1. MWB

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    15 years...a progress journal

    Discussion in 'Progress Journals' started by MWB, Sep 21, 2020.

    After 15 years, a progress journal seems fitting.

    I tell this story because it needs to be told and there is no one else who will tell it. A cliche to be sure, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and that is certainly the case here.

    The main focus of my writing is a story even I have to admit has a plot so wrapped up in cliche as to make it difficult to accept that it is true nonetheless. It is a generational story and a mystery, part true-crime and part cold-case, It is a paranormal story without apparition, a psychological whodunit far removed from the court room, played out in the privacy of a dysfunctional family's home, across the span of almost 50 years.

    This story began in the winter of 2004, when I first began studying the events that comprise the basis of the plot, which occurred many years before. This eventually resulted in a 23k+ word-count document (facetiously, a book...) completed in 2015 after many years of legwork and research. This was originally intended to be the final telling, 'The Book' as it were, but that first attempt turned out much too technical (and short!) and not at all what was intended. Now, after 'putting it away' for the last 5 years to let things gel...to get away from the research and get back to the story, I've taken up the telling of the story once again.

    The 1st draft of this new fictionalized novel was begun in March 2020 and currently stands at 32,945 words. I'm writing for a few hours, several days per week when the urge takes me. My goal is to write this first draft in its entirety, editing at major story-line changes as I go (I hate typos), with the intent of completing it within a year's time. Ultimately publishing a full-length novel, but that's a ways off yet.

    So far I am really happy with this new version and it's direction. The decision to fictionalize the story, rather than 'lay out the facts' as I previously had was the right thing to do and I'm enjoying the creative license the fiction format allows in telling the story.

    It will be good for me to have some place to 'talk' about it (even if only to myself), and some of the things I experienced during the years it took to get to this point.

    Until then...
     
  2. MWB

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    I did not choose this plot, it has chosen me, I did not seek out this story to tell, nor was I looking for one at the time. It is what it is.

    The plot...hmm,
    After the breakup of his marriage a man moves back to his childhood home with his four young children. Long-forgotten memories of his own dysfunctional upbringing are transposed against his responsibility to his own children as he struggles to raise them. Several years pass before strange paranormal events begin to unfold as a strange presence in the man's head leads him to question his sanity and his long-forgotten father's death, taking him on a journey of discovery that unravels thirty-plus years of family lies and secrets...well, almost fifty years now.

    ...based upon true events.

    I wonder how well it will stand up to the telling when I'm done...
     
  3. MWB

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    Overall, I'm just beginning Chapter 8...33k

    Currently working on Chapter 6 (4,772 words)

    I am returning to the well here in the hopes of both expanding and improving upon the backstory a bit...chapter 6 lays out the "how they met" aspects of this story...something of a mini-romance within the larger plot, set in the mid-50's, not critical to the main plot but it does play a part.

    Originally I intended a rather brief chapter to deal with this strange story...a man in his 30's with a wife and 5 young kids leaves them to run away with the attractive, just-out-of-her-teens babysitter, who is pregnant, but not with his child. They go on to have 5 children together but years later he reunites with the children from his previous marriage just before he dies.

    When I first completed this chapter, it read well, I like it, except I rushed the relationship...it went from 'they meet' to 'they run away' much to soon, so I'm coming back to delve deeper into that early relationship and explore their feelings and emotions a bit more...let the growth of their relationship (and perhaps the failure of his first marriage) happen more naturally...

    What sort of motivations were compelling this man to leave his family for this much-younger woman?
     
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  4. MWB

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    Work interferes...but the ferryman must be paid if I am to reach the other side...

    Chapter 6...Well, I've inserted myself at the point where he is driving the sitter home (not the first time). Now, instead of her seducing him (per the original version) they just talk and she merely eludes to her intentions (she invites him up, he declines). At that point I got stuck and have been letting it sit...to gel , as all the cool kids like to say. Finding the next delicate, realistically-motivated steps in this relationship is not going to be easy...I am not a cheating man.

    Chapter 7...finished reading and editing. A rather pivotal chapter with something of a cliffhanger at the end, and when I finished it I wasn't entirely happy with it. Oh, it did what I set out to do...more fully position the paranormal aspect as a plot line, establish a bit of character development (a hard thing for me in general) and 'wrap up' a sub-plot thread with the main character's discovery of the children from his father's previous family (his half-siblings) that is written about in chapter 6.

    Chapter 8...starting

    When I start a chapter I don't always have a clear vision of what it will be and where it goes, sometimes I do, but not always. I'm so familiar with this story as a whole that it's more a matter of deciding how I want to get to the end. There are a myriad of 'clues' and statements by the various characters involved that could be turned into a multitude of 'directions' but it's more about choosing the ones that are going to best tell the story, rather than letting everyone get their say.

    Some things are just not important within the timeline of events, no matter how important I may think they are...

    However, that is the beauty of this fictionalized approach, it is no longer their story. I am telling it now and it is my story and that is liberating in ways I cannot explain here.

    For this next chapter (8), I'm still undecided about what I want to do...what part of the story is most important to tell next? I've reached something of a crossroads I think. The main plot has split nicely into two disparate timelines that are ever-so-slowly converging upon each other and I don't want to bring them together too quickly (nor too slowly!) and I think the next couple scenes are going to provide the motion necessary to propel this story to its end. Assuming I can pull off re-writing chapter 6 as a believable 'love story'...

    I shy away from writing the paranormal aspect, I think because I have never been able to talk about it rationally, as something experienced. If it was insanity...then I have recovered. But I know it wasn't, and, having had fifteen years to think about it all I still have no other logical explanation.

    Voices...or schizophrenia?

    Well, at any rate...this is certainly not a story about ghosts.

    ...until next time, the ferryman awaits not for thee, but for me.
     
  5. MWB

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    "You know...the pesky truth, with the hang-dog look and oh-so-sad eyes. Always moping around, looking for a pat on the head, never satisfied with the bones you throw it."

    I suppose there was really only one direction to go in chapter 8. The reunion...

    Chapter 7, set in the 'present' timeline, is the story of how the main character, Matthew, finds out he has five half-siblings. It ends with him tracking down the youngest sister Diana. He calls her and, unexpectedly, she knows who he is.

    Chapter 8, (2k+ words at this point) jumps back to the 'past' timeline again, to tell the story of how she knows him, and the reunion that took place.

    So the story goes...

    Diana and her sister Linda had flown out to reunite with their father, the week of Matthew's fourth birthday. They hadn't seen their father since he left years before when they were little. During the reunion, they throw a party for Matthew's birthday, the day before they are to leave for home. Their father had to leave the day before that on a trip to Alaska. It is the last time they see each other as he dies one month later.

    Young Matthew's mother and siblings never talk about his father, his death or his other children again until years later when he begins to learn the truth and starts questioning his mother's version of events. (already unfolding in previous chapters.)

    With this chapter, the truth of the main plot can start unfolding in earnest. This chapter brings several subplots together that have been building over the previous chapters I've already written.

    I think about that night quite often, when I discovered I had five other half-siblings. When a voice not my own led me to a sister I didn't know I had.

    Call Diana, she never changed her name

    Of course, we'd met before, when I was little. Hell, she even threw me a birthday party, so it's likely I'd remember her name, Diana, but, 30-some years after-the-fact there is no way I could have known she never married, and therefore never changed her last name. Nevertheless, that night I called her number and she answered...and she knew who I was as if she'd been sitting there waiting for my call for the last three decades.

    And every year since that night, Diana has sent me a birthday card. Unerringly, it arrives in my mailbox, not the day before, or the day after, but on the day of my birthday, with a neatly written note inside. I have them stacked in a dusty pile, a monument to the truth, and I make sure to write to her once a year, to let her know dad and I are still here thinking about her.
     
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  6. MWB

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    Let's see, where are we... 39,178 words total, the most I've ever written for a singular effort. I'd guess I'll be somewhere over 100,000 words when done, and I still don't have an ending.

    Ch. 1 Done (8,256 words)

    Ch. 2 Done (5,659 words)

    Ch. 3 Done (4,520 words)

    Ch. 4 Done (3,475 words)

    Ch. 5 Done (3,745 words)

    Ch. 6 WIP (5,026 words currently)...patience pays off, no rush. Thinking I'll spread this out over a couple chapters

    Ch. 7 Done (2,627 words)

    Ch. 8 WIP (1,963 words currently)...the basic structure and scope is laid out, the dialog needs to be expanded.

    Ch. 9 WIP (3,638 words currently) New chapter

    And I don't care how cliche it is...I'm enjoying a bit of writing as I sip a cup of hot cocoa (with the tiny marshmallows!) on a rainy Sunday morning while the wife paints in the next room.

    The song in my head...

     
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  7. MWB

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    In World War 1, during the battle of the Somme, they sometimes measured progress in inches, and ground gained was often lost only hours later, but the blood, the blood! The blood didn't care who possessed the ground over which it flowed.

    Ch. 9 (currently 4429 words)

    While I wage my own battles, the war creeps on. Not a lot of progress here, writing a difficult chapter. It is almost entirely dialog between two people, discussing the past, and I am pounding it out with a dogged determination. The youngest brother (and main character) sits across the table from the oldest sister, who has some startling revelations for him as she drinks her beer and smokes her cigarettes and talks about the past.

    Though still not complete, it's a solid 1st draft...and that is enough for now. The conversation is made, but I am at a loss for a proper ending to this chapter...patience.

    The battle has shifted, as it does at this time of year when we hunker down for the long winter ahead...plotting and scheming our spring campaigns.

    A winning story in the monthly short story contest! My first, and so a tidbit of storytelling trivia (if one happens to read it)

    While still in the early years of my first marriage, my mother-in-law did in fact shoot my father-in-law during a drunken argument one rainy winter night. I remember standing in the hospital waiting room that night with my new bride as we anxiously awaited word of her father's condition with the rest of her family. Outside, the wind howled and the rain pelted the windows as the doctors did everything they could to save the old logger. Now, a .357 round to the gut would end most marriages, and most men for that matter, but, believe it or not, he, and their marriage is still very much alive to this day. Of course, they still drink too much, and the gun is still registered to the old man. And while I admire their....determination...as far as family traditions go, I opted for the divorce instead.​

    Though not the inspiration for the contest story, there are shades of truth hiding deeper meanings...given that the novel I am working on involves a father shot and left to drown, his death covered up by his own family. The coincidences are are like the threads of half-remembered past lives, visible just beneath the graying skin of time.

    And when the battle is over, only the living care who won.
     
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  8. MWB

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    I've done next to nothing on the novel...a bit of review and editing of the latest chapter a week ago, but mostly it slumbers now. Life intervenes as it tends to do...toilets don't unplug themselves, you know. And work, don't get me started on work! A constant interference with all that I would much rather be doing, which is quite a lot actually.

    I have arrived at a crossroads, and the Devil is late. I check my watch. The ground beneath my feet is several degrees above warm as I dance from one foot to the other, waiting patiently. Very little happens here, away from the mucky-muck of Life, here where it's always so uncomfortably hot. "Sultry, my mother would call it," I say to no one. No one laughs, because there is only me, and it was always a bad joke anyways. I dance from one foot to the other, waiting patiently. Off in the distance, a voice cries out maddeningly, "FREE WATER! Get'cher free water here!" And for a time I call back hoarsely, "Hey! Here, I-I'm thirsty," but no one comes. I check my watch again as I dance from one foot to the other, waiting patiently.

    Maybe next week...
     
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  9. MWB

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    The little things that keep me sleeping restless at night...take the latest bit of research for my book which happened to present itself.

    She was telling me about how she had 'talked to people' and 'they said' he had been shot and I was wondering how I ended up in this telephone conversation with Miss Scarlett after all these years. Not that we hadn't spoken more recently, just not about him. We hadn't talked about him since they warned me, and I stopped asking questions. Now here she was doing one-eighties all over everything she'd said years ago and I had to keep correcting her.

    "But that's not what you told me before"
    "Y-yes, yes, you said you were standing right there next to her that morning when she made the call."
    "But how could whatsisname have shot him if he left alone that night then?​

    That last question was a cheap shot, because Miss Scarlett was there and everyone said he left alone that night and I said so to her. Then I got ballsy, because I realized I might never have another chance, and I told her, in no uncertain terms, what I thought.

    "I know for a fact that it didn't happen the way...they say it happened and I don't believe for a second that it was an accident."​

    We both knew that by they I meant her, and our mother.

    By the end of the phone call I could tell she was outside on the porch, crying and smoking a cigarette. She's getting old now and the doctor told her to quit, but it's hard to quit smoking when one drinks booze like a fish breathes water. Trust me, I know.

    She tried halfheartedly to change the subject back to our long-lost brother, which is what really instigated this conversation, and by instigated I mean me. I do like a good plan.

    "Oh hey, one last question before you go?"
    "Of course." She always seems so helpful
    "When did our brother run away from home, I mean, when exactly. Was it before or after dad died?"​

    Of course I knew the answer. The problem...her problem, was that she didn't know that I knew.

    "Oh it was sometime before...a couple months I think. I didn't see him again for another twenty years"​

    You see, I tracked our long-lost brother down some years ago...around 2012 I think, and I asked him that very same question (among many others)...when did you run away. Again, I already knew the answer. He was there. Before, during and after the week our father disappeared.

    His answer?

    "I was there for the funeral. The day of the funeral, I remember, afterwards, when we got home mom told me to leave and never come back."​

    I didn't have the heart to outright accuse dear Miss Scarlett of lying to me, and the more onerous accusation that came with it. Hearing her sniffling as she puffed on her smoke, grasping at pathetic attempts at normal sounding small talk so I wouldn't outright accuse her of lying was already too much to bear...I had hoped that she'd tell me the truth this time, and I suppose in her way she was, but it still wasn't enough. I hate being lied to.

    That was last week...
    ---

    I've got the urge again...wordcount is now 42,419 with the start of the chapter about what happened that night. The story continues to play out in real-time before my eyes and I continue to be its stalwart stenographer. Work is a roadblock...lately it's difficult to muster the motivation to walk the 50 feet to my office, but I am backed up as well.

    The proverbial rock and hard place.
     
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  10. MWB

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    Word count: 43,834...dear old dad has just died.

    3,853 words (so far) describing the death of a father I was too young to remember, killed by a brother I never knew, in a time and place I can only imagine.

    How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

    I never guess. It is a shocking habit destructive to the logical faculty.


    ~ Arthur Conan Doyle

    Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact it's cold as hell.

    ~ Elton John

     
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  11. MWB

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    Ol' Joe would be proud...

    I've not moved the novel forward since my last post, and I have to say the break has been welcome. The mental strain of waking each day to thoughts of that world has become...well, exhausting to be honest. It is a good day when the random thought occurs reminding me it hasn't been on my mind, like suddenly realizing I've been holding my breathe and forgotten to breathe, that first rush of air is intoxicating.

    In my off time I have been able to complete the treatise I've been working on for some time now, discussing the three most relevant facts of the case, with a brief closing argument titled "Was He Shot?" which, though a rather irrelevant topic in my mind, seems to be the one most on their minds.

    Personally, it doesn't really matter if he was or not, though I have been rolling the word exhumation around in my mind lately...a titillating idea to be sure. Nevertheless, as the lawyers like to say, fraud vitiates everything...if one, or several parts of your story turn out to be bullshit, then everything that follows likely is as well.

    Just over 2000 words in all...do I think he was shot? Hell, the two people who were there that morning say he was. They even have a ready culprit to throw under the bus...how convenient.

    Unfortunately there's just one catch...

    “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

    "That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

    "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.”

    ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22
     
  12. MWB

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    I am become my own stalker, a peeping tom stealing glances through a window covered in my own condensate breathe.

    I come here occasionally and lend thoughts to my writing like some long-overdue book I can't bear to return, as I reread my journal entries. Progress.

    Still far from finished, I stare through the glass and wonder what I'll see this time.

     
  13. MWB

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    A man dies and goes to hell, where he finds himself in a room with several others, standing knee deep in shit. Looking around the room, he notices several demons who appear to be serving coffee and tea to the people in the room, who are casually sipping their drinks and conversing pleasantly among themselves.

    Suddenly there is a demon at his side, staring at him with malevolent, flaming red eyes, "Coffee or tea for you sir?" the demon says politely with a heavy Cockney-ed accent.

    "Oh, yes. Um-mm, tea for me please," he said, startled a little at the demons sudden appearance.

    "Right-Oh, sir" the demon said as a cup and saucer magically appeared in the man's hands, steaming hot with a savory scent that overpowered the smell of the feces he was standing in.

    Slowly the demon shuffled off to refill another person's cup as the man turned to a young woman standing next to him and winked conspiratorially.

    "Well then," he said, smiling as he took a sip from his cup, "this is a bit of alright if I do say, I certainly didn't expect hell to be like this," to which the woman smiled back at him warmly but without comment.

    Suddenly a bell rang out and the static sounds of an intercom filled the room with the squeal of feedback. Then a nasally female voice called out to them over the intercom, sounding bored, "break's over, everyone back on their heads."


    *Ba-Dump-Tisss*


    Yes, break's over and it's time to finish this thing...
     
  14. MWB

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    Where we last left off...and everything after.

    Dear old dad is dead...and as soon as I finished writing it I knew I had it wrong...maybe that's why I stopped writing. The series of events that occurred immediately after his death could have only occurred in one specific order, and it is central to the whole story. I've always known that much at least, and I have it wrong. I need to rewrite it.

    There is a reason for why that calf wasn't simply taken right back out on the river and dumped overboard. It either didn't occur to them to do it or they couldn't for some reason...

    And of course the ending...being that, at this time, most of these people are still alive, there has always been the question of how this all ends when considering a book. However, like everything that has come before...whomever, or whatever is behind the breadcrumbs has recently provided what I think is the ending.

    Tombstone...

    Molley...

    ...and an unmarked grave.

    I only vaguely remembered the story mom had told me...now almost four decades ago. After all, it was Thanksgiving and it was such an offhand comment that I didn't really know what to think at the time, being a dumb, young kid. Of course she never mentioned it again, and she hadn't said anything about the grave. I'd forgotten all about it until Miss Scarlett said something earlier this year.

    Like all mom's stories, I have to wonder now, through the fog of my teen-aged alcoholic memory, if what she told me was exactly the truth or not. Hell, I barely remember the incident, let alone what was said.

    A check of the available records confirmed a baby named Molley was indeed born, and died just twelve days later, almost sixty years ago. It's the how that keeps tickling that funny spot in the back of my mind.

    I've been envisioning writing it...using it as the impetus for the final disintegration of their relationship as well as the reason for his reestablishing contact with the children from his first marriage, which is the motivation for 'getting rid' of dear old dad.

    Gaps in the plot are closing...

    Of course, Molley has a headstone now. When I learned I had a baby sister buried in an unmarked grave, just a stone's throw from the old homestead, I couldn't let it stand.

    And I can't help but feel this long, sordid story needs to end with the placing of her headstone, after a twisting and convoluted journey of course.

    So I have what I think is a proper ending now, and the motivations for it, after all these years. I think I'll wait until I get there to write that scene though.
     
  15. MWB

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    A complete first reading of the entire (current) 43,886 words to get back in the groove...all in all, not bad...better than I thought anyways. A skeleton of a story exists now, with perhaps a third or maybe a bit more remaining to be written.

    A couple incomplete plot lines remain to be finished, and the latter part of the main story still lies ahead.

    And an ending! I have the rudiments of an ending now, which I can now tie into the "how I met your mother" part of the story that has been waiting to be finished.

    Having resolved the practical matter of migrating to a new computer, and finally reinstalling Word, I am now out of excuses and will begin writing again this week.

    I worry I've somehow lost the train of thought, or the ability...but I know, like an alcoholic's last drink, we tend to keep these memories close so that we don't lose sight of them in the hustle and bustle of getting from one day to the next.

    The end is in sight and I look forward to the day I am cured, if such a day exists.
     
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  16. MWB

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    I wrote today...a lot of staring at the screen for only a few hundred words, but after over 7 months off any progress is worthy...baby stepping it now.

    After some long talks with myself over the last few months I've come to the conclusion that it would be best to separate the 'how I met your mother' timeline into it's own story for the sake of writing continuity, then I can piece it back into the main story in an order that makes sense. It also lacks character development and motivation and writing it as it's own segmented storyline should provide a more linear plot line and help flesh out the characters...as it is now, it jumps around quite a bit in a way I think would be confusing for any reader unfamiliar with the story.

    This is what I've done so far...it's a start.
     
  17. MWB

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    Reengagement

    First, a few words
    Then, a few sentences
    A paragraph
    A page of text
    Then another
    The pages multiply
    A handful now
    Finally, a smile

    I've never considered writing a love story, malignant or otherwise. It is one thing to find character motivation for a spy, or a soldier..."go do this thing" and Shazam!

    Character motivation ensues...

    But to derive motivation out of feelings..."go feel this way"...it all becomes entangled in thought and emotion and expression. Showing, not telling becomes akin to maintaining one's sobriety...especially for one who is rather unfamiliar with the inner workings of conventional relationships and the motivations driving the people in them. So I seem to find myself constantly slipping back into those old, ignorant ways of perception.

    Love and Hate.

    At first I wanted to come back to it working on the end of their relationship, when everything has gone to shit and all they can find the strength to do is hate one another. An easy place to start because I know that part, I'm comfortable writing about the Hate. Yet it occurred to me that in doing so, I would be left to write of their falling in Love after having quite literally just destroyed that very same relationship.

    It seemed like an uphill proposition...the proverbial cart before the horse in the mechanical order of writing it. Would it taint the overall story?

    I imagine it would be much easier to simply call dear old mom up and ask her, or perhaps I should've struck up the conversation as a kid, but I suspect I would not have gotten the truth either way.

    Nonetheless, I am liking what is coming of it, so far. I don't feel like I am telling the characters why they are motivated. Rather, as I write, they are telling me.
     

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