‘The Cliff’ by Charles Baxter

Charlie Baxter, Author

The Cliff by Charles Baxter, 1984

The magic trick:

Using a simple but complete metaphor

Sometimes you need a little bit of metaphor. Sometimes your point is just too obvious to say it straight away. For instance, “The Cliff” wants you to know that there comes a point in every teenager’s life when he transitions from respectful learner to know-it-all independence. This is would fall into that aforementioned category of obvious truths. But “The Cliff” is a wonderful story. “The Cliff” uses a metaphor that is simple and clear but complete and effective. The point may be obvious, but the delivery is beautiful and resonant. And that’s quite a trick on Baxter’s part.

The selection:

“You don’t believe in the spells anymore,” the boy said.

“I am the spells,” the old man shouted. “I invented them. I just hate to see a fresh kid like you crash on the rocks on account of you don’t believe in them.”

“Don’t worry,” the boy said. “Don’t worry about me.”

They got out of the car together, and the old man reached around into the back seat for his coil of rope.

“I don’t need it,” the boy said. “I don’t need the rope.”
”Kid, we do it my way or we don’t do it.”


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