On this page is an excerpt from a children's book I'm witting.  

The Adventures of Marnovitch Marnoffski

For Marn, a dear and true friend (1999-2010)




The Start of Things

    Marnovitch Illyitch Marnoffski was a little cat with big blue eyes and a pink nose who lived in Russia a long, long time ago.  Way back in the time of the Tzars, the ancient kings of Russia who have not been for a hundred years.  He was not a feral barn cat like Maxine and her two children Nicoli and little Nyet.  No, Marnovitch Marnoffski lived in a fine house with his two human people, Russalka and Vladimir.  Marnovitch Marnoffski had a very good life. His humans loved him very much. They would feed him fish brought all the way from the Black Sea. They would pet and cuddle him and and scratch behind his ear just the way he liked.  Russalka had even bought him a collar of fine red leather studded with silver stars. In return he loved them.  Marnovitch Marnoffski had everything a cat could want, yet something was missing. Marnovitch Marnoffski craved adventure.  He wanted to travel and see new places and meet new people. 

    He read books about far off places in distant lands with strange names.  Names like London and Siam.  Marnovitch Marnoffski wanted especially to see Siam as his great-great-grand-father on his mother’s side came from there long before he was born.  When he was just a kitten his mother would tell stories about Siam that her Great Grandfather, his Great-great-grand-father, had told her.  There were so many strange and new places to see.  All of them seemed so much more interesting then then his little village of Krasnogorsk in Russia.  Oh, What he would give to to see even the Russian capitol of Moscow.  Moscow  was the summer capitol of Russia and was less then a day’s travel but  Marnovitch Marnoffski had not even been there.  No, he and his humans stayed in the village.  A few times a year they would pack up the wagon and travel to the next town to go to the market there.  This was as far as Marnovitch Marnoffski had ever been.

    One day while Marnovitch was sunning himself on the porch he overheard Vladimir talking to Russalka.

    ”This letter says we have not paid our taxes.” 

    “But Vladimir we paid those last month.” answered Russalka. 

    “I know, I know, I even showed the receipt to the tax collector here in the village.  He said there was nothing he could do; the letter had come from the Capitol and that’s where we would have to go to fix things”.

      “Oy” was Russalka’s only reply.

    The Capitol! Moscow!  Finally Marnovitch Marnoffski would be going somewhere.  All that day Marnovitch could think only of his coming adventure.  Marnovitch as you remember was a cat and they can usually sleep anywhere, anytime. He could not even take a nap as he was so excited.  He went to his book case and got out the book he had there on Moscow.   He laid it on his lap and opened it to somewhere in the middle.  His eyes went wide at a picture of Saint Basil’s Church with its it bright colors and and many onion shaped domes.  It was so beautiful and so grand.  There was a church in the village and it was very pretty and even had an onion dome.  But it was little and not grand at all.   He turned the page.  There was a picture of the Kremlin, the ancient fortress built by the Tzars long ago.  He flipped page after page staring at all the wonders.  The wonders he, Marnovitch Marnoffski would finally be seeing.  That night, and I might say rather late for a cat, he finally got to sleep.  His dreams were filled with images of The Capitol, of Moscow.

    The next morning Marnovitch awoke rather late and he still felt tired.  He felt as if he had been walking all night for, in his dreams, he had.  He had breakfast, a nice mackerel from the Caspian Sea,  and then stretched on the porch to sun himself and hopefully catch up on some of the sleep he missed.  Just as he was drifting off he heard Vladimir and Russalka talking.

    “Tomorrow we have to travel to Moscow to see the Minister of Taxation, said Vladimir. 

    “But what will we do about Marnovitch? ”asked Russalka. “He is so little he could get lost in such a big city and we would never see him again”.

    “We will only be gone a day or two.” Assured Vladimir. “We’ ll make sure he has plenty to eat and drink.  He’s a cat he’ll sleep most of the time anyways”. 

    “I don’t know ,” said Russalka. 

    “He’ll be fine, you worry too much,” said Vladimir.

    Oh no! thought Marnovitch.  They can’t mean to go to Moscow and not take me.  It’s not fair, it’s not right.   What will I do? Oy!

    Marnovitch spent the morning pacing on the porch.   There must be some way to change their minds, some way to go to Moscow.   He knew that they would never agree to his going, Russalka did worry too much.  Even if he could talk them into it, it would be on a leash.  How embarrassing to be lead around like a common pet, like a dog.  Then an idea came to him.  What if he didn’t ask? What if he just hid in the wagon?  After all, as Russalka  kept pointing out, he was such a little fellow he could easily hide under something and they need never know.   The idea bothered Marnovitch.  He did not like being dishonest with his humans, he always was a good little fellow, but he had to go to Moscow.  He tried to find another way but could not. Just this once he would he would deceive them. 

    Late that night Marnovitch took his cap that he wore on special occasions and some salted fish and crept out of the house to the wagon.  He hid under the old blanket that was kept there summer and winter.  As it was July he did not think that Vladimir or Russalka would bother with it.   As he pulled it over his head its musty smell surrounded him.  This is a bad thing I’m doing thought Marnovitch, to deceive my humans, but I can see no other way to go to the Capitol.  Oy.  He slipped off into an uneasy sleep.


On The Road

    The first thing Marnovitch thought was; EARTH QUAKE!  A moment later, as the sleep cleared from his head, he realized that the wagon was moving. 

    “ I wish we had seen Marnovitch before we left.” said Russalka.
       
    “ He’ll be fine,” said Vladimir, “ He’s got food and water to last a week and we’ll only be gone for two days at most”. 

    “I know, but he’s so little...

    “You worry too much,”interjected Vladimir, “He’s a cat.  He’s probably sleeping in some corner.  They do that you know.” 

    “I know but...”

    “You worry too much”

    The ride to the Capitol was long and bumpy and it got very hot and uncomfortable under the blanket.  After what seemed like forever the wagon stopped.  Marnovitch heard Russalka say” I hope this inn has good food.   It’s already passed noon and I’m very hungry”   Marnovitch waited a few minutes then peeked out from under the blanket.  Vladimir and Russalka were nowhere around.   He crawled the rest of the way out from under the blanket   He was glad he brought the salted fish for the trip as he too was very hungry.   The fish satisfied his hunger but made him very thirsty.  He carefully peeked his head over the side of the wagon.  Where was he?  He did not recognize anything. This place was totally new to him.  Even though this was not much of a place at all, the fact that it was new to him he found thrilling. 

    “I, Marnovitch Marnoffski,  am finally having an adventure,” he said to himself.  But I’m so thirsty from that fish it’s hard to enjoy it he thought.  Marnovitch looked around for somewhere to get a drink. There in front of the wagon was a trough filled with water.  One problem, the horse knew Marnoffski.  What if he told Vladimir and Russalka that he was here.  He must chance it.  He could not spend who knows how much longer under that blanket without some water.  Marnovitch walked to the trough. The horse looked at him and shook his head.

    “I might have known you’d be here somewhere,” said the horse.
 
    “Please don’t tell Russalka and Vladimir,” said Marnovitch, “You know how much she worries”.

    “Enough to put you on a leash,” replied the horse.  At this Marnovitch shuddered.  Oy! Leash! he thought.  The very idea made him a little ill.  “Don’t worry, I won’t say anything.  I do my job and I keep my mouth shut,” continued the horse, ”It keeps me out of the glue factory”.

    “They would never do that to you,” said Marnovitch.

    “Oy, what you don’t know about being a horse.  Anyway I ain’t taking the chance.  I didn’t see nothing, I don’t know nothing.  It’s safer that way”.

    “Thanks, I owe you for this,” said Marnovitch.
   
    “Now the whole world owes me something, maybe someday I’ll collect.  You’d better get your drink and get in the wagon before Vladimir and Russalka come back”.   Marnovitch drank his fill and got back in the wagon.  That could have turned out badly thought Marnovitch  Well, I wanted adventure and now I’m sure getting it.

    The rest of the road to the Capitol was as hot, bumpy and unpleasant as the first part.   Eventually the sounds  around Marnovitch started to change.  Gradually the amount of traffic increased.  Then the road got less bumpy and he started to hear people talking.  He wondered where he could be.   Perhaps he was now in Moscow.  The very thought sent a thrill up his spine.

    “It seems strange in the city after our little village.  Everything is so big and so busy,” said Russalka.
   
    “It’s noisy and smells bad.  I’ll be glad when this is done and we and we can go home,”  said Vladimir.

    “Since we’re here lets do some sight seeing, we get to Moscow so seldom”, continued Russalka.

    “If it makes you happy tomorrow we’ll see some sights then we’ll go home,” answered Vladimir.

    So I am in the Capitol thought Marnovitch.  Now to find a way to get out from under this blanket so I can see some of it.  The wagon rolled on for a while longer then finally stopped.  

    “We’ll have to get an early start if we are to see the minister and Moscow tomorrow.  Remember we still have the ride home,” said Vladimir. 

    “I was just thinking about Marnovitch, I hope he’s all right,” said Russalka

    “I’m sure he’s fine, you worry too much,” said Vladimir. “ Let’s go to our room.  I hope  there’s no pets especially in the bed I want to get a good night’s sleep”.

    “Now who worries to much,”  Replied Russalka.

    Marnovitch waited a few minutes then carefully peeked out from under the blanket.   He was in some building.  Vladimir and Russalka were nowhere around. He next carefully peeked over the side of the wagon.  It was a stable.  He looked around at all the strange horses.  Finally he found Vladimir and Russalka's horse in a stall at the other end of the stable.  He went over to the horse.

    “So what do you propose to do now Marnovitch?” asked the horse.

    “See Moscow,” said Marnovitch.

    “You’d better hurry, it’ll be dark soon.

    “We cats are nocturnal,” replied Marnovitch.

    “Oh, so that’s why you sleep all day as well as all night.” said the horse

    “Very funny.  I’ll make sure I get back just before dawn so as  to be sure I can get a ride home” said the cat.

    “Just make sure you do.  It’s a long walk back to the village, believe me I know.” said the horse. 

    Marnovitch then slipped out through a broken pane in a window and was on his way.  Maybe this once I should have said something thought the horse.   I just know he’s going to get himself in a mess.



Marnovitch Marnoffski
A sketch I drew of Marnovitch based on his real life inspiration, my cat Marn who named himself.



Moscow!

    Moscow was even more magnificent then the pictures in Marnovitch’s books.  He wove his way through the city down narrow back alleys and broad avenues until he came to Red Square, the royal hart of the city since before the time of Ivan Grozny. Ivan the Terrible, the great and terrible first Tzar of a united Russia.  There, just outside of the walls of the Kremlin was Saint Basil’s Cathedral, built by order of Ivan himself to commemorate his victory over the Kaszacks.  It was spectacular; so many colors, so many domes. Marnovitch had never seen such a sight.  He
 walked around Saint Basil's looking for a way in, but as it was late in the evening all the doors and windows were shut.   Oh, how he wanted to see the inside but it was not to be.  Next he turned to the Kremlin with its high red brick walls.  He held little hope that he would be able to get in, but then he saw his chance.  A soldier, who was standing guard, opened a door in one of the gates.  Like a shot Marnovitch took off on a run and was through the gate before the soldier new what had happened.

    “Hey you, stop! - Stupid cat!”, Marnovitch heard the soldier shout as he ran around a corner and ducked between two large impressive buildings.   Stupid cat indeed thought Marnovitch.  I'm smart enough to out wit you. 

    Inside the Kremlin walls was a city within a city.  Here was a side of Moscow that few people other than soldiers and government officials ever saw.  The streets were lined with large marble government buildings and palaces and huge ornate churches meant only for the use of the Tzar and the royal family.  Marnovitch wandered the streets in wonderment at all he saw.  As he wondered he came upon the Summer Palace, the summer home of the Tzar.  He wondered if  Tzar Nicolas, the Emperor of all the Russias was

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 somewhere inside.  He saw a light turn on in a window on the third story and wondered if the that could be the Tzar.   How he wanted to even catch a glimpse of the Tzar, but the window was so high. He looked around for a way.  The palace was made of stone with walls that went straight up with nothing to climb on. Then he saw a way.  There was a tree growing some short distance from the palace. Its topmost branches just reached the height of  window.  It looked like a long and scary climb, but to see the Tzar at home in the royal apartments would be worth it.  With a running start Marnovitch was up the trunk and in the branches.  Up, up he went and as he did the branches got thiner and thiner until they began to rock and move under his weight.  Onward he went until he got to the very top.  As he clung by the claws of all four feet to a very narrow branch not much more than an inch across, he thought maybe this was not such a good idea after all.  As the branch swayed back and forth Marnovitch felt his heart pound.  He moved to get a better grip, but instead slipped and nearly fell. His heart pounded louder. The branch swayed even more and as it did Marnovitch looked down and thought he would faint, but instead dug his claws in deeper and remained perfectly still.  Eventually the branch stopped swaying and Marnovitch felt calm enough to look in the window.  There inside a large gilt room full of fancy carved plaster and beautiful paintings was a huge bed and dressing table.  Both were made from the finest mahogany and trimmed in gold leaf.  Both were ornately carved and the bed had a canopy and curtains of fine purple velvet.  There was also a man in a nightshirt. He had short-cropped hair and an equally short full beard; both hair and beard were meticulously trimmed.  In the huge room with all its equally huge furniture he looked small and very tired.  He yawned and stretched and scratched under his right arm.  Marnovitch thought that other than the surroundings he didn't look all that different from Vladimir.  Marnovitch stared in wonderment at the little, very ordinary looking man because he knew that this little,  sleepy man,  who had just scratched his armpit, was no one other than Tzar Nicolas, Emperor of all the Russias.  It must be him, he looked just like his pictures, yet so very different.  In his pictures he was every inch the emperor, but here he was just a sleepy little man with an itch. 
The Tzar drew back the bed curtains and climbed in.  Marnovitch saw the curtains close and then the lights went out.   Marnovitch clung to his branch and thought how odd it all had been.  Somewhere in the back of his mind he'd learned an important truth about life but could not fathom what it might be.  As he was pondering his newly gained wisdom a little breeze blew by and set his branch to swaying again.  This put his mind to the more immediate task of climbing down from the tree.

    After he climbed down Marnovitch thought about what he'd just seen.  He thought even a king is really just a man and not all that different, or better, or really that much more special than any one else.  How odd it seemed, but Marnovitch had just seen the Tzar scratch his armpit and yawn just like he'd seen Vladimir do a hundred times.  Marnovitch shook his head and and put it from his mind.  He had a lot more to see and the night was getting late.

    Though the streets of the Kremlin he wondered taking in all the marvelous sites.  He walked pass an army barracks that was bustling with activity even at this late hour. He tried to stay to the shadows figuring it would not do to be caught wandering in the Kremlin night.  He was so busy watching the barracks that he walked right into the leg of a soldier.

    “Hello little fellow”, said the soldier as he reached down and scooped up Marnovitch.  “Where did you come from?   It's not good to be wandering in the Kremlin after dark”, he said as he scratched Marnovitch behind his ear.  “You might get arrested as a spy you know”. 

Marnovitch looked at the soldier.  He wore a hat with gold braid and had several metals pinned to his chest.    On his shoulders were gold epaulets that marked him as a general.  “We shoot spies, did you know that?”  With this Marnovitch for the second time in the same night thought he would faint.  He looked deep into the general's eyes for any sign of hope.  The eyes were of the palest blue and to Marnovitch's relief filled with kindness.  The general petted Marnovitch's head and said, “You best be on your way home little one before you get into trouble”. The general set Marnovitch back on the  ground and said,”And don't let me catch you again or next time I might have to shoot you.”   Marnovitch took off on a run thinking don't worry next time you won't catch me. 

    Marnovitch wandered on being much more careful of where he was going.  Eventually he came the church of the Dormition, the site of the coronation of the Tzars since the time of Ivan Grozny.   This church he must get inside he thought.  Such history, within its walls beat the heart of Mother Russia for over 400 years.  It had witnessed the crowning of every Tzar since Ivan the Terrible.  He walked around the building looking for a way in.  The heavy doors were shut and the windows closed.  As walked along the back he saw a small window about thirty feet up the wall was open just a few inches.  How to get up there?  He scanned the back of the church with his eyes for a route.  Then he saw it.   Some ivy grew up a drain pipe to within a few feet of a ledge about three inches wide.  The ledge lead right to the window.  This route would be impossible for anyone as big, heavy and clumsy as a human, but for a cat...   Marnovitch scrambled up the vine and with a graceful leap was on the ledge.   Though the ledge to you or me would be very narrow, for someone Marnovitch's size it might as well have been a sidewalk.   He strolled along to the window and stuck his head inside.   It was very dark in the church, but in a minute his eyes adjusted.  The window lead to a small anteroom of some sort.  Marnovitch squeezed in and jumped to the floor.  Now to find my way to the main chapel were the coronations are held he thought.  Marnovitch slipped past the heavy brocade curtain that separated the anteroom from a narrow corridor.  The corridor lead down some stairs and around some corners to finally empty into the coronation chapel. The ceiling soared high above him and arched over his head.   The walls were covered with beautiful paintings of saints and images of heaven.  Such beauty thought Marnovitch. He had never seen such splendor in all his life.  This was surely a church fit for the Tzar.  He walked around the church looking at the at the paintings.  He came to a small alcove that held an alter dedicated to the Virgin.  Over the alter was a beautiful icon of the Madonna and child.  She looked so kind as she held her baby.  He looked into the painting's eyes.  Her eyes looked back at Marnovitch with such tenderness that he felt all warm inside.   She made him feel safe and protected.   The thought came to him of how much she reminded him of Russalka. A sudden rush of guilt filled him and he turned his head.  He continued around the church looking at all the beautiful paintings, but making sure not to look any of them in the eye.  Finally he came to the main alter and found the exact spot where Ivan Grozny was crowned Tzar.  Here he stood and imagined what it must have been like to have the Metropolitan place Monomakh's Cap, the Moscovite Crown upon your head as  a cantor sang the ancient Russian sacred chants and you where literally showered with buckets of gold.  As he stood wrapped in his reverie a voice spoke from a dark corner to one side of the alter-

    “So, what's it feel like to be the first Tzar of all the Russias?”

    This snapped Marnovitch back to reality. “What?  Who's there?” said Marnovitch apprehensively.

    “I'm sorry if I startled you,” said the voice as a large smoky blue gray colored cat stepped from the shadows.  “I was here praying when I saw you come in.  The spot you are standing on and the look on your face told me what you were thinking.  Everyone who comes here does that at least once.  It's quite the feeling isn't it?”

    “Yes it is,” replied Marnovitch, still a little wary.

    “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Boris Vasevic.  I've lived in Moscow all my life. Is this your first time to the Capitol?”

    “I'm Marnovitch Illyitch Marnoffski,” said Marnovitch feeling a little more relaxed now.  “Yes it is.  It's just like the pictures only better.  I'm from Krasnogorsk, perhaps you've heard of it?”

    “Krasnogorsk! I have friends there.  Perhaps you know Alex and Ludmilla Poppov?

    “I can't say as I do,” said Marnovitch.

    “No matter,” said Boris.  “Are you hungry?  I know a place not far from here with some of the best food in all Moscow.  I was about to go for a bite when we met.” 

    “As a matter of fact I'm quite starved.  I only had some dried fish for lunch today and that was some time ago,” replied Marnovitch.

    “Oh, then please join me,” said Boris.

    “I'm sorry, really can't.  I have no money and ...”
 
    “Oh, then you must.  It will be my treat.  It is least I can do for someone from the same village as my good friends the Poppovs – please.”

    “Well since you put it that way, I guess it would be rude for me to say no... and I am quite hungry,” replied Marnovitch.

    “Then come, I'll show you the way.  I Know a short cut that will get us there in no time.  It's just outside the Kremlin walls along the river.  Come my new friend Marnovitch.”

    Marnovitch with his new friend Boris leading the way left the sanctuary of the church by a steep and narrow stair case behind the alter.  It lead down into the crypts beneath the church where many a royal personage lay in eternal rest.  The graves made Marnovitch quite uneasy and he had some doubts as to the wisdom of what he was doing. Then his stomach growled and he thought about food, and, after all, Boris really did seem such a nice and friendly sort what could go wrong?

    Boris lead on past the crypts and catacombs and he and Marnovitch squeezed through a iron grate that lead to the sewers under the Kremlin.  They wound down long dark tunnels and around corners and as they went Marnovitch had a growing feeling that he was making a bad mistake.  He would have turned back except he had no idea of how to get back to the church or even back up to the streets so he had no choice but to follow where ever Boris lead.

    “How much further is this place?” asked Marnovitch.

    “Not to worry, it's just around the corner and up some stairs.  Believe me, the food will be worth the walk.” replied Boris Vasevic.

    A few steps more and they rounded a corner and came to some stairs.  Once they climbed the stairs they came into the back room of a restaurant.

    “Welcome to the Sword and Anchor, one of the best places to eat in all of Moscow, said Boris   “You wait here and I'll tell them to get us a table”  

    Boris left Marnovitch by himself and went through a door to get them a table.  As  he stood there Marnovitch wondered if he should just leave and find his way back the the inn and his ride home.  Then he caught a whiff of food on the air.  It smelled heavenly. There was the aroma of roast beef and chicken and fine homemade borscht.  Under if all was a delicate hint of tuna.  Oh, how Marnovitch loved tuna.  His mouth began to water at the thought of it and any idea of leaving evaporated away.

    “All's set my friend,” said Boris.  “I hope you like tuna, I took the liberty of ordering for us.  We will having the house special -Tuna Surprise.  It's very good”

    “Thank you Boris,”  said Marnovitch.  “I can smell the tuna and was hoping we would be having it.  You are very kind and generous.”  

    “Oh, believe me Marnovitch my friend, it is my pleasure”

    Boris lead them through the door into the main room and to a small table in the back corner near the kitchen. Marnovitch looked around the room.  It was filled with rough looking types, mostly human.  There were tough rivermen who worked on the boats and barges that plied the Moscovy River from which the Capitol got its name.  There were dock workers with tattoos.  A few tables away Marnovitch saw a human with an anchor tattooed on his arm.  But that was not the the most of it for he also wore a patch over his right eye and had a very nasty looking scar running from it down all the way to his chin.   He was  engaged in a lively conversation with a man with an equally nasty looking scar on his throat who's voice was a raspy hiss.  

    “This place has an interesting clienttel,” said Marnovitch somewhat apprehensively. 

    “Oh, you mean Sergei and Vasily,”replied Boris   noticing where Marnovitch was looking.  “They're both sailors home on leave from the Navy.  Those are battle scars they received in service of the Tzar.”

    “Yes they are some of the more interesting customers but the whole place seems very... colorful,”said Marnovitch still feeling quite ill at ease.

    “Yes, I know what you mean, there are some tough sorts here.  But you're with me and so you're perfectly safe.  And wait till you taste the food!”

    No sooner had the words left Boris' mouth when a human wearing and apron and with a towel over his arm brought two dishes and set them in front of Marnovitch and Boris.

    “Tuna Surprise,” said Boris.  “The house specialty, I hope you like it.”

    “It smells wonderful,” said Marnovitch.  “I'm sure  it tastes even better.”

    “Eat, eat,” said Boris as he lifted a forkful to his mouth.

    Marnovitch followed suite and took a bite – it tasted even better then it smelled.  For the next few moments Marnovitch forgot about his 'colorful' surroundings and about Boris Vasevic and about Moscow and about everything except how good this food tasted and how very hungry he was.

    Finally, Marnovitch realized that he was being quite rude by ignoring his host. 

    “My, I think I was rather hungry,” said Marnovitch a little embarrassed, “and the tuna was even better than it smelled.”

    “I'm glad you liked it,” replied Boris Vasevic.  “It does my heart good to see such a healthy appetite.”

    Boris continued eating.  He too seemed to find the tuna appetizing. Marnovitch lifted another forkful and placed it in his mouth, this time being careful to mind his manors.  Suddenly Marnovitch began to feel strangely,  his head felt light and the room began to spin, slowly at first but rapidly increased its speed. Marnovitch tried to stand but found that his legs would not work.

    “Marnovitch my friend, are you feeling alright?” asked Boris Vasevic.  A small and somehow cruel smile was on his face.

    “I don't know... I don't think so... I feel so....”  Marnovitch felt himself falling as from a great height then someone turned out the lights.


     You have just read the first three chapters of my book.  I hoped you liked it.   I plan on getting it published as soon as I get it finished.   As you may have guessed poor naive Marnovitch gets Shanghaied and finds himself on a ship where his only  friend is Cornelius Rattly- The Saltiest Sea-Rat to ever shinny up a  hawse  pipe.  He travels around the world only to find out, like Dorthy,  there's no place like home.

If you would like to write me with comments or what ever use this link---> brian.cheverie@primalcine.com

Marn
  Marn - a few months before his passing
                         

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