Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Clean Limbs of Robots
by Francis Marion Soty

Garbage Miners
by Sean McLachlan

All Comms Down
by Anne E. Johnson

Do Stand-Up Bots Dream of Electric Hecklers?
by James Aquilone

by Timothy J. Gawne

Human Faces
by Karl Dandenell

Charybdis Run
by Nathan Ehret

by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

Halieis Anthropon
by A.L. Sirois

by Richard Zwicker

You Need to Know
by Michaele Jordan


Animated Pictures
by J. Miller Barr

by Eric M. Jones




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips





Keeping Good Lab Notes

I’VE HAD BLACK LABRADOR RETRIEVERS my entire adult life. My first, way back in the mists of time, was actually a mixed breed: Doberman and Black Lab. She looked more Doberman than Lab, but her personality was definitely Lab. It was a personality that I grew quite addicted to, so after her passing, I took no chances and began a very long “love affair” with purebred Black Labradors.

They are a rewarding, thrilling, exasperating, and endearingly confrontational breed. The perfect companion dogs. They require constant attention, lots of food, exercise, and a fenced-in back yard preferably inhabited by numerous small animals. They like warm sleeping accommodations indoors, however; the bed will do nicely, or the living room sofa. No sharing, please. Find your own place to crash. Ya gotta laugh when you yell at them for gnawing on the corner of the coffee table and they back off, but watch you like a hawk until you drop your guard so they can return to gnawing with impunity.

It amazes me how similar they are, and yet each is a distinctive individual. I remember my first Lab (well, half-Lab) was intensely obsessed with squirrels. Cara, that was her name, lived for the chase.

We resided in Queens, New York, (that’s a borough of New York City) only a few blocks away from Flushing Meadow, where the 1964 New York World’s Fair was held. This was in the late ’70s, early ’80s, so the Fair had long gone, but many of the artifacts remained. They are there to this day. Much of the movie “The Wiz,” starring Michael Jackson, was filmed around those artifacts. The Yellow Brick Road was a massive sheet of custom linoleum laid over the concrete bridge that led from one part of the Fair to the iconic Unisphere. Cara and I happened to be walking (she was chasing squirrels) through the park the morning after filming had been completed on this set. Workers hadn’t yet removed the linoleum, so my dog and I got to “ease on down the road.” I should have grabbed a chunk of the linoleum. It might have been worth a few bucks today.

Cara’s squirrel hunting exploits were legendary among the Flushing Meadow “park rangers.” We were the Bonnie and Clyde of the patrol units. You know: “be on the lookout ...” Technically, dogs were supposed to be on a leash at all times, a policy I could readily comply with when the park was actually being used by families, joggers, and the occasional flasher. But we would go for our morning runs barely past the crack of dawn, in all kinds of weather. The meadow was emptier than my neighborhood on Yom Kippur (I lived in Rego Park). I would have had a better chance of running into a fellow human on the Moon. Nonetheless, through the early morning fog I’d often see a green ranger jeep pull up to give me another lecture about my unleashed pet. Cara was a threat to the city, you know.

Squirrels, as a matter of fact, were a major problem. They’d get into the garbage, breed like nobody’s business, spread ticks and fleas, destroy facilities. At one point, the city was so frustrated in its efforts to curb the squirrel population, they resorted to poison! Signs posted prominently throughout the park declared that poison had been placed for squirrel control and to keep children and pets away from these areas. I didn’t worry. My dog was too smart to fool with poison. And there were just too many squirrels on the loose to focus elsewhere.

She was off, and the squirrels trembled. Not Dudley Do-Right of the Park Patrol, who once more drove up beside me out of the morning mist. What followed was so laughable all I could do was hold my head in my hands and keep from cursing Darwin.

“Your dog shouldn’t be chasing the squirrels,” he pointed out. “They’re wildlife.”

“You got goddamn poison spread out to kill the wildlife! At least my dog is giving them a sporting chance.”

“Well, you’re violating the leash laws,” he countered.

You, Barney Fife, my friend, I wanted to say, are violating the laws of evolution. But I’m sure he would not have understood.

I got Gemma (below left) shortly after I moved from New York City to the wilds of Rochester, N.Y., the last frontier. If Cara was obsessed with squirrels, Gemma was totally bonkers over water. It is in a Lab’s nature to have an affinity for water, but Gegemmamma was part fish. She never met a body of water she didn’t like—from the shores of Lake Ontario to the pothole puddle up the street. If she could flop in it, she did.

When she was about six months old, my neighbor, who also owned a Black Lab, figured it was time Gemma took to her birthright. My neighbor and his Lab went to Mendon Pond, an expansive, languid duck pond with broad, sandy beaches, several times a week. Mendon Pond got deep very gradually; you could go out into the water a good twenty meters and still be wet only to the waist, but that was deep enough for the dogs to have a vigorous swim.

He cautioned me not to be too concerned over Gemma’s first encounter with real water. “The dog might want to hug the shoreline for awhile,” he said. “It could take a few visits for her to get into the deep water.” That would be OK by me. But not by Gemma. She jumped out of the car, saw the lapping waves, made a beeline for them, and was paddling away like an Olympic champion before I could even take the lens cap off the camera. Getting her out of the water might have taken a few visits.

Ellison Park, another local Lab magnet, was nothing like Mendon. First of all, it was a creek, not a pond, and it had a current. On one visit there, the creek was high. Gemma saw a log floating past; I swear, it was an entire tree. The lure of water and a big stick was too much. She launched herself into the water, swam furiously to the log, and attempted to fetch it. Of course, she could not. It was a freaking tree! The current was carrying the log away and she was in hot pursuit. I called her to come back on shore, but she was lost in her determination to bring the stick out of the water and onto dry land for a good chew. She would have pursued the log all the way to Buffalo had I not jumped into the creek, grabbed her by the collar, and forced her out. Not a particularly enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. We never returned to Ellison Park after that.

Even as a creaky thirteen-year-old, Gemma looked forward to a good swim, at the shallow end of the pool, as befits a senior citizen.

Number three, Petra (below right), was my first “aristocrat” Lab. I got her from one of the country’s top breeders of Labrador Retrievers. Humehill raises all three flavors: black, chocolate, and yellow. The kennel’s dogs have won championship after championship. The puppies have better papers than I do, and they get sporty identification tattoos on their ears before they leave the farm. Petra knew this.

Petra was a diva in every sense of the word. She would not sleep on the floor. She would not sleep on a rug on the floor. She would not sleep on a cushion on a rug on the floor. She insisted upon sleeping on her bed, which used to be my bed. Or on her sofa. She could tell the difference between gourmet dopetrag food and store brand. Nonetheless, she never passed up a free scrap of godknowswhat that she encountered on the street. Dogs are funny that way.

As much as my other dogs liked squirrels and water, Petra was completely over the Moon with balls. She collected them. I’d be walking her and in the crack of a shoulder she’d veer off into the bushes, taking my arm with her, radius, ulna, humerus, and phalanges. After a moment or two of scrounging around, she’d emerge with some kind of ball clamped in her teeth, which she’d proudly carry all the way home as if she had uncovered lost pirate gold. I wound up with all kinds of balls in my yard: tennis balls, golf balls, lacrosse balls, footballs, soccer balls, basketballs. Once she made a valiant attempt to bring home a bowling ball that somebody had discarded.

Snow was Petra’s greatest passion. She did not care for warm weather at all. Neither do I. She would seek refuge in front of the air conditioner during the summer months, or soak in her kiddie pool. It’s a good thing we live in Rochester where there are two seasons, winter and summer. Although hot as a furnace, summer around here, thankfully, lasts only from end of June to middle of September. But it’s a long, long time from end of June to middle of September ...

Once the snowflakes began flying, so did the snowballs. Petra could spend hours outside chasing and often catching snowballs. After dispatching one (she liked to crumble them in her teeth, holding the frozen spheres between her paws), she’d assume the stance of a Yankee shortstop, tensing her muscles, eyes fixed on my windup, awaiting the next globe of crystal whiteness to soar through the air. Needless to add, by the end of winter I had arms like Popeye.

The first snowball of the season was a magical moment. The last snowball of the season was magical too. A practical dog, Petra knew that it was time for ... wait ... tail wagging frenetically ... tennis ball season! Or even better, Chuckit season. If aranayou are a dog owner, you know what a Chuckit is; otherwise, go Google it.

Late last Autumn, I welcomed Arana into my home. Arana (right) is from the same kennel where I got Petra, and they share common ancestors. Arana is my first male dog. I’ve been told that once you get them fixed, there is little difference between male and female. Thus far, I’ve already seen little difference except for what is under the hood. Because he is still a puppy, Arana does not lift his leg when he pees. He is all Lab.

The name Arana is Polynesian, Maori to be precise. It is a boy’s name and it means “rock.” Some other references indicate that the name is of Irish origin, meaning “man of Aran.” But as I am not Robert Flaherty, I prefer the Maori.

I’m wondering whether I should have named him Shiva “the Destroyer,” however. He grinds through everything he can get his paws on, like a furry woodchipper. I’ve tempted him with dozens of different chew toys which he eagerly eschews in favor of my sneakers, books, protruding bits of wooden furniture, doors, wallboard, and carpeting. Aside from destroying, I’ve been as yet unable to pinpoint what his lifelong passion might be. But he is barely six months old. I’m sure his favorite things will manifest themselves soon. If the house remains standing long enough, that is.

Sam Bellotto Jr.












About Our Cover


Jamie Noble is a digital artist who works across a range of industries, including creating art for book covers/illustrations, board games, and video games. He specializes in science fiction and fantasy art, and alongside his professional commissions he runs a not-for-profit monthly competition for creative writers based on his artwork. This month’s cover was done with Photoshop.