Working Title

Working Title

A Story by Dave


          If you sit alone in an office with fluorescent lights, there’ll come a point when you’ll start to hear them.  When it starts, it’s barely audible; a low hum from the rectangle located directly above you.  Eventually, the rest join in - a chorus line of bright, rectangular, artificial light simultaneously offending eye and ear.  You’ll notice it more often at night when all natural daylight is absent and it’s just them and you.  Isaac has determined that he can usually maintain his focus on a set of stochastic charts for about an hour before the initial perception of any sound.  Tonight, he’s been busy for at least two, entering permutation upon permutations of variables, dragging data into fields, observing random potential outcomes, and compiling them into a single distribution.  Isaac Husk’s job involves quantifying the likelihood of random events and - such is the case with most mid-level workers at the company - every senior associate at Ecklin, Demata & Nangy owes some part of his success to his (Isaac’s) work. 

            The solitude of an empty office floor is conducive to productivity for the first couple of hours.  It’s normally around the onset of the third hour of work that Isaac experiences what he’s come to term as “the visits”.  It’s not anyone or -thing that is doing the visiting, but a feeling - a sense of presence over a shoulder, across the aisle, behind the glass of an empty, unlit office.  Once the visits begin, breaks in concentration become more frequent, the pace of work inevitably slows, the intervals between coffee breaks become shorter, and the impulse to move about the room intensifies.  Tonight, the visits have little to do with boredom or the inherent tedium of his task and much to do with fluorescent light.  Isaac’s eyes have been trained for several minutes on the wall above the reception desk baring the company logo, which, like all walls at EDN, is cornflower blue - a shade that head of human resources, Kellen Wurst, has deemed to be soothing - and the paint’s hue is slowly melting toward white causing him to blink rapidly.  Surfaces in the office appear as if shrouded in a thin film of electricity.  Typically warm shades assume a cold, aberrant glow. 

He lifts his mug to reveal a wet ring of java imprinted on a stack of papers littered with figures, then rests the mug’s rim against his lower lip and slowly tilts until the liquid is close enough to his skin to test the temperature of its radiant heat while the vapors warm his nostrils’ interior, and then sips before placing the mug back in its moist ring.  On the mug’s cylindrical face is the heading, “Business as Usual Suspects,” and an illustration of a police lineup - Jimmy Carter, George Bush2, and Barack Obama arranged from left to right, each one holding a sign with an arrow pointing to the man on his left with the inscription, “His Fault.”  Isaac had borrowed the mug from Giselle a month ago and forgotten to return it.  Giselle Ingersole prepares cashflows approximately two meters to the left of Isaac, across an aisle that divides the office lengthwise, and her desk is currently vacant.  She usually stays late when end-of-quarter earnings are approaching and works in the dark by the light of two reading lamps that occupy her desk’s opposing corners.  Giselle has, on several occasions, related to Isaac accounts of her own variety of late-night, empty-office, visit-esque sensations and shares his distaste for fluorescence.  She and Isaac share a relationship that is as close to friendship as you’ll find at EDN. 

Giselle is attractive if not conventionally pretty.  She is slender but not toned and her legs are long for her torso, which lends to the appearance of height despite her five-foot-six-inch stature.  She walks with purpose - lips pursed, shoulders back, elbows slightly bent, her hips leading her through the length of each stride.  To the casual onlooker, each step and accompanying sequence of movements communicates the simple message that this gal is of value and is not to be fucked with.  The covering of hair on her arms is slightly thicker than Isaac can recall ever noticing on a woman as attractive as Giselle, but somehow this incongruity does not detract from but instead adds to her appeal. 

The parking lot side of the office is all window - the type that allow you to see out but whose reflective surfaces prevent anyone from seeing in during daylight hours.  On the opposite wall, to Isaac’s right, hangs an impressionist painting depicting a man and woman walking away from the viewer under shelter of umbrella, at night, down a sidewalk with a queue of trees lining its left side, with undersides lit by street lamps the light of which is reflecting from the walk’s wet surface as headlights approach in the distance.  The whole scene is constructed with the use of richly multicolored, trapezoidal chop-strokes.  Along the same side of the office is a white painted steel door and next to its knob is a small green sign with white lines intersecting at ascending right angles intended to resemble stairs.  The carpets are a light shade of gray.  The only photograph hanging in the office is a small one of Joseph Nangy that hangs outside the door to his second story office, which is located at the top of a staircase that completes the first 120 degrees of an upward spiral.  In the winter, during the interval from 1:34 to 2:06, the sun’s rays hit the staircase at an angle that projects its shadow across the office floor in a parabolic arc that completely covers Mason Orin’s workspace making it easier to read the screen of his Acer T230H monitor. 

Valerie Benoa is breathtaking.  She transferred, a week ago, from the Hoboken office when her fiancé got a job on Long Island.  Her eyes are hazel and pretty in a way that makes them difficult to maintain contact with with your own.  Chuck Yuster has ginger hair and practices his golf swing sans club (with special attention paid to the fluidity of his take-back) during casual office conversations.  Adam Koss is the nephew of the wife of Chief Financial Officer, Edmond Elksford.  His (Adam’s) desk is located in the row ahead of Isaac’s and, although he’s worked there for two years, he is still the youngest mid-level at EDN.  Greg “Ash” Ashlin drinks no fewer than eight mugs of coffee before noon.  It is conventional office wisdom that you can avoid the frustration of entering the break room and finding the coffee pot empty simply by observing the duration of, and intervals between, Greg’s visits.  A lengthy visit followed shortly after by a brief visit - the first to brew the coffee and the second to refill his mug - indicates that the pot is full.  Mason Orin’s worked at EDN for nine years (the longest of any mid-level), was hired directly by the company’s cofounder, William Ecklin, has arrived at work promptly at 8:55 AM every morning of his career, has never imbibed a single cup of coffee in his life, eats lunch at his desk over balance sheets, has worked past 5:00 PM exactly twice in his entire tenure at EDN, and met his wife, Mary, while studying economics on BU’s Newton Campus.  Mary is a professor of literature.

The sound is feint and electronic and barely audible at first.  Isaac’s eyes scan the room from left to right and now upward, searching for its origin.  It grows - a pulsing, digital sound that is now traveling down from atop the curved staircase - behind the locked door of Nangy’s empty office, behind the smiling photograph, which, from this angle and distance, is a featureless mesh of light skin against dark hair.  The digits on Isaac’s watch, at which he blinks his work-weary eyes to force them into focus, show 10:11.  It’s considerably late for office phone calls.  There have been exactly nine rings now, Isaac notices, and the message service has still not intercepted the call.  Now, a tenth. 






          “Yes, Mrs. Husk.  That’s what I said.  -filled his boots,” she said, her head tilted to the side bracing the classroom phone between her jaw and right shoulder, staring at the soggy spectacle standing humiliated between two circular tables, surrounded by an uncharacteristically silent crowd of first-graders. 

            “Yes, of course I let Isaac use the washroom during class, Mrs. Husk, whenever he asks.  This time, however, he did not.  He simply stood front-and-center and went.”  They stood stunned, a wall of wide-eyed watchers, wondering whether or not this could be the same Isaac Husk who had finished Miss Finley’s entire library of Easy Readers in a single October afternoon, who, on one particularly auspicious day in March, constructed a scale replica of the Verrezano-Narrows bridge out of Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and thread, who had won Miss Finley’s poetry contest with a 41-stanza epic (written in iambic pentameter with flawless A/B/A/B rhyme scheme) titled The Hole, who had already finished solving all of the first and second degree equation exercises in the NYS sequential one RCT review booklet (intended for remedial ninth-graders) that Miss Finley had given him to work on, but only after he’d finished his long division practice problems, who for the first time since they’d known him seemed quite average and, well, like, human.  Isaac Husk - dejected - standing mid-room with dual shaded dungarees, appeared, for the first time, normal.  And all he’d done was stand in full view of his peers and fill his boots.

            “Well, I’ll take him down to the nurse’s office and we’ll get him fitted with some clean clothing and shoes from the lost-and-found.  I’ll put the wet ones in a plastic bag and you can come pick him up at your earliest convenience.  Yes, thank you, Mrs. Husk.  Good day.”





            Giselle Ingersole sits and watches a gold orb disappear then reappear as it climbs through the thick and thin of a tall row of pines located on the pond’s opposite shoreline.    It’s May.  Her father and dog passed away a year ago in April.  That was the same month she’d cut her losses and walked out on a relationship ten years in the making.  Three lights extinguished - one with intention.  Said she couldn’t see where her life was going with him; she couldn’t.  Clean break, up and left, two week’s notice, new apartment, new address, new job, new life, blind-sided the poor fellow.  Cleo was her German Shepherd’s name and she’d received him from a man she had never met who wore a beard and a flannel shirt and leather sandals and smelled faintly of lemon grass, who lived in the next Southern New Jersey town over - Vineland - and had hung a sign on a telephone pole inviting passersby to FREE PUPIES [sic], which she had seen on her way to Dill’s to pick up a sandwich for her now-deceased father, who (the man) said nothing as he led her down a long path behind the house - stopping only to pick a bud of honey-suckle, pass it to her, and take one for himself - until they finally arrived at a clearing.  There were eight that he kept beneath an old trailer surrounded by a chicken wire fence to keep them from wandering.  It was a week later when the vet informed Giselle that her Cleo was a Leo. 

            Across the pond, a man sets a brown instrument case down on one of the wood and iron benches aligned in a row along the cement path and bends to open it.  He removes the instrument and then takes from his pocket what, from this distance, appear to be coins and sprinkles them into the open case’s soft, red interior, attaches the neck and mouthpiece with a few alternating turns of his wrist, slides the neck strap over his head, and starts in on a 5/4 Dave Brubeck tune.  Giselle digs the tips of her thumb and index finger into the nearly dry earth beneath her and excavates a thin ellipse of stone.  She holds it up and wipes its surface clean with her free hand, then admires the parallel lines that sweep across its curved contour.  Her eyelids close slightly as she inspects the item with the expression one wears while considering the value of something rare and unfamiliar.  She leans back at the waist, legs straightening in front of her, back stiff, together with the ground’s horizontal plane forming the acute angle of maximum leverage.  Giselle side-arms the ellipse at the perfect 20 degrees to the water’s surface.  The disk, rapidly rotating, creates enough resistance against the pond’s surface tension to kiss softly and then take flight… descend…kiss…reascend in a sinusoidal curve of ever diminishing amplitude, dimpling the pond’s mirror with a series of logarithmically spaced sets of concentric circles with constantly decreasing radii.  Each one ripples outward from its epicenter, finds resistance against its neighbor’s outward travel, achieves equilibrium, and then calm - the mirror reforms.    

            Valerie’s arrival is announced by the clumsy, arrhythmic squish and thump of high heels penetrating soft terrain as she makes her way awkwardly down the hill to the water’s edge.  Her hips shift and shoulders dip causing the contents of the plastic bag in her left hand to sway and bounce repeatedly against her side making lines in her neatly pressed white blouse, for which she shows no concern as her attention is evenly divided and completely invested in the dual tasks of making it safely down the hill to Giselle and typing something into the mobile device in her right hand.  “Sandwiches!” she announces.  The swish of falling plastic and then the thud of the bag’s contents hitting the ground beside Giselle, “ -from Katz,” her eyebrows rise and fall several times with excited amusement.  “What ever happened to tables?  I mean, seriously.  I like the park as much as the next girl, but you’ve got me off-roading in two-inchers here.”  The heels on Valerie’s black Betsey Johnsons measure precisely one inch and the lower half-inch is now covered in sandy soil. 

            The hill is freckled with midday park visitors situated without pattern; an assortment of persons randomly grouped and strewn about the hillside like a child’s things.  “Give it a chance, Val.  Can all these people be wrong?” Giselle asks, her head pivoting in indication of the park's fellow inhabitants.  Valerie shrugs a shoulder, still typing.  “Besides, I can’t spend more than four hours in the office without interfacing with some sky,” Giselle asserts, her arms lifted in a V that points toward the heavens.  A small hole has opened up in a cumulus grouping over the Citibank building on 5th and thin vectors are needling through and hitting the front of the bank, its front windows now spangled with sharp points of light.  Three blue-collar workers in matching uniforms sit on a wall and eat food from white containers with plastic utensils.  Two lawyers - one with a blue collar - discuss a drug patent.  A woman is running with a device strapped to her arm attached to a pendulous, U-shaped length of wire, which, with each lengthy stride, accumulates sweat as it delivers alternating taps to opposite sides of her face.  Without slowing, she makes a last minute decision to go left of a pair of Vietnamese women, the younger of which is pushing a green stroller.      

            “I’m just saying that there are plenty of perfectly good, clean, outdoor eating areas in this city that don’t require safari gear to acquire,” Valerie responds dryly.  Giselle smirks as she flicks a scrap of lettuce into her lunch mate’s lap.  Two women in business suits have removed their jackets to bare arms and are lying on towels on the angled hillside taking in sun.  Further up, two bronze skinned college students do the same in bikinis and bare feet.  Throughout the park, canines receive their daily exercise and evacuation and communicate with one another in varying tones and volumes and levels of excitement v. aggression.  

            “You notice the new guy, Gesh, hasn’t been there all week?” Val carefully picks crumbs from her white blouse using the tips of her neatly painted nails. 


            “Casey Gesh.  New guy.  Desk is in the back of the office - couple of rows behind mine.  Demata hired him personally about three weeks ago.  He came over from Telfair Associates, down in Miami.” 

            “Blonde hair?  Kinda on the tall side?” Giselle’s eyes are fixed on the Citi building.

            “That’s the one.  Hasn’t been in in a week.  Pretty ballsy for a new guy.  I didn’t take a day my entire first year.”

            “I think they hired him to bring in new clients - travel around and sell the new dividend income fund that Yuster and Madsen are managing.  At least that’s what he was doing at Telfair.  Something along those lines, anyway.  How do you know he’s actually sick?  Maybe they’ve got him out on the road already,” Giselle shrugs.  “You know Demata.  He doesn’t waste any time with new guys.  Time is money.” 

            “A second ago you didn’t know the guy’s name.  Now, you know his whole prior work history.”

            “I new him as the blonde, kinda-tall, kinda-good-looking guy that Demata hand-picked to sell the new dividend fund.  OK?”

            “Good looking?  Interesting.”  Val smirks.


            “You wanna take these suckers back to the office?” Val holds up the remaining two thirds of her hoagie.  “I’m gonna skip the subway and hoof it back.  Fatty needs the exercise.  Care to join me?”  Val stands and motions for Giselle with her left hand, still typing with her right. 







            Rena Madsen pushes papers, Yuster yawns enthusiastically, becoming aware of his surroundings mid-yawn and quickly applying an open palm.  Ashlin receives papers from Madsen and produces a fountain pen from his breast pocket, Rena removes a piece of red lint from just below her left shoulder.  The projector is on and the fluorescents are off and so the room is void of hum.  On the first floor, Orin hums the opening bars of a Stevie Wonder tune the name of which he can’t remember while Ashlin tries to remember the name on the file he left downstairs on his desk knowing that Ecklin will eventually ask for it.  Superstition.  The angle of the sun’s rays shifts visibly causing a rectangle to stretch into a parallelogram illuminating the spiraled grains of the office’s table as its corner creeps up the front of Ecklin’s sky blue Brooks Brothers tie.  John Jeffries on plain manila - top right corner - in blue ink.  The meeting takes place atop the curved staircase, in Ecklin’s corner office.  Yuster directs a smile at Rena, which goes unreturned.  Projections of investment returns are shown on the screen as green bars, then historical closing prices displayed in a series of superimposed curves, 100-day moving averages in red that overlap 30-day moving averages in blue, slightly more jagged (the blue), more papers are exchanged.  Yuster opens a brown briefcase and produces a financial calculator, pushes buttons to confirm projections, scribbles digits into boxes on paper, pushes more buttons, Rena yawns.  Downstairs at his desk, Isaac wrestles with duration modeling, survival rates, estimates P(T > t) for the Williams policy, cumulative density functions; a fly in the break room bounces frantically off of a window, buzzing, surviving on melted sugar dissolving in puddles of cold coffee on the counter top.  Upstairs, Ash takes a sip from his mug of hot coffee and pushes papers back to Rena.  A slow smile creeps across Rena’s mug when she sees the caricature of Ecklin that Ashlin’s drawn in the lower right corner.  Ecklin yawns and scribbles characters in the corner of his yellow notepad, ratios flash on the screen: P/E, D/E, P/B, current, quick, ROE, ROA.  Below, Isaac yawns, then copies figures from his computer’s monitor onto a slip of yellow paper.  A television monitor suspended on the wall above and to the right of Orin’s desk flashes mutely.  Talking heads, mouths moving rapidly, serious talk without sound, switching back and forth between a brown haired man with a strong, sculpted chin and a navy blazer and a thin, fair skinned woman with yellow hair like a mane, sculpted, a serious sculpture of hair; MMM 76.54   M… scrolls from right to left beneath his chin.  “I’ll have those receipts and order slips for you by Wednesday,” Orin explains over the phone to an independent auditor.  She (the auditor) will be in the office Thursday opening drawers.  Valerie bends to open a drawer, revealing lines beneath her brown skirt.  Yuster stares absently at the lines on the wall of the office behind Rena - cornflower blue - then at her chest then at the screen’s numbers in yellow and red.  There are a number of yellow cabs lined up at a red light that can be seen just past the parking lot out the windows on the left side of the office.  A family on blue bicycles passes the row of cabs on the left side.  Joseph Nangy reclines his brown leather seat, sitting on his private jet, positioned over the deep, blue Atlantic.






            “You don’t talk much on car rides, do you Isaac?”

            “I figure it’s going to be a long ride.  I’m pacing myself.”

            “Sure, but you’ve got to admit that you’re never really much for small talk.  I think that might be one of your best qualities.  You speak when you have something to say.”  Without taking her eyes from the road, Giselle lifts a carton of coconut water from the center console’s cup holder being careful not to spill, a task made difficult by the square-peg-in-a-round-hole nature in which the prism shaped container has been wedged into the cylindrical holder, and takes an extended gulp.  She makes an exaggeratedly satiated ahhh noise as she returns the carton to its ill-fitted receptacle, then smiles playfully at Isaac.                                

            “I suppose we’re in no rush.”

            “I’m going to have to agree with you, Isaac, considering that we have no idea where we’re going or why we’re going there.  If we were to rush, where would we be rushing to?” Giselle asked, rhetorically.

            “The whole situation does seem a bit Mission Impossible, doesn’t it?”

            “The EDN version, I suppose: ‘Your mission, if you should choose to accept it, is to stick this pre-programmed GPS thingy on your dashboard and drive like a******s wherever this frigid German b***h tells you to go.’”

            “Just don’t be afraid to second guess her if she tries to direct us into a ravine.  You don’t suppose Demata’s trying to get rid of us, do you?  What did he say when he gave you that thing anyway?”

            “He said to talk Isaac into taking a ride with me, then drive the company car into a ravine and do a tuck-and-roll just before it goes off the edge so that the car explodes with only you in it.”




            “It was a little strange.  He gave me the GPS, told me we should take the Saab - not a bad little whip, by the way, I think you would agree - and when we arrive, check in and have dinner on the company; he would call us in the morning.  He couldn’t tell me the whole deal yet; wouldn’t tell me why.”

            “So are we to assume that our destination is a hotel somewhere?”

            “ It doesn’t say.  The destination is just an address in Maryland.”

             “I’m looking up the address.”  Isaac removes some technology from his jacket’s side pocket, presses buttons, then waits while it searches for a signal.  “I don’t know if I’m going to get reception here.  This isn’t much of a town.  Where are we anyway?”

            “The last sign I saw was for the town of Cool Spring and that was almost half an hour ago,” Giselle replies blandly, scanning their surroundings.  The air is gray and cold and thick with moisture, but it isn’t raining.  The county road they’re traveling is fairly straight and Giselle has the Saab at a steady sixty.  The terrain is a smooth, nearly infinite plane interrupted by a low hanging sky that collapses in the distance.  Outside the passenger window, she sees an endless series of parallel lines that trace a grid through the field’s woody brush and appear to converge at a point on the horizon that seems to race alongside the vehicle always maintaining a slight lead.  She watches the road's meandering patterns as they pass beneath the hood and wheels and quietly meditates to the engine's hum.






Tiny piles of tobiko and wasabi float in shallow pools of low sodium soy sauce - a painter’s palette, smeared across white plates - while thin twisted billows rise from the spliff-end smoldering in the ash tray on Isaac’s bedside table.  And she of the night before lies supine admiring the imperfections in the ceiling’s white acrylic, her mouth curled in a mild, thin-lipped smile.  A first edition copy of ACTEX Academic Series’ Models for Quantifying Risk is spread open on the floor next to the bed, its pages littered with tiny brownish-green crumbs and thin stems.

Isaac slides a hand softly across her navel from left to right and his face is close enough to her body to see that her alabaster skin has become pixelated with tiny excited bumps.  He tilts his chin up to see her face and, while her gaze is still directed at the ceiling, he notices that her smile has widened and he likes this.  The stale scent of smoke and sweat hangs in the upper half of the room and they lay motionless, enjoying a fragile silence charged by expended energy.

She turns to rest on her side, Isaac’s face now aligned with her belly delivering soft kisses.  And looking now through and beyond the sloping valley of her midsection, between hip and breast, Isaac’s eyes come to rest on the chair located across the room.  Piled on its seat is a mesh of cotton panties and denim and he can just make out the scarlet and olive green letters on her Alpha Chi Omega sweater, which is currently draped over the chair’s back, its arm reaching to the floor as if to steady itself.  But it’s the unseen presence floating just above the chair that Isaac is concentrating on.  And he suddenly remembers the words of his junior-year Quantum professor - Reality is about complex amplitudes flowing between configurations.  He begins to recall the complexities of physics as if only a day and not a year had passed since he first encountered them.  Isaac recalls that if the sum of the complex amplitudes flowing toward a sensory detector is zero, then the result is that we see nothing at that detector.

            Isaac sees nothing, but it’s a different set of senses that at this moment are picking up something other than zero.  And though it will be decades before he coins the phrase, this is almost certainly his first visit. 

            “Do you have something on your mind?” she asks, her smile now transmuted to a look of grave concern.  Isaac knows that this is because, when he concentrates, his facial expression becomes stark and a bit twisted and he’s been holding this expression now for a few seconds longer than is natural.  “You look like something’s on your mind,” she reiterates.

            He smiles and says reassuringly, “I’m okay.  Don’t read too much into it.”  



© 2012 Dave

Author's Note

I'm looking for reviewers to help me brainstorm and come up with some plot/direction in which to take this story. It is not necessarily a story about business (although this is obviously the setting for the central narrative). Any ideas are welcome, regardless of how far they are from the current direction. Rediculous, clever, funny, strange ideas are all welcome.

I'd also like to know if this writing is any good and if it is worth continuing. I can't tell if it's interesting and well-written, or if it's boring and hard to get through. Let me know. But seriously.....plots please!

My Review

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You have a lot of technical talk that would put a lot of readers off. If it isn't important to the story, I would get rid of it. I wasn't sure what the part about the grade school was doing in here, you need to tie it in somehow. This part really intrigued me and I wanted to hear more about it:
"It’s normally around the onset of the third hour of work that Isaac experiences what he’s come to term as “the visits”. It’s not anyone or -thing that is doing the visiting, but a feeling - a sense of presence over a shoulder, across the aisle, behind the glass of an empty, unlit office."

I am also intrigued to know where the GPS is sending Issac and Giselle.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Thanks for checking out my stuff! Your a skilled writer and I think this peice shows great promise, but I found the attention to detail quite overwhelming in places. I think you need to be much more prosaic. The character driven sections were great, especially Issac Hulk's kindergarten memory. But the drastic shift in style makes it seems like two different pieces spliced together. The descriptions and jargon use should be kept to a bare minimum though. Less is more in this case -- much much less. But I think you should keep going. Let me know if you decide to do another draft. I 'd be happy to offer more feedback when its done.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Strange as it my sound I liked. I liked it a lot. But it loose focus and sometimes goes somewhere close to loosing the reader with so many differnet direction. Other that it was a great read.

Posted 12 Years Ago

The writing here is quite good. This is largely a scene description with some development of a story line. Plot? Unure at this point --just as you mentioned. What I find so impressive here is attention to detail, lot's of details here, and described in ways I've never seen before. Math related details explained in a way that anyone understands, that's tough to pull off yet you do that naturally. I wonder of this story could be a puzzle?

Posted 12 Years Ago

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4 Reviews
Added on January 5, 2012
Last Updated on April 12, 2012




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