven children and a wealthy second husband, was left with a giant empty house with eight large bedrooms when the husband died, and the children grew up and moved away.
The black and white picture on the mantle showed a buxom brunette with a knowing smile. The woman in the rocking chair on the porch had the ghost of that saucy looking girl in her, buried under the wrinkles and silver hair.
Mrs. Sullivan rented out seven of the bedrooms of the ancient townhouse and one of her many sons come by to check on things a few times a week.
That first year Catherine had seen many lodgers come and go. Most of their own free will, though a few were kicked out by police or Mrs. Sullivan’s son. There had only been one tenant who had been there as long as Catherine, and that was Mr. Miller.
During her first week in Mrs. Sullivan’s house, there was a boisterous college boy named Lester who knew all the gossip. Lester pointed at the room across from Catherine’s and explained that it was “Old Gray Bill’s” place.
Mr. Miller was in his mid-sixties, white, gray-haired, usually wearing an old gray threadbare suit, white dress shirt, no tie. He didn’t leave the old house much and had his meals in his room.
“Be careful around that old codger, he’s got some secrets,” Lester said with a mysterious wink.
The college boy was gone before Catherine could find out the secrets, but the sounds that echoed in the hall between them filled her in a bit.
The typing started at around 9am every weekday. A typewriter, not a computer keyboard. Broken rhythms of clitter-clatters half muted through the thin walls, like sounds from another era. Catherine decided quickly that she liked it. It put her at ease, especially when she couldn’t find work and stared at the yellow wallpaper of her tiny room, with its little rose patterns, and listened to Old Gray Bill’s typing and imagined she was in another time.
The other noises were a bit more confusing.
A woman would come on Wednesdays and knock on Old Bill’s door. She looked ordinary, a plain black dress and large somewhat flat face, full lips though, usually in a conservative red. Catherine guessed she was thirty. Her cheeks always seemed a little ruddy.
The particular sound of spanking came soon after. Not hitting, not fucking, but spanking. There was a broken rhythm to it, like the typing. It was eventually joined by the sound of sobbing, low and long, and soon after the woman would leave, cheeks and eyes red.
Catherine wondered if Old Bill paid her. She wondered if the woman in black was his lover or his daughter or some relationship type Catherine had never thought of.
Eventually, Catherine became accustomed to that noise too, like the creaking house and the banging pipes. Sometimes she would listen though and get hypnotized by the sound. Her hands would find her own breasts as she lay in bed and think about his large most likely rough hands on her ass. The rhythmic slapping. His fingers not even inches from her cunt. He would know she was wet. He would ignore her body’s wants and keep to his punishment.
And then one day the spanking stopped. Two Wednesdays passed, and the woman was nowhere to be found.
Catherine walked by Old Gray Bill’s room from time to time, trying to find a clue. One day she got one.
“You. You’re called Catherine aren’t you?” he said, standing in his half-opened doorway.
She nodded. His accent was some muddy New England something. She couldn’t place it, but there was something comforting in it. Something old fashioned.
“Bill Miller,” he said.
She smiled expectantly.
His mouth went small, and his eyes searched for the words.
“I see you carrying around that computer all the time-” he started but couldn’t finish.
“Yes?” she said, looking down at her laptop case.
“So you know about computers and things like that?” he fumbled with the words.
“I guess. I mean, I’m no programmer or anything, but I know my way around a computer,” she said.
He turned to his open door, and Catherine saw his desk with the typewriter she had only heard until then. Next to the small, spotless desk, on his neatly made bed, was a rather dated looking laptop, black and boxy.
“I used to have someone who took my work and typed it out on that computer, because a while ago my editor said he won’t take typed manuscripts anymore,” he grumbled.
She looked him up and down, his old overcoat charcoal worn at the elbows and cuffs. His silver stubble.
“I see,” she said, though she didn’t entirely.
“So I’m looking for a typist. And I can pay,” he said, trailing off.
She considered it.
“Can I ask you to come in for a minute,” he said, backing into his room and leaving the door open for her.
She considered it. The doorway showed a bookcase filled to the brim with softcover books. There was a record player. A treasure trove of curios and mysteries.
Then there were the sounds of spankings, echoing in her memory.
She went in.
“Tea?” he asked, putting a red kettle on a hotplate near the window.
His hands shook a bit as he carried over two chipped china cups.
“Sure,” she responded uneasily.
He sat at his desk and motioned to an old folding chair next to it that was obviously for her. She sat, trying not to stare at all of his things, but having difficulty hiding her curiosity.
“I could show you how to use that computer-” she started, but he held his hands up.
“Listen, I’m an old man with old habits. My way works for me. I can’t write on that damn thing,” he said pointing at the laptop.
“But I write fast on this Smiths Corona. I can hit five or six thousand words a day. You wouldn’t have to type that fast obviously, but whatever you could get done. An hour or two a day is all I ask. You type it up, save it, print out what you’ve done. I’ll correct the printouts, and then you make any corrections. When you have it all done, you email it to my publisher. With my name, so it looks like I sent it. Everybody is happy,” he said, his hand resting on an old but very well kept portable gray typewriter.
“Couldn’t your agent hire someone for you or your publisher-” she started, but he raised his hands again.
“They are a bunch of crooks. I have them thinking I made the switch to computers and emails and all that, so they leave me alone. I have a system that works, but I lost my typist. I need a new one. Do you want to make some money or do you want to talk me out of it?”
She considered it.
“You do know how to type?” he asked, seeming to just realize this detail.
“I went to secretarial school for a year. I’m probably faster than you,” she said with a smile.
“Why aren’t you a secretary then?”
She sighed. It was a long story.
“I dropped out. I went to five colleges and dropped out of most of them. That’s why I tend bar and live here,” she explained.
“Okay, okay, I don’t need to know your life story. You just seemed like you know how to use a computer. I’ll pay you $100 a week. Type as much as you can. We’ll do it for two weeks, and if it works, then it works. If not, nice knowing ya,” he said pushing back his gray hair.
She studied him. He was old but spry. He was handsome. There was something substantial about him. He was probably six feet tall, and he has large hands. She smirked wondering if that implied other things. He seemed confused by her smile.
She got up and walked to the bookshelf. She traced her finger over the spines. There was the same name over and over again.
“Pistols at Dawn, Murder at a Horse Race, The Devil of Jefferson City?”
He nodded again.
“Cheap mysteries, that’s what I write. If I were a top seller, they would hire someone to type my stuff out, but I’m a pulp writer. I have to write a book a month to make a living. It works for me,” he said, shrugging his shoulders as if that explained it all.
“$100 no matter how much or little I type? Maybe per page would make more sense?” she asked.
He shrugged again.
“You tell me how you want it to work. I see you. You’re a good kid. You’re not going to scam old Bill. You type what you can. If you think $100 isn’t enough, we can talk, but I don’t have much more to spend. I live in this place for the same reasons as you.”
“First, I’m a thirty-year-old woman. Don’t call me a kid. Second, fine. $100. Cash up front?”
He eyed her and ran his hand through his hair again. Then he reached back and got his wallet. He dropped five $20 bills on the desk in front of her and then got a letter sized box and put it next to the money.
“The Time Square Drop,” she read.
“It’s a kidnapping-murder mystery,” he explained.
She shrugged and then picked up the money and the manuscript. And just like that, they were in business.
After three weeks, it was evident that Catherine was a much faster typist than Bill’s last assistant, by far. She also enjoyed the stories. She had never been one for mysteries, but the noir characters and their tawdry adventures on the gritty street of New York City were thrilling.
Catherine learned a bit about Bill’s old arraignment. The woman she had seen and heard all those names was named Louise. She was the daughter of a friend of Bill’s. Catherine couldn’t work up the courage to ask about the spanking sounds.
Louise had needed a little extra money as she continued some higher education Bill was unsure of the details of. In that time she had “taken up” with a young man, in Bill’s words. They had become engaged, and she was moving to some, again in Bill’s words, “godforsaken ass backwards town in one of the Carolinas.”
But things fell into place quickly. Catherine’s fast pace made Bill’s job easier, and she needed only three weeks out of the month of heavy typing to keep up with him. He increased her pay a bit to compensate, and it covered her rent. She only worked a few shifts at the bar and spent the rest of the time looking for a new job and figuring out what she wanted to do with her life.
It was strangely difficult, having money and a schedule. It made Catherine all the most aware of the fact that she had a fancy degree she didn’t know what to do with and a gaping hole where her life plan used to be.
She felt rudderless. She felt anxious all the time. She knew she couldn’t go on that way.
Sometimes she would take her laptop and set up in Bill’s room. She would take the pages as he typed them and input them into Word, changing little spelling errors, most of which were typos since Bill had an almost frightening grasp of language.
One such day she noticed him eying her. The wrinkles around his eyes more pronounced. He paused more between his long bouts of rapid typing.
“I hope you know, as good as you are at this, you can be replaced,” he said seriously, taking a sip of his coffee from its stained, chipped mug.
“Gee thanks,” she said as she tried to find her place on the page she was working on.
“I just mean, you are very good, but working for $150 a week isn’t going to help you make any sort of life for yourself.”
She nodded, not looking at him.
“I know,” she whispered.
“I know you know. I like having you helping me. I just don’t want you to keep doing it for me. Hell, you don’t even go on dates. You just type and look at the help wanted section like a career you never thought of is going to pop out of the page. Like, ‘oh, of course! Veterinarian! Why didn’t I think of it before?’”
She laughed, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
“I’m working on it. I’m going to figure it out. It may just take some time. Until then you get lucky. You get the best typist in town all to yourself,” she said and laughed again, though she saw it made him shift uncomfortably.
After a moment of silence, he started typing again, more slowly.
Catherine opened her mouth and then she closed her mouth. There was something on her mind, and she didn’t know if it was alright to say out loud.
Then she just said it.
“I heard you, with her.”
He stopped typing. He shuffled some papers, but he didn’t look up.
“Spanking her,” she said more quietly.
She almost said “hitting her,” but she knew what the correct word was for what was going on and she didn’t want to shame him.
He nodded, frowning a little.
“Was that part of the job?” she asked.
She felt brave and maybe a little she felt powerful. She wasn’t letting the silence go. She wasn’t ashamed. She wanted to know.
“That was part of my private life with a close friend of mine who happened to have typed up my papers the way you do. That’s all. You think you know what you heard? Well good for you, Nancy Drew.”
He was trying to sound angry, but she could tell he was hurt.
“Have you even read Nancy Drew?” she said, trying to lighten the mood.
“I wrote four of em!” he said, getting up suddenly and picking them off the shelf.
“Paid my rent for two years,” he laughed.
“Anyhow, that is all over. With Nancy Drew and with Louise. They are both out of my life, and I don’t want to stir up all those memories.”
She saw that his eyes were glistening. It was strange seeing a man who was so strong and stoic cry. It made her frightened. But beyond his masculinity, he was an artist. He was in touch with some part of himself that made him different than other men his age she had known.
“I’m sorry to stir it up. But maybe I want to know about it. Aren’t we friends now?” She asked, trying to keep her voice steady.
“Not if you keep up the interrogation!” he said, going over and pouring himself more coffee, looking out the window and roughly pushing back his hair.
She closed her laptop. She heard him, very quietly, counting. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5.” All the way to twenty. Then he took a deep breath and sat back down.
“Are you about done?” he said, looking her in the eye.
She looked back. She felt very calm, even though what she was thinking was crazy.
“Maybe I want the same deal she had.”
“Don’t-” he started, but coughed and looked suddenly pained like a wounded animal.
“Don’t make fun of me about this. I know I’m a sick old man. I know it wasn’t right. Just don’t- you should go,” he croaked out, ripping the paper from his typewriter and crumbling it up in his hand.
“Bill, I wasn’t making fun of you. I-I’m sorry,” she said gently.
He wouldn’t look at her again.
She stood up from the little folding chair. She put the laptop in its case and stretched.
He closed his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose.
She looked at the door, then at his bed. He made his bed every morning. She liked that.
She laid on his bed. It was more hard than firm. The blanket was old wool, scratchy and threadbare. It smelled like Bill.
She laid on her belly. She felt, suddenly, very beautiful. She remembered her body, how it looked in the mirror. She liked her curves, even if they were subtle. Her breasts were good hand fulls. Her ass was round and soft.
As she said laid there, she pulled up her dress slowly. She felt the cool air on her thighs, where the long socks she wore in the Autumn stopped and her thighs were exposed.
“I’ll beg you if I have to, Bill,” she said into his pillows.
She could hear him swallow.
It felt powerful, knowing how much he wanted her. She had seen it, and it had amused her. Sometimes when she leaned over his desk. How he averted his eyes but very much didn’t want to.
She liked that he was respectful, but now she wanted something else.
She looked over her shoulder at him. He stood at the foot of the bed. He was deep in thought.
“This isn’t my first time. Don’t think what you do is so unusual. It has been a while though. I remember-” she started, but he stepped forward.
“No-I,” he interrupted but then stopped.
“If it is alright, I would prefer not to hear about that,” he explained, pausing between each word. The writer fumbling for the right phrasing.
She put her elbows on the bed and leaned her chin on her palms.
“I don’t need to talk about it. I just wanted to let you know it wouldn’t be my first time getting spanked,” she explained still looking back at him.
She rocked a little, her butt shimmying side to side.
His eyes were on her thighs, then her ass. She liked his eyes on her. She continued to sway. She wanted to seduce him. She wanted his desire to be unbearable.
He moved forward, one step at a time, until he was next to her, standing beside the bed.
She relaxed, let her head fall onto his pillow, the sound of his labored breath the only thing in the room, his want palpable.
Then the warmth of his palm on the back of her thigh, just under the swell of her ass. She sighed. Her mind was flooded with the thrill of success as well as the electric tingle of pleasure at his touch.
It had been a long time since someone touched her. She vaguely remembered the fumbling fingers of some internet date a few months before, but nothing so weighted, nothing that made her whole body take notice.
She didn’t always want pain, but there in old Bill’s room her skin ached for it. Her head swam with the need for it.
She wanted to be still for him, but she felt her hips rising slightly, her ass pushing up to meet his hands. As she moved his fingers hungry, kneaded her flesh. Both hands, one on each of her ass cheeks. A little groan of pleasure escaping his lips.
“You want the same as her, but this is very different. We-I mean, Louise and I, we-” he tried to find the words.
“It wasn’t like this. She would come with my printouts and then bend over the desk. She would bend over, and I would hit her. Should would count. Ten for every page she brought me,” he said, his hands moving lightly over her.
“It was something we both needed. The catharsis. But there was always shame. The shame made it like a drug,” his voice cracked.
Catherine looked back.
“I’m sorry I can’t give you that,” she whispered.
And she was sorry.
“I’m not ashamed of wanting your hands on me,” she said.
“I know. It’s-I-,” he fumbled for the words.
“That was a different thing. She was-” he swallowed and winced.
“She was my friend’s daughter. It was a very complicated thing,” he coughed.
She looked back at him, just a little, one eye peeking out from the pillow.
“I could, I mean, we could pretend, if you wanted. I like the thought of it being forbidden. I like the thought of doing something bad-” she started.
There was a pause. A long pause. Then she felt his fingers move to the waistband of her panties. He pulled them down to her knees, and she buried her head further into his pillows. It was so close. He was going to do it, right on her naked skin. She wondered if he could smell how wet she was. She wondered so many things, but when the first strike came all of those thoughts where gone.
“I’m an old man, I don’t have time to play pretend. It’s plenty bad, Catherine. Bad enough to get my old pervert heart going. Looks like yours is going too,” he said with a low short chuckle.
He spanked her two more times, his hand heavy and solid. The pain traveled right to her clit. Her body was tight, ass pushing up to meet his hands.
“Anyhow, your unashamed desire is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in decades.”
His words broke her. She pushed her face into the pillow.
When he hit her again, he didn’t count. It wasn’t a punishment, it was a prize. It went on and on until her skin was hot and red and spotted with bruises. It went on until she couldn’t take it anymore and she squirmed away and into his arms.
And he held her and cradled her, their lips close, but never touching. It seemed out of place to kiss, perhaps. It seemed outside of the permissions they had given each other.
She cried, and he comforted her. She felt small and fragile, and he felt large and solid and good.
“But,” she said, looking up at him once they were both calm again.
“You’re a writer. You pretend all the time. I mean, playing ‘my father’s friend’ isn’t going to just disappear out of my head any time soon. Neither is coming in, putting down your printouts and pulling up my skirt to take my spanking. We are adults. This is hot to both of us. We can do whatever we want. We can be whatever we want!” she said, the words pouring out of her.
He looked sour for a moment. Her stomach dropped. Then a smile broke through his mask of grizzled seriousness.
“Well, maybe. Maybe you can tell me how it should all work. Funny that a girl who is so smart can’t get a real job,” he quipped, standing up and dumping her on the bed.
She spread herself out on the bed, stretching and then giggling as she felt her panties still around her knees.
“I have a job!” she whined.
“I’m you’re typist.”
He groaned, and she knew she had him.