Richard was aware of the whispers and the mocking giggles coming from the academics on the other side of the brain gym as he picked up the lightest book he could find to begin his workout.

He steadied himself and lifted ‘Philosophy for Dummies’ to head height, exhaled heavily and began reading.

“Philosophy is a….phoo.. discipline concerned with…ugh…with questions of how one…JesusfrigginChrist…how one should live!!” He dropped the book heavily on the floor, attracting quizzical looks from a group of speccy epistomologists.

“Sorry! Slipped”.

The epistomologists smirked and shook their heads and went back to dissecting a massive Edward Gettier tome with a practiced ease that Richard could only envy. Over to his left, a gorgeous Logicalist with glistening, well-developed Alethic modalities was working her way through a Kurt Godel volume on the fallacies of ambiguity.

“Are you staring at me?”

“Me? God, no! No, I was just admiring your…what do you call it, your dangling participles”

“Creep”. The girl moved away, leaving Richard open mouthed and feeling even more alienated.

Deciding that he wasn’t quite ready for Philosophy, Richard moved to the English Literature section. After rashly attempting to pick up Proust and instantly straining his understanding, Richard tried a Joyce (way too heavy) swung at a Chekhov (hurt his head) and finally made his way through five pages of Jane Austen, before wondering why these dead Victorian tarts took fifty words to say something that a normal person could say in five.

An ill-advised stab at Maths followed, with Richard staring at a series of vulgar fractions like a sheep presented with a cryptic crossword. After a few goes on a General Knowledge machine, he finally gave up. Sure, his girlfriend salivated over the well-defined, toned minds of people like Irving Weissman and As’ad AbuKhali, but they had personal trainers and the luxury of working their brains all day. He was a plumber with one hour, twice a week to get less thick. He would tell Louise tonight that she had to love him for who he was or not at all.

As he walked in the flat, she gave him a hug and squeezed his head playfully.

“Ooh, someone’s been thinking! Phwoar!! I’m liking that. Hello, Paul Murray Kendall!”

Richard smiled ruefully at the joking comparison to the Marburgh prize-winning American historian.

“Are you going to keep it up?”

He thought about telling Louise the truth: that he hated having to change his mind for her to fancy him, but she looked so proud that his resolve instantly melted.

“Going again, Wednesday”

Louise kissed him on the forehead. “Glad to hear it”

As he stood in the shower, Richard wept. His thoughts drifted back ten years to his ex-girlfriend, Thick Linda. She’d never read a book in her life, struggled to remember the alphabet and had nearly starved to death after buying a can of beans with OPEN OTHER END stamped on both the top and the bottom.

God, he missed her.