Karen Fenech -Author

Karen Fenech is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic suspense.  When Karen’s not writing or spending time with her family, she loves to shop, watch movies, or just kick Karen Fenech -- author photo submitted to International Thriller Writersback in a comfortable chair and read.

Karen, I really appreciate that you have taken time to do this interview for my Blog. I’d like to talk about your writing career, so far.

My great pleasure, Ken. Thank you for inviting me.

Q. You’ve said, in your bio, that you wanted to write since you were eleven years old, and you actually wrote a book based on the Nancy Drew mysteries. What ever happened to that book?

A. Oh, boy. : ) I remember putting those pages in a binder but draw a blank after that. I can’t recall what happened to that binder. It would be fun to take a look at those pages now.

Q. I imagine, as a young girl of eleven, you were heavily influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries, as is perhaps typical for many girls of that age. What was it about the Nancy Drew mysteries that interested YOU?

A. I loved solving the mysteries along with Nancy and her friends. I loved following the clues along with Nancy.

Q. Your first novel, Unholy Angels, was written over a two-year period and released in 2004. Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since 2004?

A. Yes, writing a novel now does not take me two years. I’m not sure about writing becoming easier, however. I try to challenge myself with each new book, to push beyond my comfort zone. That makes things hairy at times.

Q. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Do you have a fixed routine or do you wait for the muse to strike you, like many writers?

A. I have a work schedule to meet writing deadlines. I find that I need to get business work out of the way before I can write and so I do that first thing and then write in the afternoon. If I’m deep into a book, I will often return to write late at night, continuing into the early hours of the morning. There’s something I love about writing late at night.

Q. You’ve achieved an extensive oeuvre so far in your climb to publishing success. You’ve got three series on the go: The Malice Series, The Protector Series, The Surrender Series. In addition, there are stand-alone books and a Short Story Collection. How do you find the time to keep up with all of this?

A. I know what I’m going to write before I sit down to do the actual writing. I outline each book. I may veer in terms of scenes I’d envisioned in the outline, but I don’t veer from the plot points or when each needs to be presented / revealed in the story.

I know the number of words I need to write each day to meet my deadlines. Things don’t always go according to plan. Life sometimes changes things. I account for that in my writing schedule, just in case.

Q. Who decides whether a series has been tapped out and can go no more, and it’s time to start another—you or your publisher? Can you tell us what factors are employed in determining this?

A. The ones who ultimately decide the fate of a series are the readers. It’s reader interest and support that determine whether or not a series will continue. Fortunately for writers, our readers are awesome and very supportive of their beloved series.

Q. Do you think it will reach the point where ideas for new plots and books will start to tax your creativity? If not, can you share your secret in avoiding this? If you think you might reach that point in future, how do you plan on overcoming this?

A. I don’t think creativity will be taxed. It may seem that way, but I think as we mature as writers, we become more selective of the ideas we choose to turn into books. Life experience and the point we are at in our lives also play a factor, I think.

I love the planning process when all things are possible. I get my creative juices flowing by constantly asking “what if”. I like a nice quiet walk along a beach or a snow-covered path to help me plan.

Q. What kind of research did you do for your books and how much time does it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. Research depends on the plot and the time period in which a book is set. For my historical, I consulted non-fiction books for specific information such as medicines and healing practices of the day.

For every day life, I was fortunate to come across a book written as a journal by people who’d lived during the time period I was writing in. The day-to-day accountings of every day life provided good insight into what it was like to live at that time. I found these accountings lent authenticity to my characters.

For my contemporary books with FBI and other law enforcement characters, I usually consult directly with specific agencies. I also consult with professionals in a given area where a book is set. For example, I needed to know decomposition of a body over a certain time period in hot weather and reached out to a coroner in that area for that specific information.

Regarding the length of time spent on research, it varies, dependent upon how deeply I need to go into a subject. Sometimes, though, I do get carried away. I find research fascinating.

Q. How do you arrive at the names for your characters? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. Other than not naming characters after anyone I know, I choose names at will. I feel like a new parent, taking a look at my newborn for the first time and considering what name would suit my child. : )

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

A. Declaring a book as finished, I think. I tend to go over the material many times before I’m satisfied with it.

Q. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your career be?

A. I can’t imagine doing anything else. : )

Q. Do you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. If I decided to also write in a different genre, I would introduce a pseudonym to distinguish the books.

Q. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of?

A. That sounds like fun, but, no. That might be something to ask my readers about going forward, to include them in a secret.

Q. There are actors who will not see a movie they’ve appeared in, after it’s completed. Do you ever read your books after they are published? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. I keep notes on happenings in each of the series books, but I always reread the last book in a series before I write the next book in that series.

I also reread the last book to regain the feel for the tone of the series. Each series has a different feel to it and I want to be sure to remain true to that tone.

Q. What do you think are the most important magazines/journals for aspiring writers to subscribe to?

A. When I began, I read Writers’ Digest and The Writer. Since the advent of self-publishing, I think a lot of good information can be found online at sites about writing and publishing. A Google search reveals many good sites to explore. It’s wonderful to have access to so much valuable information.

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. Success differs for everyone. I think happiness = success. If writers are happy when writing their stories, then they can count themselves a success.

Q. What’s the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing characters of the opposite sex?

A. I take time to consider outlook. Though faced with the same situation, people will not necessarily view it the same. I like to take time to put both my male and female characters in that same situation to find those differences.

Q. Is writing cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

A. I’ve read of writers who deliberately write about things that frighten them as a way to work through that fear. I’ve been very fortunate and have never experienced anything that has frightened me to a point where it has stayed with me beyond that moment. That said, I do write through things that are troubling me, be they writing related or personal.

Q. Is there a central theme in your books? Is there a common message to the reader?

A. I hope when my readers close one of my books they feel they have read a story in which women are also heroes, each in her own way, each capable of courage, persistence, strong belief in her own abilities, and of giving great love and deserving of it.

Q. If it’s not giving away any trade secrets, what’s your next project / What are you working on now?

A. I’m currently working on the sixth book in my Protectors series.

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Historical Romance Fiction and suspense novels, what would it be?

A. I think to any writer, regardless of genre, I would say, be our own cheerleader. Celebrate each piece of our writing.

Q. Taking into account the massive changes in technology that are spearheading a move towards an electronic medium for books, where do you think the writing profession is heading?

A. It’s a wonderful time to be a writer. We have so many opportunities and outlets for our work. We have the great fortune to be in direct contact with our readers and build friendships. I think this close contact may pave the way for interactive books.

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

A. I love to hear from readers. Please do reach out to me through my website email. Due to writing deadlines and the volume of incoming mail, it may take a while for a response. I appreciate your understanding and your patience. Thank you to all for writing

WEBSITE: https://www.karenfenech.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/KarenFenechsFriends?ref=hl

EMAIL: karen@karenfenech.com

Karen, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Here’s wishing you all the best in your future writing and other endeavours.

Ken, thank you. It’s been so nice spending time with you and your readers.

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Raymond Holmes: Writing

Ray Holmes

Raymond Holmes in Brampton, Ontario.  He writes plays, novellas and short stories. His stories have been published in Unleashed Ink, an anthology created by the Barrie Writers Club, The Northern Appeal, a Simcoe County literary magazine and Commuterlit, a Toronto based ezine. His plays Boris and Hermanand The Lonely Vigil Of Emily Baxterhave been performed at the South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown, Ontario. The latter play was awarded third prize in the 2014 Ottawa Little Theatre Playwriting Contest. His play The Pooman, will be read at the South Simcoe Theatre in June, 2018. Raymond also enjoys making furniture and playing the violin, although he admits to performing the latter activity rather poorly.

 

AN ENEMY IN OUR KITCHEN 

That incident in 1953 when I was nine years old has festered in me ever since; a malignant thing pressing on a nerve. The curtain of carefree, innocent childhood opened to reveal the occasionally hateful, intolerant world of adults.

At public school that year, Rick Sakamoto sat in the desk behind me. Some kids in our class called him names like “slitty-eyed chink.” His race didn’t matter to me. I liked Rick and wanted him for a friend.

A quiet, polite boy, he possessed a remarkable, natural talent for drawing. Anything I drew appeared stick-like and silly, but Rick and his HB pencil made it look effortless. He could sketch military aircraft and war machines that appeared realistic and I admired him for that ability. World War II had been over for eight years by then, but movies and the army surplus stores along Toronto’s Queen Street kept it alive in our imaginations. It was all heroism and excitement to us.

On several occasions I invited Rick to see my collection of model fighter aircraft, but he always declined, offering some excuse. After my birthday, I asked him again.

“We can have chocolate cake and you can see my collection of lead soldiers,” I said.

He accepted. I felt light and excited.

I thought that mild, October day in the classroom would never end. The hands of the wall clock crept like a puddle freezing over. At last the 3:15 p.m. school bell rang and we ran out through the large double doors of the building to my home three blocks away.

Upon entering through the back porch so as not to disturb Dad in his store-front barber shop, my Mother smiled and greeted us as we walked into the kitchen infused with the fragrant aroma of her cooking.

She cut two slabs of dark, three-layer chocolate cake covered with thick icing left over from my birthday the previous Saturday and poured two tall glasses of milk.

We were enjoying this after-school treat when the kitchen door opened and Dad entered. He started to say something to Mom then looked over at us. His mouth curved down; the face twisted and flushed.

“What’s hedoing here?” he said, jerking his head toward Rick.

Mother’s face warped. “Jimmy—please—don’t—” she pleaded, before being cut off by Dad’s yelling.

“You—get out!” he said to Rick. “We don’t want your kind in this house.”

My mind raced and stomach fluttered. What had we done?

Rick’s yellowish complexion whitened. His eyes widened and stared like a cornered animal; right hand suspending a fork in mid-air; unmoving mouth filled with cake.

After a tense, silent interval, my father jabbed a finger at him and spewed a staccato command like a volley of bullets.

“Get – out—of—here—now.”

I watched horrified as Rick laid down his fork, wiped the milky moustache from his mouth with a shirt sleeve, then got up and left. My body stiffened; the skin on my neck and face crawled.

As the screen door on the back porch clicked shut, Dad screamed through the half-opened window, “Don’t ever come back here again,” before returning to his shop, slamming the kitchen door behind him.

The colour slipped from Mother’s ruddy face. She looked down at the floor; white-knuckled hands scrunching her apron into a white rope.

Things had moved so quickly. The world seemed upside down. I wanted to hide.

“What did we do?  What’s wrong?” I burbled, through tears.

Mom’s chin trembled. “You boys didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Then why did Dad yell at Rick and tell him to leave?”

“Because Rick is a Japanese boy,” she said.

Why did that matter? I thought Rick was Chinese like the people who owned the corner restaurant.

“Why did that make Dad so mad?”

“During the war, the Japanese attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbour in 1941,” she explained. “Canada believed they were our enemies, too. Some people, including your father, still hate all Japanese people even though the war is over now.”

“But Rick didn’t do anything bad. That was before he was born.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Then why did Dad blame him?”

“Sometimes grown-ups do, and say things that are wrong and unfair.”

I glanced at the kitchen door leading to the shop and stiffened. Would my father return and punish me?

~~

The next morning I dreaded going to school. Mom yanked the covers off me and said to get up. How could I face Rick sitting behind me in class? I felt ashamed of what had happened.

I pushed breakfast away. Mom sat down beside me and curled her arm around my shoulder.

“Listen. What the military people in Japan did was bad, but Japanese people living here in Canada can’t be blamed for that,” she said. ”What your Dad did was wrong, but the War caused a lot of pain and suffering. War is just a game to you boys, but many people were killed and maimed for life. Some Canadians, including your father, want to blame all Japanese people for what happened no matter where they were born.”

“But that’s not right,” I said.

“I know, but some people can’t forgive what happened in the past.”

“But the bible says we have to forgive others. I don’t understand why Dad can’t forgive.”

“Sometimes when a person feels wronged by a group of people they seek revenge. Innocent people can be hurt.”

“Will you ask Dad to forgive Japanese people and let Rick come here,” I said.

Mother shook her head with eyes sadder than I’d ever seen before.

“I’m afraid my asking him won’t do any good, son, but you must not act the way your father did. Always treat others the way you want to be treated and speak out when bad things are done to them. Wrongs added to wrongs will never make a right. They’ll just make things worse. Hate hurts the hater too.”

“I’m afraid to tell Dad he was wrong. He’ll get mad at me.”

“I understand,” she said. “Perhaps with time your father will realize that what he did was hurtful. Good people like your Dad still have faults.”

She stood up, bent down close to my face, and put her hands on my shoulders. “I want you to do something very important.”

“What?”

“Apologize to Rick. If you do that, I will be very proud of you.”

What could I say that would make the previous day’s hate and abuse go away?

~~

On the slow walk to class my shoes scuffed along the sidewalk. I saw Rick standing alone against the schoolyard fence watching a group of boys kicking a ball around.

What would he do when I approached? Would he strike out at me? I didn’t have the heart to fight back. I kicked at the black cinders covering the yard, avoiding eye contact.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” I mumbled. “My father was wrong to say those things and make you leave our house.”

Rick’s shoulders curled in and he bit his lower lip. He wasn’t angry which surprised me.

“He can’t forgive what Japan did in the war and hates all Japanese people for it,” I said.

Rick raised his head. “It wasn’t your fault. We’re used to it now,” he said.

I knew he was bullied, but did you ever get used to it?

“It happens a lot,” he continued. “My parents moved here to get away from it, but last week a man spit at my father and called him a dirty name.”

“Where did your mom and dad come from?” I asked.

“British Columbia. My father was a fisherman. So was my grandfather and great-grandfather. My Dad had a big boat. We have a picture of it.”

“That province is far away in Western Canada. It’s on the map in our classroom,” I said.

“Mom, Dad and my uncle lived near the ocean. My parents said it was nice. There were mountains and lots of trees.”

“Why did they leave?”

“They had to.”

“Why?”

“The government made them go. They said all Japanese people were Canada’s enemies because of the war.”

“My mother told me about that. She said it wasn’t true.”

Ricks lower lip quivered. “They told my parents they couldn’t live near the ocean any more. The government people came at night and took away their house and everything else. A strange man said Dad’s boat was his now. All they could take with them was a suitcase. Mom cried when she left her house.”

A cold dread penetrated me. How could someone take away everything you own?

“Where did they make them go?”

“To a camp far away from the coast. They gave them a small cabin to live in. I was born there.”

“Gee, that’s awful,” I stuttered.

Rick’s head dropped. Sniffling, he went on. “They worked hard all day growing stuff and stayed there a long time. My uncle hated it, hurt himself, and died. After the war, government people said my parents had to go to Japan or move east. They didn’t know anyone in Japan so they came here. My dad works in a factory now, but he’s sick a lot. Mom has bad dreams and pains in her head.”

“Can’t they go back?” I said. “Wouldn’t things be better there now?”

Rick’s face hardened and his voice elevated. “Dad says there’s nothing to go back to.”

 “I’m sorry,” I said.

A defeated look crossed Rick’s face. He wiped his eyes. “Gotta go now—bye,” he said, before turning and walking away to our classroom.

~~

From then on things weren’t the same between us. I felt guilty about what happened in our house and sorry for his family’s ordeal. My father’s words must have cut his heart like a knife. A barrier arose between us; a wall of hurt that saying “sorry” a thousand times couldn’t break down. He still sat behind me, but we rarely spoke, and he stopped showing me his drawings.

Some boys kept calling him names. I wanted to beat them up for that, but they were bigger and tougher than I was.

After Christmas, Rick moved away. I never saw him again and always wondered what his life had been like. I hope it was good.

~~

Decades later the Canadian government issued an apology to Japanese-Canadians for what was done to them and offered compensation. I read that announcement with adult eyes, and memories of that long-ago day returned like the taste of sour milk.

Many of the Japanese people directly affected by those actions were in their graves by then. They were Canadians; born here, who happened to be of Japanese ethnic origin. The idea that Canada could do that to its rightful citizens was chilling. Could it happen again?

Yes, there was an enemy in our kitchen that day, but it wasn’t little Rick Sakamoto.

The Working Class

These are the working class of the world—the people who perform in mostly labour intensive jobs, at low pay. They do work that is avoided by the middle and upper classes. Without them society would fall apart. And yet, these people labour on, day after day, year after year, never quite receiving the praise they deserve for their menial work.

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Vancouver. BC. Canada. Measure it twice. Cut it once.

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Sint Martin. Neth Antilles. Making a clean sweep of things

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Buenos Aries. Argentina. Some work. Others play.

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Henley. UK. Planning strategy

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Nassau. Bahamas. A painter artist at work.

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Copenhagen. Denmark. All in a day’s work.

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Delhi. India. The Lawn Ranger

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Delhi. India. That pollution can really get to you.

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Rostock. Germany. Keep it in ship shape.

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Tallinn. Estonia. Building it one brick at a time.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Everyone deserves a break.

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St. Petersberg. Russia. Two men aiming for higher things.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Counting the day’s take.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Some jobs are back breaking.

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Helsinki. Finland. Outdoor work is great only in summer.

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HoiAn Vietnam. Mirror mirror on the wall.

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Santiago. Chile. A man who can smile on the job.

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Varpraso. Chile. Waiting for their ship to come in.

 

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Buenos Aires. Argentina. A new coat for a new look

 

Rena Graefner: Poet/ Writer

Rena Flannigan was born in Scotland and many years ago moved to fill her childhood dream to live in Canada.  Her biggest success was becoming the speed skating champion of Scotland and Great Britain.  She became the Canadian Champion at Kempenfeldt Bay, Barrie in 1964.  Always athletic, she was a good tennis player and skier. Later, she found her niche on the dance floor winning trophies for Latin and Ballroom dancing.  Rena was a tailoress, a teacher of Fashion and Design, and she became the Vice-Principal of a private designing school.  These were followed by a career as a Tour Guide and Manager, her all-time favourite occupation.  Now she is learning how to use a computer and wants to be a writer of various genres.

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SPRING, WHERE ARE YOU?

Snowdrops appear

Their bell heads waving in the breeze

There is no sound of ringing

Are they sad because

The April showers are not here

To give them a drink?

Instead of April showers

Bringing the flowers

There are snowflakes

Dancing in the wind

Enough to cover the snowdrops

Holding back other colourful buds

The trees once again have branches of white

There should be green all around

Snow is for winter

It is now Spring, but it is hard to tell

A white carpet covers everything

It is all over the grass and flower beds

Are the buds on the trees also confused?

Are they hiding, waiting for the sun

To warm them and welcome them

To please the souls

Of the winter’s weary people?

Will it end soon is a question we all ask

To see a blue sky during the day

Lifts the spirits and hopes high

The night falls

So does the snow – again

This is not supposed to happen

It is April not bitter winter

Mother Nature fooled us

No snow when it should have been here

Summer in January.  Some days

Shirt sleeve weather,

The climate is so confused

Upside down and back to front

Even the sun is hiding

Above the grey clouds

No warmth can we feel in the air

To lift our spirits out of the doldrums

We must think positive

Spring will come . . . it must.

Janet Naidu -Poet

Janet Naidu was born in Covent Garden, Guyana, a rural village close to the sugar plantations of Farm and Diamond.  Janet comes from humble beginnings—her father worked as a cane cutter and her mother sold greens in the village and in the market place.  She, along with her seven siblings assisted their parents in earning extra income.

Janet has made Canada her home since 1975. In 1973, two of her poems appeared in a small booklet called Heritage. After writing sporadically over the years, her first collection of poems, Winged Heart (1999) was short-listed for the Guyana Prize for Literature, poetry category.  Her other two collections include Rainwater (2005) and Sacred Silence (2009). Her poems capture themes of uprooted movements, nostalgic memories, resettlement, feminism, resilience and survival. Her writings also include essays of cultural and historical themes. Janet Naidu (4)
Her poetry and writings have appeared in news media, online publications, anthologies, referenced in books on Indo Caribbean themes and in the Women’s Journal of the University of the West Indies.

Janet obtained a BA from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London, UK.


Janet, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to focus on your collection Rainwater, in addition to your writing, in general.

Q. At what age did you start to write? What do you remember writing about? Does that writing still exist today?

A. As a teenager I sold greens in the village with my mother and had a notepad to write down credit given to the villagers. I used to also make little sketches and writings at the back pages when I waited for people to purchase items in our baskets. But most significantly, I started writing to pen pals around the world after posting my name and address in a pen pal magazine. I had pen pals from New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, USA and many other countries. It was during this time, I entered into writing to pen pals around the world, telling them about my family life at home, and life in Guyana. I used to get creative, talking about simple things in the village, like when the sugar cane would burn and the cane dust would come through our windows. I made it sound exciting. Living in Canada, I am often taken back to that time when I was care free and thoughts of the natural world flowed so greater then. This reflection continues to influence my writing.

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Story Of The Month

NOTE: “The Story Of The Month” changes every month OR bi-monthly and might also have been featured in my collection DOWN INDEPENDENCE BOULEVARD published by MiddleRoad Publishers in 2017 and available on Amazon, or might be an Extract from my two novels RACING WITH THE RAIN and JUNTA.

FOR MORE WRITING LIKE THIS CHECK OUT

Down Independence Boulevard: and other stories
by Ken Puddicombe
Link: http://a.co/4Fy5oBg

 

2017

December -The Touch Of Peace

2018

Jan – The Interview

Feb – The Underground [2nd Prize Polaris Magazine]

Mar -Welcome  To Punta Canada

APR – Return Of The Prodigal [from Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories]

MAY- No Thank You

JUNE – The Shoplifter

JULY/ AUGUST: The Last Straw [from Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories]

SEPTEMBER/ OCTOBER: Relics In The Attic [from Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories]

 

RELICS IN THE ATTIC ©

[featured in DOWN INDEPENDENCE BOULEVARD AND OTHER STORIES available at Amazon and in eReaders]

“Lillian, are you okay? You don’t look too well,” Shirley said.

“Yes,” Anita said, “I’ve never seen you looking so drawn and pale. And skinny, or mawgre, as Father would say.”

“I’ll be okay,” Lillian said. “I just need to sit down for a while.”

Late that afternoonwas the first time Lillian had been able to relax, and when she sat on the large sofa in the living room, the stress, not only of the day, but of the entire week seemed to overwhelm her. It was then she realised how much she had neglected her own well-being in catering to all the visitors who had come to the house after the funeral.“Wow, I thought they would never leave,” Shirley said, as she plopped onto the sofa with Lillian. There was a perceptible groan from the springs of the sofa.

“I know,” Anita said. She was sitting across from her two sisters. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many people from Guyana in one place. Where did they all come from? Most of them I’ve never seen before in my life. For a while I thought they were coming out of the woodwork.” She looked around, down the hallway, into the kitchen, up the ramp to the top floor where the bedrooms were located, then back to her two sisters. She giggled. “Are you sure some of them didn’t move in?”

 Shirley sucked her teeth. “I bet you half of them didn’t even know Father. They must be friends of friends of friends. All you have to do is spread the word that somebody dead, and they all turn up.”

“I for one am glad he had such a good turnout,” Lillian said.

Anita laughed. “Do you think they came for the free food and the coffee and biscuits?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Shirley sucked her teeth, again. “You know how Guyanese people stay. They turn every occasion into a social event. And look at the mess they made all over the house.” She waved at the plastic cups and plates lying around, in stacks on the kitchen table, on top of the china cabinet, a few balanced on the heating grill.

“Father would have been pleased, though,” Lillian said.

Anita chuckled. “Only because it wasn’t too expensive to do it.”

“That’s true,” Lillian said.

“It’s a good thing we didn’t have any rum,” Shirley said. “That’s the way they hold a wake in Guyana, you know. Father told me. They pitch a tent in the front yard and the whole village turn up. They bring out bottles of rum and they drink and play dominoes all night, way into the morning. Sometimes they even end up fighting.”

“Only, Father wouldn’t say way into the morning. He would say: Until fowl cock crow,”Anita said.

Shirley scowled. “It goes on like that for days and days. They have music, and sometimes they play drums and sing. Late at night they bring out coffee and have biscuits with it. Is all like one big party. Nobody want to go home.”

“It was the same when mummy died, back there,” Lillian said. Nineteen sixty-six; twenty-four years ago. She remembered it well, as well as an eleven year old can recall something that changed her life, forever.

Lillian found it hard to believe her father was no longer around, even though it was less than six hours ago she had seen his body lowered into the cold, unforgiving earth. She’d never given much thought to what life would be like without his constant presence in the house and almost everything reminded her of him. The wheelchair was there, in its usual spot by the window in the living room. It was where he sat to see the comings and goings on the street. His footrest was still in front of the chair, so was the end table where he would reach over with his one good left hand for his teacup. On top of the end table was a lamp—he read the newspapers late into the evening with the light from that lamp.

 “Well, I’m glad it’s all over,” Shirley said. She shifted her weight on the sofa and the springs screeched, again.

“Yes,” Anita said. “Funerals are so long and stressful.”

“That sounds like something Father would have said,” Lillian mumbled.

“Yes,” Anita said, and laughed. She stood up, pulled her spectacles down to the base of her nose bridge and looked over the top. “Do you remember how many times over the last few years that he said: I want a simple funeral, just a simple funeral, just something with minimum fuss.” She snorted and dropped back onto her seat.

“He always said there was no practical reason to spend too much money on a funeral,” Lillian said. “He felt the same way about weddings. Why spend too much money? After all, you never know if the marriage is going to last.”

Anita laughed. She took a deep breath, exhaled and cleared her throat before she began. “If ah didn’ waste money when ah was living, why do it when I’m dead. If no one want to bury me, then you can just chuck me body out in de street. Let the government tekh care of me. After all, what they goin’ do—allow my body to remain in the street and rot?” Then, she held her stomach and laughed uncontrollably, her pearl earrings bobbing up and down on her long ear lobes.

The sounds of children playing drifted through the open window and mingled with Anita’s convulsive laughter. Father loved to sit by the window and watch the children. He sat there, long into the summer night, sipping the tea Lillian kept replenishing. She wondered at times what he was thinking. Did it take him back to his own upbringing in British Guiana, to the childhood he said he never had? It was something he was most proud of—out of school at thirteen when his father died of malaria, into the workforce to help support the family, yet managing to complete his education by way of evening classes.

After Anita’s laughter subsided, there was silence in the room. They all seemed to be buried in their own thoughts.

It was a stillness that ran deep and absolute for Lillian. For the first time since her father’s death, three days ago, she was now feeling the void. It reminded her of the house on Punt Trench Road, La Penitence, back in colonial days. She had lived there for the first fifteen years of her life, before they came to Toronto. She remembered the punts passing every day in the canal in front of the house, pulled by huge Massey-Ferguson tractors, the large wheels sometimes spinning in the deep morass created in the dirt road during the rainy season. For most of those years, she had lived with the deafening resonance of engines labouring to haul the convoy of punts laden with sugar-cane stalks or molasses. In-between the sound of the tractors, was the occasional clang of metal and the frequent jangle of chains as the punts banged against one another or the chains grazed against the wooden partofffortifying the road from the incursion of the canal. After a while it became a part of her subconscious. Then, one day, the sugar estate closed, the canal was filled in with dirt the name changed to Independence Boulevard, and the punts stopped coming. In the eerie ensuing silence, she thought there was something missing from her life.

Shirley said: “Actually, I meant, I’m glad it’s all over. I’m glad he’s dead and gone.”

The two sisters looked up quickly. Anita frowned. Lillian stared, not really believing her sister could say something so cruel, despite her brusque reputation.

“Don’t look at me like that. The two of you think the same way, too. You can’t tell me you’re not glad he’s finally out of his misery. Especially you, Lillian—you had the brunt of it ever since the accident. You had all the cooking, washing and cleaning up after him; every single day and night. And the amount of times he had you running back and forth to take him food and medicine. For eighteen years you put up with this. You must have grown fed up over the whole situation.”

The part about having to take care of him was true. Ever since he lost his right arm in the blender at the pharmaceutical company where he worked, she’d dropped out of school and taken care of him. It hadn’t been easy over the years, the problem compounded when he developed diabetes. First, he lost all his toes, then both legs had to be amputated and he was confined to a wheelchair. But, as rough as it was, she’d never been discontented about the time she spent caring for him.

“That’s not fair, Shirl,” Anita said. “I never did hear Lill complain, not once.”

“Yes, but it doesn’t mean she liked what she was doing,” Shirley said. “And besides, I didn’t hear you make any offers to relieve her during all that time.”

“And neither did you…”

Lillian interrupted them. “I did it all for Father. He deserved it, after the hard life he had back in Guyana.” An awful sense of loneliness suddenly crushed her. She took a deep breath, exhaled, and shook her head. She could feel her lips quiver, as she added: “The two of you were much too young to know about that.”

It was true. Shirley was six, Anita just five when their mother passed away. After their mother’s death back in 1966 Lillian had the responsibility of raising her two younger sisters and it was the same when they came to Canada.

From where she sat, Lillian’s field of vision took in the ground floor: the dining room, the living room, the ramp leading up to Father’s bedroom. Three other bedrooms made up the back split. She had one and her sisters the other two, until they were married and moved out.

Suddenly, Anita grew excited. Her voice came across energized and high-pitched.  She said: “Do you remember when we went to New York? All three of us?”

“Sure I remember. And, how can Lill forget it. That’s about the only time Father ever let her out of his sight. And only after we begged and pleaded with him.”

“Yes,” Anita said. “He kept saying: You don’ know the perils a single girl with no experience can face in a big city like that. That was so funny. There was Lill, older than both of us, and Father was worried that she might get into trouble. Meanwhile, he never gave a second thought to the two of us, just because we were already married.”

“Father was just old-fashioned in his ways,” Lillian said.

“It was more like he was concerned about who would take care of him when you were gone,” Shirley said.

Anita snickered. “Little did he know—we were the ones who planned the whole thing from the very start. Can you remember the night Doreen arranged for the trip to the night-club, and we took Lill with us?”

“Of course I remember. I remember Doreen too—the scheming witch, trying to fix up Lillian with her brother-in-law, Amar.”

“Well, you made a few plans on your own too, didn’t you?” Anita said.

“What do you mean by that?”

“You’re the one who arranged for our husbands to go to Times Square, fully knowing they would jump to the idea and end up in a strip joint, leaving us free to go to a nightclub on our own.”

 “Yes, that part of it worked out good,” Shirley said. “But still, Doreen should never have planned that hook-up with her brother-in-law in the first place.”

“Well, she’s yoursister-in-law. You should have known what she was up to.”

“How did you expect me to know? I don’t read minds.”

“Well, we had fun, anyhow. Girl, I never seen Lill having such a good time. Our big sister, dancing up a storm and flirting with Doreen’s brother-in-law.”

Lillian had her own reasons for remembering the trip.

Since coming to Canada, it was the first time she was going to be away from home, and yet, indecision had plagued her, because she was leaving Father alone—the first time since the accident. Even after she had arranged for someone to come in and care for him, she was still reluctant to go, because she knew that if he suddenly took ill while she was away, she would be racked by guilt for the rest of her life.

So, they had gone to the El Dorado Nightclub in Brooklyn; she, her two sisters and Doreen. Amar had turned up later.

Anita, Shirley and Doreen went off to the dance floor and she was left alone at the table with Amar, worried that he might ask her to dance, yet hoping that he would. They sat there, the two of them, not looking at each other at first, and slowly sipping their drinks. It was her first glass of wine. She had hesitated, worried about what Father would say if he found out she had been drinking alcohol. And when Amar finally asked her to dance, she had jumped to his request and gone to the dance floor. It was the closest she’d ever been to a man.

Shirley broke into Lillian’s thoughts. “It’s a pity you didn’t manage to persuade Father to turn over the property to us before he died.”

Anita cleared her throat. “Don’t you think it’s a bit too early to be talking about that? The man’s just been buried!”

“What do you mean by early? We’ve been talking about this for a long time. You know what a big problem it is to get an estate settled and the inheritance taxes you have to pay. It would have been so much easier if he’d just turned it over to us while he was alive.”

“I still can’t understand why he didn’t do it,” Anita said.

“It’s because he was just a selfish old man who didn’t care for anyone else but himself. He was always like that. All through his life.”

“That’s a very cruel thing to say about Father,” Lillian said. “He’s the reason why we’re here in Canada. We’re lucky that we’re not back in Guyana.”

“I did ask him about it once,” Anita said. She cocked her head to the left and raised her eyebrows high, looking over her glasses. “Eh eh, little girl, is not time for me to bite the dust just yet.And you know, he wouldn’t talk to me anymore about it.”

Shirley turned to her older sister. “Did he discuss it with you, Lill?”

“I did ask him, as recently as last month.”

“So, what did he say?”

“He didn’t see the need to rush things.”

Shirley pouted. “Rush things, my big foot. He just didn’t want to make things too easy for us, did he?”

Lillian thought about it. She recalled her father’s reaction. Eh eh, girl,you plotting with you two sisters to turn me out of the house an’ dump me in a nursing home? What you think, I come to this country to go live with a bunch of old people? She tried to reassure him she would never allow this to happen but he refused to discuss the matter further.

“We must decide what we’re going to do with all his stuff,” Shirley said.

Anita groaned. “Oooh, can’t we leave it for another day? I’m dead tired from all that standing and walking today.”

“What are you so tired about? If anyone should be tired, it should be me, and Lill. We did most of the work over the last three days.”

Anita laughed. “Your tiredness got nothing to do with the amount of work. Is because of all that weight you put on. Even the sofa can feel it when you sit down!”

Shirley’s face turned red. Her eyes narrowed. She crossed her legs on the sofa. “My full body still looks better than your skinny ass in that cheap black dress you wearing.”

Anita ignored the remark. “I still think we should do it later.”

“When are we going to find time? We’re both busy rushing around all over the place with our kids these days. No, now that we’re staying over the night with Lill, this is the best time. Besides, we’re going to have to start cleaning it up sooner or later, if we’re to sell the house and divide the money.”

“I suppose there’s no better time than now,” Lillian said. “Better to get it over with.”

“Then, we must start in the attic,” Shirley said.

 

Lillian collected the bunch of keys from the top drawer of her father’s desk. She and her two sisters squeezed, single file, up the narrow flight of stairs to the attic.

A sudden rush of dank, musty air assaulted her nostrils and sent her into a coughing fit as she opened the door. Her throat constricted and her eyes watered.

adult attic bathroom bathtub

Anita shrank away from the entrance to the attic. “Good God, what did he keep up here, anyway. It smells like something died and went to hell,” she said, as she clamped and unclamped her long, thin nose with her fingers.

Lillian stepped into the room, found the wall switch and flipped it. Anita and Shirley followed. The glow from the overhead bulbs combined with the afternoon sunlight streaming through the skylight, was enough light for Lillian to be able to take in the area with a sweeping glance.

The entire attic was filled with her father’s possessions and the atmosphere reeked of his presence. It was the one place in the house he never allowed her to clean or rearrange. It was now his pharaoh’s tomb—his very own preserve he might have been keeping for an afterlife. Even after he was confined to his wheelchair, he would not allow her to touch anything. If it had been up to her, she would have tossed out many of the items long ago. She thought it was strange: an attic of relics accumulated by a man who made light banter about the disposal of his own remains.

Lillian watched as her sisters rushed around like two children let lose in a toy store. They poked and prodded, shifted and lifted stuff, uncovering items that were draped with sheets of plastic or old, discarded bed-sheets. They seemed to have forgotten the main purpose of their visit as they went on a voyage of discovery.

“Look at all these newspapers,” Anita said from the far corner, under the part of the roof just where the ceiling sloped into a sixty-degree angle. “What was he keeping all these for?” There were several towers of newspapers, all neatly stacked against the wall.

“Father didn’t believe in throwing out things,” Lillian said. She knew there were items in the attic brought over from Guyana. Her father’s sentimental attachment to the old country had never wavered, despite all his ranting and raving about the tyrannical aspects of the post-independence period, regardless of his assertion that he was never going back to That God Forsaken Place.

“Ah, this is what he was doing,” Anita said. She had picked up and opened a large binder lying on the floor next to the newspapers. “He was making a scrap book about Guyana. There must be some interesting stories in here—I’m going to keep it.”

Lillian noticed items she had encountered in her rare visits to the attic: a small writing desk with three legs, one end held up by stacks of newspapers; an old green sofa against a wall—its arms were missing. She walked over and took a seat on the sofa. Next to the sofa was a polished wood cabinet with missing doors, drawers still intact. So many items, all there, it seemed, as mute testimony to a man who might have been hoarding things for old age instead of someone who was turning eighty-two at the time of his death.

There was a large picture-frame stuck between the vent pipe and the wall. It was a wedding picture of her father and mother. Their eyes seemed to follow her movement around the room. She remembered it hanging on a wall in the house back in Guyana, and then it had disappeared. He didn’t want to be reminded, her father had said. As she glanced at the picture, she thought of the number of times people had told her of her resemblance to her mother. About how she had the same flushed cheeks of a young bride; eyes that danced in the sunlight; a smile that lit up a room when she entered.

“Oh, look: a picture of mummy and daddy when they were married,” Anita said. “I want this one.” She picked up the picture, wiped the dust from the glass with her sleeve, just as the top portion of the frame disconnected from the body. The frame fell to the floor and the glass shattered, sending a mushroom of dust rising in the air.

“Oh no,” Anita said. “Maybe Father’s still up here, somewhere.” She looked around and made a three hundred and sixty degree sweep of the attic.

“Don’t be stupid, girl,” Shirley said. “The man done dead and gone. He’s never coming back.”

“May he rest in peace,” Lillian whispered.

At the far end of the attic, Lillian saw a huge trunk on the floor. It was the trunk her father had brought with him from Guyana. There were also two old wheelchairs with broken arms, facing each other, as if they were both engaged in a conspiracy to keep intimate secrets from her and her sisters. All he had ever done in his later years was to sit in his wheelchair in the living room, his lap covered with a thick woollen blanket.

There was a vagrant breeze whispering through the eaves. She was sure she heard her father’s voice. “Lill, girl, would it be too much trouble fuh you to bring me some more hot tea?” His commands were always couched in solicitous language, but there was no denying the implication: she lived under his roof and was there to serve him.

She’d always kept a pot on the stove. He liked his tea brewed strong and served piping hot. No tea bags for him, and no fancy china. He liked it in a large mug, his fingers wrapped around as he blew and sipped, inhaling the steam spiralling upwards in concentric rings.

Something scampered along the wall—a mouse perhaps. A floorboard squeaked. Anita was digging deeper into the stacks of newspapers. Shirley was moving stuff around, sorting them into two piles, one she meant to take with her, the other to be relegated to the scrap heap.

Several large buckets were filled with empty vials. Over the years he had accumulated enough to start his own pharmacy. And she thought it was ironic—the way he collected things and stuck them in the attic when they were no longer usable. She thought of her mother—a twenty-year old in an arranged marriage to a forty-year old man. After his three daughters were born, her father had divorced her mother and left her to fend for herself.

The large trunk: She wondered what was inside.

It was locked: a large padlock hanging from the latch. She pulled out the bunch of keys from her pocket and checked out several, until she came to a key that opened it.

There was a top layer of clothes in the trunk, green khaki shirts with the name of the company he worked for, Future Pharmaceuticals emblazoned on them. Below the shirts was a tier of green pants, then, green t-shirts. She had no idea why he had stored all the old company uniforms. It was not as if he was going to return to work—he couldn’t, not with one good arm and a body that was shattered after the accident. She started to peel away the clothing, stacking the pieces neatly on the end table. They would be of use to the Salvation Army.

In-between two of the layers a package fell on the floor, kicking up a minor dust storm, sending her into a sneezing fit. She sat down on the table and covered her face with her scarf.

At first, Lillian thought it might be documents her father had brought from Guyana, but as she picked up the package and examined it, she realised it was a bundle of envelopes, all strapped together neatly, the edges even and flat, the scent of the old clothes clinging with stubbornness. The elastic bands holding the bundle snapped easily at the edges as she tried to pry the letters apart, as if they were satisfied they had done their duty and could now pass on their burden. Even after pieces of elastic fell to the floor the envelopes clung together and she fanned them in her hands, like a bank teller would agitate a bundle of freshly minted notes to take them apart.

She saw shadows passing across the bundle and she turned to see Shirley and Anita standing over her.

“Is it something important?” Shirley said.

“No, just a bundle of old letters,” Lillian replied.

Anita was always the spontaneous one. “Oh, this is where all those letters disappeared to,” she said. And then, she suddenly gasped, covered her mouth and looked at Shirley, who promptly sucked her teeth.

“What letters are you talking about?” Lillian said.

There was no response and Lillian returned to the bundle, rifling through the envelopes, checking the addresses. Here were a couple of letters to her father; one to Shirley; one for Anita. Most of them were for her, addressed to Miss Lillian Persaud, 9999 Dunn Avenue, Toronto. They had all been slit-opened at the top. How could this be, she wondered. She’d never received them.

The envelopes all had U.S. stamps with thick lines wavering across the postmark. “What letters are you talking about?” Lillian said, again, her curiosity fast turning to puzzlement. But there was no response from her sisters.

Lillian took the top envelope from the heap, opened it and extracted the letter. She unfolded the crisp paper and spread it on her lap. It was dated 5thApril, 1988.

“Dear Lillian,” she read, “I am writing you again. Your memory is still fresh in my mind, as fresh as that night we met-up on your visit to New York.

 “You danced so well that night. I found it hard to believe that it was your first time. And when you told me that you take care of your father full time, I started thinking that you must be the kindest person I ever did meet. I know you might find this hard to believe, but until I meet up with you, I never had the nerve to ask anyone for a dance before. Maybe it was being alone with you that gave me the courage. Something told me that you were lonely like me, that you also needed someone badly too…”

She looked at the other envelopes in the stack. The memories came rushing back. She thought: how could this have happened?

They had danced in the club, so crowded that movement was restricted to a slow shuffle on the floor—once around and back again for every song. Amar held her so close that she could feel his warmth seeping through her dress and invading every part of her body. When they finally came back to the table, he sat next to her, held her hand, rubbed his leg against hers and whispered for her to go outside with him. She had hesitated, scared about what going outside might mean to him, to her, about how her sisters would react, and what Father would say if he ever found out?

Even as she had given it a second thought, Shirley said it was time to leave. Anita quickly agreed.

Over the next two days Amar had come to the house where they were staying in New York, supposedly to visit his brother and sister-in-law, but she always felt that he was coming to see her.

“I was even more pleased to see you at my brother’s place before you returned to Canada and I started thinking we might have a future together, especially after you give me your address when I said I wanted to write you. I been writing these letters over the last three years hoping you might still reply. I even write direct to your father, asking him for your hand in marriage. I was thinking that he might agree to my proposal if I take this approach—you did tell me he still had old-fashioned ways from Guyana.”

She had thought of Amar long after her return to Toronto. For several weeks, she went around like someone who had been given another lease on life after a close brush with death. Even Father had said that she looked different—he noticed her eating habits had changed and commented that she was even putting on weight. But, as the weeks passed, the images of the trip became more fleeting, just so many thoughts slipping through her grasp, a flash through the brain cells, here, then gone, the memory haunting her for the rest of the day. And, always she ended up thinking things might have been different if she had remained a few more days and seen more of Amar.

 “I even write to your two sisters, Anita and Shirley. At first, I was thinking that the address must be wrong, but when none of my letters come back to me, I realise that you must be receiving them and don’t want anything to do with me. I realise that it was all a fantasy, something that could never be reality. So, this will be my last letter to you…Amar.”

She folded the letter—it collapsed easily, once along the length, once across the width and then it looked flat and neat, like one of the working shirts that she had to iron for Father on Sunday night in preparation for the working week ahead. She picked up the stack of envelopes and counted them. There were twelve letters—the first one dated the same year of her visit to New York.

She looked up to see both Shirley and Anita staring at her. Shirley was pouting—her thick bottom lip protruding in her usual obstreperous and defiant way. Anita was speechless—the first time in a long time Lillian could recall her sister being at a loss for words.

“It was for your own good, anyhow,” Shirley said.

For a moment, Lillian stared at the bundle, then she shook her head and tried to stem the flow of tears that cascaded down her cheeks onto the envelope. By the time she was ready to put the envelope away, her name was smudged and obliterated beyond recognition.

END

Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories

A taxi driver notices the changes in Independence Boulevard since freedom was gained from Britain. A free-wheeling spirit spends his time gambling and engaging in riots. A man is sentenced to death for the murder of his lover. Two women escape racial conflict and seek a better life at home and abroad. A housewife has faced the last straw with her husband. A mailman is caught in the middle of the World Trade Centre terrorist attack. These are some of the characters encountered in this engaging collection of short stories from the pen of Ken Puddicombe.

Amazon link: Down Independence Boulevard: and other stories
by Ken Puddicombe
Link: http://a.co/djDIyAZ

 

 


 

 

Michael Joll

MJoll New Background for CS

Author Michael Joll

Born in England during the Late Pleistocene Age, Michael Joll has called Canada home since shortly after Confederation. He has held many jobs, from selling Continental Delicatessen in Selfridges on Oxford Street in London, to temporary part time deck hand and purser on a car ferry plying the North Reach of the Bay of Quinte. In between he was gainfully employed for forty years too many. Retired since 2004 (“The hours are great, the pay not so much”) he has spent most of that time writing fiction. He has been a Brampton, Ontario since the mid-1970s with a wife (his own) and the memories of the dogs with whom he has been privileged to share his life.


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Book Review – Down Independence Boulevard and other stories

NO better reward for a writer than to see his work acknowledged!

90rollsroyces

I found out about this book by Ken Puddicombe on Rosaliene Bacchus’ blog – Three Worlds One Vision. Read her fantastic review of this book – Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories by Ken Puddicombe. 

I wanted to read this book since its based in Guyana and the steady diet of American/British based novels was getting too boring. I am glad I read the book because it has given me an idea for a book of my own. I don’t like short stories – so I never buy a short story collection by any author, but this book is very interesting because its a series of short stories that are all interlinked. Just loved that style.

I learnt a lot of new things – the presence of Indians in Guyana for one. I knew that there were Indians in the West Indies because some of them play for the…

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