Tuition From My Uncle 2

by Paul Bailey (Click for Author's Home Page)<>

Somehow I managed to sleep a little, despite the burning throbbing pain in my backside. I was woken up by a loud knock on the door and the harsh glare of the bare electric light. "Stand up and put your hands on your head," my Uncle said harshly.

I obeyed, shivering from the cold, and saw that he was carrying a bowl of water, a can of shaving foam and a razor. Before I had time to even think about what was happening, he had applied a thick coat of lather to my groin and buttocks and had picked up the razor. "No!" I cried.

"Be quiet," he said. "And if I was you I'd try to stop shaking. One false move and you'll lose more than a bit of hair."

This was yet another humiliation that I had never expected. He worked slowly, methodically, removing every trace of hair from my waist to the tops of my legs. When he had finished, I felt even colder but also totally unprotected and vulnerable.

Then he threw some clothes into the room. "Put these on and be quick about it." I pulled on the thin singlet, brief shorts, short socks and running shoes. Through the high window I could see that it was still night. Surely my Uncle didn't expect me to do a cross-country run in the dark?

He led me out the side door and into the back yard, which was screened off by high walls. He flicked a switch and I suddenly understood: the yard was lit up and I was to do warm-up exercises before the run. At first I shivered in the cold damp air - although at least it had stopped raining - but I was soon sweating as he made me do press-ups, squat thrusts, sit-ups, chinning the bar and all kinds of other tortures. Finally, as dawn began to break and I was gasping for breath, he explained the route I was to take and sent me off.

Behind the house was woodland, and the track was well-marked and easy to follow. But the ground, after a night's heavy rain, was muddy and slippery. In better weather and under less stressful circumstances, the run might have been quite pleasant; after a couple of miles I came to a small lake with a short wooden pier leading out from the bank. I could imagine lazing around there on a summer's afternoon. But on a cold grey winter's morning, spattered from head to foot in mud, I felt decidedly gloomy, especially with the threat of a severe caning hanging over me. On a running track, in dry weather, I might have stood a chance of completing the run in the forty minutes my Uncle had allowed me. But in those horrible conditions, it was impossible.

When I got back he was already standing in the yard with a stopwatch. "Forty-six minutes," he announced. "Get yourself cleaned up and report to the kitchen for your punishment."

Just inside the house was a small shower room where I was able to wash off the mud. He had not said anything about getting dressed and indeed he had confiscated my clothes the previous evening, so I had to go naked to the kitchen. Trembling, I knocked on the door; when I heard "Enter!" I went in and my stomach turned over. He was holding the most fearsome cane I had ever seen, long and of medium thickness, and he kept bending it double to show how supple it was. "All right, boy, ask me for your punishment."

I swallowed hard. "Please sir, I was six minutes late getting back from my run. Please would you give me" - my voice faltered - "eighteen strokes of the cane."

He indicated with a wave of that terrible rod that I was to lie over the heavy old kitchen table. Breathing hard, I gripped the table legs as hard as I could and waited. There was a sharp whistling, an immense crack, and a line of fire erupted across my buttocks. Unable to control myself, I shrieked in pain and leapt up, my hands clasping my backside.

"If you can't stay down," said my Uncle coldly, "I shall have to help you." He put the cane down and from somewhere he produced a set of leather restraints, two of which he attached to my wrists and the other two to my ankles. He pushed me back down over the table and for the first time I noticed, attached to the table legs, four thick metal rings, to which he fastened the restraints.

It was almost impossible for me to move. I heard him pick up the cane again and then, calmly, methodically, he proceeded to give me a beating I would never have thought possible. If I had not been attached to the table, I would never have been able to stay in position. Every muscle in my body tensed and I writhed and screamed. It seemed to go on forever.

When it was over I vaguely saw him move across in front of me. I blinked away my tears and tried to get things in focus. He was sitting down at a smaller table, where he poured himself a cup of coffee and started buttering some toast. He looked up, saw me watching, and pointed to a second chair next to his. "Come over and join me for breakfast," he said. Then he smiled. "Oh, of course, you can't - you're tied down. You'll just have to miss breakfast today. Maybe that will teach you not to get up during a caning."

And so I had to lie tied down over the kitchen table, sobbing in pain and humiliation, while he calmly ate his breakfast. When he finally released me, I was so stiff that I could hardly stand up. I had to put my school uniform back on and was led back to my table and stool in his study. Sitting on the hard stool was torture, although the agonizing weals on my buttocks at least took my mind off my empty stomach. I had to spend the rest of the morning studying the books he set me; then, after a frugal lunch, I was told to write an essay on "The need for hierarchy and discipline in large companies". The discipline I had already received certainly sharpened my concentration, but I was sure that worse was to come.

It was early evening when I had to hand in the essay. I stood in front of his huge desk, hands behind my back, while he read it. He had a fountain pen filled with red ink, which he began to use copiously. My whole body began to tremble and I thought I was going to be sick. It was a long essay and it took him a long time to correct it. At one point I was sure I was going to faint, but I didn't.

Finally he tossed the papers aside, took something out of the desk drawer, stood up and came around to my side of the desk. I saw what was in his hand. It was the vile two-tailed tawse he had used on me the previous evening.

His voice was quiet but full of menace. "I told you yesterday that your handwriting was disgraceful, yet you have made no attempt to improve it. Hold your hands out in front of you, the right hand on top of the left."

Yet again I was taken completely by surprise, and without thinking I held up my hands as instructed. We were standing face to face, and his cold blue eyes were staring right into me. Mesmerized, I could not look away. The tawse rose and then fell lengthways on my palm with a ferocious thwack, the two tails biting viciously into the most tender area at the base of the thumb. I screamed and clamped my hand under my armpit.

"That one doesn't count," he said. "And from now on, if you move your hand away, I will add two extra strokes. You will take six on each hand."

Two livid red weals were already burned on my right hand. Swallowing hard, I held it out again, supported by the left hand. The tawse came down six times, very hard, and although I cried out and tears flowed down my cheeks, I managed to keep my hands in position. Then I had to swap them over and this time it was my left hand that felt as if it was on fire. After the next six I was crying helplessly.

Unmoved, he went on, "As for the numerous errors in your essay, we will go over them in detail tomorrow. They have earned you twenty-four strokes of the strap, which you will take in two sets of twelve. Take off your clothes and bend over the desk."

I fumbled to get undressed as quickly as I could, my hands stinging and burning. He went over to the cupboard and took out another terrifying instrument, which he brought over and held up for me to see. It was a long double-thickness strop, made of two thick pieces of shiny black leather sewn together. I stared at it for a long time. Then I had to lie over the desk and grip the far edge.

I thought I was prepared for the worst, but I wasn't. The first stroke fell with a deafening crack and red-hot pain shot through both buttock cheeks. I could not believe that a strap could hurt so much. Somehow I managed not to yell, but a kind of strangled grunt got through my clenched teeth. But when the second stroke fell in almost exactly the same position, the tough-guy act was over: I screamed in agony and tears sprang to my eyes. And so it went on.

After the twelfth stroke, every muscle in my body was tensed. Tears and snot were streaming down my face and dripping on the desk. He told me to stand but I couldn't. With a gentleness that surprised and frightened me, he gripped my shoulders and pulled me slowly to my feet. I wanted to go down on my knees and beg for mercy, implore him to stop the punishment there and then, but I knew it would be useless. He steered me across the room and into the corner and, without saying a word, positioned my sore hands on top of my head. Leaving me there, still crying helplessly, my backside on fire, he left the room.

I don't know how long I stood there; it might have been a few minutes, it might have been hours. The pain was so intense that I seemed to be in a different world. All kinds of insane thoughts began to run through my head: he would never let me leave, he would keep me for ever as his slave, he would burn his initials on my flesh with a red-hot iron, he would lock me in my cell and starve me to death.

Suddenly I heard the doorbell ring. I strained to hear what was happening: I heard my Uncle's footsteps, his voice, another voice. Then more footsteps, and the door to my Uncle's study opened. My Uncle said, "So what do you think?"

The other voice, curiously familiar, said, "Looks like youre doing a good job, sir. Is he learning yet?"

"Beginning to, perhaps," said my Uncle. "Peter, turn around and meet my other guest. Keep your hands on your head."

Stark naked, my face burning with shame, I slowly obeyed. Standing next to my Uncle was John, my squash partner. He looked me up and down, his eyes lingering on my freshly-shaved groin, a faint smile on his lips. "Good evening, Peter," he said. "I understand your work is still not up to the required standard."

I was so surprised to see him that I could not reply; I just stood there like an idiot, my mouth hanging open in astonishment. For a moment I even forgot the pain and my nakedness.

"Maybe you could help me, John," said my Uncle. "I've thrashed Peter so often today, I'm worried that my arm might be getting a little tired. He still has twelve strokes of the strap coming, but it would be most unfair to him if they were laid on too lightly. Do you think you could punish him for me?"

John noticed the strap lying on the desk, picked it up, and ran it through his hands. He stroked it lovingly, with reverence but also with a certain apprehension; somehow I thought of a snake charmer handling a snake. I remembered how John had told me that he, too, had been "helped" by our Uncle. I was sure John had felt that strap too. The thought did nothing to console me.

"Of course, sir," he said, "I'd be happy to oblige." He turned to me. "Get back over the desk, Peter."

As slowly as I could, I walked across the room and got back into position. I knew that, although my punishment up to now had been severe, it was about to get much worse.

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