Steve May slowly closed the door to the study behind him.
He stood blinking the tears. Tears of humiliation; tears of pain. His backside throbbed like crazy. A minute or two earlier it had been intense agony, but it was easing a little. It would be several hours before the pain went completely.
How he hated that school. He would gladly see it burn to the ground. All of it and the schoolmasters with it.
Slowly, he eased his way down the passageway. Every step he took was agony as the elastic at the bottom of his underpants cut into his blistered bottom. He limped downstairs and through the lower school passageways, hands gingerly touching his buttocks. He couldn’t help it; he desperately wanted to rub his scorching bottom. His eyes were still wet and blurry as he made for the bogs and a cubicle in which to hide for a few minutes, until he’d regained some composure.
He cried a bit more; his bum was throbbing madly and the pain was killing him.
That night, alone in his horrible furnished room, Steve wept into his pillow and nursed his scarred buttocks. He still had weeks to go until he would be allowed to leave St Septimius. How would he survive?
Four weeks earlier
Steve May’s progress was painstaking. He crossed the ivy-covered quadrangle, passed the mullioned-windows of the library and entered the clock tower. He had never been in such a place before. What kind of school was this?
At a snail’s pace, he climbed the stairs in search of Mr Fortescue’s study. “Study:” even the words they used here intimidated him. Study: what was wrong with office? That was a perfectly good word. Steve was in search of Mr Fortescue, the headmaster, the man who was to be his mentor for the next eight weeks, while he undertook his teaching practice.
He was not looking forward to this. Now, he had to prove that he really had the makings of a schoolteacher. Eight weeks was all the time he had. If he failed that was the end for him. But success meant qualification and “Steve May” would become “Mr May,” a junior teacher.
The school porter had told him the study was on the first floor. He found that easily enough and was scrutinising the nameplates on the oak-panelled doors when he stopped in his tracks. Beyond the door of the study at the far end of the corridor came a distinct sound. Swish! Thud. Swish! Thud.
His heart beat faster. Was that what he thought it was? His naturally pale face coloured up with embarrassment. He stopped, stood still, unsure what to do next. Suddenly the door of the study eased open and a boy, bulkier and taller than Steve, emerged. Steve’s attempt to avoid eye contact was a failure. The boy glared at him: his expression a mixture of pain and resentment.
The pain was born of being forced to drop his trousers and bend over a chair to allow Fortescue to swipe his cane across his stretched white underpants and the resentment was forged when this stranger witnessed that humiliation.
The sense of intimidation Steve already felt increased as he formed a slack fist and ever so lightly tapped on the study door. He half hoped Dr Fortescue would not hear the knock so Steve could withdraw and leave the school forever. He would tell his tutors at the teacher training institution that nobody had been expecting him at the school.
“Come in.” Rats! He had heard. There was no going back now for Steve May. He had arrived at St. Septimius and he would have to survive all that the school threw at him in the next two months.
He turned the handle and opened the door slightly as if he was trying not to be a nuisance and squeezed through the small gap he created between door and door jam.
Steve looked around the study. It was dominated by a huge desk, topped with green leather. Behind it was a window that overlooked the school grounds with its ivy-covered walls and mullioned windows.
The walls of the study were panelled in oak. A large open unlit, fire dominated one wall and two others had shelves and cabinets, including a tall thin cupboard with a smoked-glass front. A Chesterfield couch and two padded armchairs made up most of the furniture, but there
Standing against the wall was a wooden chair with a high back over which, Steve would one day discover, boys had to drape themselves when being caned. Behind this was a comfortable seating area where presumably Dr Fortescue held informal meetings. Steve’s eyes, however, were drawn to the object laid across the desk, a thin yellow stick with a curved handle: the cane.
“You must be May.” Dr Fortescue gave him a frosty glare making Steve feel like a naughty twelve-year-old schoolboy. The fact that the cane was resting on the desk did little to modify that. In his mind’s eye, he could see that resentful schoolboy stretched across the desk, bottom high. When Fortescue beckoned him with a crook of his finger to go and stand in front of his desk Steve was certain he was in for similar treatment.
He shuffled forward, eyes lowered. Steve had been overwhelmed from the moment he walked through the gates of St. Septimius. He had never seen such a place. He had attended a modest inner-city secondary modern school made of breeze-blocks and glass, far removed from the ancient buildings at St. SIGS.
Dr Fortescue’s glare fixed on Steve who intuitively stared down at his mud splattered shoes, terrified he might make eye contact with the headmaster. He shuffled from one foot to another in embarrassment.
Dr Fortescue had a red face with a heavy frown on his brow and his thin lips were set tightly. None of the boys were sure of his age; he probably looked older than he actually was. He was an intimidating man, as strong as an ox.
Fortescue did not like what he saw. Who was this pale-skinned scrawny creature dressed in a cheap suit from the Co-op, who stared at the carpet too petrified to even look at him? Who on earth thought he could become a schoolmaster? If he wore one of St Septimius blue-and-white blazers he might be mistaken for a sixth-former. Heavens! Put him in short trousers and he could pass as fifteen.
“So, you are May.”
Steve blushed scarlet. Was he expected to answer? He wasn’t at all certain.
“Well, answer me boy!” Already Dr Fortescue was treating his new “colleague” as if he were a disobedient pupil.
“Yes, Sir. Sorry Sir.”
Fortescue’s already ruddy complexion turned puce with rage. That lower-class accent! Where was this urchin from? Some industrial town in the Midlands: Wolverhampton? Walsall? How could he be expected to teach English, when he couldn’t even speak the language correctly?
He turned his back on Steve and stared out of the window. What was the world coming to? He blamed the new Socialist government. They wanted to abolish schools like St Septimius. Jealousy. Class envy, that’s what it was. The school had been forced to take scholarship boys from the working classes and now it was expected to take on this wretch as a student master. What next: admit West Indians? Independent schools were supposed to “give something back,” the Socialist, no crypto-Communist, Minister of Education had said. “Give something back”: what the hell did that mean?
Fortescue stared through the window. A bell rang in the distance and hundreds of schoolboys in St Septimius colours emerged from classrooms. Bloody Socialists, he thought, they want everybody to be the same.
He turned to May. “Get out of my sight and never come back,” is what he wanted to say. But he had been given his instructions by the school governors. He knew he had to deal with this person and his strangled vowels.
So, instead of throwing the tyke out on his ear, he did the next best thing. He sent him over to see Carruthers, the most junior of the English masters. Let him wet nurse the baby and he sincerely hoped he never had the displeasure to encounter this wretch and his shiny suit ever again.
Steve had been at the school for more than two weeks and was on the edge of despair. Carruthers was scarcely older than Steve himself and had not taken well to his task as babysitter. It had brought out his worst bullying tendencies: Carruthers was on the lowest rung of school-mastering and resented it; now, in Steve he had someone who was even lower down the pecking order.
He took an instant dislike to Steve from the moment he opened his mouth. He didn’t care that the new man was a considerable expert on the Romantic poets and Shakespeare’s tragedies: all he heard were his Black Country “strangled vowels.”
Carruthers would have left Steve to fend for himself if he hadn’t been given instructions by Dr Fortescue to “look after” him. Carruthers knew from painful experience that he must obey his headmaster at all times. Failure would mean a second humiliating visit to Fortescue’s study and Carruthers intended to avoid that at all costs.
Steve was assigned Sixth Form English classes, on the expectation that boys were older and responsible and would not make trouble for him. Alas, for poor Steve, that wasn’t to be. The boys might only eighteen year olds, but they were already well versed in snobbery; they knew their own sense of superiority and Mr May was most assuredly not of their class.
The boys went through the formalities: they stood, as they would for any master, when he entered the schoolroom and they called him “Sir”, but they had no respect for him at all and rather resented that he had been foisted upon them.
They called him the Queen of the May behind his back and made assertions that he was “queer,” even though they didn’t quite know what that meant. A particularly obnoxious boy called Jenkins led the charge. Jenkins was one of those boys who thought he was the class clown, and makes himself popular by always making his fellows laugh, but is in fact a bully. He and another boy had made up a poem about Steve that concentrated on the master’s assumed sexual behaviour.
Steve knew none of this but he did know that he had no rapport with his pupils and every class with them had become an ordeal for him.
Things were about to get even more humiliating. Every time he entered the schoolroom he felt he had been transported back two or three decades. The schoolroom consisted of about twenty wooden desks connected together so that pupils sat thigh to thigh on wooden benches. Along the top of the desks ran a groove for the pupil’s pens and pencils and each had an open inkwell.
A master would stand at the class at a blackboard and easel. To his left was a small desk for him to work at and behind it was a shelf for books.
The boys hated Mr May and wanted to make as much trouble for him as possible. Jenkins had made a plan. Each boy would make a paper dart and at a given signal as Steve chalked on the board they would simultaneously bombard him. It worked perfectly – at first.
Each boy surreptitiously tore a page from his exercise book and whenever Mr May turned his back, they would stealthily fold their paper until they had fashioned a serviceable paper airplane.
Then as Mr May was chalking a particularly difficult explanation on the board, Jenkins silently gave the command and a veritable air force of paper flew at the trainee schoolmaster. Some darts hit him about the body (at least one caught him on the back of the neck) while others made crash landings all around his feet.
“What? What? What is going on?” Steve spluttered.
Then, the schoolroom door flew open and Dr Fortescue stormed in. What back luck for the boys that he had been passing the classroom at the very moment the air force took flight and he had seen enough to know the boys were attacking the schoolmaster.
He might not have liked nor respected May, but Dr Fortescue knew it was his own duty to protect him and the dignity of all the schoolmasters at St Septimius from the savagery of their pupils.
The boys stood to attention as Dr Fortescue strode into the room, his face was puce in colour and he was sweating profusely. He seemed to be losing a struggle to retain his temper. The boys were fortunate he was not carrying a cane at the time (he almost always did when he patrolled the school corridors) for he might just have thrashed every backside in the classroom.
“This is disgusting behaviour,” he thundered. The silence from the boys was deafening, hardly one of them dared to breathe. All Steve could hear was the thump, thump, thump of his own heart bursting to get out of his chest. He was so miserable; made so by the boys’ air attack on him and compounded by his headmaster witnessing his incompetence in the schoolroom. He was close to tears as Dr Fortescue glared around the room, catching the eye of every single boy as he roared his disapproval.
“You will all return here at four o’clock this afternoon for detention.” With that he turned on his heels and burst through the door into the corridor, leaving a classroom full of shocked sixth-formers and one deeply humiliated trainee schoolmaster.
Shortly after four o’clock the boys assembled in the schoolroom for their detention. Some might have felt resentful since all the form was being punished for the misbehaviour of a few boys, but they did not show it. Schoolboys have an acute sense of injustice, but on this day they had a sense of solidarity that would made a trade union leader envious. They were united in their disdain for Mr May; if he could keep control of a class they wouldn’t be here now.
Dr Fortescue entered; glared at the class and pronounced. “You will tear a page out of your exercise book and each boy will write a two-page letter of apology to Mr May. I will read your missives and if your apology is not to my satisfaction, I will apply my cane to the seat of your trousers.”
With that he strutted from the room, in search of tea.
The boys started on the task. Two pages? How was a fellow expected to make a letter of apology run for two pages? What was there to say except: “I’m sorry.”
Many of the boys stared into space, chewing the end of their pens, hoping for inspiration. Others whispered to their neighbours as if that might stimulate thought.
Then Jenkins, the class joker, piped up. “Dear Mr May. I am sorry that you are a lousy schoolmaster.”
He was encouraged by the laughter this received.
“I am sorry that you are a tyke, who was born in Wolverhampton,” this said in a mock Black Country accent. The boys were appreciating the joke.
“Dear Mr May, I am sorry you are a homo.” The class was silent. Faces reddened. Jenkins had not expected this. All the boys thought May was queer, that’s why they nicknamed him Queen of the May.
“Jenkins!” Dr Fortescue had returned to the schoolroom, a cup of tea in one hand and his favourite cane in the other.
“Stand up boy!” Fortescue’s face had turned the colour of red wine. Boys of Dr Fortescue’s acquaintance knew this was a dangerous sign. Jenkins stumbled to his feet. Just as blood was rushing to the headmaster’s face, it was draining from Jenkins.
“What is the meaning of this!” Fortescue thundered, but he clearly did not expect an answer.
“Stand out in front of the class.”
Every boy in the room knew what was to happen next. Dr Fortescue’s punishments were always given in front of the class; the unfortunate boy would be called out to the front and given a real whacking. Once it was over the boy would be sent hobbling to his seat, finding it extremely difficult to let go of his stinging cheeks. Without fail he would at least have moist eyes; most would be in tears, even openly crying as they tried to sit down. Dr Fortescue would stand in front of the class with a satisfied smirk on his face watching and still wielding the cane. He would place the weapon back on the desk, in plain view, as a warning to everyone else, should they misbehave.
“Right Jenkins! Bend over the front desk backside facing the class.”
Reluctantly, the eighteen-year-old walked to the desk and bent over and waited for Dr Fortescue to begin. He sensed his grey trousers being tightened as the headmaster ensured they would offer the least protection to his bottom as possible.
Jenkins was no longer the class clown, he was a fool bent over with a class of sixth-formers staring intently at his bottom. The classroom was tense as they all waited for the caning to begin. Jenkins felt the cane tapping his backside and then it was gone. The next thing he heard a swish and his bottom was on fire.
Before he could recover the second stroke had landed, this took his breath away and by the third it was all he could do not to yell as the agony was so intense.
The fourth landed right at the bottom of his cheeks and Jenkins gulped tears. As the final two strokes fell in the same area he could no longer keep quiet and screamed out in pain, broken and humiliated in front of his classmates.
Dr Fortescue liked to examine a boy immediately he had caned him and ordered Jenkins to rise from the desk at once. As tears streamed down the teenager’s face, Dr Fortescue laid into him verbally. “Boy, I have gone easy on you this time, if I catch you again abusing Mr May your trousers and underpants will come down and Six will become Twelve. Is that understood?”
It was, but Jenkins did not have sufficient control of himself to say so.
“Back to your desk and complete your letter of apology.”
Then turning back to the class, Dr Fortescue added, “I shall return in twenty minutes’ time and I expect each one of you to have completed the letter of apology. Any boy who has not done so will get the same as Jenkins.”
With that he left the classroom to the sound of his own footsteps. For the next twenty minutes the classroom was in silence except for the gentle sobbing of one eighteen-year-old boy.
He had only been at St Septimius a short time but nothing could surprise Steve about the school. Dr Fortescue, his headmaster, expected him to bend over and offer up his arse for his cane, just as if he were one of his fourth-form pupils.
To Dr Fortescue it seemed the most natural thing in the world; he was in charge and he would brook no nonsense from this trainee schoolmaster, who had failed in all his duties in the schoolroom. He was utterly incompetent and if he expected a good report for his training officer at the end of his placement he had better get his backside in the air fast.
Dr Fortescue didn’t say any of this out loud, of course, but Steve knew that was what he meant. The only chance he had (and it might only be a slim chance) of becoming a junior schoolmaster was to let this bullying headmaster have his way.
Dr Fortescue opened one of the desk drawers and picked out a small bunch of keys which he carried across to a tall cupboard on the far side of the room. The cupboard was like a wardrobe with a metal rail running from side to side and there was a black schoolmaster’s cloak and an overcoat hanging from it on coat hangers. Then to one side, Steve saw several canes also suspended from this metal rail. They seemed to vary in length by only a few inches and one or two were thicker than the others.
“Very well, go to the cupboard and choose a cane and bring it to me.”
Slowly, Steve went over to the cupboard and looked at the array of canes inside. He looked back at Dr Fortescue questioningly. “The one you think you deserve.” he repeated. Finally, Steve took a breath and chose the thickest one, which was second longest. He held it almost reverentially as he passed it to his master. It was heavier than he thought, but easy to hold. Despite its thickness, it was very pliable.
Fortescue moved a high-backed chair from the corner of the room and set it down in front of his desk.
“Stand there.” It was a clear command as Dr Fortescue pointed to a spot on the rug. Steve shuffled his feet, reluctant to move, but deep down he knew he had no choice. For the sake of his future he had to be completely subservient to Dr Fortescue and anything the headmaster demanded of him he had to deliver.
“Trousers and underpants down.” Another cool command, delivered as if the instruction was the most natural thing in the world: a twenty-two-year-old trainee school teacher required to strip half naked to allow a man more than twice his age to flog his buttocks with a whippy rod.
Hesitatingly, Steve started to undo the belt of his trousers and then his trouser buttons. He half pushed and half pulled his suit trousers down just below his bottom.
“That’s no good boy. I want them down round your ankles.”
Steve blushed and pushed his trousers right down. He then seemed to freeze.
“Now your underpants,” Dr Fortescue gently reminded him. “Right down please.”
Steve summoned up the courage, grasped the waistband of his pants and in one slow, but steady movement, drew them down to meet his trousers. He had a long-tailed shirt so that action did not reveal his buttocks, other than a brief glimpse of the very lowest part.
“Please pull your shirt up so that your bottom is fully exposed.”
Steve obeyed pulling his shirt up and gathering it at the front. His bottom was round and pert.
“Bend over the chair boy,” he ordered, rattling through his rules for caning. “Head right down, I want you tight, bottom out more, legs slightly apart, hold the chair seat tightly. And stay there. If you move out of position I shall give you extra strokes.”
Steve bent with his legs stretched out at forty-five degrees behind him. The seat of the chair was cold to his hands. He could feel the back of it sticking in to his stomach. He felt very frightened. He could hear a cane being swished. Then footsteps moving towards him. He felt intense embarrassment. He shut his eyes and gritted his teeth. This was going to hurt!
With a growl, Fortescue swiped the rod through the air and landed it with a heavy thwack across Steve’s bottom, pacing each stroke for maximum effect, giving him the full length of the cane and making sure that twelve strokes covered the whole of his bottom.
“Ow! Ow!” shrieked Steve, moving his bottom from side to side over the back of the chair as he tried to alleviate the sting, but the stick whipped and cracked to Dr Fortescue’s delight, dancing on his bare cheeks and painting pink stripes. His buttocks rocked from side to side as Steve wiggled his hips frantically, attempting to dissipate the pain.
The trainee teacher begged the headmaster for mercy as Dr Fortescue lashed his cane into his tight buttocks. His behind was throbbing with the pain of twelve strokes of the cane, but Fortescue wasn’t satisfied.
Suddenly, Fortescue stopped swiping his cane and began dementedly slapping his hard, rough hand into Steve’s welted buttocks. A rapid succession of sharp whacks covered almost every part of young Steve’s bare backside and upper thighs, leaving him panting noisily for breath and gulping back a flood of cries. He was sweating profusely, and his breathing was heavy, fast, gasping. His face and neck were red and strained and his mouth agape.
Dr Fortescue’s breathing was heavy, excited, uncontrolled. Then he stopped spanking Steve’s red-raw buttocks.
Steve could not be sure his punishment was at an end as he assumed Dr Fortescue would instruct him to stand when he was finished. When no instruction came, the twenty-two-year-old drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly and tentatively raised his head up just ten or twelve inches.
When he was not stopped, he took another deep breath and stood half upright, his hands gripping the top of the chair. Finally, he stood up on tiptoe and began gently exploring the damage caused to his bottom, trying to disperse the sting. Several tears trickled down his cheeks and he wiped them away with the back of his hand.
Dr Fortescue was motionless, Steve could not be sure, but the headmaster appeared to be in some kind of trance.
With a sharp intake of breath, Steve bent down and slowly hunted through the material that lay around his ankles as he sought the waistband of his pants. With a slight groan as he experienced once more the soreness of his bottom, he eased them up his legs. Equally as slowly he pulled up his trousers.
Dr Fortescue was battling to regain his composure, but failing. Steve started to run on the spot and jump up and down to help relieve the pain. Football commentators on TV are always talking about how players “run off” their injuries after they’ve been kicked about a bit on the pitch. In Steve’s case, it didn’t seem to work.
Seemingly lacking the power of speech, Dr Fortescue pointed to the door and whispered, “You had better go.”
Picture credit: The Magnet
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second