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Tales from the Gas Station by Jack Townsend

At the edge of town, there's a gas station open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week... 

Tales from the Gas Station is a blog about the run-down gas station at the edge of a small town, and the unnatural, supernatural, and downright weird things that happen there.

Note: Tales from the Gas Station contains some graphic violence and harsh language.


An ongoing blogfic, with new posts sporadically

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Listed: May 1, 2019

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Or, “Why Small Towns Have All the Fun”

By ElliottThomasStaude, author of Mourners, Abednego, Persistence

May 25, 2019: The gas station at which certain tales take place is a vista with a very promising future for its journalistically-inclined chronicler. The enigmatic Jack Townshend has a commendable level of quality in giving life to thought, an obvious passion both for a quasi-epistolary ripped-from-the-diary style of storytelling and the campfire story, and an unusually good balance between those odd siblings horror and humor. Very few criticisms apply to his compendium of accounts; a scant handful of slips of the printed tongue here and there in the form of misplaced punctuation, one observed instance of “your” rather than “you’re” (hiss) – highly infrequent problems of this nature. The biggest circumstantial frustration for many – and the necessity for this isn’t totally unreasonable – will probably come in the form of the writer’s inclination to take the concept of “closure” and frequently kick it off the side of a cliff. Well, that and the fact that the layout of the gas station’s tales isn’t quite as intuitive as one might like, but trouble in navigating something is by definition liminal.

Now, what kind of zoo is this collection of tales? To put a single kids-these-days-appropriate name to the entity: creepypasta. However, it’s less of what that typically entails, and more of a Stephen King thing with Groucho Marx glasses. There’s a gas station by the edge of the woods in an undisclosed place in the continental U.S., and tale-worthy oddities permeate it like the town to which it technically geographically belongs is permeated by bumpkins of all sorts. The gas station’s primary personality, none other than Jack, is an insomniac who’s seen it ALL, and has all the self-defense capacity of a patch of rhubarb in the crosshairs of a herd of deer. He’s the sort whose main goals in life are three. One: forgetting about the forget-worthy stuff that happens around him, and which ALWAYS happens to slip from the memory and notice of everyone else in his vicinity. Two: taking care of the station for which he is clerk, steward, shepherd, and occasional exorcist type. Three: documenting the nonsense that happens around him, from drugs that cause spiders to plants that grow human hands, from big mutated raccoons to people who uniformly refuse to stay dead, from pagan deities seeking influence to uninvited bathroom guests. He’s not a hero, and he’s okay with that, and you want him to keep going just so he can help the next clueless Johnny walking in the door deal with their haunted mustache or something.

Presentation-wise, the experience is messy, in that you’re running along the inside track of the mind of a flawed narrator – and that’s great! A few other personalities pick up the thread at times, but your general feeling from the whole is a suffusion of raised eyebrow garnished with lots of chronic weirdness, a surprisingly frequent and genuine inclination toward laughter, a bunch of times where the raised eyebrow becomes a rolled eye toward “trying too hard” with the paranormal, and a handful of occasions that legitimately and lastingly raise the hairs along the spine. Even so, there’s an artful and occasionally savage elegance to the turns of phrase that breathe life into these altercations. Maybe not written by someone who loves English like a paramour, but at least a person with whom English went out on a dozen dinner dates and that still occasionally receives flowers. So far, after several major arcs, the storytelling manages to remain enjoyable even when unpleasant or slightly off-putting. The real humdinger of Jack’s polished work, on the other hand, is the frequency with which answers are deliberately withheld. Of course, there are as many people who like that sort of coy or oblique style in writing, and to its credit there’s not an instant that this seems to be born of malice or suckering in of the audience (with one glaring possible, exception involving an investigator in the back of a van very specifically NOT being told anything of substance). It’s more that the author obviously grasps the idea that people find things more unsettling when they’re caught from the corner of the eye rather than walking up wearing a spinning bow tie and a neon top hat. Furthermore, for such a small town and a small gas station, it’s obvious that standing around and just giving the audience all pertinent information would take quite a while, and what answers one does eventually receive are thematic puzzle pieces carved to fit a much greater cohesive whole.

In short: if you like feeling something spoopy from a midnight recounting of a well-told yarn, laughter at the most outlandish of times at a slightly twisted sense of humor, and can tolerate the deferral of some mysteries’ resolutions indefinitely, it’s more than worth your while to visit a certain establishment. Just don’t forget change if you need to use the phone, don’t forget to say hello to the hardworking people behind the counter, and don’t go into the woods.

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