Hundreds of academics have been accused of bullying colleagues in the past five years, prompting concerns that a culture of harassment and intimidation is thriving in Britain’s leading universities. – Genuine news story
You stare dumbfounded, “Excuse me?”
“I said bend over.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What part of ‘bend over’ don’t you understand? I’m going to cane you.”
“Yes, cane you. Bend over the desk.”
“You can’t … I mean,” you stammer, your confusion growing.
“I can. I am your head of department. I can do as I please. Bend over.”
You watch confused, as he flexes an old-fashioned, school cane between his hands. “But …” you still can’t quite grasp what is happening to you. “No, you can’t. I’m not a student.”
“I am well aware who you are. That is why I am going to cane you. Bend over.”
Your head spins. Is this really happening? Is it perhaps a surreal dream. “But …” you try to speak, but he interrupts you. “No buts. Bend over that desk.” He swishes the cane through the air and points to a small desk at the other side of the room.
“How can you?” you feel your voice crack, you are starting to plead. “I have my rights.”
He bends the cane between his hands once more. It is a little under a metre long and as thick as a pencil. Your eyes focus on the notches that run along the length of the yellow rod. You notice the muscles flexing in his arms. He sneers, “Rights! Don’t give me rights. You have no rights. I have your annual assessment.” He nods towards a filing cabinet in the corner of the room. “What have you published this year?” he growls and then answers his own question, “Nothing!”
You start to protest that you have a huge teaching load. Eight classes, each semester, but before you can form any words, he continues, “And, hardly anything the year before. What do you do all day?”
You can feel your lips moving and some words are forming but you are too terrified to speak clearly. You babble and that only encourages him in his own pursuit. “Your contract is coming to an end at Christmas. Do you really expect me to renew it? Clearly, he thinks this is a rhetorical question because he doesn’t give you time to answer. “Bend over,” he snarls and bends the rattan cane into an arc. You cannot take your eyes off it.
You can’t stop your eyelids from blinking fast. Your heartrate speeds. Suddenly your mouth is arid like a desert. The palms of your hands sweat. You can’t catch your breath. You are starting to panic. What can you do? Call for help. Isn’t his secretary in the next room? No, you tell yourself, you saw her leaving as you came in. You are on your own. Should you make a run for it? Your mind is a whirl. Where can you run to? You know you can run but you cannot hide. He will get you eventually. Then what? Bend over, get the cane. Or lose your jobs. You know it will be hard to get another. This is your first post. You don’t have much experience, and as he says you have hardly published any research.
He walks over to the small desk and stands besides it. He looks at you menacingly. He wobbles the cane at you and a hideous grin cracks his fleshy face. You see how much he is enjoying this. He taps the tip of the cane against the desk. “Bend over the desk,” and then he adds cruelly, “young man.” You feel like a small child. You are nobody; he is all. He has the power, he can do as he wants with you. “Well?” he draws out the word investing it with sinister connotations. You gulp.
“I shan’t ask you again,” he mocks and then does precisely that, “Bend over the desk.”
Your head pounds so much you fear it will explode. Your throat feels like you are gargling with razor blades. Oh my God! You have no choice. There is nothing you can do. Absolutely nothing. “P…” you start to plead, but stop yourself. He is all commanding. You concede defeat. You feel like you are in a trance. This isn’t really happening to you. It is somebody else in that room. Is this what an out of body experience feels like? Independently of your will, your body moves slowly towards the desk. You stand close to it, the room seems to be spinning. He taps the frayed tip of the cane against the desk once more, “Bend over,” he intones.
The desk is small and low. You are tall. You look down on it as if from a great height. Bend over. How is it done exactly. Do you lean your elbows on the desk top and jut out your bottom? Should you lie down flat on your stomach? And then what, where do your arms go? Time is standing still. It is taking forever for you to work it out. From a great distance away you hear a voice, it is hazy, but you understand enough of what it is saying, “Bend over. Right down. Lie flat.” Your body obeys.
Your chest rests along the top of the desk which is not very big. Your stomach digs into one side. You still don’t know what to do with your arms. You stretch them to your sides spread-eagle fashion. You realise right away this is very uncomfortable and will not work. You change position and reach ahead of you. That is better. “Legs further apart,” you feel a slight tingle across your backside. He has slapped his hand across your bum to encourage you along. You do as you are told. “Good boy,” he says.
You have never felt so humiliated. Nothing before in your life comes anywhere close to this. You are offering up your bottom to an older man. You are going to submit to him; to let him beat you with a long, whippy cane. What if someone finds out. The students. You’d die of shame. You hear floorboards creak as he walks around behind you. Your chin is resting on the desk. If you keep your eyes open you can look across the room to the far wall. There is a day-planner calendar for 2019 with some dates inked in. You think if you concentrate on that it will take your mind off the ordeal to come. You sense he is now standing to your left. You hear his heavy breathing and there is a faint smell of what you suppose is deodorant.
He taps the cane across the centre of your bum. He stops. You sense him move closer to you. Violently, he grips the waistband of your chino trousers and tugs hard. The material digs up between your cheeks, it’s like he’s given you a wedgie. Now he is running the palm of his hand across your buttocks, smoothing out any creases that are left defacing the cotton. You feel very vulnerable. You are presenting him with the perfect target. He moves back, picks up the cane and once more taps it across the crest of your mounds. You feel it move from left to right in a sawing motion. Your cheeks clench. They decided to do this of their own accord. It is a reflex action. You feel the cane being lifted away from your bum, you shut your eyes tight and suck in your lips.
You hear an almighty swishing noise and crack! as the cane connects across the centre of your backside. There is a pause, it feels like a long time before the agony hits you. You gasp with shock, it feels like he has pressed a hot wire into your flesh. Your head automatically rises and falls and you headbutt the top of the desk. The burning intensifies and then cools of a little. Just as the pain subsides a second swish rents the air. The crack is as loud as before. The pain is a little harsher. He lands it below the first, under the cheek in the sensitive spot where the bum and the thighs meet. You do the headbutting thing again and this time your knees also buckle. The flesh is scorched. You have what feels like a strip of pain two or three centimetres long running across your bum.
You suck in air, trying to calm yourself. Your heartrate is off the scale. Your blood pressure must be sky high. Your bottom throbs. The third stroke whistles and cuts into the flesh just above the first. You now have three strokes running parallel to each other. He has an expert aim. The pain radiates from your bum and travels up and down your legs. You wrap your left foot over your right ankle in an almost successful attempt to stop yourself from kicking out. Your hips wriggle and you grip the edge of the desk so hard that your knuckles start to go white.
He lands the next one so that it cuts into one of the three welts pulsating across your bottom. You yelp, you just can’t help it. You just have to. The pain intensifies. It feels like your underpants have stuck to your skin. You panic. You’re bleeding. Before you have time to think more about this another swipe bounces off your bum. Again it lands across the others. You have never felt so much agony in your life; not even that time when you fell off your bike and broke a collarbone. You bite hard into your lip and think you can taste blood.
“Keep still, boy,” his voice echoes as if it is coming from a faraway valley. You are not aware that your hips have risen from the desk and you are stomping your feet up and down like a demented soldier on sentry duty. You feel the strength of his hand pushing you in the back until once again you are face down with your bottom high. He releases his grip and stands back, takes his aim and lets fly. He puts that one right into the area below the bum. It is almost right across the backs of the thighs. You stomp again, but some instinct stops you jumping up to rub the pain away from your backside. You groan, your eyes start to water. You fight back tears. The pain is intolerable. Is this how it would feel if someone had rubbed a steam iron across your bum? The back of your legs pulsate. You don’t know it yet but the welt that is forming now will reignite every time you sit down for days to come.
Has time stood still? It seems forever before the next stroke whips into you. Your eyes are closed tight so you cannot see him. You sense he is close behind you. He seems to be moving his position. You hear his irregular breathing. “Last one,” he says. The cane rises, swoops and cuts hard across your buttocks. This time you do scream. Your legs flail. Your head butts the desk top. You think your head is going to explode. He has landed the cane so that it runs in a diagonal line from the bottom left to the top right across your buttocks, biting into each of the five cuts previously delivered. Can there be so much agony in the world? How can such a thin, light whippy cane deliver so much hurt.
You are wheezing, struggling to catch your breath. Tears flood your face and drip onto the desk. Your bum is on fire. Again, you lose any sense of time. You daren’t move. Is it over? Are you allowed to stand up? He is in control. He is your master. You cannot do anything without his permission. At last the words, “Stand up,” drift through the air. You move your feet and they slip on the hard carpet and you topple forward. You grip the desk to stop tumbling to the ground. Even as you await your next instruction you feel the intense agony in your bottom is easing to a pulsating throb. Very soon it will become an intense ache. Over the coming minutes it will turn to a warm glow. The marks will stay with you for days and you will be reminded of this humiliation every time you sit down over the coming hours and days.
You grab hold of your own buttocks and rub furiously, it does very little to ease the pain. Through moist eyelids you see him open a cupboard and hide the cane from view. He turns to you. How you hate him. How you would like to grab a knife (or any sharp object) and gouge out his eyes. Perhaps, he senses this as he stays at the other end of the room. You see the armpits of his shirt are drenched. He too is waiting for his body to recover from the ordeal. After a few moments he looks across at you, you note the look of utter contempt in his eyes.
“That’s it,” he sneers. “Get out. Go.”
You hobble from the room, your humiliation complete. You know you can’t tell a living soul about this. Never. Who would believe you if you did? You hurry along the corridor towards the stairs. You see Jenkins, a young colleague from your department. Ashamed, you put your head down and rush past him. As you reach the stairwell you look back. Jenkins is at his door and about to knock.
Picture credit: Sting Pictures
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Also writing school stories as Scholastic here
Charles Hamilton the Second