The Message and the Messenger


“Odds are, one of you is either an informant now or likely to turn informant if something heads south. According to The Anarchist’s Cookbook, you should be shot in front of the entire group. We’re not anarchists. We’re not going to be doing that. If for some reason one of you gets detained, arrested, questioned, rubber-hosed, or whatever, say what you want. Or exercise your right to remain silent. Or your right to an attorney. Call us, call your significant other, call your embassy, call 666-lawyers. It won’t matter. Because we aren’t anarchists. We aren’t terrorists. We’re messengers. We have a message to deliver. Any questions?” Bernard Carpenter looked around the room and into the eyes of each of the delegates attending the Run Silent organizing meeting; no psychos as far as he could tell.

“Bernie. Straight up. Is this a gimmick or is this a real plan? Do you actually believe something is going to happen? Without anyone getting hurt?” That was Doug Upton, representing the Radical Engineers.

“Something better happen. Consider the alternatives. It’s up to the folks in this room to make it happen. Anyone else?”

Miriam Longone from the Muscle Alley group chimed in. “My people are concerned about the income loss of the people we’ll be obviating if this goes through. They’re already marginalized, this might make things worse for them.”

“Miriam, we know each other a long time and I’m not going to give you any omelet/breaking eggs bullshit. They may be marginalized but they aren’t stupid or lazy. Tell you what. They’re already going to be tipped well by people getting free rides. And we’ll guarantee $60 a day for each of your drivers. Deal?”

“Sure. Just remember, we’ll be the ones pulling the wagon.”

One by one, each represented group felt it necessary to say something. Except for Omar’s group. OASIS, the Organization About Sand Inundated States. Desert countries with no oil wealth. The whole thing was their idea.

What Bernard was calling “The Steering Committee” started circling the buffet; sliders, pizza, wings, skins, anything that can be made from tempeh, kale and cashews, raw cookies (otherwise known as cookie dough,) seltzer, boxed wine, and plenty of PBR. Chamfer seemed to be a hot topic, along with gear-equivalent wheels and total vertical ascent. Alloys were compared and debated.

For possibly the first time in his career, Junior Diaz, the lawyer, was bathing in attention, expounding on which vehicle was legal where and for what purpose. New York City made the rules for bicycles in the five boroughs. But New York State decided what a bicycle is or is not, despite the Consumer Product Safety Administration having a perfectly good standard for what qualifies as a bike. Many “Federal” bicycles were, in New York City, illegal unregistered motor vehicles. The immediate issue was pedicabs crossing the East River bridges on bike lanes. They were Glatt Kosher bicycles at the city, state, and federal levels, but oncoming conventional bikes sharing the same cycle path needed to pay attention to the wider 3-wheelers. The city already limited pedicab licenses to 600, so the only market for them was charging tourists $60 for a 30-minute spin. Despite the fact that any car on the planet that was capable of passing a state safety inspection could be a Lyft or an Uber.

So, there were call-outs of “Ju-Diz, Ju-Diz” with whoever was calling out citing the last proscription or suggestion of permission they heard. It was up in the air as to whether any of the East River Bridges were legally accessible or not. Junior brought everyone current with what the City Council was doing, up to the new regulation of letting bikes use the pedestrian signals.

“You have to watch these people like hawks. The Police don’t waste time trying to memorize every change in the code. The folks running the city will happily let their houses submerge and their children choke for a handful of shekels in a campaign contribution.

Bernard started up a conversation about the merits of Green Thumb versus Ortho and if diesel could be safely transported in a Gerry can. Representatives of the various groups started networking; some politically, some professionally, and some, of course, the way people do when they don’t have big dreams and plans. Eventually, Bernard gave everyone a tour of the upstairs quarters for participants who would be staying in the East 49th Street town house. The second floor was set up like a dormitory, three beds to a room, common area on the top floor, foosball, knock-hockey, ping pong and poker. A fridge and a microwave. A K-cup coffee machine which generated questions about bringing in personal percolators.

Goodbyes, good nights, and see ya’s were exchanged and Bernard once more assured everyone that no part of the plan called for violence on the part of the group. He caught himself before anyone could start thinking Qui s’excuse s’accuse.







Andrew Paul Grell

Andrew Paul Grell lives in a park in Manhattan with Melody, his wife, and their Malti-poo puppy, Cyrus King of Persia. At 60, he is an “emerging writer,” author of the recently released science fiction novel SCAPEGOATS: The Goat Protocols. Andrew has been anthologized in American Writers Review, Surprised by Joy, Grumpy Old Gods 2, and What Sort of Fuckery is This. He also makes appearances in Writers Newsletter and is proud to be an Ugly Writer.  By day he uses mathematical models to ferret out fraud, and he gets everywhere by bicycle. 


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 21:37