Between our houses on their own hills we
run to each other to meet halfway at
the Methodist church parking lot where we
exchange comic books. I bought mine last night
with extra money which I earned picking
up stones from the garden. I dropped them in
-to a gallon paint can and toted them to
the side of our gravel driveway, where I
dumped them into bottomless kudzu on
the bank of the highway by our house. Hard
work but worth it to turn my labor in
-to fantasy. In a light rain I bring
Bill what I bought and read the night before
—Justice League of America, Blackhawk,
Metal Men, Challengers of the Unknown,
House of Secrets and House of Mystery.
I swap them for the weekend for Hawkman,
Atom, G.I. Combat, Green Lantern, and
Doom Patrol. We’re standing near the cross
as the rain thickens, pelts like meteors.
Our coats are open; we wrap each other
around, our heads touching. No one can see
what we’re exchanging–it’s like a drug deal
but we’re too young to know about that. Sex
neither. We give ourselves to each other,
it doesn’t take long, and we’re off, back home.
I trust Bill: He won’t fold the covers back
while he devours his; he respects me, too.
Love is good–we don’t call it love. We need
each other. I have what he held, beneath
my coat, safe from the water. He
brought his in the thin paper bag they came
in when he’d purchased. I run up the hill
to my place, recalling his charity
–he offered me protection; I declined,
saying, No, no, man. You can keep the thing.
He slipped my comics into it; they filled
the space of his own, now hugging my chest
and stomach–I’m very small for my age
and he’ll grow to be big like his Air Force
father. We’re both juniors. William E. Nutt,
Jr. Gale G. Acuff, Jr. We’re twins
that way. We live in houses on hills. Twins
again. We both have three siblings. Twins times
three. He’s the oldest kid in his family
–I’m the youngest. That’s not twins but it’s so
opposite that it surely signifies.
I take the magazines to my bedroom,
in the attic. Which one do I read first?
And what’s Bill doing now but wondering
what I’m wondering about? What happened
to us down there, when we traded for what
we already have but never quite seem
to possess? Now I’m sorry we parted
but we had a mission this afternoon
–I was the one who rang him; he picked up
right away and said, Hey, man, I was just
about to call you. We went to K-Mart
and I got new comic books. Didja go
shopping last night like ya’ll usually do?
Yeah, I say, and I’ve read ’em all so let’s
trade if you’re ready. Okay, he says. Meet
me in front of St. Stephen’s but it’s
started to rain so let’s do it real quick.
On my way, I say. I go out the back
door and down the steps and through the garden
–it’s easy when it’s all downhill. He’s there
just when I arrive. That’s when we huddle
and shelter our heroes from rain and cold
though we don’t know irony yet. I’m home
again in five minutes and the world is
what God meant it to be, which is why God
died. And I won’t read them all at once—one
now, one later, the rest after supper.
Then all the letters to the editors
and all the advertisements and once more
through all five to find any good I’ve missed.
And then I’ll read some old comics of mine
that I haven’t read but once, long ago,
and hope Bill feels how I felt the first time
through, how you create something someone else
created for you, until you don’t know
who’s created what. Then I’ll fall asleep
and when I wake I’ll wonder if I’m saved.