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16+ Mature Content

Dad, Emma Bell was Years Ago Part 1

by inktopus


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for mature content.

Though it may seem so on the surface, the fact is, Finn wasn’t always by my side. We met when we were both around the age of four, and after that, no one could ever pull us apart. We were magnetized to each other; it was only our nature.

Poking around, first our yards, and then the woods of Walsh Creek, we were always trapped in the idyll of rural Illinois— so far removed from the rest of the world. We were nine when we first left the county, together, of course, and Finn’s grandfather took us north to Chicago. It was so different from what we were used to. Finn cried.

That beautiful, comforting warmth of childhood, so warm it could be considered the summer of our lives, chilled into a crisp autumn. I had to get used to the bitter wind blowing in my face. Still, autumn had its hot days, and Finn and I both settled into a strange sort of relationship that we had previously been too young to consider. We never discussed it and rarely mentioned it outside of those isolated moments of fumbling, exploratory passion. It took us a year to learn that what we did was considered taboo, but we found ourselves unwilling to care. Once, I tried to end it, taking Emma Bell to the junior high Winter Ball and kissing her once, awkwardly, not quite on the lips, in front of Finn. After that, I ditched her to make up and make out with Finn in the bathroom.

What had once seemed isolated began to creep into other aspects of our lives. We could no longer pretend that it was just experimental. We both cared too much, but deep down, neither of us could admit it even to ourselves. That struggle, however, was just one in a series of many.

The pew was hard, and something Finn had said once came back to me. I had to stifle a snort remembering it. The pews are uncomfortable because Pastor Will doesn’t want anyone getting too comfortable with God. Grinning to myself, I glanced at Finn from across the aisle. It seemed like the pastor was winding down his sermon, and it was apparent that Finn was getting antsy from the way his knee kept bouncing up and down. He cleared his throat rather loudly, and I watched as his grandpa elbowed him in the ribs. His eyes met mine and the church seemed a little hotter, a little stuffier than it usually did. All too suddenly, the pianist began to bang out out-of-tune chords and my dad was dragging me to stand by the bicep. With everyone else caught up in the music, I took the opportunity to stare at Finn, mouthing the words to the hymn being played.

Praise the Mount.

I’m fixed upon it,

Mount of thy redeeming love.

Finn’s face brightened to a satisfying red, and he refused to meet my eyes again for the rest of the service. When it finally ended, the obligatory time of socializing with all the old ladies who acted like they hadn’t seen you just last Sunday began. My grandma always liked to humor them, parading Finn and me around like dolls to be cooed over. I crossed the aisle, grinning up at Finn. He glared at me, turning to his grandfather. “Ethan and I are going to wait for you guys outside. It’s so stuffy in here I think I might pass out.”

He just nodded. “Go on then before anyone can catch you trying to avoid them.”

I grinned and Finn rubbed the back of his neck, looking a little embarrassed. “Come on, Finn. If we want to get out of here, we need to go now.”

Finn allowed me to lead him out the door and outside.

The air outside, despite being a similar temperature to the inside air, was somehow so much more freeing. It was as if the eyes of God couldn't follow us out here. He only existed within the walls of that tiny, weather-beaten building. I climbed into the bed of the beat up pickup truck Finn's grandfather had owned longer than either of us could remember. The grooved bottom was hard against my back as I lay down. Finn plopped himself beside me in a sham of platonic camaraderie. But, he couldn't keep it up for long, rolling on top of me and head-butting my face before kissing me in that strange, gentle way of his.

All too suddenly, he broke away, leaving me choking on air. "What?" I gasped.

He mock glared at me. "You know what."

I chuckled, feigning ignorance. "Enlighten me."

"Saying that! In church!" His face brightened, and he hissed, "I can't believe you."

"I can't believe you." I countered. "How filthy minded you are, interpreting that hymn like you are." I ducked my head to his neck, toying with the skin between my teeth.

He groaned. "Oh my God."

"Not in church," I mocked.

"We're not in church now, are we?"

“I suppose not.” I leaned up and caught his lips once again. It went on in that way, the air around us warming until it was like summer again. After what felt like at once an eternity and no time at all, Finn broke the kiss, a string of spit connecting us for a moment before it broke. “What is it this time?” A pit of fear settled in my stomach, and my voice dropped to a tremulous whisper. “No one’s coming, right?”

“No one’s coming,” he affirmed, rolling off of me.

I sat up. “Then what is it?”

He sighed, an unreadable look overcoming his face. I bit my lip. It was only rarely that I was unable to read Finn.

“What is this?”

“What do you mean?”

He sighed. “I just mean that we’ve refused to define this for years. Years! I think the time has come to at least acknowledge it. We do this and then just go on pretending like it never happened. If that’s going to be forever, then we should just stop now.” He looked down but eyed me carefully. “I don’t think I can do this for much longer.”

I opened my mouth for a moment, but I shut it, knowing I needed to consider my next words carefully. Why did we need to define this? I was perfectly fine with this arrangement. On the other hand, looking at Finn’s face, I could read it without a doubt. He was scared, and I found myself mirroring his fear. I could very well lose Finn with my next words. Maybe it was time to face this. “I think you’re right,” I said. “I—” I couldn’t bring myself to finish that phrase despite what I had just said.

Finn finished the phrase for me, “I think I love you.” He giggled nervously at himself. “It sounds so stupid out loud, doesn’t it?”

“It- It doesn’t,” I fumbled. “It doesn’t sound stupid to me at all.” I paused. “And I think I might love you too.”

This time Finn laughed for real, a sharp, familiar bark, taking my hand in his.

A door slammed, and we jumped apart. I was certain that our hearts thudded in panicked sync as Finn combed through his tangled hair and I prayed that my face wasn’t too flushed. Slow footsteps scraped through the broken, graying asphalt, and I let out a heavy breath. “Boys? You out here? Cynthia’s ready to leave now, and she’s fixing to leave you behind if you don’t hurry up, Ethan.”

“I’m already out here,” I countered shakily, heart still stuttering in my chest. “I don’t see her out here yet.”

Mr. Cotes— Keith, he was always telling me to call him, laughed, and Finn and I hopped out of the back of his pickup. Finn opened up the passenger side door. “See you at your place if Cynthia doesn’t beat us there.”

We exchanged knowing grins as he climbed in the truck. “See you.”

The door banged open as the truck pulled out of the lot, throwing up loose gravel. “Let’s go, Ethan.” My grandmother said. “The roast will be dry if we don’t get there soon.”

Finn and Keith were already in the house; my grandmother never locked the doors. I jumped out of the truck while it was pulling to a stop, my father’s and grandmother’s shouts of protest disappearing behind me as I sprinted to the front door. Inside, Finn was pulling plates from the cabinets, and Keith already had potatoes simmering in a large pot filled with water and a can of beans warming in a smaller pot. I helped Finn with the dishes, the clatter of them unable to drown out the strange thrum that now reverberated between us.

When my grandmother came inside, she shooed everyone out of the kitchen to finish up. The four of us— me, Finn, Keith, and Dad sat in the living room, listening to the whir of the mixer and the bang of pots and pans coming from the kitchen. The silence was comfortable, practiced, having done the same thing for years. Sunday dinner with the Cotes: tradition. Everyone perked up when we heard the call for us to come to the kitchen for grace. Like always, Keith prayed. “Dear heavenly father…” It always started that way, but I never figured out if he said the same prayer every single time. I always zoned out after the beginning, whispering ‘amen’ a split second after everyone else.

We sat down at the large dining room table that Finn had broken his nose on when he was six, playing hide and seek. After that, we weren’t allowed to play that inside the house. Everything seemed normal on the outside. The same sort of conversations flowed between the adults. Finn and I had our own exchange going on— above and below the table.

A forkful of beans slid out of my open mouth as Finn’s socked foot slid higher up my calf. Glancing to my right, I saw Finn holding back a snort before I kicked him in the shin. “Stop it!” I hissed.

“Hmm?” My grandmother hummed.

“Nothing,” I said. “Finn’s just an idiot.”

His foot found mine again. “Am not,” he retorted.

It inched higher. “Okay, maybe not.”

The adults all chuckled fondly, and a strange sense of power began to grow in my chest. They didn’t know. I controlled whether they got to know this or not. I controlled their opinions of me. It was heady, but I also felt ridiculous. Still, I smiled and allowed Finn to inch his way up my leg, toying with the hem of my pants with his toe.


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91 Reviews


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Thu May 24, 2018 10:49 pm
Redbox275 says...



I think I will review part 2 but this is a really strong story so far. I really enjoy it.




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Thu May 24, 2018 10:46 pm
Redbox275 says...



I think I will review part 2 but this is a really strong story so far. I really enjoy it.




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Wed May 23, 2018 10:23 pm
Vervain wrote a review...



Hey Storm! I know I've been promising this review for like, ever, but I finally got enough brainspace to write down the things in my head. Let's get this party started!

Standard disclaimer: I tear it apart because I love it and want to see it get better. (But I will try to include things I liked, too.)

First, some of your phrasing is a bit awkward. Your diction and punctuation don't seem to be on speaking terms right now. For example:

Poking around, first our yards, and then the woods of Walsh Creek, we were always trapped in the idyll of rural Illinois— so far removed from the rest of the world.
This sentence feels majorly wrong. It's too many ideas butting up against one another, especially in the first part of the sentence, so I'm going to break it down in a different way as an example:
First we poked around our yards, then the woods of Walsh Creek. We were always trapped in the idyll of rural Illinois, so far removed from the rest of the world.


Another one, this time awkward because it takes too long:
I was certain that our hearts thudded in panicked sync as Finn combed through his tangled hair and I prayed that my face wasn’t too flushed.
Ethan is afraid in this sentence. He's had the crap scared out of him that someone has discovered him and Finn together. So why does it sound like he's picking through a book of poetry or a thesaurus trying to find the prettiest words? Add some tension, some speed, to your tense parts.

Second, your opening paragraphs don't really work for me. I like the first couple, but it kind of goes into infodump territory and I'd love to see more immediate character out of Finn and Ethan instead of being told things. Especially exchanges like this:
Still, autumn had its hot days, and Finn and I both settled into a strange sort of relationship that we had previously been too young to consider. We never discussed it and rarely mentioned it outside of those isolated moments of fumbling, exploratory passion.
I'd love to see a little character snippet, even just a flash, of Ethan sitting in the woods and remembering the first time he'd dared kiss Finn or something along those lines. I feel that would be more evocative of emotion and character than the phrase "exploratory passion".

As it is, we don't see enough of Finn and Ethan before the "I love you"s come out of the woodwork. We're told that they've been kind of an on-and-off Thing for years, but we don't see any of their actual passionate moments until the scene of the "I love you", and I don't know whether or not I can believe them as characters yet.

It wouldn't really mean adding wordcount or space up front to add this -- just cut out statements like the above and replace them with one or two sentences of "The first time I kissed Finn it felt like coming home" or something poetic like that, maybe a line of dialogue or two.

Dialogue, especially. Break up those paragraphs with dialogue. Show us the characters speaking and reacting to each other (Ethan and Emma Bell, Ethan and Finn, etc.) before we see the characters in the first real scene.

Third, your transitions between the different scenes are a little awkward, and I kind of wish you'd show us more interactions between Ethan and other people in his life. Obviously Ethan and Finn are the most important right now, as far as the story goes, but it feels like the other characters just exist as cardboard cutouts. Give his grandmother more characterization than just being "my grandmother" -- give her a beehive hairdo, a lead foot on the gas, something that shows us how she behaves instead of simply being a stand-in cookie-cutter grandma.

I want to see more. Not just more of the story, or the end, but I want to see more of the people. I want to see more of who they are, how they act, how they talk -- not have everyone talk the same or talk like Ethan's internal voice, like what's happening now. What everyone's saying could have come straight out of the narration. It's okay if Ethan sounds like that, because this is first person, but Finn shouldn't -- and the grandparents definitely shouldn't.

Overall, this is a really strong beginning to the story, but I feel like it's lacking some panache and makes up for the lack of style with pseudo-stylistic poetic prose. Poetic prose is cool and all that, but it can't make up for the fact that we haven't really met Finn and Ethan by the time we've finished reading this part of the story, and we don't get a good idea of what Finn's or Ethan's family is really like. We get vague mentions, but nothing beyond that, even as they interact with the main characters.

I'm excited to see the second part! Keep writing!




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Mon May 21, 2018 11:09 am
DougalOfBiscuits wrote a review...



Heyo, I am finally here! Sorry it took so long xD

Nit-picks:

After that, I ditched her to make up and make out with Finn in the bathroom.

This is a kind of odd sentence. Having "make up" and "make out" so close makes it sound like it's kind of halfway on its way to a slogan, if you know what I mean?

the pianist began to bang out out-of-tune chords and my dad was dragging me to stand by the bicep

Two things here. One, the repetition of "out" in this sentence is a bit clunky. Two, "bicep" seems like odd word choice - why not just "arm"?

But, he couldn't keep it up for long, rolling on top of me and head-butting my face before kissing me in that strange, gentle way of his.

You might want to explain the location of this. Right now it sounds like if a single person were to exit the church they'd see the two of them, which seems very risky, and therefore unlikely.

"How filthy minded you are, interpreting that hymn like you are."

This is a little stilted - I think it's the two clauses ending on the same phrase.

I couldn’t bring myself to finish that phrase despite what I had just said.

Also a bit clunky. I don't know how to explain how it's clunky, but I would assume in a similar way to when you mention that my phrasing is clunky.

After that, we weren’t allowed to play that inside the house.

This may be my most inane nit-pick ever but like, that seems a bit extreme? Kids hurt themselves; it seems unlikely the specific activity would be to blame. Especially one that involves so little running. Also how playing outside would help xD

Overall:

I can't figure out how to place the thing I really like about this. The closest I can come is like, feel? I can picture the atmosphere of the town, of the time of year, of the tension between these two characters. This feels quite relaxing, because of the setting, but with a really sharp twist, because of the plot - which I imagine is fairly similar to how their lives feel, so that's really cool.

One thing I think I'd like more of is some characterisation of the two boys. All I really know about them is their relationship to each other. It's neat to see that Finn was the one who brought up defining the relationship first, and that tells me something about his personality (though I'm not sure how to put exactly what into words). And I definitely get that they're both quite irreverent, but it more seems they have that in common due to both being put in the same circumstance where it's necessity, rather than something they've bonded over. I get the feeling that some strain is going to be put on their relationship at some point, so I'd like to have a sense of why these two people are so suited for each other, why they love each other, so that I can be more invested in that.

Also idk if the split in the two parts is stylistic or for yws-related length reasons, but it was kind of an odd place to stop. Not going to go into that in case it's the latter but let me know.

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)

p.s. I love that it looks like Jake Peralta has reviewed a story written by Rosa Diaz xD




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Fri May 18, 2018 3:34 am
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Hattable wrote a review...



Heya, Storm!

Here to review your story! I was going to, then thought it had been taken out of the Green Room and I wasn't sure if you wanted me hitting it anyway, then you implied that you wanted a review from me and it's still here, so-- that's not cool, Green Room!

Anyway, I'm guessing you know how my reviews go? Grammar, mostly-- then I try to toss in some comments about general content.

Let's get it started!

Though it may seem so on the surface, the fact is, Finn wasn’t always by my side. We met when we were both around the age of four, and after that, no one could ever pull us apart. We were magnetized to each other; it was only our nature.

So, this is really nit-picky, and I get what you're going for here, but it's kind of odd to say “Finn wasn't always by my side” when they've known each other since they were 4.

Yes, technically Finn hasn't always been by his side, but people don't usually say that phrase so literally? Like, if two friends met when they were 4 they'd more likely say “oh yeah I've known him forever//we've always been friends” than to say this, I think. Technically Finn hasn't always been there, but for the sake of, like, making it realistic, this phrase feels unnecessary.

The rest of the paragraph is great. It's just that first sentence that throws it off for me. It's still a good hook all together? Just an oddly technical thing-- but that's just me!

Poking around, first our yards, and then the woods of Walsh Creek, we were always trapped in the idyll of rural Illinois— so far removed from the rest of the world.

The dash here is kind of funky to me. It makes the flow a little jumpy. I realize, though, that a comma could verge on comma-overload, so... The sentence itself is good, and I don't want to suggest rewording it. If you can find a better way to punctuate it, though, that might help your flow.

We were nine when we first left the county, together, of course, and Finn’s grandfather took us north to Chicago.

Comma business feels particularly nit-picky to me, especially when I don't know how much I'll go into other general things (I write reviews as I read the work; I don't take any notes beforehand) so I'll try not to stop at them too much more.

But, that said, I think the comma before “of course” here being removed could benefit your flow. It causes a sudden pause that doesn't feel all that natural-- almost a stutter-- and without it there it reads much more smoothly, in my opinion.

It was so different from what we were used to. Finn cried.

“Finn cried” feels too short here. Too matter-of-fact and tell-y. Maybe you could add a little more to it, like “Finn cried, missing home”. Or describe the home a little more; are there fields he enjoyed? Did he prefer the woods? You could take one of those and say “Finn cried, missing the rolling pastures of our home” or whatever fits the story/character. Just an added something to give it more life and not sound so tossed in here.

That beautiful, comforting warmth of childhood, so warm it could be considered the summer of our lives, chilled into a crisp autumn.

This is a really nice line. I love the way you compare the carefree, fun-having times of their youth to summer, and then growing up to the cold and dry atmosphere of autumn.

Once, I tried to end it, taking Emma Bell to the junior high Winter Ball and kissing her once, awkwardly, not quite on the lips, in front of Finn.

The second “once” can be removed, I think. It causes a repetition, but its absence doesn't bring about any snags in the flow or story itself, so it's totally safe to delete it.

The pew was hard, and something Finn had said once came back to me.

The “once” here would be better employed before the “said”. It took a couple reads to get what this sentence was saying, and now that I've got it, I think this change would make it clearer. “Something Finn had said once came back to me” sounds almost like it only once came back to him, rather than it being something Finn had once said, which I'm sure is what you meant.

The pews are uncomfortable because Pastor Will doesn’t want anyone getting too comfortable with God.

This sentence suddenly shifts to present tense. I actually had to check back and see if the rest of the story had been present tense all along, because it flowed well enough to nearly slip by me, haha. But yeah, this needs some fixing-up!

It's also a bit unusual that a pastor wouldn't want people being comfortable with God, but I get the feeling this is intentional on your part and serves as some kind of symbolism or even foreshadowing for the story?

All too suddenly, the pianist began to bang out out-of-tune chords and my dad was dragging me to stand by the bicep.

“out out-of-tune chords” is too repetitive for my taste. Maybe you could try “began to bang out off-key chords”? If that serves up the same meaning. I'm not sure if that's slightly different instrumental lingo, but I'm sure you'll be able to tell whether or not it is, haha--

Also, I take it the rest of the sentence means that his dad is pulling him to his feet? I think it would read better if you worded it that way (“dragging me to my feet by the bicep”) rather than using “stand” there. “Dragging me to stand” feels awkward and throws off the flow a little.

“I suppose not.” I leaned up and caught his lips once again. It went on in that way, the air around us warming until it was like summer again.

“I suppose not” what? I'm not understanding what this dialogue is in reference to, since we go from them escaping the pews to them making out just outside the church, but there's not really anything that I can detect for that to be directed at?

“What is it this time?” A pit of fear settled in my stomach, and my voice dropped to a tremulous whisper. “No one’s coming, right?”

I also feel that this whole portion here could be dropped it its own line, rather than tacked onto the preceding paragraph. Dialogue being jammed into a long paragraph is always a no-no in my book, and I'm not sure who said “I suppose not”, but if it was Finn and this new dialogue is Ethan, then it's even more necessary to make the new line.



It just occurred to me that this scene may be taking place after a time jump? If so, then more clarification for that would be good. You could put some dashes or stars to separate the paragraphs and more clearly define the time jump. That also sort of makes the “I suppose not” clearer as an opening to this new scene, but I'm still not sure what that's in reference to-- *reads on*

I opened my mouth for a moment, but I shut it, knowing I needed to consider my next words carefully.

I'd swap the “I” in “but I shut it” for “then”, or something of the sort. All these “I”s gives the sentence a touch and go feel, if that makes sense. “I opened my mouth. But I shut it. I needed to consider my next words--” like, it works alright in that way? But when it's broken up by commas, I think a “then” would work nicely. You could even omit the “but” and just make it “then shut it”, if that sounds better to you. Just tossing out suggestions, though!

“Boys? You out here? Cynthia’s ready to leave now, and she’s fixing to leave you behind if you don’t hurry up, Ethan.”

This is another instance where a new line would be good, since a new character is speaking. Though the previous paragraph described their entrance, they've still not spoken in that paragraph or prior to it, so yeah--

Mr. Cotes— Keith, he was always telling me to call him, laughed, and Finn and I hopped out of the back of his pickup.

I think another dash right before “laughed” would work for this? It would flow nicer. Read like “Mr. Cotes laughed” with a short break to mention that he always asks to be called Keith. This is just a minor suggestion, though-- whichever you prefer is fine!

The door banged open as the truck pulled out of the lot, throwing up loose gravel.

I'd add “in its wake” or “in its trail” at the end of this, just so it's clearer that the truck is throwing up the loose gravel and not the door? I don't think it's likely to be mistaken that way, but ya know-- I also thinking that added bit could make this sound nicer. It gives you more words, but sometimes that's a good thing. Offers description and makes the scene richer. I dunno, bro, whatever you think is good, lel--

“Let’s go, Ethan.” My grandmother said. “The roast will be dry if we don’t get there soon.”

This should have a comma after “Ethan”, and “My” should be lowercase. Make it '“Let's go, Ethan,” my grandmother said.'

Finn and Keith were already in the house; my grandmother never locked the doors. I jumped out of the truck while it was pulling to a stop, my father’s and grandmother’s shouts of protest disappearing behind me as I sprinted to the front door.

So I have a couple suggestions here. Firstly, adding “When we arrived” to the start of all this could make the whole thing read clearer. Secondly, and this is really minor, I think saying “while it was still pulling to a stop” would benefit that portion. These are just suggestions, but I definitely recommend the first point, at least. It makes the shift in scenes (from grandmother speaking to them arriving at the house) clearer and less sudden.

The four of us— me, Finn, Keith, and Dad sat in the living room,

I'd add another dash after “Dad” to fix this sentence up. It gives “The four of us” a purpose, rather than being like some dangling thing at the start of all this.

Everyone perked up when we heard the call for us to come to the kitchen for grace.

I'm not Christian, so I don't know about this, but should “grace” be capitalized? You'd probably know, but I just wanted to point it out in case you missed something here. I suppose it being capitalized could cause confusion, make it seem like there's a new character, but yeah--

Like always, Keith prayed. “Dear heavenly father…” It always started that way, but I never figured out if he said the same prayer every single time. I always zoned out after the beginning, whispering ‘amen’ a split second after everyone else.

I think either this entire portion, or starting from “Dear heavenly father” should begin a new line.

Finn and I had our own exchange going on— above and below the table.

(OH NO, NOT AT DINNER. lel)

“Hmm?” My grandmother hummed.

Since the question mark is within the dialogue, “My” should be lowercase here, as well. Not sure if your word doc did this, or if you made a typo, but yeah--

Still, I smiled and allowed Finn to inch his way up my leg, toying with the hem of my pants with his toe.

Repetition of “with” is a little iffy. I'd make this “toying his toe around the hem of my pants”, or something to that effect.

And there's grammar done.

So, I have to say, this was written quite beautifully. The first half, especially. I don't think I've ever really read anything of yours, but that was clearly a mistake. Your descriptions and metaphors and just the way you form your language is all fantastic and I had a great time reading this. Your characters' feelings for one another are also described really nicely. You've got a way with words and maaan I'm gonna have to check some of your other stuff, now, I guess, haha.

Pacing throughout this was good. The portion a while back where I thought there may have been a time jump was the only part that really had me confused, and the pacing and flow were the weakest there, but otherwise it was all good.


I hope this review was helpful! Keep up the great work!

- Hatt

EDIT: After you informed me that a portion (where I thought there was a time jump) was missing, I've returned to read that. No notes on it, all good!!





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