NANDITA BANERJEE grew up in India and now lives in Houston. With degrees in English Literature and Education, she spent years teaching in India, in the US and in the UK. Learn more
For the nth time
my reflection has not changed—
eyes still shine,
complexion’s a trifle sallow
my smile fixes it—
it’s all birdsong, all sunshine
in the bureau mirror.
Why he turns away—
that strange expression
when I try to meet his gaze?
Where is his stark admiration—
his raw honesty—
when every inch of him
screamed, “You are ravishing.”
Repulsed by my imperfections?
He said we had a deep connection—
fire in my eyes turned him on.
Has that flame burned out?
Or has his love slowly died?
Nausher is a poet and photographer. See his Facebook profile or visit him at nashnausher.net or nausher.net. Read more about him at the end of this section.
there is a waft of Chanel in the air
the room is bare and you aren’t there
I see a flash of fabric, a shimmer of skin
i feel the burn somewhere within
I hold the doors to the night ajar
I feel the cold of the northern star
I bottle the memory of your scent inside
To remind me what’s true, what’s lies
In the end it is all just a speck in my eye
I just want to take a moment to say goodbye
I know I made a mistake coming here again
I remind myself of what, where and when
In a dream and a prophecy, barely a trace of that place in me
I look in the mirror and all I see, the ebb and flow of memory – NausherNash
Don’t kid yourself, darling, we’ve seen you before
you come up every generation to ‘reset’ and ‘restore’
you were the baying mob as Joan of Arc burned
you chanted death as Pontus Pilate turned
you rejoiced as the semites were taken away
you did nothing when Lincoln and Martin were slayed
you watched as Gandhi was shot to the ground
what did you do when Rabin was downed
don’t kid yourself, darling, we know who you are
nobody cares to read your memoir
my plane is boarding and I hear the engines roar
I’m feeling my heart soaring like before
hearing the bells outside my cell
feeling the freedom they foretell
goodbye darlings, it’s been nice
to each their own paradise
go someplace else and beat your drum
just because I’m beautiful doesn’t mean I’m dumb
the decay of the heart and the heartbreak of decay
what do we pray for, to whom do we pray
did a glance in the mirror take our breath away
for those we forgot and those we forgave
the ebb of tides, the wrath of waves
until we find beauty we will always be slaves -
Nausher Nash Banaji
I am a Photographer of Skin + Stone, I am a Poet of Black + White.
I am a disciple of the Renaissance in the church of Beauty.
The human body in its finest, or in its weakest, state is magnificent and enduring. The nudes of Greek and Renaissance artists were intended not as depictions of beautiful bodies but of beautiful souls. They connoted heroism, integrity, and virtue. As for me, I feel most liberated creatively when I am able to capture the emotions that reside in a human form. Nothing conveys the expressions of the human heart like the body.
I photograph the beauty of skin and I photograph the beauty of stone.
It wasn’t until attending college that Neesy was acknowledged as a writer by winning a National Essay Contest with her story entitled “The Gift.” She lives in Port Aransas. MORE ABOUT NEESY
It was like any other day, the day my father died. Oblivious to the crying and runny noses on the other end of the phone line, it seemed surreal, like the way talking sounds through the fog across a ship channel, muffled. With shaky voices, they talked of arrangements.
Voices repeated that he was really gone, as I tried to comprehend how I was supposed to act. And this huge sense of nothingness overcame me, like trying to stay adrift through a dark sea of bitterness and disappointment, blindly searching for an answer that is not there as I attempted to feel what they were feeling.
After the funeral, after the law books and business had been divided and before returning to the Island, my share of possessions resulted in a cardboard box filled with ships that my father had collected throughout his years, always on his credenza shelves in his law office collecting dust. Some metal, others bamboo, and even an oil painting in cobalt blues of a Spanish galleon tossed upon stormy seas.
The box went into the storage room of my old mobile home, in the place I stored things that I didn’t care to see. A junk room, cluttered with bird feathers and seashells, a rusty ironing board and old photographs of a life long ago known that had somehow changed so drastically to have tossed me here on this Island known as home for so long.
Home, such a strange word. How to define home? I was not born here but knew I belonged here. Here with the harsh Winters and a chill that reaches down the corridors of your heart, yet the ocean gave me comfort, like a warm blanket and a buffer between the world and me.
Until that day in August and a storm that drove in unsuspected, so only a few pair of clothing changes were taken as I loaded up for higher ground.
A week passed, holding my breath, stuck in a city with concrete and buildings that obliterated any chance of viewing a sunset. With an aching heart I returned, knowing that what was left might not be much after seeing video after video of first responders on social media, some of them close to my street but never my street exactly. Prepared for the worst, my feet trampled heavily through still wet and muddy ground, and a stench that was almost as unbearable as the mosquitos dive-bombed any flesh left uncovered.
My old mobile, what was left of it, lay on its side, white walls fallen like broken wings in the mud, weighted down by sewage and stinky mud. Everything was covered in a putrid brown color, the stench of rotting fish and seaweed halfway up the sides with wires exposed. Ironically, the kitchen shelves and dishes in the cupboards stood untouched, coffee mugs ready for a new morning and a new day. Searching through remnants for anything that might be salvaged, a few dead birds lay in awkward positions pointed the way on the saturated ground to where a book lay open. It was the only book found, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, pages still damp, barely legible and opened to expose a line reading “Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid”. And I started to cry. One of those long moaning cries that comes with the pain of letting go, and giving in.
It is odd the things that come to mind when you are searching through an invisible list, panicked at not recalling all the things stored that don’t float to the top like cream; the ashes to my old cat that had just passed a few months earlier, a tiny box of my daughter’s baby teeth, the bin of my grandmother’s crocheted tablecloth.
As I raced trying to recall what else I was searching for, it was with panic that the ships came to mind. The box of my father’s ships. Why did it matter? It mattered because that was all I ever had of my father. His dusty old ships that lay placid on a dormant wooden credenza in his office where the only light they ever saw was from fluorescent bulbs. Perhaps he collected them as his secret wishes of someday sailing the world from the bow of a schooner, free as the wind. And perhaps he knew that under my care, somehow those dusty ships were one step closer to the Ocean where they belonged. Yet, on that day when the wind came from the South, hot and humid, and the sweat dripping from my brow, the stench of death perforating through my clothes in the rising heat, I could not find his ships.
Looking back on that day now, it seems the Hurricane stirred up many things left hiding under the surface. Although nature can sometimes be relentless and cruel, she is always honest. And like the churning waters of a hurricane displacing things no longer useful, the ships under my care and possession had been tossed back into the Ocean and away from me. Perhaps it was my time to let go of things. His ashes, he wanted them scattered in the sea. Maybe someday that will be honored.
Months later, things are looking better. I have returned to the place where my family dwells, where his ashes sit on top of a mantle, collecting dust and far from any body of water. I too am far from the Sea because for now, that is where the currents have taken me. At times when I visit my old place by the Ocean, I still look for a sign of a toy mast, a tattered sail somewhere lodged on a tree limb that I somehow overlooked. Still nothing.
I like to think that somewhere on the horizon a few small toy ships bob on an Ocean of mirrored glass, sailing off into the sunset, because that’s what ships do best. I like to think that people are like ships, passing one another if meant to, never knowing where the tides and currents will take you. And perhaps someday, I will catch a glimpse of one of those ships that used to sit on my father’s credenza, doing now what ships do best, sailing free. That, I like to think, is the reason my father entrusted me to inherit his beloved ships, perhaps because he knew they would be one step closer to the Ocean that he so admired.
For my father, I pray he has found peace, perhaps riding on the high seas of a Spanish Galleon of a cobalt blue Ocean, free like the ships he used to collect. And as for me, I am no longer afraid of letting go. That is the lesson this Hurricane brought me, no fear.
Many moons ago, I tried making Austin home. The music scene was great, not so great when your musician partner is in search of that golden spotlight. But where is home?
So I returned here, Port Aransas, where my compass always pointed. Since 1978, my internal compass has always brought me back here.
The other day, someone who has long been barred from my page, posted a joke about me on her page (a good friend of mine sent it to me)....and it said "Look what Hurricane Hannah washed in" with a photo of a dinosaur and my name misspelled on the photo. (Niecy)
At first, this upset me but after great thought, I agreed that I have been blessed with many years of life, stories, great friends and music, and proud of it.
I've been lucky enough to watch Port A before it was commercialized, back when neighbors took care of each other when in need. Back when horseshoe crabs were a common sight, back when Island RV consisted of 3 muddy rv spots and that old bald-headed Pete was its keeper. Back when in the dark of February, we all looked forward to Spring Break and the business it would bring in because we were all so tired of eating fish all Winter. Back then we truly were a tribe and Dwayne Matthews took care of us all.
Yes, call me a dinosaur and I will proudly say that I have been blessed with many years and stories.Yes, I have commercial shrimped, and I sank a boat once. I have been married to two Johns. I've done some things I'm not too proud of, but I've done a lot of good for others too.
Every so often when the moon is full like tonight, a song will drift down through clouds with silver lining and highlight a part of my life long-covered with dust. Tonight, it was a reminder of Austin and the amazing Nanci Griffith whose clear, honest voice reminds me of Texas Hill Country and strong Texas women, the voice of hope. Clarity, like this night when those memories return with the song of yesterday.
So, to that person that brought up the dinosaur thing, yes. I am. Am proud of the music I've enjoyed and all these years spent here, and the silver ribbon of life with its ups and downs, the rivers, ravines and the water that forges your presence here on this earth; and the great friends I've made along the way, even those who left for the search of that spotlight.....and on this night, on this "Once in a Blue Moon" night, in her glow I bask and listen to the wind, and smile at all the memories, in the place that has always been my constant. Goodnight, Port Aransas.
I saw the monarchs passing through in large numbers, as they follow their ingrained path in life South for the Winter. In the sand dunes they were resting by the hundreds on dried sunflower stalks, soaking up the last rays of sun at the end of the day, as cars speed by but oblivious to their royal presence.
But who would notice with people getting paid on Fridays and the bustle of the start of weekend, but I did. And it made me feel special and sad at the same time as the awareness of golden days of life are ever present.
As I tilt my head up, I taste the fresh sea breeze with the glow of sun on my face and give thanks for this journey and for given time to be here, right now at this moment watching these beauties make their journey fearlessly to their resting place.
Feeling blessed beyond measure.
This is how I will remember you, Port Aransas. Before the oil storage tanks and before the dredging. Before the desalination plants and huge oil tankers.
I will remember the way you look at sunset, when the stars have just risen and the air hums with nightfall. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, even when those men are intent on destroying the beauty of this special place for the sake of the money that will line their pockets.
It is Christmas and the Harbor is filled with the sounds of Carolers from boats. Festive lights decorate masts and beams as slowly they glide through the marina, and if only for tonight peace fills the air with community. Tonight we stand together, intact, hot chocolate being served and the scent of peppermint from candies given freely by groups.
Silent night, holy night where dolphin roam freely in pristine, calm waters. I will remember this night for all that is held dear is about to change as the darkness of greed and current administration recklessly maintain the advancement of facilities destined to scar this special place and scrape away all the natural goodness.
But on this special night, people were joyous and the World was good and all was well as the boat parade Christmas lighting ceremony brought families and neighbors together to celebrate the Christmas season. Pray for Port Aransas.
Copyright Neesy Tompkins
Me and this old porch.
Last night I watched the fireworks from my old porch for the last time as FEMA retrieves their loaner at the end of this month.
I don’t own the land where this old porch sits, the land where my old cat Pepper is buried and where I have resided for over 19 years.
Many memories from this old porch.
I leave my old tomcat Pepper here in his grave but the porch will go with me. Pepper, never forgotten and always in my heart.
To freedom, fireworks, whiskey and making new memories.
Anybody have a chainsaw I can borrow?
Passed by the stores shortly after Thanksgiving Dinner, which in my family really means lunch because everyone has other places to rush to.
Got to see my little brother ten minutes as he is married now so they rush in for a cameo visit and out to spend Thanksgiving at her family’s house promising to return, which they never do.
So my daughter, Tahnee, and I get in the car and drive; drive to nowhere in particular but with the music on and the cold air coming through the windows cracked with cars whizzing by, and let the sour words always spoken inevitably at the table as the sweet rolls are passed around, roll off our backs and out the crack of the window into the fast moving air with the fast moving lanes with the others rushing to get to some sale before Christmas rushes in.
We listen the sounds of the music that calm down the surroundings as the day comes to a close and spend time together sipping on pop and grateful to escape the roar of rush together. And tomorrow I return to the sea, as she, the extension of me, continues to remain here in this fast moving City. Bittersweet.
Neesy Tompkins was born in San Antonio but left for Port Aransas as soon as she graduated from High School. She and her then-husband ran a shrimp boat for several years. Later, she was employed in the restaurant and bar industries where she met many colorful characters that are reflected in the stories she writes. It wasn’t until attending college, which was possible because of a Hurricane, that she was acknowledged as a writer by her winning of a National Essay Contest with her story entitled “The Gift.” She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications and a Minor in History in May 2017, which is utilized in her current self-employment as a social media manager and advertising agency for local Port Aransas businesses. Along with writing, photography of the Island she adores is a passion.
Five years ago today, and a few weeks before Hurricane Harvey hit town, my FB memories reflect I took this photo of my newfound friends, Cane and Abel. Black as Angus at night, they were truly the most gorgeous longhorn crosses ever seen! It was determined by Christi who must know the folks that own the land there, that they belong to the owners of Horse Riding on the Beach.
These humongous animals were quite intimidating but I discovered as I inched closer to the fragile fencing that they were gentle giants without fear of humans and definitely bottle raised. Grass clippings offered were gently eaten from the palm of my hand by a sloppy wet muzzle.
Cane and Abel used to be boarded down the Island Road just before Mayan princess and a rare treat to behold in between condominiums and parcels of wild land. No coyotes going to bother these bad boys.
After the hurricane, I asked around for them. I was told that one of them was retrieved but the other one had not. A few weeks later, Dale Rankin of The Island Moon posted a two inch article in his paper, stating that one of these bad boys had gone feral and had wound up at the shooting range for DPS/sheriff trainees down south and had been brought to his end by multiple shots of lead by trainees at the shooting range.
I made many calls attempting to inquire more info but no one returned the calls.
Such a tragic end for such a magnificent animal.
To be bottle fed then only to meet your end by those target practicing is a travesty. I wish to acknowledge the beauty of this creature who taught me that looks are often times deceiving.
Another Harvey memory as our five year anniversary reminds me of things lost but not ever forgotten. Cane and Abel, forever engraved in my memories.
Neina is a biologist who embraces her artistic side when she needs a break from reading
scientific articles and data analysis.
The smallest breeze sends dead leaves clinking to the ground
Like the scattering of soft diamonds with a tinkling of sound
I graze my gale onto a single leaf, to a tree only momentarily bound
Fluttering, it’s there hoping never to be found
Behind me I leave them, with attention and affection I cannot give
they’re wanting warmth in a wind so supportive
but I am the breeze
upon the scorched beaches
welcome my reprieve
As wood in an ember, a pool in the desert
And I won’t leave you gracefully
A pin pricked neck caressed sensationally
I’ll scramble and tumble while you look up to the sky
The burn in your throat as you whisper a lie
Your confusion is my delight
A peaceful and mental sacrifice
Like a coyote’s howl echoes
I was born to be let go
We stand upon the precipice
I’m the storm upon your wish
And with a firm push I’ll whoosh you over it
Swirling through your hair and stinging your eyes
A gust so strong as you ache to survive
I fill your lungs and soak into the alveoli
Soon I will leave you so now as you fall just hold me
As I gush across the globe and stir the stale
Whistle to me as you’re deep among trees
And know that I am not with you
Your icy friend, the breeze
We used to slither through the marsh
Peek out under brush and burrow in soft karst
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Nick Martinez is a native of San Antonio, Texas, where he attended UTSA and obtained a Bachelor’s of Art in English. He teaches high school English and lives in George West with his wife and two cats.
“What were those things?” Sarah asked, her voice shaking with the fear. She placed her hands onto the man’s shoulders and squeezed, wanting to make sure he was still there. Blood dripped down her long blonde hair and onto her torn white shirt, but she didn’t notice.
“I’m not sure,” Raven answered, trying to keep his voice from quivering. He had to be strong for Sarah, no matter what. Blood streamed from a wound on his left knee, creeping its way down his leg and into his sock and shoe, creating a squishing sound that mingled in with the sound of the sewage that ran past them. The wound was deep but he kept walking; his pride and adrenalin dampening the immense pain that pulsated throughout his leg. He placed his left hand upon hers, his thumb caressing the back of her hand painting it with their intermingled blood. He held his revolver in his right hand, thankful that he always carried his keepsake with him.
“Just promise me that you won’t leave me alone,” Sarah whispered as she placed her forehead upon his back. Neither he nor she noticed that her blood was dripping onto his blue shirt, which she had bought him for their anniversary.
“I won’t leave you.”
“I’m so tired.”
“We can’t stop,” he said, squeezing her hand as they made their way around a corner. Cold air rushed past them as they entered the new corridor. He had no idea where they were going; all he knew was that they had to get out of there. He took a deep breath, much to the agony of his ribcage. He felt his sides with the back of his right hand and counted—three cracked and broken ribs on each side. “We’ve got to keep moving.”
She moaned, holding a hand to her head. She remembered a face—a horrid face, the flesh peeling off of the muscle, which was detaching off of the bone itself. The very thought of it sent a wave of fear through her soul, causing her to move closer into Raven’s back. The shivers racked her body as the fear filled her. “Please, baby? Please? I can’t go any further.”
He slowed to a stop. “Okay, but only for a few minutes.” He turned to face her. His soft green eyes scanned her, searching for any wounds. She sighed in relief and slowly collapsed to her knees, her sky-blue eyes falling shut. He quickly knelt besides her, despite the stench and agony of his wounded knee. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. “You can’t fall asleep, baby, not right now.”
“But why not? It’s so comfy here.”
Raven smirked, knowing she would never be caught calling a sewer comfortable. Then he sighed and looked around. He remembered hearing the alarms and the screams, and the terror that the creatures brought.
They were eating dinner at a downtown Italian restaurant, Sarah’s favorite. It was their anniversary. He remembered hearing the sirens and wondering why the air raid alarm was going off when there hadn’t been a raid—for his whole life. The other patrons talked louder as panic started to spread, yet he was slow to respond to the danger. The only thing on his mind at that moment was Sarah, the one person that he truly loved and would do anything for. The screams of people outside broke them from their perfect night out. Women and men screamed at the top of their lungs. He ran to a window. A massacre was happening in the streets. The dead had been brought back to life and they were hungry. Their flesh was rotted and the muscle was peeling apart from the bone. He watched as a man tried to save his wife by spreading his arms out in front of her and yelling at the approaching dead. A zombie ripped one of the man’s arms out of the socket and beat him with it. The others attacked with a barbaric strategy: go straight for the kill, don’t let the target get away. They tore the flesh clean off of the muscles of their victims as they bit down upon their necks. They went for the quick kill in most cases, ripping out the jugular and having a quick meal instead of toying with their victims. One of them saw Raven and screeched, signaling the others that there were more to feast upon.
Raven ran back to the table and pulled Sarah into a tight embrace, tears cascading from his eyes. Three of the dead rushed through the door in a blitz, nearly tearing the door off of its hinges. The patrons of the restaurant screamed in pure terror.
The dead went straight on to the attack. They slashed through the staff members torsos and bit at their throats, spraying the ground and tables with fresh blood. Some of the waiters tried to fend them off with their trays, which only angered them. They dug their nails into the waiters’ wrists and pulled them in close before they bit down on their necks and twisted, tearing the entire muscle open and exposing their gullets. Blood showered over them. Anyone that was left alive dared not to make a sound. Raven held Sarah close, her body shaking in terror. The sound of a roaring engine passed overhead, catching the attention of the patrons and the dead. The dead screeched at the sound as if they wanted an explanation for the noise. Bright flashes filled the restaurant accompanied by loud explosions that ripped through the air, sending chunks of metal, brick, and wood flying and penetrating into the dead and the living.
The planes were dropping bombs to stop the onslaught. The military knew that many victims would die as well as they zombies, but the generals had decided there was no other option.
The blasts sent concrete and body parts flying through the air. A block of cement slammed into Sarah’s forehead, slashing across her brow and coating the ground with her blood. The ground crumbled and opened into a large hole in the street which stretched outwards to engulf the ground beneath the restaurant. Tables and chairs plunged into the darkness while the dead screeched and tried to grip onto anything to hold their ground, yet nothing they grabbed was stable enough to hold their weight, their screeches following into the abyss as they fell into its depths.
Raven and Sarah held onto each other as they too descended into the depths of the hole, not knowing where it led to or what dangers they would face within it.
“Sarah, we’ve got to keep moving,” he whispered as he shook her. She merely nodded and cuddled closer to him. He sighed and picked her up as he got to his feet, his muscles and bones tensing up after having rested for more than a minute. He knew she shouldn’t be sleeping, but he had no other option. He positioned her onto his back, his left arm resting beneath her to hold her steady.
He slowly moved down the tunnel, the extra weight upon his back causing his pace to slow even more than before. The stench of the sewage grew stronger with each passing moment. He felt that they were close to the end of the tunnels and the landfill on the edge of town due to the increase of the stench. The sound of dripping water on concrete echoed throughout the passageways as he turned a corner. A smile spread across his lips as he saw a light at the end of the tunnel. He maneuvered Sarah into a better position upon his back as he walked towards the light. “We’re almost there, baby.”
He whistled as he shuffled down the tunnel, dragging his left foot behind him for his knee had completely given out on him. He wanted to rest but he knew he had to keep moving. He whistled a melody as he shuffled along, a melody he had thought of a month after they had been together. He had never been musically inclined, yet he had whistled it for her while they lay in the grass after a picnic, and she instantly fell in love with it. She would whistle it to herself in times of complete silence, smiling and blushing to the knowledge that they always had each other to rely on. His heart swelled with joy at the thought of her. He whistled louder as he became lost in thoughts and memories of holding each other and enjoying the warm summer days.
A loud screech ripped through the tunnels and broke him from his thoughts. His eyes widened. He held his right arm out and tried to hold the revolver steady, yet his body was shaking in terror. At the other end of the tunnel one of the dead was looking right at him. It screeched against and rushed toward him in an animalistic shuffle. Raven smirked and chuckled, his pounding heart steadying as he aimed at its head, glad that it was only one. Another wave of screeches flooded the tunnels and bounced off of the walls, echoing into a chorus of chaos. Chills ran down his spine. “You’ve got to be kidding me…” he whispered as his eyes widened, his heart rapidly beating as terror filled his soul. The dead poured out of the passages further down the tunnel, their crazed eyes showing their hunger.
He wanted to run, to run and never look back, yet he was too scared to move. Tears fell as he faced the coming onslaught. He sank to his knees and looked to the ceiling. “I’m sorry Sarah. I’m so sorry.”
Tears dripped onto the stone cold ground. His index finger pressed down upon the trigger, firing round after round at the dead. Blood and chunks of muscle flew off of the bodies with each impact, yet it wasn’t enough to slow them. The dead pounced upon them and attacked, ripping at their jugulars and flesh. Raven screamed as his eyes were plucked from his skull; his throat punctured and torn to shreds, just as his chest was slashed by the hungriest of the lot. He tried to scream and struggle away, yet the multiple hands upon him kept him still and penetrated his skin under his diaphragm.
An animalist dying growl tore through his lungs and up to his Gods as his life drained from him. Then he felt nothing more.
The dead pulled at his bones and the sound of his sternum being broken in half filled the corridor. The claws punctured his stomach and heart. They pulled his arms and legs loose, and pulled out his intestines. His blood pooled around his body and mingled with the crimson liquid that dripped from Sarah’s equally broken body.
One of his hands fell from his wrist as two of the dead chewed on his arm. It fell palm-down onto one of Sarah’s severed hands.
Nick Martinez is a native of San Antonio, Texas, where he attended UTSA and obtained a Bachelor’s of Art in English. During high school and his time at UTSA, Martinez discovered a love for writing and academics. His love of academics brought along his desire to obtain a Master’s of Arts in English, which he obtained from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in December 2015. Outside of writing, Martinez teaches high school English at the sophomore and senior level. Martinez currently resides in George West with his wife and two cats.
Norman Delaney taught history at Del Mar College for many years
During my years of teaching and researching history, I have had to deal with a lot of bad writing along with the good. It is all too easy to be fooled. One such occasion occurred on February 2, 1970. William Red Fox’s Memoirs of Chief Red Fox had recently been published by McGraw-Hill at a time of renewed interest in Native American history and the book subsequently became a best seller.
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