Tommy slammed the car door, waved goodbye to his friends and bounded up the driveway towards his house. It was seven p.m. and he knew he was late. Breathless, he pushed the front door open and entered the hallway.
“Your father is looking for you, Mr Thomas” it was Clara the cook / housekeeper, “Said you’re to see him the moment you get in.”
“Thanks Clara!” he called, intending to ignore her and hurry to his room to change out of his tennis clothes.
Then, his mother appeared from the drawing room. “Do you know what time it is?” Tommy frowned, he wanted to look at his watch in an ostentatious manner and say “It’s just gone seven mama,” but her stern frown warned him not to be flippant. “Where have you been to this hour?”
“Tennis, obviously,” he indicted with a flourish that he was wearing tennis shirt and shorts.
“Don’t be fresh darling,” his mother admonished him. Tommy headed towards the stairs, not wanting a confrontation.
“Your father wants to see you,” she called after him. “In his study.”
“Later,” Tommy called over his shoulder.
“No darling. Now.”
Tommy stopped in his tracks. He recognised that tone of voice.
“He’s been waiting for hours. Better not keep him any longer.”
Tommy sucked on his bottom lip, a habit he did when he was concerned. Something was up. It couldn’t just be that he was late home. What was it? Any number of possibilities went through his mind. Maybe his father had found him a job for the summer. He had threatened to find him a position working in an office with one of his clients. Blast! If that was it. He had hoped to spend the summer playing tennis and at the beach.
His father’s study was on the first floor of their mansion, tucked way at the end of a long, dark passageway. Tommy hesitated. Should he get changed first? No, better to get whatever it was out of the way first. Then he could have a cocktail and get ready for dinner. Tommy rarely visited his father’s study. It was his place of work, where he prepared the complicated cases he presented in the law courts. The passageway was dark and surprisingly cool on such a warm summer’s day. The floorboards beneath his feet creaked as he made his way towards the heavy oak door. He stopped outside, suddenly unsure how he should proceed. Was this similar to visiting the housemaster’s study? Was he to knock politely and wait for the summons “Enter!” Or would it be permissible simply to open the door and barge in?
Tommy was rarely on familiar terms with his father. They were father and son; not dad and son. There was very little bonhomie in their lives together. He knocked politely. “Come in!” his father’s call was as imperious as that from any pompous headmaster. Tommy, surprised that his hand was shaking, turned the handle and pushed against the heavy door.
His father was sat behind a large walnut desk, sheaves of official-looking documents were strewn across it. His father was dressed in his business clothes, striped trousers, black jacket and waistcoat. He had made no concessions to the weather. He raised his head, took off his glasses and held them in his right hand. “Ah, Thomas. Home at last I see.” He looked his son up and down, not attempting to hide his distain at his appearance. “An arduous day was it?” he snarled. Tommy so wished he had changed clothes first.
He pushed the door closed and stood awkwardly. There was a hardback chair and a comfortable armchair in the room, but he wasn’t sure if he was permitted to use them. He waited, shuffling from one foot to the other, for an invitation to sit. None came.
His father shuffled through his papers, tut-tutting silently to himself. Finally, he found the envelope he was looking for. “Have you seen your examination results?” Tommy’s eyes blinked uncontrollably. No, of course he hadn’t seen them. The school would have sent them directly to his father. “Failures, all of them,” he threw a sheet of paper down on the desk, “Well damn nearly all of them. Pah!”
He let his exasperation hang in the air. With shaking hands, Tommy leaned forward and picked up the paper. He scanned it for confirmation. He let it fall with a flutter onto the desk top. His father leaned back in his chair. He was a successful advocate and he knew how to compose a sentence and how to deliver it with devastating effect. He could leave a judge and a jury in no doubt what he thought (and by extension what they should think too).
“I have engaged a private tutor, he will arrive on Monday and he will work with you throughout the summer. You will retake your examinations and you will pass them.”
Tommy could not stop his eyelids fluttering. His palms were sweating and all the saliva seemed to have dried from his mouth. “Thank you father,” he croaked. He knew he had not been summoned to engage in a conversation. His father had delivered his message and that was to be an end to it. So much for the tennis club and the beach. He would have to stay indoors in a stuffy room with an even stuffier private tutor. Damn and blast!
Supposing the meeting was at an end, he turned towards the door.
“Not so fast Thomas!” the fierceness of his father’s tone surprised him. He turned to see genuine anger on the old man’s face. “We have not yet finished.” His father’s pale complexion darkened. He placed the palms of both hands on the desk and leaned forward, his steely grey eyes glaring. “You might remember that I was far more successful at school than you have manged to be,” he spoke sharply. This was no question; it was a statement of fact. “I achieved the rank of house captain. If we had a slacker like you in the house we should have known how to deal with him.” He paused for dramatic effect. It worked, Tommy sucked in a lung-full of air, he was hanging on every word. “A beating. A damn good beating. God knows why that school of yours didn’t give you a damn thrashing is beyond me.”
Tommy knew his jaw had dropped and his mouth was now wide open. He watched astonished as his father pulled himself from his chair and walked the short distance across his study. He stopped at a cupboard, opened its door and delved inside. Seconds later he was brandishing a long, thick school cane. Tommy’s mouth opened and closed, but he could form no words. His father tucked it under his arm, rather like a sergeant-major with a baton, and moved to the centre of the room. “Turn around. Face me.” Tommy swivelled on his heels. His father slipped the cane into his hand and then as schoolmasters have done throughout history he flexed it between both hands. A flicker of smile passed his lips as if he had recalled a fond memory. He swished the cane through the air. Aware that his son’s face appeared to have lost some of its tan, he pointed the tip of the cane at the boy’s chest.
“I should have done this years ago.”
Tommy’s heart told him to protest. “No! I’m eighteen, I’m not a child, I’m far too old to be caned,” he could say. His head told his otherwise. His father was in total control. In control of this moment and in control of Tommy’s entire life. He had failed his examinations, he had no opportunity to go to university and little chance of getting a half-decent job. He needed his father’s money and his influence if he was ever going to get out of this mess.
“Take down those shorts, bend over and touch your toes.”
If Tommy’s face had been pale, it was now scarlet. Shorts down! A caning on the underpants. The humiliation. The cane swished through the air. “I shall not tell you again,” he growled and the proceeded to do just that, “Shorts down, bend over and touch your toes.”
His tennis shorts fitted well and needed no belt. With fumbling fingers he undid the clasp at the waistband and allowed the weight of the cloth to send the shorts tumbling to his feet. Tommy was an athlete and was fit enough to take his father’s instruction literally. Toes meant toes, not shins or knees. He parted his feet and bent forward stretching his fingertips so they rested gently on the toecaps of his shoes. The muscles in his hairless legs and buttocks tensed so that he presented a hard, round bottom for his father’s attention. Stretched in this way his rear end was as hard as a rubber ball.
His father had not beaten a bottom in twenty five years, but he supposed it was rather like riding a bike; once you learned the technique you never forgot. As house captain, he had believed that a beating must be memorable. A caning should be laid on with some vim. He developed a reputation for beating backsides with as much energy as a maid might beat a carpet.
He stood to the left of his son’s bending body. His son had closed his eyes in anticipation of what he was about to receive. The buttocks flinched as his father laid the cane squarely across the centre of both mounds. He took careful aim, then satisfied of his target, he raised the cane high, and brought it crashing down, twisting his body slightly as he did so. His strong golf swing was much admired at the club. The cane landed where he had intended. Tommy’s eyes opened wide and he shut his teeth together to stifle the yelp that threatened to escape his lips. His knees buckled slightly and his fingertips rose an inch or so above his shoes. He steadied himself. A thick line pulsed across his backside. It hurt, but so far he could take it.
His father adjusted his swing and brought the second stroke down hard across the top of the boy’s buttocks. The cotton of the underpants was so thin he saw a clear welt develop before his eyes. The throbbing was intense. Tommy closed his eyes tight and his knees swayed from side to side, but again he managed to control his body. Two down, four to go. He was proud of himself so far.
Number three was an uppercut entering the underside of the cheeks on the tender ‘sit spot’. Tommy would be reminded of that stroke whenever he sat down over the coming day.
Sweat poured from his father; the heat of the day and his exertions were taking their toll. He rested the cane on the desk and proceeded to remove his jacket and waistcoat. As he did so he looked across the room at his son. What a world, he thought. How well it is ordered. They had the law to thank for that. His son was before him, bent over, touching toes, willingly submitting his bottom for a thrashing. He had not been coerced. He was not tied to a bench or held down against his will by burly prison guards. No, he had acknowledged his transgression, accepted he must atone and was now taking his just punishment. He rather admired his son for that.
Now, a little cooler, he returned to his task. Could any other father had delivered two swipes of the cane with such energy and intent? He rather doubted it. Bang! Bang! The strokes sank deep into the boy’s flesh. He wriggled and writhed but stayed in position (just) to the bitter end. Through the underpants his father could see six distinct lines each travelling from left to right embossed in his backside covering a distance of about two inches from top to bottom. “A good set of marks, even if I say so myself,” he congratulated himself silently.
Aloud, he said, “Stand up. Get dressed.” Tommy did not need telling twice, he gripped the waistband of his tennis shorts and bounded to his feet; kneading his raw flesh with one hand while trying to fix the clasp with the other. He stood before his father, face scarlet and eyes moist.
His father resumed his place behind the desk. “You are dismissed. Be ready to receive your tutor on Monday.” He watched his son limp from the room, gave himself a moment for his heartbeat to ease and then returned his attention to his documents.
Picture credit: Spy
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