Prologue; August 16, 2022, Eleven O’clock a.m.

He sat alone in his office. Being alone was unusual for him, closing the door on the world outside, the world full of people waiting to hear the news, watching for the turn of the doorknob. Or even the further world outside the building, waiting for their phone to ring, to see his number on their caller ID.


But he needed to be alone today. Just for this brief time. He needed to have his own private reaction to the news before sharing it with the others. He needed to sit quietly, with his head in his hands, listening to the strangers who spoke cheerfully from his computer; people he’d never met who were counting down to the biggest moment of his life so far.


This was a time, if there ever was, for introspection. A time to look back on the path, the often broken paving stones which led him to this place. But before he could fully examine the past, he had to first fully accept the present. Was any of this real? Was this happening?


He knew they were about to begin the countdown of the five thousand fastest growing companies in the United States. He already knew he was on the list, but he didn’t know at which number they would place him. He would have to listen, with everyone else, to the countdown on the closed circuit link he’d been given for this occasion.


He could be streaming this out on the sales floor. Maybe that would have been the right decision. He knew that without his sales force, the company would never have reached this level. But he needed this time alone, to process, to grasp the reality.


“Have I really reached this level of success?” he asked himself, just to feel the surreal thrill of the answer in his own mind. “The guy who once sold his shoes for crack cocaine? The guy who spent ten years in prison behind nine felonies? The guy who was homeless and desperate and stealing food to survive?”


Before beginning the countdown, the announcers were interviewing past honorees, and he listened closely, wondering what their stories were. What paths had they taken to success, and what might he learn from them? What might they learn from him as well?


What would his father think of this moment? His father, whose love had always seemed conditional on how his son’s accomplishments might feed his own ego. His father who had loved him when he was winning medals, but who had abandoned him when he was in prison. Were he still alive today, would his father be proud of this accomplishment?


He closed his eyes for a moment, knowing this was a wound that would never heal. But this was a day for celebration, not sadness, and so he shook off the heaviness and returned his attention to the broadcast, and carefully unwrapped a Blow Pop.