Gale Acuff


One day Miss Hooker will die and odds are
go to Heaven because she's my Sunday
School teacher and a pretty damn good one
if I'm any judge and I guess I am
because I'm one of her students and she
tells those stories from the Bible as if
she wrote them herself or at least was there
to witness them. This morning was the one
about David and Goliath and I
thought I saw, I guess somewhere in my own,
David cut off the giant's head and then
hold it high, higher than Goliath who
was flat on his face, for everyone
to see, including me, I guess, and I
wasn't even there but this was the next
best thing to being there, maybe as
good or better because I'd hate to be
standing there when Goliath comes down hard
and me maybe even under him, Oomph,
though I guess God would have figured a way
to get me out from underneath before
I expired, or pushed me into a pit
just before the giant hit the ground and
when they hauled his headless body away
from there out I'd pop to say Praise the Lord,
I'm alright, and the people would've cheered
and I would've been a hero, maybe
not as big as David but I'd have earned
some attention anyway and made pals
with David maybe and signed autographs
but be modest about it. Shucks, I'm no
hero, I'd say, David did all the work
and all I did was get out of the way,
and the girls would've come up to me and
invited me to their houses for tea
or coffee or Nehi grape or root beer
and maybe chocolate chip cookies, which
are my favorite, and I would've laughed
and said, One at a time, girls, please, one at
a time--there's plenty Gale Acuff to go
around. I can see it now. Then I'd give
God some credit for saving my life so
nobody would think I've got a swelled head,
and say things like Gee whiz, I'm no David,
though we arebest buddies, and Was I scared,
well, maybe a little, at that shadow
Goliath threw when he was falling down
and how much darker it got, just like night,
before I saw my chance to jump into
the hole I'd already seen there and made
a mental note about before I chose
to stand there to help David just in case.
What makes Miss Hooker such a good story
-teller is that she puts me right in there
with the action, whether it's David and
Goliath or Jonah and the whale or
Job and his boils or Lazarus, come forth
or Saul-Paul getting knocked off his donkey
or even Jesus dying on the Cross
and I'm right there with Him, hanging on to
His every groan while I'm standing at
the bottom with His mother and some friends
weeping because it doesn't seem quite fair
that God should die when He created life
and even things that have none, but the truth
is that He came back from the dead and there
you are. Miss Hooker tells that story, too,
and sometimes I can't tell if she's going
to laugh or cry because happiness and
grief share her face together for a while
until it looks like happiness pushes
grief away, I'm not sure where it goes, off
somewhere to lick its wounds and then come back
again but it never whips happiness
the way those bad men whipped Jesus before
they nailed him up on Calvary and then
of course He triumphed in the end, or will,
I know just how the story goes even
though it hasn't yet and Miss Hooker says
Jesus will return, that's Revelation,
and it's kind of complicated and some
scary but she promises it will all
work out and that we'd better not sin or
if we do but not on purpose ask for
forgiveness and we should come out alright.
It could happen anytime, she says, and
that makes for suspense, like The Twilight Zone
or Perry Mason but not Peyton Place,
which my mother won't let me watch because
it's wicked. Besides, I'm not old enough.
When Miss Hooker dies and someone tells me
I know I'll cry and cry and yet be glad
that she's in a better place, Heaven, and
you can't get much better than that, and when
I die then maybe I can join her there
if I've been good, or good enough, and thank
her for her storytelling because it
saved me, and ask her to tell another,
or maybe not because something tells me
the dead know everything. So I'll just smile
as if the story she won't tell is all
about me, and everybody knows that,
and I'm just a modest guy, and proud of it.