I never ever planned it to be naughty. I did not wake up in the morning and think, I must climb into Mr Smith’s garden and raid his apple tree. I didn’t think I’d knock on neighbours’ doors and run away. I would just be out and about minding my own business and then suddenly the “naughty boy gene” would kick in.
That explains the Morris Minor incident. It was a right Old Lady’s Car and it was parked outside a general store in a lazy street close to uncle’s house. And the ignition key was still in it. I ask you. What is a naughty boy to do? It was practically begging me. It would have been impolite not to.
I was in the driver’s seat in a jiffy. The key turned and off I jerked. Like a lot of lads at that time, I had never learned to drive but I knew the basics. Clutch in. Gear engaged. Foot on accelerator. Ease clutch. I shuddered down the street in search of the open road.
What I didn’t see was the old lady with the wicker shopping basket. I didn’t see her shout out in dismay. I didn’t see the passer-by who stared at me through the car window. I didn’t see her speak to the distressed lady. I didn’t see her tell her she knew me. I was staying with that nice Mr Andrews in The Avenue.
What I did see – much later in the day – was the colour of Uncle Albert’s face. It was that deep puce I told you about before. He greeted me in the hallway. “I cannot believe it ….” he spluttered and then he went on to tell me what he couldn’t believe.
“Stealing! Stealing cars!” he yelled. My mouth opened, I was about to say, “Actually it was only the one car and technically it’s not stealing, It’s taking and driving away,” but before I could get the first word out he had gripped me by the upper arm and dragged me towards the living room.
This wasn’t the time for me to be a smarty pants, but I knew for sure pants – my underpants – would be playing a part in the action sometime soon.
“You leave me no choice!,” his eyes blazed. I stood, heart racing, and watched him cross the room towards a bookcase. He reached up and I heard a rattling noise. He turned to face me. He had two canes in his hand. He examined one; it was thin with a curved handle. I had never seen a school cane before but I knew what it was from the comics we read as kids. He dismissed it and put it back on top of the bookcase.
He turned to me and flexed the other cane between his hands. It was thicker than the first one and had no handle. He swiped it through the air. All saliva drained from my mouth.
He swished the cane once more and pointed at a wooden coffee table. “Bend over!” I stood uncertain what to do. “I shan’t tell you again,” Uncle Albert growled. And it was a growl; he was not mucking about. He had given me an order and he expected to be obeyed. I looked uncertainly at the table. Uncle Albert read my mind, “Stand by the edge, then lay across it. Stick your bottom up.”
I must have been on some kind of autopilot. Meekly I stepped forward and lowered myself. A coffee table by design is a small piece of furniture, and it wasn’t really meant to take an eighteen-year-old’s body. I got in position as best I could. My bum was angled over one edge and I rested on my elbows. I guess that must have given Uncle Albert enough of a target because next thing I knew he had taken hold of the waistband of my shorts and tugged hard. The shorts we wore back then were properly short and these ones were especially snug, I don’t suppose they were much bigger than my underwear.
“Right!” Uncle Albert declared. I felt the stout cane tap, tap, tap, against the thin cotton of my shorts. I closed my eyes. I had never been caned before. I had no idea how much this would hurt. Instinctively, I knew the answer was a lot. Uncle Albert was not one to mess around. He did not do things by half. I felt the cane being lifted. There was a pause that felt like an eternity but couldn’t have been more than a second. It was broken by an almighty swishing sound as the cane flew. There was a crack like a rifle shot as the rod connected with my tense buttocks. There was another pause and then my bum burnt like the fires of hell. Had uncle pressed a red-hot poker across my cheeks?
I yelped. A whipped puppy could not have sounded more distressed. The pain was intense. I wanted to jump up and hop from foot to foot. I started to rise. Uncle’s strong hand pushed against my shoulders and I was face-down across the table.
“Oh, no you don’t. You’re not going anywhere. Not until I say so. You’ve had this coming …” He didn’t finish his sentence. The cane rose and cracked against my backside. It hurt even more than the first stroke. Could such a thing be possible? This time I yelled. “Yaarrrrrrrr!” Oh My God! What was happening to me.
Swipe! Swipe! Swipe! Uncle’s fury knew no end. I howled! Tears cascaded down my cheeks, snot dribbled over my lips. I could not hide my intense distress. My heartrate must have been off the scale. I was blinded by tears and frustration.
Swipe! Swipe! Swipe! Uncle put all his energy into thrashing me. He was a man on a mission.
At last Uncle Albert laid down his cane. I jumped to my feet and howling like a banshee I fled the room. I don’t know how many strokes he gave me. I do remember later inspecting the image of my bum in the bedroom mirror, that the cheeks were criss-crossed with angry red lines and many of them had raised into welts.
The pain quickly subsided but the marks stayed for days. When I gingerly pressed my fingers against the scorched flesh it set off the ache again. As the bruises faded I counted the hours until mum and dad got back from their second honeymoon and I would be able to escape wicked Uncle Albert.
Picture credit: Unknown
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