Headmaster Laithwaite was confused. He seemed to be in some sort of queue with others dressed exactly like he was in a private school headmaster's gown and mortarboard over a dark grey business suit in an immensely long public school corridor. He even had a white shirt, a tie and the most familiar shoes. All the others in the queue were similarly attired. At first he had been at the end but now he was in the middle of the queue after a wait of days. He wanted to ask but he could not talk and then realized that nobody else was talking. It was so quiet that he checked to make sure he was not deaf.
Although the queue was immense, periodically the person at the head of the queue would pass through a door presumably entering some chamber after someone else had left the chamber and was dutifully trudging to the tail of the queue to requeue. Although some of the expressions of those on the queue behind himself were grim as those of the people leaving the unknown chamber a few were quizzical like they did not know what was happening any more than he did.
Laithwaite was doing his best to make sense of it all. The previous thing he could remember was being in his bed not feeling very good with a nurse trying to rouse him whist he was forcing a pill into his mouth. Physically he felt better than he had in decades for his arthritic joints were not aching. It was most puzzling that he could sense time yet he was getting neither tired nor hungry nor even needing to relieve himself. It was, to say the least, most perplexing.
Laithwaite had tried to go investigate but immediately learnt that he could not move more than a hand breath to either side nor fail to move forward when the person in front of him did. He had a sense of dread but could not explain why. He lost track of how long he had been in the queue as he made his way to its head. The door was simply labeled: «Headmaster's Study»
* * * * * * * * * *© YLeeCoyote
Laithwaite entered the chamber. It immediately reminded him of his own study which he had occupied for more than three decades. "Please do have a seat." said the person behind his, er, the desk pointing to a visitor chair. He felt compelled to obey. The person behind the desk was strangely familiar but after almost half a century in a boarding school any boy dressed in the school uniform would seem familiar. "Is this your first time here, Laithwaite?"
"Yes." he replied.
"The correct form is 'Yes, Sir.' or 'No, Sir.' Is this your first time here, Laithwaite?"
He handed him a document. "Please confirm that this is you."
He read the document. It was his curriculum vitae. "Yes, Sir."
He handed back the document and was puzzled by the next question: "Please estimate how many cane cuts you administered to the boys in your care." The document seemed to change as the boy studied it.
Laithwaite did some arithmetic in his head. Thirty years, forty weeks/year, ten boys/week, six cuts/boy. "About seventy-two thousand, Sir."
"How many were justified?"
"Actually not." said the boy looking further into the document. "Ten percent were totally unjustified even by your standards as the boys were totally innocent of the supposed infractions and fully half the rest were excessive for the infractions and many more because the complainants exaggerated. You relished committing these injustices. The recompense is computed at with a rate of ten, five and one factor in each category which comes to just over a quarter million cuts in about forty-two thousand visits."
When Laithwaite had recovered from the shock, he said: "That will take an eternity."
"Actually not but that wouldn't be a problem here, Laithwaite, for we have all the time in the universe. By the way, at the slow rate of one every thirty seconds, it would require only three months."
"You haven't quite remembered who I am. I'm the very first boy – Jasper – who you caned. I was just thirteen and new to your school. I was late and running in the hall. Because it was the first day you said you would be kind and would give me only three. Now, please, remove your gown, jacket and mortarboard. Tuck up your shirt and vest, drop your trousers and pants to your ankles and get into position over the desk. I trust I will not have to remind you to keep your bottom well up nor of the many other details of your caning protocol." Laithwaite did not understand why he docilely obeyed the mere child.
When Jasper stepped around the desk, Laithwaite could see that he was smartly dressed in the school uniform with short trousers even with his socks properly up. He removed his blazer and picked up a senior cane. "Ready?" he asked as he got into position.
SWISH went the cane and Laithwaite howled instantly on its contact. The pain was immense. Far worse than he remembered from his days as a school boy more than six decades before. He jumped up and clutched his bum. "That does not count since you got up without permission. We will have to start over as soon as you get back into position Laithwaite."
Again the cane spoke and Laithwaite howled but managed to stay in position. Twice more Jasper swung the cane with similar results. The last cut was in the sensitive crease joining butt and thigh and Laithwaite again lost his focus and jumped up. "Oh, dear, Laithwaite we must start over – again. Remember you must NOT get up until I give you permission. Now, back into position and let's get this over with. Many are waiting their turns."
Laithwaite got back into position and gripped the desk tightly hoping that he could stay in position for three more cuts. Fortunately he managed but he was crying at the end. "All right, Laithwaite. Pull up your trousers and get yourself together." Laithwaite although somewhat foggy did as ordered. "OK, now back on queue Laithwaite. You have a long way to go before this is over. We will meet a few more times before you are finished."
It was a very long way to the end of the queue and the pain of the caning made walking difficult. Slowly Laithwaite moved with the queue and the horror he now knew was awaiting when he reached the head of the queue again. As he waited his bum healed. An immense number was stuck in his head – a quarter million cuts – along with forty-two thousand visits to the study. Gradually, however, it dawned on him where the hell he was. In those brief moments when he did not think about the fiery pain in his bum he thought that this would make Gilbert's Mikado smile.