Baltar had stuck a pose, legs wide, belly out, and beer cans thrust towards Walter and Dad. Walter slid his shoulder slightly in front of Dad and actually looked like he was enjoying himself. Dad’s eyes looked like they were darting from side to side, but maybe I was projecting that onto him.
Joan leaned over to me. “Now Walter is asking him about how things are going.” Walter did appear to be asking Baltar a question. The first question anyone had really asked him since he had barreled into the backyard. “Walter also knows that Baltar just got dumped by another girlfriend?”
“He did?” I squealed, causing Dad to look over my way. I lowered my voice and studiously looked away from the grill. “I mean, that’s too bad.”
“Mmm,” said Joan. “It is but he’s also an ass. It’s a miracle anyone dates him at all. I don’t think he realized he was going to get dumped when he brought up what a drag Ann was being.”
“Oops,” I said.
So Baltar had served himself, harassed the ladies, and was now making himself at home among the men. There were six of them clustered together as Dad steered Baltar back towards the grill. I wasn’t overly fond of any of them, but they were all pretty bland compared to Baltar. I wasn’t sure if their loyalty to Dad would keep them by the grill or if the would all suddenly remember that they had wives and children at this picnic.
I sipped my soda, wondering how a similar scenario would go down at school. I supposed that I would just stand there, dealing with the jerk and everyone else would go somewhere else. Or maybe even just back up enough to watch me squirm. Sort of like what I was doing right now to poor Dad. But I wasn’t about to suddenly sacrifice myself for Mr. Tube Socks.
I jumped when a hand landed on my head, even though I could see Baltar, and he was on the other side of the yard. Twisting around, I realized Joan had come over to my shady haven. “Can I join you?” she asked.
“Uh, sure,” I replied.
“I like the view,” she said, and grinned at me.
“It’s pretty safe,” I said. “Although, I thought that I would notice anyone trying to sneak up on me.”
“Ha!” snorted Joan. “You discounted the quality of the entertainment.” She gestured at the group of eight men, who were suddenly breaking up like a pack of confused dogs. “Just wait. It’s going to be your dad, Walter, and Baltar in about 2 minutes.”
“Why Walter?” I asked.
“Cause he’s a sweetheart,” replied Joan, smiling. “And he knows your dad will buckle under the pressure.”
Baltar grabbed two beers from the dirty red plastic cooler and walked calmly across the lumpy lawn towards the adults clustered around some lawn furniture. None of them looked in his direction, but I could see several of them assessing the situation out of the corner of their eyes. Joan had her back to Baltar’s approach, and was unable to sidle away from his eager grasping of her shoulder.
Nonetheless, Joan was clearly adept at getting out of unpleasant situations. Without appearing to miss a beat of her conversation with my mom, she slipped to her left, causing Baltar to slosh his left beer down her arm. He looked downright delighted at the possibility of patting Joan down, but instead she seemed to make some sort of apology and fade away towards the house.
I settled in more comfortably to my sagging lawn chair, and popped the top on my Hansen’s lime soda. The adults were going to do something interesting. Joan was by far the most slick of my parents’ crowd, and I’d been both entertained and dismayed by the apparent similarities between by high school lunch hour and their cocktail hour.
Mom appeared to making some sort of welcoming comments to Baltar, who was looking past her to the other ladies of the lawn. I could imagine his insistence that my mother introduce him to her lovely young friends, and my mother’s attempts to shield them.
But the rules of my parents’ relationship are clear, and my dad quickly intervened, attempting to divert Baltar away from the women. Mom greeted Dad with aggravated raised eyebrows and Baltar gave dad a brisk nipple twist. Dad tried to laugh. Baltar drank his beer.
So, after Baltar sent me in the wrong direction for the bathroom, I didn’t actually kill him or even really wish him death for that long. That might have just be typical pre-teenage exaggeration.
But when he showed up at Dad’s birthday party two years later, I definitely shunned him. We were fortunately no longer quite as hippie as we had been two years previously (something about Mom’s new job), but the adults running around in the backyard were embarrassing themselves. They seemed oblivious to their poor choices, but far be it from me to let them know. I just sat quietly off on the side, judging. Or at least that’s what Mom said I was doing. I guess she was right.
Anyway, Baltar showed up after things had been going for a while, but he didn’t let that hold him back from diving into the group. I kind of felt sorry for Dad when I saw Baltar, even though Dad was wearing white tube socks with birkenstocks again. Again.
Baltar first came to my attention when I was 12 and looking for the bathroom. He gave me directions out the backdoor of the restaurant instead to the restrooms, and I ended up peeing behind a dumpster. Since we were saving pee at home for the garden, I wasn’t too weirded out by this. But that didn’t make me like Baltar. And it certainly made me remember him.
Fortunately for him, he had left by the time I got back inside.
The next time I saw Baltar, he was crashing my dad’s 50th birthday party. Dad was pretty gracious about the whole thing, but we knew Baltar had not been invited. I now understand that Baltar was Dad’s college friend that he regretted. But they lived in the same city and accidents happened.
This time I was ready for Baltar, but I still didn’t escape unscathed.