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A Queen of Hearts

along the mother road

By Thomas DurbinPublished 3 years ago 3 min read

The diner was quaint and rustic. Relics still hung on the walls and the jukebox spun old discs from a top 40 list long forgotten. The waitress smiled and slapped down a place mat and a menu on the table in front of me. A glass of water followed, sweat dripping from the bottom onto the menu as she reached across and put it down. I noticed the locket hanging from a silver chain around her neck as she leaned over to put down the glass. It swung half-way around and disappeared as she turned to greet the folks waiting at the bar to place their orders.

I heard a quarter race down a slot and hit bottom, buttons click and clack, and the speakers were soon pleading “…don’t be cruel to a heart that’s true…” as the jukebox lights alternated red, white, and blue flashes across the diner. One knee was bouncing, and one foot was tapping as I looked at the menu. The cover was a photo of the diner years ago when the mother road was the main route to the west coast from the shores of Lake Michigan. The other side had a nice sampling of options bordered by photos of employees of the past and a few old cars in the parking lot. Nostalgia not lost on me. The good ol’ days, right? A few more audible clicks and clacks, a momentary hiss, and “…down at the end of lonely street at Heartbreak Hotel…” replaced “…to a heart that’s true…” as a couple who might have been there every day since the grand opening of the diner slowly danced in a corner, holding each other like they were lost in time and there was no one else in the world. I smiled. Nothing can top that.

“What’ll you have, darling?” The waitress startled me from my nostalgic stupor.

“I’d like the French toast and a strawberry malted milkshake, please.”

“Sure thing, darling.”

As I looked up from the menu, I noticed something familiar about her as our eyes met. Looking back down at the menu, on the right side of the border plain as day, I saw the spitting image of the waitress smiling at me from the pages of history. Family legacy is a powerful thing, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that her grandma was the original owner. Places like this along old 66 have a hold on history that’s palpable every mile of the way. Dare I ask about the resemblance? The answer could be one of many captivating stories told to strangers passing through town. Something else, though. There is something else about the photo. She’s wearing the same locket.

Clickety-clack, hiss, and “…your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…” filled the air as a warm plate of delicious diner treats and the tastiest strawberry malted milkshake I ever tasted were placed before me.

The locket’s heart shape caught my eye when it swung out from her cleavage as she served my order. It fell back into place as she stood and refilled my water glass. Her smile was captivating, and her eyes were mesmerizing. The locket gleamed as it fell into place below her neck and reflected sunlight of a different era into my eyes. The jukebox hissed again as “…I want you, I need you, I love you…” chased away the tale of that cheatin’ heart and in that flash of light from the locket I was transported back to the nostalgic era when the top 40 list of the jukebox was hot off the presses. For a moment, everything was in black and white like the photos on the menu. The cars in the parking lot morphed into models long out of production, matching the ones in the photos on the menu and along the wall, and the other folks seemed to have all changed into outfits from that bygone era. The dancing couple had disappeared. I noticed another photo of her…or her grandmother. One that I hadn’t noticed earlier hanging above my table between the windows. She wasn’t alone. She was with a young man by the side of a vintage car who was handing her something. A locket. THAT locket. And he looked remarkably familiar. My heart skipped a beat when I realized he was the spitting image of me. I looked up and saw the locket sparkling as it swung into the light as she leaned over and reached for my hand. “They are playing our song, darling.” She led me to the corner and we danced slowly into the night as time faded away.

Short Story

About the Creator

Thomas Durbin

Raised in rural east-central Illinois, I appreciate nature and the environment. I'm a father, grandfather, professional engineer-scientist, leader, scouts leader, coach, stoic, minimalist, costumer, historian, traveler, and writer.

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