Shirley Jackson's short story, "Charles," many times, leaves readers utterly surprised. On Monday, Laurie gets home late from school, blaming his lateness on Charles--a little boy who is constantly getting in trouble.
Laurie tells his mother that Charles had been yelling in school. Curious about what was going to happen, many of the other students stayed after school to see what else Charles may do. Laurie was late because he stayed after school to see what Charles would do next.
While this is the story Laurie told his parents, Laurie is actually Charles. Laurie uses Charles to be able to tell his parents about his behavior, but not to let them know that he is the one being bad. Therefore, Laurie was actually late because he was forced to stay after school for yelling (not Charles, a name Laurie has created to define his alter ego).