Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Stone 382
by Sean Monaghan

A.I. Oh!
by Tom Doyle

Castle of the Slave
by Aliyah Whiteley

Home From Home
by Mark English

Aliens With Candy
by Michael Andre-Driussi

A Cumdumpster Kid
by Rebecca L. Brown

Harmony, Chaos, and the Reign Thereof
by Kyle White

Potential Killer
by Fredrick Obermeyer

Cinderella's Holo-Wand
by Sarina Dorie

Ears, Eyes, Nose ... and Throat
by Jez Patterson


Cargo Cultism
by Eric M. Jones

Coronal Mass Ejection by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips





Road Worrier

BY THE TIME YOU ARE READING this, I should have access via my driveway to the street that I live on and, by extension, the grocery store, shopping malls, public parks, and beyond the stars. You see, two years ago last autumn the City decided it would finally repave my street and fix the sidewalks so that I’d be living in a typical Upstate New York community and not downtown Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The actual roadwork began last month. The entire process has been, if not enjoyable, interesting.

It started innocently enough, with multi-colored painted symbols and little plastic flags festooned everywhere. Gas lines. Water lines. Live rodents. Trees.

I have this five-story tall silver maple tree beside my house that was probably a seedling when H.G. Wells was born. Its root system must surely extend all the way to Buffalo. It should be declared a national monument and it is mostly on my property. Fate, if you believe in such things, and good timing had me toting my garbage to the curb for the weekly pickup when I spotted my neighbor chatting with one of the advance team road crew.

“Sam!” my neighbor called my attention. “You want this tree removed, right?”


“I told them to remove the tree,” he explained.

“Whatever for? It’s been here for hundreds of years. It’s a magnificent tree. Besides, I think it is mostly on my property,” I argued.

“But it’s dangerous,” he said. “What if it gets struck by lightning? Or a hurricane?”

My neighbor bought his house only a year ago. I’ve been here for nearly two decades. “This tree has gone through plenty of lightning storms. It survived the Ice Storm of ’93. We don’t really get hurricanes around here. I can assure you it is a good, solid tree. Safe. Friendly.” I patted the tree but I did not hug it.

“Well, okay,” he ceded.

“Trust me.”

The tree still stands. Surprisingly, my main concern about the tree’s fate had more to do with it potentially being in the way of the new sidewalk than my neighbor turning out to be Looten Plunder from “Captain Planet.” Far as the sidewalk goes, the road crew eased it around the tree without batting a cinder block. But I’m getting ahead of my story.

Next on the agenda, after the graffiti, came the replacing of the water mains. Some functionary probably decided that as the street was being renovated, it would be a good time to upgrade the water pipes. Not a bad idea really, but not something you want to inform the residents of at five p.m. the evening immediately before that the water will be turned off for the entire day. As I was soon to discover, this method of last minute notification was standard operating procedure. Not a big deal with water because it only takes me ten minutes to fill up a couple of buckets. Street access ... well, wait for it.

Placing modern pipes where the Roman aqueduct once stood went relatively fast. I got a kick out of watching the backhoes chew into the earth like it was a cheese sandwich, watching the rats scurry for their lives like it was Armaggeddon. During this phase of the project, several water leaks were discovered in the old mains and had to be dealt with, necessitating additional water shutoffs with no advance notification at all. I’m a beer and soda man so as long as my dog has a full water bowl, we wouldn’t even notice that the well had run dry.

For a couple of hours during this phase of the project, I was not able to use my driveway for access to the street because they were working directly in front of my house. But for a couple of hours, I could watch TV, take a nap, read a handful of manuscripts submitted to “Perihelion.” The world continued to turn; this was, however, a portent of doom, an ominous taste of things to come.

At five p.m. one Monday evening (I told you), the white flyer hastily tucked into the crack where the porch door abuts the porch door frame announced that the street itself was going to be ripped clean away like a dried old scab and I would not have access to the street at all from 6:45 a.m. to around end of the business day. Being mostly retired and producing “Perihelion” from my home office, this is not a big deal. I do not use my car that much and I am not about to play alternate side of the street parking with aggressive nine-to-fivers. However, I was completely out of food, and had planned on going grocery shopping the next morning. I generally do my food shopping in the mornings; the store is less crowded; I do not have to play parking lot tag with aggressive nine-to-fivers. Now I would need to make an immediate trip to Wegman’s for at least enough groceries to get me and the dog through Tuesday. I could go shopping Wednesday morning. That would work.

On Tuesday I could sit on my front porch, playing Eric Clapton’s “Rocking Chair” on my Kindle HD Fire and watch the yellow backhoes and loaders gobble up the street like dinosaurs from Cybertron.

  Old rockin’ chair’s got me, my cane by my side
  Fetch me that gin, son, ’fore I tan your hide
  Can’t get from this cabin, goin’ nowhere
  Just set me here grabbin’ at the flies round this rockin’ chair

For the next couple of weeks, the bare road, stripped to the bone white clay, laid prostrate, vulnerable to the ravages of the weather, traffic, and pedestrians who no longer had sidewalks. Those too had been harvested along with the ancient superstructure. It was a strange scene, gravel crunching underfoot, having to move aside for the slow-moving cars and trucks, like an exodus from a post-apocalyptic made-for-tv movie.

Then it struck. The white flyer from hell itself. On a Tuesday evening it explained that curbs were going to be implanted and road access was going to be shut down from Wednesday all the way until Monday. Move your cars or be stranded! I should have expected something like this, but, only mildly desiring a pox on the project planners, I hauled off to the grocery store in search of enough bounty to last me the rest of the week. I even called a couple of friends who do not live on my street to secure a potential trip to the grocery store later in the week, should it be necessary. My survival was well in hand.

Hah! Monday dawned cheerfully enough. Monday passed less cheerfully. Tuesday dawned like the Death Star. I had to call in one of my ride favors. Wednesday had rebellion in the air. The Second Amendment guarantees citizenpavers the right to overthrow an oppressive government, and I was seriously considering that right. They had promised me Monday, yet on Wednesday I had no idea what was going on. Finally, a third white flyer brought hope. The new road itself was scheduled to be laid down, starting on Thursday, and by Friday evening my car and I would be free. At last.

Asphalt pavers, by the way, are seriously cool machines. The behemoth doing my street is about the size of a tank. It has a hopper on the front end which is fed continuously by a dump truck carrying the amorphous asphalt mixture. The asphalt mix goes through the machine and comes out the back as a homogenous, flat asphalt mat which it applies to the road surface. It works roughly like a giant moveable pasta machine dialed in on manicotti. The first layer of licorice-colored asphalt was applied on Thursday, by around noon to tell the truth, so I expected they would do at least another layer in the afternoon. This didn’t happen. But the road was open to traffic by five p.m. So by extrapolation, as I write this, even if they lay down only a second layer on Friday, that should bring the surface of the asphalt almost even with the driveway curb edges and accessible. Unless, in their evil machinations, the road crew derive another excuse to keep me marooned on this island Earth.

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Jack Vance