The Time-wise Accountant

This was supposed to be straight-forward. Find a café to shelter from the rain, leave the umbrella at the door, enjoy a hot drink while the shower abates, pay, grab the umbrella and go out. No need for compromising sharing of information. The Time Continuum Department had assured Jan that the hefty headphones discouraged other customers from engaging conversation. They were bulky. The accountant didn’t enjoy their hearing being cut off, but it was worth it if they escaped small talk.

Now Jan found themselves at the door, staring into the empty rack, where their time-wise umbrella should have been, and was not.

“Anything the matter, dear?” The bartender’s call was mostly lost through the layers of sound-proof material, but Jan turned anyway and found themselves face-to-face with the curly, ponytailed, plaid-shirted owner of the place. They lowered their headphones, letting the low trickle of acoustic music reach them.

“I… My umbrella…”

“Someone must have taken it by mistake, I’m sorry.”

Jan tried very hard not to gawk at the low level of security in the establishment. How trusting were these people exactly? Their confusion must have shown on their face.

“Don’t worry, people usually bring back items that don’t belong to them. It may take a few days, though. Let me lend you an umbrella in the meantime. Are you staying in the neighbourhood?” The bartender kept speaking while rummaging behind the counter and coming back with a sorry excuse for an umbrella.

“I’m Twenty, by the way. That’s my name, not my age.”

“Jan. And no. I wasn’t supposed to stay in the… area. But now I guess I’m stuck.”

“Is it very precious, this umbrella? A family heirloom maybe?”

“Something like that.”

Jan raked their brains for something to add to their curt statement. Twenty was obviously a courteous individual. Too bad Jan had skipped 21st-century social skills.

“Thank you,” was all they could think of.

“Don’t mention it. Do you have a number I can reach you at whenever your umbrella turns up?” Twenty had taken out a shiny rectangle from a back pocket and was tapping lightly on the screen. Jan stared.