tagSci-Fi & FantasyA Priestess of Isis Ch. 02

A Priestess of Isis Ch. 02

byMissPrim©

Proverbs 31:10-31King James Version (KJV)
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

Each week, millions of upper middle class Americas put on expensive dress clothes, and load themselves in SUV's and drive past homeless shelters, orphanages, prisons, missions and halfway houses on their way to a very expensive and nice church, where somebody tells them how to be more like Jesus.

That is fucking awesome, let me tell you. ~Facebook post


The next day I went to the registrar's office and tried to drop Humbolt's class.

"The add/drop date is past." The middle aged clerk barely looked up from the form I gave her.

"But I can't keep taking that class." I raked my hands through my hair, and in the bright sheen of the sunlight bouncing off the window behind the clerk, I saw how ragged I appeared.

"Listen, son. We all get a little behind sometimes."

"That's not it."

"You can withdraw, but it will appear as a 'W' on your transcript."

And negatively affect my grade point average. I couldn't take the hit on that. I'd lose my scholarship which demanded a B average.

"I can't do that either."

"You can ask the professor if you can take an incomplete, and finish the course work another semester."

Fabulous. It's not like another professor would take Humbolt's class. And the last thing I wanted to do was face Humbolt again.

"Okay. Thanks," I mumbled, taking back the form.

I shoved the paper back into my pocket and walked out of the registrar's office, barely registering that I stepped down the brownstone stair and hit the ancient slate walkway. A glance at my iPhone told me I had another hour before the next class, and a phone call from a number I did not recognize. I listened to the voicemail.

Wil, this is Professor Humbolt. There are some things we must discuss. Come to my office at 2:00 PM.

"Great," I thought. "Just friggin' awesome."

#

Several ways to get out of meeting Humbolt crossed my mind. Suddenly something jolted my shoulder, and a pile of books spilled to the ground.

"Sorry," I said to the shocked co-ed I bumped.

"Oh hell," she swore, and I looked into my ex-girlfriend's eyes.

"Christina," I said.

"Weren't you paying attention?" she snapped.

"No, I guess I wasn't."

"Then please do."

I scrambled to help pick up her books. Suddenly I remembered I had good reason to be angry with her.

"Here," I said shoving at books to her.

"You don't have to be an ass about it."

"And you don't have to be a whore."

She shook her head bitting her lip.

"Maybe," she said, anger spilling from her lips, "I wouldn't have to be a whore if you'd been any sort of man."

"What? I respected you."

"Neglected me, you mean," she spit. "Sometimes, Wil, a woman needs more than a chaste peck on the cheek."

She yanked the books from my hand, and quickly settled them under her bosom. Then she stalked away, her blonde hair flying over her shoulders in her fury.

Good riddance.

But I couldn't get her last words to me out of my head in my next class, and I sat there a puddle of sweat and anger as the steam registers hissed and spit. How dare she say those things to me? I gave her what any woman deserved.

Whore.

My thoughts turned around and around that very theme for the next hour and a half. Then the class got up, and I still sat there.

"Mr. Goodwin," said Professor Reynolds. "Class is over."

"Yes, of course," I said as I stood.

"But I do have a note here from Professor Humbolt reminding you about your appointment with him at two? Are you in the habit of forgetting your appointments, Mr. Goodwin?" Reynolds, not the easiest man to get along with, spoke with some derision.

"No sir. He left a voice mail earlier. I haven't had time to respond."

"Then you better go. It's almost two now."

"Yes, sir."

Great. Now I couldn't blow off Humbolt.

Humbolt's office was the next building over, so with reluctant feet, I shuffled over to it. Other people flowed around me on the sidewalk, working their way to, or from class. At the door of the building I stiffened my resolve. I'd get this over quickly, whatever Humbolt wanted. It wasn't as if I didn't owe the man an apology, though after what I'd seen, I wasn't inclined to give it. The professor's office was in the basement, and co-eds brushed past me as I descended the stairs.

The brittle scent of steam-warmed air assaulted my nostrils as I stood in front of Humbolt's door. I knocked, though not hard. Maybe the old coot wouldn't hear me.

But he did, and with the rustling of a door being unlocked the Humbolt jerked open the door.

"Ah, Wil. Good that you are prompt. Come in."

He motioned to the Queen Annes chairs, and I took one, dropping my backpack to the floor. He locked the door and took the opposite chair.

As I said before, he was a large man, mostly in girth. His hair gray hair had a generous sprinkling of white throughout it, and his blue eyes sparkled under bushy white eyebrows. He was the very image of a University professor, and the not the debauched creature I saw yesterday.

"Wil, I understand from the clerk in the registrar's office that you tried to drop my class. Why would you do that?"

"Are you serious?" I said with some incredulity.

"You are concerned with what you witnessed," he said flatly.

"And you aren't?" I said, my voice rising an octave.

"No, Wil. I am not."

"You teach at a divinity school!" I sputtered.

"So?"

"But what you did was wrong!"

"So you don't think you can face me in class then?"

I just stared at him.

"You have a rare passion for the word of God, Wil. This class is a required course. I'd hate to see you mess up your college career over one course."

"So would I," I said tensely.

"Good. Then I will assign you special coursework. You'll work independently of the class."

"Really? And how exactly will I earn my grade?"

"I'm assigning you a topic, "Reconciling Diverse Dichotomies in Christian Thought." You'll do research into early Christian Philosophy and write a 100 page paper on it."

I swallowed hard. "One hundred pages?"

"Yes, due a week before the end of the semester," said Humbolt. "Here is a list of suggested texts you'll read and also some internet links for some other reading. I've given you permission to access the restricted archives in the library. That is where you'll be doing the bulk of the work. I hope your Greek is good."

I just stared at him. This can't be real. It was impossible to write a one hundred page paper between now and the end of the semester. I grew angry then. What right did he have to assign such a ridiculous project?

"Is there a problem, Mr. Goodwin?"

"One hundred pages?" I said.

He stood and turned his back to me.

"I don't see any other alternative, Mr. Goodwin. Either you do the work, or I'll have a conversation with your father about your inability to do the required work of this class."

"I see," I said coldly. "Then I have no choice."

"No, you don't," said Humbolt. "Good day, Mr. Goodwin." He walked over to his desk, and turning on the light sitting on it, opened a book. I was dismissed and it wouldn't do any good to say another word. I left his office, my mood good and pissed.

#

I couldn't tell Orson everything. But the incident in Humbolt's class made the rounds and by the time I dropped in on my friend, he got the full story on that.

"Man, what got into you, Wil?"

"I wasn't feeling well. I think I've got the flu coming on."

"Can't you tell me the truth? I heard about Christina."

"I don't want to talk about it," I said. It was true. I didn't. The run-in with her in the quad still unsettled me.

I wouldn't have to be a whore, if you any sort of a man.

"Okay, Wil. If that's how you want it."

"So, how's the foot?"

"Good for a week out of classes," he said with a wink.

"Sloth!" I said. It was an old game of ours, accusing each other of any one of the seven deadly sins.

"Yep." He raised a beer that he'd stuck in cushions in the couch to his lips. "And Andrea's been a dream the whole time."

I raised an eyebrow. "Andrea? What about Ashely?"

He smirked.

"Lust! How many of the deadly sins are you going to pick off this week?" I said.

"If I'm lucky, as many as I can. You should try it sometime. It might dislodge that stick up your ass."

"Maybe I have," I said with the color rising in my face.

He guffawed. "Yeah, right, Mr. Straight Arrow."

"If your going to insult my manhood, I'm leaving."

"Jerk."

"No, really. I have to go. Humbolt slapped me with a hellish research project. I'm going have to ask you to pick up the slack on our project." I put the CD I made with the work I'd done so far on the coffee table. "And by the looks of things, you have the time for it."

"Wait, how much slack?"

I made my way to the door and put my hand on the handle before I answered.

"If you get stuck on anything, give me a call."

A small pillow from the couch smacked my face.

"Jerk!" he said.

"You owe me a million times over, buddy. And make sure we get at least a 'B"," I said. This was true. I turned in a plenty of papers in our joint names with me being nearly the sole author. Of course, I did this mostly because I wanted to make sure we got a good grade, and Orson didn't complain one bit. But now I needed time to do Humbolt's paper and I had to clear the deck. Orson could put a little effort in and pull this together for our Church History class. He wasn't a moron, though he acted like one on many occasions.

"You stole my vacation!" he grumbled as I walked out his apartment.

"Good," I shot back as I pulled the door closed loudly.

Now I had to figure out how I was going to handle my Greek Language class, and Old Testament class. Since Father spoon fed me the Old Testament since I was in diapers, I figured I could ace that. Just getting the physical work done was the problem. Greek? Maybe there was something I could use from Humbolt's assignment for my Greek final paper. Feeling a little better, I headed to the the library.

The librarian, Mrs. Winters, gave me a strange look when I asked for the key to the restricted section. She made a phone call, and found what Humbolt told me, that I was to be given access to it for the rest of the semester.

She shook her head. I thought I heard her say, "One of those."

"Excuse me?" I said.

Her eyes glittered with something cold.

"Never you mind." Her voice to the temperature of an Arctic cold spell.

We made our way into the bowels of the building down a set of very narrow stairs. I had to turn my shoulders sides ways so I could fit down the staircase. The basement was cool, dry, and climate controlled. Metal stacks rose around us, filled with antique books, musty with time and broken dreams of imagined glory. Mrs. Winters led to me a table with a chair in the middle of the stacks.

"I think you'll find everything you are looking for here," she said.

"I don't understand," I said. "You put out the books for me?"

She shook her head. "No. The others, they took them out. I just don't bother to put them back."

"Why?"

"Because, there is always one of you. And you always take the same books."

"Well, thanks Mrs. Winters."

"Hmph," she said as if she didn't expect me to be polite. " Here is a key to the side entrance of the library, in case you get locked in. You'll return it at the end of the semester, or you'll be charged with replacing the locks."

Okay then.

"Again, thanks Mrs. Winters."

"Hmph," she said again. And then she climbed the stairs to leave me alone with the books.

#

I worked late into the afternoon, looking over the books, getting a feel for the material, making notes. No wonder these works were in the restricted section. There were testaments that were thrown out of canon, books on some of the greatest heretics of Christianity, one book the decried the work of Martin Luther, translations of the Nag Hammadi scriptures. It was a mixed bag of apostasy and heterodoxy. Humbolt wanted a paper out of this?

My father would have a fit if he saw these books.

My stomach started to grumble and it sounded like a good idea to eat. The sense of wrongness that pervaded me that past couple days was easing. I suppose I could cobble together something out of this mess of documents to satisfy him. After all I was at the stage in my education where expressing my own opinion was encouraged. I'd call all this trash, in an academically acceptable way, of course, and he couldn't complain that I didn't do the work. One hundred pages was stretching it, but if I put in a certain amount of time each day, I could get there.

"You're leaving so soon, Mr. Goodwin?" said Mrs. Winters as I passed her desk. "Will you be back tonight?"

"No. Tomorrow. I'm getting something to eat."

"You certainly seem optimistic."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

She sniffed and leaned forward conspiratorially. "None of Humbolt's students with this assignment ever finish."

"I can't imagine why."

She gave me a look of disbelief.

"We'll see, Mr. Goodwin."

I shrugged. "Goodnight, Mrs. Winters."

Though the afternoon sun cast long shadows, it as still sunny, and warmth was a welcome contrast from the chill of the library basement. Somehow, someway I was going to work my way out of this mess of a semester.

Then I saw her.

Her black hair flowed in waves to her shoulders, her slim body packed into a skin tight black dress. Her heels were red, matching her painted lips and had to be four inches tall. She sat on the stone wall that contained the shrubs on the left side of the library. Mary slid off the stones in a fluid motion.

"There you are, Wil."

I tried to walk past her. She quickly walked to my side.

"How was the library?"

"Fine," I said keeping my eyes ahead.

"Really. Usually the students are a little overwhelmed with the work."

"I'm not."

"Ah," she said drawing out the syllable. "Arrogant."

"What do you want, Mary?"

Her dark eyes flashed, like a warning. "I thought I'd buy you dinner."

"Forget it," I said.

She grabbed my arm, her nails digging into my skin.

"Fine," she said, her dark eyes boring into mine as if she was issuing a challenge. "Well, I don't eat the bread of idleness. If you put off the lesson, the next time you see me, you'll have to tell me the significance of the huluppu tree."

I stared her down. "You are the worst kind of woman, a shameless slut."

She laughed. "Is that the worst you have to say to me?"

"What is your problem!" I exploded.

"I'm not the one with problems, Wil," she said gently. Mary slid her arm around mine in a move so sensuous it reminded me of snake slithering on my arm.

"Come on. I'll even buy a pizza. It's been a while since you had some isn't it?'

Yes. It was. I didn't have the money for takeout.

"It won't be so bad," she whispered in my ear. "It's just pizza."

I should have known better.

#

I don't know why I was surprised. Mary led me to a small sports car, blue Austin Healey. So much for the Universe providing. The woman had to have money. The upkeep on a car like this would cost more than my tuition.

"Nice car," I said.

"Oh this. A friend lets me borrow it."

"Nice friend," I said not believing her story.

She drove us far from the college, deep into a part of downtown I'd never been. Mary's driving was atrocious, speeding up and then jerking the car to a stop to avoid hitting other cars. At some point I starting praying that wherever we were going, we'd make it one piece. She slid the car into a space in front of a pizza restaurant, the bottom occupant in a three story red brick building. The name "Rolo's" was written in bright red neon in the window.

A little bell tinkled as we opened the door, and I was hit by the smell of baking pizzas. On the left side of the room, plain wood tables and chairs marched the length of the restaurant, in a single row. On the right was a counter with some stools and a very old cash register poking up from a shelf behind the counter. In the far right were the pizza ovens. A thin man about my age stood picking up a stack of boxed pizzas.

"Don't forget the sodas," said an older man behind the counter. The younger man went to a commercial cooler at the very back of the restaurant and pulled out some two liters.

"While be back in thirty, boss," the younger man said, juggling the two liters and the pizza boxes as he disappeared through the back door.

The older man looked about to be in his late thirties, his middle thickened, dark hair closely cropped. When he saw us he smiled broadly.

"Mary," he said brightly. He lifted up a section of the hinged counter, and in a few short steps hugged her.

"David," she said warmly. "This is my friend Wil."

He stuck out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Wil."

I muttered something the same.

"Mary, well no wonder my phones went quiet for a few minutes. What can I get you? I'm a bit busy, so I don't have time to talk."

"Just one with everything."

He winked. "A Mary special. Coming right up. Help yourselves to whatever drinks are in the cooler. My night help isn't here yet."

"You might want to call someone else in," said Mary.

David's expression turned very serious.

"Is everything okay?"

"Too much of a party last night," Mary said.

"Oh! Okay. Will do. Thanks for the tip."

David hurried back behind the counter and made a phone call, cradling the earpiece on this shoulder, while pulling out a round of dough. He proceeded to slap it into shape.

Mary walked to the back of the store, her hips swaying provocatively, picking out a bottle of water, and a beer. She sat at the last table closest the cooler.

She motioned for me to join her and handed me the beer.

"Come here often," I said.

"Not so much. But I thought I'd show you the true meaning of passion."

"What do you mean?"

"Just watch David there."

David put down the earpiece, and when the phone rang again. David pulled out another dough as he spoke.

"Pick-up or delivery. Delivery running forty minutes right now. You can have the pie in fifteen if you pick-up." He put the phone down. It rang again.

I'd never seen anyone work so fast. The first pizza he worked on went into the oven, his hands flew as he made other pizzas. It was a dizzying round of watching him move from work counter to oven, to pulling out pies, cutting and boxing them. I never saw him write down a single order.

"Mary," he said. "Pie's up."

"Wil, be a love and go get the pizza."

I fetched the pizza still in its steaming hot metal pan from the counter.

"Careful there," said David not looking up. "Use some napkins."

I grabbed a handful of napkins from a dispenser on the counter and took the pizza to our table. Mary took the smallest piece and put it on a paper plate. A paper plate sat at my place as well. When and where did she get those plates? I hadn't seen her move.

The first bite of the pizza was heaven. The sauce was just perfect, not too bitter or sweet, seasoned with an even blend of italian spices and red pepper. The crust was crisp, even on the bottom, but inside was perfectly cooked. There was an abundance of meats, and even the vegetables were delicious. Holding court over all this was the cheese, which was spread generously over the entire thing.

"This is very good."

"Yes," said Mary. "It is. This is David's passion, making these pizzas. He perfectly content to make one after the other because to him, every one is a work of art. Other people might be bored with making hundreds of pizzas a day, but not David."

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