Stacey clutched the essay in his hand despondently. An “F”. He had an “F”. A big fat fail.
He looked forlornly at the professor seated at his desk in front of him.
Joseph Stacey had nobody to blame but himself. He had written the essay in haste. He hadn’t been near the library, no books or journals had been read. No effort had been taken.
Prof Tollins was no fool. He had seen it all before. He had been watching Stacey all year. He knew an essay that deserved to fail when he read one. And he knew a bone idle lazy student when he saw one. He was looking at one now.
And, he knew how to deal with such a student.
“It’s just not good enough Stacey,” Prof Tollins, sighed as if he carried the burdens of the entire world on his shoulders.
“Why do some students bother to attend university?” he exhaled deeply.
Stacey stared blankly.
Oh, the miserable student had supposed it to be a rhetorical question.
“Eh, don’t know, Sir.” It wasn’t much of an answer, but Joseph Stacey wasn’t the brightest student on campus. It was the best he could do.
Prof Tollins glared. “Your trouble Stacey is that you want all the enjoyment of attending the university, but without doing any work. You’ve been spending too much time in the bar, again, no doubt.”
It was true, he had written the essay after a long session at the students’ guild, but Stacey supposed correctly that it was not wise to tell that to the professor.
“Not good enough, Stacey. Not good enough.” Prof Tollins face was grim at the best of times, but now, at this moment, it was positively grey. Students such as Stacey would drive him to an early grave.
“What would have happened to you at school, if you had submitted such an essay, Stacey?”
“School? What’s school got to do with anything? What was the old duffer talking about?” Stacey thought all these things, but said nothing aloud. Instead, he merely grimaced, as if this was a suitable response.
“Well Stacey! Speak up.”
“Don’t know, Sir.”
“Don’t know!” the professor’s voice rose by an octave. “Yes you do Stacey!”
Prof Tollins leaned back in his chair and pursed his lips. “At the school I attended a boy who handed in such an essay would find himself with a very sore backside indeed.”
Stacey blanched. “What the hell was he talking about? School? Sore backsides?”
Prof Tollins pressed his fingers together and scowled. “The cane boy. The cane. Six of the best.”
“What the …” Outwardly, Stacey remained silent; inwardly he was in turmoil. “The cane? This wasn’t school. The cane? I’m twenty years old for chrissake. What was he talking about?”
Prof Tollins stared intently at the lazy student standing in front of him. “A wake-up call; that’s what you need Stacey. A short sharp shock. A good caning.”
Stacey could feel blood rush to his face.
What was he supposed to say to the professor? The old man couldn’t possibly be serious. Could he?
He decided silence was the better part of valour.
“Yes, a jolly good caning,” the professor appeared to be talking to himself as he rose from his chair, manoeuvred around his desk and walked to a tall thin cupboard.
Stacey’s shining eyes followed the professor around the room. He had not noticed the cupboard before, but immediately knew what it contained. His heart skipped a beat. Was this really happening to him?
The professor opened the cupboard door just enough so that he could reach his hand inside. Then he withdrew a long thin yellow cane.
Stacey blinked in bewilderment. If he had any previous doubts, they were dispelled, now. Yes, Prof Tollins really, truly, intended to beat his bottom with a school cane.
“B….” Stacey opened and closed his mouth, but he could get no words to form.
“Stand there,” the professor indicated a spot on the rug that covered bare, polished floorboards.
In a daze, Stacey shuffled his feet and inched into position. He knew he should protest. Was the professor allowed to do this? Was it even legal? Maybe Stacey should run from the professor’s study. Who would blame him if he did?
Prof Tollins swished the cane through the air once, then twice, intending to intimidate the student: it worked.
“Huh,” the professor tucked the cane under his arm. He had noticed something was not quite right. “Those tweed trousers are far too thick. You wouldn’t feel a thing. Take them down, please.”
If there was a right time to flee, it was now. Stacey could feel his chest tighten. It was difficult to breathe.
When he looked back on this incident, and he did so many times over the following years, it was with a sense of nostalgia, never with resentment. Huge butterflies flapped in his stomach. Was it fear, or excitement?
He could not remember how his trousers ended up at his feet, but they did.
The professor had his weapon of choice in his hand. “Face that way,” he used the crook-handled cane to indicate the far wall.
“Bend over, touch your toes.”
So this was it, Stacey thought. What could he do? It was a lousy essay. The professor was in charge. He had never been caned before. He hadn’t even seen a cane before. He realised he wasn’t especially frightened, more intrigued by what was about to happen next. So, he did as he was told.
In one continuous movement, he swirled around to face the wall and bent down. Time seemed to stand still. Later in bed that night running his fingers under his underpants along the ridge marks on his buttocks he would relive every moment.
Of course, Stacey couldn’t see himself as a student in green shirt and white underpants, bent over as Prof Tollins, a fifty-something father of three, swished his cane, touched it against the boy’s left buttock, took aim, drew his arm back to above shoulder height and let fly.
Stacey saw none of that. What he saw and fondly remembered was his own smooth hands extended as they stretched out so the tips of his fingers touched the toes of his scuffed black shoes. Stacey also saw the insides of his cavalry twill trousers. The details on the label (thirty inch waist, thirty inch inside leg) were etched on his memory.
Stacey remembered every detail. Even as he had assumed the required position, he speculated what the pain would be like. “Take it, no matter how much it hurts, just clench your teeth,” he told himself. Contradictory thoughts raced through his mind. He did / he didn’t want to be there, stretched over, trousers at his ankles, underpants tight against his skin, submissively offering up his bum to the professor.
Prof Tollins took a step back to prepare his own position, admiring the pert round buttocks above sturdy thighs presented to him for chastisement.
As the professor tapped the cane across the taut underpants, measuring his aim, Stacey closed his eyes and clenched his buttocks tight in anticipation of the aching first cut.
“Relax boy. It will be better for you if you relax your bottom.” They were kind words, shared by an expert with a novice.
Stacey relaxed, heard a swish and felt the cane smack into his buttocks. It hurt, but he wasn’t in agony. He concentrated on his fingertips, making sure they stuck to the toecaps of his shoes, trying to take his mind off his present predicament.
The professor took his time. He waited twenty seconds, he knew because he was timing it by the study clock, before letting fly with the second stroke; it hit just below the first. Stacey screwed up his face; that one hurt, a lot, but it was OK, he thought, he could take this.
Another twenty seconds and number three went slapping into the tight cotton covering his posterior. The student sucked on his tongue to stop himself crying out. The pain was growing across both his cheeks and they were rather sore. He kept staring at his fingertips.
Prof Tollins followed the second-hand and as it reached the twelve, he brought down stroke number four. Deliberately, it fell lower than the others on the fleshy part of the bum, igniting fresh pain that seemed to be travelling away from the buttocks and down the legs.
“I’m taking this rather well,” Stacey thought inwardly. If he had said the words out loud, Prof Tollins would have said he was inclined to agree.
The second-hand reached the four and stoke number five hit the spot where the buttocks and the thighs met; it was also where Stacey’s underpants ended and a red line was clearly visible on the bare flesh. Instinctively, the boy shot up and frantically rubbed away at the sting on his leg; the pain of the stroke had brought tears to his eyes.
“Stay down boy, stand up again and you’ll get extra strokes.”
Stacey’s fingertips connected with his toecaps once more, he was angry with himself for having shown pain, but furious with the professor for swishing one on his bare thigh; it wasn’t playing fair.
Possibly, Prof Tollins was inclined to agree and he placed the sixth and last stroke with no real force against the most padded part of the boy’s bottom.
Stacey’s first caning was over. He stayed bent over waiting for permission from Prof Tollins to rise. His master returned his cane to its resting place in the cupboard and took a final opportunity to admire the view of Stacey’s perfectly presented bottom.
Eventually he intoned, “Stand up Stacey.”
The student did so; his bottom was sore, but not too painful, he realised. Whatever had just taken place had not been a thrashing and it probably wasn’t even “six-of-the-best,” but it had been a caning.
“I sincerely hope we will not have to repeat this Stacey.”
The student was silent, still trying to come to terms with what had happened that lunchtime.
He woke up, “Oh, sorry Sir. No, Sir.”
“Good. Next time it will be so much worse. Take the essay. Do it again.”
Stacey hobbled from the study.
There was a next time, and a time after that. Joseph Stacey made certain of it.
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second