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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Three

Updated on September 07, 2016

It’s Always a Pleasure

It’s always a pleasure welcoming you all to my humble site. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my short stories. Truthfully, I don’t know how many more there will be here on HP. I envision a day when I’ll just write Mailbag articles here and save my creativity for two other sites I am now a member of, sites where creative writers are embraced, as they should be.

But that discussion can wait for another day. Today is another installment of my extended short story about Max and Princess Kate, two homeless people who are traveling the alleys and back roads together, battling their own demons while trying to just stay one step ahead of the ferry man, who is very willing to take them on a ride across the River Styx.

Shall we see how this oddly-matched couple is doing?

On the road
On the road | Source

On the Road

It’s been seven days now, seven days since Princess Kate and I decided to leave the squalor of Pittsburgh and hit the open road in search of…..what I don’t know. We left the “Queen of the Rust Belt” with seven bucks and change between us. We now have one-twelve.

Ten miles in a day is a damned good day. Yesterday we only did six, Kate being sick and all, some stomach upset that’s got her looking for rest rooms and feeling mighty weak. I feel bad not knowing what ails her, and my doctoring skills are not the best. But this is life on the road. You make do or die, simple as that.

So, about forty miles west, southwest on our great adventure, forty miles away from a dead-end existence, forty miles fueled by restlessness and a certainty that if we stayed in Pittsburgh we were going to die sooner rather than later. We passed through Wheeling, West Virginia, two days ago, made a decision, west rather than south, so we’ve been paralleling I-Seventy on the old National Road ever since, figuring stay close to population, close to shelters, close to missions, just close to the fingertip of humanity, you get my drift.

Cold-ass walk, winter in West Virginia, damn hills seem to trap the cold, embrace it, rivaling the cold in peoples’ hearts at time. So far, truth be told, we’ve been pretty lucky, finding rooms along the way, even took a hot shower at one mission, only one night with no shelter and then an abandoned warehouse outside of Bridgeport kept the snowflakes off us.

The gray smothers us at times, I won’t lie to ya. The gray sky, the gray concrete, all becomes one after awhile, head down, one step in front of another, and late in the day, as darkness starts to descend, the gray all becomes one, pressing down on you, rising up to snatch your hope, making it hard to breathe, hard to get your bearings, where’s reality and where’s the dream, you know?

Walking the countryside
Walking the countryside | Source

What’s the Plan?

“Do we have a plan, Max?” she asks me, her breath pluming above her, her cheeks rosy, the frost clinging to her crown, clinging to her riotous red hair.

She’s asked it before. I’m no more equipped to answer on that day than I was the first ten times, but she needs the reassurances evidently only I can provide.

“Keep heading west on the National until we can dip south a bit. Warmer weather south, Kate. We need warmer weather.” That’s about all I can give her, short-term goals, and really that’s all she’s asking for, that and some conversation, the words providing warmth in some strange way.

She ponders that for a spell as we pass a strip mall of bail bonds, pawn shop, and insurance agency. She falters slightly as she reads the sign, “You’re in Good Hands with…..” remembering, she tells me, the good hands, the loving hands, of a stepfather who broke all the rules with her, stripped her of dignity, took what he needed and left nothing for her but shame and a conviction she was dirty.

“For the most part, Max, I keep the demons at bay, you know? But then I’ll see a sign like that and it all comes back, floods over me, presses me once again to the floor and has its way with me, don’t scream now, Katie Bug, don’t scream, your step-daddy loves you, and shit, Max, then I’m bawling like a baby or I’m damned near catatonic. When do you figure it all goes away, Max?”

How do you answer a question like that?

“One night I drew sentry duty in the town of Maidan Shar, about twenty klicks outside of Kabul. A night kind of like this, colder than death itself, no stars, the horizon looking like the ground at your feet, you know? Anyway, it’s me and Jimmy McClatcheon, a farm kid from Iowa, walking as quiet as possible up and down the perimeter, wishing to hell we were in our bunks. We would walk one-hundred yards in opposite directions, turn around and meet at the middle….say a few words to each other, laugh about something, then turn around and do it again, and again through the night.

“He was a good kid, Jimmy McClatcheon. Great laugh, husky kid, loved driving a tractor, he told me, had his high school sweetheart waiting for him back home, gonna be married as soon as his time was up.

“So anyway one night we’re walking the line and we meet to talk for a second and Jimmy’s head turns red, just like that, his shit-eating grin disappears with half his face, and I’m dripping his blood, sprayed me good. I just stood there a moment, it wouldn’t register in my brain, but then training kicked in and I dropped to the ground and started to return fire, the Iowa kid traveling to his beloved Iowa farm next to me on the ground, and I used his body as a shield, bullets pounding into him, me ducking down and praying to God, there ain’t no atheists in a firefight, let me tell you.

“Most nights now I’m okay, Kate, but there’s times, like when a truck backfires, or some horn honks nearby, and I swear, I reach for my weapon, it’s not there of course, and I drop to the ground looking for the enemy. Turns out, Princess, the enemy is me, you know?”

She gives that some thought for a good half mile, not talking at all. Then….

“I like you, Max.” Simple statement, said what she had to say and that was that.

“I like you too, Kate.”

The road can be unforgiving!
The road can be unforgiving! | Source

Keep Moving

My old man was a longshoreman on the docks of Seattle, Union Local Nineteen and proud of it. Worked his ass of each and every day. There were times when I was still a teen, I’d see him come home after an eight hour shift on the docks, bone-assed tired, dragging like a beat dog. He’d fall into his recliner and Ma would pour him a couple fingers of Johnny Walker Red, his favorite. He’d take a big old sip and sigh, I’d always wait for that sigh, and then I’d join him and we’d talk about our days. I asked him once how he kept getting up, day after day, when he’s so tired, and he just told me a man has to make sure he’s always moving forward.

“Never give up ground you already won, Max,” he’d say to me, and as Kate and I are walking along the West Virginia countryside, I understand his words better than any other time in my life. Giving up ground, at certain times of your life, is like a surrender, and there are some surrenders that are worse than others.

“I haven’t seen my folks in ten years, Kate. They’re still alive for all I know. Dad would be, lets’ see, fifty-four now, and that would make Ma fifty-one. Maybe we should head to Seattle, stop in and see them. What do you say to that, Princess?”

She walks over to a bus-stop bench and sits down for a moment. Can’t stay long at a place like that. It’s just an invitation for the cops to roust you.

“I think,” she says, “that you’re a good man, Max. I think Seattle sounds like heaven, and I think a man should be with those he loves. Have you contacted them at least?” I shake my head. “No? Why not, Max?”

“I’m not sure they’d love the man I’ve become, Kate. Maybe they need to just remember me the way I once was.”

A cop car slows and the cop motions us to move on.

“I think,” she says. “I think your dad misses those times he and his son sat and talked about their days.”

What’s a guy say to shit like that?

More Coming

Well, unlike Max, I have no shortage of words, so I’ll see all of you next week. Thanks for walking along with Max and Kate. They asked me to tell you they appreciate the company.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 6 months ago from New York, New York

      Bill, I know that feeling well you described above and a big reason why I stopped writing here and concentrated more on my own blog in all honesty. But still happy you are sharing here as this is the only writing community I still belong to. Happy Wednesday now to you!! :)

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 6 months ago from Northern Ireland

      I love Kate and Max. They make me understand the saying, "to know all is to forgive all".

    • Eldon Arsenaux profile image

      Eldon Arsenaux 6 months ago from Cooley, Texas

      'Maybe they need to remember me the way I once was' was a startling true line. This should apply to every person stranded on the roadside we see. These characters are full, Bill. Is there no shortage of words in your well? Always an enjoyable read.

      Adios,

      -E.G.A.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! I'll hang in here as long as possible, if for no other reason than nostalgia.

      Happy Wednesday my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      True words, Meg! True words! Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Eldon, thank you so much! These characters are real to me, so as long as they are walking the roads I'll have words to describe their journey.

    • Old Poolman profile image

      Mike 6 months ago from Rural Arizona

      Bill, once again you didn't disappoint me with this chapter. I'm trying to guess where this is going, and where they will end up, but so far no luck. Just keep these coming my friend.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 6 months ago from Southern Illinois

      This is a great story. I never know what's around the bend, that's what makes your writing so special. I hope Max and Kate find some kind of happiness, but I know all is not roses sometimes. Max reliving the war and Kate reliving her evil stepfather is sad but felt by many others. I felt the cold as they walked the roads. I love this story!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I wish I could tell you, Mike, but I rarely know where a story is headed this early. I'll figure it out eventually. LOL In the meantime, thanks a bunch for being here. Have a great Wednesday.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruby! I feel a special kinship to these two, and I'm so happy others, like you, have received them so warmly.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, this chapter is filled with so much sadness, Max and Kate as gray as the landscape...but then at the very end there is a glimmer of hope. Hope that their days will find a bit of sunshine. And we will have the gift of another chapter.

      Thank you.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 6 months ago

      Ya know, Bill, this story reminds me of a conversation I had with a coworker friend recently. She is in some physical pain and wants to retire but can't afford to. She usually punctuates our discussions to that effect with "Oh, God help me." I guess I was being a little tart, but the last time I said to her, "God gave us the free will to get into this mess, and I think he expects us to use our free will to get ourselves out." She laughed. But I think that is what Max is trying to do, and Kate is just along for the ride. Anyway, I have enjoyed catching up with your newest novella, and I'm looking forward to more.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 6 months ago

      Bill this makes me so sad. I hope Kate is not pregnant. Sad that the cops urge Kate and Max to move along. It is a shame that anyone is homeless, a shame that anyone is abused in any way.

      Great story and I hope can keep hope alive for these two.

      Blessings always my friend

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Linda, I can't imagine too much happiness in the lifestyle Kate and Max have....but maybe there is a glimmer of hope out there...wait and see. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Exactly, MizB. I'm not trying to trivialize their predicament, but I want them in motion, trying to find a solution, rather than giving up...my characters will never give up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Shyron, I'm going to jump ahead just for you and tell you that Kate is not pregnant. Whew! That kind of complication they do not need, right?

      blessings and thanks always

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 6 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      .....and I appreciate the company of Max & Kate. I relate to their plight, I can understand them. I just plain like them & I wouldn't leave their side for fortune or fame.

      They're inspiring me and teaching me a few things I may have missed on my own journeys of the past.

      They know the importance of movin on.....a lesson Max remembered from his Dad. "A man has to make sure he's always moving forward." I'll just add that this goes for women too and all the better when a man & woman share a journey together.

      Despite having respect for the law, I'm not fond of these cops who keep rousting these nice people.............Until next time, bro....Sis

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey Sis, thanks as always. Kate and Max are special to me. I have created quite a few characters over the past six years, but these two may be the most "real" of them all....so I want the best for them. :)

      hugs from Olympia

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 6 months ago from southern USA

      Hi Bill,

      Thought I'd pop in early to read of Max and Kate's latest adventure on the road, while I am waiting at the doctor's office.

      When the characters are memorable as these two are, you know great writing is at hand. I love the dialogue between them and then the quiet, reflective times too.

      If I ever were to become homeless, I would make my way as far South as I could ...all the way down to the Florida Keys, where there is surely no cold weather ever. I'd find a cane poll to fish with and make sure my attire blended in well with the locals, so as to not draw attention to myself, flip flops, shorts and a tank top and keep my hair in a ponytail. I'd make sure to round up one of those large beach towels to sleep right there on the beach as if I was a tourist with some sunglasses I found.

      Max and Kate should hop a train and head as far South as possible! If we are still breathing, there is always hope. I do hope, however, that Max's family welcome him home.

      Peace and blessings

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Like Faith, I hope that Max reaches his home and that his family welcomes him. I'm looking forward to reading more about the journey of Max and Kate.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 6 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This is wonderful writing, Bill. I love how Max recollects his family and such. Max and Kate are such appealing characters and you take us on the journey with them.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 6 months ago from USA

      Cancer? Will they find themselves in the hospital system as she struggles with what ails her, mired in the red tape and assumptions that accompany people who cannot pay for their care? Just wondering whether Letterpile isn't working as a creative outlet for you.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I was just looking into some city/state programs that provide for reuniting homeless here with families back where they came from. From what I can tell the programs are all to the good, not just ways for cities to "ship out" homeless people. This is a hard reminder that folks die out there. Perhaps our friends journey is something to live for and will keep them going.

      I just love your stories Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith, good morning. I'm with you on this heading south thing, but I'm rarely in control of my characters. I'd want to stay warm, even on the streets. The idea of sleeping on a park bench in a snowfall does not appeal to me at all.

      Thanks so much for your kind words, and Max and Kate send their best wishes.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Alicia! I greatly appreciate your appreciation of my characters.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That was my goal, John, to make even the homeless appealing. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, what is Letterpile? I'm not familiar with that site. How you have me curious, so off I go to look it up. Thank you for being here.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, this is today's reality, seen through the eyes of my characters. I wish the best for them, and I thank you sincerely for always being here.

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 6 months ago from Missouri

      Damn, I love the way words to your stories just pour out of you, Bill. I love how you plant a prayer in the hard times, one where a better life is just ahead for those who need it. God knows we need that same thing today.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mike, I appreciate that very much. I don't know where it comes from. It sure wasn't there seven years ago.

      Thanks my friend and you are correct, we could sure use more of this in today's world.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 6 months ago from San Diego California

      Max's old man's mantra is my own. A man has just got to keep moving forward. Almost jerked a little tear out of my eye, but I'm sitting in a public place. Great stuff, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mel! If I almost got a tear out of a manly man like you, then I've done my job. :)

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 months ago

      I have faith in these two. They have managed to navigate a hostile environment for a long time. I have a feeling they will find their way "home. "

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Pop, I love that you put "home" in quotation marks...you might be on to something. :) Thanks and Happy Friday to you.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 6 months ago from Central Florida

      Max and Princess Kate are good for each other. Together, they're starting to dream and make plans to move forward. I hope Max at least makes an attempt to contact his family. I'm sure they're worried sick about him. Max needs to remember what happens when one assumes....

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 6 months ago from london

      Interesting journey. Never straight-forward these. Wish them luck in this hardened world of ours.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for following along, Sha.....you know by now my stories always have a happy ending. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Never straight-forward for sure, Manatita, but as long as the journey is interesting it is worth the crooked path.

      blessings always

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 6 months ago from Europe

      I like the story of Max and Kate. I've no idea the direction they're heading to. Regarding the two other writing sites you referred at the beginning, I have to check them out, because I've some fiction writings as well to share. There's another story waiting for me about milk. :)

      Thanks, Bill. Take care and have a great week

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 6 months ago from United Kingdom

      I like Max and Katie too.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks a bunch, Buildreps. I'll tell Max and Kate what you said about them.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      They will be pleased, Zulma. Thank you!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 months ago

      I must fell into the conversation and walked with these characters. You make everything seem so interesting and natural. They are strong people and I imagine they will teach us a few things along the way about endurance.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 6 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill. I read #2, without comment. Here in #3, you develop these to misfits and round them out more. It occurs to me your stories often, find your characters on the road. Traveling destination, unknown or unclear. There is a parable there for all of us trying to leave stories of our time behind. I am not sure who, I think Maria, said this will be our legacy. Seems you are cutting a wide writing path, which will be part of your legacy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Always strong people, Dee, and always hope. Those will always be themes in my stories and books. Thanks for traveling along with this couple.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mike, that is so kind of you to say. Thank you! The road references, I guess, come from the fact that my dad rode the rails as a teen during the Depression, and his stories of that time when I was young and willing to listen to him. :)

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 6 months ago from Dubai

      I hope Kate and Max have good times ahead.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I do too, Vellur! Thank you!

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 6 months ago

      The way you are prersenting Kate's and Max hopes and drerams, comparing to those of more "fortunate", seems all the human souls are equal. Created to dream and have dreams fulfield, planing fahead and succede, surviving through the night for a better day and a brighter future. . .

      Would your kindness and heartwarming love keep our hopes alive and contented? Thanks my friend.

      Pax vobiscum.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, I will always have hope in my stories...hope and love. I believe those to be key elements in living a happy life....so thank you for seeing that, and may your weekend be blessed.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 6 months ago from Massachusetts

      Wonderful chapter Bill. I am going right into chapter 4 now. See you shortly.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Bill, for playing catchup! Happy Sunday to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 6 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      As I read this, I could see Max and Kate and heard them speak with every step they took.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That, Deb, is the highest praise you could give me. Thank you!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 6 months ago from SW England

      I love this series, bill. With lines like 'the gray... rising up to snatch your hope', who wouldn't? It's so nitty-gritty and it's so real. I'm walking next to them, eavesdropping.

      Back home tomorrow! Yay! Love the travelling but there's nothing like getting back home.

      Hope this Wednesday is wild and whacky!

      Ann :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well welcome back, Ann, and I agree with your final sentiment. I have become an old home-body, I'm afraid.

      Thanks for the kind words. I have to learn how to prolong those snatches of talent for an entire book....but I'm working on it.

      bill

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 5 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      The truck 'backfiring' got me! Been there, done that! I laugh about it now, but it never really leaves.

      I'm thoroughly enjoying Max and 'princess' Kate's walk together.

      Keep it up bro.

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      True words, Lawrence. That never really leaves....and we all need to recognize that and offer help to those who suffer....thanks for serving and for being here.

      bill

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 5 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      I find your writing about / in reference to PTSD to be credible and relatable, dear Bill.

      How beautiful that two such wounded souls are deriving strength from each other.

      Will be back in a bit to pick up where I left off. Love, Maria

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Maria. You would know, so I feel good about your affirmation.

      love,

      bill

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 5 months ago from Texas

      You know, my dad's family on his mother's side is from Wheeling, WV. I've been there only once on a road trip with my grandma, my sister, and my cousin on our way to VA to see my cousin's dad and her sisters. I remember the hills and I loved it. We saw the home she grew up in because my grandma's brother still owned the land. About twenty acres of rolling hills. But. . .that's not important to your story.Just a personal connection to me. LOL. I know people in Seattle, too, so I'll gladly stay on this journey with the two of them. Good thing you have no shortage of words!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Shannon, I suspect I'll run out of words when I'm drawing my last breath. Until then, you're stuck with me. :)

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 5 months ago from Florida

      Hey Bill, I apologize for taking so long to get back here, and I can't really promise that I can stay around long enough to chat much. Life has gotten busy for me. This time of the year and closer to the Summer months it seems I get tremendously snowed under with responsibilities.

      However, I am here now, and I'm glad I am. I miss reading your stories, and this one; I see, has continued along well. I hope I can catch up.

      This chapter reminds me of the power of talking the past out in order to let it go; finding a friend with similar demons to make that possible. I think Max and Kate have found that special bond.

      This story delves into dark realities but pulls out hope. That's what I like best about your stories. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you again, Missy! I suppose that is a common thread in many of my stories. There is always hope, no matter how dark things may seem. It doesn't surprise me at all that you found that thread.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      I really don't know of anyone who tells a story as well as you. It is as if I am right there with Max and Kate, trailing behind them as they journey their way to Seattle. I can't wait until they get there. I am totally rooting for them.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Marlene, I will try to always be worthy of that high praise. Thank you dear friend.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Our darkest hours are lit by the small glimmer of hope shining off in the distance. Your story gives the reader a reason to keep on reading, searching for that bright edge of the horizon, off just a piece, just beyond the next step. I like this story, Bill. Your characters seem real and down to earth, full of flaws and redeeming factors. Nicely done.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Peg! This story is all about flaws, and finding a way to march forward despite them.

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