Bradley and Martha had been married for three months and despite all the smiles and the good humour they showed in public things were not going so well. They lived rent-free in the small apartment owned by Martha’s dad. Bradley had no job and, of course, there was no question of Martha going out to work. She kept the home and soon – if Bradley could ever get anything right – she would be a mother.
Bradley was a waster. He said he went out looking for work each day and Martha believed him. Then one afternoon her father saw him coming out of the snooker hall behind Brocklehurst High Street. He didn’t tell his daughter, he loved her too much for that. Instead, he sent his youngest son Baxter over with a written note. “Oh, honey,” Bradley peered at the paper in his hand, “Your pop wants to see me. At his house. This evening. On my own.”
Martha reached for the note but Bradley hurriedly put it in the pocket of his trousers. She sighed, why hadn’t daddy told her about this? Why hadn’t he invited them both for supper?
“Beats me,” Bradley smiled. He had no idea at all. He couldn’t even begin to imagine. “I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.”
Martha’s dad, Mr Verne, was a successful businessman, he had started with a corner shop and now he had properties all across the town. At the last count he employed about a hundred people. He worked hard and he knew for an absolute fact that people who worked hard would get on. They would make something of their lives, no matter how humble their origins. All it needed was a bit of sweat.
Bradley was no success. He would never amount to anything. He was lazy. A day’s work would probably kill him. Mr Verne had told his wife as much almost the moment he set eyes on the man. Bradley was not good enough for Mr Verne’s daughter. Of course, he didn’t tell Martha any of this. She was in love. And, as any father knows, when a young woman is in love there’s no reasoning with her.
Bradley took the bus across town and alighted at Widdicombe Wood. His destination, Mr Verne’s house at The Avenue, was a short walk away. It was a large spread, bigger than many of the five-bedroomed detached houses in the street. The Avenue reeked of success. My, Bradley thought to himself as he got closer to his destination, what it must mean to live here.
He trudged up the gravelled driveway and rang the bell. Trisha, the maid, took his hat and coat, and asked him to wait in the hallway. “Mr Verne is in his study,” she said and without further ado she bustled away. He waited admiring his reflection in a mirror and wondered where everyone was. The house felt deserted. Why hadn’t anyone been to greet him.
Then, Baxter, Martha’s fourteen-year-old brother, appeared at the top of the spiral staircase. He leaned over a handrail and peered down at Bradley. A grin spilt the boy’s face. Bradley froze. There was something sinister about the boy’s knowing look. Then Baxter shook his head vigorously from side to side, “Wouldn’t want to be you, no sir,” he giggled. He had ran back to his bedroom before Bradley could question him. “Little brat,” he muttered under his breath. He was in two minds to go chasing after him when the maid appeared as if from nowhere. “Mr Verne will see you now,” she spoke formally and led Bradley to the door of the study. “Knock, and then enter,” she said quietly and once again bustled away.
Bradley stood outside the door. Why, he wondered, was his heart beating so fast? Why was he nervous? Why did he feel like he was one Mr Verne’s employees, summoned to see the boss? He knocked and as he fumbled with the door handle, a voice from within the room called, “Enter!” It startled Bradley; now he felt like a school boy called to the headmaster’s study. He pushed the door open.
He had never been in Mr Verne’s study before. Why he chose to call it a “study” Bradley did not know. It looked to him like an office, like you would see in a business building anywhere across the country. There was a largish desk, some chairs, a filing cabinet and shelves. Mr Vernon was seated behind the desk. The top was clear of clutter and only an old Bakelite telephone remained.
Bradley was dumbfounded. Why was he here? What was going on? He certainly didn’t feel like one of the family. This was no social visit. He closed the door and lingered by it, unsure what he was meant to do. “Come in,” Mr Verne spoke crisply. “Stand there where I can see you,” he waved his hand indicating a space in front of the desk.
Bradley opened his mouth, ready to offer a friendly greeting but Mr Verne’s stern visage halted him. Bradley frowned instead. “Do you know why I have sent for you?” Mr Verne’s tone was commanding and Bradley could only mutter in reply. “Speak up!” Mr Verne roared, demonstrating to Bradley for the first time that evening that Marth’s father was in a sour mood.
“Eh, no Sir, sorry Sir,” Bradley bit down on his tongue. What had made him call him “Sir.” Since the wedding it had always been, “Father,” and even once when they had both tasted whisky, “Dad.”
“If I said Billingham’s Snooker Hall would that mean anything to you?” Mr Verne spat. He leaned forward across the desk and eyed his son-in-law threateningly. Bradley recoiled. His face flushed and suddenly his heartrate sped. His mouth opened and closed like a goldfish but no words escaped his lips.
“Don’t even try to deny it. I saw you. I then had inquiries made, you are a regular there. Most weekdays. Do I need to say any more?” It was what is known as a rhetorical question, even Bradley who had not performed well at school knew that. He made no answer.
“Pah!” Mr Verne rose to his feet. He was a small man by stature but he had a big presence, he could quell a shop full of workers with a single stare. Bradley was no match for him. Mr Verne had prepared a speech. Its details need not detain us in this story. He summarised Bradleys many failings. There were many. So many in fact, that Mr Verne’s conclusion was startling. “From Monday, you come to work for me. In one of my shops. As a lowly assistant. You’ll get no favours from me. You’ll have to earn any advancement you make in my business. What do you say to that?”
What was there to say. It was the a most generous offer; one that Bradley knew in his heart he did not deserve. “Thank you, Sir,” he croaked, not showing his father-in-law and now employer due gratitude.
“Good,” Mr Verne barked. He stood, still keeping his steely gaze on Bradley. The young man flinched, the stare seemed to burn right into his soul. Both men fell into silence. Bradley wondered was he supposed to leave now, and when Mr Verne remained statuesque, he made a small movement to turn and leave the room.
“Not yet, young man,” Mr Verne rasped. Bradley froze. “I haven’t finished yet.” Bradley turned to face his father-in-law who was now moving across the study. Bradley’s eyes followed him as he went. He stopped at the filing cabinet. It was unlocked and Mr Verne had only to lean forward to open the third drawer down. He reached in. Bradley could not make out the mysterious thudding sound he heard coming from within the wooden cabinet. What was Mr Verne searching for?
Bradley soon found out. When Mr Verne straightened up and turned toward the young man he was clutching what looked to Bradley like a small cricket bat. It was an oblong of wood with a handle at one end. Mr Verne brandished it at Bradley. He noted the uncomprehending look on his face. “It’s what our American cousins call a paddle,” he said in explanation. “A mightily-effective punishment tool,” he added, “A much more efficient weapon than a whippy rattan cane. Believe me.”
Bradley was indeed prepared to take Mr Verne’s word for it. He feared the old man intended to make a demonstration of it when he watched him smack the blade of the paddle into the palm of his own hand. “Mightily effective,” Mr Verne muttered. He looked across at Bradley and pierced him once more with that steely gaze. “You need to buck up your ideas young man. A lesson in life is what you need.” Bradley felt his knees weaken. The palms of his hands started to sweat. He rubbed them against the legs of his trousers. “I short, sharp shock,” Mr Verne concluded.
Bradley could not stop his eyes blinking. His throat tightened. He sucked down on his bottom lip. His father-in-law’s intensions were made entirely clear when he said, “Remove your jacket and hang in behind the door.” It was a clear instruction and Mr Verne was in no doubt that it would be obeyed. It was.
“Stand by my desk.” Mr Verne waved the paddle in its direction as if there could be any doubt what he meant. Bradley could not get his feet to move, they felt like they were encased in concrete. A spanking. His father-in-law wanted to spank him like he was Baxter. He wasn’t fourteen, he was a full grown man of twenty-two. He should tell Mr Verne this. A spanking with that cricket bat thing. How preposterous. Bradley said nothing. He was a coward as well as indolent. “Quickly,” Mr Verne scorned, “I haven’t got all night. My supper is waiting.”
Somehow, Bradley made it to the desk. His knees were weak and he couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t fall to the floor in a dead faint. “Take down your trousers. Bend over the desk.” Bradley’s jaw dropped. Literally. His mouth gaped open. Now, he must say something. To take spanking would be an embarrassment; to suffer it trousers-down, a humiliation. Again, he said nothing. He had no courage.
Later, he couldn’t remember much of what happened next in that study. He must have taken hold of his braces and slipped them from his shoulders. The trousers were soon open and sliding down his legs. He was spread-eagled across the desk. His arms were stretched wide and his fingers gripped the edge of the desks. He rested his chin on the desktop and stared straight ahead at the ugly pattern in the wallpaper. Like this his bottom was raised at an angle over the front of the desk. Mr Verne made further preparations by taking hold of the tail of Bradley’s shirt and his singlet and pushing them up his back, exposing an inch or two of naked flesh. Bradley wore fashionable cotton shorts. They fastened by buttons at the side. This made it convenient for Mr Verne who soon had them at Bradley’s knees. The backside he was presented with was chubby. Mr Verne pressed the paddle blade into the buttocks taking note of how far it could sink into the flesh.
While he did all this, Bradley closed his eyes. It was all too unreal to him; it could easily have been a dream. He lay prostrate, submissively. His father-in-law owned him.
The buttocks though flabby were smooth with youth. Mr Verne patted Bradley’s bottom with the paddle, noticing how the cheeks quivered with anticipation. The paddle rose and fell three times in quick succession. Immediately, the flesh was stained bright pink as the paddle blade was imprinted across the peaks of the mounds.
The following smacks across the bare flesh were twice as loud as before. Bradley gasped sharply, hissing at the furious sting. Mr Verne waited patiently for the jiggling bottom to come to a halt.
He paddled slowly. He paddled hard. Bradley yelped and wiggled and cried out as the heat mounted. His cheeks turned from hot pink to a deep magenta. The change in colour encouraged Mr Verne in his endeavour. He swatted the paddle at a steady, unhurried rate, hammering the wood across the scorched buttocks again and again.
He counted twelve to himself. Was that enough, he wondered. How many would be “enough?” What was the lesson that he was trying to impart here? Mr Verne wasn’t sure, even in his own mind. Bradley would become an employee next Monday, he would work for his living. He would no longer be able to shirk his duties. None of that would change, no matter how many, or how few, swats of the paddle he received that evening.
Mr Verne halted, at that moment he realised why he wanted to punish the man submitting to him. It wasn’t only because he was lazy, indolent and idle. It wasn’t because he was a coward, although that fact helped. Mr Verne wanted to punish Bradley for stealing his daughter away from him. Of course, she would have eventually married; but she was worth so much better than this dolt, presently offering up his bare buttocks for the taste of the wood.
He lifted the paddle and let fly again. The middle portion of Bradley bottom was scorched, so Mr Verne aimed lower, into the under cheeks, on that sensitive “sit-spot” where the bum and thighs meet. Then he went higher to redden the tops of his cheeks. Bradley sobbed and whimpered for his boss and master to stop.
Mr Verne lined up the paddle as before, then hoisted it to his shoulder. He continued to bring it down in an easy, steady motion. It made a meaty “thunk!” as it connected. Bradley whimpered and his bottom shook violently.
Bradley was a mess. His face was blotchy with red and damp with tears and his eyes were bloodshot. His chubby cheeks were mottled with crimson and purple blotches. The once-smooth skin was rough and corrugated with tiny blisters. It looked like leather. The soreness would last for days. It was time to stop. Mr Verne put down the paddle and Bradley bleated with relief.
The ride back on the bus was horrendous. Bradley stood the whole way although many seats were vacant. He ignored the puzzled looks of his fellow passengers. By the time he reached home the worst of the pain had subsided. What had been an agonising hurt had become a constant throbbing. Before too long it would be an irritating ache. Martha greeted him with open arms. She busied herself in the kitchen, preparing a late supper. “Tell me all about it,” she gushed, “What did daddy say?”
Bradley just manged to supress a groan as he sat down on the hard chair. He hoped Martha didn’t notice how he wriggled. “He’s given me a job. I start on Monday,” Bradley said through gritted teeth.
“Marvellous!” Martha trilled. “Isn’t daddy just wonderful!”
“Yes,” Bradley groaned, “Marvellous.” He held his head in his hands. How would he explain away the bruises?
Picture credit: Unknown
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Charles Hamilton the Second