Tag Archive | Jessica Franken

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 23: WINNERS

Thanks for joining us at the after-party! A reminder we’ve already had THREE Fridays in May (?! how is that possible?!), which means you may be eligible for the May #RingofFire badge. Details here at the Wall of Flame page. 

Come back on Wednesday for our weekly, non-judged writing prompt and chatfest, Warmup Wednesday! Y’all, I’m so crazy about this low-pressure event and the chance to get to know people better. We’d love to have you join us.

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Dragon Captains Eric Martell/Carlos Orozco say: Dozens and dozens of fascinating takes on prompts that don’t go together at first glance – the Native American in the photo has no business in what we think of as downtown. To make it work and tell a story which unified the concepts in a nuanced and insightful way took skill, and you didn’t disappoint.

Special note from the judges to the authors: After our initial pass through the stories, the two of us ranked our top ten and we put the lists together – there were 18 stories that one or the other of us ranked in our top ten. So many stories speak to different people in different ways – if yours isn’t on this list, it’ll be on another list soon. Keep writing!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tony Amore, “Nightway.” 

We loved the scene of the November light tricking him. It really sets up the whole story. You have a man distressed over his son’s accident wandering the streets not knowing what time of day it is or what is going on. It’s as if he is in a physical limbo, waiting for the news. Then he has the conversation with the dancer. This conversation gives him perspective on the situation; then the buzzing phone brings him back into the real world.

Tamara Shoemaker, “Weathered.” 

The narrator tells the story of the weathered Indian figurine that became the landmark of the town. The city plans on tearing the figurine down, and we are shown how the narrator feels about it. We are never told outright, but we see through the face of the Indian figurine the things the narrator feels. The last haunting image of the figurine dripping moisture from his cheeks really cements the story in our minds.

Betsy Streeter, Balance.” 

There is so much character building in this story that you feel like a connection to the girl, and her father, and the men outside the liquor store – you can see them, you can hear them, you know them. She’s coming up on womanhood, a mix of innocence and unwanted knowledge, struggling to find balance not just on her dad’s bike, but in life. A truly wonderful piece that didn’t quite integrate the story themes well enough, but will linger on for a very long time.

Charles W. Short, “Fool’s Contest.” 

A lovely, light-hearted piece, full of evocative images and relationship building, plus a nice bit of flirtation. And then an ending line that casts it all in a different light. In the United States, at least, we’re fighting a lot of battles with ourselves about the appropriateness of using Native American imagery in advertising, athletics, etc. Is it okay for MacDonald to wear a kilt and not for Tahoma to wear Zahadolzha’s headdress? A deft touch pulls you in and then makes you think.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Margaret Locke, “Ignorance Is Bliss.” 

We paint the past as a place of innocence, but maybe it’s just our youth. We know the boy here, and we know the world he grew up in. In so few lines, we see the father and his love for his son. We see the son’s worship of his father. We see childhood embraced and childhood destroyed. Were we better off in that “simpler” time, when ignorance was bliss, or if we made poor decisions because we didn’t know enough. The author does a wonderful job of bringing us through different time periods and telling the story of a life gone awry.

FIRST RUNNER UP (TIE)

Jessica Franken, “Everything’s Waiting for You.”

We clearly weren’t the only ones who read the theme of Downtown and heard the recently departed Petula Clark’s voice ringing through our head, but we certainly didn’t imagine the wonderful angle this story took. And yet…there was something deeper and darker that slowly snuck out at us. Flora (what an evocative name, both in referencing the period of the titular song and bringing to mind the slow decay of flowers in the city) is connected to her great grandfather in a believably magical way. There’s layers here, of magic, of life in the modern world, of death beyond death. So much story in 200 words.

Andrew Laidlaw, “Chief.”

This piece stood out because of tone, voice, and character. After we were finished reading it, it didn’t seem like the character was someone from the story but rather someone we knew or a friend of a friend. This is very difficult to do in novels and almost impossible to do in flash, but here we have the guy known as chief. Through his voice the entire story has that sad humorous tone, which is reminiscent of Sherman Alexie’s work.  Bad things happen to the character (he says he is beaten up, works a job he is terrified of doing, etc.) but the way he says them supplants the gloom of the situation with humor.

And now: for her very first time, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

ASHLEY GARDANA!!!

for

“Journey”

This piece jumped out at us immediately by its simple originality. What seems like a drug trip at first glance, evolves into a modern day vision quest. The vision quest is an approach to the prompt that very few people (if any) took. What worked best for the piece was that the writer does not tell us this outright, but rather shows us this through the words. Instead of telling us everything was a blur, the writer shows us “the gray sidewalk nestled between the gray skyscrapers and gray street.” We also liked the circular nature of the piece. It starts out talking about droplets of rain making rivers on the widow (in that great showing, not telling way) and ends with the voice in the character’s head telling her “No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.” That circular approach is hard to accomplish in flash fiction without seeming too repetitive, but this writer does an excellent job. In the end, we are left with a feeling that something monumental has happened, but neither we nor the character can grasp its full consequence. Wonderful job.

Congratulations, Ashley! Here’s your brand new (careful, it’s hot!) winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:

The Journey

I watch the droplets trail down the window from inside my boyfriend’s car. The water makes rivers across the glass, distorting the gray skyscrapers.

We’re tripping on shrooms.

I know, I know, we shouldn’t be driving. I told my boyfriend this, so that excuses my own irresponsibility. I nod at the skyscraper as if they can nod back in agreement. The festival is downtown, so downtown is where our journey takes us.

Plus, the shrooms haven’t even kicked in yet. We’ll not entirely.

We pull into a spot. My boyfriend slides his hand into mine as we walk along the gray sidewalk nestled between the gray skyscrapers and gray street. The rain soaks our hair and clothes and leaves me with the desire to twirl on the sidewalk, so I do.

“What is a rain dance when it’s already raining?” A man asks me from inside my own mind. It’s a gravelly voice and for a moment I smell campfire smoke.

My thoughts flutter, from gray to vivid, colorful images. As we approach the festival, the man’s voice returns, the shrooms kick in. “No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.”

I nod with the man in my head and enter the festival.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 15: WINNERS

Happy Monday! Such fun, kicking off a week with winners and prizes and sparkly fiery confetti. And, obviously, TimTams WHICH, I will have you know, coincidentally guest starred in a Daily Science Fiction story last week called “Garbage Trucks of Discontent” (it’ll be posted at their site on Wednesday; because I find this whole TimTam thing hilarious, I will be sure to let y’all know when ).  

NO SPOTLIGHT interview tomorrow: these are a great deal of fun!! But I’m taking this week off so I can finish reading Silverwood and then interview our clever Betsy Streeter all about it.  

However, coming up we’ve still got Warmup Wednesday, then Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. And then, because time travels entirely too fast, it’ll be Friday. Again! 

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Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell sayThis week we had some extremely original stories. Every story was different enough that we didn’t feel like we were reading a different draft of the same story, which is very difficult considering you all are so limited by photo prompts and required story elements. You can never make it easy, can you?  Again, just a reminder, we gave the edge to stories that fully incorporated the required story element which this week was setting.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Geoff Holme, “Character Assassination.”Best use of dialect. This is one you need to read aloud. 

Ray Morris, A Pirate’s Life For Me.”- Be careful what you wish for! Let this story remind us (in a humorous way) that what we want to say isn’t always as obvious as we think.  {Note: Lest you think Ray’s a newbie — a note that he won Flash! Friday’s very first public contest back in January 2013, with a scant 50 words. Oooo! ahhh! Here’s the link.}

Luccia Gray, Mary’s Alone.” – One of us had this as the best story of the week, but it didn’t really utilize the setting the way we’d hoped for. A chilling portrayal of bullying, control, and fear. 

Josh Bertetta, Eric Doesn’t Care For Titles.” – We loved this story – it was funny, clever, and well-written. But it seemed a little too much like it was written for *us*, and not to tell the best story possible for the prompts. Still, a wonderful read. 

Rasha Tayaket, Heat.” – Haunting. Just haunting. Might have to join up with the teller and get some aluminum arrows our own bad selves.  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Reg Wulff, Warrior’s Song.” What we liked about this one was the uniqueness of the story while still being very believable within the picture prompt. A kabuki theater is not that farfetched, yet this was the only story that tested that idea. The plot was delivered skillfully, waiting until the last minute to reveal the twist. Very well done.

Brett Milam, The Forgotten.” This was one story whose first line gives us a superb description. “The dark pus of my brain dripped between the fingers of yesterday’s mistakes.” This line uniquely describes what remembering something forgotten feels like. The broken sentences throughout help enhance the feeling of things forgotten. In reality, who remembers things in flowing prose? It’s all bits and pieces that battle to surface, and we believe this piece captures that.

Brian Creek, “Taped Transcript of Officer Mitchell.” This story experimented with format, which helped it stand out from the rest. The first piece of information is very detailed which helps to gently lower the reader into the story. From there on it’s very believable dialogue that wins us over. This is one that we wished could keep going, but holds its own as is.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Jessica Franken, “Libero.” What happened at the archery match? The sadness of one kind of loss (competition) blends into the anger of another kind (love gone wrong). The line “We all laugh a little, except Kristi and Erin, whose parents are divorcing.” tells so much in just a few words. We can picture the girls there on the bus, see their faces, hear the nervous laughter. Mr. Anders might not get his target, but what damage can he do along the way?

SECOND RUNNER UP

Alicia VanNoy Call, To Fly.” The first description in this just pulled us in and didn’t let go, “I stand at the edge of the lot, where the pavement is cracked by dandelions.” That one sentence created the setting in ways that nothing else could. The characters in this were also great. Here we were given the one who died for an idea bigger than both of them, and the one who kept his/her promise so that the first’s death wouldn’t be in vain. And all of this was executed in 208 satisfying words.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “Bulls-eye.” All’s fair in love and war. Gloria thought it was love. Ted declared war. In just a couple hundred words, the author shows us the aftermath of a love gone bad and then – just maybe – hope, not for reconciliation, but for acceptance. A lot of flash stories try for a twist at the end which ends up invalidating the whole story, but this one brings clarity.

DRAGON WINNER

Taryn Noelle Kloeden!!!

for

“Reincarnation”

Whether you believe in spiritual reincarnation or not, the knowledge that whether as matter or energy, all that is is all that has been and all that will be is a powerful one. But while we always hear about those who were King Arthur or Leonardo daVinci in past lives, if we have lived before, we’re all much more likely to have taken an arrow to the chest. This story paints life after life in bits of powerful detail and brought a fascinating idea to a beautiful telling. It takes a deft hand to have five distinct (by one count) settings in such a short story, which means that details need to be sharp and to the point. Each scene as brutal as the last, each death as meaningless. “All that there ever was, so there is now.”

Congratulations, Taryn! It’s been a while — couldn’t be more pleased to see you back at the top! Here’s your freshly updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature (can’t wait to hear — officially — what you’ve been up to!). And now, here is your winning story!

Reincarnation

“Energy is not created nor destroyed, all that there ever was, so there is now.” Dr. Howard scratched the words ‘Conservation of energy’ across the dusty blackboard. Physics, the only class I ever failed.

The sky is above me. But it’s not all puffy clouds and soaring birds. Smog paints the stratosphere in jaundiced hues. There are power lines and buildings framing my spotted vision.

Last time the sky was cerulean. And I wasn’t alone. There were men all around, sporting musket holes, and trading groans.

But the time before, the sky was black. So were my robes, my hair, my blade’s sheath. I never saw the arrow coming, but I did feel it burrow into my chest. Blood welled, leaking with each shuttering thump of my foolish heart.

“The atoms in your body were forged in stars, breathed by mammoths. All that you are will never disappear. It will merely change shape.”

Warped sirens. The cold pull of blood-loss sinking me into the asphalt. I’ll be the headline on the 6:00 news. ‘Twenty Year Old Stabbed in Broad Daylight’.

Knife, musket, arrow. Burning in the heart of stars, raining, freezing, digesting, growing, decaying. I feel it all.

All that there ever was, so there is now.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 14: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all!!! and welcome to Results Day, which I think ought to be celebrated with a global TimTam SLAM. (For you novices, this requires biting the ends off a TimTam and using it for a straw in, preferably, a hot cup of coffee. This creates a sloppy, caramelly mess which will keep you happy for days.)

COME BACK TOMORROW for an interview with the celebrated Writer’s Digest expert, professional editor, former publisher, and novelist Jeff Gerke. His interview’s a riot, and in conjunction with his visit, Flash! Friday is giving away to one random commenter a FREE 2 PAGE OR QUERY LETTER EDIT by Jeff. Don’t miss it!

Then please remember next is Warmup Wednesday, then Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. And then Flash! Friday’s back all over again! 

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Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark King sayFrom stone-cold, lovelorn buildings to evil queens disguised in gingham dresses, the girls-next-door  took on all possible forms this week, and you brilliant writers broke all the boundaries of creativity. I don’t think I’ll ever see the girls in my neighborhood the same ever again. 😉 You all did an excellent job of casting aside the box this week, which pleased us mightily, and it was a pleasure to soak ourselves in your glorious imaginations. Once again, you did not make our job easy, but you did make it quite fulfilling. Without further ado, here are our choices below.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Michael Seese, “Eve.”Special Mention for structure, pace and hidden story arc 

Image Ronin (Dragon Captain!), “The Sins of Our Fathers.”- Special Mention for wonderful use of visual imagery 

Nancy Chenier, “Modularity.”Special Mention for an attention grabbing opening and product placement in a holo-marquee (other sports brands are available) 

Jessica Franken, “Ikiryō.” – Special Mention for most mischievous poltergeist since Peeves 

Brian Creek, “Inter Dimansional.”Special Mention for playful title and INTER DIMANSIONAL creativity within the story itself (MK also liked the sneaky Terminator quote)  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Whitney Healy, Strangers.” 

TS – Apparently, someone has picked up on my love of peanut butter sandwiches. Although I have never tried peanut butter and marshmallow crème. I’ll put it on the list for my next meal.

I love this piece. The division into three separate parts works well for building the relationship between the protagonists, first neighbors, then friends, then partners. I love how the writer describes each relationship in stepping stones, delving the reader into intensity as the piece goes on.

The separate points of view caught me off-guard at first, but as I read it over again, I enjoyed getting both perspectives. Then at the end, when the two PoV’s sat right next to each other, opposite sides of a mirror, it gutted me. Really enjoyed it. Well done!

MK – I too picked up on the PB sandwich reference, however, I have to keep reminding Tamara that Jif is/was a creamy bleach in England, you know the sort you might clean a kitchen sink with (yum).

The PoV changes were different and it’s a challenge to get them right in such a small piece.

The strength of the relationship is what stood out and I loved this “focusing as the worm crossed-curved-looped and laced around the barb and the point just right—stretched perfectly so he wriggled just enough to catch the bluegill’s interest”.

Sarah Miles, Home.” 

TS – This piece is beautifully written, lyrical and flowing. It reads almost like music. The social barriers between success and “a life behind checkouts” is well-illustrated in phrases like: “We stream into school like reluctant anti-matter, trapped in the pull of a black hole.” The girl-next-door provides the narrator with an illusory dream, and the piece lifts with hope at the last line: “Why don’t you come too?”

Fluid and gorgeous. Lovely.

MK – Now this is how to start a story! Wonderful beginning that is poetic yet blunt with feeling. The feel of the entire story is aching with unfulfilled aspirations and dreams that may never come. This was an example of the bluntness “Truth is, in ten years time, she’ll be fighting off a STD and serving pizza.”, which was neatly contrasted with the hope, “…but her, this girl next door, she dares to dream; longs to shed this second-hand living, run past the gates and inhale freedom”.

Marie McKay, “The Doll’s House.” 

TS – The concept of this piece is at once horrifying and mesmerizing. Using dolls as the main characters in this take illustrates so clearly the brittle smiles that often cover the deepest pain. The contrast between the horror of what is actually happening and the bright colorful innocence of a dollhouse scene carves an intense impact. The simplicity of the last line, like something you’d hear a young girl tell her friend, ‘Don’t tell. Don’t tell,’ underscores the whole piece. Brilliant idea. Well done.

MK – This is a deeply disturbing story, yet it is one that is sensitively told. The use of the house image as a doll’s house is a very interesting take and yet it is one that fits well with the story. Dolls are occasionally used by professionals and police when investigating cases and this story could be one that is played by disassociation out as it happens, or one that is reliving the events for the authorities. Traumatic and harrowing.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Margaret Locke, “The Lady in White.” 

TS – Exquisite imagery in this piece. I love the skillfully drawn correlations between a cold stone building and a woman ignored and unappreciated. I see the growth in this piece, and it strengthens it as it goes along. At the beginning, the woman waits for the man; he’s “all I can think about.” He’s a fantasy; she sees herself as a wallflower. By the end of the piece, she gains a sense of self, “a lonely edifice… serving others.” The gutting final line drives a spear through the piece, a backbone of support for all the imagery leading up to the final point: “I am so much more than stone.” What a great work of self-discovery! Beautiful.

MK – The prompt and story element were hard this week and standing out from the crowd took something unique. The clues were there from the start “…there are so many barriers in our way. Physical, emotional, social”, “The fences between us are mighty.”

I also like the fact that this longing is the ‘girl’ next door and not the house he lives in. “They can’t stay away. But they can’t approach, either.” and “If only I were free. I’d make myself approachable. I’d welcome him in with doors wide open.” Clever work, dear dragon.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Emily June Street, The Reflection.” 

TS – As a fan enamored with dark fantasy, this piece spoke right into my obsession. With hints of charm and darker magic reminiscent of Grimm brother fairy tales, the piece had such a satisfying ending with the reflection-queen in the fountain. “She wears a crown of burned love-letters, a corset made of flesh, and a necklace of skulls.” Shudder.

Love the contrast between the reflection-queen and the beautiful maid, and especially the girl’s description: “fresh-faced, milk-fed, sun-kissed,” the perfect girl-next-door in gingham and freckles. Nice use of the character. I want to read a fleshed-out book with this piece as the guiding inspiration. Homework for the author. 😉

MK – The writer has given us a teaser with the title. All the way through we’re pondering what is the reflection and how it comes into play. We proceed knowing that everything is highly unlikely to be as it seems (a great lesson in the power of a title). The initial part of the story plays out like the girl could be a girl next door, or even an incredible life-like statue “She never moves from her perch beside the fountain.”, “No one has ever seen her enter the house.”

Like the most beautiful of sirens, she calls to the desires of the flesh from the “neighborhood boys”, and like a mythical siren she hides her true self. As Tamara has already mentioned, I also loved the reflected images description.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, “In There.” 

TS – What a setting! A sanitarium (at least, that’s what I assumed it to be) gated and locked; it’s like something right out of Shutter Island, and I got just as many chills and thrills from reading this as from watching the movie trailer. There’s some really fantastic word pictures in this: “Autumn leaves rust the water like the blood of the drowned.” “I fold notebook paper into boats for beetles and send them to their water-logged dooms.” What incredible description! The insanity of the narrator bleeds through in incrementally increasing steps as she watches from outside the gates, and then finds herself INSIDE the gates, and then finally at the end, sees herself in the rusty water (it was at this point that I had to run lock the door and close the blinds against the staring dark outside). Freaky, skillful, and riveting. Nicely done!

MK – This is breathtaking. The take on the photo is so clever that it took me a while to recover from it. Like Tamara mentioned, I had images of Shutter Island running through my terrified mind (in my opinion it is both a stunning book and wonderful film). The words also conjured the most vivid and disturbing images of place such as Arkham Asylum (and I congratulate the writer for this feat as this is a truly terrifying place).

The start is fantastic “…Mummy says they don’t commit children to places like that. Unless they’ve perpetuated adult-grade evil.” Eek.

These are some of my favourite lines on FFF, ever, “Autumn leaves rust the water like the blood of the drowned” and “I fold notebook paper into boats for beetles and send them to their water-logged dooms.” Such brutal beauty – amazing.

By the end, this story played like the mind of someone who is suffering from fear, grief, guilt, paranoia and hallucinations. Simply sublime.

DRAGON WINNER

Jordan Louie (Jorbi K.)!!!

for

“Middle Class Martyrdom”

TS – What a powerful message woven through this! The girl-next-door in the role of terrorist-in-waiting. The piece etches quite skillfully the social hierarchy between the upper class and the bourgeoisie. The narrator is a strong character; she shows a lot of agency in phrases like “I’ll make a name for myself, and inspire others to do the same. I’ll put martyrs back to the top of the worshiped hierarchy. I’ll show that anyone can have their name spread…” The point comes across that the blood of the rich/famous/important is just as red as the blood of the normal girl with “no family trouble, no religion, no politics, no mental instability.”

Some stunning use of color pervades this piece, too. “The stretch of green, white houses, black suits, insides as red, ivory towers.” The stark colors paint my mind with brilliant imagery, and it matches the vivid strength of the narrator.

Extremely well done! Fantastic job.

MK – A truly compelling and contemporary story. Someone who walks ours streets unseen. Someone who smiles at us in the coffee shop. Someone who is, in every way, the perfect ‘girl next door’.

Yet, she plots and hides. She dilutes her anti-capitalist terrorist-in-waiting ideals, for now is not her time. The house in the story is used to drive the power of the injustice the narrator is feeling; acting as an example of the greed and everything else that she sees as wrong. It is distant, unreachable, guarded and divisive. It is a perfect metaphor for her view of society.

The voice is strong and consistent. The power is ramped up to eleven and boosted with conviction and intent.

“..their black suits- a more accurate reflection of their insides” – the heartless cold of those with money and power.

“But I’ll show their insides are just as red” – terrifying.

For most of us, this idea of the smiling sleeper terrorist living as just another unseen face in the crowd is truly scary. Congratulations on the fantastic story and powerful character.

Congratulations, Jorbi! We are thrilled that you joined us this week and even more thrilled that you did so dramatically! Please find here your very own winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Middle Class Martyrdom

I’m tired of looking at them through twisted iron gates: their façade of exclusivity made tangible. Blocked off from hundreds of yards- miles away: the stretch of green in between me and them gives them their status. They stay nestled up in their white houses that contrast with their black suits- a more accurate reflection of their insides.

But I’ll show their insides are just as red as anyone else’s, and that their ivory towers are stolen from a much less endangered bourgeoisie. I’ll make a name for myself, and inspire others to do the same. I’ll put martyrs back to the top of the worshipped hierarchy. I’ll show that anyone can have their name spread across the world; it’s not as hard as they’d like you to think, and many times not for good deeds.

They’ll talk about me for years. My name will be on a list; our own working-class Walk of Fame. I’ll be researched, written about, analyzed, and posted up on every channel. They’ll keep me famous for a long time, because they won’t be able to figure me out. No family trouble, no religion, no politics, no mental instability. I’m just the girl next door.

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