Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 51
harvest moon, 2023

Featured artwork, Cheeseburger Picnic, by Chris Mars

new works

Andrew Bertaina

The English Professor

For a while, after he died, the professor would still show up to class. He had a pair of really nice shoes he only wore to work, which he felt would otherwise be wasted in the afterlife. He prepared lectures, series of slides about different rhetorical gestures found in the essays he’d put on the syllabus before he'd died. Sometimes he put little comedic GIFs on the slide that he hoped his students would appreciate on some level.
In class, while the new person lectured, the ghost professor would stand at the rear of the class and critique the new person’s style. This new person didn’t give the students enough time to answer some of his questions. Sometimes the questions all seemed to be rhetorical. Why did this new professor talk for such long periods of time? Students looked bored. These sessions were really upsetting to the dead professor. At home, another dead professor told him it was okay to stop going to class, but he didn’t listen.
It was a bright and clear morning, cherry blossoms were dropping petals and eddying in the wind. The dead professor felt happy. He had prepared a really good lecture about an essay by the late writer David Foster Wallace, which acknowledged some of Wallace’s personal failings as part of a biographical introduction. He stood at the front of the class while the students filed in. He waited until 4:05, exactly, and then he started teaching. He asked them a brilliant question about the use of internal questions and footnotes as structural devices representative of the contemporary fractured narrative of life. Everyone looked confused and then left. The new professor never showed up, either.

Andrew Bertaina is the author of the short story collection One Person Away From You (2021), which won the Moon City Short Fiction Award, and the forthcoming essay collection, The Body is a Temporary Gathering Place (Autofocus). His work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Witness Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Orion and The Best American Poetry. He has an MFA from American University in Washington, DC. His work is available at andrewbertaina.com