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Definitely maybe

by Bruce Wallace

Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 07 Feb 2018

Definitely maybe


In my stories I try to capture teenage speech as I hear it, but with less of today’s common industrial-scale swearing. In this story, however, swearing is at the heart of the story, so I have allowed my characters (and myself) a bit more licence.



Grant flinched involuntarily.




Silence. Is that all he’s getting, he thought. A little disappointed, he moved away from the door, just before it opened and Tam came out. They weren’t friends, Tam was two years below him, but they knew each other from training so Grant thought he should say something.

How many?, he asked, pretending he had not been counting.

Just the three, Tam tried to shrug nonchalantly, but Grant saw him wince. Fucking hard ones mind, didn’t hurt much though.

While Grant pondered the paradox of fucking hard ones that didn’t hurt much, Tam went on: I thought I’d get more than that. That prick Armadale sent me, you know, health and fucking safety, zero fucking tolerance, bla fucking bla. I was just having a laugh. No one got hurt.

Right. Mr Armadale was indeed a prick, but on this occasion he had Grant’s sympathy; Tam having a laugh in the chemistry lab was no laughing matter.

Anyways, what are you doing here? Like you were one of the good boys, eh, Granty-boy? The way he said it, it didn’t sound like a compliment.

Grant ignored the familiarity. No, I’m here to say goodbye. This is my last day here.

Jammy cunt. See me, when I’m fucking sixteen, that’s me out of here, nae fucking bother. You won’t see me for fucking dust. Anyways, I’d better get back or I’ll have that twat Armadale on my case again. See you later on.

Not if I see you first, Grant thought. Tam belonged in the category of people I was at school with, not old school friends. He knocked on the headmaster’s door and waited for the green light.

When he entered, he was momentarily taken aback to see the headmaster standing flexing his cane between his hands. Mr Bents must have noticed his surprise. Ah, Cleland, or rather Grant – I think I may call you that now, he said. You needn’t worry – this isn’t a secret school-leaving ritual. I was just attending to Harburn’s latest misdemeanour.

Yes, Sir, I saw him come out.

No need for Sir either. You’re less than an hour from being a former pupil.

Yes, Si-, sorry.

Between ourselves, Harburn’s not such a bad lad, for all the times I’ve caned him. There’s no malice in him. He’s decided that school is not for him and nothing I do is going to change that. I only gave him the three strokes for form’s sake.

Yes, er.

Six of the best would have made no difference. He chuckled. Perhaps to the state of his backside, but not to his behaviour.

But I suppose even three strokes with that would be quite sore. It looks solid.

Oh yes, there will be three angry red lines on his backside, and sitting down will be very uncomfortable for a while. He smiled and passed Grant the cane. There, you can feel the heft of it for yourself.

Grant weighed it in his hands.

Is it how you had imagined it, Grant?

I don’t know, really. I kind of thought it would be whippier.

Yes, I expect you were thinking of the version I use on the younger boys, but I promote them, so to speak, around the age of fourteen, depending on their behaviour, and their physique of course.

I imagine Harburn earned promotion quite early. He couldn’t quite believe he was having this conversation. Before today it had always been Cleland and Sir; now it was chatting about when to promote boys.

The headmaster smiled. Yes indeed, on both counts. But as I say, not a bad boy. But you remind me of how much things have changed – any boy of my generation would know what a cane looked like.

Did everybody get caned in those days?

Most boys, certainly, but even those who weren’t would see other boys being caned in the classroom. It wasn’t only the headmaster in those days. And if you were wondering, yes I was caned, more than once. As I said, most boys were.

Grant tried to picture someone being caned in the classroom – Lachie for example, tall and lean in those seriously bollock-hugging trousers. Would it be better if he was facing the front so that you could see the impact, or facing the class so you could see his reactions. Of course, you wouldn’t want people to see you cry; Lachie wouldn’t though, surely, not Lachie.

Anyway, Mr Bents continued, That wasn’t why I invited you to come and see me. I wanted to take the opportunity to ...

Grant’s change of status to about-to-be-ex-pupil made no difference to conversation with Mr Bents. All he had to do was to punctuate the discourse with yesses, noes and the occasional certainly, and leave his about-to-be-ex-headmaster to do the rest. Meanwhile he continued to weigh the cane in his hand.

He wondered what those angry red lines would look like. He’d seen the traces of a beating on boys in the changing rooms, but not while they were fresh. Would there be red stripes, or purple bruises, or perhaps red stripes gradually changing into purple bruises? And just how uncomfortable would sitting down be? Agonisingly, achingly, stabbingly? Would he cry – hopefully not, of course, but if it was really hard perhaps you couldn’t help it. If only he had, just occasionally, been one of the bad boys, like Tam Harburn, he would know for himself. If only.

If only what, Grant?


You said If only, though I can’t imagine why. Some boys leave school with regrets – things they did, or chances they failed to take, but that hardly applies to you, academically or in any other way. So what were you regretting?

Grant tried desperately but failed to think of something innocuous to regret.

Well, it’s a bit embarrassing, but I almost regret never having felt this. He waved the cane uncertainly.

Mr Bents smiled. It’s quite all right, you won’t be the first boy to be curious. The lure of the unknown, one might say.

Yes a bit like that. A sense of having missed out on something. But I guess it’s too late now. I mean, I don’t suppose ...

... that I might give you the cane so that you can find out what it is like.

Grant could feel his heart beat faster. Well, I mean, just one or two, not a proper, you know. The word thrashing stuck in his throat.

Mr Bents smiled again. You suppose correctly. I couldn’t possibly cane a pupil, which you still are, because he asks. The governors, in their wisdom, – he made it obvious he did not think much of their wisdom – have laid down a strict protocol for corporal punishment in this school and request canings do not feature in it.

Of course, I understand.

There has to be a sufficient reason for me to cane a boy, you know. And I don’t imagine you are going to tell me that your excellent exam results were the result of cheating.

Well, no.

Or that you bribed your teachers to mark you as present when you were in fact playing truant.

Well, no. OK, I get the point, no need to keep banging on about it.

Or that you were a secret smoker.

Well, no. Fucksake, I’ve got the message.

Or that you took an illicit short cut when you won the school cross-country championship last year.

Well, no. Give it a fucking rest, will you.

And it is a bit late on your last day to start to build up a sufficient record of unpunctuality to justify the cane.

Oh get to fuck.

I beg your pardon.

Er, nothing, er, Sir.

I said, I beg your pardon. What did you say?

Nothing, Grant mutttered.

You did not say nothing. I want to know what. Well?

Get to fuck.


Get to fuck. That’s what I said. Sir.

There was silence for a few seconds. Then Mr Bents exploded: How dare you speak to me like that – I will not tolerate that kind of language from any boy in this school, do you understand, no matter who he may be. Give me that at once. He reached out his hand.

But, but I didn’t mean it. I wasn’t talking to you, Sir.

Really, then who were you talking to – the invisible man? I can’t see anyone else in this room. And let me tell you, I’ve heard boys say they didn’t mean it too many times for it to cut any ice with me. Now give me the cane, put your blazer over the back of that chair and bend over it.

As if in a trance, Grant obeyed. He felt the material of his trousers stretching tightly across his buttocks. Now that it was about to become a reality, he knew that the fantasy sting of the cane in his imagination was going to be a lot more than a sting.

Further over, and keep your legs straight. Hold onto the chair and keep still. I expect you to take your punishment in silence.

Grant obeyed again. Somehow with his hands on the chair he felt exposed and vulnerable. He heard the headmaster moving behind him and then the cane resting on the mid-point of his arse. The boys said that lower down hurt most, particularly when you had to sit down in class afterwards – at least he didn’t have to worry about that. And they said that it was best if they were spaced out evenly, without overlapping or crossing over. Well, he wouldn’t need to rely on what the boys said in future – he was going to find out.

Now, Cleland. Mr Bents always liked to pass sentence while the boy was already in position. Obscene and abusive language towards a teacher. I am surprised and disappointed, but your previous good conduct makes no difference. You will get six strokes of the cane.

Owff! Almost before finishing his speech, the headmaster had swung his cane, catching Grant unawares.

Keep still, I said. Grant’s hands had instinctively moved to protect his buttocks. He grasped the chair again.

Aagh! His hands began to move again, but he managed to control them.

Keep your hands on the chair. You can count yourself lucky you are already getting the maximum, otherwise I would give you more.

Later on, Grant would try to understand the logic of that statement, but at the moment he had other things on his mind – the two throbbing lines on his arse and the knowledge that there was more to come.

Ffff! He managed to avoid crying out this time, but that was the worst yet, really low, like the guys said. He could feel a pricking feeling in his eyes – oh, please not that, not sobbing like a wean, and three more to come.

Aaagh! He held it back, just. The cane was working relentlessly down his arse. Fuck, two more.

Aaagh! This time he couldn’t help himself. He could feel a definite tear forming in the corner of one eye and sniffed as quietly as he could to try and suck it back in.

Aaaaagh! He had given up trying to work out where the strokes were landing – there was just an expanse of pain which random patches of throbbing agony.

There was a moment of silence. Grant sniffed again and waited to be told what to do. He felt he no longer had a will of his own.

Stand up, Cleland.

Slowly Grant levered himself into an upright position. He couldn’t believe how much such a simple movement could hurt.

Put on your blazer and sit down on that chair. Reluctantly Grant complied. He watched Mr Bents sit down behind his desk and pull a leather-bound book from a drawer. He opened it and scanned its pages for a moment before picking up his pen.

Now then, Cleland, G.S., it is S, isn’t it. Grant nodded. Yes, 6G, Obscene and abusive language towards a member of staff, no.2 cane, 6 strokes. Come over here and initial it, please.

Once again Grant felt a stabbing pain as he got up and walked over to the headmaster’s desk. He could feel his hand shaking as he leant forward to write G.S.C. below Tam’s scrawled T.A.H.

Sit down again. More stabbing pain as Grant discovered what generations of boys had discovered before him – the impossibility of sitting comfortably on a wooden chair immediately after getting six of the best. Meanwhile Mr Bents put the book back in his desk drawer and shuffled inconsequentially with some papers in his in-tray.

Eventually he looked up and smiled at Grant. I think you may stand up now if you like, but no rubbing. You can imagine what it would be like in real life to have to sit through double-Latin after a visit to my study.

Grant said nothing and Mr Bents continued: Did that meet your expectations?

Actually, I wasn’t expecting anything. Certainly not that. And I didn’t mean to swear out loud.

Really, Grant, you don’t expect me to believe that, Mr Bents said in an amused tone. You aren’t the first senior boy to want to have the cane once before leaving school, and I provide them with the opportunity to atone for their past good behaviour. You would be surprised by the number of boys who belatedly confess to being secret smokers, some genuinely I suppose, but I was impressed by your ingenuity – I’ve never been told to, what was it, go and fuck.

Get to fuck. But honestly, I didn’t ...

Now that will do, Grant, I don’t want to hear more of that nonsense. By the way, I can assure you that in my day you would not have got away with six of the best for that sort of language.

You mean, boys could get more than six?

Why certainly; as I said before other masters used the cane, so the headmaster only dealt with the most serious offences, but for him six was the starting point.

Fuck, Grant thought. Really? There must have been a limit though.

Yes, twelve was assumed to be the maximum, though that was exceptional – eight, nine, ten, those were common. Of course, it was with your trousers down, so that made it worse.

Jeez, Grant thought. With just your boxers on? That would be really bad.

We didn’t have boxers then, but in any case our underpants were down as well. On the bare, we always called it, on the bare, with a the. You carried the marks for a good long time.

You would, Grant thought, and actually that would be cool, showing the guys once the worst of the pain was gone. He tried, and failed, to imagine a young Mr Bents with livid red stripes on his arse – it wasn’t easy. Lachie on the other hand, though there would hardly be room for six of the best on his arse, never mind nine or even the full twelve. The full twelve, he thought, quite the expert aren’t you, like six of the best is not enough for you. Still, it wasn’t so bad now, fucking sore for sure, but sort of OK.

I expect that having seen the cane for the first time today, you will be happy never to see it again, the headmaster said with a smile.

Well, yes, I suppose so.

You took it very well, if I may say so.

Thank you. Thank you for what, you bastard.

A remarkable experience, you might say.

Yes, that’s one way of putting it. He could think of others – like fucking excruciating.

As I said, you are not the first boy to satisfy their curiosity in this way. Even in these allegedly enlightened times, there is something about corporal punishment which a lot of people find interesting. In fact, I sometimes host a small study group of former pupils to explore various aspects of the topic further. Perhaps you would be interested.

Aye, that’ll be fucking right, he thought, no fucking chance. I don’t know, he said.

I’ll let you know when we next plan to meet if I may. And now once again, let me thank you for your contribution to the life of the school ...

He droned on for a little more, before shaking Grant’s hand and letting him escape.

Outside the corridor was mercifully empty and Grant was able to rub furiously. He was confused. He definitely hadn’t asked for six of the best, but maybe subconsciously he sort of had. It definitely had been agonising but maybe not totally bad – he had taken it very well, and he hadn’t cried, not really. He definitely didn’t want to explore the topic further – he knew what that meant – but maybe he would go along, just the once, out of curiosity, that would be all. But as for twelve of the best, on the bare, with a the, no, no chance, definitely not ...

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