"I told you if your marks didn't improve, you wouldn't be going anywhere this weekend."
"But Dad, we've got a gig tonight and..."
"I don't care about your gig or whatever else you've cooked up. I'm tired of your lackadaisical outlook on your future. We've talked about this countless times. Your music is not all important here and I won't have another word on the subject."
Robert raised his arm and pointed past his son, down the hall."To your room, young man!"
Judd turned slowly with unwilling steps toward his room. Suddenly, he stopped, spinning around to face his father's stormy features.
"Can I phone Billy and..."
"NO, you cannot!"
The door slammed behind Judd, seemingly ending another bout of frustration and anger, which was a regular happening in the Dawson household lately. Robert turned to pour himself a hot coffee, as his wife Betty walked through the door. "What's all the yelling about now?"
"What else but school and Judd's infernal music. If that boy doesn't apply himself, his marks won't be satisfactory to get him into University."
Judd opened his bedroom door a crack, just in time to hear his father's last sentence, "He's hopeless as far as I'm concerned. When I was a boy…." He shut the door quietly, knowing this speech only too well.
Jeez, what am I going to do now. The guys need me tonight. They can't manage without a lead guitar. He walked to the window, paying special attention to how close the biggest limb was to the window sill.
Six hectic months later and two days after school had closed for the summer, Judd packed up some clothes, sleeping bag and toothbrush, grabbed his guitar and music stand, kissed his tearful Mother goodbye and left the house. His father's belligerent voice followed him down the stairs..."Sure, go and hang out with your druggie friends, that's all you're good for anyway!"
Judd climbed into Billy's tri-coloured Chevy, slamming the door firmly. He didn't look back.
It was a bright sunny day when Robert's plane landed in Toronto. His business appointment with his new associate, thankfully, wasn't too far from the airport. He caught the nearest taxi to The Double H. Not his choice of restaurant, but then he didn't make it. As he waited to be seated, he scanned the blackboard in front of him. A familiar face... he walked closer to the billboard. IT WAS JUDD! Robert's heart quickened. The billboard read:
JUDD DAWSON & The 49ER'S
Appearing April 22, 23 & 24th ONLY at The Palace
Don't miss this Canadian Boy!
He realized it was already the 24th.
Robert seated himself in the front row, thinking how fortunate he was to have been able to buy a ticket from a scalper for an exorbitant price. His heart leapt when his son walked onto the stage. Even with the loud clapping of the crowd, it didn’t drown out the beating of Robert’s heart in his ears and the realization that he’d come so close to losing his son. He stared at this boy of his through a wall of water, noticing not just his strong voice, but the mastered technique he had with his guitar. He thought back to his college days, as Judd’s form morphed into his red-headed wife, Judd’s talented mother. There she stood on the stage, finishing the same song that Judd had started playing. Robert reached into his pocket for his handkerchief. Wiping his tears, he contemplated the past few years, wondering how he'd missed seeing Judd's talent and why he hadn't considered the boy’s insistence on a musical career over his own choice of an academic one. I guess Judd’s mother's musical talent has won out here...my word, music has strong genes!
As the finale ended, the crowd stood to applaud: clapping, catcalling and whistling. He was close enough to see the satisfaction of accomplishment on the faces of the musicians as they turned to leave the stage. The M.C. introduced them again; “Judd Dawson & the 49er's....what a show!!!”
The crowd continued to clap and whistle as Judd and the 49er's made their way back for their encore. The throng of fans finally seated themselves like a wave settling on a beach. All was instantly quiet as Judd stepped forward to speak into the mike. "I thank you all for your support in my career and especially on buying our latest release, driving it up to Gold. Ladies and Gentlemen, "Coming Home." The audience applauded once more, quieting quickly as Judd's powerful voice swirled outwards, casting a spell like a large net, over his fans.
The last chords finished and the crowd reluctantly released their hold for the musicians to leave the stage. Robert stood up and made his way outside. He'd remembered seeing Billy's Chev parked in the lot next door to the arena.
He waited and it seemed like forever. Just as he thought he'd made a mistake, he heard the staccato of cowboy boots, clicking on the pavement. Judd rounded the corner.
His son...guitar case in one hand, his light jeans jacket carelessly thrown over his shoulder, held in that old familiar finger hook of his walked toward him. Robert stood still, afraid to move, afraid of what he didn't know. Judd stopped and looked straight at him. He doesn't know me, how could he not?
As if he suggested the thought, Judd asked, "Do I know you?"
Robert's heart sank, "I hope you do, son."
They stood looking at one another, fear and denial confronted. Finally, Judd reached out his hand, "Good to see you, Dad". They shook hands with a strong grip, until Robert pulled his son into his arms and they held each other while a tear dripped off Robert's chin.
"I'm sorry,son, please forgive me."