Star Family Picnic
Basu, Sucheta Shetty, Carrie Chesney,
Darwin H. Webb, Lorsa, and Maria
planetary fable, starring the planets as their characteristic
selves, created on the Conscious Evolution forums
with contributions from a group of Knowflakes.
over, yawned, plucked a blade of grass and declared to nobody in particular,
I am bored.
looked up from the second book he was reading (the first one lay face down
on the grass, abandoned at page 23) and piped, Lets go for a
said Saturn. The waters run too swift.
lets take a walk up to the main road and get ourselves some tea and
biscuits, suggested Venus.
It was Saturn again. It will kill your appetite, and lunch is only
about an hour away.
then maybe we could play a game of horsie, said Jupiter.
Saturn exclaimed in shock. It is far too juvenile and
By this time, Mercury
had quite lost his patience. He jumped up, started at a sprint towards the
car, and tossed back over his shoulders, Guys, any of you care for
Mars, who until
now had been polishing his tool set, was the first to reach the car. Hed
always been jealous of Merc ever since Merc had managed to wrangle the two
chairs closest to Sun and Moon at the dinner table. (Sun and Moon always
sat together, at the head of the table, while the children occupied the chairs
at the right for lunch and the chairs at the left for dinner, always in the
over, Ill drive, Mars said angrily, trying to shove Merc away.
And dont you touch my car. I built the car, so I will drive.
You drive too erratically and you keep changing directions.
Saturn had limped up to them. Mars goes too fast and the tyres
I will drive, said Merc, as he fell right out of the car because Mars
had punched him in the face. By the time Jupiter reached the car, huffing
and puffing, a full-blown fisticuff had erupted, with Merc managing to survive
not because of any pugilistic skills but because he dodged Mars blows
you two, Suns regal voice boomed out from the shade of a banyan
tree. If you dont behave now, Ill send both of you to the
The fracas stopped
immediately. Nobody liked the Lizard Room. It was cold, dank, dark and filled
with musty wooden furniture. It reeked of death and the wind blew there eerily,
whispering secrets that the children could not yet grasp. They trooped meekly
into the car, with Jupiter taking the wheel.
And then, a silvery
voice piped up, Wheres Venus? It was little Merc, now
considerably chastened because last time he was in the Lizard Room, he had
lost his speech for a full two hours. They all looked back and saw Venus,
still in the process of arranging the pleats of her dress, and adjusting
her diamond brooch so that it caught the light and twinkled.
up, they yelled.
her brothers calmly. If you all are done with that inelegant show of
temper and extreme lack of propriety, Im ready, she said as she
sauntered over, brushed a piece of lint off the seat and arranged herself
yes, a ride will be fun, Jupiter thought, feeling rather jolly about
being in the drivers seat, one of his very favorite places to be. He
sang at the top of his voice and got so excited that he began dancing in
his seat, clapping his hands every now and then. Saturn, sitting next to
him, shook his head and kept an eye on the road. Finally, when the car started
swerving, Saturn couldnt take any more.
out from behind the wheel now! Let me drive. If you go on like this, youll
bang into something or somebody.
I wont! Stop worrying so much. I can keep the car under control,
dont you worry.
you worry? Saturn was aghast. Easy for you to say that. You think
nothing can ever happen to you. You take too many risks.
life without a few risks?
said stop the car.
I said, stop being such a spoilsport.
temper flared at the argument and he braked suddenly, causing Mars to almost
vault out of his seat.
it you two! hissed Venus. Ive had enough of your bickering.
Besides, she sniggered, glaring at Jupiter. I hate it when people
sing off-key. Im out of here. Wheres Merc?
he vanished the moment we stopped, said Mars. Found another
bookstore, I bet.
maybe he is looking for a galaxy-ready computer, snorted Jupiter.
need to buy some perfume, said Venus, eyeing the nearby mall.
Anybody coming with me?"
Mars volunteered. You know how Jupiter and Saturn are. The big kids
- always fighting over whos bigger and more powerful. Ill just
pop into the games parlour. They have some cool new Terminator
sure, Venus said. Like the world doesnt have enough blood
at least its a lot more interesting than spending time sniffing your
wrist, Mars countered.
So Venus and Mars
repaired to the mall, arguing, leaving Jupiter and Saturn still sitting in
the car and arguing.
thought Merc to himself as he flew on silver-winged feet away from his brothers
and sister. That stupid brawny Mars always picks on me. Why cant
he pick on someone else for once? Like that pompous Jupiter? And as
he was speeding away he caught sight of an institute for the incredibly
Merc beamed from ear to ear. I think Ill go in there and help
them make some advances in medicine, biotechnology, nuclear fission,
chemistry... And as he flew to the institute, he bumped into the most
beautiful girl that he had ever seen. He couldnt resist the temptation
to test her, and so, What is the radius of... he began.
pi googleplex squared. she answered.
did you know what I was going to ask? exclaimed Mercury.
The girl looked
at him strangely. Who wouldnt know that?
on the spot. He had met the girl of his dreams. The moment he came to there
began an extremely speedy exchange between them, which was interrupted when
someone called out from inside one of those labs with weird-looking contraptions,
Uranus, come here for a second please and help me set up this autoclave.
The gel seems to be breaking every time, at which point Merc and Uranus
decided to go inside and work together on an antidote to acid rain
was feeling abandoned. Only Moon and Neptune remained at the picnic table,
and Moon paid more attention to feeding the squirrels, while Neptune was
not mentally there anyway. This was rather unbearable to Sun, whose grandeur
always sought an attentive public, so he set off to find Mars, Jupiter and
the others. He found a car suitable for his majesty that could take him to
town. Or to be more specific, he flagged down the first car that appeared
on the road and demanded Take me to town! Then he simply got
in, leaving the driver utterly bewildered but with little choice other than
to start driving. When they got to town, Sun stepped out without bothering
to thank the driver, as, in his opinion, had he not just granted the driver
the greatest honour, a chance to serve Royalty?
Soon enough, he
found Saturn sitting alone in the car.
are the others? asked Sun.
Venus and Mars went inside that shopping arcade, Merc disappeared someplace
and Jupiter has ambled over to the lottery store - yonder, said Saturn
Sun left Saturn
there and went looking for Mars and Venus. It was not very difficult to find
them. Mars was sitting right in the middle of the arcade, happily surrounded
by bits and pieces of the gaming machine that he had cleanly taken apart
and was busily putting back together again, all the while muttering to himself,
Hmm, so now this little washer goes here and oh no, theres only
this naked copper wire here, no wonder the machine jammed, where do I find
some two-ply insulated wire
Venus was sitting
just a little away, charming a group of men right out of their wits.
Back at the car,
Saturn sat and stared balefully at the crows flying above and thought,
Nobody understands responsibility. Who is supposed to look after the
car? And I dont even have the keys so that I could lock it and pay
a visit to the ashram nearby and help them clear out weeds and deadwood from
their garden. He sighed heavily. He was rather hurt that Merc should
leave so suddenly, especially because Merc had winged feet, while Saturn
had a limp. The rapport between these two was rather touching, with Saturn
bringing a modicum of order to Mercs harum-scarum ways and Merc
considerably lightening up his eldest brothers dourness with cheerful
witticisms thrown carelessly in the wind.
is too immature, he needs to grow up, thought Saturn. Why, hed
be better than that conceited, overstuffed Jupiter, but only if he paid a
little more attention and saw things to their logical conclusions rather
than getting sidetracked by something new every millisecond.
He imagined the
others having a ball
and felt terribly lonely
and would have
almost wept, but Big Brothers were not supposed to cry. Big Brothers were
born not only to carry their own cross but also the crosses of their younger
siblings as well, he thought, and wiped away a tear.
He was startled
out of his reverie when a crackling, somewhat ominous voice commanded,
Come with me.
Uncle Pluto, now what? said Saturn warily, noting with consternation
the sparks flying out of Plutos eyes and wondering where the hell Pluto
had been the past few aeons.
are going to the Municipal Council Meeting to demand something be done about
the terrible state of the roads here, replied Pluto. He plucked Saturn
out of the car, walked him into the nearby auto-shop, pushed the babbling
sales clerk into the decorative water fountain, climbed atop a gleaming 8,000-cc
1-geared bike (Mars newest invention on which Jupe owned the patent
drafted by Merc), deposited Saturn on the pillion and vroomed right out of
the display window and down the footpath, leaving a spray of shattered glass
behind that caught the light and winked.
Mother Moon was
waiting at the Council chambers, ready to back up and balance out Plutos
fearsome vision of the cataclysm that would befall the town if the entire
concept of transportation did not undergo a paradigm shift and transform
in totality. She would provide a mothers eye view of why the nice young
citizens who made up the Council really ought to undertake this road project
as a way of taking care of all the villages children - its gallant
men and lovely maidens. Mars and Venus silently appeared at the back
of the Council chambers as if on cue when their mother spoke the words
gallant and lovely. Their regal father appeared behind
them, smiling in sunny radiance at Moon, a smile that Moon reflected back
to him with love.
Saturn, at his
Uncle Plutos elbow, nodded gravely to underscore the seriousness of
the issue. Mercury, now with Uranus glittering at his side, flew in to seal
the deal, making sure that communication given was communication received.
Taking the microphone from Mother Moon with a natural cool, Merc looked each
Council member in the eye, then uttered a single, confident word:
in, just then, like a good-luck charm, and the Councils approval was
unanimous, in a rousing voice vote. Great, said Jupe, holding
his arms out to his family. Lets all go party.
The family trooped
happily out of the building then and set off to find wayward Neptune, who
had fallen asleep in the clover near the picnic table hours before and was
dreaming of riding the carousel, in a pink chiffon dress, at an old-fashioned