By Bethanie Lee
“Jane?” Mrs.Williams called again.
The little girl’s head tilted upward.
“Why is Pluto here? Pluto isn’t a planet, remember?”
Jane stared at her project. Her mouth opened but her voice refused to emerge.
“Honey, we’re waiting. Can you explain why you put Pluto in here?” Jane looked around the room. The other kids were getting impatient. She turned back to her project and gazed at the small string Pluto swung on, next to the rest of the planets.
Jane picked off dried pieces of glue from the back of the small foam planet in her hand and reapplied the liquid once again. She stuck a piece of yarn onto the damp glue and held it there for a minute before she removed her fingers slowly to see if the string had managed to latch on.
Her smile grew wide. Pluto hung perfectly. But only seconds later, the minuscule planet detached from the string and bounced onto the floor. She sighed, but nonetheless, bent down to pick it up for the fourth time.
“Pluto’s a planet, too. It deserves a spot in the solar system.”
Mrs. Williams frowned and furrowed her eyebrows. “Honey, look, none of your classmates have Pluto on their projects. Pluto is not a planet.”
She shrugged. Mrs. Williams sighed.
Time flew by as Jane’s classmates presented their solar systems. Some had used wires, others, pieces of aluminum foil, others had painted ping pong balls and stuck them on toothpicks. When the bell finally rang, she reached into her bag and grabbed a five-dollar bill from its front pocket. Sliding her arms into the straps of her backpack, she made her way to Mrs.Williams’s desk.
“Mom told me to give this to you for the lunch money she forgot last week.” Jane placed the bill on top of a stack of papers. Mrs. Williams looked down and picked it up, stowing it away in her pocket.
“Thanks, honey. Remind your mom when you get home that she hasn’t paid the school trip fee yet either, okay? It’s twenty dollars.”
Jane nodded. She walked out of the classroom and started her trek across campus, searching for her mother’s car, parked closest to her brother’s last class.
“How was school dear?” Her mother asked as she climbed into the backseat.
“It was okay.”
Her mother hummed non-committedly, already looking away.
Anthony came bounding to the car soon after, excitedly holding a makeshift rocket.
“Mom, look!” He exclaimed, throwing his backpack into the middle seat. Jane flinched when it hit her lap.
“What is that, Anthony? It looks cool!”
“It’s a rocket! I built it in my science class. Everyone said that mine was the best!”
Jane looked down at her own project. “I made something too-”
“And look! It has a bunch of windows, and I painted it red!”
“Great job, baby! I’m so proud of you.”
Jane looked out the window as the car backed out of the parking lot. She stared at the blurring trees and the bright white lines of the freshly painted lane dividers as her mind drifted off.
“Mommy,” Jane started. “Can you help me with my science project? I can’t get Pluto to stay—”
Her mother was too busy looking over Anthony’s newest drawing. “Pluto’s not a planet, darling.” Her mother replied. “Good job, Anthony! You should show it to your daddy!”
Jane’s protests died softly as she watched her mother lead her brother to the dining table.
“Eat up,” Her mother crooned as she placed a piece of chicken onto his plate.
“Honey, we’re home!”
Instantly, her father rushed up and hoisted Anthony onto his shoulders. “How’s my big guy doing?”
“Hi, daddy! I made a rocket!” Anthony swung the red rocket back and forth in front of her father’s face. “Whoosh, whoosh!”
“Wow, that looks great!” He chuckled.
Jane sighed, walking up the stairs and into her room, closing the door gently behind her. She set the cardboard solar system carefully on her bed and laid down next to it. Turning her head, she studied the small dwarf planet—its dull brown color, its insignificant size.
Suddenly, Jane heard a shriek of laughter and the thundering sound of feet on hardwood as Anthony raced up the stairs. “Come get me, daddy!”
Her bed shook slightly; Jane barely felt it, but her solar system rattled. The strings the planets hung on swung wildly. She watched as one of the miniature balls of foam tore off its string.
Pluto bounced off her bed and continued its journey across the room. It rolled, and rolled, and rolled until it finally came to a stop in front of her door. It looked like it wanted to escape. Maybe if it was a planet, Jane thought.