Looking back on it Bradley realised that he ought to have smelt a rat right from the start. If he hadn’t been as vain as he was, he should have wondered what ever possessed his employer Mr MacDonald to take him on that business trip across Europe, when he had so many older and abler men at his disposal. Bradley’s driving was all right, but certainly no better than Smith’s or Davidson’s.
Conceit had something to do with it. Bradley thought he was the blue eyed boy. He might be only nineteen, but so many older, established men at the company had perished in the war. Others had returned with their brains so addled they could never work again.
Bradley and Mr MacDonald travelled to France, but their destination was Germany. The war had ended two years previously and millions of American dollars were flooding in now that continent of Europe had been carved up among the super-powers. The future was West Germany and Bradley had his sights on being the company’s top dog. The railways were still shot to pieces and the only way was to travel by car; just the two of them.
Bradley and his boss were St. Tom’s men. That was they had both attended St. Tom’s, an elite public boarding school. But not at the same time. Mr MacDonald was just about old enough to be Bradley’s father. That’s how he got the job in the first place – the old school tie. They all look after one another. The truth was that Bradley hadn’t done so well at school. He was inattentive and selfish. Despite the best efforts of the schoolmasters and their whippy canes, he never quite accepted that rules were to be obeyed by all, including Bradley. He was lucky to get his job he was helped by his father, also an old St Tom’s man.
Bradley and his boss had little in common so conversation during the hours of driving was limited. They were able to share experiences of school. As is the way when old school fellows such as these meet they reminisced about masters they knew. And, the liberal corporal punishment regime they both endured.
The journey was slow as the roads were bad. They were closing in on Munich and the rain fell in torrents. Bradley never saw the five-inch nail. He first knew he had a flat tyre when he lost control of the steering. Cursing his luck and the rain with considerable effort he changed the wheel. His boss stayed in the car which made the task that more difficult. Bradley did not complain. It wasn’t his place to do so and he did not want to get on the bad side of Mr MacDonald. If he played his cards right and impressed the old man he, Bradley, could advance quickly in the company. If he upset him, that could put an end to his future prospects.
At last the car was back on the road. The rain eased but didn’t stop. It was dark and there were no road lamps. This was Germany; electricity was unknown outside of the cities. The darkness was Bradley’s excuse for not seeing the broken glass. Another flat tyre, and the spare already used. Cursing his luck one more time, Bradley kicked the tyre aggressively.
“You need a garage,” Mr MacDonald said. That was true, but Bradley still thought it an unhelpful statement. Where in the middle of this Godforsaken land could he find a garage? “We passed a hotel, or guesthouse, or something back there,” Mr MacDonald waved his hand as if that would clarify his statement. “Go find it and see if they can send someone to help us. We can stay the night there.”
Bradley trudged off into the dark, cussing his boss and the whole world at large. His clothes were soaked and his shoes leaked by the time he found the hotel. It was run-down and creepy. A withered old woman peered at him as he trekked up a pathway, overgrown with weeds. She received him tersely. Bradley did not understand a word she said. She spoke in German and sounded hostile; but then all German sounded hostile to an Englishman. Bradley spoke in English, clearly enunciating each word as if speaking to an idiot. Then he tried speaking loudly. This did not improve matters. He could not get through to her.
Then, a young man, no older than Bradley himself, appeared from down the hall. “Can I be of assistance, Sir,” he spoke good English, but with a heavy German accent. Bradley explain his position and within minutes the boy, who Bradley now knew was called Gerhard, was hitching up a battered old pony to an equally dilapidated cart. “Take me to your master,” he called cheerfully to Bradley and together they set off to rescue Mr MacDonald.
They were the only guests at the hotel but their hosts were helpful and gracious. It took much effort but they ran hot baths and prepared the best meal that they could under their straightened circumstances. Bradley fought to hide his annoyance that his boss was taking a great deal of interest in Gerhard. Gerhard was blond (well, he was a German after all) and fit with muscles honed through manual work. He had a wide open face and surprisingly white teeth considering the state of the country. He liked to laugh and to Bradley’s further annoyance Mr MacDonald joined in. Bradley’s jealousy bit deep. How, he wondered, had Gerhard survived the war? Hadn’t all young men sacrificed themselves for Hitler?
Bradley affected not to notice when Mr MacDonald and Gerhard left the room together whispering as if in some conspiracy. His only consolation was they would be back on the road tomorrow never to return.
He waited for an hour, uncertain what he was supposed to do. Was he to wait for his employer to return? Would Mr MacDonald need his services again that evening? Was it safe for him to go off to his bed? He paced the residents’ lounge and had at last determined he would turn in for the night when Mr MacDonald and Gerhard made an unannounced entrance. The blond German boy grinned from ear-to-ear, adding to Gerhard’s suspicious jealousy. It was compounded when the German smiled even more broadly at Bradley as if he was holding a secret. The German turned to Mr MacDonald and in accented English wished him a very pleasant rest of the evening.
The young German breezed from the room. Bradley stood, somewhat irritated and waited for his employer’s instructions. Mr MacDonald spoke seriously, “I have been very disappointed with you today,” he said gravely. “Your incompetence with the motor car has caused me serious delays. My business may not recover as a result.”
Bradley’s jaw dropped. How unfair! It wasn’t his fault the roads in Germany were so bad. How could he be blamed for the tyre bursts? Had he put the nails and the broken glass on the road? No, of course not! He felt all of this but knew better than to say a word of protest. Mr MacDonald was his employer and held the key to Bradley’s future in his hands. Bradley had no choice but to accept his employer’s rebukes. “Sorry, sir,”’ he said meekly, “I’ll try to do better tomorrow.”
Mr MacDonald’s bright blue eyes flashed. “I sincerely expect so, young man,” he said gruffly. “You cannot continue in this way.” His eyes narrowed and he frowned, “You need to be brought to book.”
Bradley had no idea what his employer could mean. Again, he knew better than to answer back. Mr MacDonald continued uninterrupted, “Follow me, upstairs,” he said mysteriously, “we need to deal with this.”
Not allowing a reply, Mr MacDonald immediately led the way from the room. In deep confusion, Bradley trotted behind him. Outside in the dank passageway Mr MacDonald stopped by a large mahogany table. Bradley peered into the gloom. He blinked furiously. He couldn’t quite believe what he saw. Silently and without explanation Mr MacDonald took hold of a bunch of freshly cut switches. He lifted and carried them as if they were the most delicate flowers on earth. Bradley gasped in realisation: Mr MacDonald and Gerhard must have been out cutting switches from the nearby bushes. What did Mr MacDonald intend to do?
“Follow me this way,” the older man headed to the large, dilapidated staircase that would lead to his bedroom. Bradley, his head spinning, trudged behind.
The room was small and sparsely furnished. An ancient bed with a wrought-iron bedstead took up most of the space. Mr MacDonald carefully lay the switches on the mattress. Bradley stared at them as slowly his employer’s intention dawned on him. Mr MacDonald lost no time getting to the point. “A thrashing should bring you to your senses.” He let the words drift in the air. Bradley blinked back his disbelief. A beating? He might expect something like this at St Tom’s, but he wasn’t at school anymore. He was a grown man – well eighteen years old – and worked for his living.
Instinctively he knew he must not argue. Mr MacDonald was his employer, he held all the power. Bradley was but his servant. Mr MacDonald could be Bradley’s meal ticket, the teenager needed to keep the old man sweet. “Yes sir, sorry sir,” he whispered.
Mr MacDonald drew himself to his full height and pushed back his shoulders. His eyes were rheumy with reminiscence. “Back at the grand old school,” he spoke slowly and softly, “you know what would have happened at a time such as this?”
Bradley remained silent while in his mind he recalled his much loved housemaster Mr Coddington. Oh, the times they had spent in his master’s study. Mr MacDonald cut short his nostalgia, “Get those trousers off. Underwear too.” He picked up a heavy pillow and carefully placed it on the edge of the bedstead. It would provide much needed additional height for what he had in mind.
Bradley lightened. It was to be just like with Mr Coddington. He stooped down and tackled the laces on his shoes. He worked with mild enthusiasm on the braces that held his trousers aloft. It was a cumbersome business stripping off his clothes. Mr MacDonald watched patiently, toying with a switch in his hands. At last the teenager was prepared.
“Bend over the pillow, across the bed,” Mr MacDonald ordered curtly. Without a murmur of protest, Bradley stepped forward, judged his distance from the bedstead and slowly fell forward. His stomach sank into the pillow and he folded his arms and rested his face in them. The floor was polished wood and his feet slipped when he parted them to produce a more rounded bottom for his employer to thrash.
Mr MacDonald would take his time. He preferred it that way. It added to the drama and the excitement. Bradley’s shirttail covered part of his naked haunches so his employer took hold of it and pushed it out of the way. Bradley’s buttocks trembled with anticipation.
The switch was about fourteen inches long and thinner than a pencil. It would leave a fine mark, but it was delicate. Mr MacDonald would have preferred a whippy rattan cane, but such things were the province of English schools (and perhaps some in the colonies) but were unobtainable in Germany. He would have to do the best he could. Gerhard had cut him many specimens so as one switch broke with use there were others to take its place.
Mr MacDonald positioned the switch across Bradley’s bare bottom. The touch of the stick sent shivers of sensuous pleasure up his spine. He began to shake all over. MacDonald patted his stick keenly across all segments of the eighteen-year-old’s rump, calculating where to place his first blow.
The first stroke roared over the buttocks, landing, more or less, over the fleshiest part of the boy’s meaty posterior. Surely Bradley’s gasp of amazement could be heard all over the building. He wondered if the blond-haired German boy Gerhard was listening behind the floor.
The heat and sting was tremendous. Bradley gritted his teeth. The switch returned; it tapped, it patted, and it explored all locations particularly the tender under curves of his bottom, tickling him suggestively in those sensitive areas.
The next stroke fizzed a burning stripe lower across his buttocks and made his head swim. He was dizzy, almost sick. His body went rigid with pain. Bradley let out something that was halfway between a gasp and a wail, but it ended in an undignified gurgle.
Mr MacDonald sighed. The switch had broken in his hand. He tossed the remnants to the floor and reached for a substitute. He tested it between his hands. It was a little longer, but thicker than its companion. He swished it through the air, enjoying the powerful swish! as it flew. Bradley was aroused by the terrific noise. He knew he would need to summon wonderful resources of doggedness to carry himself through the ordeal of this caning session without wailing.
There was a breathless silence in the room apart from the crisp sound of MacDonald’s switch tapping on his sore bottom. His employer whacked a third stroke and Bradley lost all control, unleashing a loud, hollow groan. The pain was very nearly unbearable. He gulped loudly and shuddered. Mr MacDonald remained utterly silent. Bradley wriggled his throbbing buttocks restlessly and clenched both cheeks, but MacDonald’s stick returned and worried itself against the hottest spots on his bottom. There was no escape from the switch; it lashed once more. Bradley’s head swam; he had been prostrate for too long. It seemed as if every drop of blood in his body was travelling through his veins at twice the normal speed.
“What an ugly looking row of welts.” Mr MacDonald’s voice was tinged with glee. “You should get up now,” he said softly. “Undress completely and get into my bed.”
And so, Bradley passed the first milestone on his road trip to becoming one of Mr MacDonald’s most trustworthy employees.
Picture credit: Mayser Hute
Other stories you might like
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Also writing school stories as Scholastic here
Charles Hamilton the Second