Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, 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). He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.
I make good grades in school so when we eat out on Friday nights and do some shopping, Father and Mother and I, I get my allowance--a quarter--after dessert. It will buy me two comic books at twelve cents each, and a penny for the sales tax. I excuse myself as my parents light their after-supper cigarettes and sip their second cups of coffee--I'm free now and out for some Friday night adventure at the drug store next to the restaurant. It's 1967--the comics are on the magazine rack, but lower than Photoplay and Newsweek and McCall's, Saga, Argosy, and True and Redbook. That's good, because I'm small for my age and can never reach the comics that high up. I like my heroes in groups--you get more good guys that way, and often more action, so I'm looking for the Justice League, and the Legion of Super Heroes, starring Superboy, who shatters the barrier of time to the thirtieth century from his own pre-World War 2 twentieth. I look through all the comic books, then take those two, and find my parents, shopping for bargains at the Rich's department store. Actually, Mother's shopping--Father sits in a chair by a full-length mirror and tries to keep his eyes open. I walk into the store and see twofathers, mine and the one in the mirror, both alike but not identical. In the mirror do our reflections take on lives of their own? Somehow the ones in the looking glass are invulnerable, can copy us, and maybe even live forever, but if they die when we do where's the body? For all I know they can fly, to boot, but clear through the time barrier, streak across the universe--universes?--and go on always. That's as good as being dead and gone to Heaven, I suppose. I love both fathers. One of them loves me or maybe both do. I don't want to wake either one but I want to see if I've scuffed my shoes, which we bought last week--one for ten dollars and the other one we'll throw in for free, said the shoe salesman, laughing. A hokey gag if I've ever heard one. They're for church and going out in public so I must be careful not to drag my feet or walk in mud puddles or dog crap. So I see in the mirror my alter ego and I guess that he sees me, too, and maybe thinks, I see my alter ego out there --in there?--too. But Mother calls to Father and me that she's ready to leave and he opens his eyes and yawns and his double does, too. When he sees me--I mean Father One, not Father Two--he says, Hello, Sport. Then we follow Mother out and I take one of her packages and Father grips the other and we flank her as we walk out into the parking lot. Our spacecraft --the old Merc, I mean--is out there somewhere. I'm the first to spot it so I sing out. I crawl into the back--it's a two-door --and Father drives us home. The sun's down and the baseball game's on the radio and I listen for a while--I'm saving my heroes for bedtime, when I put on my pj's --my uniform, I guess--and get in bed and read about people who don't exist, and follow their exploits as if they do. I figure that what makes Superboy strong is his secret identity--Clark Kent --and not earth's lighter gravity or rays from a yellow sun. No, it's what his folks did for him--found his little spaceship and adopted him and showed him how to use his powers and encouraged him to do good. My parents are like Ma and Pa Kent in that way, and although I'm not super I can still fight evil, even if good is sometimes a lot less interesting. I must use my powers just for what's right. I hope my mirror image does the same but I guess I'll never know. If he's bad he'll still need me, else he'll never grow up. I watch my father shave one day and ask Is that you in there, or are you out here? Whom are you addressing, Sir, he asks me. But they both ask me. And four of us laugh.