Ballard is a gregarious, even puppy-like Englishman. A local construction worker of some repute, he's also Katrina's brother-in-law. Our paths have crossed perhaps a dozen times. The first encounter was at Katrina's house some 15 years ago, when he drove up, identified me as a friend he hadn't met yet, marched straight toward me with his hand extended and announced "Hullo! I'm Ballard!"
A few months later, I joined Katrina's family at a Mariners game. Ah, there was my new friend Ballard, extending his hand affectionately.
"Hullo! I'm Ballard!"
Oh. "We've actually met," I said.
"Oh! Of course! Sorry 'bout that, mate!"
A few weeks later, we met at the exact same landmark for the exact same reason.
"Hullo! I'm Ballard!"
And so it went. The more effort I put into being worth remembering, the worse it got. I tried renouncing the queen once, but as Ballard himself pointed out, Americans pretty much have already put that issue to bed, so this wasn't all that memorable.
And then finally, at Katrina's wedding, he didn't introduce himself. We joked around as old friends do, roasting the bride and groom, but then Ballard got down to business of seating me.
"So, are you a guest of the bride or groom?"
No long after, the Approval Whore (let's give her a pseudonym: Gladys Kravitz) bought a house that needed some repairs. I recommended Ballard. Perhaps if he associates me with cash...
"Hullo, I'm Ballard!"
Yeah, yeah. That construction project ended up lasting longer than my relationship, so I never saw its end. (Since that time, Ballard's bought a new home and become a new father. "Hullo, I'm Ballard!" I imagine him saying to his child every morning. But no, I'm told it's not much of an issue with anyone but me.)
Ballard is redoing my deck this week, and he's clearly been coached.
"Hullo....(straining, glancing at palm)...JOHN!"
Over beers last night, he recounted where, in his mind, we first met seven years ago. "You used to date...Gladys. Gladys Kravitz. Right?"
Katrina would probably be displeased if I stab him in the eye. Probably. But what if instead I—
"I felt bad for her. What started out as this simple little repair became redoing her entire sunroom." And then he recounted with astounding clarity every detail of her house. Every fixture, every beam. And every conversation he'd ever had with Gladys. My god, I hope she stiffed him.
"Did you have any problem getting her to pay you?"