So there I was, twenty-two-years old, nearly twenty-three, with my jeans down at my shins and spread-eagled across the table in the front room; my underpants stretched across my firm, meaty buttocks. Nearby, stood Mr Cudlipp swiping a thick, but whippy rattan cane through the air.
Mr Cudlipp was my landlord. That is to say I lived in a room in his house. I was his lodger but he liked to call me his “paying guest.” Guest! Was this anyway to treat a guest?
“You need a darned good thrashing,” he had said. When I looked at him blankly he elaborated. “A sound caning,” he swished an imaginary cane to mime what he had in mind. I was speechless. “It will do you the world of good,” my landlord insisted. “It’s just the trick to get you back on track.” He stared at me through thick glasses so intensely I thought he would burn a hole in my face. “You cannot go on like this.”
I had to agree with him there. I was in a mess. Everything in my life was in ruins. What future did I have now? All my plans were up in smoke.
I had lived with Mr Cudlipp for nearly six months, ever since I moved to Brocklehurst to take up a job with a firm of accountants. It was a good job too, well paid and with prospects. I saw an advert in the Bugle. “Wanted: young disciplined man with good habits.” That was from Mr Cudlipp. Well, I suppose I fitted the bill because I moved in the same day. As far as I know he has no family to speak of. It’s a huge house with five bedrooms. No wonder he advertised for a “guest”, he would be rattling around the house on his own. That can’t be healthy.
I don’t want to tell you too much about what went wrong. It’s painful for me to relate; and not just for the obvious reason. I fell in with a crowd, there was alcohol. The drugs. I stayed out late (sometimes I never went home). I missed work. When I was there I was worse than useless. Then one day I was out to lunch (literally, I met some friends in the street and we went to a bar and I never went back to the office.) Next day I was fired and my life was in ruins. Later that evening I was presenting my backside to Mr Cudlipp.
There, that’s it in a nutshell. Well, maybe not quite. Before I unbuckled my belt and dropped my Levis I got a lecture from Mr Cudlipp. It was to save my life. “Boys, like you,” he said, ignoring the fact I was twenty-two, “need firm guidance to get you along the rocky road to adulthood.” I rolled my eyes at the platitude. “What did you just do!” he fumed. I had the good grace to blush. “That just confirms it!” he barked.
“Boundaries. Rules. Guidelines. Directions,” Mr Cudlipp was unable to speak in sentences. He paced the carpet. I sat uncomfortably on the couch my eyes following him around the room. “And when you break them, you need discipline,” he paused for effect then leaned forward toward me, “Or indeed punishment.” He laid great emphasis on the word “punishment”, his eyes blazed, my heart skipped. I think I blushed to my roots.
“The punishment reminds you what it is that you have done wrong and gives you encouragement to mend your ways and do better in future.” He was speaking fluently now, rather like those preachers you sometimes see near the bus station in town. He paused and his steely-grey eyes burned into me once again. “And that is precisely what you need.”
That’s when he told me about the canes he kept. Locked away in a cupboard in one of the unused bedrooms. I was astonished. Speechless. Canes? Locked away in the bedroom. Whatever for? I mean this was 2019 and to be honest I had never even seen a cane before. Caning had been outlawed in schools thirty years ago – before I was even born. And, nobody got spanked. You no longer even saw a harassed mother slap a toddler at the supermarket. This caning idea was completely off my radar.
Before I could form the words to tell Mr Cudlipp this he was off again. “I can testify that it works,” he insisted. His face cracked into a crooked smile, “you will not be the first.” He paced towards the door and stooped and turned to face me, “I should have done this a long time ago,” he exclaimed, “the first time you failed to come home.” He wagged his index finger at me, “It would have saved an awful lot of trouble.”
I gaped at the finger now poking towards me, “Yes,” he sighed, “I must take some of the blame too,” he said enigmatically and exited the room. I sat bemused on the couch and heard him cross the hall and ascend the stairs. I don’t know how long he was away since my head was in a spin. It couldn’t have been too long before he reappeared brandishing a cane. He stood in the doorway, his feet slightly apart and his shoulders pulled back. He flexed the cane between both hands. It was about a metre long and maybe as thick as a pencil, but it flexed easily. It was yellow-brown in colour and had a series of notches along its length. One end was bent into a curved handle.
Mr Cudlipp gave me that evil-eyed stare again. “Yes,” he intoned, “this will do the job very well.” He released his grip from one end and swished the cane through the air. It made an almighty Swoosh! as it flew. My heart thumped hard. Even to my untrained eye it looked a mightily effective weapon. “Yes,” Mr Cudlipp boasted, “this has helped cure many a miscreant in its time.”
He came further into the room and loomed over me. I turned my head away, I did not want to see that cane close up. My mind was all over the place. He really intended to use that cane on me. I shook my head, not to signal No, but to try to clear my senses. It didn’t work.
Mr Cudlipp spoke again. It sounded like he was speaking from far away. I could not concentrate and I hardly heard what he said. It was something about writing up a list. Goals and objectives. He sounded like one of my bosses at the accountants weighing up a profit and loss account. The goals and objectives go on one side and the penalties or punishments for failing to meet them are on the other side.
“That’s how it shall be from here on in,” Mr Cudlipp spoke calmly and nodded his head vigorously. “You do see it’s in your best interests,” he coaxed. “I only have your welfare at heart.”
I stared blankly. It was beginning to sink in. I had screwed up my life. I had taken a really good opportunity at my job and in ever-increasing steps I had completely destroyed it. If only I had had signed up to that plan Mr Cudlipp spoke off when I first moved in with him. He was right, I was off the rails. Rudderless, if you like. I had no idea how I was going to rebuild my life. What could I do? Who could I turn to?
“We should start now, Simon,” he announced and he tucked the cane under his arm, rather like a soldier with his baton. “Come, stand up,” it was an order but he made it sound like a request. “Let’s get this done,” he said kindly. My head was still spinning, but I clambered to my feet. “Come this way,” he breathed. I must have been on some sort of autopilot, I don’t remember thinking anything. He was going to beat me. Hard, with that vicious cane. Looking back, I thought I might at least have something to say about it. In different circumstances I might have legged it from the house.
Instead, I meekly followed him. He led me through the hall into a small living room. “This will do nicely,” he chivvied me into the room and together we faced a small table that was pushed against a far wall. A battered leather armchair stood close by. He frowned at it for a long minute and then at the table. Then he made up his mind, “The table I think, don’t you?” I shrugged my shoulders, had he just asked me a genuine question? If he had he then answered it himself, “Yes, indeed. Please stand there.” He pointed his cane to a spot on the carpet in front of the table.
I shuffled forward and waited. Have you ever done drugs? Have you taken anything where you feel that you are up on the ceiling looking down at yourself slumped on the floor? Like some kind of out-of-body experience? That’s exactly how I felt at that moment. This wasn’t happening to me, it was someone else there. Someone else standing in front of the table about to have his backside caned.
“Take down your jeans please.” What the ….!! Really, that absolutely should have been the time when I told my landlord to go take a running jump. First he wants to cane me. Then he wants to make me take my jeans down. Then what? Oh Christ! No, not on the bare. “Please,” I heard Mr Cudlipp say softly, “don’t make a fuss.”
And I didn’t. I absolutely didn’t. I acted as if it was the most reasonable request in the world. A landlord is telling his twenty-two-year-old paying guest to lower his jeans so that he can beat his backside black and blue with an old-fashioned school cane. You couldn’t make it up. With shaking hands, I fumbled with my belt buckle and got it loose. Then I found the popper on my jeans and opened the waistband. The zip fastener slid down and with the weight of the belt and the force of gravity my Levis slithered down my legs and bunched at my knees. “All the way, please,” Mr Cudlipp’s voice sounded like it was floating on the wind from a faraway mountain. I parted my feet and pushed the jeans down until they formed a puddle on my shoes.
Looking back I remember what happened very clearly. Mr Cudlipp ran through the whole catalogue of my misdeeds. The drink, the drugs, the late nights, the lost days. Everything. In great details. “I want you to understand,” he said, “why you are being beaten. You must know clearly what you have done wrong so that later we can draw up a plan for your future success.” I listened intently. I couldn’t argue with him. He was correct in every particular. God, what a fool I had been. How lucky I was to have a guardian angel like Mr Cudlipp to look over me.
Then he ordered, “Bend over the table.” I looked at the table. It was small and pushed against the wall. How was this to be done? I couldn’t stretch across the table top because there wasn’t enough room. Mr Cudlipp understood my problem. “Rest your forearms on the table, arch your back, stick your bottom out, keep your feet apart.” It was a step-by-step guide to presenting yourself for a caning. I did as instructed. It left me staring down at the polished wood of the table. “Good lad,” Mr Cudlipp coaxed, “Bottom a little higher please.” I wriggled a little until I was presented to his entire satisfaction.
“Nearly ready,” Mr Cudlipp was speaking to himself as he took hold of the waistband of my underpants and tugged hard. Then he gently smoothed the palm of his hand across first my left buttock and then the right. In that way he smoothed all the wrinkles out of the soft cotton. They now fitted me like the proverbial second skin. “Almost there,” he took hold of the end of my shirt and pushed it up my back exposing my bare flesh. I felt a faint draught from a nearby open door. Now, he had his target. My firm, meaty bum encased in tight-fitting cotton trunks.
The floorboard creaked as he moved towards my left side. Then, I felt a firm tap across the lower part of my buttocks. I shivered – and not because of the draught – he was laying the cane across my bottom, to get his aim. I closed my eyes and sucked on my bottom lip. My cheeks tensed. “Relax, Simon,” he purred. Tap-tap-tap. The cane lifted away. I held my breath. He had the cane high above his shoulder. He paused, one-two-three. Then swish! Crack!
I heard the noise before I felt the pain. I don’t understand the science of it, but the cane bit into my bum and then maybe a second or so passed before I felt the intense biting, burning sensation. It was like he had pressed a red-hot wire into my flesh. A gush of air escaped through my half-closed mouth. My legs buckled. My hips swayed. I started to rise, I wanted to leap to my feet and rub away at my blazing bum. “Steady,” Mr Cudlipp warned. “There are rules to this, I should have explained. If you stand up or in any way try to impede me in my duty, then we start all over again. Stay down unless you want extra strokes.”
I gripped the sides of the table. It didn’t ease the pain but it did allow me to steady myself against the harsh impact of the next stroke. Crash! It landed a centimetre or so above the first and set off another wave of pain. The third stroke was a little lower than the first. Over the next few months I was to realise that Mr Cudlipp was an expert with the cane. He was indeed a master. With three cuts delivered I had a strip of agony across the very centre of my buttocks, each line running parallel to the others.
By now the pain was travelling up and down my legs. Mr Cudlipp tapped the cane across the peaks of my mounds. My head ached as much as my bum, my heartrate was off the scale. Swipe! That took what little wind I had left out of my lungs. I coughed and spluttered as if I had swallowed a goldfish. My head bucked up and down and I headbutted the table. My eyes burned and tears prickled. Snot dribbled from my nostril.
“This is for your own good Simon,” Mr Cudlipp sawed the cane across the lower part of my bum, just where it meets the thighs, “You will thank me for this one day, believe me,” he insisted. He gave me six strokes that evening. Six-of-the-best, they call it. Later that night as I lay on my bed my backside was still red and sore. The ridges where the cane landed had disappeared but the red lines across my cheeks were still very visible. They faded over the coming days, but each time I showered over the next week the hot water teased out the marks and the six stripes were clearly visible.
You can probably guess what happened next, otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you my story. Mr Cudlipp helped me to draw up those goals and objectives. They were quite straightforward really. I got a job stacking shelves in a supermarket to pay the rent and gradually got my life together. Bit by bit, the drinking slowed down. It took a couple of trips over the back of that battered leather armchair with my jeans and pants at my ankles before the drug taking stopped. Next week I start a new job at an accounting firm in town. How about that!
Oh, and Mr Cudlipp you were right. Thank you.
Picture credit: Unknown
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Also writing school stories as Scholastic here
Charles Hamilton the Second