8FOLD/ACRA: The Green Knight # 5
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sun Jan 15 11:37:08 PST 2006
EIGHTFOLD COMICS PRESENTS
THE GREEN KNIGHT # 5
BY TOM RUSSELL
"You want to hear a joke?"
Anders shrugs. "Sure, Mr. Rock."
"Okay. There's a mathematician, and his wife, and
they have a kid, and the kid's about sixteen, he wants
to drive, he wants a car. So, he's going to lease a
car but there's a hitch: he's sixteen, he doesn't have
any credit history. So he needs someone to co-sign
for it, and he says to his dad, will you co-sign on my
first vehicle with me? And dad says, sure. But on
one condition, and that is, I get to pick it out. The
son agrees and they're off.
"They come back later that day, in dad's car, and
dad's smiling, kind of a smirk, son looks dejected.
And mom asks, what happened? Didn't you go to the
"And dad says-- the mathematician, remember-- yeah,
we went, I co-signed on it, I picked it out for him.
"Well, where is it?
"And the son reaches into his pocket..." Martin
reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a small, red
wooden triangle. He holds it in his palm.
Anders rolls his eyes, and Martin can't really be
surprised by this; it's a corny joke, and eye-rolling
is the standard response to it. That, and he didn't
tell it particularly well; of course, how well can one
tell a trig joke, anyway? Martin feels embarrassed
and puts the triangle back into his pocket. Why does
he feel so embarrassed?
Why he is telling jokes? "So, how're you doing?"
Anders shrugs. "Fine."
"Good. Good." Why is he making small-talk? Every
stab at it so far has been unable to penetrate.
Why he is trying so damn hard to impress someone
over twenty years his junior?
Never liked him, anyway. Anders was always such an
imperious, insolent little snot. Funny. Ray's like
that. In the conversations Martin held with himself,
he often says that he was blinded to it, that it
wasn't until his stint as overgrown kid sidekick was
nearing its end that he realized what an absolute
prick Ray could be.
But no. If he thinks about it seriously...
If he re-examines it honestly... Ray was always
like that and Martin always knew it. Every night they
went on patrol, every case they went on, Martin pushed
himself, bent over backwards to earn Ray's... trust?
love? admiration? respect?
Especially at the beginning, Martin found himself
constantly trying to please the man... and the man was
never pleased. But no.
It wasn't quite that simple, was it? There were
times... many times... too many to count...
Times when he commended Martin, congratulated him,
thanked him, sometimes with words, sometimes with the
briefest of nods, of smiles...
But Martin wanted more, Martin tried even harder.
Maybe it was Martin that wanted too much.
Martin sits with Anders for about ten minutes more,
occasionally making strained attempts at conversation,
at connection. Anders is a stone-wall.
He knows that he doesn't like Martin, but he
doesn't know if he dislikes him. He doesn't really
have any feelings towards him at all, which only makes
it more awkward to be in the same room with him, to
attempt to talk with him. Martin just exists, but
that existence seems cuts off from Anders, his life,
his world. It's an uneasy feeling of disconnect that
Anders has around most people, including, and
especially, his father.
His father's in the next room. Lying there, dying.
What does that mean? What does that mean to me,
Anders wonders. He wants it to mean something. But
it's just the same as with Martin. He doesn't like
his father, he doesn't dislike his father. It might
as well be the guy delivers his paper.
It used to bother Anders, but he found a way to let
it go, make peace with it, and for most of his life,
he hasn't really cared that he doesn't care about his
father. There were other things he cared about. His
mother, for one.
After she died, Anders didn't really feel anything
about it. He knew something this big, this
devastating, should have had some impact, but it
didn't. That was frightening. What's wrong with me?
I loved my mother... didn't I?
He was sure that he did before she died. But once
she was dead, she didn't seem to matter much anymore.
Left with one parent, with his father, he thought of
himself as being left alone. Orphaned. And that
suited him just fine.
He had this beautiful mansion to live in, didn't
he? His father just stayed here, was all. His tired
old doddering father was just a boarder. Anders could
evict him anytime he wanted!
And now, that man is dying in the next room. And
Anders will be truly alone. Truly an orphan.
Shouldn't this frighten him, shouldn't this jar him
out of his apathy? Shouldn't some brief bud of
affection be discovered deep inside him, shouldn't
that now be blossoming in a full flower of love and
But no. There's no poetry in Anders. He has no
love for his father. And the fact that it will make
no difference to him-- that his life now will be the
same as his life after his father dies-- that's the
only thing that scares him.
What's wrong with me?, he asks.
Do I have a heart at all?
Martin takes his leave of Anders, he heads to one
of his hideouts and cloaks himself in the black black
night of his costume.
Anders sits with his father and listens to the
rain. He knows if this was a movie, that this would
be really stirring, really poetic. A real "emo"
moment. Boy and his estranged, distant father, the
dying man on the bed, the rain coming down in
torrents, nature and anger and grief all wrapped
Anders listens to the rain and feels nothing.
Ray feels a hand on his wrist and opens his eyes.
It's Anders. He had been hoping it was Martin. And
he doesn't know what stings the most: the
disappointment he feels, or the fact that he feels
that disappointment. The fact that he wishes it was
Martin Rock and not his son.
Ray knows that he's a bad father. He's always
known this. Sometimes, it's enough just to come to
terms with it, to admit it to himself. Other times,
he knows that knowing he's deficient doesn't really
make any difference. He's still a bad father. His
son is still alien to him. Just like his wife was.
But is that really true? Was he that distant from
his wife? Was their bed ever that cold?
Most nights he didn't sleep with her. Most nights,
he was out with Martin, jumping on rooftops. Most
days, he was doing the same. When did he ever sleep?
But there were good times. Anniversaries, sure.
But other times besides that. And he did provide. It
was his money that paid for the house, that paid for
the clothing, the luxuries and the necessities. It
was his hard work that paid for it, the same hard work
and business savvy that financed his rooftop-jumping.
I was a good provider, he thinks. I did everything
I was supposed to. So why does my son hate me?
Hate's too strong a word. Or is it? So many
questions, so many doubts... and it's so hard to think
Don't let me die yet, god, not yet. Give me time
to sort it all out. Give me time to be good to them.
Give me time.
But Ray knows he's running out of time.
You have to tell your son, Martin said. You have
to tell your son who you are. I'm not going to do it
And Ray knows this is true. He has to tell Anders
the truth. But how? He screwed up before, with
Riana. He should have told her before she died.
Should have let her know why her husband was never
He should have taken care of her. Should have been
at her bedside when she died. If only that one time,
he should have slept in her bed. She died alone. And
cold. While the Green Knight was out foiling a simple
It would've been all right, he reasoned, if he had
been busy with something big, a kidnapping, maybe, or
the Psychopomp... wouldn't it? It's not fair to hold
him to the same standard as everybody else. His work
came first. She had to understand that. Or she would
have. If she knew.
It's her fault anyway. He would have told her, but
only if she told him first. Told him what he knew
already: that she was sleeping with Martin.
It was raining like this, hard, bleak, unyielding--
raining just like this the night Ree died. She had
been sleeping. Her eyes fluttered open. She saw
Martin and smiled. Then her eyes closed again.
She breathed deep and heavy, and her breaths became
shallower. Shallower. They slowed to a crawl. Then
she didn't breathe anymore.
Martin held her body, and it disturbed him that it
was so heavy. That she possessed the same weight now
as she had when alive.
He expected it to be lighter, somehow. That
without the spark of her, a shadow would remain, a
husk. But her body was just the same.
Martin didn't have time to cry. He heard Ray
entering from the side door. He opened the window to
Ree's room and leapt into the rain, became part of the
When he wears his costume, when he dons his mask,
he becomes the shadows, the night, the darkness. And
when it rains, he becomes the rain too. Violent and
Ray reasons that since she never told him, never
confessed about Martin, that she was just as bad as
him, that she didn't deserve to know about his secret
life. But even when he thinks this, he knows it isn't
true. If he was going to tell her, he would have at
the beginning, before they were even married.
He liked his secrets, he liked being the Green
Knight. He liked the life he led, and he liked the
external conflict, the fighting, the leaping, the
physicality of it. He had spent his whole childhood
in his little room, in his head.
His father would try to get him to come outside, to
get active in sports or help him in the garage. Or to
shovel the snow. Make friends. But Ray stayed in his
room, with his equations and his drawings. Why the
It was after his father was dead that he started
work in the garage. With tools. Wood. Metal.
Flame. Perspiration. His mother sat inside the
little house and cried. He should have held her,
wiped her tears, tell her things were going to be
It was easier to work in the garage.
And when his wife was dying, when his son was born,
when their bed grew cold...
It was easier to put on a mask.
Right now, it would be easier just to die, just to
fade away. He's an old, dying man. Too late to make
amends now anyway. Too late to fix a life. Why not
just let him die? Give some sympathy, he's dying.
Just play the part, Ray. Just be the dying man. Put
on a weak and weary mask...
It'd be easier... so much easier... if Martin was
here, if Martin was holding his hand. If Anders
didn't exist at all.
But no. You have to tell him, Ray. The rain goads
him on, the rain won't him slip again into
unconsciousness, the rain won't let him escape his
thoughts, his worries, his doubts... his
The rain won't let it be easy.
"Son. This is. This is the thing. Thing.
"Dying. Have to tell you. Hard. But this is it.
"This is the...
"This is the thing. Anders. I. I..."
His eyes start to roll back in his head. He tries
to snap them back, to focus... Anders is holding his
hand... leaning forward, trying to listen...
Not eagerly. Looks bored more than anything else.
He doesn't even want to know, Ray. He doesn't even
care. It's not going to change anything. That's not
the way it works. The way you treated him was the way
you treated him. That's fact. You can't change a
fact. You can't alter his perception...
You're a bad father, and nothing else you've done
in your life is going to excuse that. You were a bad
husband, too. And it's too late for redemption. Too
late... too late...
So why even tell him? It won't make any
difference, will it? Bad father...
Bad father, bad husband...
You should have told her, Ray. You should have
told her if you loved her. You did, didn't you? You
did love her. But you let her die alone and cold.
You let her die in the dark. You let her die. You
should have been there, it's your fault she's dead.
It's your fault Anders doesn't care what you have
to say, that he's humouring you. Can you blame him?
But here he is. He doesn't even like you, and he's
holding your hand, he's feeding you when you can
handle food, he's taking care of you. You loved Riana
and you let her die. Anders hates you and he's taking
care of you. She died alone. You don't deserve this,
Ray. You deserve to die alone like Riana...
... and it's that thought that propels him to shout
above the crashing of the rain. "G. Green! Night.
Night... night... night..."
And then he falls asleep, exhausted. Exhausted,
but still alive.
Anders gets up to take a piss. Stupid old man.
Didn't care one way or the other before, but now he's
made me angry. I've had to piss for ten minutes, I
was just about to go when he started jabbering. What
the hell was that all about, anyway?
He could have excused it if the old man actually
had anything to say. But it was just random shit.
Hallucinating, probably. Probably senile on top of
Green. Green what? There's nothing green in the
He starts to piss in the center of the bowl,
watching the mass of little yellow bubbles fan out to
the edges, forming a sort of semi-circle, a little
piss pac-man. He aims lower, attempting to fill up
the missing piece, but the new island of bubbles sends
the remaining water in the bowel ripping, breaking up
the piss-continent. Anders flushes it all down.
Should have been content with what he had.
He washes his hands, and the bar of soap is green
and smells like Irish... Irish something or another.
He doesn't know. Maybe this is what he was talking
about, Anders thinks cynically. Maybe he wants to
wash his hands. Like Pilate.
Stop, stop, stop, he says to himself. He spends so
much time with himself, in his room, in his brain,
that his mind works funny, it works against him. It
takes words and ties them to other words, to
associations, and it gets to the point where he can't
stop thinking. He holds his head and pulls at his
hair and bangs himself against the wall, and says
stop, but his brain won't stop thinking. It's useless
to try and head it off at the start. He tries anyway.
Stop, stop, stop, red light, green light, green soap,
Pilate (washing his hands).
Always felt sorry for Pilate. Not because he made
a good decision. Condemning Christ to die is not the
way to get a fond remembrance in the history books.
(Not that Anders considers himself a good Christian,
either). But if Christ was meant to die...
If the whole point of Christ was his death, his
If God sent him to do just that, and he did that,
then Pilate was simply acting as an instrument of that
God, that destiny. Pilate saves humanity from the
clutches of hell by damning himself. And isn't that a
greater sacrafice? Jesus knows that after the
physical agony of death, he'll be raised up by the
heavenly host, he'll ascend to take his side next to
his father. But Pilate.
Pilate burns in hell.
But doesn't he deserve that, after what he did?
Yes, but he did it for us, didn't he? Well, he didn't
know that he did. Stop, stop, stop.
And knowing makes all the difference, doesn't it?
Intentions? No. Intentions are bullshit. Hamlet
intended well enough, but Ophelia's still dead (the
Anders sometimes thinks of committing suicide--
especially when his brain can't stop thinking-- but
not because of the agony of that thought, not because
of any emotional turmoil (he has no Gethsemane, he is
no Christ-- didn't Jesus commit suicide, then?
Shouldn't he have gone to hell. People kill
themselves to try to spare the world of their
existence, to try to make things easier for their
loved ones. Good intentions, as selfless as Christ's.
But they go to hell and he goes to heaven? What is
that? Some people always have the short end of the
stick; others are born to privilege.)
Sometimes Anders wishes he had been born poor. And
that he had a father he could talk to, who loved him.
Maybe that'd be too much. To both be poor and loved,
maybe that was asking too much.
Anders thinks about suicide not because his life is
too hard, but because he doesn't really feel that he's
living a life. There's nothing for him to unhappy
about, true, but also nothing for him to be happy
about. It's as if he is unnecessary. He wonders if
he even haves a soul, or if he was born without one.
Maybe his father sold it on him. He can't think of a
reason why his father would do such a thing, but the
idle fantasy gives him reason to be angry and anger is
a feeling, that means he's feeling something, maybe he
does have a soul?
He doesn't commit suicide for the same reason he
wants to commit it: there's no reason to or not to.
Nothing to live for and nothing to die for. Nothing.
He wishes he had a purpose in his life. That he
had something, or someone, that he could care about.
That he could be someone important, or someone
unimportant. That he could be a superhero, or
stop stop stop
My father is the Green Knight.
This is the thing, Anders. I'm the Green Knight.
Night. Night. Night...
And then, Anders's brain stops (stop). My father
is the Green Knight.
There's a crash of thunder and a knock at the door.
Anders, in a daze, runs to get it.
There's a man clothed all in black, sitting on the
porch, being pummeled by the rain, and bleeding.
"R-Ray," says the man in black, and he falls
Anders does not have time to think. His body is
already moving, already acting. His hands find their
place in Martin's armpits and his arms start pulling
him inside. He drags the wet, bleeding black mass
into the center of the living room. He closes the
The storm still rages outside, and the first
thought that Anders has is that the rain did this to
him, somehow. It's an absurd thought, and one easily
dismissed. Its sequel is more daunting: what do I do?
Okay. Okay, okay. It looks like Mr. Rock is in
trouble. He could be hurt bad, he could be dying.
His first answer is, let's ask dad what to do, but his
father is in no condition to be of any assistance.
Anders wants to ask his mother. But she's dead.
Okay. But what would she do? Okay, okay. Calm down.
Call nine-one-one, get an ambulance over here? But
no. You can't do that with a superhero. You'll blow
his cover. A superhero.
Your father's the Green Knight. What does this
make Mr. Rock? Costume's not familiar. Maybe he's an
amateur. But you can't blow his cover...
Your father's the Green Knight. Your father is a
superhero. You've read about him in the paper.
You've seen him on TV. Never knew. This is a weird
feeling. You never knew your father in the first
place, and when asked to describe him, the first words
that come to mind is-- well, he's my dad, I guess.
Your dad's your dad, not much you can say about that.
Doesn't he have some personality? Not really, no.
No? No. Does he like jokes? No, he doesn't like
jokes. So he's serious, dour? I guess. I dunno.
Dad's my dad.
Never knew him in the first place. And now you
never really knew him at all. Double nothing.
But. Focus. Okay, okay. Mr. Rock's in trouble--
Focus, damn it. Focus it.
Your father is the Green Knight. Does that mean
Martin Rock is the Acro-Bat...? His sidekick. His
Okay, okay. But calm down. Focus. What are you
going to do? Take off his mask, make sure he's
breathing, look at the wounds. Maybe it's not that
serious. Maybe a doctor won't be necessary.
His face is a bloody mess, purple and pulpy and
bruised. He's breathing, though. Shallowly.
Wheezing. But he's breathing. Now Anders looks at
the costume for the first time, notices the rips in
the side of the fabric and along the arm. That's
where most of the blood is coming from.
Shit, were you supposed to move him? You're not
supposed to move a body. Shit. What if you made it
worse, what if you've killed him, calm down, okay,
calm down, focus. Focus. Focus
Clean the wounds. Stop the bleeding. Focus.
Anders passes his father's bed on the way to the
bathroom. His father is still asleep. His father is
the Green Knight. How is he supposed to react to this
news? That's always the question, isn't it: how was
he supposed to act, supposed to react? He wants to be
normal. What's a normal response to death, to
violence, to dying, to love?
What's wrong with me?
Anders returns with a couple of wash-cloths, soaked
with soapy water, dribbling onto the carpet en route
to Martin's prone body. Also, a bottle of hydrogen
peroxide. And some bandages he found under the sink.
There were fifteen different rolls of bandages
under the bathroom sink.
He rips the fabric up the sleeve and at the sides
so that he can get to the wounds. He washes the
wounds, as best he can. He doesn't know how to do it,
and at first he scrubs it like a tile floor. He then
thinks better of it, and pats about lightly. Still
bleeding. Still breathing.
He knows better than to tie a tourniquet. He pours
the hydrogen peroxide on the wound in preparation of
applying the bandages. The burning shock of the
peroxide wakes Martin up, he gasps for air and looks
at Anders from the swollen slits that now pass for
eye-sockets. Martin sits up and takes the bandages
from him, begins to treat himself. "Some water.
Anders goes to the kitchen and gets Martin a glass
of water. By the time he's returned, Martin's done
with the arm and is nearly done with his side. He's
fast, not in any way awkward; he's used to doing this,
done it so many times that it is effortless and
efficient. Martin takes the glass, sips it, and then
presses his fingers self-consciously to his face.
"I bet I look gorgeous, don't I?"
Anders doesn't say anything.
Martin hands Anders the glass and begins to push
himself up from off the ground. Anders decides to
help, but hesitates, momentarily confused by the glass
of water. He sets it down on the floor and reaches
his hand to help Martin up. Martin takes the hand
even though he's most of the way up himself; it was a
futile gesture, but Martin accepts the feeling behind
"I tried to wash them," Anders begins to explain.
"You did great. Thanks."
Martin limps over to an armchair and plops himself
down. Anders stands there like an idiot.
"How's your dad?"
"I'll go check," Anders says.
Still sleeping. Still breathing. Still an enigma.
The Green Knight.
"He's fine," says Anders, coming back into the
room. He sits down in a chair across from Martin. He
turns on a lamp next to him.
"Um," says Martin. "I'd get it myself, but..."
Anders gets up, grabs the glass of water off the
floor, and hands it to him. Martin takes a drink and
gives a nod in appreciation.
"Mr. Rock. Is my father the Green Knight?"
"Did he tell you that?"
"I think so."
"Yes, he is. When did he tell you?"
"Maybe five minutes before you knocked on the door.
Did my mother know?"
"Um..." Martin contemplates lying, but decides
against it. "Yes, she did."
"But..." Anders is more perceptive than either
Martin or Ray gave him credit for.
"Your father never told her. And I don't think he
knows that she knew. She just figured it out on her
"She was smart."
"Yeah, she was a very special woman."
Anders wants to say that he misses her, but he
isn't sure if it's true. Does he really miss her, or
is he supposed to miss her? What does that feel like,
anyway, longing? Anders often doubts the validity of
his emotions, of his thoughts, the sincerity of his
actions. He helped Martin this evening. Maybe even
saved his life. Probably not. But he did help. Was
he being sincere in helping, did he help because it
was the right thing to do, or did he help because
that's what he was supposed to do? He's supposed to
miss his mother. Does he? If he does, does he do it
because he does or because he's supposed to? Stop.
Stop thinking. "I miss her. My mother."
He says it and all the inner preamble makes him
instantly regret it. If he really meant it, he
wouldn't doubt its sincerity at all, would he? But
that's his life. Constant doubt, second-guessing,
self-cynicism. Does he have real emotions at all?
"You're the Acro-Bat?" he asks. Get Martin
talking. Give him something to focus on. Stop the
thoughts. Stop thinking.
"Not anymore," says Martin.
"Who are you now?"
"You've retired, or..." Of course he hasn't
retired, idiot! He's wearing a costume, isn't he?
"Yeah, but I don't use a codename. I... operate
differently. Less public. More street-level, fight
mobsters, that kind of thing. They know who I am, I
mean, that I exist, not my identity. I don't need a
codename." He seems very proud of this.
"Mobsters, right." As if this is normal.
Hum-drum. Shouldn't you have some sense of awe?
What's wrong with you?
"You look a bit shaken. It's a lot to absorb, I
"Did you talk with your dad for a long time?"
"Not really. No, not at all. He just told me and
"Just like that, huh?"
"If you have any questions, I can try to fill you
in the best I can."
"Sure. Thanks, Mr. Rock. Do you need some more
"No, I'm good. Just needed the one glass. It
helped immensely, thank you."
"You need anything to eat?"
"I'm not really going to be able to keep anything
down, I think."
"What happened to you? Mobsters?"
"No." Anders thinks that he sees Martin turn pale.
With the bruises on his face, it's hard to tell.
"Usually, Anders, I'm fighting toughs, you know.
Pushers, mobsters, sure. But with your dad..." He
crooks his thumb to the adjacent room. "The
four-colours just kind of... uh, supervillains."
"They just kind of gravitated towards him, he took
care of them. Which is fine, because I'd rather take
care of the streets. Just... I came from a poor
background, so that feels like home, I'm
"Sure, sure. But what happened tonight?"
He can sense Anders getting impatient, but he still
talks around it. "So I've had to pick up the slack.
I knew I was going to have to after your father passed
on. But there's now and there's then, and it's not
then yet. It's now, and the supervillains are still
out there, and without your father... well, I've got
to pick up the slack a little faster. And tonight...
I ran into a supervillain. I ran... I ran into the
Even Anders has heard of the Psychopomp. He waits
for Martin to continue, but silence pervades. Martin
stays quiet, tight-lipped, afraid. Anders is afraid
to ask him anything else. Only the rain speaks
outside, the ubiquitous, waiting, listening storm.
There's a cough from the other room, from his
father, and Anders is relieved to have an excuse to
leave the room, to leave Martin sitting in an easy
chair with his uneasiness.
Ray nods while he coughs, indicating that Anders
"Mr. Rock's here."
"Have him come in."
"I don't know if you remember. But before you went
to sleep, you told me that you're the Green Knight.
Do you remember...?"
Ray doesn't answer. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you
His father's facial expression is unchanging, his
vocal inflection flat. Anders doubts the sincerity of
the apology, and than feels like shit for doubting a
dying man. Strange, it doesn't even feel like he's
doubting his father. His father he can doubt. It
feels like he's doubting a dying man, a stranger, and
he feels bad for not assuming good faith. At least
he's feeling something. At least feeling shitty can
be called an emotion. This analysis on Anders's part
effectively deadens that emotion, and he again becomes
a cold machine, a body and a brain. Not a person.
"Could you ask. Ask Martin to c. come in...?"
"Uh..." He was hoping to talk with his father
while he was lucid, able to talk. "Sure, dad. But
he's hurt right now and..."
"Oh, I'm all right." Martin lurches into the room,
holding his bandaged arm, putting on a bright face.
"Nothing to worry about. How're you doing, Ray?"
"I'm dying is how I'm doing. What th. the hell
happened to you?"
"Psychopomp." There's less fear in his voice this
time, and he doesn't talk around it, dance towards it.
"It's been a while since I fought a four-colour,
"Been a while since we fought the Psychopomp.
Ninety-nine...? Or two thousand...?"
"That must have been you. Last time we fought him
together was when I came back from the Gulf."
"Right. Been a long time. Long. Long time."
"Take it easy, Ray," says Martin.
"Tell me. T. Tell me about it."
"Well, I was heading back to one of my hide-outs,
Rockhopper's old place. Same building where you fell
down the stairs. But he was there, must have known
about Rockhopper's place and was gutting it or
something. Had some thugs with him."
"No. Must've realized gorillas went out a long
Anders steps backwards out of the room. He sits in
his chair and turns out the light. He listens to
Martin talking to his father. He listens to the rain.
He feels nothing.
(C) COPYRIGHT 2006 TOM RUSSELL.
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