Unless, of course, it’s Sunday and the person on the sofa is a handsome man dressed in an impeccably tailored suit.
It was Sunday, but my mystery guest was neither male, nor well dressed. In fact, she looked so disheveled that I was certain a homeless woman had wandered into The House on the Hill and made herself at home.
“Ummm…can I help you?” I asked hesitantly as I quickly glanced around for a weapon.
“Hello, dear,” she responded with a smile. “The Devil was unexpectedly called away. He knows how much you love your Sunday hangs, and he didn’t want to disappoint you.”
There was something about her voice that was eerily familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. The fact that she had referenced Lucifer and our Sunday meetings, however, eased my mind enough for me to call off my search for an item with which to strike her in the head.
“And who are you?” I asked with a little more confidence in my voice as I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to look intimidating.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” the stranger asked with a chuckle. “How soon they forget. I would have thought I’d forever burned a place in your memory.”
I took a few steps closer to the couch, studied her face, and tried to place it. There was something about her ugly sweater and corduroy skirt that made my skin crawl, and then it came to me like a clap of thunder in my brain.
Her wrinkled face lit up in a smile. “Your memory is better now than it was back when you took my class.”
“Suffered through your class is more like it,” I corrected as I walked over to the cooler and extracted a bottle of Snapple. “I’ve never failed a class in my life, but Chemistry was the closest I ever came.”
I then chugged half the bottle of iced tea because the mere memory of how this women had almost ruined my Sophomore year was more than a tad overwhelming.
“Judging from what my boss tells me about your inability to find a date, it sounds like you’re still struggling with Chemistry now,” Mrs. Potemkin said mockingly.
“I take it you’re dead then,” I said coldly because I wasn’t a fan of her previous comment.
“Well, I was an old geezer back when I taught you, and that was a long time ago,” she pointed out as if my angry words had no effect on her. “Speaking of which, your high school reunion was last night. Why didn’t you go?”
I shrugged and took another sip of Snapple. “High school was a long time ago, the Upper East Side of Manhattan is far away, and I don’t have much interest in conjuring up old, disturbing memories like how much I hated your Chemistry class.”
“Sometimes you need to revisit your past to better appreciate your present,” the old battleaxe philosophized as she eyed the cooler longingly.
I nodded that it was okay for her to help herself, and she anxiously dug out an ice cold bottle of Snapple of her own. I’m still a good host, regardless of the quality of the guest.
“First, I think he wanted to razz you about missing your high school reunion,” she replied. “Second, he knew that you had referred to me as Satan all those years ago after you’d failed one of my famous pop quizzes.”
My face turned a deep shade of red. “You knew about that?” I asked weakly while avoiding eye contact.
“Not at the time, but the boss man filled me in when he asked me to take on this assignment,” she giggled.
“The Devil must really like you to allow you to leave Hell for the afternoon,” I observed.
“Well, he does owe me,” she explained. “You see, I brought him a great deal of business over the years. You preppy high school types all want to go to the best colleges, but the Ivy League doesn’t accept students with a failure on their transcripts. You can’t even imagine how many student and parents of students made a deal with The Devil just to get a passing grade in my class.”
She laughed maniacally and raised her bottle of Snapple over her head in some sort of salute to how horrible a person she was.
“You really do suck,” I stated with conviction. “Clearly, it wasn’t any surprise when you found yourself in Hell, presumably after you were murdered by either a current or a former student.”
“I’m going to have to ask you to go to Hell now, Mrs. Potemkin. And damn that feels good!” I almost sang those lines as a huge grin grew on my face. “When you see your boss, tell him if he ever wants to be allowed to set foot in my home again, he’d better never send another stand in without getting approval from me first. Now vanish.”
With the snap of fingers and a puff of acrid smoke, she was gone. Hopefully forever.
“I bet there’s a ring of Hell that’s just a giant lecture hall where she teaches Chemistry,” I said to no one in particular.
Then I grabbed another bottle of Snapple from the cooler and set about drowning my sorrows in a pool of the best stuff on Earth.
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