The Gator

By samcfarland All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Thriller

Chapter 1: The First Visit

The ugliest snout in the world poked through the egg as a newborn alligator embraced the world with her presence. Charlie Newcomb had just experienced the miracle of life for the first time and was completely bored out of his mind. He had to pee. The instant the thought came to his mind, it was all he could think about. He really had to visit the lavatory. The little alligator locked eyes with him and opened her mouth. All his thoughts of how much he had to relieve himself vanished in that instant. There was something striking about the newborn creature. He couldn’t help but stare at it and it couldn’t help but stare right back mouth agape.

“She likes you,” Keith Donnelly, one of the two owners of the alligator farm, said beside him.

Charlie looked over the tiny body as it slowly came out of the egg, which broke apart in two. He was trying to understand how something that small, that fragile, could become so huge. Well, he stopped himself. Seven feet wasn’t so huge. It was nothing compared to other animals.

“Would you like to touch her?” Keith asked Charlie bending down and putting his hands on his shoulders.

Laughter burst through the boys in the class like staccato notes. It was completely humiliating. He could tell his face was turning red. Ms. Witcher looked down at them sneering. Middle school was tougher than he had ever imagined it would be.

“How old are you son?” Keith asked taking his hands off of his shoulders.

“I’m, uh,” Charlie paused as his mind went blank. “11!” he burst out pleased with himself for remembering, but immediately regretted saying the number so loudly as more snickers came from his schoolmates.

The tail of the little alligator curled into a perfect spiral. It uncurled and then immediately curled again in the opposite direction.

“Is, is it safe to touch her?” Charlie asked biting his tongue.

“Yeah, completely. I wouldn’t have asked if it wasn’t.”

Ms. Witcher mouthed ‘go on’ reassuring him that everything would be fine. Charlie looked at her while he walked forward towards the opened egg.

The alligator hissed as he walked over towards the counter. It walked over towards him. Keith held the alligator down kneeling down to become eye level with Charlie.

“Go on, you can touch her. She won’t bite.”

“But, but, but she hissed at me,” Charlie stuttered.

“What you don’t like being hissed at?” Keith asked with a chuckle.

Charlie felt tense. He didn’t want to be here anymore and the more he thought about it, the more embarrassed he became having been called out specifically by Keith in front of the class.

“I promise you she won’t bite. Scout’s honor,” Keith said holding up three fingers. “You a part of the Scout’s son?”

Charlie simply shook his head, his eyes never straying from the tiny body Keith was holding down.

“Well I guess that meant nothing to you then…” Keith sighed.

Keith placed his hand on Charlie’s back drawing him closer to the creature. Charlie held out his quavering hand slowly inching closer. Ms. Witcher smiled encouraging him through nonverbals to keep walking forward.

Charlie leaned forward placing a finger on the top of the alligator’s head. He beamed, pleased with himself for facing a fear that he hadn’t known he had five minutes previously. The head tilted up and nibbled on his finger breaking skin. Blood trickled down his index finger. Charlie was unaware that he let go of his bladder at that moment, completely pissing himself, splattering the tiled floor.

Apologies were all Charlie heard for the rest of the afternoon. Keith and his partner kept reassuring him that it was nothing more than a love nibble the same way that a cat or dog would nibble on their owners. That might have been true, but Charlie couldn’t stop thinking about how much it hurt.

The bleeding had stopped. When Keith removed the generic band-aid off his finger, he saw two puncture marks. They didn’t seem that big at all. How was it possible that something so small, that caused so little damage, hurt him so much? When he saw how little damage had actually occurred, he grinned. It was a battle scar. Sure he had lost, but he had touched a living alligator and lived to tell the tale.

“You’ve been so brave. I’m very impressed by how maturely you’ve handled this misfortune, Charlie,” Keith said.

“It doesn’t hurt that bad, not at all actually,” Charlie lied.

Keith’s partner Dax walked in with a change of clothes. “It took some time to find something that would fit you, but I think we finally found it.”

It dawned on Charlie that it wasn’t normal to feel damp down below. He may have faced the alligator head on, but he had peed all over himself in the process. How had he gone this long without realizing that he had peed himself? His classmates would never let this one down. The next couple of weeks at school would be the worst weeks of his life.

“You can go get changed behind the lockers,” Keith said.

Charlie walked across the back room towards the locker hallway. He heard something breathing. Right next to the locker hallway laid a cage. An adult alligator lay asleep in the cage. Charlie got on his knees, his fingers clutching the metal bars of the cage. It opened its eyes. Charlie let his fingers slip quickly off the bars, but didn’t back away. This alligator didn’t hiss and only stared at him for a second.

“Ah, you’ve found our pride and joy,” Dax said behind him. “His name’s Marcus.”


The alligator eyed Charlie upon hearing its name, but quickly lost interest.

“See, he’s not scary is he? Not when he’s got a name like Marcus.”

“No,” Charlie chuckled. “Not at all.”

“Go on, get changed. You don’t want to miss your bus,” Dax said gently pushing him in the direction of the lockers.

The school bus jostled on the dirt path to the main road. The alligator farm wasn’t in season. Ms. Witcher thought things went well, all things considered. Sure there was a little bit of blood spilled, as well as other bodily fluids, but no major damages. Charlie was a quiet boy that never raised his hand in class. He seemed embarrassed, but she knew he was smarter than he was letting on. That was why she had told Keith to call him forward.

She felt guilty. She hoped foolishly that Charlie’s parents wouldn’t cause a fuss, but she knew what they thought of Keith and Dax entering the community. It would definitely cause issues for the alligator farm. She selfishly hoped that she wouldn’t be dragged into it.

Amidst all of the excitement of seeing the animals, the kids couldn’t keep quiet. The bus was abuzz with incessant chatter. She tried to drown it out, focusing instead on the impending confrontation that was bound to happen.

Keith and Dax had assured her that everything would be fine. They had been no strangers to conflict in running an animal farm before. They had fought back and won before, but had been ostracized from the community. They liked this small community too much. Whatever would happen would happen, but she couldn’t help but worry about how it would negatively impact her, let alone Keith and Dax’s business.

Charlie covered his ears. Closing his eyes he tried to dream up a better, safer place for him to be, but the jokes kept coming louder and louder.

“Hey Charlie, spell I cup!” John, who used to be one of his best friends but had mocked him mercilessly all year, shouted at him.

The first time he had heard the joke had been in fifth grade and he had gullibly applied. Phonetically it spelled out: I see you pee. He was never going to live this down. He blamed his parents. They hadn’t wanted him to go to the alligator farm. They were afraid what type of influence it would cause his development, whatever that meant. Charlie had developed a habit of tuning his parents out whenever they talked about his maturing, developing brain.

Stupidly he had convinced his parents that all of his classmates would mock him even more than usual if he weren’t allowed to go on the field trip. That they would’ve gotten over. That they would’ve forgotten entirely but not this. The reassurance he had felt for how brave and mature he had been from the owners was only fleeting, just another leaf blowing in the wind.

Had his parents had any guts to stand firm, he wouldn’t have peed himself. Had he simply gone to his other classes, he wouldn’t have needed to change. That excused absence from his other four classes that day seemed pretty silly in retrospect. It wasn’t his fault that he pissed from fright, nope it was all his parents fault. Part of the blame could be shared with Ms. Witcher who thought of going to the alligator farm in the first place.

“It wasn’t my fault, ok?” Charlie said agitated. “Stop being so annoying, you all are such losers!” he yelled out.

“Charlie!” Ms. Witcher raised her voice.

“Here it comes…” Charlie whispered.

“Keep your voice down,” Ms. Witcher said emphasizing the last two words.

All of the boys in the class snickered.

“She called you out, I cup,” Eddie, another one of his ex-friends chuckled sinisterly.

Charlie banged his head on the back of the seat in front of him.

“Cut it out, will ya?” Meirion, a new kid in the class who simply ignored him for social reasons, turned around scolding him.

He immediately stopped banging his head, apologizing. “I, I, I, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

It was a rude response and didn’t help matters at all. He felt like a fool, just a complete idiot. “You are such an idiot,” he uttered aloud.

The laughter intensified. How had he said that out loud? He hated that he said that to himself all the time at home, but he was very conscious of not saying that at school, but this whole day was whack. He just wanted the bus ride to be over. He just wanted to be inside his house with nobody else. Inside, he just wanted to curl up and die.

Lynn, Charlie’s mother, smiled and waved at him as she picked him up from school. He was wearing a new set of clothes, which she found very odd. A t-shirt with a diagram of an alligator’s anatomy lay on the front. He probably just bought the shirt at the gift shop. Yet the gift shop wasn’t open yet because the alligator farm was off-season throughout the school year.

He buckled his seat belt and just stared out the window.

“How was your day?” she gingerly asked him.

“I don’t want to talk about it now,” he said to his backpack clutching it to his face as he stared out the window, which muffled the sound of his voice.

“Is everything all right?” she asked with concern.

“Just please,” he paused, “please leave me alone.”

Her heart sank. He must have had a terrible day at school and for some reason he didn’t feel comfortable enough to share and let his mother help solve the problem. Immediately jumping towards pessimism, she blamed herself, internally chastising herself for failing as a parent.

Charlie seemed unaware of her presence. He formed an L and placed it right smack on his forehead. Seeing him belittling himself so openly caused her to start crying. Her little boy was struggling and she felt powerless. It was the worst feeling in the world.

Leaving one hand on the steering wheel, she wiped the tears away with her free hand. “I know what will cheer you up!” she attempted to say with as much exuberance as possible, but knowing that she failed to cover up how upset his distress had made her. “Youth group starts up next week,” she said, a haughty nature to her voice.

“Please don’t force me to go…”

“Why not honey? It’s practically been the only thing you’ve talked about for the past three months.”

“Ca-, can we, can we discuss this later?” he stammered.

Ok, she mouthed silently. Her husband, Todd, wouldn’t be happy to see him so distressed either, but he wouldn’t be able to control his temper. Perhaps Charlie was right and this little incident, whatever it was, could be ignored.

The china was set down delicately on the glass oval table in the enclosed deck. The deck had thin netting that was barely noticeable. There was an innate beauty to the deck, but it also felt safe, closed off from the outside world. It was exactly the way Todd liked his household to be. They could behold the beauty of the outside world, but enclosed inside the house he could protect his son from the negative influences of a ‘progressive’ society. He could protect him from a path that would lead him away from God. He never wanted Charlie to feel the pain of a life where God wasn’t the leader of his life. Attempting to lead his own life had only led to heartache and failure.

Todd whipped his handkerchief out placing it on his lap. Gazing at the serene setting around him, he felt at peace, a peace he never felt in the workplace. His family was safe and he was protecting them well. He noticed there were no utensils.

“Charlie!” he beckoned.

Lynn hushed him carrying in the last plate to the table. He felt anger boil inside of him, threatening to overflow. He took a deep breath, said a quick prayer begging the Lord to give him wisdom and peace. Exhaling, he let go of his anger.

Charlie slumped his way to the deck dragging his feet, dread covering his little face. Todd couldn’t help but see Charlie’s newborn eyes looking at him for the first time, but he was no longer that baby and he hadn’t been for a long time. Still, Charlie had the most expressive eyes. He could never hide behind a fabrication.

“Hey buddy, could you please set out the utensils?”

“Honey,” Lynn interrupted, “I asked him to sit this night of chores out.”

Charlie sat down in his usual chair avoiding eye contact. Lynn placed her hand on Todd’s shoulder.

“Oh,” he exhaled. “We can discuss this later,” he added looking up at Lynn patting her hand and kissing it. Charlie grimaced at any form of PDA. Todd let out a slight chuckle.

She walked inside the house. He watched her walk away and gazed while she was washing her hands and picked up a set of utensils. He beamed. He had the best wife ever. He couldn’t care less how nonsensical or unabashedly subjective that sounded. It wasn’t simply his truth, it was an undeniable fact.

It wasn’t longer than a minute before she sat down with them at the table, a personal record for the family, which Todd pointed out to her.

“I’m thankful you’ve paid that close of attention to me all these years,” she said leaning over and kissing him on the lips and then she slapped his cheek mid-kiss.

He turned his head coughing out.

“That’s for being snippy,” she said.

“My dear, you’ve got spunk. Never lose it, ever.”

“Can we just pray already so we can eat?” Charlie burst out.

“Of course, sweetheart,” Lynn smiled at him.

They all linked their hands in a circle over the table. Lynn and Charlie closed their eyes waiting for Todd to begin. “Dear heavenly Father, You give us great joy and bountiful blessings each day. We praise You for protecting little Charlie from harm.”

At this Charlie opened his eyes shaking his head.

“Charlie, close your eyes son. We need to respect our Lord.”

Charlie closed his eyes dejectedly. Todd had to bite his tongue to prevent himself from laughing. Composing himself, he continued, “Thank you Father God for this food placed before us. Please bless this food to our bodies and help us every second of every day to become more and more like You.”

“Amen,” they all said in unison.

Forks and knives clinked off of the china as they all began to slowly eat together. Todd ate several bites of his steak before wiping his chin with his handkerchief. Charlie had barely nibbled on his steak, and Lynn, being a vegetarian, had only prepared fruits and vegetables for her plate.

Todd cleared his throat and asked, “So, Charlie, how was school today?”

“There wasn’t any school today,” Charlie mumbled under his breath. “We had that field trip instead.”

“I’m sorry, I’m confused…” Todd stated.

“Remember dear,” Lynn jumped in, “he went to the alligator farm today. The class trip we all decided was best he went on for social reasons.”

“Oh,” Todd dragged the word out as it dawned on him. “Yeah, I remember now. They’ve poisoned the whole community is what they’ve done.”

“Yes, yes, we’ve already established that,” Lynn said hiding behind her smile. He picked it up instantly.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “This isn’t the place to have that discussion.”


He looked at his wife defeated. “So am I forgiven for my outburst and slander?”

“They seemed nice to me,” Charlie piped in.

Todd noticed his son was wearing a new t-shirt from the alligator farm. “They give that to you?” he asked.

“Yeah…after I pissed myself.”

“Charlie!” Lynn scolded. “Watch your tongue. Newcombs don’t utter such vulgar things at the dinner table.”

“You pissed yourself?” Todd asked.

“Honey!” Lynn harshly whispered. “Stop undermining my authority.”

“I’m sorry, but this is important. What caused you to piss yourself?”

Charlie held his breath, a trick he learned in Kindergarten that usually scared Lynn enough to back off from a conversation he didn’t want to have.

“Please, honey, don’t.”

“That’s not going to work this time, bud,” Todd said with stern authority. “Now you open your mouth and start spilling.”

“An alligator, it, it, it bit me.”

“Oh my god!” Lynn exclaimed.

“Don’t you dare say His name in vain!” Todd screamed at Lynn.

“I’m sorry, forgive me.”

“It’s all right, all is forgiven. It bit you?” he exclaimed.

“It was just a baby alligator. They called me up to pet it and I pet it’s head and it bit me, but it was nothing more than a love nibble, at least that’s what they called it.”

“What the hell are they teaching you kids?” Todd asked.

“Honey, language,” Lynn glared at him.

Todd focused all of his attention on Lynn, boring into her with his glare. She broke eye contact first, backing down. Pleased with himself, he smiled quickly before becoming stone-faced gazing at Charlie.

“Now…” he drew the word out longer than was necessary, “tell me everything. Tell me exactly how that happened.”

“There’s nothing else to tell,” Charlie muttered. “They gave me the t-shirt and I got on the bus.”

“They didn’t tell you anything, nothing personal?”

“No, why would they?”

Todd strummed his fingers on the glass. He had a sense that his son was withholding information, protecting them. Why he would do that was beyond Todd, but then again Charlie was only a little boy. He didn’t know any better but to protect them. That only showcased how genuine and compassionate of a boy he was. He was sensitive too, a trait he got from his mother. It was a trait Todd wished he had more of.

“You’re a little too young to understand that, son, and thank the Lord for that. I just forget how young you are when I look at how big you’ve become.”

“But Dad, I’m the smallest in my class.”

“You’ll understand one day when you have children of your own.”

“Yeah, like that’ll ever happen,” Charlie said under his breath.

“Honey,” Lynn sighed. “Why must you think so little of yourself? Now apologize to your father for your lack of confidence.”

“That’s right, Char, because you’re not being fed this from us.”

“I’m sorry,” Charlie whispered.

“I didn’t hear you,” Todd said in a singsong voice.

“I said I’m SORRY!” Charlie shouted. “Jeez, can you lay off it?”

Lynn slammed her glass of chardonnay onto the glass table. The force she slammed her glass created a spider-web like crack in the table.

“Look what you made me do, Charlie…” she said oozing with disdain. “Now go to your room. You are grounded.”

“No! It was your fault, Mom.”

“Did you or did you not hear your mother?” Todd maniacally whispered. “She...said…go to YOUR ROOM!” he screamed straining his vocal cords.

Charlie picked up his plate and slammed it down on the table. The glass shattered in slow motion in Todd’s mind. Charlie raised a single eyebrow challenging him, daring him to say anything. Turning around, he walked into the house slamming the door to the deck, shutting it with as much force as an 11-year-old boy could muster.

“Where did we go wrong?” Lynn asked petrified.

“It’s nothing, Lynn. Don’t overreact.”

“Overreacting is better than not reacting at all!” she reproached him.

“Oh, whatever Lynn. Don’t you remember how much you fought against your parents when you began middle school? His mind’s developing. He can’t think straight. It’s nothing more than teenage rebellion. Sure, he’s two years early to the party, but he’s always been more mature than his classmates.”

“If you think that’s all this is then you are stupid,” Lynn said getting up from the table pacing around the deck. Tiny shards of glass broke and clinked under her feet. “I think he needs to see a counselor, one outside of the church. They can’t handle something like-”

“No!” he yelled. “No child of mine is seeking help from anyone and I mean ANYONE who does not profess Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. God will help us, Lynn, and He’ll help Charlie. He’s promised us that, hasn’t He?”

“I, I, I guess so,” she paused breathing deeply. “I still think we should-”

Todd walked over to her, placing three fingers on her lips. “There’s nothing to worry about. Charlie is a perfectly normal boy. All that’s happening is that he’s acting out and that’s ok. It’s just teenage rebellion and I’d rather he rebel when he’s in the house than in the real world where we literally cannot protect him from outside influences. We need to protect him now, but if you’d like I could call up Pastor Reid. I’m sure he’d love to chat with Charlie.”

Lynn placed her arms around Todd’s waist. He placed his arms around her shoulders kissing her on the forehead. She kissed him back on the lips.

“Thanks for calming me. You’re right. There’s nothing to worry about,” she said contentedly. “Now, will you help me clean up this glass.”

“I’ve got a better idea.”


“Uh-huh,” he nodded his head. “It involves you and me and a locked bedroom door and no-”

“I think I get the picture,” she interjected. With her index finger, she beckoned him back into the house, leading him towards the master bedroom.

“Be good,” Charlie’s mother waved him off to the school bus. It was so humiliating. Nobody else’s parents were there at the bus stop. Why couldn’t his parents just let him be?

He may be grounded and if he was honest with himself it was for legitimate reasons, but he didn’t care. The only thing he cared about was pushing against his parents and their whacked out ideology. That would be hard though and so far he hadn’t shown any backbone in standing up for himself, besides the table shattering.

“Hey, I cup!”

John and Eddie jeered at him to sit down on the bus in the only empty seat available. He nearly tripped as someone ran into him as he walked down the bus isle.

“What’s your problem, man?” Charlie asked.

“Sorry, I, I almost missed the bus. My alarm didn’t go off this morning.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. It was still no excuse to run at sprint speed knocking the wind out of someone in an enclosed space, like a bus.

“Can I sit with you?” the boy asked.

“Whatever…” he sighed. “Sure, come on, I guess.”

“Thanks. It’s Everett by the way.”

“Charlie,” he said holding out his hand as they sat next to each other.

Silence ensued as the bus traveled on the state highway to school. The bus slowed down to a dead stop in the middle of the highway.

“Well, that’s new,” Everett said. “I’ve never been in a traffic jam on the way to school before.”

“It’s new to us too, man.”

The intercom fizzled on. “Apparently an 18-wheeler overturned. Everybody’s ok, but they’ve locked down this side of the highway. We’re just gonna have to wait this one out.”

The entire bus erupted into cheers and applause.

“I hope none of you has to tinkle,” the bus driver chuckled.

The moment the bus driver clicked off the intercom, Everett crossed his legs. Charlie couldn’t believe it, the boy had to pee.

“Don’t tell me. You really have to run to the potty now that he said that, don’t you?” Charlie asked laden with sarcasm.

“No, not at all. This is just how I normally sit. You’re a bit of an overthinker, aren’t you Charlie?”

“No,” Charlie replied miffed. His mind started racing. What exactly had Everett meant by that question? He was judging him already and he had literally just met him. “What is your problem man?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Why did you have to ask me that? Now I can’t stop thinking about whether I over think everything or not, which I don’t by the way. I don’t know what gave you that idea.”

Everett smirked. “So it is true?”

“Can you stop? Would you just shut up already?”

“Why can’t you just admit it?”

“Because it’s not true, all right?” Charlie yelled.

“Hey!” the bus driver yelled. “Keep your voices down or I’m gonna have to write you up.”

“I’m sorry, sir. It won’t happen again,” Charlie instantly apologized lowering his voice. Turning back toward Everett, he said, “Now, do you see what you made me do?”

Everett raised his eyebrows at him.

“You’re something else, you know that?”

“I just don’t like getting in trouble, what’s wrong with that?”

Everett sighed agitated. “There’s nothing wrong with that, in theory, but you take it to a whole other extreme. Why do you have to be so sensitive about everything?”

“I am not sensitive about everything.”

“Ok, here we go again…” Everett withdrew.

“Fine, if you don’t want to talk to me, then the feeling’s reciprocated.”

“Reciprocated? That’s a big word.”

“You think?”

“Hey Charlie, come on man. I never said I didn’t want to talk with you. You’re very interesting to me. You’re quite fascinating and I don’t exactly know why. I’d love to continue to chat with you.”

Charlie exhaled slowly trying to calm down. He wasn’t sure why he got worked up over something so small, something so stupid. Everett was just trying to get to know him. Always on the defensive, Charlie tried to tear down the wall that blocked him from truly being himself around other people.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what I-”

“Stop. Don’t apologize. You don’t ever have to apologize to anyone, especially not to me for something so minimal it’s practically nonexistent. Simply learn from your mistakes and move on.”

“We cool?” Charlie asked timidly.

“We never weren’t.”

Charlie strummed his fingers on the top of the seat before him. Everett eyed him intensely. Charlie stopped beginning to feel self-conscious about every little thing.

“Are you going to watch everything that I do?”

“Just trying to pass the time.”

“Yeah, well, it’s starting to creep me out, ok?”

“Whatever,” Everett conceded.

“That’s more like it.”

Silence permeated the left side of the bus. The right side was still abuzz with conversation, but the left side, the geek side, remained still, quiet, and attentive. Charlie couldn’t sit still. He couldn’t handle the silence.

“What are you planning on doing this afternoon?”

Everett shrugged. “I don’t have any plans. This is my first day of school here and it’s the final week. I don’t have any friends yet, I just got here late last night.”

“Why are you only attending school for one week?”

“It was my uncle’s idea. He’s insane. He just thought it would do me good socially to be in school, especially at the end when everyone’s the happiest. That’s a crock if you ask me. Back home we finished school 3 weeks ago. Nobody wants to extend their middle school experience.”

“Yeah, you’d have to be psycho to want to do that.”

“What about you?” Everett prompted.


“What are you planning on doing this afternoon?”

Charlie thought a moment. He stared at the traffic beside the bus. A couple was making out, a passenger was snoozing, while another car saw a man thrusting his head back and forth to what he assumed to be a beat. He bit his tongue in an attempt to prevent a smile adorning his face. He gazed at one more car. Keith and Dax sat in the car apparently bickering with each other. The gears inside his mind began to turn.


Everett snorted. “That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all year.”

“What? I’m being serious.”

Everett laughed harder. “Come on man. You could never rebel. You don’t seem the type.”

“Oh and you could?”

“You betcha. How do you think I ended up here in this shithole for the summer?”

Charlie gasped. Everett raised a single eyebrow at him flustered.

“You cursed,” Charlie whispered.

“Wow…” Everett dragged the word out. “Ok, you do what you have to, you big rebel you,” he tacked on sassily.

“You really don’t like Midvale, huh?”

“What do you think, rebel boy?”

The bus inched forward gaining momentum by the second. The entire bus groaned as the bus made it’s final 3 mile stretch to school.

Charlie knocked on the door. He waited a beat before he pounded using the side of his hand. All of his anger, his insecurities, and his insanely low self-esteem had led him here. It was the only place that he felt truly comfortable, at least within the past week. He didn’t know why he was drawn here, but there was a calm. No one seemed to hide anything here, a quality none of his peers at school, and especially at church seemed to replicate.

He pounded on the door one last time, waited a couple of seconds and then turned around dejectedly. They must not be in at the moment, and while his heart dropped, he was ok with it. He would come back tomorrow and try again. The door opened slowly.

“Hello?” Keith asked.

Charlie turned around standing dormant.

“Charlie?” Dax asked standing beside Keith.

“Charlie, what are you doing here?” Keith asked.

“Ca-, ca-, can we, can we talk?”

“Sure,” Dax said opening the door fully.

“Come inside,” Keith said placing his hand on Charlie’s back ushering him in.

Charlie walked inside the alligator farm while Dax closed the door behind him.

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