by Scholarly Philly…
“Get out your Sunday best,” said my wife. “He’s coming! He’s really coming!”
Who? Who’s coming, I thought? But I dare not ask. When my wife gets excited like this, the best thing to do is just stay out of her way. Yes, I was a henpecked husband just like out of a James Thurber story.
“Is that what you’re going to wear?” said my wife when I picked out a suit. I knew from past experience, just take anything out of the closet and let her take charge from there. The way she was going on, I was surprised she didn’t choose my tuxedo instead. She might as well have.
There was going to be a party. A big party! So, of course, the morning of the party she laid out for me this turtle-neck shirt and black-and-white, houndstooth jacket that looked more like an optical illusion than a man’s blazer. But I didn’t own a turtle-neck shirt. A houndstooth jacket, either. I did now. The only thing missing to complete the ensemble was a Red Italian Churchwarden pipe.
But that wasn’t me. I wasn’t some browbeaten old college professor like Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In fact, I wasn’t a professor at all. I was a tenth-grade science teacher down at William Dawes High School who, unfortunately for yours truly, my wife always referred to as a chemistry professor. Whenever she told people I was a professor, invariably at parties and social get-togethers, I never bothered correcting her. My wife wasn’t the sort of woman you go around correcting.
So who was this man, so important we had to clear out all the fake plants and bring in real ficus trees? Who was this man who had such clout we had to remove all my bowling trophies from the Monarch, copper-metal étagère and replace them with photos of all these happy kids playing together in lily-covered fields? Whose kids? I don’t know; we don’t have kids.
Who was this man of such significance that my wife went and blew my whole week’s paycheck just so she could have the whole affair catered? What’s wrong with those little finger-sandwich and vegetable trays from Costco? And who says that wine in a box isn’t just as good as some fancy wine from France? Why? Just because it comes in a box? Like they don’t have wine in a box in France. But don’t ask me. I’m just the one who brings home the bacon. I’m just the one who mails the car payments and makes sure we have a roof over our head. Don’t ask me, I’m just the husband. And anyway, I don’t drink wine; I drink beer.
Anyway, enough complaining; that’s just my thing. So, Saturday night found us there at our house and my wife had the whole place decked out like a dollhouse version of the Waldorf Astoria. All my complaining aside, I have to say she did a wonderful job. In the end, after all my droning-on is done, I always fall in line right there by her side and support her in everything she does. She is, after all, my wife.
So there we were on Saturday night and everyone was waiting for the big event; and by the big event I mean the arrival of this man of such great import that everyone from not just my wife’s little theater company was there, but all her friends from the Westport Garden Society and the book-of-the-month club up too. You know Westport, Connecticut, right? It’s the little town where Darren and Samantha Stevens used to live. You know, Bewitched.
So who was this man who turned my whole house upside down? Turns out he’s some hotshot playwright from New York City, and when I say New York City I mean Broadway itself. He was so famous, in fact, that the mayor even showed up. Wow. The mayor. The mayor of Westport, Connecticut, that is, population 26,391.
The man of the hour himself didn’t arrive at the party until ten o’clock. Just like some NYC big-wig to make a fashionably-late entrance. My wife insisted I be there right by her side when he came walking through the door; and there she was, this big pile of mush and goo as he shook her hand. I thought she was going to pass out. She introduced me as “The Professor.” I took it all in stride, as usual.
The man, this playwright of international acclaim, was a tall, handsome man. He wore one of those brown corduroy blazers with patches on the elbows and I have to admit, if they hadn’t already invented the part of the fashionable playwright, this guy would have been an original. I could tell from the very beginning, just in the way he talked, his nose was fifty feet up in the air.
After all the introductions were done, I turned into Casper the Ghost, meaning I could have disappeared from the world entirely, been scooped up by aliens and taken to the Sombrero Galaxy and no one would have noticed—not even my wife. Especially my wife.
So I did my usual David Copperfield and disappeared out back to my little man-grove by the pool. My work was done here, and now at least I could suffer through the rest of the party in relative obscurity. All alone there in the back, I was like an outtake of Rodney Dangerfield from the movie Back to School.
I fired up the grill and threw on a steak, popped open a brewski and turned down my turtleneck. No one was going to notice; not one of her pretentious friends ever came out back in all these years.
I watched them through the window as they all stood there, talking and talking. What on Earth could they be saying that was so interesting? Nothing, that’s what. I’d been to a hundred of these gatherings or more, and one thing I knew for sure: not one of these people had anything to say; they just loved hearing themselves talk.
I looked in particular at the guest of honor, all pretentious in his corduroy blazer and turtleneck shirt. Everyone seemed to be hanging on his every word. What a poser, I thought. I had no idea.
I looked up at the stars and thought, what I wouldn’t give to be abducted by aliens from Planet Proxima Centauri in the constellation Centaurus. Maybe there would be more creatures like me there. You know: regular people.
Then, to my surprise, I heard the sliding-glass door open from the dining room and out walked none other than the guest of honor himself: the man of the hour, the toast of Broadway, “The Playwright.” WTF was he doing out here? Perhaps he was looking for the bathroom, and got lost on the way.
As he made his way on over to me, I realized, he was not looking for the bathroom; he had not lost his way.”
“Yo!” he said, “Professor.”
“Whatcha grilling there?”
“Uh, steak,” I said. “Ribeye.”
“Oh, man,” he said. “Ribeye is my favorite. You got another?”
I did, and I threw it on the fire.
Then he said, “Whoa, man,” looking at my blazer, “that jacket is blinding me. Where’d you get that, from the Wizard of Op?” The Wizard of Op was this old optical illusions book, all in black and white, from the 1970s. I can’t believe he knew about that.
Then, he took off his jacket. “I hate dressing up for these things,” he said. Then, he noticed the beer in my jacket pocket. “Is that a brewski?” he said. I nodded Yes.
“You got another?” he said. “I can’t stand wine.” He not only drank it, he proceeded to chug it. The whole thing! “Ah,” he said. “Got another?” I did. I did have another.
“So,” he said, “your wife says you’re a professor.”
“Not exactly,” I told him. “I teach high school chemistry.”
“Really?” he said. “Me, too. I mean, before I got my big break, I taught high school too. Not chemistry, of course, but English.”
“My wife said you were once a professor at Yale?”
“Dude,” he said, “I taught at Gateway Community College. I never said I had anything to do with Yale. Some reporter once asked me if I worked at an Ivy League school and I told him I taught in New Haven. He just assumed I meant Yale, not the community college. It just took off from there.”
“I never said I worked at some hoity-toity college;” he said. “but, it has been good for business.”
We then proceeded to get shit-faced together. We shot-gunned a few beers, did some tequila shots, had a pissing contest, and in no time flat we were long-lost friends.
Then, I heard my wife’s voice calling for him from the sliding-glass door.
“Excuse me,” he said, “time to get back to work.”
“I was looking for the restroom,” I heard him say to her as they both went back inside.
“Oh, you poor thing,” she said, giving me a dirty look.
As I popped open another brewski, I could see him through the window, chatting it up with all the townspeople, eating froufrou little seafood appetizers and sipping on a glass of wine. Good for business. I suppose we all do things we don’t want to sometimes; it’s just part of life.
They Call Me Professor is the latest in the Flashbytes series from worst-selling author Philip Loyd. According to Loyd, he always wanted to be a college professor. All the young co-eds, summers off, and those naps in the afternoon. Mmm, naps in the afternoon. But it wasn’t to be. Why? Because he just didn’t look good in a corduroy jacket and turtle neck. So, he became a college janitor instead.
About the Author
Philip Loyd loves fat chicks and cheap beer, though not necessarily in that order. Loyd has worked for Forbes and McGraw Hill, each time running for his life as if waking up from a nightmare. He dreams of one day moving to Hollywood and winning a Razzie. Loyd lives in Dumbass, Texas. PhilipLoyd.com
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