August 17, 2012

Summer Short And Sweets - Week 7 - And The Give Away Winner!

I can't believe it!  We're up to week 7 of Short & Sweets already!  That means there's only one more week to go (and boy is next week going to be awesome!!!) but it also means that summer is drawing to an end.  It has flown by so fast!  And I still haven't updated the backlog of Perfect Picture Books that I was sure to get done with so much time.... Better get cracking! :)

But I've been hard at work on some other things.... which maybe I'll tell you about one of these days... :)
badge by Loni Edwards 
For today’s Short & Sweet, we’re taking a field trip!  It can be anywhere you want – and anything that fits into what you’re already doing – no special outings necessary.  Going out with your kids to the beach, the zoo, a museum, the playground, the library?    Going shopping at the grocery store?  Washing the car?  You don’t even need to leave the house - the kitchen or the back porch will be just fine!

Your challenge today is to describe a setting - any setting that tickles your fancy.  In 50-100 words (more or less if you like, that's just a ball park) make us feel like we're there.  Take a careful look at your surroundings - whatever they are.  What does it look like? sound like? smell like? feel like? taste like?

BUT - here's the trick :) - you can't use the actual word of the place!  So if you're describing the kitchen, you can't use the word kitchen.  We have to be able to guess!

For an extra challenge, describe it from a kid's perspective - try to look at it through the eyes of the average 5 year old - the typical picture book age target.  Places can look a lot different to a five year old than they do to an adult.  Different features stand out, and kids' react to things differently.

Although we don't devote a lot of words to setting in picture books because that part of the job is done by the illustrator, it is helpful to you as a writer to envision your setting clearly.  Certain select details will be necessary, depending on your story, and this is good practice in focusing on the details that really matter.  If you write for older readers, setting description is very important to make your reader feel like they're there - but you can't ramble on indefinitely.  MG and even YA readers are not going to have a lot of patience for long-winded descriptions.  So this is a chance to practice picking out the part you really need to say!

Here's my example (which, as per Short & Sweet instructions I am writing in 5 minutes off the top of my head because this day is WAY too packed for me to have any more time than that!)

Weathered wood.  Dutch doors.
It smells like summer, warm and sweet, but with a hint of molasses and clean leather.  Dust motes hang in the haze of late afternoon sunshine slanting through the barred windows.  The brass nameplates on the leather halters wink in the golden light - Jasmine, Pennywhistle, Thumbelina.
Clip-clop-clip-clop.  Snowflake's unshod hooves thud lightly on the aisle as Ginny leads her in from the pasture.  She lowers her muzzle to her bucket and takes long swallows, then lifts her head, dark eyes soft, drops of water bejeweling her whiskers.
A few feet away, Blackjack sneezes into his hay.
Ginny runs a hand over Snowflake's satin shoulder.  She reaches up and straightens the silver forelock between her ears, smoothing it down.  Snowflake rubs her cheek against Ginny's arm, almost knocking her down.
"Silly girl!"  Ginny laughs, then steps back into the aisle and rolls the heavy door shut.
It is quiet but for the occasional rustle of a hoof drawn through straw, the rhythmic munching of horses nose deep in alfalfa and timothy.
This is Ginny's favorite place to be.
(Okay.  So mine is 181 words.  I never claimed to be succinct :)  And I hope you didn't have too much trouble figuring out where Ginny is :))

So, are you ready to give it a try?  I can't wait to read all your setting descriptions and see if I can guess where you are!  And I have no doubt that many of these descriptions will serve as story sparkers for readers, who feel themselves transported to that time and place and are suddenly inspired by a character who pops into their head and onto the scene! :)

OH!  And I almost forgot!  The winner of the giveaway from Monday - a hardcover copy of Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin, courtesy of Lee & Low Books - is PAMELA!!!!  Pamela, please email me and let me know your address so I can mail it out :)

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!  There will be a birthday party going on at my house - YUM!  MORE CAKE! :)


  1. Three cheers to Pamela!

    Okay. Let me see if I can get this:

    I'm a big boy now. I can help. I really can. Mom lets me put the plates and forks on the table. For extra fun, she lets me roll up our cloth napkins and clamp gold rings around the middle. When I finish, I sneak around the island, topped with separate bowls of shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and my favorite, the holey cheese.
    I hop out. "Roar!"
    Mom jumps, with a gasp, eyes wide. "Little J! Don't scare me like that." She always says that, then a great big grin cuts across her face. She reaches down and gives me a wet peck on my cheek. The scent of rosewater stays with me.
    "Is everything set?" She turns her attention back to the stove. Grease sizzles and pops. She flips the hamburger patties, humming her favorite song. She calls is it the blues. I call it boring. But not this time we spend together. I'm a big boy now and I can help. It's lots of fun when mom lets me.

  2. This is wonderful, Angela! I love it! I'm guessing dining room/kitchen, tacos for dinner, and maybe a birthday because of the stress on being a big boy? Am I close? Thanks for joining in!

  3. Yippee for Pamela! Dddid you say cake?????? When I'm on this dang unbodacious diet?? *sob* And I'm sick too. Probably because I've been on a diet with no fattening stuff. No cake, no donuts, no Hershey Bliss. P.S. I'm going down to where Ginny's at in just a bit. *wink* (Which is what I was going to describe until YOU KNOW WHO took mine.) ;-) Hmmmmm.

    If you're sure I have not been barred, prohibited, restricted, or banned, because of my stinky S & S comments.

    I love the chill in the air these days. The sweet apples on the tree are so juicy and crunchy. I roam here. It is my favorite place to be. The sun has just begun to crest in the sky and the breath of the wind pushes my mane this way and that. I stamp my hooves to loosen the hard-packed earth and I see Susanna. She watches from the top of the fence eager to know me.

    Mine really is short today. I'm sickly. :(

  4. delores @ thefeatherednestAugust 17, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    In the velvet darkness, the deep deep silence, she lay peacefully, her hair spread in a golden web over her pillow. She was safe in a world of dreams and rainbows. A low growl in the distance penetrated her consciousness. She rose and opened the shutters to watch the heavenly light show, but, it is never wise to open your windows to the night when evil walks the earth.

  5. I'm so sorry your feeling poorly, Robyn! Hope whatever ails you goes away soon. I love your setting! I think it is Mr. Ed in the orchard. Am I close? It's a beautiful description! (And you could have taken mine - just described differently!) Have fun with Mr. Ed and feel better soon!

  6. Ooh, Delores, this is a good one! I have to guess a bedchamber in a castle tower? But I'm feeling pretty anxious about her opening the window with evil out there! Thanks for joining in!

  7. Better late than never, right? This is a fun series, Susannah. Here's mine:

    I hear my shoes sizzle and realize they
    are melting on the grate. I pull my chair backwards and wipe my mouth
    on my shirt. My shirt smells like smoke. The marshmallows on the
    picnic table whisper my name, and I fumble through the darkness to
    find a new roaster stick. Stars twinkle overhead. Coldness hits me as
    I step away from the flames. A sleeping bag will keep me warm

  8. Ooh, love this, Hannah! I feel like I'm right beside the campfire :) Thanks for joining in! :)

  9. Very fun and something i needed. Had to be quick, though because I'm on the road :•)

    Lorelai inhaled the fresh morning air as her toes curled in the soft, cool soil. The sun felt like a warm shawl on her shoulders. She listened to the hum of a fat bee as he buzzed in and out of squash blossoms. She quickened her steps, letting her hands high-five tall stalks. She smiled as she bent and plucked a plump, red berry and popped it into her mouth.

  10. Well Suzie thought...We are here!!! Looking up she crooked her neck backwards and almost lost her balance...Wowee...those trees are touching the clouds...She turned in circles round and round...Trees trees and more trees...Green Green and blue sky...She heard that buzzing noise that you only hear on a hot summer day...She could hear many many birds singing...They must be high up in those tall tree tops because she could not see them but they sounded so pretty...Looking at all the pathways, she decided just to choose one and explore...Her Dad followed obediently...

  11. You better get cracking, Susanna! We have already checked out 33 books from the library, and we are chomping at the bit for PPBF. :)

  12. Hurray for Summer Short and Sweets! Congrats to Pamela!
    Here's of my favorite places when I was a little girl.
    The ones in New York City are the best!!!!

    The smell of cinnamon and fresh baked bread permeates the
    air. Trays of cooling cookies sit on top
    of the counter. Apron tied around her waist, Mrs. Angelino finishes filling the box of assorted pastries and ties a
    piece of string around it before she hands it to Jeremy’s mother. Face pressed against the glass, Jeremy’s eyes
    are saucers as he tries to decide which special treat to choose. “Only one!” admonishes his mom. Black and white cookies, rainbow bars,
    frosted cupcakes...this decision is almost too hard to make! And then, Jeremy spies a Charlotte Russe, its
    red maraschino cherry proudly balancing on top of the mountain of whipped
    cream. Without hesitation, the joyful
    five-year old points his finger...”That’s the one!”

  13. Oh, I love this Vivian! I'm not sure which bakery you have in mind (my bad I'm sure) but it brings to mind Greenberg's in the low 80s (83rd maybe?) and Madison where we used to very occasionally stop in and it smelled so deliciously sweet and buttery! Thanks for joining in again! :) And no, I am not drooling... well, not much anyway :)

  14. This is wonderful Karen! I love how you've captured a young girl's view, and I love the word "wowee!" - so perfect! I have to guess a park or garden, but I'm not sure if it's a specific one - maybe, due to the birds... Lovely :)

  15. Beautiful, Penny! Lovely descriptions! I think with both squash and berries she must be in her family garden? Sounds delightful!

  16. Yaaay, Me! Oops! I hope I'm the right Pamela...tee hee. I never win stuff. And a hardcover, too!!! Here's my long S&S.
    clouds of dust hung just above the concrete floor as the wheels on Bro
    Sye's cart scraped against jagged rocks and pebbles that jutted out from
    the crude surface. He was wearing his special white gloves. Carolyn
    grew excited The cart was covered with a white cotton cloth. Still
    Carolyn knew Bro Sye's cart had her favorite juice and crackers.

    ladies in white sat together. Earlier, the ladies in white had set out
    the special fans with the pictures of Martin Luther King, Kennedy, and
    Jesus Christ (in that order). I loved sitting next to them. They
    smelled like juicy fruit gum. Slowly swaying their fans back and forth
    in unison, the juicy sweet scent hovered above, then laid (lay?) on
    Carolyn's nose and thoughts. If she stared at the ladies long enough,
    one of them was sure to give her a piece of gum.

    thing those fans were out. The speaker was already sweating and he had
    only just begun. "We extennnd the right hannnd__ of fellowshipah!"
    “You are welcomed, here” One of the ladies in white shouted towards
    the crowd. The ladies in white all begin to moan. Low at first. As he
    continued , the moans grew louder, the fans began to flutter quickly.
    The speakers voice rose to a loud pitch. "He was born of a womannnn.
    Hah! Puuuure, Hah! A woman, who had nevah!" He bellowed. "Nevaaah,"
    sang the ladies in white. He pounded the rickety table and growled
    "Nevah, been touched by a man. Yessssuh!" “No man!” Carolyn wondered,
    “She wasn’t even hugged by her daddy? Maybe getting hugs from her her
    mommy was enough for her.” Carolyn did like for boys to touch her
    either. As Carolyn pondered on the woman who “Never knew a man,” she
    could not keep the other part of her mind off of the Welch’s juice and
    Saltine crackers. “This time,” she thought. “I’ll take my time and
    chew the crackers and sneak two of those tiny glasses of juice.”

  17. OK, I actually only HAVE five minutes, so I'm doing stream of consciousness right into the comments! :)
    ******Off. On. Off. On. Click. Click. Click.Hot. Brr. Hot. Brr. Goose goose bumps. On. Brr. Marmalade. Hot dogs. Lemonade.Damp curls, cool breeze.
    String cheese. Yogurt cups.Chocolate pie, Mamma made.Finger reaching...
    "No, no. Close it, please!"Darn.

    Yeah, maybe not really what the exercise was supposed to be, but you know I am a woman of few words. I admit to skipping descriptive passages in my own reading, so this is how I'd probably describe stuff in my writing. :)

  18. Hm, I spelled my own name wrong above! Plus this comment thingy did not keep the formatting of the description. Has something changed? :)

  19. Thanks Susanna...yup could be a park or garden...I had in mind more of a forest with some trails...Thanks for the exercises...

  20. Renee...I also noticed something different...the blog is not opening up correctly if you go in with Internet Explorer...I had to use Mozilla Firefox as my browser...and the comment area looks strange as well. :)

  21. Hi Susanna:
    Loved your story. Awesome.
    Here's my 7th entry.

    Krystal peeked around the corner. A warm breeze flapped
    plastic tacked to two corners on the wooden window frame. She giggled at
    Poppa’s fake owl perched on the ledge.

    A beam of sunlight poked through a hole in the plastic and shone down on yellow metal plastered with decals.

    Krystal’s mouth formed a perfect ‘O’. “Poppa, is that really for me?” She slapped her cheeks.

    Poppa beamed. “Yes, Krystal. You’re old enough.”

    “I know. I’m five-years-old.”

    Poppa cranked the key. Grey smoke billowed from the exhaust.

    Krystal coughed and clamped her hands to her ears.

    Poppa patted her back. “Hop on.”

    Krystal grunted, swinging her left leg over the hard, black
    leather seat. She planted her running shoes on the sideboards and
    wiggled her backside. Her sweaty palms tingled, gripping rigid rubber.

    She stared out at the open field. “Hurry, Poppa.”

    Poppa strolled to her side and pointed out some very important instructions.

    Krystal nodded, licking dust off parched lips. She hunched
    forward. Her tummy somersaulted, coaxing the noisy machine toward the
    overhead towering frame.

    “Well?” Poppa asked. “What are you waiting for?”

    The engine roared.

    Her body jiggling, she bounced over hilly mounds. “Whee!”

    Poppa yelled, “Slow—” But his voice got lost in the wind.

    She flew past giant sunflowers that smiled and waved.

    Krystal threw back her head and belted out at the top of her lungs, “Happy Birthday to me!”

    (225 words) Okay, I can’t stick to the word count.

  22. I had the same problem. I thought it was might computer acting up.

  23. I smell the baking. Wonderful!

  24. Love your descriptions!

  25. Okay Renee, I searching my brain. Am I far off base thinking fall fair/festival?

  26. My mom's first name is Ginny! What a coincidence! ;)
    Here goes -

    Henry walked through the trail that he knew like the back of his hand. It
    wound, curved, and became an obstacle course to anyone else trying to find
    their way on it. When Henry got to the end of the obstacle course, he looked in
    all directions. Seeing no one was there, he walked through the woods on a hidden
    trail. Henry looked at the note again. It read -

    "hebiny (aka henry cas u frgt) cum 2 u no wear at 9oo am 4 surpriz brovie
    (aka big bro stevie)"

    It was from is big brother Stevie. He knew where the note was telling him to
    go. Henry, his brother, and George started a club there, but there hadn't had a
    meeting in a year or two. He finally arrived at the three-floored building. It
    was perfect with its rickety roof, trick floorboards (which fell into deep
    sandboxes or trampolines), and worn looking wallboards. He walked up the steps
    (being sure to skip step number seven, twelve, and twenty-one). The top-floor
    was where they had their meetings, the second was the watchtower, and the first
    was the playground or jungle gym (although it wasn't like a gym or a jungle).
    When Henry got to the Meeting Room door, he knocked the secret code - hard,
    soft, soft, soft, hard, and when he heard "Come in", he slowly opened
    the door.

    He walked in and saw Stevie and George... and Mom and Dad?!? Before Henry could start shouting “INTRUDERS!”
    Stevie motioned for him to sit and did the "A-OK" sign.

    "Do we have a surprise for you!" Mom said, reaching for a metal crate.
    When it moved, the kids heard a noise coming from inside. All of a sudden, out
    popped a puppy for the group of kids! “Here is your new mascot!” Dad said with
    a smile.

    I hope you like it :) It is 308 words.
    I also had trouble with this on Internet Explorer... I had to do FireFox too...

  27. Totally far off! Haha, I didn't mean to write a riddle, but seriously...five minutes. :)

  28. OK, summer is going by way too fast. Seriously. Every time I see that it's Friday and time for Summer Short and Sweets I wonder where the heck my week went!

    Here's my attempt at this week's prompt:

    Black as night. That's the one Leo picked. The choices ranged from fat to skinny, fluffy to simple, but the black one fixed his eyes on Leo and followed him as he wove in and out of the aisles. Leo joined in staring contests with the iguanas, chirped along with the birds and got dizzy watching the hamster run on his wheel, but the black ball of fuzz stayed in his peripheral vision no matter which way he turned.

    Leo saved his pennies for a long time and wanted to make a good decision. But he couldn’t look away from the black beauty whose sky blue eyes pleaded, “pick me, pick me!”

    “I’ll take that one,” Leo said. All of his hard work mowing lawns paid off when his new best friend nuzzled his neck and licked his ear. Leo was in love and knew he made the purr-fect choice.

  29. Aw! This is so sweet Kim! I love your descriptions! It is clear that Leo is in a pet store... and what a lucky kitty :) Thanks for joining in!

  30. I LOVE this, Renee! SO little kid! My guess is he (or she :)) is standing in front of the refrigerator, opening and closing the door to feel the cool air in hot summer and also to see if there's anything good to eat! Am I close? Thanks for the super fun entry and riddle :)

  31. Oh, Pam, I love this! It's terrific! The descriptions of the surroundings, the way the speaker (preacher?) speaks and the listeners chant in unison after him, the details of the gum, Caroline's thoughts about the saltine crackers and juice... just wonderful - I feel like I'm there! I was thinking a church in the south in the '60s? But I'm not sure about cart... maybe it's like a prayer meeting outside? Either way - great job!

  32. I'm not sure what's up, girls - trying to fix it!

    Vivian Kirkfield wrote, in response to Renee LaTulippe:

    Renee...I also noticed something different...the blog is not opening up correctly if you go in with Internet Explorer...I had to use Mozilla Firefox as my browser...and the comment area looks strange as well. :)

    User's website
    Link to comment
    IP address:

  33. Great description, Tracy! I love this. Love the details of her slapping her cheeks, wiggling her backside, licking her dry lips! You can feel her excitement. I'm guessing she's in a field or open place and trying out a dirt bike or four-wheeler for the first time??? Although 5 seems a little young... but I have no experience with either so I don't know :) Great job!

  34. Loved your entry, Erik! I'm thinking a tree house in the woods? But I'm not entirely sure... It could be a playground or backyard with a good dose of kids' imagination thrown in...! How fun that they got a puppy though :) Thanks for another great entry! Sorry about the trouble with commenting... I don't know what's up, but trying to fix it!

  35. Wow! What a fun idea. I love your writing advice and think it's good for other genres, to. Setting is one of my weak spots, so I can use all the help I can get. :)

    Enjoy that cake! I'm totally jealous.

  36. The cake was really good! Here is a virtual piece: V Glad you enjoyed the setting S&S - it's not too late to join in if you want to! :)

  37. I was thinking more of a fort, clubhouse, or tree-house. The summer short and sweets are fun!

  38. Ding! Ding! Ding! You're right, Susanna! Only it was in the mid 70's when I was young. The building had been there since the early 1900's. The cart held the sacrament, Communion (our rural community didn't get wafers until early 80's). I'm so pleased you like it, Susanna!

  39. I'm so glad you think so! :)

    This Kid Reviews Bks wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    I was thinking more of a fort, clubhouse, or tree-house. The summer short and sweets are fun!

    User's website
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  40. You're not only close, you're standing right on top of it!

  41. In that case, you must have done a great job with your setting details! :)

    Renee LaTulippe wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    You're not only close, you're standing right on top of it!

    User's website
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  42. Christopher is hidden among the flowers, watching the spider weave a web between the strong, green stems. A startled grasshopper jumps away from him, just missing the sticky strands. Christopher waits quietly as sunlight warms the top of his head. Several butterflies skim from flower to flower, landing here and there for a quick drink. He sits as still as he possibly can. Finally, a bright hummingbird dips into the feeder cupped in Christopher's hands. Wings a buzzing blur, chest fluttering, the bird enjoys a tasty snack. After it flies off Christopher smiles and stretches his legs. The wait was worth it.

  43. I love your entry Hannah. Great descriptions. I love that you've incorporated all our senses.

  44. My entry is where I spent most of my summer. There are too many words associated with this place that would give it away. I'm going to try to avoid using all those words. Word count: 106.
    watched from the paint-chipped, wooden bleachers. Sunflower seed shells scattered beneath my
    feet. The sound of rustling leaves fill
    the empty air. Then PING! I peer into the sky in search of the
    leather-stitched ball. All I see is the
    glare of the sweltering sun. It's a good
    thing the chain-linked fence is tall enough to shield me from the ball. Then BAM!
    The ball flies out into the grassy field. A cloud of dirt trail behind the runner. His foot skim the corner of the white mat as
    he makes a turn on the sandy terrain. He
    skids. "Safe!" The crowd roars in excitement.

  45. This is great, Romelle! And a setting no one else has picked yet (at least I don't think so - I have a feeling I'm reading comments out of order :)) Anyway, my guess is a baseball game (or possibly softball)? Great description! Well done :)

  46. You are right! Every week this summer was spent at my son's baseball games.

  47. I'm a bit late, but here goes!
    The sun shines brightly making the day seem extra brillant.
    The large, green grasshopper turns his head to the right and the left. He
    bounds across the brown earth getting lost in the yellow waving hay. Not only does
    the wind sweep across the expansive land, but it jingles the wind chime hanging
    from the porch roof. The smell of sweet hay mingles with the earthy smell
    rising from the soil.
    (71 words)


  48. Tate vrooms his dump truck over gritty hills dotted with
    twigs, spilling the load onto a pile of pebbles. Sunlight dances through the
    oak leaves, creating shadows on the miniature construction site. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. Tate backs his excavator into a muddy pool,
    left there by last night’s rain. Time to dig a ditch! (54 words)

  49. Excellent, Laura! You have depicted a young child playing so beautifully! My guess the gravel driveway? Or possibly the yard or the sandbox... Thanks for another great entry!

  50. Oh, this sounds lovely, Jennifer! I'm imagining a farm - one of my favorite places! Am I close? Thanks for another great entry!

  51. That's so funny! I was imagining YOU playing baseball - thinking back to when you were a child :) Great description. And BTW, congrats on winning Christie's picture book contest! :)

    Romelle Broas (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    You are right! Every week this summer was spent at my son's baseball games.

    Link to comment
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  52. Wonderful! I'm guessing the back yard? But I can totally picture it and imagine this beautiful description based on one of your boys :)

  53. As far as the eye can see, in all directions, are verdant rolling hills, sheep grazing, and low stone fences outlining the paddocks.  A cottage here and there dot this pastoral scene. The early morning dew settles on the grass beneath my feet, and I take in the scent of fresh grass.  I wonder: is this where the Victorian writers escaped to find inspiration?  I feel drawn to do the same...
    (70 words)

  54. This is beautiful, Jarm. It makes me think of what I imagine England to look like and sounds like a perfect writer's retreat. Is it English countryside?

  55. Posted by me but actually from Cathy!

    As the glass doors swung open, the powerful smell of antiseptic floor cleaner clogged my nose. My eyes began to water slightly, making the bright overhead lights seem to waiver and sparkle. RRROOOF! RRROOF! An anxious young lab strained against his leash, eager to spring toward the door that was closing slowly behind us. MROOW! MROOW! squealed a cat through the wire mesh window of her plastic carrier on the floor. Waiting in cheap plastic chairs, their owners were flipping nonchalantly through old issues of BETTER PETS and FANCY FRIENDS magazines. I looked up at Chrissie quizzically. "Don't worry, pal. We're just here to pick up your flea powder. Dr. Shotalot won't be seeing you today."

  56. This is great, Cathy! I'd know a vet's office anywhere :) Thanks for making sure your entry got in! :)

  57. Christopher is hidden among the flowers, watching the spider weave a web between the strong, green stems. A startled grasshopper jumps away from him, just missing the sticky strands. Christopher waits quietly as sunlight warms the top of his head. Several butterflies skim from flower to flower, landing here and there for a quick drink. He sits as still as he possibly can. Finally, a bright hummingbird dips into the feeder cupped in Christopher's hands. Wings a buzzing blur, chest fluttering, the bird enjoys a tasty snack. After it flies off Christopher smiles and stretches his legs. The wait was worth it.


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