God was late. He missed dinner.
“Marvin, where have you been, young man?” said his mother. “Dinner is cold, and your father couldn’t wait. He ate and He’s in his room working on The Book.”
Marvin has been auditing a class in Practical Applications of Advanced Theoretical Physics at Cal Tech. Three days a week with an afternoon lab on Saturdays.
“Mom, I’m sorry. I’m so busy. My study group project is crashing and the two seniors are in like La La Land and so we have to do all of the calculations on our own, and you know how slow Busby is and then Mary Elizabeth thinks she should re-check his work before we integrate them…”
“Okay,” she said. “I get it. Save it. Your father wants to talk with you. And, when He does, if you know what’s good for you, you’d better ‘Ix-nay on any ‘Alk-tay about the ‘Ack-blay Oles-hay‘. He’s in no mood for it tonight.”
“Yes, but Mom…”
“Don’t but Mom me, Marvin. And, you think you’re so busy? You don’t know what busy is. I’m up here working my fingers to the bone and what thanks do I get? None. That’s what. I have to pick up after you and your sister and now you want to have a Fourth of July party and watch Breakfast at Wimbledon with your friends? My goodness, I look around and there’s so much to do, and would you ever once think to ask me what you can do to help? But, nooooooo, you’re too busy.”
“I’m sorry Mom.”
“Well, save that for your father. He’s called a family meeting for right after he’s done. And you’d better be there.”
“What about? The lawn? I told him I would do it and I will. Do I have time for a shower?”
“That’s the other thing. Time. Your father is very sensitive about any talk about time now. I’m warning you. No mention of that whole time-space thing at all. He’s pretty touchy about that. He says He should have seen that coming.”
“Exactly, He should have. It’s all related. And it’s space-time, not time-space. In class they call it space-time, the four dimensional, one-parameter, gravitational curvature of the fabric of the universe in which mass and energy distorts time so it’s not a linear constant but all relative to the position in space of the observer.”
“That is exactly the kind of talk that’s going to get you grounded for a week, Marvin. I’m telling you, you can pull that galactic big bang ball of wool over my eyes but I guarantee you, it won’t cut the mustard with your father. You’d be better off sacrificing a goat or something, on a mountain top.”
And so, Marvin showered for the meeting and walked into the den. Marvin’s older sister Marlene sat on the couch next to her father. Miriam, Marvin’s mother, stood by the doorway to the kitchen. She was making popcorn and couldn’t leave it unattended on the stove.
Marvin took a seat in the beanbag chair. It was quiet, except for the popping. And then his father began to speak.
“Marvin, I have a lot on my plate right now, and so does your mother, and I expect you to take care of your responsibilities. I hear you’re letting things slide.”
“I know, Dad. The lawn.”
“Not the lawn, Marvin, the Earth,” said Marvin’s father.
All eyes were on Marvin. “The Earth?” he said. His throat tightened.
“Yes, the Earth, Marvin. Global warming.”
They all turned to look at one another.
Marlene spoke up. “What Dad means is that they have this problem there and you have done absolutely nothing about it. Dad gave you Earth to work on and you’re never around now, and look at you in your cut-offs and your laces untied. Things are falling apart down there.”
“Marvin,” said his father, “Your sister is right. You started them off okay, but since you’ve been taking that class you’ve not been paying the kind of attention I expect from you. I know you were burned by the flood thing. And then all the complaints we got with the property damage lawsuits, and for the way your guy Noah handled the whole immigration selection process. Believe me, I can understand your reluctance to get involved again.”
“Noah was a good man,” said Marvin. “ He was like six hundred years old. I thought he knew what he was doing. I didn’t know he didn’t like trilobites, or the ammonites, or the Hittites.”
“And what about the five-eyed Opabinia? And the cephalopods and the sauropods?” piped in Marlene.
“That was uncalled for, Marlene, off-topic and please, let’s get back to global warming”, said Marvin’s mother, over the popping noise from the kitchen. “What are you going to do, Marvin? You promised them there would never ever be another flood again. And look at what’s happening now.”
“I know, Mom. I just don’t know what to do. I pitched the recycling thing you told me about. But I’m totally clue-free.”
“Well,” said his mother. “Why don’t you maybe mention it to Bernie. He’s old. And, without making it sound like a commandment or anything, you could go down there again and maybe stand next to him in the rest room along the New Jersey Turnpike for example, and maybe nonchalantly whisper something like, ‘Geez, it sure is hot around here’ or something like that, you know, and get a conversation going. See if he has any ideas.”
“Great idea, Miriam.” said Marvin’s father. “You listen to your mother. You think you can take care of this before next Friday?”
“Yes, father.” Marvin stood to go, his thoughts returning quickly to the space-time equations, and wondering what his father might actually have meant, exactly, by the rather vague term, ‘next Friday’.
“And then you can do the lawn, young man.”