The Cold


By Perry Brass


 The second week after I arrived in the camp in the Adirondacks, the cold set in. The camp belonged to my friend Mike in New York—actually to his parents who were away in Florida—and Mike loaned it to me because he knew I was burned out with the city and I needed a place that was quiet. This was quiet. You could hear every one of your thoughts. Sometimes I thought you could even hear the blood working its way into your finger tips. The blood made a noise like a small hole in an air hose: pss-pss-pss. It was that quiet in the camp, even during the day.

    The camp was near Malone, New York, about a spit away from the Canadian border. There were several Indian settlements around there, and when I took the jeep over to the General Store eight miles down the road, I'd see Indians come in. They were friendly, but kept a distance from you, and they didn't seem to notice the cold the way I did. It was mid-November, a pretty dicey time, Mike warned me, when one day you could walk outside in shirt sleeves and the next morning go out and feel the snot in your nose freeze and drop right under you. I complained about the cold to Pete, the French Canadian, and his wife Genevieve, who ran the store, but the Indians never bellyached about it. They seemed to me to be a silent group. They got what they wanted and left. Usually whites hardly said anything to the Indians, and I—out of a certain shyness—gave them an acceptable amount of distance and did the same.

    The first day the real cold set in, I got kind of spooked by it, which was probably natural, being alone in this place—one of the coldest corners of America—in a cabin with no running water and no electricity. I did have a good wood burning stove and enough wood in the shed attached to keep me warm indefinitely. There was also a generous supply of canned "staples," like deviled ham, peas-and-carrots, and Campbell's Soups, and with the Jeep Mike had lent me, all I had to do was get in it and go down to the store for anything else I needed.

I got spooked by the cold


  I'd never driven a Jeep before and I was a bit daunted by it. I'd lived in Manhattan long enough almost to forget how to put the key in and work the clutch. But it all came back quickly enough, and I soon learned how to get the damn thing going, although reverse still wasn't easy. Luckily, everything around the camp seemed to be either uphill or downhill, with little in reverse. There was almost no traffic on the roads, but a few people in their pickup trucks waved at me. I enjoyed this sort of friendliness. It was brief and not very personal, but it made me feel that I wasn't totally out of my skull here. There were a few others like me and there was something kind of daring about spending the winter in this part of the mountains. I'm sure people figured that if I was fool enough to spend the winter here, I was good enough to wave to. No questions asked.

    But the Indians that I saw never waved, and after a while I started to get skittish about them.
    Or maybe I was just skittish about the cold. Mike had warned me about that. Cabin fever was real in a long, hard winter. "If it gets too much for you—being alone and all—then just say fuck it and take the Jeep back to Malone and get a train back. Leave the Jeep at my parents' house and I'll pick it up in May."

    To tell you the truth, I hadn't really understood then what he was talking about. But the cold came in so sharply and so suddenly that it was like being slapped about by a huge, faceless giant. It seemed to menace me, follow me even into the cabin, and become an enemy. Everything got harder to do. Everything took more energy than I thought it would. Even sleeping seemed to take more energy. Getting into one of the cabin's two narrow, hard, cold twin beds; wrapping two Army blankets tightly around me, mummy fashion; waiting for the bed to warm up enough from my own body heat—none of that made hitting the sack alone each night inviting.

    But sleeping was a way to conserve energy, so I started sleeping during the day—usually after I'd poured a half shot of whiskey into my tea to keep warm. The warm, boozy tea was a great sleep bringer.

    But then at night, when I really wanted to sleep, I couldn't. Thoughts raced through me. I'd start to think about all the people I knew back in New York. I would see their faces. My own loneliness would start to hit me; really pinch me hard.

When I wanted to sleep, I couldn't

   Somewhere in this procession of faces, I'd see Clark. He was this younger, twerpy guy I'd been—you know, I really hate to admit this! Okay, I'd been in love with him. It was hard for me to believe I'd actually been in love with this guy, and he'd occupied so much of my thoughts. But I had been—and when I started to think about him, I'd start to beat off. I'd grab my dick at the base, just above my warm, slightly furry balls, as my cock started to get stiff.

    I noticed that in the warm bed, under the blankets—but with the cold air in the cabin—if I grabbed my cock just a bit harder (and I will admit that I have big balls), even the hairs on my ball sack would feel prickly. Like there was electricity running through them. The hairs would stand up and salute a bit, and everything around my genitals, including me, would get hotter. I'd feel the warmth flowing through me. The warmth from the tea, the whiskey, the creaky bed, and the cast iron stove that had a way of going out and leaving the cabin like a refrigerator.

    That warmth would make me think even more about Clark—this skinny, "sensitive" young man (who was always telling me how insensitive I was)—who worked in a bank and wore snappy little ties that he bought on sale at Brooks Brothers. I'd think, for an instance, about his suits and his ties, but mostly I thought about him in the middle of hot sex, with his business clothes scattered all over my apartment. He had fine, pale skin and small teeth. Long fingers and long toes. Of course I thought about his lips, and his nice, small mouth. His smooth, narrow chest and boyish body; skinny hips and legs—and his hard, skinny cock that always seemed so much longer than I expected it to be, with its really sensitive, large head.

    I thought a lot about the head of his cock. I liked the head of his cock a lot more than I liked his head. He was spacey and dizzy, but his cock—it was a wonder. Sometimes it didn't even seem like a part of him. It was separate. I could play with it for hours, even while he read a book. Or was he just pretending to read?

I thought a lot about the head of his cock

 The fact that he was such a little banker straight-arrow and I was such a fuck-up probably kept us going. It added just the right amount of tension and interest to what we had between us. So maybe he was only pretending to read. Maybe it was just a game, while I played with his dick. But even thinking about his cock made being in that cabin warmer and more bearable. His cock would get me going, running my fingers over my own shaft, working myself out of my coldness. My loneliness.
    Boy, did I want Clark to be there—just then—and I wanted the head of his dick in my mouth.
    But after I'd made a whole handful of jism, after it had spurted fresh out of my dick and I was trying like hell to figure out what to do with it (Mental Note: buy  Kleenex at General Store), I was glad Clark wasn't there.     Then I would have had to hear about his yuppie job at the fucking bank, and I didn't want to hear about that.

    Sometimes I thought about ingesting my own cum. I know, you're thinking this is a sick story, but if you've ever been stuck some place where there's nothing around you but cold—anyway, two days with Clark and I know I would have ended up chasing him around the cabin with the wood ax just to shut him up.

    When you're alone, you start to think about really basic things and I wondered how I'd ever fallen for someone like Clark, and how useless love was, really, and then—strangely enough—I started to miss it. I started to miss love the way you can miss good food or real warmth in the midst of the coming of too much cold. Then I started to think about the Indians and the trees.

    Somewhere out there in the middle of all those hardwood trees, there had to be a young, hot Indian who was looking for male companionship of a more interesting nature than you usually got at the General Store. This became quite a fantasy of mine, and I'd hitch a ride on it and start to see him: his dark eyes flashing between the bare trees. Thick, black hair glistening in the moonlight. Broad shoulders. Huge hands and feet. I would meet him and we'd follow each other deeper into the woods, then we'd both get naked very quickly. We'd end up greasing each other with bear fat—the type Pete sold that you could use for almost anything—I could imagine myself sucking at his tits, his navel, his fat balls. We'd be so hot and ready for pleasure that the cold would never bother us
.
    I jerked off an awful lot thinking about that, but every time I went out, the fantasy instantly disappeared. The Indians would keep their distance, and so would I. Often, they'd ignore me completely. Inside, I felt frozen. It was like the cold had set in between me and the world. Then, when I left Pete's and I got back into my Jeep, I'd realize how lonely I'd be back at the camp. By the time I unloaded the groceries and stoked up the fire, and had my tea with whiskey, all I wanted to do was jerk off again—while Clark and my Indians came back to see me—and then I just wanted to fall asleep to block out the loneliness and the cold.

I jerked off an awful lot

  Then suddenly, into my second week there in the cold, I started to enjoy things. That sense of drifting in time—sleeping when I wanted to, drinking whenever I damn well felt like it, the silence, the wild nature around me—I started to like all of that. But the thing that still bothered me was being alone at night—especially when there were no moon or stars out and the blackness outside the camp overwhelmed me. Then I started feeling like I wasn't just drifting along in nature, but I was being swallowed up by it. Isolated animal sounds, like the shrieking of a loon or the deer ambling through the woods—sounds from probably half a mile away—would shake the hell out of me.

    I had two nights just like that, and on the third, I was wired to the teeth. I swigged a good bit of the fifth of cheap Canadian blended whiskey Pete had sold me at the store, ate some Campbell's chicken noodle soup and a half a loaf of stale white bread, and then I stripped down to bare skin to go to sleep.

    The bed eventually got warm, after I'd settled into it. A small fire was going in the cast iron stove and I figured it would continue for most of the night. I closed my eyes, and told myself that I had to drift off. Then I realized I wasn't going to be able to sleep again. It wasn't just that I was seeing old faces from New York. There were no animal noises this time; but something was definitely keeping me awake.

    I got up, bare-assed and barefooted, and stalked up to the window near the bed. There I saw the first snow since I'd arrived coming down. I felt some relief. Finally, this was a good sign. "Ees too cold t' snow," Pete had been telling me for a week. Now, I started to look forward to next day.
    I remained stark naked, and got myself some more whiskey and put it into what was left of the lukewarm tea, and then carried the cup back to bed with me. I started thinking about the Jeep. I hoped it would be alright out in the snow. Mike had warned me that sometimes you got a drift that could literally lock the Jeep in.

    I decided not to worry. I actually began to loosen up a bit, and felt my muscles and mind relax as my body warmed up inside and out. I drank some more of the tea, then something happened that tightened every nerve in me.

    It was a sound like deep crunching coming from outside. It was distant at first, like it was coming from the narrow tractor trail off the main road that led to the camp. I hadn't been expecting anyone. No one knew I was there, except Mike and his parents.

    The sound got louder and deeper. Suddenly I realized that I was going to have visitors.
    I couldn't see anything further than a few feet from the cabin, because of the snow and the darkness. I made sure all the lights were out in the cabin, and I waited. I realized how vulnerable I was ... suppose there was someone, or a group of whatever out there: hoods, creeps, punks, lost serial murderers (???)—my worst fantasies started to take over. I could see them just drifting along, like I had been in the cold, robbing summer cabins. Doing anything they wanted to do.

    Mike had warned me that vandalism was a problem. That was why his parents had been happy to have me stay there. But suppose this didn't stop at vandalism? Suppose they weren't going to stop. What was I going to do?

    I knew I couldn't just wait naked for the worst to happen. It wasn't in me. I had to weigh the situation in my mind. I wondered if I should just go out there and meet whomever it was—let them know immediately I was there, and that I wasn't just someone to fuck with. My eyes ran around the dark cabin. There was the heavy wood ax lying in front, near the door. I knew I could grab it, just to let them know that I was ready to use it.

I knew I couldn't just wait naked for the worst to happen

    I padded over, quietly, and got the ax. Then I brought it back to the freezing window, and crouched down as far as I could. I waited to see what was going to happen next.

    Out of the thick snow, another Jeep pulled up beside mine. Then a large man, fully dressed for winter in boots and a parka, got out by himself. I saw that he was carrying a rifle. He walked slowly, carefully, over to the cabin. The snow started to blow in even heavier. I saw that it had already half covered Mike's Jeep, and it would soon do the same for the one that had just parked.

    Then it dawned on me: this guy could easily figure out that Mike's cabin wasn't empty. Even with the ax gripped in my hand, I became scared. An ax was no match for a rifle. I eased myself quietly into my jeans, managed to buckle my belt, and then went over to the door and made very sure that it was bolted from inside. My heart was pounding; I wondered what the hell I was going to do next. I looked around in the dark, then hurried to the table and grabbed a large butcher knife and put it inside the top of my right work boot. I put on my socks, laced up the boots, and threw on a flannel shirt.
    There was a loud knock on the door. I waited.

    "Mike?" a deep voice called.
    I exhaled, purely relieved. I unbolted and opened the door. He was already covered in snow and looked blue-chilled even in the dark. I asked him in, although there as no light in the cabin.
    "You must've been asleep, Mike. I'm sorry I woke you," he said, as he lumbered in to the dark cabin.

    I told him I wasn't Mike, and lit a kerosene lamp and then took a look at him. He went back over the door, put his rifle up, and told me that his name was Rich Barnsworth. He was an old high school buddy of Mike's. He knew Mike's family had the camp, so he stopped by—he came out this way for the beginning of hunting season. He spoke slowly, measuring his words. Legally, he said, he could shoot one elk, if he found one. His family used a hunting camp twenty miles away, and he was on his way to it, but he hadn't figured on so much snow coming down that night.

    "When I saw the Jeep, I knew somebody had to be home," he said. He was certainly a large, almost hulking guy, about thirty-two, with lots of thick, dark, silky hair on his head. His hair was shiny—really beautiful—and it reminded me of the Indians I'd seen at the store. He had high cheekbones, but he also had a heavy winter beard, something the Indians never seemed to have. His beard was coal black, with just a few stray gray hairs at the sides. I noticed that his beard was also silky, and glowed like the freshly brushed coat of an Irish setter. It wasn't crinkly or curly.

    "I didn't realize you'd be asleep so early," he said to me, without really looking at my boots. He told me he didn't have to stay, he could go. He didn't want to be a bother. I told him no, that I was very happy to have some company. It was just—I was embarrassed to have to confess this—I wasn't used to being alone in the woods.

    "You're from New York?" I told him I was, and he confessed to me that the City scared him more than anything in the woods. I offered him some tea, and he took his coat off and slowly sat down. I was sure his body must have been stiff and creaky from the cold. I opened up another can of Campbell's Soup—this time split pea—poured some water from the water bucket into my soup pot, and put it on top of the cast iron stove.

    "That's a good stove," he told me, and he showed me how to control the damper to get even more heat out of it. I was sitting close to the stove, and when he walked over to me, and then bent down next to me, I noticed that he did move slowly, as if his very largeness needed more time. I was used to crazy people in New York darting around me like little bullets. Suddenly, I knew I liked this man. I decided I definitely didn't want him to leave for a while.

    When he finished the soup, cleaning the bowl with a piece of white bread, I took out what was left of the cheap Canadian whiskey, and we drank several cups of it, first with and then without the tea. I could tell he was relaxing. He started telling me about life in the woods. Some of the stories went back to his father and grandfather. He had lots of stories about the Indians, how smart they had once been, before everything had been taken away from them. His own family had been up by the Canadian border since the Civil War. He'd been married once, but his wife ran away with another man—who'd actually been a friend of his. He closed his eyes and told me that it had all happened right under his nose. Now he lived alone a lot, and had little to do with most people, except his large family that was scattered all over these parts.

    I got up my courage. "You look part Indian," I said to him. He smiled at me, and nodded his head. He poured some more of the Canadian whiskey and told me that his great grandmother had been an Indian, and so had his ex-wife.

You look part Indian

    His telling me this seemed to do something for me. I found myself getting looser than I'd been in ages. My coldness and loneliness started to melt away, and with them so did many of the uptight fears I brought with me from New York. Now I found it hard to control myself. His revelations stirred the desires in me—desires to be physically close to him. I wanted him badly. His dark, black eyes kept looking at me, as if he, too, wanted to ask a question that he couldn't.

    Suddenly, we stopped talking and I felt a blast of coldness enter the room.

    "I think I'm gonna have to go," he said to me. He got up very slowly. He didn't even look back at me, and now I knew that I wanted him so badly that I felt suddenly like I was drowning as he was leaving me. I jumped up and grabbed his arm.

    "No!" I said—the word shot right out of me. "I mean, you shouldn't leave now, Rich. We had a lot to drink, and you might get lost out there."
    He bit his bottom lip. "It's okay. I know these woods. I know the way in my sleep." He smiled at me, and I realized that I had to do something, right there.
    I made up a story about my Jeep. I wasn't sure if it'd still run after so much snow, and I might need somebody to help me with it. He wasn't going to just let this dumb New Yorker freeze in the snow, was he?

    He smiled again nervously. "Listen," he said, not looking at me at all. "I don't know if I want to spend the night here." He got up, and slowly put on his big parka.
    I looked away from him. I felt very rejected. Hurt. It was a feeling like being slapped, like when the beautiful music inside you stops. Was it that obvious how much I wanted him? I felt that no matter how casual I tried to be, he could see right through me. I'd heard that the cold did strange things to people; perhaps he knew that already. He knew that loneliness would drive me to him, just as straight as desire would.

    The door parted. Snow came in for a second, then he left and shut it behind him. No goodbye. Just gone. I swallowed my pain, and then ran after him. Ran—no coat—I would have gone barefoot. I ran up to him as we approached his Jeep. "Are you SURE you can DRIVE?!!" I shouted. Snow clung to my hair and the back of my neck. It covered the air. It made the air feel warmer, but muffled everything. You couldn't hear much.

    We got to his Jeep. He got in, and immediately I jumped in too, from the other side. He had his rifle between us. He turned over to me, and grabbed the rifle. His dark brow hardened. He looked tense. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked.

    I felt myself let go of everything. Pride. Everything. I could barely breathe from the cold. "I don't want you to leave," I said. "I'm lonely."

    He turned away, and then looked at me like he couldn't believe I'd said it. I had no idea what he'd do; what he was capable of doing. Then he smiled. The tension between us broke. He leaned over towards me so that I could smell the warm whiskey on his breath. I felt myself getting physically excited. He put his large, gloved hand on my head, and shook some of the snow out. "I understand," he whispered. He opened the door and got out the Jeep. I had to hold myself back for a second—I was shaking from cold and nerves. He waited calmly by the Jeep, with the snow whirling around him, then I got out, and he followed me back into the cabin.

    Silently, we had some more of the tea with whiskey. I felt very happy, although I still wasn't sure what was going to happen. "Would you mind if I washed up a bit?" he finally asked. I poured some of the bucket of water into a small, enamel wash basin, then I added some boiling water from the kettle to warm it.

    He took off his shirt, and then I took off mine. He was built very well, with big shoulders and large, dark pecs. He had thick nipples that looked hardened from the cold. There was a good dusting of silky, black hair on his chest. It triangled smartly down his taut stomach to his navel, where it got thicker and disappeared into his jeans. I handed him a wash rag, and he began to scrub his face and neck.

He took off his shirt

   I took another rag and went over my face and neck. Then I warmed it again in the water, and began to stroke the back of his neck and shoulders with it. I felt him tighten up and then relax. I stroked deeper, and washed his back completely.

    I started to wash his lower back, and followed the hard lines of his back muscles to where they tapered down to a firm waist. I wanted to dig into his jeans, and stroke his ass, wash each of his firm butt cheeks, and then follow the warm wash rag with my even warmer tongue. My hands started to roam around his front and I grabbed his stomach and held onto it with one hand, while I stroked the small of his strong back, just above his butt, with the other.

    Suddenly, he unbuttoned his jeans and let them drop a bit, revealing his beautiful, hairy ass. I sank down slightly and started to stroke and caress it. His butt was round and firm, musky and exciting to me. My other hand reached down in front of him. I realized he had a near hard-on, large and very thick. My hand gently rubbed the head of his circumcised cock. It was blunt and thick, swelling and getting much hotter.

    I got up, without letting go of his dick, and faced him and opened my mouth and kissed him. His body suddenly tightened. He jerked away from me; I felt him reel back. The warm moment had broken. The distance between us was back there again—with the cold that now seemed to rush in from outside. There was a moment of dead, backcountry quiet.

    I looked right at him. I swear I could hear him breathing.

    "I'm going to need some help," he whispered to me, then he sat down again, at the table. I couldn't let myself say anything. I was too afraid, afraid he was just going to walk away. He bent over slowly and began loosening his pants. He untied his right boot, and managed to pull his right leg out of his jeans. Then he started carefully to roll down his left pants leg and when it rolled down just below his knee, I realized his left leg was artificial.

    "Can you help me get this off?" he asked. "I'm a little drunk, you see, and it's hard to do this when I'm tight."
    I kneeled down and helped him unbuckle the artificial leg. It seemed horribly heavy and complicated. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but he just picked it up, like it weighed almost nothing, and put it next to him by the chair. He was now sitting naked. He still looked very beautiful to me. His lower body was paler than his chest, and I was overcome with longing for him. I took the washcloth again and started to wash his muscular thighs, his right leg down to his foot, and what was left of the other leg, which was amputated a little lower than mid-calf. I brought the wash basin over so that he was warmed as much as possible by the warm water and the cloth. And every place that the wash cloth went, my own tongue followed and I had his cock, his balls, his thighs, and even the sensitive curve of the stump of his left leg in my mouth at some point.

    He liked all of this. He groaned. Closed his eyes, but did not really touch me, while I licked and sucked him. But when I finished washing him, he grabbed my neck and shoulders, and leaning on me, we got into the narrow bed that I slept in. By then, I had all my clothes off, and I had to be careful with my right boot, because the butcher knife was still in it, and I didn't want him to see that.

He liked all of this

    In bed, I turned the kerosene lamp down to a needle point of light and then put my lips on his mouth again, and this time he opened his mouth up. We kissed for a long time, and then I ran my mouth down his chest, sucking on each of his hard, dark nipples, getting a lot of his silky chest hairs into my mouth.

    I ran my tongue down further, licking at his navel until I reached his cock. It was fever hot and ready for me. I sucked him all the way down to his balls, and he groaned every time my mouth stroked him, but he made little effort to return any attention to me, and I started to jerk myself off while I sucked him.

    Then, to my complete surprise, he looked up at me—I had my head buried between his large legs—and he said, "Do you want to fuck me?"

    I'll admit, I didn't have to be convinced of this, but just accepted it as my own good fortune. He took some of his own spit to lube up his beautiful, muscled asshole. I got under him, and he sat on me. Since he had one leg less, he was much lighter. He grabbed my waist and for the first time really let go of himself. He became totally wild every time I pumped my cock into him—tearing at me, ramming his tongue into my mouth, holding me, while I bucked into him.

    I was on the verge of coming, but I kept trying to hold back. He must have known this because he let go of me, and fell back on the bed, so that I could fuck him and work his cock with my hands at the same time. As we got closer and closer, I became totally uncontrollable and started grabbing, licking, even biting the sensitive stump of his left leg. I rolled my tongue around it, and watched his face register complete happiness, while I knew I was as excited by this as he was.

    To hold on even more, I pulled out some, and we lay there for a moment, on the brink of complete release. It was hard to believe this man was a stranger, some one I had feared hardly more than an hour earlier. Now the silence between us seemed beautiful, the closeness wonderful. I listened. I could hear him breathing under his lush, silky beard, and I could hear the snow come down on the roof, and even the stars move above me. I kissed him some more, then edged my cock even deeper into him, so that I could pull him closer to me. I began wildly sucking his chest, his nipples, his neck and mouth—every part of him I could reach while fucking him. Then, as I could not hold back a second longer, I exploded inside of him—and as soon as I did, I took his fat, hard dick into my mouth, and sucked him off completely.
   
I pulled out some

    We lay for a moment on the bed, limper than the used wash rags. I had no idea what I would say to him, but he broke the silence. "I wasn't sure I could spend the night with you," he said, looking directly into my face with his soft eyes. "I feel so funny about having this bad leg. It's like I don't want to tell people about it, but I always feel that they know there's something strange about me. A lot of people get scared off. I lost it after a hunting accident out here. I was alone then, like you."

    I pulled him closer to me and kissed him some more. I couldn't keep my hands away from his silky, Indian hair. Or his beard, or the hair on his chest. A few minutes later, he fell asleep or passed out. I couldn't sleep, but got out of bed and went over to the window. The snow had finally stopped and the moon—three-quarters full—came out. The light bouncing off the snow was sharp and clear. Soon, I knew, it would get even colder. I remembered that the cold had once scared everything out of me, but now I felt there was less to be scared of, and I couldn't wait to get back into bed with him.


Perry Brass’s 19 books include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and short stories. His work often deals with the intense, heartfelt feelings of men and women that came from his radical roots in New York’s Gay Liberation Front directly after the Stonewall Uprising. He is a founding coordinator of the Rainbow Book Fair. More info: www.perrybrass.com.

This short story appeared first in FirstHand Magazine, and was reprinted in Brass's story collection "Works," (Belhue Press, New York, 1996). It is the second story we post in our Perry Brass series. 



Comments

  1. Thanks for presenting this story again, Michael. It is really very touching, and deals with things unusual in most of the gay "porn" of the time, the mid-1980s: loneliness, disability, the wild. When it appeared in "Works and Other 'Smoky George' Stories" it was one of the hits of this popular collection.

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  2. Perry's a great writer. Check out all his stories and his novels. Smart, funny, sexy - his writing has it all.

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