Friday, 8 December 2017

Mislaid plans, and permutations of disaster …

Not exactly High Noon (and I can’t remember the story anyway, but I’d like to say a big ‘Thank you’ to Patricia for deputising for my so ably and for much longer than anticipated over the past few weeks. The hospital stay was beyond my control, but my stupidly wiping my laptop certainly didn’t help!
And so to this week’s winner – as problematical as ever to make a choice – but I think it has to be David’s ‘Heaven will Fall’ for much more than the unique conjunction of defibrillators and angel flesh.

Words for next week:  conform, lichen, stamp

Entries by midnight Thursday 14th December winners and words posted Friday 15th


Usual rules: 100 words maximum (excluding title) of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction or noir. Serialised fiction is, as always, welcome. All variants and use of the words and stems are fine. Feel free to post links to your stories on Twitter or Facebook or whichever social media you prefer.

76 comments:

  1. Fire and Ice

    The elf might as well have nonconformist stamped on his pointy little forehead. Sure, he’d been wrong about Cabbage Patch Kids and Transformers, but Tinsel disagreed wholeheartedly with Santa about the yo-yo making a comeback. No sense stockpiling the complicated little gadgets for something that wasn’t likely to take off.

    Tinsel couldn’t do anything about the imported plastic yo-yos, but the wood models were a different story. He piled dried twigs and grasses around the lichen encrusted trunks of the spruce forest and flicked open his Zippo. It was going to be a hot time at the North Pole tonight.

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    1. Oh I like this, whimsical but with a message, don't mess with the elves!

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    2. A fun mix of humor and rebellion. Loved the last two lines, and the attitude they give to the elf.

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    3. I wish he'd found a way to nuke the plastic!

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    4. This is absolutely delightful. What wonderful images are conjured and what a magnificent elf name is "Tinsel." Destruction work for me. I never could get the hang of those pesky little toys!

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    5. Love it there’s a bad apple in every barrel, however this tale is a Christmas peach.

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  2. Many congratulations, David. Magnificent story and that touch of pathos was classic. Excellent choice, Sandra.

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  3. congratulations, David and apologies to everyone else. I got out of the local hospital about 3 hours ago, is all - having had my second strangulated hernia op. I know, flat out greedy... busy trying to cope with a shower of emails. I will be back.... so will the Mad Italian.
    Good to see you back, Sandra!!

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    1. Much relieved to hear from you Antonia - this being the first time ever you've missed a week, in my experience, I was more than a bit concerned. But you are entitled to take things a bit easy and get yourself up to fitness again.

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    2. I too was concerned at your absence last week, so glad to hear from you. Speedy recovery and make sure that Mad Italian allows you time to recuperate. You know how demanding those geniuses can be!!!

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    3. Hope you're healing well!

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  4. Conformity Transformation

    The jungle had devoured the ruins of the ancient city.
    Cautiously Ghundaro entered an atrium hung with verdant creepers. The old lady seated splay legged on the grey rock bore the stamp of the shaman on her wizened brow.
    'All must conform,' she told him.
    Ghundaro nodded and touched his trembling hand to the rock.
    The Lichen invaded, spreading rapidly up his arm to encrust his body in fluttering silvery scales.
    He felt a rush of elation. In the branches the eyes of his sisters and brothers gleamed.
    'Go,' commanded the Shaman. 'Climb. Soar. Fly.'

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    1. you've got the start of something good here, David, explore it further.

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    2. Intriguing subject matter here. I'm dying to know what Ghundaro is experiencing. It occurred to me he was turning into some kind of ancient super hero, but I'm sure it's something else in your view.

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    3. This sounds like a rich and fascinating world. I love the imagery of the Lichen taking over - 'spreading...to encrust his body in fluttering silvery scales'. Beautiful!

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    4. A fascinating world being opened up to us - please tell us more.

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    5. I'm with everyone else on this one. Sounds like an intriguing beginning that just begs for more to follow.

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    6. This is a great beginning to a great series about to be ubnfolded.

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  5. Persona Non Grata

    In a society where non-conformity is criminal, the final solution is internment. But we, the pariahs of so-called humanity, will overcome. Eventually. Hopefully.

    Banished to a distant rock associated with some ancient federal penitentiary, we are left to our own meager devices. This interminable boulder, where even lichen refuses to thrive, spins slowly in the firmament.

    According to some archaic reckoning method, we suffer the indignity of numbers tattooed upon our forearms, stamped forever as undesirables. And yet, we have faith and wait...although it may not be in our lifetimes...for the salvation that will surely set us free. One day.

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    1. Patricia, there's a lot of pathos in this one, for sure. Like it.

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    2. A story of depravity with a sprinkle of hope. Beautiful writing.

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    3. Dark but hopeful. I love how it feels familiar but can also be set in a distant world. This line is beautiful - 'This interminable boulder, where even lichen refuses to thrive, spins slowly in the firmament'.

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    4. So bleak ... and I fear their optimism is misplaced.

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  6. Crowning Glory

    The parcel wasn't easy to deliver, plaque on the wall almost obliterated by lichen and moss. Not obtaining a signature didn't conform with company rules, but nobody was answering. The driver knocked twice more and then hoped for the best before leaving.

    The addressee peeked around the door. Wouldn't do to be seen in her present condition. Image was everything and the unfortunate incident involving high winds and out-of-control Catherine Wheel must not ruin such perception.

    The ordered item was perfect. Honey-blonde and about 70 feet long. She checked the label stamped: "Guaranteed 100% Human Hair."

    Rapunzel was well-pleased.

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    1. more clever twisty fairy tale stuff, love them! This one's clever.

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    2. Clever and twisty indeed. I got a little thrown by Catherine Wheel until I looked it up. Then it all came together.

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    3. Sometimes references that cross the pond don't always make it without suitable translation, unfortunately. I'm lucky that I was born on one shore and now live on the other and so, can usually relate to most of what is offered.

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    4. Funny and clever! Love this secret peak into Rapunzel's life. :)

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    5. Did not anticipate Rapunzel - what joy!

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    6. I do love your retellings with a twist.

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  7. The Mad Italian 34
    You are being asked to conform to others’ laws, those outside your country. They come with the stamp – almost the taint – of other governments and the government in your land wonders why you treat it all with the contempt you would scrape lichen from your boots. But within that mass of legislation, that torrent of paper, that cascade of senseless one-upmanship words are the ones which would set you free. Your problem is, there is no way you could sieve the remainder and find what you need – even if you were allowed to. But then, would you want to?

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    1. interesting point of view. Makes sense to me. I'd be interested to hear what the Italian makes of political news from the United States. Lots of material there.

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    2. Smooth use of the prompts with a thoughtful, challenging voice.

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    3. As ever, you make the prompts appear bespoke.

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    4. Such thought-provoking questions. The prompts did indeed disappear within the fabric of the Mad Italian's words. As always, his point of view makes one take a step back and reassess.

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  8. I'll work toward a stand alone next week. I did notice last night's dreams were nearing 'normality' - do I ever know I've been pumped full of goodness knows what during my hospital stay! So clever, though, I have a migraine coming... they rush and add another tube to the lot hanging from the stand, straight into the vein, lay back and wait for it to take over... lots of good impressions and memories of people, the beautiful night I laid awake watching the super half moon lying half on its back in the very centre of the window in the roof, such tranquillity, the tenderness of the nurses for the very old and frail, the one with dementia, I have now seen it up front and it ain't pretty. The night time lighting, transforming the six bays in the ward into something entirely different from the daytime, all this is with me and will appear in the future, I'm sure, in whatever I write.
    Meantime I'm trying to get on top of the 4 days of submissions, the 'where are you?' emails, trying long distance to manage the shop (unsuccessfully, Shaun's partner, my stand-in, sold my Ganesha even though it was not on the shop floor... if that had been reserved for a customer I would have been furious with her lack of sense. What's behind the counter is definitely NFS. I'm going to print off a load of NFS labels for the future. I never know when I won't be there.
    Storm Ana is battering the island with high winds and sleet at the moment. I slipped out to lunch and back, after a quick visit to the local charity shops for a woolly hat (needed) flat heeled boots (found I can zip them up, I can't zip up my others!) and some decent food. I ate nothing in hospital. I cannot ímagine how they made the mash potato a dirty grey-brown when potatoes should be white. Very limited gluten free menu indeed, we are made to feel like outcasts. I had the identical problem 12 1/2 years ago when I had the first hernia op, nothing's changed in the kitchens although the standard of nursing and care is higher. I guess I can rest easy, though, everything's healing faster than last time. I have some super looking staples all the way down my stomach - they're coming out on Friday, TG! Scared I'll rip them out, that's my concern.
    I think I'm through for the day,. One of those big wrap around blankets with sleeves is waiting for me, along with a kindle and possibly a sleepy cat. The other one's upstairs, I know that. They will be wanting tea ere long, I guess.
    It's an oddity but I feel stronger and better, so perhaps that particular hernia has been a while building. Certainly my body feels different, leaving aside its bloated look at the moment. I know it will go.
    Thanks for nice words, sorry I had to miss a week, I was given a tablet to use but couldn't do a thing with it, can't scroll, couldn't send an email, nothing. I will be glad to give it back next week. Pesky technology! It has to be a PC and keyboard for me!

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    1. Hospitals are strange spaces. Your sleeved blanket sounds lovely. :) Hope you're cozy and healing!

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    2. My nine days in a South African hospital, blanketed by care, kindness and Afrikaans, delivered a level of human interaction I can never achieve. But, despite my doctor telling me to add a sexy surgeon to my next book (he meant himself, and I didn't tell him I'd already hijacked some things for one of my MCs) I cannot see how else I'll fit more than general warmth into anything. Too alien a location.

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    3. I've never been keen on hospitals. My earliest memories of them involve smells that turned my stomach (always sensitive to so many thing, unfortunately) and the sight of my grandmother with one leg or the other suspended from some type of pulley system (she broke one hip once and the other twice). On a personal note, I've only been in hospital one time on my own behalf and that to to give birth. I was there for (I think) two days (maybe three) and couldn't wait to check out.

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    4. Glad to hear, you are on the mend Antonia.

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  9. Did you notice I didn't bug you with submissions while you were in the hospital? Of course, I also didn't write anything, so there's that. I'll try to come up with something soon. I'm glad you're approaching normalcy.

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  10. Kursaal (Episode Ninety Nine) - "Libby's Lichens"

    Primrose Lee found Libby Pepperdyne's ethnolichenological talent extraordinary. Personally, the elixirologist had little use for the fungus/alga combination. It didn't conform to her preferred magicks.

    In recognition of the natural aptitude, Primrose hosted a kiosk in front of the Emporium where Libby could peddle her wares -- tiny mesh sachets bearing colourful labels stamped "Libby's Lichens." Most guaranteed mystical remedies: from effective antibiotics to cures for skin eruptions. A secret stash held deadlier promises.

    The clown sisters, Cobbles and Cinders, were frequent customers, but Libby looked forward to their brother paying a visit.

    Patience was a virtue.

    She could wait.

    ---------------------------------------------------------
    To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale, please visit:
    http://www.novareinna.com/kursaal.html
    A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site. Thank you.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

    NOTE: Primrose Lee (and her Emporium of Enchantments) as well as Libby Pepperdyne have featured in previous episodes.

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    1. I have missed Kursaal! I adore the title, and Libby is utterly fascinating. You have a wonderful way of presenting such a unique character and world, and wrapping it all up with a dangling end that hooks and spikes my curiosity. I do hope to learn more about the brother.

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    2. I'm wondering what Libby intends to tempt him with.

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    3. I'm thinking the clown siblings are more interested in the secret stash than the tiny mesh sachets. This is the first time I've encountered the word ethnolichenological. I learn a lot from you.

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    4. In the event the name of the clown sisters' brother has become lost in the shuffle -- so easy when there are a plethora of excellent serializations to keep up with -- he is called Crow and I think some readers might remember him from previous installments.

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    5. This continues to be a great series. My work has prevented my weekly read of late I have a lot to catch up on.

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  11. Wow it's been a long time since I've stopped by! Glad to hear you're out of the hospital Sandra! Posting my entry for this week, and will return to read all of your stories. :)

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  12. The Mountain's Door

    Untangling massive arms from a mess of lichen-smeared scree and withered roots, the stone woman pushed herself upright.

    Rai flipped her cloak up protectively, as small rocks cascaded off the woman’s shoulders. She winced as something struck her head, then nearly fell backwards off the steep slope when the guardian stamped an enormous foot.

    “Who are you,” the woman said, voice rumbling like thunder.

    “I seek the Mountain’s Door.” Rai craned her head back to glimpse the woman’s granite face.

    “You do not conform to the garb of the Seekers.”

    “The Seekers are gone. I am the Key.”

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    1. Well, there's a dilemma! What will Rai do now?

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    2. Lichen smeared scree, very vivid. I'm not sure the stone woman is going to be happy with the seekers being gone, even if Rai is the key.

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    3. Always such a delight to see you back with your amazing contributions, Zaiure. I for one have missed you. And what an intriguing return. Descriptive as ever and such a command of the written word.

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    4. I particularly enjoyed “lichen sneered scree” as always your pieces are descriptive and enticing.

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  13. Change of focus [261]

    In his early twenties John Pettinger had so well conformed to the Force’s idea of the perfect policeman that his image was used on a commemorative stamp which, much enlarged, doubled as recruitment poster. He was paired with a new female recruit so young he swore he could still see the sucking blister on her upper lip.
    What was apparent on the poster was their physical similarity. Most notably their lichen-green eyes, but shape of nose and a hard-to-quantify expression of determination strongly suggested blood relationship.
    Each refused to delve deeper.
    Ever since Pettinger wondered if she knew the truth

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    1. I've missed many installments lately, but I love this comparison between Pettinger and his new partner. Clever reference with 'sucking blister', and those final two lines say so much.

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    2. It sounds as if we are being introduced to a new character and yet another twist. Really well done.

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    3. This tale just gets better and better. I really want to hear more about this "new female recruit" and where she might be now. Pettinger's back story grows by leaps and bounds.

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    4. That’s a killer last line leaving the reader wanting more.

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  14. [Threshold 189]

    I wanted to address my question to Raven but Lant’s yellow eyes, the lichen texture of his skin, compelled me.
    ‘Do I understand aright? He has, because of breaking some outmoded belief in conformity, been forced – by such as you – to repent? Of fucking me?’
    Lant snorted, ‘Be grateful they only rubber-stamped his transgression. Others have faced castration. What saved him was it being a first offence.’
    Mentally, I envisaged the several women I knew about: none bore any notably different stamp.
    ‘In what way did I fail?’
    Impatiently, Raven stirred. ‘You didn’t. That was what they were worried about.’

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    1. Love the imagery of 'lichen texture of his skin'. This world continues to be fascinating and multi-layered.

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    2. Something tells me he'll repent as ordered but he won't change his ways entirely.

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    3. And what a last line that turned out to be. Raven is such an intriguing character and I'm always totally enraptured by our protagonist, whose name (as far as I know) you have yet to reveal.

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  15. Male order

    The careless scrape of his boots, stamping free the root-threaded peaty soil, dark as truffles (and just as pleasantly odorous), set up a similar chafing within me.
    ‘Oh, please! Not –‘
    Sloe-black eyes glanced up, registering my distress. ‘Not?’
    ‘The lichen. It’s taken so very many decades –‘
    He studied the textured egg-yolk spread.
    ‘There is a lot of it, aye –‘ He pulled out a cigarette, lit it and expelled a double plume.
    I flinched. ‘It also needs clean air.’
    ‘Lady, since we’re to live together, lichen, same as you, needs to know henceforth you conform with me.’

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    1. The man sounds like a real peach. Put his foot right down, didn't he?

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    2. Sure hope this obnoxious male gets what's coming to him. Hard to tell if the inclination is there or not, but I'm counting on it!

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    3. This piece takes you straight into the moment. the scent of peat heavy on the nose, and so darkly told.

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  16. Nothing coming together very cohesively for "Cripplegate Junction" this week, so there will likely be no continuation. Hopefully, next week will prove to be more inspirational. I shall return later today with my comments and a "Cripplegate" installment if anything worthy comes up in the meantime.

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  17. The Adventures of Rosebud, Pirate Princess #107
    Normal is Overrated


    Conformity’s always such a bother. Why do people waste their time trying to be identical when uniqueness is so much fun? Take Lila for example. She’s a brilliant mathematician and programmer, but she intentionally failed her last math test to be ‘normal.’ She made Natasha a set of sails that are effectively invisible with the magic of calculus, some lichen-colored canvas and this code that makes the lights stamped into the edges do really interesting things. But last we saw her she was trying to get convincingly wrong answers so the ‘normal’ girls would stop teasing her for being smart.

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    1. I do so enjoy the unique nature of your take on the prompt words. You always manage to make such a nice little total package out of them. I've said this before, but it bears repeating -- so different from anything else offered in this forum.

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    2. This is so unique and brilliant. I can imagine these tales being extended as short illustrated books, with a positive message in each story. Well done.

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    3. There's solid and important truth buried in this delightful froth of words. As ever Rosie, I'm so pleased to have you to look forward to each week.

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  18. Hopefully third time lucky of trying to post this. It started to be a ballad of Lizzie Siddal, but morphed somewhat along the way.

    Ballad For Ada (and other unrecognised geniuses)

    She was dizzy like a crazy flower,
    Dancing through life unaware of her power.
    She would not be bound by Conformity,
    Both in and outside of her dormitory.

    If this were now she would be in the news,
    Celebrated, but her contemporaries had different views.
    They Stamped out any knowledge of her achievements,
    Buried her name with no room for grievance.

    They highlighted her passing with a covering of shame,
    By Spreading their lies and dishonouring her name
    There she lays in deaths grip, froze!
    Under the slab where the lichen grows

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    1. I have always been in total admiration of how you manage to craft the prompts into a poetic submission. And what a magnificent title. Such a talent!!!

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    2. Welcome back William. Especially like the final line of this.

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