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The Festival of Literary Diversity

By 49thShelf
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The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) celebrates diversity in literature by promoting diverse authors and stories in Brampton, Ontario – one of Canada’s most culturally diverse cities. It takes place on May 6, 2016. Learn more at
Laughing All The Way To The Mosque

Laughing All The Way To The Mosque

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Zarqa Nawaz has always straddled two cultures. She’s just as likely to be agonizing over which sparkly earrings will “pimp out” her hijab as to be flirting with the Walmart meat manager in a futile attempt to secure halal chicken the day before Eid. “Little Mosque on the Prairie” brought Zarqa’s own laugh-out-loud take on her everyday culture clash to viewers around the world. …

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Hip Hop World

Hip Hop World

A Groundwork Guide
by Dalton Higgins
series edited by Jane Springer
also available: Hardcover eBook

A fascinating look at hip hop, the world’s most popular music, and what it means to young people all over the globe, written by an acclaimed pop-culture critic. An excellent introduction to hip hop for young adults.

Hip hop is arguably the predominant global youth subculture of this generation. In this book Dalton Higgins takes vivid snapshots of the hip hop scenes in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and more.

American hip hop has gone through growing pains, and is questioned for being too co …

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The Wondrous Woo

The Wondrous Woo

also available: Audiobook eBook

Finalist for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards. The Wondrous Woo tells the story of Miramar Woo who is the quintessential Chinese girl: nice, quiet, and reserved. The eldest of the three Woo children, Miramar is ever the obedient sister and daughter ... on the outside. On the inside, she's a kick-ass kung fu heroine with rock star flash, sassy attitude, and an insatiable appetite for adventure. Just as Miramar is about to venture forth on the real adventure of leaving home for university, her beloved …

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There are many different ways to say "crazy" in Cantonese: tsaw; hei mong mong; chi seen; deen. Each word described a particular brand of crazy. Tsaw meant "silly." You could say it as a term of affection, as a tease, or as something derogatory or dismissive of someone's inappropriate behaviour. Hei mong mong was suited to someone a little foggy, because he was lost in his own world. Chi seen was the English equivalent of "crazy," which you shouted when something was outrageous. Then there was deen. Well, deen meant "certifiable." Locked up crazy. Ma crazy.

That was a lot of words, plenty nuanced, but faced with all the various forms of recent craziness in my life, I could see there was a need for more words. What I wanted most was one word that would question who the crazy really were--the ones with the off-beat behaviour, or the rest of us for thinking so.


Whether Mouse was deen or tsaw, he was nice and I, as a new and more reckless Miramar, was in for the adventure of it. I went to sit on his bed. It was perfectly made with a white duvet that was embroidered with pink flowers. It was so delicate and clean, I did not want to muss it up so I just perched on the edge.

Mouse bent down to a small tv with a VHS player beside it. When the film began, he ran over to the bed and jumped on it beside me, bouncing lightly on the mattress like a child. In the movie, Jet Li, a slave to an evil emperor, witnessed the murder of his father. He ran away and was nurtured back to health by a group of monks at the Shaolin Monastery. There he learned integrity, brotherhood, and the noble truths of Buddha. He also learned how to fight because the monks were trained in the secrets of the Shaolin martial arts.

Halfway into the film, I fell hard in love with Jet Li. There was also a fierce shepherdess, the daughter of one of the kung fu masters, who gave Jet Li a walloping for killing and roasting her dog for dinner. There was some hint of a romance brewing, but Jet Li decided to embrace her as his sister since he was now a monk.

Mouse's bouncing got more intense during the fight scenes. In the final scene, when the evil warlord waged a battle on the sacred ground of the Shaolin temple, Mouse hopped off the bed and landed in panther pose, Bruce Lee style, his face in a deadly scowl. "EEeeeYoooow. MMMMmmmkicha!" he growled and punched the air.

I had never seen anyone else do air kung fu before. Mouse was good, too. I leapt into the mountain stance position, holding my hands at guard. Mouse gave me a nod and we entered into a fight sequence, vanquishing a hundred enemies, just as Jet Li was getting started.

Drums, from the TV sounded a war song with strong rhythmic beats, which inspired us to accelerate our fight. We kicked at the evil troops, throwing our fists in the air and thrusting the bad guys to death with our imaginary swords. Mouse was an incredible gymnast; he did flips backwards and forwards, always landing in the cat stance before repeating his sequences. I practiced the tiger claw, shattering the clavicle of my imaginary foe. The floor shook. At some point, I worried one of his roommates might get upset, but I did not hear any pounding apart from us, so I forgot about it. Once all of Jet Li's enemies finally lay moaning on the ground, we turned and faced each other, gave a kung fu bow and fell laughing to the floor.

When Mouse caught his breath, he said, "Hey! I knew a man from my home village that had the power to stop the earth from moving!" I arched my brow. Home village? Was he a FOB--someone "fresh off the boat?" He did not have any traces of a Chinese accent. I had assumed he was Canadian-born, or, like me, was part of the 1.5 generation.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he continued excitedly, flailing his arms. "He could grind the axis of the earth to a halt, and the world would freeze while he rescued villagers from unforeseen misfortune!" He stared at me, waiting for my response, which I wasn't giving him because I was working hard to imagine what he was saying. "Isn't that insane? The world would stand still while you went fast-forward in it!"

Whether Mouse was really deen became irrelevant at this point; he was hilarious and I ran with it.

"Whoa," I said. "I can think of a lot of situations when that skill could come in handy." I remembered seeing extraordinary things during the Sunday matinees. I knew that one trained touch could either save a life or end it, and that simple tap could paralyze the entire body. I also learned from Ba that the masters used to travel by way of stepping on the tops ofbamboo trees, so light were their feet. But putting the world on freeze-frame? That was a new one.

"I want to learn to do that," he said.

"How do you learn something like that?" I asked.

"Meditation. Start inward and then throw the control outward,"he replied.

"I don't get it."

"Well, you have to master yourself. You have to be, within yourself, absolutely calm and peaceful. Then, you'll be able to make the world outside of you just as still," he explained.

"Right." It made sense.

"So, I've been working on it. I meditate every day. Try to empty everything out. Slow my heart rate, breathing, everything. It's almost like you're dead, but not."

I thought about the World Religion class I hadn't finished. We had been learning about Buddha and his enlightenment when I left. "It's a spiritual state of stillness too," I said quietly.

"Go on." Mouse leaned back on the floor, one arm supporting his weight.

I sighed and tried to remember. "Well, maybe, it's about reaching a state of spiritual completeness. Maybe, you aren't even you anymore, you're just part of the whole world. Maybe, then, you can bend time because you are in tune with everything." I got excited as I continued. It was an interesting hypothesis. I remembered getting into such talks with Ba when we would try to unravel the mysteries of the kung fu masters' unbelievable powers. He had always leapt right in there with me, never discounting my ideas just because I was a kid.

"And you give up trying to control. You simply become a part of the world. So maybe that guy in your village wasn't really doing it by himself. Maybe the whole universe recognized that what was happening shouldn't happen, and it all worked together in order for him to prevent it. He was just part of the big picture," I felt good, like I'd just realized something.

"Wah. Lang lui. I see what you're saying." Mouse let out a big breath as if he were digesting something profound and was letting it seep slowly into his mind.

As I pieced this hypothesis together, I pictured Ba stepping off the curb. If I had been there, maybe I could have been able to stop time, pluck him out of the line of danger and everything would have been different. Maybe Sophia and Darwin would have turned out to be just regular kids, and I would have finished university. Maybe Ma would have learned to be happy. I felt my heart loosen a bit. It was a lot of maybes.

My eyes got hot. I jumped up. "I gotta go."

Mouse roused himself out of his thoughts. "Really? You don't want to get something to eat? Talk more kung fu?"

"No, really, I have to go." I picked up my laundry basket.

"Okay. Hold on, I'll see you out."

I went first down the stairs, clutching my laundry basket, and carefully stepping over the garbage. I let myself out through the door.

"Hey, lang lui, wanna watch another film, sometime?" Mouse called from the threshold.

I turned just before reaching the sidewalk. He was leaning against the door frame, a big smile on his face. He reminded me of a cat. A sleek, agile young tomcat. But he was kind and sincere. And cool. I realized I liked him.

"Okay. Sure," I said and shrugged. I pretended to be casual as I walked away but I was shaking a little on the inside.

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All Inclusive

All Inclusive

also available: eBook

A story about one all-inclusive resort, the ghost of an unknown father, and the tragedies we can’t forget.
What’s it like when everyone’s dream vacation is your job? Ameera works at a Mexican all-inclusive resort, where every day is paradise — if “paradise” means endless paperwork, quotas to meet, and entitled tourists. But it’s not all bad: Ameera’s pastime of choice is the swingers scene, and the resort is the perfect place to hook up with like-minded couples without all the h …

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Daydreams Of Angels

Daydreams Of Angels

also available: eBook
tagged : literary

Heather O'Neill's distinctive style and voice fill these charming, sometimes dark, always beguiling stories.

From "The Robot Baby," in which we discover what happens when a robot feels emotion for the very first time, to "Heaven," about a grandfather who died for a few minutes when he was nine and visited the pearly gates, to "The Little Wolf-Boy of Northern Quebec," in which untamed children run wild through the streets of Paris, to "Dolls," in which a little girl's forgotten dolls tell their ow …

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The Best Place On Earth

The Best Place On Earth

also available: eBook Hardcover

“Tsabari’s characters will step off the page to captivate readers.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Confident, original and humane, these stories are peopled with characters at the crossroads of nationalities, religions and communities: expatriates, travellers, immigrants and locals. The Best Place on Earth illuminates the tenuous connections—forged, frayed and occasionally destroyed—between cultures, between generations and across the gulf of transformation and loss.

In the powerfully affecting op …

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Natural Order

Natural Order

also available: Hardcover
tagged :

“It’s beautiful,” I said, even though it wasn’t my style. It was cut glass and silver. Something a movie star might wear. Is this what my boy thought of me? I wondered as he fastened it around my neck. He called me Elizabeth Taylor and I laughed and laughed. I wore that necklace throughout the rest of the day. In spite of its garishness, I was surprised by how I felt: glamourous, special. I was out of my element amidst my kitchen cupboards and self-hemmed curtains. I almost believed in …

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The buzzers keep me awake at night. That’s one thing that hasn’t gone—my hearing. Most everything else has faded. My taste. Vision. Even my voice, which comes out sounding like a scratch in the air.
The buzzers bleat in the hallway like robot sheep. We keep our strings close to us so they’re easy to reach and pull. Mine is attached to my purse. Before I go to bed, I always set my purse on my night table. During the day, when I’m in my room, I keep it on my bed. I always have it near. Sometimes, at night, when the sounds wake me, I’ll stare at my purse until I fall asleep again. It’s not a particularly nice purse. I don’t even think it’s real leather.
Most of the buzzers you hear aren’t for what you’d call real emergencies. Usually, someone needs an extra blanket. Or someone had a bad dream. More often than not, I think people pull the buzzer just to see how long it takes for someone to come to their room. I did that, the first few months after I came here. I’d pull the string and count the seconds, panic building.
17, 18, 19
What if I’d fallen out of bed? What if I was having a heart attack?
34, 35
What if I’d broken my hip?
What if I was dead?
Joyce Sparks.
My name is on the wall outside my room next to a straw hat with a yellow ribbon and a couple of glued-on daisies. The hat reminds me of my sister, Helen, although it isn’t hers. The social coordinator had us make our own hats for a tea party last spring. I don’t know why someone decided to hang my hat outside the door. I didn’t do a nice job of it. I’ve never been good at crafts. I don’t have the patience.
Ruth Schueller is the name on the other side of the door. She’s my roommate. She doesn’t have a hat next to her name because she wasn’t at the home in the spring. Instead, there’s a black-and-white photograph beside Ruth’s name, taken during her younger years. I hardly recognize her. Frightening how much damage time does to a face. Ruth is eighty-two. I turned eighty-six in July.
Ruth snores something awful. Not at night, usually. But during her daytime naps, she makes the most horrific sounds. She’ll fall asleep in her wheelchair and her head will fl op down like a dead weight. That’s when the snoring starts. Some days, it’s so loud I can’t concentrate on the television, even when the volume is turned up all the way—which it usually is. I’ll have to throw the Yellow Pages at her. (Never at her head, although I’ve been tempted. Only at her feet.) Then I’ll watch her out of the corner of my eye as she tries to sort things out. What was that noise? Where did this Yellow Pages come from?
Last week, I wheeled into the bathroom and found my hairbrush on the back of the toilet tank. This bothered me because I always keep my brush next to the faucet. I wheeled out of the bathroom, carrying my brush like a miniature sword.
She blinked back at me like I was talking another language.
I don’t know why they can’t give me a roommate who can talk. Ruth is the second mute person I’ve had in the past year. She replaced Margaret, who was also soft in the head. She’d sit in her chair, knuckle deep inside a nostril for most of the day.
“If you find an escape route up there, let me know,” I’d say to her. Then Margaret’s liver shut down and she turned bronze. She lay in her bed, day after day, while a string of family members I’d never seen before came in and out of our room. They stood at her bedside, joisted fingers over their bellies, looking down at Margaret and shaking their heads as though this was one of the greatest tragedies they’d ever witnessed.
It’s not nice having someone die in your room. I’ll say that much. I woke up in the middle of the night, the sheep bleating in the distance, and even though I couldn’t see her, I knew Margaret was gone. There was a stillness in the air, a cold pocket. I thought about reaching for my purse, but then wondered if it mattered. I didn’t want to deal with the commotion that would follow: the lights turning on, whispers, white sheets. So I lay there with my hands at my sides and said a short prayer for Margaret. Although she couldn’t talk, I could tell by her eyes that she’d been a good person. Kind. Gentle.
She hadn’t deserved her fate. After a while, I fell back asleep. One week later, Ruth moved in. She’d been living on the second floor where the other soft-headed people are, but her family wanted her on my floor, the fourth. Did they think she’d be more stimulated up here?
I suppose it could be worse. There’s Mae MacKenzie down the hall, trapped with that horrible Dorothy Dawson. Dorothy keeps the divider curtains shut so the room is cut in half. She even safety-pinned the flaps together. She means business.
“She trapped herself in once,” Mae told me. “Kept pawing her way around, trying to find the opening. It was the best entertainment I’ve had here yet.”
Dorothy doesn’t talk to anyone. Mae says she’s a bitter woman. There’s been some talk of a husband who had wandering hands. A daughter into drugs.
 “Some people get a rough ride in life,” Mae said with a slow shake of her head.
I held my tongue.
The room that Ruth and I share is small, but big enough for two beds, two dressers and two wheelchairs, which I suppose is all the space that a couple of old ladies need. We’re on the south side of the building, so we don’t have the nice view of the lake. Instead, we face the street. I guess I can’t afford the lakeside setting. I’m guessing because I don’t know for certain. My niece, Marianne, handles my finances. She lives in Brampton. I call her once a month or so, but we don’t talk for more than five minutes. It always seems like someone is pulling on her arm. The last time I saw her was January. She showed up in my doorway wearing a dark brown blouse. She’d put on weight.
“Happy belated New Year, Aunt Joyce,” she said and sat down on the edge of my bed.
She looked like a bonbon left out on a hot day.
I shouldn’t be critical. That was Helen’s problem—always after Marianne and her son, Mark, to live up to some idea of perfection. Now look at them. Marianne is fat and divorced and Mark had a heart bypass two years ago. But I was grateful for Marianne’s company that day. I don’t have visitors, and living here makes you feel removed from the simplest things. I don’t remember the last time I went grocery shopping. Or to Sears. Or ate in a restaurant. Or visited the cemetery.
Sometimes, when I look around my room, I think, “This is the last place I’ll live.” When I go, they’ll be able to pack all my belongings in a cardboard box. I like to think I’m simplifying my life. Maybe it’s the other way around.
I’ve been here at Chestnut Park for six years. Marianne pressured me into it. I’d fallen in the bedroom in my senior’s apartment. I couldn’t be trusted on my own anymore.
“You’ve always taken care of others, Aunt Joyce,” she said to me. “Now it’s time to let people take care of you.”
I hadn’t taken care of anyone in my life. If anything, the opposite was true. But I was too tired and frightened to argue. My arm was stained with bruises and my ankle was swollen like a cantaloupe. I’d lain there, sprawled out between the bed and my dresser, for what seemed a lifetime. (They figured it was close to a day before the superintendent let himself in. Imagine my relief—and my shame when he found me on the floor, my legs wide open.)
I don’t remember much of the time in between. What I mean is, the time between my fall and the superintendent coming in. I was in and out of consciousness. I know I tried to reach for the telephone on the night table. And I remember seeing how dusty the floor was under my bed. Cobwebs everywhere. I was mortified. I wondered if these were the kinds of thoughts people had while they waited to die: the embarrassment of filth and the fear of discovery.
Mostly, I thought of my son.
There aren’t many bright spots in our days, but Hilda, the social coordinator, tries to keep us entertained. Every now and then, she brings in a children’s choir. Other times, there’s a tea social that only leaves us nostalgic for the lives we used to live. Once, Hilda brought in a dog. A black and brown beagle with a tail like a flagpole. I didn’t like the way it looked at me with its rheumy eyes and twitching snout. I refused to pet it.
“I didn’t know you were afraid of dogs,” Hilda said.
“I’m not,” I said. Then, because I knew that answer would likely lead to more questions, I said, “I’m not good with animals.”
I sit with three other people during meals: Irene, Henry and Jim. We don’t talk much. Mainly nudge and point to the things we need. Irene chews with her mouth open. Half the food tumbles out and down her bib and onto the table. It’s nauseating, and if I don’t keep my eyes down at all times, I lose my appetite. I told one of the nurses that I wanted to move to another table and she said she’d look into it, but I know that nothing will come of it. Nothing comes of anything in this place. The staff don’t listen to you. They bully you into taking your pills or making your poops or eating your food so that they can leave for home. I watch them tear across the parking lot towards their cars, a blur of uniform.
I do my best to finish my fish sticks, but they’re horrible. Soggy. The cooks bake them, which I know is healthier. But I’m eighty-six now. I’ll take my chances with trans fats. All around me, I hear the clatter of cutlery against plates and the occasional wet plop of something hitting the floor. Someone starts hacking (likely that woman from 405—she’s a smoker) and I think how sad that these are my final meals.
After lunch, I’m wheeled back to my room and positioned between the bed and the wall. I’ll usually try to nap in the afternoon as it helps to quicken the wait until dinner, but Ruth is already passed out in her chair. I press my eyes shut, willing myself to fall asleep before the snoring starts, but it’s a lost cause.
“Hello, Joyce.”
I look up to see Hilda coming into the room. She’s a tall woman, although everyone seems tall when you’re in a wheelchair. There’s a strand of chunky turquoise beads around her neck.
“How was lunch?” She sits down at the foot of my bed.
“Fine,” I say. “We had fish. Is it Friday?”
She nods. “Are you Catholic?”
“United,” I say.
“They have a service every Sunday downstairs.”
“I know.”
“Are you a religious woman?”
“Not particularly. But we’ll see what happens on my deathbed.”
“I have a new volunteer starting tonight. A young man. Do you mind if I send him to you?”
“What does he want?” Most of the volunteers are women.
“Nothing. He’s coming for conversation or errands or whatever you like.” She leans in and lowers her voice. “He goes by Timothy. Not Tim. He was quite firm about that.”
She waits for me to respond. I say nothing.
“A friend once told me that when a man goes by the long version of his name, chances are . . .” She laughs. “It’s nice, though, having a male volunteer for once.”
There are a handful of puffy women volunteers, running around before the bake sales or planting impatiens in the front garden, their eyeglass strings swaying this way and that. Well intentioned, I suppose, but intrusive. They make me uncomfortable when they come into my room, asking if my plants need watering or my pillows need fluffing or my water jug needs filling. No, no and no, I say, anxious for them to leave. I don’t need their short-breathed fussing. This is my room. I didn’t ask for their help, did I?
“Timothy will be coming in after dinner,” Hilda says, standing up from the bed. “Around seven.” She glances over at Ruth, who is now sucking back air like it’s food at a buffet.
“I think you’ll like him, Joyce.”
“The only thing I’d like . . .” I begin. Hilda leans towards me, waiting. She wants something from me. A surrender.
This will make her dogs and choirs worthwhile.
“The only thing I’d like is a nap,” I say.
For some reason, I never thought I’d spend my final years in Balsden, even though it’s the only place I’ve ever lived. I grew up on Shaw Street, and then spent my married life on Marian Street. After I sold the house, I moved into a seniors’ apartment building on Finch Avenue. Now I’m here. And while
Balsden is a small city of forty thousand, it’s only now that I realize how tiny my world has been. The four cornerstones of my life have been within a ten-minute drive of one another.
“There isn’t anything on earth you can’t find in your own backyard,” my mother used to say.
I remember as a girl standing on our back porch, contemplating the pine trees and the wire fence that circled the yard, the laundry poles and the ants whose grey-sugar castles sprang from the cracks in the concrete. I believed in these things and my mother’s words. Perhaps, in some ways, I still do. In other ways, I think they’re lies.
I was certain I’d end up in Andover, a much larger city, only forty minutes from Balsden via the double-lane highway or the old one with its winding single lane winding through towns and farmers’ fields. Life seemed better in Andover. People were cut from a different cloth. There was a university and a downtown park with a bandshell and a rink where people went skating in the winter. When we were young, my best friend, Fern, my older sister, Helen, and I would take the train to go shopping for back-to-school clothes. That seems so far back in the past, I question it. That’s the problem with getting old. Time bends and shifts. Memories spring up, uprooted. Sometimes, I’m not sure if my life happened the way I remember it, and there’s no one left to verify the facts. Fern moved to Andover after she sold her house. She had a cousin there and asked me to go with her.
“We’ll get an apartment,” she said. “Raise some hell.”
But I was grounded by fear, afraid that my money would run out in a larger, more expensive city. And I had to consider Helen. She’d been in and out of the hospital on account of her heart. When she died a year later, I reconsidered. There was nothing left for me in Balsden. I was alone. But then Fern was found dead one morning. And when her cousin called to tell me, I became aware of something I never thought possible: that solitude had another floor down.
No matter. Maybe I deserved it. No freedom for someone like me. No respite from guilt. Everything I ever did in life, I did wrong. Everything I touched, I destroyed.
I spend the rest of the afternoon trying to watch my soap opera. I wish I had a pair of earphones. Stupid Ruth. Oh, it doesn’t matter. My mind is fl uttering around like a distracted bird anyway. Timothy. Not Tim. I rub my hands, trying to loosen muscles that feel more like strips of jerky.
A while later, an attendant comes in with our afternoon snack. Today, I get two digestive cookies and a blood pressure pill.
“You’re looking well today, Mrs. Sparks,” I’m told. It’s the Filipina woman. I forget her name and I can’t read her badge. She’s just a wisp of a thing, a pink peppermint stick in her uniform. “How are you feeling?”
“My neck hurts,” I say, even though it’s no better or worse than usual. “My hands, too.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Filipina woman says, tipping the contents of the tiny white cup into my palm. She hands me a glass of apple juice with a straw bent like an elbow. I could’ve told her I was pregnant and she would’ve asked me if I wanted ice in my glass.

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Gentle Habit, A

Gentle Habit, A


The inspiration for the collection comes from American Poet Charles Bukowski who wrote "In between the punctuating agonies, life is such a gentle habit." Following this theme of extraordinary ordinariness, A Gentle Habit is a collection of six new short stories focusing on the addictions of a diverse group of characters attempting normalcy in an unnatural world.

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