A Kiss For The Road by Eduardo Cervino

jpeg for feb 10 2016

I’VE been sleeping until dusk every day for a long time. Without dark glasses, daylight hurts my eyes. My apartment’s heavy-lined curtains are always drawn. I can roam the house, find the toilet with my eyes closed, squat on it like a woman, and get back in bed in complete obscurity.

Darkness does not bother me, but the thoughts that now and then lurk in my mind do.

Tonight, the light of the open fridge illuminates a soggy old pizza, a few beers, a Styrofoam container with the remains of a salad from the vegetarian place I frequent . . . a hole in the wall more than a restaurant. Red meat grosses me out.

I’m usually the best dresser in the place. This fucking world is full of slobs flaunting their spirituality by dressing like slobs.

A sip of Perrier water, the third I’ve taken since waking up, does not satiate my kind of thirst. Back in the bathroom, my image in the mirror improves with shaving and a meticulous grooming of my salt-pepper mane of hair.

The Old Spice cologne bottle is half-empty. I don’t quite like the smell but my father did, and Mother hung around his neck smelling him all the time like a bitch in heat, never caring about me.

Tonight I’ll wear the Pierre Cardin suit, polo shirt, no tie, and go hunting.

 

SOON after, I’m driving to the Upper West Side on my way to a bar I’ve never visited, but have noticed stays open late.

I park in the garage I used on previous occasions, but hesitate to get out of the car, eager to resist the craving. I loathe my alter ego’s wickedness.

My breaths frost the windshield. The silhouette of a woman fresh out of a nearby car catches my attention as she passes in front of my Mercedes. She is alone, walking quickly. Overcoming my hesitation, I get out of the car and follow her down the ramp.

I feel better. Just one more time tonight, and God willing, I will stop forever.

The sidewalk is desolate. The woman is half a block away, walking uphill on 96th Street.

She may disappear into one of the apartment buildings.

She doesn’t. Instead, she waits at the stoplight to cross busy Broadway. It gives me time to shorten the distance between us and stand close behind her, amid other waiting pedestrians.

What makes me select this woman?

It seems I can smell them at a distance. Maybe I have a shark-like electrical receiver that guides me to this type of woman. Perhaps it is just fate.

Where is she going?

The light changes, and we dart through the crosswalk with a few other men and women. I am three feet behind her when she veers to the right under the canopy of Eddie’s Tavern. I do the same.

We reach the tavern door at the same time. I open it and hold it for her to go ahead.

“Thank you, sir.” Her dark eyes gleam.

A childlike smile comes naturally to me. I nod and followed her inside, ready to let loose my charm and slake my predatory impulse.

She walks to the end of the bar and around the ninety-degree curve tying it to the wall. Only two stools reside at that location and she chooses the last one. From there, she can see the faces of all the patrons nurturing their inner thoughts. Tonight there are few; the bar has a pathetic ambience.

She nods to the bartender. They are acquainted, because he prepares a Bloody Mary for her before going to greet her.

Mine is one of the faces she can see and lure with a smile, or dismiss with the cool, indifferent gaze of her almond-shaped eyes. She appears oblivious to me, but the way she eludes my eyes is too purposeful. She refuses to duel with me, but not with the others at the bar, and I send over a second Bloody Mary to make her look at me. She doesn’t refuse when, carrying my mojito, I ask permission to sit at her side.

“Thanks for the drink; it’s nice of you.”

“My pleasure. My name is Henry Borman—It’s not—I’m trying to relax after a rather exhausting day. And you are?”

“Catherine Wong. Nice to meet you.”

In the spot she chose to sit; the lighting is dimmer than the rest of the place, disguising the fire extinguisher and pay telephone hung on the wall behind. The bend of the counter keeps other drinkers slightly separated from us.

Her hands, laced around the glass, are thin, with manicured nails. It isn’t necessary to touch them to realize the silkiness of her olive skin. Following the contours of her arms, I stop to admire the svelte line of her neck and her glossy black oriental hair.

“Tell me, Catherine: do your friends call you Cathy?”

“Brilliant deduction, Henry.”

“Just a lucky guess.”

“Are you a lucky man? Haven’t seen you around here before.”

“I’m not a regular. I happened to be going home from work and decided to stop. I’ve noticed this tavern when driving by.”

“What do you do, Henry.”

“Currency trading—work at night, sleep by day; and you?”

“Piano player in a jazz group—work at night, sleep by day.” She is teasing me. “But you said it was an exhausting day.”

“Yes, it was my day off and I had to attend to personal issues. By the way, I love piano.”

I imagine her fingers sliding over the ivory keys while playing Satin Doll, a tune I love.

“You dress like a Vogue model.”

“I have a passion for designer garments.” She looks at me. “You are no slob, I see.”

She is hot.

“I’m interested in cinema. Are you, Cathy?”

In the next forty minutes she amazes me with her knowledge of obscure classic films by directors like Buñuel and Fellini. By the time we empty our glasses, we know the music we like, the books we have read, the places we have visited. Her beauty is beginning to obfuscate my thoughts.

“So you are not trading currency tonight?”

“What?”

“Are you not working tonight?”

“Oh, no, I have to rest. No one can go twenty-four hours without falling apart.”

The bartender comes over and picks up the glasses. We order our third round for the night. “This will be my last; what about you?” she says. I find her smile and her eyes seductive.

The television is on and a game ends. The bartender changes the channel. There is a momentary rise of the volume coinciding with something she says and I can’t hear. I lean toward her. A drift of Coco Chanel fragrance impels my madness. Her neck is inches from my lips and it takes all the resolve I can muster to control my desire to kiss her.

“I can’t hear you? Did you say something?”

“Yes,” she says. “I want to go out for a smoke.”

We pay our separate bills. Not to leave a traceable record of my presence, I pay in cash. She does too for her own reasons.

 

OUTSIDE, under the canopy, she lights her cigarette and takes a long, drawn-out gulp of smoke. I refuse her offer to take one.

“Smoking doesn’t appeal to me, although I’m tolerant of other people’s pleasures.”

“Good for you,” she says and puts away the package. “What else don’t you like?”

“What do you mean?”

“You look like a healthy man, the no-preservatives, organic-food-eater type. Need to get some sun, though; you’re as pale as a cauliflower.”

“You’re right. Mine is a healthy diet, with supplements, but the nature of my work is not compatible with the sun. Do you have to go soon, or can we stroll down Broadway and do some window shopping perhaps?”

“I was about to ask you the same question, Henry.”

We saunter closer to the storefront windows, stopping when displayed items educe our interest.

“God knows there is no shortage of curious things to see in New York City,” she says.

“Umm. Lots of Halloween stuff, so early.”

“Are you driving?”

“Yes, I’m parked on 96th street.”

Cathy was a precious find. Never before, and never so fast have I felt this fire growing inside. I was falling in lust in a hurry. Images both loving and gruesome pop into my imagination. For a first time in my nocturnal prowls, I realized I could make love to this woman the rest of my life while dreaming of terrible things, yet never hurt her.

“Would you like to walk by Riverside Park and take a loop back to your car?” she says.

“That would be wonderful. The river walk relaxes me.”

We turn at the next corner, and continue our casual conversation until we enter the park and reach the walk at the river’s edge. We lean on the rail, gaze into the deep waters. Life stands still. Silently I debate her future at my hands.

I offer my arm and she hangs onto it. Her other hand goes into her coat pocket.

The proximity to the river chills the air.

We go on walking. I guide her closer to a park bench beneath the trees, where the night is darker, and distant strollers will respect embracing lovers.

It is the moment I anticipate and dread. Gently I draw her closer, hold her cheeks between my palms and look into her oriental eyes. My hands slide near her neck, but drop along her shoulders and stop at her waist.

Who knows how many nights without loneliness? How many lovemaking raptures could be waiting for me? I think this woman could transform my life.

She removes her hand from her pocket and responds to my embrace. I hear a click and feel a pricking sensation on the back of my neck. A warm, wet feeling follows. I let go of her but she hangs on, slowly easing me against the bench. She sits by my side. Blood flows down my chest and pools around my waist. Cathy has stabbed me with an instrument so sharp it did not hurt. She retrieves and cleanses it on my lapel. Numbness creeps over my body.

“They say sight is the first sense to go as we die,” she says. “Is it true?”

“Apparently . . ., Cathy. Your face . . . is fading.”

She leans closer to my ear. “It’s Lucy, not Cathy.”

 

Memories of moments when I was the one holding a flaccid body flash through my mind. Her eyes inches from mine erase those images.

“Why?” I say.

“Because I hated my father. Would you like a kiss for the road? My father used to give me a French-kiss, when he tucked me in bed.”

“Yes, please…thank you.”

 

* * *

 

Cuban Author Eduardo Cerviño Alzugaray was born in Havana, Cuba. His latest novel, Cuba the Crocodile Island, is based on real events in the life of the author, and for that reason this work is published under his real family name.

The characters’ names, except his own, have been changed to protect the identity of those persons still residing in Cuba. Although a few of those persons have passed away, they are still present in the author’s memory, some with enormous, and others as a significant part of his spiritual growth.

The author has traveled extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America. He has lived in several countries, but his principal residence has been in the US since 1968. He resides in Arizona with his wife and writing collaborator, Les Brierfield. The author appreciates with all his heart the time you may dedicate to reading his work.

You are invited to visit: www.ecbrierfield.com

 

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An Evening in 1964 Havana by Eduardo Cervino

 

Cuba

WITH the Cuban revolution in full bloom, and the deposed General Batista living in luxurious splendor amid European dictators of the time, the Castro brothers and their guerrillas force engaged in ridding the Island of all opposition. They did it in the name of the people. In time, Cubans will come to understand the code implicit in the rhetoric of the guerrilla force.

Traditionally many Native American tribe’s names meant The People, Us, Human Beings and the like. This inclusionary designation of their society indicated a subconscious acceptance of the value of human cooperation.  It was masterfully expressed in the motto Un pour tous, tous pour un (one for all, all for one) in the meeting between Catholics and Protestants in the 1618 Kingdom of Bohemia. Then, just as today, such noble ideals tend to foment disastrous consequences.

For the Castro guerrillas in the 1960’s and until today, the term The People had a narrow, less sublime interpretation. For them, THE PEOPLE referred to their supporters, their militias, and that part of the populace committed to serving the regime in exchange for privileges.

This earthbound, self-serving interpretation breeds resentment, division, and envy. It lowers the peoples’ essence until they become the masses, and a large portion of them devolves into a mob, and the mob turns into a sounder of swine wallowing in the mud.

In 1962, a friend gave me a copy of Animal Farm by George Orwell. After that I saw the animated movie. Dejected, I left the theater and rode home. I realized I was already a citizen of Orwell’s imaginary state. It scared me. Two years later, imagination and reality merged.

 DSC_0016 copy

The telegram arrived at the house on the second of April. I came home late. When opening the door, the grandfather clock’s gong marked the half hour past twelve. My sister Rita waited for me in the living room, listening to the huge vacuum-tube radio my mother had purchased before I was born.

“A soldier went around the neighborhood today delivering those envelopes,” she said without preamble, pointing to one on the mahogany table. “A small mob chanting political slogans followed him.”

“When was that?”

“This afternoon.”

I reached for and read my name on the manila envelope.

“Grandma and I heard the street noise from the dining room. All she said was, ‘bad news.’ Then we stood up and came to the living room.

“I looked out through the window, and recognized some of them. The soldier knocked at our neighbors’ doors. The mob quieted down and pushed each other to see who opened each door.

“Let’s go to the porch,” Grandma said, and we watched them come closer. The soldier was that red-haired guy you used to be friends with. Most recipients took the envelope and quickly shut the door; some acted nervously, except Rafael, our next-door neighbor.”

“What about Grandma?”

“You know her. She walked to the garden’s iron gate, looking at the soldier’s face like a general.

She said, ‘Good morning, Miguel.’ And smiled.”

Miguel and I had been friends since we were ten-year-old boys playing in the tree house in our mango tree. He dropped out of high school. I went on, but our friendship cooled. Now, at twenty-four, in fatigues and carrying a pistol, he had become a fanatical follower of the new strongman, regardless that he joined the rebel army after they won the war.

Rita continued. “He hesitated, and said, ‘Good morning. Here, take this and give it to him’. He didn’t even mention her name or yours, Ed.”

My sister clung to my arm. Together we ambled through the house in search of Grandma Josefina. colonial_havana

That day, I had worked until five in the afternoon. After that, I walked to the historical district, where four-hundred-year-old colonial plazas, palaces, convents, and military castles erected by the conquistadors, still stood. Massive, weathered wooden doors guarded the entrances to the moss-covered stone buildings. My favorite watering hole resided in the area.

Centuries-old cobblestones had been polished and grooved by horse-drawn carriage wheels. History’s ghosts prowled about me as I walked in shaded galleries supported by rows of stone columns and arches. On the Plaza Cervantes, pigeons refused to yield the road; the coo-cooing little beggars gathered around my feet.

Havana catedral

I plunged into the narrow streets beyond the plaza. Twilight shadows clawed their way up the walls. This evening, as in the yesterdays of my great-great-grandfathers, embracing couples inhabited the wide portals’ shadows.

I raised my eyes toward the still, cloudy sky. A seated, elderly, bronze-colored woman with a red scarf tied around her white curly hair stared at me from an ornate balcony.

She seems old and frail.

For a second, a flying bat distracted me. I looked at the balcony again. The woman was gone.

Old couples strolled the streets. They ignored the contemporary concrete sidewalks in favor of walking on the cobblestones that shared with them the scars of time. The balmy air wafting from the Bay carried the tang of the sea.

I can’t decide if I like that smell or not.

bodega

At the watering hole and restaurant, one could always be sure to find a quorum for a lively interchange of ideas, as well as rumors proliferating around the city like cockroaches in the sewer. Not all members of the group were present each night. I had been coming in for years.

No one knows when these reunions had started. Over the decades, faces changed but the tertulia had continued in the same locale.

Of late, although no one had requested it, the conversation was conducted in low voice. The political atmosphere dictated prudence.

Calvert Casey, the writer, was speaking when I sat. “Today at the paper they brought a new guy. All written material must be approved by him before going to press.”

“No surprise in that,” responded Carlos, a well-known young actor. “Since the beginning of the year, all television and radio programs must have socially meaningful content. ‘Young worker denounces brother for Contra-Revolutionary activities and becomes hero of the people.’ That sort of crap. Where have you been?”

“Not watching television, that’s for sure,” Casey said.

Raul, an abstract painter, interrupted, “They removed some paintings from the National Gallery. Non-figurative works, and…”

Casey interrupted: “All of them? Including the contemporary room?”

“Of course not,” said Raul. “They left the work of the young friend of you-know-who.” He tapped his left shoulder with the index and middle finger of his right hand.

Fearful of mentioning names, the people had developed a sign language. This gesture indicated the shoulder pads of a particular commander in the armed forces. The high-level officer was rumored to be attracted to young males of mixed race.

Irma, a singer-dancer with a contagious laugh and waist-length hair, smoked a cigar out of the corner of her mouth. She was explosive in manner, delicious in appearance, and free of spirit. Her voice had made famous more than one composer on the island. She exuded sexuality, but only the few of us she had invited to her inner sanctum knew her mastery over the world of satin sheets.

She drew on her cigar, blew a smoke wreath toward the high ceiling, and watched the fan blades dispel it. The ritual was meant to gather attention so she could speak uncontested.

“The painter you are talking about lives in my building’s penthouse. It’s being renovated. The officer in question comes around.” She drew on her cigar again. “By the way, both are married.”

Amador, a young musician, changed the subject. “You have noticed that tonight no one is playing. It’s the first time in two years the musicians have missed their show.”

We all looked in the direction of the small stage. With a lonely guitar on the chair by the piano, its silence was a loud call to the customers’ ears. Many came to drink and listen to the house trio—guitar, piano, and drums—whose records sold all over the world and with whom Marlon Brando had shared raucous nights of drinking and bongo playing during his Havana escapades.

“What happened to them? Do you know?” I said.

“They escaped the island during the night after their last performance,” somebody in the group said. I did not see who it was, and did not care about how he knew.

“Lucky bastards,” I said.

Raul looked at me. “Shhh, not so loud; the waitress has been paying attention to our chat.”

I glanced in the direction. “She is young, maybe eighteen.”

“The younger they are, the easier to train as throat-cutters,” Irma said.

Casey continued. “I’ve heard the UMAP is rounding up dissidents and homosexuals. So just in case, it’s been a pleasure to have known you all.”

“I can’t figure out what the State Security department has to fear from homosexuals,” I said.

He lifted his glass; filled with mojito, above his head. He had consumed several of those and his voice was beginning to garble. He kept gazing at the century-old marble table of the venerable bar and restaurant.

“As you can see, I’m practicing to drink my hemlock.”

The marble table had her memories too: I’ve heard thousands of stories. Famous hands, from Errol Flynn to Meyer Lansky and Josephine Baker, have dulled my surface. The poet’s pen, the artist’s pencils, have rested on me. Novels and plays have been written on top of me, but now, all I hear is sorrow—no creative ideas, no passionate prose are discussed around me. The times are changing, and fear is all I hear.

“Time for me to go,” I said. “Goodbye.”

 * * *

Cuban Author Eduardo Cerviño Alzugaray was born in Havana, Cuba. His latest novel, Cuba the Crocodile Islandis based on real events in the life of the author, and for that reason this work is published under his real family name.

The characters’ names, except his own, have been changed to protect the identity of those persons still residing in Cuba. Although a few of those persons have passed away, they are still present in the author’s memory, some with enormous, and others as a significant part of his spiritual growth.

The author has traveled extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America. He has lived in several countries, but his principal residence has been in the US since 1968. He resides in Arizona with his wife and writing collaborator, Les Brierfield. The author appreciates with all his heart the time you may dedicate to reading his work.

You are invited to visit: www.ecbrierfield.com

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The Corpsman by Kenneth Weene

a

They called him Doc. It wasn’t his title or even his nickname, but it was what they called him. He knew if he were ever hit, killed, air-vacced out, they’d call the next guy Doc, too. Doc was better than the other name, “Medic, Medic.” That was what they called when somebody was hit, hit bad, bad enough to need him. Some nights it still woke him—in his dreams, them yelling, “Medic, Medic.” Him paralyzed, unable to help.

He is a bright guy. Career Navy, he’d worked his way up from corpsman to officer, gone to school—college. For all that education, he still didn’t have any insight, no self-awareness. Self-awareness isn’t something that comes easy with PTSD. Too busy reliving, too busy trying to keep his shit together .

Retired, going a bit to gray and pot, he and his wife were on a trip; they were staying at the same Bed and Breakfast as my wife and I.  The ladies had gone to bed; so there we were: just two guys sitting in a comfortable living room in small town Arizona.

He starts out telling me that he doesn’t much like being with people, being part of a group, doesn’t really join in, stays to himself. Then he spends the evening talking. Talking and sharing and talking some more. Guess what he really doesn’t like is listening. If the other guy is talking, how can he be back there, back then, reliving?

He starts by telling me about PTSD. I don’t interrupt—to tell him that I’m a shrink—not until he finishes telling me about what a Navy psychiatrist had explained to him—how if you take a cat, nice little cat, and put him in a back yard and start shooting at him and blowing shit up around him and then you take him back into the house, why that cat will be changed and that was how post traumatic stress worked.

Then I told him about my background; I mentioned there was usually something else about Post Traumatic Stress—something that cats couldn’t figure—not just the being scared but the guilt that somehow you should have changed things.

That’s when he talked about the ambush. He was supposed to go out with this patrol. They were going to do a sweep and set up an ambush, a standard night operation in Vietnam.

Bunch of kids; oldest, the corporal leading it, wasn’t any older than nineteen—kids, just kids. So this corporal tells me, “Doc, you ain’t coming with us.”

“Of course I am.  You got to have a corpsman.”

“You ain’t coming,” he says again.

“Yeah, I am.”

They go back and forth a bit before the corporal tells him that the patrol isn’t going anywhere, that they’re just too damned tired so they’re going to get a little way out of camp, and hunker down for the night. Just call in like they’re really out on patrol. Get a night’s sleep before they fall apart.

Well, he isn’t happy about not doing his job; so he decides that the least he can do is take a radio shift back at HQ, do something instead of taking the night off. At two, he takes over the C.P. radio. Everything’s quiet. The corporal calls in, his scheduled contact. Everything’s fine. A few seconds later, he hears hell breaking loose over that radio. First there’s a single shot. Then that patrol, the one he was supposed to be on, is screaming for help. Over the radio he hears the firing. Deep shit!

He’s one of the team that goes out for the rescue. Four medics, couple of officers, a bunch of riflemen. By the time they get to where this platoon is hunkered, every last one of those Marines has been hit. But everything is quiet, quiet as death.

“Where the hell are they?”

“Sneaky bastards”

Then they figure it out. The corporal had called in at two, just like he was supposed to. Then he decided to check his men, make sure nothing was wrong. Damn kid forgot to put on his helmet. In Marine world after dark and no helmet, you’re the enemy. Shoot to kill. That first shot he’d heard over the radio.

Well, that shot and the other Marines had jumped up – still no helmets. More fucking shooting.

All those guys hit; all by their own friendly fire.

Friendly fire. Jesus, who could have thought. Too damned tired to know what they were…

His eyes clouded. He was someplace else.

I should have been there. Never could figure out why I wasn’t. I should have been out there with those guys, but … but I wasn’t. Why? … Why?

The thing was, he was serious. He didn’t understand why the corporal had told him to stay in camp.

“You were too valuable to waste,” I offered.

What do you mean?

“They knew they weren’t going to be fighting so why waste a corpsman’s time? Just like if they needed to dig a hole or some other grunt work, you’re not the guy to hand the shovel. Medics were too valuable to squander that way. Why have you waste your energy when you might need it to save one of them some time?”

Shit, I must have asked a dozen doctors why; and nobody ever… He sat—quiet, nodding his head from time to time.

Thing is I came back. I was never even wounded.

“That was damn lucky. Corpsmen, you guys—only ones more likely to get it were Second Lieutenants.” I hadn’t served, but I wanted him to know that I understood.

Yeah, butter-bars. You see a Lieutenant with a map and you knew you were in shit. Fresh from training and not knowing a thing about what they was doing.

I laughed. He smiled wanly.

When I was fresh in the field, you know maybe six weeks in, I noticed something strange. There was this snapping noise. I’d be working on a guy and suddenly I’d hear this snapping. I’d look around, but there wasn’t anything breaking—no sticks or anything – just that sound. I asked this Gunnery Sergeant, “Gunny,” I asked, “There’s something I want to ask you.”

“So ask, Doc.”

“When I’m out there and I’m working on a guy, I hear this noise, this snapping, any idea what it is?”

“Sure, Doc, that’s bullets. Those sons-of-bitches are shooting at you. When a bullet gets close enough it snaps. Most of the time you hear a whine, but when it gets close enough.”

“After that, when I was working on a guy, I’d kind of dart around.”

He acted it out, reaching for something quickly, changing direction, moving suddenly in another direction.

He stopped moving, sat still and looked at me.

“It sounds awful,” I said to break the silence.

Nothing.

Some, a lot didn’t make it. Some I didn’t think would, but they did. Worst one, one I saved but I didn’t think he’d make it—there was this kid. We were on patrol and all hell breaks out. I’m working on some other guy, nothing too bad, when one of the Marines comes up, says, ‘Doc, you got to come.’

“I’m working on this guy,” I say.

He grabs me; pulls me right away, right down to his buddy.

This grunt is leaning against a tree. His arm is broken in two; he’s holding it up, and it’s just hanging down from here.

He gestures to show that the bottom two thirds of the guy’s left forearm is hanging down like everything inside it is broken, like it’s held on by skin.

And his right leg is gone right to here.” He indicates the hip. “I could see his hip joint. The leg is a couple of yards away, lying on the ground like it’s waiting for him. And blood. Shit, you ain’t seen a femoral until you’ve seen a femoral A femoral and a radial and both going at once.

He jerked his hands in different directions like they were supposed to be the spurting blood.

First thing I need is a tourniquet. I dump my pack right there on the ground, but I don’t have another one. None of the guys have one either; we’ve just used them all. So I think about it, and we’re wearing these new uniforms, not the cammies, those hadn’t come in yet, but these green nylon uniforms. At least we were out of the cottons—sweat to death in nylon, but they dried faster. These new uni-s, they got pockets on the legs, and there are these cords sewn in to tie those pockets tight so your shit doesn’t jiggle around in there. I never put anything in those pockets, but I grab the cord from my left leg and pull until it rips free.

Again his hands are flying around.

I use the strap to tie up that stump of his. Use some stump pads and there’s all this jungle shit right in the wound, but I got it tied off … and the arm, and I say, “Call a dust off; we got to get him out of here.”

That’s when this guy—his leg gone, his arm gone—he says, “Hey, Doc, you looked down there.”

I nod yeah.

“So is it all there. Do I still got what I need?”

“Yeah,” I tell him and that son-of-a-bitch smiles back at me like there’s not a damn thing wrong in the world.

Course we’ve got that chopper all ready coming in; and he starts coming down, but then he pulls away.

“What the fuck?” I ask.

“Taking fire, can’t land,” the sergeant explains.

So we load this guy on a poncho and his leg and we carry him down to an LZ not too far off. But the chopper still can’t land. Sarge says, “They’ll lower the basket. We put him in fast, and they get the hell out of here.”

So they get about a hundred feet above us and they lower this drogue, and it starts rotating like a crazy-ass pendulum, but then that pilot—damn he’s good—he gets it under control and sets it down gentle. Somebody yells, “Get him in.”

b

We get that guy and his leg into the bucket and the copter takes off.

“Shit,” I yell, “We didn’t get him tied in.”

That basket is swinging around again, and we watch it gyrating as the copter pulls up and meanwhile I guess they’re pulling him in, too; but for a minute I expected to see that guy flying out of that bucket and…

Couple of months later, we get back from patrol and the shirt whose in charge of our platoon calls a meeting. “We got a letter,” he says, “from Clere. You guys remember him?”

Well, most of us—except the new guys—say yeah, and he reads the letter. How this guy’s back in the states and learning to use a prosthetic arm, one of those things that go across the back and you can move them around with your other shoulder and you can open and close these hooks.

He illustrated hunching his shoulders and clawing with two fingers of his own hand.

“They can’t do anything about a leg, too much of that was gone. But I’ll be going home and that’s what counts. So, I just wanted to let you guys know I made it out okay.”

The shirt gives us a piece of paper and a pen and tells us we should all write something back to this guy. Being I’m Navy, you know a corpsman and not a Marine, I get that piece of paper last and there isn’t much room; so I just write how most of us would give an arm and a leg to get out of Nam.

He nodded in appreciation of his own little joke. I tried to smile in response.

Didn’t hear from that guy for years. Then the VFW puts together a list of all of us members all over the country. Computers you know; they’re great. And each of us has written down his information. Forty bucks and you got a great big book to tell you where all your buddies are. It was brand new; my copy hadn’t come yet, but I was looking forward to it, maybe looking up a few of the guys.

Meanwhile, it was first day of deer hunting season and I’d spent it out in the swamps, wandering around and not seeing a single animal. I get home tired, hungry, out of sorts. Last thing I want is to talk to anyone. Just as my ass is finding my favorite chair, the phone rings.

I don’t answer; but it keeps ringing, and my wife can’t stand it so she answers: You know a woman, can’t leave a crying baby or a ringing phone.

“Tell them we don’t want any.”  He says it while making a cutting sign across his neck.

Don’t you hate those telemarketers? I figured nobody else would be bothering with us.

Anyway, my wife gets to talking, and I tell her again, “We don’t want any.”

Then she hands me the phone. “It’s for you.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know. Ask him.

So I kind of shout into the phone, “Who is this?”

And this deep, rough voice says, “Did you use to be in the Navy?”

“Yeah. And I still am. Who…?”

“A corpsman?”

“Yeah. But…”

“And you served in Vietnam?”

Now he was getting into some painful water, “Look, I don’t know what you’re selling, but who the hell are you?”

“Shit, Doc, now that ain’t any way to talk to a guy who gave an arm and leg to get out of Nam.”

“Clere, is that you? You know I never could find you, find out … How the hell are you? Wondered a lot of time, but couldn’t find you in any reports.”

He laughs. “That’s ‘cause my name’s not Clere, it’s Lehr.”

“So where are you? What are you doing?”

“We still live in Missouri. I work for the I.R.S.”

“Shit, I saved your life so you could go to work for the I.R.S.? What the fuck?”

He looked at me and shook his head like something worried at him but that nothing mattered.

We sat quiet for a while. We both knew there were no answers, no reasons, just the randomness of war. But on that night, that one night: yeah, there had been a reason.

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Wrong Number by Clayton Clifford Bye

 

Ever since reading Dialogues with the Devil by Taylor Caldwell I have been fascinated by the idea of reworking our traditional views of Satan. This theme regularly shows up in my novels and short stories. Today’s short is one example of this. Should you enjoy the story, you may pick up the anthology from which it comes (Behind the Red Door) at http://shop.claytonbye.com.

Behindthereddoorebook

Wrong Number

The bank teller looks a little on the pale side as she turns over the cheque. I glance downward and see the numbers… $666.66. Even though they hadn’t been there a few minutes ago I smile and say, “Halloween has come early this year.”

Things like this happen to me all the time. It’s like the Good Lord wants people to see me for who I am. It never works. People find it hard enough to believe in God; accepting that I exist and stand before them, in the flesh, is just too much to take in. I can guarantee that the woman in front of me will shrug off her fright the moment I leave the building. By the end of the day it will become a funny story to tell to her friends and family.

I walk out of the bank with the $666.66 in my pocket.

When I reach the end of the city block, I look both ways before beginning to cross the street to the car park. A Corvette materializes from nowhere, catches me in the knees and flips me in the air right over the top of the car. I hit the pavement hard, lift my head and pass out.

It’s much later in the day when I wake up in Her Sister’s Heavenly Devotion Hospital. The attending doctor comes by to tell me that both of my legs have been shattered  below the knees. He also tells me the knees will have to be replaced. Aside from that I have some bruising from the fall and a concussion. Apparently that’s why my ears are ringing.

This is how it goes. When I refuse to stay on my own worlds with the legions of the dead, The Lord goes out of his way to punish me. It’s not fair, really. He knows damn well that his lovely experiment has failed again and that this world will be mine sooner than later. Besides, what’s a little pain while my body mends itself? I’m immortal. This little game should be beneath him.

***

Night has fallen, and I slip out of the hospital. All my belongings were conveniently stashed in the drawers beside my bed. However, I’ve been forced to steal a pair of extra-large scrubs on the way out. My clothes were ruined in the “accident.” How do I manage this? Unless the Lord is messing with me, I can go unseen whenever I wish.

Outside, I walk in the crisp fall air and enjoy the wind rattling dead leaves in the trees and on the ground. The stars seem so close that I might touch them. Before long a beautiful young woman in the process of getting into her car spots me and asks if I would like a ride. My own beauty makes this human throw all caution to the autumn wind.

“That would be nice,” I say.

Inside the car my pheromones take over. She’s smitten in mere moments.

“My place is about an hour away,” she says.

“Wonderful! We shall have ample time to get to know one another.”

“Like a first date,” she says, head down for the moment, eyes averted, a shy but firm offer.

Tonight will be a welcome diversion from the ongoing pain of my knitting bones.

***

In the morning, over coffee and toast, Anna tells me more about herself. Being a Harvard student and an undergraduate in Law wasn’t her choice. The family is all about the law—mother, father, even her older brother work at the family firm.   Anna would have preferred the sciences but had been given no opportunity. I sense a lot of anger. Yet … she seems grounded.

How would she react if I told her she was going to hell, that the sixth mortal sin is still on God’s list of punishable acts? True, she won’t stay there long, because she was influenced by my scent. Just a taste of what happens to man when he fails to live by an untarnished moral code. Would she laugh the revelation off like the bank teller? Would she kick me out of her apartment as some kind of crazy person revealed? Or would my musk overcome her fright and anger and bind her to me as it has up until now? One never knows what will happen when strong emotion is involved. His Brightness only allows me to influence, so the winners of these little games I play are by no means pre-ordained.

I like to experiment. It passes the time and helps me gauge how far His Highness will allow me to go in any given situation. Today I just choose to enjoy Anna’s fine coffee and her lively voice.

***

It’s evening now, and I head for one of my favourite haunts. I acquire a stool at the bar and adjust my image so that I am a nondescript example of a human. My pheromones have already been dampened. Tonight is about watching for my next soul.

I soon find one.

A man has a woman trapped at the back of the bar beyond the pool tables. To the untrained eye they are a vibrant couple who have decided to throw caution to the wind and make love right there, against the wall. In reality it’s a rape in progress. Humans!

The rapist finishes as I rise up off my chair, and he heads outside. I follow close behind.

“Jake.”

“Wha … ” He turns his head, unsure of who’s there.

“Jake,” I say again.

He zips up his jeans and turns to face me.

“I don’t know you!”

“But I know you.”

“Get the fuck out of my way!”

“That’s not going to happen.”

The drunk takes a swing but finds himself on the ground.

I reach down, penetrating both clothing and flesh. As my hand curls around the heart a pale blue light flows up my arm and into my mouth. Jake is dead, and I have my soul.

Look, I’m not uncaring. If I had been able to help the woman, I would have. The deed was basically done by the time I noticed she was in trouble. I don’t hate people; I hate the idea of them. Free will is a gift that all other high level, sentient life-forms have embraced. But not man. The creator has given him complete freedom. His glorious experiment, and look at what mankind has done with it.

So … I work on my long-term plans for their ultimate demise, and I hunt for souls.

I think of myself as a vigilante. The Lord wants to deal out all the justice, but he can’t stop me from eating souls. Well, let’s say he won’t stop me, as I only take the deserving. People like Jake. But since there are far too many evil individuals for me to deal with on my own, in singular fashion, I’m always planning for the big ones … the organizations of evil, the armies of madness, the men and women who come forward as potential martyrs. And there are, of course, my legions of demons, those previously claimed souls who now help me in my work. Between the two, life is fulfilling—and this planet doomed.

***

Today I wake up alone, sporting a set of ancient sheep’s horns. Why didn’t he paint me red at the same time? I order a sabre saw to be delivered. It puts a dent in my pocket money, but it also gets rid of the horns. I hide the nubs with my long and beautiful hair.

It’s a lovely fall day. The sun warms me as it passes from one brilliant cloud to another. Snow birds whoosh about in the trees, moving as a single body. I’ve often wondered how they do that. Telepathy? There was a bipedal race on SSV17 that exhibited something similar. The entire world went into a common depression when they sensed themselves falling into my welcoming hands.

Time to look for some souls…

***

I can find what I want almost anywhere mankind gathers, but the best hunting places are the darkened streets and alleyways of rundown city centres around the world. Tonight I walk in one of my favourite cities. Toronto is a super-city with an army of human tragedies to select from. It’s similar in makeup to New York City in that any given moment I can find someone to make my own. It’s not that people everywhere aren’t faced with these choices. No, it’s more a matter of numbers. I can claim more souls a night in Toronto than I can in most other cities. It’s a fun place to be.

I stop for a few moments to recover from a drive-by shooting. Good thing I’m wearing black tonight. It hides the blood and the bullet holes. I give a nod to God in Heaven.

Anyway, for a sin to be Mortal [which makes you dead to Heaven], it must meet three standards:

1) It must be a serious matter.

2) A person must have reflected, however briefly, on the gravity of the situation before acting.

3) A person must have chosen, of his or her own free will, to commit the sin, even if coercion was involved.

So, this means that mortal sins can’t be done “accidently.” A person who commits a mortal sin is one who knows that their sin is wrong, but still deliberately commits the sin. This means that mortal sins are “premeditated” by the sinner and thus are truly a rejection of God’s law and love. And I can see right through these beings. The tainted soul is a golden thing, dusted or even streaked with black. And the truly evil ones? They have no inner light at all. Special projects of mine, they are.

Tracking down so-called BAD PEOPLE is a talent I nourish. In fact, these people are often brought into my inner circle so they can work on my behalf. You would call them devils.

Off I go …

***

I begin this day joyfully. The Lord has been in absentia since the shooting two days ago, and I am quite relaxed. Souls are coming in at a marvelous rate. Prospects are good. And I’m just about ready for some fun with my latest special project.

Bryan Cole has one more meeting with me today, then I’m going to pull the trigger. Caring for Bryan’s admittedly conflicted soul has been a challenge. But a year of work has brought him to the point where I believe he’s ready to take his chosen victims. 9/11 will be small compared to this.

“Hey Rick.” He still has no idea who I am.

“Hello Bryan. Are we ready for the live run?”

“I don’t think so,” he answers, his face like stone.

“What’s wrong?”

“Look, I said I’d do it, and I meant it. But there’s a lot of innocent people who’re going to get hurt.”

“I thought we went over this. If we want to make an impact on society, then some innocents must suffer. People aren’t going to care if we kill a bunch of low-lives.”

“What do you mean we? Sure, you showed me where to find the plans, but I’m the one who built this thing. And I’m the one who’s going to die setting it off.”

“I’ll be staying with you.”

That gets his attention.

“This is something new.”

“I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. And you’re right. All along it’s been you … You planned. You found the materials. You did the building. I just watched. So, I figure I’ve got to take a stand here. I’ve got to stay.”

His jaw drops. Confusion flickers across his broad face and finds a home in his blue-gray eyes. “I find that hard to believe. You know why I’m doing it. People have no right. There should be a law that looks after those who can’t look after themselves. Instead, what do they do? Society puts them into great big boxes, locked up like they were in jail. And then they hire people right off the street to ‘look after them.’ Evil people. People who mock and hurt and steal. They don’t put any safety features in place, like cameras, because it isn’t cost effective. Well, Maggie isn’t going to spend what’s left of her life in a hell-hole like that. I might not be able to take care of her, but I can help her. What’s your reason?”

Bryan pushes his chin forward, challenging me. Daring me to prove myself.

“Don’t need a reason, my friend. People piss me off. The government needs a wake-up call. Today’s a good day to die. It’s all the same to me. What counts is that I’ll be standing right beside you when you hit the switch.”

I smile my warmest smile.

Bryan looks hard at me now. “You mean you’re really going to stay with me?”

“Yes, I’ll stay.”

We’re in an apartment of mine not far from the residential core of Toronto. The atomic device (Bryan has conveniently forgotten it wasn’t “all him,” that it was I who sourced out the uranium we needed for the bomb, but that’s okay) is far more sophisticated and powerful than the last ones used by the United States. The city of Toronto will never be the same. And there will be enough injured left over to last a lifetime. The Lord will be sorry he didn’t stop me.

Bryan stops talking and flicks the switch. Nothing happens.

He resets it and tries again. Still nothing.

Perhaps I spoke too soon about His Highness leaving me alone.

Bryan speaks … “Uhm, maybe someone is trying to tell us something.” He glances upward, rubs his face with his hands. He’s looking tired and edgy.

I don’t believe it. This guy has never, not once, mentioned God and, now, he thinks he’s been given a sign. It doesn’t matter that what he’s thinking is true and that God hasn’t left us alone. What matters is that he’s thinking it at all.

“What, you don’t have a spare switch?”

“Sure I’ve got one. But what’s the sudden rush all about, Rick?” He gives me a probing look. “Is there something going on here that I don’t understand?”

“Yeah, there is. I want all the people surrounding us to be dead. I want it now.”

“And, again, I ask why?”

“Okay, listen very carefully, Bryan. I’m going to say this once, and then I expect you to fix that switch.”

I begin to cough, and I can’t stop. I cough until I see blood, and then I cough some more. Finally, when my throat is so raw I can barely speak, The Master lets go of me.

Bryan is looking more and more like a frightened rabbit.

I get a drink of water from the kitchen sink.

“Bryan,” I croak, “I’m a terrorist. I want this country kneeling before me, petrified of what will come next. But if it will help get this job done, then I’ll leave the rest to someone else. I’ll end my journey here. Because I believe in my cause.”

They don’t call me the King of Lies for nothing.

“I think I knew that you were a terrorist, Rick. But I let you help me, because I believe in what I’m doing. It just seems like today isn’t the day.”

I point to my blood on the floor. “Does this look like the leavings of a person with lots of time on their hands?

“What, now you’re going to tell me you’re dying?”

Bryan is a big man. Almost as tall as me. Right now, he looks like a thunderstorm on the horizon.

I shrug my shoulders.

“I always knew you had an agenda, but it didn’t matter to me,” he says, running fingers through salt and pepper hair. “Maybe it should matter. After all, if you’re so filled with hate that you want everybody around you dead, how much of the hate has influenced my own anger?”

I look up into the air myself. He must be laughing by now.

“Bryan,” I say, “you can do whatever you want. I was just offering you some companionship, so that you didn’t go out on your own.”

He looks at me for a long moment then goes to get the spare switch.

Bryan comes back with a strange look on his face.

“What?” I ask.

“I saw it there not half an hour ago. Now it’s gone.”

“Are you telling me we can’t use the bomb right now?”

He shakes his head.

“You can hot wire this thing?”

Bryan nods but doesn’t move.

“I haven’t been much of a religious man, Rick, but it seems to me God is determined to give me a second chance.”

I can’t believe this. God is really fucking with me today.

“And by that you mean what?”

The big man stands up straight, looks me in the eye and says, “I don’t think I’m going to do it.”

“Today, or not at all?”

“Not at all.”

I can see it in him. He’s been converted.

“Give me the key to the apartment and get out.”

“No, I have to disassemble the bomb”

I laugh out loud. It isn’t a pleasant sound. Thanks to his conversion, I can’t even take his soul. What a clusterfuck.

To rub some salt in my wounds, God sends me a couple of break-in specialists. They go straight for the bomb, waving their guns in the air. I move to stop them (I’m a master of the ancient arts of battle). I take one man down and reach for the other. He beats me by a fraction of a second, the bullet taking me full in the chest. As I lie on the floor, he comes up and points his gun at my head. Wearing a completely bored expression, the thug pulls the trigger.

Some time later I wake up. My head and chest wounds have already healed. The bomb is gone. Bryan is gone.

I go into the master bedroom, grab some clothes and head for the shower. I emerge in a little while, no worse for the wear and tear.

It’s evening now, and I head for one of my favourite haunts. I acquire a stool at the bar and adjust my image so that I am a nondescript example of a human. My pheromones have already been dampened. Tonight is about watching for my next soul.

~ ~ ~

Clayton Bye is the author of 11 books and 30 ghostwrites. The traditional publisher of 5 other works, he also offers writing services and acts as a small business consultant.

Endorsement:

“Clayton Bye is one of the most prolific and talented writers I know. He is an eloquent poet, insightful critic, imaginative novelist, and a self-help expert. The sheer volume of his work makes me dizzy, and he seems comfortable in all genres. From his compelling collection of short stories and essays to fiction winners like “The Sorcerer’s Key” and inspirational works like “How To Get What You Want From Life” and “Getting Clear,” he seems to find more hours in a day than most writers find in a week. He makes you think, touches your heart, and fights the good fight with his pen as his sword. You can number me among his great admirers.” – Timothy Fleming

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Technology Addiction: Fran Lewis

cellphone

Walking the streets of Manhattan a few weeks ago I observed something that was to some quite interesting and to others mundane. I often wonder what goes through the minds of people as they are walking to work, going in for their morning caffeine or even just wondering what the day will bring. People are quite unique and their facial expressions so intense that I wondered whether with the literally hundreds of people walking head to toe on the street if they even realized anyone else was even there. Everyone or just about everyone I guess except me since I was doing the observing and realized that with what is going on in the world it pays to stay aware and alert of your surroundings and people, were buried in their cell phones, making calls, texting or on their IPADS walking not never looking up even when crossing the street.

Couples walked together but apart you might say as they walked, texted and never spoke a word. With so many people on the street you would think the din or the noise would be loud, as people would be talking to each other. But, not one person paid attention to anyone and you could practically hear a feather drop. If not for the click of high heels or the bounding of heavy feet or leather you would never know anyone was out there.

Cell phones are great and they do help us to communicate but what about your morning conversation, or just talking with your friend or partner before starting your hectic day? Everyone looked so intense and so caught up in their texts its was hard to tell if they were even aware of their surroundings. Like automatons walking or even robots concentrating on a work text or friend’s text. What about a phone call? Very few were talking on their phones to anyone and even after disconnecting they needed to text more.

Birthdays were fun when you actually got a phone call to wish you Happy Birthday. Now, it’s a text. The Internet provides us with so much information that I wonder about the reference section of a library. Even calling to pay a premium for my health insurance required going through voice prompts and ridiculous announcements that waste time. Technology is great and the Internet is a valuable tool for research and finding information needed to write an article, a book or just to learn more about a particular topic, but give me a book anytime.

Family dinners required that cell phones and IPADS and video games be placed aside and everyone shared their day with their parents, brothers and sisters. Not anymore. Family dinners are now eating, texting, and playing games on their phones or handheld video games. You can’t blame kids because parents do the same when they gamble on line, pay bills on line, play video games of a different sort like fantasy football, or other online games that people play even for money.

The world has become quite technology oriented and yet we are not as advanced as many other countries, places or groups. I often wonder how some are able to hack into our servers, our phones and even our private lines. I am amazed at how some of these groups know our Intel and much more making it hard to keep ahead of them hoping that we can prevent something before it happens by doing the same.

I reviewed a book last week where the main character’s father was a telegrapher and he refused to have a phone put into his home in order to not always connect with everyone. Using Morse code seemed to make him happy and not connecting with everyone around the world or even his family seemed to be the norm not just for him but also for the people of this small town where the author grew up. I wonder what would happen if for one-hour everyday everyone stopped and talked. I wonder whether it would be more fun to talk to your partner on the way to work rather than focusing on your texts and answering. I wonder what would happen if there was noise on the street and you could not hear yourself think because everyone was talking. Focused on their surroundings and even paying attention to the people around them.

Entering an ER the first thing they do is search your name, birth date and check to see if they have your insurance on file before even asking you what is wrong. Scary when you just tell them your basic info and so much comes up on the screen. Hoping that they have some of your medical file there so that you don’t have to answer the same questions over again might seem better than starting from the beginning. But, if you are lucky and that is not always the case, they restart you file again, ask some basic questions and hopefully get to the bottom of what is wrong with you. Everything depends on a computer. No one has notepads to write on, no one writes in a file or folder anymore and when systems go down and let’s hope they don’t I wonder if there is a backup. We have become numbers, account numbers, social security numbers and sometimes they remember to call us by our last name even when we tell them my name is Fran not madam or mam. So impersonal. I guess they have so many people they really can’t stop and listen and care about everything you say.

Technology is great and it does help cut corners in many ways but walking the streets of Manhattan, putting my cell in my bag, watching the people walk or just taking in the sites, the landmarks and more: Much more fun and definitely the only way to appreciate the amazing world we live in. Of course holding my husband’s hand and walking together talking makes all the difference in the world.

 

An educator and book reviewer, Fran Lewis is also the founding editor of M.J. Magazine and the author of books for adults and children. Her opus includes both fiction and nonfiction, the latter reflecting her concern for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, both the patients and the caregivers. You can find her work on Amazon and her voice BlogTalk Radio.

 

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IT’S ONLY ONE DAY—EVERY DAY Hazel Dixon-Cooper

 

zodiac

January 20, 2016

The holiday season is over and if you’ve resolved to lose weight in 2016, you’re not alone. Each year, losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution, and we blame our weight gain on the two months between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. However, if you are one of the 78 million overweight Americans—as I was 100 pounds ago—official holiday pig-out season began with Halloween. Unofficially, it never stopped.

Like you, I had great intentions, but in spite of those intentions, I repeatedly stuffed myself to the brink of illness right through New Year’s Day. Then repenting like a Saturday-night sinner at a Sunday-morning revival meeting, I rushed to the nearest gym or joined the latest lose-it-quick weight-loss program. Sound familiar?

But just as you begin to feel human again, Super Bowl Sunday roars up the driveway, tailgate flapping, loaded with hot wings, stuffed jalapenos and supermarket meat-and-cheese platters, and your resolve to eat healthy ends with the first mouthful of chili-cheese dip.

Oh well, it’s only one day.

Before you can wipe the last smear of wing sauce off your face, oops, here comes Valentine’s Day. Break out the chocolate and champagne. By the time you pick the caramel out of your teeth, St. Patrick swings by with a heaping helping of corned beef, cabbage, and green beer. Right on his heels, Easter drags in a basketful of chocolate bunnies. Before the dye dries on the eggs, Mother’s Day rings the doorbell. You take Mom out for a calorie-loaded dinner that is sure to raise both her cholesterol and her blood pressure. Yours too. But no worries. It’s only one day.

Memorial Day kick-starts summer with the first official barbecue of the season. Father’s Day is next on the menu. All Dad wants to do is flop in front of the sports channel and eat, and you are happy to accommodate him. Spread out the food on the coffee table, wrap a beach towel around his neck, and let him chomp himself into a heart attack. Hope the life insurance is paid up.

Summer appears with a bang on the Fourth of July, another grilling-and-chilling holiday. Mid-July through August is vacation time, and who counts calories at the beach? Instead, you tell yourself that is the only time you can truly relax, so you gladly live on sugar, carbs, and fat-laden non-food.

As soon you are home, Labor Day weekend and the last binge of the season arrive. When the kids head back to school, you head, credit card in hand, to the nearest diet center or gym. That lasts about four weeks, until Halloween creeps in again. You have come full circle and are about to take another trip into the Bermuda Triangle of holiday food benders.

Add to this list Hanukkah, Eid-ul-fitr, Kwanzaa, and a multitude of other religious or spiritual festivities, weddings, showers, anniversaries, birthdays, funerals, Sunday dinners, and other personal celebrations. The result? Out of a 52-two week year, most people resolve to lose weight the week after New Year’s and the week after Labor Day. Think about it. Two weeks out of an entire year.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 300,000 people a year die prematurely from obesity-related diseases. Saying no to Aunt Fanny’s banana pudding cake or Uncle Ralph’s roasted beast with mango chutney is tough. We’ve all heard, “I made this just for you,” accompanied by a hurt expression. Out of guilt, and an ever-present craving, you eat the casserole or cake or candy. If you decline, they counter with, “It’s only one day.”

What can you do?

Well, you can continue to eat anything that anyone shoves your way and risk turning into an insulin-shooting diabetic stumbling around on your last three toes. You could eat yourself into a case of dementia, or be diagnosed with late-stage cancer because the fat hid the tumor.

Or you can begin to get healthy. One skipped order of French fries, one refused dessert, one trade from fried chicken to grilled halibut will start to turn your life and your health in the right direction.

One bite. One choice. One day at a time.

 

Hazel Dixon-Cooper is an internationally best-selling author. She is currently working on a memoir, CONFESSIONS OF A FAT COSMO GIRL, and can be reached at hazeldixon.cooper@gmail.com and through her blog https://fatcosmogirl.wordpress.com/ .

 

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WHY I LIKE ASTROLOGY Hazel Dixon-Cooper

 

 

astrology 2

My fascination with the stars began on summer evenings spent lying on my back in the grass staring up at the darkening sky. As most of us did, I learned to spot the North Star, the Big and Little Dippers and a few other constellations. I wondered whether men from Mars existed and were lying on their backs in the red dust wondering the same thing about us.

My introduction to astrology came through newspaper horoscopes and monthly predictions in Dell Horoscope magazine and the Bedside Astrologer in Cosmopolitan I read as a teen. However, I was hooked by Linda Goodman and her uncanny explanation of my Pisces self in her Sun Signs book which I read until the cover fell off and the spine collapsed. I bought more books on astrology and sent for a mail-order course. That led me to the myth and archetypes behind this ancient practice and opened up a new world.

As a novice, I knew just enough to dazzle my friends and a few sympathetic relatives with the basics about their Sun signs. Then I began to cast charts, a slow process of patience and precision before astrological software was available. The more I learned the more in awe I became of this ancient art. A natal chart contains layers and nuances that carry us beyond the sun to dig deep into our hidden selves and reveal our gifts, our faults, and our possibilities. I am certain that I could study these planetary configurations and the myths behind them for a lifetime and always discover something new.

Many scientists work hard to prove that astrology is not valid. Many astrologers work just as hard to prove it is. I only know that since Babylonian times, astrologers have guided people by interpreting the movement of the planets in our solar system as it relates to human behavior. Every civilization has a form of astrology designed to help people find inner peace and live vital lives. I believe that this ancient self-help tool is the first psychology. Today, many psychologists and psychiatrists are also accomplished astrologers, and countless others regularly consult with astrologers in order to gain greater insight into their clients.

Astrology validates itself to me when I connect with another human being and help that person realize a trait or a life pattern and understand how they can change or benefit from it. Astrology proves its value in the link between hard fact and elusive truth, the mathematical precision of a birth chart blended with the intuitive interpretation of the archetype that creates a complete story. Astrology challenges me to use it carefully and well and to find new ways to connect the patterns that reveal a personality or predict a trend.

I like that astrology gives personality to the planets. I like that the birth chart is a unique snapshot of our potential and paths in life. I like the story that the archetypes reveal as I study someone’s chart. I’m not sure how or why it works. And I like that too because I’m still amazed by how it all makes sense, even in today’s high-tech world.

 

Hazel Dixon-Cooper is the author of the internationally best-selling Rotten Day humorous astrology book series. Her latest book, Harness Astrology’s Bad Boy, is about Pluto, the planet of transformation. She can be reached through her website, www.hazeldixoncooper.com and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/hazel.dixoncooper.

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Love Forgotten By Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

Cynthia cover

I want to share an excerpt from my newest novel,  “Remember?”
(book 2, Chapter 1, in Forbidden Series)

“PULL OVER HERE! Now! Quick!” Larry Davis exclaimed. “That face. The woman adjusting the scarf on that mannequin.”

Joe Winton raised his bushy black eyebrows in astonishment. “Chief, what’s goin’ on? You saw a ghost or somethin’?”

“Not a ghost. It’s Taylor! I’m sure of it.” Larry’s eyes remained fixed on the dark haired beauty in the store window. “After all this time and the endless searching, I’ve finally found her in that boutique. In London. Where are we exactly?”

“On a side street in the West End, near Mayfair. Lar, don’t jump the gun.” Joe must have seen his desperation. “It could be someone who looks like Taylor. Remember, Interpol didn’t turn anythin’ up after eighteen months. I’m your bro and your friend, not to mention your right-hand man. I’m only lookin’ out for y’.”

Joe’s words faded as Larry’s mind whirled with anticipation. The limousine driver pulled over to the curb in front of the dress shop. Larry’s heart beat faster as he anticipated reuniting with his lost love. He flung open the door and extended his long legs onto the slush-covered sidewalk. The brisk, cold air reddened his cheeks and a light breeze tousled his dark blond hair.

Joe sighed heavily as he followed his longtime friend to the store entrance. A crowd of fans quickly formed. They had caught sight of their American idol. Larry was oblivious to their squeals and cheers. He focused on his sole quest.

The shop doorbell cheerfully chimed announcing Larry’s entrance. All eyes turned toward his commanding, yet boyish stature, and then settled on his sparkling and piercing blue eyes. The dark-haired woman came from the display window as if curious from all the commotion. Her quizzical eyes froze on the good-looking stranger before her. As voices called out requesting autographs, Larry remained silent and mesmerized at the sight of this woman. He tentatively took a step toward her.

“Tay, is that you?” His voice quivered. “I’ve been looking for you for so long. I can’t believe I’ve finally found you.”

“What did you say?” Her words caught in her throat.

“I said ‘Tay’. Aren’t you Taylor?” Doesn’t she recognize me?

“That’s not my name. I’m Tiffany, Tiffany Bradford.” Her eyes held confusion. She shyly extended her hand.

Autograph seekers closed in around him as he sought her hand. Their fingers met briefly. Larry rejoiced in her fleeting touch. Her fingers slipped away. Joe did his best to hold the British fans at bay as they busily tapped the keys of their cell phones and sent messages on social media to spread the news.

His eyes fixed on hers. Larry didn’t hear the fans bombard him with questions and comments.

“Mr. Davis, may I please have your autograph?”

“How long are you staying in the UK?”

“I just love your music!”

“I’ve been a fan of yours for so many years.”

“Are you recording a new song?”

Joe countered the queries in his usual unflappable style. “Mr. Davis is tourin’ the UK for a couple of weeks. A new song is on the horizon. He loves his British fans. Most likely a return visit will be in the distant future.”

Larry’s voice was soft as he spoke to Tiffany. “I’m sorry. You look so much like a woman I knew.” He tilted his head boyishly. “Funny, you don’t sound English—your accent, I mean.”

“I’m not,” she replied. “I’m American. My home is here in London.”

“How about coming to my concert tonight at the Royal Albert Hall?” Larry turned to Joe. “Give Tiffany one of those backstage passes and that reserved ticket you keep in your pocket.”

Joe did as requested and handed the treasured document to Tiffany. Cheers came from the surrounding fans.

“Thank you Mr. Davis …” She fingered her hair. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend. Wouldn’t you rather give this to one of your fans here?”

I know you’re Taylor. You have to be! I don’t understand any of this!

“No. It would make me so happy to see you there tonight at the concert.”. He stumbled over his words, “Please say you’ll be there.”

“Maybe I can make it.” Her blue-green eyes looked up at him with an expression of remote recognition.

“Great!” Joy radiated from Larry. “I’ll be looking for you—front row, center seat.”

“Chief,” Joe interjected. “We need to get back to the hotel. You’ve got a press conference to get to.”

“Yeah,” Larry replied as he continued to look at her. “I’ll leave in a moment. Gotta sign a few autographs first.” I know she’s Taylor. It has to be her!

As he signed various pieces of paper, his eyes returned to her at every chance as if drawn to her beauty by a magical force. A small smile peeked from the corners of her mouth and a faint pink glow came to her cheeks.

Larry’s mind went into a whirlwind. Why doesn’t she recognize me? What is wrong with her? This isn’t at all like Taylor!

“C’mon, Chief,” Joe reminded. “We need to go! Can’t be late for the press.”

“Yeah, I hear you.” Larry reached for Tiffany’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “I’m counting on seeing you tonight at the Albert.” He punctuated his last comment with a smile and wink. “I’ll be disappointed if you’re not there.”

Tiffany looked up at him from beneath her long black lashes. “Maybe. We’ll see.”

Oohs and aahs rang throughout the room. Larry wedged through the throngs of female admirers.

Larry turned briefly at the entrance and called out to Tiffany, “I’ll be looking for you tonight. Don’t forget.” He quickly left, leaving shoppers buzzing about this impromptu visit from the famous American idol.

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

Cynthia B. Ainsworthe writes suspenseful romance. She has won multiple writing awards. Though she writes mostly romance, her short stories cross many genres. She loves animals and is a parent of five poodle children. Ms. Ainsworthe is currently finalizing Forbidden Footsteps book 3, and writing Dangerous Reach book 4 in her Forbidden Series. A lover of culinary arts, Passion in the Kitchen, is a whimsical approach to French cuisine with delicious recipes, a romantic story thread, and luscious photos of shirtless men.

http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8
and
http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=3372

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Dear Mommy By Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

This very short story is a tribute to my furry grandson and my lovely daughter, Cindy. Fur animals and feathered friends have always been part of my daughter’s upbringing. She has a natural love for animals which illustrates her gentle and loving nature. I like to think I had something to do with that influence, but realize her true and giving heart guides her positive outlook and kind deeds.

Cynthia - kitten

Dear Mommy,

One night in September, at four weeks old, I found myself tossed out like a forgotten food wrapper. My left eye hurt from an injury. I don’t remember how I was hurt. I remember feeling cold, hungry, frightened, and wet. The rain poured down, drenching my fur and causing it to stick to my skin in wet mats. I couldn’t stop shaking. I felt weak, and only wanted to be safe and loved.

I traveled from bush to bush. Every noise caused me to jump. Where was my birth mother and my siblings? I missed them and didn’t know how to return to my home. I didn’t recognize a sound or smell. I knew I had to be strong or a mean person, cat, or dog would hurt me. Though I was young, I’ll never forget those feelings of being rejected. I was on my own and only want to survive the night.

I crept close to houses. I cried as loud as I could. I was desperate to be rescued, but no one turned on a light or peeked through a window.

I’m strong. I won’t give up.

Another home is ahead. Again I cry loudly and mournfully. What is that? A door is opening from that house. Someone is coming near. I sense kindness. Your warm hands pick me up and embrace my heart. I’m too weak and young to know how to purr. But I can kiss. Even though my throat is dry from incredible thirst, I manage to kiss your finger to express my thanks.

You bring me in from the cold, dry my fur, and give me food. You say my eyes are a vivid blue, though I don’t understand that. From the first, your voice makes me joyful and feel secure. I curl up in your lap and snuggle close to you in that warm towel. The sound of your heartbeat comforts me and allows me to release my fear. My only thought is, I have a mommy and she loves me. Peaceful dreams come to me that night. It’s been so very long since I dared to sleep more than a few minutes at a time.

You take me to the doctor for a checkup and to have my eye fixed. I’m scared, but won’t let that kind man know it. He seems nice and is gentle. I’m glad to have my eye feel better. I had almost gotten used to the pain.

You take such good care of me and pet me so gently that I forget my fearful beginnings. Every now and then all those fears and bad images flash in front of my eyes, and I lash out—not to be mean, but because of the trauma of being rejected so cruelly and I’m again scared.

I love your kisses and cuddles. You give me treats, toys, and gentle words. I couldn’t want for a better home or for a nicer mom. Be patient with me. I’m still learning how to belong to you and the rules that I must now live by. Every day, I’m doing my best.

I will always love you,

Draper xxoo, meow with purrs and kisses

© 2016 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

Cynthia B. Ainsworthe writes suspenseful romance. She has won multiple writing awards. Though she writes mostly romance, her short stories cross many genres. She loves animals and is a parent of five poodle children. Ms. Ainsworthe is currently finalizing Forbidden Footsteps book 3, and writing Dangerous Reach book 4 in her Forbidden Series. A lover of culinary arts, Passion in the Kitchen, is a whimsical approach to French cuisine with delicious recipes, a romantic story thread, and luscious photos of shirtless men.

http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8

and

http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=3372

 

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It’s New Years and Members of the Write Room team share some thoughts

toasting the year in

 We asked our members to share their resolutions, gratitudes & thoughts about the New Year, 2016.

 

Part two

Fran Lewis is an author, book reviewer, and magazine publisher. Her resolutions are:

To think on the bright side.

To hope that I can deal with the impossible and turn it into the possible.

Remembering and valuing all the good things I have and glad that so many authors value my words.

To everyone in the write room blog, authors and readers, Happy holidays, Fran

To buy her books.

 

Flash fiction author and poet Sal Buttaci  shares these thoughts.

I Will TRY TO BECOME THE BEST VERSION OF MYSELF AS I CAN BE

I’ve made more New Year resolutions than I care to remember and most of them I walked away from before January was laid to rest. Were they too difficult to keep? Unrealistic? The product of an exuberant Christmas spirit when joy buoyed me up so high I believed I could promise anything and deliver? Who knows! I have since changed my tune. I’m singing a different song. Let me push the musical metaphor a little further: I no longer reach for the unreachable note that insists I can sing it if I try.

Did wisdom come to me in my old age? Hardly! I simply gathered past resolutions in one basket labeled, “I will try to be the best version of myself as I can be.” Over the basket I draped a kind of comforter to keep my intentions warm throughout the new year. And I continue to recite the mantra of what I hope to attain. “God, help me to become a better man.” One who is kinder than the one in the dying year. One who prays for an increase in faith, hope and love of my God, my wife, my neighbors and myself. A better man whose writings more deeply and sincerely reflect that the words I write emanate from the heart.

For several years now I respond to the call for New Year resolutions with Christ’s words: “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect.”

It’s a resolution that helps me strive towards a better way to enjoy life and partake in the inner peace we all desire to be truly happy.

To buy his books.

 

British author Bryan Murphy is still keeping a New Year’s resolution he made in 1974 never to make another New Year’s resolution, but this year he is resolved to bring out his novel Revolution Number One, much of which is set in Portugal in 1974. He shared an excerpt in the blog.

To buy his books.

 

Cody Wagner tells us that his mom was the Clark Griswold of every holiday. She did everything so over the top, we were embroiled in holiday decorations and singing for weeks before and after Christmas, Easter, New Years, and Arbor Day…OK maybe not Arbor Day, but she was a holiday woman.

Every Christmas, we’d have a plethora of activities laid on us. We were the Atlas of holidays, bearing metric tons of cheer. Festivities included doing good deeds to earn miniature blankets to lay on miniature Jesus (by Christmas day, he’d have 300 blankets piled all around him), performing novenas to move sheep closer to a manger scene (one sheep, named Ishkabibble, had no head and all us kids fought over him), stringing popcorn and carrots for a trees just for animals (we’d go out into a field on Christmas Eve and plant it), and the list goes on and on.

New Year’s was no different. Mom got busy baking and made cheese balls, Chex Mix, coconut cream pies, and everything else under the sun. She was a terrible cook, but that never stopped us from taking a few bites of everything, only to revert to fallbacks of Kit Kats and Twix bars.

She also started a new tradition on New Year’s. Instead of going to parties and whatnot, our family stayed in every year. We’d whip out all our favorite board games and play them all night New Year’s Eve and into the following day. By the end, we’d be exhausted, sick of games and ready to crash. But it was a huge bonding moment for a busy family that had trouble finding the time to be together.

Sadly, Mom died of an unexpected stroke a few years ago.

I wasn’t sure what would happen with New Year’s after she passed. I mean, big parties are really appealing. I’ve vowed a hundred times to make it to New York one year to see the Big Apple drop.

It turns out, her death solidified our New Year’s game night.

It’s December 23rd and, instead of talking about Christmas like normal people, we are putting together our New Year’s gaming plans. I think we’re going to revert back to classics like Clue and Yahtzee. And I’ll try to replicate some of her recipes and make them as disgusting as possible (purely for nostalgia’s sake, not because I can’t cook…which I can’t). Several groups have extended invites, but they’ve all been turned down. And I couldn’t be more excited.

Reflecting on all this, it’s hard to say exactly what New Year’s means to me. Sure, I make resolutions like everyone else. And, like everyone else, I never stick with any of them. And I probably dread the passage of time as much as anyone else.

Maybe what Mom provided for us – in addition to an after school special about family bonding – was an escape. An escape from thinking about what we did or didn’t accomplish this year. Or what we need to accomplish next year.

Escapes are good. As good a revelation as anything. Especially when we’re all so busy adulting, the stress of everything weighs us down.

So that’s what I’ll thank Mom for when the clock strikes twelve.

To buy his book. 

 

Jon Magee is the author of From Barren Rocks to Living Stones to Living Stones and also Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey. These books reflect his nomadic youth where he has discovered that in places where all seems hopeless life can become hopeful. For that reason, he writers of a new commitment.

Well it’s that time of year again when in a fit of optimism many of us will make great promises about what we are going to do in the New Year that we usually abandon about the second week in January. Possibly we will spend a lot of time thinking through the resolution, yet it still does not reach to its completion. As we have come to the end of the year, we may likewise feel the sense of failure for what was not successful and we allow it to pull us down. In the midst of such a scene, perhaps we need to face the year with a different perspective.

In the coming year we will all face the challenges of life, however, do we see them as barriers to fall over, or as hurdles that we will soar over seeking to reach the next challenge of life? May our Challenges be hurdles, not barriers.

To buy his books.

 

Romance author and animal-lover Trish Jackson gives some advice, harness the power.

If you haven’t yet made a New Year’s Resolution, here’s one – harness the power of your mind. Be positive, think positive, and nix any negative thoughts.

Wikipedia: ‘The law of attraction is the name given to the maxim “like attracts like” which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy”, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy.

The ramifications of this are way too complex to discuss here, but it is a fact that we tend to dwell on negative thoughts more than we should, and most of us devote far too little time to positive thoughts.

So be thankful for all you have and think positive. Be aware of your thoughts and make a concerted effort to catch the negativity and change it to positive energy. You have the power to make 2016 the your most successful year yet, and I’m sending positive thoughts to all of you

To buy her books.

 

Motivation and religious author and President of Christ Is My Savior Ministries Yves Johnson asks us abut our 2016 Goals.

At the beginning of this year I asked friends if they had abandoned their New Year’s Resolutions.  I jokingly said, “Hey, it’s been five days already!” I thought it would be appropriate to ask, “How did you do on accomplishing your goals?”

Someone once said, “A goal is just a roadmap to deviate from.” While that is true, your goals also help you to achieve success. It provides you with the opportunity to see what you have accomplished.

I want to be an honest broker. I did not accomplish all of my goals this past year. So, why would a person who teaches about goals admit that he did not accomplish all of his goals?  Great question. Let us explore that for a moment.

Goals will help drive you to a destination. We must be open to new opportunities. Further, we may have overestimated our goals.  I anticipated I would accomplish XY and Z. I was only able to accomplish X and Y.  I miscounted the cost for Z. Yet, this miscalculation was a benefit. I did my research on Z. I asked and received counsel from people who were engaged in Z. Thus, I was prepared to tackle this challenge!

Hmm. A funny thing happened on the way to success. This funny thing called life popped up. First, Z called for nearly twice the amount of time my counseled stated. Second, several unanticipated opportunities materialized. Although I had a defined goal, I miscalculated the cost to accomplish these goals.  It is possible I would be dissatisfied in progress if I simply looked at my goals sheet without taking into account the deviations.

All these aforementioned variable created growth opportunities. I teach participants in my Path to Personal and Professional Success workshop that they gain a lot of growth in those path deviations. Like those participants, you will see enormous growth once you adjust your goals with the new realities in your life. Personally, I received enormous growth when I adjusted my goals. In addition, I was able to adjust my goals to include the new opportunities.

I hope you have goals for 2016. Remember, embrace the deviations life may cause.  I’ll be checking in on you in a few months to see how you are doing on your 2016 goals.

To buy his books.

 

Novelist and essayist Ken Weene shares some musings on time, which is at once the most primitive, complex, and evocative of dimensions of human experience.

Consider an early ancestor living in a cave, locating their life in a small patch of jungle, unaware of the great distances of the world around. Aware that there is a sky, but having no sense how far above the tree tops it begins or to what distance it reaches. They know that one roasted pig is heftier than another, but they cannot measure the difference.

But when it comes to time, our ancestor was assuredly aware. He knew there was diurnality, the difference between day and night. Then there was the arc of the sun’s apparent movement overhead. The moon waxed and waned with no known cause. The seasons changed if only in terms of when certain roots weere edible and certain species produced their catchable and edible young. Even our ancestors’ bodies reflected time, both in circadian rhythm, especially the women’s menses, and everyone’s progression from birth towards death.

The protohominid was aware of time at the most primordial level of being.

But time is not an easy dimension to understand or to measure. Once past, the moment cannot be redone. Secondly, precision in time is difficult because the easiest standards of time, such as the angle of the sun, differ from place to place. Once we travel, time becomes very confusing indeed. For early explorers, longitude could be determined by comparing the time at one’s homeport to the noon hour of the sun overhead but how?

If those earthly considerations seem confusing, consider the contributions of Einstein. Imagine that you have a twin who becomes an astronaut, spends some time hurtling through space and then returns. They disembark and you discover that now you have a younger sibling. What?

Time is indeed complicated.

But it is the evocative nature of time that captures the poet in us. If we start at one place and go to another, we can say we’ve travelled so many miles, kilometers, or whatever. Pick something up and we can say it weighed so many stone, pounds, grams; or we can be fancy and rephrase that in terms of mass. Either way we are talking about a comparison, for example to the mass of a cubic centimeter of water at sea level. We are not talking about the very beginning of all weight.

Only when we consider time do we emotionally require an absolute starting point. Perhaps that is because we recognize our mortality and therefore need to know where we are within that flow of time from beginning to end. And so, from earliest recorded history, humankind has tried to explain that first point, that moment of creation. The Christian tradition is particularly brazen in its attempt to master time, giving both a starting point, a creation, and an end point, an apocalypse. Modern science has tried to do the same in an even more precise manner, big bang until the universe stops expanding and turns back on itself.

Of course, the religious model makes it all feel more comprehensible and isn’t that what we need, to comprehend our mortality?

But then once a year we all, or at least those who follow the Gregorian calendar, will wait until the first new moon after the winter solstice at the moment when the sun is farthest from its zenith in our lives to turn one to the other and say, “Happy New Year!”

For the moment we want to believe that we know “when we are.”

To buy his books.

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