[A rectangle of white sand, a white-face cliff,], William Fairbrother

Judith Nelson, 5 Star Revue, 1962, 16X20


Excerpted from the novel,
Exister

A rectangle of white sand, a white-face cliff, a grey fence, a red fence, the flesh-colored back of a house. He plays until he cannot see; all night long during the summer, under Mom’s window, tiptoes, scoots, crawls, whispers, readies the troops for seven a.m. war.

One night he turns the water on shuts it off, runs, stands quiet at the side of the house. Eating breakfast Mom says she thought she’d heard the water running.

The cliff face is an immobile theater curtain. He hammers sticks into the folds and sets men on them, steps back and throws rocks.

He dumps boulders on the front lines.

There are hospitals in which men are glued and taped back together, two-limb minimum. Once decapitated they are dead, their bodies buried and their heads given as prizes. One General has twenty-eight heads displayed on his walls.

Each man owns a house. They are paid right after battle, the wounded less. Dry green-gray clay is gold. It is clawed from the cliff with the back of a hammer: One summer he discovers a huge deposit in a cliff at the beach and spends three days lugging beach-towel-fulls the mile and a half home.

Ice Plant People wear ice plant tip helmets.

Hill People wear splinters in their heads.

The Hill People are run into the hills. The Ice Plant People plant ice plant throughout the yard, which the Hill People sabotage.

The Ice Plant People are run into the ice plant patch up against the house. The Hill People stock-pile ammo and build huge fortresses, which the Ice Plant People overtake.

Warriors come out of battles unscathed. After ten battles Warriors are promoted to Generals. The Headless dig out of their graves and gather in the grass-weeds by the grey fence. One at a time they sneak out and get their heads back and behead the man who’d gotten theirs and glue that man’s head on top of their own. The Headless then become the slaves of the Two-Heads.

The Headless revolt. The Two-Heads flee to the ice plant patch. The Ice Plant People flush them out. There is a terrific battle which leaves just two Two-Heads alive. One of them becomes the leader of the Ice Plant People and the other becomes the leader of the Hill People.

There’s a month’s peace before they sell the house.

______________________
William Fairbrother

 

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