The author relates that he grew up on the south side of Chicago in the 1940s. His mother and father were divorced when he was about four, leaving he and his two brothers to be raised by his fifty-eight year old father. Madelaine was the previously married, childless woman who became his stepmother. She was a stern, merciless disciplinarian who made the author's life a constantly fearful experience. The ominous sound of Madelaine's house slippers on their wooden basement stairs as she descended them to administer her frequent whippings is alluded to in this memoir's title. School memories and misadventures, relationships with friends and siblings, and the physical, emotional and sexual growing experiences of a painfully shy young boy are recounted against the backdrop of an all encompassing atmosphere of uncertainty and dread that Madelaine engendered. The events related were often impacted by the author's alcoholic but hard working father. He was basically good hearted and gentle with his sons, but unfortunately was completely subservient to his wife and her wishes. The memoir concludes with the author graduating from the eight grade of Luella Elementary in 1952, leaving Chicago to live with his birth mother in Columbus, Ohio.