After the Rides

We took the shuttle to the entrance of the theme park. My father said, Remember our car is in Squiggly section C.
 
The day was thrilling.
 
When we returned to Squiggly section C, there was another family inside our car. They looked just like our family. My father stopped my mother and I from yelling at them as they drove away.
 
We sat in the empty parking space. Many families came and went. None of them noticed us. A girl from one of the families stepped on my hand without acknowledging me. Eventually the parking lot was empty. The theme park tower lights shut down. We were exhausted and hungry.
 
In the middle of the night, father woke us up. The shuttle had returned. The driver had no face. There was another groggy-eyed family on the shuttle. They too were identical to our family. We stepped inside the shuttle and introduced ourselves, but they said nothing, ignoring our presence, holding each other close. We drove on.
 
Father nudged me on the shoulder. I had fallen asleep. It was morning and the shuttle had pulled up in front of our house. We were home. The other family had already gotten off the shuttle. We followed them to the front door. Our car was in the driveway and the family that had stolen our car was watching us from the living room window.
 
Our family and the family from the shuttle stood in line and, one at a time, we knocked on the front door. Nobody answered. My father and the other father said they would be right back. They disappeared behind the house. My mother and the other mother did not talk to each other. I stared at the other boy. He was growling at me. And then the front door opened. I could not tell which of the three fathers staring back at us was mine. We all went inside.
 
Everyone sat in the living room. One of the fathers spoke first. He said by the end of the day there would be only one family. The other two fathers nodded. I felt queasy and confused.
 
So how do we determine which family stays, one of the mothers said.
 
We have a contest, one of the boys replied.
 
That's right, the three fathers said. One of the fathers looked at me. I had wet myself and soon everyone was looking at me. The other boy pointed, Does that mean he goes first?
 
No, no, the three mothers blurted. None of the boys can go first.
 
I was crying and the words trembled from my lips, Go where?
 
One of the fathers stood up and said, I will make this easy. He marched into the study and we all heard the gun. He had shot himself dead. None of the mothers seemed to mind, nor did the other two boys. The two living fathers dragged the dead-body down into the basement.
 
One of the boys grabbed my hand. Wanna play outside? I snatched back my hand and rushed to my room and slammed the door and tried to lock it, but the lock had been removed. I pushed against the door, but they bullied their way into the room. One was tugging my hair and the other was pulling at my legs. Take off his shoes! Take off his pants! See, he's still wet with pee. I was kicking and kicked myself free then whirled around and wrestled the other boy to the floor then felt myself lifting into the air.
 
One of the fathers carried me into the study and placed me onto his leather chair. He left me there alone. I hugged myself and rocked back and forth while everyone whispered outside the closed door. There was a chunk of brain matter on the family portrait from the first father who had shot himself in the mouth. The boy in the portrait was wearing a blue dress and had pigtails for hair. The study door opened. The two boys entered, followed by the three mothers and two fathers. The herd of parents goaded the boys to apologize, which I accepted.
 
Then everyone stared at one another and the pendulum inside the grandfather clock halted into a mid-swing silence that loomed all around.
 
Let's play Twister, one of the mothers said.
 
I felt uncomfortable in urine-soaked pants and asked if I could change. Then I noticed the other two boys had wet their pants too. Don't worry about it, the three mothers said. Today's our last day. Live it like your first.
 
I don't know about you, but seeing your parents strip naked can be very uncomfortable.
 
My three wives, one of the fathers joked as the other father stoked the flames in the fireplace. The house windows were evening blue and the fire crackled and their bodies were tiger orange except for their faces in the shadows. The Twister board was on the floor in front of the fireplace.
 
There were twenty-three colored dots on the board. Seven were black holes. The trick is to keep all your body parts. Boys have a seat. The two fathers sat as well. The dial on the color wheel twirled. We watched the mothers play Twister on the floor. They contorted in and around each other like human pretzels. Every time the spin dial pointed to a black hole one of the mothers lost a limb, reaching one arm or stepping one leg into a black hole.
 
Then the lost limb reappeared on the side of the playing board, where the fathers leaned from their wing-back chairs to pick up the arm or leg for examination before passing it on to us. Sometimes it was just a head or a hand that reappeared. I held one of my mother's legs and recognized the mole on the inside of her left thigh. It felt good to trace my fingertips up and down the length of her leg. Her toes bunched as I tickled the bottom of her foot. Soon the other two boys were wrestling for possession over the remaining three torsos writhing on the Twister board. Simultaneously the boys shoved each other into two separate black holes. The walls of the house rumbled as if painfully swallowing something too large for its throat. The boys never reappeared. Their screams draining from the room shuddered over me. I was the only boy left. The two fathers were sitting by the fire, sharing a cigar. The flames dancing in the fireplace blurred out of focus, my eyelids falling heavy with sleep.
 
The house windows welcomed the morning sun. The Twister board was gone. I was the only one left in the living room. A hunchbacked cleaning woman was vacuuming the floor. The sound of crushed potato chips tinkled up the metal pipe. The air stank of father's cigar. When I walked past the cleaning woman she grunted at the floor like I'm not cleaning that up.
 
It was one of the fathers. He was half-inflated, his legs rolled up to his ribs on the wooden floor. The instructions on how to package the inflatable father were on the dining room table. There was still enough air in his head to make a puffy show of lips, like the lips of a father ready to blow a heart-shaped ring of smoke.
 
I stepped over him. I was hungry. I would pack him up later. There was a note on the kitchen counter. I waited until eating a bowl of cereal to read it.
 
I trust you slept well. I'll be in the study whenever you're ready. Love, Dad.
 
The note quivered in my hand. There was a blonde wig with pigtails on the kitchen counter. The cleaning woman asked what she should do with the human hand she had found under the sofa.
 
I told her I'd take care of it. It was my mother's hand. The hunchback grunted then continued vacuuming. I took the wedding band off my mother's finger and wore it as my own. Then I pulled the pigtail wig tight onto my head. I knew daddy would be pleased to see his little girl. Quietly, with my mother's hand, I opened the study door.
 
 
© Ian Caskey 2016
 
 
After the Rides was first published in BOMB Magazine on December 14th 2016.

We took the shuttle to the entrance of the theme park. My father said, Remember our car is in Squiggly section C.
 
The day was thrilling.
 
When we returned to Squiggly section C, there was another family inside our car. They looked just like our family. My father stopped my mother and I from yelling at them as they drove away.
 
We sat in the empty parking space. Many families came and went. None of them noticed us. A girl from one of the families stepped on my hand without acknowledging me. Eventually the parking lot was empty. The theme park tower lights shut down. We were exhausted and hungry.
 
In the middle of the night, father woke us up. The shuttle had returned. The driver had no face. There was another groggy-eyed family on the shuttle. They too were identical to our family. We stepped inside the shuttle and introduced ourselves, but they said nothing, ignoring our presence, holding each other close. We drove on.
 
Father nudged me on the shoulder. I had fallen asleep. It was morning and the shuttle had pulled up in front of our house. We were home. The other family had already gotten off the shuttle. We followed them to the front door. Our car was in the driveway and the family that had stolen our car was watching us from the living room window.
 
Our family and the family from the shuttle stood in line and, one at a time, we knocked on the front door. Nobody answered. My father and the other father said they would be right back. They disappeared behind the house. My mother and the other mother did not talk to each other. I stared at the other boy. He was growling at me. And then the front door opened. I could not tell which of the three fathers staring back at us was mine. We all went inside.
 
Everyone sat in the living room. One of the fathers spoke first. He said by the end of the day there would be only one family. The other two fathers nodded. I felt queasy and confused.
 
So how do we determine which family stays, one of the mothers said.
 
We have a contest, one of the boys replied.
 
That's right, the three fathers said. One of the fathers looked at me. I had wet myself and soon everyone was looking at me. The other boy pointed, Does that mean he goes first?
 
No, no, the three mothers blurted. None of the boys can go first.
 
I was crying and the words trembled from my lips, Go where?
 
One of the fathers stood up and said, I will make this easy. He marched into the study and we all heard the gun. He had shot himself dead. None of the mothers seemed to mind, nor did the other two boys. The two living fathers dragged the dead-body down into the basement.
 
One of the boys grabbed my hand. Wanna play outside? I snatched back my hand and rushed to my room and slammed the door and tried to lock it, but the lock had been removed. I pushed against the door, but they bullied their way into the room. One was tugging my hair and the other was pulling at my legs. Take off his shoes! Take off his pants! See, he's still wet with pee. I was kicking and kicked myself free then whirled around and wrestled the other boy to the floor then felt myself lifting into the air.
 
One of the fathers carried me into the study and placed me onto his leather chair. He left me there alone. I hugged myself and rocked back and forth while everyone whispered outside the closed door. There was a chunk of brain matter on the family portrait from the first father who had shot himself in the mouth. The boy in the portrait was wearing a blue dress and had pigtails for hair. The study door opened. The two boys entered, followed by the three mothers and two fathers. The herd of parents goaded the boys to apologize, which I accepted.
 
Then everyone stared at one another and the pendulum inside the grandfather clock halted into a mid-swing silence that loomed all around.
 
Let's play Twister, one of the mothers said.
 
I felt uncomfortable in urine-soaked pants and asked if I could change. Then I noticed the other two boys had wet their pants too. Don't worry about it, the three mothers said. Today's our last day. Live it like your first.
 
I don't know about you, but seeing your parents strip naked can be very uncomfortable.
 
My three wives, one of the fathers joked as the other father stoked the flames in the fireplace. The house windows were evening blue and the fire crackled and their bodies were tiger orange except for their faces in the shadows. The Twister board was on the floor in front of the fireplace.
 
There were twenty-three colored dots on the board. Seven were black holes. The trick is to keep all your body parts. Boys have a seat. The two fathers sat as well. The dial on the color wheel twirled. We watched the mothers play Twister on the floor. They contorted in and around each other like human pretzels. Every time the spin dial pointed to a black hole one of the mothers lost a limb, reaching one arm or stepping one leg into a black hole.
 
Then the lost limb reappeared on the side of the playing board, where the fathers leaned from their wing-back chairs to pick up the arm or leg for examination before passing it on to us. Sometimes it was just a head or a hand that reappeared. I held one of my mother's legs and recognized the mole on the inside of her left thigh. It felt good to trace my fingertips up and down the length of her leg. Her toes bunched as I tickled the bottom of her foot. Soon the other two boys were wrestling for possession over the remaining three torsos writhing on the Twister board. Simultaneously the boys shoved each other into two separate black holes. The walls of the house rumbled as if painfully swallowing something too large for its throat. The boys never reappeared. Their screams draining from the room shuddered over me. I was the only boy left. The two fathers were sitting by the fire, sharing a cigar. The flames dancing in the fireplace blurred out of focus, my eyelids falling heavy with sleep.
 
The house windows welcomed the morning sun. The Twister board was gone. I was the only one left in the living room. A hunchbacked cleaning woman was vacuuming the floor. The sound of crushed potato chips tinkled up the metal pipe. The air stank of father's cigar. When I walked past the cleaning woman she grunted at the floor like I'm not cleaning that up.
 
It was one of the fathers. He was half-inflated, his legs rolled up to his ribs on the wooden floor. The instructions on how to package the inflatable father were on the dining room table. There was still enough air in his head to make a puffy show of lips, like the lips of a father ready to blow a heart-shaped ring of smoke.
 
I stepped over him. I was hungry. I would pack him up later. There was a note on the kitchen counter. I waited until eating a bowl of cereal to read it.
 
I trust you slept well. I'll be in the study whenever you're ready. Love, Dad.
 
The note quivered in my hand. There was a blonde wig with pigtails on the kitchen counter. The cleaning woman asked what she should do with the human hand she had found under the sofa.
 
I told her I'd take care of it. It was my mother's hand. The hunchback grunted then continued vacuuming. I took the wedding band off my mother's finger and wore it as my own. Then I pulled the pigtail wig tight onto my head. I knew daddy would be pleased to see his little girl. Quietly, with my mother's hand, I opened the study door.
 
 
© Ian Caskey 2016
 
After the Rides was first published in BOMB Magazine on December 14th 2016

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

Ian #1: Hello?
 
Ian #2: Hello?
 
Ian #1: Yes?
 
Ian #2: Who is this?
 
Ian #1 What do you mean? You called me.
 
Ian #2:  Who do you want to speak to?
 
Ian #1: I don't want to speak to anyone really. You're the one who made the phone call.
 
Ian # 2: No. You called me. Maybe it's a screw up with the phone or something. Who am I talking to?
 
Ian #1: Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #2: Wait a minute, I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #1: No that's impossible. You must be having me on. Some kind of phone prank. You're not me. Oh, I get it....You must be Tom Newton from The Strange Recital calling to talk to me about my story.
 
Ian #2: Come on. You called me.
 
Ian #1: No. I didn't. My phone rang, I picked it up. You called me. Are you calling about my story?
 
Ian #2: What story is that anyway?
 
Ian #1: After the Rides.
 
Ian #2: I wrote that.
 
Ian #3: Neither of you did. I wrote it.
 
Ian #1: Who are you? And what are you doing on this phone call?
 
Ian #3: I'm Ian Caskey, and this is the conference call we set up so you guys could interview me about my story. Which one of you is Brent and which one of you is Tom?
 
Ian #1: Ah...So you're Ian Caskey are you? Hm. Well you must be the inflatable one. I've never heard of inflatable dolls writing stories. You couldn't have written it. Anyway, you're not Ian Caskey. I am.
 
Ian #3: I suppose you call that logic.
 
Ian #1: Yep, you're inflatable, just like I thought.
 
Ian #3: Who are you?
 
Ian #1: I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #2: No, I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #1: Shut up.
 
Ian #2: I'm beginning to regret ever getting involved with you guys. It seemed like a good idea. But you're not only brazenly trying to steal my story, you're running off with my whole identity. Sociopaths.
 
Ian #1: Now who's ripping off who here? I wrote the story. It was published by Bomb. It's got my name on it. You call me up and you say I called you. Delusional. Maybe you need help.
 
Ian #3: This is getting old. Why don't we just agree, whoever we are, that the purpose of this conversation is to discuss my story - After the Rides? Let's just get on with it.
 
Ian #2: Great idea. We could each talk a bit about the story.
 
Ian #1: Okay. Who goes first?
 
Ian #2: I will, because I'm Ian Caskey and I wrote this story.
 
Ian #1: No you didn't.
 
Ian #3: Now we're back where we started.
 
Ian #1: This is like that game of Twister I wrote about. We're going to have to find a way to decide who speaks. I'll toss a coin. You two Ian's call it.
 
Ian #3: We can't see you. How do we know you're not cheating?
 
Ian #1: A thing called trust.
 
Ian #2: And why should I trust you? You're pretending to be me.
 
Ian #1: I'm not pretending to be you. I am you.
 
Ian #3: You're a walrus no doubt. I'm starting to like this. I think Borges said that all authors write the same story, just in different versions. And we're taking it a step further - all authors are the same person.
 
Ian #2: The same but different.
 
Ian #1: I suppose we are going to have to find a way to differentiate ourselves. We know who the Inflatable Ian is. We can tell by his voice. I'll be the Rubber Ian, and the other one....you -  you can be the Paper Ian. How's that?
 
Ian #3: But I'm not inflatable.
 
Ian #1: You could pretend you are, just for the sake of clarity. Okay, I'm tossing a coin. Oh. Hang on, I just dropped it. Give me a sec. Okay, here goes. Call it, Paper Ian.
 
Ian #2: Tails.
 
Ian #1: Tails it is. Now tell us about that story you say you wrote.
 
Ian #2: Well actually, I didn't write it.
 
Ian #1: Just like I thought.
 
Ian #2: Another Ian wrote it. A fourth Ian. I'm only his representative.
 
Ian #1: Sure.
 
Ian #2: He doesn't make personal appearances or grant interviews. But he did want to let everyone know that the story originated from a technique similar to the automatic writing of Surrealism, and Carl Jung's Red Book manifestations.
 
Ian #1: Yeah.
 
Ian #2:The stories often arrive as a waking dream unbounded by logic and moral ideals. It is only after transcribing them for the fourth Ian, also known as Duende, or the Goblin, or the Homunculus, that I find myself shuddering in a cold sweat and often store the words inside of an old sock drawer from my youth, or shred them up so no one will ever know. But this story escaped me, and now it runs amok upon its own.
 
Ian #3: Hm...Interesting. But I have a different take. When I wrote this story I wanted to put a postmodern spin on an ancient Indian philosophy. Advaita Vedanta proposes that everything is one – at the deepest level of reality, there are no individual selves. So even though the narrator calls himself “I,” he’s in a fractured hall of mirrors. Which of these others identical to himself is actually the “I”? All the selves are liquid, they shift and merge, drops in the ocean.
 
Ian #1: Yeah, well...I've always been interested in Les Chants de Maldoror. Written by Le Comte de Lautréamont, or Isidore-Lucien Ducasse. He died of fever at age twenty-four in Paris when it was under siege by the Prussians in 1870. Ducasse - sounds a bit like Caskey. I think I might start calling myself Ian Ducaskey.
 
Ian #2: What?
 
Ian #3: Ha-ha, yeah. 
 
Ian #1: Anyway, his book was completely bereft of morality. I think it might have been Paul Éluard, or perhaps Louis Aragon, who stumbled upon it in a used book store and showed it to André Breton. After that Lautréamont became the seminal prophet of Surrealism - famous for his image of an umbrella and a sewing machine meeting by chance on a dissecting table.
 
In my story After the Rides, I was trying to recreate this sensibility in a 21st Century American style. I think I did all right.
 
Ian #2: Maybe you would have, had you done it. Come on, which one of you is Tom and which one of you is Brent?
 
Ian #1: I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #3: No, I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #1: No you're not.
 
Ian #2: No, I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #3: Hey, come on. I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #1: I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #3: No. It's me.
 
Ian #2: I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #3: I wrote the story. I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #2: I'm Ian Caskey.

Ian #1: Hello?
 
Ian #2: Hello? 
 
Ian #1: Yes?
 
Ian #2: Who is this?
 
Ian #1 What do you mean? You called me.
 
Ian #2:  Who do you want to speak to?
 
Ian #1: I don't want to speak to anyone really. You're the one who made the phone call.
 
Ian # 2: No. You called me. Maybe it's a screw up with the phone or something. Who am I talking to?
 
Ian #1: Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #2: Wait a minute, I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #1: No that's impossible. You must be having me on. Some kind of phone prank. You're not me. Oh, I get it....You must be Tom Newton from The Strange Recital calling to talk to me about my story.
 
Ian #2: Come on. You called me. 
 
Ian #1: No. I didn't. My phone rang, I picked it up. You called me. Are you calling about my story?
 
Ian #2: What story is that anyway?
 
Ian #1: After the Rides.
 
Ian #2: I wrote that.
 
Ian #3: Neither of you did. I wrote it.
 
Ian #1: Who are you? And what are you doing on this phone call?
 
Ian #3: I'm Ian Caskey, and this is the conference call we set up so you guys could interview me about my story. Which one of you is Brent and which one of you is Tom?
 
Ian #1: Ah...So you're Ian Caskey are you? Hm. Well you must be the inflatable one. I've never heard of inflatable dolls writing stories. You couldn't have written it. Anyway, you're not Ian Caskey. I am.
 
Ian #3: I suppose you call that logic.
 
Ian #1: Yep, you're inflatable, just like I thought.
 
Ian #3: Who are you?
 
Ian #1: I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #2: No, I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #1: Shut up.
 
Ian #2: I'm beginning to regret ever getting involved with you guys. It seemed like a good idea. But you're not only brazenly trying to steal my story, you're running off with my whole identity. Sociopaths.
 
Ian #1: Now who's ripping off who here? I wrote the story. It was published by Bomb. It's got my name on it. You call me up and you say I called you. Delusional. Maybe you need help.
 
Ian #3: This is getting old. Why don't we just agree, whoever we are, that the purpose of this conversation is to discuss my story - After the Rides? Let's just get on with it.
 
Ian #2: Great idea. We could each talk a bit about the story.
 
Ian #1: Okay. Who goes first?
 
Ian #2: I will, because I'm Ian Caskey and I wrote this story.
 
Ian #1: No you didn't.
 
Ian #3: Now we're back where we started.
 
Ian #1: This is like that game of Twister I wrote about. We're going to have to find a way to decide who speaks. I'll toss a coin. You two Ian's call it.
 
Ian #3: We can't see you. How do we know you're not cheating?
 
Ian #1: A thing called trust.
 
Ian #2: And why should I trust you? You're pretending to be me.
 
Ian #1: I'm not pretending to be you. I am you.
 
Ian #3: You're a walrus no doubt. I'm starting to like this. I think Borges said that all authors write the same story, just in different versions. And we're taking it a step further - all authors are the same person.
 
Ian #2: The same but different.
 
Ian #1: I suppose we are going to have to find a way to differentiate ourselves. We know who the Inflatable Ian is. We can tell by his voice. I'll be the Rubber Ian, and the other one....you -  you can be the Paper Ian. How's that?
 
Ian #3: But I'm not inflatable.
 
Ian #1: You could pretend you are, just for the sake of clarity. Okay, I'm tossing a coin. Oh. Hang on, I just dropped it. Give me a sec. Okay, here goes. Call it, Paper Ian.
 
Ian #2: Tails.
 
Ian #1: Tails it is. Now tell us about that story you say you wrote.
 
Ian #2: Well actually, I didn't write it.
 
Ian #1: Just like I thought.
 
Ian #2: Another Ian wrote it. A fourth Ian. I'm only his representative. 
 
Ian #1: Sure.
 
Ian #2: He doesn't make personal appearances or grant interviews. But he did want to let everyone know that the story originated from a technique similar to the automatic writing of Surrealism, and Carl Jung's Red Book manifestations.
 
Ian #1: Yeah.
 
Ian #2:The stories often arrive as a waking dream unbounded by logic and moral ideals. It is only after transcribing them for the fourth Ian, also known as Duende, or the Goblin, or the Homunculus, that I find myself shuddering in a cold sweat and often store the words inside of an old sock drawer from my youth, or shred them up so no one will ever know. But this story escaped me, and now it runs amok upon its own.
 
Ian #3: Hm...Interesting. But I have a different take. When I wrote this story I wanted to put a postmodern spin on an ancient Indian philosophy. Advaita Vedanta proposes that everything is one – at the deepest level of reality, there are no individual selves. So even though the narrator calls himself “I,” he’s in a fractured hall of mirrors. Which of these others identical to himself is actually the “I”? All the selves are liquid, they shift and merge, drops in the ocean.
 
Ian #1: Yeah, well...I've always been interested in Les Chants de Maldoror. Written by Le Comte de Lautréamont, or Isidore-Lucien Ducasse. He died of fever at age twenty-four in Paris when it was under siege by the Prussians in 1870. Ducasse - sounds a bit like Caskey. I think I might start calling myself Ian Ducaskey. 
 
Ian #2: What?
 
Ian #3: Ha-ha, yeah. 
 
Ian #1: Anyway, his book was completely bereft of morality. I think it might have been Paul Éluard, or perhaps Louis Aragon, who stumbled upon it in a used book store and showed it to André Breton. After that Lautréamont became the seminal prophet of Surrealism - famous for his image of an umbrella and a sewing machine meeting by chance on a dissecting table.
 
In my story After the Rides, I was trying to recreate this sensibility in a 21st Century American style. I think I did all right.
 
Ian #2: Maybe you would have, had you done it. Come on, which one of you is Tom and which one of you is Brent?
 
Ian #1: I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #3: No, I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #1: No you're not.
 
Ian #2: No, I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #3: Hey, come on. I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #1: I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #3: No. It's me.
 
Ian #2: I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #3: I wrote the story. I'm Ian Caskey.
 
Ian #2: I'm Ian Caskey.

 

The music on this episode is: The Beach is Red, by Violet + Bertrand Denzler and Pink Circo, by The Musique Concrete Ensemble.

Both pieces are from the compilation album: Zeromoon Sampler III: An Explanation of Difficult Music, released on the Zeromoon label and used under the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license

 

THE STRANGE RECITAL

Episode 17031

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