Roy Denning was very “old school” and “school” was the appropriate word, because he kept three authentic swishy rattan school canes in a drawer in the kitchen and he wasn’t afraid to use them.
He knew they were authentic because they had the words “Birmingham Education” inscribed on them near the curved handle. A schoolmaster pal of his had taken a bunch of canes from school when he retired. He gave them away to fathers he knew who would put them to proper use.
Roy sat in his kitchen, watching the clock. Soon, very soon, one of those canes would see some action.
Across the city, John, Roy’s nineteen-year-old nephew, trudged through the damp streets on his way to the bus stop. It was not easy to get to Uncle Roy’s by bus. Routes didn’t go across town. You had to get one bus into the city centre and then another out again. The journey would take at least forty minutes, that was plenty of time for him to contemplate his fate.
He wore his thickest and newest jeans, but it would do him no good. He knew his uncle’s reputation. He had been quite close to the man’s sons. The two eldest had long ago fled the nest leaving only twenty-year-old Bert behind, trapped by his lack of education and poverty.
John had left school four years previously and had a steady job as a corporation bin man. But, he had been caught stealing records from a department store. The police gave him a slap on the wrist but he knew he would get much worse from Uncle Roy. He could have afforded to pay for the record, but stealing from shops had become a pastime. He and a few of his mates would see what they could get away with. They dared one another. If they got caught – which wasn’t often – the police didn’t do much. They had bigger fish to fry. John’s friends didn’t feel like they had been punished. But, they didn’t have an Uncle Roy.
His mum was distraught when she found out. The shame he had brought on the family. His poor dead father would be spinning in his grave. She would have thrown him out of the house, but she couldn’t. She needed the money he brought in each week. Her pay as a char woman couldn’t keep a roof over her head and food on the table.
It had stopped raining by the time John arrived at Uncle’s Roy’s terraced house. The cobbles on the street were wet and he had to shuffle along to avoid slipping. John had been there before, but each time he visited the dankness of the place annoyed him. The houses were old and decaying. Soon, like the other slums in the city they would be bulldozed and tower blocks built in their place.
It couldn’t happen too soon for John. Who, he wondered, wanted to live in a house with an outside toilet and no bathroom? His uncle had to wash in a tin bath or else go to the municipal bathhouse.
John knocked cautiously on the door. He knew his uncle was at home. He had been summoned by him. There was no doubt his uncle was waiting for him and no doubt what would happen once he got inside the house.
Uncle Roy was a robust man, larger than life, some would say. He had huge hands and big feet. His head was as round as a football and his ruddy face made him look permanently drunk.
“Come in John,” it wasn’t an unfriendly greeting. “Go into the kitchen.”
Uncle Roy followed his nephew down the passageway. They stood awkwardly in the kitchen. It was surprisingly large for so small a house. As always a stink of cabbage water, distemper and mould hung in the air.
John knew why he was here, in this particular room. It was where Uncle Roy kept his school canes. In a drawer in the rickety wooden table.
Uncle Roy spoke first. There wasn’t much to be said. It had all been said at John’s house. His mum had told Uncle Roy about the stealing. Uncle Roy hit the roof. There was much cursing. Then, when tempers had cooled, the sentence was pronounced. “My house Saturday afternoon. Be there or else.” Uncle Roy didn’t explain the, “or else.” What, John wondered, could be worse than what Uncle Roy had in store for him?
John stared at the linoleum beneath its feet. It had once been coloured blue but decades of shuffling feet had reduced it to a worn grey. His cousin Bert appeared at the kitchen door, keen to see the fun.
“Bugger off, Bert,” Uncle Roy frowned. “Go get me a paper. Take your time.”
Bert did not hide his disappointment. He sat on the stairs, put on his outdoor shoes, and then moodily opened the front door.
Uncle Roy pulled open the ramshackle drawer of the table. It took both hands because it kept sticking. He reached inside and pulled out a cane. There were three but he didn’t have to choose; they were all the same length and thickness.
John’s eyes followed his Uncle’s movements as first he swished it through the air and seemingly satisfied with that, he then tested its flexibility in his hands. It was a standard “senior” cane. Similar ones had peppered the backsides of older schoolboys since time immemorial.
“Let’s get on with this shall we?” It was an instruction disguised as a question. John gulped loudly. He had never been caned before; nor even spanked. It wasn’t that he was a goody-doody, since clearly he was not. It was just that no one had been around to give him a good hiding when he deserved it.
“Jeans and pants down. Bend over the table.”
John had expected this, but still his body would not obey his brain. He stumbled with his belt buckle for so long an exasperated Uncle Roy cried, “Do you want me to do it for you?”
No! It was bad enough stripping half naked but the humiliation of having his uncle take down John’s trousers and pants was too much. He got his fingers to obey and soon his jeans and underpants were resting on top of his blue-and-black bumper boots.
He shielded his cock and balls with his hands. Uncle Roy smiled, but said nothing. He swished the cane and then tapped it on the table top. “Bend over.”
John leaned forward, stretched out his arms, arched his back and gripped the table’s edge.
“Not like that,” his uncle was becoming exasperated. “Lay flat down on your stomach.”
John glanced down at the dirty stained oil cloth that covered the table. It looked disgusting. Nonetheless he eased himself forward and rested his chest on the table. His stomach pressed against the edge of the table.
“Raise your bottom higher. Stretch those arms out. Hold on to the edge of the table,” Uncle Roy ordered. “That’s right,” he added, after his nephew had shuffled himself into the correct position.
Johns forehead and nose pressed into the filthy oil cloth. It felt sticky. The smell of stale cooking fat almost made him gag. He stared down onto unidentified stains.
A cold breeze brushed across his naked haunches. The kitchen window was open. What neither he nor Uncle Roy saw was Bert standing on the dustbin in the small backyard. From his unstable vantage point he had a perfect view of his nineteen-year-old cousin stretched out across the table, his jeans and pants at his feet, his naked buttocks twitching slightly as they waited for the onslaught from the cane to begin.
It wasn’t long in starting. “Brace yourself,” Uncle Roy ordered. It wasn’t much of a warning. John had no time to clench his buttocks tight before the sound of the cane whooshing through the air was followed by a loud crack as it sank into meaty flesh. John’s howl could be heard in the house next door; due to the combination of paper thin walls and one lusty screech from the injured teenager.
He marched his feet up and down, trying to stem the tide of pain that started at his now-scarred bottom and travelled up and down his legs. He gripped the table’s edge tightly, waiting for slash number two. Uncle Roy was very satisfied with the deep red line that had immediately appeared across the centre of both of his nephew’s buttocks. It had been a year or so since he had last put a cane across Bert’s backside, but he could see he had lost none of his touch.
Swish! Number two bounced off the under-curves of the cheeks and was greeted by renewed marching. John stuck his hand across his mouth to stifle the yell he wanted to make.
Outside, in the yard, Mr Drury, the next door neighbour was intrigued. “What are you doing standing on that bin, Bert?”
Bert opened his mouth to reply just as the sound of a cane’s swish and a teenager’s yell poured out of the kitchen window.
“Oh, I see,” Mr Drury laughed, “Your dad’s giving someone what for.”
“Yes, my cousin,” Bert replied.
“Here move over, let me have a look.”
He climbed up next to Bert in time to see the cane lash down for the fourth time into John’s buttocks. He was not close enough to notice that four deep lines now criss-crossed John’s naked bum. Most of his bottom glowed dark pink. Soon four purple welts would form.
John sucked on his own forearm to stop him crying out again as slice number five hit him high; on the top of his globes almost near his spine. The teenager’s breathing was heavy. The pain was beyond his endurance. His head and temples throbbed every bit as much as his savaged backside.
Outside, Mr Drury atop of the dustbin leaned forward for a better view. He saw the sixth and final cut bite deep into the very centre of John’s buttocks. It hit at an angle and crossed two previous cuts, reigniting the already considerable pain.
At that point John yelled blue murder and Mr Drury and Bert tumbled from the bin, with a resounding crash. The lid flew off and rolled down the yard.
“What the …” Uncle Roy cried out.
“I’m out of here,” Mr Drury turned on his heels and was in the safety of his own yard before Uncle Roy reached the kitchen window. All he saw was Bert stooping to pick up and replace the scattered rubbish in the bin.
Uncle Roy summed up the situation immediately. “Bert get in here, now!”
The twenty-year-old entered the kitchen in time to see his younger cousin still prostrate across the table. Tears were flowing freely down his face. He seemed to have great difficulty breathing and was gasping for air. His backside was raw. Bert knew from personal experience that John had endured one hell of a thrashing.
“Get up John, it’s over. Let that be an end to the matter, but if you get caught stealing again I’ll give you twice as many strokes and twice as hard.”
Gingerly, John rose from the table. His backside felt like it was on fire. He lightly touched the raw flesh with his fingertips and was shocked how hot his bottom was. Conscious that he was half naked in front of both his uncle and his cousin, he bent down and painfully pulled up, first his underpants and then his jeans.
“You!” Uncle Roy turned to his crestfallen son. He swished the cane menacingly. “What have I told you before about peeping through windows?” He didn’t wait for an answer. He pushed Bert down across the table.
John didn’t wait to see the spectacle. He was through the front door before the first swipe connected with the seat of Bert’s trousers. John shuffled along the cobbled street. It had dried and there was no danger of him slipping, but he shuffled nonetheless. Each successive step reignited the pain in his bottom as his underpants and jeans chaffed against the raw flesh.
He had two extremely uncomfortable bus rides home. He was relieved that neither conductor asked him why he was standing when so many seats were unoccupied.
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second