Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Super Plunge Lady and the 3D Printed Rocket Car
by Erin Lale

by Daniel Huddleston

Portraits Hung in Empty Halls
by K.C. Ball

Mouse Trap
by Fiona Moore

Basket in the Sky
by Igor Teper

Worlds Less Traveled
by John C. Conway

Redemption of Colony Venturis
by Wayne Helge

Where the Grass May Be Greener
by Rob Butler

Double Time
by Rik Hunik


Do Beavers Rule Mars?
by Thomas Elway

Science Fiction at the Box Office
by Adam Paul




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips





Bureaucracy in the 21st Century

SO I HAVE A DOG. An eighty pound black Labrador who thinks it is her duty to meet and greet nearly everybody she passes by on the street, and who believes the great outdoors is nothing but a boundless smorgasbord for her dining pleasure. Recently, several years ago to be precise, the great state of New York declared that dog licensing, once the province of the Department of Agriculture in Albany, should be handled at the local level.

You’d think that the City Clerk’s office would be ecstatic over being given this vast chunk of new revenue from on high. They’d want to do everything in their power to make it easy for dog owners (and there are plenty of them around here) to pay their annual $8.50 and keep their four-footed companions street legal and proud members of the community.

Well. How many forms is that? I can’t renew online because? This city generally prides itself as being a high-tech city. I can pay my property taxes online. In fact, I can look up my house in the online database and get all sorts of juicy information about the property, along with a picture taken just prior to my last paint job. I can pay my utility bills online after submitting a meter reading; within a few years one hopes all the utility meters will be electronically interfaced with Big Brother in City Hall and one won’t even have to read the meters first, only make the payments, if even that. Did I mention that my utilities, auto insurance, home insurance, satellite TV bills, Netflix, etc., are all wired to my bank for automatic payments? Comforting to know that dynasty if I am abducted by aliens and shipped out to galaxies unknown, Dish Network will be able to continue feeding “Duck Dynasty” into my home with no concern about not being paid for the service.

Which brings us circuitously back to renewing my loyal fur-bearing roommate’s license. You see, aside from filling out a paper form in duplicate, and enclosing a check (Good grief! I haven’t written a check in ages. Where are they? How do you write one? Are you supposed to spell out the sum as in eight and 50/100 dollars?), I have to enclose that blasted proof of rabies vaccination. Which is ... where did I file that damn thing?

Here’s me at 4 p.m. in the afternoon (2000 UTC) in my rattiest short pants and holey tee-shirt that needed washing a week ago rummaging through a file cabinet that hasn’t seen any sense of order since my divorce several decades past, looking for a letter-sized piece of paper from the dog doctor’s office. Not a very family friendly sight, particularly as I am unable to find it and am now loudly cursing why the damn bureaucrats can’t keep this information on record. The busybodies can tell me if my front lawn is up to code, but don’t remember if my dog has all her shots? Seriously?

I calm myself down and place a call to the animal hospital, which, like all my other frequently called numbers, is on speed dial. No way I could remember them, so no way I have to remember them. I can’t even remember my own phone number. Why? “How many times do I need to call myself,” I explain to those who ask.

“How can I help you today?” the sweet voice on the opposite end of the connection warbles.

“I seem to have misplaced my dog’s most recent rabies vaccination paper.”

“Let me look for that in our system. Yes, sir. There it is. Did you want to come by and pick it up?”

Blink blink. “Excuse me?” Hitch up the wagon and go into town for a bit? “Can’t you e-mail it to me?” I ask incredulously. Do they think they can pull a fast one over on me? I’ve been to their offices quite a number of times. Dogs, you see, are most clever and resourceful creatures when it comes to figuring out all sorts of ways to require medical attention. I’m convinced my dog invents excuses for seeing the veterinarian because of the huge, overflowing biscuit jar they keep on the front counter. She performs an entire repertoire of stunts and acrobatics to impress the tech staff into giving her a biscuit, or two, or three. The point is that I am well aware the office is computerized. All the records, visits, and treatments are kept on the computer. After each appointment, they tally up my charges, print out the bill, and gleefully pick my pockets.

“You can’t output it as a PDF or DOC file and send it to me as an attachment to an e-mail?” I ask.

“Um.” There is an impressive amount of gravitas in that um. “I think we can, sir. Give me your e-mail address and I’ll send it right out.”

Words of doom. I’ve heard that before. Essentially, it translates as “I don’t want to deal with this anymore. My shift is almost over. I’d like you to think that I’m going to do something about your problem, but I really need to go home, grab something out of the refrigerator, and soak my feet.”

The last time I checked my calendars—the one that I get every year from the newspaper. And the Jewish calendar which I prefer because it is twice as big and begins the year in September. My birthday is in September so I am in complete agreement that the year should begin in September—it was 2013. The freaking twenty-first century! I’m not asking for flying cars, nor hot pizza that you can print from your computer, but why does renewing a dog license have to be so convoluted? Why can’t I surf on over to www. and legitimize the Canis lupus familiaris with a couple of mouse clicks?

Epilog. Only twenty-four hours later, there in my inbox was an e-mail from the veterinarian’s office, vaccination form attached. I guess we’re getting somewhere. Now what about City Hall?

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Jack Vance