The Luncheonette



The old man shuffled in the doorway of a Brooklyn luncheonette on a bright Autumn Saturday morning. The door was open. He breathed the air before going in. Fresh air mixed with restaurant smells. The waitress behind the soda counter, in a good mood, smiled and bid him “Sit anywhere you like, handsome!”

He walked slowly passed the counter and the chrome stools to the third booth on the left and took a seat. Nothing much had changed. Formica table tops, faded red upholstered seats, fifties neon outside.

It wasn’t busy between breakfast and lunch. This was not that kind of joint. No brunch served here. Smells of toasted cheese, bacon and eggs, coffee.

The waitress noticed there was no set-up at the table. The old man had passed the counter and the tables already set up to sit at a bare table. Pro that she was, she came from behind the counter and brought a place mat, a knife and fork, a napkin and the coffee pot to where the old man was sitting. It was too lovely a morning to get annoyed. Besides, he seemed like a nice old guy and she had told him to sit anywhere he wanted.

She stood with her pad and pencil even though she didn’t need either and in her best waitress speak asked “What’ll it be, hon?”

She poured a coffee, left him with the creamers and his thoughts.

There was still an old fashioned jukebox here, though it no longer spoke the language of the young. No one under fifty would listen to anything in it. Besides, who puts money in a jukebox anymore? The young carry their own music.

He wondered if kids still hung out here at night; ordered cherry cokes and lime rickeys, vanilla malts and egg creams. The high school was still here, but those days had long passed.

He placed his palms on the formica tabletop, stroked it with his fingertips and looked across the booth to the empty seat.

She was here.

Thick Italian brunette hair, pillow lips and blue green eyes. Her lips were not yet in vogue. Thin lips were de rigeur. Cybil Shepherd lips. She would always laugh about her lips. The old man loved her lips.

Time is relative Einstein said.

He sat in the booth with his girl again.

He was twenty and she was seventeen.

“Hi Pops!”

His daughter walked in after parking the car and sat opposite him in the empty seat.

“You okay? Did you order yet? Why did you want to come here anyway?”

She was sitting where she sat. Fifty years ago.

She looked just like her. Her face. His eyes.

“This is where I met your mother.”

As the old man and his daughter left the luncheonette he stopped briefly in the doorway, in the portal of his happiness. He knew he would not pass this way again.

She was here. She was smiling.

The old man smiled back at her before he turned and walked slowly to the car




About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
This entry was posted in family, short story and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Luncheonette

  1. sojourner says:

    Beautiful! Lovely! I needed this today!


    • toritto says:

      Glad you liked. I originally posted this a couple of years ago.

      And it’s all true – except that I don’t shuffle! In 2004 I took my eldest daughter to the place I met her mother in 1963 before we left for our new lives in Florida.



  2. sojourner says:

    I wondered if this might be based on an actual event.
    Knowing this now, makes it poignant as well.
    A wonderful memory. Thank you for sharing this,


  3. Norman Pilon says:

    Yes, a very powerful vignette. You do a brilliant job of capturing how memory resurrects our past for us when re-visiting the places and haunts of our youth.

    I’ve had similar experiences visiting the small backwater town of my upbringing after a 30 year absence.

    A lot of people — including family — most of whom had passed on, were present to me with the kind of vividness you capture so well, here. The return visit was a bittersweet affair. And you have now put me in a frame of mind to perhaps make the pilgrimage once again over the coming months.

    With gratitude,



    • toritto says:

      Norman – Many thanks for the kid words. Glad you liked. The return is always bitter sweet. Sitting in that luncheonette in the same booth with our daughter – well that’s a zen moment. Regards.


  4. Such depth and poignant love and beauty…


  5. Pingback: The Princess and the Nerd – A Re-Post for Prom Season | toritto

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.