Terry, Damien and Harry stood nonchalantly in front of the principal’s desk. The eighteen year olds had never met each other before, but they all had one important thing in common. They had all failed their school A-level exams and their irate fathers were paying a large fee to send them to Brocklehurst College.
The college was a “crammer.” Its job was to coach its students to pass the re-sit examinations. That meant three months of intense study; no mean feat for lazy teenagers. But Principal Tucker had one method at his disposal. It was a proven aid to learning.
Tucker eyed his new recruits with distain. Louts, he thought, that’s what they were; uncouth yobs. He’d soon lick them into shape.
“Stand up straight, all of you!” he barked. “You boy,” he nodded at Terry, “Take your hands out of your pockets.”
Reluctantly, each boy shuffled a little. They stood straighter, but it was hardly parade-ground excellence.
“You boys have never met one another before but you know you are all here for the same reason. None of you are stupid, that’s clear. But you are lazy and you lack self-discipline.
“It’s because you lack self-discipline that here at Brocklehurst College we have a regime that imposes discipline upon you.
“Here we use corporal punishment.”
The stunned look on the boys’ faces betrayed their apparent lack of comprehension.
“Don’t look like that; you are fully aware of our methods here. More to the point, so are your parents. Indeed it is precisely because we use corporal punishment that they have signed you up. They want you to pass your A-levels and we want you to pass. It is still to be seen whether you boys want to pass.”
“But …” Damien started to protest but the principal’s icy glare silenced him.
“You will all have signed a consent form.” Doubtless under the duress of your fathers, he thought to himself. Principal Tucker had run the crammer for seven years. He knew that fathers sent their sons to his college as a last resort. The boys would not respond to reason. They were often wilfully lazy. Well Brocklehurst College would soon put a stop to that.
“Yes,” he addressed the three crestfallen teenagers, “We use corporal punishment. The teachers will use a strap or a slipper if you are late for class or inattentive. For more serious offences, such as poor work, they might use a cane. If you are sent to me for punishment I shall administer the cane across your backside. If you repeat the transgression or are guilty of a more serious matter, that caning will be on the underpants or bare bottom. I hope I make myself clear.”
Damien blushed to his roots. Yes, he knew all about the corporal punishment regime. He had had a tremendous row with his father. Dad said he must get his A-levels and go on to university. If he did not do that he would be thrown out of the family home. Dad was not a man to carry passengers. Failure for Damien might mean a life flipping burgers.
The principal had not finished his welcoming speech. “Here you will work hard; seven days a week. As a break from your studies on Wednesday afternoons and Sunday mornings there will be physical activities that are also intended to broaden your minds. These activities are compulsory for you all.
“When I have finished with you please go to the dormitory where you will find your college uniform. You each have a blue-and-yellow-striped blazer, grey flannel short trousers and grey-and-blue knee socks. You will wear this uniform at all times, both inside and outside the college.”
All three mouthed protests. Short trousers! Even kids at primary school no longer wore short trousers.
“Silence!” Tucker feigned anger, but he expected protests from his students. Of course, eighteen year old boys would object to being forced back into short trousers. But, as a disciplinary tool it worked wonders. It reminded the louts that they were not yet truly adults. Adulthood came with responsibility. By failing their exams these boys had demonstrated their lack of responsibility. The short trousers would be a constant reminder of their status in the eyes of the college.
Short trousers were also a practical way to keep control. No boy would willingly want to be seen in public wearing grey short trousers and a school uniform. So, they wouldn’t truant from class or sneak out in the evening.
“You will hand in all your other clothes and these will not be returned to you until the day you are ready to leave. You will also hand in all your personal possessions, including phones and electronic gadgets. This is an alcohol, tobacco and drugs-free college so if you have any of these items in your possession please hand them in.
“You should consider this an amnesty. If you have these items and hand them in then nothing more will be said, but if you do not and later you are found in possession of any these items you will be punished with the utmost severity. Is that clear?”
Principal Tucker was not sure if the boys’ silence was a demonstration of insolence.
“Is that clear!” he barked.
Their murmurs confirmed it was.
Of the three teenagers standing before him, two had neat short-back-and-sides haircuts. The third sported a mop of shaggy fair hair. The principal doubted it had seen a comb let alone a barber in some considerable time.
“You boy,” he gestured at the shaggy-haired boy, “What’s your name?”
“Damien,” the teen responded sullenly.
“We use surnames only at the College. And you will always address me as, Sir. What’s your surname?”
“Wendersley,” he sneered, but noticing that Tucker’s complexion was reddening, he quickly added, “Sir.”
“Well, Wendersley, did you read the College instructions about haircuts?”
Yes, he had. He hated this college. He hated Principal Tucker and he hated his father for sending him here. He was in no mood to be cooperative.
“Well boy?” Tucker’s fingers were beginning to itch. This meeting could end in only one way.
“Yeah,” Damien Wendersley breathed.
“Yes, you did. Then you know the College rule is that hair must be cut short and not touch the neck or ears. So, why have you not followed the instruction?”
“Why do we have to have short hair?”
Veins stood out on Tucker’s neck.
“How dare you! Don’t be insolent.”
Wendersley blushed. The other two lads stood silently. Harry, for one, was rather enjoying this. He hoped the principal would give Wendersley what-for. If Harry had to have his hair cropped like a convict, why should Wendersley get away with it?
“So, you knew of the instruction, but decided to deliberately disobey it.”
Damien Wendersley stared at the plush carpet beneath his feet.
“Yes, that is about the size of it. You will wait behind after the others have been dismissed. I am going to beat you and then I shall arrange for a man to come from the town to cut your hair.”
All three gasped. “But,” Wendersley tried to protest.
“Be quiet. All of you.”
The three teenagers quietened. It was a shock. The boy was to be caned. For not having his haircut. The cane. When they had seen the clause about corporal punishment in the contract none of the boys had taken it seriously. The cane. It was unheard of. This was 2016.
But, there was a greater shock to come.
The principal rose from his desk. “Now, I want you to go and put on your uniforms and return to my office at five o’clock. Do not be a minute late. I will then give each of you six strokes of the cane.”
That set the boys off again. This time each one protested.
“Be quiet!” Tucker roared. “Pah! I will give you six-of-the-best. This is to show our dissatisfaction at your past laziness and failure at the examinations.”
“But, Sir,” Terry Reilly piped up, “That’s not fair.”
“I said be quiet. I will not allow this. You will obey my instructions to the letter.
“I will give you six-of-the-best to show our dissatisfaction at your past behaviour, but it will also be a warning for the future. If we consider you are slacking in your studies you will be beaten again. I hope I make myself clear?”
Yes, it was clear, but none of the teenagers replied. Surely it had been a rhetorical question.
“Right. You two boys go to the dormitory and change. You Wendersley. Stay behind.”
Terry and Harry sped from the room.
Principal Tucker sauntered across his office. It was a large modern space, designed mostly in walnut. Along one wall were shelves and a tall thin cabinet.
“Right let me deal with you Wendersley,” he said as he opened the cabinet door and searched inside.
Damien’s eyes widened. They almost stood out on stalks.
“Ah,” the principal smiled malevolently, “It would seem that you have never seen a rattan cane before.”
He flexed the rod between his two hands. It was just over three feet in length and as thick as the man’s little finger. It was supple and easily curved into a bow.
Damien visibly paled.
“I thought not. It is a pity. If you had been caned earlier in life you would not be the slacker you are today and you would not need to be here.”
He swiped the cane through the air, delighted at the look of real fear spread across the teenager’s face.
“Look how swishy it is. It will hurt you a very great deal. That is the point of a caning.”
“Please stand behind the chair,” Tucker wobbled his cane in the direction of a wooden Ikea armchair with a bright red cushion.
“No, please, no…” Damien wailed. He wanted to beg for mercy but his vocal chords refused to work.
“Silence, boy. You will do as you are instructed. Stand by the chair.”
The teenager stood rooted. He was gripped with such fright he literally could not move.
“Wendersley, if you do not accept your punishment I will not allow you to stay at the college. Would you like me to telephone your father and tell him I am putting you on the next train home?”
The true reality of his circumstances dawned on the wretched boy. He had no choice but to submit to this horrible man. He had to work hard at his studies and pass those A-levels. His father would throw him out of the house otherwise.
“No,” he mumbled.
“I thought not. Stand by the chair.”
Damien shuffled across the room.
“I see you are wearing thick jeans. Perhaps, you should take them down,” Principal Tucker was enjoying himself. This oafish lout had displeased him from the moment he had set his eyes on him.
“Nooo, please, nooo,” it was incoherent wailing. Already tears were welling up in the boy’s eyes.
“Wendersley, you are becoming tiresome. You will please do as I instruct. Take down your jeans.”
The boy’s now bright red face pleaded silently with his master. But it was to no avail.
“I am waiting Wendersley.”
Somehow he unbuttoned his belt, popped the buttons on his jeans and let them fall over his thighs to his knees.
“Ha!” Tucker roared with scorn. “Bright red underpants. From now on Wendersley you will be wearing white cotton Y-fronts.”
He swished the cane. “Now, bend over the chair.”
Damien had never been caned before; he had never seen anyone caned, not even in a movie. How exactly was it done?
He leaned over the back of the chair and stretched his arms in front of him, so that the lay along the hard wooden arms.
“Grip the front of the cushion boy. Keep your head low and your bottom high.”
Damien wriggled into position and stared down at the red cushion. There was a small grey stain. Someone must have spilled coffee, he thought. He concentrated on the mark. It was about three inches long. If he thought about how the stain had been made it might take his mind off the ordeal he was facing.
Principal Tucker rubbed the palm of his right hand across both of Damien’s buttocks, smoothing the cotton underpants. Satisfied that all creases had been removed, he stood back three paces, raised his cane and let fly. It flogged down right across the centre of both cheeks.
Damien roared and he flew to his feet, furiously rubbing away at his backside.
“Bend back over boy. If you stand up again, I shall give you extra strokes.”
Damien stood his ground. The pain was so great. How could he be expected to take six strokes like that?
“Back over,” Principal Tucker readied himself to force the teenager face down over the back of the chair, but the boy found a reserve of courage and offered up his backside.
Swish number two hit an inch or so lower than the first. Damien howled. He stamped his feet up and down and he wriggled his hips to the left and to the right. But this time he remained bent over.
“Doh! Keep still.” The cane rose and fell again. Damien repeated his march, thrust his backside out and waved it about. Principal Tucker despised a boy who couldn’t take a lightly laid on six.
Stroke number four was met with another spasm of physical jerks, accompanied by wailing that echoed around the bright office. A less experienced master might have taken pity on poor Damien Wendersley. Clearly, the boy was unable to take such a thrashing.
But Tucker was made of stern stuff. He knew as a matter of conviction that this beating, harsh though it might seem, was being administered for the teenager’s own good. This was the first step on the young man’s redemption. After this afternoon, Damien’s life would never be quite the same again. In time, once he had passed his examinations, succeeded at university, and enjoyed a fine career he might even look back on this caning with gratitude.
“Stop your blubbing, take it like a man,” he intoned and bought swipe number five down across the lad’s underpants; low, just where the cheeks meet the thighs. Damien’s throat was full of bile. At any moment he might vomit up the contents of his stomach. He gasped in great gulps of air like a beached whale.
Slash. The sixth and last stroke lashed down diagonally across all of the other five. The pain was searing. The red coloured underpants disguised the blood stain that was slowly creeping across the seat.
Principal Tucker had finished. Another student punished. It was all in a day’s work.
“You may stand up Wendersley.”
Gingerly, the teenager regained a standing position. He ran up and down on the spot rubbing his bottom. It was an instinctive reaction; he had no idea if it would really relieve his pain. For now, it didn’t seem to be working.
“Stop rubbing your bottom,” Principal Tucker’s distain for the boy before him was evident.
“Pull your jeans up. Get dressed properly.”
Damien’s face was awash with tears and snot. He was in no fit state to leave the office just yet.
“Here, take this and wipe your eyes,” Tucker passed the boy a fistful of tissues.
“I hope you have learnt a lesson. At Brocklehurst College you must obey the rules. Failure to do so will result in corporal punishment. There will be no exceptions.
“Tomorrow, I shall arrange for you to have your hair cut. For now, go to the dormitory and change into your school uniform. Be sure to be back here at five o’clock with the other boys.
“You are dismissed.”
Other college-themed stories you might like.
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second