For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write a novel. I don’t know why. I’ve begun several and abandoned them. The one I got the farthest in writing was a zombie novel called “The Rabid.” I thought it was a pretty good story, at least at its inception. I wanted to write a political novel about people’s propensity to act like animals in the face of fear. I wanted to show how opportunistic I thought people in power were. I wanted to explore the hypothesis that when faced with a catastrophe, people jockey for power, even if it means the end of the world. I abandoned that novel because it was too ambitious for me at the time. My character notes were pages long. It was riddled through with continuity problems. My tone was gritty and I strove for realism, which made writing it even more difficult. I decided instead to write a memoir. The characters would be easy to remember because they were real people. I didn’t need the pages of outline documents. I only needed my memory and the discipline to record it.
I’ve started the book you are about to read a half a dozen times. I keep returning to it because I believe it’s the most important story I can tell. I’ve made it was far as 50,000 words, but I always I get frustrated and move on to another, shorter project. But I’m resolving now, in a season of my life characterized by an increased level of self-control and motivation, to finish writing this memoir.
The pages that are to follow are from my life living in the hills of West Virginia. The events are as near as I can remember them. Doubtless you will be shocked at the behavior of my adolescent and teen characters. Having a child of my own, I don’t want to think of her behaving in the way that I did. But what follows is what happened, and I can say, as a high school teacher, hillbilly kids haven’t changed much.
Some people have been combined into composite characters. Some names and locations have been changed to protect my privacy and the privacy of my friends.