CARL'S FIRST THRASHING
I knew on marrying Marie that her 11-year-old son Carl had never received corporal punishment. It seemed his father didn't believe in physical chastisement. He felt that a boy would learn as well by having his pocket money docked, or sent to his room for a few hours. In my opinion the man had failed his son. He'd also failed his wife - he ran off with a woman he met at work. Marie divorced him about the time I divorced my own wife, Sally, who'd fallen for a man with a Rolls-Royce. Sally had gone to live with him in Jersey, leaving our two sons Steven (aged 12) and Jamie (10) with me. Now, Marie and Carl moved into my home as it was a big, rambling place with plenty of room for us all.
On our first night as a family I laid down a few ground rules about the boys' upbringing. I had of course already discussed the matter with Marie and she'd agreed that I should be in charge of discipline.
Marie and I sat on the sofa while the three boys occupied chairs in our comfortable lounge. It was a rough evening with wind and rain buffeting at the window. Inside, the room basked in a rosy glow from our log fire and discreet wall lights. We were, and I hoped we'd remain, a happy family. At this point I ought to introduce the others more fully.
Marie was in her early thirties and had dark hair and eyes, and the sort of good humour that could lift even the gloomiest spirits. Despite her unhappy marriage to the runaway buffoon she'd always put on a brave face for her son, on whom she doted. Carl resembled his mother in many ways. He had dark, glossy hair and expressive eyes plus a ready smile. I considered him at heart a basically good and decent boy who had simply lacked proper paternal guidance. I believed he'd flourish well in this new household.
My own two boys were also basically good. I don't mean goody-goody. They got into as much mischief as any lads their age but I'd ensured they didn't have any of the _c_o_c_k_iness or foul-mouthed surliness that passes these days for self-expression. Steven was a slim, fair-haired and quietly-spoken boy with blue eyes and a natural sense of justice. Jamie, two years younger, idolised his brother and tried to emulate him although sometimes he couldn't suppress his more impulsive nature. His hair wasn't quite as fair as Steven's but his slim build, blue eyes and quick smile were almost identical.
All three of the boys that night were wearing T-shirts, stonewashed denim jeans and trainers. I didn't mind any of that but I wouldn't allow nonsense such as ear-rings or studs in the nostrils.
'Now then, Carl,' I said, 'I think this is a good time to make it clear what behaviour I expect from my sons, of whom you are now one. Also, I'll explain what the consequences will be if you break the rules.'
Carl nodded. He knew about rules from school and of course he'd had to observe certain standards at his previous home on penalty of being sent to his room. An enormous deterrent!
'I understand from your mother that previously you've been encouraged to dispute any decisions of your parents with which you didn't agree,' I said. 'Also, there's been a certain laxity about other aspects of your behaviour. For instance, it has never mattered much if you disobeyed an instruction, arrived home late or exhibited discourtesy to your elders.'
He looked suddenly uncomfortable, as if he'd never had his poor manners pointed out in such a way before.
'Perhaps it would be best if you heard from your new brothers about the sort of standards I insist upon, and about the penalties that follow if they aren't observed,' I said. 'Steven, tell Carl what happens when you or Jamie misbehave.'
'You punish us, Dad,' he said.
'Yes, of course, but how do I punish you?'
'You give us the strap or the cane.'
Carl's eyes widened. 'But I've never been hit,' he said. He turned to his mother. 'You punish me in other ways.'
Marie smiled. 'Perhaps you've had it too easy,' she said. 'I want you to be brought up properly and a thrashing might not be a bad thing once in a while.'
I looked at my youngest son. 'Jamie, a few days ago one of the neighbours complained that you'd been cheeky to her. Tell Carl what happened then.'
Jamie bit his lip briefly at the painful memory. 'You took me to her house and made me apologise,' he said. 'Then we came home and you punished me.'
'I want Carl to know precisely what happens when I punish my sons,' I reminded him. 'So describe what happened on that occasion, step by step.'
Jamie swallowed. 'We went into your study,' he said. 'Then you told me to take my jeans down and bend over your desk. I had to stretch right across and grip the other side. After that you went to your cupboard and took out the strap. I promised I wouldn't be cheeky again but you said I had to pay the penalty for what I'd done.' He paused, looking embarrassed. Marie and Carl were watching him with fascination and trepidation.
'Go on, Jamie,' I said. 'Carl must know what to expect.'
'You pulled my underpants down and told me I was going to get eight strokes on the bare bottom.'
'Which you duly received,' I said. 'And the punishment proved extremely painful, didn't it?'
'Yes, it really did,' he said, colouring at the memory.
I couldn't help laughing at the expression on Carl's face. He looked horrified. 'I don't hand out punishments for nothing and I'm not a monster - just a father who cares about you,' I said gently. 'Part of that caring means I insist on good behaviour and proper respect. If you fall short of what's required, punishment will follow automatically. Not sometimes or more often than not, but always. D'you understand?'
He licked his dry lips and nodded. 'I suppose I'd better be good from now on then,' he said with a nervous laugh. 'Then you'll never have to punish me.'
I saw Steven and Jamie exchange glances. They'd said much the same on many occasions.
After that, life settled into a contented rhythm. The three boys got on well together and we bonded as a family. Once or twice I noticed Carl open his mouth to argue about something either his mother or I had said, then he remembered the rules and wisely held his counsel. But I knew it wouldn't be long before his previously-lax upbringing would manifest in some way, and sure enough it happened during the second week.
I returned from work and found the boys sitting at the table busy with their homework. One of my rules was that homework had to be completed before they were allowed to watch television or play outside with their friends. Normally they simply got on with it but tonight I sensed a charge of tension centred on Carl. I found Marie in the kitchen and she told me something I hadn't wanted to hear.
'Carl swore at one of his teachers today,' she said. 'The headmistress phoned this afternoon and said he'd been caught copying another boy's arithmetic answers. When he was tackled about it he told the form teacher to bugger off.'
'He told her to what?' I said in outrage. Naturally, bad language was something I wouldn't tolerate from my sons. To learn that Carl had sworn at one of his teachers shocked me almost beyond belief.
I could see that Marie felt dismayed too. We'd agreed that she would always tell me if any of the boys misbehaved - we couldn't have a situation where they considered her a soft touch. Now she said, 'He was made to apologise to the teacher, of course, and he's been ordered to spend half an hour in detention for each of the next five afternoons after school. He asked me if you'd feel that was enough punishment.'
I laughed harshly. 'Enough punishment? By heaven, the boy has a great deal to learn if he thinks that's any sort of punishment at all.'
After changing out of my work things I went into the lounge, into that frisson of tension. I'm not one of those fathers who believes in making his sons stew. When punishment is due it follows swiftly.
'Carl,' I said. 'Stand up.'
He set his pen down and stood up. His two brothers looked at him in sympathy. They knew what was coming while he could only imagine.
'Is it true that you swore at one of your teachers?' I asked.
He nodded. 'Yes, but I only . . .'
'Wait,' I said, holding up a hand. 'If there's one thing worse than a child who transgresses, it's a child who then snivellingly tries to make excuses. If you want to keep my respect, you'll simply own up and leave it at that.'
'Yes, Dad, I'm sorry,' he whispered. 'I swore without thinking about it. I'm very sorry and I know it was wrong.'
'That's good,' I said. 'But you realise I shall have to punish you?'
Carl glanced at his brothers. I could see they'd told him so but he'd clung desperately to the hope that I would consider the school's action sufficient. After a second he said, 'Yes, I know.'
'Then go to my study and wait for me,' I said.
He shuffled off without another word. Marie had followed me in and I saw her pale slightly as Carl left the room. She knew he was going to find the coming minutes painful but she knew also that proper discipline must in future form part of his growing-up process.
'Dad, I don't think he really meant to swear at the teacher,' Steven told me. 'He feels bad about it.'
'Then the sooner he learns to hold his tongue the better,' I said. 'You two boys get on with your homework. This shouldn't take long.'
I smiled reassurance at Marie and went off to my study, an airy room that backed on to the lounge. This meant that the sounds of Carl's punishment would be audible to my wife and other sons. I didn't mind that. If it helped Steven and Jamie to remember what would happen if they stepped out of line, then all well and good. And though Marie probably wouldn't relish hearing Carl yell (as he would, because I never held back when administering thrashings), she would realise that at last he was receiving the correction he ought to have had much earlier.
Carl stood waiting for me, gloomy light from the window-facing garden cutting out his profile. He was wearing a yellow T-shirt with his jeans and trainers. I always allowed the boys to change out of school uniform before beginning their homework. He looked at me with trepidation when I entered and closed the door behind me. On my arrival he'd been glancing with apprehension towards my desk, a heavy oak item over which I always punished my sons. No doubt he'd been thinking of the minutes to come when he would have to bend over for his first thrashing.
'All right, Carl,' I said, 'I won't drag this out. But I shall tell you what procedure we follow so you'll know not only now but also in the future. In a moment you'll be required to take down your jeans - down to your ankles. Then you will turn and bend over my desk, reaching out so that you grip the far edge. You will maintain that position, feet apart, throughout your punishment and until I say you can stand. If you move your feet, attempt to stand up, release your hold on the desk or interfere in any way with the thrashing, you shall receive extra strokes. Do you understand?'
He swallowed, Adam's apple bobbing, and nodded. 'Yes, Dad,' he said. His hands were at his sides almost as if he were standing to attention.
'That's another thing,' I said. 'When receiving chastisement you show proper respect by calling me Sir, not Dad. Right?'
'Yes, Sir,' he said.
'Very well. I'd hoped that when I had to punish you for the first time it would be for something relatively minor, then I wouldn't have needed to give you too hard a time. But as it is, I can think of nothing much worse than using foul language to your teacher. I therefore propose to thrash you with the strap and also with the cane.'
He gazed at me, horrified. 'Please, not for my first punishment,' he said hoarsely. 'Steven says the strap's really bad but the cane's even worse. He didn't say I might get both.'
'It's what you deserve,' I said, determined to show no mercy. It was vital that he realised from the start that when he transgressed, he'd cop it.
With that I crossed to a tall cupboard in the corner, which was where I kept the instruments of punishment. In there was a black leather strap and a rattan cane with a curved handle. The strap was 2½ feet in length and eight inches wide, a hefty strop of leather that could deal out a lot of pain. The cane was also 2½ feet long and had a good whippy feel to it. Both the strap and cane had been obtained from a former schoolmaster who now manufactured punishment implements as a hobby. Carl licked his lips as I carried the two items to my desk and set them down where he would have a good view of them. Then I uttered the words he'd been dreading: 'Take down your jeans and bend over, Carl.'
His fingers trembled slightly as he unfastened the waist stud of his jeans. He then unzipped them and obediently pushed them to his ankles before straightening up again. He blushed slightly, as most boys do when they are revealed in their underpants for the first time. His yellow T-shirt hung over a pair of white briefs whose legbands were so tight that they gripped the flesh around and between his thighs like a vice. He turned and bent over the desk as I'd commanded, reaching out to grip the edge of the desk. Poor young Jamie was not yet quite tall enough to manage that comfortably and so always had to stand on tiptoe, but Carl was able to keep both feet feet comfortably on the ground. I told him to spread his feet a little wider, which he did. I wanted his buttocks to feel the full force of the punishment that was about to be inflicted on them. He had a slim, taut bottom, made more pronounced by the close fit of his pants. I moved up, hoisted his T-shirt half up his back, then hooked my fingers into the waistband of his pants and lowered them just sufficient to bare his buttocks. I didn't take them right down - they remained tucked snugly between his legs. The elastic legbands had fit so tightly that I could see the imprints left on his bared buttocks. In a moment those imprints would be joined by others much less cosy.
'I shall give you four strokes with the strap first of all,' I said, 'then eight with the cane. A total of twelve in all. You must count each stroke out loud as it's inflicted - "One, Sir, two, Sir and so on. If you forget to do so, or miscount, that stroke will be repeated. And don't forget what I said about holding your position. Are you ready?'
'Yes, Sir,' he said sorrowfully. His head was slightly raised, looking straight ahead, and I guessed he had his teeth gritted.
I picked up the strap and moved directly behind him. His backside looked vulnerable and white, the skin stretched taut. I could see his legs were trembling slightly with the dread of what was to come. I didn't keep him waiting any longer.
I've become an expert marksman in every sense. I can hit the target precisely where I wish and leave the marks to prove it. This time I drew back the strap over my shoulder, then swung into action with a good round-shouldered action that ensured the strap would thwack across Carl's buttocks with maximum impact, and curl with stinging agony around to his thighs.
THWACK. The first time he had ever received corporal punishment. The boy let out a yell of shock combined with pain. He must have known this would be a harrowing experience but he couldn't have visualised quite what to expect. That only comes from experience. Mindful of my instruction, he gulped, 'One, Sir.'
THWACK. The force of the stroke pushed his body forward a few inches but his feet remained firmly in place as I'd instructed. I could see his small fingers tighten even more on the edge of my desk, his knuckles white. 'Two, Sir.' His voice choked.
THWACK. This time his body squirmed and I heard him snivel. In his woe, he forgot to count. I didn't want to inflict more punishment than absolutely necessary on this first occasion so I waited, hoping he'd remember. His head half turned towards me as the delay went on. Perhaps he hoped I was about to exercise some mercy. Then I saw a flash of panic in his eyes as realisation dawned. 'Oh, I'm sorry, Dad - I mean Sir,' he said. 'Three, Sir.'
'Good boy. Don't forget again. You won't get another chance.'
THWACK. 'Four, Sir.' He groaned and his head dropped, flop of hair brushing the top of my desk. His backside had now developed a good, deep and sore redness that would accentuate the cane's bite in a terrible way. My other sons had discovered that on occasion.
'Sir, please can I rub my bottom?' he asked. The words were indistinct, for tears were now streaking his cheeks and dribbling on to his lips.
'Not until the punishment is over and even then only when I give you permission,' I said. 'You will hold your position, Carl, or receive further strokes.'
'Yes, Sir,' he mumbled.
I set down the strap on my desktop, just a few inches from his face where he would get a good view of the leather that had so recently chastised him. But I don't imagine he thought about that. He'd be more concerned to see me pick up the cane for the infliction of the second and most painful part of his punishment.
The cane was easier to wield than the strap and I always enjoyed seeing the red stripes it left on a boy's backside. When inflicted by an expert such as myself the stripes were evenly distributed, a mere half-inch apart.
Carl's body jerked convulsively as I applied the first stripe across the centre, and he gasped as if he'd been plunged into icy water. I knew the icy feeling would soon give way to an intense, backside-gnawing heat. He choked, blubbing openly now. 'One, Sir,' he said.
I waited a few seconds so he could really absorbe the pain. Then CRACK. This time he screamed, a sound I knew his mother and brothers would be hearing very clearly in the adjoining room. They would know I wasn't going easy on Carl, that when I applied punishment I did so severely even if the recipient was a boy who'd never received this sort of chastisement before. 'Two, Sir,' he cried.
CRACK. The first two strokes had left ridges that began as white but were now turning blood-red, and within moments the third would do likewise. Carl squirmed and sobbed but took great care to keep his feet and hands in place. I knew he must have been in agony, longing to hop around and to rub his backside. But he knew that such an action would lead to more strokes and that concentrated his mind wonderfully. 'Three, Sir,' he yelped.
Another pause. I wasn't drawing out the punishment unnecessarily but wasn't going to rush it either. I didn't want Carl to think punishments were quick in-and-out jobs, albeit painful while they lasted.
CRACK. A fourth stripe laid neatly beneath the first three. I judged it perfectly. The first six would cover his backside from top to bottom. The last two, though he didn't know it, would be the most agonising of all - they'd be delivered diagonally so that they intersected the first six. Steven and Jamie had many a woeful tale to tell about the final stripes in a caning. Carl yelped again, sobbing and crying. Then he wailed, 'Four, Sir.' I hoped his mother appreciated I was doing this for Carl's own good. At least she knew I was treating him the same as his two brothers, as I always would. We were one family now and I would love and respect my three boys equally. And that meant correcting them properly when they transgressed.
The fifth and sixth strokes whipped into Carl's bared buttocks and he screamed more but attempted to stifle the sound by burying his face in the blotter on my desk. That was OK. I respected the boy for feeling ashamed of his tears even if those tears were inevitable.
Then those final two stripes, the diagonal ones that cut across the six earlier weals. I placed them four inches apart. I thought Carl was going to leap in the air. His body convulsed and he screamed so loudly that I almost felt the pain for him. But the boy had courage and I admired that. He managed to gasp out, 'Seven, Sir,' then 'Eight, Sir.' And he held his place until I had replaced the strap and cane in my cupboard.
'Very well, Carl,' I said. 'You can stand up now and rub your bottom.'
He almost leaped upright and rubbed frantically, his face glistening with tears. I put my arm around him. 'If you like you can leave off your underpants and jeans for the rest of tonight and put on a pair of gym shorts,' I said. 'You might find them more comfortable after receiving punishment.'
'Thank you, Sir,' he said.
'The punishment's over now, Carl,' I said. 'You can call me Dad.'
He smiled. 'Thank you for punishing me, Dad,' he said.
I felt my eyebrows raise. I hadn't expected that. 'You're grateful?' I asked.
He nodded. 'I needed to be punished but most of all I wanted to be punished just like Steven and Jamie. After all, they're my brothers. Now I feel we're really one family. If I misbehave I want to get exactly the same punishments as they do.'
I tousled his dark hair. 'I can guarantee that, Carl,' I said. 'Now let's go and see your mother and brothers. I've no doubt Steven and Jamie will want you to show them your stripes later. They're almost like badges of honour.'
Carl nodded. I could see he was beginning to feel a sense of self-respect that he'd for so long lacked. And I'd always be ready to go on teaching him the lessons of a boy's life.