A sixth-former facing a detention asks The Gaffer to cane him instead … and gets much more than he bargained for
Part one of The Gaffer of The Academy is here.
Part two of The Gaffer of The Academy is here.
“What do you mean boy, you want your detention next Saturday to be ‘caned off’?” The Gaffer was genuinely baffled. What nonsense was the boy talking?
Harry Parker of the Upper Sixth stood up straight in front of the desk; hands behind his back, a bright smile on his face. The Gaffer believed in the cane; he’d understand; he knew that.
“Well boy!” The Gaffer’s patience was thin.
The eighteen-year-old had rehearsed a little speech. All the fellows agreed; it made perfect sense.
Harry took a deep breath and launched into it. Last Saturday he had been caught breaking bounds; he went to the nearby town without permission. His punishment was to be ‘gated’ and put in detention on the coming Saturday. But, that was the day of the Inter School Football semi-finals. His school The Academy was in with a chance of winning the match and going on to the final for the first time in its history.
Harry Parker was The Academy’s star winger; he could run rings around any schoolboy defence. Some people reckoned he could be a professional player if he chose to. But Parker in detention meant no Parker on the wing and with that bang went the school’s chance of cup tie glory.
“So you see sir, if you could see your way to dropping the detention and caning me instead, I could play in the match.”
Harry Parker was an honourable chap; he had broken the rules and he must be punished. He accepted that, but it was so dashed unfair to himself and all the other chaps to gate him and not let him play in the match.
The Gaffer’s jaw actually dropped slightly; in his twenty or more years as a schoolmaster he had never heard of such an idea.
“No!” His reply was as stern as it was emphatic. “You must take your gating and detention.”
Parker’s mouth opened to groan a response, but The Gaffer got there first.
“That is my final word. No. You are dismissed Parker.”
“But sir,” the football star wailed.
“Enough. Leave my study this instance.”
It was a crest-fallen boy who shuffled through the door.
The Gaffer sat back in his chair. Well, well, he had thought he had seen it all before. Obviously, a detention was much more of a deterrent to rule-breaking than a thrashing. The Gaffer’s cane had met with Parker’s backside on more than one occasion since the new Head of Sixth Form had joined the exclusive school. Perhaps The Gaffer’s thrashings were not quite as awesome as he had imagined. In future he would have to lay on the rod with extra vim.
The news was received badly in study number five.
Parker’s fellow players had expected to see their star chum limping down the passageway; his arse throbbing like mad. They were ready with their sympathies and gratitude: Parker had taken six for the team, good man!
They heard Harry’s tale with shock and grief. Bob Alberston spoke first, “Well that’s it I suppose. We’re out of the cup for sure.”
“Is there nothing we can do?” piped up Jim Brandhurst; a singularly dull boy who always asked questions but provided none of the answers.
“We could go to the headmaster and ask that he whop you!” Anthony Briggs, the team’s goalie, who at six-feet-four towered over his study companions, piped up.
No, they all agreed. The Gaffer had been their one and only hope. He was as keen on association football as anyone else in the school; they were sure he would help out the team.
The boys lapsed into silence as Jim filled a teapot with boiling water to make what the boys fondly called ‘a brew.’
Then Bob had an idea. “What do you think would happen if you simply missed the detention and played in the match?”
“It would mean a swishing for sure,” Anthony exclaimed.
“Well,” Harry was annoyed that his plan with The Gaffer had not worked, “So what. I offered to get the detention ‘caned off’, what’s the difference if I get the whacking before or after the match.” It was a statement, not a question, and gratefully the boys left it at that.
The less said about the match the better. A four-nil drubbing. Harry Parker and his footballing chums did not get a look in. Overwhelmed by superior strength and footballing ability, they were out of the cup.
It was eleven disappointed footballers who returned to The Academy. It was late and time for bed. In dormitory number two a dejected Harry Parker stepped into his pyjamas. As he was tugging at the drawstring, a fresh young junior called Ratkinson poked his head around the door.
“Message from Mr Robinson; Parker you are to attend at his study,” he reported breathlessly. And as if it were not obviously the case, he added quickly, “At once. Immediately.”
“Oh dashed back luck,” Bob patted his friend on the back. “Still, it’s best to get it over with quickly.”
It had been expected, of course. Without muttering a word, Harry Parker reached for his dressing gown and slippers, put them on and exited the dorm, leaving his chums to contemplate the star winger’s fate in silence.
It was a slow, long walk to The Gaffer’s study. Bob was right, Harry thought, it was best to get it over with now. It would be a caning for sure. After all, he had been over the back of The Gaffer’s armchair before and survived: what was the worst that could happen?
He reached the study, took a deep breath and with more swagger than he really felt, he rapped his knuckles heavily on the heavy oak door.
Harry could not keep his hand from trembling as he turned the handle and inched opened the door. He was astonished at what he saw.
In the centre of the room was a heavy wooden contraption that Harry did not recognise. It looked like a large step; something that you might use in a library to reach the top most shelves. Standing next to it was a huge enamel bucket and soaking inside it were two enormous birches.
“Come, stand in front of my desk,” The Gaffer was as furious as Harry had ever seen him before. The Head of the Sixth Form had a reputation among his boys as a stern man; he was not much of a humourist.
“Parker!” he launched into a prepared speech. He ripped the boy to shreds. He had skipped detention, he had absented himself from the school and most of all had deliberately and wilfully disobeyed The Gaffer. Never had a boy at this school behaved in such a disgraceful manner.
Harry heard none of it. He could not take his eyes off the enamel bucket and the birches. They were made from about eight or nine long twigs bound together with twine. The twigs ended in a spray wide enough to cover the whole area of Harry’s buttocks. He didn’t know this but they had been soaking in brine for most of the day to make them supple to deliver the maximum sting.
“So, I am going to give you a terrible punishment.” Harry woke up at this. “I telephoned your father this afternoon and gave him a choice. Either you should be expelled from this school or you should receive twelve strokes of the birch rod. He consented to the birching.”
A shudder ran through Harry’s body and wind rushed from his stomach. Just in time he sucked down a stream of vomit from his throat. The birch. No boy that he knew had ever been birched at this school.
Harry’s deathly pale face betrayed his fear.
“You should think yourself lucky boy that we are not in main hall for a public thrashing.”
If the Gaffer had meant this as a word of comfort, he failed. Blood was speeding through Harry’s veins and his blood pressure was sky high. Any moment now he might drop to the floor in a dead faint.
“Let us get on with this. Please take off your dressing gown and put it on my desk.” Harry had no idea how he managed to control his fingers sufficiently to untie the knot in the cord and do as instructed.
“Now kick off your slippers and remove your pyjama bottoms.”
Soon Harry was naked from the waist down. The boy did not feel the least self-conscious in his nudity. At this school a boy was often partly or fully naked in front of his school chums. Only minutes earlier he and the others in dormitory number two had undressed in front of each other.
“Now, mount the block.”
Harry’s puzzled expression betrayed him. Mount the block; what did that mean?
“You kneel on the lower step and bend across the top. Place the palms of your hands on the floor.”
In something of a trance, Harry approached the wooden contraption and hesitantly placed his knees on the step. Then he reached forward and laid his stomach across the top. He was a small boy and could not quite reach to the floor so his fingertips hovered an inch or so above the carpet. In this position his bare bottom was raised at a convenient angle for The Gaffer to lash.
Harry wriggled a little as the heavy wooden block dug into his knees and stomach. Absurdly, since in a moment any thought of this discomfort would pale as the birch rods tore him to pieces, he wished he had a cushion to kneel on.
The Gaffer took hold of the boy’s wrists and secured them tightly in leather cuffs especially designed for the purpose. Then his pyjama jacket was roughly pushed up his back away from the target area. Then The Gaffer reached into the bucket and extracted a birch, he swished it through the air to dry it and Harry felt droplets of water sprinkle the back of his legs.
There was a long pause and then a gigantic swish and the first stroke fell. It landed with a resounding crack. Harry felt the wet branches across his naked rear, but to his tremendous shock, not much pain. There was a tingling sensation and it felt like an egg whisk had been smacked into his bottom.
The second swipe landed right on target and again Harry hardly felt a thing. The boy couldn’t work it out. Was The Gaffer deliberately going soft on him? If so, why? Why go to all this trouble of preparing the birch twigs and then not whip him thoroughly?
What Harry did not know, at least not yet, was that it took a few strokes for the effects of the birch to penetrate.
There was another long pause, before swish! Crack! down came the birch rod again with tremendous force. Jeeezzz! Harry felt that one alright. He let out a yelp and wriggled. He had been beaten with a cane many times in the past, but nothing had felt quite like this. He lost control of his hands and they flailed around. He wished he had been bent over the chair or The Gaffer’s desk; at least then he would have something to grab hold of.
There was another lengthy delay and once more the birch came down hard to deliver the worst stroke yet. By now Harry’s bum was raw; he was very frightened, uncertain that he could take twelve full strokes of this birch.
There was a terrifying hiss, then those whippy twigs hit the target area again. Harry felt a very severe sting which steadily spread across his bottom. It hurt so much that it drove all the breath out of him and he lay across the block panting and squirming. This was a whipping of a lifetime; each stroke was hurting more than the one before and Harry dreaded the next one.
The next stroke was timed perfectly and the sting was so intense it made Harry scream and he started to rise from his prostrate position only to feel the strong hand of The Gaffer pushing him back down.
“If you move, you will receive extra stokes,” The Gaffer exclaimed sternly, and then in a more gentle tone he added, “It is best if you take your punishment like a man.”
Tears flooded down Harry’s cheeks and gulping and coughing for air, the boy resumed his position, head low, arms stretched out front and naked buttocks high.
The pause between strokes was the longest so far. Harry clenched and unclenched his cheeks in anticipation of the next lash. Why wasn’t it coming? Then the boy realised, his tormentor was over at the bucket withdrawing a fresh birch rod.
The seventh stroke landed viciously. It hurt atrociously, the most painful one yet. The Gaffer applied the next stroke to Harry’s bare and still writhing backside will all his weight. The wretched boy howled as the ferocious bite of the wet twigs penetrated his flesh, sending him into violent contortions.
Harry was not sure what happened next. Later running the events over in his mind, he could not be sure that he hadn’t fainted. He vaguely remembered howling and pleading for it to stop, but the scolding birch continued to hiss and lash, flogging him unmercifully. This was not punishment, this was torture.
Harry woke up. It was the middle of the night. He was face down on the bed; his head in his arms. His pyjama bottoms had been removed and his jacket was scrunched around his shoulders. A thick bandage was wrapped around his bottom to hold in place a dressing that was easily half-an-inch thick.
He was alone in the room. Where was he? It took some moments to place it. Of course, this was the school’s sanatorium; the sick room. How had he gotten here? He could remember nothing except the searing agony in his arse. Cautiously, he moved his arms from beneath his head and with the tips of his middle and index fingers he gently touched the dressing on his bottom.
Jesus H Christ! That hurt! Just a slightest movement against the burnt flesh was enough to send paroxysms of pain shooting through his entire body. Copious tears fell into the boy’s pillow and once again he buried his head in his arms, not knowing that he would lay face down on the bed for three full days before the agony eased sufficiently for him risk putting pressure on his buttocks.
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second