Mr Gregory sighed deeply, his eyelids drooped. The office was hot and stuffy. The new central heating was always turned up too high. His throat was parched, his head ached a little (but that was almost certainly last night’s whisky). He let the document in his hand slip through his fingers and flutter to the desk. If he wasn’t careful, he’d be asleep any moment.
The office was large, too big really, he didn’t need much space. He was a boss and, of course, bosses don’t do much work. If you ask a boss what he does, he’ll likely say, “I’m responsible for …” a response to make the questioner retort irritably, “Yes, but what do you actually do?”
Mr Gregory was Administration Manager. He was responsible for all the staff in Administration at Mega Fastenings. That was just about everybody who wasn’t in sales or in purchasing; from the most junior to the senior. One of the juniors was troubling him at the moment.
Ian Norman wasn’t strictly-speaking a junior, he was a student attached for a year to the company for work experience. Mr Gregory didn’t much like young people; he didn’t understand them for one thing. Their daft haircuts, the clothes they wore, the music they played. His had been a mundane life; people his age had never been young. He was born in Bethnal Green, which despite its promising name was not a rural paradise. It was a poor area of London near the docks and heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe. He left school aged fourteen and drifted aimlessly from job to job. Kids did in those days, there was plenty of work and nobody had much care for the future.
Mr Gregory had lived in Tylesbury for more than twenty years. It was what was still called a ‘new town.’. It had been built in the 1950s to house people cleared from the slums of London. Tylesbury was full of bright little homes for people to live in and factories and offices for them to work at. It was a socialist vision for the future.
He did his National Service in the Royal Air Force. It was in the Pay Corps so there was not much glamour in that. For the first time in his life, Mr Gregory found he was good at something. Mr Gregory was well-organised and meticulous. When he was demobbed he fetched up at Mega Fastenings on the Herbert Morrison Estate in Tylesbury and he had been there ever since; making his way from general clerk to the exalted rank of Administration Manager.
He would never say it out loud, but he resented the hell out of the university students who did work experience. Take Ian Norman, he was close to twenty-one years old and was already made for life. Mr Gregory had checked the lad’s personnel file: posh fee-paying public school; top university. His father was probably some top dog somewhere. In a proper big company, not some backwater like Mega Fastenings.
He resented Ian even more because he was lazy and arrogant. Of course Ian never said anything out loud, but Mr Gregory could smell the scent of superiority on him. He was better than Mega Fastenings, he was here because it was a requirement for his BSc in Management Science (whatever that was, Mr Gregory certainly didn’t know). He’d go through the motions, get his degree and probably daddy would set him up somewhere. Bah!
Well, Mr Gregory’s head nodded over his desk. He would see about that. He had a way to deal with lazy juniors. A tried and tested method. All very informal, of course; nothing written down. It would do Mr Ian Norman a power of good. Take him down a peg. Put him in his place.
The air in the office was muggy, he really ought to open a window. Mr Gregory’s throat was dry. How he could kill for a glass of whisky. A half empty bottle of Bells was in his bottom drawer.
He leaned into the intercom on his desk, pushed down the middle button and sent a message to his secretary. “Get Ian Norman, the work experience boy, to come to my office at five-thirty.” His face cracked. Both his nose and chin were pointed, when he cackled he looked like a witch. “There’s no need for you to be here, Miss Prentice,” he cleared his throat. Outside Miss Prentice glowered. “Indeed not,” she said to herself, “I go home at five.”
He must have dozed off. Before he knew it there was a confident knock on the office door. Mr Gregory started and stared across the room. He found it hard to concentrate. There was a lot of noise from traffic on the estate as people hurried to escape from work. His temples were throbbing a little.
Tap, tap, the knock came again. “Come in!” Mr Gregory’s voice was crisp and clear; it oozed authority. The door was opened confidently. A youth walked in, closing the door. His eyes searched around the room, at first ignoring Mr Gregory. He was looking for a chair, but there was none. He frowned and stood in front of Mr Gregory’s desk, feet slightly apart, hands clasped behind his back. Mr Gregory drank in the sight. Ian Norman was a little under six feet tall and a little on the stocky side. His hair was short, a crew cut growing out. He wore a white shirt, striped tie and pale grey trousers. If he were a couple of years younger, Mr Gregory thought, he could have passed for one of the senior sixth-formers at Tylesbury School.
Ian shuffled his feet; it was uncomfortable standing like this. In front of the desk; suddenly he had a flashback to one afternoon years ago in his housemaster’s study; it was not a pleasant memory.
Mr Gregory leaned forward; he stretched his arms wide and pressed the palms of his hands into the desk. This way his gnarled, lined face eased closer to the boy. Ian flushed, the stink of Mr Gregory’s breath repelled him. Mr Gregory had a speech prepared. He had memorised the student’s many faults. “You often arrive at work late,” he began, “You disappear for hours on end and nobody knows where you are,” he lied. “Your work is of a very poor standard,” he concluded.
Ian Norman stared in disbelief. He had no respect for his ‘boss’. What a loser. An old man stuck at some godforsaken outpost like Mega Fastenings. He resented being at the company. What could these people teach him. He just wanted the year out of the way, to get the credits on his academic record and move on.
“Not good enough, Mr Norman. Not good enough,” Mr Gregory leaned in closer. “It won’t do. Won’t do at all.” Ian blanched, the foul breath and the stare from the old man’s beady eyes unnerved him. “I intend to write to your supervisor at the university to tell him to remove you.” He sucked on his lower lip, savouring the moment. He had the brat just where he wanted him.
“But …” Ian began a protest. The accusations had shocked him. There was a grain of truth in them but he could not argue. Investigation once started might unearth other things more serious than being late for work. His cynical indifference to the company and the little racket he had selling stolen company products might come to light.
“Indeed,” Mr Gregory grimaced. “If you return to the university in disgrace it will have a detrimental effect on your studies. I suppose you won’t be able to graduate?” He spoke as if it were a question, but it was a statement of fact.
Ian Norman stood silently. He was in deep water and he knew it. For the first time since his schooldays he was at someone else’s mercy.
Mr Gregory looked the youth up and down. He was a little podgy, and would soon run to fat. A few sessions in the gym or time on the football pitch would do him some good. “I am a fair man,” he intoned, as if he carried all the worries of the world on his shoulders, “I would not like to see a young man’s life ruined over something like this.” He was enjoying this: justice tempered with mercy. How could Ian refuse his offer. “I have my own way of dealing with wayward junior staff …”
He stood from his chair, and ambled across the room, delighting to see Ian’s eyes follow him. “Do you know what that is?” he halted at a wooden cupboard alongside a bookcase filled with lever arch files. He paused, actually expecting a response and when none came he wheezed, “Pah!” he leaned forward, opened the cupboard door and reached in. Ian Norman’s eyebrows arched. He thought he recognised the faint rattling sound.
Seconds later his suspicion was confirmed. Mr Gregory held a thin, whippy school cane. It was just like the one his housemaster used on him. Mr Gregory flexed it thoughtfully between his hands. It was about thirty inches long and as thick as a pencil; it had the traditional curved handle at one end. Mr Gregory swished it through the air.
“I think you know what happens now,” he growled. Usually at this point a junior clerk or whatnot might try a plea for mercy. “It’s the cane or the sack, it’s up to you. Choose now!” Mr Gregory would retort. Ian Norman stared at him sullenly. This was absurd. A twenty-year-old man forced to submit his backside for a caning from his boss. Whoever would imagine such a thing?
Mr Gregory felt the power of his position. “If you would stand on the rug there,” he pointed his cane to a spot in front of his desk. “And bend over and touch your toes please. All the way. Toes, not knees.” It excited him that Ian Norman stood silently. He flexed his cane and studied the young man’s face. He could read his mind. The game was up, the student had no choice. If he wanted his degree and the life he and his family had mapped out for him, he must go through with it.
Ian’s face paled, he turned his back on his tormentor, paused, psyching himself up, knowing matters had to take their course. He took a deep breath and bent forward. Despite his bulk he reached his toes with ease, his fingertips brushed against his shoes, his knees were straight, legs slightly apart. Mr Gregory watched with deep satisfaction. The boy’s bottom was round and beefy. The material of his trousers stretched across his buttocks so tightly Mr Gregory could see the outline of his underpants. He positioned himself to Ian’s side and swiped the cane through empty air one more time before tapping its tip against the centre of the boy’s right bum cheek. Tap, tap, tap. He enjoyed seeing Ian close his eyes and grit his teeth. He pulled the cane away, rose it high and brought it down with tremendous force across Ian’s buttocks. The boy flinched as the pain hit him, his face reddened, his mouth opened and a gust of wind escaped through his lips. A thin white line was embossed along the boy’s tight trousers.
Ian had a close-up view of his striped tie dangling in front of his face. He concentrated on a small stain near the tip. Mr Gregory flexed his cane once more. He looked across at Ian, bent submissively, offering up his backside for punishment.
Ian felt the cane tap against his stretched trousers once more. The first slash had burnt a welt across the centre of his bum; trousers and underpants weren’t much protection. Mr Gregory really laid it on. Any moment now. Ian knew it would hurt. A great deal. Swish! The cane swiped through the air and landed with even greater power, an inch lower than the first. Ian hissed, his head nodded back and forth. He couldn’t help it. It was a reflex action. There was nothing he could do about it.
Another landed. Ian’s buttocks were blazing. Mr Gregory was an expert with the cane.
Swipe number four 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. That was low. Too low, he would have a deep purple mark there. The pain seared. He had never had a stroke of the cane hurt him so much.
Mr Gregory paused, allowing Ian to settle down. He took a careful aim, he hadn’t intended to whip the boy across the thighs. That was jolly bad form. He struck the next high, on the top of the curves and was pleased to be rewarded with a clear yelp. Good, the young pup needs it. That’ll knock some of the arrogance out of him.
Ian breathed hard. Welts had risen under his tightly-stretched underpants in neat parallel lines leaving a strip about two inches wide blazing across his buttocks. It felt like Mr Gregory had pressed a red hot poker into his bum.
Mr Gregory adjusted his position, placed the cane at a diagonal across both cheeks, so it went bottom left to top right. Tap, tap, tap. Ian tensed his whole body. His shoulders heaved. Whop! The cane flew at the speed of sound, crashing down into the boy’s bum. It connected with the welts already weeping under the boy’s pants, setting each one of them on fire again. Ian gripped his shins. He wanted to jump up and stamp his feet about, or march up and down like a sentry guard. But he managed to stay down. It was over. His bum felt like he had sat on a barbecue, but he had survived.
Mr Gregory slowly paced his office. Opened the door to his cupboard and returned the cane. He turned and looked across at Ian Norman, still bent double, touching his toes. Submissively.
There was a sudden rapping sound on the door. It opened and a small, fat woman entered pushing a trolley loaded with cleaning materials. “Sorry Mr Gregory,” she chirped cheerfully, pretending not to notice the man slumped, head down on his desk. “I thought you had gone home. Can I do you now sir?”
Picture credit: Sting Pictures
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
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