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The wet cork floor was now covered with wall-to-wall carpeting - a fluffy, deep tan shag. Overhead, a pair of bronzed wicker ceiling fans slapped cool air around, mingling the savory scent of oak with the subtle tang of undried waterpaint. The walls were now a so-sublime shade of green; the perfectly patched ceiling painted azure. Gone was the gloom; potted morning glories, smiling daisies and floating water lilies bloomed everywhere.
The room looked much larger with all the funky garbage gone, but I was confused how Judy could have possibly cleaned up and remodeled the place so quickly.
Menachem directed my attention to a mushroom-shaped crystal mounted on a small electrical box to our left of the freshly painted door. Setting his walking stick in the corner beside the aquamarine ingress, he rubbed his hands together and explained that it was a very elementary Time Base Modulator. "It operates on Suma's original discovery that two or more non-synchronous time pulses can indeed cohabit the identical reality vector." The technomaven reached for the chrome box and flicked a bat-wing toggle switch. "Cauterized and randomized quartz. There, I've de-activated the re-synchronizer.
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"As the milky crystal cleared, I sounded off that I wasn't that dumb or gullible. "I know something about state-of-the-art electronics and I've never even heard of a Time Base Modulator. Your so-called TBM sounds like pulp sci-fi to me. Next you'll be telling me your ancestors brought it from another planet. Huh?"
He smiled widely. "Not precisely. However, simple realization of all three of God's realities, can be far more amazing than the most outlandish science fiction. This most basic TBM operates according to the ageless intra-galactic relationship Mr. Sam recently reformulized in retro-modern parameters as å|T|=[(r1)]/[ln(r2)] - where is the eternal time-gradient in radians measured counter-clockwise from the positive polar axis of TOLA's lower POM plane (our Primary Omnizoid of universal Materialization)." Slowly rubbing his wise old orbs, Maestro Wizard repeatedly sneezed to elude my allusion to another planet.
Opting not to confuse myself further, I put the peanut pyramid on a sculpted end table and admired the early-American furniture which filled the room. Turning to a little small talk, I asked Menachem why he didn't use his walking stick indoors.
He answered that his game leg was but an aggravated exasperation, as my anomaly still was. "That sceptor's been in our family for nigh on two hundred plus fifty generations."
Sick of riddles, I found myself becoming angry when Judy waltzed in with a wooden tray of earthware and Ména directed her to leave the kitchen TBM energized. "In the event our distinguished guest wants a batch of garlic chicken snacks or a bag of cheese blintzes for the road."
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With great poise, Judy arranged the tableware on an ovular marble slab surrounded by two matched pair of semi-circular cyan sofas. Gone was her pungent perfume, replaced by the fragrance of an early country morn. Additionally discarded were the chrome loin cloth and purple leather jacket. The truly versatile teen now wore a powder-blue pinafore with white cotton blouse. Her dewy hair, relieved of pink spritz and cola syrup, hung in clean vermillion pony tails.
Carefully pressing a pair of long, pearl candles into small, copper holders, Judy stood up straight while Ména struck a kitchen match on his wristband and handed it to her.
Eyes covered, she lit the candles and prayed aloud: "As these candles give light to all who behold them, so may we, by our lives, give light to all who behold us. Amen."
Menachem blew the match out and reflected: "As their brightness reminds us of the generations before us who have kindled light, so may we, in our own days, be among those who kindle light. Amen."
Staring into both candleflickers, I added: "May God grant us all the strength and vision to walk down the path of righteousness no matter how troubled it may seem or how tempting the alternatives might be. Amen."
After we all repeated Amen in unison, Judy reached into her pocket and pulled something out. Keeping her hand closed, she playfully hid that something behind her back, telling me that Morningstar gave her the dress and her gramps gave her the ruby slippers. "How do I look?"
I told her that the outfit was almost as pretty as the lady wearing it. "Put a pair of powder blue ribbons in your hair and you'll really look like an angel."
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She grinned. "I bet you know what I have behind my back."
"A pair of powder blue ribbons?"
She said I was wrong and thrust her opening fist at me. "Will you put them in my hair, David?" While I clumsily tied the royal blue ribbons in her shiny scarlet hair, she commented that my guess was close.
I grumbled lightly. "Too bad we weren't playing horseshoes."
Menachem pointed to the west sofa and said that my visit had accelerated Judy's relearning. "Sit, David, please. Your Pohla/Ohla has already influenced my only grandchild's Ohla/Mohla."
Judy agreed and curtsied away.
As my back pressed into an overstuffed pillow, a periodic metallic ping resounded from the other room, like high-speed pellets zipping around. Judy dashed into the kitchen as Ména loudly reminded her to turn off the kitchen TBM before answering the phone.
An instant later, Judy sang out that it was her Uncle Sam Cohen. "He's calling from Puberty Park, Nevada."
Ména bellowed back to tell Sammy that I finally stopped by and was progressing faster than forecast, but we were about to have dinner. "Tell the Crippled Man that I'll counterphone in the morning."
Judy jargoned. "10-4 - but I'm going to chat with Palooka while I fix the feast."
Ména bellowed back. "As you wish, child."
As he began to lip another unlit pipe, an antique corncob affair, I asked how he knew Mr. Sam the Crippled Man.
He grinned mysteriously. "Doesn't everybody? Surely, you recall your visit to his Puberty Park Big Top."
I said that I sure did. "What a night it was. I haven't thought about it in years. But how'd you know I was out there?"
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Ména claimed that Mr. Sam told him about all wayward visitors. "Donna and Rhonda were charmed by your genteel manner after their preview performance beside the mighty beam. But Suma, I mean Mr. Sam, remains unduly concerned about your reluctance to take the timedrop to his Hotel Vegas."
I explained to Ména that even without going to Vegas, I could write a book about that night.
My mentor smiled wide. "So, why don't you?"
Judy swept in with the feast and suggested that Mr. Sam could be my editor.
Ména pressed his corncob's bowl to his hairy cheek. "Suma's current style is quite naturally neo-Twain."
Now, though, my total attention turned to the feast at hand. On a polished copper platter lay juicy, succulent chicken morsels floating in rich brown gravy, surrounded by a variety of green vegetables mixed with bright orange carrots. The depth of the aroma mesmerized me. If I didn't know it was August, I'd have sworn it was Thanksgiving or Passover.
Placing the tray on the polished table, Judy sat ladylike on the east sofa beside Ména and told him that Palooka read her the first five chapters of Mr. Sam's latest Big Top Thriller.
I remarked that they must have been short chapters.
"Oh no, David. Palooka read me almost two hundred pages. They have a CTBM headset too." She smiled at Ména and told him that they turned both CTBM's up to 71°. "I kept the kitchen TBM at 19°."
"CTBM? 71°?" I wondered - out loud this time.
Ména began to explain. "Cranial Time Base Modulator: a 71° sinusoidal pre-dopplerization of Gola's Time-Life Wave." But he settled on describing the more perceptible offering before us. "Our meal comes from the Orient. We call it quite simply Garlic Chicken. A well-aged breast is cut into bite-sized chunks and soaked in the juice of coarsely ground garlic cloves for seven hours, then thrown into a red hot cauldron of boiling Mediterranean olive oil. As the meat browns, crisp green broccoli, ripe carrot segments, savory slices of golden waterchestnut, mounds of snowpeas, and endless rings of raw onion are tossed in. Precisely as the dish reaches 370°K, an overlarge batch of crushed garlic and exactly two millimoles of lemoned chives are sprinkled in, not to mention, of course, a giant mutant shallot."
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I took a small bite and was overwhelmed.
Judy said they only took mature range roosters. "We want them to have a full serving of life before their time comes to serve us."
As the second shtikl slipped down my hungry gullet, my eyes tingled with delight and I complimented Judy's culinary prowess.
Ména pointed out that garlic was quite potent. "It's been with us for millenia. Those ones chosen to deliver Gola's message secretly consumed large amounts of the herb while assembling the pyramids. Along with their faith in Him and their hate for Hista's kind, it furnished stamina to survive until our delivery."
With a shallow hiccup, I said that I wanted to someday explore the pyramids. "I used to dream about it when I was a kid."
Ména's brow wrinkled. "I hope it's not the selfish quest for immortal flesh which motivates your Pohla."
I assured him that it was only the incredible engineering which intrigued me. "What humans can indeed do when they set their minds to it. Sure, the pharoah's motives were all wrong, so just think what our world will do when our motives are finally right."
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Ména agreed. "Contrary to what the sceptics claim, eternal right will make for immortal might."
And I became exhilirated at the very prospect of it all.
Passing the ladle to Judy, the scholarly curmudgeon licked his lips and told me that it was fitting that I'd never chased the illusive flames of immortal flesh. "For they burn only in the darkest caverns of blood-thirsty avarice. Let your immortality live in the bodies and spirits of your students and children, distilled there by example and lesson."
I wondered how I could do that when I didn't have any students or children.
Ména smiled. "Sola and Sidra will show you the way."
I told Ména that I had a pretty good idea that Gola meant God. "But are Sola and Sidra any relation to this Fela who's supposed to tell me about my Mohla?"
Ména smiled more. "As a matter of fact, yes. They are the daughters of Fela who will also tell you about your Ohla and Pohla. But don't you wonder about TOLA?"
All I could say was that I didn't have the slightest idea what/who TOLA was.
Ména cleared his throat. "No human still in Reohlaean flesh ever has. I suppose you don't recall the COSMIC FLOW CHART that Mr. Sam showed you years ago."
I admitted my lapse. "Only vaguely."
Ména said that that was what he thought. "Tell me, though, how do you deal with death?"
I told him, like everyone, I avoided death as much as possible. "At the same time, I realize it's an essential part of our current life cycle. It makes way for new, improved generations."
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The sober sage nodded. "And soon for the next reality. So prepare your spirit to live on into our truly brave new world; bury but the burdensome pain of past confrontation."
Judy reached across the table and shoved a chunk of her chicken into my mouth. "Eat it. I'm not hungry."
After swallowing, I asked why she wasn't eating and was shocked to hear she was on a diet.
She smiled sadly. "So I can look like a modern girl."
I told her not to be silly, that she looked fine.
Ména told her to listen to me. "David knows these things and has no reason to lie."
So I explained how unnatural it was to look like women in cigarette ads that tout, You've come a long way, baby!
My lesson finished, Judy reached for the platter and said that was exactly what her gramps told her. "But I thought he was dingy." She grinned and took a good-sized ladle of chicken, adding that since I wasn't her grandfather, she guessed I might be telling the truth.
Ména chortled heavily and his robe pulled open at the chest, exposing a foil pouch dangling from a strand of rawhide. Suddenly, the silver pouch swung free.
I put my fork down and dared to wonder what was in the pouch.
As he opened the pouch, Ména said it held a special egg and removed a smooth white ovum. He added that a miniature zirconium pyramid dwelt within the alabaster shell and looked down at the seamless amulet. Suddenly, it glowed mellow yellow and I began to ponder the myriad possibilities. In quietude, Judy and I indulged our hunger on this late summer thanksgiving.
When the well-enhanced nourishment was consumed, Judy carried the dishes to the kitchen and Menachem handed me a half-melted mint. "It's time to talk about Formington."
end page 42
When Judy returned with a pyramid of fruit, she removed her chiffon apron, handed me a miniature pear, and said the very same thing.
I insisted there was no reason to talk about it and set the mint aside. "Formington was a depressing place."
Judy promised she wouldn't feel sorry for me, and Ména said that everyone has a Form of some sort.
I tried to explain that I needed to stay strong. "I've never had anyone except myself to confide in, to depend on."
Judy smiled. "Now you have Gramps and me."
I asked her what her orphange was like, but Ména insisted that first things be first. "You tell us about Formington, Missouri, and right now."
I agreed to, presently - and nibbled away at the juicy little pear. Ména claimed the superfresh fruit was from Freedom Day over two years before. I asked for the details, but it was no use. Clearing my throat of procrastination, I resumed the unfortunate scenario. "Like I was saying outside, my father dropped me at the God-forsaken place with a wristwatch and told me to mark time."
Out on the highway, an eighteen wheeler leaned on its mighty foghorn three times. I garlic-belched (once seemed to be enough) and explained that Formington was a warehouse for the disenfranchised. "Without even talking to me, the staff had the court judge me incompetent. I was locked in a second floor processing ward with the criminally insane."
Judy sighed. "Some real unsavory souls, huh?"
I told her that now that she mentioned it, while I was still in processing, an overfriendly farmboy did tell me he'd been there for 2431 days. "Ever since he beat his grandmother to death and tossed her body down a well that belonged to a neighbor he didn't like too much either."
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Judy handed me a bamboo toothpick and I continued, picking at slivers of pear skin and talking at the same time, describing the board of paraprofessionals that finally interviewed and tested me on the locked ward for two days. "Several weeks later, they summoned me to their indoor porch (also locked) for determination. I remember word-for-word what their feminist leader, Ms. Gertrude Killebrew, said: 'My staff made an unfortunate mistake, Patient D. R. Daniels. They deposed you inept before they interviewed or tested you. However, Patient Daniels, after reviewing the aforementioned interviewing and testing, I hereby conclude that you manifest no apparent aberrations other than a rather classical case of clinical depression. Furthermore, I doubt your tantrum with the sidearm will ever be repeated, considering your current mindset. Obviously, your brief stay with my staff has already done you a whole world of good.'" I smirked and broke the tip of my toothpick.
Judy handed me another and asked if I was depressed at Formington, even without medication.
I told Judy, per Lump's recommendation, the overseers continued to medicate me. "Ms. Killebrew told me Lizabeth had warned them in no uncertain terms that without Nullium I would become increasingly violent. Anyway, after telling me I seemed to be a bright young man, Killebrew (and Company) admitted that now Formington needed to determine how to best dispose of my case. They couldn't simply release me. Killebrew said the local press would judge them the unstable party. G.K. (as Gertrude Killebrew preferred to be called by her peers) said she tried to make contact with Dr. Lump to get more details on my case but was unable to get past her receptionist. L.L. (as G.K. came to name Lump) never returned the calls. I told Killebrew and Company that Dr. Lump was a high-society analyst with no use for someone who shoots a gun off in the suburbs, and they all concurred."
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A ceiling fan started squeaking as Judy asked whether I ever thought I might not get out.
I told her that I had to concentrate on surviving, hour to hour, day to day, that thank God it never crossed my mind that I might not get out. "Even though I knew a few poor clients had suffered only simple nervous breakdowns. Without money for proper care, though, they became permanent wards of the Form."
Judy cringed. "Were there any young kids like me there?"
I answered that yes, there were. "After I was transferred to Rehab, one disillusioned teenybopper leaped to her death from the water tower, into a discarded bath tub. Another underage rural client was given a grounds pass and killed his 16 year-old wife on the steps of the canteen before drowning himself in the sewage settling pond. There were very old clients, too. Half a floor of them died one day while we wheeled their beds from one building to the next, in the dead of a very discontented winter."
One of my loose crowns crunched a pear seed as I attempted to explain that while overt abuse at the Form was not very obvious, we all lived and slept with the threat of a midnight visit to the Lobo Cottage. "That's where they allegedly performed irreversible lobotomies, rumored to be in a basement stall of the defunct dairy barn. Most ambulatory clients were restrained with chemicals. One miserably sunny afternoon, after receiving his maintenance dose of Fluorazine, a black country boy who'd proudly dubbed himself 'Dude' lumbered outside into the rehab smokepit to roll his own. Twenty minutes later, a team of tired overseers heaved Dude's dead body onto the tattered medication couch - neatly rolled in clear vinyl."
As diesel fumes drifted through the screen door, I coughed and told Judy how, to cope with insufferable boredom and frustration, I started smoking. I looked at Ména and said that I'd never smoked a single cigarette in my life before, not even in the Marines. "But this was different. Can you blame me?"
end page 45
Judy jumped to her feet and tugged twice on the chains of both ceiling fans. As they accelerated, she grumbled that she should really quit herself. "It makes a body smell real foul."
I told her that I hoped she never had to experience a sealed processing porch. "The unvented exhaust from fifteen chain-smokers is worse than sucking on the tailpipe of a Greyhound."
Judy frowned and said she hoped she never had to find out. She reversed the fan nearest me while I described to her what nicotine does to the mind is even fouler than its affects on the body.
Then I told my small Missouri audience that after months of living from Lucky to Lucky, I was finally informed by the staff that they'd arrived at a mutual solution to our common dilemma. "They planned to send me to a state-funded TV repair school, then claim I was rehabilitated."
All of a sudden, the fan-draft caught my hair and stood it on end as I detailed how 243 days and 6 hours after admission I was released to attend Springfield College of Technology. "I slept in a storm cellar beneath the classroom. SCT taught me nothing, but they were my venue to freedom (freedom to do what, I dared not think about). After completing the useless course contrived to steal state funds, I phoned my parents long-distance to tell them I was finally coming ho..." An amber spotlight flashed across the windows, interrupting my narrative.
Judy jogged over to investigate. "Hey good guys, it's that same old bus. And they have their yellow spotlight on Joe, bothering him again."
Ména growled that enough was enough. "Granddaughter, you have permission to enter my bedroom and punch their damn lights out with my motron window-cannon. It should still be set on overload. Kick it up two notches from the current safety code to 777+2."
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As she dashed from the room, I followed Ména over to the door and peered out.
Judy shouted. "Ready!"
Menachem stepped onto the porch. "Then make it be!"
A loud hum flowed from the other room as the bus's spotlight, headlights, and taillights burst in one fiery flash.
Ména roared oncemore. "Get the hell out of here you heathen assholes!!"
Lo and behold, as the old warrior hobbled in and headed over to his recliner, the bus clattered away sans lights. Judy returned to the room jubilant and we sat in wicker chairs near Ména's leg lift.
The wiseman snarled that it was time to get back to business. "I assume your parents weren't exactly thrilled at news of your homecoming."
While I waited to answer, Judy opened a silverphane satchel she'd brought from the kitchen and handed me a giant piece of buttered popcorn. Unbelievably, it was bigger and heavier than a billiard ball. At least now I understood why Judy called Ména an old popcorn fart.
But he grumbled for me to finish my story. "If you ever do, I'll show you my motron hyper-breeder oven next time you visit."
Munching on the mutant kernel, I explained that Ms. Killebrew had already reported to me how my own parents tried to persuade her to keep me. "At the time, for some bizarre reason, I thought she was kidding. Now that I was relatively free, though, my parents threatened to have the police take me away again if I came to St. Louis. Lump had reassured them, so they repeatedly said, that I was still legally insane. They wanted to believe it so they could concentrate on their social calender. My father tried to coerce me into moving directly to San Francisco to join a cult commune he'd contacted. Lucky for me, on a one-day visit, I refused to even shake hands with the joker named Jones that ran it."
end page 47
As my teeth sunk into a soft cob-like center, Ména assured me it was excellent, longterm nourishment.
I nodded with grateful pleasure and told him how, against my parents' will, I rented a $13/week furnished room in a St. Louis flop house. "It was a filthy joint but my parents said they couldn't afford to supplement the War Bond my grandfather had willed me. They were decorating a fancy new estate near the Mockingbird Country Club. As rough as things were, though, I remained free to wander the urban streets, breathe freshly polluted air, and see how so-called normal people lived. I thought if I could only be like any one of them I'd do almost anything. Except sell my soul, which already seemed to be in the hock shop."
Golden syrup oozed from the oversized corn core and I licked it lightly. "Not much later, when the bond's $20 weekly yield ran out, my parents ordered me to get a job or be returned to the State Hospital. So I became a draftsman, starting a ten year stint as an electrical project engineer with Braggs Construction."
Judy cocked her head to one side as I told her that I was miserable, that my purpose in life had been reduced to filling the executive coffers at Braggs with ill-earned money. "I hated the job, but it did help me pass the time until the inevitable salvation of life, death. My only ambition was to simply remain outside locked wards. In the meantime, each isolated night after work, I'd lay on my sweat-stained couch, stare at the nicotine-stained ceiling, give thanks I was free and self-supporting, then ask God to grant me the strength to endure one more depressing day. Capol, now my younger sister's gynecologist, kept me loaded on Nullium - gratis."
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Ména handed me a donut-shaped sponge. He described it as a highly selective and transitory dematerializer.
Cradling my leaky popcorn core in the supersoft torus, I explained how I consumed bottomless cups of coffee just to get myself to work each day. "Imagining Killebrew and Company with icepicks to my temples also helped. Even though I eventually earned official certification as a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Missouri, my mind was impotent, my emotion spent."
Judy slurped nectar from her own popcore (as she called it). "Didn't you have any friends, David?"
I said that I did have one good friend named Steve Cohen at Braggs Construction. "But I stayed away from any lasting relationship with a woman. I didn't want anything to ever become more important than keeping my job so I would never be locked up again." While I paused to take a slurp from my own popcore, I remembered how I used to wonder why Mother Nature hadn't built some self-destruct mechanism into her humans, in case things became too miserable to bear. I dared not mention the thought to Ména.
My mood lifted some when he told me that Steve was Mr. Sam's nephew. Judy asked if I ever went out and had a good time with Steve.
Realizing my core was empty of nectar and nearly weightless, as still was the magic sponge, I said that I occasionally did go out. "Only when I thought some cerebral variety was absolutely essential to my mental health. But I never really had a good time. I hoarded most my money and measured savings not in dollars, but in how many months I could afford to hide from the overseers in the dirty white suits, in case I ever went off the deep end again. Of course, I'd completely forgotten the pleasure of intellectual stimulation. The complex science and math problems I solved real easy as a boy were now a thing of the past."
end page 49
Motioning for Judy to finish her popcore, Ména sighed. "Capol and Lump had done their jobs well."
I told him that, now, in retrospect, I realized how totally the shock treatments had erased my self-confidence and how the drugs kept it from redeveloping. "But my Kansas City boss at Braggs was naive enough to think I wanted to steal his yuppie job. Little did he suspect my loftiest ambition was to die unrestrained."
I went on to detail how my musclehead boss did know that my father, CEO at Braggs' St. Louis headquarters, was guilty of taking liberties with female employees, that dad would never dare lift a hand in my defense, for fear of public exposure. "So the impotent character (my boss, not my father) transferred me to a rural project. He knew I'd just done four years in a small-town construction motel and would probably quit. Which I did. My professional demise served to elevate my father above any mortal suspicion of nepotism."
Ména cleared his throat and grumbled that my father was wealthy and semi-retired. "But you were broke and unemployed."
I told Ména that he couldn't have been more correct. "So Capol supplimented my free Nullium with stimulants and sleeping pills to ease the discomfort of material failure. But I was still desperate to maintain independence, so I got involved in video and ran a small production business from my Kansas apartment, for three years."
My stomach moaned with displeasure as I explained how, just the winter before, I finally hit bottom. "I couldn't function anymore, at all, mentally or physically. I had muscle cramps much worse than what I'd ever had in the Marines, and this time they were everywhere. Horribly depressed, my business faltered and I was certain I'd finally veered onto the deadend of life."
I stood up, directly under the fan, and my throat went dry and eyes watered as I explained how my personal salvation came in the person of a Dr. Daphney Riddle. "In exchange for some free video work I'd already done for him, Doc treated me at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City. Not on my parents' payroll, he withdrew all Capol's medication. To the wonder of God, following a month-long nightmare of physical withdrawal, my mind, emotions, and various bodily functions began to awake after more than two decades." I bowed my head in prayerful relief. "Thank Heaven, I was - and am - truly alive for the first time in my adult life."
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Ména made a suggestion. "You should thank Gola."
Juggling both our superlight popcores in glee, Judy gustoed. "Welcome home, David."
end chap 3
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