Today's Reading

It's going to be Mom's second year teaching creative writing at Emerson College, a side hustle that pays the bills while she impatiently waits for inspiration to strike. And bills we do have. Mom spent most of June in Ft. Lauderdale looking for a caregiver for my bubbe, after she fell down the stairs and broke her hip. In July, our air conditioner busted in the middle of the hottest Massachusetts summer in, like, two hundred years. And a few weeks ago my dad learned that his budget for new supplies got cut in half—forcing him to purchase new music for the fall Harvest Festival out of pocket. All summer, it has been one unexpected expense after another.

Mom always says bad things happen in threes.

I say don't pick a career that relies on creative whims to pay the bills in the first place.

"All romance writers this semester?" I ask.

Mom nods. Romance is her brand, the literary space where she has made her career. Readers have been waiting nearly four years to see how she follows up The Lola Diaries.

"Maybe it'll be inspiring," Reid says.

"That's the hope," Mom says.

"Nirvana always gets me through a long prep session," Dad suggests. "Just don't forget Delia has lessons with Rabbi Sarna at three." My twelve-year-old sister is in full bat mitzvah prep mode, eating, sleeping, and breathing Vayishlach 36:40.

Mom waves away his reminder. "We have a tasting with the caterer after."

Dad nods. "Four-thirty."

"Good luck today, Lee."

Mom squeezes my shoulder then tucks her laptop under her arm and retreats to her office in the name of class prep, leaving me alone with Reid and my dad. Pretty much the worst combination. Before I have a chance to form words, they're in their own musical world.

"Six weeks until the Harvest Festival," Dad says.

Every fall, the concert band performs at the Lincoln Harvest Festival in Pine Hill Park. The Harvest Festival is a community event filled with hayrides, farm stands with local produce, and so many cider donuts—pretty much peak fall in New England energy. A few years ago, Dad proposed that it also be a performance opportunity for the band, where the marquee event is a classic film score. Past performances have included Casablanca, E.T., and The Wizard of Oz. It's an event that the town has come to anticipate and is excellent—both in terms of the local media attention it receives and the boost it gives to small businesses that participate.

Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope is this year's Harvest Festival score. The hype is already building, thanks to Aaron Jacobson's local on-screen news debut in a piece highlighting how the band's participation has increased Harvest Festival turnout.

The screen time has absolutely gone to his head.

It's a cool story, objectively.

But the school committee does not need another reason to obsess over the band.

Neither does the town, for that matter.

Because as a town, Lincoln is as average as it gets. Our sports teams are mediocre. We don't have a marching band. Our drama club is small. Our entertainment options are a movie theater, ice skating, a roller rink, and a mall with every store that's in every town.

But Lincoln's concert band and orchestra program? They are exceptional.

Reid shifts the conversation to his current role: recruitment for the jazz ensemble.

"We need more percussion," Reid says.

"Makayla's—" I start.

"Rosalind Levy is sick on the snare," Reid says, cutting me off. "Which will make up for losing Tricia, I think."

Dad nods. "Cool. Good to know."

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