"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."
Jack tried to interrupt Darius before he finished his usual morning greeting, but he wasn't fast enough. "Nope, I've decided that today is the last day of the first part of my life."
Darius looked at Jack as if he didn't understand, "Huh?"
Jack sat down in the booth across from his friend, looked at Darius, and shook his head. Although he would not tell his friend what his immediate thoughts were, he had begun to think of Darius as an old man. "Darius, you've told me the same thing every morning for the last two and a half years, ever since my wife died. I don't think you even realize what you're saying."
"So, what?" Darius had one of those raspy voices that grated on a person's nerves, or maybe it was just Jack's attitude that caused him to be critical on that particular day.
Jack sat up a little straighter and watched his usual waitress walking toward him with his morning coffee, "So, I'm gonna do something to change my life."
Darius didn't even look up from reading the large print menu lying open on the table in front of him. He mumbled, "How're you gonna do that?"
"Darius, close that damn menu and listen to me." Jack reached across the café table to lift one side of the menu, "You know it by heart anyway."
The waitress greeted Jack, placed the cup of coffee in front of him and turned to walk away. Jack grabbed her hand to get her attention, "Polly, you got a minute?"
Polly turned and smiled at the two men, shrugged one shoulder when Darius didn't return her smile. "Sure, Jack. What do you need?"
Jack scooted across the booth seat and patted the space beside him. "Sit down here a minute."
"O-o-o-kay," Polly responded, a note of mistrust in her voice. However, she did sit down, but sideways, barely on the edge of the seat, and she kept her legs out in the aisle.
Jack relaxed against the back of the seat and addressed his remarks to Polly, "Turn around." When Polly didn't move, Jack said, "Go ahead, turn around and get comfortable. I need a little help here."
Doing as Jack asked, Polly relaxed a little, but kept her eyes on the few people in the small café. She rested her hands on the tabletop.
Before he spoke, Jack looked at Darius to make sure he had the man's attention, "Now, Polly, how long have you known me?"
"I don't know, Jack, ten, or maybe a few more years than that."
Jack nodded, "Yes, and how different am I from the day I first walked in here."
"Oh," Polly turned and looked at Jack a little closer. "Well..."
"You're not going to insult me," Jack explained. "I really need to know. It's important to me." It took great effort, but he didn't sit up any straighter and he didn't smile or try to change the expression on his face. "Is my hair grayer?"
Hesitantly, Polly answered, "Yeah, maybe a little grayer."
"A few more wrinkles?"
"Maybe," Polly nodded in agreement and then smiled a little. "But you're still a good looking man."
Jack patted her hands, where she had clasped them on the table, in front of her. "Thank you, dear, I appreciate it, but I'm probably a little larger now, than I was ten years ago, too. Well, hell, I may as well say it. I'm at least thirty pounds overweight."
Finally understanding what Jack was asking, Polly answered honestly, "Yeah, Jack, but you're a big man, like my Ben. And you ain't near as overweight as he is."
"How about the way I'm dressed?"
"Oh, well, you ain't so bad. You're neat, but I've been seeing that shirt for a lot of years."
"Ah, now we're getting somewhere. How about you Darius, what do you see?"
Darius shook his head. He was not enjoying Jack's self-examination. "I don't see no difference. You're the same Jack I've always known."
"Darius," Jack sighed in exasperation. "You're blind, or you don't care."
Polly's comment surprised Jack, "He don't care. He don't want nothing to change." Jack could have applauded the woman's observation.
"Exactly," Jack responded. "That's what I was looking for, that's the answer. I'm just like Darius, too. For a couple of years I haven't cared what happened around me, either." He turned to the waitress and thanked her. "Polly, what's the healthiest breakfast on the menu?"
A few minutes after completing their conversation, Jack was eating what he and Polly had decided was the best breakfast the café had to offer for a person watching his diet and interested in losing a little weight.
As quietly as he dared, Darius leaned across the table to ask, "What's the matter with you? You didn't jack off this morning?"
Jack shook his head at Darius and his idea of a solution to not being happy with the way he lived his life. "It's a little more than that, Darius. I'm lonely, I'm starting to feel old, and I'm going to do something to change before it's too late."
Although Darius grumbled, he went along with Jack to help in the transformation. Perhaps by the end of the day, Jack could talk Darius into a little change, too.
Darius agreed to a haircut, but he wouldn't accept as drastic a cut as Jack thought should be part of his new image. Darius looked at the new shirts in the department store, but he wouldn't buy anything. Jack found six shirts he liked and forced himself to buy them a size smaller than he was currently wearing. At the last minute, he added three new pairs of nice slacks, too. They were two inches smaller in the waist than he usually wore. If nothing else, the incentive of spending that much money might help when he made his next stop.
Darius refused to go inside the new gym down the sidewalk from the café. He said he'd seen enough for one day and he didn't want to watch Jack kill himself. Shaking his head, Jack watched Darius drive out of the parking lot. He straightened his spine as he opened the front door of the gym. This step would be the hardest, but the most beneficial.
Darius sat at one of the long tables on the darker side of the community room and watched Jack dancing with a red-haired woman. He leaned over to tap Bob's shoulder.
"Don't you think Jack's taking this a little too far?"
"What's that? What's Jack doing?" Bob asked, turning to Darius.
Disgusted that Bob refused to wear his hearing aid, Darius moved to another table. He chatted with two men at the other table, and when the next song began to play he noticed Jack was dancing with a blonde woman. She was a woman Darius liked and had taken to dinner. However, she had declined to go to dinner with him a second time.
"Damn," Darius muttered under his breath. "That Jack's gonna take Betty away from me and there ain't a thing I can do about it."
On the other side of the room, as Jack escorted Betty back to the table where she usually sat with her friends, he asked, "I'd like to take you to dinner one night."
"I'd like that Jack. Call me."
Before Jack could get across the room to the table he'd occupied most of the night, Darius stopped him, "Hey there, Jack. I saw you dancing with Betty. You wouldn't be moving in on another man's woman, would you?"
"Sorry, Darius. She didn't say she belonged to you."
"Well, she don't yet. But I'm working on her."
Jack didn't laugh, although the urge was there. Instead, he looked back at Betty, who was shaking her head. He offered her a grin and received a smile in return. "I think we should let the lady choose for herself, Darius. Why don't you go to the gym with me tomorrow?"
"Ah, I can't see much sense in stretching and sweating where I have to pay for it."
As the music for the next song began, Jack stopped, and excused himself to Darius, "Excuse me, I promised Louise a waltz. I'll see you at breakfast in the morning?"
"Yeah, yeah," Darius replied and went back to see if Bob was ready to leave yet. He motioned to the man, promising himself it was the last time he was going to act as Bob's chauffer. The man had a perfectly good car. He could drive himself from now on.
On the opposite side of the room, Louise was asking Jack, "How can you put up with Darius. I mean, I like him, but he's so negative all the time."
Jack chuckled, "Like the rest of us he's not happy that he's getting old, but he won't do anything to change it."
"I guess so. You've kept yourself looking well." Louise slid her hand down Jack's arm and then moved it back up to his shoulder, "How do you do it?"
Giving the woman a genuine laugh this time, Jack answered, "I just figured I wasn't going to get any younger, so I'll act my age and be the best at it I can."
"Are you any good at it?" Betty asked. The sexual innuendo was obvious in her voice.
"I may not be as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was." Jack's reply was one he had heard once and he had been waiting since then to use it.
"My, my, you are a bold man, Jack." Louise giggled. A few months earlier Jack would have thought a sixty something woman giggling was ridiculous, but tonight it seemed just right.
"Oh, you think I'm bold? What would you say if I were bold enough to ask if I could follow you home tonight?"
"I guess I'd say yes." There was no giggle in her voice. Instead, she spoke quietly and looked up at Jack as he maneuvered them around the dance floor.
Jack pulled Louise just a little closer and spoke quietly, "Do you owe anyone else a dance tonight?"
"No, not really." Louise answered with a small tremble in her voice.
"Okay," Jack responded. "I'm going to the restroom and then I'm going to walk outside. I'll wait fifteen minutes for you to dance at least one dance with someone else or to change your mind."
.... There is more of this story ...