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Gaius Baltar


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As a young lad, I would often run to the top of the small hill to the east of my family's house, with a model of the Apollo spacecraft in hand, pretending I was transiting to the moon , and then returning to earth by splashing down in the creek just to our west. I was exuberant and full of energy in my youth, a typical toxic american male, and would often take off across the pasture or down to the creeks in bare-feet, running thorough the trees and across the gravel without a care in the world. I did not think of the act as an action, I was just living. Oh to be young again.

Fast forward a few years and I was in a cold, wet gymnasium with a sadist as a physical education teacher. The task here was to sprint, as fast as possible, to the lines of the basketball court, touch the line with your hand, and then sprint back as fast as you could. First you would run to the 1/4 court line, then back, then to the half court line, then back, then to the 3/4 court line, then back, then full court, touch the wall, grab a flag, then sprint back as fast as you could. This was an hard and extremely tiring task. I hated it at the time but later on learned to appreciate it as it got me into shape for many years later and taught me the value of pain, discipline, and effort.

During my formative years I was a team captain, and was successful in leading my rag-tag group of misfits to first place in the softball tournament. Many of my fellow students were fat and out of shape but I found a way to make it work as a softball team. And no I did not make them run sprints, but that would have been fun. I bet no one remembers my masterful placement of individuals into position that led to ultimate victory in the tournament. One thing I bet they do remember is at the start of physical activity we would all run from the porch of the school around the eastern field (about a mile) and back up a small incline to the playground. I was one of the competitive ones who led the pack and pushed up the incline into the finish area. I remember, I could count on one hand the number of individuals who could challenge me. I was close friends with all of them.

Several years later I moved to the suburbs. I was in a typical 3 bedroom, 2 bath house, located about 3 miles from a lake and park. Myself and several of my close football friends would often jog from my house up to the dam, and back. It was epic. The warm south wind would cool us down as we moved silently across the streets, up the incline to the top of the dam. There you could see for miles. To the south was expansive park, and to the north was the city. The lake made its own weather and there was always a wind blowing across the damn giving you kind of timeless experience. It was a ritual for us when were a team. Several years later a few of us still made the journey. After graduation it was down to me and a close friend, and then I remember one cool autumn evening no one showed up. It was just me.

I took one of the usual routes which actually backtracked past the cemetery where several of my friends now rested. I then went straight south of my the main street and the angled across the field as it branched away from the park. There was a trace of a trail that was now partially overgrown, and a short trail of gravel before you topped the asphalt walk on top of the damn.

When I got to the top I was streaming with sweat despite the cool fall weather. The exuberant wind from the lake cooled me down and the sound was breathless. Nothing can describe peaking the damn, alone. The waves created white caps on the lake a the darkness to the south was still. The city to the north lit the horizon with energy and sound.

I ran and jogged for many years since then but nothing equals the experience of being alone on that run.

I was the sole survivor.


  1. Flinn's Avatar
    Very poetic, nice reading.

    I wonder, if you are actually 41, why many of your friends are in the grave already? It's a genuine question.
  2. Gaius Baltar's Avatar
    Thanks for your comments. From my class there was a tragic loss of young men due to accidents. Unfortunately, several of my close friends were among them. My house was situated relatively close to the city graveyard and was on one of our routes to the lake/damn.

    Not all were met this fate, several moved away, of course others just lost interest (got married, joined the military, went to college, etc.).

    It was a close knit group composed of friends who met while playing football, and through the years we picked up a few stragglers, brothers of the original group, etc. It was really a rite of passage to run to the dam and back. This was not an easy task, being about 6.5 miles (round trip) along streets, fields and the sudden incline of the damn itself. It was considered poor form not to run the entire route.

    Urban development has made this impossible now. The increase in vehicular traffic and the routes along the park and up to the damn itself are now blocked by fencing.
    Updated May 02, 2021 at 05:27 PM by Gaius Baltar