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Jesse's Boys
My Lieutenant

by No Way Out

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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: 05 Aug 2017


This is a translation of my German story Mein Lieutenant. I couldn’t have done it without the help of TimJase Anders, who is not only a fantastic author, but also a superb translator. Thank you so much, Timbo! Of course, any errors that remain are my own.

* * * * *

The story takes place in 1985 in Germany. It is part of the series Jesse’s Boys.
An overview of the protagonists:

Jesse S. Pierce, 40 years old, emigrated from the US to Germany, paramedic, African American, married Katharina 1 ½ years ago, stepfather of Timo and Florian.

Katharina Borchert, 43 years old, high school teacher, mother of two boys from a previous marriage.

Timo Borchert, 14 years old, 1,60 meters tall, slim, brown wavy hair, green eyes, has a wide range of interests and a sharp mind, needs time to warm to some people and things, is often at odds with himself and with his feelings

Florian Borchert, 12 years old, 1,55 meters tall, lean and athletic, always active blond hair, blue eyes, straightforward and spontaneous – sometimes too spontaneous.

* * * * *

I’m pretty exhausted as I drive home from my late shift. Just before the end we were called to an accident. A ten year old boy on a bike had been hit by a truck, and when we left him at the hospital it wasn’t certain that he’d pull through. With two decades as a paramedic under my belt I’ve become used to a lot of things but things like that still get under my skin, all the more since I have two kids of my own.

My first marriage didn’t really workout. It was a lost cause right from the start, but it took me two years to realize that, and many more until I found the courage to have another go. Then it just happened, and all of a sudden I wasn’t only remarried, but also stepfather of a twelve– and a fourteen-year-old. At first I was scared shitless at the thought of being responsible for two kids, but they quickly captured my heart and now they are my boys.

As I unlock the door, I hear loud voices from the living room, and I can tell that my beloved has lost her patience. Oh yes, you will, young man, you can depend on that!

Forget it! I’m not a little kid any more! Why can’t you get that into your birdbrain!

Timo is in the middle of puberty One minute he can be very mature and a really sweet guy and the next moment a snotty, forever grumbling teenager. I take a deep breath before I open the door and throw myself into the fray.

At my arrival they both fall silent for a moment. A short break might not be a bad thing to give them a chance to cool down. I kiss Katharina. Hey darling, rough day? I whisper in her ear and get an angry snort for an answer.

With one step I stand before Timo, put a hand on the back of his neck and plant a big kiss on his forehead. Of course he feels too old for such display of affection, but he isn’t sure if he is in trouble, so he submits to it without grumbling. I leave my hand in its place as I ask him. Did I just hear you insulting your mother?

I can virtually read from his face how his internal angel and devil are fighting for dominance. Unfortunately, the voice of reason loses. Oh come on, be real!, he grizzles. Mama always tells me, I’m old enough to take responsibility and to help her around the house, but then she treats me like a baby. It’s not fair!

Maybe he’s got a point, but I sure as hell won’t stab Katharina in the back. Whatever the reason, that’s no excuse to talk to her like that.

If I had acted up like that, my Mom would have blistered my butt with a brush until I’d bawled my eyes out. I know, those were different times. In North Carolina in the 1950s all my friends got spanked when they misbehaved, that was just the way it was. I can’t say we were happy about it, and I often thought my parents took the easy way out. But now I’m a Dad myself, and I realize it isn’t easy at all.

Timo has been behaving so impudently lately, he is long overdue for a trip over my knee. It’s just that I know how much the two rascals are looking forward to our camping trip during the long weekend around Ascension Day and I’m looking forward to it just as much. The one time I gave Timo a licking, he wouldn’t talk to me for a whole week, and I worry it might ruin the whole brief vacation. This time I’m the coward, so I let him get away with a warning.

I’m going to have a shower now. When I come back, your mother is going to tell me how sincerely and profusely you’ve apologized to her. And I don’t want to hear you talking to her like that again, or you’re in for it, is that clear?

Oh my god, I sound exactly like my father!

For a brief moment, resistance flares up in his eyes. He knows he’s lost the battle but he still itches to keep on fighting, if only to prove that he can’t be broken. I don’t like using my physical advantage but I want to bring the situation to an end before it escalates. So I step up close to the little rebel and lean forward a little bit, so that my 1,90 meter height and 90 kilos weight tower over his slight frame. He holds out for another five seconds, but in the end he averts his eyes, moans like I burdened him with an inconceivable ordeal and mumbles: I’m not stupid, you know.

That won’t do, buster, and you know it. What was that?

Finally his survival instincts kick in, and he gives a proper answer without the flippant undertone. Yes, I understand.

All right then. Phew, the weekend is saved!

* * * * *

When Florian wakes us up far too early, Katharina just turns around and goes back to sleep. I had suggested that the whole family should go on the trip, but she convinced me that a three-males-only weekend would be a great idea. She was going to spend the weekend at the Baltic Sea with a friend. I’m not sure if she pulled a fast one on me, but even if she’s used the men-only excursion only to get rid of the kids for a few days, she may be right. It’s a great opportunity for us guys to spend some bonding time together.

Timo and Florian have already made breakfast and their luggage is waiting in the hall. Their high spirits are contagious, and their behavior during the ride is exemplary. Exhilarated I sing along with the radio and when my rascals complain about the caterwauling, I sing even louder.

As we get out of the car, we are being watched by curious campers. The owners of the caravan to our left and the ones with the big family tent at the back of our lot put their heads together and whisper. I get some suspicious glances, the kind I know so well. In Germany you don’t meet that many black people and, what’s more, I show up with two fair-skinned kids, and without a wife. Timo notices it, too, and I know how sensitive he is to that kind of behavior. Last week he almost started a fight with some youths who were making fun of me. Although I am touched by his protective instinct, I don’t think it would be a great start for our weekend to let him call the other campers racists. So I decide to take preemptive measures.

Come on, let’s go and meet our neighbors. With the boys in tow, I approach the two families and introduce us. Hello, I’m Jesse Pierce, and these are my sons, Timo and Florian. As they hear my fluent German with only a slight American accent, they relax a bit, and after some smalltalk I have hopefully convinced them that I’m not planning to sell drugs to their children.

As soon as we’ve unloaded the car and set up our two tents, Florian disappears to explore the grounds. Timo stays and asks me lots of questions about how to pick a good spot for the tent, when to use the squared tent pegs instead of the round ones, how to build a shelter in the woods and a hundred other things. Everything I tell him, he absorbs like a sponge. Soon we are sitting at the table with some rope, and I teach him how to tie different knots.

Soon enough Florian comes running. There’s a huge lake. Can we go swimming, Dad? He dances on the spot while impatiently waiting for my answer. I realize that this little bundle of energy needs exercise after the long ride in the car.

Okay, champ, go get your swimming trunks.

Discreetly I glance at my eldest. As a teenager, it is beneath his dignity to display rapturous enthusiasm like his little brother, but I know he is a water rat. I keep tying my knot and ask casually: You coming, too?

M-hm is the only sound he makes, but once we are in the water, he forgets about being cool and screeches with delight as we romp around, wrestle and splash each other with water.

The water is still quite cold at the end of May, but the sky is cloudless and the sun is warm, so we stay at the lake all afternoon. It doesn’t take the kids long to make friends with other teenagers. Timo usually needs some time to open up, so I’m glad for him, but I’m almost a bit jealous when the boys play Frisbee no longer with me but with their new friends and then lie on their towels at some distance to talk about stuff that is none of any adults’ business.

In the evening Timo tries to convince me that on a proper camping trip we have to catch fish with home made spears and roast them over the fire. Eventually he settles for the campfire we build in the concrete-walled fireplace, and grilling the sausages and eating the potato-salad we brought from home. After dinner, I introduce my sons to a piece of American culture: we roast marshmallows and enjoy terribly sweet s’mores.

* * * * *

Daaad, you’ve got to come real quick!

I feel like I’d just fallen asleep a few minutes ago. Is it morning already? No, it’s not the sun dazzling me, it’s a flashlight. Florian’s face behind it, his eyes are open wide. He’s scared. Something has happened!

Adrenalin pumps through my veins. I sit up with a start. What’s wrong, Florian? I ask, trying to sound calm, while getting out of the sleeping bag and slipping on a pair of Bermuda shorts, a sweat shirt and sneakers.

Rouven crashed on a rock and fell into the lake, and Timo jumped after him with Saskia.

Oh shit! Okay, don’t panic. Where are they, exactly?

On the right side of the lake, just behind the fence.

Yeah, of course. Behind the fence that’s supposed to keep people out, so they don’t climb around on the steep and ragged cliff. Especially in the dark. As I crawl out of the tent, I see Rebecca, Saskia’s sister. Apparently she has come with Florian to get help. Do you know where Rouven’s lot is? Then wake up his parents and get them to come to the lake.

I turn to Florian and give him the car keys. I need the first aid kit, the blanket and the tow rope.

Without waiting for an answer I sprint towards the lake. As soon as I reach the fence, I call Timo’s name.

We are here, he answers immediately. I point the flashlight at the water surface and I can discern three heads. Timo and Saskia are keeping Rouven’s head above water. His eyes are closed. It looks like they managed to tow him to a spot where the rocks are not as steep, but couldn’t hoist him up onto dry land.

I climb over the fence, balance my way across the rocks to the bank, kneel down and pull the boy up towards me. He is unconscious and bleeds from a wound on his brow, but breathing and pulse are okay. I can take a moment to fish the other two out of the water. Their soaked clothes hang heavily on their bodies. They seem to have only taken off their shoes and jackets before jumping into the water. I check them out quickly. I don’t need another patient right now, so I try to make sure their minds can handle the situation. I have often enough seen uninjured people wandering off the site of an accident in a trance-like state and do something silly. Are you two okay? Any injuries, dizziness, nausea? I ask and get short but clear answers from both of them, so I hand the flashlight over to Timo and take care of Rouven.

After I get him to vomit up a gush of water, he coughs and opens his eyes. I just hope he hasn’t been under water for too long. In the meantime Florian has turned up with the things from the car. While I wrap Rouven in the blanket and put a pressure bandage on his head, I ask him his birthday, and if he knows what day of the week it is. He is weak and shivers from the cold, but he can answer my questions.

Only after I’ve taken care of him, I allow myself to breathe more easily. Instantly the realization of what could have happened to the four kids hits home and I have horror visions of my children lying lifeless on the bottom of the lake or tumbling down five meters onto the rocks. As if to make sure that my sons are still in one piece, I pull them into a hug and hold them tight. I look over their heads and see that the two sisters also embrace and comfort each other. I speak calmly to the five misadventurers and let them tell me what happened, while we wait for Rouven’s parents.

They don’t even try to talk their way out of it. Timo and Rouven had planned to sneak out at night to meet with the two girls. When Florian got wind of it, he demanded to come, too, under the threat of blowing the whistle. When the five of them came to the lake, they got the idea to climb to the top of the cliff. On the way up Rouven slipped, bumped his head on a rock and fell into the lake. Without a moment’s hesitation Timo sent his brother and Saskia to get help, while he and Rebecca jumped into the water to save their friend from drowning.

As I remember how much Timo hates being thought of as a coward, I shoot him a sharp glance. Please tell me you didn’t climb up there, because the others egged you on and you wanted to prove your courage.

He shakes his head glumly. It was my idea. I thought it would be romantic to look at the stars from up there.

Despite the tense situation I have to repress a smile. My big guy may be shy, but I suspect that this ever-so-sensitive boy will soon win the hearts of girls far easier than the rowdies who try to impress them with bragging and cockiness.

Soon after, Rouven’s parents arrive, as well as Saskia and Rebecca’s. I have my hands full to calm them down. I explain to them that Rouven’s injury isn’t serious, but they must take him to the hospital, so his wound can be stitched up, and because he might have concussion and slight hypothermia. The one thing I keep from them is the possibility of brain damage due to lack of oxygen supply. I don’t think it’s likely, and I’ll leave that to the doctors,

By the time Rouven and his parents are on their way to the hospital and the other children have taken a hot shower and put on dry clothes, it’s almost one a.m. That’s not how I had pictured our vacation, and now that I don’t have to worry about the boys any more, I’m getting really peeved. Everything was going just fine, and now the brats fuck up big time! When they try to apologize, I refuse to listen. Enough, I bark, more brusquely than intended. We’ll discuss it in the morning. Now off to bed with you!

I’m too worked up to sleep, so I get myself a can of coke, sit in a folding chair in front of the tents and try to straighten out the chaos in my mind. What the hell am I going to do with these two?

* * * * *

Despite the strenuous night we all wake up early. The kids look tired, and they worry about what’s going to happen to them, so they just shove a few spoonfuls of cornflakes into their mouths and leave the bowls half full on the table. I’m not hungry, either and have just a mug of coffee. Okay, Captain Pierce, time to get into battle.

Our camp site doesn’t offer much privacy, so I take Florian and Timo to the far end of the grounds where I saw an old dilapidated shed yesterday. Next to it an old rowing boat lies keel up. I indicate to the boys to sit on it and take a seat myself on a weathered chopping block in front of them.

Both of them have experienced the consequences of their nightly adventure first hand, and they are contrite even before I say a single word. I still do my best to paint a colorful picture of everything that could have happened on their dangerous climbing tour. I can literally see them getting more and more docile as I talk.

Fair is fair, I have to grant them at least how well they mastered the crisis. You did the right thing by keeping a level head and getting help. And Timo, it was very brave of you to get into the water to help Rouven. Maybe you saved his life by doing that. I am very proud of both of you.

That brings a smile to their faces even though they know they are in trouble up to their necks. But it doesn’t last long. But you do know this accident happened only because of your own recklessness, and on that score I’m really very disappointed in you guys.

I look Timo in the eye. Especially from you I’d have expected more common sense. I can see how that hit home and I almost regret I said it. Timo is pretty hard on himself anyway and, to be honest, I’m almost glad the boy loosened up a bit and sneaked out to meet with a girl. Sometimes I think he is growing up much too fast and if he doesn’t run riot every now and then, he might be going overboard with living his wild years catching up later on as an adult. I’d rather catch him doing some mischief now than having to peel him out of the wreck of a car with alcohol and drugs in his blood later.

I massage my brow to dissipate these dark thoughts and concentrate on the here and now. Patiently I listen to my sons’ copious apologies. I’m sure they’re not just telling me what I want to hear, their remorse sounds genuine. Still, I have to teach these miscreants a lesson. I look at them for a moment, sitting there next to each other, slumped, studying their feet. What am I to do with you, hm? I ask, unable to ban the frustration from my voice. If I have to worry that you might sneak off and get yourselves into danger, it’ll be best if we pack our things and drive home.

Immediately Florian’s head shoots up and his big blue eyes are pleading with me. No, don’t take us home. We are really sorry, and we promise to obey to the letter for the whole weekend. Please, Dad!

Timo remains silent and gazes at his shoes, but he surreptitiously wipes a hand over his eyes. I know how important this weekend is for him. It’s more than just a trip. Both of us have waited a long time for the chance to experience this little adventure together, and he wanted to show me what he is made of. He was so happy yesterday. I can’t bring myself to take that away from him. Besides I have to confess a little selfishness, because my family vacation would be stuffed, too. Do you really mean that? Because if we want to stay, I have to be a hundred percent sure that you won’t do such a stupid thing again.

Now Timo looks at me, too. We won’t! Promise, Jesse, he answers, and the look in his eyes tells me how serious he is.

Yes, really, scout’s honor! Florian confirms. I can see hope flashing up in two pairs of eyes.

Well, okay then, I release the two, who heave a sigh of relief.

Ok, that was the easy part. Even though they still hope to get away scot free, the brats know damn well what’s in store for them. It will be best for them and for me to get the punishment over with right away. They watch me nervously as I stand up. My hand goes to the waist of my shorts, but when my fingers brush the belt, I suddenly remember that I wear a fabric belt that won’t do to roast the butts of the two scoundrels.

Dammit, what do I do now? Don’t let on anything, you mustn’t make a fool of yourself in front of the kids now. To cover up my mistake I slide my hand into the pocket of my shorts, where I feel my pocket knife. Don’t move an inch, I command and vanish behind the shed, where trees and undergrowth grow exuberantly. I’m lucky to find a hazel bush that provides me with two thin branches I can trim with the knife to get two slim and whippy switches.

Timo and Florian’s gazes dart anxiously over the unknown implements. They wonder how much they will hurt. So far I’ve spanked Florian only with my hand, but Timo knows how much a belt can sting. Well, tough luck, buddy. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

Turn around, bend over and put your hands on the boat. But first drop your pants. Get on with it!

I get an irritated moan from my eldest, but he does as he is told. The little one follows my orders at a snail’s pace, and he already has tears in the corners of his eyes. Whenever he is in trouble, he is worried I won’t love him any more, so I put a reassuring hand on his shoulder and whisper. Come on, Flori, you’ll survive.

In no time I’m faced with two naked rear-ends sticking out, and now I’m the one who has to pull himself together. Get your ass into gear, Jesse, you have to do this. I put one of the switches aside, just in case, and bend the other one to test its flexibility. I am satisfied with it and move behind the boys.

The hazel switch whistles through the air, and Florian gets the first lick. He howls, looks back over his shoulder and complains. Ooooww, Dad, not so hard!

He hadn’t expected the thin branch would hurt this much, and I understand his reaction. I used to get whipped with one of those when I was their age, and I can remember very well how scared I was of a switching.

Before Timo can think too much about his own fate, I quickly give him a whack, too. He yowls like a dog whose tail was stepped on, and his body shoots up, before he gets a grip on himself and bends down again.

I alternate landing the strokes on the boys’ buns. They shift from one foot to the other and try to move their backsides at least a bit out of the firing line. But neither of the brothers wants to look like a crybaby in front of the other, so they try to suppress their cries of pain and endure their licks without making too much fuss.

It doesn’t take long until I can hear the first sniffles, though, and soon the floodgates are open with both of them. Now I can hear some loud ows or whimpering, when the switch hits their bottoms. Don’t go soft now, they have to learn their lesson. I try to ignore their reactions and give them another half dozen strokes each.

Even in the cool morning air my brow is dripping with sweat. The last few minutes have taken their toll on me just as much as on the children, who are crying without restraint and only stay in position for fear that otherwise the trip might be over. I look at the thin red stripes that cover their cheeks from top to bottom. That’s enough, at least for the little one. I put my hand on Florian’s back. That’s it, you can get dressed.

Timo stands up, too, but I stop him. I didn’t mean you. We haven’t quite finished yet, you and I.

Between two sobs he hurls defiance at me. No way, that’s not fair!

Florian is thunderstruck. He is still struggling with the pain and humiliation, and it scares him that his brother is starting a fight with me. For the moment I ignore Timo and give Florian a hug and rub his back. Everything’s fine, kiddo. I reassure him and he calms down a bit. Go wash your face and wait at the tents, all right? I give him a gentle push till he gets going and then literally takes to flight. Then I turn to Timo again.

He has pulled up his shorts in the meantime. His arms are crossed in front of his chest and his green eyes glare at me belligerently, despite his tear-stained face. I’m not sure yet how to react. I have to impress on that snotty-nosed brat who is in charge here, so much is clear. But I also want him to understand why he is being punished.

Come here, I order in my best commanding voice and shoot the little rebel a glance that tells him his backside will suffer if he doesn’t obey. Reluctantly he takes two steps towards me, so he stands right in front of me. I put both my hands on his shoulders and do my best to talk calmly but sternly to him.

You are older, and I expect you to be more responsible than your little brother.

It’s not my fault I’m older. We did the same thing, you can’t punish us differently, that’s not fair! He almost shouts those words at me, and by tightening my grip on his shoulders I show him my disapproval of his tone of voice. I struggle to keep my cool, because it’ll get us nowhere if I lose my temper now.

Maybe it is unjust that as the older one you have more responsibilities, but that’s the way it is, you’ll have to live with it. And don’t forget that your mother and I also give you more leeway than your little brother.

I search his face for a hint that my words are getting through to him, but I haven’t convinced him yet. You know I’m the captain, I tell him, referring to the nick-name my family dubbed me with because of my former rank in the army. And you are my lieutenant, my deputy who I can always count on. When I’m not around, you have to look out for Florian.

As usual Timo’s feelings are written all over his face, and I can recognize different emotions wrestling with each other. He is proud that I attribute to him such a position of trust, but he’s desperately unhappy, because he didn’t live up to my expectations. I loosen my grip and ruffle his brown scraggly hair with a sigh. Yet I don’t want to sugarcoat it. After all, he isn’t a small child any more. Even though the two of you may have your differences, I know you’d be the first to step into the breach to protect him. But yesterday you put not only yourself in danger, but also your little brother, didn’t you?

I can sense him tensing up, as if he were trying with his whole body to fend off the hard truth. His jaws are pressed firmly together, and fresh tears roll down his cheeks. Finally he gives a nod.

It breaks my heart to see him so downcast, all the more because I know how much he wants my appreciation. I’m sure you didn’t want anything to happen to anyone, you just didn’t think it through and did something silly. That could have ended really badly, but with a lot of luck it just turned out to be ok. You know how I see this. Everybody can make a mistake, that’s not the end of the world. But if you did something wrong, you have to bear the consequences, right? Again I get a tentative nod from him.

Then let’s settle this once and for all. After a brief tap on the shoulder I release Timo and pick up the abandoned switch.

It is hard for him to pull himself together and get into position again. He pulls his shorts und pants gingerly over the sore skin, and his legs tremble, as he bends over and rests his hands on the hull of the boat. I know, I’ve given him no choice, but I’m still impressed how bravely he takes his punishment.

At the sight of his red, welted cheeks I’m tempted to waive the rest of his whipping, but after the speech I just gave him, I can’t back off. Come on, Jesse, get it over with, quick, before you lose your nerve.

I aim at the upper part of his thighs that haven’t been affected yet and let the switch whistle down twice in quick succession. My big boy protests against the attack to this sensitive area with a squeal and stomps his feet. Directly below the two new stripes he gets another two licks. He whimpers and starts sobbing softly again.

After I have given him another four strokes spread out evenly over his butt I decide it’s enough. We’re done I say quietly and take a deep breath. I loosen my cramped grip around the switch and break it into several pieces that I throw into the undergrowth.

Timo turns his back towards me as he pulls up his pants, crying. I would love to take him into my arms and comfort him, but I know he isn’t ready for that at this stage. Without looking at me he vanishes around the corner of the shed and leaves me behind.

* * * * *

I consider heading back to the tents, but the thought of the boys’ tear-streaked faces makes me lose courage. An inner voice calls me a coward, but I talk myself into thinking it would be a good idea to go to the bakery and get some chocolate croissants as a peace offering.

When I get back, more than 45 minutes later, Florian is working on his own peace offering. The kettle on the gas cooker whistles softly, and mugs, spoons, tea bags and instant coffee are waiting on the table. Can you read minds? I ask, showing him the paper bag with the croissants and putting an arm around his shoulder. My little one is always very affectionate after we’ve had trouble, so he willingly allows me to cuddle him, even here in public.

The only remaining question is how to lure Timo out of the tent he’s holed up in. Good fortune provides me with a solution as I see Rouven and his parents driving by. Hey Timo, Rouven is back from hospital. Let’s go ask how he is doing.

Sure enough the tent zipper is opened, and my eldest appears. He looks a bit pale, and can’t bring himself to smile yet, but at least he has come out of his self-imposed exile.

It’s not just the three of us showing up to see how Rouven is doing. Saskia and Rebecca have turned up with their parents, too, and also a few curious neighboring campers. We learn that Rouven has a light concussion besides the cut on his brow and had to stay the night in the hospital for observation. Fortunately it’s nothing serious. Nevertheless he has to take it easy for a while, so his family wants to head for home. They thank me profusely for administering first aid, but they don’t forget, either, that it’s been the four young people who saved Rouven. The glowing praise embarrasses them quite a lot.

It is obvious that the night at the hospital left it’s marks on the parents, so I bring the gathering to an end by suggesting that we all could help taking down the tents and then leave the family to packing up their things.

Afterwards the boys and I enjoy our second breakfast. Florian prattles cheerfully, while Timo nibbles on his croissant in silence. I wonder if I’ll have to spend the next few days with a sulking teenager, but all of a sudden he pipes up timidly. Jesse? Can we go canoeing today?

Hooray, my lieutenant reports back for duty. Sure, Tiger. Great idea.

 

My Lieutenant, © No Way Out, 2017

 
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