Article: 178967 of talk.bizarre
From: (David Vacca)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: The Filling Station of the Damned
Date: 1 Dec 1994 21:44:07 -0600
Organization: UTexas Mail-to-News Gateway
Lines: 67
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9412012223.A28301-0100000@gwis2>
Reply-To: David Vacca <>
Status: O

   You see a million gas stations like this in the American Midwest.

   They're outside those small industrial cities that dot the midwest 
like gray pimples- cities like Battle Creek or Akron or Wichita, with 
names that conjure up images of closed mills and soot-covered factories
working only half-shifts since '75.
   Outside of these cities lie acre after acre, mile after mile, of
some of the world's most productive farmlands.  But like the cities
which once served as their gateways to the rest of the world, nobody
wants to live there anymore.  No money in farming, not anymore, even
with soil so rich you could almost eat it.  And besides, who wants to
live on a farm, or in a decaying blue-collar town permeated by the
smell of working for a living, or indeed in the midwest?

   People still live here, though.  These are places where people come 
from when they move to the coasts, so a residual breeding population 
still remains.  And they need services still, so you will always find
gas stations like this one.

   Gas stations like this one sit on the belt between the city and the
farmlands.  This belt carries the worst of both worlds: the grime of
the city without thse sense of community, and the emptiness of the
countryside without the awesome sense of distance.  It lacks even the
heroic stoicism that you see all over the depopulated reaches of the

   This gas station is surrounded by a grassy field, only the grass
has turned gray from a century of industrialization and a few decades
of the nearby interstate.  Styrofoam, plastic, and cardboard litter
the fields, all color washed out of them.

* * *

   See that car over there?  The one with the three kids in it?  That's
Mrs. Cole.  She was a beauty in high school, when she had the first one.
Now she just looks haggard, going gray.  Can't blame her for drinking
like she does, not really, and besides her liver's fine for now.  It
wasn't easy for her, marrying the guy who got her pregnant.  Wasn't
like he beat her or anything- there's been a mini-epidemic of that in
the past decade, started right after the steel mill closed- but he got
her the other two little ones and then left.  I heard he got a job out
west somewhere on a boat.  Never saw him myself.

   The young guy over there?  With his Mom's Ford?  That's Will.  Nice
kid, really.  Smart, too.  Good with numbers.  He's in college now, in
fact, studying math.  Likes it a lot more up there, doesn't come down
here very much anymore.  Doesn't surprise many people, actually, he
never really fit in down here, kinda shy.  Thing is, he's gay.  Never
admitted it to anyone, not even his parents, and he went a little
crazy once he got away.  He's scared he's got AIDS.  Actually, he does,
but he's got a couple of good years before it gets noticeable.  A real
shame, actually, such a nice kid.

   Hey, you catch the little number who just came in, with the really
big eyelashes?  Now that's using mascara.  She's gotten really slutty
since the rape.

   Me, I just work here.  I hate it.  Everybody comes through that door, I 
know what's wrong with them.  And something always is.  Anything else for
you, sir?

   Pack of Marlboro's?

   Actually, sir, it may not be my place to mention it...

David Vacca, Shadowboxing the Apocalypse.