6k Words and On a Roll: the Preface (draft)

Come Again No More: A Novel from a Possible Future
By Fred First

As we pause in life’s pleasures
and count its many tears
Let us all taste the hungers of the poor.
There’s a song that will linger
forever in our ears:
Hard times, come again no more.
~ Stephen Foster

I just wanted to say a few words before you begin the first chapter of what has, to my surprise and relief become the story of my year of relative isolation and personal struggle, and moreso, a story that ends thankfully with me still alive and reasonably well.

Writing during this difficult period was a necessity for me, both as a protective shield from the crushing forces of aloneness and isolation and also as a means of acting with intention and self-imposed obligation to document the good and bad of this most significant, difficult and poignant year of my life.

But I found it impossible to tell it to you directly. I could not bear to be too close to the story as it happened, and writing in the third person as I’ve largely done gave me a distance from those hours and days, made less weighty in that way, as if events and tribulations were happening to someone else. I needed that detached outsider perspective to keep the overpowering emotions at arms length.

And while it made me feel at first a bit creepy talking about myself as if I was a spirit narrating my own life from the corner of the room or perched on the low branch of an oak beside the pasture where the dog and I watched ravens playing tag on a windy Autumn day, that is what I have, for the most part, ended up doing.

Some of the journal excepts are first person as that is the way they were experienced and written. And I offer some commentary here and there within the book that are words from rather than merely about me on particular days. I trust you’ll be able to shift gears appropriately in this matter of person as well as in time, when I travel back remembering conversations or events that the present days of 2020 triggered in memory from long ago, recollections that in some way were landmarks that gave some compass bearing at the time to help me orient on the map that fate was presenting moment by day by month.

So within these pages and I am both the builder and the building, you might say. It’s an abnormal arrangement between the writer and the reader, but then the year 2020 was anything but a normal year.

I’ll let the narrator tell you the story.  ~ Jason Hixson, June 15, 2023

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thanks, I’ll see if I can coax Jason to tell you a bit more of his story. He’s finding that his ordinary life in an extraordinary time has more small tales and interesting details than he had at first imagined. It will take some doing, but I think he can be encouraged to finish the full year of events and bring it full circle to the time he felt like the worst for him and the planet had passed. Thanks for caring!