His name was Jimmy Charles, and he was the first man I met who made me hate men.

My daddy was leaning against the hood of his jewel, his 1975 Chevy Camaro, with a grimace that could’ve killed a puppy. Camp had just let out, and it was hot outside. My shoes stuck to the pavement as I walked over to him. When daddy was in a bad mood, there wasn’t anything that could be done. This was different. He was silent and small, like a lion watching its prey. Daddy had sweat dripping down the side of his face. The stereo was flicked off, and the engine revved to a steady hum. When we slid into our spot outside our house, we sat. I felt like we were in a hot air balloon, the one daddy and mommy took me to for my last birthday. The air inside daddy’s jewel kept getting thicker, and daddy kept sweating. I began to wonder what we were waiting for. Was someone coming out? Or were we going in? After sitting for what felt like a long time, I got out of the car and looked at the house. It looked the same; the grass had been cut today. I walked up the steps to the screen door that kept the summer bugs away and saw the inside door was left open. Daddy said to never leave the door open cause you never know who could walk in. I looked back to daddy and saw him watching me from the windshield. The sweat was in his eyes now. I went inside and heard a voice I didn’t recognize: dark and deep, and daddy said to never trust a stranger. Then I heard mommy’s laughing from the kitchen, so I followed it. My mommy was standing by the stove with a dress on that had no sleeves, cooking something good. When she realized I was there, she stopped laughing. Then I heard the dark and deep voice and looked at the man who was seated at the table. “Hello, sweetie. My name’s Jimmy Charles.”

Story by Aria Middleman

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