Action - Reaction

Newton’s Third Law, dictating equal and opposite force between two objects, was recently exemplified with true frontier flare.

 An unidentified Houston, AK man is reported to have kicked a moose and, as a result, received minor injuries plus a major lesson in how not to treat wildlife.

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Ele-vantage in the Afternoon

As a child I found glee in fleeting pleasures of spring and autumn. Those few windswept moments wedged in-between full sun and billowing snow spoke unique volumes to me.

Many adult years later the months between beach bummin’ and pow-turns have evolved to terms like ‘the shoulder,’ or; ‘slack.’ The later especially is somehow weighted, as if to imply, “nothin’ doin,” an affect aptly described as a season switched off.

If that’s the case, then I guess I feel fortunate to have disobeyed signage. To my view, the hills are home to Unexpected, to Thrill and, best of all, home to outfitter organizations able to get you amongst them.

Enter Alpine Air Alaska; a family-centric Girdwood icon of aerial and ice adventuring. Alpine Air rates among the best in frontier heli-services, offering the neighborly professionalism needed when Unexpected comes to call.

In my clan’s case such a call marked an exciting first in two lifetimes.

It was Thursday. Sunlight was ascending the pine flank of Penguin Ridge. The rays slipping between frosted boughs to illuminate the sweet, sleepy stillness of another autumn morning in a place called home.

The silence is typical to the season, yet my home did not slumber like the rest. Inside its four cozy walls two young parents wrapped one frenzied toddler within glacier appropriate attire. Naturally, this was quite a mission, but even a brief glance out the window motivated the missus and I to press on

Waking apace with my excitedly sleepless tribe was a morning to put the capital ‘G’ in Girdwood.

Arriving at Alpine Air’s hanger, we step from the car into crisp, electric air. Across the tarmac, a creek rushes cold and clean. Beyond that, peaks rise proud in dress white on sky blue.   

Directly ahead, like a handsome red linchpin upon fine attire, we see the wing-less steed. It waits rotors whirling while we take a tic to let things seep in.

A Robinson Helicopter model R400 used by Alpine Air capably carries pilot, passengers and/or baggage. Gazing at it along my daughter, I struggle to imagine how her two-year old mind comes to terms with its up-close crooning. (And we were about to suggestively request she climb into it.) Eerily calm amidst the silent roaring, she looks first to her parents. And then, as if contented to see that it was we who were ready, our two-year old follows the kind lead of, Sasha Swift, one of her many new friends at Alpine Air Alaska.

Operating since the early 90’s Alpine Air Alaska craft fly the alpine skies of Prince William Sound and beyond. They emphasize safety and enjoyment while specializing at both state transport and flightseeing.

Twice awarded for industry excellence by global travel organizations, Alpine Air professionals provide dog sledding tours, glacial landings, hikes, fishing, weddings, glacial golf, picnics, film support, flight school and a variety of touring options.    

Today, the Alpine Air family guides at least two passengers well past the edges of their experiential maps.

Beside my front seat sits another friendly face. Pilot, Taylor Hutchins is an integral ambassador upon today’s adventure. He is an information resource, photographer and our ride home.

The ensuing liftoff feels like a snowball beginning to roll. Once underway it is freedom embodied. I glance back. The girls, both wearing comically large headphones atop delicate shoulders, are spellbound. A pair of shaggy Mountain Goats lopes across a nearby pitch. And all around us sky, snow, ice and soil paints a tapestry which we (and the goats) seem to be entering.

Upper Winner Creek Trail briefly runs parallel to the flight path. It is a fine charcoaled groove against a still frosted landscape. Masses of frozen water roost beside and below our passage. A turbid wall of inert water grows within a nearby gorge. Taylor says it’s a frozen waterfall. I’m thankful, thinking I prefer its pose as is. My daughter seems to agree.

Alpine Air procedure wisely supplies children with mike-less headphones, yet I can see her youthful face. She’s narrating, at the top of her lungs.

Inner Lake George appears a distant blue streak beneath a crown of peaks. We’re nearing it when Taylor initiates a banking turn to reveal a panorama even the toddler’s rapid mind won’t soon obscure.    

The cliffs of Colony Glacier sweep into view before passing languidly below. The circling approach feels like an application for admission. The jutting bulk of ice waits with upward blade formations like blue-tipped shark fins, but the affect is unthreatening. Taylor and Colony seems to share understanding and, thusly fortunate in affiliation, we land.

Soft fresh snow coats the surface ice. Through that, I feel the lower ice like a force. For my wife and daughter, whom before today had neither stepped near a helicopter nor landed atop a glacier, the ice is surprisingly homey. The two-year old appears particularly at ease. In fact, over the whole experience’s few hours, her sole complaint is that we must return. And even that brief squall is quickly calmed during flight. She notes the passing glaciers like stars to chart a course home.

Alpine Air Alaska, operating year-round, books six daily tours during summer, and four per-day through winter. Co- owner, operator Deb Essex says the first impressions of flightseeing are among her favorites. And those experiences, says Alpine Air Director of Marketing, Sasha Swift, are all the better enjoyed over autumn.

“Everyday’s different,” Swift said, “and it’s certainly all breathtaking, but this period benefits from much less traffic.”

“It’s nature at its best and, right now, it’s likely to be all yours.”

My exuberant memories echo Swift’s own first impressions. She recalls glaciers, wildlife, and blazing of colors as seen from a startling new perspective: above.

And all of this, the excitement, the adventure and its resulting memory, waits just past the sunrise of a single day in a so-called low season.         

What almost was...

They had agreed, she and he, to meet upon the faraway shores of a small island. Her plane departed from Miami, his from London and both of them bound for warm clear waters.

It had been more than two years.

The two planes smoothly descend to the same glistening tarmac while both reminisced on the beginnings leading up to today. The affair, strange as it were, had been born at the behest of those closest. It's for their own good, they had been told. And, after a while, they had believed it themselves. Afterall, the ease of a thing is often its primary allure.

There had been no effort in forming their relationship and, likewise, there had been no strain. He would be leaving the country soon, an emotion-padding fact which had been understood from the start and hung like scented gossamer in-between them.

Neither knew when, or even if, he would ever return and this reality was to be accepted.

The internal forces which compelled him to fly were, for her, the very elements which would not allow her to leave. There had been no discussion of their up-coming separation. There had not been anything to say. So he went from her side, but she not from his life.

Here and now, the aircraft’s wheels touched earth, as did one life reconnect with the other.

Neither he, nor she, felt any nervousness over the reunion. He, in particular, wondered if numbness was a bad sign. So pushed upon one another had they been that, to one, the presence of the other felt almost compulsory. They shared a completely comfortable partnership in nearly every aspect, but that familiarity had come at the sacrifice of thrill.

There was no counting the husk of each day. Each of them shared a sense of their inevitable departures, but the awareness did not come accompanied by sorrow. And all the while an inability to truly speak persisted. The countless words that had never before been uttered now formed a great unseen blockage. There was simply no way.

The airport venue felt cliché for their parting, but non-the-less that wass where each said their goodbyes. Island time had relaxed them. Days passed beneath that warm tropical sun had transformed their skins, but nothing beneath.

Stepping to the metal ladder, the plane gyrating the air above, he told her that he loved her.

What he did not say was what they both clearly heard; goodbye.

On pen & page

From a small table, I write in the bare main room of a simple cabin deep within the Alaska rainforest. Outside, the low, morning light reveals delicate snow gently falling. The white blanket feels like peace lain atop the land. I gaze through the nearby window and wish for the same tranquility to rest too around you, the reader.

"Ok, Ok, Ok," he said. "I give; I'll go to bed."

The words were a relief, and a breath of the same escaped me as I watched him rise off the stool.

"Where to," he slurred.

"Room on the house. Up the stairs on the right"

"No problem." He turns, takes one step, crashes to the tiles like wet linen.

Christ, I grumbled. I'm going to have to carry him. And so, I do. Or I try to. Will's a grown man with well established girth. His full weight upon one shoulder is nearly too much to bear and when he inevitably mis-steps the crash of that stumble costs me in blood.

Locksmithing tools are both pin-tip fine and razor sharp.

The right-bound stagger I suddenly found myself struggling to support had brought as bonus a mercilous display of lock pick and miniature screwdriver puncturability. I gasped despite myself to feel the tear, to see the red drops quickly spread. For better or worse, I abandoned my charge to gravity.

I examined the injuries. Will lurches to his feet.

"Did I do that," he said.

"Seems so," I replied.

Evidently embarassed, he twirls as if to flee but the cobbles underfoot are uneven. Karma takes hold as Will catches one toe edge. His bamboozelement and momentum tag-team to undo him. Spine slouched, shoulders slack, Will careens into a dive unaided by motor reflex. Drunk to the point of immobility, his arms fail to reach to his own rescue and Will lands, face first against the grit-grain of an uneven street surface. 

Here momentum, returns to double down on his suffering. Lumbering before the fall, gaining speed in the descent, Will grind to a forward sliding halt only after scraping his bridge and forhead like drag brakes against the cobbles. 

My twin puncture wounds yet bleed, but HMS Will has sustained far more critical damage. The locksmith has been laid to rest.

Correspondence

Oh Little One,

               How I wish you could be sat beside me now.

                Ahead, tall pines so green. Beyond those, mountain ribs tower to scattered cloud.

                I glance left and lofty blades crimp close not 300 meters distant. Sun splashes the soft green flanks. Deep juts scour steep, rocky faces crowned by jagged peaks. I glance right, and across an obscured arm of sea still more mountains loom even taller. Those fierce walls support no soil, only streaking chutes of stained snow to fine summits like splintered bone that seem at long last to pierce elusive sky.

                From this planet’s wild lands Loose Foot has many to choose: barren-lush, stretching-close, known-not. Such spheres crowd maps that fall short in attempts to demark them. And, oh, how I wish your tiny hand could be joined with mine as I walk this one.

                No shortage of verbiage records the visual, internal impact of this worldscape, but I’d chuck the lot of it to hear your two bits.

                …shall we do something about that someday? 

Mischief

            “I invented it to get a woman into bed.” The photographer, intent on polishing the long lens he cradled, did not look up. “First time here.”

            “What a coincidence,” said the Ad Rep. sat to one side, “getting my clients into bed is my chief concern as well.”

            Out the window, awe of crystalline dusk lay upon the great white north and it gleamed ruby red. Before that magnificent backdrop, leaning against the window’s pane like lost property, was a tall, fur-lined boot too stylish to be functional. The men regarded the boot as fisherman do bait upon the line.

            The pair’s fates were inextricably linked with that of the faux-footwear.  

            The inventive snap artist explained his assignment, supplying photo support for a magazine sales campaign yet to come. The Ad Rep, there as product liaison, laughingly informed all who would listen that it was his job to tell lies.

            On location, besieged by barren stretches of mountain-hemmed tundra, the pair had nothing to do but drink while swapping bravado.

            “Luck was with me,” the lens lothario continued to polish his tool. “That model was none too bright.”

            “Never are,” his cohort snorted. “Let me guess; first time gig and a long way from home.”

            “Panama beach,” the photographer smiled, “didn’t much care for the cold either.”           “So, why not take a drink—warm the blood a bit, right?” Now the Ad Rep. was smiling as well.

            “Just a harmless little shot, grandmother’s recipe, of course,” The photographer looked up long enough to wink.

            “Truth be told,” he said. “I just knocked together the first two spirits to pop into my head.”

            “Lucky it didn't taste like battery acid,” the Ad Rep. shook his head.

            “Sometimes a little luck is all that is takes.”

Floor play

With lights dimmed and jukebox silenced, Richard was closing both dining and pub rooms when his eye caught upon something out of place.

At the far side of the dining room, and separate from the pub, was the lodge's front office. Richard himself had extinguished its lights and shut its door long before yet, strangely, that wee morning hour saw glow of light from under and around the slightly ajar door.

More confused than worried, Richard stepped to the portal and attempted to push it open. The old wooden door refused to yield. Richard tried again with greater force, and though the door inched slightly wider, a counter force met and prevented it from swinging free. Someone was blocking his entry.

In a stern clear voice Richard advised the stubbornly shut door that one way or another he was coming in. Whoever was inside could either allow him to pass or face the unfortunate consequences.

Sensing the counter pressure to ease at his words, Richard grasped the door's edge and rushed into the room.

There, on the floor, spread eagle in all her bare-bottomed glory, was a pale, skinny girl with flamming hair cut short. At an upright lean, she had positioned herself against the row of knee high cabinets.

Her eyes were slivered slits. Her head lolled, but the index and middle fingers of her right hand worked furiously within the fuzzy recess of her femininity.

She gazed up at him then. Green eyes barely discernable behind a hazy patchwork of thin red veins, she appeared genuinely surprised to encounter his stern, policing presence.

Puzzled, she frankly said, “I thought I was permitted.”

 

a Frontier Dispatch

Between Bullets and Bombs

-          P.M. Fadden reporting

Turnagain Arm, Alaska – Residents and visitors, waking Thursday April 6 to homes frappe chilled from overnight power outage, were additionally vexed by unscheduled Seward HWY severance.

Transit cessation, resulting from mutually exclusive control bombing and twelve-hour police standoff, unexpectedly cordoned select South Eastern Alaska communities until Thursday afternoon.

Eye witnesses at Seward HWY mile 101 recall as many as fifteen Alaska State Trooper [AST] vehicles, negotiation personnel and helicopter surveillance to head over two miles of dual lane blockage.

Commuters intent upon retracing tracks south were again snookered when, at 9 a.m., a series of overhead explosions dictated a second Bird Creek HWY closer. The detonations, an inevitable component to avalanche control work, originated from elevated slope positions known to sectionally compromise safe HWY travel and, though brief, sequestered passersby to Turnagain Arm limbo and ponderance of life at the Last Frontier.

Nutshell

The down and dirty of it is 15 countries across 3 continents as setting and scene to off-grid, counter-culture farmstays, homicidal public transit officials, collapse of a government, 600 euro/month accommodation in a surprise brothel (no joke), a season playing Irish cricket, crash courses in Italian and German, enjoying an elbow deep view up the back end of a pregnant Brown Swiss Cow, then birthing its calf with my own two hands, Croatian exile, moving continents (5 times), 4 winter months atop the Chilean Andes minus electricity and hot water, a career change, a whiskey (poured for two) at Hemingway’s graveside, 2 novels, 1 baby, and an overland odyssey ramping up at the so-called Last frontier.

Where this all concludes I cannot hope to guess.

Letters...

Dear Postmaster-General,

Paramount, naturally, is the sincere thanks you are owed for the several lifetime's worth of efforts undertaken while yet sherpa-ing now-antiquated paper post from end of existence to its opposite.

Of equal merit is your resolute determination for relevance during this era stalwartly fixated upon full digitization. Surely the tenacious productivity of today's postal services may be accredited to the fine work of the numerous dedicated officers such as J, the post-mistress of my tiny, home hamlet.

Of immediate apparency is her keen-edged savvy, evidenced in her operation of the office's specialized passport photo camera. Tin the he layman would no doubt stray by weakly leaning upon the cheap, cheating camera functions such as zoom, flash, focus, or the tripod stand--but not J. Clearly a dead-eye gunslinger's art of snap shots, J shoots from the hip.

Also endearing is J's lively notion of the comedic.

Where the plebeian resident struggles to grasp the value inherent in disinformation, my hometown's mail mentor stands ready to instruct. J's drawling lethargy of speech tantalizes while one wait to be re-re-informed of procedural steps for such silly trifles as issuance of international travel documents. Such jovial bureaucracy is especially festive when one factors children. Parents appreciate the unanticipated opportunity to diverge in the name of adjusted wardrobes. And surprise instructional inaccuraciesgranting those respective caregivers the the additional pleasures of either a high-stakes house-bound auto race or the placation of an irate infant injects zest into an otherwise mundane outing.

Moreover, off-the-cuff guess work with regard to completion of pesky, rambling, but always treasured application documents is, to J, a careening star of delight which is seized as the once-in-a-blue-moon treat that it is to be entirely deposited in the lap of the floundering applicant. And should said applicant actually possess some semblance of competence in such matters, J understands playful teasing via peppered misguidance helps to keep the energy of excitement afloat.

Still, after all the inventive fun, the Postal Service refreshes by keeping aware that their invaluable offerings are not limited to merely single mailing segments. Rather, the nation's mail delivery relies on professionals such as J to spread her mischievous breed of Tom Foolery to all quadrants.

Simple words fall short in expressing the exquisite pleasure to be found in days of anxious waiting for what is worried to be a lost birth certificate orginal. J know this without needing to be told, which is why, interspersed among the hiding of such official documents stop dusty shelves, J returns said legally binding paperwork to its sender so that all might appreciate the situation's gaiety. 

Thanks to J for safeguarding the fun in today' s Postal Service 'fun'ctionality, and warm regards to you dear Postmaster-General for the sharing of your gifted foresight, on exhibit each moment J remains in action. For granting immutable careers to community pillars the likes of J, we, the general populace are interminably indebted.

Cheers,

the Citizenry Next Door

A Tale to Warm Thy Hearth

Once upon a holding cell…

For the record, please state your name.

Nicolas.

Occupation?

Saint.

Come now Nicolas, this is 1995. You can’t really expect anyone to believe that you are saint.

But officers, I was venerated by Greek and Italian mariners as early as the 4th century.

Well that’s very nice for you but this isn’t the Mediterranean, Nicolas, this is North Wales. What brings you to Point of Ayr?

Business, actually, I pass through this time each year.

Can you account for your whereabouts between 1 and 2a.m on the morning of December 25th?

…while down the hall with a boy as well.

Young man, do you understand why you’ve been brought here today?

Ay, sir.

Good lad. Would you mind telling us your name please?

Billy Tanner, sir.

And how old are you Billy?

11 an’ three quart’rs, sir.

Billy, would you tell us how you met the man calling himself ‘Saint Nic’?

T’was at me house, sir. Ain’t no sleepin wuf no heat, so I’s awake when ‘e plunk down the chimney.

The chimney?

Ay, sir, with a proper big crashin ‘e came on. Spilt the kettle an’ all.

Did he say why he was there, Billy?

Ay, had a pressie, ‘e did. Grand fine ball fir playin, sir. Said I’d been a right good boy an’ t’was a pressie fir me.

Good for you, Billy, so you still have the ball?

Nay, sir.

Why not?

N’ver claimed it. Not a ball I’s truly wishin fir. 

And all because he caused a fuss...

Lord Wringbottom, you are Chief Officer at Point of Ayr Colliery Company and plaintiff in this matter, for the record please describe the incident on the morning in question.

Theft of the first order, I say! My company, upstanding institution that it is, has been a driving force of the Ayr community for decades, and I’ll not stand by while some red-cloaked cad makes off with our private holdings.

Approximately how much would you say was stolen, sir?

Well, couldn’t say exactly. Difficult to gauge, you understand. Several thousand tons, at least.

And you claim this to have been perpetrated by one man working alone?

Scoff if you will, but I was there! Jammed the lot into the damndest big sack you ever saw.

Did you attempt to stop him?

Bloody how could I have? Flew off in that blasted sleigh of his, didn’t he? And he wasn’t alone. He had some wee scamp with him as well.

… which made more questioning a must.

What can you tell us, Nicolas, about this boy, Billy Tanner?

Well let’s see…I’d made my list months ago, and I’d checked it twice. According to my records Billy Tanner helps his father with chores, looks after his sister, and keeps up with his school work: a very good boy, indeed.

Can you describe the nature of your relationship with the boy?

Quite simple really, the child makes a wish. I grant it.

And how did you come to be seen together on the morning in question?

But, I believe I’ve just told you. It’s my duty to grant a good boy his wish.

And curious, indeed, was the story…

Slow down please, Billy, we must be clear.

Ay, sir.

Has Nicolas told you to say these things?

E’ most certainly hasn’t, sir. T’was me wish an’ no m’stake.

Now, Billy, we can appreciate how exciting Nicolas must seem to you, but we must insist that you tell the truth.

Tis true, sir! Pa says it’s bad enough the works all gone an’ naught to eat. Nows we’s not got a whisp o’ heat n’ the house neither. Why, whole o’ the Point’s a chiverin with cold, sir!

Alright, lad, just tell us what you remember.  And please be careful to leave nothing out.

Ay, sir. Too easy, tha’ is. Ol’ Saint Nic, ‘e come bangin down before me very eyes with tha’ ball, and I’s gives ‘em a good thankin too, but ‘e looks at me knowin there be somfin amiss. So I’s blabs me proper wish, I did.  An’ Bob’s yer Unc, ‘e says; “Right, off we go then”, an’ off we went. Tis the way it was, sir. Honest-like; jus as ya say.

…but mean old nasty, he wasn´t sorry.

Lord Wringbottom, if you’ll please remain calm, sir, we can assure you that justice will prevail. Calm, you say?! And just how do you propose I remain calm while the victim of grand theft coal? Oh the agony! Now how am I to sell what I don’t have?

Sell, my Lord?

What? Did I say that out loud? Nevermind. None of your concern. Could we please carry on? I’ve a pressing engagement I cannot miss.

Of course, sir, our apologies. In your estimation, what were the motives behind the incident?

My god man, are you hard of hearing? Has the constabulary all gone deaf? I’ve already told you exactly what the scallywags have done with my most valuable commodity. Divvied the bloody lot amongst the townsfolk, they have.

The citizenry, sir?

Yes, blast it all! Today every parent and child in all of Ayr warms their sooty hands on my nest egg. They’re all in on it, I tell you, each and every grubby one.

But, my Lord, what would the populace of Point of Ayr want with your coal reserve?

Yet fear not, our tale ends fair…

That’s a good lad, Billy. We’re all finished here.

Ay ,sir. Is jus’ tha’ we’s owe im’, sir, each lass an’ ev’ry lad, we do.  

Of course, Billy, of course. Now it’s Christmas and you’ve had a rather busy day. Your father will be waiting.

Jus’ promise you’ll leave em’ be, sir! ‘e done right by Point o’ Ayr an’ no mistake. Warmed the whole holiday, ‘e has.

…because the true cad was laid bare…

Congratulations, old chap. We’re sure you’ve heard about Lord Wringbottom’s embezzlement scheme. Naturally this means you’re off the hook, Nicolas.

Ah yes, Wringbottom. Quite the naughty boy according to my records.

 Well, it’s ‘case closed’. The wrinkly, old crook’s even skipped the country, so no need for any more games. May as well come clean, eh? Where’d you stash the coal?

Ho-Ho-Ho! Why into each and every stocking of course, so the happy townsfolk might know warm holiday cheer.

Look, Nicolas, you can come off it. The charges have been dropped. We’ve no reason to hold you. Young Billy Tanner’s outside singing your praises—along with half the town I might add.  Why not tell us what really happened?

Just a little boy granted one selfless wish, gentlemen. What could be more important than that?

Alright, Nicolas, have it your way. You’re free to go. May we call you a cab?

Very gracious of you, officers, but my sleigh should be winging by any moment. By the way, Happy Christmas. You’ve been very good boys this year.      

…which meant a cozy Christmas for a town called

Point of Ayr.

Ask & Answer

Where, where then does It lead?

Bush-locked, It winds down a trail of years both backlit and dusty.

Dim shadows tumble the passage. They double as appointed markers which, once followed, are immediately forgotten.

But stranger still is the needless nature of any such indication, for even amongst the crowding darkness still it can be seen that the beginning is It's end.

...chew on this one...

So I got me this theory: a gumball ain’t jus’ a gumball; it’s a glimpse at yer fortune.

Now I know that sounds weird, so leave me a sec’ to elaborate.

My fondness for gumball chewin’ began as a kid and carried straight through. In that time I’ve chewed one hell of a lot of gum. While pumping quarters, twisting cranks, and waitin’ on the results it occurred to me that the color of that dealt gumball unnervingly matched my day.

What I mean is, when the sun shone and luck seemed happy to walk beside me, that gumball was my happy colors of blue, yellow, white, or even green. On the other hand, if I couldn’t manage a single step without stepping in it, then sure as shit that gumball was red, purple, orange, or dreaded pink.

Now I’m not sayin’ that everybody’s pink gumballs signal the pits are in works, or that blue’s always gonna forecast your sky. What I am sayin is it’s subjective. It’s the recipient that sets the scale.

If, to you, purple equals fancy-pants royalty then that’s the gumball to ease your mind. If for some reason green evokes images of puke then it’s a green gumball that’s gonna caution you of what might lay ahead. And so it goes for any in-between color on that spinnin’ wheel.

Like I said, it’s subjective.       

 Tarot dealers, palm readers, twirling mystics of all callings, let ‘em keep to their trades. To know which way the wind blows, those little sugary orbs are all that I require.

With gentle reverence their hands skim the textured surface’s long span. Their fingertips trace its grid-worked fissures as if demarking cracks in the continuum of space and time.

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