An Absence of Luck
by Isak Romun
Father Bax had many acquaintances; among them a number of pagans. Mr. Patch was one of these. Not that Patch would ever admit to being a pagan. He was, for that matter, probably unaware that he was a pagan. He was, after all, “close to the bishop “, a fact he would remind you of at the slightest encouragement or, barring that, no encouragement at all. Besides, he bore the mark of the pagan lightly, in common with a vast number of people. Thus, they and he scrupulously read their horoscopes in each day ‘s paper, avoided black cats and ladders, viewed horror films and felt viscerally that there were messages in them. They rejoiced if the numbers on a lottery ticket were even remotely reminiscent of some significant date or event in their lives. There was no harm in all this they’d protest if someone, such as Father Bax, upbraided them and indeed, the priest had to admit, their forays into superstition, by and large, harmed no one. Except themselves.
Father Bax was first introduced to Mr. Patch by the parish‘s assistant pastor, Father Murphy, with whom Patch had shared an adventure, namely occupying space in the same high jacked airliner. The shared experience was enough in Patch’s eyes to permit him to drop into the rectory unexpectedly to visit Father Murphy and revisit the happening with tireless renditions of his, Patch’s, actions “under fire,” to use his own phrase. Father Murphy, whose desire was to hear as little as possible of that day’s events, would invariably receive a call to the bedside of an ailing parishioner and would have to leave Father Bax and Mr. Patch in the midst of the latter’s storytelling. Father Bax was quick to note that Father Murphy never failed to thank effusively Mrs. Danneway, the rectory cook and housekeeper, for notifying him, as he went out the front door into the welcome street with barely a goodbye to the sitting-room occupants.
On one of these occasions, Father Bax looked longingly at Father Murphy’s retreating back while Patch rattled on unstopped by his audience’s reduction or by the fact that what he was going on about was a tiresome retelling of the story he had spun on his last visit and visits prior to that one. Yet, there always seemed to be some item of information that he had neglected to include in his previous narratives or, in the heat of invention, made up on the spot. The adventure of the airliner was, seemingly and sadly, the only thing worthy that had ever occurred in Patch’s life.
Then, suddenly, Mr. Patch inserted into his recitation a word designed to catch the priest’s attention. Miracle.
“ What’s that about a miracle? “
Mr. Patch accommodated, with appropriate portentousness.“I have come to believe that what happened on that day, my deliverance, anyway, was a miracle. I’ve mentioned this to the bishop and I think he tends to agree with me. I was saying my rosary through the whole thing, you know. I should talk it over with someone before we go forward with anything. The bishop said.Patch looked around the room and remarked, ‘I had thought of Father Murphy, but he seems to be off ministering again. So?’”
Father Bax did not like the sound of that last word. He drew up a mental picture of the bishop’s technique for ridding himself of an individual who under one circumstance or another — more often than not an open purse — gained access to his space: Seeming agreement, but yet not agreement, capped off with a reference to one of the diocese’s priests who had a reputation for putting individuals down easily. Father Bax realized with some dismay that he was It.
“Perhaps not a miracle, but something very much like one we could use around here right now,” Father Bax said hoping to steer the conversation in a new direction. “Our recently concluded Parish Festival was not as successful as we had hoped. We’re still about five thousand dollars short of our goal of paying for repairs needed around here.”He waved an aimless arm at the four corners of the sitting room.
Mr. Patch tut-tutted.
Sensing defeat, yet determined to stave it off to the very last, the priest asked, “I take it you’ll wait for Father Murphy to return? “
“No, you’ll do nicely. Actually, it was you the bishop mentioned.”
So, Father Bax launched into the history of miracles, their nature, the investigation that must take place before tentative recognition of an event as a miracle, then its acceptance up the long hierarchical line, until the event’s heavy file reposes in Rome. After that, waiting, often quite prolonged, until, to the relief of some the whole matter is mercifully forgotten and dies a decent death. Father Bax had done this so often he could have put it all down in a pamphlet and just handed it to the petitioner.
The little priest concluded his explanation by bringing Patch back to the matter of his own personal miracle. “I think, Mr. Patch, that your airline deliverance was due less to divine intervention than to the turn of events in the real world.”
Patch protested. “But our lives were saved! We prayed for that.”
“Really, they left you in the aircraft when they landed in Syria and made off into the barren fastnesses of that land. You could say they deserted you.”
“Oh, very well,” Patch said after some thought, then added, “But I don’t give up without a fight. We’ll come back to this some other time.”
Father Bax breathed easily now that the matter was put to rest — though only temporarily if Patch’s last words were to be believed. The small, portly priest gloomily envisioned his involvement in Patch’s quest for sacred sanction relieved only by the bishop’s similar involvement when Patch, purse in hand, bravely stormed the protected precincts of that eminence.
“Well, if I can’t find a miracle there,” Patch said reaching down to the floor for a paper sack that rested at his feet, “perhaps I’ll find one with this.”
Patch hefted the sack up onto the table at which he and the priest were sitting and took from it a figure of Oriental cast. “I picked this up at your Festival, maybe the last thing not sold. Could there be a miracle in it? It looks like some kind of idol.”
Father Bax’s face went unaccountably pale as he stared at the figure. He remembered encountering the foot-high image for the first time just days ago when Mrs. O’Brien put it on the sitting-room table, explaining, “Here, Father, I’m donating this to the Festival. It’s a Chinese god. Maybe it’ll bring somebody luck.”Inwardly, Father Bax marveled at the genius of American pluralism that not only demanded equity among the varied approaches to the same God but opened the door of welcome to a packed pantheon of other gods of greater or lesser magnitude, many of which shared homes under the roof of the same discipline. We’ve come a long way, he thought, when someone with a name like O’Brien would buy into that. He was about to suggest to Mrs. O’Brien that perhaps the figure might be inappropriate for a church festival when Mrs. Hawthorne, a functionary in charge of the white-elephant counter, snatched up the figure and carried it off. Father Bax shrugged, took leave of Mrs. O’Brien, and went off to see how the Festival’s other attractions were coming along.
Now, with the statuette back on the sitting-room table, Father Bax had a better opportunity to study it than he had on previous occasions. It was a cheap plaster ware figure depicting a typical Chinese subject: a man, clad in the flowing gowns of a mandarin and wearing the boxlike hat that went with his robes. The figure grasped a staff in the right hand as if to steady himself as he progressed toward his destination. In the left hand he held a fan flared out to its fullest. The little statue was painted with small regard for the colors’ complementarities. The face was a pale pink that struck Father Bax as somehow inappropriate, giving the figure a look of youth when it should have expressed age, maturity, wisdom. Yet, despite the face’s youth, it was gross, bloated, disjointed as if the brush that applied the features held too much paint or was too large for fine work. Malevolence was there, too, making viewing a decidedly uncomfortable experience. In his mind, Father Bax shook off this last thought.
“Well, what do you think of it?” Mr. Patch asked.
“I hope Mrs. Hawthorne didn’t charge you too much for it. Its workmanship is of a rather low order, I’m afraid. And it’s not a god, by the way, just a Chinese man taking an after-dinner stroll. Not a god at all. No special powers at all.”
“Never mind, I’m not interested in any of that. And as for powers, we’ll just see about that. Here, take a look at this. ”And Patch leaned forward, grabbed the plaster figure and was about to turn it over when Father Bax clamped his hands around both of Patch’s wrists.
Father Bax, whose face had begun to regain its natural color, stared intently at Patch. The priest’s expression was one of distress mingled with regret. But what did he have to regret? He regretted that Mr. Patch was the parishioner who claimed the figure. He regretted that Patch, by the direction of his conversation, indicated he might have seen something in the figure that was quite beyond its earthly purpose. Or powers.
Father Bax spoke. “I don’t wish to see anything else about that thing than I have already seen. ”The priest released Patch’s wrists and Patch set the figure upright on the table once more.
“You’ve been there, haven’t you,” Patch asked. “China?”
“I spent two years in Hong Kong when I was pursuing my degree in Oriental Studies.”
“Let me tell you what I have here,” Patch said. “I have a statue that has some Oriental — Chinese, I think — writing on its base. You could translate it for me. You know what those crazy characters mean. You can read the language?”
Patch pushed the statuette across the table until it was right below the priest’s face. “Well, how about it? What’s it say? What harm can it do?”
Father Bax let out a long sigh before he replied. Then he said, “No.As for the harm it can do, it may seem to be irreparable. To you. And your soul. How do you know who placed that thing in your way knowing that you would scarp it up upon seeing those characters on its base.”
“Who, Mrs. Hawthorne? You think she has special powers?”
“Not Mrs. Hawthorne.”
“You know I won’t take No for an answer.” Patch was smiling He evidently thought that Father Bax was joking. He had every confidence that Father Bax would bend to his wish. After all, most people did.
Father Bax said, “I am not going to translate those Chinese characters into English or into any other language, for that matter.”
Silently, Patch picked up the image and put it back in its sack. Then he turned back to Father Bax. “I can find out elsewhere what that Chinese writing is about. Do you think I would come here without knowing that? I just wanted to give you first go at it. See your reaction considering how you go on about good luck and bad luck and how neither one actually exists. I’ll tell you this, this little item,” Patch touched the sack, “is going to make me rich. I feel it. I just don’t know how rich. But my horoscope today said the future holds great riches for me. I don’t want to make any mistake in the way I speak to it about what I want.”
Father Bax reached across the table and grasped Patch’s hand. “Don’t do it, Mr. Patch. Don’t imperil yourself by surrendering to it. Let me take that thing into the backyard and smash it to smithereens.”
Patch gently removed his hand from Bax’s and, cradling the wrapped image, stood up and walked toward the rectory vestibule. At the door he turned and said, “I’ll say goodnight to you, then, Reverend Father.You’ll be the first to know of my luck when I come into it.”
“You’ve forgotten the qualifier,” Father Bax murmured.
“The kind of luck.Good or bad. Not that I believe any of it.”
After the door closed on Mr. Patch, Father Bax paced about the sitting room for a bit. He was in deep thought, yet could not marshal his thoughts so that they resembled anything approaching a sensible order. Frustrated, and not a little disturbed by his conversation with Patch, he turned abruptly, exited the sitting room, and went to his office.
Where he found his assistant pastor.
“And who was at death’s door tonight?” Father Bax asked.
“Mrs. O’Brien. And Mr. O’Brien,” Father Murphy answered. “Not death’s door. She had a problem she wanted to talk over with me. She wanted to see me.”
“And I imagine you wanted to see her as well.”
“Given the alternative, I won’t deny that. Was he here long?” Father Murphy smiled as he asked the question.
“Perhaps it just seemed long.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll stick around next time.”
“No, no. You had Mr. Patch on that plane. That should count for something.”
“What did you talk about? His exploits under fire?”
“That, plus a more weighty matter.”
“Oh. What could be weightier than the defining event in Patch’s life?”
“The morass of superstition,” Father Bax answered.
“Word travels fast. Is it that Chinese god you showed me the night before the Festival’s opening? I know Patch bought it.”
“It’s not a god!” Father Bax said testily. “It’s just a cheap, inartistic piece of plaster junk.”
Father Bax had given the white-elephant committee the use of the rectory sitting room for the overnight storage of the items that, moved out of the sitting room, would go on sale the next day in a Festival tent. The Chinese statuette was there and Father Bax had desultorily shown it to Father Murphy. They both commented upon the fact that, with the exception of Pearl Harbor, it was one of the ugliest things to come out of the Orient in a month of Sundays. Now, with the Festival days behind them, they had occasion to speak further of the statuette.
“As a matter of fact,” Father Murphy said, “the O’Briens and I talked about that Chinese figure tonight.”
“Oh. What did they have to say about it?”
“It was her concern, really. She sensed that you were reluctant to take the thing from her. Then Mrs. Hawthorne got her claws on it and that was that.”
“I had no reason to turn it back, though I wish I had:”
Then, Father Bax recounted the gist of his earlier conversation with Patch . At the conclusion, Father Murphy asked, “And that’s serious?”
“Where do you think these temptations come from?”
“Well, yes, but there’s not much harm in them.”
“That’s exactly what he wants you to think. But one thing begets another. Today, it’s a harmless figurine, tomorrow something as nearly innocuous but a shade more serious, then the next day and days after that until our luck-believing Mr. Patch will be chalking pentagrams on the sidewalk for unsuspecting hop-scotchers.”
Now Father Murphy broke into a broad grin and stood up, preparatory to leaving the office. “I can’t see our drab, unimaginative Patch doing anything of the sort.”
Father Bax smiled and responded, “Actually, neither can I, but don’t you see, that’s what makes it so awful. No one is safe when he’s around. Was there something in particular you wanted to see me about?”
“Something in particular?”
“Yes, I come into my office and find you here. Something brought you here.”
“Of course.”Father Murphy reached into an inner pocket of his coat and pulled out a legal-size envelope. He handed it to Father Bax. “They told me to give you this. A little something to help make up for the Festival shortfall.”
Father Bax opened the envelope, took out five crisp, bank-fresh hundred-dollar bills. He glanced at them briefly, then said, “The O’Briens are simple working people. They can’t afford this.”
“Exactly what I told them. But they insisted.”
A gray expression fell across Father Bax’s face.“This is my fault,” he said. “These people, Mrs. O’Brien at any rate, are doing this, this sacrifice, because of my careless frown when she gave me that accursed thing.”
“Accursed? Aren’t you giving the statuette some kind of power that, rationally, it can’t have?”Father Murphy wore a broad grin as he said this.
Father Bax thought about that, then said, “You’re right. The figurine isn’t accursed, but the use to which it was put is.”
“Are you going to give the O’Briens back their money?”
“Yes. Tomorrow. Tonight I’m going to bed early. I˜ll probably be awake for an hour or two. I˜ll use that time to see if can find some way to get around our problem of funds. Then, if I’m not asleep, I’m going to think about Mr. Patch and the many and varied ways he can make mischief with that statuette.”
Patch was back in a week with his statuette in its sack He caught the priests at dinner. He didn’t let this perturb him, but sat down at the table, took one of Mrs. Danneway’s biscuits from its serving dish and, with Father Murphy’s borrowed knife, began buttering the biscuit with rehearsed insouciance. He shone with the glow of a man who could hardly wait to tell you something or astound you with an act of unexpected and spectacular dimensions.
Yet, he did not want to get to his astounding revelation and act too soon so, between mouthfuls of biscuit, he asked, “I wonder if might have a cup of coffee. To wash down this excellent biscuit.”
As if she had a secret line into the minds of all in the rectory, Mrs. Danneway marched into the dining room, took a cup and saucer from a sideboard, and put them in front of Mr. Patch. She reached across the table for a carafe and poured coffee into Mr. Patch’s cup.
Patch looked up at Mrs. Danneway, smiled graciously, and said, “Thank you. I take cream and sugar. Three level spoonfuls of sugar.”
Once more, Mrs. Danneway, reached across the table, grabbed the cream and sugar receptacles and placed them down in front of Patch. A spot of cream fell onto the table, which the housekeeper didn’t bother to wipe up. Then she exited the room.
“Ah, yes, very well,” Patch murmured vaguely and then helped himself to the cream and sugar with ponderous solicitude as if, though these acts might have belonged to someone of less estate than he, he would, in the true spirit of noblesse oblige, perform them himself.
Mr. Patch was having a rather good time with his impersonations of imagined figures of the aristocracy, when Father Murphy, a less forbearing soul than Father Bax, asked, “Did you have something you wanted to discuss with us, Mr. Patch?”
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Patch answered, putting the figurine, still in its sack, on the table. He removed the object from the sack, and in a clear space at one end of the table, placed it, between two candelabra that Mrs. Danneway had put out that night for polishing the next day. Patch arranged the statuette so that it was equidistant from each candelabrum and appeared to stare disdainfully down the long expanse of table at the two priests. Some fresh-cut flowers placed on the table earlier by Mrs. Danneway complemented the candelabra and the plaster figure. Father Bax thought to himself, Good Lord, how like an altar it looks.
“Before I came here,” Patch continued, “I stopped by the chancery and visited with the bishop. I left him smiling at a piece of paper I gave him.”
The two priests stared impassively and without comment alternately at Mr. Patch and at the figurine.
After about ten seconds of this, Patch said in a low, conspiratorial voice, “Well, aren’t you going to ask me what the piece of paper was?”
At last, Father Bax, his face suffused in resignation and sadness, said, “We know well, Mr. Patch, what brings a smile to the bishop’s face. I believe the piece of paper was a check, a certified check in all probability, as good as cash. Just as probably, it was made out to the Diocesan Building Fund or one or another of the bishop’s pet charities.”
“On the button!” Patch exclaimed. “And I have another piece of paper here. For you , Father Bax. ”His hand went into a coat pocket and pulled out a check. He slid it across the table to the priest. “This will take care of the Festival shortfall.”
Father Bax did not pick up the check. For a long period he just sat and stared at it.
“Well, take it! Take it,” Patch said urgently.
˜Yes, Father, pick it up,” Father Murphy said. “It will solve our problem. Until the next one comes along.”
For an embarrassingly long time, Father Bax said nothing, but sat unmoving, transfixed by the piece of paper that lay on the table between him and Mr. Patch. At last he said, “Coincidence is the enemy of reason.”
“Huh?” Patch grunted.
Father Bax turned his attention from the check and looked at Patch. “Would you say, Mr. Patch, that you have recently experienced some fantastic good fortune?”
“Why, yes, I suppose you could call it that.”
“Almost a miracle?”
“Yesss,” Patch answered cautiously.
“Who is responsible for this miracle?”
Patch looked down the table’s polished expanse to the figurine. Lord, Lord, Father Bax thought, I believe he loves it!
“God works in mysterious ways,” Patch muttered.
“I’ve often heard that,” Father Bax said cheerily. He paused for a second or two, then continued, “And I don’t believe a word of it! God is quite clear in everything he has passed on to wretched humanity. We have no question about where He stands. Have you read the Ten Commandments lately? It’s the other one who fills our minds with notions of dependence on the likes of our friend down there. ”He wagged a finger at the painted figurine.
“The fact of the matter is this: Until ‘our friend’ came along I never had a stroke of luck in my life.”
Father Bax replied, “Luck. I curse the day that word entered the language, If you must attribute some perfectly natural good fortune to some source or other, pick the one that has watched over you from the moment you came into this world — no, before even that moment — instead of some silly figure you came upon at a church festival.” At the priest’s characterization, Mr. Patch glanced warily at the statuette. Lord, Lord, thought Father Bax, he fears it as well as loves it.
Father Murphy decided to join the conversation. He asked Patch, “How did you come into your good fortune? Was it a relative who died?”
“An uncle, several times removed. An uncle I hardly knew anything of. I never thought he cared for me. And then this thing hit me out of the blue ”And Patch named a startling and unlikely sum. “So, here I am, sharing the wealth at both diocesan and parish levels.” Patch stopped, looked positively angelic for a few seconds as he looked down at the check still on the table, then fell from lofty heights back down to earth. “That is, before I visit a Cadillac showroom,” he said.
“I can’t take the check,” Father Bax said flatly.
Patch protested. “Why not? The money’s good, isn’t it?”
“There’s nothing wrong with the money. It’s the way you got it. No, the way you think you got it.”
“What now, has the Church come out against uncles?”
“You know very well I’m not talking of your uncle — I’ll remember him at the altar tomorrow. ”Father Bax pointed an accusing finger at the figurine. “Tell me now, you did wish on that, didn’t you?”
“Why do you think I’m several dollars richer today?”
“Not because of that thing,” Father Murphy put in. “Tell me, Mr. Patch, what’s the date of your uncle’s will?”
“I’m not sure, but I remember the lawyer telling me that Uncle drew it up a half-year or so ago.”
“And when did you buy his nibs off the white-elephant table?”
“You know, ten days or two weeks ago. The Festival.”
“And what does that say to you?”
“If you believe that, then you’re saying that your name would mysteriously disappear from you uncle’s will if you hadn’t bought that piece of plaster junk.”
Patch’s face showed that he was losing some of his resolve. Still, he persisted. “You know,” he said, “there’s no denying that it seems more than coincidence that I rubbed it and within a day got word of my inheritance. If I hadn’t rubbed it, anything could have happened. The lawyer may not have been able to find me. His letter may have gotten lost in the mail. The lawyer may have died with the will locked in his safe. Anything could have changed my luck.”
“Nothing could have changed your luck because there was no luck involved,” Father Bax said wearily. “Let’s get this aright once and for all: There was a complete absence of luck. Push that thing down here Mr. Patch and I’ll spring a little miracle on you, since miracles are such common coin these days. Mind you don’t upend it so the base is showing.”
Patch did as he was told. Now the statuette and Father Bax were, in a manner of speaking, looking at each other, eye to eye.
˜Now, Mr. Patch, let’s refresh our memories,” said Father Bax. “When you had this article here a week or so ago, I took special care not to let you show me its underside. I wouldn’t let you show me those characters on its base. Right?”
“Now watch me carefully.” Father Bax clasped the statuette’s head in both his hands, closed his eyes, and intoned, “It’s coming clear now. Some lines of Chinese characters, making what looks to be a poem.”
“What’s it say, what’s it say?” Patch demanded.
“It says — it says; I think I can make a couplet from it. It’s clear now. Here is what it says:
To my master, I give wish one
So rub away, and let’s be done.
“That’s it, that’s it,” Patch exclaimed. “It’s a miracle. How did you do that?” Patch reached forward to touch the figurine.
“Don’t touch it!” Father Bax fairly screamed. “You would create a mystic circuit between us. A destructive force would flow out of it and kill us both.”
Patch hurriedly pulled his hands back. “It’s a miracle,” he murmured reverentially.
“I see more,” Father Bax said once again speaking in a low voice. “It was not quite clear, but is becoming clearer now. Yes, it seems to be a pair of arches on a straight-line base. What do you make of that?”
“I wondered about that. So did the translator. It’s not a Chinese character. It must be some sort of mystic symbol. Perhaps it’s the key to that destructive power you mentioned.”
Suddenly, Father Bax took his hands from the figurine and opened his eyes, which appeared to be, to use an archaic characterization, twinkling. He said in an authoritative and assured voice, “And maybe it’s not! Maybe it’s not a — what did you call it? — a mystic symbol. Maybe it’s quite something else. If we take that symbo l and turn it ninety degrees to its right, what do we get?”
“You get the second letter of the alphabet,” Father Murphy announced. “For a time there, Father, you had me going. I was thinking about calling in the diocesan exorcist. If we have one, that is.”
“Yes, you get a B,” Father Bax said. “And who in this room has a name starting with B?”
“You, you —,” Patch sputtered.
“Yes, Bax the great prestidigitator. In the service of souls. Yes, I confess, it was I who scratched those characters into the statuette’s base. As an afterthought, I added the supine B so that we could validate the true author of that bit of atrocious doggerel. I thought some mysterious scratches on the item’s base would enhance its value. Would perhaps bring in ten dollars instead of five.”
“When did you do all that?” Father Murphy asked.
“Remember the Festival eve? The white-elephant items resided overnight in the rectory.”
“Then there was no wish to be wished,” Patch muttered.
“I’m afraid not. Rational forces were at work to make you a rich man.”
“But why didn’t you tell me all this a week ago?”
“You remember, I did try to dissuade you. Failing that, I opted to let the course of events play itself out thinking that rubbing the statuette would bring you nothing but disappointment and, on the plus side, a realization that all this luck business is the worst sort of sham. ”Father Bax paused, then continued, “Then along came your uncle. In any case, his will.”
There was a fireplace in the dining room with handsome andirons and a set of hearth tools loosely held in an ornate stand. Mr. Patch went over to the stand and selected a poker. He returned to the table and asked Father Bax, “May I borrow this?”
“You are my guest.”
Patch raised the poker and in a wide arc brought it around so that it connected neatly with the statuette reducing it to innumerable shards of plaster. The head escaped injury, but Patch took care of this with another well-executed stroke. The poker left a visible gash in the smooth wood table surface.
At the noise Mrs. Danneway rushed into the room. She looked at the gash and said, “I don’t know that I can fix that. We’ll have to get someone in.”
“No,” said Father Bax, “we’ll leave it there. For its commemorative value.”
Patch went over to the fire stand, replaced the poker. He went back to the table, solemnly shook hands with the two priests and even with Mrs. Danneway. “I’ll be going now,” he said as he reached for the check, still on the table.
Father Bax had the check in his hands before Patch could get near it. “I thank you, Mr. Patch, for this contribution. You’ll get an acknowledgement in the mail. For tax purposes.”
“I thought you weren’t going to take it,” Patch said.
“I wasn’t before, but now you are rightly disposed to give it.”
Patch laughed good-humouredly, shrugged his shoulders, and walked, accompanied by Father Bax, to the front door. There, he turned, shook hands once more, and asked, “Any other suggestions for my spiritual well-being?”
“Yes,” Father Bax said, “Don’t read your horoscope tomorrow. Or ever again.”
(c) 2005 Gordon Bennett
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