Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

About a Cat: Part 2

June 7th, 2013 No comments

If you missed Part 1 of this story, read it here.

Preston, an albino rat, chillaxin' in a hoodie.

Preston, an albino rat, chillaxin’ in a hoodie.

After almost three years of living within the turbulent waters of alcoholism, I abandoned ship.  Before I could prepare for my new journey, boyfriend and I had a custody dispute over the various pets in our care.  In addition to Si, we had raised several pet rats.  Anyone who’s ever had a pet rat will know the kind of joy they can bring – if you can get over the idea that your pet is much maligned rodent.  I knew there was no way boyfriend was going to let me leave with all the pets, so my main focus was to remove Si from that environment.  After much ‘negotiation,’ boyfriend agreed to let me take Si and in exchange he could keep the rats and various mutual gifts bestowed to us as a couple.  Frankly, he could have kept everything I owned so long as I could walk out of there with Si in my arms.

It was with the prospect of a brighter horizon, that Si and I embarked on new adventures.  For a few years, we lived a nomadic existence, cohabitating with various different people and furry friends (or foes, if you asked Si).  During this time, Si was faithfully by my side.  At times, her loyalty was a tad overbearing.  Visitors were generally considered an imposition on her time with me.  If I was engaged in conversation with a friend, Si would jump into my lap, bite my arm and then lay down with laser eyes trained on said friend.  I couldn’t really blame her, could I?  She was highly suspicious of everyone – but, mostly men.   Admittedly, I was also covered in the residue of my previous relationship.  A dark cloud had formed around me as I engaged in the self-blame game of a failed relationship and flunking out of college.  For a gal who had always excelled academically (and incidentally won an award the same year she flunked out ), seeing those glaring Fs had greatly contributed to my deflating self-esteem.  Si was reacting by becoming more protective of me.

Laser-eyed Si

Laser-eyed Si

On two occasions I had to leave Si in the care of others. I was again bewildered by this feline’s unwavering loyalty.  I left her in early 1998 with my housemates while I travelled to another city to find a job and a new place to live.  During this time an ice-storm blanketed the region and knocked power out for days.  People were freezing in their homes.  My housemates had desperately tried to get Si to leave my freezing bedroom and warm up in an area being heated by a gas stove.  Si refused to budge.  She waited in my bedroom for weeks for me to return.  Cold or no cold, she wasn’t leaving.

About a year later, I had to once again leave Si with my housemates.  I was gone for a month, but I knew Si was in the care of someone who understood her.  Si was being watched by my best friend and they had a good (as good as it could be with Si) relationship.  In fact, I always said that no one, but me, could ever take care of Si – except my best friend.  She knew what we had both been through and Si seemed to sense that she was on our side.  I was racked with guilt for leaving her for so long once again.  Upon my return,  my best friend went into the living room and said, “Wusser-Si, your Mommy’s here.” Si jumped down from the couch and ran over to me while meowing jubilantly.  It was one of the most moving displays of affection Si had ever shown me. It was as if she had been waiting for me to come get her – as if she knew I would return.

Several months went by as Si and I lived in a tiny bachelor apartment completely on our own.  During this time, Si would frequently accompany me on trips back to my home town.  She would happily sit in the back window of the car for the long journey.  Her eyes would dilate the size of saucers as she watched the lights of other vehicles pass by.

On one such visit, I took Si to my Grandpa’s house.  Grandpa wasn’t very fond of cats.  Apparently, many years earlier, he had had a terrible encounter with a feline that scarred him for life.  So when I walked in with Si cradled in my arms, he – in his often colourful language – asked, “What the hell is that and why the fuck are you bringing it into my house?”  Now my Grandpa was tough on the outside, but when it came to his granddaughter, he was a big softy.  I simply told Grandpa that where I went, Si went.  I freed Si from my arms and she merrily went about her business investigating the house, all the while my Grandpa kept a close eye on the beast.

During that same visit, Si met my childhood pet, Dravecky.  Dravecky was an iguana that had been with our family for years.  He had free reign of the house and was full of the equivalent of ‘cat-itude’ – we’ll call it ‘iguan-itude’.  My mother had to frequently scold him for sneaking up onto the kitchen table and eating her breakfast when she had her back turned.  Dravecky was also known to stand off with anyone who happened to encounter him in the upstairs hall.  Much like Si, Dravecky was the boss of his house.  Now, when I say iguana you might be tempted to picture those cute little reptiles found in terrariums of pet stores.  No, you see, Dravecky was over ten years old and he hadn’t been caged for his entire time with us.  He was a large domesticated lizard.  It often took the power of two grown men to subdue him, when the need called.  Assuredly one whip from his tail would have seriously injured Si.  So, naturally I was nervous about how the two would get along.  Of course, those nerves were unwarranted because, well, Si was the boss not only in her own home, but in any home she entered.  So for three days and nights, poor Dravecky stayed perfectly still on his perch high enough up that Si couldn’t reach him.  The only thing that moved on that lizard was his eye which was trained on Si like a sniper’s rifle.  I’m not sure that Si even noticed that there was another animal in the house.  It’s more likely that she just didn’t care.  So long as the other beast knew its proper place.

Stu hanging out on top of Dravecky.

Stu hanging out on top of Dravecky.

That’s how Si was with any animal she encountered.  Several years later when my Dad would bring his large dog, Valentine to visit, Si would be the only cat in the household to venture into the same area as Valentine.  She’d walk right up to Valentine and hiss, and then promptly walk away.  You know, just to make sure the dog knew its place too.  That was Wusser-Si – absolutely no fear.  While other cats were cowering during thunderstorms, she’d be calmly bathing herself and (I imagine) laughing on the inside at their foolishness over a little storm.

While Si and I were living in that tiny bachelor apartment,  I met my future husband.  That’s when life started to change for both of us.  It began when I had to make a decision I wish I never had too.  It was with much hesitation that I had to have Si de-clawed when she was approaching the age of five years old.  Now anyone who knows a thing about cats knows this is a very painful experience for felines – particularly the older they get.  It’s tantamount to a human having their finger removed at the knuckle.  I made this decision after consulting a vet about her behaviour.  Si had been getting more aggressive, much of it I imagined had to do with my highly neurotic state.  The vet simply stated that I had two choices, put her down or de-claw her.  For the record, I am against de-clawing of cats and none of the other cats I’ve had over the years have ever been de-clawed.  With Si though, I felt like I had no choice.  Her early (and formative) years had been spent in the company of a violent alcoholic, and this had clearly left her on the defensive – particularly toward men.  She never took to any of the subsequent boyfriends I had, and became quite aggressive when I started dating my husband-to-be.  I think she sensed I was falling love, which meant sharing my affection with another.  Si was never very good at sharing.

Even the dreaded vacuum was no match for the Wusser-Si.  It was just another day at the spa.

Even the vacuum was no match for Si. It was just another day at the spa.

Ironically, hubby was perhaps the kindest and gentlest man I had ever been acquainted with, so it was quite disconcerting when he would sleep over and be attacked in the middle of the night by a very jealous and protective cat.  As hubby recounts, Si would sit at the end of the bed and wait for his feet to dangle over.  Then she would raise her paw, unsheathe each claw one after the other, and let the moonlight glisten on them before swiping full throttle at his feet.  True to his nature though, hubby didn’t lash out at Si.  Instead he began to gain her trust (through copious amounts of soft food, treats, and ear rubs).  So, when I decided to once again live with a man, I made the heart-wrenching decision to have Si de-clawed.  It was not only so my hubby (who is also allergic to cats) could live without fear of being maimed, but because we were talking about having children.  There were just far too many what-ifs where Si was concerned.  I wasn’t about to end her life just because she was overprotective.  That wasn’t her fault.  So, I opted for the lesser of two evils.  If  kids ever blessed our life, we would reassess the situation to see how Si would adjust.  In the meantime, hubby’s feet needed a break from the nightly bombardment of Wusser-Si lashings.

Surprisingly, Si took to the de-clawing rather well.  She simply learned how to defend herself in other ways.  So, when we adopted another cat, Si was still boss of the house – even without claws.  She stayed boss of the house right up until the day she died.  We’ve had several cats throughout the years, and none of them could topple Queen Si from her throne.  It was impressive, indeed to watch her puff up and growl at the newest additions – and then see them roll over and expose their bellies.  It was like some weird feline Jedi mind trick.

Nap-time Si

Nap-time Si

Si also took to hubby.  A friend who hadn’t seen Si in years (and who had once lived with Si) was amazed at Si’s demeanor when she came to visit us.  That’s when hubby got the moniker, ‘Cat Whisperer’.  Whether it was the treats or constant ear rubs, Si loved hubby.  She had him trained in no time too.  Every night at 6 pm promptly, she would paw at hubby incessantly until he relented and gave her treats.  We once decided to see how long she would paw at him for her treats.  After an hour and half, hubby caved.


Stayed tuned to find out what happens when Si lives with four pesky kittens, (reluctantly) bonds with another cat and finds peace in the final years of her life…

M. xo

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About a Cat: Part 1

June 6th, 2013 1 comment

Let me preface this post by suggesting that if you’re the kind of person who views pets as property rather than a member of the family, then you probably will want to stop reading now. Oh, and I’ll also forewarn you that this is a long story – I’ve got 18 years of stories to share. That said, I’ve decided to break it up into smaller posts.

This is about a cat – a cat that brought much joy, and admittedly, challenges to my life.  Today she would have turned 18 years old, but it was with great sadness that on November 9th of last year, that I had to say good-bye to my beloved feline companion, Osiris Maxwell – or Si, as most everyone called her.  This is a tribute to a cat that was with me during the most tumultuous times of my life – a cat that faithfully stayed by my side when my world seemed to be crumbling around me.  Whoever said dogs are the most loyal of pets, never met the Wusser-Si (my affectionate name for her).

It was in 1995, when I left home to pursue post-secondary studies that an almost two-decade bond with this larger than life feline began.  I had always wanted a cat.  Sure, we had cats growing up.  It’s just that those cats never seemed to stick around that long.  It might have had something to do with a kindly neighbour woman who liked to feed neighbourhood pets, and subsequently lure them into her own home with the promise of tasty morsels; or perhaps, it was because I was obsessed with dressing my cats up in doll clothes when I was a kid (which I later learned is a most undignified state for a feline).  For the most part, my childhood pets consisted of the non-furry variety: fish and lizards. So, I remember thinking that I could finally have any pet I wanted now that I was moving into my very own home.  I knew it was going to be a cat, and I knew that I was going to have that cat for its entire life because I felt strongly (and still do) that a pet is a ‘for-life’ commitment.

Baby Si

Baby Si (1995)

I met Si when she was only a few weeks old.  I instantly fell in love with the little grey and white spitfire of a kitten who hissed at me when I approached her.  Challenge accepted, I thought.  At the time, we all thought Si was a male which is why she ended up with a masculine name.  It was in August of 1995 that I packed up my belongings, picked up Si and headed east to my new home town. Si instantly took to her new home and house mates.  She delighted in all the attention she received, particularly from me.  Soon she was by my side or in my lap whenever she wasn’t eating or playing.  It became clear early on that she was full of ‘cat-itude’.  She ran the household and anyone living in it was there to serve her.  She did what she liked, when she liked and if Si didn’t like you, you’d find out.  What’s more, if I didn’t like you or was mad at you, Si made sure to take up those grievance on my behalf.

I first noticed this fierce feline loyalty when a friend of mine stopped by with a woman that I had met before, but of whom I wasn’t too fond.  This woman just wasn’t pleasant to be around and apparently Si had sensed my unease with her being in our home.  The woman bent down to pet Si and at the same moment Si reached up and clawed the woman across the cheek.  Now, in all fairness, this stranger shouldn’t have invaded an animal’s personal space without properly introducing herself.  This is just common sense.  After leaving four perfectly bleeding claw marks across the woman’s cheek, Si calmly walked away with tail proudly in the air.  Of course, I apologized profusely and scolded Si (then locked her in the bedroom), but the woman laughed it off, and went to the bathroom to clean her wounds.  This was my first indication that Si was an unusually loyal cat, some might even have called her my familiar.


Si (1996)

At the time, I was living with a friend and my boyfriend.  My boyfriend had issues with alcohol – meaning that whenever he drank, he became an issue.  Alcohol and he just didn’t mix, and unfortunately he became employed as a cook at a pub.  The temptation to drink (as much as he tried not too) was ever-present.  He eventually fell off the rickety wagon he was on and began coming home, after every shift, drunker than the patrons at the pub on New Year’s Eve.  This caused much discourse in our household.  I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown from trying to balance academic studies with my personal life that was slowly spiralling out of control.  Si began to react to the upheaval by letting the boyfriend know just how she (and I) was feeling.  One day she climbed inside his brand new twenty-hole Doc Marten boots and pissed.  I don’t think he ever did get that eau du cat pee smell out of them.  Yet another day, she quietly climbed up the couch behind him, stood up on her hind legs and proceeded to box the hell out of his ears.  I just pictured her feline thoughts something along the lines of “and this is for being a raging asshole at three o’clock every morning… and this is for playing loud death metal music at four o’clock every morning… and this is for …” well, you get the picture.  Each time she took her frustrations out on the boyfriend, I laughed on the inside.

It was one night in particular that I realized that Si had adopted the role of my protector.  Boyfriend came home in an unusually raging alcoholic fit, so much so that it scared me to the point of locking myself in the bedroom.  Of course, Si was locked in there with me and as we sat listening to a mad man unleash his fury on the apartment; Si began to grab at my throat with her teeth and pull.  It wasn’t a violent bite and tug, but rather the kind mother cats do to their young when carrying them to safety.  From that point onward, whenever I found myself in a fit of tears, Si would bite and tug at me.  Yes, it was unsettling – but in context it was also endearing.

Of course, Si’s bites weren’t always meant as loving gestures.  There were also times when she would show her disapproval by lunging at my arms and biting me.  Those times were usually when I had gone away for a couple days and left her alone or in the care of someone who just didn’t understand her.  In fact, she behaved this way toward me for her entire life.  So much so, that many years later when I married, my husband had to calm Si down upon our return from a weekend away before I could even approach her.  The times that hubby didn’t do this meant Si cornering me and growling at me until she got one good bite into my arm.  Yep, I wasn’t kidding when I said she was a challenging cat.

Devil Si (2003)

“Devil” Si (2003)

It’s true that she scared the crap out of many people which is probably why she was called ‘Devil-cat’ and the ‘Cat from Hell’ by several of my friends.  She was known to bully not only other animals, but people too.  On more than one occasion I had to rescue someone who had been cornered by Si as she stalked them and prepared to strike.  Once I even had to lock Si in a bathroom when she tried to attack a pitbull. That was the thing about Si, she was both a lover and a fighter….


In tomorrow’s post, find out what happens when Si goes on a road trip, meets an iguana, is introduced to the man I would eventually marry, and the heart-wrenching decision I wish I never had to make…

M. xo

To read the continuation of this story, click here

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What’s in a Name?

July 5th, 2012 1 comment

It’s a common question posed to me – “What’s the significance of the name Black Chicken?”  Often, this question is accompanied by chuckles and a perplexed expression.  I typically do not offer any explanation aside from the name being an inside joke, which is in part, true.  So, today I thought I’d let the cat out of the bag the bird out of the cage.

The term Black Chicken was coined many years ago when I was hanging out with friends.  I had developed a bad case of hiccups — you know the kind that just won’t stop no matter what you do.  One of my friends told me that he could get rid of my hiccups — guaranteed — then promptly shouted, “White Horses!”  To my surprise, my hiccups disappeared.  My hiccup-curing friend told me that it had never failed for him.  And you know what – I’ve done this many times since, and it works.

After mulling it over, I realized that it was the very absurdity of his actions that probably caused a physiological response similar to that of which one experiences when surprised.  I began to think of whether I could use this element of surprise in other ways.  One evening while I was out with friends playing a game of pool, I thought I’d test the theory.  As one of my opponents steady to shoot, I calmly walked by and said, “Black Chicken” (Black because it was my favourite colour, and Chicken because I was egging my opponent on).  He missed his shot and asked me what the heck my muttering was all about.  I shrugged and told him it was the power of the Black Chicken.  Eventually, the practice of muttering “Black Chicken” while one’s opponent was concentrating on their next move, became an inside jinxing joke among my circle of friends.

Years later, when I was looking for a Web domain name I found that Black Chicken was available.  Since, the moniker had a personal connection for me, I chose the domain name.  I began using the domain in my emails and for various online projects, and came to discover that people remembered the name simply because it was so odd.

Around this time, I also discovered that black chickens were actually real and not just a figment of my imagination!  I learned some curiously interesting facts and myths about black chickens.  I discovered that black chickens were fundamental parts of folklore from Italy, Bulgaria, China and various parts of the southern United States.  In present day, black chickens are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia for their black meat, bones and feathers.  Additionally, a breed of black chickens called Silkies are considered some of the most docile of poultry.

When I started this blog, I decided to keep the Black Chicken name because all that I had learned seemed to fit quite well with my on-line presence.  Black Chickens are:  gentle, unusual, valuable, abhorrent, and memorable.  That’s how I see my blogging.  I will always try and be gentle about the unusual topics I choose to write about, and at times you may value my opinion or you may abhor it.  Above all, I will strive to leave a memorable impression on those who flutter into my coop.

That’s it in an nutshell eggshell.  I wish I could confess of more profound origins, like it being my spirit animal (which actually would be quite befitting), but I can’t.  It’s really that simple.

M. xo

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The Gal Behind the Feathers Celebrates 1 Year of Hen-Pecking!

February 14th, 2012 1 comment

Well, it’s officially a milestone!  This week, The Feed, celebrates its first year of feather ruffling and hen-pecking.  In all honesty, I’m not really sure what my goal was when I started this blog.  Truth is, I love to write and it’s much more about the journey for me than a means to an end.  Yeah, I know how ridiculously cliché that sounds, but it’s the honest-to-goodness truth.  And while I may not have posted as regularly as I had initially intended, the fact is I’m still perched here — chirping and squawking.  That, in itself is a pretty big accomplishment, so allow me a moment to strut.

Over the last year I’ve posted about the environment, art, family, religion, and general stuff that I found interesting.  I’m sure if you’ve read my blog you’ve discovered that I’m at times long-winded, passionate to a fault, and clearly looking for attention (isn’t that last point something common among all bloggers?).  I hope you’ve also been able to see that I am constantly asking questions and challenging myself and others to do the same.  I’m sure, as time goes on, that I’ll write things that seem to contradict or veer off onto a completely different path than what you’ve been accustomed to reading.  That’s because this is a journey, as are most things we do in life.  People change, grow and discover new things about themselves.  I’ve just chosen to share a part of my journey with the world.

One thing I do refrain from doing is posting too many personal details about myself.  Let’s face it, my subject matters are bound to incite some intense discussion, and I figure at some point in the future I’m bound to receive some hate mail.  After all, it’s not like I’m writing about my favourite recipes or the latest tech trend.  I write about stuff that gets people in a flap, and I certainly can’t expect people to always agree with me.  I do, however, expect that those who don’t will approach their discourse in a manner that is respectful.  This, I know, will not always occur.  That is the biggest reason why I, for the most part, keep anonymous.

Since it has been a year, I thought I would share a few details about myself that I haven’t yet.  Mostly, so you can get an idea of who the person is behind the feathers.

I love school.  The proof is in the fact that I’m a thirty-something gal who has been in school since kindergarten (except for a few year break where I was flying the skies in the working world).  I’ve studied advertising, public relations, marketing.  I have a degree in psychology and am on my way to completing honours degrees in both religion and psychology.

My career has been varied, mostly because I get bored so easily.  I’ve worked in events management, sales, marketing and administration.  I’ve been employed with high tech companies, not-for-profit organizations and as a freelance consultant.  I even had a stint as an online writer for a now defunct Web site.

I’m married to the most wonderful man who supports whatever endeavour I choose to pursue.  I have an awesome family and circle of friends that also support and encourage me in all my pursuits.  I love animals, especially cats.  I have three beautiful felines, one of which has been a companion for almost two decades.

I consider myself an amateur writer and artist.  I’ve written poetry and many short stories over the years – and have three novels in progress.  Someday I hope to finish at least one of them.  I’ve also kept a diary since I was twelve years old.  It’s turned into several volumes over the years, and while I may not write as often as I did in my teen years – I still find solace in the pages that hold my inner most secrets and desires.  My artistic pursuits have ranged from painting, mixed media and video.  A few years ago I had the pleasure of working on a couple independent documentaries as editor.  Mostly, I paint for the love of it; however, I hope to one day start selling my work.  A few of my friends and family have my pieces adorning their walls and this brings me much happiness.

Generally, I consider myself outgoing.  I do find this hard, at times, mostly because I have an anxiety disorder that makes the simplest of social exchanges difficult for me.  When you first meet me, I may come off as shy.  That’s mostly because I feel like my heart is going to explode and that I can’t breathe, especially in unfamiliar situations.  At times, my disorder has manifested itself as obsessive-compulsive in nature, and at least once in my life I experienced a depressive episode that made life almost unbearable.  I’m not ashamed to admit these things because I accept that I cannot change them.  We all have challenges and mine just happens to be one that I sometimes am not able to control, but I can manage it and that’s what I do.

People have told me that I have a unique laugh.  Some have said it borders on annoying, but mostly I’m told it’s music to their ears.  That’s another thing about myself that I can’t change, and I’m not sure I’d want too.  If people remember me because of my laugh, well, I can think of worse ways to be remembered.

Life is mysteriously beautiful and I embrace it.  I’m not perfect.  I have faults, but my intentions are always good -even if the outcome sometimes falls short.  The best I can do is continue on my journey and continue to learn more about myself, those around me and this crazy world we call home.  I’d be honoured if you continue this ride with me.   Here’s hoping you’ll find me a year from now, celebrating another milestone, and that I’ll find you here too.

M. xo

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May 24th, 2011 1 comment

This past weekend, while some were anticipating the arrival of an ancient prophet to whisk them away to the Kingdom of Heaven, I was engaging in a special rite of my own. I travelled to Cherry Valley, Ontario – a quiet village located just outside of Picton, Ontario near the Sandbanks Provincial Park. I returned with some of my favourite people to the cottage resort where I married the love of my life.
With all the chatter on blogs and social networking sites about judgement day, and having the occasion to spend time in a special place with loved ones, it made me realize how lucky I am. If it was the end times, then I wouldn’t rather be any other place.
This weekend, while I left behind my ordinary and mundane to embark on something extraordinary, I was reminded of just how AWESOME moments like these are. It also had me thinking about just how AWESOME the little things are too. Its times like these, when the larger than life moments become just that much more with the addition of the small things that bring us joy too.
It’s those small things that we too often fail to appreciate and hold on too. Things like seeing your very first female cardinal, or throwing your fishing line out and catching your first fish moments later. Or learning a brand new board game, or creating catchy jingles from the spoils of classic games (ahem, 31 for 8). Maybe these moments don’t become etched into our memories, but they do make a lasting impression on our consciousness. All the little moments of joy accumulate and make life even more AWESOME.
Whether you spent this past weekend with loved ones enjoying the Canadian cottage life, or had some singular solace puttering in your garden, I hope you stopped to take in the AWSOMENESS of life’s small moments – the underrated and underappreciated moments. Those are the ones that we’ll all be truly thankful for when the journey ends.

Red Badger for Captain Chainsaw Highliner, Silver Fox & The Chili Train Conductor – over and out!

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For Mom

May 8th, 2011 1 comment

Pretty well all Moms are guilty of a bit of pack-ratting when it comes to their child’s artwork. My Mom was no different and recently I had the opportunity to scan in some drawings Mom had from us Kids over the years. Below are two drawings, about a year apart, that I did of my Mom. They’re funny for me to see, and it’s quite touching that Mom has these so many years later. I mean, it’s not like they were works screaming of a budding Picasso (okay, maybe that first one might qualify 😉 ), but to my Mom I’m sure they were THE best. That’s just how Moms are. A child can paint their Mom a picture as questionable as a Jackson Pollack and Mom will see a work as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel. Moms are the best because they inspire us to be better people and uplift our spirits with their unshakable belief in us. Cheers to my Mom who was the inspiration for more than just artistic pursuits and cheers to all the Moms out there who inspire you! Happy Mother’s Day! M. xo

It’s amazing the difference one year can make!


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