“I don’t think this is good enough, Christie, do you?”
“No, Headmaster.” Not that it actually mattered what John Christie thought: this was a question expecting the answer ‘no’.
“Now I thought, Christie, that I had expressed myself quite clearly. This piece of work was to be completed by today at the latest. Did you fail to understand that?”
He stared at his shoes, which were less highly polished than might have been expected; he fought against the sudden desire to rub one foot against the back of the other leg.
“No. As I recall, Christie, I also explained to you that we were going to address your tendency to leave important pieces of work unfinished past their due dates. Would I be right in assuming that you have no excuse?”
Sarky bastard. They both knew where this was going; there was no reason to drag it out that way. “Yes, Headmaster.”
“Very well. You will report to my office last thing today before you go home, please.”
Bastard! Bastard! Bloody hours to wait, and not even knowing exactly what he was waiting for! Oh, in the general outline, he knew, sure enough. The headmaster had said, quite plainly, the last time they had had this conversation, “You need not think, Christie, that the fact that you have avoided corporal punishment this far in your career will be sufficient to keep you clear of it in future. If I think that it will improve your application to your work, I shall beat you. Is that quite clear?”
It had been impossible to doubt the sincerity of the man’s words; Christie had found himself disturbingly conscious of his own untouched backside for the rest of the day and nervously attentive to his books for several weeks after that. The Headmaster was a big man, and Christie was well aware of the heavy musculature beneath the crisp shirtfront. The theoretical notion of bending over in front of him and waiting for the first stroke was nerve-wracking. It was no less nerve-wracking for becoming more definite and less theoretical. This afternoon, before he went home, he was going to bend over for the headmaster, and the headmaster was going to apply – well, what? the strap? the cane? to his presented buttocks.
And damn it, the man was waiting for a reply! For an acknowledgement!
The headmaster raised one amused eyebrow. “According to Samuel Johnson, Christie, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully. You will no doubt find the same.” And he turned to go about his business. It was surely only an overactive imagination which pictured on him the academic gown of a previous generation. No schoolmaster has worn that on a daily basis in 25 years, but somehow the image has resonances even for the young.
It was a long day, Christie found, and he found himself with several pieces of work to be repeated or corrected, because of his inability to concentrate. Samuel Johnson was plainly an idiot: for Christie, the knowledge that he would end the day with a smarting and stinging bottom scattered his wits entirely.
By the appointed hour he was fighting the temptation simply to run away, to bolt for home, disregarding anything the headmaster had said. He had marginally more sense than to do it, but his progress towards the study was not characterised by any particular haste. He knees felt insecure, and when he looked at a raised hand, it trembled noticeably. It seemed to him that his clothing didn’t fit properly – his trousers seemed unusually tight around his hips and he could feel the drag of cloth against his skin. The outer door to the school office swung towards him as he approached it; he caught it automatically, and pulled it wide, stepping out of the way of Mrs McCabe. He tried to smile at her, but from her glance of surprise, it was not wholly successful.
“The headmaster’s in his office,” she said, abruptly, juggling bags and keys. “He’s expecting you: go straight in.” He flinched; did she know. . .? She was the headmaster’s private secretary; casual opinion around the school was that she was the real Power in the office. She knew everything and said nothing. The door closed behind her and he heard the Yale lock click; everybody knew the office was locked outside normal hours, even when the headmaster was still present.
Go straight in; no, he thought not. He moved through Mrs McCabe’s office to the inner door, which was firmly closed. It took him a minute and several long breaths to muster his courage, which had been ebbing steadily all day. He knocked, waited for the muffled command and entered the room.
“Christie. Do we need to go over why you’re here?”
He shook his head nervously and then managed a “No, sir,” which was pitched a little higher than usual.
“Very well. First time?”
The sod knew quite well it was his first time: he was simply rubbing it in. He nodded.
“Bring that chair here, into the middle of the room.”
It was a chair from the part of the room used for interviewing parents and for casual meetings, a comfortable looking padded thing which terrified him.
“Now, jacket off, please. Leave it here. Bend over the back of the chair, and stretch down as far as you can. Hold onto the bar and keep still. Since it’s your first time, we’ll limit it to the slipper.”
He was conscious of mixed emotions: relief that it wasn’t the cane and distinct humiliation. The slipper? The slipper, he thought confusedly, was for little boys. He was most decidedly not a little boy any more. Almost he could have wished for a more serious, more dignified punishment. He could see, by turning his head only a little, the headmaster opening a drawer and reaching inside for his instrument of torture. It wasn’t really a slipper, he observed muzzily; it was a black rubber-soled plimsoll, large and, from the way the headmaster was bending it between his hands, flexible.
He nodded, voicelessly, and then jumped as large hands smoothed the cloth of his trousers tightly across his behind.
“No need to be nervous, you don’t have to do anything.” The bloody man was amused! “We want your trousers nice and tight so that you feel the good of this.” Who’s this ‘we’, Kemo Sabe? The plimsoll was resting across his vulnerable buttocks; his breathing was uneven. “I want you to understand that I’m going easy on you because it’s your first time. The next time I have you in this position, it will be the cane. Is that clear?”
He nodded; the plimsoll tapped twice. “I said, is that clear?”
“Yes,” his voice cracked. “Yes, sir.”
“Good. Let’s begin, then.”
A slippering couldn’t be too bad, a slippering couldn’t be too – ow! Fortunately his grip tightened on the bar of the chair as his back jerked. That hurt! It stung, even through trousers! He suddenly realised that he had no idea how many he was to get, and asking seemed like a dreadfully bad idea. The plimsoll cracked down again. He hadn’t expected it to be so noisy, somehow; a tiny thought of ‘thank God Mrs McCabe’s gone’ wandered through his mind and was chased away by the next stinging blow of rubber on bottom. He jumped again and was rewarded with a flurry of quick sharp smacks low on his cheeks, an area which seemed unnecessarily delicate and tender. He couldn’t help the wriggle of consternation, which earned him only a dozen more sharp smacks, working steadily up his left buttock and down his right. Every inch of his bottom was blazing, he was gasping frantically, and when the headmaster applied the slipper with wristy flicks to the back of his thighs, he couldn’t hold back the yelps. He squirmed, and his squirms brought him high onto his toes with his bottom perfectly presented for the final powerful application of that damned slipper in hard regular overlapping blows, filling his head with fire.
“You may get up.”
He wasn’t sure if he could; his back had locked but his knees were trembling. He felt dizzy and feverish, not just from the heat of his well-punished bottom, but all over, alternately hot and cold. He was still gulping and gasping when he managed to raise shocked eyes to the headmaster’s face.
“I trust that will be enough to effect a significant alteration in your attitude to your work, Christie?”
He nodded, fervently. If that was the effect of the slipper, he told himself, then he felt no desire at all to encounter the cane.
“Have you anything to say?”
He knew what was expected. The ritual is as old as the routine.
“Thank you, Headmaster.”
“You may go.”
He shrugged the tattered remains of his dignity around him and managed to close the door quietly before clutching at his agonised buttocks and bolting for the nearest cloakroom. There he cocked a cautious ear for anyone left on school premises as he peeled trousers and underpants down his thighs and turned to examine the conflagration in the mirror. His bottom was blotched scarlet and white, with occasional purple weals where the shape of a slipper sole could be clearly distinguished. He touched the hot flesh delicately, hissing in pain, tracing a few curved lines, and marvelling as the blazing smart began to ease to a not entirely unpleasant throb. He rubbed gently at the source of the throb which was extending, warmly rhythmic, through his whole lower body and – not here. Not in the school. This was a discovery to take home, to investigate in hushed privacy in his room. This was something not to be considered on school premises.
An alteration in attitude indeed.
“I have looked through the folder which you so obligingly left for my attention,” (damn, that sounded suspiciously mild) “and we need to discuss the contents.” (Dangerously gentle. Commit to nothing.)
“In particular, I think we need to discuss the fact that the second section is incomplete – a fact which you have attempted to disguise with elegantly coloured tabs and graphs – and that the third section has not even been started. Do I need to remind you, Christie, that your work will not only be subject to checking by me? That you will be liable to present it to an external examiner?”
He shuffled his feet nervously, looking at the floor and not daring to offer a response.
“I was under the impression, Christie, that we had already dealt with this failing on your part.” The silence stretched like toffee and entangled him in a lack of excuse.
“What did I say would happen if you let me down in this way a second time, Christie?”
He couldn’t manage any more than a whisper. “The cane.”
“Just so. I advised you that a second visit to the office would involve you encountering the cane. I never joke about such things, Christie. Today, please, last thing, in my office. You may look forward to six of the very best. After that, I will allow you a week’s grace, and that file will be on my desk, complete. Is that clear?”
He asked that a lot: is that clear, is that plain, am I making myself understood? It wasn’t as if there could be any doubt about it; this was a man with an ability to get information into the heads of unwilling listeners aged from 11 to 18, and to keep it there.
“Good.” And with a nod he moved away towards whatever act of torture he would be contemplating next.
If John Christie had thought that the day had been long before his first appointment in the office, it was as nothing to the eons which passed in the knowledge of his second. Now he knew what to expect. His memory and his imagination colluded and conspired against him, filling his mind with that enormous man ordering him to bend over, touching him in preparation. The painful effects of his last punishment had slipped away reasonably quickly (‘faster than you would have liked’, whispered his traitorous memory), but the effects on his mind had been confusing, being composed of the immiscible desires that he should never again be subject to such a humiliating punishment, and that the headmaster should force his submission to it and thereby bring about again those volcanic sensations in his body.
This time when he presented himself, Mrs McCabe was still at her desk; when called to enter the inner office he cast the headmaster a glance of imploring dismay. The man was clearly amused, but not unsympathetic – he crossed the room and Christie heard him suggesting that whatever the woman was doing could quite well be finished tomorrow, and then the exchange of goodbyes. After the door closed behind her, it was a moment before the headmaster came back, and Christie found his nerves beginning to overcome him. The cane! He had never even seen one, certainly never felt it. His parents while not, he supposed, particularly opposed to physical punishment, had preferred to correct his adolescent misbehaviour with the removal of privileges. No one but the headmaster had ever dusted his bottom even mildly, and he had no particular hope that this punishment would be mild.
“The chair, Christie. You know the drill.”
He supposed he did, moving the chair to the centre of the room, abandoning his blazer on the desk close by, and glancing beseechingly at his tormentor, who had retrieved the cane from some unseen location, and was trying it through the air with an expression of deep scientific interest. It hissed and zipped, and John Christie felt his stomach clench with apprehension and other parts of his body twitch with nervous anticipation.
“Well, bend over, then!”
He bent, shakily, wrapping his fingers around the bar of the chair.
“Tighter. Get that backside up for me.”
He shifted a little.
“Come on, back flat. Bottom up. Better. Now, six of the best, I said.”
This, thought John Christie confusedly, would be quicker than the slippering. He refused to give any mind to whether it would hurt more. The headmaster was tapping his bottom lightly, settling on an acceptable range. Then –
Thwip. Quite a small sound in the air, and a crack on contact which he had expected to be louder, and a sudden explosion of flame across his seat. One foot slid out from under him as he twisted in shock, and he hastened to catch his balance and brace himself again. Standard schoolboy punishment, he told his shocked backside. Known since Victorian times. Only little boys squirm, Christie, so take your punishment like a man. Hiss-thwack. Louder this time, and higher, and he rose onto his toes with the impact and balanced so for a moment before dropping back to his position. Whap, higher again. Oh God, and that was only half way.
He started nervously at a mild touch on his bottom; the headmaster was rearranging him, broad hands spanning his smarting buttocks and tipping him further across the chair (thank God for the chair: if he’d been ordered to touch his toes he could never have maintained his balance under these ferocious swipes). He had a bad feeling about his angle though – he remembered quite clearly that it had been the lower curves of his bottom which felt the slipper most intensely, and it was quite obvious that the headmaster’s intention was to have those same slopes accessible to the cane.
He nearly screamed with anticipation, waiting for the fourth stroke; the headmaster was apparently concerned about his line and insisted on the tap-tap for range being done again, although now a tap on a rising welt had a much more profound effect than before. Then one searing stroke lower than the first and he was right, it did sting more down there, although not as much as the fifth stroke lower still, but he was managing not to yelp, not to move, and it was nearly over.
And the last stroke insinuated itself into the crease of thigh and buttock, and he bucked and squealed with the shock of it, and felt the two tears he had been denying slip down his cheeks.
There was no question of retrieving his dignity this time; his hands went at once to clutch at his welted rear, and he writhed for a moment before he could control his responses. The headmaster, he observed in humiliated indignation, was enjoying the sight of his distress.
“That should be enough, I think. Bear in mind, Christie, that I have at my disposal sanctions more extreme than the one you have just experienced.” He was plainly waiting for the acknowledgement which came grudgingly.
“Yes, sir. Thank you, Headmaster.”
“You may go.”
This time in his favoured cloakroom he turned to the mirror before touching his waistband, half expecting to see the marks of his punishment through the fabric of his trousers, and shocked to realise that it was indeed visible in long straight lines, weals in the grey cloth. As he moved and the light fell differently, he could see six evenly spaced stripes; when he delicately bared himself, the lines within were curiously marked, not at all what he had expected. Each one was a cold white bar outlined in fine scarlet edging; when he touched them with extreme gentleness, the welts were raised under his finger tips. He ran a finger across one long weal and shuddered at the intense sensation, before hastily restoring his clothing to its proper place. He wanted to go home. He wanted to touch the marks; he wanted (in the shocked privacy of his head he admitted it) he wanted the headmaster to touch them, to touch him with that masterful control he had felt when the man’s hands were on him earlier. He wanted to feel the burn of his striped skin under the man’s touch.
He wanted a damn sight more than that.
“Well? Is your project complete?”
He twisted nervously, hanging motionless at the very top of the experience, where one word, one breath would carry him over and onto the long ride ending in sensation. One word. Two.
“No, Headmaster.” And down.
When he could stand the silence no longer and raised his eyes, his glance was full of conspiracy and collusion. This man had understood on first seeing him, something which he had not understood himself, and had brought him to such a condition, in which he was unable to deny the attraction, and in which the drug of submission screamed in his blood, that he needed to say nothing except to express his desire in words which would be unrecognisable to anyone else.
“You will come to my study tomorrow morning at ten.”
Tomorrow? Saturday? When the school would be empty of pupils and staff?
The main door was locked, but the side gate to the walled court was open; the door to the basement stood ajar. He closed it carefully behind him, listening for the click which meant that they could not be interrupted. Then he climbed the stairs, paced steadily through the long corridors and knocked confidently at the closed door.
“Christie, Headmaster. To be caned for uncompleted work. Third offence.”
He was perfectly calm; this was his adventure now, no one else’s. At last someone had identified the craving he had felt without knowing what he craved; someone else had articulated his desire so that all he had needed to do was to give way to it. This would carry him to his reward, which would be the tall man, slowly rolling up his sleeves.
“Twelve strokes, Christie.”
That was a little frightening, but not a surprise. He didn’t wait to be told to move the chair, simply retrieved it from next to the table and placed it carefully in the centre of the room. His jacket, as before, he draped on the desk before taking his place behind the chair.
“Trousers down, Christie.”
He had not anticipated that – why not? It was an obvious escalation – and for a moment his mood of calm anticipation slipped into apprehension and fear, but a glance at the heavy-browed man reassured him. They were conspirators, after all. He allowed both trousers and pants to slip from his lean hips and pool around his ankles, and bent, as gracefully as he could contrive, across the back of the familiar chair.
He didn’t flinch this time at the warm touch on his exposed flesh, as his shirt was pulled clear and his bottom arranged to the headmaster’s liking. He was pliant, compliant, not asking for the contact but simply enjoying it.
“Yes.” No honorific, now; there were no more titles between these two. No longer any sense of senior and junior, of levels of power. Only the Headmaster and him, equals in this undertaking.
One. Two. Three. A slower delivery than on previous occasions but the same care for accuracy. A central line across the buttocks and then alternating above and below, each stroke carefully placed and exquisitely painful. Four and five above and below again. Six, hard, in the low crease which he knew would remind him for days of this experience.
Seven and eight, diagonally down his left cheek, each one eliciting a slow exhalation with a slight note in it. Nine and ten, the same on his right cheek. A pause, and a warm hand exploring his tender flesh, fingering the welts, absorbing the heat.
Eleven, squarely across the crown of his raised bottom, and at last producing a squeal.
And twelve, not as he had expected in the sulcal crease, but sharply across the tender backs of his thighs, a whistling blow taking him wholly by surprise.
He was raised by hands around his chest, hands which drew him up and back until he rested, eyes shut, against the broad chest, his desire and arousal unconcealable, even if he had cared to conceal them.
“Will your project be completed by the end of the week?” The question slipped into his consciousness like oil.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” The hands were beginning to slide slowly down his chest.
“Thank you, Headmaster.”
“You’re welcome. Will it really be completed on time?”
He turned his head, mildly surprised by the question. “Of course. I may run everything right to the wire but I’ve never missed a deadline in my life.”
“Ah. Good. I really don’t want to face the external auditors without a full arsenal of completed accounts. Thank you, Bursar.”
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