The Message and the Messenger


After the meeting, Miriam and Omar went for falafel at Café Rakka. It was one of the last great falafel places in the city; Egyptian style, chickpeas mixed with fava beans, served in a real pita instead of a gyro the way most of the places did now. And they had the top-secret recipe for red lentil soup. They dined outside at the single café table.

“So, how is Uncle Hafinjan?”

“Maryam, you still call him Uncle Coffepot?”

“He’ll always be Uncle Coffeepot to me. My parents, no matter how old I was, thought I was too young to drink coffee. They scared me, they said a spoon would stand up straight in real coffee. You know my parents drank tea, but Uncle Hafinjan drank coffee. When we went to his house, he showed me the spoon standing up. It was years until I found out it was a trick cup. Has he gotten used to the possibility that desert could be more valuable than oil?”

“Our uncle the Interior Minister is on board. Naturally, he bought options on half the titled land east of the Nile before he ‘arrived’ at that conclusion. And after he was assured that the carbon exchanges would pay for de-desertification and reforestation. He’ll get paid for people planting trees in the Sahara Desert.”

“You mean, the former Sahara Forest?”

Miriam didn’t confuse easily, but she gave her cousin a “huh” and a quizzical look.

“You never heard the story? Mustapha decides to go to Canada and be a lumberjack. He applies for a job. They hand him an axe. He fells 20 trees in an hour. They ask him where he learned to cut trees like that, and he told them, the Sahara Forest. The boss said, “don’t you mean the Sahara Desert?” and he answered, “Sure, now!” Miriam kicked her cousin under the table. “How are we going to keep Carpenter and the Minister from knowing anything about each other? Bernie’s not going to participate in anything that extracts a personal profit out of this. You know him. ‘Air is free, water is free, sunlight is free.’”

“Sure, but Buckey Balls and carbon nanotubes don’t come cheap. Even if you can make them from shit. Don’t forget the rare-earths part of the plan. You don’t think Bernie would be okay with mining things that aren’t fossil fuels?

“Omar, it’s a long way from Beni Suef to Brooklyn. Let’s keep Carpenter busy here and Uncle Coffepot quiet there.”

“Sounds like a plan, Cuz...”




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, January 16, 2020 - 23:11