Mickey Reilly stared down at the toecaps of his shoes. His fingers stretched to touch the highly-polished uppers. He had been instructed, “Bend over. Touch your toes.” It wasn’t as easy as it sounded. It put a terrible strain on your calf muscles.
Reilly knew how to do it. He had been in this position before. Probably would be again. Spread the feet a little. That was the answer. Keep the head low and the bottom high.
Michael Reilly, aged 18, member of the Upper Sixth. He had never been made a prefect. Definitely wasn’t prefect material. In the headmaster’s study. Again. Waiting patiently for six-of-the-best.
Reilly was the kind of lad who went looking for trouble. When he couldn’t find any, trouble came looking for him. It had found him that morning. Just off the bus, minding his own business. Talking to his pal Joey about last night’s football. A bunch of oiks from Gum Shoe Lane Secondary Modern. Had things to say about the grammar school. It’s fancy green-and-red blazers. The “Nancy” school caps the boys had to wear.
Who threw the first punch? Nobody will ever know. Fists flew, eyes were blacked.
The headmaster jawed and jawed Reilly. “Disgraceful behaviour … Brawling in the street … Letting the school down …”
No use telling the headmaster he had fought the yobs to defend the honour of the school. He wouldn’t understand it at all.
Reilly had a close-up view of the polished boards beneath his feet. The headmaster flexed his cane. Three feet of rattan with a crook handle. Just like in schools up and down the country. He looked across at Reilly. A senior boy. Eighteen years old. Bent submissively, offering up his backside for chastisement. A little bit of tradition being played out in his study. It made him proud to be English.
Reilly felt the cane tap against his stretched trousers. The headmaster was finding his aim. Any moment now. Reilly knew it would hurt. A great deal. That was the point of it. No point in caning a boy’s backside unless it hurt. He understood that. A boy had to learn the error of his ways. A sore backside would make him stop and think a little.
The headmaster took hold of the tail of Reilly’s blazer and pushed it up his back. Away from the target area. Any moment now.
Swish! The cane swiped through the air and landed with great force across the middle of Reilly’s bum. He hissed. Air escaped through his clenched teeth. He couldn’t help it. It was a reflex action. Nothing he could do about it. He would probably grunt and groan a bit as the next five cuts whopped into his beefy bum. That was all right. It was allowed. “Ouch-ing” and “Ooo-ing” was permitted. But a boy mustn’t blub. If it got out that he had cried while getting the cane, he’d never hear the end of it from his schoolmates.
The second landed. Whop! Just below the first slice. Reilly’s buttocks were blazing. The headmaster was an expert with the cane. His beatings were awesome. Talked about by every boy in the school. Nobody wanted to show him his arse.
Reilly concentrated on the floorboards. Whose job was it to keep them do shiny? he wondered, as swipe number three connected with the top of his thigh. “Jeeeez!” He wriggled his hips left and right. Fingers left the toecaps of his shoes. He nearly jumped to his feet. Stopped himself just in time.
That was low. Too low. The headmaster wasn’t playing fair. Reilly would have a deep purple mark there. Wouldn’t clear up for days. More than a week even. He wouldn’t be able to sit down properly for some considerable time.
“Keep still boy. Fingers on toes please.”
The pain was searing. He had never had a stroke of the cane hurt him so much. He could feel perspiration running down his back. His woollen blazer was a bit tight and it made him sweat.
This was becoming one of the nastiest beatings of his life. Could be worse though. He thought of that sixth-former who was caned by his headmaster. Trousers at his ankles, underpants at his knees. Bare arsed. It had been in the newspapers that week. A law court in the North Country was deciding if the headmaster were a pervert.
The headmaster paused. Allowed Reilly to settle. Took careful aim. He hadn’t intended to slash the boy across the back of his thighs. Missed his aim a little. No excuse, really. He should do better. He had been caning boys’ backsides for nigh on thirty years. But maybe, not for much longer. The Government was talking about abolishing corporal punishment in schools. A Conservative Government, Ye Gods! Banning the cane. What was the world coming to? What was England coming to? He blamed the European Community. He always blamed the European Community.
He struck the fourth high. On the top of the curves, well away from the thighs. Was pleased to be rewarded with a clear yelp from Reilly. The headmaster was administering the strokes with some vim. He had beaten carpets with less force.
Reilly breathed hard. In. Out. In. Out. Four clearly defined welts had risen under his tightly-stretched underpants. In neat parallel lines. A strip about two inches wide blazed across his buttocks. Felt like someone had pressed hot metal into his flesh.
Number five went lower. Hit the fleshiest part of the buttocks. Where there was most padding. Sank deep into the meat before springing back. Left one heck of a line. Reilly stifled a yell. Choked a little. Felt like he might vomit. He hacked out a cough.
Last one to come. Reilly braced himself. Been here before. He knew all about the headmaster’s canings and that last stroke. Screwed his eyes up tight. Clenched his teeth. Ready and waiting.
The headmaster adjusted his position, placed the cane at a diagonal across both Reilly’s cheeks. Bottom left to top right. Tap, tap, tap. Reilly tensed his whole body. His shoulders heaved. Whop! The cane flew at the speed of sound. Crashed into the boy’s bum. Connected with the welts oozing under the boy’s pants. Set each one of them on fire again. Reilly gripped his shins. Wanted to jump up and stamp his feet about. March up and down like a sentry guard. Rub his hands into his blazing bum.
He managed to stay down. Was proud of himself. It was over. His arse felt like he had sat on a barbecue. But, he had survived. Another six-of-the-best was over. Waited. Waited for the headmaster’s permission to rise.
The headmaster slowly paced his study. Opened a door to his cupboard. Replaced the cane alongside half a dozen others. Turned, looked across at Reilly, still bent double, touching his toes. Submissively. A master and his pupil.
The headmaster returned to his desk. The sixth-former heard the drawer open and a book being removed. He still stared down at the floor. The headmaster found his page, wrote a few details.
“You may stand Reilly.”
Hot. Sweaty. Sore. The teenager wanted to rub away at his backside. Another reflex action. He knew from experience it did no good. Just had to wait for the pain to go away on its own. Already the agony had turned to a resounding throbbing. Soon, it would be a warm glow. That cut on the back of his thighs would hurt for quite some time though.
“Sign.” The headmaster slid the punishment book across the desk. Reilly hesitated. Went through his pockets. Pretended to be looking for a pen. He knew he didn’t have one.
“Pah!” The headmaster’s patience was thin. He had other things to do. He delved back into the desk drawer, rummaged around. Found a half-chewed ballpoint pen. Rolled it across the desk.
Reilly signed his name.
“You are dismissed Reilly. Send in the next boy.”
Reilly slowly opened the heavy oak door. Outside was Joey, his pal from the fight. “Six,” he mouthed silently before shuffling down the passageway towards the lavatories.
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second