Mr. Pornography

what are you lookin at?
it was quiet, almost too quiet

Ten Minutes Ago:

A graying hunched man padded out of a generic office building. He was older than he looked and he looked about sixty. He had retired that day and his last task, as an employee, was to place his possessions into a cardboard box. In the box was a thesaurus, an eighth grade science book, a half a dozen published collections, a large bag of scrabble tiles, a multi-colored highlighted grid matrix charted with infinitesimal scribblings and his final paycheck. Two men were eating lunch outside the office on a marble slab as he walked by, oblivious to their presence, and one man looked up and immediately assessed him as some insurance actuary experiencing the novelty of being outsourced out of his only job.

The first man looked at his lunch companion and said, "Look at that poor slob, I hope the claims department can survive without him."

The second man smiled and nodded. He then added, "We need just one more bean counter and then we can travel to Mars."

They both laughed and kept coming up with other potential jobs for this man, quietly walking down the street and becoming smaller and smaller. Other theories were made up on the spot until a voice, close by, interrupted their banter.

"That man, was a legend in the business of pornography," said the voice, "He took the under appreciated writing style of faux pornographic letters to the editor to an art form."

They both looked around and saw the man who had interrupted, sitting above them on the next marble plateau. They could not accuse him of eavesdropping because they had talked loud and without concern for others because they thought they were alone.

"What do you mean?" said one of the two men. "That guy is a porno writer? He looks like someone's granddad!"

"That wasn't just some porno writer, that's Pete Freeman," said the new man, "He was the porno writer, a legend in the business. Mr. Pornography."

Many, Many Years Ago:

It took Peter Freeman seventeen years to achieve his first goal in life: the editor of his school paper. He always felt he was destined for the fourth estate, employing the first amendment and fighting for the people's right to know. While kids were worshipping football and baseball players, Peter was dressing up like I.F. Stone and playing newspaper in the parent's garage. He collected typewriters, pasted up countless make-believe house organs in his room, joined the school paper as soon as he was old enough and even pedaled papers when he was too young to do anything else. As editor, he signed his name with as much aplomb as an eighteen year old could and added a scribbled "30" underneath his flourish. When he graduated from High School, he went off to the University with the express purpose of being a journalist. A hip young journalist fighting to make a difference. He imagined his picture on Time magazine; aviator sunglasses, corduroy sport coat, tie at half-mast with note pad in one hand and some exotic brunette in the other.

"Hey, Peter," cooed some budding debutante as he walked down the hall towards study hall. "Cool article about the soda machine."

"Thanks, babe," he would say and he walked by with his self-made galleys. "First amendment…first amendment" and that basically galvanized his career choice. The only thing better than being a hip young journalist fighting to make a difference is becoming a hip young journalist fighting to make a difference that was swimming in chicks.

The dedicated High School journalist is a rare site so his high level of journalistic interest put him ahead of many students possessing more writing and reporting skills. But since he could be counted on to deliver twenty column inches on both the Future Farmers of America fall banquet and still get time to a few paragraphs on the rise in school lunch prices, his journalistic stock rose. This was not the first time, through sheer volume, he would succeed but either way, he was a journalist. Whatever required article had to be written, Peter would take the assignment with both hands and scoot out the door. One issue had over fifteen separate bylines by Peter and that is when he knew he had made it. Unfortunately, besides his writing being considered both formulaic and dull, he possessed one other major flaw as a journalist: his own style was non-existent and basically a blended up bucket of every journalist he wanted to emulate. He graduated and felt that once he got to the University, his dormant skills would awaken and he could finally start making a difference as the fighting young journalist. High school was the minor leagues and he was confident that once he got around some other fighting young journalists, he would find his own style.

Once at the University, Peter was amazed at the amount of pure journalistic talent that surrounded him. He would labor over a basic three-paragraph lead while everyone else, seemed to fire off an attention-grabbing hook as they were eating lunch or sitting around smoking like Nazis. He viewed himself more of a traditional journalist, allowing himself as much as time necessary to make his articles seem extemporaneous but those days of template writing were screaming to a halt. Self-described gonzo journalists were writing twelve pages of stream of consciousness drivel just to force the reader into the whole pile of scribbled slop to find a few interesting bon mots. It wasn't his style but two facts stared him in the face: it was selling and all the exotic brunettes seemed to dig it. So, he forced himself into writing faster and looser with obscure literary references to books he had never read.

He finally got the hang of the basic rudiments of college journalism writing styles and started to pump out the stuff with moderate success after two years of stringing for the paper. Not burdened by quality, Peter knew his ticket to the big time was going to be based on raw quantity and a very high threshold of pain and self-inflicted boredom. Peter continued to grab every available assignment to sharpen his chops and make a conscious attempt at throwing as much crap against the journalistic wall as possible with hopes that some of it would stick. He was right, some of it did stick but usually because he cowed to the editors and allowed them to slash his stories mercilessly. As a rule, editors are heartless cold earthbound versions of the antichrist, so his fear and complete compliance to their toady whims made him a candidate for regular work. He wrote for all events he could; as a cub reporter on a campus newspaper, you didn't have a lot of standards established and all you wanted was the byline.

He never complained as they would edit by size considerations versus content and sometimes he knew the only reason he got a story into the paper was because it fit the open white space. He got a nickname of "NYT" from the staff, in a cruel pun of the Times credo, his work was known as "all the news that fit" but he didn't care. He once spent two hours writing a three-sentence filler for a special edition. The advertising folks couldn't sell a small two-inch space and left it for some canned reminder or slugged ad. The editors however, felt curious to see how desperate Peter would be to get another byline in the paper. They called him in to their small office and pitched him the idea while they managed to disguise their unearthly forms from his awareness.

"How small can you write?" asked the first editor.

"I can write anything you wish, small or large or something in between," said Peter.

"I need two inches," said the editor as he used his hands to fashion a two-inch square space, in case Peter had no depth perception.

"On what?"

"What do you have?"

"Nothing yet, I usually don't write such small pieces."

"No byline by the way. I want something interesting."

The thought of not placing a byline hurt Peter as if the editor stuck him with his pitchfork. True journalists knew it was never a real story until a byline appeared above the story. Without the byline, it felt like basic, wire copy and Peter was the generic wire service. Wire copy was ground out by faceless and nameless hacks daily producing volumes of stories on everything from the latest activities of Punxsutawney Phil, to the law of the seas and olive import quotas. The other brutal truth is that many small papers were not averse to taking straight copy off the wire and slapping into the paper without even reading it.

"Make it dirty and give me the weather report," said the editor. "But not too dirty because I am graduating in two weeks."


"Use your imagination," said the editor, "Choose your words carefully."

Peter spent the next two hours composing the two-inch square. He stopped looking up sources to liberate his story and just concentrated on words that only sounded dirty. He developed a list of potentials, such as cuckold, dictum, titter and asinine, but finally settled on a final approach and wrote:

"She ached and complained about her crotchety exhaustion to her reclining, thespian friends. She talked in graphic detail about her chronic angina and how the condition treated her so roughly. They commiserated her plight and offered to look at her uvula to see if there was any color change in either her complexion or the autumn leaves on this cool, fifty degree partly cloudy day."

He dropped the paper on the editor's desk and walked out. He knew he was being played but he couldn't stop himself for getting published, no matter how stupid or humiliating. There was no better high for Peter than to see his words in print and he knew he had to keep writing to stay happy. The words and concepts were secondary, almost inconsequential; he just had to write. To live a rat must chew and to make himself happy, he had to be grinding out the work.

He had taken off for the day and saw a few colleagues (his words) for a few beers. When he got home, his roommate had left him a phone message. It said, "Your editor called, he loved the two-inches."

In his entire career, this was the first praise he had ever received for his writing. There was simple appreciation when he successfully filled the last page of the senior edition with articles about homeroom changes for the next year and parking lot re-striping but this was his first honest and positive stroke and he felt vindicated. He was a writer and it was about freaking time.

He continued to write for the paper but did not re-capture the magic of those two inches again. He forced himself not to bring up his witty mini-success. He kept working on his assignments and continued to only receive motivation from seeing his byline. During his last semester, Peter aggressively interviewed with all the visiting newspaper groups and summarily received the rejection letters approximately two weeks after each interview. The reasons were all phrased differently but they all declined the opportunity to allow Peter Freeman the opportunity to become the journalistic legend he thought he so richly deserved.

"Look at all my stories," said Peter. "I must have ten thousand column inches from geology club announcements to real rock concerts."

"You certainly are prolific," said his friend as she looked through his boxes. "There are a lot of words here."

"You are damn right," said Peter, "that is a lot of words."

The final semester drew to a close and Peter was busy finishing up his last classes and kept pumping out resumes and writing samples to almost every mid-sized paper in the region. However, most of the papers were again missing out on an opportunity to snag his skills and yet again, he was without a gig. He continued to work his contact and finally, a local newspaper of a small town responded to one of his desperate letters of introduction. They offered him a cub reporter job for a low five-figure annual salary. He packed his car and drove off to the town as the hard charging young reporter that gave a damn.

Peter spent two years at the paper, basically doing the same things he did at college: pumping out copy. He attended every civic event, every council meeting, every new store opening, every high school athletic event and everything else. The staff of the paper consisted of three writers and almost a crack whore-addiction on AP wire copy. Peter was the only one that would leave the building but the other two hacks would just recycle their fifteen story leads while Peter would trudge out with his notebook to root out corruption. The two years passed excruciating slowly while he planned his next move; a larger city. He kept his contact busy with constant phoning trying to network another gig. No one wanted to hire him due to budget cuts or political issues so Peter did what he always did: he rarely wrote anything but he typed like a madman.

A Few Years Later:

Peter Freeman was laying face down in front of his typewriter. He was completely spent from both a physical and mental capacity issue. Ironically, his moral base was largely undisturbed as he struggled with his first pornographic story but his finite creativity was the source that took the biggest hit. He had recently left the local paper, due to a miasma of circumstances and moved to the big city to look for a gig. In addition to complete boredom, he began to hate his subjects and what they had to say. The city councils would blather on and on and Peter dutifully took notes and reviewed the meeting minutes. The hate of his job and the people that he had to report on everyday. Peter would listen and dutifully take notes on whatever came out of their collective, stupid mouths. Sworn never to use sic because of their ignorance, he printed what they said, and would have to defend that what he wrote was what they said.

It began innocently enough with Peter's lifelong desire to save all his journalistic jewels. The love of collecting his work and bylines were waning and the boxes holding his tear sheets were stacking up. Starting with his work in high school, everything he had every written were in the boxes and it usually gave him pleasure to hold up his work and take pride in his prolific nature. One day, a high school classmate was visiting Peter and saw the boxes lined up and organized in the basement.

"Wow, Pete," said the friend, "Look at all of this."

"No kidding," said Peter, "This represents my life's work. It is everything I have written." Peter went over to the oldest looking box and opened it to show his friend.

"You are probably the only one with a copy of these things," said the friend as he scanned the headlines. "Everyone else probably threw all this away a long time ago."

At that precise moment, Peter realized that his friend was right. All these boxes were a vanity-saturated exercise for Peter. He knew that most people would keep an odd story because their name or picture was displayed, but he became depressed when he thought about the thousands of his bylines rotting in landfills all over the state. He realized that he was the only collector of his work and he needed more vindication than that and it was time to expand his fan base.

He resigned from the paper and began to plan his move to the city. He made numerous contacts but now, the urgency was increased and his desire to make a move was immediately treated as sincere. Nothing was assured but Peter was encouraged to move and pick up stringer work until he could land a permanent job. He left town and moved in with an old roommate to start a hardcore job search. He hit all the major media companies and got some stringer work to pay the bills but no legitimate work was in the offing. He wasn't depressed or discouraged as the idea of leaving all his work in some basement, unread, was too horrible to revisit so he persevered.

One night, he was sitting with some friends, lamenting his current work state.

"I have been doing stringer work," said Peter, "but I feel like a hack."

"You could go back to the Hooterville Times," said one of his friends. "Pete, you aren't a bad writer but remember, there are a million people suffering in the legitimate world."

"The legitimate world is the only world for writers."

"There are other options, if you can think creatively."

"Like what?"

"I have a friend that made a quarter of a million dollars last year writing porn. And I hear they are looking for someone else to lend a hand."

"What? I made only one hundred dollars on my last story."

"Hmmm, that is somewhat less than my friend. He gets paid for the stories and he also gets a percentage of profits when they bundle the stories and sell them independently."

"I can do that."

"It is harder than it seems. You have to be creative."

"No, you don't," said Peter, "You just have to be organized."

Officially unemployed for over six months, Peter jumped at the chance to write dirty letters to the editors for the men's magazine just to say he was a working writer. As everyone knows but no one admits, all the letters sent into the magazine are actually penned within and they are graded on the two ironic components of length and depth. The genuine submissions, sent from college dorms and medium-level security penitentiaries, were immediately disposed of for obvious reasons. They would come dutifully bundled each day to the imaginary Submissions Editor and they would be incinerated within ten minutes of arrival. The sheer number of letters was only surpassed in wonderment by the odd collection of packages that arrived as well. No one ever looked in there, ever.

Peter was of limited experience as a chaser of skirts and a breaker of hearts so whatever personal experience he could fall back on was used up in the first fifteen minutes of his first day. He sat in his little room, staring at both the keyboard and a five thousand word (two letters) obligation due to his editor by lunchtime. He actually began to compose a narrative, adding an enhanced version of himself as the primary paramour, covering a step by step consummation of an imaginary Amazon woman of ample physical prowess. He placed the activity at the ubiquitous "large Midwestern University" to give it some credibility and kept typing and typing hoping that the repeating of the blue phrases would please his editor. The editor looked the typewritten pages and tossed them into the wastebasket.

"Do you call that writing?" asked the Editor.

"I tried," said Peter.

"Try with more dirty words," sighed the Editor, "and find some new verbs. You used one eighteen….no nineteen times."

"I only know two different ones."

"Learn some more."

Can't Remember When:

He was trapped but he went back to the basics. Writing was writing but this certain audience would not be interested in quality but sheer volume. Utilizing his strengths, he should be able to grind out enough porn to keep everyone happy. Peter went back to his old textbooks and realized that a story is three acts: the set-up, the crescendo and the finale.

Each letter had to be two thousand words long. The editor wanted to get at least ten letters in each issue so Peter was forced to produce approximately one letter every three days. The deadlines were far harder than being a syndicated cartoonist due to the detail each letter demanded. For each epic d'amour that he struggled through, the Family Circle cartoonist would take one of his three templates and draw the path arrows in a slightly different route and call it a day. Peter, by this time, had exhausted his internal experiences and needed to augment them for survival's sake.

The key was to develop a matrix of variables to assist him in setting the structure to generate his story output. He began to sketch out the commonalties of each story and categorized them for further analysis.

He determined that he had five main and one minor location (a large Midwestern University, an office, outdoors and miscellaneous transportation modes, hotel, international locale) variables to set each story. He determined that he would mesh that with five lifestyle choices made up of two types of each gender interaction plus an individual's perspective with concentration on four physical areas (top, bottom, front, back) with a complimentary relationship of the four physical areas again. With the physical stage set, he would focus on the eight main parts of speech (noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverbs, conjunction, preposition and the reliable interjection) along with five spicy grammatical tools to use as needed (gerund, participle, infinitive, antecedent, modifier). Rounding out his workspace, he would employ the mother and father of all true pornographic impact, the alliteration and the recently minted idiom, with non-ironic use of Newton's three laws of motion and the six principles of thermodynamics. These variables or pornlets™ as defined by Peter (and eventually trademarked by his management group, Freepeter, Inc.) allowed him potential single variables for stories that could last approximately twelve hundred years*. If he was somewhat generous with his pornlets, say ten per story; he still would have one hundred and twenty years worth of stories to fall back on. However, if he was going to be a hip young porn writer fighting to make a difference, his craft had to be constantly honed.

As the years went on, Peter would retire to his study to compose several stories. The first thing he would do would be to choose several pornlets to begin the letter and mark them "used" on his matrix. Once he got the general structure, the letter would write itself with Peter adding a few variations on the theme from either Roget or the dictionary. As the years went on, there would be recurring themes, depending on his frame of reference or non-working preoccupation. He also went through grammatical themes, during one summer, had abused gerunds to the point of stylistic embarrassment. He actually felt ashamed at its overuse but the summer had record levels of new subscriptions and the accolades, however tainted, were growing thanks to his impressive fan base. Peter realized early in the theme that any verb that ends with "ing" and still can be a noun can free up a lot of time. He may have felt that his stencil approach would become more and more evident but the audiences grew and his rates continued to increase. The gerund summer evolved into the alliteration autumn, which moved into the wild, wild winter when Peter had remodeled his house.

When he built his first house, there was a raft of stories dealing with shady general contractors and numerous uses of basic construction that would take on new meaning when placed in the context of basic, quick read pornography. Whether he was re-stuccoing a house, cleaning out pipes or leveling a patio, Peter began to use everything he could find to grind out the porn and the metaphors were raining from the freshly sprayed ceilings. Again, the editors were apoplectic with appreciation and grabbed the stories as if they were filthy little hotcakes. He would deliver his raft of stories and the copy-starved editors would aggressively set them upon their desks and stare at the potential adventures with a sense of impending pleasure. He was wondering when his formula would be discovered but through some level of marketing analysis, the letters to the editor were becoming selling points for the magazine and it became painfully obvious that many of the people were buying the entire porn magazine just for the letters.

Details were Peter's strong points and he felt he had an obligation to present each story with three acts, well paced and in context. No matter what random collection of nouns and grammatical tools he grabbed from his matrix, he was compelled to write a coherent story, exclusive of the subject. One time, he had actually not even read his story but allowed the rote actions of typing out another one in the long line of page turners to do all the work. He laughed when he finished it because there would be considerably more effort expended while actively reading the story than what it took for him to write it.

Peter's celebrity was growing with a legitimate fan base and as a result, Peter had to place several non-de plumes to be placed in the masthead. Luckily unbeknownst to everyone, Peter's real name was safely placed as a senior editor in the corporation that owned the magazine. This was to insulate him from issues but anyone who was paying attention, knew he was the genius behind the beautifully consistent and readable letters. He settled on four pen names to round out the Senior Submissions Editor (ironically and bluntly named Nicholas Solo) and three assistants (the international Harold Montagé, the hip Eric Falcone and the requisite hyphenated woman, Anne Fauxhill-Fields.) These four would be credited on all the collections of published letters and Peter became embarrassingly rich. The fan letters would pour in, directed to these imaginary people and be incinerated as fast as possible. The magazine offices even added offices, complete with the letter staff's name on doors, to aid in the illusion.

The first compilation of his letters became an instant success and actually topped the major best seller lists for an entire summer. The magazine folded in an intense negotiation with Peter and was forced to place a stock photo on the back cover and dutifully placed Nicholas Solo's name and signature across the back. The photo showed a middle-aged man (unfortunately not deceased), dressed like a college professor, sitting his office like he was grading papers. When the man was immediately found and denied having anything to do with the magazine, the mystery galvanized to place a real name and face to the oracle of smutty correspondence. All writers and staffers were under confidentiality agreements not to disclose the real Nicholas Solo, or whomever, and it stayed quiet. The truth was, that not many people even knew Peter and the small group that did, demonstrated respect for his privacy.

A public relations firm was hired to completely insulate Peter from the magazine and as the mystery grew, crowds would congregate in front of the magazine and try to stop people and ask them for any insights on the author. By this time, Peter never visited the magazine offices and had all the stories sent by courier to the public relations office, where they would be repackaged and delivered to the Editor in Chief every week by one of the firm's senior partners. No one complained about being a bagman for the pornography, especially at the ironically obscene monthly retainers paid by the magazine. Whether it was just luck or actual professional courtesy, the conduit of the PR firm did the trick to keep the porn flowing and everyone happy.

Whomever the man was, fans liked the mystery writer(s) versatility because it was so predictable and it provided a nice compliment to the true desire of discriminating connoisseurs of the written pornography: quantity. Although the clamor died down as the iterative flow of pornographic make-believe continued, Peter was growing bored with seeing all his names in print. Additional compendiums of his letters, some organized by genre, were being punched out almost as fast as he was punching them out. Unfortunately, the irony was lost to everyone but Peter. He felt that his only course of action was to concentrate on some legitimate work. He threw himself into his deadlines and almost immediately, built up an additional six months supply of his letters and assigned his personal attorney to dispense them monthly to the magazine. He didn't want the rag to realize how easy his letter recipe was to deploy (and make him a liability) nor did he want to raise their concern that he was entertaining other literary options. He went underground and set upon the challenge to write the Great American Novel with the goal of getting a Pulitzer Prize for Literature in the non-porn division. He dutifully wrote everyday and as usual, produced an impressive pile of typing, unfortunately not much of it was writing. He attended workshops and consulted with some rising literary stars under the guise of a friend of an important friend. Through his connection at the corporate level of the magazine, he got an audience with a recent National Book Award winner and asked her a series of questions to try to gain insight on her creative process and she had no idea that she was talking to the contemporary king of periodic pornography. It was her second book and it literally came out of the blue. The first book was rediscovered thanks to her victory and it was already being critically acclaimed.

Peter thanked her for taking time in her schedule to meet with him. He knew she was under considerable pressure to follow-up her award-winning book with another one.

"I got nothing right now," said the author.

"That surprises me," said Peter. "Your first two books are solid."

"Thanks," she said. "The books were largely personal insights, culled from my journals and fertile imagination. I have gone off on all comfortable tangents and I have nothing to say. I said it all in the first two books."


"Not one damn thing. I can't complain because all I have experienced so far has been success and I can't boast because I only produced two books."

"I wish I could just write," said the author. "I want to get a rhythm down and concentrate on things that I can only imagine. Writers usually use up their personal experiences early and write themselves into a corner. I need to expand and deal with issues that I have no right to deal with due to my general ignorance."

Peter smiled as they both realized that she was baring her soul to someone she did not know but the pressure of keeping up a façade of genius was wearing on her. The candor was refreshing for both of them and the subject slowing changed from her to him.

"How did you get to me? I got a call from my publisher's boss that I was going to meet with you and talk about writing."

"I have been lucky in my work and have enjoyed success for the exact opposite of you. I write about things I have no idea about."

"You are a writer?"

"More of a typist."

"Tell me about how you go about doing your craft."

"He laughed to himself when he thought of word "craft" to internally describe his work.

"Maybe 'craft' is the wrong choice of words," he said. "I write pornography after toiling as a cub reporter for a local small town paper."


"Pretty much so. I write for a men's magazine and concentrate on Letters to the Editor."

"Wow! Do you know Nicholas Solo?"

"I sure do. How do you know about him?"

"I read his stuff all the time. I like him the best. I enjoy the other writers, Falcone, Fauxhill-whatever and the other one but Solo is my favorite."


"Because writing is writing at most levels. We just find new words to describe similar situations and try to entertain. Solo just makes it look so easy with the interchangeable stories that he and the others edit."

"Well, I know he will appreciate it coming from you."

"It is not only me but I know dozens of writers that count those letters as one of their many guilty pleasures in life. And do you want to know what I think?"


"I think those four just make this stuff up between themselves. The stories are too solid and too enjoyable to be left to convicts and rural folks."

Peter was pleased to know that someone he respected appreciated his work. A few days after the meeting, the author received a personal letter from Nicholas Solo reiterating the earlier praise that had come from Peter Freeman. Also in the box was a collection of the letters signed by all four of the named editors. The author was ecstatic and made a comparable gesture in returning to the attention of Mr. Nicolas Solo a pre-press galley of her award-winning book complete with her own notes and edits. She had intelligently sent it through her agent so it skipped the guaranteed incineration of other well-intentioned adulation earmarked to the busy cabal of adult correspondence.

They continued to keep in contact and once Peter admitted to her the elaborate efforts of writing pornography under four assumed names, she stayed intrigued and supportive. Once Nicholas Solo and the others were out of the picture, their friendship grew closer however it was nothing one would wish to write about.

Ten Minutes Ago:

A graying hunched man padded out of a generic office building. He was older than he looked and he looked about sixty. He had retired that day and his last task, as an employee, was to place his possessions into a cardboard box. In the box was a thesaurus, an eighth grade science book, a half a dozen published collections, a large bag of scrabble tiles, a multi-colored highlighted grid matrix charted with infinitesimal scribblings and his final paycheck. Two men were eating lunch outside the office on a marble slab as he walked by, oblivious to their presence, and one man looked up and immediately assessed him as some insurance actuary experiencing the novelty of being outsourced out of his only job.

The first man looked at his lunch companion and said, "Look at that poor slob, I hope the claims department can survive without him."

The second man smiled and nodded. He then added, "We need just one more bean counter and then we can travel to Mars."

They both laughed and kept coming up with other potential jobs for this man, quietly walking down the street and becoming smaller and smaller. He put his box in the trunk of a car, got into the passenger side and he and a woman drove away.

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