You, Me And Beetlejuice

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Suggested Audio Jukebox ♬

 

[1] Danny Elfman “Beetlejuice”

[2] Danny Elfman “The Incantation”

[3] Harry Belafonte “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)”

[4] Danny Elfman “The Wedding”

[4] Harry Belafonte “Jump In The Line (Shake, Senora)”

 

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It sucks being dead. You wanna know what sucks hardest about being dead? Finding out that you’re dead. It’s one thing learning that you’ve got a severe case of the cooties, but entirely another searching for a pulse and coming up with absolutely squat. I don’t feel dead and, if I had any kind of reflection, I’m sure I wouldn’t look it either. But I am and here’s a couple of reasons why it sucks so bad. Firstly, I’ve always considered myself a people person and took every last opportunity to get out and about. Since the penny dropped that I am no longer in the land of the living, I’ve been too afraid to leave the house. This isn’t some illogical fear or dash of agoraphobia either, I’m quite literally a prisoner in my own home and dare not step out onto the front porch. It’s not the Jehovah’s witnesses who make this such a terrifying proposition, it’s the enormous sandworms with designs on my hiney that I find most persuasive. Apparantly they don’t take kindly to stragglers and, with the world outside one large desolate desert landscape, there appears no discernible route to safety. Here, take a look at my welcome party each time I venture outside to stretch my legs.

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You see? Kind of makes a good argument for becoming a couch potato don’t you think? The second reason why being dead sucks is receiving the Handbook for the Recently Deceased as your sole piece of literature. Let me tell you, this is one book with absolutely no happy ending, no secret recipe for bringing you back to life, just a few dos and don’ts to make your eventual passage into perpetual limbo a little less irksome. I’ve read it from cover to cover several times already and there’s nothing in the way of hidden subtext, just cold hard facts. One of these is that I will be required to remain here for the next 125 years and that’s a thought I don’t find particularly appealing. However, what sucks most is that I can’t even bank on any alone time. The house got snapped up in a cinch, at a snip of the price no less, and a new family moved in to put their own stamp on the place. You’d think I’d be glad of the company right? Not so as the Deetzes are possibly the most hateful suburbanites ever to muscle in on a dead man.

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To be fair, while Charles and Delia are a royal pain in my ass and their decorator Otho is a human boil I’d love nothing more than to lance, their teenage daughter Lydia is actually a pretty cool kid and the closest I have got to a confidant. Being a spirit, the living have no way of seeing me, but this doesn’t extend to Lydia who managed to track me down in no time. I thought I was safe in the attic to wallow in my own self-loathing but she found a skeleton key and gatecrashed my private party. Lydia is kooky in the extreme and her powers of spiritual perception are simply staggering. Turns out that she is grossly misunderstood by her parents and in need of a shoulder to cry on from time to time. I’ve got two of those and over a century to kill so we soon became the very best of friends. She too examined the handbook and agreed to help me find my way to the light at the end of my long, dark tunnel. It appeared that I had two options at my disposal. Either I pay a visit to the local afterlife bureau and wait to be assigned a caseworker (which may well take until the beginning of the 22nd century), or I find myself a quick fix and roll the dice. What did I have to lose by opting for the latter? It sure as shit wasn’t about to kill me.

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Now this is where the plot thickens. You see, there is this one guy, a freelance bio-exorcist who could help me scare away the new tenants, and he’s easy enough to track down as his headquarters are based right here in this very attic conveniently. However, the infamous Betelgeuse is known for being something of a loose cannon and his methods are anything but conventional. According to the handbook, if I chant his name three times, he’ll put in an appearance, and be only too glad to offer his services. It’s his terms and conditions that I’m wary of. While not entirely sure what his chosen method of payment might be, it’s bound to be something unrealistic and I hear his behavior leaves a lot to be desired also. Nevertheless, I’m not growing any younger and neither am I getting any older so, either I sit here sucking it up like a chump vacuum until 2141, or I throw caution to the wind and see where the gust takes me. Seems like a no-brainer to me. What’s the worst that can happen when you’re already deceased? Tell me you wouldn’t do the exact same thing in my situation.

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So this is where you find me now. There’s a model of the town in the attic and I hear that he hangs out somewhere near the cemetery so I made my short way here post-haste to conjure myself up a hero. The moment I arrived, I started to feel a bad feeling, but I trusted my gut when I swerved that racoon on the bridge five minutes from my home and look where that got me. Besides, Betelgeuse is something of an outcast, and I swear blind he’s likely misunderstood. You know how it is in small tight-knit communities, one teensy misdemeanor and you’re suddenly the local pariah. I shall give him the benefit of any doubt I am riddled with and show a little blind faith for once in my afterlife. Three times the handbook states and I feel primed to get my repetition on in the name of buying myself a one-way ticket out of this domestic hell hole. Heaven can’t help me now.

“Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse…”

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The tension is killing you ain’t it? Not me it isn’t. But admittedly I am finding the third wassup a little hard to muster. What if it’s right what they say? After all, there’s no smoke without fire, and I’ve been burned in the past for placing my faith in similar undesirables. Perhaps I should turn around and slink away before I do something I’m really going to regret. I mean, you don’t see the Cenobites politely waving Frank off and strolling in an orderly fashion back into the puzzle box do you? No, they’ve got their rancid hooks out and are already collecting far more than a pound of flesh. I blame that Butterball fella, the very moment he locates the refrigerator, his hips will never make it back through the portal. Anyhoots, 725,214 formal complaints can’t be bogus. This Betelgeuse dude is quite clearly the very wrongest of ‘uns. Hold on, does mentioning his name in inner monologue count? Fuck it.

“Betelgeuse!”

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In the words of Bill Clinton as he attempted to play that tortuously sweet cum face off as indigestion, “Oh no. Now I’ve done it!” Not sure what to expect – a grand entrance or, fingers and toes crossed, maybe a no-show. I’m sure Candyman wouldn’t exert himself for a paltry three mentions and threes kind of resemble fives in non-braille literature. I only glanced over it fleetingly so I reckon I must have got my numerals tangled. Never mind, nothing ventured and all that. Toodle pip. Hold those horses, did one of you just flatuate? Either you did or that fart was me and my sphincter hasn’t deviated from fully clenched since I passed Ed Gein’s tombstone and noticed a compromised barrel of Trioxin rolling towards it. Goodness damn that reeks! Who had a whole shit ton of broccoli for brunch? Come on, own up. We’re not moving ’til one of us passes out and, rotten as this rot is, it’s only vaguely more putrid than my own decomposition so I calculate around two hours before these knees buckle. Wait just a cotton picking…he’s here isn’t he? Where is he? Behind me? Am I being pantomimed? Have things really sunk that low?

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“May I suggest taking large sniffs? It’ll clear the cloud quicker”

“Is it you? Could it really be you?”

“I don’t know, lemme ask myself. Hey me. Yeah you. So it is me then? Who’s me? More importantly who are you? We’re me. No you’re not. You’re us. Wait one moment and let me ask him. Are they them? Nah they’re you. But they can’t be me. I’m me. So who’s you then? You know what? I don’t know”

“The one and only Betelgeuse. It is you”

“Don’t get me started. Actually fuck it. I’m here all week”

Yup. It’s him. I haven’t quite plucked up the courage to turn around yet but the book clearly stated he was quirky and, if this doesn’t qualify, then I’ll pop out both my eyeballs and suck them until they become mine. What sort of name is Betelgeuse anyhoots? Whatever its origin, I’d better not leave my audience waiting.

“Hey pal. You may wish to take that advice. Not that I’m earwigging. Those guys normally sleep in until around 10.30”

Looks like this is what I’m going to have to deal with if I’m not gonna spend the next century plus change being beaten to the ice-cream van by ravenous sandworms. Surely he has to plateau at some point. I mean, how long can one keep up this level of goofball banter? Second thoughts, don’t grace that with an answer. It’s time for shitting or getting off the pot and I can feel his beady little eyes prodding my rectum as we speak. And there’s nothing figurative about that speech. One…two…three…

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Jesus wept, this dude’s skin is so pale he makes Joan Jett look like Joan Armatrading. It’s definitely the notorious Betelgeuse, that much I know. And if the ugly mug doesn’t give it away, then the name badge on his right lapel saying “You guessed it. It’s Betelgeuse” pretty much makes it crystal.

“You’ve got a thousand questions ain’t cha? Here, hit me with your best shot”

“Okay. Was that godawful stench you?”

“Is that all ya got? It’s okay, you’re warming up. We’ll just put it down to those heebie jeebies. Can’t live with ’em, can’t outrun ’em. Tell you what, tell you what. Why don’t you pull my finger and I’ll give you an answer”

Surely he wouldn’t stoop so low. I guess the only way to find out is to give it a tug.

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“Whaddaya reckon? Slightly heady scent don’t cha think? Stings the rim of the nostrils. I’d say that’s a match. Remember I’ve got nine more just like it. Wait one second, lemme just give ’em a count”

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“No need. I’ve got more urgent matters to discuss”

“Urgent you say? Urgent enough to drag me away from the cute little contortionist back at the mausoleum I was just figuring on banging? That kind of urgent?”

“If you’re too busy then…”

“Whoa there. Grab those reins and pull her back Tonto. I’ve got a better idea”

“Which is?”

“Well I may have been yanking your crank about the cute contortionist”

“You lied?”

“Not exactly. I met her at the bureau and only managed to make away with half of her. Okay, that’s not altogether true either. I think the top half was on her cycle if you know what I mean. Besides, everything I needed was in the bottom fifty”

“Can you please explain what the hell you’re blathering on about?”

“We split her fifty-fifty. Always have been a sucker for fishnets”

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“I’ll do no such thing”

“Tough audience. Tell you what – you grab an ankle, I’ll grab an ankle, we give her a jerk and see where it leads us. We got ourselves a deal pardner?”

“No deal”

“Boy, you’re a barrel of laughs ain’t cha?”

“Listen Mr. Betelgeuse. I need to discuss something with you and it’s pretty much life or death”

“Well that’s easy. Always bet on black. Did they teach you nothing in Vegas?”

“I wish to procure your services”

“You know what that means right?”

“What does it mean?”

“It means we get to be best buddies. Bear with me, I’m welling up here”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself”

“I know, I know. Dont’ worry, I’ll catch myself up.”

“I’m dead Betelgeuse!”

“And here I was thinking it was man flu. Chicks just don’t understand. Can’t live with ’em, can’t bury them in the vacant plot behind the chapel without the flies giving away their coordinates”

“I see I’m wasting my time here”

“Let’s not go burning those bridges yet. I’m sorry, I just get a little over-zealous you know. Look at me, I’m all ears”

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“Can you just try being serious for one second? There’s nobody else I can turn to right now and things are getting desperate”

“Okay shoot. You’ve got one second and I’m counting you down”

“Okay well…”

[HONKS BICYCLE HORN] “Thanks for playing. Didn’t he do great ladies and gentlemen? Why don’t we give him a warm hand. Here, I’ll even get the ball rolling”

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“Can you just let me finish please? You’re not being fair”

“I can do fayre. Look”

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“Thanks for nothing”

“Don’t mention it. I need it back though you hear”

“You know what Betelgeuse. You’re nothing but a shady scam artist with a lousy sense of humor and an evident intestinal blockage”

“Still not letting go of that one are ya? Alright, you’ve got me. No more fun and games I promise”

“How do I know I can trust you. I mean, what are your qualifications?”

“It always comes down to that don’t it? So I was an under-achiever. So shoot me. You wouldn’t be the first and I kind of dig the way the bullets itch to be honest”

“Give me one good reason why I should trust you”

“Tell you what, I’ll give ya two. You need my help. And I don’t see anyone else running to help you right now so why don’t you get off that high horse and join me in a glass of warm milk”

“I don’t mean to be standoffish but I’ve heard some pretty disparaging reports about your code of conduct”

“You believe everything you read bookworm?”

“Not strictly no”

[UNDER BREATH] “Jackass”

“What was that?”

“I said tapas. I know a great little Spanish joint about ten minutes from here. Serves the most delightful paella. I’ll split the bill”

“Are you going to help me or not?”

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“Let’s turn on the juice and see what shakes loose”

“I’m not with you. Is that a yes?”

“Not the sharpest tool in the shed are ya? I’m already on it”

“And how pray tell are you being of assistance?”

“I’m helping ya get out some of those frustrations”

“YOU ARE THOSE FRUSTRATIONS!”

“You see, now you’ve gone and hurt both my feelings. There, there fellas. Don’t you go paying any attention to the nasty man”

“I apologize. Didn’t mean to shout”

“No harm no foul. What do you say we just bury the hatchet? I swear I saw it around here somewhere”

“A clean slate?”

“Uh huh. Clean slate. I’ll even go first. Nice to meet you, the name’s Betelgeuse. You got bats in your belfry? Send ’em my way. Little fellas were supposed to be back an hour ago”

“Thank you”

“Don’t thank me. I’m reading from the autocue”

“So about my little issue then”

“I get it. You’re dead. You don’t much care for being dead. The living are making your life hell and you need yourself someone to perform a good old-fashioned exorcism. Am I in the right ball park here?”

“Surprisingly yes. That’s it in a nutshell”

“Well I’m glad one of us decided to bring our thinking hat. Unless I’m mistaken, you’re here to talk business and I think you’ll find my rates competitive”

“So what do you charge?”

“For you? Let me see. Tell ya what, for you I’ll do friend’s discount”

“Which is?”

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“About that emo chick you’ve been getting cosy with”

“You mean Lydia?”

“Names ain’t my strong suit fella. Looks like she dresses at Morticia’s”

“What could you possibly want with Lydia?”

“You know”

“No really I don’t”

“You want me to draw you a picture? It gets mighty lonely out here you know”

“But she’s barely sixteen”

“And I just turned 600. You ever hear the term age is nothing but a number? Ah, the young and the restless”

“I can’t offer that my endorsement”

“I’m not asking you to give her away pal. An old filthy rag and a dash of chloroform and should do the trick”

“And what then?”

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“Marriage, 2.5 children, white picket fence and matching carpet slippers. I don’t know. Just bring her to me will ya”

“And if I do?”

[UNDER BREATH] “Then you’re an even bigger sucker than I thought”

“Excuse me”

“Then you’re even pluckier than I thought. Can we just wrap this up bud? I’ve got a contract drawn up already, all you need to do is sign the dotted line and you’ve got yourself an agent mister”

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“This thing is like the Old Testament. It’ll take me the best part of 125 years just to read the small print”

“It’s mostly legal jargon. Just a quick squiggle will do but make it legible”

“I can’t sign this”

“Then it’s hammer time”

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“Okay. I’ll sign it. But you’d better not be diddling me Betelgeuse. I’ve had a wretched week and don’t know how much more I can take of this”

“Need a shoulder rub? Is that it? Knotted muscles huh?”

“Growing more so by the second”

“Then put pen to paper and lead the way back to those Deetzes. It’s showtime!”

“One moment. Will you give me just a minute?”

“You need to confer? Knock yourself out, I’ll be right here amusing myself in whatever way possible. Now where did that lefty go?”

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What do you think Grueheads? Should I trust him? You guys seem to have a pretty good radar for bullshit. Am I being led up the primrose path here or do you think this Betelgeuse fella might just be kosher after all? Judging by the look of abject horror in those eyes tempered with another of mild mischief, I dare not find out the answer. What other choice do I have? Granted, he’s a little rough around the edges, but so was Quint and you didn’t see him jumping ship did you? I’ve simply got no choice than to place myself in his safekeeping. Besides, Lydia could do with a good shafting just to release all that pent-up angst. Who knows? They could end up hitting it off and who am I to stand in the way of love’s young dream? I think my mind is already made up you know.

“Mr. Betelgeuse?”

“That’s my name. And to think my parents wanted to call me Jean. Never did forgive ’em for that”

“I have decided to accept your offer”

“Arroooo!”

“Hand me those papers will you before I change my mind”

“You heard him lefty. Get! And don’t you go crumpling up the corners. This is official business”

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Jesus wept, I can’t believe I’m actually about to go along with this shit. Give it to me straight, am I a bad person? I mean, it’s alright for you lot sitting on your pedestals dishing out sound advice but I don’t see any of you staring down the barrel of a 125-stretch. Sure, I’ve grown rather fond of Lydia, and wish no harm to befall her on my account. But her repugnant parents need to step up and accept some responsibility here. Last time I checked, I didn’t possess a reproductive system. They brought this shit on themselves by being so utterly loathsome. And I ain’t her keeper.

“Where do I sign?”

“You see the dotted line with the words sign here before it? I’d say that’d be a good place to start, wouldn’t you?”

“There. Done. Now how do you plan we go about this?”

“Hold on a second will ya. I need to make a short phone call”

“Make it quick then”

“Hello minister. Can you fit me in at midnight? Just a small intimate affair, nothing fancy. You can squeeze me in at twelve-thirty? I’ll take it but I want a discount”

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What have I done? That poor confused girl is about to enter unwittingly into nuptials with a guy who I’m fairly convinced would pick his own pockets if they weren’t already sealed up with snot. Woe betide me when I arrive at final judgement. I guess I could plead insanity. There would actually be more than a slither of truth to that one you know. Ten minutes with our good friend Betelgeuse grinding his gums in my ear and every last one of my sixes is plus-one. Plus, there’s still plenty of time for damage limitation. Who knows? In seventy-five years or so, we could all be laughing about this with the exception of Lydia of course as she’ll probably still be screaming. But you can’t hope to make an omelette without breaking at least one egg in the process, am I right or am I right? I wish it to be known that I would have no objection to you lying in a bare-faced manner right about now.

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“Hey buddy. What do you say we wrap this up? Places to be, people to do. You understand right? Old buddy old pal”

“Before we do, I want you to show me just how scary you can be”

“You seen The Exorcist?”

“A long time ago yes”

“Check this out”

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“She learned from the best”

“Nice trick. What else have you got?”

“How about this?”

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“Okay, that’s actually fairly impressive”

“The ladies love that one. They don’t call me the ghost with the most for nothing you know”

“Why do I get the feeling I’m gonna regret this?”

“Oh geez. You still hung up huh? I was hung up once. How do you think I got the stretch marks?”

“Fine. Let’s do this”

“That’s the spirit kiddo. You know, we make a pretty good team you and me”

“Let me make this abundantly clear Betelgeuse. We ain’t no team. This is a one time deal you hear?”

“One time. Gotcha. Suits me, you think I haven’t got better things to do with my time than wash your dirty linen? Fabric softener don’t come cheap you know”

“Yeah but talk does”

“Am I running off at the mouth too much? I can do the strong, silent type too if you want. May need to renegotiate that contract but I’ll give it a shot”

“Let’s just get this over with”

“I’ve heard that one before. She soon changed her tune though”

You ever get the feeling you should quit while ahead? I hear there’s no point in crying over spilt milk and I guess the same applies to embalming fluid. For what I’m about to do, may the lord have mercy on my soul.

“Let’s do this”

“Chapel of love, here I come”

“First things first Betelgeuse. We have some unwanted house guests to get rid of”

“Yeah, yeah. Tell me, whaddaya think of the tux? Too much?”

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You’re too much”

“Shucks. You know how to say the right thing to a fella don’t cha?”

I can’t do this. Legally binding contract or no legally binding contract, I think I’d rather take my chances with the sandworms you know. The problem is breaking it to Betelgeuse. Something tells me he’s not likely to take this knock back well. That said, the Handbook for the Recently Deceased was sitting next to a copy of Witch Doctor Weekly and, unless I’m mistaken, it came with a freebie. Not entirely sure what this powder does but I reckon I’m about to find out. Now all I need to do is distract him.

“Hey, there goes Elvis! Yo, King!”

“What? Where’s ma cheeseburger?”

Worked a treat and the only thing to do now is sit back and watch the fireworks.

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“Hey! Whoa, hey! What are you doing? C’mon! Stop it! I’ve only just grown that back. GQ are gonna be livid. You tell me, does my butt look big in this?”

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Right then, this is my chance. Time to ride the first sandworm outta Vermont before our friend here pulls the ring pull on the can of whoop tucked into his waistband. Wish me luck, I’m not altogether sure how this is going to play out but, I suppose, I’ll find my closure one way or another. Here comes one now. Give it to me straight, does it look hungry to you?

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“Hey where are ya goin’? I thought we were pals. Look, I even had matching tattoos picked out”

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“Hold on, is that thing coming for me? Call off your dogs will ya? Hey! Hey, watch the hair. I don’t digest well”

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It worked. I have rid myself of this curse, saved Lydia from being placed in a decidedly compromising position, and perhaps the Deetzes ain’t so bad after all. Is it just me or does that Delia chick look a little like the mom from Home Alone?

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There ya go. That reminds me, I wonder if Justin Beiber does house calls. Sandworms have gotta eat right? Maybe we should turn on the juice and see what shakes loose. We’ve gotta get closer, move in with ya for a while, get to be real pals. I know, I know. Spend too long with a tool bag like Betelgeuse and some of it’s just bound to rub off right? By the way, anyone know where the brakes are on this thing? How about some travel sickness lozenges? I think I can guess what you’re thinking right now. Can I be scary? Whaddaya think of this?

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Picked that one up during the Black Plague. What a blast and a holler that was. Am I making my point here? Do ya want me to draw ya a picture? Is this thing even turned on? Maybe I should have taken that gig off-Broadway after all. Anyhoots, enough about me. Time’s a wasting pals and, unless that spotlight’s for someone else, I do believe…it’s showtime!”

 

Click here to read Imaginary Fiend

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GREY KEEPER FRAME

 

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