7:58

For Jack, 7:58 on a Tuesday evening is not 7:58 on a Monday or a Wednesday evening. At 7:58 on a Tuesday evening, Barbara walks out on her husband, Jack, leaving Jack and Barbara behind forever.

“Why are you doing this?” Jack yells out at the cab as it pulls out into the street.

She sticks her head out of the taxi window and yells back, “Because I can.”

Jack goes to the kitchen cupboard and pulls out a bottle of whiskey, fills a large glass, takes it into the living room and turns on Jeaopardy. By the time he finishes his glass, it’s Final Jeopardy. “Oh, I know the answer to that one,” he screams at the tv.

At 8:58, he pulls himself out of the chair and into the kitchen and makes a sandwich the way he liks it and the way Barbara never made it, ham and cheese whiz and mustard. “That’ll kill you,” she always said.

Kill him or no, he’s partial to it. Since he had no vote in the decision for the marriage hasta la vista, he decides the occasion requires a second cheese whiz sandwich and the rest of the bottle. Sitting in his chair, he flips through the channels until he comes to Divorce American Style. On the screen, Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds are as American as any American s can be.

It strikes Jack funny that here is Princess Leia’s mom with Mary Tyler Moore’s husband. Jack slurs out, “If they can’t make a marriage work, who can?”

He picks up his guitar and remembers the line from a song, “I got the blues, and it’s one blues too many.” He’s not singing the words. He is crying them.

At 7:58 Wednesday morning, Jack wakes up, stretched out on the carpet, one side of his head suffering a headache, the other one hell of a hangover. He turns off the remote and does what he always does at 7:58 on Wednesday morning. He runs the shower, the cold water washing him clean of the previous night. By 8:58, he’s ready for the start of a new day, headache and hangover and all.

Wednesday evening at 7:58 is not 7:58 Tuesday evening. So Jack sits in his chair with a photo album of memories. Jack and Barbara, high school sweethearts; Jack and Barbara at the prom; Jack and Barbara, on summer vacation at camp in the Pocconos; Jack and Barbara, at the altar, saying their I-doeses; Jack and Barbara in Paris on their honeymoon; Jack and Barbara with little Annie and her cute baby smile; Jack and Barbara with five-year-old Annie off to kindergarten; Jack and Barbara and Annie next to Annie’s first bikes; Jack and Barbara and Annie at the Yellowstone geyser; Annie in her prom dress, standing next to her handsome date; Jack and Barbara and Annie at her high school graduation; Jack and Barbara Jack saying goodbye to Annie as she went off to college; Annie graduating summa cum laude; Jack and Barbara at Annie’s wedding; Jack and Barbara saying goodbye to Annie and Tom moving to Europe.

“I got the blues; and it’s one blues too many,” he sings, accompanying himself on the guitar, realizing this song is nobody’s songs but his own.

On Saturday evening at 7:58 a month or so later, he grabs his guitar, jumps in his silver Nissan and drives down to the neighborhood pub. He’s there just in time to sign up for the 9:58 open-mic slot. At the mic, he twangs, “I got the blues, and it’s one blues too many.”

After his set, a man in a suit and tie takes Jack aside. “How would you like to go into show business?”

Next thing it’s 7:58 on a Tuesday evening in a recording studio. The producer says, “This’ll be the last take.” Jack sings into to the mic, “I got the blues, and it’s one blues too many.”

A month later on a Tuesday evening at 7:58, his manager, the guy in the suit and tie at the pub, calls him, “You’ve got a number ten with a bullet.”

“Is that good?” Jack asks.

“It’ll be numero uno before you know it.”

Six months later on a Tuesday evening at 7:58 at a large venue, Jack starts, “I’ve got the blues, and it’s one blues too many.” He looks down from the stage. In a front row seat, there’s Barbara cheering him on.

That Tuesday evening at 9:58, Jack walks off the stage. His roadie says, “There’s a woman wants to see you. Says she’s your wife.”

For a moment or two until 10:00, Jack feels the anger running through him, then he lets go of it. He’s in too good of a mood. “Show her into my dressing room. I only have a few before it’s time for the second show.”

In the dressing room, Barbara asks, “So, how’s the good life.”

“You’re the last person I expected to see. I know you ain’t here to beg for anything. So, why did you come?”

“To tell you how proud I am of you.”

“Proud?”

“Yes, you’ve finally lived up to the potential I always thought you had. All you had to do  was get up off your rump, chunk those cheese whiz sandwiches, and apply yourself.”

“You must not have had much faith in me. You left me. Forever.”

“You had dug yourself into a hole and needed to dig out. So I threw you a shovel. You forgive me?”

He leans over and kisses his wife. “I guess I can. Yes, I do.”

Barbara and Jack  embrace like they have never embraced before.

There’s a knock on the door. “Five minutes,” the roadie says.

At 10:02, Jack walks on stage and starts the pick a-going on the guitar, singing, “I got the blues, and the blues came down my chimney. I got the blues, and it’s one blues too many. I got the blues and my blues just got friendly. I got the blues, I’ve got cheese whiz aplenty. Just pass the mustard please.”

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