Written by Luna Martin
“Ugh…curse my tiny legs…Wait! Bus driver! I’m coming!” Pluto yelled as she ran towards the end of Kuiper Street, panting heavily as she came closer and closer to her bus stop. As she ran, she took a brief look to see a couple of other kids, barely ahead of her, before switching her focus back towards the disgustingly bright yellow bus in front of her, the red stop sign still flashing on the side. Finally, as the double door began to close, Pluto sprinted in between the doors, her small, thin figure barely managing to skim through. Sweating and panting like a golden retriever, she ignored the dirty look the driver gave her and sank down in her seat next to Ceres, who gave her a small smirk.
“Ugh…that’s officially the last time I’m sleeping in,” Pluto groaned, her backpack slouching towards the floor.
“Uh huh…that’s what you say every time you’re late. I swear, it’s only been one week of school and you somehow managed to have more tardies than anyone else,” he laughed as Pluto rolled her eyes at him.
“And that’s officially the last time I ask for your opinion,” Pluto snarked before sitting up a bit more, her panting coming to a stop. As the bus drove down the rocky roads, Ceres turned towards the window to stare at the sky which seemed duller than how they normally would. Occasionally, a small pebble would find its way on the glass, and collide with the ground.
“Looks like we’re up for some weather.”
“Uh yeah. The weather channels have only been talking about the asteroids for the last 6 light-weeks. Were you living in a cave or something?”
“Well excuse me for not always having cable and internet! I swear, every time I turn around, Mars and Jupiter are hogging up all my Wi-Fi. Like, dude, get your own!” Ceres yelled, earning a small smirk and laugh from Pluto.
“Yeah. Good luck telling them that though. I swear, all because he’s one of the biggest students in the school, Jupiter thinks he’s some sort of supernova or something.”
“Did you know he’s trying to run for class president, again?!”
“Pfft..figures..the only thing larger than him is his ego,” Pluto sighed, as the bus pulled into the parking lot in front of Milky Way High School where some of the biggest narcissists go to become even more narcissistic, according to Haumea. As soon as they got off the bus and ran through the falling rocks, Pluto and Ceres entered the cafeteria and grabbed their breakfast cinnamon rolls before joining Haumea and Eris at the ‘dwarf table’, as Mars “jokingly” titled it.
“Hey Ceres, my man! Any chance you did the astronomy homework last night?” Eris yelled, not even giving them a chance to sit down.
“What do you think? Jupiter decided to have another one of his stupid ‘planet only parties’ again. I swear, when I graduate, I’m gonna go to a school so far away, Planet X will seem like just a small black dot.”
“Yeah, good luck with that Mr. D average GPA.”, Haumea smirked.
“Uh, D plus thank you very much.”
“Oh, whatever Einstein,” Haumea rolled her eyes before looking towards Pluto, who was staring intensely at the planet table which was 10x larger than the dwarf table. It was also much cleaner and seemed to be the only table decorated with a navy-blue tablecloth. “Hey Pluto! What are you gawking at over there? There’s nothing over there for you.”
“O-Oh! Nothing I was just spacing out a bit. Kind of overslept last night.”
“Yeah…I don’t buy it. You looked like you wanted to marry that table. I don’t know why you’d even bother anyways. Those elitists are not gonna be all like, ‘Hey Pluto! Wanna come sit with us!’, like this is some Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood stuff. Besides, we have the better view of the cafeteria.”
“Yeah, but they’re closer to the lunch line-” Eris started, before Haumea’s stomach nudge cut him off with an ‘OOF!’
“I’m just saying, this ‘dwarf’ thing isn’t as bad as the rest of you make it out to be. I mean, we don’t have to pretend to laugh at Mars’ stupid comedy routines.”
“I actually think they’re pretty funny…” Eris started before receiving another stomach blow from Haumea.
“Oh please, the physics teacher is funnier than that tomato head!”
While Haumea and Eris continued to argue, Pluto just rolled her eyes at them and stood up, walking towards the front of the cafeteria where the lunch lines and trash cans aligned. As soon as her cinnamon roll wrapper hit the trash bin, however, the clothed table next to her silenced before Jupiter’s voice decided to fill the void.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing? Don’t you know the rules, freshman? Planets. Only.” he snapped, reading out the small sign taped to the floor that’s written in notebook paper and a threatening red ink.
“Relax dude. I just came to throw my wrapper away. Didn’t realize the trash bins had your name all over them,” Pluto snarked.
“Humph…of course you didn’t realize. He forgot to put his name on you!” Mars laughed, allowing for some of the other planets to laugh some more. Jupiter and Mercury seemed to just about fall out of their seats while Saturn and Venus just stared at Pluto, unsure of what to say.
“Well…” Jupiter breathed, pulling himself together, “Now that you’ve contaminated the bins with your dwarf planet trash, I’d suggest you beat it! We wouldn’t want the other dwarfs to start getting ideas now, would we?”
“You know what you’re absolutely right. We wouldn’t want them to start spreading Mars’ lazy excuse for jokes,” Pluto snapped, causing the laughter to cease completely once again as she stared right at Mars and Jupiter. “Look, I don’t know who you think you are but-”
“Me? How can you not know me? I’m Jupiter! I’ve been class president for 3 years in a row, I’m the quarterback for the football team, and I’ve been crowned prom king in junior prom!”
“Yeah well, the only thing you’re king of is king of the zits!” Pluto snapped, eyeing the large zit on the side of Jupiter’s chubby face. As soon as those words escaped her mouth, the entire cafeteria took one collective gasp as Jupiter got up from his seat. He towered Pluto by several feet, and Pluto saw that his stomach barely fit inside his T-shirt. Jupiter looked down on Pluto, not even bothering to bend down.
“Listen here, you little space rock. I don’t know who you think you are, but you’re not one of us. You have no right to speak to me that way and if you keep running your mouth, you’re gonna be flying into subspace like a frisbee! You’re lucky there are teachers around right now; otherwise, I would have already done it. Do you understand or should I slow down so your dwarf planet mind can catch up?”
“Yeah that’s right. Go on. Get outta here!” Mercury yelled, as if he were talking to a bug. Jupiter and Mars laughed again, while the other planets glanced uncomfortably at each other. Meanwhile, Pluto returned to her seat only to be welcomed by a wide-eyed Ceres, Eris, and Haumea.
“That. Was. So. Cool Pluto!” Eris yelled, before Haumea popped him again.
“No, it wasn’t! Pluto are you insane?! You could have gotten squished like a space flea! There’s a reason Jupiter runs for president unopposed!”
“Oh really, well why don’t we add a little spice,” Pluto smirked, getting up from the table again, ignoring Haumea’s demands to “sit your icy butt back over here”. She strutted towards the front of the lunchroom again, making sure to pass by Jupiter’s stupid table, and walked up to the president sign up sheet. As soon as her name made its way onto the paper, she turned around to see Jupiter attempting to lunge forward with Saturn and Neptune struggling to hold his arms back.
“Y-you…can’t do this to me! What makes you think you’d make a better president than me, you dwarf!?” Jupiter roared, as the other planets scrambled to leave the table as the first period bell finally rang.
“Oh, I’d be careful on who you call a dwarf, Mr.President. You just might get impeached,” Pluto said, before walking back towards her table to grab her back. Ceres was the only one still standing at the table, gathering his things, and gawking at Pluto while slightly shaking and fumbling his papers.
“Man..you just earned yourself a one way ticket to the death house….”
“-and that’s why I think I should be re-elected as the class president! I mean, how do you expect a little dwarf planet to run things by herself? I mean, she was barely big enough to even reach the sign-up sheet!” Jupiter laughed, as Pluto slammed her head on the desk and moaned. It was the same stupid speech over again, and she felt the temptation to throw her textbook at his pig-like face.
“Alright, that’s enough Mr. Callisto. We’re all aware of your impressive wrestling trophy collection, but we need to move on now. Take a seat. Ms. Kerberos! When you’re finished with your little nap, it’s your turn to give a speech,” Mr. Hubble said, before sitting back towards his desk to grade the rest of the papers.
“Bah! Look at her! She’s barely paying attention! I wouldn’t trust her to be my president, would you guys?” Jupiter asked, as Pluto made her way towards the front.
“Yeah, well you’re barely paying attention to the meteor up your south pole!” Pluto snapped back, as she reached the podium. The class erupted with ‘OOOs’ as Mr. Hubble struggled to shut the class up. “Anyways, before the talking orange decided to interrupt me, let me ask you guys a question. Aren’t you guys tired of the same dude bossing everyone around? Don’t you wish for something new?”
“I wish Saturn and Venus would stop making out in the middle of the classroom!” Mercury yelled, “I mean get a room you two!”
“That’s not what she meant, you baboon,” Earth snapped.
“As I was saying!” Pluto continued, “These are supposed to be the best years of our lives! Why are we wasting them on listening to someone who can barely wash his face? I mean come on! How can you miss the giant zit on his face? You could probably throw a dart at it and get an instant bulls-eye.”
“Alright Ms. Kerberos, no more drama! Get to the point! We still have a quiz to take.”
“Fine. Look, all I’m saying is that most of us have got about a year, maybe two, left in this school. Let’s make the best of it. Vote for Pluto!” she yelled, before sitting back down in her seat. Behind her, she could hear the other students whisper in the background while Eris, on her left, gives Pluto a smile and a thumbs up. Haumea, on the other hand, mouthed, “You two are so childish,” before turning towards the blank quiz paper that had just landed on her desk. Jupiter, on the other hand, was too busy jamming his pencil on the paper while forcefully drawing Pluto getting crushed into asteroids. As the students continued the quiz, Pluto would escape a glance at Jupiter once more; his normal, haughty look was replaced by furrowed eyebrows and a jumpy leg. Pluto smirked at his direction before turning back to her paper. About time the king was getting his just desserts.
After their last class, the students piled back onto the buses to head back home. Pluto sat in her usual seat next to Ceres, who was increasingly more interested in the window, as he watched larger rocks fall and hit the glass.
“Uh Hello? Planet X to Ceres! I’m over here!” Pluto called, grabbing Ceres’ attention.
“Oh sorry. I was just keeping a watch out. The weather has gotten a lot worse than it was this morning.”
“You think I didn’t know that? I mean, it’s not like I hadn’t just walked through it.”
“Geez, who put you in retrograde?” Ceres asked, glaring slightly at her.
“I bumped into Mars on my way out of the building. He told me to resign if I knew what was good for me. I swear, I can never seem to buy enough Prozac.”
“Hey, why don’t you come to my place after school. We can hang out and maybe work on your final speech for tomorrow.”
“Eh…I guess. I don’t have anything better to do. My dad told me he was gonna be working late anyways.”
The two hopped off the bus and waved goodbye to Eris and Haumea on their way to Ceres’ place. Much like the other homes in the Keiper subdivision, the gray houses were merged into duplexes with Ceres’ place smack dab in the middle of two. As they walked inside and slammed their backpacks on the couch, Pluto could hear his neighbor, Jupiter, slam his backpack down on the ground and an older man’s voice asking him questions.
“What do you mean you’re not unopposed? No one else can do the job like you can!” the man’s voice said.
“I-I know dad. I’m doing everything I can, but she won’t back down.”
“I don’t want to hear any more excuses! Don’t you know what’s at risk here?” the man yelled, sighing, “I know it’s selfish to ask a child, such as yourself, but you’re the only one strong enough to handle what’s about to come your way. We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but it’s going to happen at some point. The falling rocks are getting heavier and heavier by the hour; who knows how big they will be by the time the storm hits? Look, even if she does still win the election, you still need to do what you’ve got to do. It would be the noble thing to do. Do I make myself clear?”
“Hey Pluto! We gonna get started on this speech or what?” Ceres called, making Pluto jump about 20 feet.
It didn’t make any sense to Jupiter. How could they still make them go to school when no one knows that Planet X is about to be hit? As the final votes were being counted, Jupiter glanced at Pluto, who seemed to have stolen his trademark haughty look as her votes increased, before glancing at the atmosphere, rocks still falling at free will.
“Alright ladies and gentlemen, we have the final vote!” Mr. Sol, the Principal, announced in the middle of the football field, where the stage was set up. “Drumroll please!”
“Students of Milky Way High School, may I present your class president of the 2021 school year-”
Right before Mr. Sol could finish his sentence, the rocks suddenly became bigger, averaging about the size of basketballs, and began to crash into the ground as the students scattered around, screaming.
“Everybody! Follow me! NOW! HURRY!” Jupiter screamed, turning towards Pluto,
“Follow me. We need to find a safe spot. Cover your head with your arms.”
“B-But shouldn’t I lead you guys?”
“It doesn’t matter! Get behind me and stop wasting time!”
Faculty members fled towards the building, with Jupiter following behind. He instructed the students to group up and stay as close to him as possible as they sprinted towards the double doors. As he was running, the rocks slammed in his path, forcing Jupiter to detour his path. His direction changed so much that Pluto found herself straying away from the group in midst of her confusion.
“Pluto! I’m over here! Come back! Hurry!” he yelled, as they made their way near the doors, allowing the small shield to block incoming rocks. As Pluto tried to rejoin them, she found herself constantly having to dodge and duck the meteors threatening to hit her head.
“Go inside. All of you! I’ll be back,” Jupiter yelled, running towards Pluto. He grabbed her and ducked downwards before making his way back towards his entrance…
“AH!” Jupiter yelled, barely managing to drop Pluto right in front of the double doors. He limped inside the gymnasium doors, his leg sporting a large cut even bigger than his ‘zit’.
“A-are you ok?” Pluto asked frantically, her body shaking.
“Yeah…Yeah I think I’ll be fine. I’ve had worse, believe me,” he said, sitting up right.
“Why would you do that for me?”
“Because that’s part of being class president! I’m supposed to help protect the students here. How do you think I got everyone here to respect me…well…almost everyone…Ugh…” Jupiter groaned, grabbing his knee. “That meteor really did a number on me, but I’m tough. I know I can handle it. But I can’t imagine what would happen if you got hit instead. That rock might have been even bigger than you, or at least close.”
“I’ll go find the nurse.”
“Don’t bother. Some of the other students got scraped by rocks that were already by the ground. I can wait this out for a little while longer,” Jupiter groaned, sitting fully upright now.
“Is all this why you didn’t want me to win the election? Other than to stroke your massive ego?”
“Yeah actually. I didn’t want to be responsible for your death since you would have to lead the rest of us to safety. It probably would have been better for me to tell you.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you have to throw a hissy fit every time I walked by your precious ‘Planets Only’ table?”
“My father has a pretty backwards way of thinking. He told me that as long as I kept the students safe, I was essentially like a ruler to them. He taught me that one of the most important things you could be in life is a leader, and a leader demands respect from his peers. I guess, what good is it to be a leader if people only want to be around me for protection? Like, I know what I do is important, but I don’t know…it’s pretty dumb.”
“You might as well have told me. It can’t get any dumber than being demoted to a dwarf.”
“Yeah…I’m sorry about calling you that. It wasn’t very cool. I thought that if I wanted to feel important, then I needed to act like it. Ugh…” Jupiter groaned, flopping back down, “Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I like being important. It’s all I’ve ever known. But I’m tired of just being important and useful. I want to be loved. I want someone to care for me like I would care for them. I’m tired of being the ‘big guy’ all the time.”
“Yeah…I feel that.”
“How do you know?”
“I’m bigger than all my friends, actually. I guess that doesn’t really say much considering how short I am, but we kind of have a pact going on. No one leaves another behind. That’s what a leader means. A leader isn’t some dick that tries to control the student population. A leader is someone who leaves no one behind. Or, that’s what I think anyways. Laugh at me if you want, but I’m finished bending over for other people.”
“No… I actually like that. A lot.”
“Really? You don’t think it’s corny or stupid or anything?”
“Corny yeah…but I still like the sound of that,” Jupiter said, sitting up right as the nurse came over to him.
“Well, I guess I’ll leave you to it then. I’m gonna go find my friends.”
“Wait! Hang on Pluto!” Jupiter called, making Pluto freeze, “You don’t suppose you’d want to join our table for lunch on Monday?”
“Sure, but only if I can invite my friends over there too.”
“Yeah…I guess I’ll just have to get used to having you guys around.”
Pluto smiled and waved Jupiter goodbye before joining the other dwarf planets. Eris was frantic, hugging Pluto and asking her if she was ok. Haumea and Ceres exchanged looks before hugging Pluto, the four interlocked in a tight bond. For once in Pluto’s cold, icy life, she didn’t feel as cold.