Chapter 1: Chapter 1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 2810
Comments: 8

Crip Cyn - A Southern Gothic Thriller



Buford Alabama ~ Whiskey Flat County

Tuesday, August 22, 1967

Chapter One


"Cripple Dipple, sinner Cyn – look at what the cat drug in."

The boys yelled in unison like they always did. Independent thought and action not being common in their circle.

To which Cyn responded, "Don't y’all ever have an original idea? I swear! I'd rather be what y’all call a cripple, than be a moe-run."

Cyn had gone to the old house to look for a kitten she’d spotted the day before. He was almost red, a rich dark orange, like Georgia clay. She’d decided to call him Clay since it seemed fittin' and all. Yesterday, try as she may she could not coax him out from under the porch and eventually had to give up and head on home to get to her chores. Today she came bearing a gift, a big piece of her bologna sandwich that she’d pinched off earlier at school, hoping it would convince him that she just wanted to love him.

Cyn, whose momma named Cynamenelle Belle Bowerman, hadn't seen the boys sittin’ on the porch steps when she rounded the corner of the old homestead. The house was once a grand place, the jewel of the expansive Taylor plantation. But that was another lifetime. The decrepit lonely ‘ole place had long been abandoned by man and time. Cyn always thought it felt sad, used up, almost forgotten. She expected to come by one day and it would be gone, all gone, like it never was.

Out of breath from having run all the way from Buford Middle School in hopes of finding the tiny stray, she hadn’t been paying attention. Her sharp mind had been engrossed with thoughts of kittens, math homework, and her need to get home by 2:50 p.m. to roll and rubber band the newspapers she had to deliver. If she was the least bit late every old man and woman on her delivery route would be on her like fat on a plump spring pig.

Now, not much-a-nothin' ever happened in Buford or in Wickford for that matter, the two bein’ right next door to each other, but you'd think the news printed on the thin pages of the sparse and predictable Buford-Wickford Daily News was of monumental importance. At least, judging by the way half the residents of Windom Lee Mill Village waited impatiently on their porches or peeked out from behind their front room curtains—for Cyn's arrival. No. That ain’t right. Not for Cyn. They didn't care whether Cyn showed up or not, so long as the paper did.


"Cripple Dipple, sinner Cyn, look-it what the cat drug in!"

It was Johnny Higgins. He had always been most truly awful, but lately, he seemed to be taken over by a constant roiling rage like he was hexed or somethin’.  Johnny was born in 1953, a year before Cyn. His single momma already had her hands full raising three boys on her own when Johnny was born. Who his daddy might be always came up when folks were bored and in need of gossip to ponder which happened all too often.

Of late, Johnny’s features had hardened as peach fuzz gathered unruly like on his upper lip. He was wiry and ornery like his peach fuzz and walked around lookin’ like he was all wound up. His well-defined face and powerful forearms were freckled and he always wore a small black dagger hanging on a piece of black wire around his pimpled neck, which seemed fittin’. 

Since school started back up Johnny had seemed more obsessed with Cyn than ever. He’d always hounded her at school, but now he was popping up ever-where she went. Cyn tried to avoid him but couldn’t seem to steer clear of him, no matter how hard she tried. She mused that Johnny must be some sort of evil soothsayer, ‘cause he was everywhere she was, all the time, as if he knew where she was goin’ fore she even knowed.

Sometimes to her absolute horror, he’d punch her in the stomach so hard that she couldn’t catch her breath. He thought her desperate gasping for air was hilarious and his dim-witted team of misfits would whoop as she fought desperately to breathe. The pinching, tripping, name calling, and his dumping the papers out of her carry bag, she could endure. But the fear that one day she wouldn’t catch her breath terrorized her and sometimes woke her, drenched in a rancid sweat.


Now here he was way out at the old Taylor house with his fools, Billy and Sam, in tow. Like always, they were wearing their goof-ball grins and nodding encouragement to their leader. They never were the brightest sparklers but following Johnny, Higgins was the stupidest thing either of them had ever done.

At 5’ 9”, Johnny stood taller than both of his boys. Sam was almost as tall as Johnny and one year younger at thirteen. With hair the color of orange marmalade, flaming like a wild desert sunset whipped by a whirling dust-devil. His eyes were light, golden brown with yellow flakes. He desperately wanted to be tough like Johnny, well to at least give the appearance he was. But his was not a face that could pull off psycho.

The youngest and smallest of the three cretins, maybe twelve, was Billy. He might-a stood 5’ 6” and was lean and lanky. His large pain-sickened brown eyes screamed in testament to his poorly masked sorrow. As clear a message as any ever given, if anyone had been willing to listen. He had thick shaggy pitch black hair that he couldn’t stop fiddling with. Even now, he was shifting from foot to foot, constantly finger combing his mop-head.

Although the youngest and smallest, he already had sign of beard shadow on his face, which was good ‘cause it took attention off the scar he had from ear to eye on his right cheek. He had lots of scars, burns, cuts, rips, and tears on his visible extremities but ever one knew better than to ask about em’, lest they’d stir up a hornets’ nest.

Cyn was all too well aware that Sam and Billy would say or do anything Johnny told them to. So when she saw the three of them out at the old house, she didn’t need to think twice. This here ain’t no good. No good at all. She knew she needed to get gone, fast, so she turned on her heel and started to run.

Cyn had been born with one leg shorter and smaller than the other. But they were both strong from years of delivering newspapers every day to over two hundred homes. Cyn could skedaddle when she had to, and that’s what she did. She took off like a smooth round river rock shot from a double band slingshot. She might have made it too, till she heard the kitten’s heart-wrenching scream.

She abruptly stopped, whirled around, and terror flooded her when she saw her precious one in the hands of that monster. Johnny had the little wide-eyed kitten by the tail, swinging it round and round. "You want me to whack this piece of shit upside the porch post, or you want to come up here and save its worthless fleabag life?"

"Please don't! Stop. Johnny, please!" Cyn cried as she ran. The closer she got to the porch the more Johnny taunted her by acting like he was about to slam the kitten onto the porch railing.

Dropping her backpack, frantically stumbling up the rickety steps, tripping on the last one and finding herself on her knees in front of the three boys, Cyn was as angry as she was terrified for the kitten, and herself. Johnny reached down, and with his free hand grabbed her by one of her long braids, using it like a rein he pulled her head up and glaring at her with a look of searing hatred, he said,

"The only thing more useless than a flea-infested cat is a crippled useless girl, but today Ladies and Gentlemen…”

Johnny swung his right arm out wide, where he still clutched the helpless kitten in his hand like he was addressing a congregation.

“Today we gonna rid the world of this piece of crap,” he spewed, “and then we'll make some use of the cripple."

Cyn pleaded, “Please Johnny, please don’t hurt him. Please, let him go, you got…”

“Shut up you sorry bitch.” Johnny bellowed as he snatched Cyn back and forth by her hair. She looked like a rag doll in Johnny’s left hand, and the kitten was just as powerless in his right.

Johnny abruptly released Cyn’s hair and before she could fall to the floor, grabbed the front of her thin white cotton blouse ripping it and her light undershirt, exposing her small breasts. Tiny, white, fake pearl buttons flew across the porch planks. Grabbing her again by her hair, Johnny continued his rant like he couldn’t bridle his mouth. As he screamed spittle flew from the hole in his contorted face.

"For the first time in your repulsive life, you gonna give something back to the people you been taking from all these years, Sinner Cyn.”

Cyn managed to ask between sobs, "How have I taken anything from you, Johnny? I ain’t ever hurt you none, none of you."

"You take from me and everyone in Buford when we have to watch your disgusting body hobbling around our town. Your momma ought to have kept you in the house and done us all a favor, better yet – she ought to have sold you to one of them travelin’ carnivals. People go to them shows to see freaks, but we ought-a-not have to see one ever day in our town.

You disgust me!” Johnny suddenly screamed, with such unbridled damnation, that even Billy and Sam jumped.

Still holding Cyn by her hair, and before she could even utter a plea, Johnny leaned forward and with brute force slammed the kitten onto the porch planks, blood splattering all over him and Cyn. Screaming hysterically, it was some time before Cyn realized that her screams were not the only ones she heard.

Sam was hysterical; he looked as wide-eyed and terrified as the kitten had a moment before. But when Johnny slapped him across the face with the dead kitten, Sam ran screaming from the old house frantically wiping blood from his face, same as you’d do if a swarm of bees was on you.

Then everything fell eerily quiet. Johnny let go of Cyn's hair, and she fell to the floor like a teardrop.  He stood breathing and blowing like a bull, the tiny, bloody, Georgia clay-colored kitten, hanging lifeless from his right hand.

Billy spoke, "Damn Johnny, what the hell have you done? Goddamn, Johnny! You said that we’d gonna scare her and make her touch our willies. You didn't say nothin' bout all this. Damn Johnny!"

"Shut up, you coward, you sound like a girl, as weak as this crippled sissy girl, why don't you run away like Sam did, go on, run you big sissy, run!" Johnny screamed while flinging the kitty carcass back and forth as if he were wielding a sword, droplets of the little one’s blood scattering through the air. This was too much for Billy and he did run – with Johnny's taunting words bouncing off his back, Billy ran.

Undeterred, Johnny continued his violent declamation from the high porch, like he was addressing hell’s minions. Storming back and forth, slamming his hand down on the porch railing like it was a podium and him a fire and brimstone Southern preacher, hell-bent on putting the fear of God, or himself, into the hearts of all he addressed.

He went on about disgusting weak people, a lack of loyalty, and cripples. He raged about useless stupid people and how they suckled on society. He screamed, “Don’t no one show no courage no more!” At length, he seemed to tire of his own tirade, and he slowly turned his attention back to Cyn, the object of his anger and oddly enough of his attention.

Cyn lay curled on her side waiting for the next onslaught of words or fist, powerless, broken-hearted. Johnny knelt beside her and as he did she saw the tiny bloodied remains of her beautiful kitten, still in his hand. The kitten she had run all the way out to this place to see, to love, to care for. Rage filled Cyn, her first real rage and it was absolute.

Johnny reached for her with his blood-soaked left hand, and as he touched her exposed breast, she rolled swiftly to her back pulled her legs to her chest and kicked him. She kicked with both of her strong legs, the long and the short of it. Every day of her walking years, the most part of the past twelve, Cyn had worn clunky black lace up shoes with a lift in the heel of the right one making it possible for her to walk right. Now, lying down and using her powerful legs and heavy-heeled shoes, Cyn was a young woman you wouldn’t want to have to reckon with.

Cyn kicked again, and again, and again. Johnny was screaming now. She had kicked him up against one of the kudzu vine-covered columns that had once made the old Taylor place a thing of beauty. Johnny looked like the broken one now, the cripple, and still, Cyn kicked. She couldn't stop.


Her bare chest heaving, feeling as if it were about to burst wide open, Cyn pulled in her legs and looked at the now motionless boy laid out in front of her. Without moving his head or his body, he opened his eyes and attempted to utter one last obscenity, then as though he was gargling his own blood, he sputtered and went dark, like a candle flame in a mornin’ breeze.

I had to kill him. I had to protect myself, Cyn tried to find comfort in words, desperate to sort out what she had done, and why? I had to, he killed poor little Clay. He was gonna kill me too. There weren’t no reason to hurt Clay, weren’t none at all, he was a gentle…

Exhausted, lying on the dusty porch, Cyn allowed herself to roll over from her back to her side. She curled into the safety of the fetal position, the aged and splintered wood rough on her bare and bruised skin. Struggling to catch her breath and take in what had happened, stumbling through her thoughts and feelings with unbridled trepidation. Cyn was bent on making sense of it all, especially the why?

Her legs throbbed; her pale blue jeans looked like she had fallen into a mud-filled holler. Her normal-length left leg and short right one were burning from the strain. Not sure she could stand, Cyn braced her back against one of the huge porch columns, brought her knees up to her chest, and slowly slid up pressing hard against the spire for support as she rose wearily to her feet.

Johnny lay crumpled, wrapped around another of the majestic columns, as if he had embraced it, seeking help. His body was turned away from her but his head was oddly twisted back over his right shoulder, like he was still lookin’ at her, his eyes open, without a flicker of life. Now still, quiet, no longer a terrifying monster, just a boy, a dead boy covered in kudzu. Cyn knew he was dead, incapable of harm, but still, he terrified her.

Again her mind screamed. I killed him. I’m a murderer, a killer! Oh God, I had to. She turned her back to Johnny, bent down and lovingly picked up the tiny kitten that the monster had slammed onto the porch spilling its young life’s blood. Johnny, the child beast, had done this horrible, unthinkable thing, as casual as an experienced wrangler would knock a roach off a fence post with a pop and a snatch of his whip.

She brought the tiny broken one, whom she would never hear purr in response to her adoration, to her chest and wept. Looking out over the endless fields and distant pine forest, Cyn felt small, alone. Wild kudzu vines wound casually from tree to tree, to power pole, and on and on. It never stopped. Cyn thought – it cannot be stopped. Kudzu would cover anything in its path, given time to do so.

Kudzu, like hate, will wrap itself around and around, twining all through an abandoned house – or a heart – coming out its chimney, windows, and doors, like red ants tumbling out of a huge ant hill when someone foolish stirs it with a stick. Old cars and washing machines, their useful parts stripped clean long ago, and age-old secrets mostly forgotten, lay beneath the stealthy dark green blanket of leaves and vines. Like the seemingly endless cold, harsh judgment her neighbors and peers inflicted on her at every opportunity. Kudzu and hate cannot be stopped. Cyn shuddered at the hopelessness of it all.

Then her heart twisted into a painful knot – my necklace? Her hand flew to her throat and found it gone. No, no, no, no.

On Cyn’s tenth birthday, July 18, 1964, her beloved uncle had given her the necklace. A green leaf and a white dove charm, on a soft supple leather string. She had never taken it off since that day. Cyn gently laid the kitten down and crawled around on the porch, searching, desperately looking every which way. Finally, too tired to crawl around on the blood-soaked planks any longer, filled with sorrow and loss, Cyn gave up.

Hearing sirens in the distance, Cyn never considered the police were on their way to the Taylor house. How would anyone know already what she’d done? On rubber band legs, she started the long walk home cutting through the woods on a worn trail she knew well. Shirt torn, one small breast exposed, and her precious kitten held lovingly to her chest she stumbled wearily toward home, Lydia, safety. Off the trail and onto the village streets neighbors she passed stopped, stared, and like always, turned away without any offer to assist or even a nod of compassion or acknowledgment.

The police were at her house, they didn’t scare Cyn. Nothin’ much did before, and less would after the day she just lived through. But she was surprised by how fast they had found out that she'd killed Johnny Higgins. As Cyn got closer, she spotted Billy and Sam talking to Officer Cotton Barnes, and she understood. They called the police, Cyn thought. I sure hope they told the truth, if not, what on earths gonna happen to me now?


I killed him, I had to. I had no choice. I killed him. Somewhere from out of the crowd that had gathered Lydia came running, ripping off her sweater, with tears flooding her cheeks. “Honey girl, it’s gonna be OK, I’m here. Oh, Cyn. It’s all going to be alright, I promise. When Officer Barnes came back from the Taylor house and said you weren’t there, that scared me witless. But here you are, home, safe, I promise.” She chanted over and over again as she draped her sweater over Cyn’s uncovered breast and the tiny dead kitten, pulled her into her arms and held her in a firm determined embrace.

Lydia whispered in Cyn’s ear, “This here will pass, Sugar. You can mark my words. The police know everything, Cyn, it’s alright, trust me! It’s all gonna be alright. Darlin’ none-a-this was your fault. Believe me, Sweetie, this bad will go away. Over time it will fade and become nothin’ but a memory.”

Lydia stepped back and wrapped her left arm around Cyn’s small waist, saying, “Come on darling, let’s go on and get this mess over with. I’m here Cyn, I promise you, it’s all gonna be fine, now come on.”

Cyn allowed her body to walk alongside Lydia but she, Cyn, was not with her. She stayed in the street, looking at the police officers as they watched her body walking toward them with Lydia. She marveled at the crowd of noisy, judgmental, neighbors milling about awkwardly, their hands clasped over their mouths. She thought why are they here? They never cared before. They never even really looked at me before, why now?  

She realized the officers were talking to her body and Lydia, and without any awareness as to how she did it, she re-entered her physical frame. “Why were you way out there alone young lady? What did you go out there for, so far from town?” Cyn realized that they were trying to blame her and it did not surprise her.

Slowly she removed Lydia’s blood stained sweater exposing the tiny dead kitten she still held lovingly to her breast. Wincing as she looked at him, fresh tears raced each other down her face to drip their salty sorrow on the blood mottled fur-being she lovingly embraced.

“I went out there to find him.” She looked at the remains of her beautiful baby. “I saw him out there yesterday. I feed a lot of stray cats ‘round town, and out at the old Taylor place too, because some awful people take cats and sometimes whole litters of kittens out there and dump them. This one, oh, he was so beautiful, seemed to be so all alone. I went back there today to try and bring him home, so I could keep him safe, take care of him.”

Looking at the kitten, a steady non-stop river of falling tears leaving tracks through the dust that covered her from head to toe, Cyn said quietly, “But I couldn’t keep him safe” and started to walk away. Officer Roberts stepped in front of her, as Officer Barnes moved toward them.

“We still got us some questions for you girl.”  The dour-faced officer leaned in, not two inches from Cyn’s face for effect.

“Please let me bury Clay. That’s what I named him, even though I ain’t even sure it’s a boy, but before Johnny,” choking on her sorrow, she stammered and then continued, “…before Johnny done this to him, he was the color of Georgia red clay and so beautiful, so gentle. Now, well, I cain’t do nothin’ for him now cept’ bury him. Please let me do that. Then y’all can take me to jail or whatever y’all want. Ain’t nothin’ else of no matter to me no how.”

Lydia busted in between Cyn and the officers. “Oh hell no, y’all ain’t taking her nowhere! No damned way. You take her, y’all gonna have-ta’ take me too. You heard what those boys said Clyde Roberts, Cynamenelle Belle Bowerman was the victim. Now, she ain’t goin’ no place but to bed. You hear me? Y’all come on back over here tomorrow and ask yo questions.”

Officer Roberts stepped back quickly as if Lydia’s words had clipped him hard on his wide jaw. Officer Barnes elbowed in between the two, “Now you back up Lydia Gunthrey, you ain’t the one in charge here. So if you know what’s good…”

Officer Robert’s extended an arm in front of Barnes, quieted the officer and had him step back midstride of his approach.

“Nah, this here ain’t right, the girl looks plum worn out, she’s about to drop, and the boys done told us how that crazy boy, Johnny Higgins’ went insane out yonder. They got no doubt that Higgins’ was going to hurt Crip Cy…I mean Cyn, and that’s enough evidence for me, for now anyhow. Miss Lydia, we’ll be by in the morning. You’re right – get this young lady to bed.”

Cyn suddenly started, shook her head as if to get clear with her thoughts. “I cain’t go to bed Lydia. I got to deliver my papers. I’m awful late.”

Lydia’s face turned rage-red, “People round here can live without that damned paper. Hell, maybe if you don’t show up, they’ll appreciate you for once.” Lydia’s eyes scanned the gathered crowd of nosy neighbors like she was just darin’ anyone to cross her. When she turned back to Cyn, her eyes were tender but her message was loud and clear. Her classic hands on hips stance screamed, don’t you argue with me Cynamenell!” Cyn relaxed, leaned on Lydia and allowed her to lead her up the steps to the screened in front porch.

On the porch, Lydia took a paper sack that she’d been shucking peas on when Officer Roberts showed up, shook it off and laid it on the porch swing. Cyn knew what she was doing, no words were needed. “I am awful tired; I can bury him after a nap.” Cyn said as she gently laid Clay on the sack as Lydia covered him with her bloodstained sweater.

Cyn turned and looked back through the screen mesh at the people in the street. Her neighbors and Sam, and Billy, all looked like they’d done got called to Principal Bowden’s office for somethin’ really bad, heads hung down like tired old plow horses, all sad lookin.’ Lydia tugged at Cyn and she turned and followed her into the house. As the front door closed, Cyn realized how completely spent she was.

Grateful when Lydia guided her to the couch, she nonetheless objected despite her weariness. “Lydia I caint’ lay down, I’m filthy and bloody.”

Lydia stood her ground, “I don’t care if you’re covered in tar and feathers. We’ll take care of that later. Now, you rest!”

Grateful and relieved, Cyn let herself drop onto the soft cushions like a lovely autumn leaf falling from an ancient tree, slowly riding the wind to its place of rest. One after the other and with Cyn unaware of their arrival, her feline family came and surrounded her with love. Tom, Breeze, Pickle, Lily, and even her shy one, Shadow, formed a ring of protection around her as she descended into sleep.


Submitted: May 10, 2019

© Copyright 2021 Toni K Pacini. All rights reserved.


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Add Your Comments:


Honor Gainey

Congratulations on your very well deserved win!

Fri, September 6th, 2019 11:09am


Thanks, Honor. I am so crazy-happy-thrilled, grateful.
Thank you,
Toni & Cyn

Sat, September 7th, 2019 2:22pm

Anonymous Five

This is a masterpiece. You deserved to win.

Sat, September 7th, 2019 8:00pm


I am so touched. Thank you, oh so very much.

Sat, September 7th, 2019 2:21pm

Forrest Obzerveer

Wow, this seems like a whole story in and of itself. I can't imagine where future chapters of the book would take you. The possibilities seem limitless, with a strong character to navigate her own future.

Sun, September 8th, 2019 9:12pm


My mind has been reeling since I found out yesterday that Cyn and I won. Now, your kind words put me over the top. The money is lovely, certainly needed, and validates my works worth. But the feedback from you and others, wow, so long sought. All authors know, that like an artist, if Renoir painted work from his heart and soul and no one ever saw it, although beautiful, in his eyes it would have little worth. We all need validation and encouragement and I thank you from my core. I realize you did not have to take the time to speak to me and I am so grateful you did. Oh, and Cynamenell has a lot to do and does it well. toni

Sun, September 8th, 2019 2:44pm


Congratulations! I entered the contest, I am honored that you won, this is gripping and amazing storytelling at its best!

Tue, September 10th, 2019 7:10pm


My sincere appreciation - very delighted and sort of not believing. I have worked so hard for so many years. This is such a major affirmation. Jadeangel, thank you for giving me an atta-girl. Toni

Tue, September 10th, 2019 12:20pm

Linda Jones Weber

Wonderful first chapter. This is a book I would buy in a heartbeat. I love the deep dive into southern vernacular and the way in which it pulls you in to scene, emotion and character. This was a chapter that gripped from the first word to the last. Well deserved win Toni Pacini. As gripping a beginning as your first book, Alabama Blue!

Sun, September 15th, 2019 4:33pm


Linda Weber, I am touched and grateful for your kind feedback. Winning the Booksie First Chapter Contest has really boosted my confidence in my work. Also, I am delighted you enjoyed my memoir, ALABAMA BLUE. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Toni

Sun, September 15th, 2019 9:42am


Wow. I am truly impressed. You had me from beginning to end. If the rest of your book is as gripping as this chapter it will be quite the emotional roller coaster. Well done.

Fri, October 25th, 2019 4:05pm


I really appreciate your kind feedback and I sincerely hope everyone feels the rest of Crip Cyn is well done. Crip Cyn just had the final edit. I am now working on all authors (at least the ones I know) greatest nightmare, the synopsis, bio, tagline, query. YIKES It is easier to write a book than a synopsis and query letter. Hee. But I am on it as I hope to have Crip Cyn out in early 2020. Now, on to #3. Be well and thanks. toni

Fri, October 25th, 2019 9:37am

Sarah Jennings

I am awed by the description of your characters. It is crisp, enjoyable and made me want to read it over and over. A deserving win indeed!

Thu, May 14th, 2020 5:23pm


Thanks Sarah,
You have no idea how your words healed me and delighted me.
I completed Crip Cyn in December and started sending out queries just after christmas, I was very optimistic.
But Jan 7 I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.
I was having my 4th of 6 chemo treatments (before surgery) today when I read your lovely and much appreciated words.
I intend to kick cancers ass, go back and finish my creative writing degree that I was looking at completing in the fall before the big C, and market Crip Cyn.
I would love to send you a copy of my first book, a memoir published in 2016, if you would send me an address for you?
My email is,
Thank you Sarah for taking the time to read and respond.
You renewed my optimism.
I hope you are well and happy.

Thu, May 14th, 2020 4:59pm


This is so well written, engaging and full of emotion. The descriptions and character development were knife sharp, economical but powerful and complete. Most of all I thought you captured the essence of a young girl's heart.

Sun, June 21st, 2020 6:03pm

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