With A Bullet

He watched the lights. Knew the sequence. What to do. Checked his watch. Been in line forty-five minutes. Sweat sheathed his back. Not from heat.

The woman ahead seemed confused. WTF. How? R-O-Y-G-B. Someone was talking to her from a monitor that he couldn’t see. She was laughing at herself. Hoarse sound. Like she’d been smoking. An odd thought for someone her age, in a lilac and white dress with dark purple shoes and matching glasses and hand bag. Where was she going.

She went on. The light was red. He fixed on it. Glad his wife wasn’t here. And sorry. She would like this. And hate it.

The light turned green. He stepped in. Fixed on the new set of lights to his right. R-O-Y-G-B. Stereo female voice said, “Look into the blue screen ahead of you, please.:

That screen was ten by ten inches, he guessed.

“Find the black light and focus.”

Damn. He’d forgotten that. How could he see the other lights if he was staring at the black dot in the blue screen. Found it immediately — did he get a reward? Focused. A soft click was heard. Gentle whirring followed.

“Welcome, Gerrard. Please look to your left. You will see a series of light. All are now dark except the first one, labeled one.”

Well, they were making this unnecessarily cumbersome. Did that voice have an English accent?

“When light number two turns orange, please put your right arm in the black cuff to your left. You will hold it there as lights three and four turn yellow and green. During that time, you may feel a small jab in your right hand. Do not worry. This is normal. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” Might be a British accent. There a difference between English and British accents?

“Keep your arm in the cuff until light number five has turned blue. Do you understand?”

He felt like giggling. Shivered. Cold in this booth. “Yes.”

A chime sounded. The second light turned orange. The voice said, “Please insert your arm into the cuff now.”

Gerrard did. Sweat dribbled down his neck. Why? Wasn’t hot. The cuff closed on his arm. He couldn’t pull it out if he tried. Kind of wanted to try.

Light number three went yellow. Something jabbed his index finger hard. He flinched.

“Please do not move,” the voice said.

Embarrassment washed him. Hadn’t meant to move. He was surprised. That’s all. Harder jab than he expected.

Green light number for came on. Another chime. Same as the first. A blue light came on. “You may remove your arm.”

As he was pulling it out, flexing his fingers and looking for damages, the voice continued, “When the overhead door light turns green, you may exit the booth. Your gate is twenty-seven bee.”

As he looked at it, the booth light turned green and the voice intoned, “Follow the instructions to your gate. Thank you for Traveling with America First.”

“You’re welcome,” he muttered. Ahead was a sign. “Gerrard Miles, please turn left and follow the green line to gate twenty-seven b.” The green arrow pointed straight.

It was dark. Low lights. Cool. Like he was underground. Or in a movie theater. One of those huge complexes with big screens and small rooms. He followed as necessary, losing tracks about how many turns were made. Things he’d read always said this was the offsetting part, getting to your gate. Most deemed this the worse feature.

Gate 27 B was in green to his right. Others were there. About twenty-five. Another sign said, “Pittsburgh.”

A male voice said, “Welcome to gate twenty-seven bee and travel to Pittsburgh. We are ready to board. Please proceed to the door on your left.”

They all queued. He felt weird about it. No seats? No zones? Others were guffawing about it. Nervousness flowed around them like flooding waters. Only one woman, blonde, in a white coat, seemed comfortable. Seemed a little superior in her attitude, too. She’d done this before.

The gate was open. No one was there. A male said, “Please step into the gate when the light turns green.”

This was it. They made it seem like it wasn’t. This was it, though. They all knew it. All were deadly quiet. The blonde woman went. Was gone. The light shuffled forward. Sweat was drenching Gerrard. Like he’d been in a moonson.

He shuffled with the rest. Tenth. Ninth. Et cetera. Then him. Licked his lips. Coped with dryness at the back of his throat. And a dry tongue. Watched the light. Stepped forward.

The ground moved, sucking him forward. He almost screamed but there wasn’t time. The same voice said, “Please step forward. Welcome to Pittsburgh. The local time is five thirty-four. It’s a pleasant seventy-eight degrees outside. You can claim your baggage at carrousel number seventeen. Thank you for traveling with America First. We hope you have a good visit, whether you’re in Pittsburgh for business or vacation.

He walked forward, blinking against dazzling sunshine, his sweat drying, the ordeal over, into the international airport, looking for directions to baggage claim. He’d been at home two hours before. Home in Medford, Oregon. Now he was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He’d gone over twenty-five hundred miles almost instantaneously. Like a bullet.

Fucking technology. He didn’t understand it but it was amazing.

Tuesday’s Theme Music

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, August 24, 2021. We’re into August’s last legs. September begins next week. Autum will take over in a few weeks. 2022 is hurtling toward us with comet speed.

Sunrise and sunset are 6:28 AM and 8:08 PM, respectively. Temps are lower. Just 60 F now. Expect mid-80s by the mid-afternoon.

We’re back to reality. Back home. In Ashland. Spent a week on the Oregon coast. Drove home yesterday. Coming south/east, smoke took over as the dominate feature, rendering trees and mountains into sketchy outlines, killing breathability, locking out blue sky and sunshine. Oregon, 2021: another year of smoke.

Yardwork needs tending. I’ll put on a mask and do it, though philosophical reservations pummel me. Is having a pretty yard really so critical when attaining it means risking your health. Hell, no, of course not. But, property values, the marketing forces reply. Image and impressions. Some suggest, hire someone. Sure, take advantage of another’s weak financial security and force them to sacrifice their health. Makes sense. Ah, but their choice, right? And they need the money. And there is capitalism’s doom loom in its essence.

The boys — Tucker, Boo, and Papi — are happy to have us back. Lot of love time spent with each yesterday. Heads were scratched. Purrs were issued. Comforting was done.

Had the Animals song, “It’s My Life”, in my mental music stream this morning. “Comedown” by Bush. Then Duran Duran replaced those with “Ordinary World”. Somehow, Lost Frequencies came through from 2015 with “Reality”. Just a matter of words with this light tune, really:

Decisions as I go to anywhere I flow
Sometimes I believe, at times I’m rational
I can fly high, I can go low
Today I got a million, tomorrow I don’t know

Stop claiming what you own, don’t think about the show
We’re all playing the same game, waiting on our loan
We’re unknown and known, special and a clone
Hate will make you cautious, love will make you glow

Make me feel the warmth, make me feel the cold
It’s written in our stories, it’s written on the walls
This is our call, we rise and we fall
Dancing in the moonlight, don’t we have it all?

h/t AZLyrics.com

Yes, I’m all over the map this AM. Happy to be home. Sad to be away from the ocean. Relieved my fur friends and home are okay. Appalled by the state of the air, the extended drought, the multitude of wildfires. Depressed by the break in routine, the inability to saunter to a coffee shop to write (see Air Quality, COVID-19 restrictions), humble that I have a life where I can make such choices.

Reality can be great. It can also suck. At the same time.

Stay positive. Test negative. Wear a mask as needed. Get the vax. Have some coffee. Or tea. Wine. Whatever. Enjoy the music. Cheers

Monday’s Theme Music

The daily cycle has commenced again. The beat goes on. Monday, Monday. Sunrise, sunset. Here we go again.

Hello! Welcome to Monday, August 23, 2021. Sunrise in Florence, Oregon, was at 6:29 AM in a clear pale blue sky, a sunrise of hope and optimism. Sunset will come at 8:08 PM. It’s 52 in Florence now but it will be 72 later today. Should be beautiful. But we’ll be on the road. Heading home. Ashland. Current temp there is 58. High is forecast to be 85. Air quality has improved, but it’s poor — 69. Still, it’s home for all that it implies, with its failing and securities, comforts and frustrations. Home. Such a four-letter word.

Unimaginatively, many home songs scale my brain. Home, sweet home, I’m on my way. Just set me free. Home, sweet home. And road songs. On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on the road again. But I’m also thinking, ain’t that a shame? Ain’t that a shame that I must leave this lovely place and ain’t that a shame that more people can’t live better lives? That we can’t find and sustain a better balance between nature and humanity’s endeavors? So I’m playing “Ain’t That A Shame” by Cheap Trick in the morning mental stream. I know Fats Domino was first with it. Great version. But I’m rocking today.

Stay positive, test negative, wear a mask as needed, and get the vax. Here’s the music. Cheers

Travails

Well, haven’t been writing. Not on paper. Or computer. Have been writing in my head.

My wife wanted (needed, she claims) a vacation. COVID-19, you know. Sheltering with me, you know. And the cats. She thought she was going a little crazy.

Her sister called. Hey, she and her boyfriend were coming west. His children (and his children’s children) live on the west coast. He hadn’t seen them for almost two years except on Zoom. So. Would we like to meet up in Seattle? The boyfriend’s son lives in Kent and the boyfriend lived in Seattle for years before retiring from Boeing. He can show us around.

Difficult for me. And yes, selfishly, I was thinking of me. I’m already a frustrated writer. Now I was being asked to travel and surrender more time. More energy. I’m quite jealous of my writing time, by choice. See, I wanted to pursue writing for a looonng time. But I was in the military. Traveling, writing on the side. My wife wanted me to stay in, get my pension. Smart financially. Good security. So I sucked it up and stayed in.

I was 39 when I retired from the military. The plan was that we would now move to somewhere where we could survive on my pension and write. But, she then got a job in advertising that she liked. Could we please stay there, in the SF Bay Area?

I was employed by startups, then was acquired by corporations. Made very good money along the way doing jobs that weren’t too hard. It all meant deferring my writing dream. I ended up staying with IBM for fifteen years after they acquired one of the companies I was at. Yes, good money but soul-sucking employment. No fun for me, for the most part. Some challenges but mostly tedium.

So, this is my state of mind. I am now sixty-five. I’ve been writing and reading, improving my writing and story-telling skills (or hope so, you know?), trying to get to know my muses and discover my voice. It’s a challenge. I love that challenge. COVID-19 was a serious interruption. Just as I felt that I was finally making substantial strides forward.

Writing the current novel-in-progress took me through the end of 2020 and into the start of 2021. I then discovered that I was trying to tell the story in the wrong way. So, recalibrated. Took all that previously written stuff as background work. And kept going, now on the right path.

It’s exciting. Then, vacation. Preparation for vacation. I’m not social. The vacation meant committing to being social. Delaying my writing efforts for another week. But what’s another week, right? Sure. Rationally, I reply, it’s just seven days or so. With writer’s angst, I tell you, it’s a painful and frustrating interruption. An unwanted interruption. The conversation with the muses was going well. I was having a good time. Who likes to stop a good time?

But I try to be a good husband and some kind of contributing member of society. So, the time was taken. The vacation done. Good for me? Sure. Aren’t I nice? You betcha.

Back in the writing seat today. Picking up those story strings that emerged as I was on a ship in Seattle, walking a street, driving the Interstate, observing a person, sipping coffee, gazing at a street scene, etc. You never know when they’ll come.

Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Again.

Highlights

Been on a road trip. Three cities (and three hotels), five nights, six days. So, if I wasn’t online much, you now know why. I’m not one to advertise that we’re not in our house. I’d rather not highlight it as a target for thieves. They’re already quite bold and opportunistic without me providing some useful intel about us not being home.

We went north. Seattle. Nine hour drive. But we decided to break it up into two days. Something about sitting in a car for a long time, ya know? Doesn’t get along with my wife’s RA. So the first leg took us to Lake Oswego outside Portland, OR. There we checked into a Holiday Inn Express and had dinner with friends at their house.

Holiday Inn Express wasn’t a highlight. Apparently built for tall people. Very tall. Like, I’m but five eight. Had to reach to my crown’s top to use the coffee maker. Likewise, the bathroom sink was higher than my waist. My wife, several inches shorter, struggled to lean forward over this tall counter to use the sink or see herself in the mirror to apply cosmetics. Lighting in the room wasn’t great, either. Nice big mirror (a ‘skinny’ one, if you know what I mean). No light at it meant you’re looking at yourself in near darkness. Not useful. Bed was okay. Wife complained that her pillow wasn’t sufficiently hard. Had to fold it over otherwise her head just sank. That was just a night. No biggie.

Dinner with friends was a highlight. We were visiting them in their latest home. Lovely location and yard. Nice home, some dated features but they’re adept at updating things. The woman of the house provided us with grilled asparagus, rice with mushrooms, and baked salmon. All delicious. They served excellent red wines as well. Conversation was scintillating as we played catch up.

Onward, north to Seattle. Mostly easy drive. Tacoma was a slow-moving parking lot. Stop and go often. No explanation of why. Traffic information signs were there but either unused or gave us useful tips like, “Motorcyclists, ride smart to stay alive.” Helpful when you’re stopped in traffic, wondering why. Nothing on the information radio station, either. All this tech, right?

We navigated the craziness of downtown Seattle (not much different from Portland, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Frankfurt, London, Washington, D.C., SF, etc, to me, although saner than Rome and Seoul) to the Inn at the Market by the Pike Place Market. Everyone said that is the place to stay. It was okay. Good location for visiting the market but no advantage otherwise. Comfortable room, yes. Good bed. Hard pillows. Wonderful lighting and mirrors, although no skinny mirrors. Water pressure was okay but several minutes were needed for hot water. My wife said she didn’t get a good hot bath the entire time. I had good hot showers, though, thank you.

Highlights including seeing my sister-in-law for the first time in three years. Well, since her mother died. She’s doing well. I met her and my wife at the same time, and have known them since I was fifteen. Went to high school together. Before losing her mother, she lost her husband to brain cancer after a four-year fight. They had many terrific years together. I thought her deserving of that, as he was hubby number three. Number three was the charm. Besides those issues, she’s coping with a son suffering PTSD from his tours in Afghanistan. And she runs her own business. We toasted a success as she finally — after eleven years of struggle — was granted her patent.

She introduced us to her new boyfriend, an intelligent and engaging person. We had a good time with the two. Eating had something to do with that. First night was a terrific Indian restaurant, Kastoori Grill, across from the hotel. Night number two found us at Cutter’s Crabhouse. We didn’t have reservations but my sister-in-law talked them into seating us. The woman doesn’t give up. The next night, we were at Zigzags for a late meal. Meantime, breakfast on day two was at Bacco Cafe, which I found fresh and delicious. (My wife was less enamored of her fare.) Lunch for day three found us at Kell’s Irish Restaurant and Bar. Day number four, we ate terrific grilled croissant sandwiches for breakfast, picked up at Sisters in the Post Alley.

First day and second morning had us browsing through the Pike Place Market. The second day also had us cruising the bay via a Salish Seas tour. An abbreviated history of Seattle and some notables were presented, along with a glossy overview of architectural highlights.

Trip highlights to the trip poured in on day three. We walked down Alaska Way to the sculpture garden. Then up the hill to the Space Needle. We caught a break and were able to buy tickets to use in the next fifteen minutes. Boom, up we went to the rotating clear floor. Pretty cool. Fantastic views of Everett Bay, Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympia Mountains.

Next, though, was the Chihuly Garden and Glass. Focused on Dale Chihuly’s work with glass, the presentations stunned and awed. These were gorgeous creations.

For the evening, we were hunting for a night tour. Didn’t come up with that, but we did end up on the Seattle Tall Ship, Bay Lady, for a sunset tour. I’d never been on a sailboat before. This was a schooner. From raising the sails to listening to the various commands until finally heeling through the sound’s deep water to the passing water’s reassuring whisper, this was a relaxing experience. I strongly recommend a cruise with them, if you have the chance.

Saturday found us heading south again. Crawling through Tacoma. Stop. Start. Pausing to eat at my wife’s favorite eatery, Panera Bread, in Longview, WA. Then on down to Eugene for an overnight stop and shopping. This hotel was a regular for us. We’ve stayed at several places in Eugene but the La Quinta gives us the most satisfaction. Located midway between the downtown area and Coburg Road, easy access to either is available. Besides the location, the rooms are large and comfortable. Hard pillows, you know? Good lighting and mirrors. Fantastic hot water and water pressure, needed to rinse off the travel grime. On to home, and our waiting cats, on Sunday.

Of course there were good beers all along. Also good people, friendly and helpful. Was worrisome traveling with the pandemic as a backdrop. We frequently wore masks but when you’re eating, what are you to do, right? We were all vaccinated but discussed whether it would have been better to stay home. None of us are exhibiting symptoms but COVID-19 strikes quickly and silently.

I can rationalize it as a break we needed. Many will understand and agree. Others will fault us for falling for the pandemic and vaccine information, which they view as a scam. Another subset will see us as privileged, which I don’t deny. Still another group will probably condemn us for being complacent.

I don’t have an answer to any of that. We went; we took precautions. We sought a balance. Hopefully, we didn’t contribute to another spike.

Fingers crossed.

The Friends Dream

This is not about the television series. This dream was about Mary & Bruce, names given to them for this dream. May worked for me. I met Bruce through others. He and I became good friends. He and Mary married.

Bruce has died in the dream. I just found out about it. He’s such a wonderful person, I’m completely shocked by his passing.

Mary has become a VIP. I want to see her to learn about Bruce’s death. In parallel, I’m told by another that Mary got him a good deal on a Jeep. I decide that I’d like to try to get a good deal when I see Mary to learn about Bruce’s death.

I call her office. There’s a little verbal altercation between me and her assistant. They don’t know who I am. Mary is a VIP with a heavy schedule. I’d like to see her. Mary comes on the line and tells me, “Of course I’ll see you, Sergeant Seidel,” just like we’re still in the service and she’s working for me. “I’ll make time.”

I go to her via a traveling montage. Arriving, I learn that Mary is struggling to get some photographs developed. I look for and find the photographs. They’re of her and Bruce and their children while on vacation. There’s also some photographs of symbols on walls. I understand that photographing them is forbidden. This is why the photos aren’t developing right. But I still believe I can fix them.

Mary and I met and walk along outside. She’s lovely as ever. Yes, she can get me a car discount, she tells me. We don’t really talk about Bruce’s death, just that he abruptly passed away. She misses him but she’s okay.

She has to return to work. I walk with her. We come across a man. He’s a VP who works for Mary. He’s tried to develop the photographs and couldn’t do it. I tell Mary that I want to try. She agrees. Tells me to take the photographs and see what I can do, but she wants them back. I agree. I’m wearing a leather jacket and slip them inside. Then I get on a motorcyle and ride away.

Dream end.

Refreshing Change of Dreams

Two other men and I were going on trips. Dressed in business suits with ties, we traveled to the airport in a limo. One would be going on with me while the third was going elsewhere.

We arrived, checked in, and was informed, “You’ve been upgraded to first class.”

Well, that was certainly a pleasant surprise. My friends and I inquired why. The agent didn’t know, so we travelers accepted the news and celebrated.

Then, I was notified that I’d won ten million dollars in a lottery.

Ten million! Wow. Well, it’d be less than that after taxes. Still, there was cause for celebration, right?

I didn’t remember entering a lottery. No matter. I made immediate arrangements to feed some children I’d read about. The man doing the paperwork with me was very snarky about it. I was cold and snarky back.

Then it was onto the plane. As I settled into my ultra-plush first-class seat, I dwelled in fantasies about what changes I could make to my life.

Dream end.

Saturday’s Theme Music

Mother, May I? Yes, you may.

Yes, it’s May 1, 2021, a Saturday, for official transcripts. 2021’s fifth month has leaped onto our backs, the preceding four months going by on express rails. Sunanigins began in Ashland at 0607 and will cease at 2010.

We were over on Oregon’s coast, admiring the Pacific Ocean, for the last several days. An enchanting host, the Pacific gurgled with bright sunshine and flirted with fog. I love hearing the waves booming over the rocks with great explosive thuds that send shivers through the earth. Amazing.

Back in Ashland, the weather service claims the the days have been sunny and in the eighties in Ashland. If so, the weather slipped us a change up. April showers are falling, though it’s May. I’m for it; give us more rain, please. We’ve already had reports of wildfires. Fire services scrambled and put them all out, but it does give the day an edge to read about this.

Musically, I’m humming the song, “Down Down” by Status Quo (1974). It’s a rockin’ song. Driven by that line, “You’ll be back to find your way, again, again, again, again” (don’t know how many times they say again there), I was thinking, okay, back to writing. You took three days off. Need to get back to it. That’s sort of a party trick for writers, to find your way back, again, again, again, again, etc. That’s why the song occupies my mind space this morning.

Stay positive, test negative, wear a mask, and get the vax. That is all.

Friday’s Theme Music

Good afternoon. Today is Friday, 4/30/2021, the final day for April, 2021, in this reality. Your reality may vary. Today finds the sun clearing the horizon at 6:08 AM and hiding behind the other side at 8:09 PM, giving us a full fourteen hours of sunshine in southern Oregon.

Pacific Ocean sunrise, Gold Beach, Oregon, April 20, 2021

It’s a late entry. We’ve been ‘over’ on the Oregon coast. To reach it, we drive west across southwestern Oregon, dip south into some twisty motorways in northern California, and return north into Oregon, passing over mountains and through a Redwood forest.

We enjoyed a pleasant stay, in a hotel, our first overnight outing since the pandemic struck the U.S. hard in March, 2020. An entertaining interlude to the normal elasticity of our lives, it did find me thinking about changes as I walked the beach and discussed life with the crashing surf. Said thoughts prompted recall of a 1985 Foreigner song, “That Was Yesterday”.

That was yesterday
But today life goes on
No more hiding in yesterday
Because yesterday’s gone

h/t to Genius.com

Yes, life has gone on, but it still sometimes feels like it’s a surprise. It brings up thoughts of another song, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”, by the Kinks. But I’ll stay with the more theatrical Foreigner tune, because it was the one that came up on the beach.

Stay positive, test negative, wear a mask, and get that vax. Cheers

A Dream of Needs and Waiting

I dreamed I was with a gaggle of people, all clothed, all my age. Mixed races were represented. Males, females, and different sexual orientations were in evidence. We were outside, awaiting movement to somewhere. We were all in our twenties.

A doctor examined me and pronounced me healthy. That cheered me. I felt ready for my trip. It seemed like I’d been planning it for a long time. At last the day was here. I was in good spirits.

Little organization was evidenced. We were just a group waiting, though. How much organization is needed? You ate when desired, or took a bathroom break, if needed. Though we were outside, everything was available.

Then, during a pee break, I discovered blood in my urine. Upset, I went to the doctor and reported it. He immediately examined me and pronounced me healthy. Reassured, I returned to the queuing area and visited with others, chatting about where we were going. None of us were sure about the destiny or what we would find, but we were all sure that it was going to be better than where we’d been.

I took another pee break. More blood in my urine. Upset, I reported in for medical care. The doctor wasn’t in, I was told, but would be there soon. Go back and wait. I’ll be called when the doctor arrived.

I returned to the waiting area. Preoccupied with my medical problem and morose, I sat away from the rest. Time wore on. We became restless, wondering, what’s the hold up? Weren’t we supposed to be gone by now? As we waited, I heard another woman, Michelle, go up and ask for medical treatment for blood in her urine. I didn’t say anything to her but I was interested in her details. They told her that a doctor would be with her soon. She went back and spoke with her friends, all women. I edged closer but couldn’t hear their conversation.

Doctors came in. One was the American actor, Steven Weber. I thought, at last, treatment. But now, general info was made. There was a delay, etc. Be patient. We’ll be with you shortly.

Why couldn’t they just treat us now, I wondered. Tired of waiting, most people drifted away. I stayed where I was. They came in, calling for Michelle. I volunteered that she’d gone elsewhere. They didn’t seem to hear me so I repeated myself. They still didn’t seem to hear or notice me. Admin people talked among themselves. They needed to find Michelle because she had a medical problem. It might get worse. I have the same problem, I said. They told me to wait, a doctor will be with me soon.

The doctors had left while this was happening. Only I remained of the original group. I didn’t know where they’d gone. I was now in a building’s shade. People came down. One was a young boy. He had two fluffy ginger and white cats. One was a kitten. He kept telling everyone that his cat needed medical care. Others tried telling him to relax and calm down, care was coming, but he was adamant, he needed care for his cat right now.

I learned his name was Michael, which was my name. Another child with two cats, calicos, adult and kitten, came into the scene. This child was younger, perhaps six. He walked around telling everyone that his cats were going to pay his bills. The cat wanted to. He did it online. I thought the kid was a little disconnected from reality.

A woman in a black sweater and skirt came by. She was white, with short black hair. I realized as I watched her that it was Heather Graham, the actress. She poured a small cup of water with ice and lime in it and walked around. As she came by me, I thought she was going to throw it on me. I told her not to do that. She answered, “No, you look thirsty. I thought you needed a drink of water.”

The dream ended.

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