Upper Room

by Gale Acuff

In Sunday School today Miss Hooker said 
that no man knows when he’s going to die 
so he’d better be prepared. I slogged home 
and slouched into the kitchen and sat down 
at the table for lunch, bacon and eggs 
and grape Tang, and Sanka and Lucky Strikes 
for my parents, the Sunday newspaper 
between them on the other side. How was 
church today, Father asked, without looking 

  1. Yes, said Mother, lighting a Lucky.
What did you learn today? I start to cry 

into my scrambled eggs. I can’t stop and 
my sobs leap to howls. What the Hell is wrong, 
asks Father. I think he’s looking now but 
I don’t look back. What’s the matter, Honey, 
Mother asks. I find my napkin and blow 
my nose. I need to wipe my eyes but I 
should’ve done that first and I can’t see to 
find another napkin. Oh, I don’t know, 
I wail–I just feel bad, I guess. Jesus 

wants you to be happy, Mother says. Right 
says Father. Listen to your mother there. 
I finish eating and go to my room, 
in the attic. It’s like an upper room, 
I guess. I undress and put on my new clothes 
I guess that I’m old wine in a new skin, 
or am I more like new wine in an old? 
I lie on my bed, look at the ceiling, 
and hope it will open into Heaven 
–suddenly it’s dark because I’ve fallen  

asleep. There’s nothing inside me but night 
and if I dream I don’t remember it. 
Then I’m awake and my eyes are new so 
the ceiling’s even brighter, so I’ve made 
it, almost–I’m damn near on the verge of 
going to Heaven but it’s not my time 
yet but at least I’m getting closer. I 
go downstairs. Father watches baseball on 

  1. Mother’s lying on the couch. Both
are asleep. Everything belongs to me now,
at least until they wake. And when they do 
I’m going to treat them as though they’ve been 

resurrected. And I’m going to touch 
them to see if they’re real. And if they are 
I’m going to go down on my knees and 
tell them that I love them and beg them 
to forgive me and when they ask What for? 
I’ll say, I don’t know–I’ll think of something.