Kenneth Tingle's 'Strangeville' is indeed an odd little story. There's nothing space alien or sci-fi about it. Not even supernatural. While it's certainly a fun story, it's kinda disappointing because I was hoping for more.
Protagonist John Campbell muddles along in life after the untimely death of his parents. He hasn't got much friends and is stuck in a dead-end job 't was in his car on the way to visit his Aunt Peggy and Uncle Mike somewhere in Virginia when he got lost and landed up in Strangeville. Clearly, there isn't a cellular tower or signal to be sought. Of course John Campbell would have forgotten to bring along a charging cable. Zzzz.
People in this town seem to either be housewives or work in the coal mines. They don't lock their doors. The cars are the most telling, along with round dial phones that can't call outside of town. The town is run by the inscrutable Mayor and a bunch of senior advisors, for example, head engineers and head doctors and all that. It's a made-up town that sources vintage car parts from e-Bay, and the chief mechanic says he might have up it to 1960s because the world is running out of spare parts for cars made in the 1950s.
"Biff, they're selling the coal outside at today's market price. They use the money to keep everything going. But, they're paying people wages from fifty years ago. Everything is kept cheap somehow, like maybe they use the coal money to offset today's high prices. Basically, they're subsidizing the whole town of Strangeville!"
He nodded without saying a word and went inside the house. I wondered if I had said too much. Did I create a crack in his comfortable view of the world?
The stars were shining brightly above in the clear sky. All this time I thought the mayor was some backwards dinosaur from the past, but now he seemed like an economic genius.
It's just the quirk of a strange Mayor with willing participants to protect this little town of theirs stuck in the 1950s. The rest of the townspeople isn't allowed to leave the boundaries at all. Not much different from running North Korea. :P Klemm's Diner, run by Klemm Johnson, is the heart of the town's social life. John Campbell begins work at the coal mines, gains a good friend and housemate Biff Flannigan, and makes the best of it. He left his old life behind, and begins to build a life in Strangeville. Of course there's a girl involved. There's always a girl. Her name is Delilah. There's a happy ending. He chooses to stay in Strangeville, marries Delilah and have a loving marriage and two children.
So at the end, he manages to charge his cellphone, makes that one call to his Aunt and Uncle to tell them he isn't visiting after all, bids farewell to his boss and old job, and is all good. A neat call to tie up loose ends in his old life. Yes, he withdrew all the cash from his bank account. I can't stand a detail in the ending. That he saw his presumably dead parents who seem rather alive and have come to see him in Strangeville, a short visit to tell him they aren't dead, but they can't stay either. Sure, the writer took pains to state that John says it's his story. BUT STILL. Is it necessary??! Whatever mushrooms they inhaled, I want some.
My parents had come to teach me life's most important lesson: You have to find your own happiness. You can make your own heaven on earth. It's all how you look at it.