[Originally published November 12, 2007.]

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Good afternoon, son. Have a seat. There are two very important things I need to talk with you about today. Don’t worry; this will just take a minute. Notice I’ve prepared some chocolate milk for you there, just the way you used to drink it when you were little. There you go; take a sip. You’re never too old for Nesquik! OK, OK, the look on your face suggests some trepidation, so I’ll dive in here. But, before I do, I just want to say that I’m glad we have the kind of relationship that allows me to speak to you honestly. When there are important things to inform you about, I know I don’t have to sugarcoat anything. I can just tell you what’s what, lay it on you, man to man. Like that time we spoke about safe sex and woodcarving.

Well, I’ve got two more important things to tell you about today. So here goes: Number one, there’s this game called volleyball, and it’s out of this world! Number two, your mother and I won’t be living together anymore.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What is this crazy game called volleyball?” Well, basically, it involves a ball and a net and two teams of six players. It’s almost primitive in its simplicity. The players use their hands to hit the ball, and they score points by trying to make it hit the ground on the other side.

Also, you may have noticed that your mother and I have been eating at different times and are never in the same room together. That’s quite intentional. What we did was create a kind of schedule, mostly revolving around time spent with you. It’s almost down to the minute. Anyway, that’s why we couldn’t watch that movie together the other night. I hope that clears a few things up.

But like every game, son, volleyball has rules and regulations! I know, I know. What are they? Well, just hear me out. (a) The ball must be served from behind the end line. (b) The serve must be returned by a bump. I repeat: a bump. There will be no setting or spiking a serve, so don’t even try it. Them’s the breaks.

And, really, I don’t think things would ever have made it to this stage if your mom had been capable of real human intimacy. Or if she had ever once given me a compliment. To be fair, I’ve been raiding the beer fridge in the garage a little more than I used to. But your mother has her Xanax and white wine. To each his own, I’ve always said.

Oh, and “spiking” is a volleyball term for smashing the ball downward with your palm. Forgive me for being unclear about that. The best part about spiking is that it is by far the most exciting move in the game. You just go up there above the net and … bam! SEE IF YOU CAN RETURN THAT, SUCKA!! THAT’S A VOLLEYBALL IN YOUR EYE!!

Sorry, I see you’ve spilled your chocolate milk. I got a little overexcited. It’s just that you think you’ve told your teenage son everything and then something like volleyball slips through the cracks and it …

Your mother is a sex addict.

I’ll just say it. I’m not trying to vilify her. I’m just being truthful. It would take at least an entire … I don’t know … a whole sports team of some kind to satisfy the woman. And it seems that the years of therapy have never really clicked. That’s the trouble with multiple-personality patients. They can just use one of their personalities to feign progress. It’s a real problem in the field, I’m told.

Now, I don’t mean to give you the wrong impression. Volleyball also takes finesse. It’s not just an aggressive game full of spiking and pounding. You have to learn to hit the ball just so.

Please don’t interrupt. Just listen until I’m finished, please. I’ll lose my train of thought otherwise. And I’m not sure I’ve really fully explained how wonderful volleyball can be. When you’re first learning, for instance, sometimes the ball will bounce right off your head. Ha, ha, ha—I know, right? Bonk! But the great thing about volleyball players is that they are always willing to lend you a hand when you’re down.

I should have known on our honeymoon that things might become difficult. She insisted on tying me to a chair with an extension cord. Then she fed me our wedding cake so fast I could barely chew it. She shoved the frosting up my nose, then told me there was no turning back, she was already pregnant.

In sum, volleyball is the best sport on the planet, and I suggest you try it out for yourself as soon as possible. If I were a younger man, I know I would.

OK, son, I’m glad we could have this talk. Now I’m off to the Red Roof Inn, where I’ll be residing indefinitely. If I were you, I’d try to avoid this subject with your mother. She’s a little touchy lately. In fact, I should probably … well, there’s my taxi. So long. I’ll call soon. Two rings then a hang-up, that’s how you’ll know it’s me.

And remember, a good defense is the best offense.

In volleyball, I mean!