The phone rang as Chad was sitting down to watch The News Hour on his local PBS station. The farm bill was up for renewal, and the Junior Assistant Secretary of Agriculture was scheduled to debate the farm bill with a lobbyist from Big Agriculture. Talk about the perfect evening. Chad checked the caller ID on his phone, but didn’t recognize the number. At least it wasn’t Cubby or Joe Lon.
“Hello?” he said. The was some shuffling on the other end then he heard the unmistakable sound of a lute.
It was his parents!
Chad clutched the phone to his ear, and his heart leapt in his chest as he listened to what was, without question, the most beautiful lute fantasia ever written. It was as if the ghosts of Marco dall’Quilla, Luzzasco Luzzaschi, and Johann Sigismund Weiss had joined forces and taken up residence in his father’s fingers. The themes, and harmonies, and interplay of textures were gorgeous. They were more than gorgeous. They were perfect, and for a few moments Chad forgot all about breast milk, baby products, and Joe Lon Gibbs.
“That was unbelievable,” Chad said when the piece was over. His cheeks were streaked with tears, and even the corporate tool on The News Hour couldn’t dampen the joy in his heart.
“Thanks son,” his father replied. “I wanted to do something special for your fortieth birthday. I know how confusing the big four-oh can be. Sorry I was a few days late.”
“How did you find me?”
“This old dairy farmer still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Let’s just say the world has gotten a lot smaller now that every Lord and Lady on the Renaissance circuit has an iPhone hidden under their skirt.”
“Even you?” Chad asked, not believing it.
“Well, almost every Lord and Lady,” his father said with a chuckle. “And speaking of Ladies, I know a certain damsel who wants to wish you a happy birthday.”
“Chakra? Is that you?” asked his mother.
“How’s my little boy doing on his almost-special day?”
“I’m—” But Chad’s voice got caught in his throat.
“What is it, son? Where are you?”
“I’m lost,” Chad cried and fifteen years of anguish, missteps, and bad decisions came pouring out in a flood of tears.
“My poor boy,” his mother said when he was through. “My poor, poor boy. You sound so much like your father.”
“What are you talking about?” Chad asked.
“He went through the same thing when he was your age.”
“I don’t understand,” Chad said, clutching the phone tighter.
“I’m not sure he ever told you this, but your father never wanted to be a dairy farmer. He only took over the farm because Grandpa wanted him to. Then, after Grandpa died, your father lost his way. It was the lute that finally brought him back to Mother Earth. That’s when I convinced him to follow his bliss, and we’ve been following it together ever since.”
Chad’s mind was reeling. “But I thought Daddy lost the farm,” he said.
“No, he gave it up. It was a mutual decision.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were in college, and we didn’t want to worry you.”
He couldn’t believe it. “And here I spent the last decade and a half thinking Daddy was a failure!”
“A failure?” his mother said with a laugh. “Your father is the bravest man I know. He turned his life into a work of art. But the real question, my darling Chakra, is what are you going to do with your life?”
Twelve hours later, Chad’s mother’s words still burned in his brain with the intensity of a thousand prayer candles. He still didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, but he had a pretty good idea of what he didn’t want to do and was well into setting those wheels in motion.
The clock on his night stand read 8:30, and in ten minutes Joe Lon was scheduled to embark on his scheme to buy Mothership. It was a good plan—well thought-out and more than a little devious—but it would only work if Bambino Warehouse’s stock price stayed high and Mothership’s stayed low. Too bad that wasn’t going to happen. While Joe Lon had spent the night dreaming of baby store dominance, Chad had drafted dozens of emails, tweets, and posts revealing the lies behind the Consumer’s Digest breast pump report. Even better, he’d outlined Joe Lon’s role in the study and provided irrefutable evidence linking the CEO of Bambino Warehouse to the manufacturer of Baby Ballistic breast pumps. He wasn’t exactly following his bliss, but it was a start, and for the first time in years Chad felt like he could look at himself in the mirror without feeling ashamed.
He had been watching CNBC since dawn, and so far there had been nothing about Bambino Warehouse. That was fine. The stock price would drive the narrative, and there was no doubt in Chad’s mind that Bambino Warehouse’s stock price was going to tank. He switched off the TV and headed out the door. As much as he would have enjoyed watching Joe Lon’s destruction on national television, he promised Perry he would be there for his first day as Bambino Warehouse’s resident lactation consultant. Unfortunately, it was also going to be his last.
Chad sighed. Of all the sleazy things he’d done in his life, taking advantage of Perry Vaughn was one of the most shameful.
“I’ll make it up to you,” Chad said out loud as he unlocked his car. “Somehow I’ll make it up to you.”