The Northville Review
an online literary journal
Twilight of the Idiots

Jim Ruland

Carolyn fusses in the kitchen. The chicken breasts she boiled last night would make a nice salad, but she’s craving something hot. She fills a pot with water from the tap and puts it on the stove.

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, says the baseball player on the big screen in the living room.

“Did you hear that?” her husband calls. “Another athlete quoting Nietzsche!”

Carolyn says nothing. Kevin was a philosophy major before he dropped out of college. He idolized Nietzsche. She puts the philosopher in the same category as Kevin’s old college buddies who drink too much and leave wet towels on the carpet when they visit. She’s looking for a jar of minced garlic in the refrigerator. She remembers it having a red lid, but so far all she’s found are cherries.

“He is the alpha and omega of philosophical thought,” Kevin had told her. “After Nietzsche there’s nowhere left to go, so I pursued a course of independent study.” Kevin loves to tell this story at cocktail parties, but he almost never mentions the huge inheritance his father left him.

Carolyn runs her hand through her hair and her wedding ring snags in the curls. She takes off the ring and sets it on the counter next to the sink. The fancy noodles she bought at the health food store sit in the colander, a shade darker than she would like them to be.

She goes into the living room and sits down on the couch beside her husband. He taps away at the keyboard, contributing useless bullshit to a baseball forum. His screen name is EcceHomo.

Carolyn wants kids. Not now, but someday. A boy and a girl. She believes that a boy learns how to be a man from the women in his life. Kevin is an only child. He wants to be a father, but there’s a big difference between what Kevin wants and what he believes. If you ask him what he wants, he’ll rattle off the name of a pitcher with a low earned run average for his fantasy baseball team.

Carolyn picks up the remote and changes the channel to a beach volleyball tournament. Four women, muscular as panthers, prowl the sandy pit. Kevin looks up and they watch the athletes, marvel at their gleaming bodies.

Carolyn is instantly horny. It’s always been this way with her. She lets her hands roam, her fingers play. Up his shirt, down his pants. “Behold the man,” she says once she’s gotten his attention.

Kevin shuts the laptop and carefully places it on the coffee table. Carolyn climbs on top of her husband like she’s mounting a bicycle. He looks helplessly at the open window, the light switch on the wall. Carolyn shakes her head while she unbuttons her blouse.

On a baseball diamond in San Diego, Kevin’s closer blows another save. In a lonely churchyard in Röcken, a worm turns in Nietzsche’s coffin. In Carolyn’s kitchen, the gas burners hiss as the water boils over and splashes out of the pot. It will be dark when they are done, and she will send her husband naked into the kitchen to finish making dinner.

About the author

Jim Ruland is the author of the short story collection BIG LONESOME and the host of Vermin on the Mount, an irreverent reading series now in its seventh year. He lives in San Diego with his wife, the visual artist Nuvia Crisol Guerra.