Behind the scenes, shortly before the transit of Mercury:
``I won't do it, that's all,'' said the sulking Mercury. ``Not even when they beg me.''
``I'll do it,'' said Mars.
``You would and you will not,'' Mercury said. ``It's a question of principle.''
Venus said, ``The principle is you want to be paid more. It's just a nice quick walk, hardly worth a fuss.''
``Says someone who does it twice in a hundred fifty years,'' said Mars with a little sniffling noise from his nose that might sound like irritation or disgust, but was a reaction to the ragweed in the air, to which he felt irritation and disgust, which is why it had the sound it did.
``Quality shows,'' said Venus, as if that settled the matter, though it was settled more by no one much wanting to continue on that line.
Mercury pointed to Pluto, who'd been sitting in the corner and holding a stuffed Halley's Comet plush toy. ``If they can decide to kick Pluto out of the family they can kick anyone out, and they'll come after us next, Mars! Maybe even you, Venus, if we don't take a stand now.''
Pluto looked up and said, ``Grampa says they'll come around because revolutionaries end up back where they started.'' Actually Grampa had said revolutions come back to where they started, but he was thinking about rotations, or else didn't think precession was worth complaining about, but Pluto wasn't listening very closely at the time.
Mars grinned and stood up on the bean-bag chair. ``You just want them to cough up enough for you to get your own moon. Not everyone can have three like me.''
``You're one off,'' said Venus, who never thought Mars's joke about this was funny, which is why he kept using it.
``Right,'' said Mars, ``My four.''
``Are you for what?'' asked Pluto, in a voice quiet enough to be the only one to hear the joke, and he wasn't very amused by it.
Venus gritted her teeth while Mercury said, ``I should go back to showing the same face to the Sun all the time. That would show them.''
``That would show them what?'' said Mars, making Pluto think someone had heard his joke, which made him embarrassed to have ever said it.
Venus said, slowly, ``There's just no question, Mercury, you have to transit across the Sun. We have to do them, and you're the only one who can fill the niche.''
``You're a unique product,'' said Mars, attempting a pun which relied on everyone pronouncing ``niche'' oddly to work, but which would not have worked even if they did.
``Besides,'' said Venus, ``there's so much you can show off, from your atmosphere -- ''
Mercury said, ``Which is none of their business! And if they wanted it to be their business they could show some respect,'' and pointed at Pluto.
Pluto now said something, but with a shy enough voice that it didn't quite escape his mouth, so while it might have been worth mentioning it had no effect on anyone except Pluto, who was sorry for having said it and hoped no one would hold it against him.
``Let Pluto do it,'' said Mars. ``They'd never see it coming!''
Mercury answered, ``So that wouldn't make it a very useful transit, would it?''
At the ruckus now Jupiter -- who was losing a game of checkers against Uranus but getting off better jokes about Saturn's personality -- shouted to the basement, which is where the other planets were gathered, ``You stop that fighting before you make me come up there!'', because he was in the attic which was two floors below the scene of the above action.
``See?'' said Venus, taking the warning as a show of support. ``Now stop complaining and get going!'' And at this Neptune, who hadn't said anything because he didn't think he was going to have anything interesting to contribute and secretly figured it was hardly worth showing up for at all, grabbed Mercury from behind and followed Venus's lead out to the eastern side of the Sun.
At 19:12:04 Universal Time, 8 November 2006, the shadow of Mercury was first seen crossing the limb of the Sun, and after a quick few partial arc seconds of movement appeared to slow, then to stick its tongue out at something lost in the glare, then resumed a steady trace across the disc of the sun. Astronomers credited this peculiar action to atmospheric turbulence caused by the sun's warm air.
Trivia: Rutgers University's original, 1766, charter named it Queen's College in honor of Charlotte, the Queen Consort. Source: Rutgers: A Bicentennial History, Richard P McCormick.
Currently Reading: The Footnote, Anthony Grafton.