Category Archives: Children

A Very Long Walk

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

It was another cool, crisp and clear late Autumn afternoon, the kind Krista loved to go walking in. She followed the riding trail down to the edge of the Maskua river as it meandered through the low lying lands of this agricultural community. As she walked she noticed the oaks and maples had less leaves on them and the colours were reluctantly fading. Denuded tops allowed lopsided windows into a pale, clear, blue sky.

Many thoughts flowed through her mind. She knew she had it good as her home-based business only required a few hours a day to keep going and she enjoyed it. The two children, Toby, now thirteen, was in Middle school and Trina was finishing her high school. Both children were quiet as a rule and caused her little problems. Both were somewhat introverted and had few close friends, something she did not mind at all.

Her thoughts turned to her husband Dan on his last year of duty in Afghanistan. One short moment of trepidation, then she reasserted herself. He would be coming back, of that she was certain. She had vowed to herself never to dwell on the possibility that he could become a casualty of war. ‘Not in my reality’ she said often with total conviction. ‘Do you still love him?’ a small, nasty little inner voice taunted. ‘With all my heart and soul’ she replied truthfully. Krista, though still very attractive and not without admirers and opportunities, was the completely faithful partner. She would never stray.

She carefully skirted the muddy pools that remained in the trail all winter in the shadier spots and kept walking. She heard crows cawing but not using the excited voices when discovering a sleepy great horned owl or a red-tailed hawk. She heard ducks and geese on the river but could not sight the stream yet. There was much brush where she passed and one more little rise before she could see the meandering river reflecting the blue sky from shore to shore.

She saw a page from a note book crumpled and stuck in some blackberry brambles. She thought of reaching for it but decided against it. ‘Whatever is written on there, none of my business,’ she said to herself and kept walking. You could say she was observant but not overly curious.

She saw something else in another tangle, a grey and blue baseball cap. ‘That’s a team cap from Trina’s high school! Must have flown off a rider’s head or been brushed off by a low-lying branch and the owner chose not to come back for it. Oh well… her or his loss. Maybe they’ll come back for it later.’

She had topped the rise then and saw the river. She stopped to admire it – her favourite place in the entire walk. She had had many a good mother to daughter talk with Trina on this spot. The current was sluggish now and reflections of dark spruce and bare poplars cast mesmerizing shadows in the waters of the far bank. She moved her head slowly to the movements of the inverted tree dance trying to find a tune in her head to go with it.

Something unusual brought her to look closer to her side of the river. There was a piece of cloth floating down there, of blue and white coloration. It looked like it was caught on a branch. This time her curiosity was aroused and she worked her way to the edge of the water for a better look.

That’s when she realized she wasn’t looking at a piece of cloth but at the body of a drowned person. She saw long hair floating off from the submerged head and a white hand bobbing in and out from the surface. She gave a gasp, but instead of screaming as she wanted to do, she plunged into the stream and waded in the freezing water that came to her breasts by the time she reached the body of a young woman.

She tugged and pulled and finally untangled the body and dragged it to the shore, turning it over to look into its face…

“Oh God, Trina! What have you done? I told you he wasn’t worth it! You promised me it was over.”

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The Simplicity and Power of Innocence

[short story, by Sha’Tara]

“Come over here, look down in the garden. Listen.”

The older woman sitting in the rocking chair gets up slowly and holding on to her cup of tea, comes over and looks. In the garden a small child, a girl, is playing among rows of carrots and beets. She holds a doll in one arm and as she passes her free hand over the carrot tops, she addresses her doll,

“We can’t pull these up yet you know, they haven’t grown enough. Just like you, they are just too young. But it’s OK to caress their hair, they like that. When the sun goes down you and I will water them, just like my momma says.  I’m your momma now, so you have to do what I tell you, see?”

The two women at the open window can hear every word the child speaks to her doll. The woman who had been standing at the window watching the child has tears in her eyes.

“Did you hear, Ellie? She called me her momma. I have a child, finally.  She needs me and she trusts me. Isn’t that amazing?”

The older woman replies, “It is amazing in a way Viv, yet not. Where would the child be now if you hadn’t taken her off the streets when you did last year?  And how could you not? As you so graphically described it to me then, you found her sitting on the ground beside a garbage can, holding her dead mother’s hand and crying, begging her mother to wake up. Dear God Viv, who would not be moved by such a sight and such a need?”

“And yet Ellie, what I did, what I am doing, is illegal! All I know of her family is that her mother died of a drug overdose and there was no record of a child. The fringe dwellers, Ellie.  The homeless, the lost and forgotten. What a terrible, unconscionable mess we are making of everything.”

But out of that mess is that child, Viv.”

“I know. Yet for several days after I took the child in I was filled with blind hatred for her mother.  How could she?  How could a mother choose her own lusts over the needs of her child, if indeed it was her child? So I told myself the girl wasn’t hers but a waif she had been paid to look after. Who knows?

“Now I worry. What happens when I have to report her to the authorities if or when she needs medical attention? When she has to attend school? God, look at her.  Just look at that beautiful innocence. Will they let me keep her? Adopt her? I’m so scared Ellie. Even if I can comfortably support both of us on my income, I live alone and I am forty-five years old! How can I guarantee I can keep her?”

“You worry too much Viv. Not all bureaucrats are heartless creeps. We must, we will, find people familiar with this sort of situation who will be empathetic and able to help with the legal difficulties. I’m not without means either, Viv. I know people and when you are ready to go public, as I assured you a year ago, I will be there for you.

“If everything else fails, I have worked out a plausible scenario for us all.  If they won’t let you adopt her, Nicholas and I will. We’ve discussed it and he’s in full agreement. Then we will become one family and you will have her.  She will take your name, live with you and we will continue to be grandpa and grandma. You will always be her mom. Do you see a problem with that?”

Viv wipes her face, sighs and taking her eyes away from “her” child, turns to face her old friend. “No one could have a better friend than you, Ellie. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Yes, I have been, I am, I will be your good friend. But when we register her, what shall we call her?”

I’ve been calling her Nicole. She seems to have a particular attachment to that name. It could even be her real name.”

A Touch of Home

[a short story –  by Sha’Tara

“Beautiful day, huh?” The slim brunette in the sleeveless black pantsuit doesn’t even look at Steven as she pours the coffee into the ornate, obviously home-made mug and hands it to him, taking his “toonie”[*] and two quarters for payment. He waves the change and walks to the window, to the only small table left unoccupied. He sips the hot dark roast and scans through his paper.

As many experts at reading the once bulky commercial dailies will tell you, there’s a certain art to this, one I’ve never bothered learning. You don’t actually read news or stories. You go through it page by page taking mental notes of relevant items to get into later. You skip the fashion, cars and trucks, and entertainment or sports sections if these are not your thing. Later, during your next break or back at home, you attack the pieces you hope will hold your interest long enough to provide a “shift” or a time of forgetting.

“Mind if I sit here?” A tall man in a grey suit points at the only seat left in the entire Java Hut coffee house.

“Not at all.” Steven points to the empty rattan chair. “I don’t own the place although at the prices they charge here I should have shares in it by now.”

The tall man sits down, puts his paper cup down. “If you don’t like these prices why don’t you go to Tim Horton’s down the street?”

“And do line-ups? I value my time. Beside I like to be able to taste coffee, not just hot water and sugar.”

“Ah, the very reason I frequent this establishment. Interesting mug you have there. Your own, obviously?”

“You’re either a lawyer or an investigator, sir!”

The grey suit laughs. “I do a bit of both actually; lawyering and sleuthing that is. I have a traffic case at 11:00 today as a matter of fact. Can’t really discuss it, you understand. But that mug is fascinating. It has a story: I can almost hear it speak.”

“A touch of home, sir, uh, ah?”

“Sorry. Al. My name is Albert Delisle, attorney at law and at large.” He laughs again and extends a strong tanned hand, impeccably manicured. Steven extends his and the handshake is firm, almost too eager; the grip of a professional golfer.

Steven continues, “I’ve had this mug for twelve years now as of yesterday. My daughter Katherine made it in a pottery class she was taking as an extra-curricular activity in her last year of school…” Steven stops talking and holds the fading white odd-shaped mug with both hands, hands of a man old before his time. Tears begin to flow from his eyes and the lawyer touches his arm.

“Sorry to stir up painful memories my friend, uh… no, don’t tell me your name. You must be Steven Baillie.”

Steven appears shaken and startled by the mention of his name from someone he’s never met. “That’s right. That’s my name. How did you know…?”

The lawyer stops him. “Sorry to startle you as well as upset you. If you tell me the story of this mug I’ll explain how I know your name.”

“Ah, yes. Twelve years ago my wife Jean went to pick up our daughter Susan at school to take her shopping for a grad dress. On their way home after shopping a drunk driver ploughed into the mini van. His vehicle, an old Ford 4×4 was totaled but he was thrown clear and didn’t get a scratch. My wife, they said, died on impact. Susan lived for one month of pure agony afterwards but the burns were too deep… The only thing that survived from the wreck and the inferno of the mini van was this mug. She was bringing it home for me after cleaning out her locker.”

“I’m so terribly sorry sir,” says the lawyer. “The driver of the other vehicle, his name was Gerry Felton?”

“Yes. That was his name. But how can you know this, or remember these details after such a long time?”

“Research. The man I’m defending today is that same driver. He’s charged with running over an old woman crossing the street in the dark, killing her instantly. He was driving while under the influence of alcohol and a mixture of prescription drugs. These details are in your paper.”

“I know. That’s an article I’ve been reading every day for twelve years.”

[Note: a “toonie” is a Canadian $2 coin]

Conversation at the Bus Stop

[short story dialogue  by Sha’Tara]

“Wish you’d go weird out on someone else. I’d really like to be left alone now and I think that’s my bus coming.”

“I like to think about things, then I like to talk about things with someone else. You seemed like a proper someone else. That’s not your bus Rita. That bus is going down Main street to the mall, not Hazel down to townhouse row. Two more buses, then yours.”

“I didn’t tell you where I live. I didn’t even tell you my name. What’s going on here?”

“What’s going on is, I’m bored and when I’m bored I start looking around and playing little games. Your name and address are on your iPhone, Rita. If you don’t want all your data mined from your phone, entertain me. Talk to me.”

“My name isn’t Rita, so you got that wrong!”

“Agreed, it’s Margarita, and you positively hate that name. Everybody knows you as Rita.”

“So what are you, some sort of super-spy? Homeland Security detail? What am I supposed to be then, a Mexican spy?”

“Yeah, you’re spying on our Tequila stocks to make sure there are no worms in them.”

“I thought there were supposed to be worms in Tequila?”

“No. That’s Mescal, a cheap, low quality drink made from infested plants. If your Tequila has worms in it, it isn’t Tequila but Mescal. I guess you’re not a Mexican spy.”

“Great deduction, Sherlock.”

“Do you watch people Rita? Observe their antics? Wonder about their lives, what’s with them, what’s not. Dreams? Happiness quotient?”

“Yeah, I observe three people: me, myself and I. I try to make sure we get along most of the time.”

“Where two’s company, three’s a crowd. Are you a crowd, Rita?”

“OK, so you know my name. Now I think I’ve earned the right to know yours.”

“I’m agent 666. I’m from the bureau – you know the one.”

“Oh sure, totally. Aren’t you guys, and I didn’t know there were more than one, supposed to go around in a black robe wearing a hoodie and carrying a sickle or something?”

“I’m disappointed in you, Rita. Scythe, not sickle. The black robe and hoodie, that’s just drama stuff. I like wearing comfortable stuff and not standing out so much. You see, with all the violence in your society these days you’d be seeing us everywhere, all the time. After a while the novelty wears off and nobody cares. Remember the Black Death?”

“Say what?”

“The great plague, or whatever you want to call it. We were everywhere then but it was a time of super, super, superstition, so people thought we were hallucinations, or claimed we were, otherwise the Church would have had them burned at the stake, if you get my meaning.”

“Why should I remember something like that?”

“Well, it’s called past lives remembrances. Also it’s history.”

“Never cared much for that. I mean, who cares, right? People die all the time. Wars, mass shootings, Aids, plagues, what’s that other word for mass murder when your neighbours y’all got along with suddenly show up at your door in the middle of the night with a machete and start hacking at you and your family, that sort of stuff?”

“Genocide?”

“Yeah, I suppose.

“Yeah, that sort of stuff. Well we’re always around then too but not everyone can actually see us. It’s more like they can sense us and it takes the will to live from them. Remember the millions exterminated by the Nazis during the second world war?”

“No, but yeah, heard about that. Shit happens, right?”

“It’s a bit more than that Rita. What I meant to say was, these millions, if they’d realized how many they were they could have fought back and taken over all the camps and work sites. But they didn’t see themselves as a force to be reckoned with because they feared their bully masters, see? They “knew” they were going to die, so they just let it happen. Happens everywhen and everywhere, even today. Less and less will to fight to live, more a desire to run, to escape, to find safety and security but of course there is none, nowhere, if you don’t make it for yourself. But the fight’s gone out of most people. They feel entitled to life and as a result they just die or trust their leaders which is even worse than dying.”

“So, like, you’re trying to take the will to live from me then? And by the way, how come I can see you?”

“You don’t know much, do you Rita? Not much curiosity and not much of an attention span either I see. You can see me because I’m visible, not because you’re any kind of special. I want you to see me, so you see me.”

“Why? Am I dying?”

“Everybody’s dying, Rita, don’t you know that by now? Everything that’s born is born to die and the moment you are born you start dying. We’re the collectors and I daresay you keep us rather busy.”

“Gross!”

“Oh, an opinion! You should be careful with that, it could give you a heart attack, or at least a serious headache. Then you’d blame me and insist that you’re dying. Do you like living, Rita? Do you like your life?

“Why do I sense that’s a trick question?”

“Because it is?”

“I serve meals in a fast food outlet. How exciting is that?”

“So, you don’t like your life, then?”

“No I don’t. I’d do just about anything to get off this treadmill.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously, what do you think?”

“I can make that happen.”

“Oh yeah? How?”

“Come on Rita, you can’t be that dense. How do you think?”

“What? You mean, like, I just die?”

“Well that’s a matter of speaking. You wouldn’t actually die, Rita, you’re already dead. You died some years ago.”

“I did? How so? I feel quite alive right now.”

“Remember that time when a friend was going to Tanzania to work as a volunteer nurse in an orphanage and she asked you to go with her? To be her assistant? Remember toying with the idea, only all you could think about was how it would affect you? Did you even think about those kids you would have been able to help?”

“Well sure but…”

“Whoah, you can’t lie to me Rita; maybe to yourself, but not to me. It was all about you and because of that you didn’t go. That’s when you died Rita. You had been summoned and you did not answer the call. That’s what happens to people. That’s why they die. That’s why we’re so busy all the time.

“Come along now, don’t worry about your body, they’ll get rid of it. I need to extract your soul now.”

“Will that hurt?”

“No, you can’t feel a thing any longer.”

Nothing is more deceptive than an obvious fact” – Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   ]

This morning there’s a burning in my heart to express something, but it wasn’t until I received the following in my mail that I realized where I was walking once again.

Quote: “Despair is the state in which anxiety and restlessness are immanent to existence. Nobody in despair suffers from “problems”, but from his own inner torment and fire. It’s a pity that nothing can be solved in this world. Yet there never was and there never will be anyone who would commit suicide for this reason. So much for the power that intellectual anxiety has over the total anxiety of our being! That is why I prefer the dramatic life, consumed by inner fires and tortured by destiny, to the intellectual, caught up in abstractions which do not engage the essence of our subjectivity. I despise the absence of risks, madness and passion in abstract thinking. How fertile live, passionate thinking is! Lyricism feeds it like blood pumped into the heart! ― Emil M. Cioran, On the Heights of Despair – 1933)

Some of us exist as bog fires. We burn, winter and summer and we are impossible to extinguish. Why? Because no one understands the source of our fire.

In fact, I don’t understand it either, it just is. Perhaps I should use the term “burning bush” because the more we burn, the more we have to burn. Nothing is consumed. No entropy here, quite the opposite. The world and its desires may well pass away, over and over, but this struggling thing I call “me” remains, dies, returns, again and again.

Why? If ‘nothing can be solved in this world’ (see above quote) why return? In those nebulous times in-between endless strings of lives, do we forget? Do we re-arrive here all innocent, a tabula rasa, having no remembrances of having walked through vales of tears and mountains of glory, in bare feet or harsh armour? Of hunger and surfeit? Of enslavement and mastery?

Passing through, surviving (to what end?) and perhaps fixing a few little things, I know I will not solve, nor resolve any of this world’s major and obvious problems. For those solutions I must defer to greater aspects of life than me. When I was young and my fire burned on the surface I would not have accepted this truth but now that I have gone underground and the burning is steady and controlled, I realize it is how it should be. I am not the conscience of this world, or any world or reality. Suffice that I am my own and that I have the power within myself, finally, to understand how to control that tiny part of all that is.

As Victor Frankl wrote: “Who would bring light must endure burning” Passion is burning. Some time back, feeling my burning, I wrote the following. Perhaps another in similar pain will receive validation; take comfort from these words, they are not empty utterances:

Where Hope fails Despair will Serve
[a poem by ~burning woman~ ]
There, I’ve shown you:
No hope, no hope left
Not for you, not for them.
Your children are dying
Don’t you see? Are you blind?
I’ve taken away every strand
Of your pitifully weak hope
And what can you do now
But admit my power,
And bow to the inevitable, to me?

She looks upon her foe as he gloats over her,
She turns and stares ahead
At a land stretching before her tired eyes
Dark, menacing, parched, dead.
She hears the incomprehensible,
The language of the damned, tortured screams
Rise from places she cannot name.

She looks down at the children
Cowering at her bloody feet
Whimpering, hungry, frightened,
Shivering in their bits of rags;
Her own clothes in no better shape.
She feels the hollowness
Of her own body and tired mind
Dragging her down to yield,
To sleep and to forget.

This must be the end she reasons once again,
And I’ve been misled, lied to, to take this way
Try to lead the children and find a way of escape:
I cannot go further; I have nothing left.

Her enemy laughs again.
You’re done then, hey?
Say yes, give up, give up!

“No!” she says turning to face him,
Her cracked lips bleeding:
This isn’t our end, this is our beginning.
Hope there may no longer be;
No comfort may be waiting
When we walk from here but know this:
Where hope fails, as it often must,
There is always despair.

Rousing the children
She leads them into the darkness:
We shall not be his slaves
She tells them,
Let death take us then if that’s how it must be.

But it wasn’t death that waited there,
It was freedom earned
From courage to say “No,”
Taking that last resolute step
Where he could never follow.

Despair is the end of all power usage and as rawgod said to me commenting on another post, “Non-use of power IS the ultimate use of power. To have it, and refuse to use it, that is powerful.”  I am just beginning to understand what that means, and the personal costs associated with it.

Another Sunrise Drowns

[a poem by ~burning woman~ ]

I remember long ago,
I was watching the sun set
I remember it was from an island
but I don’t remember which,
or when,
or where. I remember I was alone.

I say to myself: does it matter now?
No, I answer, it does not.

The earth has already turned,
oh so many times for me
each time a little slower,
each time taking a little longer
and I know now, as I didn’t know then
there must come a last time.

I sit at a little round table,
overlooking the sea, the see…
the table rocks a bit,
as does the chair,
they were made who knows where,
not for this kind of terrain.

I am alone, looking at the sea
looking at what I can see,
sluggish waves so casually
make love to a tired sandy beach.
My glasses are on the table
beside the empty wine bottle;
tonight, particularly tonight
my thoughts are far from here.

Once, I remember, I had a future;
it was filled with colour
and the laughter of children
mixed with mine, my smile,
they said, shamed the rising sun;
dreams and hopes chased each other
across so many landscapes
and seascapes where tiny white boats
sailed away into the sunrise
questing in hope that springs eternal.

Every sunrise must turn into a sunset,
is that not so?
This evening, slow and cool in purple
fills with rasping dreams of romance
that never was; dried longings
parched Autumn leaves falling, sails
no wind ever came around to fill:
I see just another sunrise helplessly
come to drown into the endless sea.

Reblog: The Blue Pill Presidency

I just had to reblog this post from CounterPunch (more links pasted at bottom of this post) This is what I call writing… wow! One little tid-bit: ” We now identify with our captors – at least the ones playing the ‘good capitalist’ role, rather than recognizing that all the players in this absurdist spectacle of ‘Curtains for the Anthropocene’ are complicit profiteers of impending planetary collapse.”

July 19, 2018

The Blue Pill Presidency

by Jennifer Matsui

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Who would have predicted that in 2018, the FBI, the CIA, John McCain, Jeff Bezos, and now the monarchy would be feted as the vanguard of ‘The Resistance’ by the American ‘left’? Suddenly Trump’s presidency makes sense. To paraphrase a leaked Deep Squid memo from the deep swamps of Deep Space: “When they are forced to eat shit sandwiches around the clock, eventually deep fried vampire squid will appear delectable by comparison. Mission almost accomplished. Mwaah ha ha . . . !”

Our cephalopod overlords know us better than we do. After all, they created and control the devices that keep us under surveillance, and the algorithms that accurately predict at what point we will press ‘accept’ on the terms and conditions of a Trumpless, Squid-led world order that builds walls, empowers banks, oligarchs and polluters, while privatizing and militarizing everything that isn’t nailed down. We now identify with our captors – at least the ones playing the ‘good capitalist’ role, rather than recognizing that all the players in this absurdist spectacle of ‘Curtains for the Anthropocene’ are complicit profiteers of impending planetary collapse.

Fighting fascism is a noble and worthy pursuit. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite figured out how to do it. Flaming pitchforks or pussy hats? Collective struggle or individual belief in the power of existing institutions to rein in their own power? (Cue evil laugh track here) Allowing oligarchs, tech billionaires, war criminals, secret police agencies and monarchs to lead the charge is like treating a worsening chronic ailment with skin burrowing predator aliens from a deep space wormhole. Once you let ’em in, they will feast on your organs and prey on everything in their path. Don’t believe it? Just ask your local polar bear, honey bee or independent bookstore owner.

Notice how the Left establishment is suddenly enraged that a ‘classless’ dotard Bingo hall barker doesn’t know how to curtsy all proper-like on his tax-funded tour of Downton Abbey. Fancy that! Ten million slated to die of disease and starvation in Yemen? Whatever . . .

Before we all break out into a Beyonce led chorus of “God Save the Queen – She’s a Stellar Human Being – She Smote the Tangerine – Let’s Put Her Name on a War Ship’s Submarine”, here’s a little reminder: The old lady might look like she’s luring yet another loose cannon lunatic into a Paris tunnel with her super monarch powers, but QE2 would sooner submit to a golden Trump shower before she would relinquish her role in the feudalism that keeps her in jewels and corgis. The oaf in office is just another necessary evil the class system’s crypt keeper has to contend with for the survival of her undead progeny.

Post-Trump, we will never question the tentacled Master Race again, or doubt their wisdom. Eternal warfare and worsening poverty will be viewed through a ‘blue pill’ haze of relief. The nightmare ends. We are none the wiser, having taken the option to forget and move on. An escape back into reality, as the metaphorical ‘red pill’ suggests, would require a brutal confrontation with truth and the permanent discomfiture that comes with knowledge. Instead, we will once again swallow the same pill that transformed George W. Bush a beloved and unfairly maligned statesmen a few short years after his presidency unleashed those still burning hellfires across much of the earth. Her Majesty will once again be properly genuflected to by a visiting American head of state with better hair plugs.

FLOTUS will be decommissioned, disassembled, and sent back to the offshore factory that makes state-of-the-art Living Dolls for moneyed incels. With any luck, she will be rebooted as a life sized Barbie companion for a lonely 12-year girl old in Dubai. Worst case scenario: A shipping invoice mishap will have her sent to Barron on his 30th birthday.

The ceaseless bombing and starvation will continue under a different Twitter feed, and POTUS 46, after proving he can clip on his own tie before launching a nuclear strike on Iran will be embraced by woke folk, arms dealers, spooks and crowned heads of states alike.

After being hogtied and injected with near-lethal doses of absurdity, we find ourselves collectively hallucinating a tinpot tycoon blowing up Twitter one day, a giant orange clown in a diaper floating over London the next. Carefully sowed confusion will give way to an equally orchestrated acceptance of the war-as-usual status quo when the blue pill kicks in. A return to normal will be a much welcome steel-toed boot to the face.

More articles by:Jennifer Matsui

Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo.

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