Inflation by Gale Acuff
In church today when the collection plate
was handed around and at last came to
me it was all I could do to let fall
my quarter, my parents’ quarter really,
they don’t go to church themselves but send me
for the morals, they say, and sleep late, still
in their robes when I get home for lunch, which
is a breakfast really, scrambled eggs and
Tang. And coffee and cigarettes, which I
can’t have but just wait until I’m older
and then watch my smoke. I hold onto it
’til the last little tick of a second,
the quarter I mean, since it signifies
two comic books at twelve cents apiece plus
the leftover penny for Georgia tax,
or five candy bars or a hamburger
and fries at the Dairy Dip or maybe
twenty-four pieces of bubble gum and
twenty-five if I don’t buy them all at once
and then lose a piece to the government.
Thou shalt not steal, that comes from the Bible
and Miss Hooker, my Sunday School teacher,
who was talking about it and the other
Commandments. Ten there are, as I recall,
but I can’t remember the rest, something
about adultery, though I’m not sure
what that is, and don’t covet thy neighbor’s
wife, which sounds dirty but I don’t know why
and I was halfway into a yawn when
Miss Hooker gave the definition so
I missed that, what covet means, I mean. I
know that covey mean some quail and Willie
McCovey hits a lot of homers for
the Giants. Oh, yeah: Honor thy father
and thy mother. I try. They send me here
to the church, and if I wanted to be
a pissant about it I could say that
they’re trying to bribe God for not coming
themselves. Still, a quarter is a quarter
though not what it used to be, sighs Father.
No, it sure isn’t, Mother agrees. I
don’t know, I’m only 10 and they grew up
during the Great Depression but they need
to get modern, it’s 1966
for Christ’s sake. When I’m their age I hope I’m
dead so I don’t bother my own kids with
stories about my pain in the past. If
the plate came back around anyway I might
pinch my quarter back, or at least take some
change for it, a dime and a nickel, say.
That would still be a sin but less of one.
I take that back–it would still be a sin
and even though God is two-bits richer
I’ll still go to Hell for being greedy
even when I swapped out greed for silver.
If Miss Hooker’s right and one day Jesus
is coming back it can’t be too soon for
a wicked little sinner like myself.
Still, last month’s Batman was the first part of
a two-parter but it looks like I’ll miss
out on what happens although I think he’ll live
but I want to know how he’ll live, how he
escapes, how he does it–that’s real living.
But that’s why they call it sacrifice and
I guess that’s why God had Jesus dangle
on the Cross until He gave up the ghost,
Jesus I mean, not God–or is it both?
–so that I don’t miss anything in life
or at least I don’t notice or if I
do I won’t care. I wish Reverend Horlock
would shut the Hell up and just cue the choir
for one last song so we can all go home.
At least I’m sitting behind Miss Hooker.
She’s got freckles on her neck, too, and her
red hair just above her collar looks as
soft as the fur on a mouse’s belly
or the down on a chick or the fuzz on
a peach. I’m so hungry I could eat her.