My Weekly Writing Challenge

You have plenty of time to take up my latest challenge. I’m off on my hols for a couple of weeks or so; this means you have until 3rd September to post your entry. And why not have a go at my latest flash fiction competition too? There are cash prizes so it’s certainly worth a go. You can read the previous winning entries to get an idea.

Now onto the latest weekly challenge. As it’s got to last you three weeks, there are three challenges. Have a go at one, two or all three!

Challenge one: Write a limerick.

Traditional limericks have five lines, where the first, second and fifth lines rhyme, with seven to ten syllables in each line. The third and fourth lines rhyme with each other and these lines have five to seven syllables in each line.

Challenge two: Write a ten-word story using the following words:

  • Fuddy-duddy
  • Yipee
  • Cummerbund
  • Oblong
  • Fairy

Challenge three: Write a story or poem about autumn.

I look forward to reading them when I’m back :-)

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For last week’s challenge, I gave you two choices:

Option A: I gave you a story opening and the challenge was to continue the story from that point.

Option B: For this choice, I had a story ending for you and your challenge was to write a story up to the ending.

Here was your opening and your ending:

Option A:

I look around at my colleagues with envy.

“Are you ok,?” Shirley asks, stopping her filing for a moment and looking straight at me.

I nod my head. Blink a tear away. Force a smile. Shirley starts filing again. How can I tell her? How can I find the words to say how I really feel?

Option B:

I was wrong. I thought finding a ghost would be exciting and fun. At the very least I thought it would be scary. But it was more than that. So much more.

All three entries chose the first option:

Keith Channing wrote a story which keeps you wondering how it’s going to end:

An error of judgement

I look around at my colleagues with envy.

“Are you ok?” Shirley asks, stopping her filing for a moment and looking straight at me.

I nod my head. Blink a tear away. Force a smile. Shirley starts filing again. How can I tell her? How can I find the words to tell her how I really feel?

Looking around, no-one else gives any sign that they have noticed. No sense of outrage at the fact that of the eighteen people who make up the complement of this office, only seventeen are present and productive. Seventeen men and women working; heads down, eyes focussed on computer monitors, beavering away like the well-ordered, single-minded corporate drones they are. I envy their uncomplicated little lives, even as I secretly despise them for that very condition.

I turn my gaze back to Shirley. Still filing as though it were all she lived for; absolute dedication.

What Shirley and I did last night was wrong. Not legally, not even morally in the accepted sense of the word, but wrong nonetheless. It represented an extreme error of judgement on both our parts. For goodness’ sake, we are mature, responsible adults; at least we are supposed to be. We are both married. To other people. What ever possessed us to do what we did is beyond me. But do it we did, the inevitable; the one thing that could go wrong; did, and now we have to live with the consequences.

I suppose, in our defence, it was almost inevitable. We spend a lot of time together, and we have become quite close. The mistake was probably not so much what we did, as making the initial decision to visit a bar and down a few drinks on the way home from work. We should have known that it wouldn’t stop there. We should have anticipated that we would do something stupid.

How stupid? How does driving a dodgem car in the local fairground sound? Not bad? Add in alcohol, and the car becomes a lethal weapon. After a heavy impact, I ended up in hospital with a splinter of something in my eye. At least that sobered me up, but it was supremely awkward to explain to my wife why I was brought home from work four hours late, and by a woman she didn’t know.

“Yes, Shirley, I’m fine, thanks,” I say, “but I’d prefer if you stop filing your nails and get on with some work!”

Geoff Le Pard is just brilliant:

I look around at my colleagues with envy.

“Are you ok,?” Shirley asks, stopping her filing for a moment and looking straight at me.

I nod my head. Blink a tear away. Force a smile. Shirley starts filing again. How can I tell her? How can I find the words to say how I really feel?

‘Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?’

I’ve tried to be brave but I can’t go on. Somehow I manage to say, ‘Could you ease the filing drawer open, Shirley; Somehow you’ve snagged my testicles inside.’

Jane Basil can’t stop her dark side coming out. Thank goodness she can’t!

https://janebasilblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/her-mothers-daughter/

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Markets For Writers

Flash Fiction Competition

By popular demand, I’m bringing back my Flash Fiction Competition – with prizes. Thank you to everyone who entered last time and I’d love you to have a go again. And if you didn’t, give it a go this time. See the previous winning entries. Here are the all important details:

Prizes: 1st £50, 2nd £25, 3rd £10

Entry fee: £2 per story

Word Limit: Stories of up to 250 words are invited on any theme.

Payment can be made by credit card or Paypal, via the website. Cheques should be made payable to Esther Newton.

Entries should be submitted as e-mail attachments in Word or PDF format. In the body of the e-mail, please detail the following: your name, postal address, e-mail address, story title and word count.

For postal entries, please include a cover sheet with the following information: your name, contact details, story title and word count. If you want your story back, please enclose an S.A.E.

The title does not form part of the word count.

Your name should not appear anywhere on the story.

E-mail entries to: esthernewton@virginmedia.com

Postal entries to: Flash Fiction Competition, 21 Fuller Close

Thatcham, Berkshire, RG19 4GS, England

Website: https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com/flash-fiction-competition-2015/

Closing date: 15th November 2015

All winning entries will be published and showcased on the website.

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Funny Of The Week/How Times Have Changed Part Two

This sees the second part of a new series, which takes a look back at the delightful ads of old. Some will have you laughing, others will have you shaking your head in disbelief:

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Monday Motivations

My Monday motivation for you is a reminder to enter my weekly writing challenge . For this, you two have choices:

Option A: I’ll give you a story opening and the challenge is to continue the story from that point.

Option B: For this choice, I have a story ending for you and your challenge is to write story up to the ending. 

Here is your opening and your ending:

Option A:

I look around at my colleagues with envy.

“Are you ok,?” Shirley asks, stopping her filing for a moment and looking straight at me.

I nod my head. Blink a tear away. Force a smile. Shirley starts filing again. How can I tell her? How can I find the words to say how I really feel?

Option B:

I was wrong. I thought finding a ghost would be exciting and fun. At the very least I thought it would be scary. But it was more than that. So much more.

***

Last week, to get your writing week kick-started, I gave you the beginning of a story. What happened next was up to you.

Lizzie had known it was going to happen one day. But that didn’t make it any easier.

She looked out the window and peered through the rain splattered glass. It had been such a lovely morning, with sunshine streaming through the windows, falling on the golden daffodils on the windowsill. For a while, she’d thought everything was going to be alright.

A lot of you clearly enjoyed this. Here are your stories:

Sacha Black was first in line and wrote a beautifully touching story:

But then she heard the rattle and click of the letter box and the slap, slap, slap of letters falling to the floor.

She took another slurp of coffee and tried not to spit it out; she must have been sat there longer than she realised because the coffee was cold.

She pushed herself up and away from the table and walked to the front door.

She knew it would come today. He’d sent a one line email saying so. But it still hurt. And the email just made it harder. Why couldn’t he have rung? She missed his voice more than anything.

She knelt by the door. Yep. It really was there. She fought herself for a minute and then let out gushing sobs.

She knew from the start it was a two year deal. She had the £30,000 pound cheque sat on the side as proof. Once those 730 days were over so were they. He would have his citizenship and she her freedom. But she had hoped it wouldn’t be the case. There were signs of course. Signs he might love her. The notes he would leave. The glances across dinner. The soft brush of his hand across her neck as he helped her into a necklace.

She didn’t want her freedom or the check anymore. She just wanted him. But worst, she thought he had wanted her.

But the envelope told her different. He had never loved her. It was just a business deal.

She reached for the envelope hands shaking and ripped it open.

She paused, confused. She thought it would have been on formal paper. That’s what lawyers used right? This was a divorce after all.

Her heart tightened. Butterflies surged through her stomach.
She ripped the letter open and stared at the hand written words blinking rapidly.

LIZZIE, I’M SORRY. I MADE A MISTAKE. I KNOW THIS WAS ALWAYS A BUSINESS DEAL, BUT IF YOU FEEL HALF WHAT I DO MEET ME AT LA ROUCHE TODAY AT 11. YOU STOLE MY HEART, AND NOW I WANT TO STEAL YOURS.
JACQUE

She glanced at the clock 10:30… She could make it. She grabbed the keys and ran out the door.

Melissa Barker Simpson took off where Sacha finished and propelled the story in a completely different direction:

Lizzie made it to La Rouche with a minute to spare. She took that time to catch her breath, to control her racing pulse, and finger-comb her unruly hair. None of it helped. The moment she saw him her courage faltered.

She wanted to call out to him, but she was incapable of speech. The hope was like a drum beat in her chest.

Dragging air into her lungs Lizzie stepped forward, willing Jacque to turn. It would be the perfect moment, she could already see the scene playing out in her head; though the musical accompaniment was a little over the top.

A smile curved her lips at the thought, because she knew it would make him laugh. She loved to make him laugh.

Feeling stronger now she took another step, ignoring the harassed looking pedestrians who dodged round her on the path.

“Jac-”

The words were drowned out by the explosion. For a moment all she could see was a sea of red, and black, and then she was engulfed by a wave of agony so powerful she was blind to everything else.

Francesca Aniballi wrote a moving story:

She picked up the crumpled letter from the coffee table and read the poem again. She recognised it as a translation of Apollinaire’s “Il pleut”:

It’s raining women’s voices as if they had died
even in memory
And it’s raining you as well marvellous
encounters of my life O little drops
Those rearing clouds begin to neigh a whole
universe of auricular cities
Listen if it rains while regret and disdain weep
to an ancient music
Listen to the bonds fall off which hold you
above and below

She paused at “auricular cities”, cities full of sounds. But then she went over the last lines and the signature glaring at her from a blank space. She dropped the letter again. It was final.

He had left the letter in her pocket, giving her a quick peck on the cheek, leaving her stunned in the glorious morning sunshine, as she placed the daffodils on the windowsill.

She had thought, everything would be alright.

For a moment, her instinct had been side-tracked: a quickly vanishing spell cast on her by the web of light.

She had known it for some time.

Even so, she had buried her sense of foreboding under her to-do lists.

John was not coming back. He had found a new way of telling her, because she never listened.

He had walked out of the door and out of her life with a light step, a delicate smile painted on his lips.

*the translated poem comes from How to Read a Poem, by Edward Hirsch.

Jane Basil had this to say:

‘I find myself in a silly mood today…’ So please take a look at her ‘silliness’!

https://janebasilblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/monday-motivations/

Adhin Shamina joined in with a thought-provoking story:

Still, the house had an unusual quietness that she felt while having her cup of tea, sitting on the veranda. She remembered that evening when she was making her braid for the last ceremony of her daughter’s wedding. It was the same feeling when she used to get her ready to go to school.

That evening, she remembered too well the same brightness on her face, the same sparkle in her eyes and the same enthusiasm she would have for new experiences of life. Lizzie was happy for her darling daughter. After the last stroke of the make-up brush, she got up. Lizzie accompanied her to the reception table where her beloved husband was waiting.

When she took off her hand from her mother’s and walked towards her husband, Lizzie realized she was no more her baby, but then a young woman, someone’s wife. She was going to start her own new world. Lizzie realized her daughter was not going to need her anymore. Lizze felt her heart pounding, as if hearing its each and every beat.

But as her daughter was going intothe arms of her beloved husband, Lizzie remembered her own wedding day twenty five years ago. It was the something wonderful to start a family when two people shared the God gifted feeling of love, trust, respect and mutual understanding. But simultaneously, it is also true that great patience is needed to maintain these virtues in a relationship. A person needs to live his life according to his will but when two people share a life, there is always a thought not to hurt the other person by one’s action. Such maturity comes with living. But she had a little fear in one corner of her heart. Despite her compassion for others it was also a fact that she had not seen much conjugal life because her father died when she was only twelve. It was the age when she was about to begin to understand family life. Lizzie had done her best to never let her feel the absence of her father. And she could only pray to God that her daughter met her duty well as a wife and that no situation hurt her.

When the clock stroke five times, Lizzie shifted her gaze onto the clock. Her loneliness deepened because at that time her daughter used to return home from work. But since her wedding, things had changed. There was no one for whom Lizzie would be waiting for. Yet Lizzie believed she had to and would get used to that. It was just another stage of a person’s life after all.

Richard Nicholson brings this to a close with a heart-wrenching story:

The letters from the bank and solicitor had both arrived in the morning post, just as the rain began to fall. She knew what they both contained and didn’t bother opening them. The bank confirming that they weren’t prepared to advance her any more funds for her ailing book shop, and the solicitor giving details of her bankruptcy proceedings. Lizzie sat staring at the carpet as if in a trance, cursing Amazon, Waterstones and the other online book sellers who between them had effectively wooed all her regular customers. Even those who had stayed always managed to comment on how the book they were holding in their hand was cheaper online, before putting it back on the shelf.

She opened the one from the bank. It was from “Roy”, the bank’s business relationship advisor, “Hi, Lizzie, I’m Roy”, had been very smiley and positive when they met, two months previously. With a wry grin she remembered how “Roy” convinced her that everything would be fine. Just a few questions about the current state of the business, her revised business plan, and of course, what other forms of income she had. That last one did slightly concern her as she had none. But “Roy” was so zealous and positive she dismissed it and began believing that everything was going to be alright. “Just need to run all this passed the underwriter, but it looks fine.” he told her before leaving. That was the last time she saw “Roy”. After that it was phone calls and emails, always asking for just a little bit more information, then the wait for the decision which eventually came.

She looked at the bottles on the coffee table. Paracetamol and vodka. She knew it was going to happen one day, she’d thought long and hard about it. But, still sitting, staring down at the carpet again, she was surprised how it had all come together so quickly, in just a couple of hours. The paracetamol and vodka bought only that morning when she’d enjoyed her last feeling of the sun on her face. Only she hadn’t known that at the time. Then the two letters, both arriving on the same day. That day. She hadn’t been expecting that. Thoughts, decisions, action…

The solicitor’s letter remained unopened. If only she had read it…

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Guest Writer Spot

Usually Fridays sees my ‘Top Tip of the Week’ post, but I was contacted by writer, Donny Marchand earlier in the week. He wondered if it would be possible for me to consider publishing one of his stories. I know what it’s like trying to get your work read and your name known, so I was only too happy to oblige. So here’s the first post in a new series. If anyone else would like to appear as a guest writer on my blog, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

First here’s a little bit about Donny’s writing, in his own words:

‘I have only started writing for publication a short time ago, and been fortunate to have had some modest success, in the placement of my work.

I have had four short stories published in a magazine entitled ‘Dimdima’ whose main office is in Mumbai, India. Two articles  published in a newspaper, ‘UK Column’ who are based in Plymouth,UK, and one short story in a magazine ‘Stories for Children’ out of the U.S.A.’

The Square Wheels Dynasty

By

Donny Marchand

 In 73 B.C. Emperor Dolt became the fifth family member of the Square Wheels Dynasty in succession to reign over the realm of Mundainia. Before him, all of his forefathers’ impracticable proclamations and decrees had been permanently enshrined in the official certified journals of the Kingdom and declared Great Wisdoms of the Emperors.

The first of these erroneous icons being the declaration by Dolt the Without in 217 B.C., that all subjects must henceforth use only square wheels. Round ones, the statute stated were dangerous because of the difficulty in stopping their motion, and thus making them the major cause of accidents. In 162 B.C Dolt the Feeble decreed a ban on himself from making decisions, proclaiming this would eliminate the possibility of him making any bad ones. Throughout the decades the successive Dolts had distinguished themselves with such grand ineptitudes that the new Emperor recognized it would be difficult to make a name for himself. So, from the moment he sat upon his throne he became determined to invent the most absurd decree yet, and be known forever as the greatest of all the sovereigns.

One day the Emperor summoned all of his sages and seers to the palace on a matter of great importance. In reverence they assembled before him, and nervously waited with baited breath to hear what fate might befall them.

“My councillors,” said the Emperor, “I have gathered you here today so that you may have the honour to serve your liege by assisting him in accomplishing what he desires utmost in his heart.”

The snivelling cowards all pledged their complete allegiance and acknowledged how grateful they were for the privilege he was bestowing upon them.

“It is my intention,” continued the Emperor, “to institute a new inane and arduous regulation upon my subjects of such incredible magnitude, that my name will be immortalized for eternity, as the most renowned Emperor of all time.”

Choruses of “Hail the Emperor! Hail the Emperor!” rang out from his lackeys.

“So, I command you this very day to withdraw to your homes and consider what I have said. Then return to me in one week with your proposals on what you believe would be the most inimitable notion in absurdity ever known to mankind.”

A week later the minions presented themselves before their Emperor to apprise him of the various concepts they had dreamed up. One by one they submitted their scenarios, and each idea Emperor Dolt rejected. When they had finished, he admonished them all for being too sensible, and ordered them to leave at once as their presence was causing him much consternation.

The following day Dumbody the town fool requested and received an audience with his sovereign, in spite of the fact that the Emperor was in a very grumpy mood. Maybe this idiot can replenish some cheer in my heart again, he thought. “What is your petition?” Emperor Dolt asked sternly.”

“I would like permission to cut the corners off of my square wheels,” replied Dumbody.

“And why on earth would you want to do that?” challenged the Emperor.

“After performing each day’s daftness duties, which is very strenuous work, I head for my home feeling very tired, just like every other subject of your kingdom. But as I live high up in the hills outside of the city, the square wheels make my journey very difficult when I push my cart up the steep slope. So, if the Emperor would allow me to chop the corners off the wheels, I believe the task would become less cumbersome.”

“So you think hexagon ones would function more effectively?”

“Yes my Liege I certainly do.”

“A very silly reflection,” replied the Emperor, “but I will consider it.”

As soon as Dumbody had withdrawn, the Emperor instructed his servants to make sure he was not disturbed for the rest of the day, which he spent contemplating Dumbody’s idea.

The ensuing morning he summoned his scribe and instructed him to write down the following decree. “By order of the Emperor this declaration shall come into effect immediately: All citizens of the realm will take the necessary steps to cut off the corners of their square wheels, without exception. In his supreme sagacity the Emperor has decided this exercise will initiate a more efficient coordination in the people’s daily lives.”

When the scribe had finished writing it all down, the Emperor ordered him to take it to the captain of the guard and say the Emperor wishes for him to have this new proclamation distributed throughout the land forthwith.

Subsequently, the Emperor became overjoyed with the news that he was being hailed throughout Mundainia as the most enlightened, and judicious Emperor of all time. And to his further delight, over the years he became known as Dolt the thoughtless.

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My Weekly Writing Challenge

This week I’m going to give you two choices:

Option A: I’ll give you a story opening and the challenge is to continue the story from that point.

Option B: For this choice, I have a story ending for you and your challenge is to write story up to the ending. 

Here is your opening and your ending:

Option A:

I look around at my colleagues with envy.

“Are you ok,?” Shirley asks, stopping her filing for a moment and looking straight at me.

I nod my head. Blink a tear away. Force a smile. Shirley starts filing again. How can I tell her? How can I find the words to say how I really feel?

Option B:

I was wrong. I thought finding a ghost would be exciting and fun. At the very least I thought it would be scary. But it was more than that. So much more.

You have until next Thursday to send me your stories. Now, onto last week’s stories. I gave you the following themes for a story or poem:

  • Ghost
  • Horror
  • Crime
  • Romance

I had some excellent responses:

Keith Channing has written an extra episode of Albert and Jarvis. Read and enjoy:  http://channing.info/wp/2015/08/01/albert-and-jarvis-part-19/

Adhin Shamina sent in a powerful romance story:

FADED STEPS

It was just like any other day for Rachel, with the stifled sound of the sand beneath her feet, walking with her hands on her forehead to escape the blinding rays of the sun; she would wait for him because he told her he would be back.

Marc was the hero of the sea, rough-looking , but a child at heart. He learnt the art of fishing from his father who was the most daring of his time. Waves were like their breaths, coming and going. Marc and Rachel fell in love but against her family’s wishes. She belonged to a much more sophisticated background. For that, her parents would have never accepted a fisherman as part of their family. But Rachel had preferred his love to all the luxuries of the world she had seen. She was happy to care for her new home. They hadn’t been together for long but they were the Romeo and Juliet of the village. The life they shared was an example for the other couples.

But life had not been kind. Together, they had braved difficulties too, and with the same determination.

The memories of Marc were not like Rachel’s footprints on the sand. No wave had been able to wash them. It had been a year and Rachel had been doing her duty diligently. Every
morning began with the zeal of his arrival and darkness would leave hope for tomorrow.
Time had halted for Rachel.

“Looks like it’s going to be a great catch today. You know, Harry, my friend, he promised to take me to the city for business. It’s like the lottery going there. ” His hand running through his hair he looked at Rachel. His emotions flowed through his eyes,” I wish to do so many things for you.”

“Don’t ever say that dear. Nothing is more important for me than you. You’ve given the
world’s most priceless thing, love and a peaceful life like I have always wished for after marriage. And I am happy, dear.”

Rachel and Marc had created their own world and story. But unfortunately their story was
not a fairy tale with a happy ending. For the past eleven months, Harry’s wife Elizabeth, had been helping Rachel with her basic needs. In return Rachel offered her help in taking care of Elizabeth’s two children. Life grew hard for Elizabeth with sewing as her only means of income. But she had accepted her fate unlike Rachel. Her mental state was deteriorating day after day.

Standing on the shore her gaze fixed on the stretch before her. Then in just a few minutes the sea looked unfamiliar. The weather went grey. The atmosphere grew sinister. But her gaze did not move. She saw something at the far end, something struggling to reach the shore.

“Marc? Marc…He has come. Somebody help.” She looked around. There was not a
single soul. She believed Marc was in trouble at in other end. She was in pain and ran to her love. The waves took height, engulfing her. And in just a few moments, she was gone. Her never- ending wait ended.

The next morning, the whole village was searching for her. Elizabeth told them she did not
turn home that night. But they could only found Rachel’s slippers on the sand and then the curtain fell.

Adin also sent in a compelling crime poem:

STARVATION

Like forever starving
there are souls hanging around,
at every nook, at every corner,
some since the very beginning
and others till the end of time.
Lust, envy and greed
which, among others,take over their
never-to-be-satisfied desires and need.
At times their pace seems not enough,
at times their space seems not enough,
then reaching becomes tough
and from the above comes the cycle
of push and pull
constantly attempting
to always keep until full.
Then comes their spreading and growing
then comes their snatching and showing
despite to all it is knowing
that here all is owing.
But still like starving souls
they hang around
some since the very beginning
and some till the end of time.

Riley Reed has written an emotive poem:

‘A poem dedicated to my mom’:

https://rileyreedauthor.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/ghost-of-her/

Melissa Barker-Simpson tried something different for her – horror – and very successfully:

https://mbarkersimpson.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/the-flip-side-in-response-to-esther-newtons-writing-challenge/

Geoff Le Pard wrote a sonnet about his wife and their dancing lessons, as well as their on going love affair…

The hand that guides

Your consoling hand sits light on my sleeve,
A Macavity tap to release me on four;
We set sail, in step, gliding with ease
Past blind spots and money pots strewn on the floor.
I fumble to catch that elusive toe-tap
Which, if I could, would allow me my head.
You remind me, by way of a quick finger snap,
Of the dangers where taking that path might lead.
I continually try to do it my way,
To give into weakness of flesh and of soul
But you know how to guide; I cannot stray
And we remain linked; two parts of one whole.
May it always be thus as we gib and we tack;
You looking forward, my hand at your back.

Jane Basil has gone wonderfully dark and gruesome:
https://janebasilblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/dead-man-walking/

I hope you all agree – each writer brought something very different to the themes. Highly entertaining and very talented writers.

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Markets For Writers

This week’s market has been provided by the wonderful Sacha Black  

Writers Helping Writers hold a monthly competition for the opening first page of a novel. Writers have a specific time frame in which to send their e-mail address, genre of story and the intended audience. Three names are drawn at random. The ‘winners’ then send in their first page and they’ll receive a critique of their opening page.

See the July post for an example and requirements.

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