The World Was All Before Them

by Gale Acuff

On the steps of our portable building

that we use for Sunday School I sit and

wait for Miss Hooker to arrive. She's my

teacher. I'm the first one here this morning

because I have something to tell her and

it's not easy and we should be alone

and I don't want to wait until after

class when my buddies have left because then

I'm mighty hungry and have to get home;

it's a mile there, and a mile here, of course,

and I won't get a good lunch if I'm late,

bacon and eggs, my folks will eat it all

and stick me with strawberry jelly. They

never come to church, they just send me so

they can be alone, I guess, even though

at regular school I don't bother them

either, only when I get home from that

and then just for the afternoon and at

six o'clock for supper and afterwards

I've got homework and go to bed early,

that's the law no matter where the sun is.

I'm 10, not 25 like Miss Hooker

or in my early thirties like my folks.

When I get up for Sunday School they're still

asleep. I can hear them snoring: Father

like he can hardly breathe and Mother like

music, something like a flute if my dog

was playing it. He doesn't know music,

I mean at least not the human kind and

all I can play is the radio. Ha ha.

I swiped that one from Father so I'll

feel closer to him, I guess. Then I eat

my oatmeal and drink my Tang and get dressed

(I'm too young to shave) and head out for church

while it's still dark so I steer by the stars

and I'm not afraid of ghosts, the Holy

Ghost not included, of course, but normal

ghosts because I'm on my way to see God,

sort of. Even Preacher doesn't get here

as early as I did today. I fell

asleep for a few seconds waiting for

Miss Hooker and she woke me driving up,

I mean that she was driving up, of course.

I watched her dismount, like she had a horse,

but of course she drives a Plymouth Valiant.

How can ladies watch where they're going when

they're always looking down at their shoes? But

that's not what I wanted to ask her but

what I wanted to ask her was will she

go out on a date with me when I'm old

enough, say 16? I practiced last night

with my dog. He licked my face. That's a good

sign. Miss Hooker walked up to me and said

Good morning, Gale, it's nice to see you

here so bright and early. I said, Yes ma'am

and then forgot what I wanted to say

but remembered as she walked past me and

then she asked me to help her to distribute

the hymnals and when we were through, there's just

about a dozen of us students. I

got sick and ran out the front door and threw

up breakfast on the south side of the porch

and Miss Hooker comforted me and that's

how I fell out of love with her a spell;

I just wanted devotion, not sorrow.

Still, I lay there with my head in her lap

while she stroked my forehead and as I looked

up I saw the bottom of her chin and

the two holes in her nose, nostrils they're called,

and thought, God's thrown us out of Paradise.

That's how I fell back in love once more but

it was time for Sunday School. The children.

Bio: Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Adirondack Review, Ottawa Arts Review, WorcesterReview, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Arkansas Review, Carolina Quarterly, Poem, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).

Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.


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