And God said, "So, come on, man. I've got this side bet going."
Job replied, "I appreciate your circumstance, but I've got bills to pay, kids in college, kine to feed. Do you know how much it costs to feed kine? Not cheap, that's how much."
God, eyes narrowed, teeth gritting, "I'm telling you, you will agree to this. I can sweeten the pot until you say the word 'go.' Right now, say �yes� right now and I'll throw in an all expenses paid trip to wherever you want to go. You name the place."
"But I'll be going alone. My wife will be dead, remember?"
Job was right. God had to think quickly, "Tell you what I'll do. I'll get you a better one, a little lady with all the bells and whistles."
Shaking his head, Job declined, "I'm good with the one I have. We've been through a lot together. I know you won't believe me, but she makes the best blueberry pancakes, period. That's worth a lot to me."
God paused and mumbled, "Dios mio," to the sky. "Okay, listen, we both know I can taketh away, but I can giveth a lot better. I tell you right now that one," God gestured to a picture of Job's wife on the wall, "Ain't gonna age well. In ten, maybe even fewer, years you'll be looking around. Trust me. I'm almost always right about these things."
Furious, Job shot back, "That's it. End of conversation. I love my wife. I love my kids. I've been blessed with a great life." Job grabbed God by the shoulder and moved him toward the door. "Appreciate all you've done, I gave on Sunday," said Job.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," God jerked his robe away from Job. The veins in God�s forearms popped as he rubbed his forehead in frustration. Then he glanced at Job beneath his hand, lifting an encouraging eyebrow, trying to provoke Job to reconsider. But Job simply shook his head, no. They had reached a tipping point. Someone had to give. Free will was free will.
God paced back and forth. Since Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche he had lost some serious impact. The whole scientific revolution did nothing to help his reputation, either. Then Satan comes up with this great plan to get him back on the map.
"Job carries some weight," says Satan. "You get his support, others will follow," he says.
At times like this God longed for the old days. Part a sea or two, send a plague on an enemy, make a flaming bush talk, these were the little things that might have convinced a guy like Job to play nice. But the world has changed, and God didn�t think the old bag of tricks held much sway. God needed something motivating, inspiring, an idea that would move Job to action. These were hard times for religions, and God�s response was neither motivational nor inspirational.
The best God could do was a whiney, "You know, I could smite you right here. I swear I could."
He wanted to be respectful. He really did, but Job could not help laughing. "'Smite'? No, seriously, 'smite'? Who talks like that? I'm not even sure what �smite� means."
God thought about it and realized he wasn't entirely sure what it meant either. He needed to save face and save it fast. He went with the angry bit, "Plagues will fall on your house. Boils will develop near uncomfortable parts of your body. Your kine will be struck down by furious bolts of thunder."
That last threat mattered, seemed believable even, and Job folded his hands and sat on the couch. The year before Job lost a kine to lightening. It happened a week before 4H and the mess was not a pretty one. The dead animal laid there until evening and drew a coyote. The ranch never had coyotes. Now, nearly twelve months later, coyotes were yapping all over the place and Job was forever shooting at them with his 0.22.
Maybe a concession could work, thought Job. He had an idea about one of the kids. There's the new one. After all, they had six others--the Jobs were Catholic. Yes, God could take a child, the little one. College costs being what they are, if the little one were gone it would allow the Jobs to save a little something extra for retirement, too.
Just then, Mrs. Job walked in. She heard the men talking and could not sleep. When she realized it was God she did not, as she might have in times past, kneel before him. Instead, she spoke directly and plainly, "Do you have any idea what time it is? There are children sleeping."
God back stepped, "I apologize. I, there was this bet, and it's a long story, but Job has to play along. The payoff is worth it." He chucked Job on the shoulder as a sign of camaraderie.
"We have a baby in there," Mrs. Job pointed down the hall.
Still mulling over the dead kine issue, Job cringed, "It's not technically a baby. She's four now."
God smelled success. He thought Job might be coming around. There was a touch of nervousness in the man's voice. A door had opened slightly.
"I mean, we don't know the kid all that well is my point," said Job to his wife.
Mrs. Job's mouth dropped. Her hair was a wild jungle of sleep and barrettes. The kind of mess that Job thought must take effort. She was wearing a tank top and sweatpants. Job hated that outfit. The top had no support and her breasts looked far older than they were. With her mouth open and breasts sagging, he thought maybe God had a real point about her, too. Then Mrs. Job glared at him with a mixture of hatred and confidence. She only used that expression when she expected Job to act on her behalf. In the years they had been married, it had always worked.
Job came back to reality and assumed his husbandly role. Feeling a little guilt, he bellowed absentmindedly, "Absolutely not!" to both God and himself.
God looked at Mrs. Job. Mrs. Job looked at God. They both shrugged their shoulders and responded at the same time, "What are you talking about?"
Awkward silence followed. God's eyes moved between the two mortals. He knew whatever scrap of submission Job was willing to put on the table had just been taken off because of Mrs. Job. As a final effort, God stared at Job and with casual ease he motioned to the Mrs., bringing an index finger to the throat in a murderous slicing motion signaling her potential doom. Despite her unflattering outfit and what may have been her worst hair day, Job declined.
God was losing the battle, had lost it maybe. But he had a mountainous ego that would not give up. Trying to sound Godly, he announced to them both, "I will now perform a miracle that will make you both tremble at my power."
God raised his arms to the ceiling and lifted his head, exposing the unshaved weak beard beneath his chin. Nothing happened. Then a light flickered on and off. God glanced down at the couple, "That was me." Then a slow steady drip from the kitchen faucet sounded. "That one, too," said God, claiming rights to all of the house�s deformities.
Mrs. Job chuckled, "I can't take anymore of this. Fools give me migraines. Job, when you show your guest out please join me in bed, where sane people are at this hour." She left the room and both men heard the bedroom door almost slam shut.
"I did that," God said.
"Gave her a headache. She was going to make coffee, but I showed you my power and gave her a subtle but deadly annoying headache. Do you see my power now? God's wrath is not a game!" bellowed God in a half-whisper. He was afraid of waking the baby, or worse, bringing Mrs. Job back.
"Ah, I think it's time to call it a night. I've given you my answer," Job motioned God toward the door.
God tried to convince Job that he had actually given Mrs. Job the headache. "Do the math. Lady walks in," said God, "Perfectly healthy, but, and this is a big 'but,' she walks out with a headache. Coincidence? Or sign of the almighty at work?"
Arms crossed, head nodding in disbelief, "Let me get this straight. You prove power by giving my wife, who just hopped out of bed at 4:30 on a Sunday..."
God interrupted, "Whoa, whoa, Sunday, it's Sunday? It's Saturday, right? It cannot be Sunday. Please tell me it's not Sunday."
Job placed his hands in the pockets of his robe. Motioning with his head toward a Mazatlan, Mexico calendar on the wall, he said, "See for yourself."
And see God did. His shoulders slouched and his lower lip pushed out. It was Sunday. Satan had duped him again. The whole bet had been a game, a deliberate distraction. These were not the good old days. "Bastard did it to me again," scoffed God.
From beneath a white robe, God withdrew a Blackberry. Job started coffee as God checked the little silver and gray contraption. "This just sucks," grumbled God. "I totally turned my ringer to silent instead of vibrate. I missed virtually every service in Europe. Do you have any idea how often I do that?"
Job offered God a cup of coffee. God took the cup and drank too fast, burning his mouth. In pain, exhausted from a futile night of work, and extremely upset with Satan for getting the upper hand, God finally walked to the door and opened it to the world. Birds sang in the bushes next to Job's front porch. The morning sun shot rays of orange and red across the horizon. Without saying goodbye, God climbed into his PT Cruiser and drove down the street and away from Job.
A week later, apropos of nothing, Job's house, a very clean and well kept home, developed an ant problem. Convinced it was no accident, Job and his family attended church each Sunday for the next year.
BIO: Eric V. Neagu lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. His undergraduate degree is from Purdue University in civil engineering, which he uses to work toward revitalizing depressed communities. Eric also has a graduate degree from The University of Chicago, which he mostly uses to give driving directions to Barack Obama's house when people ask. Other work can be found on The National Ledger, Bewildering Stories, and Hackwriters. While not planning his upcoming wedding, he works on his first novel and refining several short stories.