The High Black Fence

A Tale in Two Parts

“The High Black Fence” is written in two distinct styles. The first part is in the unadorned language of a Bible story or a moral fable. In it, we meet the pious Holy Man and his small family, who live an ascetic life of endless toil just outside God’s Garden, which blooms eternally green and luscious just beyond the High Black Fence.

In the second part, where the Holy Man’s son wanders alone in the Garden, the style becomes vivid and sensual, a riot of sensation and emotion. This is a story about growing up and examing the conflicts and traumas of your childhood once your eyes are open to the world in all its myriad colours.

“The High Black Fence” is published in “The Cantabrigian,” issue #2, Jamie Hovis, editor-in-chief. Available May, 2018. Copies can be purchased from Squareup.com.


Excerpt 1

A Holy Man lived outside God’s Garden with his wife and two children. The Garden was surrounded by a high fence of black metal rails, with barbed wire and broken glass on the top. Through the rails, the family could see the bounty of the Garden. The abundant fruits and vegetables were ever ripe and inviting. Birds magnificent of plumage and song swooped freely through the orchards, and herds of dwarf deer grazed unmolested on the sweetest of grasses. But the Holy Man’s black book said that God’s Garden was off limits.

The Holy Man could not remember anymore where the black book had come from, only that his father had passed it to him on his deathbed as his own father had passed it to him.

The food on which their family subsisted was tasteless and hard won, torn with backbreaking labour from the unyielding soil. Every day, when their chores were done, the Holy Man’s son and daughter spent hours at the fence staring hungrily into the Garden. They made a game of guessing what each enticing fruit was called and how it tasted. The son delighted in watching his little sister’s eyes shine with these ravenous imaginings.

Their father would chase them away from the fence when he caught them, raining down blows and bellowing, “Strike out the envy in your hearts! Deus providebit! God has provided all we need...”


Excerpt 2

For many days Seth wanders naked, eating as he needs, washing in clear pools, sleeping beneath the broad, sheltering leaves of cantaloupes and marrows. He has long since lost sight of the black fence and encounters no other boundaries. The Garden goes on without limit. He sees no animal larger than the dwarf deer, which appear in the twilight in twos and threes, silent as ghosts. He sees no human beings. Seth has his first conscious thought in days, I will wander alone until I die.

He is not sure if he has spoken these words aloud, but they seem to have drawn notice. He sees a sharp movement in a distant apple orchard, something raising its head in his direction. Whatever it is, it is huge, more than twice the height of the mature fruit trees, and it begins moving languidly through the orchard toward him.

Deus est regit qui omnia, says his father in his head. There is a God who rules all things...

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All contents ©2018 by J. Marshall Freeman