Huffin the puffin sat on a fence overlooking the sea. Seagull fluttered down next to him.
“What time is it?” Huffin asked casually, even before Seagull has settled himself.
“Hello,” said Seagull.
“Yes,” said Huffin, agreeing with Seagull’s hello. “Yes, hello.”
“I don’t know the time,” Seagull looked down at his wing, as if looking for a wristwatch, but there was no wristwatch, of course. Not even a wrist, really. Seagull is a bird.
“Roughly?” Huffin asked.
“About 10am,” Seagull scanned the sky, looking for the sun, now behind a cloud.
“About 10am?” Huffin repeated. “Ok, that’s fine. That’s close enough. Thanks.”
“No problem,” said Seagull.
“That’s 10am, right here I mean?”
“What do you mean ‘here’?”
“Right here. On this fence.” Huffin pointed at the fence with a wing.
“Oh. Yes. I mean, … what?” Seagull was confused. “It’s 10am down on the ground too. And over there down on the rocks by the sea too.” He turned his wing forward, pointing toward the rocks.
“But it’s not 10am everywhere, is it?” Huffin eyes followed Seagull’s wing tip, as it swept a big circle, from the top of the sky to the horizon, where the sea meets the sky.
“You mean it’s a different time in other places?” began Seagull. Then, “Oh, of course, time zones. I know about time zones. It’s a different time in other places around the world.”
“It’s a different time in Europe, isn’t it?” Huffin said.
“Yup.” Seagull didn’t know what time it was in Europe, but he knew it was different there.
“Different time in Africa?” Huffin continued.
“Yup.” Seagull was thinking that it was not only a different time in all of these places, but because they were such BIG places, each with a lot of different time zones, it was also a lot of different times, in most of them. He was thinking about how to put this into words. But Huffin was moving on.
“In South America?”
“On the moon?” said Huffin.
“Yes,” said Seagull.
Seagull’s “yes” hung there for a few moments, like a balloon full of air. Like a balloon full of air, with a small hole in it, hissing as it lost air, then zigzagging to the ground. And now he changed his “yes” to an uh-oh. “Uh-oh,” he said.
“On the moon?” Huffin repeated.
“No,” Seagull changed his answer from an “uh-oh” to a “no.”
“It’s not a different time on the moon?” Huffin wanted to know.
“Right,” said Seagull.
“It’s the same time on the moon, 10am?” Huffin asked.
“No,” said Seagull.
“I’m confused,” said Huffin. “What time is it on the moon?”
“Yes,” said Seagull. Then, “No!” Then, finally, “yes!!” He was standing on one leg now, which he sometimes did when puzzled or upset, or both.
“Yes what?” Huffin angled his head toward Seagull.
Seagull sighed. He was staring down at the ground, standing on one leg, his wing feathers going every which way, his beak hanging a bit open, looking very unhappy.
“Yes-I-don’t-know.” He said at last.
“I was just wondering,” Huffin said, doing his wondering out loud.
“Yeah,” Seagull still looked unhappy. “I don’t think it works on the moon.”
“What doesn’t work?” Huffin asked.
“I don’t think time works on the moon.” Seagull said this, but even as he said it, he face grew long with uncomfortableness, uncomfortableness with what he had just said. Seagull was miserable.
“It must be some time on the moon,” Huffin disagreed. “If I could fly to the moon, and if I checked my watch as I was leaving, and if it was 10am as I was leaving, it would be sometime later when I got there, right? Really, quite a bit later,” Huffin added with a smile. “The moon being very far away.”
“Yes, it would be later,” Seagull agreed, “but … .”
“So I could just check my watch when I got there,” said Huffin, “and that would be the time on the moon.”
“Well, no,” Seagull said, not very sure of himself. “That would be the Earth time.” And then to explain he added, “I mean, the time on your watch would be Earth time on the moon. Not moon time.”
“Not moon time,” Huffin repeated.
“Not moon time,” Seagull explained, trying to sound like he meant what he said, but feeling like something was very wrong. And then it came to him. “No, that’s right. I mean yes, that’s right. Your watch would give the Earth time, not the moon time.”
“Ah, good,” said Huffin calmly. “So the moon time is different.”
“Yes,” said Seagull.
There was a long silence. The 10am sun had moved out from behind its cloud, on its way to becoming an 11am sun, an entirely different sun in some ways and yet pretty much the same sun in others. And it was warming them now, as they stood on the fence.
“So,” said Huffin. “The moon time is different.”
“Yup,” Seagull nodded, only now starting to think they had figured it out.
“How different would you say it is?”
“What?” said Seagull.
“If moon time is different, how different, would you say? Roughly, I mean.” Huffin went on. “Is it like the U.S. East Coast and West Coast, three hours different? Or Japan and Greenwich, England, nine hours different? How many hours do I add or subtract to turn my watch time into moon time?
“What!?” Seagull’s voice came out quite loudly, in what can only be called a bark. “It’s not like the moon is in a different time zone!!”
“It must be,” said Huffin. “It’s so far away.” Then he added, “Which time zone do you suppose the moon is in? It’s not in the East Coast time zone, is it? No, can’t be. The moon isn’t on a coast. You don’t think there’s water there, do you?”
Seagull wanted to say that the moon was not in a different time zone at all, but nothing came out.
“I didn’t think so either,” Huffin went on calmly. “No water at all. So it’s not in the Pacific time zone either. Maybe the moon is in the Euro-zone.”
“No!” Seagull barked again. He was standing on the other leg now.
“The Antarctican time zone?”
“No,” Seagull said again.
“Of course not,” said Huffin. “Can’t be Antarctican, because they have all the time zones down there. The moon isn’t in all time zones, is it?
“The moon is not in any time zone! The moon isn’t in any Earth time zone! The moon has its own time!” Seagull was yelling, maybe hoping to yell loud enough to convince himself he was right.
“Oh,” said Huffin. “I get it.”
“Yes,” said Seagull. “The moon has its own time.”
“Its own time zones, too, I would think,” Huffin added.
“Yes,” said Seagull, cheering up now because this was going to make everything work out.
“So,” said Huffin. “This makes sense. And it means that if I’m standing on the bright side of the moon, right in the middle of the bright side, with the sun right overhead, then it’s noon.” Then he added, “It’s noon, moon-time. I’m in the moon noon time zone. The moon noon zone.”
“The bright side?” Seagull was uncertain.
“Yes,” explained Huffin, “the moon has a side that’s always pointed toward the sun and so is always bright. The other side is always pointed away from the sun, so it’s always dark. Bright side and dark side. The moon doesn’t turn like the Earth does.”
“Oh, yeah,” Seagull nodded his head. “I knew that. One side always bright and hot. The other side always dark and cold.”
“Right,” said Huffin. “So as I said, on the moon, in the middle of the bright side, with the sun directly over my head, it’s noon moon-time.”
There was a short pause. Then, Huffin piped up, “So there I am, roasting on the moon at noon. And, oh, this is great. This makes all kinds of sense. Because let’s say I wait. Let’s say I just stand there and wait for a while.”
“Wait for what?” Seagull wasn’t following.
“I wait for time to pass,” Huffin explained. “It’s noon on the moon, and I wait for an hour to pass. Now what time is it?
“It’s 1pm,” Seagull answered.
“No, it’s not,” said Huffin. “The sun is still directly over my head. Moon doesn’t turn. So the sun doesn’t move on the moon.”
“Oh no,” Seagull’s voice sank. It sank down to his feet. It sank down past the fence into the ground. And it kept sinking.
“It’s noon in the middle of the bright side. And an hour later, it’s still noon. And two hours later it’s still noon. And three hours later, it’s still noon.” Huffin voice rose even as Seagull’s sank.
“Oh no,” was all Seagull could think to say.
“Sounds like I’d never get older, standing there on the moon,” Huffin was cheerful. “At least not at noon-moon-time I wouldn’t.” The sunlight sparkled off his wings as he spread them, getting ready to fly. “Moon-time. Lasts forever. I love it.”
“This makes no sense,” Seagull wailed. “We can’t have time passing on Earth but not on the moon, can we?” He looked over at Huffin. Or rather, he looked over at the fence where Huffin had been standing, at where not-Huffin was standing now. “I guess we can,” he grumbled unhappily to himself. And only to himself. Because Huffin was gone.