Fountain City, Tennessee, 1964

by Gale Acuff

At the end of her street is a dead end,
Grandmom says. I want to see it, I say.
There’s nothing to see, she says. I want to
see what nothing looks like, I say. She laughs
but I don’t know why. I want to hit her
for laughing at me, for laughing at all,
whatever the reason. Don’t make me mad,
I think, but I don’t say it because she
might not take me to the end to see what
an end that’s dead can do and I’m not brave
enough to go there by myself. Maybe
when I’m a little older. I’m 7
now, not a baby, but not a grown child.
We’re walking and holding hands, or she holds
mine. If she lets it go it will fall to
my side. I’d hold hers back but I’m afraid
of her, I’m not sure why, maybe because
she’s so old. She can’t walk very fast. I
could break free and run ahead. I’d hear her
calling me. I’d probably ignore her
and see what the dead end looks like.
Tell me, what does a dead end look like?
I don’t mind dying – I’ve been dead before
is what I’d like to say but you won’t hear
me say it and neither will I – oh, I’ll
hear me saying it but I won’t listen
and neither will you and this is why folks
are equal, for at least one reason, they
don’t give a damn about their fellow men
or women – fellow women – is it just
me, I I should say, who thinks so? I told
Father how I felt but he was busy
with pro football on the idiot box
and told me to go tell Mother halfway through
a Coke commercial, I mean Father was
halfway through, not Mother, and so was I,
I mean since I was with Father, so I
found Mother in her room with the other
TV and some program about llamas
in South America but the volume
down, I guess that helped her look better, watch
I mean – view I mean – so I asked why
if we’re all supposed to get along so
many of us kill one another and
are killed in turn and she replied, Well, I
don’t know, Gale, but somehow
death brings us all together,
which was a pretty clever
answer to be so stupid and heartless
but I didn’t say that, so I took it
to the Lord in prayer – I mean to my
Sunday School teacher, Miss Hooker, I asked
her why folks are so good to other folks
but horrible, or is it horrid, I’m
not sure, I’m only ten years old so what
can I really know about evil and
Miss Hooker replied – wouldn’t you know –
Let’s take it to the Lord in prayer.

Grandmom still saying
At the end is a dead end.  There’s nothing to see.

Photo by Cristian Newman