The New Job
by Kat Beyer
"You've never been up to my apartment before, have you?" Matilda asked, unlocking the modern lock on the door with a worn brass key. Juliet followed the old woman into the sunniest apartment she'd ever seen. The windows stood wide open. Juliet, from her place across the street, often saw Matilda leave without bothering to close them, a mad choice in a neighborhood full of dealers and thieves, let alone Juliet’s two baseball-crazed sons. Matilda just pitched the balls back.
A bird flew in, chirping at Matilda.
"Thank you," said Matilda; Juliet realized she was speaking to the bird. It flew off. "You can put the groceries on the counter," Matilda said to Juliet. "Thank you for lending a hand. I’ve gone and gotten old."
Juliet found herself staring at the countertop. She could see coiled shells in it, and, impossibly, tiny spirals of writing.
"Are those fossils?" she asked, and Matilda nodded. "And the writing... What language is that?"
"Hah! I knew I was right," said Matilda.
"What do you mean?" asked Juliet.
"I’ve been watching you. I'm retiring, my dear," said the old woman, "and I've chosen you to take over."
"Take over what?" Juliet stared.
"The world," said Matilda, laughing. "Sorry, my awful joke."
She gestured at the rug in the living room and suddenly Juliet could see that it was the ocean, with the chairs and couches as continents riding on it, clouds tugging and forming in the sunlight pouring in from the window.
"It all takes a while to figure out, like the writing on the counter," Matilda went on briskly. "My advice is to get your kids launched before you try anything serious. There are some books around the house, and a few rules, but it’s all pretty much learn as you go."
"Learn what as I go?" asked Juliet.
"Being God," said Matilda.
Juliet only stared.
Matilda smiled and asked, "Who did you think was in charge?"
"I don't know," said Juliet, adding, "And if I don't want to?"
"Believe me, there are days when you don't want to. It's like being a parent," sighed Matilda. "But once you’ve been chosen, that’s that. I’m quite sure I’ve chosen a worthy successor."
She chucked Juliet under the chin.
"It's a compliment," she prompted.
"Thank you," Juliet replied. Matilda laughed, pressed the worn brass key into her hand, and walked out the door.