The Marks of Caning

updated 08/22/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/22/1994 01:00AM

NO ONE SAW IT COMING—LEAST OF all Michael Fay, who had been out of a Singapore prison for exactly a month. On July 21, it was disclosed earlier this month, Fay, 19, went to a party and was expected at his Ohio home by midnight, a curfew his father, George, 47, had set shortly after his son's return from Singapore following his now-famous caning.

When George woke up at 12:15 a.m., Michael hadn't returned. By the time he and a friend walked through the door 40 minutes later, George was in the kitchen, frantic. "You're grounded," he snapped at his son. Fay exploded. He threw down a pack of cigarettes, shouted, "Let's go!" and then rushed at his father. "I knew I couldn't diffuse it," George, a former college wrestler and brown belt in judo, told PEOPLE last week. "But I thought somehow I could get the upper hand." He quickly managed to pin his son—who is 20 pounds lighter—while his wife, Jan, called police to help mediate. Before the police arrived, Jan and Michael's friend separated the combatants. Then Michael suddenly, angrily, showed his stepmother the caning scars on his buttocks. "Look what happened to me!" he shouted. Police talked to all sides, made no arrests, and Michael spent the night at his friend's, returning the next day contrite.

The incident is evidence of Fay's difficult transition to normal life. He tells of nightmares about being chased by Singapore police, and his father reports that Michael rarely gets to sleep before 4 a.m. During the day he hates to be alone. "I think it's from being in a cell," says Michael. "I'm just not really comfortable when no one is around."

Fay has been seeing a therapist and was told that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which similarly affects rape victims, war veterans and abused children. In recent weeks he has taken his high school equivalency exam and is now hoping to attend broadcasting school. Still, he says of his Singapore trauma, "this will stay with me, probably for the rest of my life."

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