A girl went to a diner because she was hungry, not because gravity had disappeared.
And some gods formed a poker group.
Wendy waited for her pancakes. She spent the time playing with the slack in her tether. She hardly needed the whole chord and found she could bunch it up to practice shoelace knots. She’d need that skill someday.
Up in one corner of the diner was a TV, tuned to the news. There a female reporter in a plain suit was clearly trying not to freak out as she interviewed a man whose entire house was covered in cushions. Apparently he’d built expansions, too, so that he could get the mailbox. How the cushions and the expansions were linked, neither Wendy nor the reporter could figure. A belt fastened a pillow to his head, making it difficult to hear the questions, and so he kept returning to his declaration that he had seen something like this coming. He blamed it on an underwear company.
The man who entered was easily the most interesting one Wendy had seen today, passing even pillow-man from TV. He looked like he had been spray painted gold and was very proud of it, for he wore only a white thong and some leaves behind his ears. His blond hair looked downright shabby next to his flesh, so toned he could have passed for a giant Oscar statue.
He passed Wendy’s table with his nose turned up, walking regally, as though he weren’t doing something wrong by being naked here, but that everyone in the diner was experiencing the privilege of seeing him. It was like he owned the world, and maybe he did, because he didn’t have any trouble staying on the ground today.
The door to the kitchen opened and the waitress with one eye stared at him a moment.
“Honey,” she said with a light blush. “We're a free-thinking diner so you can wear whatever you want, but the floor is a little grimy for bare feet. Might want some sandals."
He waved her off with a gilded hand, and she returned to the kitchen muttering something about how he could wait for a menu.
He stopped by the group of old men in battered clothes, placing his fingertips on their table. The crow on the old man’s shoulder hopped off, flapping to the windowsill. It eyed him. So did all the men.
Wendy struggled with her tether and crept a couple of booths closer to eavesdrop.
"I want his account," said the golden man in a voice that made her ears feel warm.
"You want all of our accounts, you glory-whore," said the man nearest to Wendy. He had long, white hair and a beard like Santa Claus. The rest of him was un-Santa-like. There was what looked like chain mail under his jacket and he wore a patch over one eye, though the scars of whatever had taken it were visible around its edges. Wendy wondered if he was related to the waitress.
The golden man curled his fingers into fists. Wendy didn’t know if he knew this, but when he got angry his butt clenched in an unflattering way.
"I've been working with the sun since the world began. Attractive forces were never properly claimed in the Greek pantheon as it was. There’s an opening and I can handle it."
The raven kawed in the golden man’s direction. Everyone in the booth looked at it intently. A man further down the booth, this one black and very thin, nodded as though agreeing with the bird.
"Raven’s got a point. This is why no one likes you, Apollo. Athena is out there trying to get him some therapy. Demeter and that nymph-boy son of hers are covertly rescuing people from floating into the ionosphere. You? You just want to serve yourself."
The man with the eye-patch added, "You're pretty much the god of serving yourself."
The black man straightened so he could look the golden one at eye level. “If anyone is going to take over his account, it’s me. I pretty much designed this universe.”
“So you say.” The golden man sniffed. “But Gaia, Jehovah and a Peruvian fisherman all make the same claims. Bottom line is Gravity gave up.”
"He has not given up on the world entirely. The planet is still clearly in a fixed orbit around the sun. This is a punishment against men."
"Gravity's been punishing women ever since they lived to hit middle age."
The raven kawed and they all chuckled guiltily. Even the golden man laughed, then looked around like he was worried someone had seen him do it. Wendy ducked behind the booth.
“We’re being watched,” he said in his warm voice. Even scared of being caught, Wendy felt that cloying warmth. It ran from her ears to everywhere.
“Humans always watch our work,” said one of the men. Wendy thought it was Eye-patch. “It’s how the mythology gets going. Now settle in or bug out, Apollo. If you want to be the new God of Gravity, play him for it at the next poker meet.”
“Gravity doesn’t play cards with the universe.”
The raven kawed and all the voices of the booth laughed. All but the warm voice of the golden man. He turned and walked away. Wendy saw his scowl come around the edge of the booth.
“You’re lucky,” he said, eyeing her. Now his words weren’t merely warm. They were a fever. “If Odin wasn’t around, I’d turn you into a plant.”
“This isn’t that kind of diner,” came a female voice. The waitress came over with a tall stack of pancakes on one arm, the other hand clasping the counter near the cash register. The lack of gravity was still giving her trouble, but a lifetime of handling trays had given her a good sense of balance.
“Why don’t you leave the underage girl alone and get out of here before I call the cops?”
“I think they’re busy today,” he answered, but he was already leaving. When he exited the door Wendy looked out the window for him. He was nowhere.
The waitress set the plate down before Wendy. A few pancakes drifted up, but the waitress skewered them on a fork and pushed them down. She handed Wendy a knife to go with the fork and asked, “You want maple or strawberry syrup, honey?”
On the TV, the man with the house of pillows was offering the reporter a throw cushion.