By Paul Jamison
Chapter – 26
The following morning I came down to breakfast and found everyone at the kitchen table. I quickly got some tea and toast when Rick turned to me and said
“I’ve done a letter for your maths master to explain that as you were having difficulties we arranged extra tuition for you.” He paused and continued “I don’t want you getting into any more problems like that. So talk to us next time, please.”
“Yeah, sure, I will,” I replied. “Thanks for doing this; he might’ve wondered how I could do that stuff all of a sudden.” I was thankful that at least I wouldn’t have to go through tuition from Dazzer at least. I thought to myself as I took the letter from Rick and shoved it into my backpack.
“Yeah, we thought that too. So I wrote him that note,” Rick replied.
I grinned back at Rick and carried on eating my breakfast. Just then Craig and Jamie arrived and came to the back door. Liam hopped up to let them in. Paul suddenly said
“Oh, I’m taking you guys this morning. Justin’s due at the hospital to have a final check and hopefully he’ll be cleared for swimming again. Then he’ll be doing everything as normal from this weekend, we hope.”
I grinned widely at this news, although I did remember Jus telling me he’d be late into school because of having this check-up.
Liam came back from letting the guys in and they seemed quite excited about something. I finished shoving toast into my gob and looked up at them all quizzically.
Rick picked up his keys and bag and with a quick “Bye guys,” to us all, was gone and a few moments later drove off to work.
“The decorator’s finished our rooms, the carpets went down yesterday afternoon so Mum’s arranged for our new beds to arrive today.” Craig informed us.
“And we can go to IKEA on Sunday to get furniture as well,” Jamie added.
“Ask Will and Liam to show you their rooms,” Paul said. “They’ve got a pretty good set up from IKEA themselves. They’ll give you guys some help on Sunday. The plan’s to take my car so we’ll get it all home for you. Will’s rather good at assembling that stuff; he’s done two sets already!” Paul told us.
“Yeah,” I said. “You can come and see mine after school if you want,” I suggested. “No time now, we need to get going,” I said. I finished putting breakfast things into the dishwasher and shouldering my backpack got ready to leave.
We all left through the kitchen door and Liam locked up as Paul got the CitroŽn out. I locked down the garage and we all set off to school. Liam and Craig were talking quietly. So as Jus was not there I tried to chat to Jamie, but discovered he was very, very shy indeed and only answered briefly. Paul dropped us all off in the school drop off lay-by and we piled through the gates with all the other’s that were arriving too.
I saw the twins just ahead of me coming from the bike shed. So I moved over to join them going through the main pupil entrance.
“Hi guys,” I said coming up behind them both.
“Hi, Will,” they replied in unison. “Dazzer’s looking for you, something about Mr Wilton and maths?” Steve said to me. “We just saw him when we were locking our bikes up. He still rides into school as well,” he remarked.
cripes! That’s all I need!
“Well, you’d better tell’im that yourself then. Here’e comes,” Eric said helpfully.
I turned round as Eric spoke to see Dazzer hurrying across towards me. I took a deep breath, determined not to loose my cool and waited, one hand gripping my backpack strap. Steve and Eric looked on from behind me.
“Um… I’ve been trying to find you…” Dazzer began, smiling at me. “Mr Wilton asked me if… um… I could give you some help with those equations… That… um… we’re doing in maths,” he stumbled out.
“Yeah, I know. he said he was going to yesterday when he pulled me up over them,” I admitted, “but, there’s no need now. My guardian’s arranged some tutor for me, so I’m okay thanks,” I said as straightforwardly and politely as I could manage.
Suddenly Dazzer’s face dropped and the lights seemed to go out. “Oh, okay then, see ya,” he replied rather despondently and turning away moved off across the hallway.
I turned round to the twins and said “Did you see that? I mean he changed completely when I said I’d got it sorted.”
“Yeah,” Eric said. “He’s so totally different since he got suspended. Those goons that hung with him don’t anymore. He eats lunch on his own, or just on a table apart from others, but doesn’t talk or anything. It’s not the same Dazzer we used to know last term,” he finished.
“Wonder what happened?” I asked them. “Not that I’m bothered, mind you. He’s never been a mate or anything like, but it’s odd though. It was just like he got switched off when I said I was already sorted?”
The bell rang for first period and we hurried away to class.
* * * * * *
I was in the cafeteria lunch queue when I felt a distinct prod in the ribs from behind me. I quickly turned and couldn’t see who it was, then realised that whoever it was had turned with me. I heard a distinctly recognisable giggle and stopped. Looking over my shoulder I caught Justin’s grinning expression and returned him one equally as big. It had been a long morning without him there.
“So what’s with the doc’s?” I asked him.
“I’m fine and cleared for swimming as of Friday,” he said.
“So everything’s all right then?” I double checked.
“Yeah, they had a good look and as I’m not leaking it’s all okay!” He grinned. “I can’t wait to get back into swimming either.”
“It’s boring just watching practice, isn’t it?” I sympathised.
He nodded in agreement and we got our lunches and looked round for the twins, but couldn’t see them anywhere. So we found a table and chatted about the canal holiday that was only just over ten days away while we ate. The lunch period was almost over when both twins appeared in a rush and just made the line before the shutters came down. They came rushing over stuffing sandwiches into their gobs as they did, hurriedly sat down and gulped the rest of their food and drink. Then, when they’d finished, Steve turned to us and said
“I think we know what’s with Dazzer.” Just as he was going to continue the bell rang for end of lunch and we all hurried off to assembly.
“So, what’s doing?” I asked as we made our way into the hall.
“He’s had an ultimatum from his dad it seems,” Eric said quietly. “After that hassle and bike ‘accident’ his dad told him if he didn’t dump those goons and behave, he could whistle goodbye to college, period, leave school and start labouring for his dad’s firm. Well, Dazzer really wants to do engineering design and needs to go to Uni, but hasn’t a hope in hell without his ps paying for it,” Eric explained in a whisper.
“Oh, I see… I think,” I whispered back.
The Headmaster appeared on stage and we all shushed up, went through the announcements and usual reminders before filing out to afternoon classes. There was no further opportunity to ask the twins any more as they’d disappeared off to technical drawing and we went to maths. I was telling Jus what Eric had said when Mr Wilton came past and unlocked the classroom.
Justin and I entered the classroom and were about to take our places when Mr Wilton looked up from his desk and asked
“Oh, William, will you come and see me after class. I’ve a student who should be able to help you with those equations.”
“It’s okay, actually, sir,” I replied. “My guardians arranged some private tuition for me last night and more if I need it, sir,” I explained as I reached into my backpack for Rick’s letter which I then handed over to Mr Wilton. “This is from my guardian, sir, it explains it,” I said, hurriedly resuming my place as the form-room rapidly filled and Dazzer’d just come through the door and I’d totally no desire to let him know what was happening.
“I’ll look at this later and let you know if that’s satisfactory,” Mr Wilton replied as he rose from his chair to begin the lesson.
I looked anxiously across at Justin and very much hoped that it would all be ‘satisfactory’ as I’d no flaming intention of studying with Dazzer!
We moved off to English class after Mr Wilton had finished and I’d actually felt I’d followed him for once. Mr Stonebridge had set a mammoth test on the chapters of the book My Family and Other Animals and I was sure I’d done well as I’d done a lot of revision and had watched the chapters from the DVD too. As we made our way out of the class dropping our test books on Mr Stonebridge’s desk as we passed Jus gave me big thumbs up. Seems he did well too. As soon as we were out of the classroom, he asked
“Did you do okay? I’m pretty sure I knew all of the answers.”
“Yeah, no problem, all that reading and the DVD made it pretty easy,” I replied.
“Yeah,” Justin agreed. “I so need an A in English too to keep ps happy, you know.”
“Are they hassling?” I asked anxiously.
“Nah, not hassle, more ‘expecting’ really,” he replied.
I nodded in reply and we both made our way to the car park to wait for Justin’s mum. After a few minutes Liam, Craig and Jamie turned up and shortly after that Mrs Naylor arrived with the car and we all headed for home. During the journey Mrs Naylor asked
“What things do you need, Justin, for the half term trip on the canal?” Justin turned round and repeated
“What stuff do I need for the trip?” he asked, grinning.
I replied “Um… actually, I haven’t a clue. I’ve never been before so perhaps it’s best to ask Rick or Paul?” I suggested. “I did hear Paul saying we needed soft type bags not solid cases as they were easy to store away on the boat,” I offered helpfully.
“I think I’ll give Rick a ring after supper,” Mrs Naylor replied. “I’ll find out from him then and we’ll get anything we need for Justin this weekend,” she finished.
“I guess we’ll need waterproofs or something?” Liam suggested.
“Oh, I s’pose so,” I answered. “I’ve only got an old thin cagoule though, and it’s prolly too small as well,” I added.
We’d arrived at our house. Liam, me, Craig and Jamie decamped. They said thanks and bye to Jus and Mrs Naylor and they drove off down the road. I winked madly at Jus through the car window, then turned and headed for the kitchen door. I’d just unlocked and gone in when Liam followed with Craig and Jamie and we put the kettle on to make a brew.
“Do you guys wanna see our rooms then?” I asked.
“Please, if you don’t mind,” Craig replied.
I led the way through the kitchen and up the stairs. I showed them my room first. They had a good look, especially at the computer and wardrobe storage. Liam had followed us up the stairs and came in behind them and suggested they went and look at his too.
“Basically identical, but other way round being opposites,” he explained.
“The shape is just like ours, ours are longer though. What’s the room at the end? It’s just a loo in our house,” Craig asked.
“It’s a bathroom and storage cupboards,” I explained showing them the shower, toilet and linen storage.
“You’ve got your own shower room?” Craig asked.
“Yeah, Rick and Paul have an en suite and there’s another bathroom for guests down on the middle floor as well.” I said.
“Wow, that’s good,” Craig murmured.
We’d finished looking. so I showed the guys down and out the front door saying bye to them as I did so. I then followed Liam into the kitchen. He went to the table and picked up a note left by Paul.
“There’s a steak pie for us in the fridge which Paul says to have with some oven chips and beans,” Liam said, reading the note, “and Paul and Rick’ll be home at seven,” he said, putting the note down again on the table.
“Right, okay,” I mumbled back. I got the tea underway while Liam put the pie and chips on a tray ready for the oven and we set the timer and opened a tin of beans to have with them. I finished my mug of tea and picked up my backpack to go up to my room to begin some homework. Liam called out after me.
“Be back down in an hour for food, okay.” he said.
“Sure,” I answered, as I left the kitchen and climbed the stairs to my room.
I got stuck into homework as soon as I’d changed from school uniform and I’d just finished my maths prep when I heard Liam calling me from downstairs. I put my books away and went down to the kitchen.
Liam had the meal ready just as I came through the kitchen door. So I sat down at the table.
“Do you want ketchup on yours?” Liam asked me.
“Nah, ’s okay, there’s enough with the beans, thanks,” I replied.
We ate our food and Liam said
“It’s not long now till we go away. I guess we should get stuff sorted out this weekend to take? I mean we’ve school right up till Friday and we go away on Saturday morning?” he said.
“Um… yeah, I guess. What clothes do we need to take?” I asked between mouthfuls of pie.
“I don’t really know. We’d better ask Rick and Paul when they get home,” Liam replied. “But some of its obvious,” he continued. “We’re away for seven nights, so we need seven sets of clothes for daytime, something to sleep in and perhaps a couple of things if we go to eat out or something, and some wet weather gear, in case it pisses down all day as well. Oh, and washing things and stuff,” he explained.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I answered. “Have you asked Craig to come yet?” I asked.
“Not yet, I’m going to this weekend. He’s asked for some help sorting out his and Jamie’s rooms on Sunday. I said we could prolly both help. I was going to ask him then so he could talk to his mum at the same time,” Liam explained.
“Bit short notice, isn’t it?” I asked. “I’d ask him now if I were you.”
“Yeah, p’raps you’re right,” Liam replied thoughtfully. “I think I’ll call him when I’ve finished this.”
“Good plan,” I replied.
We finished our food and loaded dishes into the dishwasher which Liam set going. Just then the phone went. Liam answered.
“Hello… yeah, sorry they’re not home yet… won’t be till after seven… yes, I’m sure that’ll be fine… bye, Mrs Naylor,” he said as he replaced the receiver.
“Justin’s mum,” he explained to me. “She wants details about the holiday and is going to call round at about half-seven.”
“Oh, okay. I’m going to finish my homework now,” I said as I left the kitchen.
“Yeah, see you later,” Liam replied.
* * * * * *
Rick and I arrived home a little after seven and found the house quiet. We had attended a recording session for the following week’s featured jazz ensemble and Rick had come along to listen from the recording suite with me as he sometimes did. We came into the kitchen, the only room with a light on downstairs, and saw that the boys had had some food and were presumably busy with their homework. I’d just put the kettle on for coffee and Rick had booted up the laptop to see if there were any emails for us when he turned and said
“All your computer kit will be here tomorrow. E-mail’s just come in to say they’ve despatched by usual courier.”
“Oh, good, that’s pretty quick. Looks like I’ll have a busy morning for the next two days sorting those out,” I replied. “Anything else interesting?” I asked.
“No, that’s it. There’s some junk-mail, but I’ve dumped that,” Rick replied and turned off the machine.
We sat at the table enjoying coffee and cheese and biscuits when there was a ring at the front door. I got up and went down the hallway to answer the door to find Mary Naylor on the doorstep.
“Good evening, Paul,” she began.
“Oh! Hi, Mary, do please come in. What do we owe the pleasure for?”
“Oh, have the boys not said anything? I called earlier to say I’d call round. It’s about the canal trip. To sort out when you want Justin here, what he’s to bring and to give you a cheque for his share of expenses,” she explained as we walked down the hall into the kitchen.
Rick had heard us talking and had put the kettle on to make some fresh coffee and he greeted Mary as she entered the kitchen
“Hi, Mary, how’s Justin and his injuries?” he asked smiling.
“Oh, you’d never know, he’s bounced back as good as new. You’ve to look carefully to see where the stitches were now,” she replied.
Mary took a seat at the table as I pulled out a chair and Rick brought fresh coffee with a cup and saucer for Mary. She rummaged in her bag and pulled out a small notebook, opened it to a fresh page and set it down on the table before taking a drink.
“Well,” I began, “seven sets of clothes, something to sleep in, washing kit, towels and something a bit decent if we go off the boat to eat out in a town or pub restaurant,” I counted off as Mary made notes. “Oh, trainers of course, but not best ones, tow paths can be very muddy especially in late October. Though we are hoping for bright and fresh, rather than wet and soggy,” I explained. “But he’ll definitely need a weatherproof cagoule and I suggest a windproof fleece that can go under the cag. It can be quite cold, although still very bright and sunny at this time of year,” I said.
“Right, he’s got everything except a cagoule and fleece,” Mary said looking up from her notebook.
“Well, we’re taking both boys into town on Saturday morning to get stuff. I know Liam hasn’t got one and I’ve not seen Will with anything suitable either. Do you want to join us in town with Justin?” I asked.
an excellent idea,” Mary replied. “Can we make it an early start as I’ve a lot
to do for our
“Yes, no problem there. How about just after nine by the outdoor centre in the precinct? Liam has to be at work for ten, so we’d have to be there early anyway,” I said.
“Okay, that’s that sorted,” Mary said, “but how much do I owe you for his food and expenses for the week?” she said getting out her cheque book.
“Oh, only fifty pounds. The boat’s hardly costing us as it looks like there’ll be six now anyway. Liam may well invite one of the Sutherland brothers he’s become friendly with,” I replied. “And could Justin be here for ten, ready to go, on the Saturday? We’ll have lunch at a pub near to the boatyard in Great Hayward,” I explained.
the time’s no problem at all. He’ll be here. We go to
“Will’s covered with his father’s allowance, but, yes, Liam’s now our responsibility and so far there’s only been food and some furniture, oh and some more school shirts! But I know that won’t last when he gets to going to college,” I remarked.
“True,” Mary replied. “Then the bills’ll pile in believe me,” Mary added smiling.
“Oh, we know, we’ve both done it,” Rick laughed.
Mary wrote out a cheque and handed it to me; I quickly glanced and noticed she’d made it out for fifty pounds over what I’d asked for. I looked up and she saw my expression and quickly said
“I know we said at the beginning that Justin’d have to pay for his own spends, but there’s an extra fifty for him. Can you spread it over the week so he doesn’t blow it all in the first weekend,” she laughed.
“Yes, no problem,” I smiled.
With that all sorted out, Mary finished her coffee and put away her notebook. I saw her to the door and said
“We’ll see you in the precinct on Saturday morning if we don’t see you before then,” I confirmed.
“Yes, till then,” she said, as she waved goodbye before getting into her car and driving away.
I was returning to the kitchen after shutting the front door behind Mary when Liam came down the stairs and said
“Um… can we have a chat?” he asked somewhat anxiously
“Of course come into the kitchen. There’s just me and Rick down here. I take it Will’s doing homework?” I asked.
“Yeah, we both went up to do homework after we ate,” Liam replied.
We went into the kitchen and sat at the table. Liam nervously looked round and then said
“I want Craig to come away with us, but he’s short of dosh. I can afford to pay for him as I’ve quite a bit in savings, but I’m not sure how to suggest it without hurting his feelings and stuff,” Liam said.
“Okay, first of all it’s a very low cost trip so there’s not too much to worry about there, it’s really only his spends that he needs and to be honest on a canal there are just not that many things apart from a few souvenirs to spend money on. A lot of the time we are miles from shops and town centres. It’s not a high spending sort of holiday as you’ll discover,” I replied.
“How about we invite Craig through his mother?” Rick added.
“Could you?” Liam asked. “I’m sure he wants to come, but he seems so worried about the money side of things right now though,”
“That I can understand after some of the stuff he’s been through over the summer. I mean it’s not easy to lose your dad, move home, new school, new friends, all in about three weeks too. He’s just not sure where things are at and I guess he’s a bit afraid to ask as well,” I replied. “Not altogether dissimilar to your problems, though all in one lot not spread out over years as yours have been?” I suggested.
“Only a little, really, I think,” Liam said and then continued “I mean, when Dad went, I still had school, Mum, home, friends and there was not any real hassle till this summer when I told her you know what,” he replied.
“Yes, point taken,” I agreed. “Leave it with me and I’ll see how things are and see what’s possible, okay?” I tried to re-assure him. “Have you actually mentioned the holiday at all to Craig yet?”
“Um… well sort of in a roundabout way, but not a direct invite as such,” he replied.
“Right, well, I’ll see what can be arranged.”
Liam smiled and seemed to perk up at that and he got up and went off back to his room. I looked at Rick and said
“I’ve good reason to call Vanessa, seeing the computers have been despatched, so I’ll bring it up in the conversation.”
“Good plan, knew you’d think of a way, you always do,” Rick smiled at me. “Go on call the lady. Let’s see if we can send that boy to bed a bit happier?”
I grinned back and closed the kitchen door. Sitting by the window I picked up the phone and dialled the Sutherland household. After a brief conversation I replaced the receiver and turning to Rick said
“It’ll have to wait till the morning; Vanessa’s going to call round after the boys have gone to school. I’ll mention it then when we’re setting up her laptop and the boy’s computers,” I grinned and continued. “It’ll be fine. I’m sure Liam’s getting anxious over nothing. It’s just the boys haven’t really been told the position yet. They’ll all know soon enough now that matters for their father are settled and Vanessa has an excellent job soon also.”
“I’m sure you are right,” Rick grinned and we went through to the sitting room and watched some TV until the boys appeared at just before ten. We all watched the news together and then headed for bed.
* * * * * *
The following morning the boys headed off to school with Mary Naylor and I settled down to await the delivery of the computing components. The courier van arrived a little after nine and I signed for the six boxes of equipment. I carried them through to the kitchen where I already had the table set up to build the two machines for the lads. I unpacked Vanessa’s laptop first and set it up to charge the battery. I unpacked and checked the rest of the equipment and was pleased everything had arrived as ordered. Just at that moment our front door bell sounded again and I went to answer it. As I’d expected, Vanessa Sutherland was on the doorstep.
“Hi, do come in,” I said smiling. “All the equipment’s just arrived and I’ve got your laptop out and charging up so we can get that set up,” I explained as we came down the hall to the kitchen.
We came into the kitchen and Vanessa took in the sight of boxes and boxes of components and my tool case open and ready on the table.
“Oh! Goodness,” she exclaimed, “this is quite a mammoth operation then?” she asked.
“No, not especially. it’s just there’s two of everything spread out. That’s all,” I replied. “It’ll all be installed in those computer cases by lunchtime and then I can hide them till Saturday or Sunday,” I said. “We can check and see the status of your broadband activation shortly,” I said.
I turned my attention to making a coffee for Vanessa and then I switched on her laptop and went through the configuring setup and mail account set up with her. That all done I went online and accessed the ISP to check status. I was delighted to see a message that gave activation as the coming Friday after midday. I turned to Vanessa and remarked
“That means you’ll all be online at your mother’s from Friday evening or anytime after then you choose. I’m busy with the boys on Saturday morning. We’ve to go into town to buy waterproofs and fleeces for our half-term canal holiday, but I’ve some time to spare Saturday afternoon or of course on Sunday,” I added.
“That’s excellent. Perhaps you can bring them round on Sunday afternoon when they’ve got the units all assembled?” she suggested “Oh, what’s this holiday you’re all going on?” she asked.
“Some friends have given us the use of a canal narrowboat for a week. It’s a six berth luxury cruiser with showers and central heating, all mod cons in fact,” I explained. Then I ventured, “Liam was wondering if Craig might like to come too?”
“Oh, I’m sure he would,” Vanessa replied. “What would the cost be?”
“Fifty pounds all in,” I replied. “He’ll need some spends, but to be perfectly honest, there aren’t that many opportunities to spend lots of cash on a canal boat in the middle of the countryside,” I joked.
“If you’ll have him and he’s invited then, yes, he can go. I’ll give you the fifty pounds on Sunday afternoon if he decides he’d like to go with Liam and yourselves,” she replied.
“Will Jamie mind?” I asked.
“No, not if he gets something he needs also,” Vanessa replied. “Though I am not too sure about his latest scheme,” she laughed again.
“Why? What’s he come up with?” I enquired.
“Keeping free-range chickens for egg production,” Vanessa replied.
“You’re joking,” I said in amazement.
“Nope, he’s got a scheme and he’s done costings and he thinks he can make a good profit. He’s very serious and as soon as we are a little settled, I’ll look properly at his ideas,” Vanessa explained.
I’d finished setting up Vanessa’s mail and was delighted when the first few mails arrived from the ISP confirming the set up for the account and the progress with the broadband activation. I suggested that she print them and save them as they had important settings that might be needed in the future.
“Do you all like fresh eggs?” I joked.
“Oh, we won’t be allowed near them unless we pay, believe me. He’s quite a moneybags, is Jamie.”
I laughed and then quickly showed Vanessa the settings and use of her new laptop. She quickly got the hang of it and after a few minutes we closed it down and I made us both a coffee.
“I’ll suggest to Liam that he invites Craig and that Craig should just ask your permission now we know you are happy for him to come,” I remarked.
“Yes, that’ll be fine though neither of the boys have asked for very much since losing their father. I’ve been wondering a bit about that. They were never cautious about asking before.”
“It could simply be they think there’s not much money around as you’ve ‘had to move’ and are now living with their grandmother. They could be unsure as to how things are,” I suggested.
Vanessa paused for a moment, and then said “Perhaps you’re right. Things have been happening so fast and none of us have had time to stop and explain properly to the boys about the situation. They’ve both been so very good and not argued about the moves. I’ll have a talk to them both tonight and tell them we’re on a safe footing, staying at my mother’s indefinitely. Oh, their rooms are nearly done by the way. Beds arrive this afternoon, carpets went down yesterday, mother and I’ll have their blinds and curtains up today as well so they can partly move in tonight. I’ve told them about Sunday and going to IKEA and suggested they ask Liam and Will to show them their rooms so they can see how well things can fit. I’m sure that you’re right though. I’ll definitely talk to them both this evening. Thanks for mentioning it,” Vanessa replied.
“Yes, I replied, “the boys were all full of it when they came for a lift yesterday. I think they looked when they got home that afternoon.”
We finished our coffee; I packed Vanessa’s laptop into its box and suggested she get a soft protection case for it when she next went into town. She agreed and then I showed her to the door and returned to the kitchen and assembled both Jamie’s and Craig’s computers. After a couple of hours I had them built and operating. I loaded software, set up email accounts for both on their new ISP and tested them. I was satisfied with everything, so I shut them down, cleared away all the empty cartons and packed the computers back into their delivery boxes and hid them behind some suitcases in the box room. Having done that, I had a sandwich for lunch, sent a text message to Liam and after tidying away all evidence of computer building I headed into work.
End of Chapter 26
chapter complete…. Many thanks to all those who have emailed me I think I’ve
managed to reply to you all now. We are in depths of winter here in the
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