“No, Jackal Studios does not have a basement firing range. We do, however, have a boomerang pitch on the 9th floor. No, Ted Turner does not drop off bison steaks to us at lunch time. No, I can assure you, Sean has three-digit IQ. At least. No, we don’t keep a pet kangaroo on the roof; that would be against city law. And no, O’Rielly doesn’t spar with the kangaroo because we don’t have one. No, we have no information about Smith’s orientation, but we suspect that he is exceedingly jolly. I think this is the last one. Gruntfield is 4’8”. The guest wrangler handed Junior back his list of questions he always wanted to ask about Jackal.
“Thanks for being so forthcoming. I know that I’m here for you to interview me, not the other way ‘round. So, is there a yellow room or something I’m supposed to be in, and is there a list of stuff I’m supposed to be angry about because it isn’t there?”
“Green room. Is there anything special you’d like?”
“Candor would be good. And I’ve always wanted to try a Vegemite sandwich.” The wrangler made a quick call.
“ETA on the Vegemite is five minutes. Makeup 15 minutes later, on-air 10 minutes after that. Diana is a really nice person when you get to know her. Break a leg. I’m heading to the wrangler lounge, just dial 133 if you need anything else.”
It was just like on TV. A harried-looking woman holding a clipboard started counting down from five, two was silent but indicated by two fingers, and the ultimate digit was pointed straight at Diana Strega.
“Welcome to the Jackal Lantern, shining a light into the deep nooks and crannies of what’s really going on. Our first guest is Bernard Carpenter, presumably the man responsible for the traffic tie-ups in Manhattan. Mr. Carpenter, how do you feel about making everyone late for the past week?”
“It’s Bernie. Just plain Bernie, everyone calls me Bernie. I feel absolutely great about the people now getting to work earlier by public transportation rather than being stuck in the ordinary Manhattan traffic snarls. I feel great about the people co-pedaling our Arundels and getting a nice workout, along with folks on their own bikes, Citibikes, scooters, whatever. Eventually it’s going to balance out. Force equals mass times acceleration, you know. If you can buy less mass and rent less force, you can get the same acceleration. People will get the message.”
“Speaking of messages, does the name Arundel for your tricycles have any significance?”
“Oh, of course it does. Arundel is the legendary horse of Sir Bevis of Hampton. Arundel was separated from Bevis during an escape via a sea route; Arundel killed the guy trying to steal him and made his way back to Bevis, somehow, with Bevis’s sword attached to the saddle. You can read all about in Thackeray’s History. That’s William Thackeray from the 17th Century, not Bal Thackeray. And no, the guy stealing was not named Butt Head.”
“And how do you pay for all of this, Bernie? Is it supposed to generate revenue?”
“The project is funded. We’re in discussions for carbon credits. Did you know that asthma and tailpipe emission lung disease costs three billion dollars a year? You and I are doing the paying for that, Medicaid, Medicare, higher premiums, treating the indigent. If just 20% of the cars abandon Manhattan, it could be a 40% cut morbidity, mortality, and health care costs for ozone and particulates. That’ll be a tough negotiation to get a share of the cost savings passed down to the participants, but we have good people.”
“Speaking of good people, did you know that your Miriam Longone is related to Omar, head of the disrupting organization OASIS?” Strega leaned in for the reaction.
“Neat! This is the ‘gotcha’ part of the interview, the ambush, right? Of course I did. They’re cousins, both of them got the environmentalist gene. Probably not hard to get in a desert country, but not that easy to take advantage of. Miriam is a labor organizer for anyone who pedals for a living, and it dovetails with her anti-pollution, climate change advocacy. Hard to tell which of them is more disruptive. And I’ll take ‘disruptive’ as neutral. Depends on what’s being disrupted, doesn’t it? They’re both good kids doing God’s work, whatever name God goes by. And I’ll spoil your next gotcha. They’re related through Yusuf Gamal, the Egyptian Interior Minister. The man with the plan.”
“You don’t think the OASIS disruption of the oil markets is dangerous? You don’t think it could be dangerous if OASIS backs a country into a corner? There’s some chatter about Gamal being part of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“OASIS supports states that don’t have the money for the large armament purchases the OPEC states routinely make. OASIS states just don’t want to be bullied, and now with Gamal’s plan for desalination, dedesertification, and power from deserts, they may get some traction.”
Leaning in closer. “You know that Omar is on three terrorist watch lists, don’t you?”
“Badges of honor. The states facing disruption mark him as dangerous, and to them, he is.”
“There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you all enjoy losing your cars and cycling to work. Thank you for coming, Bernie. We’ll be back after this short break.”
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.