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Issue number nine




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The Wounded Man: Variations on a Theme by Greg Jenkins


Fitzwater was giving me his reasons--I didn’t want them; I had enough reasons of my own--when suddenly a wounded man burst in through the front door. He was gripping his chest, his white Oxford shirt drenched with blood, and gasping for breath.

“God is dead,” the man declared, “and Nietzsche is dead too. Where does that leave us?”

Miffed at the interruption, Fitzwater ceased giving me reasons and retreated to the TV before whose garishly bright screen he sat himself and began making lewd remarks about the young woman presenting the weather report. His observations were elicited primarily by her breasts, which appeared moderately larger than average.

Doggedly, the wounded man staggered after him. His blood was leaking onto my hitherto clean aqua carpet.

“I’ve never quite understood the difference,” the man admitted in a tortured voice that was a few decibels louder than necessary, “between a high pressure system and a low pressure system. Can anyone enlighten me?”

I’m confident I could’ve (here, Fitzwater would’ve failed abysmally; he would’ve said only that one’s pressure is higher than the other’s), but--given the general state of things --I was disinclined to.

“Where did I leave my moosehide slippers?” I asked of no one in particular.


Fitzwater was giving me his reasons--“You take good care of ’em,” he said; “I may want ’em back someday”--when suddenly the front door crashed open and in lurched a wounded man. His white shirt, his trousers, even his moosehide slippers were bloody.

The slippers looked hauntingly familiar.

The man wiped at his blood with his bare hand, and, licking his oddly sensuous lips, shouted: “We’re all dead! Only God and Nietzsche live!” He added that oatmeal could make for a surprisingly satisfying breakfast, especially if lightly flavored with cinnamon.

Disaffected with this turn in the conversation, Fitzwater repaired to the TV where a woman was speaking in ominous tones of an impending ice storm. “Just look at those breasts,” Fitzwater said with intense admiration and longing. “Mercy mercy mercy!”

I could see in the wounded man’s eyes that he wanted to pursue Fitzwater and accost him in some manner (I did too), but he held himself in place, bleeding steadily on my carpet. He smelled like a do-gooder.

“Do you have reasons?” I asked the wounded man. “The gentleman watching the weather report has reasons. Do you?”

“No one can explain exactly why ice is slippery,” the woman on TV asserted.


Fitzwater was ticking off his reasons--he was ticking them off at such length that he’d managed to tick me off--when suddenly a man flung himself in through the front door. The man appeared perfectly healthy, fit, athletic.

“I came not to send peace, but a sword,” the man said.

I checked to see if he had a sword. He didn’t.

Irritated, Fitzwater broke off his recitation and said pointedly to the man: “You look as if you should be wounded.”

Instantly Fitzwater struck at the man several times with his fists and dashed his head into the corner of the TV set. Wounded, the man now began to bleed on my carpet.

I waited to hear Fitzwater’s reasons, old ones or new, but instead he commented on the objectification of women.

“It isn’t categorically a bad thing,” he claimed. “Sometimes women seek to be objectified. Is it wrong to give them what they desire?” He kept one eye on the TV.

“Does anyone even read Nietzsche anymore?” the wounded man asked, wiping his blood.

“Man is something that shall be overcome,” I said. “What have you done to overcome him?”

Outside, a few bitter flecks of ice began to tap against the shivering windowpane.

Greg Jenkins is an English professor who lives in Maryland. His stories have appeared in such journals as South Dakota Review, American Literary Review, Sou'wester, and Red Rock Review. He is the author of two books: Stanley Kubrick and the Art of Adaptation and Night Game: Stories. His short story, "I Feel My Temperature Risin'," appeared in Issue #6 of The Cafe Irreal.

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