Gale Acuff

This morning Miss Hooker asked me how much
I was going to give the Lord today.
She meant how much loot would I give to God
in the collection plate, the loot I mean,
not God, though He's everywhere, even in
the nickel that I tithed. She's my Sunday
School teacher, is Miss Hooker. Sometimes I
want to give my money to her instead.
She's kind of like God, or closer to Him
than I am. Anyway, she works for Him,
at church I mean. It's really my parents'
nickel--they don't come to church but send me
to represent the family, Father says.
They sleep late on Sundays. When I come home
they're not even dressed. The kitchen's full of
Sanka-smell and cigarette smoke and that
stink of color-comics in the Sunday
paper. Prince Valiant and Dick Tracy and
Tarzan, who's pretty naked for Sunday
morning. I have to sleep in pajamas
but I'm thinking about dropping them—not
wearing them I mean. What my folks do is
send me to church with a dime but if they
give me two nickels instead I keep
one sometimes. There's a word for that and it's
stealing but then my allowance is low
so I'm just trying to right a wrong and
it's probably God's moolah anyway
—what does God need with money?—but at least
I don't take it all. Sometimes I feel bad
about that and Miss Hooker tells us
if we die without being forgiven
for our sins, which Jesus will do if we
ask Him to and mean it, then we'll go to
Hell when we die and it's a wicked place,
wicked means pretty damn bad, all that fire
and torture and they last eternally.
She says that's not the kind of eternal
life we want. She shakes her head back and forth
kind of like a puppy killing a sock.
What we want's eternity in Heaven
—she snaps her head up and down, up and down.
And like I say she works for God. So I
told her, The usual. Then she told me
that while I'm still young I should learn to give
'til it hurts
—also learn to sacrifice
like Jesus did
. But he died on the Cross
I reminded her. And you must die, too,
she said, laughing—you must die and be born
again. Yes ma'am, I said. If you'll kiss me.

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