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First Things 2 Masthead 4 Contributors

Fiction 26

W E D D I N G P I C T U R E S by Isobel Cunningham


T A R T E S A U X B L U E T S by Sabrina Fielding


P E R S P E C T I V E S I N W H I T E by Reed Stirling


C H I L D by Mark Towse

Non-Fiction 18

H E H O P E D B A S E B A L L WO U L D F I X W H AT WA S W R O N G W I T H H I M by Alex Dela Cruz

Poetry 24

T W O A R I A S by James Dunnigan


T R Í L C I C A by Eugenio Garza


S I T T I N G G I R L by Ezelbahar Metin


O H , C A N A D A ; P A T E R A I I by Christina Strigas


S O N N E T F R A G M E N T S by Yuan Changming

CONTRIBUTORS ISOBEL CUNNINGHAM (Wedding Pictures, p.26) writes short fiction and poetry. Her poetry book, Northern Compass, appeared in 2015 and is available on Amazon. Her poetry has appeared in The Lake, Rat’s Ass Review and Silver Birch Literary Blog. Her fiction has appeared in Passager Journal and Dime Show Review. She is working on her first novel.

R E E D S T I R L I N G (Perspectives in White, p.14) lives in Cowichan Bay, BC. His work has appeared in Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Nashwaak Review, Valley Voice, Out Of The Warm Land II and III, StepAway Magazine, PaperPlates, Senior Living, Green Silk Journal, Fickle Muses, Fieldstone Review, Ascent Aspirations, Hackwriters Magazine, The Danforth Review, Filling Station, and Dis(s)ent In Words.

A L E X D E L A C R U Z (He Hoped Baseball Would Fix What Was Wrong With Him, p.18) is an artist from Mississauga Ontario and has lived in Montreal for the past twelve years. He has won a literature award for creative fiction way back when at the University of Toronto.

C H R I S T I N A S T R I G A S (poems, p.10) is a full-time teacher. She teaches ESL to adults at McGill University, and French at a public elementary school for The Montreal English School Board. She is also a Course Lecturer at McGill University. Her work has appeared in Feminine Collective, SpillWords, Neon Mariposa Magazine, as well as some that will J A M E S D U N N I G A N (poems, p.24) is a be publishing some work in the upcoming months, graduate of McGill University. Author of The Stained such as: Pink Plastic House, Thimble Lit Magazine, Glass Sequence, he was the winner of the 4th annual Rhythm & Bones, Twist in Time, and The Temz Review. Frog Hollow Chapbook Competition in 2018. His Her poetry book, Love & Vodka was recommended work has appeared previously in Maisonneuve by CBC News and made the Ultimate Canadian Magazine and is forthcoming in CV2. Poetry List. She has written two novels for MuseItUp Publishing. She lives in Montreal with her husband S A B R I N A F I E L D I N G (Tartes aux Bluets, and two children. p.6) is currently studying education and French at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She M A R K T O W S E (Child, p.30) has only been is a writer for the Queen’s chapter of Her Campus writing short stories for five months now, but his and has had her short stories published in the on- passion and enthusiasm are unparalleled, and campus magazine, Ultraviolet. this has recently resulted in paid pieces in many prestigious magazines including Books N’ Pieces, E U G E N I O G A R Z A (poem, p.17) studies Artpost Magazine, Page & Spine, Montréal Writes, Flash Economics at the University of Monterrey, Mexico. Fiction Online, a recent acceptance for The No Sleep His work has appeared in Palabras que cuentan Podcast and six anthologies. (UDEM) and Revista Levadura (UANL). He is cofounder of the independent literary magazine Y U A N CHANGMING (poem, p.35) Cuatro Versos ( published monographs on translation before leaving China. Currently, Yuan lives in Vancouver, where he E Z E L B A H A R M E T I N (poem, p.29) is edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan. Credits an international student from Turkey, currently include ten Pushcart nominations, Best of the Best studying in Montreal. She started reading and Canadian Poetry (2008-17) and BestNewPoemsOnline, writing poetry from a very young age, both in among others. Turkish and English. This is the first poem she has written and submitted in English. 5


F I C T I O N by Sabrina Fielding

TARTES AUX BLUETS April 7th, 1958 Dear Mr. Arthur Brenner, My name is Elizabeth Wellington. I’m writing to inquire about a matter that is both entirely critical and absolutely none of my business. I have mistakenly received a bill bearing your name for a purchase of 68 tartes aux bleuets from Lefort’s Bakery in Saguenay, Quebec. I want to be sure you are to pay for and receive your order in a timely manner, but I am ashamed to admit it was not my main incentive to write—and this is where the “absolutely none of my business” part comes in—I am curious to know what a single person could do with 68 blueberry pies. I’ve had good pie in my lifetime, but I cannot fathom eating nearly 70 of them myself. That was the other thing that intrigued me: why 68? Why not round it up to an even 70? Are you on a budget? Where would one store this much pie? I have far too much time on my hands. I am a twenty-three-year old English literature graduate, and I have recently returned to the small Vancouver suburb where I spent my childhood. I had hoped to return to a horde of publishers looking to print my work. Instead, I was greeted by my house cat Gerald who was twelve pounds fatter, and my mother, insistent I learn a “real” skill. She likes to say that it’s never too late to get a woman in the kitchen—as you can see, my future is promising. That is, if I don’t go mad first. I apologize for my nosiness. Please know that you are merely humouring a pathetically eager woman who could once list every work by Oscar Wilde, but whose apron-wrapped soul now wastes away in a casserole dish. I hope to hear back from you. Sincerest regards, Elizabeth June 29th, 1958

Dear Mr. Brenner, I am going to assume by your silence that you are either: a. Too busy consuming the monumental number of pies you purchased, or b. Feel it unworthy of your time to respond to such a foolish girl. Out of respect for my own sanity, I shall go with the former. I woke up this morning with salt encrusting the corners of my lips, and that’s usually how I know summer has arrived. When I was a little girl, my mother allowed my brother and I to venture down to Kitsilano Beach to search for seashells in the evenings. She would allow an extra slice of rhubarb cake to the child bearing the most impressive seashell. It was always me, until I turned twelve and she told me that boys wouldn’t care for a girl with the eating habits of a starving wolf. Sometimes I still feel like that—a starving wolf, that is. And not for rhubarb cake anymore. It feels as though there’s so much to know and so little space in my brain to know it all, to absorb it. Do you ever feel that way, Mr. Brenner? I’ve been thinking a lot about your pie predicament, and since I have yet to hear back, I have drawn what I consider to be a very solid conclusion. I believe that you are a young man who spent his own childhood summers with his family in the east by the St. Lawrence River. Perhaps you have your own shell story to tell? You have a large family: there are seven or so of you . . . my regards to your poor mother. You’re a family of all boys, I bet. Boys with identical upward-curve noses, sand-coloured hair, and matching red-and-white swim trunks. I imagine you spent the days part human, part fish, your fingertips wrinkled, and your skin slowly deepening like golden pastry crust. At the end of the day, you would make a stop by


Lefort’s Bakery for their world-renowned tarte aux bleuets, where M. Lefort himself would package up the pie and throw in a few Linzer cookies for good measure. Once you arrived home, you would eat the pie straight from the box, the blueberry filling warm from the sun, staining your teeth a deep purple. I imagine you grew up to be a businessman, a “mover and shaker” of sorts, the youngest CEO of some expansive, faceless corporation that you’ve managed to take under your wing. You are a bachelor with far too much expendable income, so when you received notice that Lefort’s was going under you did not hesitate to chip in in order to preserve this piece of your childhood. Perhaps, exactly the price of 68 pies was all it took to bring the company out of bankruptcy, which would account for this seemingly random number. I’m sure the city of Saguenay thanks you greatly for your benevolence. Warmly, Elizabeth *** August 5th, 1958 Dear Mr. Brenner,


I have finally conceded that I shall most likely never receive a response to these letters, but alas! I am writing yet another one. When my mother saw me with my pen and paper at the kitchen table this morning, she asked me who I could possibly be writing to. I was slightly miffed that she assumed I had so few acquaintances that I hadn’t a single person to whom I could write, but I suppose I cannot really refute it as I am here, scratching out another pitiful plea for an explanation. I told my mother it was a boyfriend, and then felt a terrible guilt seize me when her face lit up and she said: “Oh, I’m just thrilled. You’re going to make a fine housewife.” I believe I have figured out the true reason behind your order of 68 pies. I’d thought it was an effort to save the bakery, but now I’m sure it must be something more. You are not a bachelor, as I once believed; you have been seeing a

sparkly-eyed woman with colourful trousers and a knack for crochet, and after a year, you finally decided to marry her. It couldn’t be a run-of-the-mill marriage proposal, of course. Not for her, the girl who makes the world feel just a little bit sunnier. Perhaps blueberry pie is her favourite dessert, the dessert she made you share with her on your very first outing together. Maybe you met on June the 8th, and you felt the day should be commemorated by a plethora of tart. And then, surrounded by the pastries, you knelt down on one knee and asked for her hand. A lump gathered in your throat, but you tried to swallow it away as you thought about the rest of your life with her. She said yes, of course. Nothing says I love you like the sickly-sweet insides oozing from a pie. I wish the very best for you and your future wife. A lifetime of happiness and sweets, and all the lovely things. Yours, Elizabeth *** May 6th, 2018 Dear Ms. Elizabeth Wellington, I apologize for the slight delay in response, and I hope you are well. My name is Gérard Larouche, and I am the administrative executive of Arthur Brenner Furnishing Co., supplier of all your furniture needs based out of La Malbaie, Quebec. As we are moving distribution centers, I was clearing through a few boxes of paperwork, and came across your letters. The former admin must have kept your letters out of amusement, so they have been sitting here in this office for the last 60 years. This may be a disappointment to you (although time heals all, as they say), but I’m afraid the Arthur Brenner you wrote to does not, in fact, exist. A.B.F. Co. was established in 1938 by Ronald Arthur and Edwin Brenner, a businessman and carpenter from Montreal, respectively. From what I am told, they started the company as a small passion project, and eventually became one of the top-selling furniture companies in Eastern Canada.

As for the blueberry pie, I had to do a little bit of digging to figure that one out: after calling the former admin, and reviewing some archived orders, it appears that in order to celebrate their 20th anniversary, the company ordered pie from a bakery in Saguenay. Though the intention for the original order was for six blueberry pies to be delivered, a clerical error was made, and the number became 68 on the final bill. I hope this finally answers any questions you may have had, and if you are in need of any furnishings, we would be happy to offer you ten percent off your first purchase. Sincerely, Gérard Larouche, Arthur Brenner Furnishings Company 249 Rue Montréal, Unité #3 La Malbaie, Québec


P O E T R Y by Christina Strigas

OH, CANADA Watching the sun rise is one of the most trusted things. I’m old school. Old soul for shining love. In Greece, the sunrise overlooked the ocean, in Canada, the sunrise overlooked Park Ex. When I was eight, I saw Greece in your eyes. I understood what the word immigrant implied. All the looks, questions, Where were you born? I’m Canadian. I’m Greek. I’m Greek-Canadian. I’m nowhere to be found. I mostly feel like a sea animal— Life, hooked me; it adored my Canadian skin, its delicacy flapping my fins in the air. Olive complexion, dark hair and eyes. Oh, you look Greek or Italian. You have an accent. Did you know the ocean grave is so silent? There is no grandiose ocean here. Canada is civil. Makes no war. Canada opens up its arms to immigrants like us. It wets our words with ghosts, not the ones in movies or reality TV; the real ones that terrorize immigrant dreams.


Canada has clawed cold cuts on my skin, The dry scathed skin of winter. I’m allergic to the cold now, Still translating documents for my mother since 1980. They make me write about how she came to Canada on April 29, 1960. She had two birthdays my grandfather changed it to 1943 for food, survival; and now I’m filling out 10 page applications to prove she is who she says she is after living here for fifty-eight years. It’s always hopeless When you can’t speak the language You live in— But it is hopeful To have a nomad soul. You can be a stranger in two countries. I see proof of that every day.


P O E T R Y by Christina Strigas

PAT E R A I I I crashed on the floor Next to your dead body, Patera You were wrapped in a red flannel blanket of fire. Your last breath, Of three deep sighs . . . a matchstick Flaring-up a crowd of love We watched the horror. Around your nailed feet, Edges of years, Like a quick flame, Your light disappeared Brushed by fingertips An odyssey of stops, A heart wrenching eulogy. But the saints are calling you— To dream on a bed of red clouds, they want your Good Friday bonfire. Light up the glow Father Patera, kalinihta. Goodnight When you died ten years ago, the world shifted gears; Greece and its olives, Its braced trees Seem so distant now Miles of gravel Now a dead memory


Epic to recall How you stole cucumbers in your youth, How you got tired for days, Walking miles to reach school— No swings, amusement parks Merry-go-rounds. No lights on the village streets. No telephones, Just one soccer ball to bring your name in arenas. Raised on bread and lentils, Hand-prepared— in a clay sink, In one room with five siblings, You left Greece with a five-dollar bill in your pocket a Greek-English dictionary in your bag.



F I C T I O N by Reed Stirling



t is a cold February day as the city labours through the aftermath of a blizzard. Predictions are accurate: sub-zero temperatures, winds out of the west, fifteen to twenty centimetres of accumulation. Donna rubs the sleep from her eyes, moves barefoot across the chilling hardwood f loor. Her toes knead the wool of the Cretan rug while her fingers lose themselves in her long, tangled hair. She breathes against the windowpane: a mirror to enter through to the outside world. A taxi under its quickly fading Yellow Diamond slaloms up CôteSainte-Catherine, and then the prolonged stridulation of soft rubber on icy, packed snow. A low sun struggles against the oblique whiteness. She shivers, but she knows that coffee will somehow warm up the day, and that Terry will likely bring her around. When Terry joins her, and they have their coffee, and he wants to know what’s troubling her, she tells him an uneasy feeling can sometimes come upon her. Same as knowing that without actually throwing the clay on the potter’s wheel, intentions will break down no matter how caring she is. When he asks what’s really causing the frown, she reaches for her Emily Dickinson, turning to a poem that conveys it all. “There’s a certain slant of light / On winter afternoons, / That oppress, like the weight / Of Cathedral tunes.” Donna pauses here, and then carries through to the end of the poem. “Worried again about my family’s pious prejudices? “Not really, Terry. I trust your judgement in all of that.” “Cathedral tunes and Heavenly hurt. That stuff ?”

“It’s not a reaction to religious bigotry, Terry. Or God’s design, if there be any. Just the human condition. What you said after the Christmas get-together about finding meaning despite the oppression—very heavy, all that.” “Maybe so, but I think this poem means having knowledge of despair and death can bring you back into the light. Something like that anyway.” “Could be it’s just that this kind of bleak winter day is the beginning of a painful transformation due me after so many months at the Veterans. I deal with death, and dying and despair on a daily basis. Attempts to alleviate the pain and suffering of old men telling sad stories seems futile at times, and frustrating, but I keep on doing it. And then this feeling comes over me, and when it comes, even the landscape listens. Take a look outside.” “Your landscape sings other songs, Donna. I know now you’re beyond Cathedral tunes and Heavenly hurt.” “Yes, you’re probably right. Up on the mountain. Parc-La Fontaine. Sometimes I just want to embrace the sun. Get a new perspective.” Later, when Terry has left, Donna waits by the window, and watches the eaves for the sounds of sun melting snow. The orange light of the tow truck strobes the dim afternoon intersection as a Victoria Avenue bus in muted brown and silver slides to a stop against the hidden curb. Two people get off, soon to become hurrying shades against the whirlwind snow—one this way and one that way. She pulls the curtain and goes to put on her uniform. ***



Fearing the worst of the storm’s aftermath, Terry has left Donna’s earlier than necessary for the long drive out of the city even though he knows the main roads will be ploughed. Streaks of pink in the late afternoon sky. Cold white sunshine furrowed in drifts. Within an hour, the GM plant eventually comes into view, icy blue and metallic, like a castle set against a disappearing landscape. Hard, white, almost tangible billows of vapour rise from its spires and turrets. Inside, the great beast of mass production lies motionless in an endless, labyrinthine coil, hissing, impatient, waiting for the signal to snake around its monotonously efficient course. Decked out in his paint shop garb, Terry prepares his gear. On the other side of the hanging four-door shell, his opposite number, Yves Laurier, stands and waits. “Ça marche?” “Ça marche.” When the buzzer sounds, the line advances, and Terry, pneumatic gun in his hand like a wand, begins his job of sealing welded joints. This he will do for eight hours. The work both affirms and denies. For Terry, the mechanical hours free the mind to follow wherever the imagination leads. It leads everywhere, assumes all forms, shapes, and rhythms — bits and pieces of songs, freeassociations that conclude in rhyme or in the creation of new dreams, and memories short and long—but mostly it leads back to Donna. She breaks his shift up into myriad images: some, singular in impression — the contour of her lips; others, extended reveries—the thought that there was something essentially luxurious and defiant about making love in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of winter’s grip. Difficult conversations are replayed with different words, but outcomes seldom differ. She: Why don’t you just stay here? He: You know I have to get to work. She: I mean stay here day-to-day, night-tonight, week-to-week. He: My parents’ place is convenient, more direct to the plant, especially in winter. This is followed by a litany of apologies that unravels like a coil of art nouveau. Then

the voice in the on-going narrative fabricates a less conf licted, more pleasing scenario with the arrival of a two-door hardtop requiring a line of caulking in its trunk—a retiring red glow reaches across your lips when I move to you fallen with the music—and recedes, like taillights, towards the next of tomorrows. Whereupon Terry pictures himself sees chasing Donna’s long, shapely legs around the Beaver Lake skating pond on top of MontRoyal. This evolves into an enduring fantasy where they roll together though snow-bound fields in endless ecstasy. “Ça marche, mon ami?” “Oui, ça marche bien!”

P O E T R Y by Eugenio Garza


J’ai tant neigé pour que tu dormes So you can sleep far away… Now, look for me. Touch my side of this bed in the middle of the night. Look for me in your dreams, as if you were searching for an ancient truth. Explore my ocean with an astrolabe and under the nautical moon look for me. Dig through the rocks with a flashlight. Flow swiftly towards the light, lost soul. Hunt me. Wake up, open your eyes and look for me in the darkness. Look for me, even though you will never find me.



N O N - F I C T I O N by Alex Dela Cruz



aseball was his first love. In his second year of little league, Allen improved, becoming the best player on the team. He ran down ground balls like his favorite Blue Jays. Roberto Alomar Jr. and Tony Fernandez were like acrobats snagging the ball out of the air with incredible precision and coordination, making throws to first, disappointing the opposing player’s futile attempt to reach base. Grounders, pop-ups, one hoppers… Allen emulated the heroes he saw on TV for his own team. He was surprised at his progress. He was having fun, more fun than ever. Each game, every practice, he was learning more and more. Year One: His father took Allen to the store to pick out a baseball glove. They were at the counter to pay. ‘Ok, where’s your money?’ Allen looked at him. He didn’t have any money; did this mean they had to go back home without the glove? His father laughed before taking out his credit card. Coach Capobianco was around the same age as Allen’s father. He was soft spoken, very helpful, but didn’t yell and scream. He told the new players that if the ball is hit towards them, to use their body to form a wall; if the ball doesn’t go right into their glove, it will still be blocked, and they’ll have a chance to make a throw to first. Allen thought of him

like a baseball Santa Claus without the beard and with an immense amount of baseball knowledge. His son was friendly, and one of the best players. Allen wasn’t. He was in the bottom of the lineup, starting in right field, where the ball is hit least often. Allen moved to left field as he got better, then to center. By the end of the year, Allen had played at third base. Sometimes, he was moved up to fifth in the batting order. Coach Capobianco gave out game stars for good plays during a game to be sewn onto the uniform. Allen had two red stars for fielding and a white star for hitting. The best player on the team had seven stars. Coach C’s son had six. Year Two: Tony was Allen’s new coach. He was lanky and thin, but athletically built. A vibrant young man with a few scarce pimples, he carried the energetic maturity of a college student. He liked being called Tony, not coach. He was like a cool older brother who knew a lot about baseball. Players did what Coach C said because he was old and wise, they listened to Tony because he was cool and smart. He was a person the younger kids wanted to hang out with. The Day Tony Helped Create a Monster: Batting practice. The worst part of Allen’s game: hitting. He got some hits, and walks to get on 19


base once, rarely twice, each game during his first year. Most of the time, he’d take a swing and the ball would land safely in the catcher’s mitt. Allen hated swinging at air but, dejected, had gotten used to it. With a watchful eye, Tony spoke to him, ‘You’re seeing the ball OK, but you’re late on your swing. Put your elbow higher.’ Allen’s swing was pretty good. Coach C gave some good tips the year before: a wide stance gives better balance, put your weight on your back foot, watch as the ball comes in, and transfer your weight. All these small details. When Allen watched the Blue Jays on TV, he saw how they did all these little things perfectly. Fundamentals, Coach C called them. Tony, however, was good at finding details unique to each player that would help them. ‘Elbow up, like this. See, when you swing, you bring your elbow up even when it’s down at your waist. If it’s already up, it’s ready to hit the ball. Try it out.’ Allen took a few practice swings. It felt different. Faster. He walked up to the plate. Mike, the best pitcher on the team, gave an easy toss. Allen took a swing . . . and missed the ball by a mile. He looked at Tony. Weird, Allen thought to himself. ‘Ya, you were way out in front of that one,’ said Tony. The weird thing was that he had swung at the ball way too early. After a few more pitches, he couldn’t miss the ball. ‘Hey, Mike!’ ‘Ya, coach?’ ‘Enough with the easy stuff. Let it rip. Let’s see how he does.’ Practice was one thing, but an actual game? The ball cracked off the bat. He learned how to throw all his power into a good pitch, pulling the ball to left field into gaps between the outfielders, or simply over their heads. If a pitcher threw a fastball that was hard to catch up to, he swung defensively to def lect it into gaps on the field. He could see the ball clearly and figure out what to do depending on how good the pitcher was. Allen was always on time to practice. He

could pick who he wanted to start warm up and drill with. When he was early, he had a better chance to practice with someone he liked: someone who was cool and had good skills, not someone who was too good for practice or who just sucked. Now he was batting in the heart of the lineup. He had decent power and often got on base. He didn’t have the power of some other kids, but he regularly crossed the plate, scoring runs thanks to his teammates’ great hitting. The practice was paying off. Sometimes the ball seemed like it was in slow motion as he snagged it in his glove or bounced it off his bat. Good times. Sports build character, fostering integrity and discipline . . . as they say. Home: He was a good student and teammate. At home, however, he always seemed to be doing something wrong. ‘Punyeta ka! You’re always leaving your shit around. Why don’t you try your shit somewhere else?’ he heard many times from his father. ‘You left the light on in the bathroom again. What, are you stupid? What’s wrong with you? You left your socks on the couch. Do you think you have a maid?’ That day, he left his bag in the middle of the hallway where it was dangerous as his mom and dad said because someone could break their neck. ‘I forgot, sorry.’ He forgot a lot. ‘You don’t forget things?’ ‘I am tired of your shit attitude. This is my house and if you don’t like it, you can get the hell out!’ His deep voice bellowed when he was angry. Time and again, he’d tell Allen or his sister what was wrong with them, not to mention everything wrong with the world— all the things he knew about it. Everyone tried to tune him out, especially Allen’s mom. He was harder to ignore when he was angry. As he raised his voice, his eyes went beady and he’d explode into a seemingly endless tirade, yelling about what was wrong with

Allen and his sister and how hard he worked for everyone. He called them stupid, lazy, and disrespectful, with bad attitudes. Why couldn’t JoAnne get good grades in school like her brother? Why couldn’t Allen keep his room from being a ‘pigsty’ or keep the house clean like his sister? His dad repeated these helpful reminders daily. When Allen was younger, his father would often help remind him with a slipper. One time, the Chinatown leatherette slipper broke in half. Allen laughed through his tears at the look his father’s face, who was holding half a broken rubber sole in one hand, the other half dangling by leatherette straps. He noticed that his father yelled at him more but hit him less often as Allen grew taller than him. His sister often got yelled at too: she was a teenager who didn’t have good grades and liked long showers which wasted water. Teenagers. In a few years, Allen would also be a teenager. His mom said he would even like girls. Gross. After they moved into the new fivebedroom house with a skylight and Jacuzzi, they didn’t have a lot of money. They were just getting by. Allen’s dad only got the new TV because it was on sale; he said Allen used it most of the time anyways. True. His dad said it was his mom who really wanted the new backyard patio but that he was the one who paid for most of it. He helped design the patio of interlocking bricks with a low wall. He was like a lord in his little courtyard villa. His teachers wrote beaming comments about Allen’s effort and good work in class. However, they suggested that he read slower when the students take turns reading aloud. Allen had a habit of reading too fast and mumbling. Other than that, he liked his teachers a lot. His classmates . . . not so much. His family had moved into a nicer neighborhood a whiter neighborhood, when he got to the new school, a classmate asked him if he was Chinese or Japanese. Allen said he was Filipino, this was met with a blank stare. ‘Oh, so are you a ching chong, ding dong, or wing wong?’

His classmates laughed at Allen and asked why he wore the same clothes all the time, or if he was poor because of his cheap BiWay clothes. Some kids were surprised when they saw Allen go into his house and asked if he was loaded. ‘No,’ Allen said, ‘My dad says there’s barely any money after the thing called the Mortgage.’ Before baseball, Allen was always watching TV. In the old neighborhood, he hardly ever watched TV. All the old neighborhood kids would knock on each other’s doors, wanting to play, ride bikes, run around, build sand castles, and pet dogs. In this new neighborhood, he didn’t know anyone. His mom asked why he didn’t make friends. He had never made friends at the old house . . . he just always had them. There was a time at the new house when Allen played ping-pong with his dad in the basement. One day, his father mysteriously stopped playing. When Allen was younger, his dad would always win. After a few years, his father was scoring fewer points against Allen and hadn’t won a game in weeks. Eventually the sound of the ping-pong table could no longer be heard. The chess set was never used anymore either. His dad had taught him how to play chess years ago but after an older kid at school gave Allen chess advice, the beautiful hand-carved Staunton chess set his father brought from the Philippines never left the top shelf. ‘Why aren’t you doing your homework?’ Allen’s father asked him. ‘I did it already.’ It usually took him less than an hour. ‘Did you clean your room?’ ‘Yes.’ Allen hadn’t forgotten to clean his room since the time his dad took everything on the f loor and made him set it on fire in the backyard. ‘Don’t you have anything better to do?’ ‘I did everything. What else do you want?’ He actually remembered to pick up all his shit and make sure nothing was lying around. His school bag was neatly against the wall, not laying in the middle of the hallway where it could break someone’s neck. No light left on.



It helped that there was a rerun of GI Joe playing. It wasn’t a very good episode, but he had already watched it at least three times. ‘Always watching that idiot box with your bad attitude. Someone has to teach you respect. You don’t have any discipline.’ Allen could tell that this particular time was more of a rant than anything really threatening . . . if he just kept his mouth shut, his dad would eventually go away. His dad wasn’t really angry; he was in a mood for complaining but couldn’t find anything wrong today. Allen heard this a thousand times before and would hear it a thousand times more. Only this time, there was nothing to find wrong. This time. ‘The sun will be down soon. Don’t forget to close the blinds.’ ‘Yes, sir. Of course, sir,’ he mumbled sarcastically, like his mom. Except his mom didn’t mumble, she shouted when she had enough of her husband’s barking commands. For the most part, she was a stoic woman who spoke only when necessary or when pushed too far. His dad stared at him. Oh shit, did he hear that? Allen thought. His father steamed a few moments in the kitchen, eventually going up to the master bedroom, the heavy footfalls of his Chinatown leatherette slippers clicking up the stairs. The door snapped shut and Allen could soon hear the muff led sound of TV coming from above. Tonight was an ok night. Allen could watch whatever he wanted on the family room TV. No screaming, yelling, or crying. It was another humid Mississauga summer evening. Allen and his father were playing catch in the backyard. They practiced, his father tossing, grounders, one-hoppers, and pop-ups like the team. Playing catch in the yard made it easier during a team practice. His mom liked that his dad was getting some exercise. He wasn’t rambling her ear off, nagging, screaming, or yelling. They made it a habit after dinner most nights to play catch, hours quickly passing until the sun went down. It was like in the old neighborhood when all the kids went inside at the sunset

that always came too soon. Where did the time go? Father and son tossed the ball back and forth countless times. Happiness. A few of the kids gave and amused stare when Allen came onto the field with eye black. Two black lines, one under each eye. He always thought it looked cool when some of the Blue Jays did it. It was supposed to help with the glare. Allen used leftover Halloween makeup, probably not what they used in the big leagues. No one really cared about the eye black until Allen hit a double and scored a run. He scored a few more and got to base. At bat, he hit the ball regularly now. Allen made a few good infield plays. He’d leapt at a line drive, catching the ball in mid-air before landing on his stomach, glove raised so the umpire could see it was a clean catch for the out. He loved playing second base. ‘Hey, sexy, your mascara is running,’ some kid from the other team said. Allen had gotten another hit and was on first base, eyeing second for the steal. ‘That’s the best player on the team,’ the opposing coach said in a matter-of-fact tone to an assistant. The chubby little Filipino kid with black lines under his eyes pretended not to hear. Wow, he thought. The season had come to an end. They had a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs. Forest Glen was usually one of the worst teams. Forest Glen making the playoffs was rare. Year Three: Allen had struck out again. And again. And again. He was now in the next age group. The kids were bigger, stronger, faster, and had more experience. Allen showed up to practice but didn’t receive helpful advice. Batting Practice. Vito, the skinny, lefthanded, mouthy kid who somehow had a rocket for an arm, blew the ball past everyone. The coach’s son could barely throw the ball over the plate. He was always dropping the ball into the dirt just in front of, or to the side of, the plate, making it nearly impossible to hit. Allen couldn’t wait to go home and watch

TV. The team was in last place. Late into the season, Allen’s dad walked with him to practice. Just before Allen headed onto the field, his dad pulled out a batting glove. He’d been asking for one for a while now. His dad stared at Allen for a moment before screaming, ‘HIT THE BALL!’ his brown beady eyes bulging. Allen looked at the glove, then looked at his dad. He wondered if Tony might find a detail that would help him hit. He missed Tony. He was so cool. Allen took the glove and headed to practice. He decided that he never wanted to play baseball again. Epilogue: Allen’s dad wanted him to get a part-time job. He hoped a job would fix what was wrong with him.


P O E T R Y by James Dunnigan

TWO ARIAS On the Hill by Rome Boulevard You, leaning by me in the bowing grass at noon, late summer, on a yellow hill telling me love has become like the face of the night and you do not remember where the bikepath is and have forgotten to put on your shoes and circling your arms around the nape-knot of a birch’s neck say that you loved me once. I have brought you as close to my heart as a seed is to soil that raises it into a tangle of leaves, cool and odorous the soil, sweeter the yielded grain, and the wind moving under the branches of us will carry our dust and reflections over the lakeshore rocks and over the road-veined hills and I don’t care anymore where they carry us. You lean beside me in the yellow grass on noon’s late hill august and shadowless, holding between you and your bending arms the white face of the distant sun. I know then all my nights and mornings will be yours and the days thereafter will warm to your countenance, dawn, lend its brightness to your movements and the murmuring evenings borrow from your voice. I have shrouded my heart like a seed in the earth that sun may never shine upon its sorrow but the roots have grown deep at your urging with branches as soft as your arms; their leaves, bright as your waking eyes; their shade, at day, inviting as the night.


Saisonnière Brighthaired, in black, you drift over long rows of fruit and bags of earth and boxes— Summer’s summer, whose shadow freshens the cherries, wets the pavement weeds. Like you I’m a worker in water and fire. I nearly burnt down my apartment leaving the propane on. And when I shovel ice in at the fish store, I throw it exactly outside the counter. Your hands command the things they touch. I’ve never seen a person work so finely with buckets of garbage water or carry a barbecue lighter more gently into the breathing gas. I don’t know which: to see or to be seen by you, delights the evening crowds the most. Even in your contempt you’re golden letting us go with a smile I know is a smirk although a smirk would be enough; a smile being enough for hope and hope itself being a kind of smirk. And when you give me back my change, drop two warm coins into my palm, your hand, though it retreats from mine, drags its cool shadow down my arm.



F I C T I O N by Isobel Cunningham



i, Honey! Oh, Granny is so glad to Lying? Of course not. How could we have see you. I hardly ever get a chance known we’d get divorced? to baby-sit now that Nanna lives I know Nanna always tells you that you with you guys. I can’t compete should keep your promises . . . and not tell with her! lies. Yes, she’s quite right. Oh, my. Look how you’ve grown. You’re a It’s hard to judge though when you’re just a big girl now, five years old already! C’mon young girl. What’s that? Your Nana says you in, Granny has oatmeal cookies and milky shouldn’t judge other people? Well, that’s tea just like the other time. Only don’t tell easy for her to say. Her husband died young Mummy or you’ll never be allowed back! Just before he had a chance to go off the rails, kidding, darling . . . wave bye-bye to Mummy poor guy. You see, there is such a thing as in the car. “Good Judgement,” and Granny didn’t have Yes, Granny’s been decluttering— any of that when she married Grandpa. throwing out old pictures and books and Yes, we do all look nice, all dressed up and things. What, this big white book? That’s smiling. Except this old man? You’re right, he Granny’s wedding album. Pictures of the does look a little grouchy. That’s my Daddy, day Granny got married to Grandpa. No, your great grandfather. He was pretty mad Grandpa doesn’t live with Granny any more. that day. He had to pay for a big party for It’s a wedding, you know, the day people the wedding and he didn’t like Grandpa very get married. Marriage. Do you know what much. that is? Well, maybe you don’t. So, why did he pay? Well, I guess he You’ve seen people riding around in big wanted to please me and my mom, to make cars in the summer in white dresses or in a us happy. No, I wouldn’t say he was a people horse and carriage like last summer when pleaser. I know, Nanna says you shouldn’t be my neighbors finally got that lowlife to a people pleaser. marry their youngest . . . well, never mind. That man in the long dress is the priest. So, these are Granny’s pictures. From the I’m sure you don’t know any men in long olden days! D’you want to have a look? dresses like that. Your Nanna’s a Baptist, and Wait, Granny will just pour the tea and they don’t go in for that, and I doubt your get the cookies and we’ll look together, OK? mother and that man of hers—yes, dear, Why do people get married, honey? Well, Barry—have set foot in a church in twenty they love each other and want to promise years. in front of everybody that they’ll keep on That’s the priest blessing us. I don’t really loving each other, and stay together, and know what that means, dear but he made a share everything and raise a family. It’s a sign of the cross like this over us. No, you lovely day. It was a lovely sunny day for us, I don’t need to make that sign at home...well, remember. yes, maybe over the cat. That would be Well, no, Granny and Grandpa didn’t stay alright. together for our whole lives, darling. Ten We went to church because it was the years was quite enough. most important day of our lives. Not any



more, only at Christmas and Easter. I go for the music. Look! This picture shows the whole family. Nice, eh? People always come together for a wedding. That’s my older brother, James. Oh, I haven’t seen him for years. He took all your great grandfather’s money when he died, and didn’t give one red cent to me, his only sister, so we had a big fight and I haven’t seen him since. Yes, I know I tell you not to fight with your brother. This was very important though, he —oh, well never mind. Have another cookie and we’ll turn over the page. Oh, there I am with my long veil and the train on my dress all spread out. You know, that was my grandmother’s dress. That’s why it has long sleeves and doesn’t look like a bathing suit or a chorus girl’s outfit, like the wedding dresses the brides wear these days. Maybe one day you’ll wear it at your wedding. Would you like that? It’s a tradition in our family. Even your mother wore it once. I have to admit it hasn’t brought much luck the last couple of times it was worn, but maybe if you carry on the tradition - what’s a tradition? Well, it’s something we do over and over again. We like doing it, and it feels comfortable. No, dear, not like biting your nails. That’s not a tradition. Here we’re putting on the rings. Yes, I have mine somewhere in my jewelry box. You have to make your promises when you put them on in the ceremony. To love, honor and obey. That’s what I had to promise. They told you what to promise in those days. You couldn’t make it all up yourself. No, only the last part was really hard. I did love Grandpa and honored him like any other human being, but as for obeying some of the nonsense that came out of his mouth, well, really honey, there are limits. You’ll find that out as you get older. I guess it is a silly idea if you think about it. Marriage! After all, imagine making promises about things you can’t be sure of. Is there anything I’m sure about, honey? Not many things, not anymore, but there are still a few. I know I’ll always have milky tea,

oatmeal cookies and love waiting for you. Let’s put this old book away now. I think I’d like to paint a picture this morning. How about you? You can take it home to Nanna if you want, and she can do a critique. What’s a critique? Questions, questions! Go get the paint box.

P O E T R Y by Ezelbahar Metin

SITTING GIRL I am the sitting girl Of the house of bricks I only drink the cosmos on my stairs I am the sitting girl Friends with a couple of saints I only breathe what my heart paints I am the sitting girl I come in peace or pieces I only touch you if the queen pleases I am the sitting girl Have no name that anyone speaks I only come from in between places I am the sitting girl Seen every night on the stairs I sip the stars one by one To the sorrow of none other than mine You may forget me if you wish People of the house of bricks But forget me not the king of saints Only you can stop my sips



F I C T I O N by Mark Towse



here is an evil to him that goes beyond the worst I have read in books or seen in movies—an evil far more threatening than the shadowy figures I bring to life in my stories. The moments when I catch his eye make my skin prickle and my body shudder. It feels like he is running his fingers up and down my spine, and the coldness lingers deep inside me for hours afterward. My fascination with dark fiction exposes me to all sorts of menace, but nothing ever comes close to the Man that only I can see. I was ten when the visions first started, and, as I got older, they gradually became more frequent. I am thirteen now, and, until the last week, I have been seeing him almost every day. In the beginning, he appeared as a blurry shadow out of the corner of my eye, but each day his presence has become more defined and lingers a little bit longer. I have seen him outside of the house, too. He’s at school, the supermarket, the park . . . everywhere. The same taunting smile greets me every time. He is always wearing the long dark leather trench coat that completes his ominous Manifestation. Upon first glance, there is a handsomeness to him: pitch black hair, matching stubble, sharp features, a strong chin, crystal blue eyes that suggest purity. When he fixes you in his cold gaze and smiles, an innate ugliness consumes him. His eyes turn black and any humanity fades. It is more than a look of disdain, as though it is causing him pain not to reach inside your chest and rip your heart out. His smell is overpowering and lingers for hours after he visits—rotting meat doused with cheap aftershave. I live in fear. At bedtime, I don’t let myself relax,

afraid that he might materialize from the darkness. My body lies rigid, eyes fixed on the corner of the room where the moonlight doesn’t reach, and I lay there praying for him not to appear. Eventually, I fall asleep, but sometimes he steps out from behind the closet and I run screaming into my mum’s room. The sound of his taunting laughter is not far behind. My mum says it’s just a phase, like having an invisible friend, but she’s looked more than a little concerned of late. The interrupted nights and worry for me have depleted her to the point of exhaustion, and I feel guilty for that. In a desperate attempt, she took me to see a psychiatrist a few weeks ago; a middleaged lady called Doctor Roper. But, as expected, the Man appeared in the session. At one point he stood behind the doctor with his hands around her neck, mimicking strangulation. I was too scared to speak. “Tom, take a lollipop and go and sit in reception for a few minutes please,” Dr. Roper said. Five minutes later, my mum came out with smudged mascara and tears down her cheeks. I love her. I know she must have been through so much after dad died, but that was so long ago now. It still feels like a dark cloud hovers over our lives. There have been a couple of men in her life over the years. Brian was the coolest, and I hoped he might become part of our family, someone I could perhaps call dad. Towards the end of their relationship, she started treating him badly and kept pushing him away. Eventually, he never came back. Mum pretends to be strong, but I know it’s just an act. Sometimes I hear her crying



in her room. I want to comfort her, but I don’t know what to say. If she is having a particularly bad week, I bring her breakfast in bed. She doesn’t even care when I burn the bacon. I want to see her smile more often. It makes me feel warm inside when she does, but all I seem to do is worry her. I often wonder what happened to my dad? How he died? I didn’t know him, and mum hasn’t told me much. If I even mention him, she shuts down. It doesn’t seem fair, but I don’t want to cause any more distress than I already have. My episodes with the Man have put extra pressure on us. I try not to bother her with it, but his presence has felt more malignant of late, and that terrifies me. Last week when I sat at the kitchen table with my mum. He bent over and whispered in my ear that he was going to kill her and take her head back to hell as a trophy. It’s hard to tell what’s real or not anymore. Days have passed since that threat, with no sign of him. I try to convince myself that it was just a silly phase after all—a figment of my over-active imagination. Either way, the house is different without his presence, and things seem to be returning to normal. Last night I slept through for the first time in ages. Mum looks a lot less tired too. Now, as I lay in bed, I am thinking about new characters for my next story. I even contemplate writing one about the Man that has been tormenting me, perhaps as a form of closure. That might be a bad idea, especially after the last few times. I get so engrossed in my stories that it feels as though the monsters might suddenly jump off the page. Sometimes I can smell them, and if I really concentrate, I can hear their low guttural growls as if they are with me. During my last story, I even thought that I heard footsteps approaching from behind, and I got so scared that I had to throw the pen down. I wondered if it is all just in my head, but that day I swore I felt hot air on the back of my neck. That’s how I know I am getting better at it. As I am about to close my eyes, a scream

rattles through the house. It’s unlike any of the movie screams I have heard before; this one is more of a howl, raw and pained, bloodcurdling. I jump out of bed and rush down the hallway into my mum’s room. The Man turns to look at me as I enter. He is straddling her on the bed with his hands wrapped around her neck. He smiles that signature smile, unveiling his perfect white teeth that only serve to emphasize the darkness of his eyes. He begins to howl with obvious pleasure, removing one hand temporarily to beat his chest in celebration. I feel as though I might pass out and I lose all feeling in my legs. Frozen in place, all I can do is listen to my mum’s croaks as he continues to choke her, her hands f lailing in front of his face. She’s beginning to look like a blueberry. Eventually, the room stops spinning and the dream-like sequence becomes all too real. “It’s been a long time coming, child!” The Man screams. I feel the warmth spread across the front of my pants and I know he sees it too. “You’re next, piss stick.” The mocking laughter that follows f licks a switch inside, and my anger erupts. I close my eyes, and with the darkness serving as a suitable blank canvas, my imagination beings to paint the worst. The fear has left now. My body trembles with hatred instead, and it fuels my creativity. Soon the spine-chilling cries begin as the first few creatures take form in the temporary dungeon I have created. They are frenzied and starved, and there are sounds of tearing f lesh as they begin to feed on each other. Bloody saliva pours from mouths filled with razor-sharp teeth. As I begin to unlock their makeshift cages, the monsters roar and scream with anticipation; yet, they still feel twodimensional—fine for my stories, but not good enough to save my mum. I will only have one shot at this. I need this creature to live, breathe, and feel. It must be authentic enough to be brought to life in this room. It

needs desire; to be ravenous for murder and the accolade of most evil. With my eyes still closed, I refocus. This is my last chance. I NEED to save her. Then I am there, back in the darkness, but this is a new place—one I haven’t been before. There is a putrid smell of death here so strong it makes me want to gag. In the middle of the drab concrete f loor, a dark green pool of viscous liquid angrily fizzes and bubbles away. And then the first green vine slowly breaks the surface and begins to dance erratically, as though feeling out its surroundings. It feels much more real this time. I am its creator, and I have given it life and purpose. “I demand your presence here with me!” I scream. Before long, I hear raspy breathing in front of me, and the pungent smell of rotting vegetation fills my nostrils. The creature is born. I hear a weak groan from the bed. Mum. I almost lose focus but keep my eyes shut tight and add the finishing touches to my creation. Its green scaly exterior is fortified by hundreds of tendrils that are capable of latching onto their prey and holding them until there is no longer a need. The head is dark green and crowned with two large hornshaped rocks. Its eyes are as black as coal and sit slightly above its oversized snout. Its nostrils searching the air for its first meal. The elongated mouth opens to reveal layers of razor-sharp teeth, and its tongue drips with the green substance that hisses as it lands on the wooden f loor below. I open my eyes and watch the Man release his grip around my mum’s neck. He commands the creature to leave, announcing he is already doing the dark work. For a moment, I doubt myself and feel my legs start to go once again. The creature starts to fade, and the Man laughs and places his hands back around her neck. I brief ly think that it might be too late. “This is your fault, child!” I stare at the scene with mouth wide open. My concentration has gone and with it my creature.

“She killed me, child - put a knife straight through my chest.” He says this as he opens his trench coat, exposing the two-inch wound. “She killed your daddy, but I’m back now, and I’m going to take care of you both.” I close my eyes again, and my mind explodes with confusion and rage. Soon the creature is back, but even more desperate and hungry. The roar is fiercer and more intentional this time. Its only sustenance so far has been the evil that I fed it, but it is present now in our world and with all the smells and temptations of fresh human f lesh. The creature quivers as though it is all too much, and the tendrils start to dance in the air like kite strings. Finally, they start to work together and slowly pierce through the air towards the Man. He releases his grip and there is another plea for the creature to back down, but it doesn’t help him this time. The creature has fully crossed over. The tendrils hover a few inches from his face, and although he manages to knock a few away, they keep on coming. The first few launch their attack, coiling around his neck like serpents, and the scream that follows is satisfyingly human. Slowly, they slither upwards leaving a sticky trail on his skin, and then the first one enters his open mouth. I see it visibly snake its way down his throat. Others follow, and soon the Man is clawing at his neck and gasping for breath. The ones not already in his mouth twist and writhe around his body in excitement and soon he is cocooned and incapable of movement. As I finally open my eyes not wanting to miss the moment, I see the tendril’s hoist the Man’s heart from his mouth. The lifeless body falls to the bed, and once again the eyes fix on me. There isn’t a smile this time though, just a lifeless pose and an unnaturally swollen neck. The creature roars once more and begins to feast on the heart. I look towards the blood-painted face of my mum, unable to do anything but watch as my creation continues to dine on its prize. I can see she is starting to take in strained mouthfuls of air. In only a few moments, the



Man is stripped of most of his f lesh and his intestines lie glistening on the bed next to him. Once done, the creature begins to sniff the air again, ready for its next meal. “Mum!” The creature turns to look at me and bares its f lesh covered teeth as it sends its tendrils towards me. I close my eyes again and vision the beast back to the place it came from, but it is strong and is not going without a fight. I feel one of the tendrils slide against my cheek, and then dampness around my neck as others begin to slither their way around me. The pressure around my throat begins, and as I begin to struggle for air, I hear the creature move in towards me. It doesn’t want to be locked away again. It has a taste for f lesh now. All at once, I unleash the other monsters from their cages, but this time they feel even more real as though I have taken them to the next level. This is getting easier. The green tendrils work astonishingly fast, pinning them against the wall and ripping them to shreds one by one. There are limbs and heads f lying everywhere, accompanied by an orchestra of vicious snarls and pained whimpers. Then I bring a strategy to the savagery, and I begin to f lank it from the left with my earlier creations. While it is busy making light work of them, my latest and worst rush in from the right. After a monumental struggle, they eventually manage to bring it down and drag it into its newly formed iron cage. The heavy gate falls behind it. Finally, I open my eyes. Evil has left the room. I run to my mum. She is in pain, but at least she is breathing. Her voice is hoarse, and there are red marks around her neck, but we hold each other tight in the knowledge we are lucky to be alive. As she begins to recover, she tells me she has been seeing him too. Doctor Roper told her that it was just the guilt resurfacing - her brain playing tricks and projecting a physical manifestation of her inner turmoil. “It wasn’t guilt,” she says. “I would do the same thing over again. Black and blue he used to beat me. That wasn’t the worst of it.”

She goes on to explain that if she tried to resist, he’d threatened to hurt the child. That is what he used to call me apparently, the child—not son. “Something snapped inside him when he found out he was going to be a father. I refused to get an abortion, and that’s when it all started. He didn’t want to share me and punished me for loving you so much. We weren’t even allowed to leave the house. He said he would kill us both if I ever tried. One afternoon, I walked into your bedroom and found him holding a pillow over your head. That same night, I killed him. I took the largest knife I could find in the drawer and plunged it into his chest. . . and I am not sorry for that. He was an evil and manipulative bastard.” I guess he even bargained with the devil for a chance at vengeance. The bruises and cuts plastered all over her body were enough to convince authorities that it was self-defense. I finally have my answers. I understand now what made him so terrifying. This character was not a fabrication in a story. He was real—once human but with a soul tarnished by evil. His hate had continued to build even after death and was strong enough to bring him back into our lives. I hope we have seen the last of him, but if he does return, I will be ready for him. Evil lurks in the tunnels of my mind, too.

P O E T R Y by Yuan Changming

SONNET FRAGMENTS Infinitival Infinities To be Or not to be

a matter when there’s no question a question when nothing really matters

To sing with a frog squatting straight On a lotus leaf in the Honghu Lake near Jingzhou To recollect all the pasts and mix them Together like a glass of cocktail To build a nest of meaning Between two broken branches on Ygdrasil To strive for deity Longevity and Even happiness To come

on and off line every other while

To compress consciousness into a file and upload it Onto a microchip

To be

daying to



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