I have published this story on another site but wish to re-tell it here if I may.
I'd like to share with you my recollection of the running the gauntlet incident. The only way I could write about this was to write as if it had happened to someone else, otherwise, as with another incident I will relate, it would have been too painful for me.
The blond kid haunts you.You remember Grade Eight, and the night you stood quivering against a stone wall in the dorm upstairs left of the clock tower. Towhead and five others were made to run the gauntlet between two of the cast iron double decker bunks you slept in while you stood vibrating with fear, trying to make yourself smaller than you were.
Cold gun-metal alleyway, pale flesh running in the middle of it, and the swine of a black-clad Brother you called Pig-Face flailing away at thin pyjama-covered behinds and legs with an inch thick strap. The thing felt like the wrath of God when it landed, but otherwise didn't make any sense, just put the fear of Christ into you.
Wham! Towhead catches it and half turns, looking at Pig-Face over his right shoulder. Pain and hurt twist his face into a grotesque mask, and from his kerosene blue eyes there blazes a look of hatred and disgust such as you never want to see again. Not this side of Hell, anyway.
But Pig-Face is so wrapt in his little corrida that he takes not one blind bit of notice, just keeps on bashing away in a good and workmanlike fashion. Which is why the blond kid haunts you so.
The above was one of my nightmares for many years. The other was more personal and caused me to suffer from PTSD. Again I had to write as if it had happened to someone else.
The small room is the other nightmare. You, a pubescent thirteen-year-old naked from the waist down, and Pig-Face staring at you with bulging green eyes, mirrors of a putrid soul, swimming behind thick-lensed glasses. Staring at you, then fondling you. And then beating you with that same strap until you heard yourself scream.
A sweltering Saturday afternoon, a take-the-missus-and-kids-to-the-beach afternoon, and you bored witless. Then a stupid boyish escapade, after which you were locked inside Pig-Face's room and made to lie half-nude, face down on his bed.
Pig-Face towering over you. Short squat little man wearing black trousers, a grey jacket just made for the Iron Cross, and a dog-collar. His florid face glowed in sadistic delight, for wasn't he your lord and master under heaven; and didn't he have two shiny crucifixes on his lapels making him so? Bejesus he did, and Christ look down on you if you ever forgot it.
Your subconscious fear of the Church being greater than your fear of Pig-face made you just lie there in abject submission, feeling his eyes roving over you in leering appreciation of your adolescent curves and yourself recoiling in instinctive shame and disgust. It was like being a living Michaelangelo's David locked up with a raving nancy.
Then came his cold clammy fingers stroking your thighs and buttocks, and his lisping dirty-old-man-over-the-phone voice telling you how much he'd enjoy breaking you; while you, flesh crawling and cold shivers starting, fled in spirit to a tiny corner of your psyche.
Next, the beating. Great pistol-shot loud cracks followed by searing branding-iron hot blasts of pain that erupted at the base of your spine, ran white-lightning fast up your backbone, and exploded inside your brain like a million flashbulbs. Pig-Face, driven by sadism to greater efforts, grunted like an old sow enjoying a good wallow, and your fingers clawed into his bed in agony.
Finally the pain became such that your pride and self-respect crumpled, which was when, from the wreckage of your personality now completely dominated by Pig-Face, you heard a reedy voice screaming, after which nothing seemed to matter any more.
Because Pig-Face had broken you, made you his creature, you didn't care when he, with acrid sweat oozing out of him and dripping onto you, gloated over the purple welts he'd raised. Nor did you care when he ran his hands over them like a craftsman proud of his work. Nor did you care when, with a vacuous, just-got-his-bloody-rocks-off grin, he whispered various indecent sweet-nothings to you.
You wandered about afterwards like a lost soul somewhere between this world and the next. At last, in a shock-induced trance, you sat against a sandstone wall, arms hugging drawn-up knees and staring into space, unable for some terror-laden minutes to move or even speak.
There was no pain, just a nagging, empty numbness worse than pain, and a black shadow of fear, guilt and shame settling over you. And forcing its way deep inside you to a point from which it could not be easily reached, let alone cast out. The man I call Pig-Face in this story committed suicide in 1998. He was being investigated by Task Force Argos as a serial paedophile. (Argos is a Police Task Force responsible for policing these offenders.)
I have been back to my old school on two occasions. The first was an old boy's reunion, the second a private visit with a cousin of mine. The reunion was held at night, and the depth of drunkenness we reached you would have to have seen to believe. It wasn't a happy drunkenness either; it was more like the express method used by old soldiers if you know what I mean. (Kill the pain!) I don't plan to attend another, because I am afraid of myself at such times.
I never spoke of these things to anyone until my mid-thirties, but I did notice one thing when I was in my late teens/early twenties. When I would mag (talk) with friends about home life and school, inevitably certain topics would arise, like what a bastard so and so had been, but I never could just laugh things off like the rest. It was easier to drink myself stupid.
Beer makes a man feel the way he ought to feel without beer. (Henry Lawson)