In Sunday School today Miss Hooker said that if we love God and believe Jesus is His Son and never sin or at least try hard not to because no man's sinless then we'll go to Heaven. In my workbook I'm drawing a picture of Superman. When I get home and after I eat lunch I'll play with the dog a while and then take, a nap and then get up and finish my homework for regular school and then play with the dog some more (I don't want him tobe lonely, he's just a dumb animal even if that means he'll get to Heaven but I've got to work in get in there) and then read my new comic book, which I bought last Friday night, after we ate out, but not the dog, of course, I mean my folks and I, at the Davis Brothers Diner next to the Dunaway Rex-all Drug Store. Twelve cents it cost me, Superman I mean, and one more penny for Georgia sales tax, and my allowance is just a quarter but then I'm only 11 and since my brother died last year I get his share, guess. I never asked.
So after I finish my chocolate cake with icing chocolate, too, I ask to be excused. Father fishes into his coat pocket, his right side, for my weekly two-bits and reaches across the salt and pepper to give it to me. I hold up my palm like a beggar, or maybe that's a hobo, or maybe that's a panhandler, and he drops it in. I make a fist upside down, I mean my fist is, not me, and he says Nice catch. And then he lights two Lucky Strikes, one for his mouth, the other for Mother's, and pulls hers out and hands it to her lit, the cigarette I mean, not Mother, who hardly ever drinks anymore since my brother died. I guess she's swallowed enough to forget him by now. I'll remember that when I'm her age and if I have kids and one of them dies from a ruptured heart--appendix that is; it's the heart that breaks. Somehow I know that if I forget that I'll learn it again, at my own expense. So I go next door to the drug store, where I could probably read the comic books for free like some of the other kids do but that's a kind of stealing, I think, and you can go to Hell for that sort of thing and I'm careful because I want to see my brother again--he's in Heaven sure--and if I land in Hell and fry in its flames everlastingly then I'll miss him. Sometimes I think he's standing beside me as I twirl the spinner rack to see what hero I want to take home. Last Friday it was the Man of Steel, my favorite, and maybe next week Batman or Atom or Flash or Green Lantern or Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes. When I come back to the diner Mother and Father are standing at the register and don't feel me standing there behind them. For a moment I'm dead myself, a ghost like my brother. I'd give myself away but I like knowing I won't always be around. I miss them already and I'm still alive.
When we get home it's dark and my dog comes wagging up to the stopped Ford. I get out and quickly pet him and then open the garage door and see my folks looking through the windshield and straight at me. In my nightmare that night they ran over me. I woke breathing hard and my dog jumped on the bed and asked me with his tongue if I was alright--I mean he licked me. Then I went downstairs to my folks' bedroom and peeked through the keyhole and they were sleeping, which is something like being dead but you're more alive. Then I went upstairs and lay down again with my arms around my dog, who was warm like God is but hairier and with sharper teeth, or maybe not. I'm going to go to Hell, I guess, no matter what I do, so I fell back asleep pretty satisfied that sometimes when God loves you He bleeds you dry. I'm not sure even Superman tops that but then, he isn't real, or if he is, he's real like God is, Who doesn't even have His own comic book, which I wouldn't buy anyway if He did. He should be free.
Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in several countries and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.