The Kerchief

by Adam Strassberg

        Sir Bartholemew was named Knight First Class of the Holy Order. His life was dedicated to goodness, righteousness, virtue and the defeat of all evil. He and his companions campaigned throughout the overlands of Evergenea and battled deep into the underdark below.

        Together, they were the fellowship of the Light: the Elven Wizard J’Tan, the Dwarven priest Krag, and the Halfling thief Romley. They vanquished hordes of goblins and scattered tribes of orcs. They obliterated the undead minions of the necromancer, then decapitated the mage himself. They escaped traps, uncovered secret doorways, wandered maze-like passageways, solved enchanted puzzles, all as they explored the deserted dungeon of the dead wizard-king. The final tomb held a hidden entrance to the lair of the dragon Brisbone. There, he—Sir Bart himself—single handedly slew the mighty dragon and rescued the princess. His comrades were rewarded by a vast draconian hoard of treasures. For Sir Bartholemew, the only true treasures were honor, glory, and love for the princess.

        After her rescue and subsequent return to her father’s kingdom, Sir Bartholemew bowed before the princess and, upon her assent, kissed her ring. He then rose, whereupon the princess untied her very own kerchief, then wrapped it tightly around the tip of Sir Bart’s lance. With the maiden’s favor now bestowed upon him, Sir Bartholemew rode off into the sunset. The rest of the fellowship awaited his arrival at a tavern in the next village. Evil never rests and so neither could our heroes. More monsters to be defeated. More treasures to be found. More honor, glory, and love. Always more.

        And the best part is MORE experience points! thought Buffalo. With the XP bonanza from our last adventure, Sir Bartholemew finally hits level twelve. There are so many options to choose from now as he levels up. Should he take the extra attack proficiency with his lance or maybe add more bonus points to his healing powers? The ability score improvements alone will buff him into the OP zone. Wearing his new magic armor with his enchanted shield, and wielding his holy sword or blessed lance, Sir Bartholemew would now be unstoppably overpowered!

        Buffalo flipped through the tattered pages of his player’s handbook. He sat at a small desk in the school library. His worn backpack joined him on the seat opposite his own. It was extra-large, blue, and had a sweet smell from the candy bars he stuffed in the front pocket. The bag served him well; it not only held his textbooks and notebooks, but also his Dungeons and Dragons manuals, his comic books, and even his bulky bag of gaming dice. He propped the hardcover handbook up on the table, opened to the chapter on the rules for the paladin character class.

        Knights, called paladins in the game, were by far his favorite class to play. Why be a zero, when you can be the hero? He stuck to humans for his player race mostly due to their ability score buffs. He maxed out his strength and constitution to optimize his battle specs. But also he never enjoyed playing a dwarf, halfling or elf. In the real world, Buffalo was short enough and fat enough already. In the realm of Evergenea, however, he could be tall, muscular and athletic. He hated the reality of his brown hair, dark eyes, and ruddy complexion. In Evergenea, he was blond and blue-eyed, the white action hero of innumerable medieval movies. He scribbled new notes onto Sir Bart’s character sheet—writing, erasing, then rewriting and updating his stats—more hit points, attack bonuses, damage buffs, a higher armor class, an expanded inventory, and even extra modifiers to his base ability scores—all now due to hitting twelfth level. . . . He slowly turned the pages of his players handbook and savored rereading the many options. What new fighting styles should he choose? . . .

        A long slow moan arose from across the room in the empty library. It broke Buffalo’s trance. He lifted his eyes up, just above the edge of his game manual, and then peeked across the room. A girl with long curly blond hair was hunched over a desk—alternatively crying, scribbling something on a paper, sobbing, scratching, then crumpling up the paper into a small ball, next banging, uncrumpling it, tapping, and finally beginning the cycle all over again.

        Buffalo was surprised to see another student in the library. During eighth period, the main room was typically deserted. He had managed to get a coveted eighth period study hall on his schedule this semester. It was the last class period, and so on most days, he could leave school early and walk home to play video games. But on Mondays, during eighth period, he would linger in the library, read his comic books, and work on his character sheet for Gaming club, which met soon, after school on Mondays like today, in the library conference room nearby.

        Buffalo’s surprise turned to excitement, then concern. He gasped. It’s Jennifer. Right there, right in front of me. And she’s alone. And she’s crying.

        Jennifer was widely considered the most beautiful girl in school. She was the first in their grade to develop as a woman, over the last year filling out into an hourglass shape, with large breasts and a large bottom. His classmates thought her now some sort of goddess. This gave her all sorts of attention from all sorts of boys, and men, and other girls as well. For Buffalo, however, she was a much more personal Aphrodite, she was his crush from well before all this, since the first grade. He had no words for the attraction then, or now, as it was all ineffable to him. Lust, longing and desire were soft secrets then, having grown presently, with the girls around him, into much harder mysteries. He did not yet understand. The penis wants what the penis wants. And it, he, Buffalo wanted it, her, Jennifer.

        Buffalo closed his player’s handbook and stood up. He untucked his t-shirt and smoothed the edges down over his pants. This was a classic confidence building trick for fat kids. Let the oversized t-shirt dangle down over your pants to sort of hide—or at least smooth out—the large rolls of belly fat hanging over and above your belted waist. If only he could take off his fat the way he could take off a t-shirt… He touched his nose down to his shoulder and took a sniff. The smell was not too bad, though he probably should wash this shirt eventually, maybe the next time he showers he would remember. Since his mother’s death, he often forgot to shower, but doing laundry had become the greater challenge.

        Be brave. He heard Sir Bart’s battle cry. Buffalo marched over to Jennifer at her desk. “Hey Jennifer, are you okay?”

        “What do you want?” She looked up at him from her writing pad, her eyes puffy and red from tears.

        Jennifer had long full curly blond hair, green eyes, and creamy white skin covered in freckles. Buffalo’s mom had had blonde hair, but straight, not curly, and blue eyes, not green. Her skin had been creamy white too, with freckles as well, but also with a spattering of moles. It was this skin that killed her. The beauty marks grew and spread, and she died from what the doctors called melanoma. His dad had explained that it was cancer, and it was incurable.

        Jennifer was wearing a green spaghetti strap tank top that magnified her cleavage. Buffalo lowered his head a bit as he replied. “You seem upset or something—I just want to see if you’re okay.” He did, originally, but now he also wanted to see how far her freckles ranged down between her breasts, so he tilted his head to get a better angle. She lowered her head over her letter and finished writing. A wondrous minty aroma wafted forth from her thick hair. It was too much. Buffalo’s penis tented his short pants, but it all stayed hidden well enough beneath his dangling t-shirt.

        She looked up at him again.

        “Hey I know you, you’re one of those freaks who dresses up as a wizard.”

        “Usually I’m a knight. We don’t always dress up. It’s a game called Dungeons and Dragons.”

        She was most definitely well freckled. They tracked with her tank top, blossoming up from her cleavage, coating across her shoulders and trailing down the outside of her arms to her forearms. The pattern ended finally underneath her forearms, there the skin was still creamy white, but decorated with none of her usual pink spots—rather, as Buffalo soon noticed—with much pinker scars. She must have gotten cut, several times, and pretty badly it seemed. There were two or three old, healed scars at random angles across and below each wrist, and two more recent parallel wounds running lengthwise under and up her inner left forearm.

        Buffalo pulled out a blue handkerchief from his back pocket, pinched it between his fingers, then proffered it to the girl. “Here. Maybe this might help.” Their hands touched as she took the cloth. For Buffalo, he felt a tingle in his fingertips—a sort of jolt of something— as he touched his skin to hers. These handkerchiefs had been his mother’s idea. Each light blue square had a large navy-blue letter B embroidered in one corner. His mom had monogrammed several dozen of them for him during her many chemotherapy sessions. Someday you’ll understand—he remembered his mom’s maxim—a gentleman always carries a kerchief. However, Buffalo felt far from being a gentleman. He wanted to be one. He pretended at it. But here, right now, next to Jennifer, he felt very little gentleness.

        Jennifer used the kerchief to dry her eyes. She had stopped crying yet was still in some sort of distress. Buffalo wished he could console her and help her. He wanted to be like Sir Bartholemew and rescue her. But he was not a hero. It was all so confusing. When he was near Jennifer, he was a monster—no different than any goblin or ghoul. He fought the urge to hold her down and tie her up. He wanted to stroke her breasts, kiss every freckle, lick each scar, inhale her, obliterate her, consume her in some way he could not yet understand.

        Buffalo’s mouth was suddenly very dry, he seemed to be sweating and his heart was racing. He worked hard to push out some speech.

        “I guess you may not remember me. We’ve been in school together since the first grade. I’m Bodie, short for Bodaway, but everyone calls me Buffalo on account of my size and that my dad’s Native American, we’re even in a tribe, at least I think so.” The moniker actually began as the shortened form of the taunt “Buffalo Butt”. After his mom passed in fourth grade, Bodie had gained so much weight. During recess, he bent over to set the ball but then split his pants, another boy came and randomly kicked him in the butt. “Buffalo Butt! Buffalo Butt!” It was the last recess he ever dared to play outside, he hid in the library during playtime thereafter, but the nickname stuck around for years. His friends just used “Buffalo” now by middle school. Most everyone forgot the origin, Bodie most of all, at least on most days.

        He looked down at the crumpled letter on her desk. “What are you writing? Is it a letter? I used to write letters to my mom, though I know she can’t really read them. Nowadays I just write letters to her in my mind, before I go to sleep.”

        “Yeah it’s sort of a long letter to my mom, my family and my friends.” Jennifer dabbed the corners of each eye with Buffalo’s handkerchief. Her green eyes were now dried, less red and the puffiness was improving. She managed to force a half-smile and met Buffalo eye to eye. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I haven’t been feeling well. I’ve been having problems sleeping.” Buffalo was dazzled by her deep emerald irises, she spoke but he heard little of what she said.

        “Sometimes I wish I could sleep forever. I suppose I plan to.” Jennifer broke their shared gaze. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply. She then stood up from her chair, extended and locked her arms, pushing down with both hands to flatten out the crumpled paper of her letter. Buffalo blinked and tilted his head downward. He was pleased with this new viewing angle, the freckle trail ended at one larger crescent shaped birthmark in between her breasts, then layers of creamy white skin beneath. A little lower and he could almost see her nipples. He began to feel dizzy.

        “Hey, before I’m gone, I wanna ask—what’s it like—to play that game—Dungeons and Dragons—does it help?”

        Her question—with the mention of his favorite game—broke his trance. “Help with what?”

        “Help with feelings? With memories? Maybe with sleep? What do you guys do exactly?”

        He felt more normal suddenly, more steady on his feet. “Let me show you.” Buffalo eagerly rushed back to his desk across the room, grabbed his players handbook, then sprinted back to Jennifer’s desk. He closed the book and then presented the cover to her as one would hold up a cherished painting. “See on the cover. That’s a band of adventurers right there in front—a knight, a wizard, a priest, and a thief. They are looking over that map, and behind them you can see a dead dragon that they slew, and it’s on top of that big demon statue inside the dungeon.”

        He flipped open the book in front of her, pausing every few pages to share the many beloved fantasy-themed drawings inside, each image was placed in between several paragraphs of text and various complicated charts.”It’s like when you were really little and used to play make-believe. Only it’s so much more. It’s a shared storytelling game—we all make the story together—there’s a narrator called the DM—that’s shorthand for Dungeon Master—and the rest of us act out the different characters in the story. We each pick one to play. Sometimes we use rules and charts with simple math and die rolls to figure out what happens, especially in a battle, but mostly it’s about storytelling and acting.”

        “I think I get it.” Jennifer sat down at her desk again, signed her letter, then folded the newly flattened paper into thirds. She looked up again at Buffalo. “So it’s like make-believe, but with rules.”

        “It’s kind of more than that. You get to be a character in a fantasy world—like a knight or a wizard or something else—me I like knights—and you all go adventuring together. We get to be heroes. And the more you play, the more powerful you become. There’s also a lot of puzzle solving. We have to work together to explore dungeons, defeat monsters, find treasure and rescue princesses.”

        “What if the princess doesn’t want to be rescued?” Jennifer turned and looked blankly out the library window towards the balcony.

        “Well I suppose there’s all kinds of princesses and all sorts of rescues, there’s . . .” Buffalo began counting on his fingers.

        Then Jennifer interrupted “Yeah but—what if the world would be better off without the princess?”

        “What?” Buffalo was stunned. He paused and considered, then remembered his best self, “Sir Bart says that everyone deserves to be saved and that everyone can better the world.”

        “Everyone?” Jennifer turned her gaze towards the door leading from the library to the outside balcony. “Sometimes I think—no I know—that the world would be better off without me. Certainly my mom would. It’s confusing.” She stared down at her left forearm, then began gently stroking the long pink scar there. She used Buffalo’s handkerchief, still clasped in her right hand. “My stepdad, he treats my mom great, but me now not so much. This last year, it’s been bad whenever my mom works the night shift.”

        “Did he take away your video games?”

        “Worse.” Jennifer kept stroking her arm, she inhaled deeply, and her nostrils flared outwards.

        “Is that how you got those scars?” Buffalo bit his lip afterwards, he had not meant to ask this aloud.

        “Sort of.” She paused. “He says he loves me. It’s real confusing. I can’t sort it out. I’ve just been feeling so sad, hurt and mixed up inside.”

        Buffalo felt mixed up too. He closed his players handbook and returned to admiring the cover art. He remembered Jennifer’s original question and considered, “You know, I think Dungeons and Dragons does help with feelings.” He traced his finger over the knight in the picture. “When I’m sad—like when my mom was dying—Dungeons and Dragons helped. I would sit near my mom and just read over the game manuals and make new characters and plan adventures. When D and D is done right, it creates a magical world that you can enter with your mind. You get to leave all the pain in this world behind. Playing Dungeons and Dragons lets me feel what it’s like to—you know—not be me.”

        “But you can never really be somebody else, you are who you are.” Jennifer put her letter into an envelope and licked it closed with her tongue.

        Buffalo watched carefully as the tip of her pink tongue licked along the seal of the envelope. He began to sweat again, and he felt a funny warmth between his pants, like he needed to pee. “That part might be hard for you to get. I mean if I were you, I’d never want to be somebody else, you’re so pretty and popular.” Also—Buffalo daydreamed—if I were you, I’d stare at myself naked in the mirror, all day and every day, forever. His penis tented his pants again. He looked down to check that his oversized t-shirt was hiding the front of his pants. He turned back up and saw Jennifer writing on the front of the envelope. “But it’s a big universe, and even bigger multiverse, maybe somewhere out there, there really is a Sir Bartholemew, and maybe I’m really him.”

        “Or at least some better version of me.” He leaned over to secret his nose just above Jennifer’s scalp, then inhaled a deep gulp of the peppermint scent wafting from her curly blond hair. He blew it out slowly, savoring it secretly, all while Jennifer sealed the envelope, pushing down with her fingers, then addressing the other side. Buffalo stepped back a bit from her desk, then sighed. “People like me —fat people—we’re trapped in our bodies, but our minds… our minds can take us anywhere and everywhere.”

        The letter sat now in its envelope on the table in front of Jennifer, the handkerchief rested next to it. Buffalo stood in front of her desk with his players handbook tucked beneath one arm. Jennifer sighed, then folded her arms, cupped her hands together and placed her chin in the center. A droplet of blood leaked from the fresh scar on her left forearm onto the table, then several more red dots splattered across the envelope. She grabbed Buffalo’s handkerchief and quickly wrapped it around her left arm to stop the bleeding, tying it off in a knot using her right hand and her teeth. “You know Buffalo, there are worse things than being fat. Not many I suppose, but some.”

        Her eyes began to water, she started to cry, but then stopped herself. She turned to look up at Buffalo, then forced a grin and showed off her dimples. “I’m sorry—it’s just that everything is hopeless, so hopeless. We’re trapped—I’m trapped in this world and there’s no hope.”

        Buffalo was stunned again. His mom never gave up hope. Sir Bart would never give up hope. Buffalo himself had a hundred hopes. One was even coming true right now! He retorted back to her. “There is always hope. You can always choose it. That’s heroism. When you choose hope.” On an impulse, he even dared to grab both her hands with his. “There’s always hope.”

        “You’re sweet Buffalo.” Jennifer withdrew her hands with a subtle cringe. “You’re sweet.” She closed her eyes, breathed in deeply, held it, exhaled, opened her eyes, then added, “You’re wrong but you’re sweet.”

        No, thought Buffalo, I’m neither. I’m not wrong and I’m not sweet. He returned to staring again between her breasts, trying to catch that crescent birthmark down low beneath the freckles. His penis was throbbing. It thought, he thought—no, I’m not sweet. I’m a secret horrible monster.

        Jennifer stood up from her desk and placed the envelope into Buffalo’s free hand. “It’s time for me to go. Would you do me a favor and give this letter to the librarian? It’s for my mom, they’re friends, she’ll get it to her.” She placed the cap on her wooden pen. It was finely carved, inlaid with gold, a pattern of small doves at the base that slowly tiled into a mesh filigree by the tip. “And you can have this pen—it’s a present from my dad—my real dad, not my stepdad. I’ve given away everything else, so you might as well have this.” She pushed the pen between Buffalo’s fingers, above the envelope.

        She took one step backwards, then turned her back to him and walked towards the door between the library and the balcony. Buffalo watched her trot from behind, admiring the curve of her butt beneath her short skirt. Between the edge of her skirt and the end of her long socks, there was flesh behind her knees which he had yet to enjoy, but he lost the view. She moved farther away, opened the balcony door, then closed it behind her.

        Buffalo placed the envelope safely beneath the cover of his players handbook, then rested the manual on the table. He held the pen in his hands. Wow. What an amazing day! His senses began to clear. And what a neat gift! This is going to be my new lucky DnD pen . . . He began admiring the craftsmanship. Was this handmade? Is the wood hazelnut? Maybe rosewood? Not bamboo. He balanced the pen between his thumb and forefinger, then wiggled it up and down. Such a comfortable thickness. He took his other finger and stroked the inlaid metal pattern. Could this be real gold? Maybe some imitation or just bronze. He uncapped the pen. How do you replace the ink cartridge though? He found that the opposite tip could unscrew from the base, he turned it, opened the tube and felt the edge of the ink cartridge inside. It did not pop out however and so he tugged it over and over.

        There was a crack. Pink ink spilled from the cartridge into the palm of his hand. Darn. He reached with his other hand into his back pocket, to grab his handkerchief and wipe up the spill. But the pocket was empty. Empty. Jennifer—she still had his handkerchief. He had forgotten to get it back from her. And it was one of the special ones from his mom.

        Buffalo walked across the main room of the library and opened the balcony door to search for Jennifer outside. As he transitioned from the dull fluorescent lights of the school library to the much brighter outdoor sunshine, Buffalo had to close his eyes, then shield them with his hands. He felt the warmth of the spring afternoon spread across his face. After a pause, he opened his eyes, cupped his hands around them, and scanned the center of the balcony deck. Jennifer was nowhere to be found. Weird, as it is such a small balcony.

        He looked up and next scanned the perimeter. He saw her there, on the edge opposite the entry door, not on the balcony itself, but rather standing atop the flat top rail of the surrounding wooden balustrade.

        “Jennifer! Come down from there!” At first, Buffalo saw her only as a dark silhouette against the bright blue sky behind her. His vision soon adjusted. “You’re gonna get us into trouble.” Jennifer stood facing him, with her back towards the edge. She was crying but smiling. Her legs apart, arms stretched out, palms upwards, and face tilted up to the sky.

        Behind her, several stories below, Buffalo saw the school playground, the basketball court, then the soccer fields, and then the rolling hills of surrounding suburbia edged with dark green forest. Above her, Buffalo saw blue sky, fluffy clouds and sunlight. “You need to come down from there.” He walked slowly towards her.

        She was still.

        A breeze blew at her long curly blond hair. The gust billowed up her hair softly towards the sky, then floated it downwards gently above her shoulders. But her skirt, it also fluttered her skirt. It was too much for Buffalo and his penis stiffened yet again. His eyes were drawn by even more freckles, they spread up her lower legs, across her knees and ended right beneath the skirt edge. Buffalo kneeled down before her. He would be gentle. He hoped to lure her off the ledge. And not so gentle. He hoped to glimpse where those freckles ended and see what lay above them beneath her skirt.

        “Jennifer. Listen to me. I need you to give me my handkerchief back. It’s special. It’s from my mom, from before she died.” She curled her left arm and turned her head robotically to gaze at the wrist. She did not blink. Buffalo continued, “See the dark blue letter B on that corner tie, my mom put that on there.”

        Buffalo looked further up Jennifer’s skirt. The freckles ended at the border, and the skin whitened above it. The view was fantastic. He saw thin cotton panties between her thighs, they were white and spotted with small pink teddy bears. He looked to the left, pure white creamy skin on that inner thigh. He looked to the right, but that thigh, it was bruised, there was a large purple blotch with five smaller purple-brown patches around it, four above and one to the side.

        Something was wrong. Buffalo, Bodie, he began crying. His vision blurred until all he could see was one consistent bright white light. Something was not right. He remembered the purple bruising on his mom’s skin, from soon before and soon after she had died. He imagined the dragon Brisbone roaring behind the chained princess and he, as sir Bart, kneeling below the princess in a desperate attempt to free her from her chains. His mom, the princess, his crush. Jennifer. She was his crush, but could he fight those urges from crushing him? He did not have to be a monster and she did not have to be his victim. She was not a princess, and he was not a knight. Jennifer had a mom, a dad, family, friends. Inside her body, there was a mind trapped too. She, he—they were both just people. Not imaginary players in an imaginary game, but real people in a real life.

        “Jennifer. We need you—I need you—I need you to give me the handkerchief back.” He stopped crying and let his vision refocus. He heard a whooshing sound in his ears as his heart beat heavily.

        Jennifer bent her knees and slowly leaned her arms forwards. She used her right hand to roll the handkerchief off her left wrist and offered it back to Bodie. He stood up slowly and grabbed the handkerchief from above him with his left hand. Another breeze blew and Jennifer wobbled backwards on the railing. She at first seemed startled, then closed her eyes and smiled. She opened her right hand, letting go of the handkerchief to begin her fall backwards.

        Bodie, Buffalo, he was not a gentleman, not a knight, and not a monster. He was not a hero. But he could choose hope. On impulse, he lunged forwards and wrapped his arms tightly around Jennifer’s knees. Her normal weight was no competition for Bodie’s heavy fatness. He held her knees tightly and leaned backwards himself, falling safely to the floor of the balcony. Jennifer fell with him, landing on top of him. His arms fell to his sides as he let go of his grapple. Her face landed in the center of his chest, and she nuzzled her head in between the large cushions of his chunky breasts. She moved her arms to either side of his large roll of belly fat and squeezed tightly. She cried and cried. And cried. And her many tears wet the center of his extra-large black t-shirt.

        A mat of curly blond hair soon overwhelmed Bodie’s nose and mouth. He inhaled the peppermint aroma from her scalp. Several blond locks traced across the lips of his mouth as she rolled her head crying softly into his chest. He kept his left hand at his side, with his handkerchief crumpled into the palm. He slowly moved his right arm and patted her on the back and shoulders. Then he closed his right hand over her shoulder, choosing several large freckles upon which to settle his fingertips. She continued her crying. But her breasts pushed into the fat of his belly. She rolled her torso a bit over his right knee and intertwined her legs astride each side.

        It was too much for Bodie. At once, all his senses synchronized, magnified, amplified, then turned to white. He felt a level of happiness he had never imagined possible. It was like from before his mom was ever sick, but a thousand, a million… no a trillion times better. An enormous hunger he never understood filled, completely, utterly, overfilled, overflowing. There was a spasm. Joy. A seizure of ecstasy.

        Bodie next felt wetness between his pants. He had peed his pants. He slid his right hand under his t-shirt and into his underwear. It wasn’t pee, it was wet, but also gooey, more like a weird sneeze. He used his left hand to tunnel the handkerchief between his legs and dry up the mess. He left the kerchief there, then used both his hands to grab Jennifer gently, hold her, hug her, and pat her back. She continued her crying, only now he was crying again too.

        They lay there together, for some time, crying, then resting, folded one atop the other on the balcony floor. Eighth period would end. The final school bell would ring. Their classmates would rush out to their homes or elsewhere for afterschool activities.

        And as for Bodie, Gaming club would start soon enough. His fellow players awaited his arrival in the library conference room inside. Evil never rests and so neither can our heroes. More monsters to be defeated. More treasures to be found. More honor, glory, and love. Always more.       

© 2022 Adam Strassberg  All rights reserved.

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One thought on “The Kerchief

  1. A wonderful story of an adolescent ordinary boy learning to be a hero and his internal conflict between his own fantasies and his biological changes. We’ll done

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