Shattered Windowpane

by Russell Licciardello

Bobby Jones’s sweat-covered shirt stuck to his body like glue. His long, mostly gray hair dangled well past his shoulders. A bright spotlight highlighted his tall, lean body as he stood center-stage. His well-worn guitar was slung over his shoulder. The band, barely visible in the dim blue stage lights, played behind him.

Bobby leaned into the microphone and sang the last lines of his Country ballad.

You shattered my heart… like a rock… through a windowpane.

He backed away from the microphone and strummed the last chords of the song, accompanied with a cry from the steel guitar. Bobby, in his early fifties, looked much older than others his age. It was easy to see that years of being on the road had taken its toll. However, he still dressed like a million dollars, clothed in jeans that were heavily starched with an ironed crease down the front. Silver-tipped black Western boots matched his black long-sleeve shirt.

Bobby slowly bowed to the audience. He leaned forward into the microphone and held his guitar high over his head. “Thank you and good night!” he shouted to the.

The spotlight dimmed as Bobby and the band quickly made their exit. The arena lights came up on thousands of cheering fans. The audience, a mix of young and old, all wanted more, even though the band had already completed three encores. Many in attendance copied Bobby’s look of silver-tipped boots, jeans, and a black western shirt.

As Bobby stepped off the stage, a roadie quickly took his guitar and handed him a towel. Another handed him a full Jack Daniel’s bottle. Bobby’s road manager, Steve Hicks, grabbed his arm as the two continued to walk backstage.

“Great show! You were fantastic tonight,” Steve said.

Steve was of average height, thin, well-dressed, and known in the industry for running a tight ship.

Backstage chaos ensued, with a mixture of musicians, roadies, and special guests, all trying to get a glimpse of the star. Bobby and Steve made their way to a dressing room door labeled BOBBY JONES.

On each side of the dressing room door stood bodyguards. “No one, and I mean no one, gets in here tonight except me and Mark Gooden,” Steve instructed, eyeballing the hulking guards. “Are we clear on that?”

The two men nodded to confirm.

Steve continued, “Did I tell you that you’re both doing a great job?”

Upon receiving the compliment, both men stood a little straighter and taller.

In the center of the dressing room was a large, worn, Oriental rug, with three comfortable leather chairs positioned in a semicircle. To the far side of the room was a white, linen-covered table with a buffet of food and drinks. Bobby collapsed into one of the chairs. He took long swigs from the Jack Daniel’s bottle.

Steve closed the door and turned to Bobby. “Man, they are eating up the new you!”

Bobby nodded. “Thanks,” he said exhaustedly.

“I need to take care of some things,” Steve said. “You relax, and Mark Gooden will be here in ten. Are you ready for this? I just found out that Rolling Stone is giving you the cover!”

“Mark called me just before the show started and asked for a little bit of your time,” Steve said, his whole body flinching with excitement. “Man, you are back on top of the world.”

“Yeah, I’ll give him all the time he wants,” Bobby replied.

Steve gave a little fist bump of approval. “Great! Okay, you need anything, just ask one of the guys outside.” Steve turned and quickly left the room.

Bobby eased back in the chair, the towel draped over his head, looking like a prize fighter after a twelve-round match. Exhausted, his head dropped, his eyes closed. As he relaxed, his mind started to drift.

He had been deep into the bottle, with little or no sleep. He’d spent money he did not have and recently finalized a divorce from his fourth wife. He had lost the ability to write one hit song after another. His fan base had drifted. He hadn’t had a new song or album in more years than he’d care to count.

Bobby’s career started when he was fifteen. He quit school to play guitar in a traveling country band. Soon, he was the frontman, gaining attention from the press as his fanbase rapidly grew.

Life on the road was one long party. He’d picked up the habit of smoking and learned to enjoy the taste of Jack Daniels. His love of excess drinking gained Bobby numerous invitations to spend nights in local jail cells. Many photos floated around over the years with Bobby collapsed off-stage, holding his old friend Jack close, or being carted off by the local authorities.

Bobby’s first love was his guitar and music. He also had a soft spot for the pretty girls that came to his shows, including married women. Keeping angry husbands distracted was a full-time job for his security staff, as well as keeping them out of his hotel room and off the tour bus.

Despite his wild lifestyle and habits, he was born with a gift to write songs. During many long bus rides, band members would challenge him by pulling little scraps of paper out of a big jar. Each piece of paper had a word written on it. From that one word, a new song was written. Many times, Bobby and the boys would be playing a new song that was nothing more than a word scribbled on a scrap of paper hours earlier.

However, the years of over-indulging were taking their toll on Bobby. He would end shows early because he just lacked the stamina to play for three hours. His ability to write his own material had slipped to the point that most of his new material was now penned by others. Ticket sales to his shows steadily dropped off. Over the past few months, he could see more and more empty seats at the end of each show when the stadium lights were brought up.

An old musician friend had been aware that Bobby was in a downward spiral. If Bobby didn’t do something soon, his career as an entertainer would tragically end. This friend offered Bobby the use of his cabin in the woods of Tennessee.

Bobby’s mind drifted deeper. He remembered the day he first entered the cabin. The rustic furniture seemed to welcome him. It spoke – Come, relax, enjoy. The back porch had two Adirondack chairs that overlooked a large lake. It was beautiful and serene, not a soul to be seen for miles.

He remembered the first time he entered the master bedroom. As he pulled the curtains back to take a look at the view, he experienced a jolt that resonated deep within his body. One of the glass windowpanes was shattered. At that moment, looking at the shattered glass, a whisper of a melody started to dance in the back of his head. The melody was not clear, more like a dull hum from behind a stage curtain that could not push its way through all of the clutter.

He sat at a table with Jack and a folder of new songs that had been written for him by new up-and-coming entertainers. Not happy with any of them, he slammed the folder shut, picked up his guitar, and tried to write a new song. Gone were the days when he could rattle out a hit song with ease. His hands were shaking, and, when he tried to sing, the notes came out flat and off key.

That night, Bobby decided to make some real changes in his life.

He poured Jack down the kitchen sink. He then slept for a few hours, his first uninterrupted sleep in months. As he slept, the melody he heard earlier tickled him in his dreams.

The next morning, after a cup of strong coffee, Bobby took a long walk through the woods. When he got back to the cabin, Bobby called Calvin, the owner of the general store at the bottom of the road. He ordered food and supplies for a long stay. Most importantly, Bobby asked Calvin to bring him a dozen notebooks and two dozen pencils.

Each morning, Bobby started with a walk. Each day, his walks got longer. Bobby was a good cook, and he prepared all of his own meals. For the first time in many months, he enjoyed the taste of real food rather than the fast food he had been surviving on. His nights were filled with writing by the light of a fire and an old kerosene lamp. When he was tired, he went to bed, and fell into a long, restful sleep with the bedroom window wide open.

After a couple weeks, Bobby felt stronger and clear-headed. By the end of the first month, he added pushups to his walking routine, and then jump rope. Through it all, the vision of the broken windowpane haunted him. In his mind, he held an image of all the details of the shattered glass. How the fractures radiated to the edges of the wooden window frame; how in between each of the large fractures were smaller fractures and how little shards of glass dusted the windowsill. Through the hum in his mind, Bobby knew that, deep inside, there was a song – a good song – and he was going to keep digging until he had it.

From the age of seventeen, Bobby had enjoyed the taste of Jack Daniels. From then on, he’d always had a bottle of Jack in his hand. It had become his trademark. He hung on to it like an infant with a security blanket. It was one habit Bobby could just not break, but he knew that he could not go through life holding on to an empty whiskey bottle.

One morning, he developed a solution that would let him hold on to his beloved bottle without the whiskey inside. He boiled a pot of water and steeped ten or so tea bags, then filled the Jack Daniels bottle with tea.

That afternoon, as he sat on the back porch, deep in thought, Bobby reached for the bottle at his side. He cracked a slight smile and took a long drink. Bobby had a new little secret. A secret that would allow him to drink from his bottle as much as he wanted without the debilitating buzz. Sitting quietly, Bobby slid back into his thoughts.

Three months passed when Bobby received a note from his manager suggesting that it was time to get back to work. He was rested, strong, and sober. His notebooks were filled with a collection of new songs; songs he wanted to share with his band, his fans, and the world. However, he still had one more song to write. The vision of the shattered windowpane was still an itch deep in his brain. An itch he needed to scratch.

The morning air was cool as Bobby sat on the back porch with a cup of fresh coffee and a plate of old-fashioned donuts. Calvin’s wife sent the homemade donuts along with his weekly supplies. They reminded Bobby of the ones his mother made. A heavy cake donut, fried crisp, then given a heavy sprinkle of powdered sugar. A fresh donut and a cup of strong coffee were all any man could want in life.

Just as Bobby finished his coffee, music and words started to flow clearly through his head. He stumbled across the porch into the house, grabbing his guitar and writing pad.

Within an hour, he had the song that had haunted him from the first day. A few hours later, all of the lines, chords, and solos were in place. Bobby dropped his stub of a pencil onto the table, took a long look at the tattered notebook and knew deep in his soul that he had written the best song of his career.

Now he could go home.

Two months later, Bobby and his band were in the studio. A few months after that, the new album hit gold, and within a couple of weeks and platinum a few weeks after that.

It was time to take the new record, and the new Bobby, on tour.

There was a knock on the dressing room door that took Bobby out of his trance. Mark Gooden from Rolling Stone entered the room. Mark held his arms out to give a big hug. “Bobby! Fantastic show! What a fantastic show!”

Mark looked like a bit of a nerd, with slightly unkempt hair, thick glasses, and clothes that were a decade out of fashion.

Bobby tried to get up, but he didn’t have the strength. He pointed to one of the leather chairs.

“Come on in. Have a seat,” he said. “Please, help yourself,” pointing to the buffet table.

Mark settled into one of the leather chairs, and pulled out a pen and small notepad from his bag. “Thanks for taking time to sit with me,” he said. “Man, you look and sound better than I’ve seen in years.”

“Thanks,” Bobby replied with a big smile.

Mark took a deep breath, paused, and dove right into his interview. “Bobby, people consider your new album and title track your best to date. Tell me about Shattered Windowpane. What inspired you?”

Bobby leaned forward, looked Mark directly into his eyes. “I stopped drinking,” he said plainly before taking a long swig from his Jack Daniels bottle. He wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve and broke into a loud laugh as he carefully placed the bottle down by his chair.

“Well… it all started when…”

As Mark listened, he feverishly took notes. He had no need to ask questions. Everything Bobby said was pure gold. You just can’t make this stuff up, Mark thought to himself.

Two months after the interview, Bobby was in New Orleans for a concert. He eased out of the hotel’s side doors for an early morning walk. He was rounding the corner on his way back to the hotel when he spotted a coffee shop with a little newsstand just outside of the shop. At the newsstand, Bobby found the latest edition of Rolling Stone. He looked down at the image of himself on the cover. Bobby purchased a copy, along with a newspaper, and headed into the coffee shop.

He took a booth towards the back of the shop, ordered a large cup of black coffee and a sugar-covered donut. The cover headline read, How Bobby Jones Pulled His Career out of the Ashes.

Bobby flipped through the magazine until he reached the article. The four-page article was accompanied with many photos of him relaxing, working in the studio, on stage, and on the tour bus. None of the photos included his old friend Jack. He read the first few words of the article.

Bobby Jones sits exhausted after his opening show in Dallas and opens up about how he destroyed his life, his music, and relationships.

The article continued on how getting away from life in a cabin in the woods and how a shattered windowpane ignited the spark that allowed him to find his way back to music and provided the inspiration for his latest song, Shattered Windowpane.

After completing the article, Bobby placed a twenty-dollar bill on top of the check for $4.50, as well as an autographed copy of the magazine, and left the coffee shop.

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