Article: 178967 of talk.bizarre From: email@example.com (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 Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9412012223.A28301-0100000@gwis2> Reply-To: David Vacca <email@example.com> 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 midwest. 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.