Bob Lender looked down at the seat cushion inches in front of his face. It was patterned in greens and browns. Autumnal colours.
He concentrated carefully. He needed to focus on something. Such as the large, round, greasy, indentation. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of posteriors had contributed to the dent. It was an old chair. It had seen much action.
He gripped the cushion edge tightly. Waiting.
His heavy grey trousers were at a puddle at his feet. His grubby off-white underpants hovered at his shins. His school shirt was bunched at his shoulders, neatly tucked away from the target area.
He couldn’t have felt more self-conscious. Embarrassed. Humiliated, even. His bare buttocks were on full view to the room.
He was not alone. Tony Brown and Keith Green stood facing the bookcase; hands on head. Waiting their turn.
A cool gust of wind brushed his naked haunches. The study window was slightly ajar. The sounds of schoolchildren talking, some laughing, wafted in on the breeze.
He could feel the headmaster’s cane pressing into his flesh. Dr Fortescue was finding his spot. Taking his aim. Preparing himself. It would be any moment now.
The previous day
The prefects shuffled into the room. Dr Fortescue and his new regime had been the talk of the whole school, from the lowliest junior to the most senior School Captain. The headmaster was a “new broom” and they were to be his sweepings.
There were sixteen prefects in the school and each eighteen-year-old boy made it his business to arrive for the meeting with the Beak on time.
They rose respectfully from their seats when Dr Fortescue burst through the door, his gown flapping behind him.
They looked with interest and curiosity at the man who had taken the helm of the school and who had already started to make trouble.
He was an elderly, tall, grim man, but he stood erect. He looked to be as strong as a mule. He had shown as much when he whipped Rodriquez the day before.
He was not a man to be trifled with. He would not budge a single inch out of his way. He was not to be resisted.
His icy gaze was fixed on the prefects. “I am your new headmaster and the school governors have asked that I make changes,” he spoke in a steady monotone. The “ham actor” had been put on hold.
“I find there is a great amount of slacking and idleness in this school. I am going to make great changes in that respect.”
He stared hard at the boys. They were easily intimidated. None was brave enough to return the stare.
But there was an audible groan, from somewhere near the back of the room.
“What was that? Who made that noise?”
There was no reply.
“The boy who uttered that sound is commanded to step out. Show yourself!” he thundered.
Still no one stirred.
“Who was it!” Dr Fortescue could feel a panic rising. Was this a rebellion? Were the prefects about to turn on him?
“I order the boy to stand!”
The order was not obeyed.
Dr Fortescue could not lose this battle. If the sixth-form could not be controlled, his time at the school would be a failure.
“Very well,” he said menacingly, “I order the boy sitting next to that boy to point him out to me.”
The gasp was audible.
No boy could ever split on a fellow. It was impossible.
Dr Fortescue grew crimson with anger.
“This is obviously an organised conspiracy to show disrespect to your new headmaster. For this disrespect I shall punish you all.”
Sixteen teenagers could not disguise their astonishment. But, there was worse to follow.
He paused for dramatic effect. “The whole prefect body will attend at my study this afternoon at four o’clock and I shall cane every boy.”
He swept up his academic gown. “That is all for the present.”
And, he exited the room, leaving behind a room full of bewildered prefects.
Only when left alone could they express their indignation.
“Can he do this?”
“We’re the Sixth-Form.”
“I don’t think we should stand for it,” Keith Green piped up.
“What can you do?” Bob Lender asked.
“Nothing much,” was the general consensus.
“We’ll see about that,” Tony Brown huffed indignantly.
“You’d better not let the Beak hear you,” a boy at the back said.
There was a great deal of angry talk about it, but when it came to the actual point of refusing to go to the headmaster’s study, most of the prefects caved in.
Four o’clock came around too quickly for the prefects.
“Come on,” Dave Axford, who had an eye on the vacant School Captain’s badge, said, “We’d better get on with it. We don’t want to keep the Beak waiting.”
“Yes, come on,” Bertie Price agreed. “But Axy, you’re going in first,” he smiled.
The prefects formed a crocodile and almost marched upon the headmaster’s study. But, this was no belligerent protest; the boys had acquiesced to meekly accept their canings.
Dave and Bertie led the way. The prefects settled themselves. But they were still indignant. A caning; at their age. It was unheard of. Many wished to God their parents, or worse, their brothers, never found out. It was humiliating enough to be beaten without the world and his wife knowing about it.
Axford wrapped his knuckles on the door and dragging Bertie with him, both boys fell into the headmaster’s study.
Dr Fortescue had prepared. He had several thin canes lying across his desk top in readiness; in case one split during the prolonged beating he intended.
His hard cold eyes fixed on Axford.
“I shall give you four strokes each. Hold out your hand.”
Axford hesitated. Only juniors were caned on hand. What was this blasted Beak trying to say? He and his fellows were expecting at least “six-of-the-best” across the backside. They had all talked about it and agreed it would be a “result” if they were allowed to keep their trousers on.
Gingerly, the prefect held out his hand.
Dr Fortescue rose to the occasion. He measured the distance with a keen eye and brought the cane down with a sharp slash.
Axford’s jaw set hard. He held back the cry of pain that rose to his lips. But only just.
The headmaster watched him with an unpleasant eye. Slash. The second landed. Axford’s ruddy face turned quite pale.
The punishment was repeated. Axford bent double like a penknife as tingling pain shot from his palm up and down his arm.
He resisted the temptation to kick the headmaster in the shin as retaliation.
He didn’t. Instead, he quietly left the study.
Price raised his hand for the kiss of the cane. Swipe! The yowl that escaped from between Bertie’s lips was terrific. So were the three that followed.
“Go!” Dr Fortescue barked. “Send in the next boy.”
None of the prefects was keen to take his place. But, that afternoon the headmaster caned thirteen of them.
Dr Fortescue might be new to the school, but he knew how many prefects he had. Three were missing.
The next afternoon
The three eighteen-year-old prefects had intended arguing that sixth-formers could not be caned. It was unheard of. But the headmaster had already proved them wrong on that. Where else could they retreat?
“But we’ve done nothing wrong, Sir,” Keith Green protested. “You can’t punish us.”
The headmaster’s eyes blazed with fury. “You disobeyed the instructions of your headmaster. For that you deserve a caning.”
The three boys shuffled their feet nervously. This was not going as planned.
“Yesterday, I caned thirteen of your colleagues. They attended at my study as instructed. They took their punishment like men.” Dr Fortescue’s face coloured. “You three boys did not. And for that you will receive an exemplary beating.”
“B..” Tony Brown started to protest but the steely glare of Dr Fortescue silenced him immediately.
“I shall cane each of you severely. As both a punishment for your wrongdoing and also to serve as a warning to others. I will not tolerate such behaviour.”
Green blushed deeply. There were tears welling behind his eyes.
The headmaster waved his hand. “You will lower your trousers and underpants and bend over that chair.”
All three prefects voiced their protest. The cane. On the bare.
“Silence!” Fortescue thundered. “I will brook no defiance.”
“Bbbbb…” the mumbling of dissent continued.
“You will obey my instruction. Or you will leave the school this minute.” He glared at each boy in turn, daring them to defy him.
“Then we’ll see what happens to do. Expelled pupils do not easily secure places at university.”
Dr Fortescue turned his back on the miserable prefects and strode the length of his study until he reached a tall thin cabinet in one corner. It was not locked. He pulled at the door and stood to one side, ensuring the three rebellious prefects had a perfect view of its contents.
Brown glanced at Lender and Green in horror. Green could only stare down at his feet. It was an awesome array of punishment canes. Some were thick and others thin. At least three were with curved handles and one had duct tape wrapped around one end to form a grip.
The good doctor delved inside the cabinet. He felt hot stares burn into the back of his neck. The headmaster always enjoyed the drama of such occasions. The canes rattled in the confined space of the cupboard.
He chose one. It was more than three feet in length, straight and as thick as his little finger. He showed it to the three boys he was about to thrash and flexed it between his hands. Despite its thickness, it made a perfect bow. He was delighted to watch Green’s face drain of all colour.
Seemingly believing that the cane would not deliver the appropriate severity of punishment, Dr Fortescue replaced it and after much rustling, he selected another.
This one was dark yellow in colour and was slightly longer than its discarded companion. It had the “traditional” crooked handle of the school cane. Dr Fortescue swished it through the air, testing its suppleness. The prefects could be under no illusion: it was a mightily whippy rod. It would deliver a very painful caning across trousers and underpants. On the naked buttocks it would be excruciating.
Satisfied with the ability of his choice to perform its task, Dr Fortescue closed the cabinet door and turned his full attention to the three prefects standing abjectly before him.
He was ready. There was no more to be said.
“You boys,” he barked at Brown and Green, “Face the bookcase.”
They did so in an instant
“You,” he roared at Lender. The wretched boy jumped. The headmaster wobbled the cane in front of Lender’s face. “You first. Trousers, pants down. Over the chair.”
Bob Lender stood his ground. Rooted like a tree. This could not possibly be happening. Not to him. A sixth-former. A prefect. He was eighteen years old. An adult.
Swish! The cane flew through empty air, creating an almighty swooshing sound as it went. “Please, don’t make me ask you twice,” Dr Fortescue growled menacingly.
Reluctantly, Lender shuffled a few paces forward toward the armchair. Dolefully, he turned to the headmaster, his eyes pleading. Dr Fortescue had a heart of stone. Nothing would deter him from his mission.
“Quickly boy. I haven’t got all day.”
Bob Lender tried to exchange glances with his two companions. Perhaps if they acted in unison they could do something. Could they overpower the tyrant of a headmaster? Neither boy could bear to look at him. In this moment he was on his own.
Bob stared into the middle distance. There was a photograph of the school rugby XV on the wall. He studied the faces of the boys in the front row as with fumbling fingers, he released his belt and unzipped his trousers. They fell to his knees.
Once again he stood rooted. One of the boys in the photograph had his eyes tightly closed. Another flashed an inane grin, from ear-to-ear.
“Underpants down, boy,” the headmaster’s command seemed faint. As if it had drifted in on the wind from hundreds of yards away.
As if on autopilot, Bob hitched his thumbs into the waistband of the pants and pushed them down; slowly. First over his hips, then down his buttocks. At last they slipped of their own accord down his thighs.
Once again, he could not move. The dreamlike quality of the moment troubled him. Was this really he, Bob Lender, standing in the middle of the headmaster’s study with his naked bum and his private parts on display?
Thwack! Dr Fortescue brought the cane crashing down across the back of the armchair. “Stop this nonsense. Bend over. Now,” Fortescue’s fury was not faked. “Or you will get extra strokes.”
Bob Lender took an almighty swallow of air, fell forward and clutched the seat cushion for all he was worth.
“Legs further apart. Bottom higher.”
Bob wriggled his hips.
Fortescue gripped the tail of the boy’s shirt and folded it up his back.
He stood back, cane in hand. He tapped it across the centre of Bob Lender’s naked buttocks.
Dr Fortescue had caned many backsides. Sixth-form buttocks were a speciality with him. As eighteen-year-old bums went, Bob’s was typical. He was no athlete; he never played games. He didn’t run or swim. His buttocks were not made firm and muscular from exercise. Nor were they yet much affected by a diet of beer and pub pies. That would happen sooner rather than later.
Bob’s buttocks tightened somewhat when he was in a bending position. Dr Fortescue pressed his cane into the flesh testing its “give” and noted carefully how far it sank. Then, without warning, he raised the stick to about shoulder height and whacked it at speed into the boy’s bare bum.
Bob’s eyes popped and his mouth gaped open and quickly closed. The pain sank into his haunches, but he made no sound.
Thwip! Number two followed, twenty seconds later. The teenager closed his eyes tightly and shook his head. His face was scarlet. His bum was turning a deep shade of pink.
Number three fell lower. Bob bunched his fingers into fists and punched them into the hard seat cushion. “Sssssss!” air escaped through his lips. The pain was increasing. It started on the crown of his bum and travelled up and down his legs. It hurt like crazy, but so far he made no sound.
His resolve not to let the foul Fortescue know he had been hurt was broken by the fifth cut. The headmaster made no concession to the lack of clothing on the boy’s behind. Each stroke had been a swipe. It was as if the headmaster was beating a carpet.
Bob Lender let out a yelp, so shrill that his two companions swivelled on their heels to see what had happened.
Green’s jaw gaped open. He had a perfect view of his friend’s scarred backside. The once creamy-white cheeks had been slashed by five cuts of the cane. Distinct marks ran in almost perfect parallel from left to right. Two cuts looked particularly deep. Blood was starting to weep.
Bob Lender stamped his feet up and down and wriggled his hips. It made no difference. The agony was overwhelming. He was spent. He couldn’t take any more of this bare-bottomed thrashing.
Keith Green watched in awe as the headmaster changed his stance slightly. The headmaster’s stare troubled Keith. He couldn’t quite make it out. It wasn’t blank and distant. It might have been the look of anger, but the boy was certain the headmaster was beyond that. This whipping was cold and calculated. It wasn’t in the heat of rage.
Then he got it. The look in Dr Fortescue’s eyes. He was enjoying himself.
The headmaster tapped the cane diagonally across Bob Lender’s cheeks and brought it down with considerable force across the five welts already embedded in the boy’s rear.
Lender shrieked as each of the previous cuts was brought back to life. Tears flowed down his cheeks. The tempo of the military marching doubled. Keith banged his head up and down against the seat cushion, but nothing, nothing at all, could ease the agony.
Fortescue took a pace or two back and from that distance he admired his handiwork. Before him he saw a pair of lacerated buttocks. The cuts would be painful for some time to come. The sixth-former would find it unpleasant to sit on a hard surface for the rest of the day. The bleeding would stop within minutes, but the welts and bruises would be with him for many days.
Bob’s sobbing had eased, but tears still drenched his face.
It was, Fortescue concluded silently, a job well done.
Bob didn’t need telling twice. He shot to his feet and within seconds he was once again dressed.
Solemnly, Dr Fortescue swished the cane.
“You,” he pointed at Keith Green. “Take his place.”
Right or wrong, the headmaster of the school had to be obeyed. But there was rebellion in Green’s dogged look. But he realised the futility of such a contest, Dr Fortescue would always win.
Slowly, Keith Green released his trousers, slipped down his pants and bent over the chair.
Swish, swish, swish! Fortescue laid it on. He put plenty of beef into those swishes. They rang around the study. Keith had to clench his teeth hard back a yell. Unlike his pal Bob, he had greater success. Swish, swish, swish!
It was a tremendous “six” and every one of them a swipe.
Keith’s face was as scarlet as his buttocks when Fortescue had finished.
Then it was Brown’s turn to show humility. With a dismal face he bared his backside and offered it up to the headmaster.
The cane rose and fell in a succession of cuts that sounded like pistol-shots. It was as thorough a licking as Fortescue had administered to Brown’s companions. And such a licking as Brown had never experienced before.
He yelled and he howled and he squirmed and he roared, and still the cane swiped and swiped.
Dr Fortescue laid down the cane at last. He was quite tired with his exertions.
With the prefects dismissed, the new headmaster settled down in the armchair that had just held their prostrate bodies. What a start it had been to his new school career. Every prefect had felt the sting of his cane. They knew he meant business.
Next, he would make a start on the rest of the sixth-form. But that could wait until tomorrow.
On his way back to the hotel he stopped off to buy a half-bottle of “Teachers” whisky. The name on the label always made him smile ruefully. Back in his lonely room, its contents induced a fitful and fretful sleep.
The Tyrant Headmaster, episode 4 Smoking on Saturday is here
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