Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Single Titles » Cafe Heaven

Cafe Heaven Cover Art

A tale of one guy's rocky road toward the Afterlife.

Route 66, once America's most famous road west, has become America's most haunted highway. Littered with ghostly travelers, towns, automobiles, and phantom auto wrecks, it is said to be a stretch of road that refuses to die.

Henry Smith, vacuum cleaner salesman and "regular guy" doesn't know about the rumors as he leaves the highway in search of a shortcut to his next appointment. He hasn't been warned about phantom lights, nor that the diner he is about to stumble into might just be something else.

Henry Smith is about to look Murphy's Law right in the eye as he heads his Chevrolet toward a big blue neon in the dark. He is about to straddle the ride to end all rides, and confront questions that have plagued mankind for centuries. Henry Smith is about to become the most confused enlightened soul in the history of the world.

And we're invited to come along with a front-row seat.

The Mythopoeic Society:
"The novel bears the subtitle, An Autobiography of the Afterlife which will give more than a hint of its major theme. . . The author, on the back cover, disavows any first-hand knowledge of the afterlife, but it's a fairly compelling ride to explore her posthumous terrain with poor Henry, disbelieving, bewildered and (literally) bedeviled. . . Thomas-Sundstrom deals pretty impressively with a fairly allusive stream of probing conversation, both inside and outside the cafe, full of implication that is crucial for the reader to grasp along with Henry Smith. Thomas-Sundstrom is certainly a companion worth having on the route to Heaven." —Reviewed by Lee Speth

"Glorious cover! And what was inside this little book was a big surprise! I read it cover to cover without sleep! Fast pacing. Satisfying storyline. Thought-provoking while maintaining a comfortable lightness of being." —Reviewed by Suzanne Smith

"This is a novel that grabs the reader at once and won't let go until the very last page is turned. Fascinating philosophical questions are asked and, ultimately, answered. . . a jukebox takes on a personality all its own . . . and tantalizing aromas come from the kitchen. An unending supply of apple pie ala mode? Now, that's heaven!" —Reviewed by Suzanne Scarborough

Read an Excerpt

"Helen, wait!"

I ran after her, caught her by the arm as she whacked through the swingers. The minute I touched her, a searing pain tore through my body. Sparks lit up the space between us as Helen turned toward me wearing a grin which exposed twenty unevenly-spaced, shockingly yellow teeth.

"No!" I cried in a horror so overwhelming that my mouth froze in the form of a protest. My throat closed like Helen had placed a noose around it. I felt my torso begin to heat and I slipped, losing my balance on a tightrope less than an inch thick. I threw my arms out and flailed madly, feeling for anything that could prevent my impending fall, but I went over the edge of the precipice, feet on the wire one minute and in the air the next . . .

Down I went in an unimpeded drop, stomach churning with pathetic shock. All lights went out, yet I strained to keep my eyes open against the fear and the unknown, praying fervently that this wasn't what I thought it was and chanting "help" over and over.

I kept falling. At first in a swan dive, and then with a belly flop style, my arms and legs outstretched on either side of my body. The only thing discernable in the darkness was a bright red glow in the distance, a pinpoint of light not unlike the end of a burning cigarette.

It was the light at the end of the tunnel.

Somebody else's tunnel.

It grew hotter by the second. If I could have rolled over, I would have been just like a chicken on a spit, heat evenly distributed all the way around. As it was, I could feel my face reddening and the skin of my hands begin to blister.

Why the heat? I wondered about that suddenly, latching onto anything rather than trying to picture what would happen to me when I reached the bottom. Yes, why the heat? Whose dumb idea was that?

The words that came to mind caused a tremor. It was: Lucifer.

The air vibrated around me, choking back any sound I might have made. I was heading toward the land of Lucifer and there was nothing I could do about it. It was too late. After the fall. I knew darn well what to expect, though no one had ever actually explained why we knew what to expect. I had heard that the Archangel Lucifer had once enjoyed the light, as had the other fallen angels. I had been told time and time again in Sunday services how he might once have enjoyed the clouds and the cool breezes. He might have played the harp. The reasons behind his desire to create an opposition to these wonderful things remained beyond us. Perhaps his idea might have been nothing more than a plan to make us earthlings aware of the fact that all the hype about Permanent Press was for naught in the end, and that nothing material mattered after all. You couldn't take it with you.

Or maybe old Lucifer was just plain cold.

Reasoning was scrambled, after all. I had lost rationale, and with good cause. I was about to become toast. Pieces of thoughts came and went randomly, more like passing time than a reconstruction of my life. I couldn't hold onto anything except the fact that my shirt was damp; it was this tactile sensation of dampness which turned my mind outward. The dampness might possibly have been the only thing keeping me from charring completely in my awkward descent.

I began to fall faster, seeming to break Newton's theories — stomach in my throat, the flesh on my face smashed by gravity into what felt like an irregular scowl. The urge to blame someone for this predicament became so strong that I imagined if I could have looked behind me and seen Helen's pale face peering over the rim of the hole, I would have shouted obscenities at her.

Of course, I couldn't look behind me. I couldn't turn my head. And I knew it wasn't really Helen who had done this. Helen wouldn't have been able to smile as maliciously as the creature who possessed her had. Helen's teeth, thought slightly crooked, had been white. The creature at the DUGOUT had merely stolen her face . . .

Nope. No one had done this to me. I did it myself. I had done it almost willingly. I didn't deserve this inferno, with all its molten ramifications, but I had made my bed. I wouldn't see another donut, listen to a jukebox, or pull my sox up ever again. I wouldn't find a nice girl because I would be down here stoking the fires, shoveling the coal to warm Lucifer's bath water.

Okay, So be it. I would do what I had to do knowing I had tried to help the boy and that I had possibly helped Wanda escape her fate — at least temporarily. I may have allowed her some room for escape, anyway . . . and inside of my skull, the only place left the heat didn't yet reach, sat the memory of a phrase.

Do onto others. "ARAGGGGGGGGGGG!"

What the heck was that?

The sound which tore through my ears echoed so loudly in the tunnel that it reverberated through my body, through my cells, sending them scrambling. I hit bottom with a plat, the blow nearly sending my torso one way and my legs another.

My sweat froze. Wayward energy pulsed around me, a terrifying power culminating in a tremendous bolt of lightning that whizzed through the air. I rolled over on the ground, ducked to avoid its strike. More lightning came, and more.

Zip. Zap. Wham. Swizzzzzz.

The lightning missed me by centimeters as I crawled on my hands and knees in the dark, as I ripped the smelly tweed coat from my back and dared to glance up.

There was no red anywhere in sight. There was nothing bright at all. No fires crackled. No devilish laughter welcomed me to my new abode. I crawled as fast as I could until I had to stop for a breath. Again I looked up, and then I nearly fell over in shock. The Chevy was there, parked right in front of me.

A blast of icy breeze pushed me toward it. The metallic blue door opened. I climbed inside. The engine started by itself. The gear shift moved of its own accord. The Chevy's headlights came on as it jerked forward. Tires squealed, tossing up great clots of mud. I headed down a long driveway at breakneck speed, hands on my mouth instead of the wheel. I ventured a glance outside of the window. Expecting to see the great gap of Hell's kitchen, what I saw instead was a glimpse of the DUGOUT in the side mirror.

The engine whined as we hit the road. The wipers waved frantically. I grabbed at the wheel with an involuntary spasm and yanked to the right, attempting to dodge a tremendous streak of lightning tailgating closely. Like a trained attack dog, the electrical streak snapped and bit at the tires.

I yanked the wheel to the left in time to swerve around its reach, and watched as the yellow-white bolt struck the road in front of my bumper. When I let go of the wheel to mop the sweat from my eyes, the car continued to steer on its own.

I thought seriously about losing consciousness.

I thought about it very seriously.