Kingsley Brocas-Burrows stared down glumly at the desk. His buttocks ached on the hard chair. He spent most of his working day at a desk such as this. It was empty at the moment. The sun was rapidly disappearing and soon the office would be so gloomy he would need to switch the lights on. He sat, almost motionless. He didn’t care. Let it go dark.
Kinglsey was not a young man who spent much time in reflection; and certainly not self-reflection. But on this day he might make an exception. Why did he do this? Why was he wasting his life at this job?
He sighed inwardly, shuffled his buttocks some more before standing. The office was empty, everyone had left. The working day was over. People had gone home – to their real lives. He stretched his arms, wriggled his shoulders, snaked his hips. Slowly – simply to kill some time – he ambled to the window. He was on the second floor, there was not much of a view. The High Street below; Robinson’s Department Store opposite. He let out a long weary sigh. How had it come to this?
Executive Assistant at a marketing company. What was marketing anyhow? Damned if he knew. Executive Assistant: general dogsbody more like. Office boy really. His housemaster had warned him this would happen. “Slacking again Brocas-Burrows,” the old coot would intone as Kingsley submitted himself patiently; stretched across an ancient cracked leather armchair in the study. His trousers at the ankles, underwear at the knees. Head low, bottom high, while old Mr Plumptre lashed six stripes across his naked buttocks.
Plum had warned him he would fail his examinations. Kingsley duly did. In spectacular fashion. If there were prizes for failure he would have taken all the silver cups that year. “If you fail your examinations, you cannot go up to the university,” Plum had berated him. “Then where will you be?” Where indeed?
The eccentric “crammer” college his father then arranged for him to attend so Kingsley might resit his exams was useless. He and a further ten bone-idle duffers spent four months cooped up at some backwater called Brocklehurst. The college principal made them dress in school uniform with neat grey short trousers and knee socks. Eighteen-year-old men dressed as preparatory school boys. Kingsley idleness never abated. Mr Burlington, the principal, would often order Kingsley across his knee. The size twelve gym plimsoll he crashed into the seat of the teenager’s short trousers made no impact on his studies.
So now. Kingsley peered through the dirty window pane at people in the street below. Rain was spitting. Umbrellas were raised, shop girls wrapped their coats around themselves and dashed toward bus stops. How he wished he could join them. He glanced at his wrist watch. Almost time for his appointment with Mr Wilson-Smith.
Wilson-Smith was a contemporary of his father. Like Kingsley they were all old boys of St. Tom’s. The old school tie. It was that informal network that had landed him the job. All boys together. Wilson-Smith had “found him a position” at his company. It was the least a chap could do for a fellow from St. Tom’s. Anyhow, Wilson-Smith needed a skivvy, and it might as well be somebody with a bit of breeding. God forbid he should take a lout from a council estate.
The seconds hand on Kingsley’s watch moved too quickly. Any moment now he must face Mr Wilson-Smith. “Damn and blast it!” Kingsley’s inner voice cried. “When will this ever end?” Nineteen years old, getting on for twenty and still going through this.
Across the office a door opened. Miss Winchester, a lady of at least fifty years and two hundred and fifty pounds, waddled through, clutching her handbag tightly to her bosom. “Mr. Wilson-Smith will see you now,” she said to no one in particular as she headed for the stairs and her own real life. Kingsley looked once more at his watch, willing it to allow him one more minute before the appointment. No such luck.
He stretched his arms and back once more, as if limbering up for a track event. His one success at school had been in sports. He still retained his athleticism. He sighed (yet again) and slowly moved toward Mr Wilson-Smith’s office. He paused outside. Momentarily, he had a vision of Mr Plumptre’s worn study door. He shook his head with bewilderment, balled his fingers into a fist and rapped his knuckles against a pine panel.
“Come!” Mr Wilson-Smith even sounded like Plum. Haughty, pompous; in charge. Kingsley fumbled with the door handle, it stuck in his grip. At first it would not turn. He tried once more. Still it would not budge . With his hand shaking he gripped harder, put his shoulder to the door and stumbled into the office.
Mr Wilson-Smith gaped then a frown crossed his florid, flabby face. “Stupid boy,” he muttered, almost to himself. Kingsley straightened himself, conscious of the heat in his own face. Without waiting for instruction, he turned and without difficulty closed the door.
Mr Wilson-Smith was seated behind his desk, his jacket behind him on the chair. His shirtsleeves were rolled to the elbow; the top button was undone, his necktie was loosened. He looked every inch the “marketing” man that he was.
Kingsley stood some distance away. The office had not changed since his last visit. It was furnished in the modern style. Whereas his housemaster’s study had been constructed of dark wood panels and oak furniture, Mr Wilson-Smith’s room consisted of light-coloured walls and pine. His message to the world, “I am the future.”
Kingsley waited. He knew the part he had to play in this little drama. Mr Wilson-Smith was in charge. He would commence when he was good and ready. Wilson-Smith picked a folder from his desk, opened it and leafed through the sheaf of papers inside. He pretended to read the top two and then threw the folder down. In his “real life” he very much enjoyed amateur theatricals.
He breathed a sigh that said, “Why must I take the burdens of all the world on my shoulders?” He glanced down at the folder and then peered across the room at Kingsley. “Well, Brocas-Burrows,” he said. A very pregnant pause followed. Kingsley blanched, his redden face draining. The silence deafened him. Was he supposed to say something? Had his boss asked him a question? He sucked on his bottom lip, playing for time.
If it had been a contest, then Mr Wilson-Smith blinked first. “Your quarterly report,” he growled, again nodding at the folder. You know what it says?” Again, Kingsley was dumbfounded. Was it a rhetorical question? Was he expected to answer? Should he say truthfully, “Actually no sir I haven’t read it myself, but I have a jolly good idea what it contains.”
Would that reply be a bit too bumptious; cocky even? Indeed, the nineteen-year-old had not seen the report but he knew darn well it was not good news. “Poor timekeeping, bad attitude to authority, generally an idle sort,” would be the gist of it.
He closed his ears while Mr Wilson-Smith berated him. Kingsley had been spot on about the report, but he had left out the bit about his uselessness at adding up a column of figures. After some length Kingsley heard the words, “I gave you a position at this company because of your father. You have let him down; you have let me down and most of all you have let yourself down.” The resemblance to one of Plum’s sermons in the housemaster’s study was uncanny. Kingsley found himself murmuring, “Yes sir, sorry sir.”
Mr Wilson-Smith had not finished. “In other circumstances you should be dismissed. I have spoken to your father on the telephone and I must tell you he is not best pleased.” Kingsley confined his response to, “Oh.” There would be a price to pay the next time he returned to the family pile for the weekend.
“He and I are in complete agreement,” Mr Wilson-Smith had not finished. “On the action that I should take.” Kingsley’s eyes sparkled. He bit his lip once more. With no further word, Mr Wilson-Smith hauled himself to his feet and wheezing slightly he trundled across the office. Kingsley stood, hands clasped behind his back. He did not turn to watch as Mr Wilson-Smith disappeared from his sight. He heard his boss open a drawer (it stuck at first just as the door had done). Kingsley heard his wheezing increase in volume and then there was a distinct rattle from within the drawer. The teenager’s heart thumped. He knew that sound; he whirled around in time to see Mr Wilson-Smith straighten himself. His boss stared malevolently across the office; he stood aggressively and took the whippy rattan school cane between his hands and flexed it so that it made a perfect bow.
Kingsley’s eyes widened. It was just like the weapons the masters at St. Tom’s had used. It was a little under three feet long with a notch every four inches or so along its length. It was as thick as a pencil and had the authentic crook handle at one end.
Mr Wilson-Smith swiped the whippy cane through the air. The swoosh! as it flew was terrific. Then, Mr Wilson-Smith let it dangle in his hand before gently tap-tap-tapping it against his right leg. “I was head boy in my time at St. Tom’s,” he said, as if this was a perfect explanation.
It was good enough for Kingsley. Prefects at the school were permitted to beat other pupils. Mr Wilson-Smith’s present intention was obvious.
“I beat many slackers,” Mr Wilson-Smith said, almost wistfully. “There was no more serious crime. Chaps who would not play the game.” He leaned forward, craning his neck like a toad. “I good thrashing …..” he let the sentence tail off. His meaning was clear.
Kingsley sniffed. It was a reflect action; he meant nothing by it; Mr Wilson-Smith thought otherwise. “How dare you!” he bellowed, furious at the teenager’s insolence, “Get yourself across that desk.” He waved the cane towards his own desk as if there was any doubt about his instruction, “NOW!”
“B .. .” Kingsley cut short his protest. His boss’s eyes burned into him. The older man swished the cane aggressively. “Get on with it. I don’t have all night.” He tapped the cane across the edge of the desk.
Kingsley hesitated. He would comply, he would do as he was ordered. His upbringing had taught him enough to know one thing: he had no choice. None at all. But how to do it? At school the housemaster always made a chap go over an armchair. It was the right size. Little ones spread themselves across one of the padded arms; the older boys reached across the back. In either case they made the perfect fit.
But the desk? Even from a step or two’s distance Kingsley could see it was low. Should he lay with his stomach flat across the top and hang on to the far edge for dear life? Was he supposed to simply lean forward and grip the desk’s side? Where exactly did Mr Wilson-Smith want his bum to be?
“Pah!” Mr Wilson-Smith was a man on a short fuse. He swiped the cane hard against the pine desk’s top. “Stand there, feet apart, bend forward. Stick your bottom out.” The instruction was clear. Careful not to make another visible sigh that would annoy his master, Kingsley took two steps forward and in one athletic movement he positioned himself to Mr Wilson-Smith’s satisfaction. He gazed down at the pine desk, his necktie dangled in front of his face. He concentrated hard on its intricate pattern. He had never before really noticed it.
Kingsley heard his boss wheezing as he shuffled himself into position. The old man paused momentarily, admiring the full buttocks submitted before him. They were firm and meaty and stretched the material of Kingsley’s suit trousers. Each cheek was lifted and separated. They made a terrific target.
He stood about three feet to the teenager’s left – a cane’s length – and slowly took aim. Caning a boy’s backside was a bit like riding a bike, he thought. Once one had learned the technique, it was never forgotten. He laid the tip of the cane so that it reached to the furthest cheek, aiming for the crest of Kingsley’s mounds. Satisfied that he had his eye, he brought the cane away in a perfect arc until it was about his shoulder’s height. Then he returned the cane with tremendous force so that it whacked into the meat sending a resounding sound echoing off the walls of the office. A thin white line immediately appeared across the stretched grey trousers.
Kingsley gasped, his head rose slightly and his hips swayed. He held on to the edge of the desk with all his might. A sharp pain scorched across his bum. Already a hard line was forming where the cane bit deep.
Mr Wilson-Smith paused, admiring his own prowess with the cane. The stroke had landed precisely where he intended. He awarded himself ten marks out of ten. He aimed the cane lower next time, into that part where Kingsley’s beautifully round bottom nearly met the back of his thighs. Swipe! Crack! Another perfect shot. Kingsley’s knees buckled, but he stopped his feet from marching up and down on the spot. His heart pounded and blood crashed through his arteries; his temples throbbed.
Mr Wilson-Smith’s own heart was in overdrive. He was not a fit man and his doctor had warned him he needed to take more exercise. Well, what better way than this? He tapped the cane across the top of Kingsley’s buttocks, so that he could deliver a downward swipe just below the boy’s spine. It was a difficult stroke to get right. If his aim was out he might even miss the backside entirely. Swish! Swipe! Crack! Bullseye.
Kingsley just about stifled the yelp his body demanded he make. It would be a natural reaction to the searing agony he was feeling. His bum felt like Mr Wilson-Smith had taken a white-hot poker and pressed it into his flesh. There was a strip of burning fire about four inches wide running from left to right across his bum.
Now, Mr Wilson-Smith set himself another challenge. The next stroke should connect in the space between the line at the top and the one across the mound. If he got it wrong, if he was just a fraction of an inch out in his aim, the heavy, whippy cane might land right on top of one of the three welts already throbbing across Kingsley’s rear end. Mr Wilson-Smith was not a man to duck a challenge; and heck if he got it wrong, it was no skin off his backside.
Crack!. Bingo! Mr Wilson-Smith was on fire! And so too was Kingsley’s lazy arse. The stroke whipped in right on target. Sweat poured through the nineteen-year-old’s hair. It ran from his neck in a rivulet down his spine. His body was fighting back against the pain. Kingsley shut his teeth hard, he had long ago ceased studying the pattern on his necktie; now his eyes were tightly shut.
Mr Wilson-Smith aimed low; there was still the gap between the cuts on the mounds and the thighs to find. “Hold still boy,” he said by way of encouragement, as with a little difficultly for his heart was so loud and his blood pressure so high he feared he might have a different type of stroke before the evening was out, he took his measure.
Of course, it was a perfect hit. When later, Kingsley inspected the damage in the mirror of the bathroom at his rooming house he would see five parallel lines perfectly placed. By that time the agony would have dissolved through a mere pain and then an irritating throbbing. It would then have disappeared altogether, except for when he sat on a hard surface. The cut on the under cheek was perfectly placed and could be reignited for days to come.
In the mirror Kingsley would see five stripes, but that was not all. Mr Wilson-Smith had a special finale. In some schools a “headmaster’s caning” was deemed especially awesome; a boy would be summoned to the beak for only the most serious offence (or perhaps the constant repeating of more minor infractions) and the visit to his study had to be momentous.
Mr Wilson-Smith had himself been on the receiving end of such a beating. Now, for the first time in his (extensive) history as a caner he would administer a headmaster’s caning. He bent his legs slightly so as to get proper aim. He tapped the tip of the cane at the top of Kingsley’s right buttock, then he laid it so that the other end reached the bottom of the left. It was a perfect diagonal. Kingsley froze. Oh no! he realised at once Mr Wilson-Smith’s little game. His entire body tensed, his shoulders braced, his knees locked, the knuckles on his hands turned white so hard was his grip on the desk.
Thwip! It wasn’t an especially savage cut. It didn’t need to be. Mr Wilson-Smith whipped the cane hard so that it thudded across Kingsley’s bum. He leapt to his feet, both hands clutching his savaged buttocks. The cane had bitten into each of the previous five cuts, making all blaze with such a ferocity that it felt that Kingsley had been forced to sit in a bath of boiling hot water.
He yelled fit to wake the dead. For the first time that evening Mr Wilson-Smith realised how fortuitous it was that all the staff had gone home. Kingsley howled as he danced; tears flooding down his face. It made not a jot of difference to that pain. He bent double, huffing and puffing as he did so. He gasped for air, somewhere in the back of his throat vomit was forming; desperately he swallowed the bile back.
Mr Wilson-Smith stepped back, perching his ample buttocks on the desk that had moments earlier been Kingsley’s punishment block. He watched intently as the boy rubbed the seat of his trousers so hard the boss wondered if he might leave a permanent shine on his behind.
At last Kingsley regained a semblance of control. The tears had not completely stopped, his eyes were drenched, his face flooded. He could not bring himself to look at his tormentor. Not so Mr Wilson-Smith; his self-satisfaction was undisguised. Later he would telephone his school pal “Bronco” Brocas-Burrows and share with him his triumph. But, now he must dismiss the distressed teenager.
“Go,” he growled, “That was for your own good,” he mouthed a platitude spoken by generations of schoolmasters. “Don’t make me have to do that again. If you do we’ll see how you like it with your trousers at your ankles.”
Kingsley ran from the room, glad that the door had opened first time. He flew through the outer office and down the stairs, not stopping until he was at street level. The rain was heavy and he was glad that nobody would see his tears as he hurried to his digs back to his real life.
Picture credit: Sting Pictures
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
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