Father Time dropped into the restaurant booth right next to Mother Nature. She scooted away, keeping her pristine gown from his dusty moth-eaten suit. Her revolving halo of birds and butterflies moved with her. Father Time rubbed his hands over swollen eyes; his five o’clock shadow appeared grayish. He removed his top hat and sat it on the seat between them.
“Sorry I’m late,” he addressed God, sitting across the booth from them. Beams of sunlight came through the windows of the café, illuminating the creator of the universe.
“No worries, you look tired,” God said.
“Yeah,” Mother Nature narrowed sharp eyes at her seat mate. “The year just began but you already look like late November. What gives?”
Father Time put his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands. “Time! I just can’t keep up! It’s exhausting. Remember when we’d say ‘Just a second!’ and it meant we’d be quick? Well, no one wants to wait an entire second for anything anymore. Now it’s all about milliseconds, microseconds, and nanoseconds. Not to mention picoseconds!” His voice ended on a sob.
Mother Nature sniffed. “I get the other end of it. People want me to stop time so they can look twenty forever. Like let me reorder the universe to recapture your wasted youth! As if!”
Father Time ignored her. He clasped his hands together, hound-dog eyes imploring God. “Boss, I know you don’t make mistakes, but you know how bad I am at math!” His lips trembled. “My nerves are shot! Everybody wants more time! How many more ways can I divvy it up and keep track?”
“Pffft!” Beside him Mother Nature snorted. “Ignore them! I do. Technically time doesn’t really even exist anyway. It’s just cosmic paperwork!”
“Mother,” God reprimanded gently.
“Organization is vital to the universe!” Father Time snapped at her. One of the little birds circling Mother Nature’s head flew across the café to hide in a silk ficus tree. “Organization is something you wouldn’t understand, you’re all about chaos!”
“Ebb and flow are not chaos! How dare you use that word!”
“Where would your seasons be without time?! Not that they’re recognizable anymore. It’s cold where it should be hot and hot where it should be cold. There’s snow where it should be not, and sun when it’s not hot!”
“Oh thank you, Dr. Seuss! Do you want to try to regulate this planet for even one day? You couldn’t handle it for a femtosecond! Math that!”
“Oh go stabilize a quark!”
A frown darkened Mother Nature’s face, but she spoke sweetly, shooting a smug glance in God’s direction. “Did you know today’s Friday? God wanted cherry pie so he changed Thursday—which is rhubarb—into Friday just for a piece of pie.”
Father Time ran trembling hands through his hair until it stuck straight up, white strands visible among dark. “So that’s a twenty-four hour hop—forward—then, for the entire planet? Oh, no! Death is gonna be furious with me! What about all the people who were supposed to die yesterday? Will there be twice as many today?”
God lifted a mug of hot cocoa from thin air and shoved it into Father Time’s hands. “You worry too much. Death isn’t your department.”
“That guy creeps me out,” Father Time whimpered. “What’s with the scythe? He carries it everywhere, even to meetings.”
“It’s just his bit of flair,” Mother Nature said, “Like your top hot.”
“And your bird halo? You’ve got poop on your shoulder.”
“I do not!” She huffed, nabbing a napkin out of the dispenser to wipe at her gown.
The waitress appeared at the end of the table, and set her tray down. She slid an enormous salad to Mother Nature. God got a huge slice of cherry pie and a mug of tea. She sized up Father Time with a glance.
“We don’t have a liquor license, how about a bowl of soup? On the house.”
“I don’t have time to eat,” Father Time told her. “It’s Friday. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about that. I mean if it was Thursday I might have had time for a bowl of soup, or maybe a three-minute egg, but it’s Friday and I’m hosed.”
“Yeah…” She tapped her fingers against the metal tray. “Will that be everything then?” Without waiting for an answer she left, forgetting her tray.
“Wait!” Mother Nature hollered after her. “I have a tip for you. Preservatives don’t just retard wilt!”
“You’re rude,” Father Time said. “She deserves the early Friday this week just because she had to put up with you.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Is she warming your polar ice cap?”
“I’m going to assume you’re speaking of global warming. As if she’s solely responsible for that.” Father Time slurped his cocoa loudly.
“They’re all culpable.” Mother Nature used her bird doody napkin to wipe his chocolate moustache, leaving a dodgy-looking smear on his upper lip.
“Is global warming really even a thing?” Father Time asked, “Just because people want ice and air-conditioning you’re going to blame them for your regulatory problem?”
Mother Nature’s face went beet red, grizzled wisps of her hair stood straight out. Static electricity snapped audibly throughout the restaurant, lighting up in little bursts like exploding fireflies. The muffled protests of people unfortunate enough to touch anything at that moment sounded around them.
“Children!” God said, “Enough. I can’t take you anywhere, can I? Just once it would be nice if we could go to the same place twice.” A Styrofoam container appeared on the table and he slid his pie into it, and stood up in a swish of shimmering white robes, clutching it. “You’ve got to learn to roll with the punches. I mean where would I be if I took everything personally?”
A heavy-set manager walking past their booth helpfully nabbed the waitress’s metal tray off their table. A jolt of static electricity zapped against his hand so strongly that it was briefly visible. He dropped the tray and bellowed out an expletive that involved God’s name.
“See what I mean?” God said, turning his attention to the manager who stood shaking his wounded hand. “If I did dang that tray, Son, it would do more than numb your hand.” He glided across the restaurant and out the front door. The bewildered manager stared after him.
Wild-eyed, Mother Nature hissed, “I’d smote them if they used my name like that.”
Father Time rose to his feet and jammed his top hat on. “You’re not nearly as famous, or trust me, they would.” And he followed after God, exiting the front door.
“Why do I always get stuck with the bill?” Mother Nature grumbled, digging in her pocket. She slammed a couple dirty rocks on the table and snapped at the manager, “Keep the change!” One of her stray birds flew to rejoin her revolving halo as she tromped across the restaurant and out the door.
~ The End
(And the moral of the story is...?)