“Oh, Amelia Bedelia, your first day of work, and I can’t be here. But I made a list for you. You just read the list and you’ll be fine,” said Mrs. Rogers.
Mrs. Rogers got into the car with Mr. Rogers. They drove away.
“My, what nice folks. I’m going to like working here,” said Amelia Bedelia.
Amelia Bedelia went inside. “Such a grand house. These must be rich folks. But I must get to work. Here I stand just looking. And me with a whole list of things to do.” She stood there a minute longer, clenching and unclenching her fists.
“I think I’ll make a surprise for them.” So Amelia Bedelia made them a surprise. She did a little of one thing, then a little of another. Soon it was ready.
“There,” said Amelia Bedelia. “That’s done.” Amelia Bedelia liked it when things were finished.
“Now let’s see what this list says.” Amelia Bedelia read the list, then sat down carefully in the chair facing the window. She had read the list. She had done her job. Now it was time to wait. Amelia Bedelia always did what she had told, and she remembered what Mrs. Rogers had said to her before she left. You just read the list and you’ll be fine. Her hands sat in her lap. She sat in her chair. The chair sat in the room.
“I’m fine,” Amelia Bedelia said to the list. The light moved across the room slowly. Then it was night.
Amelia Bedelia heard the door open. “The folks are back,” she said to her fists. She rushed out to meet them.
“Amelia Bedelia,” Mrs. Rogers said, “why are all the lights off?” She went into the kitchen. “Where is the dinner I asked you to prepare? Why aren’t the curtains drawn or the cupboards dusted or any of the rooms –” Mrs. Rogers broke off in impatience and rushed upstairs to see what else Amelia Bedelia had left undone.
Then Mrs. Rogers saw Amelia Bedelia’s surprise.
Mrs. Rogers came back downstairs, and her eyes were two green holes in a white face.
“Amelia,” she said, and then she sat down. There was no chair, so she sat on the floor. “Amelia.”
“You look surprised,” Amelia said, and then she barked out a laugh. “I’m so glad.”
“What on earth is going on?” cried Mr. Rogers. “Where is my dinner? Amelia Bedelia, what is the meaning of this?”
“You told me to read the list,” Amelia Bedelia said, holding her fists out and pulling them back to herself. (Her fists belonged to her.) “I read the list. I always do just as I am told, Mr. Rogers.”
“Helen, what’s the matter?” Mr. Rogers said, shaking his wife from her spot on the floor. She was lying down. “What’s gotten into her?”
“She went upstairs,” Amelia Bedelia said.
“Upstairs,” Mrs. Rogers whispered. She did not get up.
“Damn all women,” Mr. Rogers said, not unkindly, and shot up the stairs. He did not come back down.
“I changed things,” Amelia Bedelia said to Mrs. Rogers on the floor. “Did I change them enough?”
Mrs. Rogers opened her mouth.
Mrs. Rogers meant to tell Amelia Bedelia she was fired.
But before she could get the words out, Amelia Bedelia spoke first.
“Anything that happens in your house is your responsibility,” she said. “I live in your house, and I belong to you now. And I’ll do anything you tell me to, just as you say. And if anything happens to me, in your house, it’s your responsibility. So I must never get hurt in this house. And I will always do just as you say. Do you want me to bring you a cup of tea now?”
Mrs. Rogers had forgotten what she was going to say.
“I’m going to stay here,” Amelia Bedelia said happily. “You don’t have to decide about the tea just now.”
“After all, today was only my first day,” Amelia Bedelia said. “We’re going to have a lot of time to get acquainted with one another.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.