Ms. Avery's Calculus Class When the Sun Explodes
Ms. Avery paused and the entire class looked toward the classroom's PA speaker that had chimed once to indicate an announcement. Mr. Washington was speaking.
“Good morning, Emerson High,” Mr. Washington said cheerfully, although Evyn noted an edge was in his voice. “We've just received a notification from NASA that the sun has exploded. We have approximately 15 minutes until all life on earth is boiled alive. That is all.”
The PA clicked off.
A heavy silence fell over the class, a silence broken only by Ashleigh's shrill exclamation. “What!”
The PA chimed again. “Oh, I almost forgot. Our ladies varsity volleyball team beat Jefferson 5-0 at regional last night and they're going to face Whitney High School at state. Let's go Tigers; hear them growl,” he ended, though the 'growl' was noticeably less enthusiastic than usual.
Again, stunned silence. “This has to be a prank,” Evyn concluded.
“No, it's true,” Logan said, holding up his phone to a news page. “All news stations are reporting it.”
Ashleigh started hyperventilating. “Oh my gosh, we're going to die. I can't take it, I can't take it.”
“It must be a rather slow nova,” Devon said. Usually quiet and having an IQ off the charts, every class seating assignment gave him first dibs on the first row of seats.
“What?” Evyn asked.
“The sun is about eight light minutes from earth,” Devon explained. “ Since it will take fifteen minutes for us to meet our demise, the energy shock wave must have been low energy.”
“Shockwave? Energy?” Ashleigh asked.
“Yes,” Devon continued. “The sun's outer surface is millions of degrees Celsius; it's inner core is even hotter. And that doesn't even cover the lethal radiation that the sun produces that the earth's atmosphere protects us from.”
Asheligh groaned and collapsed on her desk.
“Devon, I don't think you're helping,” her quieter friend Meagan told Devon.
“Alright,” Ms. Avery said, getting the class's attention. “Page 86. Derivatives. Let's go.”
“We're learning now?” Evyn asked.
Ms. Avery blinked. “Why, yes.”
“Why?” Sam demanded. Everyone turned to Sam, his bulking muscular frame sat in the back, beefy neck flush with anxiety underneath his blonde hair.
“We only have fifteen minutes!” Evyn protested.
“Fourteen,” Devon corrected.
“Okay, we have fourteen minutes!” Sam said. “Why are you making us learn calculus?”
“So that when we meet our maker, we'll be that much more educated,” Ms. Avery explained coolly. “See, I already learned so much about the sun from Devon!”
“I don't want to die!” Ashleigh yelled.
“Me neither!” Logan said.
“We have to do something!” Sam declared.
“Oh, my poor pupper.” Ashleigh said, tears running down her face.. “She's all alone at home. I want to be here for her.”
Devon suddenly blurted out, “ASHLEIGH I LIKE YOU AND I WAS GOING TO INVITE YOU TO PROM.” The entire class, now stunned with silence, turned toward Devon. Devon put his hand over his mouth and turned redder than Sam's bulging neck.
Then they turned to Ashleigh, who was even redder than either of them.
“Oh, that's—that's nice, Devon,” was all she could say. Then, she said, bitterly cheerful: “But looks like prom's canceled!”
Sam stood. “No, it's not! Me and my girlfriend are going, and so are you, Ashleigh! Are we going to take this sitting down?” he roared. “Ashleigh, how long did it take you to find the prom dress?”
Ashleigh blushed. “Well, funny thing. It was actually this girl on TikTok that was showing it off, and she was doing all these crazy things like running up a wall and doing gymnastic flips in this dress. It was, like, so cool to see her do this—”
“Okay, great,” Sam interrupted. “Are you really going to let all that time dress shopping go to waste? Devon, are you gonna let our solar system's star stop you from getting an A in this class? The sun exploded. So what? This is our planet. We didn't evolve from primordial goo just to have our insides turn to plasma before Elon Musk becomes president of Mars. The sun may be bigger. It may be meaner. But we have more passion. If we all stand together, the radiation shockwave that's about to hit us won't stand a chance!” He stepped onto his desk, puffed his chest, and stood akimbo. “Who's with me?”
Nobody said anything. Not finding anyone to join his side, Sam stepped down. “Well I'm going to do something!” He took his textbook, smashed out the protective glass of the fire extinguisher, and started to leave the classroom.
“Where are you going?” Ms. Avery demanded, staring Sam down.
Sam became small all of a sudden. “I, uh, need to go to the bathroom.”
“Take the hall pass.”
“But we might die in—”
Sam growled and grabbed the rubber squeaky doggy toy shaped and painted like a cherry pie with the number “3.14” markered on top. He walked out of the classroom.
“Can I go home?” Ashleigh pleaded. “My pupper needs me.”
Ms. Avery sighed, seemingly missing the word “home” in all the chaos. “When Sam gets back from the bathroom you may go.”
She became more hysterical. “I'm not gonna graduate! I bought a special dress to wear at graduation!”
“I bet the dress is gonna be...hot!” Logan said, raising a hand and high-fiving a classmate.
That caused Ashleigh to burst out crying again.
“Logan, can't you be nice to Ashleigh for even five minutes?” Meagan begged.
“Can't you have a sense of humor for even five minutes?” Logan asked.
“We're going to die in 14—”
”—10,” Devon corrected.
”...10 minutes. We can remember to be kind, right?”
There was commotion outside. That's when everyone turned to see Sam storming out into the school parking lot. He held the extinguisher close to his body and yelled out, “Say 'helo to my littel friend!” before freeing the cone and flailing the hose into the sky. Even through the window everyone could hear his threat. “You see this, sun!” Sam cried, releasing a test spray of the extinguisher. “We're more powerful than you can ever imagine! Turn back now or we will destroy you!”
“Who wants to learn derivatives?” Ms. Avery sang cheerfully.
“Aren't you at all concerned about something—like, I don't know—the sun that's gonna kill us all?” Evyn asked.
Ms. Avery was unmoved, and she scowled. “The State of Wisconsin does not pay me to be concerned about events outside of my control!” Ms. Avery said, stamping her foot for good measure. Then she smiled and said sweetly. “That said, let's turn in our textbooks to page 85.”
Devon stood up. “Well I'm concerned. And Sam's right. We can't let the sun vaporize us while we're sitting down.” He walked up to Ms. Avery's desk and grabbed her water bottle. “I'm joining Sam.”
Barely flustered, Ms. Avery kept her sweet smile. “You don't have a hall pass,” she said professionally. “You'll need to wait until Sam gets back.”
Sam, who now had the extinguisher on the ground and was flipping the bird to the sky, his entire body emitting a guttural war cry.
Devon, with a confident smirk, whirled his head toward Ashleigh, who looked sideways in embarrassment. Then Devon whirled back to Ms. Avery. He ripped off his glasses. “Consider this my hall pass!” He declared, slamming his spectacles down on the teacher's desk. Devon then marched toward the door, but ran headlong into the door frame. He sheepishly turned back briefly, before embarking again out the door, only to run face-first into a bulletin board of unreturned test papers with students' names in big red lettering. The whole contraption crashed to the floor.
Ms. Avery signed as she made her way over to her desk. She picked up Devon's glasses and extended her hand toward him. “Devon, just take your glasses.”
Devon waved his arms in front of him as he gingerly made his way over. He then took his glasses, put them on again, then regarded the class timidly. “It—it looked a lot more heroic in my head.”
He was met with awkward silence. “To battle!” Devon yelled suddenly, then charged out the room.
With nothing better to do before the sun would cut the school year short, Ms. Avery's Calculus class watched as Devon joined Sam, who was positioned, once again, with the fire extinguisher pointed offensively upward toward the sky. Devon opened up the water bottle and doused himself with half of it. “Saw this strategy in Chronicles of Riddik,” Sam explained.
“How much time is left?” Ashleigh begged in the midst of hyperventilation.
Logan held up his phone with a timer ticking down. “Less than a minute!” 45 seconds to go.
Devon checked his watch, too. He and Sam, still holding their weapons at the ready, counted down until impact. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six...”
Ashleigh closed her eyes. “I can't watch!” She cried.
Logan gripped his phone, eyes wide, staring out at the window.
Ms. Avery was writing down homework; she had changed their due dates to earlier that originally scheduled.
Just then the PA chimed. “Hello, Emerson. This is Principal Washington again. Just got word from NASA again. I have good news! Apparently there was a glitch in some of the equipment. The sun didn't explode.”
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Mr. Washington continued. “It's still burning and will continue to burn for the next five billion years. I hope no one was doing anything drastic.”
Not too drastic, Evyn thought. He looked out the window and continued to observe Sam deploying the extinguisher foam into the wind next to Devon who was throwing the last remnants of Ms. Avery's water bottle toward the still-burning sun.