A family business

Richard Bullivant loved his job; most of the time. This was not one of them. Mr. Greaves, the company’s owner, peered at him over the top of his spectacles. The boss was seated and in his hands he clutched a hand-written report. Bullivant stood to his front, meekly, hands behind his back, holding on to his hat.

“This will not do, boy,” Mr. Greaves sucked air through his teeth. Bullivant shuffled from foot to foot. “No, boy, certainly not.”

Bullivant resented being called ‘Boy.” He was thirty-five years old and deputy head of the accounts department. He deserved more respect than this.

Mr. Greaves waved the report provocatively in Bullivant’s face. The boss’s thinning grey hair swirled around his mostly-bald dome. Bullivant grimaced as specks of spittle flew towards him. Mr. Greaves was certainly angry.

He had good cause to be, Bullivant would be first to admit. There had been an error. Figures miscalculated, a profit reported as a loss. It could do the company damage. But, it hadn’t. It was spotted in time and corrected. But, not until word had reached the ears of Mr. Greaves. A junior man in the accounts department had made a mistake, but Bullivant would have to carry the can.

Greaves’s was a family firm. Mr. Greaves always said so. He had inherited most of it from his father and he had built on it. Now, in his seventies he expected his own son to soon take the reins. Mr. Greaves believed everyone who worked for him was one of the family. They were all his children. He was the Pater familias. He was responsible for them all; just like he was their father.

Bullivant knew all about Mr. Greaves’s attitude to his workers, that was why he couldn’t stop his heart thumping through his chest. His palms were sticky and his mouth dry as a desert. “We can’t have this, boy. You know we can’t have this,” Mr. Greaves seemed to be talking to himself. Bullivant stood waiting for his boss to get to the point, but the old man appeared to have dried up.

The silence startled him. Then his boss spluttered, “Well boy, well boy, what do you say for yourself?” Bullivant blanched. The moment he had dreaded since the mistake had come to light. It wasn’t Bullivant’s fault. Truly, it wasn’t, but that was not what Mr. Greaves expected to hear. The mistake was made by one of his underlings; Bullivant must take responsibility.

“Could have cost us dear,” Mr. Greaves coughed. “Very dear indeed, eh boy?”

But it hadn’t. Bullivant had spotted the mistake in time. He had been doing his job. A job he loved, and if he said so himself, a job he did very well indeed. It was no good telling Mr. Greaves that. He was old school and “school” was the appropriate metaphor here. He expected a man to take responsibility for those he managed. The buck, as their American cousins might say, stopped here.

Bullivant sucked in air and began the little speech he had prepared. It lasted less than a minute and ended with the words, “I take full responsibility, Sir.”

Mr. Greaves glowered. A smile split his face. “Indeed you should, boy. Indeed you should.”

Bullivant relaxed a little. Perhaps, this interview wasn’t going to be so bad after all. He forced a smile himself. It looked more like a scowl from where his boss was seated. Mr. Greaves eyes narrowed. “All right Bullivant. It mustn’t happen again.”

“Oh no, Sir,” Bullivant had brightened already. He tried the smile again, without evident success. He wouldn’t be able to smile properly until he was safely dismissed from the office and back on the second floor with his minions. He waited for Mr. Greaves to let him go.

“Bullivant, we can’t leave it at this,” Mr. Greaves shifted his buttocks and started to rise from his armchair, “You do appreciate that, don’t you?”

Oh no! The thought flashed through Bullivant’s mind. This was not over yet. Unsure if the question had been rhetorical, he merely nodded sagely.

“Speak up, boy,” Mr. Greaves’s famed irritability showed.

Now, red in the face, Bullivant, mumbled, “Yes, Sir,” and hoped that would suffice as an answer.

“Good boy,” Mr. Greaves was now on his feet and walking across his capacious office. It had shelves and cupboards along two of its walls. Another had a large window and the fourth an unlit fire. A huge desk dominated the room. Towards one corner were four comfortable armchairs, encircling a glass-topped table. Mr. Greaves stopped when he reached a set of cupboards. One was narrow and tall. He delved into his pocket and found a key which he used to open its door. Bullivant had never noticed the cupboard before, but now instinctively he knew what it contained.

He wrung his hat in his hands and watched intently as his boss reached inside. There was a slight rattling sound before Mr. Greaves’s hand emerged clutching a long, thin, yellow-coloured cane. It had the traditional crooked handle. Bullivant had seen many of these before. Every schoolboy in the land knew what a rattan cane looked like and many of them could attest to the intense pain one could inflict.

Mr. Greaves turned and faced his employee. He held the cane in his hands and looked down at it as though he had never seen such a thing before. It was a little over three feet long and had notches every three or four inches along its length. It was as thick as a pencil and formed a perfect arc when Mr. Greaves tested its flexibility. He swished it through the air. Swoosh! It made a terrific noise as it went.

He pointed the cane at Bullivant. “Hang your hat and jacket over there,” he nodded at the coat-stand in the far corner of the office. Bullivant’s mouth opened and silently closed. Should he make a protest? What would be the point? Mr. Greaves was in control. Bullivant loved his job, he was very good at it and he was well paid for his efforts. The drama presently unfolding was surely a small price to pay. He convinced himself this was so, but his hands did not seem to agree since they shook almost uncontrollably as he placed his hat on the stand and set about trying to get his coat off his back. It took some considerable time. Mr. Greaves peered over his eye glasses and entertained himself by swiping the cane through the air.

At last Bullivant was ready. “Stand by the desk, boy,” Mr. Greaves pointed the cane, in case there was any doubt what he meant,

In a trance Bullivant made the short journey across the office. In his head it was twenty years previously and he was in the housemaster’s study at St. Tom’s. That was the only way he would be able to deal with the absurdity of the situation he now faced.

“Stand up straight,” Mr. Greaves barked.  Bullivant had not been slouching but nonetheless, moved his legs and shoulders to demonstrate total obedience to his master. Mr. Greaves stared at Bullivant. He was a little taller than himself and powerfully built. Perhaps, Mr. Greaves wondered, he partook in sports: boxing maybe. Bullivant’s white shirt looked starched and his detachable collar was held in place by a gold stud. His trousers were held aloft by red braces. He wore them a little tightly and they pulled the fabric of his trousers into his buttocks so each cheek was clearly separated from the other. They were round and plump.

Mr. Greaves stood close to his minion. He sucked on his bottom lip as he leaned forward to get a closer look at the man he was about to thrash. “No, no, this will never do,” he mused absent-mindedly. “Won’t do at all.” He tapped his cane across Bullivant’s buttocks. “They’re too thick. Take them down.”

Bullivant’s flushed face blanched. “Wor…?” he started to protest, but thankfully stopped himself in time. It never did to protest. A chap never did that. He was an Englishman of a certain social class and he knew the honour code. A chap would always take his punishment, even when it was unjustly meted out by those in authority.

He pulled the braces from his shoulders and let them dangle at his sides. His trousers were now loose and once he unfastened the button at the waist the weight of the keys in his pocket sent them hurtling to form a puddle on top of his shoes. Mr. Greaves’s eyes widened. Bullivant wore the new-fangled undershorts. They covered his buttocks and hung an inch or two down his legs. Mr. Greaves touched the desktop with his cane. “Bend over, boy.” It was a sharp command and one he expected to be obeyed without question. It was.

Bullivant had last been caned at school by his housemaster. It was the final week before he had left for good. It was unheard of for eighteen year olds to be thrashed, but he and a pal had made some tomfool pact together to climb the clocktower and deposit a pair of matron’s bloomers on the weathervane. They had done it too – in the dead of night. But what was the point of doing something so splendid if nobody knew who the culprit was? It was worth owning up. They were heroes and talked about with admiration by boys for years to follow. What bare-arsed beating could top that?

The memory of that caning was suddenly fresh in Bullivant’s mind. He stretched across Mr. Greaves’s desk just as he had done in the headmaster’s study nearly two decades previously. He held on to the far edge and rested his right cheek against the cool wood. He had a close-up view of the grain in the walnut. His legs were parted by about eighteen inches and his stomach rested at an angle so that his buttocks were correctly raised to receive the whipping from the cane. It was a bit like riding a bike. Once you had learned the right way to present your backside for a thrashing, you never forgot.

Mr. Greaves took a moment to admire the scene. He had caned many of his employees’ bottoms over forty or so years. Mostly, he beat them across the stretched fabric of trousers. Sometimes recalcitrant junior staff were required to lower their bags and he whipped them on the seat of their woollen “combinations”. Never before had been presented with a set of buttocks encased in snug shorts. Bullivant made a terrific target.

Mr. Greaves’s heart raced as he took up his position to Bullivant’s left. He “sawed” the cane across the plumpest part of his target, raised it to above shoulder height and swiped it down. He was greeted by a resounding “thwack!” as the supple rattan sank into the soft flesh. Bullivant shut his eyes tight. It hurt. A lot. Memories of past canings flooded his mind. Yes, it stung tremendously, but he could take it.

Mr. Greaves landed the second low down, where the buttocks meet the thighs. That had Bullivant gasping. The thirty-five-year-old wriggled his bottom, this way and that. He couldn’t help it. He felt a little ashamed. Had he ever reacted like that at school? He steadied himself. Closed his eyes, shut his teeth and waited for the next.

Wow! It was some stinger. It landed across the top of the globes. A hot stripe seared into his bum. Now he had three parallel cuts across his cheeks. Bullivant had to admit it, his boss was an expert with the cane.

“Feeling that aren’t you boy?”

The voice sounded as if it were hundreds of miles away. There was no reasonable answer a boy undergoing punishment could give to such a question, so Bullivant stayed quiet. Mr. Greaves took silence for impertinence and sliced number four so hard it was as if he were beating a carpet. Despite his determination to take his beating “like an Englishman” Bullivant yelped at that one. He could not see the smile curl around Mr. Greaves’s lips.

The boss adjusted his stance. He was nearing the finishing line. He lay the cane so that it lay from the bottom left to the top right of his target and let fly. The stroke cut across all four that had previously landed, reigniting the pain of them all. Bullivant’s bum throbbed. He held on to the desk for dear life, his fingernails digging deep into the wood. He felt Mr. Greaves move behind him.

God no! He knew what the sadist planned. The cane tapped across the buttocks from bottom right to top left. Whack!

“Ohmygod” Bullivant yelled out loud as a perfect “X” was scorched into his bum. Blood oozed from the intersections of the cuts. The agony was awesome. It was as if someone had poured a pail of boiling water over his flesh. His heartrate sped and his temples throbbed, almost as much as his rear end.

He heard a rattle as Mr. Greaves replaced the cane in his cabinet. Then the words, “You may stand.” Bullivant did not need telling twice. He leapt to his feet and without waiting for permission he pulled his trousers up. It gave him the cover to surreptitiously rub his thumbs across his savaged backside. It didn’t ease the pain.

Mr. Greaves sniffed the air as if a sudden bad odour had permeated the office. “You should take your hat and coat and leave.” He watched his minion pick up the clothes and without waiting to put them on, rush from the room.

Outside, Bullivant paused. The office was full of people busy at their desks. Had they heard his thrashing? His head was light. He rather hoped they had. He had never experienced such a sense of euphoria. He was on top of the world. He walked through the office to the lift. But, instead of taking it to the second floor to return to his office, he went to down to the ground floor. He had something to do first.

He put his hat on his head and joined the throngs of people in the city centre. He was walking on air in search of the right shop. He wanted to purchase a whippy school cane. Brian Clark, the accounts department junior, was in for a shock.

Picture credit: J. C. Leyendecker

This story was first uploaded in May 2017


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