I’ll be glad when the holidays are over and my nephew goes back to college. He’s been staying with me because his parents have taken themselves off for a New Year’s cruise down to the Caribbean. Lucky them.
It never occurred to me that Alfie would be so much trouble. He’s nineteen – twenty in February – and has been living away at university for a couple of years. I thought he was all grown up, but he keeps acting like a little kid.
The trouble is he treats my home like it’s a hotel. It’s driving my wife Carol to distraction. Nearly every morning we have the same problem: he just will not get out of bed. She cooks his breakfast and wakes him up but then what? Nothing. He never goes down to the kitchen to eat it.
Then, I have to run up and down the stairs all morning to see if he’s gotten out of bed.
Well, let me tell you something. I soon tired of that. Alfie’s a good kid, but sometimes he just needs to be pulled up a bit. He needs to be reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around him. I told him what would happen if he didn’t start playing by my rules.
My wife has this hairbrush she picked up at an antiques shop when we went on a visit to Brocklehurst. It’s a great heavy thing made of ebony wood. It’s nothing like those light plastic things they make today. It’s excellent for brushing her hair, but I quickly realised it could have a pretty good secondary use as well.
So last week Monday when I entered my nephew’s room that morning for the fourth time, I was carrying that hairbrush. I threw back his bed covers and delivered a sound smack that had him awake in a second. Before he was totally aware of what was going on I had pulled him to his feet. I sat myself down on the bed and hauled him over my knees. By this time he was awake well enough to be pleading for me to stop. “I will come down to breakfast,” he promised, “Please stop spanking me!” He was wailing like a little kid. Of course, they’ll promise you anything if only you’d stop spanking them.
I was having none of it. I had him where I wanted him and I might not get another chance. I pulled down his pants and started whacking his bare backside with the brush. He’s nineteen years old and entirely too big for this type of a spanking and I did more arguing and threatening than actual spanking while trying to keep him in position. He was flailing and kicking and hollering like crazy but I did succeed in getting in about twenty five whacks before I let him up.
He came down to breakfast on time after that.
I thought that would be the end of it. I had made my point that he ought to be a bit more thoughtful about others and I expected we wouldn’t have any more trouble with him. I could never have imagined what happened next.
It was getting close to midnight on the following Saturday and me and Carol were just getting ready to turn in when the phone rang. It startled us because no one calls us at that time of night. I said, “It won’t be for us, let it ring out,” but my wife said it might be urgent bad news and grabbed the handset. It was bad news all right. It was the local police station. They had Alfie and would someone please come and collect him. Carol melted with shame. He and some other louts had been hauled in for being drunk and incapable.
I had to get the car out and go fetch him. Naturally, I was angry with him but that was nothing to how I felt about the police. The sergeant at the station said Alfie and the others wouldn’t be prosecuted. It was only drunk and incapable, he told me. Not drunk and disorderly. It wasn’t worth the cost and effort taking him to court. He’d only get a ticking off, anyway.
So, Alfie was going to get off scot-free. He had disgraced himself and me and the wife. We wouldn’t be able to show our faces if the neighbours found out. I took him home. I said I’d have a word in the morning and left him to stagger off to bed.
Of course, when I said “a word” that was a code which meant his backside would be doing the listening while my heavy hairbrush did the talking.
I told my wife what had happened and what I intended to do. “The hairbrush,” she scoffed. “He needs a darn sight more than the hairbrush.” Maybe he did, but what did she expect me to do? That was when she reminded me of her Uncle Bill. Bill had been a housemaster at a very posh boarding school for many years. “He knows about this sort of thing,” she said as she rolled over and instantly fell asleep.
Uncle Bill hoped he had not shown too much enthusiasm when he was asked to help out his niece. He had retired as a schoolmaster many years before but he had kept a few souvenirs; among them his tattered academic gown and mortar-board cap along with three stout but whippy curve-handled rattan canes.
When he received the phone call he said he’d be happy to come out of retirement. If that’s what she really wanted. Carol was not a woman to mince words. “Yes, it is. Definitely. When can you get here?”
It was mid-afternoon and the winter sun was quickly setting when Uncle Bill arrived. He was a sprightly man in his seventies but many who met him for the first time thought him much younger. He still ran three miles every other day and was envied among his friends for his strength.
“Does he know that I am here?” Uncle Bill asked once he had taken off his coat and put the cane he had selected down on the dining room table. Carol nodded emphatically, “Oh yes, he knows what to expect.”
Alfie was no stranger to Uncle Bill. The old man had been much used by exasperated parents within the family across a number of generations. His expertise was much in demand and Uncle Bill shared his skill willingly. After all, what were families for?
“Call him down,” Uncle Bill stretched his arm and shoulder muscles, limbering himself up as he spoke, “You don’t need to be present if you’d rather not,” he added. He watched impassively as his niece headed for the stairs.
Shortly, Alfie appeared in the doorway. He wasn’t especially tall for his age, probably about five-feet-eight with a slim build. Uncle Bill was taken by the nineteen-year-old’s blond hair, dark at the roots (obviously dyed). It was parted down the centre and hung down over his eyes, partially obscuring a pale face that might have been thought cute if not for the attempted sneer that twisted the corners of his mouth.
“Come in,” Uncle Bill snapped, he had assumed his oft-repeated role of the disgruntled schoolmaster. “Take that look off your face.” He gestured to a far wall. Alfie hesitated, he could not fail to see the small, white straight-backed dining room chair that stood there, its back unnaturally facing into the room.
He glanced at the old man, but remained silent.
Uncle Bill sighed, “You know why you are here.” Alfie knew it was a statement, not a question and stayed silent. His heart thumped against his chest. “I manged to email your father, he is appalled by your behaviour. Do you want to know what he said?”
This time it was a question, but Alfie had no words. His mouth was parched, his temples were throbbing. The crook-handled cane lay on the table in plain sight. He didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out what was about to happen.
“He agreed I should cane you,” Uncle Bill answered his own question. “What do you say to that?” Another question.
If he were a member of any other family, Alfie might have said, “But I’m nearly twenty, I’m too old for this.” But his was no ordinary family. Uncle Bill’s standing was well-known. In the summer he had dealt with Arron and he was twenty-two and in trouble with the law. Rumour had it the young man could hardly walk, let alone sit down, for two days.
Uncle Bill picked up the cane. It was a typical old-fashioned school cane, made of rattan and a little over three feet long. It was as thick as a biro but was wonderfully whippy. Uncle Bill brandished it at Alfie and then menacingly flexed it between his hands. It made a perfect arc. Alfie’s eyes transfixed on the rod’s smoothness. What little saliva there was in his mouth drained. His throat hurt. The room began to move slowly.
“Six of the best,” Uncle Bill said, almost jauntily. “Stand there.” He brandished the cane and swished it towards the small chair.
Alfie didn’t understand: what was happening to him. His knees groaned, the light jumper he wore was beginning to soak with sweat. He desperately needed a drink.
He heard the cane swoosh once more through the air. “Yes, just there,” Uncle Bill tapped the back of the chair with the tip of the cane. “Turn round and bend over.” Alfie’s look of incomprehension would not deter Uncle Bill. “You need it to support you. It will hurt you more this way. That is the purpose of a caning you know.”
Bewildered, Alfie looked at the chair in front of him. He towered over it. What was he supposed to do? Bend over? What did that mean exactly?
Uncle Bill was used to dealing with boys who were about to receive their first caning. They had to be “talked through” the process. He tapped the cane on the seat of the chair. “Stand behind the chair. Place both hands on the seat. Arch your back enough so that your backside juts out. It helps if you spread your feet.”
Looking back, Alfie couldn’t believe what he did next. Instead of fleeing to the sanctuary of his room, he sidled up to the chair. The seat looked a long way down. He reached over and took hold of it and waited.
“No further than that,” Uncle Bill snapped. “Bend over as far as you can,” he pushed Alfie’s shoulders down. “Further!” Uncle Bill stepped back to get a better look. “Good, now hold on for dear life. Spread those legs. Yes, but keep the knees straight.”
As Alfie stood head lowered, bottom raised, the room span. Uncle Bill observed the teenager’s hard bottom straining against the seat of his jeans. The denim was pretty thick. Could he risk ordering the boy to take them down for a caning across the underpants? He mused for a moment and dismissed the idea. The brat deserved a severe caning. It would do him good. It would buck his ideas up a bit. But, Uncle Bill feared Carol might think it overstepped the boundaries of modesty. “Oh well,” he consoled himself, “maybe next time.”
Uncle Bill was lefthanded so he stood to Alfie’s right and tapped the whippy, heavy cane on the rounded backside. He was tempted to lay at least one dark weal across the boy’s muscular thighs swelling under the denim but he decided to slash each stroke squarely into the seat of the jeans.
Alfie felt the weight of the cane, stinging him lightly but unpleasantly even when applied with almost no force. He felt its heavy, threatening mass. He squeezed his eyes shut, holding on tightly to the chair.
“Well,” said Uncle Bill. “I had better cane you, hadn’t I?”
“Not now!” Alfie kept the thought to himself . “Not yet! I’m not ready for it!”
But when would he ever be ready for it? The cane descended with a low-toned whoosh. The impact was heavy and almost numbing. It knocked him forward, and as he went two of the legs of the chair rose from the ground almost making him lose his balance. For a split second it did not seem to have hurt him very greatly. Then the pain came welling up like a biting, stinging, bruising wave. He wanted to let go of the chair and stand up to rub the pain away, but he dared not. Some long dormant instinct told him this was not the way to behave. He must pretend that the thrashing had not hurt.
The second stroke came, and now the pain mounted to a terrible crescendo. Alfie’s head shook from left to right vigorously like an old horse troubled by a fly. Wind escaped his pursed lips which made it sound like he was neighing.
There was a pause. Uncle Bill knew his business. He waited for the pain of the two strokes to soak in for a quarter of a minute. Then he tapped the heavy cane again on the seat of the jeans. Alfie winced both at the pain it caused on his already sore bum and the anticipation of what was to follow.
Uncle Bill drew back the cane and sank another satisfyingly hard stroke into the blue surface. Three clear lines were now etched into the tight denim. Beneath the jeans welts were throbbing. Alfie felt the impact; his body hated the pain, but his brain sent him different signals. Alfie gasped. It was all he could do to keep holding the chair.
“Your punishment is half-way through,” Uncle Bill intoned. “I trust you are enjoying it.” He bit into his lip. What a thing to say.
“Thank you, sir,” Alfie wheezed.
Uncle Bill’s eyebrows arched. Had he heard Alfie’s tone correctly?
Alfie’s heart raced and sweat ran down the back of his shirt. The same number of strokes still to go. He wondered how he could endure it.
Slowly and in measured fashion. Uncle Bill delivered three more strokes with all his force, squarely across the bucking backside. The heavy, whippy cane felt firm and powerful, the gasps and small cries of the nineteen-year-old submitting himself to him were intensely satisfying and he enjoyed the impact which seemed to rock Alfie forward each time. He knew he was putting him through a dreadful ordeal and he liked it.
The boy’s mother might have been horrified, but Uncle Bill had a certain matter-of-fact harshness that represented the attitude of countless schoolmasters through the ages.
He would never have committed any real cruelty, of course, but he knew how beneficial an authentic caning could be. Anything less would detract from the quality of the thing and leave the boy ultimately disappointed. Uncle Bill knew Alfie was not enjoying his ordeal, but there was nonetheless something in the way he had said, “Thank you, sir.”
On some level that Alfie could not yet imagine this caning was satisfying to him as well as to Uncle Bill.
The man was experienced enough to understand that deeper level and not to hold back or feel regret because of the superficial layer of pain he was inflicting, although to Alfie that was the only thing his mind and body understood at this moment.
Nothing but the thought of repeating the caning from the beginning, kept Alfie from gripping the chair through those desperate moments as Uncle Bill lashed those terrible last three strokes. Each one seemed to cut him in half and impel him with a force beyond resistance to leap up.
But reason held sway over nature and Alfie held the seat.
“Good lad,” Uncle Bill cooed approvingly, ten seconds after the sixth and final stroke had seared across the hard target. Alfie’s bottom was on fire. It felt like Uncle Bill had forced him to sit in an open coal fire.
“You may stand.”
Alfie rose to his feet, his face flushed almost to match his backside. His head swooned. Colours passed the back of his eyes. It was like being on drugs.
“ T…t…t…thank you, sir,” he stammered.
Uncle Bill flexed the sturdy cane. “ Now that, young man, was a caning,” he said, with the appreciation of a connoisseur. He had truly enjoyed it; not in a cruel or vindictive way, but with a genuine artistic pleasure.
“Yes, sir,” Alfie said as he furiously rubbed the seat of his jeans. The agony was already dimming to a throbbing ache. Somehow, in a way he could not yet articulate, he thought he understood Uncle Bill.
“You should go upstairs,” Uncle Bill tucked the cane under his arm in the fashion of a sergeant-major.
Alfie rushed to the bathroom and splashed his flushed face. He drank some cold water and slipped his hands down the back of his jeans and under his briefs. His burning, tender, welted backside felt like corrugated cardboard.
It was still painful to touch and he dared not look. He glanced at his face in the mirror, not recognising the ghostly-pale vision that stared back. His head had stopped spinning. He felt somehow purified and pleased with himself to have come through the ordeal. As he went back down the stairs he was filled with the most curious mixture of sensations. He felt at once tearful and tremulous, throbbing with lingering pain, slightly queasy, proud, peaceful and cleansed. He felt glad to have had the experience and was not absolutely determined to avoid having it again at any cost.
Picture credit: Unknown
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Charles Hamilton the Second