"The Preface" to The Fire: A Story That Raged To Be Told
"Crazy Rachel" has just completed the task of typing her Uncle John's scribbled out memoirs into a story she has titled The Fire. She wants to write a preface for it but since she can't write while on her "meds," she goes off them. Slipping into a disastrously manic state, she writes, instead of a preface, the long, chaotic story of her own, very troubled life—as it entwined with her uncle's. More
When Rachel's great-uncle John died, he bequeathed to her his farm and his illegibly scribbled memoirs. After spending a decade "translating" them into a readable document, she titled it, The Fire, and decided to self-publish it as an eBook.
She titled it The Fire, because his writing of it was provoked by him witnessing the beginning of a fire in the mall that was the "downtown" of her hometown. John had stopped at it, one Saturday morning, on his way to a visit her and her children in the city twenty miles away.
The fire had started in the drug store, but it seemed inconsequential and he assumed, on leaving for the city, that the arriving firemen would quickly extinguish it. On his return five hours later, he discovered that that "inconsequential fire" had razed the mall.
As John sat in his truck and stared at the smoke-billowing pit,, vivid visions of his long-ago life on a western ranch filled his mind. Visions of when his abusive actions had caused the deaths of his wife and son. His remorse still haunted him.
The devastation of that "inconsequential fire," provoked caustic memories centering around an "inconsequential ailment" that had led to his wife's sudden death. Followed by the death of his estranged teenage son, whose grief over his mother's death caused him to commit suicide.
On returning to his farm house, John felt compelled to begin writing the story of his life, starting with his abusive childhood on a nearby farm and leading to—and beyond—the events on that ranch. It took him sixteen years to complete his memoirs.
Twenty two years after John finished writing The Fire, Rachel was ready to publish it, but she wanted to write a preface to it, describing her uncle and explaining the important role he had played in her life. Her intention was to write mostly about him, but as her life had been so bound up with his, and as his death caused her to have a psychotic breakdown, the preface became as much the story of her life as his.
Because of that breakdown, Rachel has had to spend the last 22 years in a medicated state that dulls her feelings so much she can't write the preface. So she goes off her "meds" in order to feel alive enough write it. But without those meds, she enters a manic state that that induces her to write, not a short preface concerning John, but an absurdly long and chaotic story that is mostly about her own life.
Born into a Catholic family and sexually abused by her father from the age of nine, by the time Rachel met John in 1969, when he had returned to the area after a fifty-year hiatus, she was a self-destructive "hippie chick" just back from Woodstock with only three things on her mind: sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll.
Rachel quickly developed a rapport with John that snapped her out of her self-destructive tailspin and allowed her to lead a relatively normal life until he died twenty six years later. John, during the years Rachel knew him, was a shaman, an autodidact, and an iconoclastic "philosopher" who compulsively thought about a lot of "far out" ideas that he shared with her when she visited him.
Having been raped by priest when he was an altar boy, John had a profound hatred for the Catholic Church and many of his most iconoclastic ideas revolved around that institution. Rachel, in having been abused for years by her "good Catholic father"—abuse her "good Catholic mother" knew about but did not stop—hated that institution as much as John, and shared his ideas about it. John also had a lot of shamanic ideas, which Rachel most definitely did not share, but put up with listening to so she could spend time in his charismatic company.
When off her "meds," Rachel is a rough and raging woman who puts no "brakes" on the crude aspects of her writing, so this "Preface" to The Fire, is a rough, crude, brutally honest and raging story, and any reader of it should expect a rough and jarring—but thought-provoking!—ride.
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