Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


From Gaia to Proxima Centauri
by Milo James Fowler

Suck the Oil Out With a Straw
by Robin White

L’enfer, C’est la Solitude
by Joe Vasicek

Tea With Silicate Gods
by Auston Habershaw

by Andrew Muff

Gina Starlight’s Got the Blues
by Sandra M. Odell

Passing History
by Bill Adler Jr.

A Planet Like Earth
by E.K. Wagner

Shorter Stories

Cold Deaths
by Michael Haynes

Leviathan Buffet
by Sarina Dorie

by Hall Jameson


How Far is Heaven?
by Gary Cuba

A.I. Invasion or A.I. in Education?
by Jason M. Harley



Comic Strips





Suck the Oil Out With a Straw

By Robin White

I HADN’T PICKED UP MY SON from school for six months or so. I have reasons.

I think his grandmother, my mother, enjoys doing it, which is one reason. My wife used to do it, which is one more.

And another, putting it gently, and honestly, is I don’t like him very much. He’s kind of an ass.

But he’s my kid, and if I want to be friends I have to try, so I decided to pick him up one day, climbing into my Nissan Sunny and driving down there. The commercials on the route, I swear there are more these days. Like that one for baseball which comes right up on the dashboard, where the ball flies towards you when you’re driving, and that big voice shouts HEY IT’S AMERICA’S PASTIME and the air smells like hot dogs. Have you seen that one? That one’s dangerous is all I’m saying. And the one where the model sits on your steering wheel, and calls you by name while you’re trying to shift gears. I drive a stick, and that commercial meant the drive took longer than I expected, so I was a little bit late. A minute, maybe, or two. Five minutes, maximum.

So, I asked him how his day had been and he said fine. I asked him how lunch was and he said all right. I gave it a last shot by asking him if anything interesting had happened and he said no, not at all, actually.

He said that last one with an attitude, a bit of a screw off, Dad, but I didn’t notice at the time, mostly because a commercial for a new flavour of fruit roll-up (PLUM!) had popped up on the windshield and I had to slam on the brakes to watch it. I wrenched my neck a little hitting the brakes so hard, but my first thought was Justin, and I asked him if he was okay, and he said,


And I said, I repeated myself pretty flat out,

Are you okay?

And he said what? again, which hacked me off a bit, pissed me off a little to be honest, because when we sold our second TV our commercial consumption went down, and we lost our Coca-Cola™ incentivised insurance. So I said,

Are you sure?

And he turned to look out the window and didn’t say a thing.

When we got home he went upstairs, put earphones in, and listened to music for three straight hours. At seven, he came down to the kitchen, ate four cookies and a slice of bread, then ignored me until bedtime.


So my son hates me, doesn’t like me at least, but then he always liked his mom. I asked her what she would do. I held a picture of her in my hands, held it just like this, right in front of my eyes, but it didn’t say a word. I said to it,

What would you do?

And it didn’t say a thing.

So I said,

I don’t know our son.

And her eyes stared at me out of that picture.

I wish you were here, I said, but it still didn’t speak, and how could it? She’s gone and now it’s me, and him, and my Mom.

My son’s got a poster tacked to his wall for Davenport Cabinet. It switches on whenever I go in there, tells me about their new album through a sea of long hair and the necks of their guitars. As a commercial it works out well, ups our ad-consumption by a lot, so I like it, and let him keep it. One day I go in there to change his sheets, and the poster comes on, the band comes out, and the projection says,

Hey, you!

And I nod to it, and it says,

We’re Davenport Cabinet!

And I nod again and change the pillows, and it says,

See us live, at the GOOGLEdome, this Thursday night.

And I say Huh? And it repeats itself, like this,

See us live at the GOOGLEdome, this Thursday night.

So I ask how much the tickets are, and it tells me, and they’re expensive, but I don’t mind the expense because sometimes, you know, you have to spend a little.

I bought two tickets, presented them to him that night, and smiled the winningest smile a dad has ever smiled at his son, and then I said,

Great, right?

And then he said, Sure.

You’re excited? I asked him, and he said,


And I said, still grinning, kind of a forced grin, kind of like this, which maybe looked kind of scary, It’ll be really fun. and he said,

Uh-huh, again, so I said,

Isn’t there anything you maybe want to say to me?

And he said, Where’s the Cheetos? Are we out of Cheetos?

And I didn’t say anything because he’s an ass.

I get here that you might be judging me, subconsciously or regular-consciously for calling my son an ass a few times, but you can see from his demeanour here that he’s sometimes kind of an ass, and you’ve only had to see something like, three interactions, which is not a high number. I see this kid every day. I live with this kid. So sometimes, forgive me on this one, I think, man, that son of mine, I love him because he’s my son, and the fruit of my loins, reminds me of his Mom, light of my life, etc., but man, what an ass.

My Mom thought bringing him to that concert was a great idea. She liked it even more, I think, because it got us both out of the house. I don’t know what she does when we’re out, but she’s gotten real close with the lady next door since my Dad died. I saw them holding hands in the supermarket once, and I thought to myself, hey, yeah, it’s really great that they’ve found some friendship in their widowhood, but holding hands in the supermarket? People are going to get the wrong impression, Mom, like people might talk, for example.

When I get him in the Nissan for the concert, I pull out of our driveway and get a hundred yards down the road before I realise I don’t have the tickets. So I drive back, and I shout to Mom that I forgot them, and she practically throws them at me, which is rude and unnecessary, and then I head outside and I get back in the car and Justin has his smart-tech on his face, staring into those little glasses and zoning out while he watches videos or messages his friends or makes bombs or whatever.

So, I think to myself, no way am I going to get a word out of him now, am I? Which sucks because the whole point of me going to this concert with him is so that we can bond. So when we get onto the highway, I go through our first commercial, slowing down so I can see it, just like I’m meant to, but then I slow down even more, and hit the breakdown lane, and sort of crawl to a stop, as if the engine’s giving out. And he notices, and takes his smart-tech off and he’s all,

What is it?

Engine’s died. Or something. And I raise my hands like this, like I’m confused and irritated, which I think is pretty good and something I picked up in local theatre, and he goes,


I don’t know! I’m driving and then it goes, like a poot sound, like a poot poot, and then it slows and I pull over right here.

Is there gas in it?

Of course there’s gas in it.

And here I wait for him to tell me that I should get an electric car, which is what the news keeps telling me, or one of the cars that drive themselves, but I like driving, like having the wheel in my hands, the car moving where I tell it to move. But he doesn’t say anything about electric cars, he says, with a sort of weird look on his face that I’ve never seen before,

Can I take a look at it?

... At the car?

At the engine.

You know what you’re looking for?

And there he sort of shrugs at me, so I say sure, and he gets out, and I pop the hood and he looks in the engine. And I’m conscious that there’s nothing actually wrong with the car, so I get out and go stand next to him, and the kid’s up to his elbows in the guts of my Nissan and I have no idea what he’s doing.

You need to change your oil, Dad.

And he says it again. You need to change the oil.

And I say, like this, with my eyebrows up ... Thanks.

No problem.

He pulls himself out of the engine, and gives me a sort of nod, with pursed lips, and I give him a sort of nod back, and then I don’t know what comes over me, but I say,

What kind of oil?

And he looks at me like he’s thinking I’m really kind of stupid, like kind of a dunce, and for a second I worry that there is only one kind of oil, but then he raises his eyebrows a little and goes,

Well, synthetic. Mineral oil gets thicker at below-zero, and gives your car a rougher start.

And that’s the longest sentence he’s said to me since he was a little boy, when we were on a tour of the White House, sponsored by Toshiba, and he said, Dad, I want to go see the oval office next, where the President sits, and I remember that when he said that he sort of reached up for me, with his hands open like this because he wanted me to carry him, because I was his dad, and I sort of tear up a bit and I hope that he doesn’t notice.

I close the hood, and we get in, and I say to him,

Sit up front, and tell me some more about the car.

And he does sit up front, and he looks right at me, at my face, and we talk about cars for half an hour, just sit there at the side of the road. I know we’re going to be late for the concert, but I let him keep talking, and I keep asking him little questions, and nodding at him kind of like this, and then he sees the time and realises that we’re going to be late for the concert, and tells me that, apparently, the band always plays his favourite song at the very start of their set.

So I think to hell with that, and he buckles up, and I buckle up, and we get back on the highway and I stamp down on that pedal. We get to our next commercial and maybe, I guess, I don’t slow down. Maybe I even speed up a little bit so we don’t get to see what it’s about, but I got the gist, it was mineral water. And at the next commercial I didn’t slow down either, and I see that one even less, but think it might have been for clowns, like for birthday parties? And he sees that I’m not slowing down but he doesn’t say anything, and we overtake the cars we’d been driving near before, because they’re slowing down for their commercials, and then at the third commercial, which we skip altogether, the little light starts beeping on our projector and this little man appears on my dashboard, six inches tall.

Sir, it says, I notice that you’ve missed three commercials in a row.

Yeah, I say. He’s wearing the CommercialTech uniform, with the little See no Evil, Hear no Evil, logo and his hair’s in this really neat little parting and it just, sorry, just pisses me off a bit.

Are we not targeting you appropriately, sir?

You’re targeting me fine. I’m just in kind of a hurry.

And he does this click click thing under his tongue, like a click, like a click click, and that sound really makes me kind of mad because I’m not a child, and then he says,

I understand that sir, but you agreed to see a certain amount of commercials. You’re contractually obligated. I have your contract in front of me, in fact.

And I say, Yeah, right, I get that.

And he says, So what are we going to do about this?

And I put my foot down and drive a little faster and we skip another commercial so quick that I don’t even see the colours in the logo and the man yelps, like he’s having a little fit of anger and he’s just too angry to keep the noise in, and I can see Justin smiling out of the corner of my eye and I smile too, because it’s good sometimes to share some camaraderie with your only kid.

And then the guy goes, Sir, you’re in direct breach of your contract, and I have it within my rights to call the police.

And I say, Go ahead, and maybe curse at him, not a bad curse, just like a medium one, and turn the commercial-projector thing off, and my son laughs and sort of bumps me on my arm with his fist, a little like this, but gentler maybe, and I grin and we make it to the concert on time and my son sees his favourite song and he enjoys it so much that I swear I see a couple tears in his eyes, and then I get a couple in mine too because my son, really, isn’t so much of an ass, not all the time.

And then I got the summons through to come into court, and it made me sort of gulp, and my son read it too, over my shoulder. And he put his hand on my arm and told me to come in here and kick some ass, and I don’t know about that, but I do know, your Honour, that I’d do it all over again, even the part where I cursed at the CommercialTech guy.

My son’s a good kid. When he sees me there after school now, he asks me if I’ve checked my oil, and I tell him that I have; but that’s a lie. And he doesn’t know this, but it’s because I need him, and I love him, and if him fixing my car is what brings us closer together then I’ll break it myself, and suck the oil out with a straw. END

Robin White is a writer and teacher from the U.K. His work varies in topic, from a story about LGBT bears to a story about fishermen and robots. He’s been published in “Bartleby Snopes,” “Strangelet,” “Bete Noir,” “Dogzplot,” and elsewhere.




screaming eagle 6/15


author ad