It’s hard to get on with your life when you’re already dead.
Penny had been stuck in the same diner for decades—ever since she died in 1952. Her diner was comfortable and safe. Serving ice cream to those who dropped in on their way to the next level of existence, she helped to ease their transition into The Light, the one place she can’t go. Her afterlife was perfect.
But when the ridiculously handsome, bad boy biker Jake Thatcher shows up and becomes stuck as well, Penny rediscovers feelings that she thought had been buried with her body.
Life is still life, and love is still love. But was her existence really perfect, or was it something else entirely?
Magnetic and Main Excerpt
Barely budding trees overhung both sides of the two-lane road, their still-bare branches hovering expectantly around every curve. Jake leaned into the turns expertly, weaving within inches of the yellow center line as oncoming cars swerved away from his path. Dozens of bikers passed behind them, giving him a low thumbs-up or an imaginary high-five as they passed. He knew those comrades had just finished the epic turns and hillsides that were waiting for him. Blasting past the bright-pink warning of the “BIKER BEWARE” sign, he revved the engine and settled down on the seat in anticipation.
The next thing he knew, Jake was standing in an old-fashioned diner, staring at a bowl of ice cream on the bright-red counter in front of him. Confused, he looked up and noticed a brunette young woman standing on the other side of the counter. She had the most amazing green eyes he’d ever seen and was wearing what must have been a 1950s-themed uniform for the diner: her long, dark hair up high in a ponytail, a big poofed-up light-blue skirt nearly down to her ankles, a spotless white button-up blouse, and perfectly shined saddle shoes.
She smiled at him, calmly, like it was just any old day of the week. Looking around, Jake felt even more bewildered. This wasn’t just any diner. He recognized everything. He had been here before many times when he toured along Highway 62 through Eureka Springs. Just last week, he and his buddy Ed had grabbed some burgers here before heading on to Mountain Home. Magnetic Ice Cream Parlor and Diner was a unique place. Delicious American home-style cooking pulled in tourists from everywhere in the world. The cobbler was amazing— tender, delicate, and flaky, like it was created by the most perfect grandmother in existence. He thought he could still smell the day’s offerings wafting gently in the air, but it didn’t bring him comfort now.
Jake stared blankly at the walls in front of him. As always, they were covered from top to bottom with fun Coca-Cola memorabilia—posters and antique Coca-Cola pictures, Coca-Cola mirrors and clocks, and dozens of vintage Coca-Cola advertisements. Even the wallpaper had Coca-Cola symbols from one end to the other. He’d never asked about it, but it was pretty clear that the owners had spent decades gathering every Coke item they could get their hands on. It gave the place a kitschy aura in a town that celebrated kitschy in every shop and restaurant. Today, for Jake, it was all just disorienting. The bright-red bottle caps swam in front of his eyes. Wasn’t he just on the highway? Adding to his confusion, there were no lights on in the diner. The place was usually lit up and bright and cheery, but now it was dark with only the slight yellowish glow from a clock nearby and the deeper, ominous red of the emergency exit signs.
He had been headed in to Eureka Springs, he remembered that, but it was dusk just a moment ago. The black windows beside him proved that it was now well past dark.
Did I stop by for dinner? Is the diner closed, and should I have left by now?
Looking back at the waitress standing serenely in front of him, his thoughts were even more scrambled. The old folks who ran this place didn’t dress up in throwback costumes, and he most certainly would have remembered this pretty waitress with the green eyes.
Why is she just standing there? Am I supposed to order something or pay my check? I don’t usually order ice cream. Why can’t I remember?
About Author Meg Welch Dendler
Meg Dendler has considered herself a writer since she won a picture book contest in 5th grade and entertained her classmates with ongoing sequels for the rest of the year. Beginning serious work as a freelancer in the ’90s while teaching elementary and middle school, Meg has over one hundred articles in print, including interviews with Kirk Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. She has won contests with her short stories and poetry, along with multiple international awards for her best-selling “Cats in the Mirror” alien rescue cat children’s book series.
Meg and her family (including four cats and her dog, Max) live at 1,400 feet in the Ozark Mountains on what they call Serenity Mountain, just outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.