The Message and the Messenger


Doug took the Carousel, Bernard, the old soldier, had no problem getting to the top of the closed Watchtower building. Miriam was on an overlook on the Brooklyn Bridge, Omar took the blue bridge, the Manhattan. Bernie took out his signal mirror and aimed it at where Miriam should be. He sent “What hath God wrought.” Fifteen seconds later he got back “Invasion of privacy.” He spotted Doug’s signal. “Miriam says five by five.” Bernie sent “Miriam, come here, I need you” and waited. Six minutes later, Miriam, mounted on the brand new Arundel, was parked in front of the shuttered Watchtower. They did it. The plan could be coordinated without phones or computers. If it didn’t rain or got too foggy.

The exploratory crew assembled in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Doug treated everyone to Blue Bunny ice cream cones. Six dollars for a cone, imagine that. “Six bucks! talk about economic inequality! Someone’s getting greased. I bet the concession fee negotiations took place at three in the morning with maybe one council member over the quorum requirement in a sub-committee of a sub-committee hearing. What good is a free park if you can’t afford an ice cream or a hot dog?” Everyone in the crew was looking at him. Asher adjusted his black Fedora, a nervous tick he was known for before speaking. For good measure he fingered his side curls and the white fringes on his tzit-tzit.

“Does everything have to be radical with you? People can go across the street, there’s a deli, they can get a Good Humor for $2.00. Everyone has a right to make an honest living. Save the radical for the Message.”

“Oh, sure thing, Ash. Just make sure everything is tucked in before you mount up.”

Miriam unrolled the magnetic signs and put them port, aft, and starboard on Arundel:

“All over the country, I'm seeing it the same
Nobody's winning at this kind of game
We gotta do better, it's time to begin
You know all the answers must come from within, so
come on and sit here by my side
come on and take a free ride”

Three riders formed up behind her on a Citibike, a Brompton H6 in green, and a Langster fixie, jet black. They left the park, crossing Furman Street and getting on to Pineapple. It took three minutes for the first potential passenger to wave at her.

“Free ride?”, the lady asked. “Can you get me and Zinoviev to the City in a hurry? I’ve got to get him to Blue Pearl; traffic is murder, even if I could get a cab and it’s hard taking the little pooch on the subway.”

“Hop in!” Miriam knew just where the pet emergency room was. She also knew it was much easier to get forgiveness than permission. This would be the first test over the bridge, legal or not. “What’s he got?”

“Looked like kennel cough, but it’s gone on too long.”

Miriam began pedaling Arundel, a three-wheeled (two fore, one aft—no need for a differential gear, no chamfer to fight) three-seat, electric-boost hi-tech pedicab. Designed for free transportation. They took Pineapple to Cadman Plaza, looped around the Courthouse and turned onto Jay street to the pedestrian/bicycle approach to the Manhattan bridge. The trike had a little trouble making the sharp right without hitting the pedestrian safety barricades, but Miriam handled it sharply. She asked Tasha, the passenger, if she wanted to use the starboard-side pedals, and the passenger gladly took up the challenge. Four legs and two lithium-plastic batteries handily got them up and over, much faster than the vehicle traffic on the span below and even the subway cars next to them. At 42 inches, a full foot narrower than the usual pedicabs, there was plenty of room for passing oncoming bikes. The Lafayette bike lane got them to the bottom of midtown in a jiffy and it was just a hop and half a skip to the vet’s.

“I can’t thank you enough, Miriam. I should be able to catch a cab back home, hopefully it won’t be an emergency anymore!”

The team stayed in Brooklyn and repeated the exercise the following Tuesday, but with Arundel two through five as well. Half the team prepped for picking up passengers and the other half was on signal mirror duty. Doug was sending Mets updates to Asher who relayed to Bernie. A new team member, a woman who went by Freckles, no last name, was putting on a show in Brooklyn Bridge Park truing wheels, tightening chains, adjusting brakes. Everyone was stoked for launch in the coming weeks. Freckles used her signal mirror to relay from Doug to Bernie that the five rides were all Finest Kind. But at the same time, Doug was sending his own flash signal: Tsuris in Egypt.




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