Nathaniel Berringer placed some logs in the fireplace and within a short time he had a nice, warm, raging fire going. The cabin now flickered homey and comfortable within a golden glow. Although events were straining his emotional strings, Nate found himself humming softly, content with the feel of homespun quality around him. Nothing like a dog and boy around to make a man feel domestic, he mused to himself.
With a deep sigh filling his chest with renewed vigor and commitment, Nathaniel Berringer pulled Cody from the corner. Placing his arm around the smaller man's shoulders, he escorted him to the main event. It was more a gesture of camaraderie to an outside observer, a guiding arm to walk him across the room towards the sofa, perhaps to sit and chat.
However, the oak hairbrush in his right hand and the rolled up sleeves of his sweatshirt had Cody dragging his feet, unsure and unwilling. The events were confusing, to say the least, to the tired, guilt-encrusted brain. Occurrences registered differently on the exhausted soul's ability to comprehend. Even fear---real down-home fear---threw the Richter scale off a bit in the dead zone.
Nate turned the boy around to face him as they stood in front of the sofa. Taking the hairbrush he gently tapped it on the palm of the other hand, exaggerating its importance, calling Cody's full attention to this one detail.
"Did you do some thinking? Are you up to some questions and answers now?"
Cody slowly shook his head and Nate wondered if it was in negation to his questions or merely evidence of confusion, disbelief. This was Nate's future, but more importantly, the boys as well, and Nate wanted it to be an exercise of their communication skills. Some hidden corner of his heart was already tucking the boy in, shaping itself around the fragile figure before him; and although Berringer didn't want to examine his long-range plans for himself and Cody, he did want to proceed with the commitment he felt towards the boy.
Uncle Jim, an experienced guide and disciplinarian, always insisted on a certain ritualistic approach to punishment. More than once he told a very young and stubborn Nathaniel that there were many areas you could punish, but the bottom and its bosom buddy self-pride, were the two that tended to remember the lesson best. "It's a little easier to reach the most stubborn and proudest of rebels, boy, when their pants are around their ankles and their bare butts are awaiting action."
Although this reflection helped solidify the course Nate had chosen, it also sent a chill down his own guilty spine. Uncle Jim had issues to take to Nate's own sorrowful, self-image. He doubted any of his own explanations would deter the large and formidable figure from his own-patented brand of retribution.
Shaking his head, clearing his own mind of confusion and reflection, he put the brush down on the coffee table and grabbed the terry-cloth belt that held the robe tightly around the slight figure.
"It's quite warm in here and we're going to lose the robe, but I'll be warming you up quickly enough. I'd suggest we work on moving forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's been a long day for both of us." With that, Nate pulled the robe down and off of Cody's wiry frame.
Sitting down, he pulled the stunned boy once again over his knee. Reaching across the cushions, he gave Cody a throw pillow to hug and the boy pulled it towards him burying his face in it almost immediately.
"Let's start with the first and foremost question, Cody Blade, why are you so intent on dying?"
"It's my business. None of yours!" Cody wiggled testing the freedom allowed him.
Without hesitation, Nate smacked his huge palm down hard in six even strokes, blessing each cheek with the parity of a punishment well deserved. The white flesh bore his handprint like a fine-laced pattern, a watermark to verify authenticity of ownership. Nate nodded his head in satisfaction; he was branding the lost soul in more ways than even he wanted to admit.
Cody howled in outrage trying desperately to rise from his humiliating position. "Damn you! Damn you! Just let me be."
"Let's try again, think on it hard now. You know the penalty for wrong answers." Nate waited, letting the boy calm down a bit, adjust himself to the practiced routine.
"I just do. I just don't want to live anymore." Cody's voice hitched as the blatant realization of that untruth hit him full force in the face.
"Nope, that answer shows no thought, no true studying of the issues. Sorry," Nate apologized half-heartedly as he peppered the upturned bottom with another round of a dozen well-placed swats.
Cody screamed and started a string of cuss words that had Nate shaking his head.
"Fucking bastard, prick, dickhead, asshole, sticking your fucking nose where it don't belong," Cody's foolish attempts at grand eloquence had Nate laughing. Recalling his own pathetic stance at holding the upper hand with Uncle Jim, he knew the stages of rebellion and he knew the sign of the fall. That Cody would fall, there was no doubt in Berringer's mind, he was fragile, frail of spirit, and totally confused, mucking up all clear thought processes with the one rote thought of dying.
"Time somebody kissed you, Sleeping Beauty, and made you wake up. Life is important and it deserves some thought. Simple excuses you're throwing at me show me you haven't given your own life its due. I don't like the flippancy with which you seem to make these life-ending decisions."
Nate pulled the hips in towards his own firm belly and laid on another dozen strikes, warming the flesh now to a red and rosy glow. Cody started kicking his bare legs, throwing a tantrum of denial. "You've no right. Stop it!"
"Let's clarify rights here, boy. You're dead or least ways I see it, you pretty much belong to me. Remember, you'd be dead right now if it weren't for me and Bear and dead men don't have any rights, they just don't need them."
"I'm not dead. I'm not dead because of you and your fucking dog," Cody spat out, pounding his fists against the pillow.
"Call me anything you want right now," Nate said as he started a slow and deliberate assault of flesh, "but don't use such language when talking about Bear." Cody moaned and buried his face in the pillow, trying to hide from the barrage of painful spanks, but he couldn't help himself. Tears scorched his eyes as he fought to be hostile and brave.
"I'm sorry, I don't mean it about the dog," Cody yelled out, trying for negotiation. "Only you," the boy added so sincerely.
Nate laughed, he couldn't help it. Teams were formed and Cody cared for the dog as much as Bear gave himself to the boy. If the kid were in denial, he would interpret all actions of Nate's now through a warped and distorted glass, much like a fun house. The kiss in the shower---revenge; the spanking---punishment for the trouble he put Nate through; comfort and sympathy---merely guilt that would plague Berringer when the deed was done.
"I'm going to tell you something, Cody, that I want you to remember. Do you remember Hamlet"?
"What is this, a fucking English exam?" The hot anger tossed over the kid's shoulder made it evident that the boy was far from the steps of surrender.
Nate let fall four extremely hard slaps to the soft sit spot area that connects buttocks to thigh. A screech of pain filled the cabin and Nate only hoped Bear wasn't getting too distraught.
"Again, do you remember Hamlet?"
"Yes, I remember the fucking play."
"Hamlet says to his mother, 'seems madam, I know not seems.' I want you to remember that. Things are not always what they seem when you're not thinking clearly, and you, Cody Blade, you're not thinking clearly, but that's what this is all about. Bringing you back into the land of the living, putting the lights on around you so you can see things a bit more like they really are." Nate stopped while he gave the short lecture, rubbing his hand gently across the heated flesh. The bottom rose involuntarily meeting the embrace, seeking comfort in any shape or form.
Pulling Cody up, his tear-stained cheeks reddened and glistening, Nate draped the red robe around his shoulders. "Don't bother putting it back on, we're not done yet, but I think you need to concentrate on that one question and that one question only."
Nate pushed the complacent boy into the nearest corner by the sofa. "Think on it, why do you want to die? We're going for round two, the lightening round, and I need you on your toes."
The dejected figure slumped in the corner, the red robe draped over his shoulders making him look like a lightweight boxer sent to the ropes for time out by the referee. Nate walked quickly to the front door and slowly opening it he peered out at the Jeep Cherokee. No sign of the large dog. He was no doubt zonked out on the back seat lost in rabbit romps and food forages.
Nate poured himself a cup of coffee and a tall glass of orange juice for Cody. Setting his mug on the coffee table, he put the juice next to it. Watching the sobbing boy's shoulders shake, he felt a slight finger of doubt pull slowly down his spine. How many times had he himself resided in lonely exile in the corner, fighting with all his might and every last ounce of reserve against Uncle Jim's determined efforts to reach him. Pulling someone back from the edge took patience and miracles didn't happen overnight---this he knew---but sometimes you had to act harshly, quickly and indefatigably to salvage a damaged soul. Cody was too close to losing.
"Come here," Nate finally said.
Cody didn't move, he started crying all the harder and leaning forward into the corner he let his shoulder's slump as though he were trying to squeeze his entire five-foot-eight inch frame into the angled area.
Rising slowly, Nate crossed the distance in three even strides. Placing his large hands on Cody's shoulders he spun the boy around. The green eyes were red and swollen; a swampland of hurt as fresh tears now pooled toppling the red-rimmed borders of the lost world.
"Tell me, boy, just talk to me. I want to help you. You need help and I'm here for you."
The lower lip trembled and dropped as though opening the door slightly, testing the waters, then he shook his head, slowly at first, then violently, "NO! NONONONONONONONO!"
Shaking him slightly, Nate pulled the chin up and made eye contact. "Stop it, Cody. It's time for some positive steps forward." Nate continued to watch as the tears streamed full force down the chapped cheeks, raw from the chafing river and now the salty tears. "Meet me half way, please." Nate hated the pleading in his voice, but chords inside of him were being pulled taut and he was hurting for the boy.
Cody only dropped his eyes and shook his head, slightly, still trapped by Nate's strong fingers.
A heavy sigh escaped Nate's lips as he led the boy towards the sofa. Pushing him down gently, he watched as the eyes squeezed shut upon contact with the hard leather. "Here," Nate handed him the glass of orange juice. "Drink this."
Cody held the glass with both hands like a man dying of thirst. Gulping down the refreshing drink he replenished the much-needed fluids. Nate sipped his own coffee and thought about what would happen next, hoping with all his heart that Cody could be saved.
When both containers were empty, Nate stood up and took the glass and mug to the sink. Washing them immediately, as was his habit, he could feel the boy's eyes on him.
It was time to proceed and Cody knew this round wouldn't be over with until one of them gave in. He watched the large man move around the kitchen, busily tidying up. No doubt trying to delay the proceedings, Cody thought to himself, as much as I would like to. The thought struck him as insightful and he gave the large Viking a second look over. This man had been nothing but concerned and caring since he had found Cody on the edge of life, teetering over the deep abyss of nothingness. He was in so many ways like the men his dad hung out with. Memory pierced him sharply recalling the only other time he had been to this cabin. Cody didn't remember their names, that wasn't important, but he remembered their inclusion of him in all conversation, all activities. He had liked each and every one of them, although the large man, the one he called Behemoth, had scared the bejeebies out of him. He remembered how his dad and the Behemoth had seemed close, like they were the oldest and best of friends. Cody's final reflection about the events of that weekend was if he would ever have a friend like that.
The large man stood next to him looking down, hands on his hips, he measured Cody. Coming to some conclusion, he sighed. Reaching down he pulled the stunned boy up.
"Please," Cody mumbled, fresh tears glistening in his eyes.
"It has to be," Nate said sadly. "Your life is on the line."
Pulling the robe once again from Cody's shoulders he tossed it on the arm of the sofa, ready when the boy needed wrapping and comforting. Nate looked longingly at it, hoping it wouldn't lie there too long.
Sitting down, he hardly gave the young man a moment to pull away, as he brought him down swiftly over his knee, but this time he pulled the throw pillow onto his lap as the boy landed a belly flop onto the cushion. Cody's bottom now rose higher, spreading his legs into a vulnerable V, exposing virgin patches of white. The boy noticed the precarious position and groaned audibly as he tried to push back, perhaps ease his butt lower towards Nate's knees and the sofa.
Nate was having none of it, as he clamped a hard arm across Cody's lower back, pushing him deep into the fulcrum. Bending forward slightly he grabbed the oak hairbrush and laid is gently on the reddened bottom.
"NO! Please, not that," fear overrode the tough facade.
"Depends on the answers I get," Nate said gently, "you just need to tell me why."
"CAUSE I WANT TO BE DEAD!" Cody screamed out, angrily. "I WANT TO BE FUCKING DEAD...GONE!"
"Not a reason, Cody, just a foolish wish."
If Cody thought Nate's hand hurt, he couldn't believe how much the oak wood stung against his already painful flesh. When Nate had started the spanking, Cody was numbed by his own lifeless existence, but the more Nate asked him about dying, the more Nate spanked him into small regions of pain, he was coming awake and alive in ways he had forgotten these past six months.
Twenty-four soundly resonating whacks filled the confines of the cabin with the harmonious blend of sobs and groans. Nate tried to focus on new areas of untouched flesh and concentrated intently on the centered globes as they creviced, rising high upon the cushioned pedestal.
"Why, Cody, why do you want to die?" Nate repeated the mantra.
The blond head nuzzled into the leather sofa as Cody's hands pounded weakly nearby trying to ease the stinging sensation in his lower region. Nate waited, unsure if he had the boy's attention. "Why?"
"Cause I'm dead inside. I've been dead for so long." He hiccuped several times, confused by his admissions. "I don't really want to die." This was added almost in a whisper and Nate wasn't sure he heard him right."
"What did you just say?" he clarified.
"I DON'T WANT TO DIE!" Cody screamed out, hating himself for admitting it. Hating the fact that he was eager to do something he didn't really want to do. Scared by his admissions of confusion, he hated Nate right now for digging so deeply.
"I just have to. Nothing left. Nothing in me anymore." Cody collapsed, easing his hips forward into the cushion, limp and lifeless over Nate's lap.
Berringer reached out a comforting hand and started rubbing the thin back, easing his hand up and down in gentle strokes along the spinal column. "I don't want you to either, Cody Coleson Blade, so we're going to make sure you come back."
The next round took the boy's breath away. Kicking his feet out instinctively he soon had the other throw pillow on the floor. "There's pain in dying, boy, pain for the one who goes and pain for those left behind. You need to get used to pain if dying is the only thing on your mind."
Cody bellowed in outrage, angered by the logic thrown back at him, hammered onto his already sore butt. "Dying is easy. Dying takes away the pain. There's peace." Cody threw back his own logical approach to life and death.
"Well, we're going to make dying very painful for you, young man. Every time you think about it, every time you talk about it, every time you look at me with those lost eyes, hollow and barren like a black hole, I am going to bring pain into your life. Pain is going to be harsh and red and alive in your world."
"Damn you! I hate you!" Cody wailed.
"That's fine, I can live with that. Just treat me with respect and treat the dog well and we'll get on just fine. Tomorrow," Nate continued as he brought the brush down full force on the burnished bottom, "we talk about your duties and responsibilities. We write out some rules for you to live by. It might take awhile to get you on some track where you can meet the day with a sense of purpose and enthusiasm." Nate let four extra hard smacks resound off the sit spot. "YES! I did say enthusiasm. You will wake up with a sense of anticipation and joy in time."
"No I won't," Cody argued. "You can't change the way things are. No one can."
Nate stopped the assault, his arm growing tired. He looked for any signs of bruising along the glowing flesh. Cody needed more work. He wasn't giving in easily.
"Don't fight me on this. You can't afford to fight me, boy. You're too close to dropping off the world and I can't let that happen."
"I just don't have the strength to fight anymore," Cody finally was channeling, finally trying to find the words to express himself. Step number one in bringing him out of the gloom.
Nate smiled to himself and trailed a fine line up the boy's spine. Cody seemed impervious to the sensation. No doubt still dead in regions where passion ruled.
"It won't come overnight, I'm not promising you miracles, but together we can build you a safety net. There will be things creeping slowly into your life, day to day, that will bring you small pockets of joy, happiness. You need to write them down, look forward to them every day, seek them out."
"I can't. I just don't want to. I don't want to do anything, but die." Cody was still at the pity party, hosting while he was coasting downward towards the bottom.
"Okay, I can see you need more work," Nate said raising the hairbrush again for a renewed assault. "Positive, Cody. Not I can't. Not I don't want to," Nate punctuated every thought with a sharp smack to the boy's buttocks, deepening the shading now to maroon. "I want I will, I can, I am alive and I want to live."
"Let me hear you say it, Cody. Let us both hear how it sounds on your lips." Nate spanked all the harder.
Cody screamed now for all he was worth, there was pain, not the dull pain that was coming through his hollowed out shell before, but deep, agonizing, searing pain that burned his flesh with stinging strikes. He kicked out trying to buck off the cushion and dislodge Nate from his comfortable perch, but his attempts were futile. He was trapped, a captive audience to a performance about life and the will to live.
"Say it, Cody. Just try it on your lips." Nate coaxed, softly, resting the brush on the boy's white thighs.
"I WANT TO LIVE!" Cody screamed. "Damn you! Damn You! I don't want to die." Cody's body slumped forward, like a sinewy vine cut from it's roots, he wilted across the large man's knees.
Nate recognized the signs of capitulation. Not a major victory, but a win for the night. A time to pull the boy in now and offer him comfort, ease him into a deep and dreamless sleep, the sleep that replenished and healed.
Throwing the hairbrush on the coffee table, Nate pulled Cody up, tossing the pillow on the floor. Holding the weak and wobbly figure steady he reached down and tucked the loose limbs in the sleeves, belting the robe tightly around the sobbing boy.
He sat down swiftly easing the compliant figure onto his lap. Cody's sobs hitched as his enflamed bottom made contact with Nate's hard thighs. The large man adjusted him, easing the tender region back off the perch, putting the weight upon the less abused thighs.
"It's all right, Cody. It's going to be all right. We'll take it one step at a time. You did good today. You've made progress." He rocked the slender figure slowly back and forth, speaking words of encouragement and faith, holding the boy close in a safety harness of caring.
"It's going to be rough going at times. It's hard work and I will make you work at it, but you'll see, you'll see, Cody Coleson Blade, there is a reason to live." Looking down at the golden head now resting against his shoulder, Nate heard the steady even breathing of slumber. Resting his chin on Cody's head he closed his eyes, wishing for things he didn't dare wish for, hoping for a happiness he too had given up on.
Tomorrow would be a long and hard day for the both of them, but they had purpose and routine ahead of them. Nate didn't doubt that Cody would learn every nook and cranny of the cabin by evening tomorrow, and he didn't doubt that his bottom would be a global disaster angrier and hotter than Mars, but it would be the hard, painful steps of progress.
Picking the small bundle up, he felt a sense of pride as the boy threw his arms around his neck. Moving slowly, he took the car keys and went outside, still harboring the sleeping figure.
As he approached the Cherokee, Nate peeked carefully inside. The large, black Newfoundland lay on his side, huge paws hanging over the seat, the red fire hydrant on the floor. Nate unlocked the doors and opened them. Bear came awake instantly at the intrusion, but happily dropped his tongue in a panting greeting.
Nate placed his finger to his lips and "shhh'd" the large dog. Never feeling ridiculous, Nate had learned early on in his relationship with Bear that the dog understood him a little too well.
"Come on, Bear," Nate whispered. Cody nuzzled deeper into his shoulder, totally exhausted.
Bear hesitated, it was a drop off again---huge chasm that required strength, fortitude, and cunning; the soulful eyes looked up at Nate for assistance. The huge brown eyes questioning his best friend. "Help me out here."
Nate laughed, "Come on you, big baby, it's just two-three feet at most. You jumped into a damn river off a fifteen foot bank."
Bear whimpered as he danced from paw to paw. Stooping, still holding his bundle close, Nate picked up the fire hydrant and tossed it towards the cabin door. Bear moved like a heat-seeking missile towards target, not even stopping to christen the night, he picked up the toy and happily went indoors.
Locking the Cherokee, Nate carried his burden inside, locking the door. Switching off the lights, he entered the bedroom and laid Cody, still encased in the red robe, beneath the covers. Stripping quickly, he stepped over the large dog. Bear had taken to lying at the foot of the bed since Cody had taken up residence on his side next to Nate, but the dog didnít seem to mind all that much. The protective position at the footboard gave him his own air of authority and responsibility in the Saving Time project.
Easing himself beneath the covers, Nate stared up at the ceiling. Doubts flickered across his mind, much as the light from the living room fire shadowed and sparked through the open doorway. Was he handling this right? How long could he keep the boy under his watchful eye 24/7? When was it time to call the master of the mind into the game? Soon, Nate guessed, it would be out of his hands.
Cody shifted, groaning miserably as his bottom rubbed the terry cloth. Lost in some world of foggy darkness, he felt a presence in the night. Easing slowly outward, unsure of what or whom he was reaching towards, he sought the warmth. A strong arm pulled him in and in the other world, the world that offers the comfort of deathís other kingdom, Cody Blade contentedly found a pocket of peace.
Well, should I end it here? Do you want to meet Uncle Jim? Let me know
There's a soft light and it's shining bright
And I'm drifting miserably from the night
It's a slow rock to a cuckoo clock
And it's more than just a tick tock
It's a hard beat, like drumming feet
And I feel myself awaking---For there is no more forsaking
It's a rough ride and I've little pride
As a hard man pulls me to his side
It's a love call from my free fall
And a hard chest as a blocking wall
There's a hard sound setting me on firm ground
And I see myself alive again---And I know my soul is on the mend.
It's a rough ride and I'm back in stride
And it's life or death and I must decide
It's a basic need and I'm filled with greed
As he plants in me a yearning seed.
There's a loving soul who can give me a goal
And I know someone cares for me---And I've found a reason just to be.
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