“In The Apartments Next to Mine” Book Excerpt 3

2015 book trailer (6)“I don’t know what I’ll do as far as a career, but this is just the beginning of my life. I hope I’ll be able to go home like my Dad suggested years ago. Thank you all but, I can’t take any more questions. I have a plane to catch.”  With that said he stepped back, turned and fell into Cynthia’s waiting arms.

“That was the bravest thing I have ever seen,” she said as they walked through the sea of flashing lights.  Hailing a taxi, they headed for the airport.  During the entire flight, neither one uttered a word – they just watched the flight attendants in navy blue suits walk the aisle passing out peanuts, sandwiches and drinks.  Caleb took his infant size pillow and laid still against the window all the while trying to ignore the six year old kicking the seat from behind and the rank smell of the adult diaper needing to be changed from the seat in front. Cynthia just laid motionless watching the in-flight movie until she fell asleep.

Arriving at O’Hara Airport in Chicago, they hailed a taxi with the help of a red cap.  This time Cynthia tipped with a little more gratitude.  They hopped into the cab and went straight to Chicago General Hospital. “Excuse me nurse, I’m here to see Rev. Bowmont,”

“Yes ma’am,” the nurse replied. “He’s in Room 323.”  With butterflies in her stomach, she pushes the door slowly entering with Caleb following.

“Hi Daddy,” She reached back for Caleb’s hand.

“Hello, little one.  I’m glad you came.”

Pulling Caleb closer, “This is…Ca…”

“Oh, I know who he is.  I just saw him on the news.  Come on in son.”

After sitting and talking a while and repairing the father-daughter relationship, Rev. Bowmont prayed for the two. He reminded them to trust God with the rest of their decisions.  Then he pulled Caleb close and whispered, “Son I know firsthand what some of those video games do and how some of them rob our children.  The Ranch Ministry I started years ago was because of you.”

“Because of me…?”

“Yes, the Ranch is to bring the city youth up to the mountain to get away for a while and to explore the stars and feel real animals.  The most popular violent games they’ve played have been the ones you developed personally.”

“I’m sorry sir.”

“There’s no need for that.  You’ve made the right choice now.  I prayed for your change of heart years ago.  I’m just glad I was able to see it happen.  Thank you son, for your witness to the video game industry.”  After shaking hands, they said goodbye.

“I’ll see you soon Daddy, I’ll call you from Austin too,” Cynthia said, waving on the way out the door.

They stayed at the Bowmont Ranch until Monday morning.  Boarding yet another plane, they headed to Austin, Texas.  Once again, upon landing, they rushed to a taxi, traveling in the bright Texas sun. It wasn’t long before they approached the college campus,  now surrounded by the NFL Officials, news media, helicopters circling and thousands upon thousands of ‘Longhorn’ fans all chanting Jedidiah’s name.  Like the woman who pushed her way through the crowds to get to Jesus, they too were pressed on all sides.  Finally making it to the office, they were escorted to the field where the press conference had already begun.  Unable to make their way to the stage where the rest of the family was, Caleb and Cynthia managed to squeeze up front just behind the ‘press corps’.

There standing before him was the youngest of the ‘James boys’.  The once chubby, ashy, slow poke had become a man.  A literal tower of strength, his deep brown muscular frame glistening in the sun, he leaned on the podium with his left hand – his left shoulder and profile resembling the regal look of Daddy.

Jed leaned forward with his hands cupped over his eyes as he spotted his big brother and smiled.  Putting his hands down, he continued with the conference.

“Alright, alright guys, where were we?”

“You were going to tell us what we’ve waited to hear all weekend,” one reporter comments.

Playing with the press, Jed replied, “Ah – what was that?”

“The draft Jed, the draft!” they shouted.

He inhales, raising his muscles underneath his orange and white ‘Longhorn’ polo shirt, and answered the long awaited question.  “When I was a boy, my parents got me into football because they thought I was built for the game.  Being from New York, we were huge ‘Big Blue” fans, so it was easy to love the game.  In high school, I played football because I was good at the game.  I also wanted a college scholarship. I received it – then came here to school.  I played college ball for ‘me’ because I wanted to play football – because I love the game.”

“Yes, Yes,” a reporter shouts.  “What’s your answer?”

                                                                                           

                                      “Going Home” and more can be found inside…

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“In The Apartments Next to Mine” Book Excerpt 2

2015 book trailer (5)“It’s okay Jay.  I can do it,” Jared said.

“No, it’s not safe.  They might hurt you!  Jared, come back!” he yelled desperately.  But he was too late.  The police burst through the door smashing Jared into tiny bloody pieces.  Henry tried his hardest to restrain Jay but he broke loose and ran for the first officer through the door.

Jacob, seeing only his brother’s blood went after the “beast” who slain him.  He grabbed the blue beast by the throat and squeezed till his yellow eyes popped out.  He watched the droll from the fangs pour on his large hands.  When the beast clawed at Jay, he broke both of his arms and was going for the legs when the rest of the pack charged at him. The defender was no match for their weapons.  Like fire, the small pellets from their claws burned through his chest.  Jay’s blood spread quickly across the hard wood floors. Nicole stared in horror as she witnessed the whole thing.          Salt streamed down her full face as she watched her baby being carted off like a panther by hunters.  Yet, she couldn’t move.  The whole scene was being played out on what looked like a muted big screen television – badges flashed from all directions, guns drawn, Henry, with his hands outstretched, his mouth moving but no sound passing through her ears.  Then like an explosion, she heard everything at once which caused her to scream.  “Stop…stop!”  All fear now gone.  “Get your hands off my husband.”

“Ma’am, calm down, we’re just…”

“Just what?!”  Arresting him for nothing! She interrupted.

“You bust in our home, shoot my child and now you put guns to my husband’s head, frighten my daughter and tell me you’re just…just what?  Just gonna make a statistic of my husband?  You claim he’s resisting arrest, why would he need to be arrested?!”  Her heart moved like a commuter train within her.  Her words were full with rage.  Then before the police could answer, the paramedics cut in to remind them of something far more important.

“I have a pulse…he’s still breathing and I need to get this man to the hospital now!”  With that the sirens rang through the streets as the ambulance driver tried to break sound and speed barriers to get Jacob to the hospital.

Henry was still arrested, arraigned and released, then met Nicole at the hospital. Mercy General was known for many things but being the best hospital was not one of them.  However, Jacob received excellent care partly because he had become a local superstar.

“Mr. and Mrs. Jackson?” the surgeon asked.

“Yes, Doctor,” they answered in unison.

“Your son is in critical but stable condition.”

“Can we see him?” Nicole asked

“Maybe in a couple of hours, he’s still unconscious.”

Nicole turned to see Henry just staring into space.  “Henry, did you hear what the doctor said?  Henry?”  She called again.  Still no response; Henry collapsed in the vinyl chair.  With his hands still in his pockets, he began to wail, out of both pain and anger.  His shoulders caved in on each other, his body curled in a slumped ball.  He no longer looked like the tower of strength Nicole knew him to be.  He was now in need of her strength.

“If you’d like, I could have someone come and talk with you,” the doctor offered cautiously knowing that the suggestion being made could sometimes make matters worse.

Nicole rested her head on Henry’s. “That would be fine, thank you, doctor…?”

“Roberts,” he finished as he disappeared around the corner.

Two hours later, the triage nurse was wrapping up Henry’s hand when the psychologist walked in.

“Mr. Jackson, I presume” smiling.  What happened to your hand?”

“He put it through the candy machine,” the nurse answered.

“Really? You didn’t see the strip on the bottom that said ‘push’?” making light of the situation.  Henry looked up at the man and answered, “I did. I thought it meant the glass.”  The two men laughed as the very angry nurse left them alone.  “I don’t often make light of people assaulting fixed objects.  It often means there’s something going on inside.  But in your case, I read the report.  Heck, if what happened to you and your family happened to me, well I’d take out the coffee machine as well,” the doctor continued. “By the way, I’m Dr. Michael Arnold.”

“Henry Jackson, that’s my wife Nicole,” pointing outside the door. “Why don’t we all go somewhere quiet to talk?” The doctor asked.

They found a nice spot in a corner outside the hospital’s chapel.  The doctor explained how Jacob had been tested for drugs as well as other tests.  The test for drugs was negative.  So he asked them if they knew what brought on the behavior and why the cops shot him so many times.  So Nicole explained that she had heard him talking to himself in the room.  When she asked who it was he was talking to, he’d told her to ‘shut up’.

“Did you have an argument earlier?” the doctor questioned.

“No, he’d been in his room all day.”

“What about you, Mr. Jackson, anything odd?”

“Ah…yeah. When the cops banged on the door, he told Jared to come away from the door.”

“Who is Jared?”

“Our youngest son.  He was killed by a drunk driver.  But that was five years ago. Jacob was acting like he was standing in the room.”  He tossed me like a rag doll then bolted for the door.” he continued, puzzled.

“Mrs. Jackson?” The doctor’s face now full of concern.

“Yes,” she answered.  Her expression said she knew more.

“Um, a couple of years ago he said he saw Jared eating in the kitchen,” shrugging her shoulders.

“Was that the only time?” the doctor continued to probe.

“The coach in high school called me in because Jacob was in the locker room talking to himself.”

“What was he talking about?”

“The coach didn’t say – just that he was arguing.  And I didn’t ask Jay either.”

“Excuse me doctor!”  Henry was now furious.

“This happened more than once and because of it – whatever “it” is our son is dying upstairs! But for some unknown reason, you never told me! Thanks, Nicole, thank you very much!”  Knowing that asking Henry to calm down would go badly, Dr. Arnold just calmly spoke to Nicole while Henry paced the hallway in front of the chapel.

“Nicole?” choosing his words carefully.

“Do you know if there’s anyone in either family with a mental illness?”

Her eyes searched the hall, “What do you mean?”

“He means anybody like that crazy uncle of yours, Nicole!”  Henry barked.

“Uncle?” asked the doctor.

“Um, ah, it’s not my uncle.  He’s just “high” all the time.  My father was diagnosed with schizophrenia”.

“What?  You told me you didn’t know your father and you heard he died when you were 12 years old!” Henry’s voice was so loud that the chapel door creaked open and a pair of tiny child’s eyes stared at him.

“Henry, please,” Nicole pleaded.  “Please, look at the kids.  Come sit down,” tears streamed from her eyes.  “Honey, I’m sorry I lied,” searching his face for understanding.  “I was 12 when he died,” she continued.  “My dad was a young man with troubles – at least that’s what people said.  He couldn’t handle life,” they said.  “So, he shot himself. I came home and found him holding a picture of me in his arms.  Blood was everywhere – the ceiling, the walls and on his favorite arm chair.  We would sit in it together to watch football games.  I found him slumped in our chair with my picture because he gave up on me!  That’s what I told myself.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was told that my Dad was schizophrenic.  I was only told because I was marrying you,” she held his hand.  “My mother didn’t want me to have children.”  She leaned back on the bench and began to cry.  Henry looked into her oval face.  The look in his eyes told the story of his heart.  He loved Nicole.  He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to carry such a burden.

“Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, I believe that what your son was going through, is quite possibly schizophrenia,” Dr. Arnold said.

“Do you know what made it happen?  Was it football?  Jared?”  Nicole asked.

“No,” he continued.  “No, in your case Nicole – may I call you Nicole?”

“Yes.”

                                                      Kaleidoscope and more can be found inside…

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“In The Apartments Next to Mine” Book Excerpt 1

 

2015 book trailer (5)The doors closed…

 

We sat across from each other. She’s tired from the journey through the years, me from the day’s travel…She looked down staring in her hands as if in deep thought.  I stared at the thick hunter green veins spreading up her arms from her hands like cob webs. Her weathered skin covered in brown spots; hair like fur all over her forearms.

My eyes traveled south to her legs; arthritis had moved in, bags, furniture and all. Her scrawny ostrich legs were capped by knees nearly bigger than her whole body.  She was wearing beautiful, sensible black shoes. The kind you would take to a craftsman to repair; a cobbler, whose skills the young women have no need of – they tend to throw out worn shoes. She was from a different era, she knows the value of a well-made shoe and her generation, poor as they were, kept things and repaired them often.

My eyes floated back up to her hands they trembled a little; her decrepit joints mimicked falcon claws as she scratched through her hand bag. In search of what – her youth, some gum, a thought she could not remember…? I continued to scale up her person…The classy knee length, carbon colored skirt was complemented by a cherry red cashmere cardigan sweater. Her head was still down but I could see her timeworn face. Fuzz blanketed her sad, shar pei expression.  Her frail shoulders stiffly moved as she continued to claw through the bag. The stubborn gray fought against the boxed blond and won the fight. It didn’t seem to matter to her,  She still pinned it up like a 1940’s movie starlet. She had the class and charm to go with it. Curiosity filled my marrow as her trembling head lifted…I wondered what she looked like in her youth…

Our eyes latched.  My head tilted like the old RCA victor dog and suddenly through her cataracts blue eyes, I was whisked back to the 1940’s. I heard a swing band playing in my head; it slowly grew louder in my ears. I looked up…I was no longer on the 6 train.  I was listening to the A Train and Ella was singing it. “Look,” I thought. “There she is.”  She was standing against the wall wearing the same clothes, tapping her foot and gently applying bright red lipstick. She was 70 years younger, with clear blue eyes like the Caribbean ocean. I walked toward her to ask for her dance card but McCullin’s arms were already around her waist.

They would have danced all night but a husky voice burst through the air and ordered the men back to their base…they were shipping out. I stood motionless as their hands, like time, slipped away. She never saw corporal McCullin again but like many girls waiting for their guy to come home, she took his name, Mrs. McCullin.  Her ruby red lips parted to a half smile with warm tears dripping on her cardigan as she turned and waved to me…I heard the faint voice of the conductor in the background.  As the subway doors closed, she stood on the platform searching in her bag…for her dance card.

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   “The Widow McCullin” and more can be found inside…

 

 

 

 

 

“Over-watch the ‘American Sniper'” Review

Sniper 7 He steadies his breathing (if you’ve played Call of Duty,then you understand) with his finger on the trigger of his rifle…he pears through the scope’s lens and out walks a women with a child. Her arms don’t swing, the boy is close to her, she’s hiding something…It’s a grenade!! The tank escort with Marines are coming down the street unaware of the woman and child. But Kyle is on Overwatch, So he sees them…his eyes say, he dreads the next move.

He takes the shot…

Sniper 6   A week ago I went to see American Sniper. I like Clint Eastwood’s eye for directing (Angelina Jolie as well), in the past several years he has told stories in such elegant and compelling ways. Much like British television and other European film makers. Foreign film makers (not all) tend to take their time in telling the story. American film makers often rush through the story far too much. If it’s action, something must blow up! and frequently too. If it’s romance, the clothes come off or the film starts without clothes altogether.

TA3A5741.DNG I heard about the Chris Kyle autobiography long before the movie. So seeing the story brought to life in Eastwood’s hands was a big draw for me. After the opening scene we are whisked away to Kyle’s childhood where he learns to protect others, a hard lesson. The story moves forward and later returns to the opening where he squeezes the trigger…yes, the kills them. The viewer is treated to an intense inside glimpse of military life. Just like in Lone Survivor the Marcus Luttrell story (saw it with my wife)Lone 1  the difference is, that this is not about enduring a firefight chase through the woods and mountains. No, this story is about the other guys, the sharp shooters, that lay down cover fire so that their brothers in arms can get out! At that point no one cares about the president, the flag or their country…it’s about fighting along side with and for your brothers/sisters. It’s about putting a large caliber bullet into another person to stop them in their tracks.

Sniper 1 The story is about a man doing the job he was hired to do and was dawn good at it. He was hired by the United States Department of Defense to be a Navy Seal, elite soldiers…If you’re in trouble, I highly doubt anyone would call Ghost Busters. Kyle volunteered for the job because we have a volunteer armed forces. If I remember correctly, you must serve 2 years in the Israeli army.Other countries have their terms of service too…there are some countries where the soldiers are taken as children and forced to fight. Chris Kyle, at 30 years old volunteered.

AMERICAN SNIPER MOV American Sniper is also about a husband and father. About a wife who is madly in love with her husband and finds it difficult to raise her kids alone, like other military families. Taya Kyle, watches in horror as her husband’s light disappears from his eyes. She, as we do also, watches how 4 years of war change the smiling man, to an emotionless shell of who he was. In one scene they go to the hospital to check on the baby…he sits still and quiet…but when the doctor checks his blood pressure it’s very high.  Sniper 5 

Taya, at one point, pleads with Chris to return to her…she meant the man that he was before his 4 Tours of Duty. When Kyle does return, we see but a glimpse of his war to return to Chris Kyle. The stress of fighting/war is hell on a body both mentally and physically, we see it prominently in the film The Hurt Locker. And married couples feel the toll on their relationship as well, when they constantly argue and fight.

I sat and wonder what my grandfathers, cousins and uncles and father saw and how it affected them…my grandfathers and older relatives served during WW l & II. My Dads father was part of the Red Ball Express http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=43934  I also wondered what it was like for King David, Gideon etc. They fought with swords and were eye to eye with their enemies. How long did it take for them to recover after a long hard battle?

The tears fell when I listened to Taya’s plead and watched her reaction to Kyle’s distance from her and the kids. I wondered what my wife felt watching melt away to severe panic attacks /2015/01/20/becoming-unglued-when-the-world-looks-different/  We’ve talked about it a little in the past but I don’t really know what it felt like for her to see me like that…

   Controversy. I read a few things here and there, of course I read the texts and statements of the celebrities and the complaints of our 20+ year old daughter…”It’s about war! and anti-Islam…hating Muslims and he was a racist too!” (she didn’t even see the movie). Others said it was “Pro war”…Well! You might want to stop reading from this point…you will be offended!

The shift in American culture has gone off the deep end. I don’t see soldiers and say that line (which has become cliche) “Thank you for you service” or “Their fighting for our freedoms” I usually just have a normal conversation. Sometimes I’ll ask how long they’ve been home and has the transition been okay. I grew up being told not to fight girls, respect my elder even in a disagreement, pay for the date and treat her like a lady, respect the cops, don’t embarrass your parents by acting simple minded, young ladies don’t act like that, ladies don’t talk like that…etc. You see where this is going right?  Now, from the folks next door, the TV, Movies, tablets and cells, all you hear is “suck my..” “B….” “He’s a …” ” Shut your old …. up!” and the ever popular, Reality shows have all manner of vulgarity on them. Anything that comes close to commonsense or decency is automatically hated. Culture has shifted to pro-gay, anti-hetero. pro-youth, hide the old. pro-Muslim, atheist, humanist, secularist…but anti-christian. Pro- political correctness and anti-commonsense. The culture shifted from boys being boys, acting like boys, dressing like boys…to, getting them so in-touch  with their feminine side that their shaving off beard, eye brows, arm hairs and so on… And we find isms in everything, why my last paragraph will be labeled at least 10 of them…N07A6557.dng

There is no wonder as to why the celebrities and others react in such a way to a true story. Because the culture has shifted to removing any and all emotions…save sex, hatred and vulgarity(it seems). So when something so violently true and honest flies in the face of modern pop culture, there can only be such a visceral response. As I said above, this movie was about more than a war, it was about a man, a husband and father. It was about what so many other military families deal with…living with the stress and reality of combat.

We will except fantasy like Shooter or The Kingdom and Hunger Games…but a real story?

Until next time…

 

“Becoming Unglued, When The World Looks Different”

unglued 3

I was thinking about what to write about last Friday. I had a couple of choices at the beginning of the week then I read a Facebook post that reminded me of something I wrote.

In my book there is a story called Kaleidoscope, it’s a story about a family dealing with a member’s mental illness. Henry and Nicole Jackson‘s son Jacob suffers with Schizophrenia. He is a talented football player on the rise to NFL stardom…that rise however is interrupted. Henry discovers that Nicole’s family has a history with this particular mental illness. The couple must now, like other families in america, face a hard really…

unglued 6 I wrote the story for a psychology class. I studied many forms of mental illness, I found that schizophrenia was the most perplexing. It was that thing that as kids we saw displayed most often and the people with it were “crazy people”. Schizophrenia is indeed the classic definition of crazy. Some people here voices, see things that are not there and they respond to them. Of course anyone looking at such a person can see that they’re talking to no one.unglued 4  Unfortunately, the illness causes many to be violent towards others. Think about it, if you saw something scary and thought it wanted to harm you what would you do? If you heard voices that were not your own, how would you react? Now, multiply that by the lifespan because that’s how long a person must live with the mental illness.unglued 5  Yes, there are medications and treatments and facilities for people to have help. But they must still live with it. Some medications make people feel better, normal and after a while they stop taking their medication. The end result? They spiral down.unglued 7

Schizophrenia is one of dozens of mental illnesses…Depression, Panic attacks(anxiety attacks), Bipolar and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) are all forms of mental illness. Like  broken bones, there are many types of Fractures, simple, compound etc. Likewise mental illness has many levels and layers. Over the years some have been declassified and reclassified…Anxiety attacks to Panic attacks to Mood disorders, one can hardly keep up. But the point is that, for many it’s a hellish existence for 60 or 70 years of life. If they make it that far, too many like Robin Williams, take there own lives…unglued 10

I know all too well what it’s like to feel yourself slipping away. To know that you know the face in the mirror yet you don’t recognize yourself or the feelings you have. It’s like smelling the pizza, feeling the pizza, putting the pizza in your mouth but tasting nothing! I lost about a year and a half to severe panic attacks. It was a gradual decline starting with feeling uncomfortable on the crowded train…now I live in NY and I know tourist think that squeezing in a train is fun. But most new yorkers Hate being pressed together like sardines. My feelings weren’t the typical annoyance we strap-hangers feel, I was suffocating. I felt the same way at home when we ate together or in large wide open spaces. I would often jump off the train at the nearest stop just to relax, which caused me to be late. Then on day the flood gate opened…I was on the R train headed to Queens when I felt the train car close in on me, like the curving street scene in Inception. It was just as the train was in the middle between Manhattan and Queens. A sudden fear took me, one I’d never felt, I kept picturing in my mind the water crushing the car. The more I tried to shake the image the worst things got for me. My heart raced, my head began to swim and I could no longer control my breathing. I did all I could to stand up and not cave in to the feelings…thankfully the stop came.

What followed was days and months and soon a year of descent into a pit of despair. The sound of water, talking, loud noises, vibrations, touch…anything would send my body into a panic! My head/brain felt like it was floating away, I wore a hat all day just to comfort myself. Brushing my teeth was near impossible because I felt like I was choking, the same with eating which caused me to loose a ridiculous amount of weight in a short period of time. All of these things and more brought on feelings of my death, which made everything worst still!… To add insult to the injury I received such expert advice! “Why don’t you just…”, “Not enough faith to be healed..” “What are you scared of…?” “It’s in your mind..”  As if the person doesn’t already feel crazy! unglued

You see dear reader, you can see a broken window, arm, leg, a torn shirt, a leaky pot but you can’t put a bandage on an internal injury like a broken mind. You can see the effects of the injury, some more than others, but there is nothing physical for the outside world to see to say “Let me help you with that” No one will reach out to carry your bags of groceries. They will stand aside and whisper…  I am not writing this piece this week as an expert or with stats you can find or supplying a number to a helpline. I am writing as someone who has experienced the pain of becoming unglued. I am a christian, so I put my hope and trust in the words of the bible and Christ Jesus. You may put yours elsewhere and that’s fine.  For me, I had a praying wife that got me through, who held my hand in the hospital, who drew close to me even though she was terrified of loosing her husband, who kept watch over me when I couldn’t sleep, eat or sit for more than a minute. She was and is my teammate through that time. Many marriage fail in a crisis like this but we were pulled closer, we had no others…It’s been 13 years since that lost time.

    I write this week, to encourage you dear reader. Think about that family member, neighbor, co-worker, anyone you may know or whom you may be caring for…with Love. It’s not just a word, it’s action. It encompasses compassion, empathy, insight, a willingness to help, the capability to hold on and let go, to hug or the patience to wait to be able to hug…and much more. It all demonstrates Love. unglued 2 Dear reader if you feel anything like you’ve read about reach out to some one for help. Don’t wait for them to come to you, they can’t see what you feel. One last soapbox thing, that friend or helper shouldn’t be offering you anything that would make matter worst.     Until next time…

                  33 I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” -John 16:33(HCSB)

 

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