My Daddy is the man in the hat.
When the neighborhood kids ask about my Mama being single, that is what I tell them, shuffling them into my closet where I have a movie poster of an old cowboy hidden, tacked up on the wall behind my gingham dress and the white frock I wore only once, at communion. The man in the poster is what my Mama would call “rugged,” with a dark moustache and a fedora shaded over his eyes.
“Why you got him in here?” Jimmy asks, sniffling. His nose is always runny and I make sure not to touch his hands or sleeves, because he doesn’t have any manners and wipes his snot on places where they shouldn’t be.
“Because Mama would cry if she saw him,” I say and elbow him over when he tries to paw at where Daddy has a small cleft, right on his chin. I tell Jimmy what I don’t tell the others – that Daddy was an outlaw, a wanted man, and that he’s on the run and he can’t send me letters or telegrams on account of the FBI.
Jimmy’s eyes grow large and wide, and he looks at the poster, and then at me, in a queer special way.
At school the next day, he pulls his baseball cap low over his brow in the cafeteria when we pass by each other during lunch. I give him a solemn nod, like he’s a cowboy saying “Howdy,” and I’m the schoolteacher who he’ll end up romancin’.