Sep 142010

by Gale Acuff

After supper with my parents I go

next door from the buffeteria to

the drug store to look at the comic books.

It’s 1965. They’re twelve cents each.

Georgia sales tax is four cents on the buck

so I can buy two books for a quarter,

which is my weekly allowance. I want

the Justice League of America and

the Legion of Super-Heroes because

I get more costumed crimefighters for my

money. My father’s money, I should say.

I’ll meet my folks in front of the Rich’s

department store, by the fountain, facing

the parking lot. Our car’s out there somewhere,

waiting like a faithful beast of burden

to take us home, a few miles away, in

Marietta. When we arrive I jump

out from the back seat, open the garage

door, stand to one side, and watch my parents

roll in. Father closes the door and we

go into the house–we never lock up

–and then he takes off his suit and tie and

dress shoes. He’s a principal and looks sharp

when he’s out in public. Mother

reads, or watches TV, while Father tunes

the radio to the Braves baseball game

and sits on the porch, studying traffic.

I wait until he settles. Turn it up,

Son, he says. Sometimes he says, Turn it down.

When it’s just the way he wants it, I leave

for my bedroom, in the attic. It’s my

Fortress of Solitude, my parents too

tired, usually, to walk the thirteen

steps up to it–when they want me, they shout

from the bottom of the stairway. Tonight,

however–Friday night–they don’t need me,

only each other. Saturday nights, too.

If I come down, perhaps to the kitchen,

or under the stars to pet my old dog,

Father might ask me to fine-tune the Braves.

Mother might ask me to turn the channel

or clean her glasses or bring her a snack.

I’m a good boy and I’m eager to please.

I do what they ask and they let me be.

Then I go upstairs again and read how

good defeats evil, which it always does,

just in different ways from month to month.

I’m too young to know that evil wins, too,

at least its share and probably more–that’s

for grownups to worry about. Good wins

as I look at the pictures and read and

turn the pages, one by one. Not that good

doesn’t take its lumps from evil. Not that

evil doesn’t make a contest of it

–that’s what makes life interesting, and church

on Sunday a necessity: to thank

God for what we have though we don’t have it

but always pray we do. Well, some of it

we have. But others don’t–poor folks, for one,

and if they don’t have it, we don’t, either.

Food enough, I mean, and heat in Winter.

Steady jobs and good clothes. Enough money

for Christmas. We have all of these but if

someone else doesn’t then neither do we.

If I were the Flash I’d be quick enough

to run around the world, our neighborhood,

at least, and count all the people in need.

If I were Superboy I’d see them all

with my X-ray vision. But I’m just me

so I fight evil the usual way,

by putting coins in the collection plate

(but not my comics-money–I get some

special from my parents for charity)

and going to Sunday School and praying.

But all those people praying all those prayers

hasn’t ended poverty and sadness

–perhaps they don’t pray hard enough. As I

walk home from church I’m feeling older. Guess

I’ll have to wait for Jesus to return

before life’s perfect. Still, I’d like to think

that we do what we can. In this issue

of my life there’s a happy ending but

not so happy that my life’s been cancelled

like a magazine that doesn’t sell well.

There’s just enough unhappiness so that

I want to keep up with the adventure

in this comic book which God writes and draws

from start to finish, and death reads everyday.