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Short Story

The Peloponnesian War

ATTN: All Academic departments

An off-campus individual impersonated a professor on the first day of class. The impersonator engaged in awkward and inappropriate behavior, including drinking from a bottle that appeared to be an alcoholic beverage. There was a fair amount of confusion and concern until a neighboring instructor came into the classroom and confronted the individual. Thankfully, the episode ended without incident when this instructor dismissed the class and notified campus police.

Well now, look at you. Getting younger every year, but you don’t look so bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Parking issues, right? C’mon in, you’re not late. So I’m Professor Gantz. You’re in a Survey of World History…or you’re lost. Show of hands, who likes history? There, guess we’re done. Class dismissed.

So, yes, syllabus. Someone didn’t order toner for the department printer so a syllabus will have to wait until next week, at the earliest. To sum it up, uh, there’ll be weekly readings, monthly essays, a midterm and final. I take roll.

Alburez. Alamain. Bonner. Bonner, Eric. Relation? No relation. Okay, that’s enough. I didn’t say I take the whole roll.

Textbooks? Nah, we’ll just use Wikipedia, right? Yes, sometimes it is inaccurate, thank you for that, but history is written by the victors, so it’s all relative anyway—don’t write that down. Jesus, is that the first time you’ve heard that? I fear for you and I envy you. Never mind. We’ll also be reading critical essays by some of our greatest historians, mostly dead, but that’s okay because they’re closer to the events than we are. These essays should help peel the film from your eyes and show you what’s what, as well as what an essay can achieve. I’m not expecting you to write like them—you can’t. You couldn’t if you spent ten years trying. I can’t either. Don’t sweat it. Do the best you can without obvious plagiarism. Don’t go overboard. History will be there for you, and even if you ignore it, you’ll disappear into it anyway. Don’t burn yourself out just for this class, is all I’m saying. Go have a life, too. You’re at the crest of history. Look back once in a while but keep your eyes ahead, mostly. Sorry about this voice. I’ve barely spoken all summer. Vocal cords are out of practice. This? Let me see: Dehydrated grapefruit crystals. One little packet into this bottle, a little shakey-poo, yeah, it’s not that great. It could use something else. You know what’s hard to find on campus? Ice cubes. Sure, but do you see me walking into the student union?

Okay, so you in the back, looking to add, most professors will tell you we’re full, but that’s just because we hate grading a hundred essays. It kills the soul. And we are full, right now, technically. Ergo you’re standing. But persevere, because half of these students sitting here are going to drop out within the next two weeks. There’ll be seats then. They’re uncomfortable seats, though, so you’re better off standing. And it looks like there’s a nice breeze up there by the doors.

Yeah, I know. Is that coming from next door? Thin walls, right? Jesus. Is that Shakespeare? That sounds like someone’s shouting in iambic pentameter. One of you standing in the back, take a peek next door and tell me what’s going on. Settle down, folks. Maybe the drama department has staged an incursion into our decrepit building. They’ll perform anywhere they can if they—yes? He said what? You’re certain? Class, stay put. I’ll be right back.

Okay, okay, it’s all right, everyone. It was good of you to lock the door on me, but look, this wasn’t a shelter-in-place scenario. Just someone pretending to be a professor. No, it’s not funny, I agree. It’s just…look at this. He even had a syllabus. More prepared than I am. All of you trying to add, come down, there’s plenty of seats now, as you can see. Looks like the little drama next door scared a good number off.

Wait, hold on, let me see if I can get the overhead to come on…there, I’m just going to project this syllabus here for a moment so you don’t complain when you get my syllabus.

SYLLABUS FOR THE SUB-ALLYS READINGS: The Holy Bible, the Koran, the Book of Morman (misspelled, did you notice), Reader’s Digest 1960–1962, NOT APRIL 1961. PURPOSE: FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCKL, FUCK.

So the question I think we have here, beyond this individual’s headspace and his motivation to mess with what should have been Professor Larou’s class, is: what, exactly, is a fuckl?

All right, just trying to defuse the situation. For the record then. Let’s hope the campus police—weren’t they quick?—help that individual receive the mental health assistance he needs. I did not mean any disrespect. Certainly not. Look, I’m happy to detail the cocktail I’m on, and the help I get from Dr. Green every Monday at 4:30 p.m. if you need some cred from me. It’s no laughing matter, you know, but sometimes…it is. Let’s also hope Professor Larou’s students come back, and let’s hope Grace orders the copy toner for next week or you’ll have to hear me blab again. No, no danger to me. Dr. Green is about seventy, short. Yeah, yeah, I know you mean next door. Look, whoever he was, he just thought he was a professor. Not the most advantageous delusion to have. Though, come to think of it, maybe he was from the theater department. Just to shake up the class, though that doesn’t sound like something Larou would be up for. Still, stranger things have happened in this building.

See you on Thursday, everyone. Same time.

Sorry, wait, yes, there will be textbooks. I wasn’t serious about Wikipedia. But the textbooks aren’t in yet as I forgot to order them. I was, you see, operating on the assumption that I had been let go for a number of vague financial and administrative reasons having nothing to do with student evaluations or student-teacher relationships, honest now. Nothing you need to worry yourselves over. What’s that? I’m forty-nine. That is old to still be an adjunct, yes, but that shows how little you know about the state of higher education. Anyway, the department ended up short one history prof so…desperate times call for desperate—you’re writing that down? You are going to learn so much in college your head is going to explode. Okay, so you know what? For our Thursday meeting, read about the Peloponnesian War on Wikipedia. For real. The Spartans kicked the Athenian’s ass. Come prepared to discuss how that changed history.

Now, bring those add forms down here. Plenty of room. Plenty of room.

“The Peloponnesian War” first appeared in Hedge Apple.