To tie in with the start of the World Cup, here’s a tale from South Africa which was sent to me by a loyal reader .
And may the best team win 🙂
I was in Johannesburg in 1992 and my boss told me to visit a certain store that sold everything connected to safaris. I always thought the store was called Safarics, but when I google the name today I find nothing. So maybe it was called something else, maybe it has gone out of business.
I wasn’t interested in safaris but as my boss told me to go I thought I had to, just to be able to say I was there and – “what a great store!”. He was right: the store was huge and filled with everything safaric. But that’s not what caught my eye.
In one part of the store I saw about fifteen-twenty canes. They didn’t look anything like the ones I’ve seen in England (and once bought one in Glasgow, along with a two-tailed tawse at a leather-store), they were darker, a little bit thicker but still extremely bendy.
I circled them for what seemed like an eternity before I finally decided to grab one and head for the cash register.
Two women worked the floor where the canes were, one coloured and one white, both fortyish, and the coloured one said:
“So, you’re going riding, sir?”
I didn’t know what to say but the white woman saved me, and said:
“He’s not going riding, don’t you know what that is? That is a cane.”
“Oh,” the other woman said.
There were two persons at the check-out, a man in his fifties who I believed was either the owner or the manager and a striking woman in her late twenties or early thirties. She had that European, Dutch, look: tall, blonde and blue-eyed, great legs and what looked like a stunning bottom underneath a summery cotton-dress. The man said:
“So, I see you’ve bought a little something for the boys, eh?”
“No…I don’t have any boys”, I said.
“A little something for the girls then. They can be just as troublesome, especially when they reach that age”, he said and winked. “Well, this will make them sit up and pay attention, or not sit at all, come to think of it. Nothing like a good caning for them, every now and then.”
I don’t know why I said I had no girls either. Instead I stuttered and made up a hilarious story of me being a private tutor for a couple of girls in the Dallas-area in Texas. I said:
“Their parents are all extremely rich, and those of English descent suggested corporal punishment, it’s still legal in Texas.”
“I see”, he said. “A good old-fashioned ‘six-of-the-best’, eh?”
“Something like that”, I said.
“How old are they?”
“The youngest one is sixteen, the oldest is eighteen. And to tell you the truth, some of them are lazy and extremely spoilt. But good canes are hard to get in The States, if you can get them at all”.
“Well, this is a really good cane”, he said. “Will this be the first time they are exposed to corporal punishment?”
“I think one of them got the cane while living in India (how did I come up with all those interesting facts?) but for the rest of them it will be the first time.”
“Well, as they say: better late than never.” He turned to the woman and said: “Can you wrap this up while I make out the receipt?”
She took the cane, bent it in the shape of an O, taped the ends together and placed it in a shopping-bag. As she put it on the desk she said:
“He is right, you know, it is a very good cane, I have tasted one quite a few times.”
I was speechless. The man looked up, and she said:
“I never told you this, but I used to hate this store. I came here when I was fifteen with my Dad, and he bought one just like this.”
There was a jar filled with candy at the desk and she said:
“You had the same sort of candy in those days, but there was an older woman working the register then…”
“Must have been Mrs Winston”, the man said.
“…and I must have looked glum because she said ‘You don’t look too happy, Honey, have some candy.’ And my Dad said, holding up the cane: ‘The reason she doesn’t look happy is because she knows she will taste this once we get home.’ But she gave me some candy and said: ‘Save this until later, and try to be good in the future’.”
Again, I was speechless. The man looked at her and said:
“And did you?”
“Get to taste it?”
“Oh, yes! Even if I couldn’t see it then I guess I’d had it coming for quite some time, and there was no hesitating with my Dad, once home it was just…bend over, and six-of-the-best on the bare, and it hurt like – excuse the expression – bloody hell! I did not sit down comfortably for a couple of days.”
Finally I said something:
“And you became a good girl then?”
“Well, I tried to, but that cane…how should I say?…for a couple of years I got to taste it more than I wanted. At the time, I guess…as I said, I hated it, but I think the canings did me good, and I know I deserved them.”
She smiled. I smiled. The man smiled, handed me my receipt and said:
“There you go, I hope you will find the cane just as rewarding as my assistant does.”
As always…the thoughts, that woman bending over with bare bottom ten or twelve years earlier, talking about it now as if it was nothing, not knowing what it did to a mind like mine.
I never caught her name so I couldn’t call the store and ask for her, so I decided to go there and maybe ask her out for a coffee or something. I was there three times in the next two days but couldn’t see her through the windows and didn’t dare enter to ask for her. And then I had to leave Johannesburg. While peeping through the windows I also noticed they sold sjamboks, a whip supposedly made by stretching the penis of a hippopotamus. They were a lot more expensive than the canes.
I had the receipt for the cane for many years, but it’s now disappeared. It said, handwritten: “1 cane, 47 rand”.
I still have the cane, though, and have, over the years, used it a couple of times on different recipients. It is, without contest, my favourite.