THE best description for Baz was foster uncle. It’s the title best fitted to a male mentor you crave, who was moody and sometimes volatile. He was never physically violent although like any man with a rude boy threatened to be so at times.
In the early days of foster care he had an Indian friend called Bert who owned a large property down the road from us. He was probably the first Hindu I met.
We went to Bert’s property once where I planned to earn some cash by filling in a dam with sawdust. I would get $10 for the work which took at least three hours. We had tea and banana cake in Bert’s caravan before we got started.
I hated banana. I refused the cake.
“Chris, it’s very rude of you to refuse,” Baz glared at me, but I didn’t comprehend the sensibilities of Indian hospitality. I was too fussy.
Like many of Baz’s few friendships I knew of, it soured. They got into an argument over some chooks, or over money Bert should have paid, or something like that. Baz threatened legal action.
I never knew Bert too much, but his presence and relationship with Baz affected the little things, from my social life at school to the events of my mortifying 12th birthday party. And the only thing more embarrassing than my 12th birthday party, was my 13th.
One time for some reason Bert’s family invited me to stay at their house. His wife cooked me hot dogs for dinner after asking Hazel what I liked.
I still don’t know why this invitation came out but it was random. It was a one time thing. I only remember the hot dogs, Bert’s wife cooking them, and Whats in the Box playing on the TV the next morning.
I left the house in the small town. It was round the corner from school. Two doors down one of my popular school friends came out. He saw me at the ‘token hindus’ house’ and smirked about it later. Even then in the early millennium the world around me seemed so white-centric, even if not quite nuclear or stable.
When I went home that next night Hazel asked what I had for dinner. “hot dogs.”
She gasped. “I told them that’s what you liked. But they are Hindus. They did a really nice thing for you there, Chris.”