The book, When Double Becomes Single, begins on a sad note. Sharon Michaels is suddenly widowed and all alone, she hasn’t a clue as where to begin. Her husband of thirty five years steered their life and she followed. What’s a woman to do, how does she begin again at age fifty six to learn how to drive at night. All she has are two dear rescue dogs who need her as much as she needs them.
This is a scene I like. A lot.
Work dragged on Monday. Sharon met with customers, made sales and by the end of the day, she didn’t know if working without a partner was the best thing to fill her life. Empty, she felt empty. A change of clothes and she piled the eager pets in the car for fun at the dog park. Spring brought out the best in people with canines. Tongues hung out the back window. They strained at the leashes until Sharon let Tommy and Gracie loose behind the fence. Before long, other folks showed up with different sized canines. Sharon had to laugh at a fierce Chihuahua barking at her large pets. The owner, a man dressed in a suit, joined her.
“Come here often?” His voice deep and musical.
“That’s a line from a bar, right?”
“Yes, it is. I used it a lot in the old days. It worked most of the time.”
“I never bar hopped. I married young and lost my husband a few months ago. How about you?”
“I’m married to this pip squeak pet of mine the past few years. Janis Joplin is her name. She can’t sing but man, can she bark in High C. I was divorced a couple of times before then. I just can’t seem to get it right.”
“Tommy, Gracie, NO!” Sharon’s dogs stopped harassing another canine. “They’ve been in the back yard too long without my attention. I’ll have to bring them here more often.”
The tall stranger smiled. “I hope you do. What’s your name, if you don’t mind.”
She searched his face for a clue as to his personality. How can you tell at first glance? She had so little experience with just about everything.
He touched her cheek rosy with the chilly spring breeze. “I’m Jack Torrance. I sing on Broadway right now in a revival of Chicago. Now it’s your turn and remember, I’m just asking for your name.”
“Sharon Michaels. My husband and I have a business, not very exciting. Now I sell kitchen cabinets and my oldest son and his wife joined the company to help me. Today, Jack,” she tested his name on her tongue, “I felt way out of sorts about visiting customers on my own so I packed up the pups we rescued a few years ago and here we are.”
“Good job, Sharon. We’re having a conversation. This isn’t too painful, is it?”
“No. It’s just different. Tell me about your career.”
He laughed. “It’s checkered, at best. I’ve been a song and dance man forever, sometimes scoring a good part, sometimes chorus. As long as I keep working, have union benefits, I’m good. I live in Tappan, not far from here in a small cottage where I can hit the Palisade Parkway and get to town fast.”
The wind picked up and Sharon shivered. “It’s time to head home.” She called to the dogs and turned to Jack. “Would you like to have dinner at my house now. Monday’s you’re off, right?”
“Why thank you, yes I’d love to. That’s brave of you.”
“Yes, it is. I need company and you’re just the one. Follow me.”
Jack tucked Janis in her little dog house and started up his Volkswagon.
Sharon rounded up her two rowdy pups and home she went with her new friend behind her. “Barry, what in the world did I just do? Is it weird to invite a relative stranger to our home? Yeah, it is. I’ll keep a knife handy. You’re the one in heaven. It’s lonely down here without you.”
Fast, she fed the dogs and sent them out to the yard while Jack waited in his car.
“Now what do we do with Janis?”
“She’ll sleep in her little house in the car while we have dinner.”
Into the house they went where he stopped to admire her taste. “Sharon, this is so cozy and comfortable. I’m guessing you’ve lived here many years.” He ran his long fingers over the piano. “Do you play?”
She blushed admitting the truth to a real performer. “Not often and not too well. Why?”
Color came to his cheeks. “I have an opportunity for the part of Amos who sings Cellophane in Chicago. I know the song so well and the dance but I’d love to have someone help me practice and critique what I’m doing.”
Sharon took a deep breath. “I haven’t played in a long time. Do you have sheet music? Maybe I’d be able to help. I always did for my boys.”
Jack swept her into a dance move and hugged her just right. “You’re a doll. I have music in the car. You fix something easy for dinner and I’ll get my portfolio.” He raced to the door and left her open mouthed surprised.
What a kick to meet an actor and bring him home for dinner. Am I having fun or what? In the fridge she found salad, deviled eggs Mia made with black olives on the side and avocado slices. Sherbet to cleanse the palate in the freezer and some left over crème brulee. Hmm. Just enough for a light meal.
By the time Jack hurried in, the table was set. Excited to show her the music and begin, Sharon told him to calm down and have a bite or two. Then they’d check out what else he carried in his portfolio.
Small eater, she thought, or too anxious to settle down but she enjoyed every bit of the light dinner. When they finished, he rushed to the piano and played while Sharon cleared the table. She joined him in the living room where he apologized for not helping. Eyes sparkling, he handed her the sheet music for Cellophane and stood up ready to sing.
“Hang on a minute, Jack. Let me bumble my way through first.”
To Sharon’s surprise, she caught on right away. Two or three times over the music and soon Jack sang as she played. His voice clear and touching as he sang the words about how nobody knows my name. Dance movement came with it. Obviously he’d worked on the audition for hours.
“So what do you think?”
“Poignant. I’d like to see you relax a bit more in the dance when you kind of shimmy, reach out to the audience; start softer with your voice and build on it. But Jack, what do I know? One thing for sure, you touched me with the way you sang as if it was the truth. Nobody knows your name. You made me want to cry. Sing as if this happens to you on a daily basis, make it believable. You’re not just a song and dance man anymore. You’re special. I mean it.”
“Sharon,” he kneeled at her feet, “you may be the best thing that ever happened to me in years.”
“Let me know what happens, my friend.”
“I’ll send you tickets.” He hugged Sharon and hurried out the door.
“What just happened, Barry? I took the pups to the dog park, met an actor, invited him home and played the piano for him so he’d audition plus I gave him critique on how to perform it better. All the years I spent in your dear shadow and here I am giving advice to an actor.” Sharon laughed and didn’t stop. Maybe she was Cellophane all this time.
Three days later, red roses arrived with two tickets to Chicago. Sharon called Kathy Chambers to invite her to the play.