I don’t often travel on the bus in the afternoon, but this day I had to leave work early for an urgent dental appointment. How is it that one small tooth can cause a grown man so much pain?
The bus was crowded – the schools had just let out – and I was obliged to take my throbbing jaw up to the top deck. The bus jolted throwing me along the gangway. I kept my balance, if not my dignity, and slumped into an empty seat. I rubbed my cheek hoping that by some miracle the ache would go away.
My head was pounding and my general mood wasn’t helped by the raucous noise echoing across the top deck. I must have been the only ‘civilian’ passenger among a sea of schoolboys. They wore green-and-gold blazers so I knew they must be from some posh school. The local grammar perhaps. Suddenly, from somewhere close behind me I smelt a familiar aroma. Someone was puffing a cigarette and the smoke was billowing across my face. Greatly irritated, I turned, intending to have an argument.
My mouth opened, but my aching jaw dropped. Sitting behind me was a schoolboy and between his fingers he held a lighted cigarette. His hand was held high and it seemed to me that he was waving it round for all to see. He showed little inclination to actually put it between his lips and suck. At first he didn’t notice me. That gave me time to notice the small badge pinned to the lapel of his blazer: Prefect. My head buzzed. A senior boy, a prefect no less. Smoking in public. On the bus. In his school uniform. In front of so many junior boys.
Suddenly, he noticed I had turned in my seat to face him. He didn’t speak at first, but the look of distain on his face spoke volumes. “Who do you think you’re looking at?” it said. I answered his unspoken question. “You shouldn’t be smoking,” I said. He glared at me in silence and made me continue, “You’re too young.” I trailed off. I couldn’t think what else to say.
What did I expect him to do? Apologise profusely? Stub out the cigarette? Promise never to smoke again? He did none of these things. His stare of contempt sent a shiver through my body. “I am eighteen,” he said haughtily. “I am old enough to smoke.” Then with great emphasis, he continued. “It. Is. Not. Against. The. Law.”
I am not a man who welcomes confrontation. The boy’s arrogant smirk unnerved me. I had wanted to say something like, “No, but it is against the rules of your school,” but I was too timid. The boy looked closely at the cigarette in his hands and slowly placed it between his lips. He drew smoke into his mouth, held it there for a moment and then quite deliberately exhaled it so that it blew across my face.
I told myself later that if the bus had not at that moment reached my stop I should have remonstrated with him. As it was I had to leave our skirmish unfinished. I am certain the boy smirked openly and encouraged his pals to do likewise as I bounced down the aisle towards the stairs. The meeting with the conceited schoolboy did nothing to calm me. I found it hard to contain the humiliation I felt and the raging pain in my mouth. By the time I presented myself to the dentist’s receptionist I had determined I would track down the boy’s school and report the incident to his headmaster.
Yes, I congratulated myself. I would not be intimidated by some snotty eighteen-year-old schoolboy. My mood had improved considerably by the time the dentist placed a mask over my mouth and asked me to count down from ten and I drifted off.
The next thing I remember was pacing an enormous room. A huge desk stood in the middle and there was a large armchair off to its right. The room was surrounded by book-lined shelves. An unlit fireplace dominated one wall. I was wearing a suit and over it hung a heavy black academic gown. On my head, slipping a little, I sported a mortar-board cap with its tassel dangling against my neck. In my hands I flexed a stout, yellow-coloured, rattan cane. It was more than three feet long and as thick as a pencil, yet also as light as a feather. At one end was a curved handle. The cane had notches along its length and the tip – the business end if you will – was frayed. This little beauty had seen some action in its time.
I swished the cane through the air. Butler, the arrogant boy from the bus, stood before me, hands clasped firmly behind his back. His head was bowed contritely. “An absolute disgrace, Butler,” I intoned. “You have let the school down. I won’t have it Butler. I simply won’t have it.” Butler’s neck reddened, but his face remained deathly pale. “To begin with, you will hand over your prefect’s badge. You are not fit for high office in this school.”
Butler said nothing. His forehead glistened with perspiration. Not daring to look at me, he fumbled with the pin of the badge and unclasped it from his blazer. “Put it there. On the desk,” I growled. Sorrowfully, Butler did as instructed. “Now, remove your blazer.” Butler unbuttoned the front and slipped the jacket from his shoulders. “Place it on my desk.” He did this, all the time ensuring that I could not see his face. “Right,” I swished the cane through the air one more time. “Let’s proceed shall we.”
It wasn’t a question, it was a statement of my intent. “Stand by that chair.” I pointed the cane at the armchair in case there was any doubt. The whippy rattan cane wobbled violently as I did this. Butler, his head still bowed, shuffled the four or five paces necessary to cross the study. He stopped some distance from the chair. “Stand behind the chair,” I stressed the word, as if talking to a boy of low intelligence. He shuffled some more and stood feet slightly apart. “Pah!” I ejaculated. “Closer boy. Closer.” I could not be sure if Butler was an idiot or if he was deliberately trying to be difficult. He took a step closer to the chair.
Butler was eighteen years old and on the cusp of manhood. He stood about an inch taller than myself but he was much thinner and lighter. He wore a regulation white, long-sleeved shirt and pale-grey trousers. They were a big snug across the backside and fell to an inch above his shoes. He was clearly a growing lad and I supposed his mother had decided it wasn’t worth the expense of buying him new trousers so close to the end of his school career.
“Right Butler,” I spoke slowly and clearly. I do not believe in histrionics. I am the headmaster and he is the schoolboy. I give him orders and he obeys them. That is the nature of the universe. “Lower your trousers, Butler,” I instructed. A slight shudder of his shoulders informed me that Butler had not anticipated such a development. Clearly, he expected to be beaten. That had been clear from the moment he received the summons to attend at my study. Butler was a senior boy – a prefect no less – and his crime had been so public that nothing but the most exemplary punishment would suffice.
I flexed the cane between my hands as I watched Butler unbuckle his belt, pop the buttons of his fly and encourage the trousers to slip down his thighs, over his knees and land at his feet. A moustache of perspiration now glowed over his top lip. His hands shook slightly as he straightened up. Once again, he clasped them behind his back. I wobbled the cane and touched the tip against the apex of the armchair. “Bend over Butler,” I intoned. He screwed his eyes tightly shut, then opened them. He sucked in a deep breath and rubbed the palms of his hands together. He was obviously preparing himself for the ordeal to come. Once prepared, he leaned forward and in a very athletic movement he was over the back of the armchair. He stretched his arms out front and gripped the furthest edge of the seat cushion. His stomach cleared the chair by an inch or two.
I flexed the cane and moved so I stood slightly to Butler’s left. “Head low. Bottom high. Legs further apart.” Butler wriggled his position until I was satisfied. Now, his stomach rested on the chair and he had to reach almost on tiptoe so that his face was so close to the cushion that he could probably smell the dust. When Butler was standing his bottom was a little flabby, but the flesh tightened when he was prostrated across the chair. It was round and hard. I tapped my cane across the fleshiest part of his bottom. I wasn’t yet satisfied.
I tucked the cane under my arm and approached Butler. His white Y-front underpants hung loosely. His entire body tensed when I gripped the elasticated waistband. The stupid boy had supposed I was about to rip down his pants and thrash him on the bare. I had no such intention. At least not unless and until he was found smoking again. Instead, I pulled the underpants tight so that all creases were smoothed out of the cotton material. The Y-fronts now fitted like a second skin and dug a little way up the crack that separated the buttocks. I cupped my right palm and gently caressed each cheek, ensuring that the last of the wrinkles was gone. I was now ready.
I slipped the cane back into my hand and took up position about three feet from Butler. I tapped the cane so that the tip bounced off the very centre of his right buttock. His bottom tensed. Bottoms always do under such circumstances, it is a natural reflex reaction. I withdrew the cane, raised it above my shoulder and through an arc returned it with some vigour so that it struck Butler across the centre of both cheeks. I was rewarded with a lovely line across the taut cotton pants and a very long and loud hissing sound escaping between the boy’s pursed lips. His bottom rose an inch or so from the chair but he gripped the seat cushion for dear life and stopped himself making further movement.
I hadn’t announced such, but there is an unspoken rule between headmaster and naughty boy that said boy should remain submissively in position and take his beating like a man. Anything else will be rewarded with extra stokes. I put the second stroke a little lower, into the more sensitive “sit-spot”. Butler hissed some more and stomped his feet up and down rather like a guard on sentry duty. His face was now as red as I supposed his backside to be at that moment.
I let the boy settle. A caning is more effective if you allow the initial shock of the stroke to sink into the boy’s bottom. The pain will them travel up and down his legs and if it has been severe enough also to other parts of the body. The initial agony will be intense. Very quickly that will settle into a roaring pain. That is the point when the next stroke should be delivered. In that way the pain of the punishment grows with each successive stroke.
I waited about twenty seconds and swiped in the third stroke. This one went higher on the crest of the mounds. Now there were three pulsating cuts running across his bottom in parallel lines. There would be a strip about two inches wide throbbing under his underpants. Butler’s head was bobbing up and down and his face was butting the cushion. His fingers continued to grip the cushion and even from some distance I could see his knuckles were white.
I flexed the cane once more, enjoying the power I had over the obnoxious boy. I would teach him a lesson. No more would he smoke in public. No more would he be rude to his elders and betters. I tapped the cane across the highest point of his stretched bottom and let fly. The crack of rattan against tight flesh resounded around the room. He yelped, just like a little whipped puppy. His back arched and he threw his head from left to right and then up and down. He reminded me of a neighing horse. His knees buckled and his bottom slipped off the top of the chair, but still he hadn’t jumped to his feet howling, clutching his posterior with both hands in a fruitless attempt to rub the pain away.
“Back in position boy. Bottom high. Head low. Legs apart,” I paced the study observing Butler as he struggled to present himself for the final two strokes. His face was scarlet, his hair was soaked with sweat. His eyes were hollow. I had no doubt he was in intense pain. I did not care. That was the point of the exercise. What was the point of a caning, if it did not hurt. Butler would never dare smoke again. He would never cheek fine upstanding members of the community.
He offered me his bottom. I adjusted my position slightly and laid the cane so it rested in a diagonal running from the bottom of the left cheek to the top of the right. Boys at the school knew this to be my signature punishment. It was what made a “headmaster’s caning” so feared. I whopped the cane across his backside with all my might. It was like I was beating a carpet. Of course, it struck across the four welts already throbbing across his bottom, reigniting the pain in them all and adding a new layer of agony.
I am not sure how in practical terms a “shriek” differs from a “yell” so I might not be able to adequately describe the racket Butler made at that point. I can attest that tears flooded down his face as if a dam had burst. Rasping guttural noises filled the study. Butler humped the back of the chair. His feet marched up and down. He did the head shaking thing again. But, through all of that, he continued to grip tightly the seat cushion. He did not stand up. I rather admired the boy’s fortitude.
I probably don’t have to tell you that for the final stroke I laid the cane on the opposite diagonal. By the time I had finished Butler had a perfect “X” marked across his buttocks. Snot poured from his nose and mixed with the tears. His entire body convulsed with sobs.
Slowly, I paced the study until I reached the far corner. There, I hung the cane on the umbrella stand. I turned and admired my handiwork. The boy was still bent across the chair, unable to stand until I gave permission. That was another of the unspoken rules. To do so would incur extra stokes and I had no doubt Butler was in no state to take those.
I waited a minute and then another, just watching the boy bellowing into the seat cushion. I was engulfed by a feeling of deep accomplishment. My heart was racing and my temples throbbed a little. I shook my head. Suddenly, from a long way away I heard a voice.
“Welcome back,” it was my dentist. He smiled, “So, how does that feel?”
The light in my eyes was strong. I blinked. “That feels very good indeed,” I told him, not thinking for a moment about the tooth he had just extracted.
Picture credit: CP Services, London
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