School Spirit
by Gale Acuff
Gale Acuff

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Adirondack Review, Worcester Review, Defined Providence, Brownstone Review, Danse Macabre, Maryland Poetry Review, South Carolina Review, Poem, Carolina Quarterly, Florida Review, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, and many other journals. She has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).

Sometimes on weekends I walk to my school
to see what it's like when nobody's there
and I can have the place all to myself,
no students, no teachers, no principal.
Sometimes a door is left unlocked and I
can walk right in and make myself at home
but I don't—it's too much like church in there.
I could write bad words on the blackboards
or go through the teachers' desks for money
or squirt-guns or comic books but that's too
easy and no fun when they can't fight back.
No, it's enough to know I'm the only
one here now. I feel like a night watchman
but of course it's daytime. I go outside
and walk clear around the school and then to
the playground. I'm not very good at sports
but this morning there's no competition
so I sprint up and down the field and slide
into second base, then third, then steal home
with the winning run. With no classmates now
I can hear the cheers. I brush the dust off
my jeans and tip my cap to the girls. Then
I walk back home. My folks sit on the porch
and listen to the radio, and smoke,
and sip chicory. Where you been, boy,
Father says—it's not really a question
and he's looking at the highway. Nowhere
, I say. Answer you father, son,
says Mother. I did, I say. Yes, she says,
but insufficiently. Yes, Father says
—insufficiently. I've been at the school,
I say. On Saturday morning, he asks.
Why not, I say. It's a lot quieter
when no one's there.
I'd think so, Mother says.
Yes, Father says. When I grow up, I say,
I'm going to be a janitor. Oh,
Mother says. Well, Father says, if you don't
bring home better grades than you do, then that's
a good idea. He laughs. Mother frowns. I

hang my head. I'm not a good student and
I flunked third grade last year but just because
I don't make good marks doesn't mean I don't
like the place. I don't get you, Father says.
Yes, Mother says—I don't get you. I don't

answer, just go to my attic bedroom
and lie down and stare at the ceiling. I
raise my hand and write up there I love you.

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