#FlashFictionFriday 2017-Feb-16 – Cultivating Love Alternate Universe #1 Scene 8

Flash Fiction Friday

Today’s Flash Fiction Friday scene uses the words left in the comments of last week’s post:

magical – floating unicorn

I used these prompts to continue the Alternate Universe #1 thread for Cultivating Love that I started a while back.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The action in the “What If” Alternate Universe scenes start before Ed’s father is tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. The action in these scenes is NOT consistent with the published story, and CANNOT be considered a true prequel. If these scenes had happened, the book would be entirely different. Also, please note that the action in “Alternate Universe #1” is unrelated to the action in “Alternate Universe #2.”

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: While this Alternate Universe thread can be enjoyed without first reading the novel, you really should start at the beginning of the thread to be able to follow along with later installments. If you haven’t read the previous scenes, or if you simply need a refresher, never fear, I have included those scenes in handy spoiler tags, below.

Cultivating Love ALTERNATE UNIVERSE #1 - Part 1

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Uses the prompt word (kiss) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post, and 14 prompt words (cool – exchange – dear – knowing – thrill – crate – building – heal – lively – rabbit – plane – general – bewildered – science) from a random word generator.

Told from Ed’s 3rd-person POV:

Ed stared out the window at the white trail behind a plane crossing the sky. “Maybe we should’ve flown to Denver.”

“Nah,” Joe replied. “It’s just one day of driving each way—about eight hours plus stops. This way we’ll have my truck to get around in while we’re there.”

“Yeah, I know. Sorry, I’ll quit bellyaching.” Lengthy road trips sucked, but Ed didn’t need to make the long drive across Nebraska worse by bitching about it to Joe. Besides, he was looking forward to everything they had planned to do in the city. Everything from the thrill of seeing a ballgame at Coors Field to the diversion of the planetarium and exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, to the awesomeness of the vintage cars at the Forney Museum of Transportation. He needed to exchange his whiny attitude about being stuck in a car for a more upbeat one that reflected his excitement for the days ahead.

A lively rabbit hopped at the side of the road, drawing Ed’s attention to the road sign next to it. “That’s the Mayfield exit. My dad was from there.”

“You’ve never visited the town, right?” Joe flicked on the turn signal and slowed the truck. “It’s as good a place as any to pick up some road snacks. That way you can at least see the town where he lived.”

Cool. Yeah, that’d be great.”

Joe took the exit and they traveled a few miles down a secondary highway before reaching Mayfield. They found the town square without any trouble. It was like stepping back in time as they drove the circuit, passing by a bank, a diner, a hardware store, and a general store. The pharmacy had a cute sign with crisscrossed bandages above the words, “We heal you.” Ed pointed toward a brick building with a large sign simply stating “Groceries,” and Joe pulled into a parking spot in front of it.

A middle-aged woman’s eyebrows rose sharply when they entered the store. She stood near the cash register, restocking a shelf of impulse items all stores seemed to have next to their checkout lines. Ed nodded and smiled as he picked up a hand-held basket and followed Joe. The first aisle straight ahead of them had crackers and chips visible on display, so that’s where they went.

A bushel basket atop a crate held various single serve snack items, but Joe pulled full-sized boxes and bags off the shelves and tossed them in Ed’s basket. Just as well, since they’d want snacks in their motel room in Denver, too.

The woman from the front wasn’t particularly subtle as she kept an eye on them. Maybe they looked like potential shoplifters. More likely it was because they were strangers, and in a town this size, that stood out.

“Hey,” Joe whispered. “Let’s give her something to talk about.”

“What are you planning? I don’t want to get arrested by some backwoods sheriff.”

Joe snorted. “Nothing illegal.” He bounced his eyebrows a couple times and leveled a knowing look at Ed. “Think the old dear will piss herself if I kiss you?”

Ed choked on a laugh, and Joe didn’t wait for an answer—he leaned in, placed a hand on Ed’s jaw, and planted a big smooch right on Ed’s mouth. If Joe had been hoping for an outraged reaction from the woman, he’d be disappointed, because if the smirk that appeared on her face was any indication, she was amused.

Ed added a bag of cheese popcorn to their basket and they returned to the front to pay for their food. The woman looked them up and down again. “You boys in town visiting relatives?”

“No ma’am,” Joe replied. “Just passing through.”

“Huh.” She turned to Ed. “I would’ve sworn you were a Jamison.”

Ed’s heart skipped a beat and he grabbed Joe’s arm. “I am a Jamison. Ed Jamison.” Maybe his mom had been wrong, and he did have some family still alive. “I didn’t think I had any living relatives here. Are there some? My dad was from Mayfield, but he died before I was born.”

She looked bewildered with her brow scrunched and her mouth pinched. “Hmm. Not sure who your father was, but you look a lot like Fred Jamison. He has a farm on the south side of town. He can probably sort it out for you.”

“Fred?” That had been his father’s name. Ed turned toward Joe.

Joe shrugged. “Maybe a cousin? Want to check him out?”

Ed turned back to the woman. “I’m so glad you said something. Thank you. I didn’t think I had any relatives left at all. Do you know if his number is listed? Do you think he’d mind me questioning him about the family?”

“He’s listed. You won’t need it, though.” She inclined her head toward the square out the front window. “That’s his truck in front of the diner.”

Ed grinned. “Fantastic.” He turned back to Joe. “That okay with you? We’re not on a schedule, right?”

“Yeah, no problem.”

They paid for their groceries, thanked the woman again, and left. They tossed the bags in the truck and walked toward the diner. “I’m nervous,” Ed said. “I hope this guy isn’t peeved that we’re interrupting his lunch.”

“Nah, it’ll be fine. Quit worrying.”

Ed pasted a wide smile on his face as they opened the door and entered the diner.

Cultivating Love ALTERNATE UNIVERSE #1 - Part 2

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Uses the prompt words (tease – taunt – torture) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.

Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:

Fred’s phone vibrated on the diner’s tabletop, and he smirked at Bill after looking at the screen. “It’s Ruby.” She’d probably noticed his truck here and was going to tease him some more about his recent wardrobe malfunction.

He swiped and put the phone to his ear. “Don’t worry, I checked my jeans for awkwardly located holes before putting them on this morning.”

Bill shook his head and grunted. “Saw an unfamiliar truck pull in front of the store a few minutes ago.”

Ah, fresh gossip, then?

“I figured.” Ruby laughed. “No, I want to give you a head’s up. A couple out-of-towners are walking your way.”

“What’s wrong with them?” Fred picked up his water glass and shrugged when Bill quirked a brow.

“Nothin’. Though I suppose some would consider one of ’em being the spittin’ image of you to be a drawback.” Fred’s hand stilled with his glass halfway to his mouth. “Anyway, he’s a Jamison and was surprised to hear he potentially had a living relative in Mayfield.”

“He’s a Jamison?” Bill’s eyes widened at Fred’s words. “Got a first name?”


Fred carefully placed the glass back on the table before his shaking hand dropped it. Why would Ed come to Mayfield? To taunt him? No, Ruby’d said something about him not realizing he had living relatives here. How could that be?

“Ed? He’s here? He’s coming to the diner?” Fred swiveled in his seat as Bill leaned for a better look out the window. A blond man and another who did indeed look a lot like Fred tossed a couple bags into the truck Bill must’ve been referring to earlier, then the blond smiled and placed a hand on the doppelganger’s shoulder before hitching his head toward the diner and saying something.

“Recognize the name do you?” She made a sound that Fred couldn’t quite interpret. Not quite derision, but possibly disappointment. Yeah, she’d feel let down about Fred keeping her in the dark about something like this. “He said his dad had been from Mayfield, but died before he was born. They figured you might be a cousin or something.”

Fred swayed in his seat as the blood drained from his face. Of all the ways he’d imagined meeting his son for the first time, a no-notice public confrontation had never entered his mind. Ed had told her his dad died before he was born. Did he actually believe that, or was it one of those “you’re dead to me” things?

The two men slowly ambled toward the diner. It was pure torture waiting…wondering. Why had he decided to seek Fred out now?

“Fred? You still there?” Ruby’s voice sounded distant. Probably because he’d unconsciously lowered the phone.

He brought it back up. “Yeah. Sorry. I’ll call you back, okay?”

“Lookin’ forward to it.” She clicked off without another word.

Fred placed the phone on the table and half stood before dropping back down. Bill patted his hand, which told him how panic-stricken he must appear, because he and Bill avoided anything even remotely resembling affectionate physical displays in public.

“Want me to head them off?” Bill sidled to the edge of his bench seat ready to act.

“No. They look…friendly. Not hostile anyway—like they’re here to stir up trouble.”

Bill’s head tilted to the side as he continued to stare at the approaching figures. “Maybe. Want me to make myself scarce?”

Fred shook his head. “Not if you can play nice.” Hell, he could use the moral support. But… “I know this is a sore subject for you.”

“Can’t think of any good reason for him to be here—not with his history.”

“I don’t know why they’re here right now—don’t even know who the other guy is. But from what Ruby said, that shit might’ve been all Susan’s doing. He might not even know I’m alive.”

“You kiddin’?”

“Nope.” The two young men were almost to the diner’s door. This was it. The moment he’d been anticipating for the last twenty-odd years. Good, bad, or ugly, it was about to go down. He took a deep breath, slid out of his seat, and stood to await his son’s long-anticipated arrival.

Cultivating Love ALTERNATE UNIVERSE #1 - Part 3

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Uses the prompt words (evil – bad– wicked) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.

Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:

“Unbelievable if that’s true,” Bill muttered. “That bitch is pure evil. Wicked witch of the west material.”

Fred didn’t take his eyes off the two young men approaching the diner, but waved a hand behind him to shush Bill. “She’s still Ed’s mother. She wasn’t that bad—at least not before. Don’t say that shit in front of him.”

When Ed and the other fella pushed through the door, Ed’s gaze immediately locked with Fred’s, and he smiled. Smiled. “Lady from the grocery store tip you off?”

“Wow,” the blond said. “You guys have got to be related.”

“Yeah,” Fred managed to squeeze the word around the lump in his throat. “We’re related.”

Cultivating Love ALTERNATE UNIVERSE #1 - Part 4

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Uses the prompt words (best – writer – ever) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.

Told from Ed’s 3rd-person POV:

Ed stutter-stepped, but Joe grabbed his arm, stopping him from falling into a klutzy heap in the middle of the diner. That would hardly have been the best first impression. The wide-eyed look on Fred’s face—a face that made him feel as if he were looking into some magical funhouse mirror that could show him his future—was disconcerting. Not at all what he’d expected out of some distant (or maybe not so distant?) cousin.

It was unsettling because Fred looked almost overwhelmed by Ed’s presence, but not in any kind of negative way because he’d had his lunch interrupted. More like he’d been waiting his whole life to meet Ed. Weird.

Ed continued forward. “Hi. I’m Ed Jamison, and this is…” He gestured toward Joe. Should he risk losing his chance to gain some information about his dad’s family in case this guy was homophobic? He cleared his throat. Fuck it. The grocery store woman had obviously wasted no time calling Fred and had probably told him about that kiss anyway. “This is my boyfriend, Joe Durham.”

Fred’s jaw dropped, so maybe the woman hadn’t tipped him off after all. “Your…” That was all he said before his head spun to stare at the other man still seated at the table. If Merriam-Webster ever wanted a picture to put next to the expression “what the fuck?” in their dictionary, they could snap a photo of that fella’s face.

The guy at the table sat back and tilted his head to gaze at Ed as if trying to figure something out. He found his voice before Fred did. “You didn’t write that goddamned letter, did you?” The words were murmured as if he was absently speaking his thoughts rather than addressing Ed.

“What letter?” Ed turned back to Fred. His lookalike’s expression had morphed from stunned to…heartbroken? Ed shrugged. “I’m not much of a letter writer. The occasional text message, maybe.”

Cultivating Love ALTERNATE UNIVERSE #1 - Part 5

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Uses the prompt words (I – really – like – you – but – now – pretty – please – with – sugar – on – top – write – more – longer – all – the – words) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.

Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:

Fred didn’t answer Ed’s question about the letter. He stared into Ed’s eyes for a few moments then opened his arms and said, “I would really like to give you a hug now before you get ticked off about what I’m going to say.”

Ed blinked a couple times and cast a glance that could only be described as “perplexed” at his boyfriend, Joe. Joe simply shrugged, and Ed brought his gaze back to Fred. His eyebrows came together, but whatever it was that he saw in Fred’s eyes kept his expression more in the confused range rather than troubled.

Fred’s stomach flip-flopped as he alternated between confidence that all would work out, and a sneaking doubt that Ed could ever forgive him for not realizing what his ex-wife had done. But, despite swirling thoughts and emotions at war with each other, he held steady as Ed stepped into his personal space and returned the hug, even adding a firm triple-pat with one hand. Hopefully, that touch wouldn’t need to last a lifetime. With any luck, it would be the first of many.

Stepping back, Fred gestured toward the table. “This is Bill Golden.” Sadly, he didn’t have his son’s confidence to announce their relationship as glibly as Ed had done with Joe. Pretty darned pathetic, actually, because the longer he put it off, the more difficult it would likely become. “Please join us.”

The younger men shared another glance. Silent, but laced with the non-verbal communication of people used to each other’s characters and inclinations. A raised brow here, a shoulder lift there, and mutual slight nods.

Bill swiped a hand over the top of the table, shoving sugar packets out of the way, and moved Fred’s plate to his side as he shifted over, making room. Fred sat, then Joe slid across the bench opposite, and Ed dropped into place across from Fred.

Fred’s hands rested on his thighs with his fingers restlessly drumming a wild beat as he struggled to find the right words to say what he needed to tell Ed. Bill placed a hand atop the nearer one, stilling it. None of that went unnoticed, although the two across from them remained subtle in the body language they shared.

Taking a deep breath, Fred opened his mouth to speak, but Ed beat him to it. “So, this letter I didn’t write. What’s that all about?”

Cultivating Love ALTERNATE UNIVERSE #1 - Part 6

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Uses the prompt words/phrase (“I am your father”) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.

Told from Ed’s 3rd-person POV:

Ed’s question hung in the air for a moment as Fred apparently struggled to figure out what he wanted to say. Why did they think Ed had written a letter? To whom? Fred? Had someone forged a letter in his name? Who would do that, and for what possible purpose?

The other guy—Bill—withdrew his hand from where he’d had it resting atop one of Fred’s. Judging by the way they reacted to one another, it seemed likely the two of them were a couple. That same body language also pointed toward them being some degree of closeted.

Fred’s face had lost much of the color beneath his tan. He cleared his throat and finally managed to speak. “It must have been your mother.” He shook his head like he was admonishing himself. “It wasn’t her handwriting, but I should have known she was behind it.”

“Don’t.” Bill gently nudged Fred with an elbow. “You had no reason not to take it at face value. What with him living under her influence and all.”

Beside Ed, Joe straightened suddenly. He turned to Ed with widened eyes looking as if a light bulb had gone off over his head. Whatever was going on, Joe had figured it out.

“I tried so hard, for so many years.” Fred’s gaze bored into Ed, imploring him to understand. But, understand what?

“Just tell him,” Joe whispered.

Fred slowly blew out a shaky breath. “Ed, I am your father.”

Cultivating Love ALTERNATE UNIVERSE #1 - Part 7

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Uses the prompt words/phrase (“pink bubbly”) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.

Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:

“Say what?” Ed sat, blinking rapidly. His expression was otherwise blank. No anger at least. Confusion, perhaps. Possibly wondering whether he’d heard right, or maybe trying to process and make sense of what Fred had just told him.

Fred had thought about this moment often enough over the years, but the possibility that Ed had been told he’d died had never factored into the scenarios that had played out in his mind. He had no idea what emotion to expect out of Ed. Obviously something well short of busting out a bottle of pink bubbly, but with any luck it would be better than resentment and accusations. Was understanding too much to hope for?

When Ed’s face reddened and his body tensed, Joe’s hand lightly touched his shoulder. “Remember, they mentioned a letter they thought was from you but was probably sent by your mom. You know darned well what she might have written.” Joe hitched his head toward Fred and Bill. “You know…considering.”

Considering, apparently, that one wouldn’t exactly need finely-tuned gaydar to see that Fred and Bill were a couple since they’d dropped the ball when it came to maintaining their usual carefully honed public body language. A simple deduction from there would be that Fred was gay. Joe apparently knew enough about Susan—Ed’s mother—to know how vitriolic her opinion of LGBT people was.

Some of the tension in Ed’s face subsided as he sorted through that bit of information. “What about before this letter?” His words were still terse.

“You thought I was dead,” Fred replied. “That tells you everything you need to know about the lengths she went to, to keep me from you.”

“You never tried to get shared custody?”

“Of course he did!” Bill’s tone wasn’t as unruffled as Fred would have liked, but at least he kept the volume down. Fred placed a calming hand on Bill’s thigh.

“I feel like anything I say will come off like I ‘doth protest too much,’” Fred said. “I’ve got boxes filled with paperwork in my basement. I’d love nothing more than to show you the evidence of everything I’ve done.”

Which would have the collateral benefit of spending more time in each other’s company and getting to know one another. Bill lifted the hand Fred had placed on his leg and pressed it. No doubt he knew what Fred was trying to do.

Ed didn’t reply right away. Instead, he turned to peer at Joe.

“Whatever you want to do,” Joe murmured.

“What about Denver?” Ed asked.

“We’re not going to enjoy Denver if we leave things hanging here, right?” Joe shrugged. “Not a big deal if our plans get delayed…or change.”


Joe simply nodded, and Ed turned back to Fred with a more thoughtful expression on his face. “Okay. Let’s go see this paperwork.”

And here’s this week’s installment told in Ed’s 3rd-person POV:

Cultivating Love ALTERNATE UNIVERSE #1 - Part 8

“Wow,” Ed muttered as he placed the last folder back in the box. His mother had gone to unbelievable lengths to keep him and his father apart. It was a mindboggling degree of deceit, and he’d bought every bit of it hook, line, and sinker.

And why wouldn’t he have done so? She was his mother, and the idea that she would perpetrate such a lie was so farfetched he would have sooner believed there was a magical floating unicorn waiting for him in that diner than he’d have remotely considered that his father would be alive and well, sitting there eating his lunch.

He shook his head sadly as he brushed off his hands on his jeans. The thick layer of grimy basement dust that had settled on the box supported what his father had said regarding how long ago he’d sealed it up—eight long years since he’d put his hopes on hold after receiving the letter he and Bill had referenced back in the diner. A forged letter purportedly sent by Ed’s sixteen-year-old self.

Ed shuddered as the awful things his mother had written ran through his head. That Fred disgusted him. That he didn’t want to be around Fred. That he wanted Fred to cease and desist all attempts to contact him. And she’d signed Ed’s name to the appalling letter.

Well, technically it wasn’t her handwriting, but Ed recognized it as that of one of her cronies. She’d certainly dictated it, though. He’d heard her use those phrasing choices often enough to be confident of that. It was why he hadn’t come out until after she’d died shortly before his eighteenth birthday.

Despite the unfortunate timing, Ed could hardly blame Fred for his decision to put his quest aside for ten years in the hopes that Ed’s opinions might change once he’d moved away from his mother’s influence and experienced life. Apparently, they would have met in two more years when that arbitrary period of time had passed.

Above him, the screen door banged shut, and the floorboards creaked as two pairs of feet trod across them. Ed looked up and squared his shoulders before climbing the stairs to rejoin his father and Joe. Bill had gone home to his own farm when they’d left the diner.

The sun was a lot lower in the sky that he’d expected. How long had he been down there lost in that shocking paper trail?

Ed tucked his thumbs in his front pockets and lightly drummed his fingers as he leaned against the door to the basement. The corners of his mouth quirked up at the welcomed sight of Joe…and even of his father—a virtual stranger, but he felt much closer to the man after reading through the pile of documents detailing his efforts to gain at least some level of visitation with his son. Ed’s belly fluttered, but that was most likely from hunger, triggered by the savory aroma of the meal Fred had cooking in that Crock Pot on the counter.

Fred and Joe’s cheeks were flushed from whatever they’d been doing outside. Joe seemed downright…cheery. He’d grown up on a farm, and loved that life, but things had not gone well with his dad when he’d come out of the closet, so now he was a farmhand with an outfit that traveled around helping farmers with their haying and other seasonal projects that needed extra manpower.

So it wasn’t a surprise that Joe had enjoyed the afternoon with Ed’s father. Back at the diner, Joe had said, “Not a big deal if our plans get delayed…or change,” and Fred wore his hope of spending more time with Ed right on his sleeve.

Fred and Joe halted in the kitchen when they spotted Ed. They might not have looked at all alike, but the cocked eyebrows on their faces matched. So did the sudden tensing of their muscles as they awaited Ed’s verdict.

“It’s clear,” Ed said, “that you did everything in your power short of risking jail-time to see me. And it’s equally clear that Mom lied and cheated and pulled every dirty trick in the book to prevent it. I couldn’t feel any more betrayed by what she did.” As much as Ed had originally gotten his back up thinking Fred had willfully abandoned him, it was now painfully obvious that was not the case, and he found himself wanting to get to know his father.

The rigidity evident in Fred’s shoulders and face eased, although the look in his eyes remained wary. Or maybe it was guardedly hopeful. “Thank you for understanding.”

“How do you want to proceed from here?” Ed asked, although he was pretty sure he knew the answer.

“My door will always be open to you both. Any time. Of course certain seasons I won’t be the most attentive host, but you’ll be welcome none the less.

“I’d be more than happy to pitch in and help,” Joe said. No shocker there.

“So would I,” Ed added. “Not that I know anything about farming, but I’m willing to do whatever you can train me to do.”

“Much appreciated.” Fred grinned and bobbed his head.

Ed caught Joe’s gaze and twitched a brow, silently asking a question he knew Joe would understand.

Joe supplemented his slight nod with a wink. Yep…just as Ed had thought, Joe wasn’t merely willing to reinvent their vacation, he welcomed this particular substitution. It was a change of pace, and that was enough for Joe. They could always go to Denver some other time.

“So…” Ed took a deep breath as Fred’s brow crinkled. “How’s right now suit you?”

Fred’s answering smile couldn’t have beamed any more brilliantly.

Cultivating Love - Cover - Addison Albright

A man of few words, Joe is a hard-working farmhand who likes his simple, uncomplicated life. Ed is satisfied with his existence as an auto mechanic, but thrilled when an unexpected development in his life allows him to help Joe realize a dream.

It forces them, however, to reevaluate the casual, undefined nature of their relationship. They’re too macho to speak of love, and neither would acknowledge he doesn’t really mind when it’s his turn to bottom. When life throws them a curve ball, and the rules of their game get old, Ed tries to take every aspect of their relationship up a notch. Can Joe adapt to the open sentimentality Ed’s injecting into their relationship, let alone the new spice in their bedroom activities?

This is a previously published story that has been rewritten, expanded, and re-edited.

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5 thoughts on “#FlashFictionFriday 2017-Feb-16 – Cultivating Love Alternate Universe #1 Scene 8

  1. YAAAAAY, I had given up hope on more Ed and Joe!! You just made my day. doing the happy dance 😁

    Words for next week: tea (because I’m having a cup), fireworks (because it’s Chinese New Year here), hay (because they’re on a farm and I want a romp in the hay 😁) and horripilation (because I threatened/promised 😁)

    Have fun!

    1. Good words! I’ll try to come up with something less mundane than this week’s. Ed had to have his getting-all-the-info-scene, but if I’m going to continue this universe, I’ve got to come up with something different to happen to them.

      Hmm…I’m a little afraid to look up that word! LOL!!

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