The Reverend Harris puffed his cheeks and wheezed. His bulky frame wasn’t suited to riding a bike but his parish was too stingy to buy him a car so he had no choice. He was nearly there now. The streets were empty as he struggled along the cobblestones.
Andrew Buckley sat uneasily on the edge of his bed. Waiting. His mother was at bingo and his sister at the youth club. Usually when he had the house to himself he would sneak out his postcards hidden away in a box at the back of the wardrobe and pleasure himself. But not this evening. Not with his visitor arriving at any minute.
Rev. Harris turned his bicycle into a street of run-down terraced houses. Number seventeen, his destination, was at the far end. Sweat soaked his brow as his huffed his way closer. Two women gossiping on a doorstep watched intently as he dismounted his bike. He allowed himself a moment to catch his breath, before leaning down and untying a long thin rattan cane from the crossbar.
He smiled a greeting to the housewives and tucked the curve-handled cane under his arm, rather like a sergeant-major might with a swagger stick. It was one of the Reverend’s heavier canes, taken from a collection he kept at the church youth club. It was a little over three feet in length and as thick as a pencil. It felt as light as a feather as he carried it to the front door, but he knew from years of experience it could pack a punch. In the right hands – and Rev. Harris possessed such – it could leave a young man scarred.
Andrew paced his bedroom unaware of the Rev’s imminent appearance. The eighteen-year-old glanced at himself in the mirror. He looked devilishly anxious. His usually bright blue eyes were hooded. His open, cheerful face was glum.
He had thought about running away and hiding. If the vicar found he was not at home he would have to return to the youth club. But it would do no good, Andrew knew. Rev. Harris would only return later and he would probably get it twice as hard.
He moved to the window, attracted by a scuffling noise from the street. His heart faded. Rev. Harris stood on the doorstep, cane under his arm, ready to knock on the door. Damn. Andrew saw his two neighbours staring intently. Soon the whole street would know. He hated to think what his pals would say.
Rat-a-tat-tat. It was an insistent knock. Rev. Harris did not like to be kept waiting. Andrew ran his tongue across his dry lips and padded down the stairs.
Rev. Harris brushed past Andrew and made for the parlour. “Follow me,” he called over his shoulder when he realised Andrew was rooted to the doormat. “You know why I am here.”
Indeed he did. His mother had asked the vicar to “do something” about Andrew. He was surly, curt, churlish. He had long ago stopped obeying his mother’s instructions. The vicar heard her pleas, dismayed. Rev. Harris had heard it all before. The war had left many of his parishioners widows and the poor women were driven to distraction by their teenaged sons. Rev. Harris was at hand to do his duty.
Andrew followed the portly man as instructed. He stood uneasily watching as Rev. Harris dropped the curve-handled cane onto the settee and laboriously unbuttoned his jacket and tugged it off his back. Then he let that drop beside the cane.
How Andrew hated this place. Soon he would leave school. If he could pass his exams he would escape this hovel of a house and the dingy small town. He could go to university, or if not, he would get a clerking job somewhere. In Manchester perhaps. Whatever became of him, it would be miles away from here; he promised himself.
Rev. Harris waddled across the room and picked up a heavy wooden chair, which he plonked down so that it rested against a wall with its straight back facing him. Andrew’s eyes followed him as he returned to the settee and retrieved the cane. No words were spoken. There was no need for them. Both Rev. Harris and Andrew knew how this must play out.
Rev. Harris flexed the cane between his hands. He always did this. It was part of the ritual of punishment. As was swishing the rod through the air. Andrew blanched. He couldn’t help it. At any moment that wicked cane would be slicing his backside to pieces. He stared at the worn carpet beneath his feet shamefully.
The vicar pointed at the chair. “Take down your trousers,” he intoned. “This time I shall not cane you on your bare butt-tocks,” he let the word swirl around his mouth, “But if ever I have to repeat this punishment, be assured it will be across your bare flesh.” He let the word “flesh” hang in the air.
Andrew had expected this. From the moment his mother had told him the vicar would call, he knew his bum would be toasted. But he couldn’t quite get his hands to move.
“Hurry along boy,” the vicar feigned impatience. He knew young men did not relish being caned. They would do anything to delay just discipline. But there was no way out. The power of the Church was immense in this town. The vicar was truly God’s representative on Earth. If he said, “Take down your trousers and pants and bend over,” that’s what you did.
At last Andrew’s fingers fumbled with his belt buckle. The button fly of his grey school trousers were open and they slithered down his thighs to his knees.
“Bend over.” It was softly spoken; hardly a command. There was no need for histrionics. Andrew sucked his bottom lip and moved forward. Not daring to look at the vicar, he leaned forward and gripped the wooden seat of the chair. He parted his feet and stuck his bum out, ready to receive the kiss of the cane. He closed his eyes and shuddered.
Rev. Harris was in no hurry. He had his own little ritual when caning. First, gently he tucked Andrew’s white school shirt up the teenager’s back. It was now clear of his target. Next, he gripped the waistband of the white Y-fronts and pulled so that the cotton fitted the contours of Andrews cheeks snugly.
He was almost ready. Now, he stood a little to the teenager’s left and slowly tap-tap-tapped the cane across the fleshiest part of the buttocks. He was getting his aim. Satisfied, Rev. Harris pulled the whippy rod back and with all the force he could muster he brought it crashing down so that it sank into Andrew’s tight flesh. He was rewarded by a long, low hiss from his victim. Andrew’s bum wriggled from side to side and then up and down as the pain seared through his body. He gripped the wooden seat as if his life depended upon it.
Rev. Harris rewarded himself a smirk. Then, slowly he paced across the room. It wasn’t a large room. It took three paces to get from one side to the other. Then, he turned on his heels and retraced his steps. Then he made another circuit. He liked to allow time for the agony of a stroke to register before delivering the next swipe.
He took up position and took aim once more. This time a little lower than before. Swish! Crack! It landed, perhaps a quarter-inch lower than the first. It felt like a hot iron had been pressed into the flesh. Andrew now had a red-raw strip running across both buttocks. He did the wriggling again and this time added some foot stomping. Rev. Harris went on his tour of the room.
Andrew settled himself, shut his teeth firmly and increased his grip on the chair. The third stroke cut into the underpart of the cheeks, just where they meet the thigh. Part of the cane stuck bare flesh. The two women in the street outside must have heard his anguished howl. He leapt bolt upright, danced from one foot to the other and rubbed the palms of his hands furiously into the soft cotton underpants. It did nothing to dull the torture.
Rev. Harris growled. “Bend down. If you stand again I will start the punishment from the beginning. Do you understand?”
Sorrowfully, Andrew returned to the chair and with great fortitude resumed the punishment position. Slowly, methodically, three more swipes ripped Andrew’s bum to shreds. Thick dark welts rose across his once pale flesh. Later, in the privacy of his bedroom, he would see blood had seeped and coloured part of his underpants pink. His heart raced and he felt his eardrums bursting. His temples throbbed almost as much as his raw bottom. His eyes were awash and tears trickled down the side of his nose. Drips of snot congregated on his top lip.
“Get dressed.” Rev. Harris dropped the cane on the dining room table and struggled back into his jacket. The back of his shirt was soaked in sweat. His own breathing was laboured. He had put his full energy into the thrashing. He congratulated himself on a job well down.
“Go upstairs, I shall see myself out.”
Andrew did not need telling twice. He shot from the room and took the stairs two at a time in his eagerness to escape the vicar.
Rev. Harris ambled to the kitchen, found a tea cup and filled it from a tap. Soon he would be ready for the exertion of a cycle ride back to the vicarage. As he made his way to his bicycle he saw the two housewives in animated conversation. As he tied the cane to the bike frame, one approached him.
“Rev. Harris,” she whispered hoarsely. “I wonder if I might trouble you. It’s about my Robert.” Rev. Harris straightened and smiled. He knew Robert of old. His cane would be put to more use before he returned to the youth club.
Picture credit: Sting Pictures
Other stories you might like
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second