CAT PICTURES: A LOOK BACK

My phone is full of them.

So is my computer. Cat photos! I can’t stop taking another and another and another…!

But what about all those I took before?

The ones from years ago? Those cats are no longer with me, but the pictures remind me of every loving one. Let’s take a look.

Big Red

Going all the way back to May 2013, the picture I chose as the banner for this blogsite.

Top: Tinkerbelle – Left: Big Red – Middle: Dirty Harry – Right: Little

November 2013, when I had all four.

~ Dirty Harry ~
1998 – 2014

 

~Lux~

Lux, the 911 Cat, came for a foster visit and stayed in my heart ever since.

 

~Little~

Little was with me the longest, having been adopted when she was two.

~Oscar~

Oscar is the first cat I’ve needed to return to the shelter. He was a lovely boy but bullied Little mercilessly. He was adopted by someone else as an only cat.

~Tyler~

Then came Tyler. After years on the streets, he’s happy to be safe at home.

~Blaze~

Blaze my sweet foster success. My fragile boy.

~Ginchan~

Ginchan! Old cats rule!

~Jaimz~

Another Foster success, little hyperthyroid boy.

Tyler, Ginchan, Jaimz

 

Posted in Cats, photography | Tagged | 8 Comments

SHE IS STILL WITH ME

Yesterday. June ninth. My mother’s birthday.

I didn’t celebrate. I didn’t mention it to anybody. I didn’t put it up on Facebook. But she knows I remember. Always remember.

I like to picture her there in Heaven, surrounded by cats and flowers and her family that had gone before. When she died, I dreamed she told me she was cold. With all those cats gathered around her, I know she can’t be cold anymore.

Say her name: Mary Elizabeth Kable Rubin. She is always with me. A photo on the dresser; a journal on the shelf. We were close; memories abound.

Happy Birthday, Mommy.

Posted in Life Through Amber, memoir | 12 Comments

IT WAS THE THIRD OF JUNE…

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day. I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay…

Today is June third.

I’ve posted before about the enigmatic ballad sung by Bobbie Gentry back in the sixties. It’s been more than 50 years since she produced the haunting song that had a whole generation wondering: What did Billy Joe Macallister really throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? Half a century later, we still don’t know.

Though speculation ran from flowers to a baby, no one ever got Gentry to commit. In 1976, a film was made based on the song, it’s interpretation including a homosexual theme. Herman Raucher, the screenplay’s writer, asked  Bobbie Gentry about the song:

“I said, ‘You don’t know why he jumped off the bridge?’ She said, ‘I have no idea.’”

What does it mean?

Even more intriguing is the meaning of the song itself. A handwritten page of Gentry’s original lyrics had been found. It began with a verse she never recorded and with the first line crossed out.

Sally Jane Ellison’s been missing since the first week in June. People don’t see Sally Jane in town any more. There’s a lot o’ speculatin’, she’s not actin’ like she did before. Some say she knows more than she’s willin’ to tell. But she stays quiet and a few think it’s just as well. No one really knows what went on up on Choctaw Ridge the day that Billy Jo McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge. —University of Mississippi’s Archives and Special Collections

In the published lyrics, Sally Jane became the unnamed female narrator who was only present with Billy Joe throwing something off the bridge. What it means has more to do with the nature of the ballad than the story.

The story itself has many dramatic elements— Billy Joe’s apparent suicide and the bridge-tossing mystery— that its true meaning was lost on the youth of the mid-sixties, as it has been lost ever since.

It doesn’t matter what they threw off the bridge. More ominous than Billy Joe’s suicide, more menacing than the couple throwing something off the bridge, more heartbreaking than the lonely narrator picking flowers up on Choctaw Ridge is the blatant apathy of the family to the tragedies going on around them. The true theme of the song is indifference.

“The song is a first-person narrative that reveals a Southern Gothic tale in its verses by including the dialog of the narrator’s family at dinnertime on the day that “Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.” Throughout the song, the suicide and other tragedies are contrasted against the banality of everyday routine and polite conversation.” —Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode_to_Billie_Joe

Published Lyrics:

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, y’all, remember to wipe your feet
And then she said, I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie BridgeAnd papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There’s five more acres in the lower forty I’ve got to plow
And mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie BridgeAnd brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
I’ll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don’t seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie BridgeAnd mama said to me, child, what’s happened to your appetite?
I’ve been cookin’ all morning, and you haven’t touched a single bite
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie BridgeA year has come and gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe
And brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going ’round; papa caught it, and he died last spring
And now mama doesn’t seem to want to do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Bobbie Gentry

Ode to Billie Joe lyrics © Spirit Music Group

In this photograph from the November 10, 1967 issue of Life magazine, Bobbie Gentry strolls across the Tallahatchie Bridge in Money, Mississippi. The bridge collapsed in June 1972.

Posted in Death & Dying, Health, Wellness, Lifestyle, Life Through Amber | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

HOW WE GRIEVE

For Bear, Roman, Gracie, and all the others, gone too soon.

It is in our nature as humans to dismiss death until it stands up and hits us in the face. Yet there is no escaping it. These past few weeks have brought such an end to three beloved cats who held unique places in their humans’ lives. A blogger, a friend, and a family member—their stories are different, but the end result is the same. They are bereft, overcome with grief and loss.

So what now? What do we do when we wake up in the morning and go to bed at night with our hearts aching for that one special cat who is no longer purring beside us? There is no getting around the hurt. There is no replacing the one who has gone. We are left to deal with a new, smaller life. But how?

Create something. Make something in memorial to your cat. I crochet. Sometimes it’s just a square, and others, it turns into a complete memorial blanket in the colors of the cat. Black, blue, brown, and silver for my beloved Tinkerbelle; Yellow and rust red for Big Red. Each time I warm myself under that blanket, I think of them.

A painting or coloring project, a collage or photographic tribute such as a cup or plate, a poem or story—these are just a few of the creative options for tangibly expressing our love and loss.

Positive impact: Doing creative projects utilizes a different part of the brain, allowing a healthy, healing flow of energy that helps us to let go.

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash

Meditate: Meditation can be as simple as concentrating on one’s breaths, or as complex as creating a setting and a ritual to carry it out. Making a place dedicated to our cat can be helpful. A candle, a vase of catnip, a favorite toy, a collar—anything that focuses our love on positive memories, the ones before the pain.

Positive impact: Meditation and controlled breathing are proven to be beneficial to both body and mind.

Physical activity: Run, walk, dance, work in the garden—whatever our personal favorite exercise might be. It should be something we love and don’t view as a chore. Nothing can diminish our grief, but the more energy we expend physically, the more that grief becomes right-sized.

Positive impact: The action of exercise works to unlock us, not just in a physical sense, but mentally as well. Doing something we love makes it even more beneficial.

Two beautiful products from independent artists.

Whisker Tributes, by Volana Kote

Handmade custom jewelry from real fallen whiskers. All designs can be customized with your own pet’s whiskers, too! ^..^

In the sick days before Blaze crossed Beyond, he was confined to his bed. One day I found a single white whisker that he had dropped there. I’d heard of Volana Kote and the beautiful jewelry she made using cat whiskers, so I looked her up. I was so disappointed when I read that she needed three to four whiskers to make a pendant—I only had the one. But I didn’t give up. I contacted her and told her my story. She was happy to oblige and helped me pick a pendant that would work.  She offers many sizes and background colors, and her work is both unique and understatedly stunning.

Memorial Votive, by Bernadette

Custom Pet Memorial Votives using images you provide. During the day your votive captures ambient light even without the candle, but in the evening, when the candle is lit, the flickering light through your pet’s face in a darkened area is warm and intimate.

I have not yet purchased one of these votives, but I know Bernadette’s work as she is a fellow member of the Cat Writers’ Association. She consistently wins awards for her art, and her work with cat rescue is a reward in itself.

*I received no compensations from either Volana Kote or Bernadette for including their products in my blogpost.

To all of you who have ever lost a cat (or other beloved companion) I grieve with you. However we choose to express our grief is up to us. There is no wrong way as long as we do it with love.

Posted in Cats, Death & Dying, Health, Wellness, Lifestyle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

EVERYTHING WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE NEW KINDLE VELLA

 

Introducing a new storytelling option: Kindle Vella. With Kindle Vella, U.S. based authors can publish serialized stories, one short episode at a time. In the next few months, readers will be able to access Kindle Vella stories in the Kindle iOS app and on Amazon.com.—the KDP Publishing website

—the KDP Publishing website

What We Know:

Whether you’re an author or a reader, you have probably heard the buzz about Amazon’s latest storytelling option, Kindle Vella. The word, “Vella,” comes from “novella,” which is defined as a short novel or long short story. The Kindle Vella format is aimed at people who may not want to commit to a full-length book but would enjoy reading short fiction on their mobile phones and devices. Unlike short stories, however, these tales will be serialized and can go on and on, one episode at a time. Think soap opera or television story arc.

Episodes will be between 600 and 5,000 words, though I’m guessing most will lie at the lower, shorter end. Like any good addiction, the first three episodes will be free. After that, readers purchase tokens at a minimal cost to unlock future segments of stories that catch their interest. Readers can highlight their favorites, and the most popular faves will be featured on the site.

   

The look of the page is sleek and pleasant. There is a single piece of cover art, shaped in a circle. The text formatting is simple and easy to read with no weird fonts, special characters, or dingbats. At the end of each episode, there is the “A Note from the Author” feature. This is a fun place for the author to engage the reader, giving added details, presenting thoughts or acknowledgements, or teasing the next instalment.

Kindle Vella is promoting its new product everywhere. There are other serialized reading platforms such as Wattpad, Goodnovel, and Radish, but Amazon is doing it’s best to launch Kindle Vella from the front of the line. Many authors, including myself, plan to have chapters ready to go on day one. Some will put their whole story up at once, where others will present a new chapter at short intervals. All content will be brand new because of Kindle Vella’s exclusivity clause: if it’s on Vella, it can’t be anywhere else.

What We Don’t Know:

There are gaps in the information Amazon has released about Kindle Vella. Top on the list is the launch date. Their initial April statement was, “in the next few months.” Rumors have it going live in June, but there is no basis I can find for that besides wishful thinking.

We don’t know how much authors will make from their hard work. One blogger’s guess compared a twenty-chapter story to one ebook. That’s if someone reads it of course.

We don’t know if Amazon intends to take this platform beyond Kindle iOS. It would be nice to think we could read it anywhere, not just on an iPhone.

We don’t know if people will read our stories. First they have to find them using tag words. But what if your story doesn’t fit into an easy tag? Like everything Amazon, the author will be doing the heavy lifting publicity-wise.

 

Stay tuned for more things we don’t know about what’s going on in the writing community! And watch for Kindle Vella, coming (sometime) soon!

Here’s my story and a short excerpt from the first episode:

TIME BEING

An elderly woman travels through time to significant points in her life, but things are not the same as she remembers them. Joined by a handsome young stranger and her childhood cat, the fate of both past and future lie in her hands.

1.

TIME WARP

“You’ll never guess where I am! That’s because I can’t believe it either. I’m sitting at my little desk in my bedroom, except it’s the room I had as a child. It must be a dream. It makes no sense otherwise. But it’s a nice dream, and I hope it lasts a long time.”

Those were the words Sylvan Dale wrote in her diary, the red volume given to her by her father when she was eight after he returned from one of his many trips. She sighed, recalling the pain of that constant separation, but the memory was strange, as if it had come from far away.

“This whole thing is strange,” she reminded herself. “A dream, though a particularly vivid one. I’m really somewhere else, some-when else, but for the life of me I can’t remember…”

The place that had slipped Sylvan’s mind was the narrow bed in the nursing home that had been her residence since the stroke a year ago. The staff at St. Vincent’s were kind and solicitous, but there was only so much they could do…

 

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FRANNIE: A CRAZY CAT LADY CHARACTER SPOTLIGHT

Crazy Cat Lady Character Spotlights: an ongoing series of flash fiction backstories featuring the cast of the The Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery Series.
Frannie Desoto was Lynley’s best friend and fellow volunteer at Friends of Felines cat shelter, but they couldn’t have looked more different. Though both women were past the big six-oh, Frannie had the air of a much younger woman. Whether attending a formal function or cleaning out litter pans, her platinum curls were always perfect, and her bright pink lipstick never smudged or faded. She dressed well and took pride, though when asked how she kept the trim figure of someone half her age, she admitted it all had to do with foundation garments.
Photo by Nikki Normandeau on Unsplash

Frannie Desoto sat on the floor of her bedroom surrounded by boxes. Not just any boxes, these were boxes of shoes. The labels read Loeffler Randall, Dolce Vita, and Nicolette Nichelle. Some boxes still had their lids on; others were open, revealing fluffs of white and pink and beige tissue paper. In those nests lay the shoes—all styles, all colors, but with one thing in common: every single one of them had high spiked heels.

Frannie stared fondly at her little family of shoes. Sandals, pumps, boots, and platforms, she loved them all. Withdrawing a hot-pink strappy stiletto, she caressed it gently. She did the same with a turquoise sandal, then a brocade evening slipper. For a few moments she relished the little triplets, then replaced them in their boxes.

Looking around, she spied the one she wanted, over by the dressing table. She scooched over to the plain brown box, then box in hand, pulled herself up onto the seat. Flinging away the lid, she pulled out the pair, bright red and shiny. Her Red Slippers, she called them, a la Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

One by one, she wedged her stockinged feet inside, then balancing herself on the table, she rose. Suddenly she was ten feet tall, young and beautiful, a princess… a queen!

“There’s no place like home,” she whispered, clicking the patent heels together three times.

For a moment, she was off in the worlds of fantasy where princes are gallant and not chauvinist pigs. Then the dream faded.

“Ouch!” she muttered. Her toes pinched, and her feet were hurting already. The doctor had told her it was time to think about wearing flatter shoes. The high heels were a risk for falls, and at her age, that could be dangerous.

I never cared about such things back in the day, she thought glumly. Why, I could run and jump and dance until three in the morning in shoes like this. Where did it all go wrong?

But there was nothing wrong besides the natural debilitating progress of age, something everyone went through should they be lucky enough to live that long.

Frannie put the red shows back in the box and picked up a pair of plain black ballet slippers from under the table. She sighed as she slipped them on, thinking how lovely the satin felt against her skin.

These aren’t half bad, she confessed as she began to pick up the boxes and put them back in the closet until the next time.

Frannie appears in all the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mysteries, and is featured in Copy Cats, where she learns how to psychically communicate with cats and subsequently foils a cat counterfeiting plot, and in Cat Conundrum, where she and Lynley go to the beach for a cat conference, only to end up in the middle of a spate of locked room murders.

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PANDEMIC REFLECTIONS

Warning: Slightly political rant. PG for violence, but no sex or graphic language.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

I watch out the window. A couple pushing a stroller pass by. Child, cat, or dog—I can’t tell from here. Both people are both wearing masks. And it comes to me once again that today is unique in history. Today, tomorrow, this week, this year—all marked to go down in the books. Yes, history is always being made, but not often on such a grand scale. The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has encompassed the entire world, and that world will never be the same.

Though it may not look like it, confronting this disaster has brought us together in unprecedented ways. We’ve allowed people into our living rooms through Zoom;  we’ve reached out to help others; we’ve stood up for our beliefs; we’ve made things happen. Musicians have given symphonies for free, never leaving their own isolation. Celebrities have joined each other to entertain the homebound. First responders have pushed themselves to heroic levels, fulfilling their oaths to help those in need in ways they never expected.

We’ve seen the greatest of humanity during these times, but we’ve also seen to worst.

For the first time in my life, I saw a man die. I saw my city torn apart by hatred. I saw graffiti on boarded up windows, not in outlying areas but downtown. I saw piles of garbage heaped on the streets faster than anyone can pick them up. I saw politics get in the way of saving lives. I saw guns and automatic weapons in McDonalds and Starbucks. I saw people standing up for their right to infect others with a deadly disease. I saw insurrection perpetrated with laughter, joy, and big smiles on cruel faces. I saw people vying to be heard, all believing in the rightness of their cause. And that’s only what happened in my little corner of the world. Others have fared even worse.

I am exhausted. Sure, in time when this is all over, we’ll go back to our old ways—gathering together, going to work, wearing pants—but what will come of the horrors we have brought upon ourselves? Will we accept responsibility?

I hope, having seen the positive results of less cars on the roads, we can now take climate change seriously. I’d like to see the Zoom comradery continue, bringing a new dimension to those who don’t get out. I’d love to imagine the helping hand that has reached out to so many during this time will continue into the next.

Most of all, I pray the violence is transitory, and that we will learn from our mistakes, that the good will overcome the bad. But if not, and this is the beginning of the end of humanity as many assume, I hope we go down before Earth is scorched, so the plants and animals can rise again. Maybe the next sentient species will have more of a conscience than us humans.

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Not All Mothers Have Human Babies

Happy Mother’s Day, no matter who your babies are.

Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for a lot of people: those of us who have lost a mother, those who have lost a child, those who have not been able to have children, those who chose not to populate this already overpopulated world, and more.

To celebrate this holiday in a bit of a different style, here’s one of my favorite videos. Thank you, Furball Fables

You can find Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer on her blogsite: www.lecatts.wordpress.com

Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/author/molliehunt

Smashwords Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CatWriter

Draft2Digital ebooks: https://www.draft2digital.com/book/

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/MollieHuntCatWriter/

Fire Star Author Page:  http://prairierosepublications.com/authors_2/mollie-hunt\

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7768987.Mollie_Hunt

@MollieHuntCats

Sign up for Mollie’s Extremely Informal Newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/c0fOTn.

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DENNY: A CRAZY CAT LADY CHARACTER SPOTLIGHT

 

Crazy Cat Lady Character Spotlights: an ongoing series of flash fiction backstories featuring the cast of the Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mysteries.

DENNY

Denny leaned back into the leather seat of his shop and stared up at the house.

“Ug,” he muttered to himself, frowning at a front yard filled with debris and garbage. “If it’s like this on the outside, how bad will the inside be?”

He would find out soon enough. Once the owner got home, Denny would be out knocking on that chipped and peeling door. Then the cat litter would hit the fan as it always did when he delivered a warrant to check for animal abuse and neglect. Hoarders never thought of themselves as bad people, and usually they weren’t. Many started out doing good, rescuing cats that no one else wanted. But somewhere along the line things got out of hand. The number exploded; the care became too much; and all the best intentions couldn’t clean up the mess made by an overabundance of unhealthy and unaltered felines.

Though not his favorite task, Special Agent Denny Paris, Humane Investigator didn’t balk. He knew he was doing good for those cats, and that’s what mattered.  The potential to help animals was what had drawn him to the job in the first place, those innocents who couldn’t speak for themselves.

Things had been different when he was a kid, he recalled with a degree of sadness. Dogs ran free in packs, and cats roamed the night. No one thought of spaying or neutering. And if someone chained a Pit Bull or “got rid of” kittens, nobody batted an eye. His own father had called him a wimp for crying when he whipped the family dog. Those times, he hated the big man who treated animals as objects, or worse.

Denny had left home when he was seventeen, and his mother followed a year later. Without his willing victims readily at hand, his dad had grown into a mean—meaner—old man. Denny hadn’t talked to his father for half a decade. Last time he went to see the old geezer, he was holed up in a dirty shack much like the one Denny now watched through his windshield. After that, he had lost track.

Wouldn’t it be a hoot, Denny thought to himself, if the hoarder turned out to be Dad. But no—his father had hated cats even more than the dog.

The owner was returning now, an overweight man in his early sixties dressed in disheveled maroon sweats and carrying a bag of groceries and a six-pack of Tab.

Denny sighed and muttered, “Showtime.”

Coming up behind the guy, he put on a smile. “Mr. Goodrich? I’m Special Agent Denny Paris from the Northwest Humane Society. We’ve received a report that you have more than the usual number of cats.”

 

The Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery Series features a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip, taking crazy to a whole new level. 

Do you have a favorite character from the series? A hero you might like to know better? Or perhaps a villain? Leave a note in the comments, and I’ll be happy to reveal a secret or two.

 

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LYNLEY: A CRAZY CAT LADY CHARACTER SPOTLIGHT

 

 

Crazy Cat Lady Character Spotlights: an ongoing series of flash fiction backstories featuring the cast of the Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mysteries.

Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev on Unsplash

LYNLEY

Lynley Cannon studied herself in the mirror. The grim lines of the face, the graying hair. She still wore it long, but the tresses no longer sparkled red as they had back in the day. What happened? Who was this elderly stranger who greeted her in the glass? Inside, Lynley still felt sixteen. Or maybe thirty-five. Even fifty was young when compared to her current sixty-two years. She shrugged. She was comfortable in her aging skin, and that was what mattered.

As she reached up to touch the cat-shaped pendant she wore around her neck, her eye caught sight of a little ripple on her hand, a scar from a long-ago injury. The gouge had been ugly at first, but it got better. It had healed, but healed differently, the skin no longer soft and smooth but marked with puckers and ridges that would last, she knew now, for her lifetime.

Tom, she thought fondly, and an inadvertent ache touched her heart. She and her young, long-haired companion had been building a house in the California desert when a concrete block fell on her hand, scraping deep into the skin. Tom had washed and bound the wound, then passed her whiskey for the pain. That was Tom all over! Four decades ago, she had loved him. Thought she loved him. Back then, love was a visceral thing, brimming with passion and wayward with lust.

Lynley laughed, gazing down the years. What would her teenage granddaughter say if she knew about her hippie past?

Lived in a commune: check.

Swam naked in wild lakes: check.

Did drugs and slept around: double check.

She had made it through. She couldn’t say the same of others, lost along the way. But for her, they were good memories—for the most part. Sunshine and laughter, dancing, singing, and howling at the moon.

Lynley smiled, then sobered. Those times had also left scars, scars that, like the one on her hand, had changed her life forever.

 

The Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery Series features a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip, taking crazy to a whole new level. 

Do you have a favorite character from the series? A hero you might like to know better? Or perhaps a villain? Leave a note in the comments, and I’ll be happy to reveal a secret or two.

 

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