Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Without Having to Speak"

This poem is spillover from the August 2016 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] alexseanchai, [personal profile] curiosity, and [personal profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "wearing partner's clothes" square in my 6-1-16 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest, and the "respect limits" square in my 1-31-18 Platonic card for the Valentines Day Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] daisiesrockalot and [personal profile] curiosity.

"Without Having to Speak"

To Cuoio's surprise, his new classes
were more pleasure than punishment.

The etiquette class was fascinating, and
he quickly discovered why the Marionettes
outclassed most of the other Families --
they really thought about how manners
helped people fit together better.

The teens in the class welcomed him
instead of making fun of him, and
he wasn't the only adult -- there was
a quiet woman who looked even older.

The de-escalation class held
primarily people of his own age
and rank: underbosses, or people
with an eye toward that position.
The younger ones consisted of
enforcers and bodyguards who
wanted to expand their options.

Cuoio was intrigued to discover
that there were whole separate modes
of language that had different uses, and
how those worked in negotiations.

He wasn't a dealmaker yet, but
thinking about his mentor Ruggiero
made him consider it as a possibility for
a later career path. Cuoio hadn't thought
much about his future in a while, but now
the exercise stretched him in a good way.

He got so caught up in the classes
that Chiara had to ask him whether he
wanted to attend the next social event.
"It's a ballo caffè," she said helpfully,
"nothing too formal or complicated."

Cuoio liked the coffee dances that
ranged from afternoon to evening
and featured popular music.

When it came time to dress for
the party, though, he dithered
over his possible options.

"After what happened last time,
I want to make an impression,"
he said. "I want people to see
that I'm making a diligent effort
to learn the Family manners, but
that I'm still not a pushover."

"Something a little serious,
then," Chiara suggested.

Salvo sighed. "I was thinking
about my bird-of-paradise dress,"
he said. "This is an afternoon party,
so it's a good opportunity."

"Wear it," Cuoio said. "That will
show people that you're not going
to quit being yourself just because
your cousin has no manners."

"Thank you," Salvo said. "It means
a lot to me that you stood up to him."

"I just wish that I had a way to show
my support, without having to speak,"
said Cuoio. "I like the elegance of
the etiquette here, but I don't know
how to do very much of it yet."

"Well, you could always dress up
with me," Salvo said with a chuckle.

Cuoio sat up straight. "Chiara,
would that work?" he asked.

"It could, if you can carry it,"
she said. "Wearing a dress
is less about the clothes and
more about your confidence."

"Could I maybe borrow one?"
Cuoio said. "I have no idea
where to start, but you haven't
steered me wrong yet."

They were close enough that Cuoio
and Chiara could share clothes,
although the fit wasn't perfect.

"It's an afternoon party, and
people often come straight from
work," said Chiara, sorting through
some options. "Let's keep it as familiar
as possible, and put you in a skirt suit."

She pulled out a smart outfit of
dove gray accented by black piping.

"What will we do about shoes?"
Salvo said. "People notice if
you wear the wrong shoes."

"He can't wear mine, his feet
are wider," Chiara said.

"I have plain black shoes for
ballroom dance," Cuoio said.

"That will work," she said.
"They're close enough to
what some women wear."

"Okay," Cuoio said, and
pulled out his dance shoes.

"Do you want a tight blouse, or
a loose one?" Chiara asked as she
held up two black tops for him to see.

"What's the difference?" Cuoio asked.

"If you plan to keep the jacket on, then
a clingy blouse is more comfortable,"
Chiara said. "If you want to take it off,
then a looser, dressier blouse will
look better above the skirt."

"You said serious, so make it
the clingy blouse and I'll keep
the jacket," Cuoio decided.

"He needs something to dress it up
a bit, though. The gray is kind of
depressing for a party," said Salvo.

"I have just the thing," Chiara said.
"I saw this and thought of you." She
brought out a bird-of-paradise scarf.

Cuoio laughed. "So Salvo and I
will match, but what about you?"

"How do you feel about me
wearing the pants?" Chiara said.

"I love you in pants," said Cuoio.
"I think it would look hot if you
walked in with a man on each arm
and then people recognized us."

"This," Chiara said, "is going to be fun."

She changed into a sleek black pantsuit
that made Cuoio catch his breath.

"Wow," he said. "That outfit
looks fantastic on you."

"Thank you," Chiara said as
she draped a green-and-gold belt
around her hips below the pair
of buttons on her suitcoat.

Then she began touching up
her makeup for the party.

"If it's not too much trouble, could
you paint my face again?" Cuoio asked.
"I feel like, if I'm wearing a skirt, then
I should be wearing makeup too."

"That's an excellent idea,"
said Chiara. "We'll stick with
the black eyeliner, and I can
pick up the peach tones from
the scarf with a darker lip color.
How do you feel about bronzer?"

"What's bronzer?" Cuoio asked.

"The kind I recommend for you
at the moment is like blush, but
more brown than pink," she said.
"It emphasizes your cheekbones."

"Go ahead," Cuoio said.
"I trust your judgment."

The brush tickled as it
swept across his cheeks,
but he gritted his teeth
and held still anyhow.

As before, Chiara did
the eyeliner while Salvo
used a dark pencil to outline
the shape of Cuoio's beard.

"Well now, that does look
delicious," Salvo said
after he finished.

Soon they completed
their preparations and
headed to the party.

When the three of them
arrived at the main house,
TyLa and her comare Dhayl
were performing a duet
in Italian rap music.

They were actually better
at opera, but the point of
an afternoon dance was
more about having fun
than about showing off.

The refreshment area
was piled high with coffee,
coffee-flavored desserts,
and assorted other things.

There was tiramisu and
espresso panna cotta,
Macedonian fruit salad
with or without alcohol --
the cups had little flags
to show which was which --
along with plain sliced fruits.

The sandwich table held
the ham-and-pear panini
and pepperoni stromboli,
hot toasted caprese and
cold sandwiches with basil,
tomato, and fresh mozzarella.

A smaller table offered pans of
flaky granita in several flavors,
each garnished with its ingredients:
here a sprig of fresh mint alongside
a slice of Meyer lemon, there watermelon,
and even one with a champagne cork.

"No espresso granita?" Cuoio asked,
drooping over his plate of panini. He
had wanted it to go with the tiramisu.

"It's on the table with the other coffee things,"
Chiara said, pointing back the way they came.

"Ah, I'll get it later, so it won't melt while
I'm eating my sandwich," Cuoio decided.

They found a bench they could all sit on --
just barely, if they squeezed -- while they ate.
The food was as delicious as usual, and
Cuoio went back twice, once for fruit salad
and then again for the espresso granita.

No sooner did they leave the bench than they
bumped into the housefather, Nestore Dinapoli.

Cuoio apologized profusely, but Nestore
just chuckled and said, "It's good to see you
here, Cuoio. How are things going?"

"I'm enjoying the classes you assigned,"
Cuoio said. "They're really useful, and I
might not have found them on my own."

The old man's eyebrows went up.
Probably he wasn't used to people
thanking him for a punishment.

"Oh? What do you like about them?"

"Meeting new people, and learning
how to fit in here," Cuoio said. "I think
the etiquette class ties in with some things
I've been picking up from Chiara, and
the de-escalation is just captivating.
I'm sure I'll use that on the job."

Just because he could take a punch
didn't mean he enjoyed it. He would
happily avoid getting hit if he could.

"I'm delighted to hear that. Perhaps
after you finish these, we can sit down and
discuss what else you might like to study,"
Nestore said. "We have quite a selection,
with different things offered all the time."

"Violin?" Cuoio said wistfully. "I play guitar
and mandolin, and I was learning violin
just before ... everything fell apart."

"Perhaps you'll play for us some time.
I think I'd like that," Nestore said. "As for
the violin, consider it a reward after you
complete your assigned classes."

"Yes sir, thank you sir," Cuoio said,
trying not to gush all over him.

Nestore patted him on the shoulder.
"Good boy. Go and enjoy the party."

The band started up a new song,
a light piece of pop-rock music that
lent itself well to freestyle dancing.

Cuoio, Chiara, and Salvo all danced
together. Cuoio stuck to simple things
like a slide and a two-step, while Chiara
and Salvo threw in spins and other tricks.

In the lull after that dance, Culaccino
came up and asked Salvo for the next one.
Even with the bluish-green streak in her hair
dyed brown for some mission, she still had
the same fluid grace of a water elemental.

Chiara approached one of the wallflowers,
a shy girl barely into her teens, and coaxed her
onto the dance floor. It was so nice to have
comares to learn from and practice with.

"May I have this dance?" asked a soft voice.

Cuoio turned to find Dantel Chiefari,
Pomarola's partner. "I'm still learning
the follow role," he admitted. I'd
probably step on your toes."

"You will not," Dantel said.
"I am a good enough dancer
to compensate for novice missteps."

"In that case, I would be honored,"
Cuoio said, and took the man's elbow.

Everything seemed a bit different
when he was wearing a skirt,
but it sure was interesting.

"Ah, they're signaling a swing,"
Dantel said. "You'll want a scarf
to give that outfit some swish."

"I already have --" Cuoio began.

"That's a neck scarf, not a hip scarf,"
Dantel said. "Pomarola, my dear, loan him
one of yours, if you would be so kind?"

Pomarola not only loaned him the scarf,
she tied it around his hips, which was good,
because Cuoio had no idea what to do with it.

He had to admit it was a fetching thing,
though, soft green thread crocheted into
a sort of fishnet pattern with sequins caught
in the threads, and a fringe of tassels that
ran around the edge. It even matched
the green in the scarf tied at his throat.

The song was "Sonnolenza," and
it made Dantel smile -- perhaps he had
enjoyed dancing to it as a younger man --
which got Cuoio into the spirit too.

As promised, Dantel was a talented lead,
who deftly moved his toes out of harm's way
whenever Cuoio missed a step in the dance.

"Stop concentrating so hard. Relax and have fun,"
the older man advised him. "Listen to the music.
Feel my hands -- and keep your arms solid,
I can't lead if you don't push back a little."

It was like trying to do everything backwards,
but it was fun, and Cuoio found himself
laughing at his mistakes instead of
feeling ashamed about them.

"How are things with your team?"
Dantel murmured. "That was
quite the upset, earlier."

Everyone had been asking
about that, and Cuoio was
getting plenty of practice for
his new etiquette skills.

"Salvo feels safer now that he
knows people will protect him from
his roach of a cousin," Cuoio said.

"That is good," Dantel said.
"And how is your comare doing?"

"Chiara's brilliant at her job,"
Cuoio said. "I'm learning so much
about how to dress sharp from her --
Salvo is getting in on that too -- and
the makeup is a whole new world."

"You wear it well," Dantel said.
"I'm happy to hear that your team
is meshing so well. What positions
would you still like to fill there?"

Cuoio sighed, leaning into
the older man a little. "Nothing,
right now," he admitted. "I'm
not allowed to add anyone else
until I get permission for it."

"Stings, doesn't it?"
Dantel chided gently.
"It's for the best, though --
you need time to grow into
your place among us."

That was probably true,
although Cuoio had not
thought of it that way before.

Then the music tilted toward
the closing notes, and Cuoio turned
his attention to the importance of
not stepping on Dantel's toes.

The skirt swished around him,
and he was just starting to learn
how to follow the older man's lead.

"Thank you," Cuoio said when
the dance ended. "That was great,
and I think I learned some things."

"Very good," Dantel said, and
then blew him a playful kiss.

That reminded Cuoio of bantering
with Salvo, in a way, a little silliness
with no serious intent behind it,
and Cuoio enjoyed that.

The next dance was a fad,
something about doves that
involved flapping one's arms
like wings. Cuoio asked
a girl barely in her teens,
who knew the moves.

After that, he saw Chiara
take up with TyLa, while
Dhayl came to Cuoio.

The Moorish comare had
a petulant look that Cuoio
didn't find attractive, but TyLa
did and that was what mattered.

At least she behaved herself
on the dance floor with Cuoio.

"TyLa's wondering if you'd consider
people with street experience,"
Chiara said afterwards.

"I might," Cuoio said.
"It really depends on
their gifts, though -- I still
want durable teammates."

Salvo laughed. "They asked
me if you were getting serious
about the makeup," he said.

"I think so," Cuoio said.
"I like the way it makes
me look and feel."

"Then we're happy
to help," Salvo said.

"May I have this dance?"
someone asked, holding out
a hand toward Salvo. "You
look quite fetching tonight."

He had golden skin and
long black hair tied up in
a topknot with two jade pins,
one translucent white and the other
a green so dark it was almost black.
He wore a white silk shirt over
a divided skirt of black silk.

Cuoio recognized Agricane
from descriptions, and so did Salvo
judging from his bashful response.

As Salvo and Agricane strolled away,
Chiara murmured, "Don't worry about them.
Agricane just likes to meet with other men
who wear skirts sometimes. There
aren't very many in the West."

Then she slipped away to dance
with one of the young men who
was trying to decide between
comare and bodyguard for
his future profession.

Culaccino captured Cuoio
just as the next dance began.
"Scintille" was a vibrant pop song,
and Culaccino had a way of flicking
her hands to mimic sparkles.

She also gave him subtle hints
about how to dance in a skirt suit
that Cuoio greatly appreciated.

When the dance wound down,
Culaccino fetched cool drinks for
both of them, then said. "I admire
your firm handling of bullies."

Cuoio ducked his head. "I'm given
to understand that I took it too far."

"Mmm, too far for propriety, perhaps,"
said Culaccino. "For what he deserved?
I'm thinking he didn't get nearly enough."

"Do you know more about people whom
Afterglow may have harmed?" Cuoio said.

"Not in enough detail to lodge a complaint,
or to handle the matter myself, which is
precisely the problem," Culaccino said.
"So I think your solution suited the need."

"How would you have handled it yourself?"
Cuoio said, his boss curiosity piqued.

Culaccino laid her hand over his bare wrist,
her fingers cool and wet from her glass.
A sharp tingle went through his skin,
then faded as quickly as it came.

"I control water," she said quietly.
"I don't have a lot of power, but then,
inside a human body it doesn't take much.
With enough force, it's agonizing and it
leaves a permanent scar. So if you see
anyone with my watermark on their skin,
you'll know they're serious trouble."

"Understood," Cuoio said,
making a mental note in case
he ever got an assignment on
the water. "Thank you for
telling me about your gift."

Culaccino gave Cuoio
a head-and-shoulders bow,
then disappeared into the crowd
just as Chiara and Salvo returned.

Agricane swished past them, and
for a moment, energy danced
and shivered over Cuoio's skin.

"Don't worry," said Agricane.
"Everything turns out fine."

Watching him walk away,
Cuoio muttered, "What
was that all about?"

"Oh, Agricane can glimpse
the future, mostly economics but
sometimes other things," Salvo said.
"He asked if we were doing all right, so I
told him it was a bit rocky at the moment
but we're getting along. I didn't expect
for him to do anything about it!"

"He does that sometimes," Chiara said,
waving her hand. "If he doesn't use
his Foresight, then the pressure can
build up and become uncomfortable.
So he likes to let it off in surprise flurries.
When he does that, it means he likes you."

"He was a perfect gentleman with me,"
Salvo said. "He thought I would look good
in hakama, can you believe that?"

Chiara looked him up and down
and said, "I can. It's not that different
than some of your other clothes."

"Hakama?" said Cuoio.
"That fancy outfit of his?"

"The split skirt," Chiara said.
"Ordinarily it's quite formal, but
that's when worn with kimono.
The Western shirt softens it --
I quite like the effect."

Cuoio sank onto a bench.
"I'm not used to everyone
showing so much interest in
what I wear and who I'm with."

Instantly Salvo and Chiara
sat down to bracket him.
They respected his limits,
but still kept him close.

"It's a lot to take in, it's it?"
Chiara said, patting Cuoio's back.

"Yes," Cuoio said. "I feel
like everything is changing."

"Well, it is," Salvo said. "But from
what you've told us about your life
before we met, that's a good thing."

Cuoio leaned back against
the cool marble behind him.

Everyone had noticed his mood
without having to speak openly about
his concerns to any of them first.

He thought about how welcoming
the Family was, how they didn't care
about anyone's choice of friends or lovers
so long as it didn't cause a security breach, and
they all danced with whomever they pleased.

He thought about how so many people
wanted to dance with him and his team
just to make sure they were all right, and
how Agricane had flicked his ability over them,
light as a butterfly, to reassure Cuoio that
everything would be all right.

That tolerance and consideration
helped make the Marionettes one of
the most influential Families.

"Yes," Cuoio decided.
"That's a good thing."

* * *


TyLa (Tyrone Latonya Taubman) -- She has butterscotch skin, brown eyes, and long brown dreadlocks. Tattoos scrawl across both arms. Her heritage is primarily African and American, a little Manx, and one Sicilian great-grandfather whom she barely remembers but deeply adored. TyLa is a butch lesbian. Her childhood was miserable due to her grandparents pressuring her to be a girly girl and also straight, while her parents simply didn't stand up for her. So she got involved in gangs, where her dapper dress and excellent observational skills made her popular as a button woman. Originally TyLa lived in Omaha, Nebraska and worked for Boss White in the Ebonies & Ivories. When he saw that she fit better with the Marionettes, he sent her to them as a gift, which has worked out well for everyone. There TyLa met her comare, a Moorish femme named Dhayl Alayza. They both enjoy singing opera, but Dhayl is better than TyLa.
Qualities: Good (+2) Button Woman, Good (+2) Dapper, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Opera Singer
Poor (-2) Past Gender Abuse

Dhayl Alayza -- She has butterscotch skin, brown eyes, and long curly brown hair. She is a Marionette comare, working for TyLa. They share a love of opera singing, although Dhayl is better at it. She excels at entertaining in general, although she can turn petulant when she doesn't get what she wants.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Opera Singer, Good (+2) Comare, Good (+2) Entertaining, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence
Poor (-2) Sulky

Dantel Chiefari -- He has light olive skin folded into many wrinkles, brown eyes, and white hair. He is the partner of the comare Pomarola. He is planning to retire soon.
Qualities: Master (+6) Gentleman, Master (+6) Lover, Master (+6) Mob Boss, Expert (+4) Interpersonal Intelligence, Expert (+4) Wealth, Good (+2) Art Collector, Good (+2) Dancer, Good (+2) Italian History, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Wine Connossieur
Poor (-2) Not as Strong as He Used to Be

Agricane -- He has deep golden skin, almond-shaped black eyes, and long straight black hair often put up in a topknot. Once, he was a protegee of Shigeru Fukui, but after Agricane's power emerged, it created static with Mr. Fukui's Super-Wristvid and vice-versa.
Agricane is a Japanese businessman, a gift to the Puppetmaster from Shigeru Fukui at Lucky Frog. Rinaldo was a gift from Koroleva. Agricane, Orlando, and Alcina do not get along well.
Origin: He attended a Samurai Businessman retreat that included intense physical challenges, long hours of meditation, teambuilding exercises, and lectures on executive tactics and strategy. By the time he came home, he was getting premonitions about the future.
Uniform: Agricane loves Japanese clothing, even in Italy. He favors hakama and other skirt-pants, and for more formal occasions, full kimono. He has some more casual kimonos too, and some Italian clothes that he's picked up along the way. He likes stark contrasts such as black and white, and wears neutrals more often than bright colors.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Japanese Businessman,
Poor (-2) Strained Relationship with Japanese Family
Powers: Good (+2) Foresight
Limitation: Agricane can see glimpses of the most likely futures, but primarily in business and economics rather than everything.
Weakness: His power tends to conflict unpleasantly with other futuristic gifts, even super-gizmological ones.
Motivation: Honor.

Hakama are a traditional Japanese garment worn by men, sort of a cross between a skirt and trousers. They are worn on various occasions. See an example.

Modern fashions often combine masculine and feminine elements. Skirts are becoming more popular among men.

Agricane has two hairpins, both made of jade, one white and one so dark green it's almost black.
Agricane's Green and White Jade Hairpins
A Chinese white jade hairpin, late 20th Century, with carved phoenix head finial above a pierced openwork and spiral shaft, length approx 24cm, together with a similar green jade hairpin, length approx 23cm.

* * *

15. “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”
Rachel Zoe

Italian etiquette varies somewhat based on venue, but is generally more formal than American. Here are some guidelines for business. The more powerful Mob families also tend toward formal, as that helps keep a lid on things, although each has its own customs and the Marionettes are exceptional in some ways. Check out the Ten Commandments and further notes on behavior and customs.

De-escalation skills can save a lot of hassles. Know the warning signs of trouble. There are verbal and physical techniques. Organizations can set policies to support this. Understand that almost all conflicts begin as verbal before progressing to physical. So if you know the modes of verbal self-defense, you can usually avoid physical fights. Here are some ways you can de-escalate a conflict.

Negotiation is an important life skill. Different aspects of negotiation influence its effectiveness. Improving your negotiation skill helps you get what you want.

In a Family compound, the Marionettes host frequent social events. This usually includes a community dance at least once a month, most often semi-formal to formal, but sometimes more or less so. It gives people a chance to dress up, socialize, and have fun. A mix of music and dance styles are offered so that everyone interested may participate including children, elders, and people with special needs. You can read about community dances, family dances, and how to host a family dance party.

Learning to dance has many benefits. The right workout helps build a dancer's body. There are instructions for ballroom dance, slow dance, waltz, and many others. The more dances you know, the more popular you will become as a partner, and the more fun you will have on the dance floor, because you will rarely have to sit out due to not knowing the steps.

Etiquette of social dancing varies according to venue. The Marionettes are a little more conservative than a social dance club, which means they put less pressure on people to accept most dances or mingle with many partners. Some couples only ever dance with each other, and some people have a limited set of safe partners due to other personal reasons. The first and last dance are customarily reserved for one's escort if attending as a couple. However, it remains true that skilled and willing partners are the most popular. Unlike most venues, using superpowers on the dance floors is common and welcome, as long as it's done in a safe and courteous manner. Here are some more advanced tips on dance manners.

A tea dance is an afternoon or early evening dance with refreshments and live music.

Dance parties can include all kinds of things. Some social centers hold afternoon dances like this. Explore Italian pop music, pop videos, rappers, lounge music, and cocktail music.

Ballo caffè means coffee dance.

Casual dancing is often called freestyle dancing. It's fairly easy to learn. There are movements designed for awkward people. Some moves include two-step, slide step, spins and tricks.

Swing dancing comes with its own dress mode for women and for men. Dances include the Solo Charleston and Basic 6-count. There is advice on how to lead in swing dance, plus lead and follow in ballroom dancing. It's important to match your partner. See some diagrams for Single Salsa Swing. "Sonnolenza" is Italian swing from 1943. Listen to the music and watch the dancing.

For a tea dance or something similar, cocktail attire is recommended. This can include work suits and cocktail dresses. Here are some styling tips.

Foods for a casual dance cover a wide range. The many types of Italian coffee lend themselves to coffee-flavored dishes. Enjoy recipes for Espresso Panna Cotta, Authentic Italian Tiramisu, Fruit and Nuts. Macedonian Fruit Salad can be either alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Italian sandwich recipes include Hearty Ham and Pear Panini, Pepperoni Stromboli, Toasted Caprese, and Tomato and Basil. Granita is an icy dessert that requires no special equipment to make. Enjoy some granita recipes. Watermelon granita looks like this.

Chiara wears a black pantsuit with a green-and-gold belt.

Salvo wears a bird-of-paradise dress.

Cuoio borrows a gray-and-black skirt suit. Compare the snug blouse he chooses with a looser one. There are many ways to wear a scarf like the bird-of-paradise one. Finish with black dance shoes.

Men do wear makeup, although they may get hassled for it. Makeup is for anyone who wants to wear it, and Cuoio is secure in his masculinity. Makeup for men may include eyeliner and beard corrector. Read some makeup tips for men.

Bronzer is a brownish cosmetic sometimes made for men. It often comes in colorful tins. Learn how to use it.

Lip gloss can be subtle or dramatic. Cuoio is using a shade similar to the Lip Ink Nude, although Terramagne rarely uses "nude" as a color name unless it has a modifier, i.e. a nude line of cosmetics might have Nude Fair, Nude Medium, Nude Olive, etc.

This is Pomarola's green hip scarf.

"Scintille" is an upbeat song.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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