Miss Hooker says I'm going to Hell if
I sin too much. She knows all about it,
sin I mean, she's my Sunday School teacher
and God wouldn't let her work there unless
she knew her stuff and neither would Jesus
and maybe the Holy Ghost, too, He's so
mysterious, at least to me. Folks sin

all the time, Miss Hooker says--they shouldn't
but they do and in fact try as they might
they can't be perfect in this world, on earth
she means, even though Jesus said Be ye
therefore perfect, which is like my father
asking me Why can't you make straight A's? In
regular school, he means. In Sunday School
we don't take tests--the big one's at the end,
the end of our lives I mean, when we're judged
by God. Maybe He'll ask us to recite
the Lord's Prayer without missing a word.
Hell, I can do that. Heck, I mean. Father
wasn't really asking a question, more
like making a demand and that's too much
pressure on me, I'm just 10 for Chrissake
--for crying out loud, I mean. And what's more,
Miss Hooker says that people will sin no
matter what, as if it's in the blood, in
our genes, maybe. They're very tiny to
carry so much weight. So who can be saved?
It's a good question but I'm not the first
to ask it, it's in the Bible somewhere
and I hope it's not a sin to forget
just where it's from, chapter and verse that is.
I hope that's not Satan screwing with me
--messing with me, I mean. The thing to do,
Miss Hooker says, is never sin at all
but ever since Adam and Eve folks can't

stop, so what we've got to do is ask God
in Jesus' name to forgive us and fast
because if we die in sin then we're lost
forever. That means we go to Hell and
burn in the Lake of Everlasting Fire
and we don't want that now, do we, she asks,
though it's not really a question, either,
but life's constipated like that, that's sin
for you--complicated, I mean. And if
I look upon a woman with lust then
that's just as awful as actually
carrying out the act I have in mind,
whatever that is--what's lust, exactly?
I think it means don't look at pictures of
naked women because that might get me
to thinking impure thoughts. Miss Hooker says
they're carnal, whatever that means. She sure
is educated, but she's 25
and you don't get much smarter than that. If
she and I got married one day then we'd
go off on our honeymoon that night and
then I'd see her naked and she'd see me
naked, too. That's called tit-for-tat. Nyuk. What
happens afterward is anyone's guess
but I guess we could watch TV all night
if we wanted to and eat whatever
we want and play cards and checkers, I'm
good at board games, except Monopoly
unless I get to be the banker, which
means I can sneak money, which is cheating
and that's a sin but I lose anyway,
that's justice for you, so I'll let her win
if we play that, I'd never cheat on her
because then she'd want to get a divorce
and the last time I bawled was when my dog

died, but if I should lose Miss Hooker then
I'd be sad and want to die, too, but my
dog was run over, I found his body
on the highway but I'll never find his
soul, not at least until I die and go
to Heaven, if I qualify, and see it
again. Miss Hooker says we get new ones,
bodies, not dogs, in Heaven, so I hope
I recognize him--there must be a slew
of roadkill up there. If I still have lips
that work like lips down here on earth I'll call
his name, and if he has ears, let him hear
and come running to me, or maybe he'll
sniff me out, if he still has a nose and
I'm still something to smell. I don't want to
die, I said to my parents in our Ford
on the way home after church. Father said
I don't blame you, boy, in the rearview mirror.
Mother turned to me and said, It's a fact
of life and one of its great mysteries.
I said,Uh huh. I guess if I don't sin
I'll never die, although I'll still be dead,
but alive in Heaven, which seems better
than nothing, I guess. I'd hate to be God,
all us knuckleheads down here not happy
and all those prayers that He'll forgive us.
If I were in His place I'd tune us out
so that I could get a little rest. What
a pain in the ass we must be to Him
--the rump, I mean. He must be mortified.

Gale Acuff