I had just turned 16 and memories of my last really bad spanking were beginning at last to fade. The summer before, I had missed a gym class at school and my backside had been severely tanned by the gym master and then by my father. It took a couple of weeks for the cane marks to fade, but my face still went red when I thought of the humiliation I'd suffered at their hands. I told myself I would stay out of trouble. And I did, more or less, for several months. Of course I didn't entirely escape punishment. My father and my school both set high standards of appearance and behaviour and from time to time I was judged and found wanting. At school I felt the sting of the cane across my hands several times and at home I was summoned more than once to my father's study to receive the strap on my bare buttocks. But these were punishments I could deal with. In a way I felt I needed them as a kind of rite of passage into adulthood. After one particularly prolonged session with Dad's strap, during which I managed not to make a sound, he said to me with something like admiration, "You took that well." I felt I was becoming a man.
So, during the winter I worked hard at school and played a lot of football for the local youth club with several of my school friends. I felt fit and, more dangerously for me, I felt like an adult. Like most boys of 16, I wanted to be grown up. Like most boys of 16, I thought it was grown up to smoke. And of course that was what got me into serious trouble again.
It was towards the end of the second school term when my friend Mike offered me my first cigarette. He'd been smoking for quite a while and had managed to keep it a secret from his father, a labourer for the Council whose beatings were nearly as legendary as my father's. I didn't hesitate, although I knew the risk I was running. My uncle had died a couple of years before of lung cancer and my grief-stricken father had given up smoking himself and told me that I would be severely punished if I so much as touched a cigarette. So Mike and I hid out behind the bike sheds, in the lavatories, and in all the other well-known hideaways frequented by naughty schoolboys.
We might have got away with it for a while longer, since the masters at our school were not the most observant of people. But school had just broken up for the Easter holidays when my father had to make a business trip. He told me he would be away for two nights and I would be on my own; I could have Mike round if I wanted, but we were to be on our best behaviour. He didn't have to spell out the consequences of disobedience, but in any case he hung his longest cane on a hook in the hallway. This was the cane that had ripped my ass last summer, and I didn't want to feel it again.
The first night he was away, Mike stayed over; but the second night he had to go home early to help his father with some redecorating. After he'd gone I put on some music and lit up. The music was so loud that I didn't hear my father's car draw up and the front door open. He'd concluded his business trip more quickly than he'd anticipated.
Lying on my bed smoking, I didn't even see him come into my room. When the music suddenly stopped, I looked round and saw him standing by my hi-fi. I got such a fright, I couldn't move. My hand, holding a burning cigarette half-way to my mouth, began to shake.
"Stand up", he said, so quietly I hardly heard him. Somehow, I did. Everything seemed unreal, like one of those slow-motion dream scenes in a film.
"Put out that cigarette." I stubbed it out in the ashtray, which was already overflowing with cigarette butts. He picked up the ashtray and looked at it with exaggerated interest. "You smoked all these yourself?"
"I - yes, sir, that is ... no, I ..." I trailed off miserably.
"Oh, don't bother to lie to me. I know who was here with you. I know who has introduced you to this disgusting habit. I thought I'd taught you to obey me, but apparently Mike has more influence over you than I have."
I opened my mouth to reply but he cut me off.
"Don't bother trying any of your feeble excuses. I told you what would happen if you disobeyed me. Take off all your clothes, put your hands on your head and stand in the corner."
My face burned as I pulled off my shirt, socks, jeans and finally my underpants, all the time under my father's icy gaze. I went over to the corner, faced the wall and put my hands on my head. He went out, turning off the light on his way.
For what seemed like hours I stood there in the darkness, trembling with fear. Of course I knew I was going to get a hell of a spanking, but I had no idea exactly what he would do. Of course, that was part of the punishment. But would it end there? Would he just cane me tonight and leave it at that? Somehow I didn't think so.
Finally he came back and switched the light back on. "Turn around. Keep your hands where they are." I obeyed. Naked, my face red with humiliation, I stood before him while he lectured me at great length on the dangers of smoking and the importance of discipline. Finally he ordered me to lie on the bed with my face down. I buried my face in the pillow, expecting the worst. He hadn't brought any instruments of punishment into the room with him. He wanted the first stroke to catch me off my guard.
I heard a slight noise as he went out to fetch something, then all of a sudden there was a tremendous "whoosh" and an ear-splitting crack. His thick leather razor strop had come down on my buttocks with enormous force. For a split-second I felt nothing, then fire shot through my ass. My whole body convulsed and I let out an involuntary yell, which fortunately was muffled by the pillow. A second stroke fell, then a third. The noise was deafening. The lashes moved up and down my buttocks and over the top of my legs, making me really jump and howl; the pain began to spread all over my body. It just went on and on. I thought I was going to be sick. The strap fell faster and faster but my father's arm never weakened. For a dreadful moment I thought he was going to go on like this all night.
But then, all of a sudden, he stopped. I was desperate to rub my backside to try and ease the burning, though of course I knew better. I didn't know if he'd finished or if there was more to come. He let me suffer the uncertainty for a couple of minutes, then all of a sudden I had the answer - and I wished I hadn't. The long cane came whistling down and bit into my burning buttocks. White light exploded in my eyes and I let out a muffled scream. Needless to say that made no difference. He gave me twelve strokes of terrifying intensity. The whole world was pain.
Afterwards there was a long silence. Then he said, "Stand up and go back to where you were." Every muscle in my body was taut and aching, but somehow I half-fell off the bed and staggered over to the corner. I got my hands back on my head. I imagined him looking me up and down, admiring his handiwork. His first words filled me with horror.
"You'll find out the rest of your punishment in the next few days." The rest? What else was to come? "But I may as well tell you now that you can forget any plans you may have had for the school holidays. For the next four weeks, I shall try to bring a little discipline back into your life.
"Since you behave like a disobedient little boy, you may as well be treated like one. You can put away your jeans and long trousers. It may be the school holidays, but I shall expect you to dress at all times in grey shirt, short grey trousers and long grey socks. You will be spending quite a lot of time each day writing lines: 'Smoking damages my health and is against the rules imposed by my father for my own good.'
"Then we shall have to do something about getting you fit again after all that smoking. Each day you will get up at 6 am, take a cold shower, and go for a crosscountry run. I shall time you. If your time is unsatisfactory, you can expect the strap. I'll give you a few minutes to think about that. Kneel at the foot of your bed."
Utterly miserable, I obeyed. He didn't need to tell me to think about my punishment; I could think of nothing else. I had been looking forward to going out with my friends, having a good time, escaping the drudgery of school work. Now four endless weeks stretched before me during which I would be back in short trousers and spending most of my time writing lines. Tears of frustration and anger ran down my face. My backside was still on fire but I knew better than to lower my hands. I tried to keep track of the time by listening to a distant church clock chiming, but I drifted into a kind of half-doze, racked by pain and hunger. My father didn't need to tell me I would get no supper that night. Eventually he came back and ordered me into bed.
And so the school holidays began with an endless round of cold showers, running against the clock, writing of lines, minute inspections of personal hygiene and clothing - and beatings. While giving an impression of scrupulous fairness, my father sent me on runs through the muddiest parts of the woods and fields, and always set me a time which was about twenty or thirty seconds faster than I managed. So, muddy and gasping for breath, I would be ordered into the study, where I would drop my running shorts and grab my ankles. My father would give me ten or twenty strokes of the strap, usually punctuated by remarks like "See how smoking harms your lungs?" I was more worried about how it was harming my ass. Then he would supervise me as I stood shivering under the icy shower (it was still only April), trying to scrub off every speck of dirt as different parts of my body ached, burned or turned numb.
A couple of weeks of this dismal regime went by without any clue as to what "the rest of my punishment" might be. Could anything be worse than this? I preferred not to think about it and of course I dared not ask. And then one evening, when I came to his study to deliver that day's ration of lines, he said, "No supper tonight. Go upstairs and change into your best school clothes." The idea of going out dressed like an overgrown primary school boy did not appeal to me and I gave him what must have been a half-horrified half-baffled look. "Surely you haven't forgotten what day it is?"
I hadn't. "No, sir, it's the football team evening at the youth club. But surely ..." and then my heart missed a beat. I understood a fraction of a second before he told me.
"... surely you're not going? Oh, but you are, and so is Mike." Pause. "And so am I." Pause. "And so is Mike's father." This was getting worse and worse. "In fact, all the parents are going to be there. Your trainer tells me that he's fed up with boys in the team smoking and ruining their health. We're going to make an example of the two of you. So go upstairs and get changed. No underpants," he added, as if it was an afterthought, but I had stopped listening, overwhelmed by the news of my impending doom. "I'm going to make an example of you" was an expression my father used sparingly but it was usually followed by something unusually unpleasant.
In a daze, I went upstairs and dressed myself as carefully as I could. My father had always insisted that I keep a grey shirt or two in my wardrobe; now I understood why. Carefully I knotted a school tie, then pulled on a spotlessly clean pair of underpants, followed by a pair of grey shorts. When I had last worn them a couple of years ago, they had been fairly loose and baggy; now that I had grown they were tight-fitting and barely covered my buttocks. They would not give much protection, not that I counted on being able to keep them on. Finally I put on a pair of long grey socks. Fortunately I had a freshly-polished pair of black shoes which I was sure would pass even my father's rigorous inspection. I hurried back downstairs. I would have liked to dawdle and put off the inevitable, but I thought my father would not take kindly to being kept waiting.
I was also worried about the role of our football coach. Mr McAllister had played in some minor professional club and was an excellent if demanding trainer; but he was also a somewhat forbidding, humourless man. Before opening a sports shop, he had spent a couple of years teaching Physical Education in a Scottish school, and had acquired a remarkable collection of tawses of every length and weight, which he would sometimes use to encourage team members he suspected of slacking at training nights. Our thin football shorts gave little protection from those heavy Scottish straps.
Back in my father's study, I stood in front of his desk while he looked me up and down. His eyes came to rest just below my bare knees. "Look at your socks," he said coldly. I looked. He always insisted that the tops of the socks were exactly level and that the turn-down was exactly the same on both sides. But these socks were not new and on one side the sock was no longer tight enough around my leg and had slipped down. I swallowed hard and looked up again. My father had already taken a heavy strap from the desk drawer. He stood up, tapped it against his palm, and came around the desk. "Drop your shorts and bend over."
Resigned to my fate, I slowly pushed down my shorts and underpants and reached over forwards to grab my ankles. There was a long, long silence, then a tremendous crack; my body convulsed and I steeled myself for the pain, but the strap had come down on the desk. "Stand up!" I did. "I seem to remember I said, no underpants. Either you weren't listening or you are being deliberately disobedient. Which is it?"
"I - sir - " I was too terrified to speak.
"Never mind, you will have enough opportunity tonight to learn to listen to your elders and to respect them. Take off your shorts and give them to me." He placed them carefully on the desk. "Now your underpants." He threw them into a corner. "You won't be needing those. Now bend over again."
He really went to work with the strap. Normally he would concentrate on the lower half of the backside, the part you sit on, so that I would remember the beating every time I sat down for several days. But this time he spread the strokes more widely, working down the back of my thighs around halfway to the knee. I was not used to receiving punishment so low on the thighs and the stinging was almost unbearable. Of course, he wanted the marks to be visible when I had my shorts on. He was going to show me off to my friends' parents; they would see my muscular adolescent buttocks outlined beneath my tight grey shorts and, beneath the seam of the shorts, sore livid red weals that would soon turn into bruises.
I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes, but a few tears squeezed through my eyelids and ran down my face, which I imagined contorted in pain.
Finally it was over - or rather, I dimly realized, it was only just starting. He gave me back my shorts and I put them on while he put the strap away again. Without a word he led me out to the car. As we passed through the hallway, he paused before the mirror to check the knot of his tie and to brush away imaginary bits of lint on his suit. Of course he looked immaculate, as always.
As luck would have it, our neighbour was in his garden, digging over a flower bed. He nodded to my father, then looked at me with scarcely-contained surprise. "Hallo, Mr B. Hallo, Peter. Going back to primary school, are we?"
"Hallo there," my father said briskly. He was in no mood to stop and chat. "Peter's been in a spot of trouble lately. Tonight he's going to pay for it."
Our neighbour looked about to make some witty rejoinder, but he checked himself and gave me a look of sympathy. "Good luck," he said quietly.
"Thank you sir," I said, and meant it.
My father was clearly annoyed at this show of solidarity between his neighbour and his son. "Good evening," he said curtly and propelled me to the car. I had to sit in the back. Waves of pain rose from my legs and buttocks.
During the short ride I had fantasies about being in that cart on the way to the guillotine. All too quickly we arrived at the youth club, which, being in a decidedly smart neighbourhood, had its own gymnasium. Some kind of social event had been planned for the evening, perhaps with the intention of attracting new blood to the team - I shivered at the image thus conjured up - but my father had clearly adapted the evening to his own ends. It seemed very quiet as we walked up to the brightly-lit building and into the entrance hall; I don't know what I expected to see as I followed my father, head down, hands behind my back, into the gym itself - but the scene certainly was unusual.
The rest of the football team were there - they would not have dared to stay away - lads of my age, most of them from my school, and most of them of course illicit smokers. They were standing around looking uneasy. If they were surprised at my primary school gear, they didn't show it. Then there were the fathers, the usual collection of mainly anonymous middle-class professionals. Despite the threat of punishment hanging over me, I still noted with pride that most of the men were decidedly scruffy compared with my father. I noticed Mike's father, wearing a Tshirt, loose heavy jeans and a thick studded belt. His arms were muscular and tattooed. To my immense relief, the mothers appeared to have been warned off. In one corner there was a table with a tea urn and a couple of plates of biscuits, making a surreal contrast with the rest of the scene.
In the exact centre of the gym, two vaulting horses had been placed. On all four legs of each horse were fixed adjustable straps. I knew what those were for. Beside the vaulting horses stood Mr McAllister, holding the longest and heaviest model from his tawse collection, a two-tailed monster which looked as if it could subdue the toughest Glaswegian schoolboy. Behind him, facing the wallbars with his hands on his head, was Mike. He was naked. Pencil-thick blue bruises across his bare buttocks suggested that his father had already been busy with the cane, though not too recently.
As I slowly took in this rather bizarre scene, the reality of my situation started to come home to me and I felt sick. My stomach began to tie itself in knots. As if he was reading my mind, my father put a hand on my shoulder and, with surprising gentleness, led me back out through the entrance hall and into the lavatories. He pointed to one of the stalls. "Get yourself ready," he said; there was a note of sympathy in his voice. For a moment I thought he might be about to change his mind, but I knew him too well for that.
When I came out again, he was holding a well-greased butt plug. "Take down your shorts and bend over." I was too surprised to think about what was happening. He placed his left hand gently on the nape of my neck, and with the other hand he pushed the plug firmly into my asshole. "Relax and push down," he said quietly. I felt a brief spasm, then a marvellous warm feeling as the plug slid in. He kept his hand on the base, stroking my buttocks lightly with his fingers, as I pulled my shorts back up. As I turned around, our eyes met, and his were no longer cold, but full of love and a kind of nostalgia. "That will help," he said. "Believe me. I know." What was in his mind at that moment? I knew that he was passing on to me something that had been of great significance in his own life. Whatever happened that evening, I would not fail him.
The moment passed. Almost regretfully he led me back to the gym and made a slight gesture with his hand. I knew what I had to do. Conscious that everyone's eyes were on me, I stripped naked and went over to face the wallbars, hands on head. The stripes across my backside and legs were throbbing. Next to me, I could smell the fear in Mike's sweat. I didn't dare look at him.
Mr McAllister made a short speech. He had devoted a lot of his spare time, he said, to whipping the football team into shape (an appropriate way of putting it, I thought) and for the most part he was proud of their achievements. Team sports were an excellent way of imparting to boys a sense of loyalty and responsibility. They also learned self-respect and discipline. Anyone who failed to give one hundred percent was not only letting himself down, he was letting the team down. Boys who smoked harmed themselves and harmed the team.
There was an outbreak of nervous and guilty coughing from a couple of other team members, but it was quickly stifled; I imagined Mr McAllister's grim gaze as it silenced them.
He was, he continued, very grateful to the parents who had informed him about their sons' smoking. The two boys in question had already been punished for disobeying their fathers. Now they would be punished for letting down the team.
"You two boys! Turn around and come over here."
As we turned, my eyes met Mike's. He was pale and scared and I guess I looked the same. Keeping our hands on our heads, we walked unsteadily over to the vaulting horses. Mr McAllister was running his tawse through his fingers. Next to him, Mike's father held his studded belt doubled over in his huge hands. And next to Mike's father, my own father, now armed with his long and very whippy cane. With remarkable detachment, I began to wonder where he had hidden it when we came in. Had it been down his trouser leg? The idea was ridiculous. Of course, I told myself, it had been in the car and he had fetched it during Mr McAllister's address.
I came out of my reverie as Mr McAllister bent me over the first horse and fastened my wrists and ankles with the straps. Then he bent Mike over beside me and buckled him securely too. My body was stretched tightly over the horse, legs spread out; I couldn't even wriggle. Whatever they were going to do to me, I had no alternative but to take it.
There were no more preliminaries. I heard a slight movement, the low breathing sound of the tawse moving through the air, and then a crack as it landed on my unprotected ass. Yet again, white heat seared through my buttocks. I clenched my teeth but managed to stay quiet. After a very long wait, the noise came once more but this time it was Mike who got it. He let out a yell of agony. There was some muttering and fidgeting from the audience, but not for long; I suppose Mr McAllister's look silenced them again.
It was my turn once more. With a tremendous crack the tawse fell a second time. For a moment I felt both tails individually as they bit into my flesh, then the hot pain exploded again. I grunted slightly. And then Mike. He yelled.
We each got six strokes. Then Mr McAllister invited Mike's father to take over. The studded belt, doubled over, was very heavy and the pain somehow duller and yet harder to bear. He was a strong man, his muscles heavy and powerful from many years of manual labour, and I think he hit us harder than our coach. He certainly hit us faster. The sixth stroke arrived on the top of a crescendo of pain and I let out a kind of strangled gurgling noise. I found it hard to breathe. Mike was crying helplessly. I risked a glance to my side and saw his face, now bright red and contorted with pain, tears and snot dripping onto the floor.
Then it was my father's turn. As usual, I heard the heart-stopping whistle of his practice strokes. Then the slight shuffling of his feet as he took up his position with military precision. Then the first stroke.
"Aagh!" I let out a scream which echoed around the gym. A line of fire lit up across my cheeks and seemed to bore right into my intestines. For a moment I was terrified I would lose control of my bowels, but the butt plug was tightly in place.
Then another whistle, another crack like a pistol shot, and Mike let out a terrifying howl. He began to plead, "No, please, I can't, no more." Of course it did no good. There was a long pause, but I knew my father was just waiting for the full effect of that dreadful burning and stinging that remains after a stroke from a really long and flexible cane. He wanted us to remember this beating. I was sure we would.
Five more strokes followed at long drawn-out intervals. Neither of us could keep from yelling, and in between strokes Mike kept up a kind of muttered litany of pleas, but he knew as well as I did that he would have to endure his flogging to the bitter end.
Finally it was all over. We were left stretched over the horses for a few minutes more while Mr McAllister made some concluding remarks, but neither of us heard them. Then we were released. Mike was led away by his father and my father half-carried me to the car. When we got home he helped me get into bed. With infinite care he eased the butt plug out of my hole, then he cleaned my wounds with some cool water. After that the pain subsided a little, but I didn't know if it was because he had bathed me or because I was drifting into a kind of trance, wondering if the whole experience had been a dream. I had the impression of being on the verge of learning a great truth about my father and myself but I could not quite grasp exactly what it was. As I floated further and further away from reality, I heard his voice, just beside my ear and yet very far away and long ago:
"You don't have to smoke. There are other ways of becoming a man."