Enough To Go Easy

by , under Fiction Prompts, What Pegman Saw

“That’s him, there.” Banker gestured at the giant sitting across the barracks.

“Christ,” said Crowley. “He’s immense.”

“That’s why they made him a scourger, cob,” smiled Banker. “Strong as a bull. I saw him give a hundred to a shirker not two months ago. You could see the poor bastard’s backbone before he reached thirty.”

Crowley wanted to ask if the man had lived, but thought better of it. “What’s his going rate?”

“Depends on the sentence. This new superintendent’s a pitiless bugger. Never seen him give less than twenty-five, and that for lateness.” He screwed up his eye. “Payment up front is recommended.”

Crowley fished his pockets and pulled out two gold guineas. Banker snatched them and secreted them in his clothes. “This should help him to go easy. Not that you won’t feel it, mind you. But they’ll at least be cutting a living man down from the triangle.”

 

What Pegman Saw: New South Wales

For almost 80 years, the first third of Australia’s urban existence, thousands of British convicts were transported to Australia for non-capital crimes. Some convicts were transported for life and many of today’s Australians are descended from these men and women. Its penal colony past still embarrasses many Australians and is considered a taboo subject, much like Germany’s Nazi past or America’s history of slavery and Jim Crow discrimination. 

In the penal colony, punishment of all infractions was swift and severe. The preferred method was a flogging at one of the many triangles erected in the public square. The prisoner was tied with arms upraised and whipped with either a cat-o-nine-tails or a long whip made of bull or rhino hide. Sentences of twenty-five, fifty, or even a hundred lashes were commonplace. Sometimes it was possible for a convict to bribe a scourger to “go easy,” and not hit them as hard, but not always. 

The convicts took tremendous pride in not calling out or groaning despite the agonizing pain. Convict J.F Mortlock wrote: “Silent composure under suffering is strictly prescribed by convict etiquette.”

Many Australians still prize personal fortitude and toughness as cardinal virtues.

  1. k rawson

    Crikeys that’s good. The Australian accent in my head is rubbish so I couldn’t do it justice, but this scene absolutely crackled. I think Crowley needs two more guineas if it will get him a feather duster instead of a whip.

    You are a wizard when it comes to bringing history to life!

    Reply
  2. prior..

    such a dense read – and felt realistic – really liked the terms like
    “pitiless bugger”
    and grammar stuff:
    “Never seen him”
    – and sad history too –

    Reply
  3. EagleAye

    Cor! I’m still cringing at the thought of a man’s backbone becoming exposed. With strength like that, lashes sound like death sentences. Brilliantly told.

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  4. Dale

    So well done, Josh. As a fan of the “Outlander” – yeah, yeah, I know, takes place in Scotland – but the flogging scene – 100 lashes – was traumatizing.
    It was a rough time in Australia’s history and you describe it brilliantly.

    Reply
  5. Alicia Jamtaas

    You made the skin on my back crawl with this one. I can’t imagine the lack of empathy someone must have to flog another person so violently. Well done.

    Reply
  6. Lynn Love

    I can only echo others – a vivid, believable scene. You have the voices just right, the tone spot on. How anyone survived these punishments before the days of anti-biotics is beyond me. Cracking story

    Reply
  7. Woman walking Max

    A gripping story, as people have said, making history come alive. I felt like I was there with these people, such a strong evocation of place & time. Well done.

    Reply

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