A crisp winter's morning, girls running, bare legs muddy and cheeks ruddy red... As I was reading Penny's great post at the excellent 'Naught Little Writer' I found all sorts of schoolday's memories coming to the surface.
I wasn't a sporty kid and mostly hated school PE (Physical Education). It was all a bit military, with an emphasis on suffering rather than on fun. And cross country running certainly brought our games teachers' sadistic tendencies to the surface.
I went to bed with Penny's words in my head and would have shared it all with Significant Other but it was a nightshift night. So, instead I sat up for an hour or two with the laptop making my own cross country memories into this story.
|Not this one...|
I've looked for the right image to go with it, but couldn't find one. The best bet is to get the original St Trinian's movies on your minds eye. My 1970s British comp had something of the same feel, a mix of anarchy, lunacy and iron-hard repression...
'Five girls didn’t shower with the rest of us. Every week all the year we go on the cross country run and afterwards we all get into the communal showers. It’s good after the cold and the wet to get all soapy and hot and to look at other girls with no clothes on.
But today five girls were taken into Miss Killigrew’s office and only came out to shower after the rest had been sent off to last lesson. The five were Kingstone, Ellis, Ireland, Kemp and Katy Morris. Katy’s twin Jenny showered with us.
Everybody talked about it and wanted to know why, but nobody really knew what was going on. Except me, worse luck.
I knew that if you could have been there to watch the five come into the empty changing room you’d have seen them sullen and quiet, not their usual cocky, confident selves. Kingstone, Ellis, Ireland, Kemp and Katy Morris are the wild girls in our year, the gang to be in, but today all had red eyes and runny noses.
How it happened was like this. The five of them had worked it out three weeks earlier, their shortcut. After the end of the playing field they cut through a garden into Clydesdale Avenue, down through Suffolk Punch Lane and out onto the main road.
They could then find a way through the woods and back to the cross-country course just before it went onto school grounds. It saved them 25 minutes, which meant they could have a ciggie then get back into the field close to the front and finish with good times.
We came round the corner and Miss Killigrew was sitting on the tree stump and Miss Marsh was there too. Kingstone, Ellis, Ireland, Kemp and Katy Morris were laughing and talking, but went quiet.
I was at the back and I’m small, so I kind of blended into the bushes. No-one saw me and I couldn’t see them. I lay down on the ground with my face in dirt and leaves and stuff and didn’t dare breathe. I could hear it all as Miss Killigrew shouted and shouted at Kingstone, Ellis, Ireland, Kemp and Katy Morris.
She shouted a lot. The usual stuff, about letting the school down and letting themselves down. Then she told Sarah Ireland that she was going to be first and I had to take a peep at what was happening.
I couldn’t see it all, but I could see Sarah laying over that tree stump with her bum in the air. Sarah’s bum is big and her gym knickers are a bit too small for her, which made it look that bit bigger. Miss Killigrew had a bit of tree branch in her hand that was straight and thin and looked really bendy.
When she whipped it through the air a time or two it made a blur and there was a whooshing noise. Sarah’s bumcheeks squeezed hard together like she was trying to make them disappear.
Miss Killigrew told Sarah she was a very wicked girl who deserved the dozen she was going to get and she ignored Sarah when she begged to be given a second chance. The first stroke landed right across the seat of Sarah’s knickers and she kicked and shook like she was being electrocuted by 10 gazillion volts.
She took her dozen well though; stayed in place and kept her hands away. All the others took it differently. Kingstone screamed after the first stroke and said Miss Killigrew was cutting her bum off and Katy Morris twice covered her bottom with her hands and got a couple of strokes across each palm for it.
When it was over they were all crying and Miss Killigrew stood them in a line with their backs too her. Miss Marsh then went along the line and pulled each girls knicks inside out and down to her knees.
I gasped so loud I thought I’d given myself away. Their bums looked like meat in a butcher’s shop because that wicked, whippy stick had left lines that were more purple, blue and black than red. They’d had the worst whacking I’ve ever seen.
While they stood there Miss Killigrew went along the line giving each one a last telling-off and making her point with hard slaps to their bare bottoms and thighs. They howled with every smack.
Then she got them to pull their knickers back up and Kingstone, Ellis, Ireland, Kemp and Katy Morris were marched back to the start and had to run the race from the start again. Which is why we’d all pretty much showered and dressed by the time Kingstone, Ellis, Ireland, Kemp and Katy Morris got back and were marched into the office.
I found out later that she stood them all facing the wall and told them Miss Marsh had found their stash of ciggies. She also told them that they’d be explaining the cigarettes to the Head after assembly the next day.
It’s all left me with a big, big problem. I’ve been watching Kingstone, Ellis, Ireland, Kemp and Katy Morris fidget about in their chairs all last lesson. Sitting down can’t have been easy. And I’ve been thinking about my bum, about the whacking they’ve had and about what I’ve got to do after the bell goes.
I have to find Miss Killigrew and then make my sacrifice. I’ll tell her what I did and that way I’ll get just the same as Kingstone, Ellis, Ireland, Kemp and Katy Morris. If I don’t I’ll never, ever be one of the gang.'