He doesn’t want to go to the dinner party. She tells him he promised but he tries to get out of it anyway. He had his mind set on laying around the house and doing nothing in particular. On the drive over he thinks about the planet Mercury. He’s reading a book about space.
Despite being closest to the Sun, Mercury is not the hottest planet. Venus is the hottest planet. This is because Mercury doesn’t have an atmosphere. Ice has been discovered buried in the bottoms of craters located at its poles. Mercury orbits the Sun every eighty-eight days. A year on Mercury is three months on Earth.
They arrive at the party. They say hello to the people they know and meet the people they don’t. He knows everyone can tell they have just been fighting. Sipping drinks in the living room, he ends up on the couch with Greg and Allison who predictably shift the conversation to improbable, unprovable conspiracy theories. She talks with a couple over by the record player. He met them ten minutes ago but has already forgotten their names.
Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system. It is larger than Mercury. Ganymede orbits Jupiter every seven days and Jupiter orbits the Sun every twelve years. A year on Jupiter is twelve years on Earth. Ganymede has a deep saltwater ocean fixed between layers of ice buried below its surface.
Dinner is risotto with sauteed morel mushrooms, homemade bread, and a fresh picked green salad. He is impressed and compliments the chef multiple times. He volunteers to do the dishes with no intention of actually doing the dishes. Later, everyone plays a board game in the living room while he drinks whiskey and smokes cigarettes on the back porch.
Neptune is the coldest and most distant planet in the solar system. Pluto is not a planet anymore. A year on Neptune is one hundred and sixty five years on Earth. Neptune has winds that blow close to supersonic speed and rain made up of compressed carbon. It rains diamonds on Neptune.
On the drive home she gets serious. She tells him he is absent. She feels he is no longer trying in their relationship and doesn’t know how long she can keep doing this. Also, he drinks too much.
Triton is the largest moon of Neptune. Triton was once an independent planetary body, drifting in space, that got captured by Neptune’s gravity. Triton’s orbit is in decay and it will eventually be torn apart by tidal forces and the pieces of its shattered carcass will spread out to form rings around Neptune.
Back at the house he apologizes. She is right. He has been absent. He tells her he will try harder and he loves her and wouldn’t know what to do without her. They talk for a while and end up making wild, frenzied love on the floor.
Triton will be destroyed in three and a half billion years.
Barry Biechner writes poetry and short fiction. His work has appeared in CIRQUE and Apeiron Review.