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The Plight of Professor Pyle

A.L. Davidson

A green witch flying in front of a white cresent moon.

     Early one Wednesday evening, in a little shop on the corner of Main Street, a ruckus was about to unfold. Miss Eloise, proprietor and owner of the aptly named Miss Eloise’s Acid and Apothecary, was happily tending to the patrons that flooded in after an unforeseen rainstorm had so rudely cancelled many plans.

 

     Wick and Willow, the bulbous toads she kept as pets, croaked happily from their container behind the counter. The smell of hearty coffee and scrumptious tea cakes filled the building and wafted out through the partially open windows, mixing with the earthy notes of the falling rain. It smelled of autumn.

 

     The heavy shawl sweaters and thick woolen scarves draped around the students signified a change in the weather. Heads were adorned with wide brimmed hats and spells were cast to de-wrinkle the papers damaged by the downpour.

 

     The local ghost hunting group, eager for the rain to kick up activity at the cemetery they planned to investigate that evening, donned their weatherproof black jackets and swapped out baseball caps for beanies. A map of the town was spread across the table, held down by cameras and to-go coffee cups.

 

     Miss Eloise bounced back and forth between her customers, tending to everyone with haste and care. With a tray of mugs in her hand, she approached the far table where two young witches sat pondering their spell books and a homework assignment with a curious conjuring requirement in its instructions.

 

     “Miss Eloise!” a voice called from the front of the cafe.

 

     “Yes, Zeb?” Miss Eloise asked as she set the steaming teas down for the little ones.

 

     Zeb, the head of the ghost hunting group, pointed behind him, "Lose a cat?"

     Miss Eloise’s sharply shaped eyebrow cocked upward before her eyes shifted to the front door. Just beyond the glass, dripping wet with frantic motions in its little paws, stood a cat. It was most definitely not Pantyhose, the adventurous tabby that belonged to Mrs. Penwick next door. Nor was it Monsieur Beauregard Applegate Weatherspoon - Esquire, mind you - the overweight Maine Coon that proudly took up residence in the library across the street.

 

     She did not recognize this friend. But she did recognize the bowtie around his neck.

 

      “Oh dear, this blasted rain is making a mess of everything, now isn’t it?” Miss Eloise inquired - mostly of herself - as she approached the front door.

 

     The bell overhead jingled as the glass panel opened.

 

      “Finally! Miss Eloise, I need your assistance!” the cat cried with frightful fervor in its voice, startling the patrons with the unusual sight.

 

     Zeb, overreacting as always, whipped out his rosary and holy water-filled squirt gun, then aimed them both at the feline, “It’s possessed!” he yelped.

 

     Miss Eloise picked up the sopping wet newcomer, “Now Zeb, I will not have you spraying my patrons with holy water, especially on a day as wet as this! Put that thing away before you douse Molly, they only just received their scone. There will be no exorcisms today!”

 

      “Miss Eloise, that cat spoke. Even in a town as weird as this, that’s not normal,” Zeb replied as he holstered his bright pink plastic pistol. He waved apologetically at the wispy spirit sitting by the fireplace indulging in an orange-vanilla pastry, “Sorry, Mols.”

 

      “S’okay,” Molly replied, not lifting their eyes from their book.

 

      “This is no cat, my dear! This is Professor Pyle!” Miss Eloise said with a giggle as she pointed to the signature bowtie.

 

      “And I’m not possessed, I’m cursed! Miss Eloise! Oh, Miss Eloise! I require your assistance in this matter, it is of the utmost importance!” Professor Pyle said shrilly as he shook the rain water from his tail.

 

     Depositing her friend atop a nearby table, Miss Eloise waved her hand and summoned a plush purple towel to help dry his fur. Professor Pyle - now in the body of a Peterbald - lifted his front paws with woe in his motions as he pleaded for assistance. A loud purr reverberated from his body once Miss Eloise began to dry him off.

 

     Zeb, hands on his hips, leaned over to look into the bright yellow eyes of the professor. This was the strangest thing he’d seen all week, and he’d fallen through a mirror on Monday and had dinner with Bloody Mary herself. Usually, things this wild and whimsical saved themselves for the weekend. What a treat!

 

      “Fiddlesticks, Miss Eloise! The longest and most abrasive of fiddlesticks!” Professor Pyle wept.

 

      “Language, Wolfgang, there are children present,” Miss Eloise reminded.

 

      “Whatcha get into, Prof? Usually you’re the one causing mischief, not having it done to you,” Zeb asked.

 

      “I haven’t the foggiest! I was working on next week’s lessons when the rain came in and, oh, it was such a pleasant change of scenery! So much so that I decided to take a catnap in my office. Just for a moment! When next I woke, I looked like this!” the professor replied, absolutely aghast at the rudeness of it all.

 

     Miss Eloise pursed her lips and placed her hand against her chin in thought. This was not how she imagined spending her Wednesday evening, but she was never one to leave a friend in dire straits, especially when the education of future spell-casters hung in the balance!

 

      “I suppose we should head to your office to figure out what trickery is afoot, shouldn’t we? Molly, would you be a dear and mind the shop for me?”

 

     Miss Eloise asked.

 

     Molly’s black, disc-like eyes blinked slowly as they lifted their head from their book, “I don’t mind at all,” their voice reverberated from their translucent, mouthless form.

 

      “Wonderful, let us go and be back before we’re missed!” Miss Eloise said with a stomp of her heeled boot.

 

     The motion ignited one of the many spells woven into the faux leather fabric and a quick-hop circle appeared beneath them. She scooped up Professor Pyle and grabbed hold of Zeb’s arm and whisked them both away to the Uni down the street, picking up papers and wiggling the wind chimes as they went. The last thing the patrons heard was Zeb’s surprised yelp before the circle closed.

 

     The trio re-appeared in the middle of Professor Pyle’s prestigious office. Stacks of books lent this way and that, teetering on the verge of toppling if one were to move just a hair too quickly. The window was half-obscured by a tall plant and the old, worn down armchair where thousands of papers had been graded was covered in the clothes the professor had once been wearing. The smell of a candle at the end of its wick lingered among the scents of wood and paper.

 

      “Wolfgang, has anything untoward or unsightly happened as of late?” Miss Eloise inquired as she fixed the ruffles of her skirt.

 

      “Of course not, you know I aim for strict precision and perfection in my workspace,” the professor replied, appalled at the accusation.

 

      “Why… did I come along, Miss Eloise?” Zeb asked as he fixed his beanie.

 

      “You’re a ghost hunter!” she noted.

 

      “Yes?” Zeb replied, obviously confused.

 

      “And what, pray tell, do ghost hunters do best?” Miss Eloise proposed.

 

     Zeb cocked an eyebrow up, “Reveal the things no one else can see! I’m on the case, Miss Eloise!” he proclaimed proudly as he raced off toward the nearby oak desk.

 

     A heavy, exaggerated exhale escaped Professor Pyle’s lips, “If he destroys my office—”

 

      “Hush now, Wolfgang, your office is already beyond saving,” Miss Eloise chided as she made her way toward the window to look for any wards or warnings that may have been activated by the sudden downpour earlier in the afternoon.

 

     The trio got to work, scouring signatures and studying scribbles for something amiss. Well, they did, until Professor Pyle was quickly distracted by a bug and gave chase, unable to fight off the primal urges of his new feline-frame. Still, Miss Eloise and Zeb diligently surveyed the area. The wood was searched for markings of ill will and the professor’s clothing was looked at stitch by stitch, but nothing stood out as ominous or unique.

 

      “What were you doing before you took your nap, Prof?” Zeb inquired as he picked up the professor’s discarded spectacles.

 

      “Grading papers,” Professor Pyle replied with an aggravated whip of his tail.

 

     Zeb looked at the messy desk, at the sextons and quills laying about, the drips of ink that soaked into almost everything and the cooled cup of Miss Eloise’s chamomile special. Stacks of papers with big red markings in the corners sat spread across the chaos. It would seem that Professor Pyle’s recent quiz on alchemy and manipulation had been hard on his students. Many low letters in the alphabet could be seen with harsh circles around them.

 

     That’s when he noticed a peculiar annotation poking out from behind a test. He pulled the paperclipped stack from underneath the rest and smiled to himself. He held it up for Miss Eloise to take. She snatched it up with her darkly painted fingers and studied the private notes the professor made about this particular student. A heavy chuckle followed.

 

      “It appears you’re going to have to change some of your grades, Wolfgang,” Miss Eloise teased as she held the paper in front of the professor’s eyes.

 

     Spread across the test were the once hidden markings of a transformation spell, crafted to activate the moment the professor placed a low grade upon its upper corner. The student had been slacking and suffered from a bad attitude. She seemed to always be up for a fight when it came to the old fashioned manner in which the renowned Professor Pyle taught, and he did not appreciate her more modern, lackadaisical attitude toward his lectures.

 

     So, knowing full well she’d fail the test due to the manner in which she showed her work, the sneaky student took everything she’d been taught and turned it against the professor. Using his own methods against him, she decided to show her work in another manner. And, she pulled it off expertly, much to the chagrin of Professor Pyle who suddenly realized what had occurred.

 

      “Teenagers, I swear,” Professor Pyle grumbled.

 

      “She showed her work and executed the spell with perfection, I think this is deserving of an A,” Miss Eloise noted.

 

      “Maybe an A+, she did turn a wolf into a pussycat with ease,” Zeb added with a chuckle.

 

      “I won’t turn back unless I amend it, will I?” the professor inquired with an exasperated sigh, his pointed ears folding atop his head with defeat. He picked up one of his quill pens with his tail.

 

      “Maybe it’s time to modernize your lectures, learn from the youth and discover new ways to look at the world. You are well over a hundred years old, we don’t want you turning into a curmudgeon now, do we?” Miss Eloise reminded him as she held the test steady for him to correct.

 

     Professor Pyle quickly signed off on the paper and, in a puff of purple smoke, transformed back into himself. He snatched up his educator’s robe and draped it over his body before he placed his glasses back atop his nose. He thanked the kind volunteers who helped him with his plight and sat down in his armchair to reassess his students’ handiwork.

 

      “Are you going to go easy on her?” Zeb inquired as he hoisted himself up onto the desk.

 

      “I suppose she did complete the assignment, I can’t be too hard on her,” he admitted.

 

      “Nor should you. Who knows what she may change you into next. Remember, curses are only charming until they happen to you,” Miss Eloise noted with a wide smile and a wink.

 

     What an eventful Wednesday it was.

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