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One-way Ticket · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 1000–25000
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Business As Usual
“Why do we have to go all the way to Manehattan?” Diamond Tiara asked. “You didn’t even bring anything to do.” She gave a pout. The train caught a slight hitch, bumping it and causing her to yelp.

“It’s business, dear,” her father said. “You can’t make a big decision over the phone. It’s not personal enough, not” — he paused and looked about — “intimidating enough.” Another hitch. “It’s where the real game’s played. Writing letters doesn’t land you big deals, doesn’t let you know who you’re dealing with.”

“Whatever.” She nestled her head into her folded forelegs. “You could have at least gotten us a better ride. How’s showing up in a stupid train going to look for you?”

Filthy laughed. “Keen observation. You will make a good businessmare yet. Of course we are not arriving in this train, and certainly not on foot. We shall get off a stop beforehand and take a carriage from there. Efficiency, dear.”

Diamond Tiara flipped about. “Well, if you’re going to bore me with this trip, at least bore me with the details.” She then added, “But don’t make it a lecture, please.”

He thought for a moment, and then began, “Our store is a retailer. Retailers need goods. Buy low, sell high — that’s the simple stuff. Buying low means buying in bulk. But buying in bulk is bad for cash flow, bad for management. You can’t buy thousands of items off the cuff, and just as well you can’t store them, so you make a deal to take them in hundreds. Then you’ve got tax to worry about. Profits are taxed. Sell a suit for a hundred bits, fifty profit. That’s fifty taxed. So what do we do?” Diamond Tiara gave no response to his prompting, so he continued, “You offer for a thousand, write them off on tax, and then cut the deal once you reach half that. Zero profits, zero tax.” He stopped looked to see if she was still listening.

She sighed. “Yes, I’m listening.”

“Good. So I guess you’re wondering how you cut the deal, then? That’s where the real business acumen shines. Different methods work on different people. There are a lot of weak executives who give in to a guilt trip. All it takes for them to cede is a sorry story about poor sales and potential layoffs. Then there are the ones blinded by a good deal, who never learnt the phrase ‘To good to be true’. Offer them sixty up on the fifty dollar suits. Say it’s for the great service, or say it’s a ‘business incentive’, or say you want the shipments quicker — just anything to get them to up the price. As soon as it’s up, cut. They’ve broken the deal. Try to sue for damages if possible, if you can find some demonstrable loss in cash flow. That’s why it’s good to go in person. Paranoia about recordings is standard, so the amateurs don’t get suspicious when it’s not down in writing. People make big mistakes when big money is involved; they let it slide when they think they’re getting a bargain; they don’t ask questions if they think that it’s going to cost them. The details complicate once the scale gets larger; you leave longer trails, gaps in transactions, red herrings — all that good stuff. And that’s what makes it so hard to track. The most important part of business is staying in control.”

Diamond Tiara yawned. “Sounds very interesting, daddy.”

“Indeed it is, dear.”

The carriage officer departed from his vehicle and walked over to unlock Filthy’s door. “Sir.” He then unloaded the luggage, and as he presented it to Filthy, he said, “We thank you for your patronage, sir?”

“Rich,” he replied, reaching into his business suit. “Here’s my card. Charge it to my estate.”

The officer loosely analysed the card before pocketing it. “Excellent, sir. Shall we be waiting here, or shall your endeavour extend into the night?”

Filthy picked up his bags. “The night,” he lied, and walked off into the hotel, Diamond Tiara following closely behind. He pressed his hoof on a panel and waited, standing straight. “Now, when we’re in the executive’s office, you just sit there and look sweet. Pay attention to the details. You could learn a thing or two.”

She rolled her eyes. “Why do I even need to be here? Couldn’t I stay home with mum?” She pruned her hoof through her mane. “And why didn’t we bring a comb?”

“It’s a good experience, dear,” he said, half ruffling her mane. “And your hair looks fine.”

A well-attired attendant opened one of the large, ornate double doors and greeted them. “Come on in, Mister Rich. Mister Bits is expecting you.” The attendant had a slick comb-over not unlike Filthy’s, but on a younger stallion, and especially with that checkered, yellow-white tie, the look didn’t quite work.

Filthy lead himself and his daughter inside without much acknowledging the attendant.

“Right this way, sir,” the attendant instructed. He lead them into an elevator and quickly slapped a few dials. They reached the seventeenth floor. “Right this way, sir,” he said again as he continued to show the way.

A great, jolly stallion suited in a sharp, black outfit accosted them in the hallway. “Rich, my good man! I was told you had arrived. I haven’t seen you in awhile. I’m glad you could make it.” He then turned to the attendant. “Esquire, thank you for escorting our guests. Let us be for a quarter while we get reacquainted.”

“Very well, sir,” the attendant responded, and then went back to the elevator.

The jolly stallion placed a foreleg on Filthy’s shoulder, and they resumed walking. “So, Rich, how have you been? How’s Mrs Rich? How’s the little girl?” He looked down at Diamond Tiara. “You haven’t surpassed him already, have you? Haha!”

Filthy chuckled. “Well, if I don’t keep up with her, she might.” Diamond Tiara lifted her head up high with a smile at the compliments. “Business has been good. All the lunacy in town attracts plenty of tourists. And from what I hear our stores in Canterlot are doing exceptionally.” They reached the meeting room.

“That is good to hear,” the suited stallion said, unlocking the door to an office with the label Golden Bits. It was laden with typical office things — an analogue clock, filing cabinets, a large desk in the centre-back with a protruding chair tucked underneath and various lower chairs left on the other side, pictures of family, limp and unkempt pottery, stacks of paperwork and stationery, a trash bin filled with nothing but papers. Bits walked over to the door on the right side, opening up a large meeting-room. The room consisted solely of a single rectangular, curved, oaken table dropped right in the middle of said room. Bits sat down on a seat at the back of the room and beckoned his guest do the same. The room had a glorious view over the whole city landscape through its great glass walls, to which Diamond Tiara went over to gawk out of. “It’s a lovely view, is it not?” Bits remarked.

Diamond Tiara attempted to regain her composure and replied, “Yes, I think so.”

Bits had a hearty laugh at her mannerisms. “Certainly you will be a strong mare when you are old. Come, take a seat with your father then, and we shall talk of friendly things.” He looked over at Filthy. “So, you tell me that the business man Rich be a successful businessman, yes? Ah, but indeed, I expect that of the business man Rich. Instead I ask what of the family man Rich? What of the neighbour Rich?”

“Oh yes,” Filthy replied. “We’re doing fine. The wife is well able to handle running the local store, and she’s very understanding of my constant business trips. Ponyville is very much a country town, and most everyone knows everyone. It helps to have a good attitude around the locals, if only for the goodwill that it brings.” He looked over to his daughter. “Diamond Tiara has been doing well in school, or at least her teacher tells me, and she and her friend spend most days playing or working together on something. I’ve had quite a few good opportunities to speak with said friend’s parents, too.”

Bits thought for awhile on what to say. “I guess it is unfair of me to ask such personal things when, after all, what you are here for is business. I understand that, friend, and so will ask no more of such things. Move on then, shall we, to the order of business. In not much time we should have the rest of our visitors arrive; however, I understand that we have things of our own to discuss.”

Filthy pushed his chair in and leaned forward. “Yes, we do,” he began. “Well, more specifically, there are some things you must know of how I plan the meeting to go.”

“I’m listening.”

“With the last quarter ended, I’m sure you’re aware of our contract between Mister Bags. We’ve received just a small overdraft of half, and now is the time to,” he paused, “make the cut, so to speak. He’s gullible; some story of financial troubles should be enough to trip him up. Now, this ties in nicely with Mister Platter. Mister Platter’s contract went through some higher level firms, so we keep him close; we say that we have to choose between him or Bags. They’re both in the same room, so it looks plausible.”

“Haha!” Bits interjected. “I like the way you think, Rich.”

“Now, of course, this is where you come in. I quite like Mister Bags’ deal, and he very much does deal in specialised goods, so I’d like to keep taking in his shipments. This is quite unfortunate, since the price of keeping him is also just as high. So I leave it upon you to peddle the resources to me. How does five percent sound? Quite good really, since you’ll just be interim — no need to get more people on it. All it is is a bit of paperwork.”

Bits let a grand exhale loose from his thick chest and pondered for a moment. He then leaned forward to speak and said, “Sounds interesting, my friend. I assume you have the proposal written up, then?”

“Of course,” he replied. Filthy plopped his suitcase onto the desk, fiddled a bit with its hinges, retrieved a yellow sheet from it, and handed the sheet over to Bits. Bits analysed the sheet briefly before placing it down and said:—

“Excellent, I will be happy to oblige.” A buzz came from a small dial beside Bits. “Ah, that should be Esquire to take drinks.”

“Welcome, Mister Bags, Mister Wads, Mister Platter,” Bits said to his guests. He pointed them in Filthy’s general direction. “Mister Rich and his daughter, Miss Tiara, are already seated and ready. I believe we can begin shortly. Please allow a few minutes while I organise some things. If you need refreshments, Esquire will accommodate.” The businessmen all shuffled about and took their seats. Most, on making themselves comfortable, flipped open their suitcases and ran through paperwork. One accosted Esquire and requested a “strong coffee, no sugar.”

Diamond Tiara tugged on her father’s coat. “What happens now?”

“Just watch, dear. If you’d like to occupy yourself, you can take notes.” He handed her from his suitcase a blank sheet, which she listlessly pushed back to him. “Suit yourself. Just remember to keep a keen eye. The devil is in the details.” As he had otherwise nothing to deal with, Filthy, sieving through and scribbling on random documents, feigned the appearance that he too was working through some paperwork.

Shortly after, Esquire, carrying a tray of assorted beverages, and Bits reentered the room. “Ah, at last we may begin,” Bits remarked, taking his centre seat. “Now I’m sure you are all well informed on each other’s politics, so we need not bother with introductions. We shall instead move along swiftly. What is the first order of business, then?”

The scrawny, silver-coated stallion with a trebled set of platters as a cutie mark said, “I would like to begin by saying how much I am enjoying our current arrangement, Mister Rich. I have a few offers that I believe we could finalise later on in private. I have preliminary outlines prepared if you would like to get a briefing.” The stallion handed a small stack of papers across the table. Filthy took the papers and began perusing through them. “And I must apologise. While it should be expected of me, I am not too well versed in Mister Bags’ affairs.”

On the remark, the milk-white stallion first gave a slight grimace, but soon after removed it. “No apologies needed,” he said, giving an awkward laugh. “I need not so desire that everyone know much of me or my business.”

“Well,” Filthy said, “it is my misfortune that I must present some weak news regarding my own affairs. My business is not going over too well, and, without mentioning other things, the goods I acquire from Mister Bags are not at all selling as much as first expected. I understand the contract terms, but would request kindly that we stagnate the delivery to more spaced intervals. I believe I could compensate a good price in exchange; cash flow is the main stress on me right now.”

Bags raised a foreleg to his chin and thought for a moment. “Is it not easier for you to take out a loan?” he asked. The

“I’m afraid not,” Filthy replied. “I am first a family man, see” — he made a gesture towards his daughter — ”and the wife is perhaps not as forgiving to such endeavours as I would hope. I have borrowed what I can to keep my contract between Mister Platter, but I cannot carry out both, and Mister Platter’s produce gives me a much steadier cash flow. I hope you understand.”

Wads leaned back on on his chair and let loose a slight smirk. “How unfortunate,” he said. Diamond Tiara gave him an incredulous stare.

Bags erred and scratched his head. “I suppose we could figure something out. What numbers were you thinking of?”

“Delay the next shipment by two weeks, and space the next ones two more weeks apart also,” Filthy responded. “I’ll raise the payment by seven percent.”

Bags shuffled through a few pieces of paperwork and said, “I suppose I can adhere to that.” He then wrote a few scribbles on some loose paper and placed them back in his portfolio.

“So,” Bits began, “of my business then shall we begin. I’m sure you’re all aware of the changes, or lack of, rather, in my own matters. I am of the interest in changing these things, as mere satisfactory margins are not ones that I mean to strive for. I ask particularly to you, Mister Bags, since you may be in need of some more business now, for some patronage of some of your more... unsavoury wares.” He forced his head strong and high and focused. “I’ve drawn a few preliminaries that should give you the idea. It is quite extensive, so I give you time to fully come to terms with it.” Bits took quires from his suitcase and handed them across, which Bags received and began examining. Wads then let again a grin and light chuckle come upon him and said:—

“Well then, it seems it should be my turn.” He turned and directed himself at Filthy. “I am in the interest of purchasing, in full, Rich’s Barnyard Nobles and all of its subsidiaries. I’m also quite aware that your business, Mister Rich, is not publicly traded, and so have set mt own price, which I and my associates find quite generous, for its acquisition.” He handed an unsigned cheque over to Filthy. “I’m sure you will agree.”

Filthy took one quick glance at the cheque before his countenance dropped to half disbelief and half indignation. “You cannot be serious.”

“I think you’ll find,” Wads said, sharpening his face, “that we are quite serious.” He turned his head to stare for a moment at Diamond Tiara and smirked, and then turned back to Filthy. “We would greatly appreciate your cooperation in this acquisition.”

Bits quickly stood up from his chair and pushed a button neath his desk. “Mister Wads, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” He motioned to the door with his hoof. “Esquire, please escort our guest out of the hotel.”

Wads’ grin turned to a frown, and then quickly forced back to a smile. He looked at Filthy and said, “It’s a one-way ticket, Mister Rich. Where that ticket leads you—”

“Mister Wads!” Bags slammed his hooves on the table. “I’ve asked you to leave.”

Wads snorted. “Well, if you insist.” He rose from his chair and lead himself out of the room. As he made his exit, he called out to Filthy, “I do hope you will reconsider.”

“Are you sure you’ll be all right, Rich?”

“Yes, I’ll be fine. Trust me. I’m sure you’re getting worked up over nothing.” Filthy picked up his suitcase and held up his daughter’s hoof. “Come on, dear. Let’s go.” He then turned back to Bits and said, “Thank you for having us. Your hospitality is much appreciated.”

Bits placed a hoof on his shoulder. “Take care, friend.”

Filthy and Diamond Tiara left the hotel and walked out into the street. The sun was beginning to recline behind Canterlot’s great mountains. “Mum’s expecting us home soon. The station’s this way, dear. Stay close; peak hour traffic in this city can be chaotic.”

“Relax, daddy,” she said back to him. “I’m not going to get lost.”

When they arrived at the station the crowd was bustling about. The train to Ponyville arrived and they quickly took their seats before they became occupied.

An announcement resounded throughout the train: “Attention passengers. This train is being rerouted to the Canterlot line. If you wish to travel down the Fillydelphia line, the train arriving on the other rail will accommodate. Thank you.”

“Come on, honey.” Filthy grabbed Diamond Tiara’s hoof and trotted out of the train. Working-class ponies all stirred and rushed about, pushing and shoving their way through to get to their destination.

“The trains will be leaving in one minute.”

Filthy quickened his pace, and in doing so his hoof lost grip with Diamond’s. He turned back around to catch glimpse of her, but she had already seeped into the crowd. Looking about in all directions, he galloped back through the crowd as fast as he could, crying out her name. He got back to the first train and then stopped and span around. He began to sweat. He felt a hoof press up against his mouth and nose, and another against his throat. Then everything went black.

Filthy woke up tied to a chair, his forelegs to the chair’s back and his hind legs to the chair’s feet. His eyes could make out little beyond the blurry barrier of tears and waking dew that clouded his vision. The room was small and lit only by a single hanging light-bulb. Sans the systematic dripping of water every few seconds, there was no sound in the room. He tried to rub his eyes clear on his shoulder, but it only served to make them foggier. He could barely make out some peeling plaster of the walls. The dripping water echoed against the walls like it were a tunnel. He shuffled about in his chair for a short while, but the bindings on his hooves soon began to bore into them, almost causing them to bleed. His eyes regained some clarity, but from the added detail all he could make out were murkier walls.

A door from behind swung open, its metallic structure banging against the walls as it made a full opening. “Well, well,” a masked stallion called from the entrance as he walked into the room. “It seems our friend is awake. How are you, Mister Rich?” He laughed as Filthy made some incoherent mumbling through the tape covering his mouth.

“Nothing to say, eh?” He laughed again. “Well then, I guess I’ve got nothing to say neither.” He placed his hoof neath Filthy’s chin and lifted it, lining up his jaw. His hoof moved to strike, but on the last second changed to slam Filthy hard in the stomach.

Filthy flailed about as much as his bindings would let him.

The masked pony repeatedly shushed him in a patronising manner. “Don’t waste all your energy, lad.” He again lifted Filthy’s chin, but this time Filthy began to thrash his head about in protest. “Whoa there! calm down or you’ll” — he grunted, slogging Filthy in the chest — ”hurt yourself.” He lined up the jaw again, and this time Filthy simply whimpered to soften the blow. One punch, two, three. Filthy’s head became like a rag doll. Three more blows to the face — the assailant had to wipe some blood from his hooves. One more, and Filthy’s mind receded from consciousness.

The assailant turned and walked out the room. “Clean him up.”

Filthy awoke, lying in a dark alley way by the curb like a bum. A long carriage drove up next to him, parked, and opened its doors. Mister Wads greeted him from inside. “Oh my, whatever did happen to you, Mister Rich?” He offered a hoof. “Please, come in. I’ll get you to where you need to be going.”

Filthy didn’t respond.

Wads moved aside, revealing Diamond Tiara sitting next to him. “Please, Mister Rich.”

Filthy got in the car and sat next to his daughter, hugging her. “Are you okay?”

Diamond Tiara hugged him back. “I’m fine, daddy. What happened? I thought I’d lost you. Where’d you go?”

Wads half coughed into his hoof. “Sorry to break up this reunion — it truly is quite touching — but I am wondering if Mister Rich has reconsidered our agreement.”

“I’m fine, dear,” Rich said, answering his daughter. Then, holding her closer, he sniffed and raised his head. “This is foul play, dirty business. I didn’t think there was such scum in this country.”

“Oh? That’s rich.” Wads stifled a laugh.

Filthy scoffed. “I play by the rules.”

“What difference does it make, Mister Rich? We’re both liars. Why bother claiming a moral high-ground when you’re just as guilty as I am?” He grabbed a glass of wine from the nearby mini-bar and took a sip. “Needn’t I remind you that you’re in no position to chastise me.” He placed the glass of wine back in its cellar. “So I ask again: have you reconsidered my offer?”

“I’ll be ruined.” Filthy spat. “It’s outrageous. I make as much in less than a year.”

Wads sighed, then turned and grinned at Diamond Tiara. “Daddy’s not a very quick learner, is he?”

Rich shot up and pointed his hoof at Wads. “You touch her! and I’ll—”

“Whoa, whoa, calm down. No need to get physical. Let’s not be doing things that we might regret, hm?” He had a sadistic laugh to himself.

Filthy remained vexed and silent.

“You really are quite a bore, aren’t you?”

“Sod you and the horse you came out of.”

“Now, now, Mister Rich — Filthy, is it? There’s no need for such language. You said it yourself; you’re a family man. So just sign the papers, go home, and be the family man.” He took a piece of paper from a desk and handed it to Filthy. “Then we can put this whole ordeal behind us.”

Filthy stared at the paper. He saw the cash settlement written in big strong letters staring at him, taunting him. He gritted his teeth. “Get me a pen.”

A sardonic grin grew on Wads’ visage. “Of course.” He grabbed a pen from the same desk and handed it over.

“Take us to a phone booth,” Filthy said. “And I’ll sign it.”

“As you wish.” Wads leaned over to talk to the driver. “Hey! take us to a phone booth.” He took the same glass of wine back out from its cellar and took another sip. “I’m so glad that we could come to an agreement.”

Filthy pressed the button to Bits’ estate.

“Daddy,” Diamond Tiara began, “Why did you sign it? You signed away everything!”

“No,” he replied. “I scribbled a signature on it. He won’t get anything. But we need to get this sorted fast before he realises. Just be patient, dear.”

So they waited.

“What are we waiting for?”

“Help? I don’t know.”

And waited.

And waited.

Filthy stomped his hoof on the ground and slammed the button. “Luna dammit! He’s blackballing me.” He yanked Diamond Tiara’s hoof and lead her back into the carriage. “Come on. I’ve still got other people I can talk to.”

“This is indeed an interesting predicament, Mister Rich.” Leaning over his desk, Mister Platter pressed his forelegs up against his cheeks. “But I do not see how you can expect my help. These ordeals do not have such a simple switch that could turn them off. If he is dealing with thugs, I don’t believe there is much I can do for you. You may simply want to get the authorities involved.”

Filthy rose and pressed his hooves on the desk. “It’s white collar; the authorities are useless! He’s threatening my family, and the proceedings could take months.”

“Well,” Platter began, “I believe it is safe to assume that if you go out tonight, you run a very strong risk of being caught by him again. He’s already looking for you if anything, and he’ll certainly have your real signature for reference this time.”

Diamond Tiara whinnied.

The two businessmen, somewhat bemused, turned to acknowledge her.

“Let them kidnap you,” she said. “The guard will get involved in that, won’t they?”

Platter chuckled. “She is a sharp one, isn’t she?” He wheeled his chair over to a filing cabinet. “I have the addresses of Wads’ estates here. But there are quite a few, so tracking you down may prove difficult.” He handed a list over to Filthy, who analysed it briefly.

“I can remember these places,” Filthy said. “But what about Diamond?”

“Oh,” Platter remarked. “She can stay here with me. She’ll be safe — don’t worry.” He wheeled his chair back to the desk. “So here’s the plan...”

A taxi pulled up beside Filthy on the street. The back door opened, and a masked goon jumped out and dragged him into the wagon. Wads sat on the other side of the cabin with a profusely dissatisfied look on his face. “Why do you try and mess with me, Mister Rich? This is my town. You mess with me, and I fuck with you.” Wads threw a pen and sheet of paper at Filthy. “Fill it in — properly, this time.” He chugged a whole glass of wine and went to his cellar for a refill.

Filthy chuckled. “You really are an idiot. Do you think, even if I did sign this, that it would hold in court? Ever heard of duress, you gutless lout?”

Wads threw his wine glass in Filthy’s direction, smashing it on the carriage’s window. “Don’t play coy with me. I know you’re daft, but please. What did I just tell you? I own this town. No court will ever convict me. You’ve got nothing save for a terrible business decision — the one which you’re just about to make — to back yourself. People — stupid people, like you — make terrible business decisions all the time.” He grinned, then added, “Especially when I’m involved.” He grabbed another wine glass and began filling it. “So please, sign the damn paper. I have better things to bother with than some hick country-pony.”

“Oh, I’ll sign it.” Filthy smirked and scribbled his signature on the paper. “But I don’t own any of Rich’s Barnyard Nobles anymore.”

Wads raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Yep. Signed it all away.”

“To whom?”

“That’s none of your business really, is it?”

Wads walked over to Filthy and threw his hoof at him, the tip barely escaping Filthy’s nose. “I told you, boy, don’t play coy with me. Everything you do is my business. Give. Me. A name!”

“Well, if you insist,” Filthy replied, “I sent it all to Mister Platter.” Filthy pushed Wads’ hoof out of his face. “Oh, and the guard are tracking you. I think you might even be able to see them from your window.”

Wads stood completely frozen for a moment. His mind then came back to reality, and he punched Filthy in the jaw. As he went and looked out the window, his own jaw dropped. “Son of a...”

“Hey,” Filthy said, cleaning some blood from his mouth. “What were you saying about ‘owning’ this town?” He cackled

Wads threw his hands at the door. “Get him out of here!” he ordered to the goon sitting beside Filthy.

The goon grabbed Filthy with his horse-like hooves, opened the door, and tossed him out into the street. Filthy reacted quickly enough to avoid his head banging on the curb, but still tumbled heavily across the bitumen. The taxi drove off into the distance, with the pegasus guard trailing not too far behind.

A carriage rolled up and parked next to Filthy. Diamond Tiara was inside with a grim countenance and, seeing his bleeding lip and scathing wounds, gasped. “Are you okay?”

He got inside the carriage and shrugged the injuries off. “I’m fine, dear.”

“Mister Platter sent me off in this thing, and he gave me this.” She handed him a letter:

Dear Mister Rich,

I hope this experience has taught you a little something about business. Although I fear this lesson may have come too late for you, as, as we all know, without capital there is no business. I thank you for allowing me free reign to liquidate your assets. Perhaps in future under such heated circumstances you will consider exercising a little more caution in your decisions.

I do have some heart, however, so I have returned your daughter safely and have arranged this carriage to take you back to Ponyville. I suggest you stay there. You are clearly not suited for dealing with proper businessmen.

Cathartically yours,
—Silver Platter
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