A girl due to be caned seeks advice
By Marcella Cabana
My brother and I sat on his bedroom floor, a can of coke at each of our sides. Music played softly on his speakers. My brother was speaking.
“So, after he had told me off and taken the cane out of the cupboard, he told me to drop my trousers and stretch over the desk.”
“You had to take off your trousers? But your underpants stayed on?”
I squirmed. It was awkward talking about removing clothes with my brother. To be fair, he didn’t laugh. He took my questions seriously.
“And then he caned you? How long did it take?”
“In all? About ten minutes.”
I shook my head. Ten minutes sounded like a long time.
“Did you yell out?”
“At the end, yes. It hurts, Ana. Be sure you’re ready, it’ll be a painful experience.
But remember,” he added. “Lots of kids get it and they survive. It’s not like they’re going to execute you.”
David was nearly ten years older than me, and had left school. He had suffered two thrashings at school, though he had not told me, his younger sister, about them at the time.
But now it was my turn. I’d been informed that a caning was coming my way the next day. I was so worried about it, I’d knocked on his door and asked him what to expect.
“One thing I strongly recommend,” said David. “If you’re thinking of bunking off tomorrow to get out of it, don’t. It won’t work. Get in, and get it over with. I know someone who bunked off two days. He ended up having two canings because they found out. Don’t risk it. Just take it and if you want a hug after school, come here.”
I was lucky to have a brother who was older and understanding. I could only imagine how much worse it would be if he had been a child who would laugh and torment me about the punishment.
I’d been caught cheating with my homework. I’d forgotten about the assignment, and rushed to the library. Instead of writing something hurriedly, I’d foolishly whipped a history book off of the shelf and copied it more or less word for word. Of course, my deception had been spotted at once.
I wasn’t really afraid, but I was certainly nervous. But more than that, I was curious. In the 24 hours before I was to receive my first caning, I went to everyone I knew who had suffered a thrashing.
My friend and classmate, Pablo, said, “The cane hurts, a lot. It’s like being bitten by a dog, but six times. When I sat down, I felt the lines the cane had made on my bottom for, like, three days afterwards.”
My friend, Elsa, said, “The most painful thing ever. It’s far worse than being spanked with mum’s hand.”
My classmate, Arnau, said, “It hurts, but the embarrassment is worse. First, you have to bend over in front of the head teacher with no trousers on, at least boys do. Putting your backside in the air like that. And all your friends know what is happening. You want to forget it but they ask and ask. And your siblings ask when you get home. My little brother even asked if he could see my bottom!”
My neighbour, Lucia, said, “It hurts more than you think it will, but it doesn’t last as long as you don’t sit down.”
Too nervous to sleep, I looked up my old storybooks for descriptions of canings. Each one described a thrashing in detail, and I read and re-read them that night so I doubt anyone was ever as well prepared for the cane as I was when I walked to school the next day.
I first went to my home room teacher, who was also my history teacher, as I had to explain why I would not be at morning roll call.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry. I need to report to Mr Ramirez.”
She looked at me, and then a wicked smile spread across her face. It was, of course, her who had sentenced me to this thrashing.
“When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second,” she said. “When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity. You will soon be discovering what I mean.”
The teacher grinned as she handed me the punishment slip. I looked at it. It read:
Homework not done. Copied. Plagiarism.
I raised my eyes to the sky. “Ma’am, can’t I do detention?”
“This is your homework, is it not?”
“What do you take me for, Ana? An idiot? This is not your work, and you pretended that it was. That’s cheating and it’s lying too. Now get to the headmaster’s office.”
“Ma’am, I-I’ll do detention instead, ok? I’ll stay tonight.”
“No, Ana, you can’t. We’ll get through to you one day, whether it’s through here,” she tapped her head. “Or here,” and you can imagine which part of her anatomy she indicated.
I rolled my eyes, determined to stay cocky.
And I trudged out of class towards the headmaster’s office.
But once I was out in the corridor, I was alone. And then I had a few seconds to think on what was coming, and I suddenly felt bitter and angry and resentful. Who gave them the right to hurt kids like this?
I loitered a bit in the loo, but it was no good. I might as well get it over with.
I knocked on the door.
The headmaster was at his desk, surrounded by papers.
I walked over to him, trying to look confident and assured.
“Got this, sir.”
And handed him the red slip.
He paused, then he asked me to tell him what had happened. He frowned as I explained.
“Do you mean to tell me that you thought a teacher would be fooled into thinking a schoolgirl wrote with the style and vocabulary of a professional writer of history books?”
“No, sir, but I…”
“You deserve an extra stroke for stupidity, but, sadly, we can’t add them for that.”
He shook his head.
“While I organise my desk, will you go to the cupboard and fetch my stick, please?”
I went to the cupboard at the back of the office. I saw the headmaster was stacking papers into piles to clear a space on the desk. I opened the cupboard, and there it was, hanging next to the headmaster’s coat. The dreaded school cane. It was thinner and lighter than I’d expected. I unhooked it and briefly held it by the handle, trying to imagine myself using it on someone else. Was it the same instrument used on my brother’s backside?
Time seemed to freeze as I walked over to the headmaster and handed him the cane.
Then he said the words I’d hoped never to hear.
“Right, Ana, you get six strokes for cheating. Hitch your skirt up so your bottom is covered by your knickers, but nothing more. Then I want you to bend over the desk. And I suggest you hold on to something, as this is really going to hurt.”
Groaning, I leant over the desk and flipped my skirt up as instructed. It was cold in the study, I noticed then, as the air played around the newly exposed skin around my buttocks and thighs. For some reason, I wondered how many other pupils had stood where I was over the years. How many chests and tummies had been pressed to that desk, awaiting the strike of the cane behind them? How many feet had worn into that spot on the carpet? My mother had gone to this school. Had her long hair once fallen about her head on this desk, as mine was now doing?
I reached out and grabbed the other end of the desk, bracing myself.
I saw through my hair that the headmaster now had his cane in his hand, and was taking aim. His feet were apart and I closed my eyes and braced myself as his shoulder began to move.
Swish, crack! At first, I felt nothing but then I gasped as the pain flooded across my backside.
It was agony! I gasped in surprise at the intensity of the pain, as though the cane had cut into my skin. And there were five still to come? I felt a lump in my throat and tears welled up.
The caning continued. My home room teacher was right, each pause between strokes of the cane felt like an hour. Time is, oddly different when you are in the middle of an unpleasant procedure, at the doctor’s, or being thrashed at school.
Crack! Another stroke landed.
“Oooww!” I couldn’t hold it in as the torture intensified. My friend, Pablo’s, description of the dog bite had been a good one.
“Sir, please. It hurts, it hurts!”
I’m not ashamed to tell you I had started to cry now. The headmaster did not respond, but positioned himself for the fifth stroke. Vocalising my distress, however, did help a very little bit.
Crack! I screamed internally but held my tongue.
Crack! That was six. I decided to wait for permission to stand, as I had heard of strokes being added for those who failed to do so. My wounded backside was in agony, but I was glad I had come in to face the music. The prospect of a second caning for truancy was too awful to contemplate.
“You can stand and replace your skirt.” His voice was far away. My head was pounding.
“Back to class.”
He sat back down at his papers, like he’d just had a cup of tea, instead of flogging a teenage girl within an inch of her life!
I stopped in the bathroom for a good cry, then I made my way to class. I sat down. All eyes had turned to me, of course and I sat there dying of embarrassment.
And the worst thing was, everyone wanted to talk about it in the recess!
“How was it?”
“Does it hurt?” etc.
Arnau kindly lent me his school jumper, so that I could sit on something softer and not the hard chair.
At home that night, I heard David come in from work and go to his room. I went over and knocked on his door.
“Hey, you ok?”
“Yeah. Very, very sore.”
“Hurts, doesn’t it?”
When he said that, the tiredness and emotion of the experience welled up and I began to cry. My brother hugged me until I felt better. He gave me some sweets and advised I take a warm bath to reduce the soreness, which I did.
I was never thrashed again, fortunately. But when my children came to me with punishment slips, I was able to pass on what I had learned.
© Marcella Cabana 2022