The tower in Colonel Blincoe’s garden had originally been built as one those architectural follies by an eccentric gentlemen back in the midst of history. Or, about 1920, as local folklore had it. It was built of brick in the shape of a cone and consisted of two small rooms one on top of the other, with a small balcony attached to the outside. You reached the upper floor by a staircase that ran around the outside making it look a little like an old-fashioned fairground helter-skelter. From the upper floor and the balcony it was just possible to see over high garden walls and hedges into neighbouring gardens. To facilitate his enjoyment of this facility, the colonel had purchased a pair of high-powered ex-military field glasses.
None of his neighbours was aware that the colonel would pass away lonely days peering through the binoculars, investigating nearby houses. He rarely saw anything of interest. After all, what was there to see? This was The Avenue, one of the most highly-desirable residential streets in Brocklehurst, one hardly expected to see an opium den in operation. Nor, was there ever likely to be a murder committed. The colonel had hoped he might get a small thrill catching a couple “at it” in their beds, but his near neighbours had reached the age where that sort of thing had become very rare indeed.
So, it was with no great expectation that one afternoon late in the summer he removed his field glasses from their leather box and polished the lenses. The Braithwaites in the house next door were not at home, or so he expected. He had seen suitcases being piled into a taxi the previous Saturday and Mrs Braithwaite had climbed inside. His neighbours were, the colonel supposed, off on holidays. He thought no more of it until he noticed a movement inside the house. It was from an upper window. Burglars! The colonel’s aged heart beat faster. He had caught them red-handed. Damn! he cussed himself mildly, there was no telephone in his tower and he had never felt the need to acquire one of those new-fangled portable phone things. He couldn’t call the police. Instead, he resolved to use his binoculars and observe as much as he could. He would make notes, of the criminals’ descriptions and such like and hand them over to the authorities in due course.
He only had a partial view of the room. In fact, most of it was obscured and all he could see clearly was that space directly in front of the smallish sash window. He cursed once more and settled himself as close to his own window as was possible. He focussed the glasses and waited. There was definitely a figure in the room; a man, and quite elderly too, he thought. The colonel saw him from the back. He wore a weighty tweed jacket and dark-grey flannel trousers. The colonel was puzzled: that didn’t seem to be the correct attire for burglary. He hardly expected the man to wear a striped vest and be carrying a bag marked “swag” but a warm summer’s day required something a little less formal.
There seemed to be another man in the room. He was speaking to a companion. Two of them! The colonel’s heart beat faster. He was a keen reader of crime fiction of the more traditional variety. For a moment he imagined himself as the village sleuth, the “amateur” who captures the criminal that the local detectives cannot find. He licked his lips in anticipation of the excitement ahead. Then, the man turned and his face was fully visible. The colonel’s balloon popped. It was Mr Braithwaite himself. In his own home. Not a burglar at all. What of the holiday trip, the colonel wondered.
His disappointment was short-lived. No robbery was in place but something queer was afoot. Now, he saw the other man. He was younger and perhaps not a man at all. He wore a green school blazer and as the boy moved across the window the colonel clearly saw he was dressed in pale-grey short trousers. He disappeared from view leaving the colonel once again perplexed. The school uniform looked remarkably like that worn by boys at St Francis Independent Grammar School, the most upscale school in the district, but to his uncertain knowledge the boys did not wear short trousers. And, wasn’t the boy too old for such trousers? He adjusted the focus and peered intently at the window.
Seconds later he was rewarded by a clear view. It wasn’t a small boy at all. He wasn’t any kind of boy. The colonel recognised him at once. He knew him reasonably well. Without a doubt it was Bobby, the barman at The Three Fishers, the unsavoury hostelry the colonel himself frequented. What the hell was going on? He was definitely dressed in school uniform, the colonel could see the blazer, striped tie and grey shirt as clear as day.
Mr Braithwaite said something to Bobby and the boy turned. He said something back and then disappeared from view, only to return two seconds later carrying a wooden chair. The colonel recognised the chair, he had some quite like it in his own house. A straight-backed armless thing, the kind that went with a dining table. Bobby placed it on the floor with its back directly in front of the window. The colonel couldn’t hear anything as the house was too far away but he sensed Bobby was listening to something Mr Braithwaite said. Then Mr Braithwaite came into view. The colonel’s heart stopped for a second. His mouth dried of all saliva. Perspiration moistened his bald dome.
Mr Braithwaite carried a thin, whippy school-type cane. The colonel recognised it at once. It had a curved handle just like the ones masters used at St. Tom’s, the elite boarding school he had attended more than fifty years earlier. The colonel’s jaw tightened. The tip of his tongue poked out his mouth and ran along his bottom lip. Then his jaw dropped. It literally fell. He gaped. Bobby unfastened the snake-shaped buckle of his belt. Then, staring right out of the window and not looking at his hands, Bobby popped the button at the top of his short trousers and when the waistband hung open by an inch, he gripped the metal fly zipper and tugged. The short trousers slithered down his thighs, past his knees, and the colonel supposed (because this was out of his sight) fell in a puddle at his feet. Bobby stood straight ahead, hands behind his back, offering the colonel a perfect view of his gleaming white Y-front underpants. They fitted snugly, confirming to the colonel that this was no boy.
Mr Braithwaite must have given Bobby an instruction because his face flushed and still intent on staring out of the window he put both thumbs inside the waistband of the pants and slowly helped them down so they passed over his buttocks and travelled south to meet the short trousers. Then, Bobby stood once more hands behind his back, presumably to await further orders. The colonel’s hands shook slightly as he adjusted the focus on the glasses. He honed in on Bobby’s naked cock and balls, cursing all the while: the back of the wooden chair obscured them from his view.
Mr Braithwaite passed into the frame. He held the thin, swishy cane between his hands, flexing it thoughtfully. In a trice the colonel was transported back fifty years. He is in the housemaster’s study. It is early summer, no window is open and the room is airless. Mr Corlett is jawing him. “Attitude,” he intones. “Lazy,” he adds. “A disgrace,” he concludes. “You will never pass your examinations and go up to university.” Corlett flexes the cane, just as Mr Braithwaite was doing in the house across the garden. “Good God boy!” Corlett rages, “If you don’t get to university, you’ll have to join the Army!” The housemaster swishes the cane through the air. “Trousers, underwear down. Bend over the chair,” and at the age of eighteen the not-yet colonel submitted his bared bottom to the savage Mr Corlett.
The memory passed through the colonel’s mind at the speed of light. It had been a comfortable leather armchair in his case but the principle was much the same as the scenario being played out in front of him. “Bend over. Brace yourself. This is going to hurt. It is meant to. Otherwise, we should both be wasting our time.” Bobby held onto the chair, his head bowed and face hovering above the wooden seat. His back was arched and his legs spread. Mr Braithwaite stood behind him, he took hold of the end of the blazer and pushed it up the boy’s back. He did the same with the tail of his shirt. The colonel cussed that Bobby was not positioned the other way round; bare bottom facing the window. He saw the boy close his eyes and shut his teeth tight. Mr Braithwaite tapped the cane across the centre of Bobby’s bum. He took aim, raised the cane, held it in mid-air for a couple of seconds and then with forearm thrust he swiped it across Bobby’s naked haunches. The look of anguish on the boy’s face as the cane bit deep into his flesh was priceless. The colonel saw his mouth open and close but the boy’s yell and obvious distress did not travel. The colonel might have been watching a silent movie.
Mr Braithwaite took two steps back, examined Bobby’s backside with a malevolent eye, raised the cane high and rushed forward while simultaneously whipping the cane home. Hard! Bobby leapt to his feet; still the colonel couldn’t hear the boy’s shrieks but it was beyond doubt that he was in some distress. The colonel’s own backside twitched in sympathy. Had, his own housemaster at school beaten him as hard? The years had dulled his memory and he could not say for certain. It had been excruciatingly painful to sit down after that final thrashing. He had eaten his tea that afternoon standing at the mantlepiece in the study; he couldn’t use a chair for some considerable time.
He watched Bobby resume his position. What a trooper he was, the colonel decided, but why did he do it? Why let Mr Braithwaite cane his bare backside so viciously? Did the man have some “hold” over the barman. Perhaps, he had caught him stealing bar takings. “It’s a thrashing from me or I go to the police!” It was possible, the colonel supposed, but unlikely. What would the police or the law courts do about it? Bobby would end up with a slapped wrist at worst, not a blisteringly sore bum. Such was the state of the nation these days.
No, the colonel saw it all now and he did not approve. What was it they called young men like Bobby? Rent boys? Bah! Disgusting. The colonel watched Mr Braithwaite flog twelve stingers across Bobby’s backside. He could only imagine what the once creamy-white flesh looked like. Certainly there were deep red lines all across his cheeks. Welts would be weeping. Bobby himself was beyond weeping, tears washed his face as unashamedly he howled and howled.
Mr Braithwaite gave some instruction and the boy let go of the chair and straightened himself up. He hopped up and down like some demented Red Indian in a bad Western movie and rubbed away at his throbbing rear end. He hobbled away from the window and out of the colonel’s view. Mr Braithwaite had already vanished. The colonel waited disappointed. His own heartbeat was racing off the scale. He had once suffered a mild cardiac arrest and he didn’t want another. He put the field glasses on a chair nearby and bent double to suck in great gasps of air; soon he was calming down.
He shuffled across the room, opened a small refrigerator and took out a bottle. Within moments he was sipping on a reviving gin-and-tonic. “Well, well, well,” he said aloud although he lived alone and there was no one to hear him. “Who would have thought it? The things that go on behind closed doors in respectable suburbia.” He would see Bobby the barman at The Three Feathers in a new, harsher light from now on. He went back to the window in the vain hope he would see more action. The room was empty; he had to concede it was over.
“Perverts,” he snorted, as he rubbed his sweaty palms against his thighs, rearranging the gypsy-style dress that he wore over pale-cream gossamer-light knickers.
Picture credits: The Folly Fellowship / Unknown
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
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