I don’t know how to begin. It happened to me more than 35 years ago and I haven’t thought about it since. So why suddenly have I remembered? I don’t know. It happened at Christmas time, so maybe that’s what’s sparked it.
I don’t know how to write a short story. How do you start? What comes next? How does it finish? I Googled “Writing Short Stories” and it said there’s an eight-point story arc. I’ve no idea what that means so let me just tell it as it comes to me and we’ll see where that takes us.
It was nineteen-eighty-two in Huddersfield. That’s a town in Yorkshire in the north of England. It was a rundown place. All the mills had long since closed and nothing much had replaced them. I worked at a funeral parlour (I think the Americans call them morticians). I was eighteen and had been there since I left school. It was a family business: Shadrack and Son. There weren’t many of us there. How many people do you need to bury the dead? Old Mr Shadrack was the father and Young Mr Shadrack the son.
I never had a job title, but I was the office boy, I suppose. I did paperwork, ran errands and generally looked mournful around the place when potential customers came in.
It happened close to Christmas. Because a new year was about to start Old Shadrack had hundreds of calendars printed up. They had photographs of local places and a sad motto for each month. Most of all though they had the funeral parlour’s name, address and such like on them. My job was to put them in envelopes write the name of local dignities and the rest on the front and take them to the post office. Don’t ask me why Old Shadrack thought the Mayor of Huddersfield or Alderman Higginbottom would want a calendar from a funeral parlour hanging on their wall; mine was not to reason why. Fancy being reminded of death every day of the week. Especially since the Alderman would never see seventy-five again.
So, I was given the money for stamps and sent to the post office. I forget how much a single stamp cost back in those days but whatever it was multiplied by about two hundred came to a tidy sum. More than a week’s wages for me.
Well, I figured, who would ever know? I was a kid and money was always short. There were records to buy and football matches to attend and new clothes to be worn. And, of course, Christmas was coming. Wasn’t I entitled to a Christmas bonus? My work was arse-achingly boring and sitting in that stuffy office day after day with the stench of embalming fluid always in my nostrils …
Sorry, I’ve strayed from the plot a bit. It didn’t take me long to decide what to do. I hid the calendars under my bed and in a manoeuvre that some would say had military precision over the next few days I transferred them twenty or so at a time to the local refuse dump. I kept the money.
To be honest with you I should make it clear that my story isn’t one of those “Northern” stories of abject poverty and destitution. I did not live on bread and scrape, nor did I go to work each day with the arse hanging out of my trousers. My boots (boots! Who am I kidding) were not falling from my feet. There was no weekly trip to the pawn shop to get a few coppers on the bed lining. Am I over doing this do you think?
What I’m trying to say is that I stole the money because I wanted to, not because I had to. I lived with my parents who were both in secure jobs (hurrah for the local council) and was well looked after. The money would be spent in the pubs and the clubs that were being to open around town (yes, even in Huddersfield) for the newly-wealthy young.
I suppose it was a month or so later when it happened, the thing I’m trying to tell you about. Certainly Christmas had come and gone and we had seen in the New Year. Old Shadrack was himself a member of all kinds of local clubs and organisations (Rotary, the Lions) and more churches than you could shake a stick at. Churches are full of old people and old people die and the families of the deceased like to do their funeral business with people they know. At one and the same time Old Shadrack must have been a Catholic, a protestant, an Anglican, a nonconformist and (no surprise here) a Jew (no offense meant).
Sorry, I’ve lost the plot. Old Shadrack was a man who knew the value of a shilling and was keen to make sure his glossy calendars were paying for their keep. I can imagine the conversations he must have had. “Calendar Shadrack? No, I don’t think I received one from you this year. Sent in the post you say.”
By the time he had heard this for the fourth or fifth time, he was on to me. Shall I describe Old Shadrack to you. He was a tall, wiry man of about sixty years, I guess. He was broad at the shoulders and not as wide at the waist as people like my dad. He had very little hair and what there was he brushed across his head from left to right. We used to call it a Bobby Charlton, like the famous footballer, although he had stopped playing ten years before. He was much taller than me (Old Shadrack, not Bobby Charlton). His face was gnarled and lined and he always looked as miserable as sin. I don’t know for sure if he was really like that as a person, but it was how he conducted himself at all times. After all, who wants to see a funeral director grinning from ear to ear?
So, one day he calls me into his office to have it out with me. He says he’s heard the calendars weren’t delivered and do I know anything about it. I says back that I know nothing; I says I posted them etc. etc. Old Shadrack just looks at me really mournfully. Like I was a customer just come into the shop to tell him his whole family has been wiped out in a car crash in the High Street.
“Nay, lad, think ont,” he says. He had a thick Yorkshire accent. I don’t know how to write Yorkshire, so I’ll just put it down in plain English. He says to me, No, lad. Think carefully about it. He speaks like he’s carrying the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. You’re in a hole, don’t dig yourself in any deeper. Then he asks me again whether I know about the calendars and I confess to it.
There are no tears, no hand-wringing. I am not hanging my head in shame. Why did you do it lad? He asks and I tell him, Because I wanted the money. That was it really. Like I said before this was nineteen-eighty-two, not nineteen-thirty-two. I didn’t have to beg for my job. If he sacked me I wouldn’t starve. I’d just go and get another one somewhere; equally as boring no doubt but there you are.
I didn’t intend to look or sound smug, but I reckon that’s how Old Shadrack heard my confession. He flares at me and says something like, This is theft lad. Real theft. A crime. I should call the police. They could put you away. What would your mother say? She’d die of shame.
It was then I think I remembered something that had been in the news a lot at that time. There was a lot of problems with juvenile delinquents (so-called) and the Tory Government had introduced something they called “The Short, Sharp, Shock.” It was where they sent young people away to borstal-like institutions and they had to live on bread and water or some such. I might not have got the details quite right there, but it was like some kind of military boot camp.
They didn’t have corporal punishment. Not like in the olden days. Mind you there was quite a lot of people around, including members of parliament, who were shouting, “Bring back the birch!” There was a lot of football hooliganism around, where rival supporters would beat each other up and vandalise towns and such like. The football club in Leeds, which is just down the road from Huddersfield, had a particularly vicious set of hooligan followers. One of the stars of the team had said that football hooligans should be birched with their trousers down on the pitch at Elland Road in front of all the supporters. Imagine that on Match of the Day on Saturday night telly. Let Gary Lineker, or whoever presented it back then, make a silly pun about that. Come to think of it wasn’t it Jimmy Hill? Now, he looked the type who wouldn’t mind being the one holding the birch.
Sorry, I’ve strayed again haven’t I. So, Old Shadrack says I could be reported to the police and sent away. Even for a first offence. That, he says, as if he is very knowledgeable about such things, is the point of the Short, Sharp Shock. It’s to stop young people re-offending. So by now, as I remember it after 35 years, I am more than a bit concerned. I stole the money, I’ve been found out, I am guilty as hell. If the police are called they have me bang to rights and within no time I will be carted off to borstal (or whatever they called it in the nineteen-eighties).
I am no longer the cocky, confident boy who doesn’t care too much about losing his job. And Old Shadrack rubs it in some more by saying that once I have a criminal record, especially for thieving from my employer, I won’t ever be able to get a decent job again. He lets all that sink in. I am stewing now.
This is when Old Shadrack tells me it does not have to be like this. The police don’t have to be called. I don’t have to get carted off to choky. Anyway, he says, the publicity in the local newspaper would be bad for his business. People will think he’s a fool. He says all this and I am standing there in front of him every inch like a naughty boy called into the headmaster’s office. I felt like it too, even though I was eighteen at the time. He goes on and on at me about how bad and wicked I have been and I just stand there, staring down at my feet (like you do in this kind of situation) and I have no idea where Old Shadrack is going with his monologue.
Then he gets to the point. I will have the money I stole stopped from my wages and I must take a spanking. Spanking? I didn’t understand. Spanking? What did he mean exactly? This was the nineteen-eighties and corporal punishment was unheard of. Schools were giving up the cane and I didn’t know of anyone who had ever been walloped at home.
I didn’t express my ignorance out loud but maybe the dumb expression on my face encouraged Old Shadrack to put some flesh on the bones of his proposition. He says to me the idea is I take down my trousers and bend across his knees and he smacks me on my behind. He said it as “but-tocks” as if it was two words.
Now, don’t forget this was nineteen-eighty-two, not today. Today if an older man tells a younger lad to take down his trousers and bend across his knee we’d all go, “Woooah. He’s a woofter.” And we might even call the cops on him. It’s true corporal punishment wasn’t much in use back then, but I think we all still understood the concept of it. Remember all those MPs calling for the return of the birch. You break a rule, you misbehave, you steal from your employer, you get punished. I was (am) no philosopher, but I got that.
Well, he says this to me calmly and gets up from behind his desk. I say nothing back because I don’t know what to say. I haven’t decided what to do although anyone in my situation with an ounce of sense would be unbuckling his belt and pulling the fly on his trousers. While I’m dithering Old Shadrack is pulling a chair into the middle of the office. It’s just a cheap plastic office chair. I’m not sure why I remember that.
“Well,” he says again, and he sits down. He stares at me while he wriggles his bum to get comfortable. I stand there not knowing what to do. What would you do if it were you? Would you go across the knee of your boss? Let him spank your bum like you were what, nine years old? I don’t suppose I was a very bright lad. If I had been I would have realised straight away that I could never get away with stealing the stamps money. I wouldn’t be in this situation. Okay, so I wasn’t bright, but I wasn’t entirely dumb either. Old Shadrack was offering me a way out. Go over his knee get my but-tocks smacked and live another day. I didn’t have a great debate with myself. I had an instinct for self-preservation.
I was wearing dark grey trousers which were part of a suit, but I had left my jacket on the back of my chair. It was always there. It was an old trick, you could skive off for hours on a mission for yourself but if you left your jacket on your chair people assumed you had just popped out for a moment – to the bogs or somewhere.
Sorry, let me get back to the plot. I was wearing dark grey trousers and a white shirt. I could have passed for one of the sixth-formers at the local grammar school. Except for my hair was quite long and untidy in the style of the time. I knew I was going to go through with it. I was going to take my spanking. Maybe I even gave a heavy sigh at the inevitability of it. Anyhow, I unbuckled my belt and loosened the waist of my trousers. Have you ever done this? Stood in front of a guy sitting on a chair, his legs parted and waiting patiently for you to prepare yourself to be spanked? I surprised myself by how calm I was. I tugged on the zipper and the trousers slithered down my thighs. If I close my eyes now as I write this I can picture the scene perfectly.
The trousers snag at my knees so I reach down and push them so they end up bunched over my shoes. I am wearing fashionable underpants (light blue, if I recall correctly). Old Shadrack looks at me; he seems unconcerned. My own pulse rate is quickening. I have never before stood in my pants in front of another man – not even a doctor.
Old Shadrack wrinkles his nose like there’s maybe a bad smell somewhere and then he says, “Get on with it lad. Bend over my knee.” I hesitate. I don’t know what to do. I mean I don’t know how to do this. I have never been spanked and have never seen anyone else being spanked. I relied on instinct. I stood to Old Shadrack’s right hand side and put my hands on his thigh and then slowly lowered myself over. The rest was pretty straightforward. I reached my arms out in front of me and rested the palms of my hands against the hard wooden floorboards. Everything else took care of itself. My toes touched the ground behind me and my bum (the target area as it were) was angled over his right thigh. It was surprisingly comfortable, but what was to happen next was far from that.
Old Shadrack was in complete control. I felt a bit of a ninny bent over his knee submissively waiting for the spanking to begin. I had no idea how much this would hurt me. A lot, I supposed. Wasn’t that the point of it? A spanking should be painful otherwise why take all that trouble.
It was a first for me but clearly not for Old Shadrack. I felt him take hold of the tail of my white shirt and gently push it up my back; not far but enough to keep it clear of the target area. Old Shadrack patted my bottom and gently rubbed the palm of his right hand across my right buttock and then the left. He was making sure all the creases in my cotton underpants were smoothed out. I couldn’t see (obviously, as I was staring at the floorboards) but my pants must have now fitted like a second skin.
I felt his body move and he gripped me around my middle. This shocked me. Old Shadrack had me pinned down; my head low and bottom high. There was no escape. He tells me that although he is using his hand and it is on my underwear it is still going to sting and he expects me to stay in position. Next thing a sharp smack strikes me across the underside of my right cheek, followed by another on the right. Within seconds Old Shadrack had smacked me across both buttocks; he went round the circuit hitting the undersides, the top of the mounds and across the fleshiest parts. Each slap was not particularly painful but he hit hard and fast and the ache of the spanking quickly built up. I wriggled my body from left to right and my arms flailed. It was like I was trying to swim away off his lap.
Old Shadrack knew his business. He increased the strength of his grip. I wasn’t going anywhere. Not until he was ready. He didn’t say a word. The only sounds in the small office were the slaps of his palm against the tight flesh of my bum and my increasingly heavy breathing. It hurt, but to be honest I was not in much pain. My buttocks must have been warm to the touch. My wriggling and writhing was a reflex action to the assault on my body, a more experienced boy could have taken that spanking without fuss.
Suddenly he stopped. I was staring down, catching my breath. It was over. I expected him to release his hold on me to let me to stand. Instead, I felt his body move once more. He had gripped the elasticated waistband of my pants. I voiced a protest. Old Shadrack said nothing. With three tugs he exposed enough of the bare flesh on my rear end for his purposes. The spanking resumed at what seemed to be double the speed and twice the strength. The skin on Old Shadrack’s palm was hard and gnarled. Without the protection of my cotton briefs the pain I experienced increased many fold. I had never felt such hurt before. He could have been using a hairbrush on me.
So there I was bare arse to the wind feeling very foolish indeed while Old Shadrack hammered his hand across my naked bottom. I had no idea what a strong man he was. The strength in his right hand seemed to grow not diminish. When would it end? It took all my self-control to stop crying out, “Stop! Stop!” My bum feels like it’s been set on fire. I try to reach back with my hand to protect myself, but so total is Old Shadrack’s domination he has me positioned across his knee at an angle so that’s physically impossible. I told you he had done this before. He gives me ten or a dozen really hard swats like he’s punishing me for trying to cover up. If I had any sense I’d just let him get on with spanking me, it would hurt less in the long run. As Old Shadrack beat into my rump I silently vowed never to steal again.
It was about then that there was a slight tap on the door. A voice outside spoke softly. Mr Shadrack, it says, Mrs Boycott is here to see you. The voice is Young Shadrack and Mrs Boycott is a bereaved widow. We have her husband downstairs waiting to be embalmed. Old Shadrack makes a kind of grunting sound and says he’ll be along in a moment. He seems disappointed to be interrupted. I had been over his knee for about five minutes. He releases his grip and I slide off his knees onto the floor. My bottom is very tender. There is no mirror in the office so I have to swivel my body a little to get a view of my bum. The sight astounds me. Not a square inch has been left unattended. Both cheeks and the back of my thighs are a deep pink. I am astonished to see the outline of Old Shadrack’s hand reproduced time and again across my flesh. Hurriedly, I pull up my trousers and pants and tuck in my shirt. My face is burning and must be as red as my bottom. Without a word Old Shadrack leaves the room.
Old Shadrack never spoke to me about the incident. I avoided him as much as humanly possible, which wasn’t easy in a small firm. Soon I forgot about it entirely. After a few months I had repaid the stolen money. I celebrated this by handing in my notice at Shadrack and Son. I moved to Manchester and took a job in the Co-op where I have worked ever since.
I still don’t know what it was that made me think about that spanking after all these years, but I’m glad I shared my tale with you. I wonder how many other people out there also went across Old Shadrack’s knee.
Picture credit: straight lads spanked dot com
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second