Antonio Ruffiero – or Tony as he thought of himself – was an unlucky boy. The main problem was that he was not clever, and that, in a school where idleness or lack of brain led to the commander's armchair, was a serious handicap. In four years at the school he had been bottom of his form thirty-five out of a possible forty times. Each of those thirty-five times he had been caned by his form master, mostly just a few strokes on the seat of his trousers, because his form masters realised that he couldn't actually help it. But during the third form he had been in Mr Poole's form, and that meant several painful beatings over a table at the front of the classroom with his trousers down and the whole class watching him squirm as the cane bit into his thinly protected backside.
He had made the acquaintance of the commander's cane early on in the first form and this had continued, term after term, right up to the present. He was also frequently in trouble, and more than once the headmaster had given him a double dose of the cane in recognition of his form position and the number of beatings he had been given.
He was waiting outside the commander's study. He was bottom of the form again. He was going to be caned severely. And when he got home, his uncle would beat him again.
He was a sturdy, good-looking boy with pale blue eyes and sandy curly hair. As a little boy his face had had a perpetual grin on it, but this had been replaced, after four years of the commander's regime, by a more serious expression. Now his face bore a frown of anxiety. He knew what the cane was going to be like, and he hated it.
All his friends had gone home. Only boys whose fathers couldn't come to see them whipped were left. Tony had no father to come for him. He knew very well that, if he had, the outcome would have been just the same. His father believed that corporal punishment was the best way to deal with naughty or stupid boys, but he had convinced himself that his father would have stuck up for him, prevented the commander from inflicting the terrible lashing he was in for now.
He only had a few friends anyway. For some reason that he could never understand he was not popular. Maybe it was because he was Italian, or not good at games, or because he was stupid. Anyway, it didn't matter.
"Come in, Ruffiero." The door opened and the commander was there waving him inside. He went in and stood in front of the desk, more familiar than he liked with the correct procedure. The commander sat at his desk, and there were the usual two canes, lying across the papers.
The lecture went on a long time. He wasn't trying; masters were exasperated by his failure to learn; behaviour hadn't been good either; nine beatings in the book; almost enough to earn a second caning; what would his father have said; no alternative; failing in his duty if he didn't undertake a father's duty as well as a headmaster's. He had heard it all before.
"Go to the chair, please, and get ready. Pants down, of course."
Tony went to the chair, removing his jacket as he went. He lay it on the floor and climbed on to the chair, his belt already unhooked and unbuttoning his trousers. Trousers and pants down to his knees, he stretched himself over the chairback and gripped the rail. It hardly seemed any time since he was last here, backside naked and hoisted into the air for the old man's cane.
The commander came round the desk – in his hand the shorter but thicker, more rigid bamboo cane. Briskly he crossed the room and hoisted the boy's shirt, revealing the meaty young buttocks where the punishment would be carried out. He was a strong boy, his thighs muscular and his bottom solid and tight. Across the white flesh were marks from an earlier beating: three, maybe four, mauve stripes.
"Who caned you here?" he demanded, laying his hand on the place.
"Scudder, sir," said the boy. He remembered the four strokes of the cane across the seat of his gym shorts and the way Penworthy had squealed when it was his turn to be punished. Not a beating that was recorded in the book, thought the commander. He was over the ten after all. Never mind, this was going to be tough enough for the lad without making it worse.
He lay the last foot of the cane against his skin, taking aim, letting him feel where it was going to land. Stepped back. Wound himself up. Launched the cane at its target, hard and fast. The boy gasped as it landed with a heavy THWACK! Instantly, a dark red stripe appeared across the white of the skin a little wider than the thickness of the cane. There were eight more like that. Each one just touching the one before. From the middle of his bottom to a point just above his thighs there seemed to be just one band of scarlet, contused flesh, beginning to turn to purple bruise at the top, just angry, swelling red at the bottom.
He was a brave boy and took his beating with no more than a little groaning in the back of his throat, but he guessed that this was not the end of the matter. This heavier cane, the bamboo, was designed to inflict deep bruises that would last two or three weeks. The immediate pain was not so bad, though a boy who was less used to being flogged than Ruffiero would have found it hard to bear. The commander went back to his desk and sat down, laying the bamboo back in its place.
"I want you to stay as you are for a minute or two, Ruffiero. I suggest you take this opportunity to contemplate the situation you are in. You might consider what you will say to your mother and uncle when you reach home this evening. Most of all I want you to think of the pain you must be giving them by your idleness and thoughtless behaviour."
And with the same he took up his pen and continued writing.
Tony, stretched over the chair, didn't follow the commander's advice. He had no need to think of the pain he was causing his mother. He knew full well what her reaction would be once he got home. His mind was concentrated entirely on the extraordinary pain his bottom was suffering. He couldn't distinguish the individual lines of fire across his flesh; they had merged into a solid mass of acid biting into the meat of his muscles.
One might have expected that after a thrashing like this he would have been distressed – in tears, even. But no. To some extent he had become hardened to this kind of treatment. It hurt to the very core of his being but he knew that it wouldn't last for ever. He had no tears because tears would have meant that he cared. And he didn't. Not since his father had died and his uncle took over the responsibility – if not the financial one of keeping him at the school.
Five minutes passed. The agony didn't even begin to fade. The commander stood up once more, this time selecting the thinner rattan cane. Once more he approached the boy over the back of the chair. Now his buttocks were a mass of dark purple and blue bruise. The individual strokes of the cane were now visible within the mass, swollen ridges across both buttocks. He lay the business end of the cane, that drooped slightly under its own weight, across the tortured backside, judging the distance.
"Hold very still, now, Ruffiero."
Nine more strokes, half an inch apart, laid diagonally across the bruises of the previous nine. The sound of cane on bare flesh was now a much higher crack, like a pistol shot and even against the background of dark bruise the stripes it drew were instantly and vividly visible. The boy did keep still for his punishment, but only just. Now he couldn't hold back his yells as the pain sliced deep into his muscles and after four or five he writhed and bucked over the chairback. He always returned, however, to the required position. He knew better than to attempt to get up or forestall the beating in any way. He was bleeding a little where the very tip of the cane flicked at his skin down the right hand side of his bottom. The last three made him howl.
The commander stepped back and admired his handiwork. A professional job. He won't rub that off in a hurry, he thought. He lay the cane on the desk, went round it and sat down. The boy was still in position, waiting for the order to get up. The commander unscrewed the top of his fountain pen and reached for the punishment book. In his immaculate handwriting he wrote: "22nd July – Ruffiero – Form 4 – 18 – bare breech – idleness and poor attitude."
"Get up and get dressed."
Painfully the boy struggled up from his bending position, reached down for his pants and gingerly pulled them up over the lacerated buttocks. Then his trousers were also pulled up and he climbed awkwardly off the chair. When he turned to face the commander again, his face showed clearly the agony he was feeling but there were no tears and he made no move to rub at the seat of his trousers.
"I hope that will do the trick, Ruffiero, and that next term this scene will not have to be repeated."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"Very well. Off you go."
Tony stood up all the way home in the train. Fortunately, there was a corridor and he walked up and down most of the time. The movement helped to reduce the pain, but only a little. Still, by the time he arrived home, he no longer felt as though he'd been sliced to the core by red hot knives and he could walk without feeling that it required an effort of the brain to make his legs work.
He greeted his mother who was waiting for him. She kissed him, had some tea made for him and then came the dreaded moment. "Show me your report." He produced it and she read down the dismal record of failure and criticism; and there, at the bottom, were the _d_a_m_n_ing figures: Corporal punishment – 9; Position in form - 16/16. Bottom. Again.
"Oh dear," she said. "You know what your father would have done, don't you?"
"Now that he is gone I'm forced to rely on Uncle Mauro, as you know. I shall just have to ask him to whip you, shan't I?" Tony said nothing. "Go to your room and wait for him."
Tony went upstairs to his room. He knew that his uncle wouldn't come till at least six o'clock – over an hour away. There was a clock beside his bed and he kept a wary eye on it. He unpacked his things, all the time aware of the state of his rear end. The vicious stinging was gone now, replaced by a surging heat that ran along the swollen weals.
At half past five he heard his uncle come in and he undressed. Once before he had not been ready when Uncle Mauro came to whip him and he had regretted it. Naked, he was a strong, compactly built boy. The muscles on his torso and legs were well-developed but still boyish and neat. For a boy of fifteen he was well-hung with a good crop of sandy pubic hair above his sturdy penis.
His heart was beating. The caning from the commander had been very terrible, but he knew that his uncle's beating would be worse. Every time he swore that he would not, this time, end up screaming and begging for him to stop, but every time that was what happened – and he hated himself for giving in to the pain.
Uncle Mauro had left Italy as a thirteen year old boy and gone to America. Tony knew the stories about how he had worked the docks in New York, the slaughterhouses in Chicago; how he had known various gangsters; about his time in jail. He had come back to the family business in England just a year before his brother died, bringing his sons with him. They were as brutalised as their father. Tony knew that they had been beaten regularly and hard by their father, but that didn't explain why they seemed to enjoy his own beatings so much.
Uncle Mauro explained that in America fathers used a paddle on their sons' backsides and he had lost no time in making a new one for use on Michele, who was now seventeen, and Fausto, who was nineteen.
Tony's father had come straight to England from Italy, worked at first as a labourer, but had prospered more than he had dreamt of. With his wealth he had acquired an unquestioning admiration for the public school system and he had worked hard to send Tony to such a school. This admiration included a strong belief in the benefits of corporal punishment, so he had given Tony some pretty serious thrashings over the years, particularly after the painful occasions when he had had to witness him being whipped by the commander.
But nothing he had done could equal the severity, the viciousness of his uncle's lashings. Every time he seemed to find a new refinement to make the punishment worse, so, when his bedroom door was thrown open, Tony jumped and then his heart sank even farther as he saw that Michele and Fausto were right behind their father. They would be helping with the administration of the punishment. Last time they had both been given a turn with the paddle.
"So, you little scoundrel. Time for another dose of the paddle, eh?" He held the paddle out so Tony could see it. The blade was about eighteen inches long and four inches wide. "Let's see. How shall we do it this time?"
Over the end of the bed; lying over a pile of pillows; touching his toes; held in a bending position with his head clamped between Fausto's knees; kneeling on all fours on the bed – Tony had had them all.
"On the bed. On your back. Hands behind your head."
Puzzled, Tony obeyed. Exposing his genitals so openly frightened him. Twice before, after a beating, his cousins had held him down and forcibly wanked him.
"Right lads. Take an ankle each." They did it. "Now, fold him over so his butt is sticking out nicely."
Immediately, Tony started to fight and protest as his legs were hauled up and back over his shoulders so that he was folded in half. He struggled but it was no good. They were strong lads and had him trussed in no time.
"Legs apart, lads. Let's see his tackle." Again Tony struggled, but Fausto responded by taking a firm grip of his now cruelly exposed testicles and he was helpless once more.
And then the paddle slammed into his bottom, right across the area tenderised by the commander's cane. And he howled. There was no pretence about this, as there had once or twice when he had tried to shorten the beating by yelling straight away. This was intolerable. He howled and struggled. But still the paddle slapped down across his helpless flesh. Seven. Eight. Nine times. Reaching new heights of unimaginable pain. Ten. Eleven. Twelve.
"There," said his uncle. "Isn't that delightful? Isn't that just what you've been asking for? Do you want some more?"
"No, please. Please, no more. I can't take any more."
"Well, if you're sure. Just a little more then." And again the paddle got to work. Always on the same band of flesh. Always slapping him where he was already the most tender, the most sore. He was almost screaming now. How was such agony possible? And between screams he was pleading, not knowing now what he was saying, just anything to make it stop.
"Is the message getting through to you?" said Uncle Mauro.
"Yes, yes, I'll be good. I'll do anything," he begged.
"What do you think, lads? Has he had enough?"
"I'm not sure," said Fausto. "He could forget about it soon enough."
"No, I won't. I promise."
"Maybe a few more would help him remember," said Michele.
And once again, Uncle Mauro swung the paddle and Tony's bottom exploded in the devastating pain. He howled and begged, but it did no good. His uncle was relentless and every last stroke of the paddle was applied.
And then, at last, it was over. With a final tweak at his penis, the boys released his legs and he lay there. Too weak, and in too much pain to roll over or rub at his bottom. Spent, exhausted, hurting more than he had ever thought possible.
Hours later, when the pain had faded a little, and he had cleaned up the worst of the blood, he lay face down on his bed, still naked, in the dark, and his thoughts turned to revenge. He didn't blame his cousins too much. They too had been beaten till they were blind, unthinking, self-loathing lumps of suffering meat. One day, not very far off, the business would be his. And then ....