Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goth Girl Gets Published

Reputations. They're pretty funny sometimes, especially when you're not really sure where they came from. Of course, I can't pretend I'm completely clueless about my own reputation for being a bit "gothic." I do have an inkling of an idea as to where my name Goth Girl originated (thanks, Brooke!). It all started over a discussion on Johnny Depp. You see, I'm a huge Johnny Depp fan. Always have been, always will be. I like him 'cause he's pretty, obviously, but more importantly, I like him for his style and attitude and for the fact that he's different. You may recall that I'm different...maybe even a little weird. So I'm drawn to people who don't fit into any particular mold.

Yummy.
My love for Johnny led to a natural assumption that I loved pirates, which obviously meant that I should love vampires, and so on and so forth. And so Goth Girl was born. Look, I do have a love for the darker things in life. I'll admit it. I'm kind of morbid that way. And, usually, so is my writing.

Which leads me to the true point of this post: I'm getting published. Again. Again, you ask? Katie, you mean to tell us that you've been published before? Well, yes and no. My story "A Shame About Mrs. James' New Colonial Blue Carpet" (long title, short story) appeared in the now defunct literary journal Southern Gothic. So, yes, for awhile, I was published, but now, since that journal no longer exists, I'm not. Because, you see, Southern Gothic was an online literary journal, so it's not like I have copies of the journal laying around at home. Nope, it's gone and so is my published story and by-line. (Here's proof that it actually existed, but if you'll notice the link to the actual journal now belongs to a psychic service (sad, sad): http://www.storysouth.com/comment/2007/01/southern_gothic_online_and_in.html

(Oh, and my short story "The Beauty of a Sno-Cone Stand" was published in a local magazine called West Georgia Living, which is also nothing to sneeze at, but I don't know if I can officially "count" that as it's for local talent, so anyway...)

Back to present, no use crying over formerly published and now no longer published stories. The thing I'm focusing on now is my current Literary Journal Journey, which has already paid off! A couple of weekends ago I submitted my short story "One Mississippi" to an online literary journal called Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, and within a few days, I had a response--

Hi Katie,


I would love to publish your story "One Mississippi" in the next issue of Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal. Thanks so much for your interest in MLASJ and best wishes with your writing!


--This led to a lot of happy dancing and squealing and scaring of cats and then some celebratory Champagne drinking (one of you once told me to celebrate the small victories, so I did :)) . Now, as far as I can tell, literary journals are kind of a first step in way of getting published. The more my name appears in print, the more my work is published and consumed, the better chances I have of having a book published. Maybe. At least that's what I'm telling myself. So, keep your fingers crossed! Goth Girl is making her dreams come true one step at a time.

If you'd like to read "A Shame About Mrs. James' New Colonial Blue Carpet," let me know. It's pretty dark, and up until recently, I've avoided showing bloggy land my dark side, but it's my blog, and it's who I am, so what the heck!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Remembe(RED): What'll Ya Have?

“What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?”

I stared blankly at the woman. Annoyance was flickering in her eyes, but there was little I could do about it but stare. I could see her lips moving, but she might as well have been speaking another language. I just didn’t understand. My friend Amanda crowded up behind me in line. “Katie,” she said, exasperation and embarrassment ringing in her voice.

I was maybe ten years old. First year at a new school, first field trip at a new school. First trip to Atlanta landmark: The Varsity. The first of what would be many. The sights, sounds, and smells of this famous hot dog joint are old hat to me now, as much a part of who I am and my history as my love for writing.
But this was my first trip ever, and I’ll admit that I was terrified.

To understand a little of what I was going through, you need to first understand The Varsity. Originally opened in 1928 smack dab in the middle of downtown Atlanta, The Varsity is a drive-in of epic proportions. The restaurant itself can accommodate over 800 customers, and on a weekday, right about at lunch time, you can believe that 800 people are crawling inside. Buses full of field-trip kids, executives on their lunch breaks, Atlanta tourists: they’re all packed inside, waiting for their chance to snatch up a chili cheese dog, onion rings, and a Frosted Orange.


And I stood amongst them, overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. The lady behind the counter made a snarling sound. “What’ll ya have, kid?”

Thankfully, Amanda assessed the situation and my blank expression and took charge. “She wants an order of onion rings and a chocolate shake, and I’ll take a hot dog and fries.” The lady took our money, passed us our red trays, and then we turned around to face the lines and lines of people behind us.

I can vividly remember trying to navigate through all of those people, balancing the red tray and looking desperately for a free table to sit at. We ended up sitting in a dining room with school desks set up as tables. At ten, it struck me as incredibly funny to see grown men and women crammed into these desks, eating their greasy lunches. As I said, this was the first of many trips to The Varsity, and I eventually learned the language and attitude of the restaurant.

Field trips at my school, which was only 45 minutes from Atlanta, were typically made to Atlanta: the High Museum of Art, Six Flags, The Shakespeare Tavern, The Fabulous Fox Theatre, The World of Coke…all trips made with pit stops at The Varsity.

The ride to Atlanta was usually my least favorite part of these trips. When we would first load up on the bus, that unmistakable smell of hot rubber seats coupled with old puke and forgotten sack lunches would nearly overwhelm me. I’d spend the rest of the day trying to ignore that smell and failing miserably. Then there was the whole matter of my tendency of getting car sick, which was only amplified on a hot, smelly school bus. I don’t think I ever went on a field trip when I didn’t come home miserably sick.

And yet, I still look back fondly on those trips to Atlanta and The Varsity. I even smile when I remember that first trip, when I stood wide-eyed and scared to death in the middle of hundreds of hungry Atlantans, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do next, all because someone asked me “What’ll ya have?”


The above post was a response to the following Red Dress Club writing prompt: 


Write a memoir post about a memorable school trip. Word limit is 600.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dear That Girl




The following is a response to The Lightning and the Lightning Bug's Flicker of Inspiration prompt. This week's prompt was to write a letter to yourself at age 16.

Dear That Girl,

I don’t know what to say to you. I don’t even know who you are. If we were to meet, would you know me? I don’t think so, and I know I wouldn’t know you. You, trying to fade into the background, to go unnoticed. You, constantly worrying and dreaming for the one thing you’ll never have. Acceptance. Why do you want it so bad? From Those People, People like that? Why do you even waste a second of your time thinking of them? Wanting to be like them?

I want to tell you a story, a story of a girl a lot like you but different. Fundamentally different, and thus to you, unrecognizable.

This Girl waited to start living her life until a lot of that life had already passed her by, but she’s not into regrets, so don’t worry about that part. Many times during her misspent youth, This Girl thought that life might be over, maybe even wanted life to be over, but trust me when I say she was just being overly dramatic. This Girl was like that, and she’s still like that. It’s a big part of Who She Is.

Who She Is is something that This Girl embraces, which is something you need to learn to do. Embrace yourself and all of the things that make you different; you’ll feel better once you do. This Girl is different, too, a little weird maybe, but who the hell wants to be normal? You do, I know, but normal isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and besides that, who decides what’s normal anyway? You’ve decided, I know. You want to be blonde and big-chested and empty-headed. You think that’s normal? Well, maybe it is, but that’s all the more reason to embrace Who You Are.

Stop looking at just the surface. Stop seeing only your flaws. This Girl looks beyond her flaws. Sure, she may get caught up on them from time to time…she spends lots of time obsessing over grey hairs for instance, but This Girl realizes that this is a complete waste of time, and so should you.

Who is This Girl, you ask? Well, allow me to introduce you. This Girl is actually probably not much of a girl anymore at all, a fact she may sometimes regret. This Girl eats a lot and writes a lot and spends time with her family a lot. She’s a girl overwhelmed with happiness; she takes time to appreciate and enjoy the simple things in life, like a garden in the backyard, a yummy meal with her husband, and a glass of wine on the front porch. She loves her cats, loves her husband, and loves herself…most of the time.

This Girl still has moments of self-doubt, to be sure, but the difference between you and her is that she doesn’t let that self-doubt consume her. She overcomes her self-doubt and moves on to do amazing things.

You’d probably be surprised to know that This Girl is actually a lot like you, and even more surprising? One day you’ll grow up to be This Girl. You just have to get through a couple of more years of being That Girl. So don’t feel disheartened. Your happiness will spread its wings and fly one day, and you’ll become everything you dream of being, except now you’ll have new dreams. Dreams that don’t include Those People or silly things like Acceptance. You’ll find Acceptance for yourself and for Who You Are and that’s worth a whole lot more than the Acceptance of others.

But the thing is, That Girl: you already have the Acceptance of Those Who Matter, even now. You just have to find it within yourself.

No worries though. You will, and you’ll be This Girl, the girl you always wanted to be.

With Love,

This Girl



 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Captchouli Round Seven

Welcome back, Captchouli friends!!! Did you miss us? We decided to take a break last week, but we're back this week with our Round Six winner and Round Seven's word. We think we've picked a hard one for y'all, so be prepared to put your thinking caps on.



Round Six's word FULUNK gave us three exemplary Captchouli definitions. Three entries that were so good, we had a hard time narrowing it down to a winner. But before we announce this week's winner, let's take a look at the competition:



1) Jessica at Where is My Instruction Manual?


Fulunk
Pronunciation: fuh-lunk (long emphasis on the first syllable)
Etymology: familiar Southern American English slang
Part of Speech: transitive or intransitive verb
Definition: to fail miserably, especially due to lack of effort
Context: "Ma'am, I hate to be the one to tell you this, bless little Jimmy's heart, but he only turned in one assignment all semester. He's not just going to flunk 11th grade; he's going to fulunk."

2) Sweat Alot from Do Sweat the Small Stuff

I. FULUNK
(fool-lungkt)
a. verb.
to fail terribly, causing some jerk to wiggle his/her pointer finger right-and-left in slow-motion style.
"Tsk tsk tsk... lookie lookie here... ha! You've so FULUNKed this captchouli, man!"
b. noun.
idiot, loser of the highest degree.
"He did what?!? Jeez, what a FULUNK."

II. FULUNK
(foo-loon-kay)
noun
a badly misspelled name of Chinese origin.
"Hello? May I take your message? I'm sorry, could you repeat your name again, please? Hello??? Mr... what was that again? Ah, I see. Mr. FU LUN K."

III. FULUNK
(feh-lungk)
How my daughter would have spelled the verb flunk (she's 6 years old by the way) based on the phonics method.
Me: Miss Chatterbox, how do you write 'flunk'?
Ms. Chatterbox: uh...
Me: Feh... feh... (Ms. Chatterbox wrote 'FU')
Luh... luh... (Ms. Chatterbox wrote 'LU')
Ungk... ungk... (Ms. Chatterbox wrote 'NK')

3) Ms. Ixy at Illusion

Fulunk (Fu-LUNK) – a moment of jaw-dropping stupidity; a huge mistake. Google “the Darwin Awards” for real-life examples.
“Darren told the CEO our strategic plan was short-sighted and ineffective. Guess we won’t be seeing him on Monday after a fulunk like that.”
“Did you see Stacy’s hair? She tried to dye it platinum blonde at home and some of it fell out. You’d think a former hairstylist would know better than to make such a fulunk!”
“Well, I guess I’m on academic probation now. I didn’t realize the exam paper was double-sided – this is my worst fulunk yet.”


Guys, it was so hard to decide on a winner this time. They were all so funny, and so similar! But in the end we had to award Jessica the winner of round six. Can't you just hear Miss Paula Deen in the role of that teacher? Bless sweet Jimmy's heart!


Congratulations Jessica!

And now for ROUND Seven!


Here's how we play:
1. We give you an honest-to-Blog CAPTCHA "word" that we were forced to submit in order to leave a blog comment.
2. You define the word AND use it in a sentence, and EMAIL it, along with the name/link of your blog and HTML code for your button, to Katie at: katieross83@gmail.com
* Definitions left in the comments of either blog will be discarded*
3. We'll decide on a winning definition and post the winning response on both blogs next Saturday, along with next week's contest. In case multiple entries have the same definition, all who submit the definition will be awarded winners.
4. The winner will have his or her button posted on the sidebars of both Chicken Noodle Gravy and My 3 Little Birds for the following week. And this is big, because we both have, like, tens of followers.
5. The contest is open until 12:00 pm EST next Friday. Entries received after that time will be discarded.

We'll be your best friends if you'll grab a Captchouli button from down below!
So without further ado, your Captchouli Word of the Week is:
TORTIC


By the way, if you haven't already check out this week's Dare to Share link up over at The Lightning and the Lightning Bug. This link up's theme is ANIMALS.


Friday, June 24, 2011

The Bar at Third and Oblivion

I haunt the bar at the corner of Third and Oblivion, or it haunts me; I can never be sure. It’s a mutually satisfying relationship that’s standing hip-deep in beer and tequila. It’s stale but alright with me, because it’s better than nothing or anything or everything that I’ve ever had.

Marianne sits in the far left corner of the room, chomping on yesterday’s mistakes. Marianne, who smiles at all the fat jerkoffs in suits-too-small and crooked hair pieces, hopes for a successful one-night stand.

Then Ryan walks in seeking moisture in this dry heat. He settles for the combustible whiskey that Harry likes to serve. Ryan, with his chipped front tooth, 2 o’clock shadow, and lip ring, smiles at Marianne as she floats by in a haze of easy ignorance and generic perfume. She’s singing Penny Lane and thinking of olive shag carpet and forgettable moments with men who enjoy easy women. What’s so easy about looking for love, acceptance, and companionship? Being called a slut, a whore, and a floozy for an honest stab at happiness?

An honest stab through Tony Portman’s ribs made him bleed. He bled easy and ruined Marianne’s favorite dress, a blue number with pit stains and now blood stains, too. She just got fed up with cheap words, hair plugs, and hands too rough. Fed up, so she showed Tony what she was good at.

As Marianne walks by, Ryan’s depthless eyes follow her, a kind of numb interest in the swinging of her bulging hips, encased in electric blue. He downs the whiskey and goes after her.

He’s doomed and doesn’t know it. Another victim done in by a victim. But life goes on. It always does, even when a little death is served on the side.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Remembe(RED): Long Distance

A That '70s Show marathon was on. I was eight or nine episodes in, and Kelso was doing something stupid again. Because Ashton Kutcher is so dang cute, I didn't much care that his character on the show was one dimensional, but tonight I couldn't appreciate Kelso as much as usual. I was just a little distracted.

I was laying on my belly, stretched out on my new bed in my brand-spanking new apartment. It was midnight. Midnight on my very first night out of my parents house and on my own. Midnight on my very first night in my  apartment. Midnight on my very first night meeting the man who would become my husband.

We had met online three months earlier. He lived in California, and I was in Georgia. The distance between us was of little matter. In the three months since we'd started talking, we'd decided we were in love and made plans to move in together. This night was the result of all those plans. Long distance relationships everywhere stood up to salute us.

As I laid on my bed half-watching Ashton Kutcher and half-scared out of my mind, Jeremy was driving toward me. Only an hour or so away. Fate bringing him closer and closer to my doorstep...what was now our doorstep. This would be our first meeting, our first time laying eyes on each other.

My parents didn't know Jeremy had made it so close to Georgia. When they left the apartment earlier that night, they left with the small comfort of knowing that he wouldn't arrive until the next day. Like any parents would be, they were scared for me, nervous and thinking I'm sure that I had definitely lost my mind. I think they imagined being there when Jeremy arrived at the apartment...just in case, they would be there to defend me. After all, he could have been a serial killer or something. My Mama had said on more than one occasion, "You never know what kind of crazies you might meet on the internet."

And she was right. You never do know who's sitting on the other side of the computer screen. Except I did know. I knew that Jeremy was for me...as contrived and tired as it might sound, he was my soul mate. He is my soul mate.

My soul mate called in the middle of the eleventh episode of That '70s Show. When the phone rang, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I sat up on the bed and tugged at my blue and white sweater. I smoothed my crazy hair, grabbed up my ringing cell phone, and calmly said, "Hello."

Jeremy, on the other end of the line. This time only a few miles away as opposed to thousands. As ridiculous as it may be, I could have sworn his voice sounded closer. "Hey. I'm at the Bremen exit."

The next few moments were a blur. I somehow managed to gather myself and my crazy emotions and drive The Black Bullet, my super cool black Volkswagen Bug, to the Bremen exit, meeting Jeremy, a virtual stranger who had driven across the country for me--for me--at a nearly abandoned gas station. By now, it was 1:00am.

I pulled up in the parking lot, eyes searching wildly for a sign of the man I would marry. I saw his silver car parked under the sickly florescent lights of the gas station. By now, my heart was beating so fast that I thought it might stop altogether. But it didn't.

He wasn't in the car. I let out a sigh and allowed myself a moment to calm down. Amazingly, I managed to put The Black Bullet in park.

It only took a minute. A minute to change my life forever. He came out of the gas station, and I saw him.

It was the first time I laid eyes on the man I would marry after he drove across the country to be with me. It was the first time and the last time I'd ever fallen in love.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stolen Away

Hello Again 
By Dave Matthews

Sinnin' I've done my share of this
Still hope the lord forgive me my sins
Ten years ago down by the lake
I saw my sweet love, her watery grave
I close my eyes, still see her face
I'd give my soul to take back that day

Hello again, it's been too long,
Too long, too long, hello again
You know you got what it is I want
Anyway I'm gonna take it from you
Hello you know you got what it is I want
Any way I know I'm gonna take it from you
Hello, Hello, you know, Hello Again

It's like a note you got to never dance, man'
Over and over, I'm gonna see her face
Like inside my soul together with me
Over and over, I'm gonna see her face
Blown away, on that day

I am a waste of the flesh on my bones
I am a waste of the air in my lungs
So go far from me, man, go and be saved
This serpent, not God, that crawls through my veins
Here we go

Hello again, it's been too long,
Too long, too long, hello again
You know you got what it is I want
Anyway I'm gonna take it from you
Hello you know you got what it is I want
Any way I know I'm gonna take it from you
Hello, Hello, you know, Hello Again

a truck load got set on me man
Over and over I'm gonna see her face
The scum in me likes the devils scheme here
Over and over I'm gonna see her face
Blown away, on that day, yeah, I am
Hello, you know, Hello, Hello Again
You know you got what it is I want
Anyway you know, my love, I'm gonna take it from you
Hello, you know, Hello, Hello again

Pure Genius. :)

The following is a short story inspired by the above song. Dave Matthews Band is by far my favorite band ever. Dave Matthews is my favorite musician and song writer. It took quite awhile to decide on just which DMB song to use. 

Stolen Away

I died on a night like tonight many years ago.  It was mid-June, muggy, hot. Typical Louisiana summer. Long days stretching into longer nights. I didn’t expect to die that night, but I suppose no one ever really does expect to die; it’s one of life’s great surprises.

For years, I had labored under the impression that we were happy. Now that I’m dead, I realize I was dead wrong.

But we started out happily enough. High school sweethearts reunited years after our young romance had flickered out. We ran into each other in the city, on a rainy day. I stood under my red umbrella waiting for my bus. One of my heels on my brand new shoes was broken. I looked like a drowned, off-balanced rat. Through the rain, I saw him spot me. Brown eyes widening in recognition.  He said, “Hello, again.” From that moment, he took me back again; he stole me away.

In the early days, we were inseparable. Those are the days I can remember most vividly, a gift I suppose from some higher power. When you’re dead, you can no longer count on your memories. Memory becomes something altogether different than it was in life. Memory in death is usually faded and hazy. Surprisingly, I can still grasp the shadow of the memory of our relationship, the happy moments of my past, but I can’t remember my love for him at all. I suppose it may have died when I did.

He killed me in the most unseemly way possible. A gunshot to my temple. I was sitting in front of my vanity, removing my makeup and preparing for bed. I saw his reflection in the mirror, slowly approaching me as he’d done hundreds of times before. I didn’t see the pistol in his hand until it was too late. The barrel of the gun provided a stark contrast to my pale skin. Those brown eyes, the same eyes that had stolen me away years before, met mine as he pulled the trigger.

I see those eyes now. I see them every day. Sometimes I search them for hours, looking for some trace of remorse, some sense of regret. I never find it.

Lately, I’ve noticed that he can feel me. He looks over his shoulder at the oddest times, rubs the back of his neck in that insecure way of his. I want him to feel me. I want him to know I am here and to know that I will never leave.

Tonight reminds me so much of the night I died; even through the faded lens of death, my memory of that night is keen. I relive it over and over, and I wonder if he does as well.

 I watch him as he crosses our bedroom in search of something. He’s more frantic tonight that usual. That calm veneer is chipping. My presence is beginning to get to him. He pulls out the drawers of the dresser, throws clothes into the floor. Some of them are his clothes and some of them belong to Her. Poor Her. She’s a victim, too, another of his play things. She’s young, vulnerable, na├»ve. He plays Her like a fiddle. I long to be able to warn Her, but she can’t feel me. She’ll never feel me.

Tonight, she’s gone though. I don’t have to worry about Her. I can focus all of my attention on him. I wonder what he’s looking for?

Suddenly, he looks up, and his eyes are on me. I swear that he can see me. If I had breath, mine would catch. But I realize that he doesn’t see me…at least not fully. Not yet.

He turns his attention back to his search. His eyes land on my vanity. The bastard kept it. Wiped the mirror clean of my blood, as cleanly as he wiped me from his life. He approaches it slowly. I can tell that it scares him a little now. He used to sit at it, staring into the mirror with depthless eyes, but now he almost never pays it any mind.

His eyes avoid the mirror, as he hesitates for the briefest of moments and then sits down. Still avoiding the mirror, he pulls out the top drawer, rummages through Her belongings. At the very bottom of the drawer is a tiny box. Before he even opens it, I know what’s inside. He gave it to Her years ago, my ring. She only wears it on special occasions; even she seemed to sense the importance of it. It was a gift to me from my grandfather, a double pearl ring, one of my most treasured possessions.

He’d pulled it off my dead, bloody finger before dropping my body into the lake. I hated him for that affront nearly as much as I hated him for killing me.

He studies the ring now. I’ve moved to stand just behind him, just as he did to me on a night exactly like tonight so many years ago. I watch his face in the mirror. I watch as his eyes lift and finally, finally meet mine. He sees me, and I say, “Hello, again.”


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oh, Crap. What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

In the three and a half years since I got married, I have learned many useful things. Things that, had I never met and married my husband, I may have never been privy to. I'm pretty sure I consider these things a blessing. Yes, I'm almost entirely sure that they are a blessing. I feel certain of it. Maybe.

I'll share some of them with you, so you can see just how blessed I truly am.

Things I Learned from My Husband

1) There is no bad time or place to trim your toe nails. Middle of the kitchen at 9:00am while I'm cooking breakfast? Why the heck not?

2) Snoring isn't so bad. So long as you fall asleep at least 3 hours before the snorer and do not wake up at any point during the night. If waking up does occur, then violence may follow. Note: Repeated elbow stabs into the space between the third and fourth rib seems to do the trick.

3) When wearing shorts, it's necessary to wear socks pulled all the way up to your knees. This is considered a "good look."

4) Speaking of fashion, Hawaiian shirts are the highest form of couture.

5) "How It's Made" is easily the most boring television show on the face of the planet. The narrator's voice makes me want to stab myself in the eye.

6) "Doctor Who," however, is not nearly as bad as it may sound after husband explains the concept of the show to you. Note: this is true for lots of things that he tries to explain the concept of. He is not known for giving the "abridged" version of ANY story. Try to minimize the glazed look of your expression when he begins one of his "summaries."

7) Husbands may do gross things from time to time. This is no revelation, as they are men, and men are disgusting. However, men are also good for taking care of gross things that you may otherwise avoid. Such as, but not limited to: cleaning up cat puke, cleaning up litter box, taking out trash, etc.

8) Cuddling is the best thing in the entire world, and some men actually do like to cuddle or are good at pretending they like to in order to make you happy. This is true for LOTS of things.

9) Never suggest to a man that he carries so much crap around that you think he should carry a purse. This seems to be insulting to them and may cause a nasty argument.

10) Being a back seat driver is not good for the marriage. Try to stop minimize barking out orders while he's driving.


I'm sure I could go on all night listing out the many things I've learned from my wise husband, but I'll round it out at ten so that I don't bore you all to tears. The point of this drawn out introduction is that I suspect I am on the cusp of learning yet another gem of information from Jeremy, as we begin what he refers to as: The Great Exchange (I think the name sounds nasty, but I'm choosing my battles here and leaving it alone).

The Great Exchange, aka What Happens When Spouses Trade Books, is a book exchange of sorts between myself and my husband. The concept was born the other night while we were watching Jeopardy. This is a nightly ritual in which we huddle in front of the television and compete against each other on who can get the most correct answers. I suspect he doesn't realize we're competing, because I hardly ever win or even come close to winning, so I don't really mention that I consider it a competition lest he should get a big head. And he already has a ginormous head which we can't find a hat for, which is an entirely different story altogether. But I digress.

While participating in a particularly heated tournament of armchair Jeopardy, I came up with what I thought at the time was a bright idea. I stupidly suggested to my braniac husband that he read one of my favorite novels: The Sun Also Rises by Earnest Hemingway. Now, to provide a little context, the battle to get Jeremy to read something I recommend has been a long and tiring one. We have completely different tastes in literature. He loves fantasy and science fiction, and I...well, I don't. I prefer classic and contemporary American literature (Hemingway, Steinback, Poe, McCarthy, etc.). He has tried on more than one occasion to lure me over to the dark side, but I have held fast. About most things I'm incredibly open-minded, but I just can't read fantasy literature. The Lord of the Rings is as far as I'll ever go. Until now.

After suggesting for the umpteenth time that Jeremy try The Sun Also Rises, I threw in a little incentive. "I'll read one of your books if you read one of mine!" I said enthusiastically, not quite understanding what my little proposal would cost me. He jumped right on board and immediately began plotting what he would have me read. His decision?

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfus. Which is exactly 722 pages long. Which has a main character whose name is Kvothe.

From this endeavor that we have undertaken, I may very well learn that fantasy literature is something that I can enjoy. He may learn that Hemingway is the Great American Writer. He will finish The Sun Also Rises, which is exactly 251 pages, in about an hour. I'll get back to y'all in 3 months when I'm finally able to finish The Name of the Wind.

Want to hear Jeremy's side of things? Visit Unexcused Absence. Don't worry. I'm actually the long-winded one this time.







PS ~ Captchouli will return next week with the triumphant Round Six winner! In the meantime, if you haven't submitted your entry yet, it's still not too late. This week's word: Fulunk!

 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm No Hamlet

So. I've come to a point in my life when I must take action. I'm fed up with status quo, and I just can't sit around doing nothing about it anymore. That's way too Hamlet for me, and I've never been too fond of Hamlet. When I first graduated college with my trusty English degree in hand, I imagined long days spent writing up a storm, all the characters and juicy plots spilling out of my head like fine wine, dripping onto my blank pages in a perfect way, so that not a word was out of place. I imagined my Great American Novel being published before I turned 25, a triumph well-received by critics and readers alike, an Oprah's Book Club Selection that would blow stay-at-home moms away (so much for that, by the way!).

Stop being such a wimp and DO SOMETHING!
The reality of this imagining was me spending the first four months after college looking for a job doing what I loved and coming up empty-handed time and again. I would search job websites day and night, only to discover that:

1) most jobs for writers are in big cities
2) that I was just a small fish in a big pond
3) that you needed EXPERIENCE, always EXPERIENCE
4) that if I wanted my dream to come true the journey was not going to be a simple one

In the wake of this revelation, I turned my efforts to literary magazines. If I couldn't find a job because I lacked experience in writing, then I would gain a little experience. I sent dozens of query letters and submissions to dozens of magazines. I received dozens of rejections. Such is life. But I did receive one acceptance. From a magazine called Southern Gothic, which sadly is no more. They published my story "A Shame About Mrs. James' New Colonial Blue Carpet," and then, I think I nearly died of happiness. Getting that acceptance was one of those Great Moments in life that I'll never forget. And then, soon after I received the acceptance, I landed my first job out of college.

Writing quickly became secondary to me. I was earning my living now. Sure it was a job I hated, but it was a job, and it began its slow and torturous take over of my life. I gained weight now that I was sitting behind a desk everyday. I was no longer able to sit up all night writing and watching movies and being a fun and happening twenty-something. Gray hairs started popping up. My tendency to worry became more of an unbreakable habit. Stress came a-knocking, and being a responsible adult eclipsed everything else in my life.

This has been the story for the last six years. Different jobs sure....but always the same story. Last year I received an incredible gift, the gift of a weekly column in my local paper, the gift of putting my English degree to some use, the gift of writing. Writing never really left my life, but for five years or so, it took a back seat to everything else. After starting my column, though, it became one of the lead players again. I was amazed at how writing on a daily basis fulfilled me, even when my professional life didn't. I loved the reconnect I made with this old friend I'd loved since childhood, and now that I had rediscovered the joy, fulfillment, and passion it gave me; I was determined to never let go of it again.

And then Chicken Noodle Gravy was born. Forever evolving, this blog has become the spot where I stretch my creative muscles, where I share my words with actual people who actually sometimes read them. The joy and fulfillment this little corner of the interwebs brings me is very nearly overwhelming. I wish I could devote more time to it, more time to making it better and stronger. But alas, the real world always gets in the way of what you'd rather be doing.

The real world frustrates the snot out of me, and because it does, I'm taking my future into my own hands and making writing an even bigger part of it. By sheer force of will. I'm hopping the literary journal train again, and I'm going to get more experience. I'm going to become a better writer, and then I'm going to finish my novel and start sending query letters to agents and publishers. I'm going to make something happen or die trying. I'm no Hamlet, dammit, and to be or not to be isn't a question. You just gotta be.

 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Remembe(RED): Daddy's Girl

As a child, I was a pro at pretending to be asleep, or at least I liked to think so. I got plenty of practice at it during the summers, when I had no particular bedtime and was given the freedom of staying up late into the night with my parents and big sister. I loved these moments with my family. We'd all be gathered around the TV, usually watching some sporting event, cheering and lamenting in equal measure. I felt very adult staying up late with them, catching glimpses of what life was like for a grown up.

During the school year, when my bedtime was very structured, I would lie in bed for what seemed like hours, listening to the rest of my family giggle and talk and carry on. I was convinced that they waited for me to go to bed just so that they could have their laughs and all of their fun. For an active and hyper little girl, the antics of my family after my bedtime were almost too much to bear.

But the summers were different. The summer days would melt into summer nights, and I would get away with staying up and experiencing those rousing parties.

Invariably, at some point during these magical evenings, my parents would start discussing how it was time for me to go to bed. I would cringe and protest a little, but mainly, I'd bide my time and begin showing off my incredible fake sleeping skills. First, I'd turn towards the back of the couch. Facing the back of the couch meant I could cover my face more easily and no one would see my eyes if they accidentally blinked open. Once perfectly situated against the back of the couch, I would curl myself into as compact a little ball as possible. Then I would begin breathing slowly, deliberately. For good measure, I'd throw in a cute little snore from time to time.

And then all of that preparation and acting would lead up to one moment, one incredible moment of pure joy in my little girl's heart. Daddy, having been properly convinced of my fake sleeping (yeah, right), would lift me carefully into his arms and carry me off to bed.  And in his arms, I knew true love and affection. Sometimes, after a particularly bad day at work, I wish I could use my fake sleeping skills and have Daddy carry me to bed one last time.


This memory was written for the Red Dress Club's memoir prompt on affection.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, DADDY!










 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

One Mississippi

Lightning flashed. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Missi--the thunder clapped so loudly that Jack forgot his counting and ducked further under the table. The storm was right on top of him now. Rain pelted the windows of the shack, and wait...what was that? Jack tried to settle his wildly beating heart, imagined pricking his ears like a cat toward the sound he could just barely hear, the--was it a thud? A steady hammering? Whatever it was, the sound was so impressive that it could be heard over the fury of the storm. From beneath the limited comfort of the table, Jack suddenly realized that he had more to fear than a poorly timed thunderstorm.

He took a moment to remember his mother only an hour or so before, standing at the kitchen sink, arms covered in bubbles and grime.  Storm's coming, Jack. Don't you go too far now.

And he'd only half heard her as he shot out the door, letting the screen slam behind him with a resounding bam! He knew she hated it when he did that, but he was halfway across the hard, and her exasperated Jack! was nearly out of earshot.

Wishing that he could go back to that moment and help her with the dishes instead of going on one of his adventures was hopeless now, but he allowed himself that luxury and imagined sitting at the kitchen table when they were done with the dishes, sharing a glass of milk and an after-lunch cookie.The banging sound interrupted his thoughts, reminded him that he needed to focus on the present and how to escape the shack without getting killed in the storm.

The shack was a long walk from his house. It had seemed to take forever to get there, but he was determined; a double-dog dare from Tommy Cochran had led him there. It was a favorite hangout of the teenage crowd, rumored to be haunted. Jack was crouched in the front room of the house under a plank top table. He worried the lucky glass marble in his pocket, a striking yellow cats-eye, his prized possession. He'd found it years ago,  gleaming at him from the darkness under his front porch.


He kept the marble with him always, buried deep and safely in his pocket, along with a piece of arrowhead, his pocketknife, and a river stone. The marble brought him luck, but he wasn't so sure it was working now. The thunder boomed loudly overhead, and the noise in the shack suddenly became clearer.

Gathering up all of his courage, Jack crawled out from under the table and turned to face the closed door that led to the rest of the shack. When the storm had hit, he'd only just arrived and hadn't had proper time to explore before he'd retreated to the relative safety of the table. Just beyond that door was the adventure he'd been yearning for earlier in the day, which was only a threat to him now. The source of the ominous sound lay just beyond that door, and now the boy who was normally full of pluck and courage could only tremble, his hand thrust into his pocket, fingers nervously worrying that prized marble.

He slowly approached the door. The lightning flashed outside; the thunder retreated further and further away. Nine-years old seemed much too young to be facing such a fear, but he put on what his Mom called his brave face and tore open the door.

On the other side was a kitchen or what used to be a kitchen. The shell of it was still somewhat recognizable. Faded cabinets lined one side of the room, the remnants of a wood-burning stove sat abandoned in a corner. In the very back of the kitchen a door swung back and forth in its frame, banging repeatedly against the back side of the house.

All Jack saw was the door moving on its own. He didn't attribute the movement to the wild wind of the storm. He didn't blame the violent sound of it on the fury of nature. He simply ran. He ran through the front room, past the plank top table, over the deteriorated front porch.

As he fled, he didn't bother to look back. If he had, he would've seen her. She stood alone in the shack, framed by the casement window, hand pressed against the dirty glass. She watched the boy run as though the hounds of hell were on his heels, and a tiny smile touched her pale lips as he disappeared into the woods. Turning to face the room with the plank top table, she reached her hand deep into the pocket of her faded dress and pulled out a striking yellow cats-eye, her prized possession.

Lightning flashed. One Mississippi...





Author's Note: This short story as written in response to the following Flicker of Inspiration photo prompt from The Lightning and the Lightning-Bug:



  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Captchouli Round Six

Happy Saturday, blogland friends! Welcome to Round Six of Captchouli! This week was another tough race to the finish with three competitors bringing their ultimate A-game. You guys are obviously getting more and more competitive as our little game goes along, because it's becoming more and more difficult to choose a winner.


This week we received three entries with definitions of our captcha word : Publicum Ojking.


1) Melody Mae at Melody-Mae


From the Captchouli Dictionary;

Publicum Ojking
a. meaning a public display of affection

b. look at those two, don't you just hate it when young people go at it in public? Pubicum Ojking...come on people get a room!


2) Dwija at House Unseen, Life Unscripted


Publicum Ojking- "PUB-licum O-J-king": proper noun

Publicum OJ-king is the new spokesperson for the Federal Orange Juice
Makers Association of America.  His irreverent antics combined with
his ravishing good looks (daily self-tanner, anyone?) were created to
have mass appeal to the public consumers of the United States.
Ironically, he is allergic to citrus.

"Oh Margie, that Publicum OJ-king is just so dreeeeeeeaaaaaamy.  And
funny to boot!"



3) Mollie at OK in UK

Publicum Ojking

Definition 1:
Etymology: Latin
part of speech: verb
Publicum Ojking (puh-blih-coom /oh-jay-keeng)- an action undertaken by a former pro-athlete-cum-actor while on the run from the public authorities. Best shown off by aerial footage. Ideally committed in an off-white sports utility vehicle.

Usage: Terence decided not to go publicum ojking with the boys and instead stay in with his wife. It turned out to be the best decision of his life.

Definition 2:
Etymology: Latin
part of speech: Proper Noun
Publicum Ojking (pyew-bly-com /ohz-kee-nik)- A jury member who refuses to acquit if the glove didn't fit.

Usage: I couldn't convince that stupid Publicum Ojking that that kitten was the wrong color.

Definition 3:
Etymology: Latin
part of speech: adjective?
Publicum Ojking (puh-blee-ham princess nasty orange juice) - used mainly to describe areas where the public can openly protest or cheer murder trial verdicts. Does not apply to civil cases.

Usage: I'll meet you on the publicum ojking stage after I finish painting my sign. Should I take off the picture of the fetus or does it send the right message?


Now onto the awards portion of our program. You guys seriously cracked us up with this one. But Mollie's cracked us up the most...primarily because of her OJ Simpson reference. I love it when someone finds a reason to make me laugh in a situation that is otherwise totally un-funny. Great job Mollie! And I can promise that you'll get at least two hits from your button displayed on the sidebars of M3LB and CNG! Now that's advertising you can take to the bank! Or whatever.






Congrats, Mollie! And thanks to everyone for their submissions!


***********
And now for ROUND SIX!


Here's how we play:
1. We give you an honest-to-Blog CAPTCHA "word" that we were forced to submit in order to leave a blog comment.
2. You define the word AND use it in a sentence, and EMAIL it, along with the name/link of your blog and HTML code for your button, to Katie at: katieross83@gmail.com
* Definitions left in the comments of either blog will be discarded*
3. We'll decide on a winning definition and post the winning response on both blogs next Saturday, along with next week's contest. In case multiple entries have the same definition, all who submit the definition will be awarded winners.
4. The winner will have his or her button posted on the sidebars of both Chicken Noodle Gravy and My 3 Little Birds for the following week. And this is big, because we both have, like, tens of followers.
5. The contest is open until 12:00 pm EST next Friday. Entries received after that time will be discarded.

We'll be your best friends if you'll grab a Captchouli button from down below!
So without further ado, your Captchouli Word of the Week is:


FULUNK



Friday, June 10, 2011

Suzy


The following short story "Suzy" was written for The Red Dress Club's prompt:


The happy ending.


It's what we all hope for, isn't it? We all want everything to be neatly tied up in a bow.

In fiction, this can be, well, a little boring. Or predictable.

This week, we'd like you to write a scene that includes a happy ending - it doesn't have to be the actual END of your story, if you're working on continuations, but it should include at least one challenge for your hero to overcome.

Surprise us. Don't give us what we expect.

If you are writing non-fiction, you can use the same parameters. Or you can even change the way something happened to give it the happy ending you wanted.


Suzy

When he got the call, all he could think of was Katie. As he grabbed up his keys and flew out of the office to his truck, he imagined her sitting in school, counting the seconds down until the bell would ring, hating it there with a passion and just wanting to return home. He didn't tell anyone he was leaving; he didn't even think to. He only thought of her, and he prayed.

The drive to the pasture was a relatively short one, but on that particular day, with a million thoughts racing in his mind and his daughter's heart in limbo, it seemed to take forever. On his drive, he remembered a similar day years ago. He remembered how his heart had broken when she had cried and cried.

That day, all those years ago, she had been gone to a friend's house. Little Heather Anne, a natural Southern Belle if there'd ever been one. The complete opposite of his own tom boyish, perpetually dirty daughter, and yet, somehow they just fit. They had played and played all afternoon, and when Katie had come home, he and her Mama had told her the tragic news. While she'd been having a tea party and making mud pies, Coco the cat had broken into Chip the squirrel's cage and helped himself to an afternoon snack. Poor Chip, an orphan until he'd found Katie, an impromptu gift from Daddy himself, a bi-product of working in a sawmill. Even though he was just days old and without his mother, Katie had nursed him with a tiny dropper until he'd grown strong enough to eat on his own. He had been a dearly beloved pet, and when told the news of his death, Katie had broken a little inside.

And now it was happening all over again. Sure, she was older now; she might be able to handle the death of a pet a little easier, but Suzy was hardly just a pet. Katie loved that horse with a fierce kind of passion, had a bond with it that was unique and mysterious to him. He wasn't sure where Katie had gotten her nearly overwhelming love for animals. Neither he nor her Mama were animal people, and yet, Katie seemed touched not only with a love for them but with a gift that allowed her to connect with them in an amazing way. And her love for horses transcended everything. Bad days at school. Exceptionally low self-esteem. The nearly constant attempt to "fit in."

How would he tell her if Suzy died? How would this affect her already fragile adolescent heart?

He wheeled the truck into the drive that led to the pasture. The crunch of the gravel under his wheels sounded much louder than usual, as he pulled up amongst the other cars already parked near the big red barn.

From that point on, everything happened in slow motion. Getting out of the truck, approaching the barn, seeing his daughter's beautiful filly collapsed on her side, her lovely head resting in the lap of the vet. It was unnatural for Suzy to ever be in a state of rest. She was always moving, graceful, full of life and spunk. He watched her sides rise rapidly, her breathing shallow and difficult. The stark white bandage over her shoulder blade provided a sickening contrast against her sorrel coat that was now dulled with mud and matted blood.

The vet spoke, and he heard her as if she was a million miles away. Her voice was barely audible against the rushing of his thoughts. "She was shot. We've stopped the bleeding. Thankfully, the bullet just grazed her flesh. She'll be okay."

She'll be okay. His relief was palatable; his little girl wouldn't have to cry today.

Author's Note: As you can imagine from the purpose of this prompt, Suzy was not okay. By the time my Daddy arrived, she'd lost too much blood. The vet did everything she possibly could. My Daddy made sure of that. But Suzy died that day with her head in his lap and her blood on his clothes. Mama ended up telling me. Daddy had stood just behind her with regret-filled eyes. I think he blamed himself somehow, but there was nothing he could do. A hunter had shot her. Mistakenly, we always hoped. We never found out who did it. I wish I could say I'd forgiven them for that, but I hate whoever it was to this day. 

I struggled with this prompt as I'm not really a happy-ending kind of girl. I didn't even think of what I would write on until this morning, and then I thought of Suzy.

   

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Remembe(RED): I Feel Fine

I Feel Fine

Sometimes the memory is so vivid it reaches up and grabs me by the throat. Suddenly, I can feel that same sense of panic and dread settling into my chest, and I'm eight years old again, lying in the twin bed of my youth with its ruffled bedspread and dozens of stuffed animals lined around me like an army of fluff.

I'm somewhere in between awake and asleep, that rare and nearly magical state of consciousness that is neither here nor there. My first thought is of school tomorrow. If I can't go back to sleep, then I'll do poorly in class. I’ve already had day after day of classes spent in a zombie-like state. Sleep is elusive to me these days, and having already fallen asleep tonight, I am more than a little frustrated at finding myself half-awake. My second thought? The stuffed orange kitten that I always have pressed firmly against my cheek is gone. If I am ever going to go back to sleep and be ready for school, I need to find it.

I lift myself from my pillow and spot the kitten on the floor next to my night stand. I bend down to pick it up...

My next coherent thought is of riding in my parent's car, my head resting in Mama's lap. I keep trying to open my eyes, but every time I think they're open, they roll back into my head. Mama's saying my name, over and over. "Katie. Katie. Katie." Her tone is frantic, and it scares me, but I still can't seem to open my eyes. 

I am at the hospital now, sitting on the cold metal of an exam table. Daddy’s voice gets louder and louder. “Something’s wrong with her! She was just having a seizure. You can’t just act like this is nothing!”
Mama’s squeezing my hand, and I feel fine.

They stick me in a tunnel that’s kind of scary and take pictures of my insides. Everyone keeps asking me how I feel. I want to go back to bed, sleep so that I can be ready for school tomorrow, sleep with that little orange kitten nestled against my cheek. I tell them that I feel fine.

The sun is rising when we leave the hospital. Daddy takes us by McDonald’s for a sausage biscuit. I don’t have the heart to tell him that I want a Hardees’ biscuit. He reaches into the back seat and grabs my skinny leg, “Chicken leg! Chicken leg!” I erupt into giggles, and I feel fine.

Sometimes the memory is so vivid that I can relive each moment in my mind; every little second is one I know by heart. When I was eight years old, I had a seizure. I can’t remember the seizure itself, but the memories surrounding that one moment are as vivid as the pictures in my favorite childhood storybook. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


This memory was written in response to the Red Dress Club's RemembeRED prompt:


We want to know what, from your childhood, do you still know by heart?

Is it a story? A jump-roping song? The number of rungs on the ladder to your treehouse? How much money you had to save to buy something you really wanted?

Dig deep and come back on Tuesday, June 7th, and link up.

To force you to keep it simple and easy, let's have a 500 word limit this week.





Monday, June 6, 2011

What's For Dinner?

Hi, folks!

Hope everyone had a tolerable Monday :) Just wanted to drop in and let you know that I'm hanging out over at My 3 Little Birds today and guest-posting for her What's For Dinner? linkup. Be sure to drop by, check it out, and say hi to Mary Lauren. Oh, and if you have a recipe post, you'd like to share link up with her as well! If you don't already follow M3LB, it's highly recommend for great posts on family and food and some beautiful writing!



 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Happily Ever After?

Cinderella: If the Shoe Fits

Happily ever after is a load of crap fed to young girls who are looking for the answers to all their problems in the arms of Prince Charming. Let me be the one to tell you, sugar, the Prince only stays princely until he gets what he wants. So he buys the cow, and as the cow, you give him the milk, and the rest is history. The charm is history. The sweet words and midnight dances and noble sacrifices are history. The coach turns back into a pumpkin, and there you are: barefoot and pregnant with nothing to your name but a giant pumpkin. The Prince formerly known as Charming has dumped your ass because of family pressure. Good ol' Mama-in-Law finally convinced him that he was, indeed, too good for you. The girl from the slums is an embarrassment to the family, so out she goes. Here's your glass slipper with the broken heel, what's your hurry? In four months, you'll give birth to your legacy, then give her away. She'll be an orphan, just like you. She'll scrub dirty floors and be fed bullshit about princes and happily ever after, and you'll not be there to warn her that it's all a lie. She'll fall into the same trap you did, a vicious cycle beginning with once upon a time.

Sleeping Beauty has a Wicked Case of Insomnia

Happily ever after ended yesterday at 3:06am. I know, because I looked at the fading blue glow of the alarm clock when he walked out on me again. This time it's for good. He found a newer model with much less mileage, much less baggage, and he split. He told me he still loved me but that he just couldn't hang anymore. I was too complicated or some such shit. Ms. Replacement is more carefree, more positive about life. She doesn't ask many questions or disagree. She just nods and goes along with whatever. That's what he wanted all along. A porcelain princess, a trophy with no heart, no brain, barely even a pulse. He said I wasn't the woman he once knew. He said I had changed. Well, sure, I've changed. For one, I'm not in a damn coma anymore. I'm a living, breathing woman now. I feel things. I cry. I scream. I stay up late watching a marathon of Jersey Shore because I can't seem to sleep. I don't just lay there and look pretty. I fight my own battles now. He doesn't have to slay my dragons for me. I'm more than capable of handling that myself. I woke up a long time ago and realized that everything we ever had only existed once upon a dream.

Snow White and the Seven Packs a Day

Happily ever after should really just be called mildly content ever after. Because I am mildly content. Sometimes. But I've never been what anyone would call "happily." Happily to me means going back to nature, living as one with the Earth and the creatures and the little people. Happily means eating all the apples I want without someone hovering over me, nagging about how it might be poisoned and that I might die. Happily means smoking my cigarettes in peace without having to hear: "seven packs a day is a helluva habit." What can I say? I smoke a pack for every dwarf I miss. And speaking of dwarves, I think I miss Dopey the most. I miss being dopey myself. Since when did life get so serious? Castles and fancy dresses and proper crap like that? I wanna go back to the woods and draw water from my well and whistle while I work. I want that happily; I'm through with the mildly content. Castles and princes aren't for everybody, and they're definitely not for me. One day my prince will go, and I can go back to being me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


This is my cynical response to this week's prompt at The Lightning and the Lightning Bug, as told in three parts. Pretty ironic that it's cynical considering I came up with the prompt. HA!

Flicker of Inspiration Prompt #2: Fairy Tales

Rewrite or modernize your favorite fairy tale or take a story (book, movie, play, or memory) and turn it into a fairy tale. Lots of room to play around with this one, as long as you use the fairy tale aspect in some way. I've made the word limit greater this week, so you can develop your story further.

Word Limit: 1,000 words




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