'D-Day The Divorce Hearing'

16 July, 2017rodster385Comments (0)


The judge slammed his gavel sharply and yelled, "I hereby sentence you to fifty years with no possibility of parole!"
I awoke with a start, my body wringing with sweat, staring into the darkness at the alarm clock. Today was D-Day...the day my divorce would become final...
I am and for the most part, have always been a law abiding citizen. However, a few years ago, I found myself fighting to keep myself out of jail. It's a story I will tell in depth someday, but a local justice of the peace determined that I had broken into my own house and was hell-bent to have me jailed for breaking and entering. The incident escalated to the point of my being detained at the Sheriff's Department, having my rights read to me, and after stepping over to close the door of the interrogation room, the sheriff placed his hand on my shoulder and said,
"Boy, go get you a lawyer. I don't know what you did to piss the JP off, but he intends to see to it you get jail time."
That's when I met my lawyer that I had hired to see me through this divorce at hand. He had made the 'breaking and entering' fiasco go away with one simple phone call to the JP, and when I tried to pay him, he waved his hand and said, "No charge." Wow, what a lawyer...get me off and for free! So it was a no brainer that I'd chose him for my divorce, which wasn't free, I might mention.
I arrived at the courthouse twenty minutes early and made my way to the third-floor hall just outside the courtroom where I would become a free man. I sat nervously in a chair in the narrow hallway for an hour or two...it was actually ten minutes...before my lawyer came up the stairs and wandered by me, peeking into the courtroom.
"Looking for me?"
He turned around and laughed, "You clean up pretty good...didn't recognize you! Wonder where the other party is?"
"Oh, my wife? Pretty sure she's not coming to the divorce hearing. Probably passed out drunk by now."
My lawyer glanced at his watch, "It's ten in the morning!"
"Yeah, that's why I'm here," I said nonchalantly.
I laughed nervously and shook his hand, then fiddled with my tie and buttoned my suit coat. We made our way into the empty courtroom and sat for another hour...ten minutes later...the bailiff entered, followed by a frumpy little lady. An attractive woman wearing a fine fitting blue dress, mid-forties, I guessed, came in carrying a laptop and sat at the far end of the judge's bench. The bailiff stepped out and closed the door, then fifteen seconds later, opened the door and announced,
"All rise!"
The judge, a god of our society, stepped in and took his place at his throne. He motioned for my lawyer and me to take our places. We stepped into the glaring imaginary spotlight before the judge and the lawyer muttered under his breath,
"Go take the stand."
I froze in the spotlight before the judge...take the what?
He rolled his eyes and said, "Go up there and sit in that chair by the judge."
I took my seat. The judge looked over at me and said, "Raise your right hand."
Ok, I thought, don't mess this up...righty-tighty, lefty-loosey...no that didn't help. Amazingly, my primal instinct kicked in and I raised the right hand. After saying, "I do," (that's what got me in this courtroom) my lawyer began shooting questions at me. "Is your name..." "Are you a legal resident..." and at least twenty more questions. He didn't warn me there would be a test. I answered to the best of my knowledge and apparently passed. The judge leafed through the documents before him.
My gaze focused on the attractive woman sitting on the other side of him, an angel of the god of society. Blonde hair, not one out of place...perfect complexion...the bluest eyes...our eyes met and as she stared into mine, hers became sad. It was as if I could read her mind. She had sat in this very chair at one time. She knew what I was going through and she felt sorry for me. I felt a sparkle light up in my eye...Give me a bottle of wine and an hour in the hot tub with her...oops, she read that. She blushed and looked down at her laptop.
The judge, eventually satisfied the paperwork was in order, declared me a free man. I watched intently as he rose from behind his bench, the blue-eyed angel obediently following him from the courtroom, her laptop tucked under her arm. I paused in the hallway and shook my lawyer's hand.
"See ya next time around!"
He gave me a puzzled looked and I laughed, "I'm sure I'll find something to get into that you can get me out of."
I skipped down the three flights of stairs pondering what I could do to get back into that courtroom. The woman with the laptop had captured my heart right there in the middle of my own divorce hearing.
I stepped out into the bright sunlight a free man. Walking down the sidewalk toward my pickup, I paused and glanced up toward the third story of the courthouse. There in the window stood the woman in the blue dress, her laptop still securely tucked beneath her arm.
'Looking at me?' I wondered as I climbed into my truck. Well, of course she was, I reasoned, glancing around. I certainly didn't see any other suddenly single men loitering around the courthouse square.
"Life...here I come and I'm looking for adventure!" I said out loud as I shot one more glance toward that third story window, "And her. I'm looking for her!"



'Into The Wind'

09 July, 2017rodster385Comments (0)


(Continued from last week's story)
"It's such a beautiful night! A perfect night for a bottle of wine and a hot tub!"
Folks, it just slipped out without thinking...
"I have a hot tub and I'm pretty sure there's a bottle of Boones Farm still in the fridge."
Her eyes met mine and I saw a look that I'd not seen in many years.
"Cool! Okay...I'm in!"
My mouth gaped open as I stood there in the dim light of the parking lot, a stupified look on my face.
"You'd seriously go home with me? You'd throw caution to the wind and take off with some man twenty years older than you in the middle of the night? You'd get in my hot tub? You know what hot tubs lead to?"
She giggled. Her hazel eyes seemed to dance in the neon light as she pursed her lips before replying.
"First off, I am not some easy pickup. But yes, I would totally go home with you. I would get naked and get in your hot tub and drink wine with you until the sun came up. As for anything else, I don't know. So, if you think sex is on the menu..."
She shrugged her shoulders and smiled, lowering her head as if she had embarrassed herself.
A million thoughts whirled through my mind. This wasn't what I came searching for tonight. Not some one night stand, a hook-up, a quickie, or a friend with benefits. Although, my male hormones raged out of control at the prospect of having this beautiful young woman in my hot tub, a healthy dose of common sense stood in my way. If I didn't follow through with this, I'd surely regret it the rest of my life. The seconds ticked by as we stood in silence, her gaze intently focused on my face as if she were trying to read my mind.
I cleared my throat and spoke, "Listen, sweetie, I am beyond flattered. I mean, this is like a historical moment...really. But I really was just joking about the hot tub."
Her eyes widened, "You don't really have a hot tub?"
"Yes, I have one and I have some wine, too. It's not really Boones Farm. Something someone gave me around Christmas...probably pretty good stuff, actually. But I never thought for a minute you'd really get in my hot tub."
I stared at the ground for a moment then leaned against the hood of the car next to her.
"I'm going to do you a big favor and walk over to my pickup and drive away. I have enjoyed this evening with you more than you will ever know. But you don't need to spend another minute with some old goat like me. You, my little friend, deserve a fine young lawyer or some up and coming doctor. A dashing young cowboy or a handsome, studly, preppy type...that's what's waiting for you. I'll not get in the way of that."
I smiled and winked at her. She laid her head against my shoulder and sighed.
"It was a good night. You are a good man, I can feel it and I sort of admire you for turning me down."
She fumbled in her purse for a pen and scratch paper.
"Call me when you want to dance again?"
I grinned as I slipped the phone number into my shirt pocket. Our eyes met and she took my arm and pulled me toward her, kissing me softly on the cheek.
"Thanks for the dances," I whispered and tipped the brim of my hat, turning on my heel and vanishing into the darkness.
As I drove through the night toward my humble little ranch house, my mind spun out of control. Regret it? I'm sure I would until my last breath. But I was on a mission, a mission to find the perfect woman, at least for me. Perfect as this girl seemed to be, she had her whole life ahead of her...kids, a house in the suburbs, a husband to cater to. Me, I already had the thoughts of retirement scurrying through my head. We were generations apart.
But this girl...this night had given me renewed hope. Perhaps I wasn't just some old, washed up wannabe Saturday night cowboy. Maybe, just maybe, I still had it in me. Perhaps there was some woman out there searching for a guy just like me. I'd chalk this night up as a great adventure, the first of many yet to come.
As the yellow stripes flashed by in the headlights of my pickup, I reached for the scratch paper in my pocket. Clenching it tightly between my fingers, I stared at the dainty handwriting in the glow of my dash lights. Rolling the window down, with a heavy heart I extended my arm into the wind...and let it go.

'That's When It Hit Me'

04 July, 2017rodster385Comments (0)


Continued from last week's story

As I moved slowly across the dark parking lot, I was aware of a raging battle in my mind. I dearly wanted to turn around, get back in my pickup, and drive the forty miles back home. I had no doubt I was wasting my time being here. As the heavy wooden doors loomed before me, I raised my gaze to the neon sign above them. I'd not been inside this place in over seven years. I paused and wiped the palms of my hands on freshly starched Wranglers.
'Okay,' I thought to myself, 'this is just like the senior play. Everyone behind those doors is the audience and I'm just here to put on the show. An actor playing a part...remember, I am not me tonight, I am him. I am this character, this old Rusty Goat...I am the man I used to be.'
As loud country music deafened my thoughts, I meandered to a brightly lit bar at the far end of a dance floor. Ordering a Coors Light, my eyes darted around the dimly lit room. Same old barflies, I commented to myself. And the same old losers decked out in their wannabe Saturday night cowboy garb still making a play for them after all these years. I sighed as it dawned on me that I had now joined their ranks. Just a wannabe Saturday night cowboy loser. I shook my head. No, I could be better than that. I would be better than that. I'd prove it to them...I'd prove it to myself.
I settled in at a table in the furthest, darkest corner of the bar, sipping slowly on my beer and began surveying my possibilities. It was fairly early and the pickings were slim. I knew the place would liven up in an hour or so and I found myself content to partake in one of my most favorite pastimes...people watching. I'd make mental notes of where each single woman was sitting for reference once the urge finally hit me to make a move. As my eyes scanned the room, I became aware that there were others doing their own people watching. An older woman at a table to my left stared intently in my direction and there was a table crowded with several women who perhaps had escaped from a rest home just within my peripheral vision. The women shamelessly pointed in my direction as they downed voluminous amounts of alcohol. It had come to this. My heart sank as I realized I'd spend this night dancing with old ladies who reeked of baby powder! I should go home now, I thought. Then my eyes focused on a table across the room. No, I should...
"Dance with me?"
She obediently took my hand and followed me out to the dance floor.
Folks, I got that little girl out under the dance floor lights and realized I was living beyond my means. She was young, barely thirty, and beautiful. She had a sparkle in her eyes you don't see in the gals that have been down the road. Her skin was perfect, unblemished, and youthful. I took her tiny hand in mine and it made my stomach quiver. She was an angel. We danced three dances and, knowing I would be pushing my luck to ask for one more, walked her to her table. We got to her corner of the bar and saw that a group had taken the table. She just stood there with a puzzled look on her face. I knew there would be no more empty tables and offered to let her sit with me. Once we had worked our way through the crowd back to my corner table, we began chatting. She was, as I guessed, barely thirty...I was, as she guessed, about as old as her dad. We both laughed and agreed that we would just have to make the best of this night being stuck with each other.
It was perhaps an hour later, after non-stop conversation, that I realized this girl was the absolute perfect woman...except she was sooo young. We hit the dance floor and two stepped, then three stepped, she struggled momentarily with a waltz then picked it up like a pro. The rock music came on and she dragged me out to rock 'n roll. I line danced for the first time since 1980 something, with her behind me gently tugging my shirt to the left when I needed to move left, and right when I needed to move right. By midnight, she had taken twenty years off my age. I felt like a kid again, laughing and giggling.
Perspiration streamed down my face as the final chord of 'Boot Scooting Boogie' sounded.
"Let's step outside and cool off!" I suggested and my dancing partner placed her hand in mine and followed me out the door.
"I've had such a wonderful time tonight." she squealed as she scooted her tiny hiney onto the hood of a random car in the dimly lit parking lot, "You are such a great dancer!"
"Well, I'm actually pretty rusty. I've been dancing with a broom in the kitchen for months!"
She laughed and turned her head upward toward the night sky.
"It's such a beautiful night! A perfect night for a bottle of wine and a hot tub!"
Folks, it just slipped out without thinking...
"I have a hot tub and I'm pretty sure there's a bottle of Boones Farm still in the fridge."
Her eyes met mine and I saw a look that I'd not seen in many years.
"Cool! Okay...I'm in!"
And that's when it hit me... (This story continues next week!)

The Rusty Goat ~ 'In The Beginning'

26 June, 2017rodster385Comments (0)


Author's note: In my last two posts I set the stage for the beginning of a series of stories I wrote back in the early days of the Rusty Goat. With the following story, I divulge exactly how this character we affectionately call the 'Rusty Goat' got his name.  I like to call it 'Classic Rusty Goat.'  Enjoy!

I watched as the U-haul drove down the dirt road, turned onto the highway and disappeared out of sight. The truck carried my wife of seven years, her utterly worthless twenty-eight-year-old son who had never left home until now, and most everything I had ever owned. I sighed a sigh of relief...she was finally gone. Hell, it had taken me twice as long to get rid of her than it did to get her five years ago. I paused and took an assessment of my mental and emotional state...nope, nothing...I was just fine for the first time in a very long time. I turned my head toward the heavens and pointed a finger to the sky and said in a loud voice,
"Alright..I can't pick 'em! You pick the next one!"
I stayed busy the next couple of months...ridding the house of all traces of the woman and her son, learning to cook, do laundry and such. I learned useful things such as...a dryer has a lint filter, a roast doesn't cook in thirty minutes, hamburger helper tastes better if you follow the instructions. I planted a vegetable garden, tended to the flower beds, and washed the curtains which seemed to be somewhat shorter afterward.
I patiently waited for God to send me a woman all the while. When a knock finally came on the door, I scampered eagerly to open it only to discover the ugliest old woman I had ever laid eyes on. I said a silent, quick prayer that she wasn't the one God had picked for me, and let out a sigh of relief when she handed me a package from the post office. "Wouldn't fit in your mailbox. I had to bring it all the way up here," she snarled in her deep baritone voice. I closed the door and it hit me that she had been my only visitor in two months...I was beginning to get lonely.
The nights were long, the silence was deafening. I began to feel myself slipping into a depression. I had never intended to be alone at this age. I would look in the mirror...the wrinkles, the receding hairline...just a lonely fifty-something-year-old man way past his prime that, I was quite sure...no woman would want. My attitude toward life sucked...and I didn't like it. I wasn't a quitter, I told myself and made a decision that life must go on...and wasn't nobody going to change my life but me. I decided that I was going to be happy even if it meant being alone the rest of my life.
I found myself sneaking out onto the patio after dark, turning on a George Strait CD, and dancing all by myself. If I got the urge to dance in the daylight, I'd just dance by myself in the kitchen. I began to get the urge to dance with someone other than myself...the thought of venturing out terrified me. I bought wrinkle cream and Rogaine down at the Walmart...dyed my hair...started digging out my good dancing clothes from the back of the closet. I reckoned that it wouldn't hurt if I went out and did a little window shopping while I was waiting on God to find me a woman.
It happened one Saturday afternoon. I made up my mind that I would run up to the city that night, walk into the bar, and try to get up the courage to ask some woman to dance. Maybe there would be a few really old ladies there, I reasoned. I stared in the mirror and felt the fear in my heart...damn! I'm just an old man, a foolish old goat...who the hell am I fooling. I walked to the closet and reached up to the top shelf and found it...a black hat that hadn't been worn in many years. It had been given to me by an old friend years ago. He had told me it was given to him as a Christmas present and that it never fit him just right. Then he told me a story.
He said he had just wandered through the first half of his life searching for his identity...just never seemed to know exactly who he was or what he was supposed to be. Then one day he stopped outside a western store and stared at the cowboy hats displayed in the window...he stared at them for a long time, then went inside and bought one. He told me that the moment he put that hat on his head he knew who he was supposed to be. It gave him the confidence he had been seeking all his life. I thought about all the years I had known this old cowboy and couldn't ever remember seeing him without his big cowboy hat. I felt a tear in the corner of my eye as I brushed the dust off the old black hat with my hand.
I stood before the mirror again, the hat in my hand.
'Ok,' I thought, 'Maybe the old goat in the mirror can't pull himself together enough to get back out there...he's so, so rusty at this.'
I placed the hat on my head, adjusted it ever so slightly pulling it down low on my brow.
'Now,' I thought to myself, 'where's that little grin that use to get the girls' attention way back in high school?'
There it was...spreading across my face as I felt the excitement flow through my body.
I spoke out loud, "Hell, you ain't nothing but an old Rusty Goat...I think we can do this!"
I turned on my heel and made my way towards the door...and the ol' Rusty Goat headed out in search of his first big adventure!

'Memories of a Man I Used to Be'

18 June, 2017rodster385Comments (0)


I was old. Just a washed up, over-the-hill, fifty-year-old guy who had suddenly found himself single. That's right about where we left off on this story last week. It occurs to me frequently that many who land on this page find themselves puzzled by the title 'The Rusty Goat.' Obviously, there are no goats, so why? I'll enlighten you on that with next week's story, but right now I'd like to give you a behind the scenes glance of how I came to write these frivolous stories.
I never saw myself as a writer...still don't really. I showed some promise way back in high school, landing the job as editor of the high school paper. I went on to participate in UIL Journalism events and as luck would have it, wound up at the state finals, capturing second place in news writing and third in feature writing. But after high school I let it all go and never wrote again...until, well, it went like this.
With my ego and self-esteem crushed beyond repair, I set out to find some simile that might pass as a happy life of solitude. That didn't go well and after a few months, I began toying with the notion of getting back out in the real world. Time and time again I struggled to muster up the courage to step out into the world of dating and failed miserably each time. I searched for an answer as to why. Yes, I was old. The wrinkles around my eyes confirmed it every time I looked in the mirror. But I had accepted the fact that if I ever did manage to force myself out of the safety of my home, it would be women my age who had their own wrinkles I'd be focusing my attention on. It was more than that. I had settled into a life of complacency during those seven years of marriage. Not bliss or happiness...complacency. I had been a good, dutiful husband. I was a dedicated father to a child who came to visit every other weekend. I was a farmer of sorts with a pecan orchard and the best herd of goats in west Texas. I had a house bought and paid for and never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from. The upheaval that came with the divorce had shattered my complacency and my competence in myself.
I can recall sitting alone in a darkened house Saturday night after Saturday night, fully aware of the fear that flowed through my body...fear that this was all there ever would be for me. It was the weekends that brought me down. I had my routine throughout the week to pull me through. But I came to dread the weekends, floundering all alone in an empty house, the echoes of silence haunting me. Thoughts of once upon a time screamed in my mind...a once upon a time that gave promise and hope of a 'normal' life that we all dreamed about in our younger years.
The memories that taunted me the most on those horrid Saturday nights were those of a time not so long ago. Before the seven-year marriage...the seven-year nightmare, there was a time when I was not the man I now found myself to be. Pictures flashed through my mind of a man in a black hat beneath the neon lights, some random woman in his arms swaying to the music on a dance floor. Those were the years of adventure. A man in his early forties who could turn the heads of many a thirty-something-year-old woman. Oh, those memories of a man I used to be. Where had he gone?
In a desperate attempt to cling to my sanity on those lonely Saturday nights, I would replay the memories over and over in my mind. I envisioned the night I met Psycho Sherry and smiled...something that I found myself unable to do much anymore. I recalled the times with the married school teacher who forgot to mention she was married. My mind pondered the woman who has inherited an oil company...what was I thinking when I let her get away. Oh yes...I remember. And the bank teller named Jenny. We met on the dance floor and dirty danced one night. It was the following Saturday night that...well, I might have to tell that story later. Oh, the gorgeous little Hispanic girl that I never dreamed I'd ever had a chance with...that ended when I met the preacher's wife. Now the preacher's wife...five stars, buddy! Crazy as a loon, too! And there were so many more.
One Saturday night I sat down with the laptop and a beer. I hadn't written anything in years, yet I had an overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to put those stories on paper. I never had any intention of sharing any of them with a single soul. As my fingers tapped the keyboard into the wee hours of the morning, I found myself smiling, occasionally even laughing out loud. For the next three months, I would spend my Saturday nights retelling these memories to myself, saving each one in a special folder on my computer that no one one would ever stumble across. It was my therapy. Lord knows I needed therapy. As the weeks passed I found myself more and more contemplating taking that first step. But there was still that one stumbling block laying across my path. I was still old, in fact, six months older than when I first began having these crazy ideas of dating.
One Saturday afternoon I printed out all the stories I had written over the past three months. I sat down with a glass of sweet tea and began reading. I would read page after page, shaking my head. This man I read about, this wasn't me...certainly not the man I had become. This man who would step through the door of some country bar on a Saturday night decked out in a black cowboy hat and starched Wranglers was some sort of super-hero. He rescued damsels in distress, scooping them up in his strong arms, holding them tight, their bodies close, swaying to music beneath the neon lights. He would kiss them gently as the last song played and turn and walk out into the night, leaving them yearning for more. He held their hearts in the palm of his hand and though trying so hard no to, broke more hearts than he could count. The man I read about in those pages was a man on a mission...a mission to find the perfect woman. No, this man wasn't me but it was he I had to become if I were to succeed. As midnight came on that Saturday night, I carefully placed the stories in a safe hiding place and sat in the dark in deep thought.
Throughout these many pages of stories I had written stood one main character, one star, one hero. If there was ever to be a sequel to these adventures, I'd have to find someone to play the part. George Strait? Naw, not that spit and polish. Jeff Bridges? Too rough around the edges. And it was at that moment I discovered the answer I had been searching for. If I, Rodney Strange, an over-the-hill fifty-year-old man with zero self-confidence, couldn't do this on my own, I would just have to step up and play the part of the guy in my stories...an over-the-hill wannabe cowboy, and west Texas' most eligIble bachelor. And my mission? To find the perfect woman!

'What Brought This On'

11 June, 2017rodster385Comments (0)


"I want to get a divorce."
He stared over his horn-rimmed glasses from the leather chair behind the desk that separated us. Reaching for the silver pen in his shirt pocket, he pulled a legal pad from a drawer. With his silver pen poised mere inches from the yellow pad, he sighed and cleared his throat.
"Not with her, thankfully!" My face took on a faux look of horror.
"I have my stuff and she has hers. I pay my bills and she pays hers. I don't see a problem."
The attorney scribbled illegibly on the pad before him.
"I don't like her anymore."
"Incompatibility," he murmured as he noted my statement.
"What else do I need to know?" He again stared at me over his glasses.
"I just want a 'wham-bam. thank ya ma'am divorce. I just want her to go away."
He leaned back in his leather chair, fondling his silver pen between his fingers.
"Wham-bam divorces run around seven-fifty plus court costs. I'll need three hundred up front."
I pulled my checkbook from the back pocket of my Wranglers and accepted the pen he extended from across the desk.
"Oh, and it would be best if we can rush this through. I have a feeling she will lose her job in the near future and I'd like to be legally unresponsible for her bills."
"I don't see a problem once we clear the state mandated waiting period. I'll draw up the papers. Oh, one more thing...no chasing women until this divorce finalizes! We don't need complications."
I paused at the door, glancing over my shoulder, "I never intend to chase another woman as long as I live."
It was a statement I truly intended to live by at that moment. Nothing would be further from the truth.

I was three weeks away from my fiftieth birthday when the judge rapped his gavel and declared the divorce final. It had not been a decision made in haste. I was well aware that a man my age had no business being single. A fifty-year-old man should gleefully rise every morning, motivated by the prospect of retirement just down the road. He should be bouncing grandbabies on his knee. He should rub his fat, old man belly while stretched out in the recliner watching the nightly news. He should be patting his chubby, middle-aged wife on her round hiney after the lights go out at night.
I never intended to find myself where I found myself halfway through a century on this earth. But, after making a very bad mistake which had robbed me of seven years of my life, I saw no other choice. She had hidden the alcoholism for the first two years. By the seventh year, she was just one stumble away from becoming a non-functioning alcoholic. I had for all intent purposes been living alone anyway. She rarely made it past eight in the evening, perched on her end of a sofa, beer in hand, staring blankly at some TV show or another. Then, just like clockwork, around eight she'd just deflate like a blow-up doll, out for the night.

And so, I stepped out of that courthouse a free man. I really had no intentions of ever giving another woman any thought whatsoever. But loneliness plays a powerful mind game with its victim. I tried to shrug it off for several months. I'd adapt, I told myself. In fact, by that third month, I was talking to myself pretty regularly.
It was a hot afternoon in June that I stood in the middle of my back yard, arms folded across my chest.
"You know, we ought to put some fertilizer down...maybe some weed-and-feed," I spoke rather loudly.
My eyes grew wide as I ducked my head and responded, "Shhh! Not so loud! Someone might hear us!"
It was at that moment that it hit me. I really, really needed to get out more. Maybe find someone to talk to. Maybe a woman? The thought haunted me throughout the night and into the next day. I was old. Just a washed up, over-the-hill...and that's what brought all this on.

(To Be Continued)


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