A student therapist has no life on the weekend. They're on-call. All the licensed therapists re-built their social lives after graduation, secure in the knowledge that some poor slob of a sleep-deprived student would be responsible for a couple of days.
Adrielle was a positive person. She didn't give in to cynical thoughts like that. Being on call was an opportunity! She might have the chance to do some real work, to help someone in crisis!
And if no one called, well, at least she had the chance to catch up on her papers. Not that any were overdue. Adrielle wasn't the sort to let things back up. On the contrary, she was exactly the sort to be prepared and on top of every situation. When you wanted to be a psychotherapist in Heaven, it was good to strive for perfection. Obviously! Why couldn't her fellow students understand?
And now her chance had come: an emergency referral from Management. That was unusual on the weekend: Management usually considered those days sacred. The problem had to be serious.
Adrielle prepared herself as well as she could, which was difficult: all the files were sealed on the weekends. She had no access to any past history or anything!
Not that she would criticize the system. Certainly not. This was another opportunity! All her newly honed skills of evaluation and assessment would be put to the test. And she would rise to the occasion!
All she knew was that the patient was depressed. And important. He was Auditor-General of Human Souls. Adrielle had heard of him. Everyone had heard of Satan.
Adrielle turned on the recording device that was required for all student counselling sessions. Then she tried not to look nervous as she opened the door to let in her patient.
"Thanks for seeing me on short notice. It's just that I'm really discouraged right now." Satan's greeting was warm, but distracted.
Adrielle looked him over quickly. First impressions can be an important part of a therapist's assessment, and she planned to make no mistakes.
Satan was dressed well and had paid great attention to the details of his appearance. His suit was immaculately tailored. His shoes were tasteful and perfectly polished, and his cuff-links were perfectly aligned. In contrast, his hair was in some disarray, and his constant fiddling with his buttons and lapels suggested agitation, possibly anxiety. His voice was tentative and he avoided making eye-contact.
Adrielle registered all of that instantly. Without missing a beat, she replied: "No trouble at all. What's concerning you today?"
Satan's shoulders sagged. "Everybody hates me, Doc. Everybody! And they can be really rude about it. They try to cast me out, or say 'get thee behind me, Satan.' I'd be happy to get behind them! I'm a very supportive kind of guy. But they just don't get it."
"So you feel misunderstood." This was text-book! Adrielle tried not to look exultant.
Satan shook his head. "Nobody understands me. My public image was trashed ages ago, and I can't overcome it. It's not enough that my job title has been brought up to date internally. My clients still look at me and see the 'Tempter.' That's so medieval.
"'Auditor General' has been my title for decades now. People talk about the need for accountability, so they should get it, right? I mean, anyone can claim to be holy, but how do you know if they're telling the truth? Call in the auditors, that's how. We apply standard accounting tests to the soul, and the results speak for themselves."
Adrielle had to admit she didn't know much about standard auditing procedures. "Are you referring to 'temptation?'"
Satan's eye's blazed. "You're a therapist! You know how damaging prejudicial words can be. If I could just share our new terminology with the public, I'd be so much happier. But does Management listen to me? Of course not."
Time to calm the patient. "Institutional culture takes a long time to change."
Satan looked frustrated. "Tell me about it! Our main PR publication is ancient! There's so much in there that needs updating.
"That whole 'serpent' thing is a great example. I showed up to audit the soul of this new creature, Eve, so I put on a male human form. 'Well endowed,' of course, as part of the test. The dress code in Eden was extremely casual, and the next thing you know, I'm being called a serpent!
"Then there's that bit at the end where it predicts that I'll be thrown out of Heaven with a third of the other angels. That's more than my whole department! I shouldn't have to learn I'm going to be downsized by reading about it in a public document!"
Adrielle could see the injustice in that. "That sounds serious. Did you raise it with anyone?"
Satan sneered. "Sure, and I got the standard answer: 'prophesy is warning, not prediction: the future isn't fixed.' It's still inappropriate."
Adrielle decided to probe this issue a bit. "So you're saying that none of the official literature paints a fair picture of you? It's prejudiced from beginning to end?"
Reluctantly, he admitted: "well, the Book of Job got it right. It shows me being a conscientious auditor."
Right! Of course! Adrielle realized she wasn't totally out of the loop on this patient. "I remember that one. That was a failure for you, wasn't it?"
"Certainly not!" Satan snorted. "I wasn't trying to corrupt Job, I was testing his integrity. The fact that he passed with flying colors isn't a failure on my part. You're supposed to be my therapist, and even you don't get it!"
Oops. Shouldn't have said that. Before she could apologize, Satan was talking again.
"Why does everyone believe these stereotypes? Like that low-class stuff about me playing poker for people's souls. Death gets to play chess. But Satan? Oh no, it's cards for him. I don't play cards!
"Well, except for Bridge. I'm good at Contract Bridge.
"In the past I used file cards for the details of my audits, but that was ages ago. Now my department's totally digital, but everyone still thinks I'm all about cards."
Time to think about concrete solutions, Adrielle decided. "Your image is really bothering you. Do you think a Public Relations campaign would help?"
Satan sighed. "Probably not. To be honest, I did hire a PR firm once. I got some sympathy, but no real change."
Aha! A detail to leap on! "If Management approved that expense, doesn't that mean they're supporting you?"
Satan looked uncomfortable, and sat silently for a while. "I never told Management. But most of the money went to the Rolling Stones, and no one can question that as a Satanic expense."
Adrielle was shocked. She stiffened her face to keep her reaction hidden in a professional manner. She tried to keep her next words gentle but firm. "You're the Auditor-General. Isn't that hypocritical?"
Satan glared angrily. "Hypocritical? That was a totally legitimate expense! Are you saying someone should audit me? Aren't you supposed to support me?
"How can I do my job when my own therapist doubts me? I test people's souls, that's all! People say 'the Devil made me do it,' and that's slander. They always get a choice. Some of what they do is sick! Okay, I suggest ideas, but that's because I'm good at my job. Careful research will uncover anyone's weakness. It's all in the details.
"I'm a hard working civil servant. Why can't people see that? Bureaucrats get respect, so why can't I? I expose corrupt politicians and immoral religious leaders. That's a valuable public service, but do I get any credit? No!
"Ahh, what's the use? I pour my heart out to you and you call me a hypocrite. Tell me why I shouldn't quit! Give me one reason to stay in this thankless job. You can't, can you?" He glared angrily, and then buried his face in his hands.
Adrielle was alarmed by this outburst, but she'd knew that strong emotions were necessary to the counselling process. And she knew her theory perfectly. "As your therapist, it's my job to challenge you if it appears you're being avoidant or self-deceptive. It doesn't mean that I don't support you or believe in you.
"As for your question: you're free to quit if you feel that's best. I won't try to convince you to stay in a job you hate."
Satan looked up. He spoke slowly, as if each word needed to be controlled. "I don't hate my job. It's my image that I can't take anymore."
Good! The patient had clarified his biggest issue. Now to find him a strategy to deal with it. "Can you imagine a way to get past this issue of image? Many bureaucrats don't get respect, and they do their jobs faithfully. They take pride in their work, and in the good that it does. Do you think that you could find a way to ignore public opinion and simply take pride in your work?"
"Pride? I never considered that." Satan suddenly went still, his brow furrowed in thought.
Sensing success, Adrielle pressed on with enthusiasm. "If others misunderstand, don't let it bother you. You know the truth. Their ignorance shouldn't prevent you from doing a good job."
A big smile spread across Satan's face. "You know, you're right. They're a bunch of ignorant jerks. Who cares about their opinions? I can be proud of who I am. I am proud!"
He leapt up and pumped Adrielle's hand. "Thank-you! I haven't felt this empowered in centuries. No one can stop me! No one!!"
Adrielle watched in amazement as Satan dashed out of the office. What just happened? Is this a problem? No, no. Think positive thoughts. Positive.
She began speaking for the recorder. "This session has been terminated by the patient. I can report that the patient appeared to make a significant break-through. While his abrupt departure is cause for, um, slight concern, I believe that his depression is resolved, at least in the short term. A follow-up appointment is recommended, although there was no opportunity to schedule one.
"I look forward to hearing how Satan's career unfolds in the future. I'd like to think I've made a difference."
x x x
A different take on the Eternal Nemisis and one reminiscent of my own Stan (from my Gavin McQue stories). I really enjoyed this psycho-religio-comedic tour de farce. How about you? Reply on our BBS, please. -GM