A whole mix of thoughts were going through my mind as I approached the main entrance and could see that people were already on their way to the first lessons of the afternoon. Hopefully, there would be nobody on the door taking the names of late comers. I had been put in the late book only a couple of weeks before and another entry would quite possibly mean a detention, which I could do without.
Also, if my form mistress, Mrs Booth, reported me for missing afternoon registration that would increase the chances of another visit to the office. Fortunately, it was rare for sixth formers to find themselves bending over but there was something highly embarrassing about being seen standing in the corridor outside the office. I smiled as I dismissed the remote possibility that, with two incidents of lateness and one of missing registration, someone might decide that the two detentions I’d picked up so far in the lower sixth hadn’t had the desired effect. Passing through the door, nobody paid me any attention.
I actually had a free period first thing in the afternoon, so I headed for the sixth form common room. I would pick up my books from the form room before the second period.
“Smith, where have you been?”
I recognized the voice immediately. She shouldn’t have been there, but she was. Mrs Booth was about the same height as me, shoulder length slightly curly brunette hair. She walked towards me looking me in the eye as she waited for an answer.
“Erm, I went home for my lunch, Miss, I’ve only just got back,” was the explanation I managed. I had been out for lunch but the ‘Dog and Gun’ wasn’t exactly home.
“Do you normally go home for lunch?” she asked as I tasted the beer in my mouth. Hopefully she wouldn’t smell it.
“Have you been drinking?”
That was like a bomb going off. To deny it would be an obvious lie, and to admit it would be like saying, please send me for the cane. This was one offence that there was no tolerance of, regardless of what year you were in.
“Yes, Miss,” I replied, looking down, trying to avoid her gaze and the looks of some of the other passing pupils.
“Well, you know what this means, don’t you? Come with me.”
I followed her through the entrance hall, past the entrance to the dining hall and into the corridor which ran along the back of the main hall. Down that corridor were the offices of the headmaster and deputy headmaster and the staff room. I was now asking myself why I’d been so stupid. It had seemed like a good idea at the beginning of lunchtime, and obviously I wasn’t expecting to get caught.
She stopped outside the deputy headmaster’s office, pointing to the opposite wall.
“Wait there,” she said as she knocked on his door, entering on his reply and closing it behind her. It was only a couple of minutes before she appeared again leaving the door ajar. “In you go,” she said, nodding towards the door and then walking away. It wasn’t the first time I’d walked through that door, but this time I probably wasn’t going to be leaving with a lecture on how sixth formers were expected to behave, or even a detention.
Mr Anderson sat back in his chair with his hands clasped in front of him.
“So a liquid lunch, was it, Smith?”
“It was just one, Sir.”
“That is all it takes to have a negative effect on one’s ability to absorb new information and learn. You are here of your own free will because you want to learn, aren’t you?”
“Because if not I could always arrange for you to have the rest of the week off.”
I felt myself flush bright red. Suspension I was not expecting. I would never be able to explain it to my parents and, apart from which, I didn’t actually want to miss school.
“Or I can cane you. Your choice, Smith.”
I looked at the floor in silence. I knew I was going to choose the cane but somehow couldn’t bring myself to effectively say, can I have the cane please Sir.
“So which is it to be?”
“The cane, Sir.” I mumbled.
“Sorry, speak up.”
“The cane, Sir.” I repeated.
“Right then, let’s get on with it.”
He pointed to two low backed armchairs which were against the back wall of his office and told me to bring into the middle of the room. As I pulled one of the chairs towards his desk he stood up and opened a bureau that was to the side of his desk and now, for the first time in my life, I was looking at a cane. I’d seen a few on television, but now I was looking at a real one and I was actually going to get it.
Events took a step closer to the inevitable when he told me to stand behind the chair, and then the instruction to bend over the back of it and hold the arms. I felt a rush of embarrassment when I felt my trousers pull tight over my backside, reminding me that I was about to get my bottom smacked.
I was looking forward, facing the front edge of his desk, and then felt the stick resting on my rear.
‘Oh, here we go,’ I thought, then it was gone.
I had barely registered the swishing sound before I thought: ‘Oh my God, that bloody hurt,’ as the first stroke landed.
I looked at the floor waiting for the second one, then the pain seared through my backside for a second time. The third one had my lips quivering slightly as I promised myself I wouldn’t find myself here again. I just wanted to get to the end of it and out of his office. I screwed my face up as the cane bit into my bottom for a fourth time. Staring forward as I waited for another one, I can remember the relief when he told me to stand up. After a short stiff walk to replace the chair, I was called to stand in front of the desk again.
Still standing with the cane in his hand, he said: “If I have to deal with you again it will be six. Is that clear?”
“Good. I hope so. You may go.”