Pluto, p.1R. J. Palacio
ALSO BY R. J. PALACIO
The Julian Chapter
365 Days of Wonder
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2015 by R. J. Palacio
Cover art copyright © 2015 by Tad Carpenter
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
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Contemporary observations are changing our understanding of planetary systems, and it is important that our nomenclature for objects reflect our current understanding. This applies, in particular, to the designation “planets.” The word “planet” originally described “wanderers” that were known only as moving lights in the sky. Recent discoveries lead us to create a new definition, which we can make using currently available scientific information.
—International Astronomical Union
(IAU), excerpt from Resolution B5
I guess there is no one to blame
We’re leaving ground
Will things ever be the same?
—Europe, “The Final Countdown”
It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Also by R. J. Palacio
The Hospital Visit
North River Heights
I was two days old the first time I met Auggie Pullman. I don’t remember the occasion myself, obviously, but my mom told me about it. She and Dad had just brought me home from the hospital for the first time, and Auggie’s parents had just brought him home from the hospital for the first time, too. But Auggie was already three months old by then. He had to stay in the hospital, because he needed some surgeries that would allow him to breathe and swallow. Breathing and swallowing are things most of us don’t ever think about, because we do them automatically. But they weren’t automatic for Auggie when he was born.
My parents took me over to Auggie’s house so we could meet each other. Auggie was hooked up to a lot of medical equipment in their living room. My mom picked me up and brought me face to face with Auggie.
“August Matthew Pullman,” she said, “this is Christopher Angus Blake, your new oldest friend.”
And our parents applauded and toasted the happy occasion.
My mom and Auggie’s mom, Isabel, became best friends before we were born. They met at the supermarket on Amesfort Avenue right after my parents moved to the neighborhood. Since both of them were having babies soon, and they lived across the street from each other, Mom and Isabel decided to form a mothers’ group. A mothers’ group is when a bunch of moms hang out together and have playdates with other kids’ moms. There were about six or seven other moms in the mothers’ group at first. They hung out together a couple of times before any of the babies were born. But after Auggie was born, only two other moms stayed in the mothers’ group: Zachary’s mom and Alex’s mom. I don’t know what happened to the other moms in the group.
Those first couple of years, the four moms in the mothers’ group—along with us babies—hung out together almost every day. The moms would go jogging through the park with us in our strollers. They would take long walks along the riverfront with us in our baby slings. They would have lunch at the Heights Lounge with us in our baby chairs.
The only times Auggie and his mom didn’t hang out with the mothers’ group was when Auggie was back in the hospital. He needed a lot of operations, because, just like with breathing and swallowing, there were other things that didn’t come automatically to him. For instance, he couldn’t eat. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t really even close his mouth all the way. These were things that the doctors had to operate on him so that he could do them. But even after the surgeries, Auggie never really ate or talked or closed his mouth all the way like me and Zack and Alex did. Even after the surgeries, Auggie was very different from us.
I don’t think I really understood how different Auggie was from everyone else until I was four years old. It was wintertime, and Auggie and I were wrapped in our parkas and scarves while we played outside in the playground. At one point, we climbed up the ladder to the ramp at the top of the jungle gym and waited in line to go down the tall slide. When we were almost next, the little girl in front of us got cold feet about going down the tall slide, so she turned around to let us pass. That’s when she saw Auggie. Her eyes opened really wide and her jaw dropped down, and she started screaming and crying hysterically. She was so upset, she couldn’t even climb down the ladder. Her mom had to climb up the ramp to get her. Then Auggie started to cry, because he knew the girl was crying because of him. He covered his face with his scarf so nobody could see him, and then his mom had to climb up the ramp to get him, too. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember there was a big commotion. A little crowd had formed around the slide. People were whispering. I remember us leaving the playground very quickly. I remember seeing tears in Isabel’s eyes as she carried Auggie home.
That was the first time I realized how different Auggie was from the rest of us. It wasn’t the last time, though. Like breathing and swallowing, crying comes automatically to most kids, too.
I don’t know why I was thinking about Auggie this morning. It’s been three years since we moved away, and I haven’t even seen him since his bowling party in October. Maybe I’d had a dream about him. I don’t know. But I was thinking about him when Mom came into my room a few minutes after I turned off my alarm clock.
“You awake, sweetie?” she said softly.
I pulled my pillow over my head as an answer.
“Time to wake up, Chris,” she said cheerfully, opening the curtains of my window. Even under my pillow with my eyes closed, I could tell my room was way too bright now.
“Close the curtains!” I mumbled.
“Looks like it’s going to rain all day today,” she sighed, not closing the curtains. “Come on, you don’t want to be late again today. And you have to take a shower this morning.”
“I took a shower, like, two days ago.”
“Ugh!” I groaned.
“Let’s go, honeyboy,” she said, patting the top of my pillow.
I pulled the pillow off my face. “Okay!” I yelled. “I’m up! Are you happy?”
“You’re such a grump in the morning,” she said, shaking her head
“Lisa!” I answered.
She hated when I called her by her first name. I thought she’d leave my room then, but she started picking some clothes off my floor and putting them in my hamper.
“Did something happen last night, by the way?” I said, my eyes still closed. “I heard you on the phone with Isabel when I was going to sleep last night. It sounded like something bad….”
She sat down on the edge of my bed. I rubbed my eyes awake.
“What?” I said. “Is it really bad? I think I had a dream about Auggie last night.”
“No, Auggie’s fine,” she answered, scrunching up her face a bit. She pushed some hair out of my eyes. “I was going to wait till later to—”
“What!” I interrupted.
“I’m afraid Daisy died last night, sweetie.”
“I’m sorry, honey.”
“Daisy!” I covered my face with my hands.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I know how much you loved Daisy.”
I remember the day Auggie’s dad brought Daisy home for the first time. Auggie and I were playing Trouble in his room when, all of a sudden, we heard high-pitched squealing coming from the front door. It was Via, Auggie’s big sister. We could also hear Isabel and Lourdes, my babysitter, talking excitedly. So we ran downstairs to see what the commotion was about.
Nate, Auggie’s dad, was sitting on one of the kitchen chairs, holding a squirming, crazy yellow dog in his lap. Via was kneeling down in front of the dog, trying to pet it, but the dog was kind of hyper and kept trying to lick her hand, which Via kept pulling away.
“A dog!” Auggie screamed excitedly, running over to his dad.
I ran over, too, but Lourdes grabbed me by the arm.
“Oh no, papi,” she said to me. She had just started babysitting me in those days, so I didn’t know her very well. I remember she used to put baby powder in my sneakers, which I still do now because it reminds me of her.
Isabel’s hands were on the sides of her face. It was obvious that Nate had just come through the door. “I can’t believe you did this, Nate,” she was saying over and over again. She was standing on the other side of the room next to Lourdes.
“Why can’t I pet him?” I asked Lourdes.
“Because Nate says three hours ago this dog lived on the street with a homeless man,” she answered quickly. “Is disgusting.”
“She’s not disgusting—she’s beautiful!” said Via, kissing the dog on her forehead.
“In my country, dogs stay outside,” said Lourdes.
“He’s so cute!” Auggie said.
“It’s a she!” Via said quickly, nudging Auggie.
“Be careful, Auggie!” said Isabel. “Don’t let her lick you in the face.”
But the dog was already licking Auggie all over his face.
“The vet said she’s perfectly healthy, guys,” Nate said to both Isabel and Lourdes.
“Nate, she was living on the street!” Isabel answered quickly. “Who knows what she’s carrying.”
“The vet gave her all her shots, a tick bath, checked for worms,” answered Nate. “This puppy’s got a clean bill of health.”
“That is not a puppy, Nate!” Isabel pointed out.
That was true: The dog was definitely not a puppy. She wasn’t little, or soft and round, like puppies usually are. She was skinny and pointy and wild-eyed, and she had this crazy, long black tongue kind of pouring out of the side of her mouth. And she wasn’t a small dog, either. She was the same size as my grandmother’s labradoodle.
“Okay,” said Nate. “Well, she’s puppylike.”
“What kind of dog is she?” asked Auggie.
“The vet thinks a yellow lab mix,” answered Nate. “Maybe some chow?”
“More like pit bull,” said Isabel. “Did he at least tell you how old she is?”
Nate shrugged. “He couldn’t tell for sure,” he answered. “Two or three? Usually they judge from the teeth, but hers are in bad shape because, you know, she’s probably been eating junk food all her life.”
“Garbage and dead rats,” Lourdes said, like it was for sure.
“Oh God!” Isabel muttered, rubbing her hand over her face.
“Her breath does smell pretty bad,” said Via, waving her hand in front of her nose.
“Isabel,” said Nate, looking up at her. “She was destined for us.”
“Wait, you mean we’re keeping her?” Via said excitedly, her eyes opening up really wide. “I thought we were just babysitting her until we could find her a home!”
“I think we should be her home,” said Nate.
“Really, Daddy?” cried Auggie.
Nate smiled and pointed his chin at Isabel. “But it’s up to Mommy, guys,” he said.
“Are you kidding me, Nate?” cried Isabel as Via and Auggie ran over to her and started pleading with her, putting their hands together, like they were praying in church.
“Please please please please please please please please please?” they kept saying over and over again. “Please pretty please please please please?”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me, Nate!” said Isabel, shaking her head. “Like our lives aren’t complicated enough?”
Nate smiled and looked down at the dog, who was looking at him. “Look at her, honey! She was starving and cold. The homeless guy offered to sell her to me for ten bucks. What was I going to do, say no?”
“Yes!” said Lourdes. “Very easy to do.”
“It’s good karma to save a dog’s life!” answered Nate.
“Don’t do it, Isabel!” said Lourdes. “Dogs are dirty, and smelly. And they have germs. And you know who will end up walking her all the time, picking up all the poo-poo?” She pointed at Isabel.
“That’s not true, Mommy!” said Via. “I promise I’ll walk her. Every day.”
“Me too, Mommy!” said Auggie.
“We’ll take care of her completely,” continued Via. “We’ll feed her. We’ll do everything.”
“Everything!” added Auggie. “Please please please, Mommy?”
“Please please please, Mommy?” Via said at the same time.
Isabel was rubbing her forehead with her fingers, like she had a headache. Finally she looked at Nate and shrugged. “I think this is crazy, but…Okay. Fine.”
“Really?” shrieked Via, hugging Isabel tightly. “Thank you, Mommy! Thank you so much! I promise we’ll take care of her.”
“Thank you, Mommy!” repeated Auggie, hugging Isabel.
“Yay! Thank you, Isabel!” said Nate, clapping the dog’s two front paws together.
“Can I please pet her now?” I said to Lourdes, pulling away from her grip before she could stop me again. I slid over between Auggie and Via.
Nate put the dog down on the rug then, and she literally turned over onto her back so that we would all scratch her tummy. She closed her eyes like she was smiling, her long black tongue hanging from the side of her mouth onto the rug.
“That’s exactly how I found her today,” Nate pointed out.
“I’ve never seen a longer tongue in my life,” said Isabel, crouching down next to us. She still hadn’t pet the dog yet, though. “She looks like the Tasmanian Devil.”
“I think she’s beautiful,” said Via. “What’s her name?”
“What do you want to name her?” asked Nate.
“I think we should name her Daisy!” answered Via without any hesitation at all. “She’s yellow, like a daisy.”
“That’s a nice name,” said Isabel, who started petting the dog. “Then again, she looks a little like a lion. We could call her Elsa.”
“I know what you should name her,” I said, nudging Auggie. “You should call her Darth Maul!”
“That is the stupidest name in the world for a dog!” Via answered, disgusted.
I ignored her. “Do you get it, Auggie? Darth…maul?
“Ha ha!” Auggie said. “That’s so funny! Darth Maul!”
“We’re not calling her that!” Via said snottily to the two of us.
“Hi, Darth Maul!” Auggie said to the dog, kissing her on her pink nose. “We can call her Darth for short.”
Via looked at Nate. “Daddy, we’re not calling her that!”
“I think it’s kind of a fun name,” Nate answered, shrugging.
“Mommy!” Via said angrily, turning to Isabel.
“I agree with Via,” said Isabel. “I don’t think we should use the word ‘maul’ for a dog…especially one that looks like this one.”
“Then we’ll just name her Darth,” Auggie insisted.
“That’s idiotic,” said Via.
“I think, since Mommy’s letting us keep the dog,” answered Nate, “she should be the one who decides what to name her.”
“Can we call her Daisy, Mommy?” asked Via.
“Can we call her Darth Maul?” asked Auggie.
Isabel gave Nate a look. “You really are killing me, Nate.”
And that was how they ended up calling her Darth Daisy.
“How did she die?” I asked Mom. “Was she hit by a car?”
“No.” She stroked my arm. “She was old, sweetie. It was her time.”
“She wasn’t that old.”
“She was sick.”
“What, so they put her to sleep?” I asked, incensed. “How could they do that?”
“Sweetie, she was in pain,” she answered. “They didn’t want her to suffer. Isabel said that she died very peacefully in Nate’s arms.”
I tried to picture what that would look like, Daisy dying in Nate’s arms. I wondered if Auggie had been there, too.
Pluto by R. J. Palacio / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes