Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Talus Slope
by Joseph Green

Who Benefits From War?
by Hayden Trenholm

Those Magnificent Stars
by Clare L. Deming

A Soldier Undreams
by Bret Carter

Eating Disorder
by Len Dawson

My Shaigetz
by Marcy Arlin

Two Timing
by Rik Hunik

To Dance With the Girls of Ios-5
by Ted Blasche


Psychology and Science Fiction
by Ann Gimpel, Ph.D.

Get Up and Go Somewhen
by J. Richard Jacobs

In Time For Evolution
by Eric M. Jones




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



My Shaigetz

By Marcy Arlin

I FELL IN LOVE WITH an alien. Big deal, who hasn’t? It was a minor miracle, since I am a bit short, a bit chubby, and a bit sloppy. And cranky. But my hair is great, lots of long dark curls. So I got lucky and fell in love with an alien guy. Not to sound trite, this one was special. Kind, smart, funny, soft, and, wonder of wonders, Jewish. And he thinks I’m a real crackerjack.

Only problem was he was really, really disgusting to look at. You know what I mean, too many appendages, lumpy body. But I didn’t care. I was in love.

And already I’m hoping, maybe a nice blurb on our wedding in the Styles section of the Sunday New York Times?

Since we’ve been going out for over a year, I figured it was time to introduce Aaron to the mishpachah. I hope they will see immediately that Aaron is a good catch, much better than the usual brand of idiots I shlepp home; Mom will stop sighing loudly with an “All I ever wanted was grandchildren” and Dad will stop with the “Will you just settle down already?” shpiel. Aaron works as the Minister Without Portfolio at the Interplanetary Embassy, where I also work as the Program Director for InterP. Cultural Exchange. He is also the main liaison for human/alien software. In other words, a real mensch. Tough nuggies if they don’t like him.

So I brought him home for Friday Night Sabbath dinner, and, I was, I’ll admit, a little nervous about Aaron’s first impression. But it is a special occasion when I knew the folks would be on their best behavior.

Unfortunately, as soon as Dad opened the door and took a good look at Aaron’s extra-wide toothy grin and got a whiff of his rotten-lemon body odor, he vomited all over Matilda, our toy poodle. Aaron zupped it up and gave Matilda the grooming of her life, but Dad just ran to the bathroom on the first floor and slammed the door and didn’t come out all evening.

I mean, really, was that rude or what?

Mom came to the door, and she handled Aaron’s appearance a little better, just turning a little greenish. But at least she almost shook his digits, took the flowers he brought and put them in a nice vase on the dining room table. She managed to get us into our living room and then went to light the Shabbas candles. Aaron harrummed along with the blessing over the challah, as was only proper. His family is sort of religious, but not too much, which is good, so if and when we marry I won’t have to keep a kosher home. I just don’t have the time, and the dietary laws on Aaron’s planet are too byzantine to follow. His people converted en masse to Judaism when they landed their spaceship in the Negev in Israel and were met by scientists, a bunch of kibbutzniks and the head Rabbi. They just loved the dry heat, the chanting, and all that space.

Anyway, Mom invited us to sit down at the beautifully set dining room table, with Grandma’s good linen and crystal, and the vase with Aaron’s flowers in the center. We all sat down to the wonderful dinner Mom had prepared. Except Dad, who we heard loudly dry-heaving, and weeping for some reason, in the downstairs powder room. Mom spooned out the roast potatoes, the steamed asparagus, and gave everyone a nice piece of paprikash chicken: leg, breast, wing, whatever, there was plenty. Aaron stuck his portion, a leg I think, under his mouth flap and, in the most charming way, crunched and dripped slime, so I knew he loved my mother’s cooking, which is always a plus.

One thing he does I don’t like is talk with his mouth full, and I will have to break him of that habit. Mom had just sat down to join us and Aaron was complimenting my mom on her cooking when one big slimy chunk of crunched chicken flew right into her eye. She turned red, then white, gagged and ran to the first floor bathroom. But my dad was still in there; she pounded on the door “Stanley, please, it’s an emergency,” but no dice. So she ran upstairs but didn’t quite make it and vomited all over the nice new white shag carpeting on the landing. Aaron volunteered to go clean it up, but I laid a hand on his third appendage and said, “Let it be, she’ll be fine.” But I was really pissed. I didn’t have to bring him home to meet everybody, so the least they could do was not throw up while he was here. Mom dragged herself into their room and slammed the door and I could hear her sobbing, too. Great, Mom, like the joke, why don’t you just stick your head in the oven?

But I’ve saved the best for last. My two older brothers. The starring attractions of the family who as usual have a lot to say and do next to nothing. Most of the time the two lazy schnorrers sit on the sofa, playing video games, drinking scotch from the parental liquor cabinet. Both college graduates, one is even a graduate school graduate, but do you think they could get off their tuchises and get a job?

My oldest brother Leonard, since Aaron got here, had been laughing with this snarky triumphant look on his face. I wanted to take a frying pan and smack him upside his head. Gary, the middle child, ignored us completely, just cramming all the chicken and potatoes into his mouth. I think Gary would eat oysters at an autopsy, stomach like cast iron.

So there’s Mom, upstairs loudly sobbing, Dad downstairs doing G-d knows what, and Aaron placidly, if a bit loudly, crunching. Bless his three hearts nothing fazes Aaron, which makes him so good at his job.

Leonard then opens his big fat mouth and says to Aaron, “So Aaron, if that’s really your name, what makes you think you’re good enough for my baby sister?”

I swear to G-d I will kill Leonard someday. “Of course it’s his name, you jerkwad,” I said out of the side of my mouth, so as not to let Aaron know I was upset. We had talked about the whole human/alien thing and believe me, his family is not thrilled either. “In fact, he’s a Kohane and a real maven on Scripture.”

“Uh huh,” said Leonard, smirking. “Betcha he had a bris, too. Though not sure where exactly they had to snip it off from.” I gave Leonard a real good zetz with a high heel under the table and he jerked his knee up and banged it on the table, which shook Grandma’s best crystal and spilled the wine all over the nice linen tablecloth. Some of the wine spilled on to Aaron, and boy oh boy all hell broke loose as there is one thing Aaron hates and that is to get wet, and not only get wet but get wet with blessed wine.

And here’s the thing. Aaron smells even more rancid when wet. I don’t mind because I have permanently clogged sinuses, and during his shower I rub eucalyptus oil all over his clothes, which smells good to everyone, and clears the sinuses, it shouldn’t be a total loss. But when Aaron gets wet, well, not nice.

So, this really, really bad smell starts to fill the room, and it’s bad enough even to get Mr. Chaza Gary’s attention. Leonard pushes himself away from the table, grabs a lovely embroidered napkin, brought all the way from Bialystock, mind you, covers his mouth, but alas alack it’s too late and Leonard the wiseguy barfs all over what’s left of Mom’s nice chicken dinner, all over the asparagus, and, best of all, all over Gary, who jumps up, screaming “What the fuck!” Gary grabs the flower arrangement and throws it at Leonard, who ducks and runs from the room, crashing into Gary who falls backwards right on his keister, smacks his head on the chalacious golden cherub Dad bought at this yard sale and insists on keeping in the dining room no matter how much Mom complains, and is knocked out cold.

So there is Gary, unconscious, bleeding all over the hardwood parquet. We got Leonard puking in the hallway, don’t forget Mom and Dad and their dramas. Aaron is really furious because he hates getting wet and making that smell that he knows turns humans off. Here he was in his best custom-made toga/trouser outfit, trying to make nice with his steady girlfriend’s family. He starts yelling, which is what his kind does when upset. Now I come from a family of yellers, we all can give a good geshrie when we have to. But Aaron’s people come from a place where everyone has at least twenty-five feet of personal space around them, so he’s making a huge sacrifice just to sit at our fency-shmency dinner table and everyone is just so rude. Even the diplomats where Aaron works have the sense to take Dramamine, wear nose plugs and rose tinted sunglasses and sit across the room when dealing with him. Couldn’t my family make just the teeny tiniest cultural adjustment? Hah.

Aaron worked really hard to be nice and look how he gets treated. So I totally understood when he leaned back on his haunches and let out this tremendous roar, both high and low pitched, that literally rattled the lamps. I try not to get Aaron too angry, though I can be a bit of a nag, it’s a family trait.

Aaron’s roar got louder and louder and louder and the door to the bathroom opened and Dad came running out and Mom came stumbling down the stairs and Leonard stopped mid-puke. Matilda commenced howling like a crazy person. Gary was out cold so he didn’t count. From my thift-store Gucci, I pulled out my handy-dandy sound mufflers which Aaron got me for our first anniversary as a couple and just sat back and watched as my family freaked out. They rolled on the floor, pounding their fists against their heads. This went on for about five minutes.

Now here’s the reason I love Aaron, in spite of our differences. Aaron looked at me and noticed that I was frowning, getting a little worried about the family eardrums. They are my family and I love them even if they make me nuts. So he stopped the roaring and looked rather sheepish, which he always does after losing his temper.

It got real quiet. Even Matilda stopped howling and looked around with a puzzled expression. I held my breath. Aaron is such an interesting guy. You never know what he’s going to do next. He’s been known to turn himself inside out when he gets really frustrated, so all his guts are just hanging on to his derma, dangling and quivering and pulsing. I knew that would definitely not go over big at our house.

But he surprised me. He put the flowers back in the vase and set them on the table, uprighted the crystal, and sat down with his napkin neatly tucked into the lip of the toga. And he started harumming. Aaron has a heavy accent when he speaks English, but I think my family got most of it:

“Respected Birth Parentals, Loyalist Siblings Leonard and Gary, I am deeply repentant concerning my composureless response that surpassed your auditory tolerance level. My guest/self miscomprehended the premature departure of your ingestion from your person and the distressful influxial imposition of sacraliquid on my person, as insult to my nestclan. But my potential familial self neo/comprehends that this is a manifested cultural issue. I eternally desire your forbearing appreciation of my xenobehavior.”

Aaron is a trained diplomat and knows just the right thing to say.

“Your nuclear familial female progeny is most precious to this mate-seeking individual, who asks for your blessing for union. Baruch atah adonai.”

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Aaron was asking for my parents’ blessing! In Hebrew! I blushed, whispered a “yes”, and kissed Aaron’s sweet velvety flap.

Imagine! Me! Engaged!

No one in my family moved a muscle. Even Gary shut up for a second. They just sat or stood there like guppies with their mouths hanging open; I think my parents had pretty much given up on me finding someone. Now here’s this great, well-spoken, educated Jewish guy, with a job, who wants to marry their pain in the ass daughter. That’ll shut up all the kvetching about me being single.

I got up from the table, and went over and helped a still speechless Dad to a chair. A bit feshimmelled, Mom shrugged me off and got herself into the chair next to Dad. Leonard and Gary? Who knows, maybe two of Aaron’s twenty-seven sisters might be interested.

So, anyway, now that things had calmed down and I was a betrothed woman, I went into the kitchen, and brought out plates and the lovely chocolate babka Mom had bought especially for the occasion. I cut some slices and put a piece on everyone’s plate.

I smiled. “Anyone want coffee? I’ll make some.” infinity

Marcy Arlin is a new-ish writer, and an old-ish director, Fulbrighter, theatre book editor, theatre internationalist and Artistic Director of the OBIE-winning Immigrants’ Theatre Project. She is a member of Broad Universe, Brooklyn Spec Fiction Writers, Lincoln Center Directors Lab and Theatre Without Borders. She is currently working on a novel about alien invertebrates and ocean ecology.


once crowded sky