Mosquito

Overview

Sojourner Nadine Jane Johnson, also known as Mosquito, is an African-American truck driver. Set in a south Texas border town, Mosquito is the story of her accidental and yet growing involvement in "the new underground railroad," a sanctuary movement for Mexican immigrants. Mosquito's journey begins when she discovers Maria, a stowaway who nearly gives birth in the back of the truck; Maria will eventually name her baby Journal, a misspelled tribute to her unwitting benefactor Sojourner. Along the road, Mosquito ...
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Overview

Sojourner Nadine Jane Johnson, also known as Mosquito, is an African-American truck driver. Set in a south Texas border town, Mosquito is the story of her accidental and yet growing involvement in "the new underground railroad," a sanctuary movement for Mexican immigrants. Mosquito's journey begins when she discovers Maria, a stowaway who nearly gives birth in the back of the truck; Maria will eventually name her baby Journal, a misspelled tribute to her unwitting benefactor Sojourner. Along the road, Mosquito introduces us to Delgadina, a Chicana bartender who fries cactus, writes haunting stories, and studies to become a detective - one of the most original and appealing characters in all of Jones' fiction. We also meet Monkey Bread, a childhood pal who is, improbably, assistant to a blonde star in Hollywood, where Mosquito pays her a memorable visit. As her understanding of the immigrants' need to forge new lives and identities deepens, so too does Mosquito's romance with Ray, a gentle revolutionary, philosopher, and, perhaps, a priest.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
One does not read Gayl Jones; Gayl Jones allows you into her space, and she shares her story with you. She sets the rhythm. She sets the pace. You're invited to come along, if you must. While the invitation may appear casual, even aloof, the writing is not. And once you step inside her latest book, Mosquito, Jones will keep you dazzled by her language, humor, breadth of knowledge, and sheer creative intellect. For its volume alone you may want to put the book down, but as Nadine, Jones's main character might say, "Now, you didn't have to come in the first, but you here now and I gots somethin' to say." You will listen, and you will enjoy.

Meet Sojourner Nadine Jane Johnson (also known as Mosquito), female trucker, official mama of the Perfectability Baptist church, Ray's woman (as in the Reverend Ray, although he is not a Perfectability Baptist), and runner for the Sanctuary movement, a new Underground Railroad, which offers asylum to those crossing the Texas border. Mosquito works the southwest Texas route, delivering industrial detergents to Tex-Mex border companies. She's a female John Henry who is tough, walks the straight and narrow, and works alone. When she discovers a pregnant stowaway in her truck, she begins a journey that ends in her heart. But be warned: Mosquito is no quick-read, herky-jerky tear-maker. You will be challenged, frustrated, satisfied, and entertained.

But, oh, the language! Here Mosquito sits in a tub, in conversation with Ray:

"It must be Sterne's book, 'The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gent.' "
"Yeah, that's the name of that book. 'Cept it's got a gent on it."
"What?"
"It say, "The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gent.' Gentleman, you know. That would be my book, The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Mosquito. 'Cept, I wouldn't be no gent."
"Gentlewoman. They have gentle women. I think you're gentle woman, Sojourner."
"You's the only one."
"There's a lot of meanings of gentle. You have an essential tenderness. You're like some grand being, sure of strength, self-contained, but so sure of your strength that you don't overwhelm a man. A woman like you can overwhelm a man. You don't overwhelm a man's strength."
"I just think that you ain't the sort of man to be overwhelmed. I'm all woman, but there's men that don't know what a full woman is. You must know who I am. That's why I loves you. Tell me what pure revolution means."
Gayl Jones has not yet received the lavish acclaim that she certainly deserves. Mosquito is intellectually entertaining and will be widely discussed. Jones's invitation to the reader may be casual, but her writing is intense. And when you turn her last page, spent in awe, she will walk you to the door, and in her best southern drawl will say, "Why, thank you for coming. I do hope you had a good time."
Valerie Boyd
Gayl Jones is an important graceful writer who deserves readers' attention. —The Washington Post Book World
Tamala M. Edwards
Mosquito is a carnival of digression and free association, with the plot hijacked for paragraphs, if not pages, by muddled tangents...Jones' virtuosity grins up at us, leaving hope that this is just a frustrating detour on the road to better storytellling. -- Time Magazine
Martha Southgate
Now Jones rises again with her biggest novel yet, Mosquito.... With finely drawn characters and rich language, Mosquito won't soon be forgotten.
Essence Magazine
Sandra Scofield
Mosquito will amuse and confuse and instruct and pique and exhaust you. Sometimes the anecdotes are so good you call up friends to share them. There are a hundred times you want to shout, 'Right on!'
Chicago Tribune</>
Library Journal
Sojourner Nadine Jane Nzingha Johnson, called Mosquito by her friends, is a savvy, streetwise African American truck driver from south Texas. While the plot is woven around Mosquito's seemingly off-the-cuff theories about family, gender, imperialism, love, race, and platonic relationships, her musings are as much a window into Jones's manic energy and prodigious intelligence as they are into her protagonist's soul. Jones's previous writing includes the highly lauded novel The Healing, LJ 12/97, a National Book Award nominee. The reader enters a frenetic, many-tiered universe, for here is a world of serendipitous encounters, a place where the highly secretive Sanctuary movement exists alongside the Perfectability Baptist Church and where some friendships offer unconditional acceptance while others lead to spiritual and intellectual quests. By turns exhausting and exhilarating, Mosquito is a stunning glimpse into one woman's search for her place in the cosmos. Highly recommended.--Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY
Jill Nelson
...[T]he command of the language is spectacular, as is the breadth of knowledge and allusions. -- The Nation
Valerie Boyd
Gayl Jones is an important graceful writer who deserves readers' attention. -- The Washington Post Book World
Kirkus Reviews
A recent confrontation with police that ended in the suicide of Jones' husband and her own hospitalization for what seemed a nervous breakdown understandably grabbed headlines. But the real news is that the author of the Corregidora (1975) and Eva's Man (1976) is once again-in fact, since 1997's NBA-nominated The Healing—publishing vivid and challenging fiction grounded in African-American themes. Her latest is arguably both something more and something less than a novel, but it's a fascinating story: the first-person narrative of black independent truck-driver Sojourner Nadine Jane Johnson (a.k.a. "Mosquito"). A native Kentuckian whose regular route runs through southern Texas, Nadine strikes up a friendship with the sisterly, mentoring Delgadina, a determinedly self-educated bartender-waitress, and gradually becomes involved with the "new underground railroad" transporting Mexican immigrants-and eventually with a radical activist with whose help she forms the worker-owned Mosquito Trucking Company. Nothing much more really happens in a "novel" composed of long, rich conversations and exchanges of letters, thanks to which Nadine reinvents herself while learning the histories of her own and other "second-class" culture struggles. It's a discursive, free-form dramatization of the raising of a consciousness, including material derived from Buddhist doctrine, Native American "trickster" tales, Mexico's colonial history, Shakespeare's "Othello," and numerous other transmogrified sources and influences. The book has its longueurs, but when Jones keeps throwing at you the adventures of Nadine's childhood friend "Monkey Bread" as "personal assistant" to a Hollywoodstar, the "prophetic" and "mystical" writings of pseudonymous savant "Electra," the militantly Pan-African "Daughters of Nzingha," and much more (even a play written by the author's mother), it's hard not to be swept along by the sassy rhetorical momentum. Early on, Nadine imagines "a true jazz story, where the peoples that listen can just enter the story and start telling it theyselves while they's reading." Mosquito is such a story.
From the Publisher
If you're acquainted with the lyrical tug of Alice Walker's The Color Purple, then you'll find something familiar and compelling about the narrative voice in Gayl Jones's newest novel, Mosquito. . . . Mosquito's voice is melodic, direct, and so conversational that it hooks us immediately and makes us surrender fully to the narrative. . . . To be sure, these observations crackle with wit and a joyful, almost child-like candor.--Quinn Eli, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Gayl Jones is the black writer we all want to be when we grow up . . . Mosquito is Gayl Jones unbound, but certainly not untethered nor without her still prodigious storehouses of language, craft, and storytelling prowess."--Greg Tate, Voice Literary Supplement

"Mosquito will amuse and confuse and instruct and pique and exhaust you. Sometimes the anecdotes are so good you call up friends to share them. There are a hundred times you want to shout, 'Right on!'"--Sandra Scofield, Chicago Tribune

"Most apparent and most surprising, is Jones's sense of humor. When she's at her best, her sly, subversive wit echoes Ishmael Reed at his most sarcastic."--Jabari Asim, Washington Post Book World

"Undoubtedly a literary tour de force."--James A. Miller, Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807083468
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Pages: 616
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.31 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gayl Jones was born in Kentucky in 1949. She attended Connecticut College and Brown University; she has taught at Wellesley and the University of Michigan. Her critically acclaimed books include Corregidora, Eva's Man, White Rat, Song for Anninho, Liberating Voices: Oral Tradition in African American Literature, and The Healing, a National Book Award finalist.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


I was on one of them little border roads in South Texas, you know them little narrow roads that runs along the border between South Texas and northern Mexico. Maybe that Dairy Mart Road, probably that Dairy Mart Road, though all them border roads in them border towns looks alike. On either side of the border. Brownsville, Laredo, Del Rio. All them border towns. I usedta travel into Brownsville in Cameron County a lot because it one of them international seaport towns. That's when I was transporting electronics, apparel, and transporting for the shrimping industry. This that Dairy Mart Road, though. Your source for superior tanning products, one of them roadside signs say. It's got them Southern California types in they bikinis showing off they tans. Another roadside sign advertising cactus candy and got a picture of a buffalo and some cactus. I's got me a teacup I got from a trade show that have got a handle that is in the shape of a cactus and resembles that exact same cactus. I mean the handle of it ain't a ordinary teacup handle, it's a cactus, so when you holds the teacup you's got to hold the cactus. I think that that cactus is the archetypal cactus, 'cause I has seen more cactus like that in them ads than I has in the Southwest itself. I calls it Arizona cactus, but I don't know its true name.

Another sign advertising Brownsville as a tourist attraction. It tells you that Brownsville ain't just Brownsville, but it got all the amenities for tourism, that tourists don't got to go to Acapulco or even Tijuana, that they can come to Brownsville. I try to think of the Kiowa word for Brownsville, or maybe it the Kiowa word for Sweetwater I'm trying to think of. Sound like the name of somebody, like the names that they gives people in the South, though, that Kiowa word.

    Am got a few of them cactus plants along Dairy Mart Road, though they ain't the archetypal cactus, I think it's Dairy Mart Road, and some of that poverty grass. I guess it called poverty grass, or maybe it pampas grass, 'cause it the Southwest, you know. I'm going to have to find out the names of these grasses and plants and trees, so's I can tell y'all what they is. I guess that's what I likes about the Southwest, though, the landscape. Well, I likes the people that I likes the Perfectability Baptist Church would want me to say more about the likability of peoples and us commandments to love, but when you gets to the Southwest it got it own distinctive landscape, and you knows you's in a different country. You knows you's in the Southwest. Them mountains and the ranges and the deserts. Them trees, whatever they names is, starts looking like they's wearing Afros and then they turns into brush and cactus. I gots to get me a natural history of the Southwest, or at least a natural history of Texas. I be thinking why them native peoples don't got Afros in the dry tropics, 'cause in the East the leaves of them trees is broad and flat, then as you travels toward the Southwest, them leaves gets stingier, and then they becomes cactus or palms or them trees and brushes that looks kinda like them monkey puzzle trees. They's got flowering cactus and bushes, though, so's they's all kindsa colors in the desert. You's got the desert-colored desert and then there's desert flowers that is red and yellow, bright green, and orange, red, and white—I guess that a color—and sage green and bright red. I know there's what they calls buffalo grass and there's a weed that got orange flowers that attracts butterflies and there's a coyote bush. I don't know if it's named that 'cause it attracts coyotes. I know they's a hummingbird bush that supposed to attract hummingbirds, but I don't know if that the name of that bush. Desert shrubs and bushes and brushes and cactuses, Delgadina could tell you the names of all of them, and even the one she uses to make what she call Navajo Tea. And she knows the names of all the trees of the Southwest. I tells Delgadina she could be a natural historian, that she could write a natural history of the Southwest. But like I said, when you's in the Southwest you knows you's in the Southwest. When you's in the Southwest, you knows where you is.

    Who amongst y'all knows the name of every tree? I might not know the names of them trees, but if you shows me a tree, I can tell you what part of the natural country it is from. I can tell you whether it from the East, the West, the Southwest, the South Central, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Pacific Southwest, the Northeast, or wherever you asks me. I might not know the names of them trees, but I knows them by better than they names. I even knows trees that is originally from the Pacific Southwest when they's in South Florida. Now if you tries to play me for a fool and tell me that that tree you's planted is a South Florida tree, I knows that you might have planted it in South Florida, but that its origins is the Pacific Southwest or even South Central. I might not know the names of them trees, but you can't play me for a fool about they origins. And them desert ain't like the desert sands in them Arabian lands, the Southwest desert is dotted with brush everywhere, little trees and bushes, like I said, or it the ranch country with broad ranges, ponds for the cattle and bales of hay. The Southwest is a landscape full of power.

    I knows the Southwest. Traveling through some of them mountainous type regions in Texas and Arizona when you's in Arizona you know why they calls it the redlands—I ain't signifying on the native peoples I'm talking about the color of the land itself; some people say the land that color 'cause of all the iron ore it got in it; them's the scientific peoples, though, you'd think you was still out East, I mean when you's up in them mountains, traveling them mountain roads, I don't mean them dry boulder mountains of Nevada up around the Hoover Dam, traveling they truck route, I mean them temperate mountains, 'cause they's got natural forests, of cypress and alligator juniper, of spruce, and fir trees, and white pine trees, I knows them 'cause they's similar to northeastern trees 'cept they's southwest white pine trees not northeast white pine trees, then when you come out of them natural forests you's in the sparse landscape again, the flat country, the deserts, the ranges, them adobe-type houses with them flat roofs, the Southwest's own architecture.

They's got pyramidal-roofed houses in the Southwest, but them flat-roofed houses is the Southwest's own architecture. Them adobe-type houses that dots the landscape, and what I've heard people call them dog-trot houses, 'cause they ain't them elaborate-type houses. I guess they calls them dog-trot houses, 'cause they's just big enough for a dog to trot in them. I ain't like to call them dog-trot houses myself 'cause they's human beings in them houses. Ain't got no balus-trades and bay windows and art deco and arcades-type architecture. Most of them is clay-colored, that clay mixed with straw adobe. Few of them got them red tile roofs. They is just Four Square houses. They is some native peoples that considers that Four a sacred number. That that supposed to have something to do with they cosmology. I ain't know if that why they makes them Four Square houses. I was in this desert I calls the Chihuahua desert, though it was some other desert, traveling for 'bout eight mile and all I seen was them Four Square house. Nothing but them Four Square home. Some of them had things to distinguish them from the other Four Square house to show the personality of the owners of them houses. One might have a red tile roof, another a green tile roof, another might have a more elaborate-looking door, another might even have a arch above the door, one might have a little bay window, one might suggest more the Moorish, another more the Spanish, another even look like a little Hawaiian house, but they's all Four Square house.

    Am got every kind of architecture in the Southwest, prairie styles and classical and colonial and renaissance and Victorian, and art deco-type modernity, but there's also the kind of architecture that people says, This the Southwest. McDonald's might be everywhere, but it ain't everywhere the same aesthetic. Here there's even McDonald's that shaped like them adobe's architecture, and not the McDonald's architecture that in the East or Middle America or them south-central and southeastern states. And some little towns and villages all the houses that same adobe color or that same adobe architecture. You know, that pueblo architecture. I guess that the Mexican influence, or the Native American aesthetic, it ain't neoclassicism. Though I guess them cowboys claims it like they claims the Southwest for theyself. There's them real cowboys that rides the ranges and tends the cattle and sheep and mends the fences and carries them bales of hay and keeps the land irrigated, Mexicans and Navajos and Zunis and Cherokees among the whites and "Oklahoma Africans" I calls the others, 'cause the first black cowboys I seen was in Oklahoma, and then there's them pretend cowboys that waves to the tourists soon's they enters them western towns. There's always a pretend cowboy on his saddle horse who doffs his cowboy hat and waves to me when I'm coming into Albuquerque. I don't travel that route through New Mexico now, though. I mostly travels just the route along the Texas border, along the Rio Grande. I likes to say that, though some of them roads don't exactly travel along the Rio Grande.

    Me I'm pulled to the side of the road 'bout a hundred or so yards from the truckstop, de moda running, reading me some of my mail—letter from a friend of mine out in California, a brochure on Citizen's Rights, another brochure wants me to join the Republic of Texas which say it ain't the same as Texas itself, 'cause Texas it consider to be a independent and sovereign nation, not a state of the United States, but they is proclaiming they independence: "When you become a citizen of the Republic of Texas, you are still an American but you are no longer a citizen of the corporate United States; therefore, you are a free Texan; the annexation of Texas to the United States isn't legal." I guess I can quote from that brochure; it ain't no confabulatory brochure neither; then it say something about the history of Texans fighting for they freedom and independence from imperial Mexico, got some photographs of neoclassical architecture, a lot of white people wearing the flag of the Republic of Texas; and them that ain't draped in the Republic of Texas flag is wearing bandannas made out of the Confederate flag. Maybe I'm being a little confabulatory, but I'm thinking how I got on they mailing list—a coupon for a free pizza, and this book I just bought at this flea market near the Galveston Bay. If any y'all been to Tijuana, y'all know the area. That's when I heard me this commotion in the back of my truck. Sounded like a coyote or something, or maybe one of them prairie foxes. I think they call them prairie foxes, don't ya? A lot of them prairie animals they just stick a prairie on the front of they name and they got the animal. They even got prairie oysters, though I don't know how they can have a oyster of the prairie. There's a band from the Southwest, I think, that calls theyselves the Prairie Oysters. I wonder if they's aphrodisiacs like them other oysters. That's named after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, you know. I don't mean them prairie oysters, I mean them aphrodisiacs. That Aphrodite. Sound like the name of some African goddess, though, don't it? Wonder if them Africans got they own goddesses of love and beauty. Only gods and goddesses you hear about though is them Greeks. Or if it ain't the Greeks, it's the Romans. I heard of that Krishna though. He supposed to be the ideal perfect man amongst the true Indians. I wonder if them Africans got that ideal of the perfect man. Course the man's ideal of the perfect man and the woman's ideal might not be the same man. Same for the women. Course I've also heard them say that religion started in Africa, and that even them Greek gods and goddesses is really Africans disguised as Greeks. But everybody claims religion started with theyselves. The Perfectability Baptists even claims that they started perfectability. I prefer not to talk to y'all about Perfectability baptism, 'cause I'm only a member of the church and ain't no specialist in perfectability. The Perfectability Baptists, though, believes that the only true baptism is Perfectability baptism.

    I ain't much of a natural historian myself, like I said, or a mythologist neither, but I do likes to watch them National Geographic specials, I mean for natural history, especially when they talks about the more exotic-type animals or make the ordinary beasts of the wilds seem extraordinary. They's even got a Animal Planet on cable, where the peoples learns that the planet belongs to animals as well as humankind. I know it ain't every race of peoples that thinks they's supposed to have dominion over everything, or absolute and arbitrary power. That Citizen's Rights brochure said something like that. I'm thinking how they got my name on they mailing list, 'cause I ain't on the Citizen's Committee.

    And I just seen one of them shows on my pocket TV, which says animals can be as neurotic as human beings. Ain't saying I'm neurotic, or crazy neither, just that I found that interesting. And they says that them animals has dreams, has dreams the same as human beings. If y'all is amongst the people that wants to think it the dream what make us human, then you be saying that them animal dreams is less complex than human's dreaming. And they's got psychic ability, them animals and more developed than most human beings. Course that don't mean them psychic animals is superior to humankind. That don't mean them psychic animals has the superior intellect.

    Anyhow, I heard this commotion in the back of my truck, so I keeps de moda running, takes my flashlight and my stun gun outta the glove compartment and goes back there to look. I opens the back of the truck real careful like, shines the light in there, and then climbs up in the back of the truck. Y'all wants me to describe my truck? I prefers not to describe my truck. I'll explain to y'all why when I comes to why. Of course y'all will probably say it ain't logical, 'cause I's described myself and I's described everything but my truck—at least what to me is description—and y'all that don't already know me would know me anyhow. Still there might be somebody else on this route in the Southwest that resembles me. But I acknowledges y'all's question regarding the description of my truck. I knows that there is no doubt spies and informants amongst y'all that will go around to the truckstops anyway or ask some of the peoples in the union whether they knows me and has they seen my truck. How big is it, how many axles it got, how many tons is it, what color is it? I gots to tell y'all that the roof of my truck ain't the same color as the rest of my truck. So those of y'all that thinks y'all knows my truck to be one color don't know the fullness of my truck.

    In describing my truck, I prefers not to describe my truck, which I sometimes calls my moda, after a book I reads. 'Cept moda my personal name for my truck. I ain't tell most peoples I calls my truck my moda, 'cause truck is most people's name for truck, so I calls it my truck. That don't mean that I ain't proud of my truck. I'm proud of my truck and I'm proud that I owns it. I'm proud that I'm an independent even though the peoples in the union knows me. I'm proud of how big my truck is. I'm proud of how many axles it got. I'm proud of how many tons it is. I'm proud of what color it is. I'm proud even that the roof ain't the same color as the rest of my truck, 'cause I got up on the roof and painted the roof of my truck myself. I ain't too proud of my truck, though, and I gots to tell y'all that I ain't too proud of it, 'cause the Perfectability Baptists believes that you can't be too proud of material things, and you's got to rise above that. The Perfectability Baptists combines traditional baptism with ideals of perfectability. They believes that the true nature of man and woman is to be perfect, or at least perfectable. But like I said I ain't no specialist in perfectability baptism, and don't claim to be no perfect Perfectability Baptist, and even my reasons for joining the Perfectability Baptist Church ain't perfect, and although I wants y'all to know all about my truck, I prefers not to describe it. I can describe everything but my truck, except for what I prefers not to describe. I knows that there is rumormongers amongst y'all that will probably go and tell the Perfectability Baptists that the reason I won't describe my truck is because I'm too proud of it to describe it. I still ain't going to describe my truck. And even if I do tell y'all the color of my truck, don't mean it's got to stay the same color. When I first got my truck I would sometimes repaint it different colors. Once I painted my truck a bright red and it were the most visible truck, then another time I painted my truck a dark gray. When I painted my truck a dark gray, you could see it sometimes at dawn and it look like it made out of steel. I even had some peoples that was calling my truck the Steel Truck, 'cause when they would see it at dawn it would look just like it were made of steel. Or I might mix them colors. I might paint the cab of my truck a bright red and the other of my truck steel, and then the roof of my truck I might paint even another color. But I can describe everything but my truck. Sometimes birds is attracted to my truck. Once they was a red-tailed hawk perched on my truck. I went into this truckstop and when I come out there was this red-tailed hawk perched on the cab of my truck. Another time one of them prairie falcon, another time a golden eagle, another time one of them vermilion-colored flycatcher birds. A lot of red birds likes to perch on the cab of my truck. The cab of my truck attracts other color birds—golden, blue, green, yellow and brown birds—but seems like it attracts more of them red birds or red-tailed birds and it ain't just when I paints my cab a bright red.

    The birds they has got they own language. Anyhow, I think I hears this scuffling sound, but might just be me scraping my knees climbing and scrambling up the back of that truck, trying to hold on to both that flashlight and that stun gun at the same time. They needs to attach a flashlight onto them stun guns or a stun gun onto them flashlights, less they thinks everybody got the dextrosity, I means dexterity, of them circus jugglers. Or what them other circus creatures? Not them acrobats. Them contortionists. They think everybody got the dextrosity and dexterity of them contortionists. Well, I guess them contortionists they supposed to be acrobats too, but they seem more extraordinary than them ordinary acrobats. Or like them that do that yoga. Like my friend Delgadina she do that yoga. She say that that yoga ain't just exercise, it a whole philosophy. Be saying there's different types of yoga. Not that yogurt, 'cause that yoga and that yogurt do got the same sound to them and a lot of the peoples that does that yoga eats that yogurt. Ain't just the countercultural neither, like it usedta be. That yoga and that yogurt is mainstream today. Them yoga postures only makes you look like you's a contortionist, but you ain't a true contortionist.

    Beginning Yoga Postures is one of them books I's got myself. Am got one of them solar-powered flashlights anyhow. Recharges it on my dashboard. When I first got me that stun gun I felt like something outta science fiction, with my laser ray gun and shit like in them science fiction movies, but now it just a ordinary utensil. And a lot of them popular science fiction they just cowboys and cowgirls except but set in the future, you know, 'cause I reads that science fiction along with them cowboy and cowgirl novels when I ain't reading romance novels and they be sounding like the same novel, except but one be set in outa space or in some distant galaxy and the other in the Wild West. I likes that science fiction with the girl heroes in them as well as the man heroes. Them science fiction movies is like comic books. They jokes about them Japanese science fiction movies, but that's 'cause they's colored peoples saving the Universe, and they just wants to save the Universe theyselves. I mean, the pink people. They just thinks they's white. And them that ain't white plays once they gets to America. Peoples that is desperate somewhere in they own little countries and America is the true dream. They might be the niggers of they own little countries, like they say, but they knows that part of the American dream is they ain't have to play the Niggers in America. Like the man say on television on some talk show, if they's white they gets to play full white; if they's peoples with some color in them, they gets to play probationary white. Them that can't play white in America or refuses to play white is the niggers. There is some whites that plays niggers for commercial or protest purposes or to innovate or renovate white culture, but they is generally the marginal types. And, of course, they is also whites that plays white. 'Cause they don't know what white is.

    And some of them stun guns, you can even buy you them leather holsters for them, or them plastic holsters, make it seem like you's in the real Wild West. And in that science fiction they uses them same metaphors as them cowboys. My ray gun, I mean, my stun gun don't have no holster. It one of them streamlined space-age stun guns, which I thinks is more prudent than them real guns. Some of them truckers, they carries them real guns like they thinks they's road warriors, or road cowboys, like in them Australian movies, but me I just buy me one of them stun guns, you know. But they's even women truckers who thinks they's road warriors. I seen one of them on that TV show Geraldo. But I remember that Geraldo bemused when one of them African-American mens talk about even the possibility of getting theyselves guns, and ain't bemused when the likes of Charlton Heston talk about the First Amendment rights to bear guns. As if ain't what's good for the goose ain't good for the gander. And all them suburban white women learning target practice. Even showed that on TV. Now if it were colored womens learning that target practice.... They be bemused as Geraldo, and be instituting some new legislation to make it against the natural law for the colored woman to bear guns. I mean, if it were a organized thing amongst the colored womens. I'm thinking if that Oprah got her a gun, or some of them mahogany starlets. I still prefers me my stun gun. They oughta outlaw all them guns, though, as a universal law. Course they say that means that only the outlaws got guns. And that means the official outlaws, the government outlaws and all them other legal outlaws as well as the common outlaw outlaws. Them outlaws that do they outlawing under the cover of law is the outlaws I'm talking about. They's the outlaws that oughta be outlawed. They talks about them outlaw nations, but every nation is a outlaw for its own interests. Delgadina say they ain't no such thing as law. That law is them that makes the laws. That law is discretionary, when it ain't arbitrary. But a lot of them treats them guns like they's amusements, though, and even go hunting for them prairie foxes. They has them prairie fox hunts like them Englishmen has they regular fox hunts. I seen a poster for one of them prairie fox hunts. Even seen a poster in Mr. Delgado's cantina. The true patrons of Mr. Delgado's don't go to that prairie fox hunt, but there's a few agringados that joins in the hunt. And treating it just like it a sport.

    First I don't see nothing 'cause they's these big yellow tins and drums and crates of industrial detergents. I don't cram the whole back of the truck with them big yellow tins and drums and crates of industrial detergents 'cause you got to have you space to move around in the back of that truck, plus them border patrols they always insists that they has space to move around. But anyway they's the kind of silence where you know they's something in the back of that truck. If it is a coyote or a prairie fox, or even one of them horny toads, what look like them baby dinosaurs, you know, like in them dinosaur movies, spiny, short-tailed lizards, with them horns projecting from they heads and probably they is modern-day dinosaurs like that Komodo dragon but they calls them toads, then it's one of them intelligent and cunning coyotes and prairie foxes or horny toads. I think them horny toads is only native to the Southwest, 'cause I ain't seen none of them horny toads till I was in the Southwest. But all animals is intelligent and cunning when they's hiding. Of course they says a lot of that intelligence and cunning is instinct. Like maybe that psychic ability is just instinct. Can intelligence be a instinct or instinct intelligence?

    My favorite animals is them that changes color when they's hiding. And when they's dreaming? Like a lot of them ocean animals. They's got a lot more tricks than land-dwellers, except maybe them chameleons. What another name for them chameleons? They's got them another name. They's supposed to be Old World lizards, them chameleons, the New World lizards, they's supposed to have them another name. Whether you's talking about the Old World or the New World, a lot of them animals got theyselves another name. But them ocean animals, some of them even speaks by changing colors, they says. Them rays, some of them speaks by changing colors, I think, or maybe it's them jellyfish. They's supposed to have theyselves a whole language based on them color changes.

    They showed them at Marineland in Florida, them rays and jellyfish, and this marine guide was talking about how that's they way of speaking, they form of communication, 'cause I be wondering why them marine animals keep changing color and think it just for camouflage. 'Cause most of the time they tell you when animals changes color, it's for camouflage, least all of them land animals. Few of them has color displays for mating purposes, but when they changes colors that's for camouflage.

    Anyway, we was walking through one of them glassed-in ropewalks underneath the ocean surrounded by all them fishes and looked like some type of marine city. Like we was in some future world that was a marine city. And the marine guide he didn't call them by no ordinary names, called them Rajiformes or something, like they was not no ordinary marine fish, but name sound like some Indians from India. Raji. I call them true Indians to distinguish them from the Native Americans, though that don't mean the Native Americans ain't true people theyselves. Even they names for theyselves means people. Course there's still peoples in the Southwest that treats them Zunis and Hopis and Cherokees and Navajos like they ain't true peoples or they comes to the Southwest to photograph them and calls them all Charlie Potato. I ain't know the names they calls the womens. But I did see a tourist photographing a Navajo man and keep telling him he look like Cherlie Potato. I suppose, though, that Charlie Potato must be a famous photograph of a Navajo. I heard they ain't usedta let theyselves be photograph. I know Leonora Valdez don't let none of them photograph her. She a Navajo I met when I was in New Mexico when I stopped at one of them adobe McDonald's. She seen me climb out of my truck and took a interest. I believe she were on her way to the University of New Mexico. She a reservation Navajo but her name Valdez. She ain't let none of them photograph her. She don't even let her own peoples photograph her, 'cause they was some peoples from the American Indian College Fund in Denver, Colorado, that wanted her to send them a photograph so's they could use it in they advertisements for the American Indian College Fund, and she ain't even sent a photograph for that. She from a reservation in Arizona, and be telling me about that reservation. A lot of the tourists when they'd come to the reservation, 'cause she work in a store on the reservation selling cactus candy, want to photograph her. She says that there's still people—she got another word she uses for white people—the tourists, when they travels through the reservation, thinks that they's just supposed to be tepees, not no modern houses. Some of us is poor as shit, but we ain't in no tepees, she says. Some of us have got tepees, for cultural purposes, and houses. Some Native American culture, though, has always been houses, at least for centuries.

    My route went through that reservation, so I knows the reservation she talking about. As soon as you arrives in Arizona, you's on the reservation. You's at the Arizona Welcome Center and then you's on the reservation. A lot of people travels through the reservation and ain't even know they's traveling through the reservation. 'Cause a lot of them don't notice the little road sign that says they is entering the Navajo Reservation. If you ain't notice that little road sign that says you's entering the Navajo Reservation, you ain't know you's in the reservation. I remember I stopped on the reservation at this little gas station to get gas and this couple from the East comes and asks me where is the Indian reservation, or maybe they says Navajo, and I says, Y'all is on the reservation. Is this the reservation? Yes. They's on the reservation and ain't even know it. 'Cause ain't neither one of them noticed the sign that says, You are entering the Navajo Reservation. Y'all's on the reservation, I says. And the fools ain't believe me, of course, they asks the owner of the gas station—who a Navajo but kinda look like a gringo—Where the reservation? They believes him when he tells them they's on the reservation, 'cause he a gringo-looking Navajo. His wife, though, a brown-skinned Navajo. And don't none of y'all fool tourists be calling her no squaw, 'cause then y'all learn the true meaning of squaw. If they's one thing I do know is not to ask the wife of a native person if she is his squaw. Them eastern tourists, though, they be looking around for tepees. They's a trading post, but it looks like a regular store. It Navajo-owned. 'Cept it say trading post, that the only way you know it a trading post and ain't a regular store, and probably the only reason it say trading post is the tourists, if they's on a reservation, wants to shop at a trading post rather than a regular store, though it probably were originally a trading post. There's a tepee village where the tourists can rent tepees, though, but most likely when you see a tepee on that reservation, there's a white person staying in it—or that word she uses for white—rather than a Navajo. Seem like she use the word pahuska, but I ain't think that a Navajo word. Maybe I heard another Native American use that word for whites. Every colored peoples in the world I knows about has they word for whites, and they word for whites ain't have the same dictionary meaning as the word for whites the whites has for theyselves. Like one of them books I's read says, the whites they renames everybody. 'Cept that book ain't say them whites is renamed they ownselves by the peoples that they renames. Especially when them renamed peoples learns the true meaning of white, least as it applies to they ownselves and they peoples. Changing color, though, is that intelligence or instinct?

    Whenever I'm anywhere in South Texas, traveling them roads, I thinks about them ancient cultures, wondering whether them mammoths, supposed to be the ancestor of them elephants, and them bison, supposed to be the ancestor of them buffalo, traveled these same roads. I thinks of them roads when they was still the roads for musk-ox and elk and brown bear. I remember hearing a poem where someone talked about the road like that, and took them roads back to they beginnings and what and who traveled on them before the modern peoples traveled on them roads. I thinks about this whole land when it were just the lands of the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Apache and what Delgadina call the Clovis Culture before them. Sometimes I finds pottery in the desert which I collects and thinks were it made by them Ancients. I daydreams of myself sometimes, riding the prairies on a wild, Spanish mustang. I ain't know the full history of this land, but sometimes I hears pieces of the story. The fabled cities of gold, explorer-mapmakers, the California Gold Rush, Chief Peta Nocona, Comanche, Quaker Indian agents, New Mexico cattle rustlers who would masquerade as native Peoples, native rebels like Quanah. I ain't like to hear the white man's version, 'cause everybody know that. I likes to hear the other people's eclectic stories of the Southwest.

    Leonora Valdez, the Navajo I met in New Mexico, asks me whether I wants anything from the McDonald's counter. I says Naw, 'cause I gots me my Coca-Cola. She goes up and gets her one of them salads—which seem like it a special southwestern-style salad—and comes back and sits down at the table. I didn't have the intention of staying in McDonald's that long, but now she's telling me that she seen several men climb in the back of my truck—a Indian—she use the word Indian—a black, and some type of clown.

    Ah, I knows they's there, I says. I explains that one's a Navajo—seem like she would say Navajo since she a Navajo—the other's from Oklahoma but is working one of the ranches in New Mexico and the other is a roustabout with a local carnival, 'cept sometimes he plays they clown and don't always take off his clown makeup. I always gives them a ride into Albuquerque, I says.

    Ain't that against y'all's union rules? she asks. She wearing moon disk earrings, a silver and turquoise bracelet. Naw, it ain't just silver and turquoise, look like it got all kindsa things in it—silver, turquoise, gold, copper, little bits of iron, marine shells, quartz, coral, mica, I think it called mica. I heard of something called galena, maybe it got galena in it. It ain't that big a bracelet, but look like whoever made it try to put every metal and what you makes art with in that bracelet. You could probably go over the whole list of metals and what you makes art with and find it in that bracelet. She kinda remind me of a woman I seen in a book called Mystic Women of the Southwest. 'Cept it were paintings of women, not photographs, so I ain't know if she the model for any of them paintings. And kinda remind me of women I seen in paintings by a woman that Delgadina calls a "southwestern fantasy landscape artist." She say they is painters that ain't paint real landscapes, but paints fantasy landscapes.

    Am got a union, but ... Well, I'm a independent, I explains. Then I explains that them mens usedta ride into Albuquerque with someone else that works on one of the ranches. They usedta ride in the back of his truck sharing hooch, one of them open-air trucks. I usedta see them myself when I was coming into Albuquerque, this long-haired Navajo, the black cowboy, and the roustabout who were sometimes made up to look like a clown. They was always sharing hooch, and to tell y'all the truth, it all looked pretty low class; then once when I was at that same McDonald's I heard the man tell them that he couldn't drive them into Albuquerque and they was asking around for somebody to drive them into Albuquerque. Ain't nobody want to drive no long-haired Navajo, black Oklahoma man, and white clown into Albuquerque. I told them I'd drive them into Albuquerque, but I didn't want them to be sharing no hooch and spilling no hooch in the back of my truck. I usedta tell them I usedta see them in that open-air truck and how low class they all looked and told them how they ought to acquire a little race pride, and then I told them that they can ride in the back of my truck—I don't let nobody ride in the cab of my truck but me—that they could ride in the back of my truck as long as they didn't share no hooch back there, even if mine ain't no open-air truck I ain't want them to be sharing and spilling no hooch back there, and they's got to wait till they gets into Albuquerque to share they hooch, if they's got to share that cheap hooch. I likes Budweiser myself. They says, Yes ma'am, so I lets them ride in the back of my truck. And they don't behave as low class as they usedta behave when they didn't have no discipline. I mean they is disciplined men and ranch workers, except for the clown, who's a roustabout, that sometimes assumes the role of a clown, but ain't nobody look disciplined when they's riding in the back of a open-air truck and sharing hooch. To tell you the truth I didn't want to include the white clown in the back of my truck, but the Navajo and the Oklahoma black man vouched for him.

    Hooch? asks the woman.

    You know, liquor, from one of them brown paper sacks, you know, cheap wine or whiskey, you know.

    I thought that's what you meant, 'cause you kept saying spilling hooch, said Leonora. Then I didn't know if you meant they was sharing a woman. I thought you were using that as some type of metaphor.

    Naw, that's hoochie. I don't think that even they is low class enough to be sharing no hoochie in the back of a open-air truck. And they knows who I is and shows that they is got to be disciplined mens in my presence. Plus, they's all got wives in Albuquerque and I knows all they wives by name. So they knows they can't be sharing no hoochies in my presence. Men has got they own places that they can go to share a hoochie, but it ain't in the back of my truck. Men has they own places or creates they own places to do shit like that, but this truck is mine. And as for me myself I just drives them into Albuquerque. And them that thinks that I'm a hoochified woman has another think. I likes my romantic freedom, like the books say, but that don't mean I is hoochified, and I don't even take the same romantic freedom as the womens in the books I reads. 'Cause there is some hoochified women in some of them books, even them that don't believe theyselves to be hoochified. Well, some of them books you reads, these modern novels, they is perfect models for hoochification. But they is modern women and reclassifies hoochification as romantic freedom. I'm romantically free, but it ain't no hoochified romantic freedom, and I believes in the old-fashioned kind of romance myself. Which don't mean I'm naive. Some womens gets grown, or think they is, and they forgets Whose child they is. The mens they helps me to unload my truck when I gets into Albuquerque. Them industrial detergents that is meant for the warehouse in Albuquerque. Then I travels through Laredo, Brownsville, Galveston, Texas City, you know, I gots customers all along the Texas border. I travels through the whole Southwest, though. I ain't know what it is I likes about the Southwest. Maybe 'cause I grew up on them cowboy and ... I mean cowboy movies.

    You can say it cowboy and Indian, she says, taking a forkful of salad.

    I starts to tell her I was always cheering for them Indians myself, but then she be thinking I'm just trying to brown-nose her, 'cause she a Navajo. So I just drinks my Coke and don't say that. The cowboys was always the heroes, though, and you always got to know the cowboys as individual people and the Indians was just Indians. If they was individual Indians, they was always played by white people. I think even Elvis played a Indian. Or they'd be white women playing Indian women and they'd always be in the Pocahontas mode. I only seen one movie that weren't the Pocahontas mode, a television movie about Crazy Horse, where the Native American woman loving a Native American man. I know some of y'all knows what I means when I says not in the Pocahontas mode, but a lot of y'all I gots to explain.

    Then I notices some whites come in McDonald's and look toward me and Leonora, like they is asking theyselves whether we is wild or tame. Maybe I'm just thinking that, though, 'cause I'm thinking about them cowboy and native peoples movies. The whites they goes up to the McDonald's counter and orders something, then they sit in one of the booths. Then the clown peeks in McDonald's and looks at Leonora like he thinks she's "wild and gorgeous" like she Pocahontas 'cause I usually ain't stay in McDonald's that long, so I waves at him, then I tells Leonora that I gots to drive these men into Albuquerque. She sits eating her salad and I drinks my Coke and then gets up. Leonora wearing blue jeans and one of them cinnamon-color blouses, the same cinnamon color them Buddhist nuns wears, and she got Navajo ornaments on and that big turquoise bracelet. She got a scarf around her hair with geometric-type designs and she got long, clean, black, straight and braided hair. I pictures her riding on a horse through the Arizona desert.

    Please to meet you, she say.

    Same here, Leonora. I starts to put a tip on the table, but then remembers this McDonald's and you ain't supposed to tip no McDonald's. I'm used to them truckstops where I always puts a tip on the table. You got you a way into Albuquerque? I asks.

    Yes ma'am, she say, and stay there eating her salad.

    You ain't hitchhiking is you? I asks, still standing at the booth.

    No ma'am.

    I seen some of y'all college types out there hitchhiking, and I wants to make sure you ain't no fool.

    She kinda smile. No ma'am, I ain't hitchhiking. I got me that jeep out there.

    Ah, yeah. That's a nice-looking jeep. That your jeep?

    Yes ma'am. She wipe the side of her mouth with her napkin. She sit up straighter.

    Seem like I might have even seen that jeep when I was in Arizona, 'cause I remembers seeing a jeep like that and thinking it a nice-looking jeep, Arizona license plates, then I was noticing the jeep as I was coming in McDonald's and was thinking if I wasn't driving no truck I'd like a jeep like that jeep. That looks like a genuine Army jeep.

    I got it at the Army surplus store, she say. She say she got it real cheap, otherwise she couldn't afford a jeep like that and would be having to hitchhike. Naw, girl, don't play that kinda fool. You is too gorgeous. Promise me you ain't going to play that type of fool. You got enough gas to get you to Albuquerque?

    Yes ma'am. She straighten one of her braids and the geometric scarf. Then she take another nibble of salad. People that is new to the Southwest don't know 'bout the vastness of the land. I don't give her no lecture on the vastness of the land and all the undeveloped land between here and Albuquerque and sometimes they ain't another gas station for hundreds of miles or what seem like hundreds of miles. But she from Arizona and she know the landscape, so I don't lecture her on the landscape. I don't pick up hitchhikers, and the only reason I lets them undisciplined disciplined mens ride in the back of my truck is because I knows who they is.

    As I'm going out the door, someone hands me a flyer that says, UNA UNIÓN FUERTE INCLUYE A TODOS. I folds up the flyer and puts it in my shirt pocket. The man that gives me them union flyers knows that I'm not recruitable, but he gives me them union flyers anyway. The mens is standing around the back of my truck, 'cause it hot in New Mexico, and the air-conditioning only starts when the truck starts and air-conditions the whole truck. They spots me and climbs in the back of the truck. One of them opens the skylight and I latches the truck. Then I unlatches the truck again and reaches in and one of them hands me they hooch, which I carries for them in my glove compartment till they gets into Albuquerque and helps me unload at the warehouse, then I drives them to the center of town and hands them they hooch. When they wives is waiting for them at the warehouse, I keeps the hooch. When they's on they own in town, I gives them they hooch. 'Cept sometimes I forgets to put the hooch in my glove compartment. When I forgets the hooch, sometimes they drinks the hooch before us gets to Albuquerque; other times they keeps the hooch till we gets to Albuquerque.

    Anyway, I takes the hooch, then climbs in the cab, puts the hooch in my glove compartment, and heads toward Albuquerque. I knows the black cowboy started to ask me if he could ride in the cab, but he knows I'm like that squaw when you calls her a squaw. I don't let nobody ride in the cab of my truck but me.

    One of them rap on the cab. Who the gorgeous gal?

    Your wife, I say, and keeps driving.

    Why they be changing colors like that? I be asking, standing up close to the glass of that glassed-in ropewalk and be wondering what kind of glass that is, able to hold back the ocean. I'm talking about Marineland. Got to be a mighty powerful glass to hold back the ocean like that. I poke my nose up against that glass and be looking at them marine animals and some of them marine animals be looking back at me like they ain't never seen a African nose. I know it's my African nose they's looking at. I should call it my West African nose, 'cause them East Africans, most of them, they ain't got noses like that. Them Caucasians likes to claim the refined features for theyselves, and I know in them early literature they is them that claims the Ethiopians as Caucasians on account of them refined features. And even likes to refer to it as refined; otherwise broad features would be considered the good features to have, or the features of universal man and woman. I ain't think about a lot of that stuff myself, though, till Delgadina start taking them courses in Cultural Anthropology and even got a course called the Politics of Race. She the one showed me that book that claimed the Ethiopians as Caucasians because of they refined features and they literary history. Because they is amongst the Africans to have a literary tradition. While she were taking that course, she would talk the politics of race, and how in some cultures people negotiates they identity. I have had people to even ask me if I'm African. Ain't mean I don't know who I am, though. You don't have to take courses to know who you are. Or who you is, neither.

    Then one of them Rajiformes it swim up close to the glass and seem like it be wondering what kinda substance that is that hold back the ocean too.

    That's their way of communicating with each other, say the marine guide.

    What they be saying? I asks, stepping away from the glass.

    He be looking at me like I'm some ignorant and crazy woman, the marine guide not that Rajiform. He a slim young man with thick brown hair and got the physique of a swimmer and he nose even look aquatic. I guess that's how come they uses noses to stereotype people. They always uses the distinctive features of a people to stereotype them. And that makes it so you think that they's the norm. And then you have people that don't want to be who they naturally is, 'cause they's been stereotyped. The ruling peoples makes the norm into who they is and how they does things. Anything that diverges from the way they does things ain't the norm. Biko talked about that in that movie we seen, that movie about Steve Biko, the South African freedom fighter. Delgadina say he reminded her of el Ché, 'cept she say his real name Ernesto, Ernesto Ché Guevara. She say that her favorite name, that Ernesto. 'Cause it mean earnest. But it also got a nest in it. What else she say about that Ernesto? Something about the CIA and the Bolivian government conspiring together. That's what I mean about them legalized outlaws. Every country got they legalized outlaws, and ain't just the CIA and government outlaws. He wearing blue jeans and one of them sweatshirts with a dolphin on it, I mean the marine guide. I don't know what they be saying, er, I don't know what they're saying.

    Well, how come you knows they's communicating, and ain't just camouflaging theyselves?

    Delgadina were with me at Marineland, 'cause she the one convinced me to come to Marineland to learn about them marine animals, but she were just observing them marine animals, and reading them brochures and the Marineland literature and weren't asking no questions. She probably knew all them answers to them questions about them marine animals that I were asking, 'cause she is always taking courses. I seen the way the marine guide looked at her, though, like he thought she were one of them hoochie women, you know, the stereotypes they has of them women they considers exotic looking. Like them Asian women, even them Asian-American women. They's people just see a woman who to them is a exotic and think she a hoochie, even them that looks high class. They be looking at her and thinking about "that sex thing." Ain't nobody think I'm exotic looking. They might think I'm a nut. But not even no exotic nut.

    He smooth back his thick brown hair and kinda hunch his shoulders, the Marineland guide. We have scientists who study them and have certain generalizations about what their chromatics mean, I mean, what their color changes mean, however only generalizations—that is, the general subject matter, but not the specific vocabulary. Professor Hauberk Honeyeater, the renowned oceanographer and psychologist of color, has written a book on the subject, but it's not for a popular audience ... And then he show me Professor Hauberk Honeyeater's picture 'cause it on the brochure 'cause he one of the Marineland advisers. He don't look like no honeyeater, though, he plump and long-necked and look more like one of them bustard birds.

    Say what?

    For example, what you see now is probably some sort of mating ritual, he saying. When he mention that mating ritual them other marine tourists, they be sticking they noses up against that glass. Ain't I said that sometimes them color changes is a mating ritual?

Continues...

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