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Gale Acuff



Lip Service


After the earthquake Miss Hooker said, God

sent you children a message, Repent or

pay the consequences. It's Hell she means

everlasting. Everlastingly.

I got the message and so I got saved,

at least I think I did, I sure as Hell

tried, there on my knees under the desk and

most of my classmates crying and the earth

shaking with His compassionate judgement,

God's I mean, or maybe Jesus', or

maybe both, I and the Father are one

He said, I mean Jesus said it, or if

He and God are one it doesn't matter

who said it, unless the Holy Ghost did

but I don't think He talks, telepathy

is probably His game if He has one.

Baseball's mine, so I played hard-ball, praying

that I live long enough for Little League


next year and the after that God can do

as He damn well pleases with me and then

the earth stopped moving although I was

still shaking. When we crawled out from under

our desks and Miss Hooker out of the broom

closet I led us in the Lord's Prayer

because she'd lost her appetite to talk,

she lost her voice, I mean. I let us go,

I'm just 10 but a natural leader,

that is since I got saved, and then walked her

to her car and she was speechless with thanks

as she drove away, and I walked home, it's

not far, I leg it every Sunday,

to find my folks at the kitchen table

or still under it, with the big paper

and cigarettes and Sanka. I set them

free and told them to come to church with me

next week. They swore they would. We'll see to it.



a line, (a short blue one)




I love Miss Hooker bur she doesn't love

me, I mean the way I want her to if

she only will, I mean like a wife loves

her husband, I mean if she does, if she

really does. She's my Sunday School teacher

but she loves God and Jesus so I guess

she's married to Them, one or both and if

both then I'd say she's got two husbands at

the same time but then again God came down

as Jesus and so They're really the same,

religion's just so damn complicated,

but anyway I'm only ten years old

to Miss Hooker's 25 and to God's

infinity, I guess--who really knows

how old Eternity is? After class

today I went up to Miss Hooker in

the parking lot where she was looking through


her purse to find her car keys, they're truck keys

really because she drives a Ford Ranger,

she doesn't need a full-sized rig, she can

carry herself around alright without

too much bed, and told her that I love her,

I told her that I love her and she dropped

the keys that she'd fished out but no harm done,

they must've been house keys, or her heart's, so

we stooped together to rescue them and

nearly bumped noggins, her red hair kissed me

and then we stood up straight again holding

the keyring and the keys because we each

raised them up together, maybe like Fate,

and she said, I love you, too, Gale, but in

the voice of a Sunday School teacher and

not a fiancee and that's how I learned

there is no God but there is a Jesus.



a line, (a short blue one)


Holy Ground


In Sunday School today I finally

got it, religion, when I realized

that I love Miss Hooker, my teacher, and

not just love her but am in love with her,

there's a difference and I'm not sure how

but that's life and I'm only ten years old

so I'm bound to meet up with more strangeness

along the way, right up until I die,

whenever that is, all I know is that

it will be at the end of my life but

of course in Sunday School Miss Hooker says

that there's actually more life to come,

the afterlife, also the hereafter

it's called, and the story she spins is that

if I'm good while I'm still alive and try

not to sin and when I do beg forgiveness

then when I die I'll go to Heaven to

live forever with God and Jesus and

the angels and good souls, etc.,

but if I'm bad then it's Hell for sure, lots

of sorrow and suffering and anguish,

whatever anguish is, next week I'll ask,

next Sunday that is. We get new bodies,

too, in Heaven I mean, don't ask me how

there can be solid bodies in Heaven

if that's what Miss Hooker means but I'll ask

that, too, if I don't forget or lay out

of Sunday School altogether to go

for a walk in the woods and to the creek

where I'll take off my good Thom McAns and

my fake-silk socks and wade in the water

and look for something under the surface,

treasure maybe. Crawdads. Tadpoles. Minnows.



a line, (a short blue one)




So Jesus is the Son of God--what else

is new except that I've fallen in love

with Miss Hooker, my Sunday School teacher

and kind of like His messenger, at least

she works for our church and maybe doesn't

even get paid but I guess that Jesus

will pay her off after she's dead and goes

to Heaven to be judged, her soul that is,

and gets to dwell in the House of the Lord

forever, like it says in the Bible

somewhere, unless of course she winds up in

Hell, where sinners go, for sinning sins no

one even dreamed of, but it's more likely

that that's where I'll end up, Hell I mean, since

for ten years old I'm a decent sinner


and when I get to Hell maybe Satan

will give me a medal or to but then

the torture will begin and on the face

of each medal I'd damned if I won't see

a picture of Miss Hooker and I won't

for sadness want to wear her on my chest

but Satan might not give me any choice.

After Sunday School today Miss Hooker

asked me if I'd gotten saved yet, the same

question she asks every week and I'm

sure that she already knows the answer

but that never stops her so it must be

true that I'll go to Hell without Jesus

in my heart, I'm sad to say Miss Hooker's

not enough to get me into Heaven.

But if she dies for my sins I'll all set.



a line, (a short blue one)


On the Third Day


After Sunday School today I asked her

to marry me, Miss Hooker, my teacher,

not now but when I'm old enough, her age,

25 maybe, but maybe even

sooner, when I'm 16, I'm only 10,

and if she says yes she'll be 31

and if she says no she'll be the same age


but that's not the point. I forgot what was,

other than the stuff we learn in class, that

God made everything, including people,

but Satan tempted our first parents and

they caved in and got kicked out of Eden

and life really started to become life.

So a whale of a lot later Jesus


came, as part-God somehow, and died to save

us all so we won't have to go to Hell

which is all that we deserve, at least I

do, but probably not Miss Hooker, she

humps for God for a living and that's good

so if I marry her, or she married me,

or both, then my chances of going to


Heaven will be better and I don't want

to go to Hell, I get the prickly heat

anyway and it's right warm down below,

and torture, too, and no water to drink

though maybe blood like Dracula likes but

I doubt it would kill my thirst, and no ice.

Anyway I asked her, I'd rehearsed it,


it was easy, Excuse me, Miss Hooker,

but can I ask you something, and she said

Why of course, Gale, what can I do for you

and I almost said, You can marry me

is what you can do for me, but that was

too straight for me so I just asked, Will you

marry me when I'm old enough for you


to have and to hold? I surprised her but

not the kind of surprise that's being scared.

But she did sit down and asked me to, too,

but I said, No thank you, ma'am, and waited

for her answer and anyway I'd been

sitting down for fifty-five whole minutes

as it was and to come to the point she


told me to ask her again in a few

years but to remember she'll no longer

be 25 and maybe not even

pretty. I get that, I said, but this is

love and it comes from God so I'll hang on.

She smiled and told me to go on home so

I did but halfway through the classroom door


I heard her call so I went back to her

in her big blue chair at her big red desk.

She took off her glasses and told me that

she was flattered. I guess I tempted her

which means I'm almost a man because love

for us seems to start that way, temptation

first, then you get hitched, so it's a good sign


that we're fallen, love should come before like,

which means I'll go to Heaven sure whether

Miss Hooker takes me or she doesn't. I

still want to tell her so but she might think

that I'm as smart as God or brighter than

the angels or maybe even that I'm

dying for her sins or have already


and it's Day Three but I don't want to go.



a line, (a short blue one)




Miss Hooker's my Sunday School teacher. She

loves God and I'm pretty sure God loves her

because He made her beautiful, red hair

and green eyes and more freckles than stars

in the night-sky and I'd bet in the day, too,

you just can't see them all. I wish I could

but that's another story. And she sings

and plays piano and this morning she

told us the one about Moses casting down

his rod and it becoming a snake and

then one of Pharaoh's buddies did it, too,

and everyone laughed at Moses' magic

but then his snake ate their snake and became


a rod again. That's a really neat trick

but Miss Hooker says it wasn't magic

after all but one of God's miracles

and even though she didn't witness it

personally, I'll take her word for it

that it happened the way she says it did

because she's 25, that's old enough

to know, and a cosmetologist, too,

and does my mother's hair so there you go,

if that's not proof then I don't know what is,

proof of something, anyway. I guess God


knows and I'm only 10 and don't know shit

from Shinola, Father likes to tell me,

and he should know, he's a plumber's helper,

which means he does the real work while his boss

takes all the credit. That's the way it is

in the real world, he says--no miracles.

When I grow up I want to be just like

his boss. I even told Father so and

at first he frowned but then he said, Good boy,

and he should know, he's got a G. E. D.

and was way too smart to stick with high school.

But he and Mother never go to church,

they say they don't need it, they're old enough

to know what sin is and isn't so they

send me, I represent the family,

they say, so I'm proud of that but I think

they just like to sleep late on Sundays and

after I come home and change my Sunday


suit we go out to the Korn Dawg King for

foot-long dogs and onion rings and I

suck at a strawberry shake and it's good,

all their chow I mean. You can't beat their meat,

Father says. Mother always blushes. I

figure that it's got something to do with

darkness and sleeping in the same bed with

their door locked, I know it's locked, I've tried it,

and maybe having babies but just how

I don't know. I'd like to ask Miss Hooker

but she might think I'm asking for her hand

and she's too old and what's more I'm too young.

Last night I dreamt about her again--I

was at the Korn Dawg King and ordered me


a foot-long chili dog with relish and

chocolate sprinkles--it was just a dream

--and was about to take my first bite when

it slipped out of my hands into my lap

and changed into Miss Hooker, her red hair

ketchup and green eyes pickle relish and

freckles sprinkles. And what could I do but

kiss her and she kissed back and I think that's

a kind of miracle and the best kind

of kiss of all, when lips go against lips

but it's not like boxing, more like wrestling.

Father and Mother and I go there on

Saturday nights. Sometimes we get ring-side

seats when he gets paid. He says it's all fake.

But sometimes it's pretty good fake. Sunday

School's a lot like that, God against Satan


and sometimes God wins and sometimes Satan

and they're always at it again next week.

Mother takes her needlepoint, to wrestling

I mean. She can do it and keep her eye

on the action at the same time. And scream.

Then it's the Korn Dawg King afterwards. I

saw Miss Hooker there with a man one time.

Mother says her skirts are too short but she

sure can style hair. Father says they're just right,

her skirts I mean. Then he winks at me. Why?



a line, (a blue one)


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