Greg Bardsley



And these are the things we say

“Honey,” she says, “I was sprawled out on the floor from exhaustion today, and I was looking at the ceiling, and I was thinking, we should’ve painted it a ligher shade.”

Later, I say sweetly, “I think it might be because of the fact I got two hours of sleep last night, but my vision is blurring and I can’t see colors. Would you mind showing me which piece of paper is yellow? Dylan needs a yellow piece of paper.”

“Oh, of course,” Nancy says, fighting off a smile.

Later, she says, “Honey, maybe it’s because I never fell back asleep aftrer taking care of Dylan’s wet bed at 1 a.m, but I’m losing my equilibrium whenever I walk. Do we have a cane around here?”

And so it goes.

Later, I say, lispy and slurred, “Honey, what’s my middle name again? I’m drawing a blank.”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, it may have something to do with the fact I’ve haven’t slept in 36 hours, but I can’t remember my middle name.”

And so it goes.

“Honey, I was passed out on the floor today, and the boys were running around me and racing Hot Wheels over my legs, and when I came to I think I saw a plate of mac-n-cheese under the couch.  I think it’s from that movie night Jack had last month. Would you mind getting that?”

And so it goes.

Someday we’ll get more sleep. I hope it’s before the boys leave for college.

Blowing a set from Sinjin Smith

I don’t kid myself; I know my athletic limitations. At my worst, I am indecisive and awkward. At my best, I can surprise myself with a rare moment of grace. But when it comes to my signature sport, I can be a bit confident.

Well, until eight days ago.

What happened was, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I swear. You see, my sons and I were just playing around at an impromptu “volleyball clinic” hosted by retired pro-beach stud-machine Sinjin Smith. It was during an intermission of the AVP’s pro-beach tournament in San Francisco. Spectators were simply playing “king of the court” in which everyone gets a chance to knock the other team off the court with one play. Sinjin was simply there to shake hands, pose for photos and offer basic coaching tips. But when Jack (6), Dylan (3) and Daddy (40) stepped onto the sand, Sinjin could see we’d need help.

He joined us.

My heart was pounding. Nearly 20 years ago, when I played club at Chico and spent the rest of my free time on nearby sand and grass courts, no one was bigger than Sinjin Smith. Now here I was with the genuine article. I might as well been asked to run a route for Raiders legend Jim Plunkett.

I looked around. Nancy was pointing the camera at us. Dylan and Jack were getting into position. Sinjin waited to help.

Holy shit, I can’t screw this up.

My serve cleared the net, one of the 12-year-old girls on the other side spiked the ball back over the net, I dug it up with a nice pass to the middle, Sinjin stepped up and laid down a perfect bump-set right where I love it — right where I could cream it. I approached from the left side, thinking …

Those girls are 12. I can’t kill this ball.

Dylan is running around like a crazy boy. I can’t plow into him.

The classy thing to do is just “dink” it over the net.

Oh, shit. My timing is off — way off.

Greg up in the air. .. People cheering. … Sinjin, Jack and Dylan watching. … Nancy clicking the camera. … Greg landing in the sand without touching the ball. … Greg finally reaching out and dinking the ball straight into the net. … Awkward silence ensues. … Sinjin looks at Greg like he’s wearing a tutu.

“You started way too far back off the net,” he says.

“I know, I just-”

“You gotta be much closer.”

“I know. I blew it.” Greg tries to look cool. “C’mon boys. We gotta get off the court.”

Waiting on the side was Nancy, who shows us the photo of Daddy and the boys in action with Sinjin Smith. I squint at the tiny screen and realize that I am completely out of the picture. So is the ball. “Hey, what can I say?” Nancy says. “I was focused on the boys.”

Just as well.

I’ve been fooling myself

The past few years, I’ve been cocky about two things: my ability to sleep-train a baby and my success with homemade guacamole.

Last night, I came plunging back to reality. Last night, I realized I wasn’t quite the man I thought I was. Last night, my guacamole delusions shattered into a thousand little green globs.

You see, I’ve made a big deal about my guacamole. I’ve puffed my chest and sighed contentedly. I’ve nodded in silence as friends and family tasted my guac and widened their eyes in delight.

But now, I’m questioning all that. Maybe people have been humoring me. Maybe friends and family have been too kind to tell me the truth, too kind to tell me my guacamole isn’t really that special after all. Maybe I’m just a big joke.

It all happened last night. I came home, and my wife mentioned casually that she’d whipped up some guacamole. On any other day, this would have been a blatant attempt to strip me of my power, akin to her saying, “Honey, I think there’s a leak in the bathroom, so why don’t you stay here with the boys while I go crawl under the house?” But on this night, I was starving. I was thrilled to see the guac sitting there on the kitchen table.

And let me tell you, it was phenomenal. My eyelids lowered. My brain melted in pleasure. My mouth was on drugs. And I wanted more — more more more. Nancy smiled to herself and went about her business.

Then I realized. I realized Nancy’s guac was better than anything I’ve made in a long time — maybe better than anything I’ve ever made. Hers had the personality that I love in good guac, but it wasn’t trying too hard. It contained nearly all of my secret ingredients (don’t ask, because I won’t tell you). But there was a light-touch sophistication that my guacamole has lacked. This guac was like a symphony, and mine suddenly seemed like a one-man band on “America’s Got Talent,” some needy freak with eight different instruments attached to his torso.

“This is beyond anything I’ve ever accomplished,” I said, taking a pull off my Tecate.

Nancy was at the counter with her back facing me. She adopted the gentle, motherly tone she’ll use with the boys at critical moments. “Well,” she soothed, “I just think the best thing about guacamole is the avacado.”

You see, Nancy likes my guacamole. And she likes my ingredients. But she has told me over the years that maybe I need to take it down a little. Maybe I don’t need to put so much of “this” and so much of “that” in my guacamole. I agree with her, but at the end of the day, when I’m there at the counter and I’m doing my thing, and the Latin Jazz is playing and my can of Tecate is open, and I’m having a grand old time there slicing and mashing and sipping, I can let it go too far. I lose myself.

Thinking about it last night, I wondered if there were any parallels between my guacamole and my writing. After all, isn’t it funny that I have learned that sometimes it’s better to tone down my fiction, that a little “personality” goes a long way? I shuddered at the thought. How deep does this problem go?


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