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Ivan, Close Your Soul
Part 1 – Tempest Without, Peace Within

by Eric Blyton

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Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 24 Aug 2008


"But Dad, I wanna stay!" Ivan said, stomping his foot as he spoke. As soon as he had done it, he realized that it was a mistake. He was eleven, not five and acting like a baby was the worst strategy for changing his father's mind on this issue.

"Pitching a fit will get you nowhere," his father said, confirming his instincts. "If you want me to change my mind, quit nagging me and start acting like a responsible young man, not a whiny child. Go and see if your mother needs help."

Ivan went into the living room so find his mother. She was putting the family photo albums in a sealable plastic container. The TV was switched to the Weather Channel and he saw the ominous orange and red mass of the approaching hurricane. The radar map was in motion and it was bearing directly toward their section of the Florida coast. He could not help himself; it was exciting. They'd only moved down here from New York two years ago, and he'd never experienced one, though most of his new friends had. There was just no way he was going to let Dad pack him off with Mom and Stacy to go hide out at Grandma's when all the action was going to be right here.

"Dad said to ask if you needed any help," he said to his mother. She looked up and pushed the hair out of her face.

"Can you hand me the rest of those photo albums?" she asked. "And then bring me another container from the laundry room."

Ivan reached down the balance of the albums and gave them to his mother before dashing to the laundry room for another one of the clear blue plastic containers. He really did think his Mom was overdoing it, but his father had told him firmly not to comment on it. As he came back with the container, he found his father on the floor helping his mother pack up.

"You are going to have to leave within the hour, you know," he was saying to her. "The traffic is going to be out of this world. If you want to get to Valdosta before dark..."

"I know, I know," his mother said. "But there's so much left to do here! I just don't have time..."

"Sweetheart, hush." Ivan saw his father put a calming hand on his mother's shoulder. "Just make a list of everything else you want done. I will take care of it. I'll have the whole rest of the day and even the night if I need to."

"I still don't understand why you aren't coming with us."

His dad looked up and indicated to Ivan that he could put the container down. "Buddy, can you start to take those bags in the kitchen out to the car? You don't have to load them in, just put them on the driveway by the trunk. I'll be along to help in a little bit, okay?"

Ivan nodded and walked into the kitchen. He opened the door to the garage and started to lift the bags out. He didn't go too far, though. Eavesdropping was not allowed, but he wanted to hear what his parents had to say regardless of the rules.

"Look, Sweetheart," his father was saying, "We've been through this. I want to stay here to protect the house. We aren't in an evacuation zone. The water isn't going to get this far. The National Hurricane Center is predicting that it will be no more than a category two storm when it lands. I'll be FINE. I promise. This is a new house and it's strongly built. If I'm here, I can deal with rain if and when it gets inside. Andy and Sandra are staying next door and they've been through several hurricanes. I'm sure if there was any danger, they'd be gone."

"Well, I don't like it, but I can tell I'm not going to change your mind. Just promise me you'll be safe."

"I promise. Really, I wouldn't be staying myself if I thought there was any danger. And along those lines, there is one more thing. And you won't like it."

"What?" Even from his post behind the kitchen counter, Ivan could hear the wariness in his mother's voice.

"Ivan wants to stay here with me and I think we should let him." Ivan squeezed the cabinet handles in excitement and had to fight the urge to let out a squeak of excitement. If he were spotted spying, he had no doubt that his chance at remaining would be gone.

"WHAT! Are you CRAZY!? You want to keep my baby here during a HURRICANE!!!?"

Ivan's heart sank. His dad could be quite persuasive, but how would he overcome that?

"Sweetheart, just listen a moment..."

"Don't you 'sweetheart' me. The answer is NO."

"Mary. Hold it." Ivan could just picture it from his father's tone of voice. His dad would be sitting there with his hand raised up firmly in the 'stop' position. He'd been on the other side of that gesture often enough when he was running on at the mouth and his father wanted his undivided attention.

"First of all, Ivan is no longer a baby as you well know. He's eleven and becoming a young man. He's asked to stay and I think he's earned that right by how responsible he's been lately. If he comes with you to your mother's, he's going to be moping and underfoot. You know very well that if I thought there was any risk, I wouldn't keep him here. I understand that you're more comfortable leaving and that you want to take Stacy with you. That's fine; the power is going to go out and it will be somewhat uncomfortable here. But that won't bother Ivan, and frankly, I'd like the company. Now, I won't overrule you. If you insist that he come with you or if you simply will spend the whole time away being worried to death, he'll have to go and I'll explain that to him."

"Making me the bad guy, no doubt."

"You know better than that – that's why I sent him out. I'll tell him we talked about it and we both decided that it would be better if he left."

"You just think I'm being an emotional female," she said accusingly. Ivan thought she was, but had to keep that opinion to himself.

"Don't attack me, please. I think you are a loving mother who is worried about her family. That's quite understandable. If I can't reassure you that he'll be all right, then it's best for all if he goes."

"It's just....we didn't have hurricanes in New York."

"Sweetheart, I know. But your promotion was just too good to pass up. We're all happy here. I like being away from the snow and I know the kids like it, too. This is just a storm; it'll blow over, okay?"

There was a long pause. Ivan held his breath.

"You swear there's no risk?"

"You're taking a bigger risk by going on the highway, frankly."

"All right. He can stay. I must be crazy and I'm not looking forward to explaining to my mother why I left her precious little grandson in the path of a hurricane, but I know how much he wants to stay."

That was as much as Ivan needed to hear. He didn't want to get caught now! With his heart hammering in his chest from the thrill, he tiptoed back outside and carted the bags to the back of the car. Stacy was out on the sidewalk skipping rope with the Pigtailed Horror. At least, that was Ivan's nickname for her dreadful best friend Paula. Seeing him with the bags, Stacy dropped her jump rope and came over.

"Need any help, Ivan?" she asked.

"Naw, thanks Sis. I got it." He was sorry she wasn't going to be able to stay as well; he knew she would have liked the excitement also, but there was no way Mom would even consider it given that she was only eight.

"Come ON, Stacy," the Pigtailed Horror whined. "You don't need to help him."

"I'm gonna go see if my Mom needs help," Stacy said, retrieving her jump rope from the sidewalk. "We gotta go soon anyway. See you when we get back, Paula."

"Whatever. My Dad's driving us to a hotel later. Call me when you get back, okay?"

Ivan wasn't sorry to see the back of her. Stacy went inside and Ivan brought out the rest of the bags. A couple of minutes later, his father came out with his mother's suitcase and loaded up the back of the car. Ivan was bursting to ask his father about staying, but he was worried that if he brought up the subject, it would be obvious that he already knew the answer. Plus, he'd been instructed not to nag. As they were finishing up, his mother came out with Stacy. His mother was carrying his sister's travel bag, but significantly, not his. He looked from her and then to his father, putting on his best inquisitive face.

"Yes, Ivan," his mother said. "Your father and I discussed it and we've decided that you can stay..."

He whooped and leaped in the air, pumping his fist in excitement. Of course, he knew it already, but this was the first time he could let it show.

"All right, all right, don't overdo it," his father said. Ivan stopped jumping about, but he could not keep the grin off his face.

"Now listen, young man," his mother said. "Absolutely NO foolishness, do you understand? You mind your father ever single moment."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, knowing it was time to be serious. She crushed him in a tight hug for a long time before letting him go. She ran her hand over his blonde buzzcut and then turned away. Ivan thought he saw tears in her eyes and he felt a little guilty about wanting to stay.

He went and hugged Stacy. She looked quite down about the fact that he was getting to stay and she wasn't."

"I'll take lots of pics for you, okay?" he promised to her.

"Thanks, I," she said. "Hey, at least I don't have to fight you for the front seat!"

"Yea – you get it the whole drive there AND back."

"Sea ya," she said. Dad hugged her and then leaned into the open driver's door to hug his wife one last time.

"Johnny, PLEASE be careful," Ivan heard her say softly to him. "Keep safe."

"I will, Mary. We'll both be safe. Say hi to your Mom for me, okay?"

"I better get on the road. I'll call you from Mother's."

"Have a safe drive."

Ivan watched as his mother and sister pulled out of the driveway and headed off down the road. He and his dad just stood there and waved for a minute until they turned out of sight.

"Well, just us guys now," Dad said.

"Yep, thanks for letting me stay," Ivan said.

"I almost changed my mind, you know. It would have served you right."

Ivan was startled. What was that about?

"Close your mouth," his father said. "And I'd like you to tell me why I nearly sent you off with your mother and sister."

"There was only one thing Ivan could think of. How could Dad know about it? But by now, guilt must be written all over his face. He could never stand up to his father's interrogations. May as well admit it; he couldn't think of any other reason for his father to be cross with him.

"'cause...'cause I eavesdropped," he stammered, looking down at the driveway.

"And why did you do that?"

"Um...'cause I wanted to know. I'm sorry."

"Your mother and I are entitled to privacy, you know. That wasn't a conversation I wanted you to overhear because you can't possibly understand all sides of it. There was a lot more to it than the words we were saying. I don't want you to dare start thinking you can play the two of us off against each other. Yes, sometimes we disagree and one of us talks the other into something, but that's none of your business. All you need to know is what our final decision is, not how we got there. Spying on us is the height of disrespect, young man. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"I'm really, really, sorry, Dad," he said, his face flushed with shame. "I...I don't guess I have a good excuse."

"No, you don't," Dad said after a long pause. "And I really think you should be spanked."

"Oh! No, please, Daddy! Don't spank me! Please!" Ivan felt his stomach lurch at the thought of having his bare bottom heated up. He wilted under his father's gaze.

"Well, I'm not going to, so you can take your hands off your rear end." Ivan didn't even realize he'd thrown his hands instinctively behind him. He blushed again as he moved them, this time from embarrassment.

"There are going to be consequences, though. You are going to spend the afternoon mowing the lawn. Front AND back. And I want you to understand something; I let you stay more for my own reasons, because you really didn't deserve it on your own. But I put some effort into getting your mother used to the idea and I didn't want that to go to waste. And frankly, I'm glad for the company. I'm glad to have you with me, Little Viking, but you did disappoint me. Don't let me down again, please."

"I...I really AM sorry, Dad," Ivan said. "I'll be good, I promise."

"Good, because I'm counting on you to keep that promise. Now come here." Ivan scooted up next to his Dad and he felt his strong arms wrapped around him in a hug. Ivan didn't even care that they were out front; he hugged his father back just as hard and pressed his face against his cotton T-shirt.

"All right," Dad said after a good, long hug. He leaned down and kissed Ivan on his forehead. "Go and get the lawnmower and gas it up. Unless you'd rather an alternate form of punishment?"

He punctuated that sentence by giving Ivan a slap on the back of his shorts. It wasn't just a tap; Ivan felt a bit of a sting and was glad he wasn't getting one for real. Dad wouldn't have used his hand and there would be no shorts to give him protection. He danced away before Dad could deliver a second one, laughing so that his father would understand he knew he was joking...mostly. There was a message contained in that forceful swat.

Ivan went to the garage and filled up the tank of the mower. He pushed it out to the driveway and pulled the starter cord. It roared to life and he moved it over the grass. It wasn't all that long, but the September rains meant that it had to be cut every couple of weeks. Usually, his father did it, but when Ivan messed up, he sometimes got assigned the chore. He put his head down and got to it.

An hour later, the front lawn was done and he moved to the back. He was hot and sweaty, so he took his T-shirt off. Dad saw him and threw him a bottle of sunscreen. Ivan sighed and rubbed it on his upper body. All this meant was that flying bits of grass would stick to him, but better than a sunburn on his fair skin, he supposed. The wind had started to pick up from the approaching storm and the sky was clouding up. The back yard was even bigger than the front and he sighed again as he saw how much he had left to do.

By the time he was done, he was covered with grass and dirt and sweat had run down creating paths of exposed skin through the grime. After wiping the mower off with a rag, he pushed it back to its place in the garage.

"I'm gonna go shower, Dad, okay?" he said, seeing his father come outside.

"Not just yet, guy. I need you to help me with the shutters."

"Aw, Dad, I'm gross!"

"Hey, you wanted to stay. That means you have to share in the responsibility. These have to go up before the wind gets any stronger."

His father had put most of the shutters next to their respective windows, but Ivan had to go around and help him lift them all into place. Then while Dad held them, he put on the wing nuts and then they would both tighten them. It took about another hour before they were all in place.

"Hang on," Dad said, as they were working on the last one. "I'll be right back."

Ivan was tightening the nuts when his father returned. There was a flash and he realized that Dad had taken his picture.

"Daaaad! I look so raunchy! Delete that!"

"You look like a man who has put in a hard day's work," Dad said. "And I wanted a record of that. Hang on; I want one with both of us."

Dad set the camera on the porch railing and set the timer. He and Ivan posed with the shutter, pretending to work on the bolts while smiling for the picture. It was taken and Dad slapped the shutter in satisfaction and opened a beer.

"Want some?" he asked Ivan, holding it out to him. Ivan looked at the open bottle with cold smoke coming from the neck. He wasn't wild about the taste of beer from the sips he'd had before, but he couldn't pass up his father's gesture. He grabbed hold of the chilled bottle and took a big swallow. Maybe it was because he was so hot, but it tasted better than it ever had before. He looked at his Dad.

"You can have another swig, if you like," Dad told him. Ivan grinned even bigger and had another big gulp before handing it back. Dad stood there and finished it while looking around the yard.

"You can run and go shower now, Ivan," he said. "I'm just going to bring in these tables and chairs."

"I can help," Ivan said. "It'll go faster with both of us doing it." He stacked two chairs and lifted them.

"Thanks, buddy. Let's get 'em all in the garage, then."

Between the two of them, they had everything secured in about ten minutes. Dad looked around and nodded.

"Well, that's the best we can do. Let the hurricane come and do its worst. We're ready!" Ivan smiled up at him.

"Okay, Little Viking, lets go get showered off. I feel as nasty as you look!"

Ivan went into the laundry room and stripped his shorts and briefs off, dropping his dirty clothes in the hamper. With Mom and Stacy not around, he felt safe walking buck-naked through the house. He didn't have anything to hide from his Dad. It felt really good to get in the shower and wash the dirt from his body. He soaped up until he felt squeaky clean, even taking time to shampoo his bottle-brush crop of hair. But the time he stepped out and toweled off, he felt like a new boy. Dad was out in the kitchen in a pair of exercise shorts.

"Gonna order us a pizza, okay?" he said.

"Can we get extra pepperoni?" Ivan asked.

"You got it."

After the food had been ordered, they went and sat together on the couch; Dad in his shorts and Ivan in a T-shirt and briefs. The hurricane was closer now.

"Hmm, don't like that," Dad said as they showed the latest update.

"What's the matter?"

"Well, the pressure keeps dropping. That means it's going to get stronger. Also, it's turned more to the northwest."

"But the eye-thingy looks like it's not going to hit us, right? If it goes along that line, it'll be just below us."

"Yea, but we'll get the northern eye wall and that's where the strongest winds are. We'll just have to keep watching it. Don't worry, we'll be fine. Even if we get a direct hit, you don't have anything to worry about, buddy. I promise."

All the same, Ivan snuggled up a little closer to his father. He found the scent of him comforting and Dad put his arm around his shoulder. The pizza came and they ate it in the living room. Mom didn't like when they did that, but she wasn't there and they made a pact not to tell. Dad turned on the X-Box 360 and they played games for the next couple of hours until it was time for the 11PM update. Dad watched it, but there was not much change. The storm had reached category two as expected and was still on a path to hit just below them. He sent Ivan to bed, following behind him to tuck him in and give him a kiss. Ivan lay in his warm bed and listened to the rising winds outside his shuttered window. What would tomorrow bring? He closed his eyes; he'd had a busy day and it took him only a minute or two before he drifted off.

* * * * *

He woke up the next morning and could hear the wind whistling around the house. Hopping out of bed, he ran down to the living room. Dad was watching the TV and from the satellite he could see it was getting close. Their whole section of Florida was covered by the swirling clouds.

"Oh, glad you're up," Dad said. "The power isn't going to be on that much longer. Your mother called to check on us. They got in late last night and they're all fine. Grandma's worried about you, but I didn't want to wake you. Why don't you call them and put everyone's mind to rest?"

Ivan dialed the cordless phone and his grandmother answered. He told her that he was fine, but she still sounded kind of freaked out when she handed the phone to his mother. He had to hear the same thing from her before he got to talk to Stacy. She was the only one who didn't seem to think he was in imminent danger and said that she was bored. He heard a sound start up and realized that it was starting to rain. And what a storm! The rain was beating down hard. He wrapped up the conversation and hung up; going to see what was being said on the TV.

"It's up to a category three," Dad said. "It got a bit stronger than they were expecting overnight. But not to worry; we'll be fine, okay? It's a minimal category three and it doesn't look like it's going to get any stronger. Anyway, if you need power for anything, do it now because I don't think this is going to last much longer with the wind picking up the way it is."

Ivan had made sure all his rechargeable batteries for his handheld videogames were juiced up last night. Dad had gathered their various flashlights, candles and portable radio in the kitchen. The only window in the whole house that wasn't shuttered was the little one at the top of the front door and Ivan went and looked out of it. The trees were really starting to bend and leaves and other debris were flying down the street. It was exciting, but also a little unsettling so he went and sat next to his Dad and watched the TV. All of the local stations were covering nothing but the hurricane; they had reporters out in the open on the beaches and various other places. All of them told everyone to get indoors and if they had not evacuated they should not try to do it now as it was no longer safe.

"Why don't the reporters go inside, Dad?" he asked. "If it's so dangerous?"

"They get paid to do stupid things. Plus, they think it looks good on TV to be seen nearly getting blown down by the wind. I don't think you'll see too many of them out there when the eye comes ashore, though." Just then the power cut off and the room was plunged into a gloomy twilight.

"I don't guess we'll see them any way or the other, then!" Dad laughed. "We can still keep track of things with my laptop and satellite internet, I suppose, but we'll have to limit how often we check it. I don't want to use the battery all up. Let's get some light in here, shall we?"

Dad set up a few candles around the house and put the big battery-powered light in the middle of the coffee table in the living room.

"So, how about a game of Monopoly?" he offered. Ivan eagerly nodded and went and got the game from the cabinet. He took the wheelbarrow and Dad took the dog and they started to play. Every fifteen minutes or so, Dad would get up and patrol the house, making sure everything was all right. Ivan would walk along with him, mostly because he didn't want to be left alone. A couple hours later, he looked back out the window. The trees were a lot more bent, now, and he could see that several had snapped off and lay broken on the ground, still being stripped bare of their leaves by the unrelenting wind. Dad checked the internet; the eye was about an hour away from landfall and was expected to hit about thirty miles south of them.

"We're going to just get grazed," Dad said. "I don't think we'll get the calm of the eye itself, but close.

On their next patrol, Dad spotted a leak; water was pouring in under the sliding glass door to the back porch. He sent Ivan to the linen closet for as many towels as he could carry and he put them there to soak it up.

"This is part of why I wanted to stay," Dad said. "I don't want our house getting ruined by water getting all over everything. And I'm glad you're here to help, Little Viking."

Over the next forty minutes, they discovered several more leaks as the intensity of the hurricane increased. Ivan had gotten every towel in the house and they were all stacked on the dining room table, ready to be used as needed. Dad had the mop bucket and wrung out the towels by the sliding glass door before replacing them.

"How long is this going to last, Dad?" Ivan asked. "We're going to run out of towels."

"When the eye passes, the wind is going to switch direction," Dad said. "Then it'll be coming from the front and there's a lot less places there for it to leak in. We'll be fine – if I have to, I'll use the sheets, but I think we'll have enough towels. Thank God your mother likes to have so many sets!"

Ivan laughed. His mother could never pass up a white sale. Looking at the internet ten minutes later, they saw the eye coming ashore. The wind was howling at a fever pitch and the walls of the house were actually shaking. Ivan had lost interest in the Monopoly game and came and sat next to Dad, lifting the man's arm up and draping it over his shoulders for reassurance. Dad silently hugged him and told him that it would be all right. A few minutes later, the wind seemed to lessen. Ivan got up and looked out the door window. Sure enough, the trees were only half as bent as they were before.

"Looks like we've got a few minutes of it easing up," Dad said. Just then his cell phone rang. "That must be your mother."

"Hello?" he said as he flipped it open. "Oh, hi, Andy. How are you weathering the storm. Oh? What side? Ummmm...yea, sure, but we better be damn quick. I'll be right over."

"Ivan, don't ask, just go and get me my hammer and a bag of those long nails from my toolbox. I'll explain in a minute, but I have to hurry."

Ivan did as he was told. When he came back, he saw his father dressed in raingear.

"One of our neighbors' shutters has blown off," he explained. "I have to help him nail up some plywood because it's on the lee side now, but when this thing picks up again, it's going to be exposed. I'm not happy about this, but neighbors have to help each other I guess. I think he'd do the same if the situation were reversed. You stay here; I'll be back in five, ten minutes tops."

Dad took the hammer and nails from him and went out the laundry room door. It slammed behind him from the wind. It had all happened so fast, Ivan didn't have a chance to react. He wasn't all that happy about being in the house by himself, but the wind wasn't so bad now. That was a bit scary that Mr. and Mrs. Young's shutter had blown off. He hoped that wouldn't happen to them. It didn't seem that any of them were loose, but how could you tell from inside? Daddy should check theirs when he came back from helping Mr. Young, Ivan would suggest it.

Only...they didn't have much time. Daddy said it was only a few minutes. Maybe Ivan should go check himself; if he saw something loose, he could run tell Dad and Mr. Young and they could fix it really quick. But...he wasn't supposed to go outside, Dad had been very clear about that. During the storm, anyway, but this was a lull. It would be safe enough now, wouldn't it? Dad still might be mad, but if he told him why he did it, he'd understand he was just trying to protect the house. Plus, Ivan did sort of want to see what things looked like outside; the only view he'd had since this thing began was from the front door; he had no idea what was going on around the other sides of the house.

Ivan took a poncho from the broom closet and put it over his head. If Dad came back in five minutes, he'd tell him about checking the shutters and ask if he could come too. He thought Dad would let him. His eyes kept darting down to his watch. The wind was still blowing not so strongly, but time was passing. Dad wasn't going to have time to check THEIR shutters. What to do, what to do? It would only take Ivan a couple of minutes; perhaps he better do it. No, wait, Dad said to wait. But Dad didn't know it was going to take him this long. Ivan had to help protect the house; he had to take responsibility. He made up his mind; throwing caution literally to the winds, he opened the back door and stepped out into the gale.

He looked over by the Young's house, but didn't see his father or Mr. Young. They must be around front. He started to walk, his bare feet squelching in the saturated grass as he went. The shutters on the back seemed fine – all secure and in place, and he went around the side. To his horror, he found one wing nut that had come loose. The other three were holding the shutter in place securely, but if one of them failed, they'd have a real problem. He'd thought to put a pair of pliers in his pocket and he tightened it back up. Taking his time to make sure the others on that side were good, he then made his way to the front.

He'd been concentrating on what he was doing and that side of the house had been in the lee. When he came around the front, he realized that the winds had picked back up. His heart pounded from fear, but he was determined to finish the job he'd taken for himself. He hurried along as fast as he could, the wind whipping against his face and the poncho snapping and tugging at him. All of a sudden the wind got under his raingear and filled it like a balloon. The pocket with the pliers in it flew up and slapped him under the chin, making him bite his tongue and see stars. He was out of control; the wind lifted him and threw him on his back with the poncho pulled over his head. Moments later, it was ripped completely off of him, leaving him stunned with his T-shirt and shorts soaking in the water. He tried to get to his feet, but the wind was blasting full force, now. His eyes were stinging and he had to squint them nearly shut. Crawling to the wall of the house, he took shelter behind a little corner and got to his feet. He was crying and terrified. The wind was beyond anything he'd ever experienced and it made him feel more little and helpless than he'd ever felt in his life. He scrunched down into a ball and prayed for Daddy to somehow find him and rescue him. The meager protection of the alcove couldn't stop the wind from pelting him with stinging, freezing, fat drops of rain. His chin hurt from being hit with the pliers and the faint coppery taste of blood filled his mouth from where he had bit his tongue.

Suddenly, there were hands on his arms and he felt himself being lifted. He opened his eyes enough to see a frantic-looking Daddy picking him up and he threw his arms around his father's neck.

"Don't choke me, Ivan," his father shouted over the howling wind. "I've got you now, you're safe, but let me breathe. We'll be inside in a moment." Ivan closed his eyes, aware only of his father's arms around him and the stinging rain on his back where his shirt had been blown up. Daddy ran with him and made it to the front door. He yanked it open against the breeze and shot inside. The wind pushed the door closed behind them with a fierce crash that shook the whole house. Ivan's ears were ringing from being out in the screaming wind, but he could hear his father's panting as he carried him into the living room and set him down on the floor.

"Daddy, I lost your pliers, I'm so s...s...sorry!" Ivan said before bursting into great, wracking sobs. Dad took him in his arms and held him tightly. Rivers of tears streamed out of Ivan's eyes onto Dad's wet rain jacket. Dad just kept hugging him, whispering comforting words in his ear and telling him over and over that everything was all right. It was a long time before Ivan could get any sort of control over himself.

When he finally did, Daddy disengaged and took off his rain jacket, dropping it on the tile floor. He had a roll of paper towels and he wiped Ivan's face, getting him to blow his nose as well. Dad got a dry towel from the pile and lifted Ivan's sopping wet shirt up over his head and then unsnapped and pulled down his equally saturated pants. His white briefs were wet on the seat, but Dad left them on, vigorously toweling his son dry with the clean, fluffy towel. Ivan detected a faint hint of fabric softener and it seemed like the safest, most wonderful smell in the world. Once he was dry, Daddy wrapped him in another dry towel and sat him in his lap, rocking him gently in his arms.

"Are you hurt?" Dad asked softly.

"Just my chin," Ivan sniffed. "The pliers were in the pocket of my poncho and it flew up and hit me."

"Let me look," Dad said, lifting his son's face up so he could see. "Yes, I can see where it hit. That's going to be sore and you have a small cut. Wait here, okay? I'm just going to get something to take care of it."

Dad sat Ivan on the couch and went into the bathroom. He came out with the first aid bag and then scooped Ivan back up into his lap. Taking a tube of Neosporin, he put a dab on his finger then gently covered his son's wound with it. With that done, he stuck a small band-aid over it.

"There we go," he said. "You're all fixed up, now."

"Thanks, Daddy," Ivan said softly. He buried his head back into his father's chest and they sat there for several more minutes, not saying anything. Eventually, Dad broke the silence.

"That was really scary, wasn't it?" Ivan just nodded. It was the most scared he had ever been in his life and he still wasn't quite over it.

"I was really scared too, when I came back and couldn't find you. Are you up to talking about why you went outside or do you need a little more time?"

"I was so STUPID," Ivan said. "When you said about Mr. Young's shutter blowing off, I got scared about ours. I wanted to go out with you to check them, but then you took so long and I knew that we didn't have much time before the wind came back up. I thought I could go check them really quick to make sure, but then the one by you and Mom's bedroom, one of the nuts was loose. I fixed it, but when I got to the front the wind was so strong and I wanted to check the rest and I was trying to hurry and then the wind got under my raincoat and I got knocked down and I..."

His voice had been getting more frantic with each word and he couldn't hold it in. Once again, the tears flowed as he remembered how helpless he had been, tossed in the mighty winds of the hurricane. Dad pressed his head back to his chest and rocked him some more. After a few minutes of this, Ivan had gotten control of himself again.

"I'm sorry I scared you, Dad," he said softly.

"Ivan, I appreciate your sense of responsibility and wanting to help take care of the house. And it was brave of you to go out there, but it was also very foolish. I only went out there because I had to. I was planning a quick check of our shutters, but it took longer than I'd hoped to nail up that makeshift shutter on Andy's house. I was coming in to let you know that I'd just be another minute, but then I didn't see you. I did a quick check of the house because I thought you might have gone to the bathroom or something. Then when I couldn't find you...well, I had a few bad moments. I realized you must have gone outside, but I hadn't seen you in the back and the wind had gotten so much stronger in the couple of minutes since I'd come back in. I thought...well, it doesn't matter what I thought now, because...well, it just doesn't, but I can honestly say it was the most scared I have ever been in my life."

"I'm sorry, Dad!" Ivan said, starting to cry again, this time out of guilt rather than fear. He knew just what his father had feared and if it had...well, he knew that Dad would have never forgiven himself and Mom would not have forgiven him either. Everyone's lives would have been wrecked just because he'd been stupid. Again, it took him a couple of minutes to get it back together.

"I just can't stop crying, Dad," he said, trying for a laugh of bravado and not really succeeding.

"It's all right to cry, Ivan. We both had a real scare and it's a way of getting our feelings out. I've been crying too, you know."

Ivan looked up and saw that his Dad's eyes were wet and red as well. Dad had been crying silently, but he sure had been. That didn't help with Ivan's feelings of guilt, but at least he felt a little better knowing he wasn't the only one blubbering. "What a bunch of tough guys we make," he joked.

"Hey, tough guys cry too, Little Viking. And despite the fact that what you did was wrong for all sorts of reasons, no one could say that you were not brave to go out there and try to secure the shutters."

"Please don't tell Mom, Daddy," Ivan said.

"I don't like to keep secrets from your mother, Ivan. But in this case, I think we'll have to make a pact to keep this between us. Your mother would lock you in the house until you were eighteen if she knew. And she'd have some words for me too. Perhaps I deserve them because I thought you would be responsible and I was wrong about that. Still, the couple of years you scared off my life is my punishment I suppose. Now we have to talk about yours. Now that you've had a bit of a chance to calm down and reflect, why don't you tell me how you could have handled things better?"

"I should have listened to you. I should have stayed inside. I could have even called Mrs. Young on the phone and told her to remind you to check our shutters on the way back."

"Yes, that would have been the smart and responsible thing to do. And I want to say again that I appreciate you wanting to do your part, but you have to respect my judgment. I knew it wasn't safe for you out there which is why I had told you to stay in. I trusted you to be obedient and you disobeyed me. No matter how good your motives were, that isn't something I can permit. I don't even want to give voice to this Ivan but do you understand that...this could have ended badly?"

Ivan heard the catch in his father's voice as he stammered out that last sentence. His own voice failed again and he just nodded. They both knew what was being left unsaid and neither of them were going to put it into words.

"Okay," Dad said, after taking a couple of moments to compose himself. "So what are we going to do about this?"

Ivan looked up at his dad. His manner had shifted subtly, but the boy recognized it. His father was shifting from Comforting Dad to Disciplining Dad. "Ah...I guess you are...there has to be a consequence?"

"Yes. You're right, there does. What do you think would be the most appropriate under the circumstances?"

Ivan looked down. This was new. Why did Dad have to ask him? He was the dad, he was supposed to tell Ivan how he was going to be punished and that would be that. Why was it his job all of a sudden to come up with something?

"I dunno," he said to the floor.

"Well, I'd like you to think about it some more, please. I don't love you any less that I did an hour ago. In fact, I can tell you I love you even more right now, but you did act a lot less responsible than I know you are capable of. I think you are a lot more mature than your actions showed and I'd like to give you a chance to demonstrate that by coming up with an appropriate punishment for yourself."

Ivan churned inside. Why did Dad have to put it that way? Now he had no choice but to convict himself. He wanted to be responsible, especially since he's let Dad down so badly. But the only way to do that was to pull the trigger on himself.

"Um...this is really hard to do, okay?" he said, squirming a bit in Dad's lap and trying to buy time.

"Take as much time as you need, Ivan," Dad said. "This storm isn't going anywhere and neither are we."

Ivan really wished Dad wouldn't make him say it. He knew that there was only one punishment that fit this crime. He tried to come up with something else, like a long grounding and withdrawal of privileges. He might get some of that anyway, but that wouldn't be the main thing. Plus, given that Dad didn't want Mom to know about this, any big punishment that extended past her return would bring questions and his father would never directly lie to his mother. It was bad enough that he knew it was going to happen but it was really embarrassing to have to actually ASK for it.

But he had to be responsible. The guilt of how badly he'd scared his Dad was eating him up inside and he knew that this would help him get rid of some of that. But it was going to HURT! And given just how big his offence was...well, he didn't even want to imagine what this would be like. Better to just summon whatever courage he could find and say it.

"I...Um...I guess I deserve to be spanked," he said, bravely lifting his head and looking Dad in the eye.

"Yes," Dad said, dashing Ivan's faint hope that he'd suggest something else. "I would agree that you do, and I'm proud of you for being able to see it yourself. I just wish this wasn't necessary, Little Viking."

"I'm really sorry that I acted so stupid and scared you so bad, Dad. I want to be punished so you can forgive me."

"Aw, Ivan," Daddy's voice trailed off and he hugged his son tightly. "Do you know how much I love you?"

"Thanks Dad. I just wish I wasn't so stupid."

"You're not stupid, son, you just made a mistake. A really big one, to be sure, but that's all it was. Let's get this over with, okay? I want it over and done with just as much as you."

Ivan didn't think that was possible, but he scooted off Dad's lap and got to his feet. He felt hollow inside and his knees were trembling, but he was ready to accept his fate. Dad would be going to get the ping-pong paddle and then that would be that.

"Ivan, you understand just how serious your mistake was, yes?"

"Yes, Daddy," He'd said that already, hadn't he?

"Well, then I hope you'll understand that this has to be more than an ordinary spanking. You are getting older and what was appropriate for an eight year old is not sufficient punishment for an eleven year old. You are starting to outgrow the ping-pong paddle."

"Um...wha...," Ivan gulped. "What are you going to use?"

"Something I got a few months ago. I didn't think I'd be using it until you are twelve, but I'm afraid this does call for it. Wait there please, I'll be right back."

Dad got up, took a flashlight and headed towards his and Mom's bedroom. Ivan was left there dreading whatever new thing Dad had to use on him. That paddle had stung plenty, but whatever he'd gone to get was going to be worse! His bottom tingled as he tried to tame his imagination as it ran through a whole bunch of possible spanking implements, each one worse than the one before. He heard Dad's footsteps returning and he braved a look. Something was dangling from his right hand. It was long and black. Like some kind of weird belt.

"What...what's that?" he asked as Dad came over to him.

"It's a strap, son. It works like a belt, but it's easier to use and better at hitting where it's supposed to. At least, that was what your Grandfather always said."

"That was Grandpa Val's?"

"No, that one is long gone. I bought this myself. I'm just...sorry I have to use it. But I do. I love you so much, Little Viking, but I can't let behavior like this stand. Let's get this over with. You're going to have to lean over the arm of the couch, here." Dad pushed the back cushion of the couch down so it would be there to support his head and chest while his middle would be raised up over the overstuffed arm of the sofa. Not taking his eyes from that strap, Ivan somehow got his legs to work and stood next to it.

"I...um...Dad...ah, since you are using that...um...maybe you can do it on my underpants?"

"Well, I can if you really want, Ivan, but that would have to mean more spanks."

"Oh...um...how many more?"

"I don't know, but at least ten. Probably more."

Ivan gulped. Much as he'd rather have his briefs stay up, that just was too high a price. They were still damp in the seat, anyway, and would not offer much protection.

"So, what's it gonna be, son? Briefs or bare bottom?"

"Um...bare bottom." Silent tears had started to flow now. All he could think about is how much that wide strap was going to sting his bare skin.

"All right, then." Dad came behind him and pulled his underpants down to his knees. Even though it was kind of warm in the house, when the open air hit Ivan's damp bottom, he felt a chill and couldn't help but tremble.

"Up over the arm, then, Ivan." Dad was all business now. Ivan knew that his time was nearly up. He leaned over and wrapped his arms around the couch cushion. His head and chest were slightly lower than his upturned bottom and his naked penis was pressed against the microfiber couch. His feet were just barely touching the ground. Dad stood next to him and put his arm on the small of his back, rubbing him gently. Somehow, his touch was reassuring and he tried not to think about what was in his father's other hand.

"Ivan, you know not to reach behind yourself. I suggest you hold tightly to that cushion. This is going to hurt quite a bit, but don't try to hold back. I expect you to cry and you will before I'm done. I won't spank you any longer than I need to, but I'm going to do what's required here. Take a deep breath now, Little Viking."

Ivan sucked in a lungful of air and squeezed his eyes shut. His arms had the cushion in a death grip. He couldn't turn off his sense of touch and hearing though, and he felt Daddy's subtle shift and heard the sound of something whistling down through the air.

THWACK! The strap landed right across the center of his bare buttocks and the breath he was holding was expelled in a whoosh of surprise. It took a couple of milliseconds after he heard the sound, but then he became aware of a hot, burning stripe in the middle of his bottom. OW, that had HURT!!

THWACK! Again, the strap landed, just south of the first target. This was nothing like the thin ping-pong paddle, this was a searing sting.

THWACK! THWACK! THWACK! Dad had established a rhythm. The spanks were about three seconds apart and had landed both above and below the original two. The painful heat was now covering his entire plump bottom.

THWACK! THWACK! THWACK! THWACK! This set landed right in the middle, where the first one had hit. The pain doubled and redoubled and Ivan threw his head and yelped with each one.

"Let it out, son," Dad said to him. "Don't hold back, no one here but me and you." THWACK! THWACK! THWACK! THWACK!

Ivan burst into hot tears as the fire in his bottom started to reach critical levels. THWACK! "Ooowwwwww!" THWACK! "Ooooowwwwwwwwww!" THWACK! "Ooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!"

His arms were squeezing the cushion to about a third its normal width, but he managed to hold on despite every instinct to reach around and protect himself. The strap was finding every burning spot on his bottom and driving the sting in deeper. It criss-crossed his cheeks over and over again. He was crying full bore, now. Deep, wracking sobs that came right from his core. On about the twenty second time the strap wrapped around his bright red bottom, his emotional walls just collapsed like a house of cards. His arms went limp around the cushion and his legs stopped jerking and just dangled. He had no more will left to fight and he felt just as little and helpless under Daddy's strap as he had in the winds of the hurricane. The big difference was he'd been terrified out there; despite how much pain Daddy was causing him, he felt safe now.

THWACK!! THWACK!! THWACK!! THWACK!!! Dad applied four very hard spanks right back to the middle of his bare bottom, the area that already hurt the most. The searing, blinding pain was more than he could take, but he had no ability to even protest. He just laid there and poured out all his guilt with great, wailing sobs. After one more hard THWACK!!! Daddy stopped and dropped the strap on the floor. He helped Ivan stand up and then the boy was hugging him as if his life depended on it.

"I'm so sorry, Daddy!" Ivan choked out between sobs.

"It's all right, Little Viking," Dad said as he rubbed the back of his head. "It's over now and the slate is clean. You made a mistake and you've paid for it so we get to start fresh. You are the most precious thing to me in the world, do you know that?"

Ivan sat on his dad's leg, wincing in pain from the soreness in his rear. He saw a wet spot on Daddy's shirt where his tears had flowed.

"Do you want me to rub some soothing cream on your bottom?" Dad asked.

"Yea, Dad, I'd like that please."

"Okay. Let me go and get it. You blow your nose, okay?" He handed him some tissues as he stood.

"Dad?" Ivan said. "Could you get me a fresh pair of underpants please? These are kinda wet."

"Sure thing, buddy." Dad went to the bathroom and then Ivan's room and came back with the requested items. He sat on the couch and Ivan laid across his lap. The cool cream soothed the burning heat in his fire-red bottom and he relaxed, enjoying the intimate contact of his father's hand bringing such welcome relief. After a long few minutes of it, Dad was done and Ivan sat back up, pulling on the clean pair of briefs. Without the A/C, he didn't need or want anything more on, so he was content. His dad took off his own shirt, comfortable enough in his shorts. Ivan followed his father as they inspected the house for leaks, but the shifting winds hadn't found any new places of vulnerability. With nothing to do but wait out the storm, they went back to their monopoly game, which Ivan had the satisfaction of winning. Not that making his dad 'lose his shirt' in Monopoly made up for his father making him lose his underpants in real life! The winds slowly started to weaken and they switched to cards, playing War, Crazy Eights and even Poker with their plastic chips. Later, after a reassuring call to Mom, Dad warmed up some chicken in the stove and they had a nice supper by candlelight. Both were worn out by the day they'd had and they soon went to their beds. Dad tucked him in under the sheet and kissed him on the cheek before heading off to his own bed. Ivan listened to the fading winds as he lay on his tummy and enjoyed the protection of both his house and his father.

The next day, the storm had blown over. Ivan and Dad were lucky; their area was one of the first places in the city where the power came back up. Ivan helped Dad take down the shutters and clean up the mess in the yard. Mom and Stacy were supposed to be driving back the following day and they wanted the place looking clean and nice for them.

"Thanks for all your help, Ivan," Dad said as they relaxed in the cool of the A/C after the sun went down. "It's been really great having you here with me, you know. You made what would have otherwise been a really miserable couple of days a lot of fun."

"Thanks for letting me stay, Dad. In spite of...well...just thanks I guess. That's all I want to say. And I love you."

"Aw, Little Viking, I love you too." Ivan saw his father's eyes mist up a bit and one more they shared a long embrace. The storm had passed.

Note: It's hurricane season and I always wanted to write a hurricane story, so here it is. The title of this new series is pinched from a book by Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the misnamed Liberal Democratic Party. I think his book is just more of his raving about what it means to be a Russian, but the title sounded catchy; it sort of screams that it's translated so I wanted to use it. I've got at least one more Ivan story in me and then we'll see what's next.

 
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