A Change of View

A short family story

The extra bedroom had been turned into a den or office of some sort.  It was supposed to be a place to work or study, but actually it was just a place for Rob to hide out from the family.  In there he could read or daydream or actually make use of the computer he was determined to learn more about.  This determination did not go much farther than turning it on, looking at the home page and checking his email.  Rob did not get much email.  His friends knew he rarely read them anyway.  Rob did not have to use the computer much at work, and used it less at home.

Books, creative commons license

Over time the den had become cluttered with books and magazines.  That was Rob’s doing.  “These are the things to be read,” he thought.  The internet contained sound bites and headlines and celebrity pictures and Rob was convinced it held little value for him.  You might say Rob was a bit of a throwback to a previous generation.  The passing years had confused him and upset the neat world order in the family of Rob.  So, he needed his refuge to occasionally escape his modern family.

He had a conservative wife with conservative looks and conservative taste.  Despite her ever youthful appearance, she was likely better suited to  the era of black and white television than the present day.  She did not seem the daring young girl Rob married over three decades earlier.  There were also two teenage children, a boy and a girl.  Rob recalled how he used to call them his “little prince and princess.”  Rob’s neatly appointed wife thought he carried on with the “prince and princess” thing too long.  Becky continued to be “daddy’s little girl” and certainly acted like a princess, but Josh had transformed into someone else.  Until now, Rob had no idea how the world of Josh had changed.

This particular Thursday evening Rob sat alone in the den waiting.  He had come home to do something he had never done before and now he was waiting.  He looked up at the clock and it revealed the hour was closing in on 7 pm.  His teenagers had not arrived home and his ever patient wife was just starting to make dinner.  They were all going to keep him waiting.  On most days he would not sit in a room with just a low watt energy-saving bulb burning and do nothing but wait, but that was his mission now.  He was unsure what he would say when the waiting ended, his mind was actually rather blank and his face was free from expression of any kind.  He looked rather like an old soldier who just had a mortar shell go off nearby.  He waited in stunned silence.

Earlier in the day Rob was talking to one of the other dads at work.  The other dad was much younger and that may have been the reason he was more in tune with the teenagers and the internet.  “Do you ever watch You Tube videos? ” the younger dad had asked.  “No,” Rob replied, “I am not sure if I have ever seen one.”  “Here is one you will want to see.  Search this title.”  He handed Rob a piece of paper.  “It is important.  Do it today.  Here too is the ‘username’ of the one who posted it just in case you have any trouble finding it.”  The younger dad would answer no questions and would not say anymore on the subject.  Rob had put the folded up piece of paper in his pocket and did not take it out until he reached the den.  Once there, he went immediately to his desk, turned on the computer and sat silently.

As he waited for the computer to start up he read the few words on the paper over and over.  Could this possibly be some sort of joke?  Would they all laugh about it tomorrow in the company break room?  Would this just be a few minutes of needed entertainment?  When the computer was on, Rob searched for the title.  At first he was confused and a bit nervous.  There were so many videos with similar titles he was unsure what to pick.  Then he noticed the user name and started scrolling through the titles looking for the right one.

When he located the name that matched the one written out for him, he clicked on it quickly, before he could change his mind.  He watched the whole thing and when it was over, a single tear rolled down his cheek.  There was just one before his tears and his mouth dried up and his palms began to sweat.  In his 50+ years he had never felt like this before, ever.  When the clock stuck seven, the computer was still on and Rob was still silent.

Soon after the seven o’clock bells tolled for Josh, he opened the front door and came strolling in.  When he passed the door of the den Rob yelled, “Josh, get in here.”  Josh had never in his life heard such a sound come from his father.  As a matter of fact, Rob had never heard such a sound before either.  Whatever was the cause of this greeting, Josh knew it could not be good.  He stuck his head through the doorway and said, “Yes, sir” in a timid little voice left over from his “little prince” days.  In his 17 years, 3 months and 2 days, Josh was never this nervous, even when he broke Mrs. Applebaum’s car mirror playing baseball in the street.

Broadcast Yourself

Broadcast Yourself

“Come over here,” Rob commanded.  Josh walked over and stopped across the desk from dear old dad, who just lookd old at the moment.  “No, over here,” Rob said, pointing to the floor next to where he sat.  Josh came around the desk as Rob made ready with his new knowledge of You Tube.  When the little prince was in place, Rob clicked on the video and Josh knew immediately what was on the bill.  His heart and stomach tensed up as if someone was strangling them from inside.

“Dad,” the little prince squeaked.  “Quiet,” Rob growled in returned.  And so for the first time, father and son watched a You Tube Video together, all 8 minutes and 22 seconds of it.  When it was over and an uncomfortable few seconds had passed, Rob said, “Go,” in a soft voice that gave away hurt and betrayal.  Josh rushed from the den, ran to his room and slammed the door.  Rob emerged from the den to find his pretty wife rushing to the scene.

“What’s up with you two?” she said.  “Did the prince do something wrong?”  Rob gave his response a moment of thought and said, “Why didn’t we have kids sooner in life?”  “YOU did not want to,” she laughed.  “You said we should be financially sound before we started a family.”  She was right, of course.  That is exactly what he said.  He said it many times throughout the first dozen years of their marriage.

“I think teenagers were not as difficult years ago.  There just seems to be so much more to deal with now.”  The pretty little wife with the perfect hair and the perfect smile looked puzzled, but Rob said no more about it that night or for many nights to come.  He had no idea how to tell her that the little prince had come out as gay to the entire world by way of a You Tube video, but was unable to find a way to tell his parents.

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Why am I here?

Certainly you have asked yourself this question. Perhaps you asked it many times. You could have been sitting in a boring class that seemed to have no relation to real life. If you went on to college there may have been several of these classes because they were listed as “requirements.” “Reflections on Man,” for example, may sound like something meaningful, but I am pretty sure my only reflection was on the meaning of the course itself. “Philosophy and Religion” as well as “Behavioral and Social Sciences” requirements provided me with plenty of opportunities to ask, “Why am I doing this?” On its lowest level, I guess you could say I was doing if for the grade.

Technology possessing World by Pj93

Family gatherings can also drive you to ask our topic question. Good old Aunt Pearl may compel your attendance at her twice annual family gatherings. That would be the ones without music or television where the adults would try painfully to keep some sort of conversation going. Her cookies and hard candies just were not enough to keep you from wondering why you continue to attend these family gatherings that seemed forerunners to family wakes. By the time Aunt Pearl passes, you will feel like you have already attended her wake on many occasions. After the kids get hyped up on candy, they may provide some comic relief to go with Aunt Pearl’s annoyance (or passing). The conclusion may still be, “Why Lord? Why?”

Of course, you may find yourself at one holiday party when you know a better one is going on elsewhere. The reason for this may be that it is some sort of social obligation. Still you wonder why you are at Orville’s party when Wilbur is so much more fun. Even though the holidays usually seem to race right by with January and February lurking around the corner, time seems to stand still at Orville’s party, leaving you to wonder “Why am I here?”

For the last dozen or so years, I have thought of this question on the grand philosophical scale. That is, I have literally wondered why I am here, on earth, in this place, at this time. I figure there must be a higher calling, if I could just find out what that is. In Catholic grade school, we were taught to seek our vocation in life. Lately when they call to pray for vocations, they generally mean they need more religious to join up.

Still we all may think “Why am I here?” You might have the pleasant thought that it is because your mommy and daddy wanted you, but in my case, I am pretty sure that is not it. If you think it is because the stork brought you, you are either from Alsace or too young to be reading this blog.

In church we read out the intentions or invocations. These are prayers where we call on the Lord to help us. One at the end usually goes like this, “For the intentions we hold in the silence of our hearts (pause), we pray to the Lord.” In recent years this pause was where I filled in a request for acceptance, which has to do with chronic foot pain, and a desire to have the answer to the question on why I am here. There must be some reason beyond tossing off clever quips on social media sites.

There was a priest whose sermons never left me with the “why am I here” feeling. It almost seemed like he is just talking to me. So I confessed to him one day that I felt there must be a grand plan. I felt frustrated that I did not know it even though I prayed for the answer. Of course, he urged me to keep an open mind and be receptive. What else could he say? He was not going to pass along God’s response. No voice was coming to us from a cloud. No one will give us a 140 character response on twitter (or 280 if you are blessed with extra letters). He did the only thing he could, he listened.

In the meantime, I thought I would just take whatever reasonable opportunity I could to help people out and keep my ears open. It reminded me of the frustration felt by the Bishop at the beginning of the holiday classic The Bishop’s Wife. At his wit’s end at not finding what he needed to build the cathedral, he prays, but if you see this holiday movie, listen to what he prays for. Is it really a cathedral?

Just like our movie hero, it finally came to me. I was a bit surprised that it took so long. It was there all along. Unlike Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, I did not have to travel the world for the answer, nor did I have to go to Oz. While I was lending a helping hand, and enjoying new adventures with some of my friends, new and old, I discovered something. It was never one great thing that I was supposed to do. It was a lot of little things, and they would add up to the reason why, and they have. In case I have not been clear let me just state it this way, “Do the next right thing.” That’s it. Really! As you move from adventure to adventure, helping when asked and finding help when needed, you will see the answer that was never to be had at Aunt Pearl’s house. Check below the video.

My Story, A Letter Home

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward, I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here almost two years ago following the inspiration given by that book.  After posting the importance of Your Story this week on Serendipity, I thought about this again. Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it up once more.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

RICH PASCHALL – A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTION

It has been three years since I first stopped in at SERENDIPITY with this “A Family Plus One Holiday Tale,” and for some reason Marilyn Armstrong has allowed me to come back once a week since then.  I am grateful for her support and the opportunity to share some stories on her blog site. Here again is my Christmas short story.

 

A Christmas Surprise

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

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Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael. So he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle just had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things did not get any quieter. The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.” With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting. Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

WHO ARE YOU? FAMILY TO STRANGER, OVERNIGHT

Since it is “Pride Month,” I thought it was a good time to replay this story.

SERENDIPITY

A family of strangers story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Russell was home from the university, perhaps for the last time.  He finally graduated after four and a half years and a double major from the School of Business.  He lived at school each year and came home for the summers.  Now his plan was to get a job, save a little money and move out.  His college roommate would soon become his roommate again, if they could arrange it.

Russell’s parents, now in their 50’s, never seemed to change.  To Russell they always looked the same and acted the same.  Russell’s father was a hard-working, quiet guy whom everyone liked. His mother was also hard-working and dependable.  They seemed to naturally know which household chores to perform without ever talking about it.  Russell sometimes thought they held secret meetings to plan out the details of their lives, Russell’s included.

After…

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OVER AND OUT

I thought today was a good day to present this short story again.

SERENDIPITY

A short story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

It was not like Billy’s dad to just walk into his room. At 17 years old he really expected his parents to knock first. He quickly closed out of his chat and turned around to see what his father wanted.  “What’s up, dad?” Billy began.

“Son, I think there is something you should tell me.” Billy’s father paused and waited for a response. Billy was clueless. He could not think of a thing he should say so there was this long awkward silence as the two of them shot puzzled looks at one another.

Billy’s father had noticed over the last two month’s the nature of his son’s friendship with a handsome young classmate named Josh. They went everywhere together. They studied together and they spent hours on the phone together. Going to the movies on a Saturday night was just like…

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THE CALL – RICHARD PASCHALL

A short story for your Sunday night.

SERENDIPITY

By Richard Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Sunday was the day to stay near the telephone, the computer too for that matter.  Robert was not about to go anywhere before receiving his phone call.  He always stayed where he could hear the phone.  The computer was also a possibility for calls but in truth Robert only received one call on it and that was more in the way of a test.  His son, Corey, set him up with Skype and then called him when he got home just so they could test it out.  That was the only time Corey called him via Skype in the six months since their brief trial run.  Now he either called on the landline or not at all.

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Robert tried diligently to be a good father to Corey after his divorce from Corey’s mom.  Corey was in his mid teens then and the boy seemed…

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THE MOST IMPORTANT STORY

With so few of our “Greatest Generation” still around, I thought it would be a good time to run this again, before it’s too late.

SERENDIPITY

By Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

A few thoughts on YOUR story

For the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to post a few small works of fiction.  They were just little stories that I hoped would make a point.  While they are no one’s story in particular, they all contain elements that are familiar to me.  I filled in the details with characters and descriptions that would make a story.  That was the fun part of telling a tale that in some ways I know well.  If you read any of them these on past Sundays, I hope you found some enjoyment.  I would like to recommend to you now a more important story.  It is one that only you can fill in the details and it is imperative that you do it soon, before the chance slips away.  That story is your story.

1930s Country-Road

How often have you wondered…

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SNOW HATE – By Rich Paschall

Another Harold! I wonder how often I used that name. Since we are in the midst of a blizzard here, I thought it would be a good day to reblog this.

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A NO H8 story by Rich Paschall – Sunday Night Blog

The door bell startled Harold.  He was not expecting anyone on a snowy Saturday afternoon in January.  He moved quickly to the front door and opened it to find his teenage grandson.

“Hello grandpa,” the boy blurted, “I came to shovel your snow.”  At that Billy grabbed a shovel from just inside the front door and went immediately to work.  Harold closed the door and watched him through the glass in the door.  Billy attacked the snow like he was angry at every single flake that fell from the sky.  The look on his face and the force at which he threw each shovelful of snow concerned Harold.

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He went directly to the phone and called Billy’s parents.

“Hello,” came the voice of Harold’s daughter-in-law.  Madeleine was sweet, nice looking and ultimately clueless.  Her small social circle was her main…

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I AM HOME – By Rich Paschall

One of my favorites from a little over a year ago.

SERENDIPITY

A piece of home alone fiction by Rich Paschall

The alarm went off at 6 am as usual.  Instead of hitting the snooze bar, George turned off the alarm and got up.  It was Wednesday, trash collection day in the small Florida town.  He no longer had Ethel to push him out of bed so he had to muster the resolve to get up and take care of the chores.  Jack, the faithful terrier, got up as well and was running around George’s feet as he tried to go through his morning routine.  Terriers do not lack morning energy.

96-Rockers-NKAfter he got dressed and made his way to the kitchen, he started the coffee.  Ethel used to take care of this while George took care of the hyper active dog, but his wife of 40 years was gone now.  George had to make his own coffee.  George had to do all the…

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