Here, you'll find yet another reason why judging the January's story writing contest, 'What the Camera Saw' was so difficult. I know you'll love 'The Time Elapsed Cane'.
The Time Elapsed Cane
It ended up being the best idea I’d ever had, though at the time, I thought I was just indulging a minor whimsy. A very long time ago I’d had day dreams about being a videographer and making amazing films that would be known the world over but even then I’d known it was just a passing fancy. When I saw the sign for continuing education classes at the local community college, I initially thought I’d do something sensible, like learn a foreign language or maybe take a yoga class. Then I saw the little blurb for the videography class and some small, long forgotten spark of a dream flared up momentarily.
It was absolutely ridiculous and completely impractical but something in me called for me to take the class, to at least indulge the long ago fantasy for a few weeks. The school let students use the school’s equipment for the class so I wouldn’t even have to spend any money beyond the minimal cost of the class and the gas to get to and from classes once a week for six weeks. I decided to go for it.
It was amazing. It was frustrating. It was a dose of reality tempered with a giant helping of fun. I realized that I would never be a great videographer, able to travel the world over and make films about giraffe fights1 or civil protests2 but I would be able to make fun little films about Frisbee contests with friends and piece together tiny clips to make cohesive YouTube videos complete with some specially selected song in the background. I wouldn’t be famous, but I would definitely enjoy myself.
When the class was over, I put a bit of money aside from my next couple of paychecks then went out and bought a small hand held camera so I could keep playing around with filming. I did some filming and short videos and then I decided that just for fun, I’d like to make my own time-elapsed video, which was something we’d covered the basics of in class, but which I hadn’t had much practice in doing.
The trick of the matter was finding someplace I could set up the camera without it being disturbed. I didn’t want to just set up the camera indoors pointed at a wall. I wanted something scenic, something worth watching. In the end I decided to be cliché and film a sky shot of some kind. The easiest place to set up a camera for that was in my office at work because it had a decent view only partially blocked by the neighboring building whereas my apartment’s view was totally blocked by buildings. Also, if I left the camera sitting out at home, there was no guarantee that the cats wouldn’t knock it over while I was at work.
I only wanted to do a short video, so I knew I’d only need one day’s worth of footage, which was a good thing since my camera battery wouldn’t last long enough to run for several days. There was a small table already by the window and by sliding the plant that was on it over a few inches I had the perfect spot for the camera. It could be aimed directly at the sky, with the view only partially obscured by the building nearby. I realized as I set it up that I would be filming any activity within the corner office of that building, but it couldn’t be avoided. If any people were in the shot, I already knew how to blur faces and this was a film just for fun so I doubted I’d do anything with it.
I thought it would be hard to leave the camera alone that day but thankfully there was a lot of work to be done (a sentiment I don’t often express) so I was busy. By the end of the day, I was so ready to leave that I almost forgot the camera entirely. I’m glad that I didn’t because it gave me something to do that night. And what I found when I went through the footage after dinner made me forget my tiredness entirely.
I was just letting the film run for a few minutes at a time and then jumping ahead to see how the sky progressed, as some clouds moved in and out of the shot and the light changed with the passage of the sun, when I saw it -- the movement that caught my eye and captured my attention.
It was a man and he was swinging something. At first I thought maybe he had a baseball bat in hand. The shot had been set wide to maximize the view of the sky and I had ignored the corner office. But there it was, at the edge of the shot.
I had to squint at the screen to see it. Then, suddenly I realized that there was another person in the office, in front of where the man was swinging. And that was no baseball bat. It was a paddle!
A jolt of excitement shot through me. I quickly started fiddling with settings, taking the film back a few minutes and letting it run again. I peered closely at the screen and watched again as the man swung and connected. He was paddling someone! Right there in the office across the way from mine and he was paddling someone. He didn’t even bother to close the blinds.
Unfortunately, because I’d thought the most interesting thing to film would be the sky, the camera's wide-angle setting meant the film’s resolution of the scene was horrible. I could make out that there was a paddling of some sort going on, but I couldn’t really get the details. And I realized that I desperately wanted some detail on that shot. So I did what any insensible and truly idiotic but very excited person would do...I took the camera back in to work with me the next day.
My boss would have been pleased to note that I got there early. She’s a stickler for things like punctuality. My reason for being punctual might have been considered problematic, I suppose, but at the time I was too excited to think about things like that.
This time, I aimed the camera directly at the corner office. I knew it was a terrible invasion of privacy, but I was just so curious about what was going on that I didn’t let that bit of guilt stop me from acting. Then the work day began.
I was incredibly distracted for the whole day. So much so that my supervisor noticed it and commented on it twice. I tried to concentrate, I really did, but all day I thought of almost nothing else but that camera and what might be going on in that office. I even looked out the window to see if there was anything happening, but every time I looked, the office was empty or else there was just a man working at a desk. I assumed he was The Paddler, as I was calling him in my head now. But there was nothing interesting to see and my staring out the window so much was another thing about which my supervisor commented.
At the end of the day I grabbed the camera and practically flew out of the office, leaving my desk a mess behind me and promising myself I’d work on getting it cleaned up the next day. I just had to get home and see what I had filmed. Maybe it was a fluke, a once in a lifetime happening, but maybe, just maybe, it was a regular enough occurrence that I had managed to film something really interesting.
Starting the film I could tell that it really was a good shot now that I’d zoomed in and focused on the corner office. With the blinds open, you could see just about everything that was happening but most of the day was just The Paddler taking calls and doing paperwork with a few people stopping in to talk. He was clearly an older gentleman, distinguished looking and business-like in his suit. Since he had a corner office, I could only assume he was someone with some sort of authority and power since they didn’t give corner offices to anyone.
I fast forwarded through the film, past all the scenes of The Paddler merely working, for I was sure it was him in that office most of the day. Then, around the same time as the paddling from the first film, something happened.
A younger man came into the office and he looked nervous. Even before anything happened I knew I’d struck gold and stopped fast forwarding, letting the film progress at its normal pace.
Some sort of discussion was taking place. The younger man was shifting nervously from foot to foot as he stood in front of The Paddler’s desk and he kept fidgeting, straightening his tie, tugging on his jacket , glancing just past where The Paddler sat, and looking like a man who’d rather be anywhere else. Eventually The Paddler made a gesture, a sort of directive wave of his hand and the younger man’s whole demeanor slumped in a clear sign of defeat.
As The Paddler rose from his desk, the younger man stepped closer to the desk and bent over it. I could tell the young man had a fit form, but the angle was perfect enough that when he bent over it was readily apparent that he had a rather shapely bottom that filled out his trousers nicely in that position.
The younger man was bent over the desk with his hands reaching across to grip the far side and his chest pressed flat against the hard surface. The Paddler didn’t even bother to take off his jacket as he came around the desk, just reached and pulled the paddle from a section of wall near the window where I couldn’t see from my angle, but I realized now was what the younger man had been glancing at while he was standing in the middle of the office before. It looked like an old style school paddle, long and broad, and I could tell it was the sort of thing that would definitely make an impression.
The Paddler positioned himself to the side of the younger man and leveled the paddle he was holding at the younger man’s bottom. Then he swung.
Even without sound, even filming through two windows at a distance, and even though I was watching the film hours after the occurrence, I winced at the impact, imagining a loud Crack! noise going off in the room. The Paddler was taking his time. After the first swing, he spoke for a moment and then nodded, apparently at some response from the younger man. He raised the paddle again and brought it down just as hard.
My own bottom felt like it was tingling with imagined impact. I felt like squirming in my chair, full of sympathy for that poor man who actually had to feel the reality of what happened.
There were six swats with the paddle in all with a pause for comment and response after each of the next couple of swats. After the fourth swat and a quick discussion, the fifth and sixth swats were delivered rapidly with no pause between them. They didn’t look like they were any less powerful for the speed of delivery.
The younger man slowly straightened after that. He tugged his jacket down and straightened his tie with the look of someone who would rather be rubbing his bottom but knows that’s not allowed so he was occupying his hands otherwise. The Paddler stepped away while this was happening and went back to hang the paddle back up on the wall. Then when the younger man had regained his composure (though I noticed his hands kept straying ever so slightly towards his backside), the two men spoke for another moment and shook hands. The younger man left the office walking stiff legged and gingerly, still keeping his hands from rubbing his painful posterior.
I may have replayed the scene a time or two…or ten. I didn’t really keep count. Then I compared the first video and the second. It was hard to tell, given the wideness of the first video, but I wasn’t entirely sure it was the same younger man in both videos. In the interests of scientific inquiry, I recharged my camera’s battery and took it back to work with me again.
I was distracted again at work. Now I had the mess from the day before to sort through on top of that day’s work and I was turning to look out the window more and more often as the day progressed. My supervisor finally gave up on commenting about my distraction around mid-day. With two videos to judge from, I had a fair idea of what time anything interesting might be happening, but as luck would have it, there was a meeting called during that time frame that I couldn’t avoid.
I have no idea what was said in the meeting as I kept wondering what was going on in The Paddler’s office but I was the first to leave the room when it ended, rushing back to my desk and the window to see if anything was happening. My bad luck held out though and I saw nothing of interest. It made me impatient to get home and check the film.
I hurried out again at the end of the day and my desk was still a terrible mess. I’d gotten some of the previous day’s backlog taken care of, but there was still a great deal to be gotten through. With an inward sigh as I got on the elevator, I promised myself I’d be in early the next day to at least straighten things out and prioritize the work before the regular work day began.
My theory about it being different men being paddled turned out to be correct. I was no less fascinated watching this new day’s film than I had been with the two previous days.
This time there was less talking. The younger man had barely come into the room when The Paddler made that directive gesture with his hand, plus an extra flourish I hadn’t seen the day before. The younger man was apparently familiar with it though because he flushed a dark red (and I was amazed at the quality of the film given that it was not a top quality camera I’d bought). Then the younger man unbuckled his belt and let his trousers drop to the floor as he approached the desk and bent over it in the same position as the man from yesterday, with his hands gripping the far edge, his chest flat to the hard surface, and his boxer clad bottom stuck out behind him making a perfect target.
The paddling went on for longer as well. I counted a good fifteen swats before The Paddler stopped for good, and this was not the leisurely paddling of the day before with long pauses between each individual swat. The Paddler would give two or three hard swats before pausing and these pauses were not nearly as long as yesterday’s had been. The last five swats had pauses alright but they were almost like punctuation, a quick break in the paddling for the sake of The Paddler’s rhythm, not any sort of mercy for the poor man on the receiving end.
What made this paddling so fascinating to me though wasn’t the paddling itself, though it looked incredibly painful and had me wincing in sympathy again. No, the part that was fascinating to me was what happened after the spanking.
Yesterday, The Paddler and the younger man simply shook hands and the younger man walked painfully out of the office. Today though, when The Paddler was done, the younger man didn’t immediately straighten up and redress himself. He stayed bent over the desk and I got the impression that it wasn’t the pain of his bottom keeping him there.
The Paddler moved closer and stood next to the younger man and even rubbed the small of his back a bit, giving him time to calm down and when the younger man finally did stand up properly it was apparent that he’d been crying. But he did his best to calm down and clean up, pulling his trousers up and refastening the belt, and wiping off his face. Then The Paddler hugged him, actually hugged him!
For a moment it was like my world had gone askew. True, I’d been watching the paddlings with great interest but I have to admit I hadn’t thought very good things about The Paddler himself. He’d seemed like a great demon to me, a brute who was horribly punishing his subordinates, yet here was proof that he actually did care. It was an incredibly touching scene and I couldn’t bring myself to watch it more than once, feeling very deeply that I was watching something personal and private.
It made me rethink the way I’d been filming the corner office all week. Yes, the first time had been inadvertent and I hadn’t known what was happening but the second and third films were deliberate and invasive. I felt a bit dirty for my voyeurism. That guilt on top of what I had already been carrying with regards to the work left undone on my desk the last two days had me in a somewhat morose mood as I entered the office the next morning.
I had at least managed to stay true to my promise to myself to get in early to try to clear up the mess. But to my surprise, there were lights on in the office already, despite the incredibly early hour. Normally no one came in for another hour at least, more likely not for another hour and a half. It was startling to arrive expecting to be alone and then to find someone else already there. Not to mention it took a little of the wind out of my sails. I’d been feeling a little bit of the smug virtue that comes from doing just slightly better than one’s colleagues. Finding someone else there already got rid of that feeling pretty quickly and I was left with my morose guilt again.
I decided to go to my desk and get to work instead of finding out who it was that had stolen my thunder, but before I got even halfway there I heard my name being called out. I turned to look and realized that the other person in the office already was my boss.
“Would you come into my office for a moment, please?” She said it in a way that was more a directive than a request and I felt obliged to obey, though my pace in getting there was not as swift as it could have been.
She stood waiting till I entered her office, then shut the door behind me and sat down behind her desk. She did not offer me a seat so I stood there nervously before her, well aware of my shortcomings that week and knowing that I had no good excuse for them. Some small part at the back of my brain was also aware that this nervous standing and fidgeting was very similar to what the young men I’d seen had done before their paddlings. It was a silly thought, but even as my boss began speaking it lingered with me.
She made perfectly plain that she was aware of my shortcomings. She listed the things I had left undone for two days in a row and she had a full accounting of every time my supervisor had spoken to me about my distracted state and my lack of productivity. It made me cringe internally to realize how well she knew what had been happening since I hadn’t thought anyone other than my immediate supervisor had noticed anything.
Then, just as I was falling into a state of abject misery, with the full list of my shortcomings laid out before me, not to mention my boss’s knowledge of them, and a growing certainty that I was about to be fired or at least have some sort of official disciplinary report filed against me, she asked me a question that completely startled me out of my inner litany of failings.
“And just what is it that you’ve found so interesting to watch out of your window this week?” She looked at me expectantly as she asked it, though her tone and body language signaled clearly that she already knew.
I blushed, my red face giving away the answer before I could even think to verbalize the lie I wanted to say. She had a look on her face that turned into a stern frown, though initially I could have sworn she had been fighting a smile.
“I happen to know the gentleman who’s in the corner office across the way. He has an interesting arrangement with some of his employees. Know anything about that, young lady?” Her tone was not quite severe, but it was firm and it made plain that prevaricating would not do me any good so I simply nodded in reply.
“As you no doubt noticed, he paddles different people every day. That’s because he has a system of mentorship. It’s designed to help young men in his company who he thinks have promise but who need a guiding hand to help them perform to their absolute best. He keeps track of each mentee’s progress throughout the week and each of them sees him on a different day to discuss everything that’s gone on during the week and take care of any necessary punishment.”
This explanation made sense and it certainly explained what I’d seen on the films. I did wonder what the young man from yesterday had done to deserve such a harsh paddling though.
My boss was looking at me expectantly and though she hadn’t asked me any questions, I nodded again. This time she did smile at me.
“I happen to think that mentoring younger members of the company is a good idea and have a similar method of problem solving.” She rose from her desk and lifted an object off a hook on the wall behind her. I hadn’t noticed it until that moment because it was so slim and its light coloring helped it blend with the neutral color of the office wall.
“This, my dear, is a cane. It stings a great deal more than a paddle and is best administered on the bare bottom.” I looked at the implement she was holding with my mouth somewhat agape though I shut it with an audible click when I saw the look of amusement on her face.
“I think you ought to know that I think you have a lot of promise and will go far in the company if only you’d learn to focus better on your work and ignore unnecessary distractions.” The smile she gave me now was utterly genuine and her tone of voice was caring. Then she raised her eyebrows at me and nodded at her desk, a gesture that was clearly asking me to submit and not ordering me to it.
I took a deep breath as I let all the thoughts of the last few days run through my mind, of the paddlings I’d witnessed and that one wonderful hug. Then I thought of the feelings of failure and moroseness I’d been having that morning. As I let out the breath I nodded and stepped up to the desk. Even without having to be reminded, I recalled her words from a few moments before about the cane working best on the bare and reached to unfasten my trousers and let them slip down before bending over as I’d seen the younger men do in The Paddler’s office.
Given her comment about the cane hurting more than the paddle, I expected immediate pain and gripped the far side of the desk tightly. But the first contact I felt made me jump out of startlement and not from pain. Her hand ran lightly over my bottom and then I felt her fingers slip into the waistband of my panties, drawing them down over my bottom to rest in the hollows of my knees. I heard her instruction not to rise and nodded, my grip on the desk becoming fierce enough that the whites of my knuckles were showing.
Then the pain came. It was a hot, fierce white line of fire and agony. If my hands hadn’t had a death grip and apparently been operating under different instructions than the rest of my body, I would have risen. Instead, I jerked up slightly off the desk and then thumped flat back onto it.
There was a long pause as I lay there, the realization that the pain was increasing with the delay instead of decreasing having just enough time to seep into my brain before the next hot flash of pain struck, slightly below where the first had landed. This time it took conscious effort to keep my hands gripping the desk and my body relatively still.
The third and fourth strokes were just as terrible and I was sure that I would not be able to bear any more. However, just as I reached that conclusion, I felt a strong, cool hand pressing against my back and holding me down against the desk.
“You’ve done very well. Better than I expected for your first time but I’m going to give you a hand for these last two. Just two more and we’ll be done and then the slate will be wiped clean. I’ll still expect you to catch up on your work, but we’ll say no more about the last few days. Just hold on a moment longer.”
A couple of tears escaped from my eyes as I nodded my understanding into the desk and I tried to brace myself for the last two strokes.
She didn’t disappoint in laying them on. The fifth was a line of vicious fire laid just beneath the previous stroke and it was perfectly placed on the crease of where my bottom and thighs met, guaranteeing that I’d be feeling it for days. The sixth stroke was its own new form of agony as it was laid not horizontally below the fifth stroke but diagonally across all five of the previous strokes making all of them feel as though they’d come alive all over again.
I jerked up on the desk, my hands coming free of their own volition but her firm hand kept me pressed down a moment longer. Then cautiously, when I was relaxed against the desk, the hand lifted off my back and I felt my panties being drawn back up and into place. I hissed in pain as they made contact with the fresh lines on my bottom.
Her hands helped me straighten up, though I winced at the movement, and when I was standing properly, she pulled me into a tight hug like the one I’d seen The Paddler give. It was warm and comforting and full of forgiveness. It made my formerly cringing insides feel infinitely better. After a long time, she finally pulled away and took my face in one of her hands, using her thumb to wipe away the tears still slowly trickling out of my eyes.
“There now, isn’t that better?” she asked.
I nodded. I felt much better now that I knew the slate had been wiped clean though I could already tell that sitting for the long day of work was not going to be easy.
She stepped away and went to hang the cane on its hook behind her desk while I managed to pull up my trousers and fasten them again, wincing as the material pressed against my sore bottom. Then I stood waiting while she reseated herself at her desk.
“Well then, young lady, I certainly expect that you’ll make a good deal of progress today in getting caught up to where you ought to be. Also, you should be aware that I have a system for my mentees. While I’m available at all times to deal with major problems,” she said this with a very stern look at me, “for the day-to-day issues, there are assigned days. Yours is now Thursday. You’ll get a calendar appointment in your email to let you know what time I expect to see you back in here for another discussion next week.”
I nodded. Nodding seemed to be the safest thing to do in this office. She tilted her head at me with an odd sort of smile.
“Maybe once you’ve been here a time or two you’ll lose a bit of your reticence and actually talk instead of nodding.” She laughed a moment and though I could tell it was about me, it wasn’t at me.
“Right then, remember that I’ll be watching.” I could tell that was a dismissal so I walked painfully to the door, just as I opened it, I heard her say in a teasing tone behind me, “Please remember to close the door on your way out.”
In that instant, the momentousness of what had just happened hit me and feeling light-hearted I turned back with a cheeky smile. “Yes, ma’am!” I responded, putting as much teasing into the statement as I could and pulling the door shut on her startled expression. I heard her laughter even through the thick door as I began making my way to my own desk and my day’s work.