The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves

by M. T. Anderson

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Overview

"A novel of the first rank, the kind of monumental work Italo Calvino called ‘encyclopedic’ in the way it sweeps up history into a comprehensible and deeply textured pattern." — The New York Times Book Review

Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows — the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause — Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces. 

In Volume II of his unparalleled masterwork, M. T. Anderson recounts Octavian's experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, thrusting him into intense battles and tantalizing him with elusive visions of liberty. Ultimately, this astonishing narrative escalates to a startling, deeply satisfying climax, while reexamining our national origins in a singularly provocative light.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763653774
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 01/25/2011
Series: Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Series , #2
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 1,233,336
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.70(d)
Lexile: 1060L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

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Read an Excerpt

The rain poured from the heavens as we fled across the mud-flats, that scene of desolation; it soaked through our clothes and bit at the skin with its chill. It fell hard and ceaseless from the heavens as the deluge that had both inundated Deucalion and buoyed up Noah; and as with that deluge, we knew not whether it fell as an admonition for our sins or as the promise of a brighter, newly washed morning to come.

I left all that I knew behind me. Though the ways of the College of Lucidity were strange to the world and the habits of its academicians eccentric, they were familiar to me; and I traded them now for uncertainty and strife. Though I returned, indeed, to Boston, that town best known to me, its circumstances were changed, now that it was the seat of the King’s Army and sat silent and brooding in the Bay. We knew not what we would find therein.

Dr. Trefusis and I stumbled across the ribbed sand. Treading through seaweed mounded in pools, we slithered and groped, that we might retain our footing; and on occasions, we fell, Dr. Trefusis’s hands bleeding from the roughness of rock and incision of barnacles.

We wound through the meanders that led between stubbled mud-banks in no straight or seemly course. I pulled Dr. Trefusis out of the ditches where water still ran over the silt. We crawled over knolls usually submerged by the Bay. At some point, soaked, he shed his coat.

After a time, there was no feature but the sand, corrugated with the action of the tides. We made our way across a dismal plain, groping for detail, sight obscured.

But that morning I had been a prisoner, a metal mask upon my face, and my jowls larded with my own vomit, in a condition which could hardly have been more debased; but that morning I had watched the masters of my infancy and youth writhe upon the floor and fall into unpitied slumber, perhaps their bane. A sentence of death might already rest upon my head. The thought of this appeared fleetingly — the memory of those bodies on the floor, bound with silken kerchiefs — and at this, I found I could not breathe, and wished to run faster, that I might recover my breath.

Tumbling through the darkness of those flats, revolving such thoughts amidst utter indistinctness, I feared I would never again find myself; all I knew was lost and sundered from me; I knew not anymore what actuated me. We ran on through the night, across the sand, and it was as Dr. Trefusis had always avowed in his sparkish philosophy, that there was no form nor matter, that we acted our lives in an emptiness decorated with an empty show of substance, and a darkness infinite behind it.

Forms and figures loomed out of the rain: boulders in our path, gruesome as ogres to my susceptible wits, hulking, pocked and eyed with limpets, shaggy with weeds.

We came upon a capsized dinghy in the mud, mostly rotted, and barrels half-sunk. My aged companion now leaned upon my shoulder as we walked, his breath heavy in his chest.

Once, I started with terror at a ratcheting upon my foot, to find a horseshoe crab trundling past in search of a pool, its saber-tail and lobed armor grotesque in the extreme. Dr. Trefusis, wheezing, greeted it, "Old friend."

His amiability to the crab, I feared, was merely a pretense to stop our running. He did not seem well.

We could no longer detect the city, the night was so black, so full of water and motion, so unsparing was the drench. Our senses disorganized, our frames trembling with cold, we calculated as best we could the direction of our town and made our way across that countryside of dream.

Once I was shown by the scholars of the College a rock, spherical in shape, which, when chiseled open, revealed a tiny cavern of crystal; and they told me that these blunt stones often held such glories; that though some were filled only with dust, others, when broke open, enwombed the skeletons of dragons or of fish, beaked like birds. Thus I felt in approaching my city; that place which seemed known stone, but which, when riven after its long gestation, might contain either wonders, or ash, or the death in infancy of some clawed terror.

We found ourselves at the brink of the returning tide. We walked through it without notice, so thick was the very air with water, until the flood reached Dr. Trefusis’s knees, and there he halted, swaying. "I cannot continue," said he. "I will return to shore."

Thus his offer; but well did I know that he had no intention of returning to the bank, and could not unassisted, did he wish to. I was aware that if I left him, he would sink to the ground and allow the waters to cover him.

I instructed him to climb upon my shoulders.

"I will drag you down, Octavian."

"You have risked your all for me, sir; and it is only right that I do the same for you."

He considered this, and at length, we now feeling the motion of the tide through our legs, said, "When I become burdensome, cast me off backwards."

I leaned down as best I could with the waters rising, and he clambered atop me, clawing at my head and neck for purchase. When he was situated, I stood again and began striding through the returning sea.

_______

THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, TRAITOR TO THE NATION, VOLUME TWO: THE KINGDOM ON THE WAVES by M.T. Anderson. Copyright © 2008 by M. T. Anderson. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Somerville, MA.

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Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
noblechicken on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The second and final volume of the horrific, touching, funny, and well told tale of Octavian Nothing. Octavian, who was bought as a slave (with his mother) and educated as an experiment in the first novel, is now on the lam more or less. As the first book dealt with some heavy issues, so does this one. This time around it's the idea of "freedom" during one of the most prominent events that addressed the idea on a historic scale : the American revolution. Ah, how the hypocrisy oozes from the pages as seen through the eyes of a young African-American man, still trying to find his place in the world. Not to spoil any plots but he more or less sees both sides of the war, digging fortifications for the rebels then winding up under the naval command of Lord Dunmore for the British. M.T. Anderson is a master of the young adult novel, his ability of range to go from the slang-sling language of "Feed" to the proper American English of the 1770s Octavian Nothing proves it. The story is much easier to get into second time around, but I guess why would you read this one without reading the first. I enjoyed this, it was greatly rewarding.
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson continues the saga of Octavian Nothing, escaped slave and would-be-revolutionary. Octavian has fled his owners at the strange College of Lucidity and joined the rebels digging fortifications at Bunker Hill across the water from Boston. Unfortunately, he is still a slave, still property, and once this is discovered the rebels return him to the custody of his former owners. He escapes a second time with the help of his old tutor Dr. Trefusis and decides to try his luck within British occupied Boston. Once inside Boston he manages to find room and board and a job playing the violin for British soldiers. Eventually, as slaves have been promised freedom if they join the British army, he becomes a soldier and ends up in Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment, stranded on ships outside Norfolk, the kingdom on the waves of the title.Lord Dunmore commands a large fleet of ships full of soldiers and refugees unable to dock and take on supplies and unwilling to sail off towards battle or home. On a ship full of former slaves, Octavian is reunited with Pro Bono, his friend and sometimes antagonist from the College of Lucidity, and is able to continue his studies with Dr. Trefusis as well. He soon becomes acquainted with many other escaped slaves, some of them from Africa, who tell him about his African homeland and his ancestors. After a while, they form a close band of friends engaged in a common struggle for their own liberty. But the British and Lord Dunmore, seem unconcerned about them. They are only interested in using the former slaves as a tool to defeat the rebel colonists. After a long time at sea, Octavian along with part of the Ethiopian Regiment is sent ashore to try and seize supplies. They enter a Norfolk set ablaze by the rebels and traverse a strange surrealistic countryside in a sequence straight out of Apocalypse Now. Their boat is captured by the rebels, so they are unable to get back to the ships. The African soldiers allow their British sergeant to present them as captured slaves in his custody to make it possible for them to travel northwards towards Boston. But this plan fails once the sergeant finds out he can turn in them in and collect a bounty. Octavian and his companions are left with no one to turn to, they are not safe with either side and there is no where they can run. M.T. Anderson does not disappoint his readers in this second volume. The unusual and rich historical detail that made the first volume such interesting reading brings the second volume to life as well. The chaos of war, both in Boston under siege and Norfolk ablaze, keeps the reader turning the pages anxious to know what will happen next and not quite believing such things were possible. Lord Dunmore's fleet, the kingdom on the sea, is a fascinating story in itself--hundreds of ships, just outside of cannon range but unable to resupply, full of refugees and escaped slaves, fighting off starvation and disease. That Lord Dunmore seems unable or unwilling to put his soldiers to work in an attempt to recapture Norfolk makes it clear why the British lost the revolution to the rebels. That the escaped slaves cannot find refuge anywhere in a land bent on gaining freedom makes it clear why the American Civil War happened four generations later.The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing comes with my highest recommendation. Don't be put of by the marketing. Presenting these two books as Young Adult novels likely a mistake in my view. I've yet to see one of my students reading either book. They deserve to be repackaged and presented to an adult readership. Both are excellent books.
katiebobus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loving this perhaps even more than the amazing first book. There are passages I keep rereading because they are so beautiful and true. And it is fascinating from a historical social perspective: I'm learning so much about what it might have been like to be black during the Revolutionary War. So interesting about the Tories offering freedom to slaves who fought for the king, while the rebel Whigs screamed for their own liberation - while keeping their slaves. Anderson is a genius and one of the finest, most moral y/a authors today.
fromthecomfychair on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really, 2 1/2 stars. It's a great story, but could have used a severe editing. I just couldn't get through it. Too many lulls in the action. I gave up half way through. Too bad. M.T. Anderson is a great writer.
horomnizon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! Not sure there's much else to say. A great story continues and this is a side of history that I don't ever recall hearing about. A pleasure to read - although the language can be a tad difficult. Adults and smart youths shouldn't have trouble figuring out what some of the unusual words mean in context. However, I'm not sure it's really a YA book, as the Library I borrowed it from claims. It is very much at an adult reading level.Octavian finds himself an outsider no matter where he goes - not really ever treated as most slaves were, not knowing his African background (if what his mother told him was even true), betrayed by the rebels, and uncertain of his new commander....he finds himself just trying to survive - and to keep those few beloved friends safe with him. Anderson here delivers a side to the Revolutionary War that most have probably never considered. An excellent story featuring important historical lessons.
JFBallenger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An absolutely brilliant sequel to the first volume -- explores the ambiguity of "liberty" for African Americans fighting on both sides of the rebellion of the North American colonies. Together the two books are a rich and persuasive imagining, steeped in historical detail, of the African American experience of the founding of the United States, and a brilliant critique of the Enlightenment project and its political legacies. Not only does Anderson's fiction provide a sense of verisimilitude inevitably missing from scholarly accounts of this history (essential as these are), he masterfully challenges us to think about what this history must mean for us today. I never appreciated the value of historical fiction until encountering these two books. Great reading for the 4th of July. But warning -- you absolutely must read Volume 1 to appreciate volume 2. They really ought to have just been published together. But I guess an 800+ page novel that's is a non-starter in the young adult market unless it's about teenage wizards.
bell7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This second volume in the Octavian Nothing series begins right when the first left off, with Octavian and Dr. Trefusis running away from the College of Lucidity. Their flight through the rain and mud-flats leaves Dr. Trefusis with a terrible fever, and Octavian must find a place for them to stay and a way to pay for lodgings - not an easy task for a runaway slave in Boston, a city under siege during the Revolution.This is merely the beginning of a long and intelligent examination of the early American Revolution, and the treatment of slaves by rebels and British. Every detail plays into the historical fiction of a document written in that time period: the vocabulary and voice of the characters, the rough-cut pages, and the old-fashioned title page and type. The story investigates the ideals of liberty and the hypocrisy of those who would cry "liberty" for themselves while condemning others to slavery. Though not for the fainthearted because of the descriptions of war and sickness, for those willing to persevere the story provides much food for thought.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: Octavian, with the help of Dr. Trefusis, has escaped from the slavery in the Novanglian College of Lucidity, and they head for the British-occupied city of Boston. Octavian quickly comes to realize that his strange upbringing has left him wholly unprepared for a world at war, but he pins his hope on joining the British Army's Royal Ethiopian Regiment, whose troops are made entirely from freed slaves. Octavian becomes a soldier, but his regiment quickly winds up stranded on a fleet of ships off the shore of Norfolk, and as the war progresses, he is dealt lesson after lesson on the true meaning and cost of freedom, and the true depths of human hypocrisy.Review: While I did enjoy this volume somewhat more than the first one, I'm still just not left raving. Octavian, while still stilted and tight-laced, is starting to engage with his emotions more as he grows up, which made it easier for me to engage with him. The problem was that not a lot happens for long stretches of the book, which, while probably an accurate depiction of the realities of the period, did not make for super-compelling reading. The gaps are mostly filled by Octavian musing about freedom, and equality, and while these topics are undeniably important, and are generally dealt with in a mature and complex way in these novels... but at the same time, after 20-odd hours of audiobook, I found myself going "Yes, I GET IT."The writing continues to be in period style, with long, complicated, shading-to-purple sentences. It's beautifully done, and certainly shows off Anderson's skill as a writer, as much as the rich level of detail shows off his skill as a researcher, and the unique perspective and elegant characterization show off his skill as an author. Unfortunately, it's a little over-long, and I never really got involved enough with the characters or their story to make it really work for me. 3.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: If you liked the first volume, this one is the same or better, so have at it. If you didn't like the first volume, this one is a little bit - but not a lot - of an improvement in terms of relatability, so you may have better luck with it. If you haven't read the first volume, this one is going to make no sense until you do.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, second books often don't rise to the level of the first in inventiveness and freshness. This one is typical of the syndrome.Beginning where the extraordinary and original The Pox Party left off, The Kingdom on the Waves makes the adventures of Octavian Nothing complete. His best efforts are thwarted, his noblest desires unfulfilled, his quest for justice failed. All very true to history, but all very easy to predict. It's not that this is a bad book; it's a very good book. It's not clear to me why Anderson took 561pp to tell this story. I think the book sags a bit under the weight of its tale. It could easily have clocked in under 400pp and led us the same place.I *love* that this is a YA book, written in so challenging and uncondescending a voice. Octavian is a very erudite narrator. I loved the structure of the book as a reader; it's in tasty-morsel-sized chapters. It's a very good book, and I recommend it.I am firmly on record in many places as disliking the obesity of modern literary production. It's not that all books should be short in my opinion; it's that there is no reason for many, if not most, books to be as bloated with redundant and sometimes pointless verbiage as they are *stares pointedly at the Outlander books*. This book takes as its canvas a richly colored (no slur intended) part of American history. It's trying to fit a giant Technicolor extravagaza into a TV show. I think the editor would have done better to focus the author's obvious familiarity with the period on fewer episodes and left it at that.But still, better a flawed and oversized story than none at all. The pleasures of the tale are many and savory, and I really hope you'll venture into YAdom to find this book soon.
hoosgracie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not quite as gripping as volume 1, but that's probably because war is not as compelling for me. Overall, excellent.
edspicer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this second and concluding volume of Anderson¿s epic (and destined to be classic) Revolutionary War story, Octavian joins forces with the British in an attempt to win his freedom. Octavian, our young black hero, was raised as if he were a son of a king in a racist experiment to ¿scientifically¿ prove that Africans were an inferior breed of man (book one). In this second volume, the College of Lucidity is no more and Octavian and Dr. Trefusis, his tutor, are running for their lives. Octavian clings to the hope that Lord Dunmore and the Royal Ethiopian Regiment will secure a safe harbor for him. This is war, however, and there are no safe harbors. This profoundly sad and philosophical book provides a fresh perspective on our history. This is one of the few books for teens that explores this time period from the perspective of slaves. This book will join the first book, I am convinced, on the Printz award table. While this duet will not be widely popular, readers who appreciate the finest in literary quality are richly rewarded. Smart teachers will discover that these books are perfect for that advanced student of both literature and history who appreciates a challenge. This is a must buy for all high school libraries and for anyone who wishes to understand this period of time and the events of the Revolutionary War.
jenniferthomp75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Moving and heartbreaking, this sequel to "The Pox Party" is a great piece of literature. Even though the first novel was excellent, I found myself even more interested in this second book. The characters' growth was particularly amazing (especially Octavian). I found the second book to be more relatable and realistic. I highly recommend this to fans of the first book and for those who enjoy a wonderful read.
Awesomeness1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
have to admit that I was very reluctant to read this book. It's been on my to-read list since it came out, and I would repeatedly pass it by in the library. Eventually, it stared me down and I was forced to check it out. The reason I kept putting it off was because I didn't particularly enjoy the first one. Yes, I appreciated its artsiness, but it was very long and quite boring. In this installment, we follow Octavian as he runs away once again, but this time with his tutor Dr. Trefusis. Instead of joining up with the rebels, he becomes a soldier in Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment with the promise of his freedom. I can honestly say this novel surprised me. I was expecting this novel to be even more dull than the first one since it was even longer. Instead, I ate it up. I think its because I actually got it this time. Perhaps I didn't like the first one because I was distracted and couldn't get into it. This time I realized the humor and was genuinely invested in Octavian's journey. It was funny, tragic, and philosophical. Nothing was sugar-coated, and sometimes the writing was brutal. The writing, tedious in the first book, was fully appreciated here. The 18th century style fitted the story and time period perfectly. Octavian grew up in this book. He really loosened up in this one and was finally showing some emotions. Also, through out this whole book, it reminded me of something else I read. I couldn't put my finger on it until I saw the title in another person's review. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. They were alike in the sense of style: both were written in 18th century style, and featured letters as a technique. And the plot was alike too when I think about it. Octavian and Frankenstein's monster are both elegant experiments searching for their place in the world. I have to say I did enjoy this book more though, so if you hated Frankenstein feel free to read this one. I whole-heartedly recommend this novel. It is a very unique young adult book and a must for historical fiction fans looking for a challenge. It is in no way an easy read, for both the prose and material is difficult. I felt like I needed a dictionary a majority of the time. Whether you liked or disliked the first one, give this second installment a shot.
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Awesomeness1 More than 1 year ago
have to admit that I was very reluctant to read this book. It's been on my to-read list since it came out, and I would repeatedly pass it by in the library. Eventually, it stared me down and I was forced to check it out. The reason I kept putting it off was because I didn't particularly enjoy the first one. Yes, I appreciated its artsiness, but it was very long and quite boring. In this installment, we follow Octavian as he runs away once again, but this time with his tutor Dr. Trefusis. Instead of joining up with the rebels, he becomes a soldier in Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment with the promise of his freedom. I can honestly say this novel surprised me. I was expecting this novel to be even more dull than the first one since it was even longer. Instead, I ate it up. I think its because I actually got it this time. Perhaps I didn't like the first one because I was distracted and couldn't get into it. This time I realized the humor and was genuinely invested in Octavian's journey. It was funny, tragic, and philosophical. Nothing was sugar-coated, and sometimes the writing was brutal. The writing, tedious in the first book, was fully appreciated here. The 18th century style fitted the story and time period perfectly. Octavian grew up in this book. He really loosened up in this one and was finally showing some emotions. Also, through out this whole book, it reminded me of something else I read. I couldn't put my finger on it until I saw the title in another person's review. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. They were alike in the sense of style: both were written in 18th century style, and featured letters as a technique. And the plot was alike too when I think about it. Octavian and Frankenstein's monster are both elegant experiments searching for their place in the world. I have to say I did enjoy this book more though, so if you hated Frankenstein feel free to read this one. I whole-heartedly recommend this novel. It is a very unique young adult book and a must for historical fiction fans looking for a challenge. It is in no way an easy read, for both the prose and material is difficult. I felt like I needed a dictionary a majority of the time. Whether you liked or disliked the first one, give this second installment a shot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
For those of you who immersed yourself in the world of THE POX PARTY, you must read M. T. Anderson's second volume, THE KINGDOM ON THE WAVES. I would highly recommend you read the two volumes in order. In volume two, Octavian escapes the cruelty of Mr. Gitney and, with his former tutor, Dr. Trefusis, on his back, flees across the mud-flats to Boston. Once there, they are able to find lodging, trading only upon the name and reputation of the deathly ill Dr. Trefusis. With war closing in on Boston and their hostess in dire need of payment, Octavian once again finds himself with violin in hand, earning a small amount to apply toward their room and board. At this point, I was still cheering for Octavian, the escaped slave, hoping that he finally would find joy, peace and, most of all, freedom; yet at the same time, knowing that there must be more challenges ahead. As the Revolutionary War advances, Octavian hears that the Royalists are promising freedom to all slaves who fight for the King of England. He joins and dons his uniform, a shirt inscribed with the words "Liberty to Slaves." We are immediately immersed in the struggle to prepare an ill-equipped regiment for war. He becomes a member of Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment. Here, for the first time, he is surrounded by other slaves who speak other languages. They tell glorious tales of their homes in Africa and sing rousing songs that make his heart pound. They see him as different, a white man in a black body, and brand him with the name Buckra. Octavian marches into his first battle behind other regiments, amazed that those first to confront the Rebels are little more than a sacrifice. He does not understand the logic behind this type of fighting. It's not long before they are in retreat, fellow soldiers dead and dying all around, and something inside Octavian changes. How can it not? With the Rebel force surging into Boston, the Royalists take to their ships. Octavian and the Ethiopian Regiment find a new level of darkness in the bowels of their ship. They spend weeks, nay, months, aboard their watery foundations. Rations are less than sparse and sickness begins to spread. It's a relief to row ashore, even if it is to burn Boston out from under the rebels who have claimed it. Men die. Men kill. Octavian knows not whether it be his bullet or another which steals life. Back aboard ship, the monotony begins anew, broken only by the occasional duties on deck, and the visits of women as they gather laundry, including Nsia, the woman of beautiful voice and dance who takes his tongue and ties it in knots. He is relieved when Dr. Trefusis visits his ship and bades him fill the empty void with studies while they listen to stories of bravery and ingenuity. Stories of slaves escaping their masters to join the promise of freedom offered by Lord Dunmore and his Royal Navy. Octavian learns much about his mother's tribe in Africa from another soldier from that nation. And as small pox devastates the Ethiopian Regiment, he learns more that he would have liked about the burial customs of his brothers-in-arms. **Read the full review at www.teensreadtoo.com
MrPotter07 More than 1 year ago
I read the first Octavian Nothing book on a whim when I was working at Barnes & Noble. I loved it! I thought it was an original and compelling subject matter, beautifully written, and dripping with vivid characters. I was ready to die for the second one to come out. It was not a disapointment. The mystery was gone, but it was replaced by action. The basic subject matter was still there. I just can't explain the originally of the story line. Nothing short of brilliant! I didn't get the feeling that there would be a third one, which makes me sad. I wasn't ready to say goodbye, I want more and I would be first in line if there was!