The story I’m about to relate happened a friend of mine a few years back. His name is Ben, and at the time he was twenty years old, and driving along a stretch of road on the way home when he had car trouble…
I was driving from work at the post office when the tire on my Jeep blew out. I managed to stay on the road, and was relieved that I was alone on this stretch of road, the old Route 66 just outside Chicago. It was a dark, cold and snowy Monday at the beginning of February, and when I opened the door of my car to retrieve the tire from the trunk, I knew it was going to be a cold job.
Walking around to the trunk to remove the tools and the spare, there was a mist around everything that I thought was the blowing snow, and my first thought was.
“Oh great fog. What next?” I looked to my left, and on the other side of the road I saw the welcome windows of a diner through the fog. I had never noticed this place in the four years I had driven this road. I put the tools and tire back in the trunk, and to warm up a little I walked across the road toward it. There was a neon sign on the roof and the name: Lew’s Place Diner was spelled out in bright pink and blue letters. It was strange that I had never noticed it before; maybe I wasn’t looking for it? A little bell jingled above the door as I walked in. I was happy to be inside where it was warmer, and I approached the counter and sat down on one of the stools.
I was the only customer in the place, and I swiveled around on the stool to take a look around. I almost didn’t hear a male voice.
“Evening mister, what can I get for you?” I turned around to the sound of the voice and standing behind the counter was a young man that looked like a character from “Happy Days” the old series television series about the nineteen fifties. He was muscular and had a brown military type crew cut, and around his neck on a thin ball chain was dog tags to which were attached silver angels wings. I felt as if his green eyes were looking into my soul.
“Hi, coffee please.” I asked, and he placed a cup on the counter. I asked for artificial sweetener, which should have been my first clue that something was strange. He looked at me blankly, and slid a jar of sugar toward me across the Formica.
“It’s all I’ve got…Cold out there?” I sipped the coffee while the young man on the other side of the counter watched me. Sufficiently warmed I was able to brave the outside. I took out my wallet to pay, and put a five-dollar bill on the counter. He made no move to take it.
When the door closed behind me, I found myself surrounded by the same fog. I thought about the strange but handsome young guy behind the counter. Turning around to look inside the window, there was nobody behind the counter.
I got the tire back on; I got into and drove off, pausing to look back. The strange fog had lifted and it was clear enough to see at the road at last. I went home wishing that I had gotten the name of the guy behind the counter.
The next day after work, just after sunset I went back along the same stretch of road, and encountered Lew’s Place in the same dense fog and the same guy behind the counter. It was disappointing that he didn’t smile when he recognized me. He put a cup of coffee on the counter in front of me, waving away my money when I tried to pay.
I had to admit that was handsome in a Leave It to Beaver kind of way, and so I asked him.
“I never noticed this diner before, have you been here long?”
“About ten years or so.”
“You don’t seem to be very busy, I guess everyone takes the detour on Joliet Road.” He looked at me with a blank stare. I got up the courage to ask his name.
“My names Nick, and this is my dad’s place.” He reached out his hand to shake mine, and though it didn’t seem odd at the time, it was cold. I told him my name, and asked him
“How come there’s no Tupac, or Michael Jackson, Prince, or Beyonce’ on here.” He again looked at me blankly, the chain around his neck clanked, so I asked about them.
“I was in the Navy, and the wings are a gift from a…friend.” I shivered again when our fingers brushed together. I was going to ask him a question about his friend when my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out, and Nick got an odd look on his face when I tried to answer, and got only static. I stood up.
“I have to go Nick, I have things to do this evening.”
“I wish you could stay, I get so lonely around here.”
“I’ll come back tomorrow after work.” I promised, and I left walking across the road to my Jeep. When I drove away the fog lifted, and I was able to see the road again.
I went back every day after work for the next two weeks. Nick was still dressed in the same jeans and white t-shirt and he always brought me coffee, waving away my money. One day, I think it was on a Wednesday after work, a particularly hard day with a large mail load and an irritable supervisor, Nick actually came around the counter and sat on the stool next to me. He reached out and put his arm around me, and I could feel myself shiver at the touch of his arm on the back of my neck. There was a clatter as the dog tag and wings shifted.
I wish I had a better chain for these, it’s too long.” He observed and feeling comfortable with him, I leaned closer. I felt only the slightest spark of static electricity as I touched him. I wasn’t expecting what came next; he kissed me. The kiss was filled with the same static that I felt whenever he touched me.
“When do you get off work, maybe you can come over to my place…I mean I don’t live alone but we’ll have privacy.” I whispered breathless. He pulled back only slightly and looked down at the smooth countertop, rather sadly.
“I wish I could, but I can’t…I never can.” He seemed almost ready to cry, and it was my turn to reach out and put an arm over his shoulder.
“Why can’t you? Just turn off the lights and put up the closed sign, and come one with me. We’ll go out for dinner or something.” I asked, almost pleading, he looked down at his hands.
“I can’t.” He whispered. I didn’t push him this time. I sat there staring at hands as well. There was a tune playing on the jukebox. A Frank Sinatra song, so I asked him if he wanted to dance.
“Yes, I would like that.” He wiped away a tear from his cheek, and we stood in the middle of the floor, swaying in time to the music. It felt like hours later I sat in the car in front of my house, the static of his kiss and his touch, the song echoing in my mind. It was snowing again, and I decided that I would return to the diner and bring him home.
I was standing in the snow in the middle of an empty lot when the lights of a police car flashed blue and red. He rolled down his window.
“Is there a problem here?”
“I’m looking for the diner that was here, Lew’s Place? Maybe I’m not far enough down the road.” That’s when I saw the strange look on the officer’s face.
“You must be mistaken, there was a diner here, but that place burned down fifty years ago. The owner’s son Nick was killed that night.” I was in shock, it couldn’t believe it, but then I saw hanging the limb of a tree growing in the very spot where we had danced earlier, there was a chain with a pair of silver wings. Ben still wears them to this day.
Jerry Sacher lives in Chicago with his husband Dean, and our cats Monty and Nicky. I love reading and writing Love ghost stories and anything to do with history. You can check out the rest of my biography on Facebook/Jerry Sacher and check out my newest novel, a historic romance set during the turbulent Russian Revolution called Noble’s Savior available from Dreamspinner Press.com. Also check out my first two books: The Saint of San Francisco and The Rosary and the Badge…Thank you and blessings and peace to you all…