by Gale Acuff
At Lecroy’s Service Station my father
buys me a Coke and a Zero bar while
Furley, the mechanic’s helper, changes
the oil in our ’57 wagon.
I have no money until Father gives
some to me, a dime for the soda and
a nickel for the chocolate. They’re good
—I don’t get many sweets at home, but every
6000 miles or so I get a treat
here at the gas station. Full service. That
means if you buy gas they wash the windshield,
pop the hood, check the oil and battery
and the radiator. They’ll check the tires,
too, if you ask them. I sit on a stool
and listen to my father and the men
he calls Boys talk politics—JFK
and Cuba and those good cigars you can’t
buy anymore, and the Bomb—the Big One—
and the Commies in Russia and China
and Khrushchev and Chairman Mao. They’re
smoking Lucky Strikes—LSMFT
it says on the package—Lucky Strikes Mean
Fine Tobacco—and then tease me about
whether I have a girlfriend yet. No, sir,
I say. I’m only six years old. Plenty
of time for gals, says Mr. Lecroy. No
rush. In his office there’s a calendar
—I’ve seen it—of a pretty girl without
a shirt. It’s August. I’ll bet there’s a girl
for every month. But out here we’re all men,
squatting on stools or leaning against walls,
talking about the world, though I listen,
mostly. I have to respect my elders.
I speak only when I’m spoken to. That’s
how they bring me up at home. No back-talk.
No interrupting. No foolishness. That’s
what men do. She has black hair, that lady
in Mr. Lecroy’s office, on the wall.
She’s on the beach in just her underwear.
Her lips are red and her eyebrows are thin.
She looks friendly. She doesn’t miss her shirt,
either. The sea behind her is as blue
as blue eyes, and the blue sky is lighter
blue, like the blue of blue skin when someone’s
choking or trying to breathe, the air knocked
out of them when they least expect it and
they’re surprised that breathing is so hard
until the get their breath again. Her name
is Miss Eve and she’s brought to you by those
fine folks at Service Station Supply, Inc.
I wonder if her mother knows she’s there,
topless on the beach and everyone who
goes into the office can’t miss her if
they look on the wall, next to the clock. I
wonder if she’s lonely. I sure am, not
really a man and going to be a boy
for many years. And she’s just a girl but
a real healthy one. And there’s a Bible
Stories for Children on the table in
this lobby. Also some comic books but
I read them last time I was here. I think
about God a lot. I’m still pretty young
but I’ve got a soul, same as anyone,
and I can go to Heaven, if I’m good,
and Jesus died for me and Miss Eve, too,
and my father, and all the other men.
That’s why it’s okay for a naked girl
to be on the wall, because Jesus saves
and God forgives and Father wears a tie.
Grown-ups are old enough to do bad things
—that’s fair enough. But just let Father catch
me eyeing Miss Eve and I’ll be punished
—he didn’t say so but I won’t gamble.
For someone naked she’s sure got gumption.
I like her plenty but don’t know how much.