Week in Life of Professor

by Drew Guerra


They want me to write a love story for them, he complains to Nancy. Another love story, can you imagine?

Love stories aren’t your strong suit, Nancy agrees.

Hey now, he says, that’s not what this is about.

No, no, baby, your love stories are just beautiful, Nancy agrees.

He goes home to Carole and Rocco. Rocco doesn’t understand anything about love stories – Rocco is a dog. He takes solace in this, had Rocco neutered years ago. Rocco will never love or have to write about love. Both are very hard.

He puts on a Schubert recording.

Carole isn’t home at eight, dinnertime, so he microwaves yesterday’s casserole and writes the love story until he wants to smash his keyboard. Instead, he takes Rocco on a walk. When they return, he tries to get the dog to wrestle, but Rocco is getting old, is worn out by all the attention.

He changes the starlet into a vampire on his third draft. It reads better, is more believable. The leading man stays a man, though. He knows his agent does not like vampire stories, does not want to switch both back later.

Carole gets home at eleven. Her make-up is smudged, she is a little drunk.

Fun night, she says. It is meant to be a question.


The train breaks down so he misses his freshmen seminar, but that is OK. He hates his freshmen seminar. The topic is “Writing Avant-Garde,” and all of his students have nose piercings and tattoos on their wrists.

The grading goes quickly – he has a few good ones, two senior girls in his Hemingway class stand out. He writes “good imagery” for the blonde and “great characterization” for the brunette and he means it. The brunette asks for a recommendation letter.

He spots Nancy at her desk, tries to slip by, but it is too hard. Receptionists see everything.

How’s the love story going, she asks.

Good, great, he says. The girl is a piece of work, he says.

Well, you’ve never written very strong women, Nancy agrees.

He nods, decides the story would be better off without any women at all.


Molly, the brunette senior in the Hemingway class, stops by to ask about the recommendation letter. She wants to go to Michigan – her uncle says the creative writing program is very good there. Michigan State, if she must.

Interesting, he says. Do you like football then, he asks, those are very good football schools too.

Oh no, she laughs. No, my boyfriend is first chair trombone in the Ann Arbor symphony.

Her hair is almost auburn, he decides, especially in this sort of light.


He wakes up very hungover, with Nancy.

She calls to him while he looks for his wedding ring in the kitchen.

I hear they want the love story by Monday, she says.

See you at work, he says when he finds the ring, hidden in the green vase that Nancy always puts it in, and then he makes himself an extra-large black coffee with four sugars.

One of the freshmen asks him a question about Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury”, which he is not teaching this semester, has not taught ever.

Do you think Benjy is representative of America these days, the freshman asks. This freshman has substituted the nose piercing and wrist tattoo for a Yankees cap. It is a nice change of pace, but a very bad question. He is not even entirely sure what it means.

Yes, he says. Absolutely.

This has the desired effect – the freshmen ask no more questions all period. He talks about Woolf and Kerouac, Barth and Barthelme. He talks and talks and goes home and talks some more to Rocco, who falls asleep with him in bed.


He and Carole go on a date to his favorite Italian restaurant. Every Friday, the restaurant features the same jazz trio. The drummer is very handsome, Nancy observed once.

It’s been so long since we’ve been on a date, Carole says.

Sorry, he says.

You’ve been so busy, Carole says.

The waiter brings their drinks – vodka martini for her, gin martini for him.

I’d like your olive, Carole says, and takes it.

They sit in silence for a time, let the music wash over them. They have salads, another round of martinis, fish for her and pasta for him. The jazz is very good – he has not heard music like this in a long time.

Eventually he says, You didn’t come home last night.

That’s true, she says.

The music changes – a familiar tune, he strains to place it, gives up. He would like to forget the rest of the dinner. He signals for another martini, but no one sees. Where has the waiter gone?

And then a man begins to sing – it is “Happy Birthday.” A waiter holding a flaming dessert and blue balloons dances down the aisle. The entire restaurant lends their voices to the tune, even Carole, it is contagious, swells into a harmony that ripples across the booths, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.

Carole looks across, sees him not singing. She smiles, glows, he has not seen her smile in a very long time. She widens her eyes, urges him – sing! He hesitates, cannot possibly – sing, she beckons, sing!

He falls in love with her mouth all over again, the way her lower lip bobs, thrums with the melody. Carole puts out her hand, red polish on wrinkles, and he is not sure if she means it, but he grabs it all the same, holds her hand as tight as he dares. He smiles back. Sing for me, her smile says.

He opens his mouth. His voice trembles at first, but he pushes, pushes, and the tears cascade down his cheeks where out tumbles a rich baritone. His cry mixes with the others, everyone wishing the boy a happy birthday and lamenting their lost years in a beautiful booming crescendo of life. He sweats his heart out in his hand. He has never been this happy before.

Drew is an undergraduate at Northwestern University, where he studies creative writing, psychology, and Settlers of Catan strategy. His taste in music is impeccable – for playlist additions, he wholehearted recommends Taylor Swift, Ty Dolla $ign, and the entire Hercules soundtrack. Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, he anticipates he will forever be a passionate but dejected Lions fan. Upcoming and recent publications include Eunoia Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, PROMPT, and Helicon Literary Magazine.