Mrs Winchester, headmistress of Bexhill School for Girls, was fed up. It was the time of year when colds, 'flu, and general ailments ravaged the staff, let alone the students. Both maths' teachers had been off for a week with a particularly virulent bug, so the headmistress had asked the agency to send along a supply teacher to fill in for a few days. What had arrived was Brenda.
Brenda looked about 15 (although her cards said she was 19) and, more worryingly, completely gormless. To Mrs Winchester's enquiry about whether she'd taught maths before, she received the encouraging answer "Yeah, sort of." Oh well, Mrs W thought, any port in a storm. She told Brenda that she would be taking the Fifth Form for the first lesson next day, and the Fourth Form after the mid-morning break.
Brenda arrived, quite unabashed, at ten past eleven, just as the staff were finishing their tea and coffee and Mrs W was 'phoning around trying to find Brenda.
"Me alarm didn't go off," was the explanation offered, unaccompanied by an apology. Mrs W's glare did not seem to have the slightest effect.
"Well, tomorrow you start at the same time and will teach three periods: two in the morning, one in the afternoon."
"Not sure I can manage that much," Brenda frowned.
"Well, you'll just have to try, dear, won't you?" The sarcasm was lost on Brenda.
Next day, she knocked on the headmistress' door at lunch time.
"Can't do the afternoon session. 'Aven't 'ad time to prepare."
"Brenda, you're here to work. You are supposed to have prepared your lessons. No just go and get on with it. Extemporize if you have to."
"Oh, for heaven's sake. You've got lunchtime to prepare something."
"But when am I going to eat?"
"After you've prepared the lesson. Now get a move on."
The third day Mrs Winchester heard the door to the maths' classroom being violently slammed and Brenda's voice shouting "Fuck you!" in the corridor outside. The headmistress rushed out of her study to find Brenda standing outside her form giving the closed door the finger.
"Brenda! What on earth is going on?"
"The little bastards were rude to me. Tittering all time just like the prats they are. I'm not teaching them no more."
"Brenda, get into my study - now!" Mrs Winchester hissed. Brenda gave her a hostile look. "NOW, I said!"
The headmistress threw herself into her chair.
"Right, enough of this. I'm sending you back to the agency and my report will suggest that they dispense with your services in future."
The implication sank slowly in. "But that would mean I wouldn't get no more work."
"Please miss. Me mum and I depend on the money. It's all we get." Brenda actually managed to look rather pathetic. Mrs W steepled her fingers and considered for a moment.
"Brenda, how long since you left school?"
"Two years. Why?"
"Did you ever receive corporal punishment at school?"
"Yes...why are you asking?"
"Because, Brenda, I''l give you a choice. Back to the agency, with my report, or six of the best with a cane. Choose."
"But..." Brenda's brown eyes were wide.
"Decide. I haven't got all day. Six strokes, or back to the agency."
"Would they be...er, I mean...would they be on the bare?"
"No, in view of the fact that you're now a woman, they'd be over your skirt. But they'd be hard."
Brenda chewed her lip for a moment.
"I'll take the caning."
To her credit, she took all six strokes - and they were indeed hard ones - quite stoically. Brenda wouldn't have known what the word meant.
"Now," said Mrs Winchester, as she replaced the Dragon on the rack, "let's have no more nonsense. You'll be on time and well-prepared in future. And make sure the seams on your stockings are straight when you come to the school."