Pluto Isn't a Planet by Kaitlynn Flint
Fred slung his backpack over his shoulder, a look of disgust painting his round, chubby face as he listened to the professor.
“And remember, this essay is due Monday. Yes, that does mean you’ll have to work on it over the weekend. But I know you can get it done,” the old professor said, looking at the clock on the wall behind him. “Thank you for the lovely class today. I look forward to reading your paper next week. And don’t forget about those meteor showers on Sunday night. It’s happening at nine— mark it in your calendar or phone or whatever.”
The classroom sighed.
“It’s not fair, man,” Fred told his friend as they walked into the crowded halls. “Who wants to write some stupid essay on the weekend?”
His friend scratched the back of his neck, shrugging his shoulders slightly. “I don’t mind. Gives me a reason to bring out my telescope.”
Fred chuckled, shaking his head. “Of course, you don’t mind. But, Johnny, I actually have a life. Veronica Morris— that cheerleader going to Wingson University— invited me to her birthday party tomorrow night! She even told me to bring you along!”
Johnny rolled his eyes. “Well, in that case, I’m thankful we have to study.”
“I know you don’t like parties, but c’mon man— Veronica Morris.”
They pushed open the big doors and stepped outside into the bright sunshine. The concrete steps were busy with young adults entering and exiting the school.
“Yeah,” was all Johnny said. Veronica Morris was not some breathtaking girl. True, she was pretty. But her stupidness and lack of personality overpowered her blonde hair and perfect smile. What bothered him most was how fake she was. Veronica Morris was the kind of girl to talk behind your back and stuff their bra with toilet paper. But Fred could care less. She was pretty, and that’s all that mattered to him.
The two walked down the sidewalk towards the parking garage, and Fred tried his best to keep up with Johnny’s long legs.
“Listen, Johnny…” he took a deep breath. “Maybe you could—”
“Nope,” Johnny shook his head. “I am not writing your paper.”
“No, Fred. I’m not doing it.”
“But, Johnny,” they entered the garage, running up the stairs to the second level. “I’m gonna fail this class, man! I don’t know nothin’ on space! I was thinking since you’re a space-wiz or whatever, maybe you could help me out?”
Johnny’s truck was parked in the corner across the building. Fred sighed to himself, feeling completely exhausted from all the walking.
“Why don’t you ask someone else?”
He rolled his eyes, “You’re the only one I know who’s into this stuff!”
Johnny thought about it as he dug out his keys from his pocket. He pulled them out and jumped into the truck, slamming the door behind him. Fred stared at him through the window.
He started the engine and rolled down the glass. “You really can’t have anyone else help you?”
“Well, I guess you can come over tomorrow night. It’s gonna rain tonight, so it’ll have to be tomorrow,” he said, knowing he was going to regret this later on.
Fred wiped the line of sweat on his forehead with the back of his hand, sighing in relief. “Oh, thanks, man— thanks a billion. I owe you big time, man.”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t worry about it. Just pick up some pizza or something.”
“Totally. This is gonna be fun, Johnny. Eating pizza, looking at some planet— just two bros hanging out.”
Johnny put the truck in drive, causing Fred to step back. “Pluto isn’t a planet. You know, Fred, maybe if you paid attention in class more, you wouldn’t need my help.” Not caring enough to hear his chubby friend’s response, he drove off. Fred watched him drive away and cursed under his breath as he realized he had to walk back to the school to catch his next class.
The next night, Fred arrived at Johnny’s dorm around eight with a box of cold pizza and a six-pack of cheap beer he stole from his roommates. He kicked open the metal door to the roof, finding his friend hunched over, peering through the heavy-duty telescope. There was a fold-up table behind him, cluttered with thick study books and notebooks. He stood up straight when he heard Fred stomping over.
He practically threw the box of pizza down on the books and held up the six-pack of beer like it was gold. “Afternoon, Johnny! Look what I got!”
Unimpressed, he went back to his telescope. “Did you bring any of your school stuff?”
Fred frowned, “Like what?”
Johnny almost laughed. “Like paper, pencils— your books?”
“Man, I forgot! I’ll just borrow yours, don’t worry, man.”
“Oh, of course.”
The night was chilly and dark, and specks of silver glittered across the vast, open sky. Johnny lectured Fred on every star and planet with great enthusiasm, while Fred pretended to sound interested, telling him how cool he thought it all was. They stayed out on the rooftop looking at the stars and talking about Pluto for three hours straight.
After writing a brief outline, Fred decided he was tired and wanted to call it a night.
“Sure, you can come by tomorrow night,” Johnny nodded as they cleaned up. “Bring some dinner again. I’ll help you finish your paper, okay?”
Fred, relieved his long lectures were over, nodded too. “Thanks, man. And thanks for telling me about all that…” he tried to find the right word. “...space stuff.”
Johnny laughed, shaking his head softly. “Anytime. Sorry if I bored you— I just think space is so mysterious, y’know?”
Inching for the door, he nodded quickly. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said, scared his friend was about to go into another deep conversation about some ball of gas. “Totally, man. Look, I gotta go, thanks again.”
“No problem, Fred. Hey, be here by nine, okay? Don’t be late. I don’t want to miss the meteor showers.”
Fred waved his hand behind him as he walked away. “Don’t worry, I’ll be here.”
The next day, Fred found himself yearning for Johnny to cancel his plans. Hearing about Pluto and the rest of space was utterly boring. He thought Johnny was a swell guy, but he couldn’t help but hope their night would fall through. He could find someone else to write his paper, right? Unfortunately, that was impossible for him. The paper was due tomorrow, and he wasn’t lying when he said Johnny was the only guy he knew interested in this subject.
Around noon, he went to a burger shop to grab a bite to eat while he made up a plan in his head. The line was long, but this gave him plenty of time to think about the night ahead.
If he canceled his plans with Johnny, he’d most likely fail the class and receive criticism from his parents. But if he went, he’d have to fake a smile all night and listen to him ramble nerd talk until he finally helped him write his paper. Good grade equals a wasted Sunday night.
“Are you sure you have to go? Tonight is kinda important.” Two girls were talking to each other in front of him as they waited in line.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve had this planned for months. It would just break his heart if I canceled on him the day of,” said the girl to the left.
“But we’ve had this planned for months too. I was gonna set up my new telescope—”
“I know, Natalie, but I can’t. I have plans. Why don’t you invite someone else to watch the meteor showers with you?”
“I don’t know anyone else in astronomy class. What about your essay? You said you needed help writing it?”
The cashier called them up.
Fred looked at the girls as they ordered their food. The one to the left was a cute redhead, and to the right was a tall brunette. Natalie was the brunette. The one who was going to set up her new telescope and—
An idea popped in his little mind like a striking match. Not only was Natalie a tall brunette, but she was also going to help her friend with her essay. At first, he was surprised there were even cute girls in astronomy that he hadn’t noticed, but after a solid moment, he realized he did remember the two girls. Natalie always sat in the back of the class, raising her hand on every question the professor had. He didn’t pay attention to her because he automatically assumed she was a geek. But as she stood in front of him, he came to realize how foolish he was to make that assumption.
“Excuse me, I don’t want to bother you— but I heard you talking to your friend… and I was hoping you could help me,” he said after shoving down a greasy burger. The redheaded friend had left, leaving quiet Natalie to eat by herself.
She had a textbook spread out on the table before her, revealing long paragraphs and small pictures of a galaxy. She looked up at chubby Fred, shock pooling in her crystal blue eyes.
“Um— I’m sorry, did you say you needed my help?”
Fred pulled a smile, nodding his head. She was even prettier up close. “Exactly. I’m not a genius in astronomy class. It’s never been my strong subject. My friend said he was gonna help me write my essay, but he just canceled on me,” he shook his head, pretending to act annoyed. “I had planned this night for a long time, too. I was really excited to watch the… the meteor showers with him.”
The girl frowned, immediately feeling pity for the stranger. “Oh, that stinks,” she scrunched up her nose, then hesitated. Though he may be a stranger to her, he was her classmate. And being that her own friend did the same thing to her, she felt it was only right to say what she said next. “I don’t normally hang out with boys from school, but I’ll help you with the essay— and you can watch the meteor showers with me.”
“Really? You’d help me?” Pretending to be dumb and innocent wasn’t hard for Fred. He played the same sad role with every girl he wanted to go out with, and it worked every time.
She nodded, “Of course,” then extending her delicate hand, she smiled. “My name is Natalie Meyer.”
He shook her hand softly. “Fred McVien.”
Her face lit up with surprise, “McVien? Oh, I think I do know you! You dated my best friend last semester, right? Shelly Kip? And you’re always with that really tall guy— I forgot his name, but I remember him in astronomy class. Professor Blake loves him.”
“Johnny Davis— and I wouldn’t consider him tall, really. But yeah, he’s the teacher’s pet, alright. Big nerd too. Bores me to death most of the time.”
Later that day, Johnny got a call from Fred McVien, giving him a great sigh of relief. Apparently, his chubby friend met some random girl at a fast-food restaurant and decided she’d be more fun studying with than him.
Fine by me, he laughed to himself. He pretended he was disappointed when Fred told him, but he couldn’t help feeling a small amount of sweet relief.
“Sorry, man, but this girl is a total babe!” he chuckled through the phone, his voice loud and obnoxious as usual.
“You sure she can help you with your paper?” Johnny asked, mostly to trick Fred into thinking he cared. In reality, he was beyond glad his friend bailed on their plans. Part of him felt bad because he knew there was no way Fred would pass the class, but if he wanted to sacrifice his grades for girls, then there was nothing Johnny could do to stop him.
“Yeah, man, totally. She’s super smart.”
Anyone Fred liked was never super smart, so the chances of this being true were slim. He imagined this ‘total babe’ to be like the rest of Fred’s plain, dense girlfriends.
But a few hours after hanging up with Fred, he was proven wrong.
Fred called him again, this time with bad news. Johnny was on the rooftop, stargazing through his telescope, when his phone went off.
“Johnny, you gotta come get me, man— this chick is driving me crazy. She’s a total geek, man. She won’t stop talking about the galaxy!”
“Please, man, come pick me up. I don’t have the heart to tell her she’s too friggin’ weird. Please, Johnny. Help me out. Just this once.”
Johnny laughed, “I don’t believe this. You canceled on me to hang out with a girl, and now you want me to come rescue you because this girl is a… a geek?”
“Yeah, man— but it’s worse than that. C’mon, man. Help me out. We can go to your place to watch the meteor showers after you pick me up.”
“I don’t think so—”
“C’mon, man! She’s coming back now, so I gotta go. I’ll text ‘ya the address, okay? Thanks a billion.”
And before Johnny could say anything, he hung up. A minute later, he got the address with a ‘PLZ SAVE ME’ text right after.
He looked at the watch on his wrist, wishing he could ignore his friend’s text. But no matter how annoying Fred was, he couldn’t leave him stranded after begging for help.
There was exactly one hour until the meteor showers. That should give me plenty of time to pick him up and come back, he decided.
He couldn’t help but feel annoyed by the whole situation. The last thing he wanted to do was go to some girl’s house to save Fred on the night of the meteor showers. Not only did he have to pick him up, but he knew he’d have to write his paper when they got back. Being kind can really be a cruel thing.
He took a deep breath before making his way up to the rooftop of the girl’s address. He found his chubby, obnoxious friend waiting eagerly for his arrival when he got there.
“Johnny!” he called, somewhat in a happy cheer.
And that’s when the world around him and time itself froze.
There she was, the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Her eyes were like two twinkling stars, her skin was as pale and soft as the moon, and her smile was more breathtaking than any galaxy in space. She was a sky filled with glistening, beautiful stars— and he was a stargazer.
Fred did say she was cute, but that didn’t even come close to her beauty. At that moment, there were no words in Johnny’s mind that could possibly match this girl’s essence.
The girl was peering through a telescope when Johnny walked out on the roof. She looked over her shoulder at him, her stomach tightening. She wasn’t expecting to see Fred’s tall friend, and she found herself dumbstruck for a couple of seconds.
“Natalie, this is my buddy, Johnny. He called when you were in the bathroom— apparently, he wants me to come along with him to a party,” he told the brown-haired girl, sounding defeated. But she wasn’t really listening, her gaze locked with Johnny’s. She left the telescope, walking in his direction.
Fred went on, “I’m sorry I have to leave ‘ya. I am. I really enjoyed hearing you talk about…” he stopped, realizing she wasn’t paying attention to him.
“Hi, I’m Natalie Meyer,” the girl with stars for eyes smiled at Johnny, shaking his hand. “I sit behind you in astronomy class.”
“You do? I mean— my name is Johnny Davis. It’s a pleasure meeting you,” he nodded his head, a soft smile spreading on his charming face.
“Hey, Johnny,” started Fred. “Look, man, I don’t want to make you late for that party. We should—”
Johnny looked over at his friend, almost forgetting he was there. It felt as though it was just him and Natalie on the roof. On the planet, actually. “What party?”
Fred’s cheerful expression dropped. “Very funny, man— c’mon we should go before it’s too late.”
The girl stared at Johnny, a small smile still on her rosy lips.
“So, you like space?” Johnny asked, his cheeks blushing a little.
“It’s my favorite.”
Fred huffed, “Johnny, we should go, man—”
“Did you want to stay a little longer and watch the meteor showers with me?” she wondered, gesturing to the telescope behind her.
Fred’s jaw dropped. “That’s really nice, but Johnny’s got this party—”
“That sounds great, thank you,” his eyes were still locked with Natalie’s.
Fred couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. Was his geek friend falling for the geek girl? He didn’t mind that his friend was stealing his date or that his date was rendered speechless from his friend’s looks. No, what bothered him was that he was now stuck with not just one science geek—but two.
“Let me show you my telescope,” Natalie said, leading Johnny over to Fred and the telescope.
They both took turns looking through the telescope, acting as if Fred wasn’t standing behind them.
“I just saw a shooting star!” Natalie gasped.
“Did you know that the temperature of a shooting star is three-thousand degrees Fahrenheit?” Johnny asked with enthusiasm.
Fred moaned, “Oh boy.”