I took one for the team yesterday.

I spent almost three hours with Buster’s dad, Lard, Lard Ass Hole.

This is a guy who stood in my freshly landscaped backyard, the place where I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours in the past few months, day and night, hoisting boulders and moving earth, and he told me, as if he has any authority on the subject, that he though shredded bark mulch would be better for my yard than pine straw. He also said it was a shame the tree removers left the stumps so high and it’s too bad the color of the rocks in this area aren’t prettier.

Lard, Lard Ass Hole.

This is a guy who barks at his son during meals so loudly that it makes Trish jump. I almost bought into it, and started wondering if I was doing my daughter, at 2, a disservice by not demanding that she stop crawling around under the table at meals, and that she ask to be excused. Sure, we need to teach her manners, but hey, she doesn’t do anything I don’t wish I could do and get away with.

Buster (not his real name) is about six months older than Ella. As you might expect, he’s a very well mannered kid (his father printed cards for him that read “Buster ____, Gentleman. For play dates, call ____.” Cute, right? Except when it’s pretentious). He’s a neat kid. His mom, Dharma (NHRN) is very nice, kind of a groovy chick, the apparent opposite of Lard. She used to be a massage therapist, before she had Buster, and I once asked her if she was going to work again, and practically yelled, “she better not!” The same thing happened when I suggested their new puppy come play with our dogs. “Not any time soon!” Lard. Lard Ass Hole.
Dharma and Trish met at one of the regular story times in the area soon after we moved here, and Ella and Buster hit it off. They had recently moved here from the New York area. Lard is in a business similar to mine. He worked in Manhattan, and judging by the number of names he manages to drop he was either fairly successful or deeply embedded in someone’s rectum.

He’s a #@!*ing authority on every #@!*ing thing in the #@!*ing universe, according to him. He’s been every #@!*ing where in the country, allegedly. Yesterday he said he’d been in our old neighborhood in Nashville, despite never mentioning it in any of our previous dozen or so conversations about the town. I don’t when this guy’s shoveling shit or telling the truth, but there’s usually a certain earthy aroma in the air when he talks.

Trish had scheduled Sunday’s train ride with Buster and Dharma. His father’s presence would be tentative. So, we arrive at the train depot — one of those old renovated trains run by retired old farts who don’t play golf — early to buy our tickets. It’s a popular experience. They were late, because Lard decided at the last minute to join us, and I suppose it took him a while to look casually mussed.

Ella hasn’t really said much to Lard before. She’s only now coming out of her shyness toward men. But he really makes me uncomfortable. At Halloween, when he met us for the first time, he stared at Ella and said, “wow, she’s really something.” It’s one thing for a guy to say that if he’s over 70, or gay, or to say it and move on. But he dwelt on it. I haven’t figured out how to tell him that if he touches my daughter I’m going to break his nose with his own hand, without its becoming a big deal.

On Sunday he made a few comments about Ella’s haircut and said, “are you pretty?”

What? Out of what colonic crevice does someone pull that comment? I should have said something then. But saying something without calling him a #@!*ing moron is challenging.

He knows I don’t like him. He told Dharma, and she, in turn, told Trish. The way Trish tells it, Dharma was being apologetic.

Regardless, the train ride was going fairly well. He stayed on his side of the aisle, we stayed on ours. Then Dharma asked us if we wanted to go to lunch afterward.

Trish piped up and said, “sure” before she saw the look in my eyes that said I’d rather go home and rip out my toenails with my teeth.

So I spent another hour with this guy, across a table, listening to him moan about liking “a picante over a salsa.” At one point I must have had one of those “you are such a #@!*ing moron” expressions on my face, because I noticed Dharma looking at me, expecting to see one of those “you are such a #@!*ing moron” expressions.

Sometimes Dharma looks like she’s trying to find a way out. Trish thinks so. It’s odd. Lard works from home now, as a consultant, and Trish has stopped going over there when he’s home. Sometimes Dharma creates a play date just to get away. Poor Buster.

If there was a silver lining to Sunday, it was this: At times listening to Lard was like seeing the ghost of Christmas past, and realizing that sometimes I can act like an ass. Not a complete Lard Ass Hole, but an ass. Kind of like seeing pictures of myself as a kid wearing red Toughskins jeans and realizing how wrong the 70s were.