Gale Acuff

 

Temptation

I brought an apple to my teacher at
Sunday School, Miss Hooker. I kept it in
my jacket pocket until after class
so none of the other kids could see me
give it to her after the lesson. It
weighed me down a little on one side, my
left side, where I stowed it, close to my heart,
or closer, at least than my right pocket
and there’s not much room in it, anyway,
what with my penknife and chewing gum and
a napkin left over from Burger King
and a couple of acorns, big ones, with
little caps on them, hope they don’t fall off,
and a key that I found that fits a door
and whoever lost it, I hope he’s got
a spare. Or she. And twenty-seven cents
in mostly pennies. It’s a big apple
to make me favor my left side against
a pretty hefty sum in my right, and
red, and red’s a color that looks heavy
to me, and a stem so thick you could write
with it, almost, and even two leaves big
enough to cover Adam and Eve
down there where you’re not supposed to see them
until you’remarried, I guess, maybe
old enough to look at people naked,
whatever age that is–16 maybe.
I’m just 9 so I have, let’s see, seven
more years to see what a woman looks like
underneath unless I find out through some
sin, though I admit I’ve checked the World Book
Encyclopedia but those pictures
are of the insides of people, women and
men, and I don’t care to see into things
so true. If I had Superman’s X-ray
vision I might use it to look through walls
or clothes but only once or twice to see
if it’s working. Any more and I’ve sinned
and I don’t want to go to Hell, even
if I get to wait ’til after I die.
It wasn’t easy, walking up to her,
Miss Hooker I mean, with my present, and
not just because I could get it barely
out of my pocket, it was so big and
felt even bigger, as if it had grown
inside me, maybe like a baby if
that’s where they come from, inside a woman
I mean, not a pocket. And I dropped it
almost, but caught at it with both hands. Whew.
Miss Hooker had her back turned, erasing
the board. I stood behind her, cleared my throat,
and must have surprised her because she whirled
to me and cried Oh! I held it to her
with both hands and said, Miss Hooker, I brought
you this apple and I hope you like it.
Why thank you, Gale, she squealed. That was too kind.
When she took it from me, with her left hand,
which is, as we know, the one nearest our
heart, some of her fingertips touched mine, or
some of them, and I can tell you which ones,
she held it toward the light in the east
window and said, I don’t think I’ve ever
seen a finer specimen. No, I said,
it’s an apple. She laughed and her laughter
made it sound as though there was no such thing
as sin, at least in our little classroom,
or that if there was we’d still have no fear.
And when I pulled the knife from my pocket
and offered to cut her a slice of it
she said, No, I’ll just eat it as it is,
and brushed it against her chests a few strokes
and then bit right into it as if I
didn’t want a piece myself, and wasn’t
hungry, and didn’t want to share the pain.

 

 

 

 

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, 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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