The Radius by Andrew Grell

The Radius

Caleb thought back to pre-internet days. If you wanted to get somewhere, you would draw a map. Pull a page out of the Rand McNally in the library. That would be cool. No. He had to stop screwing around and get to the job at hand.

Google’s Midtown map showed that almost every book agent in the world was in or near zip code 10001, Empire State to the Flatiron Building. There was even a cemetery somewhere, plenty of dead ones probably buried there. Agents must always be near the center of power of whatever they represented. Now the bar overlay. It looked like four bars would cover any thirsty – and hopefully hungry – agent in the area. Ainsworth if he wanted a guy agent, Rooftop NYC if he wanted a woman. The names were mainly female. Careful. The odds are good, but the goods are odd. Blarney Rock if he wanted an agent who was really and truly hungry enough to represent his blarney. And then a hotel bar. Last on the list. That was for people intending to meet each other.

Monday. The Ainsworth.

“Think of it as Skee-Ball, but the ball is flat and too heavy to throw, so you have to push it.” Caleb found himself deep in a conversation about curling, a topic he knew noting about, with a man who was slick enough to be an agent. His interlocuter came back with a broom question. Caleb was in trouble. He had the liberty to be slow when he wrote, but now he had to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. “They’re Canadian, aren’t they? They want everything to be clean. Or is that the Swedes?”

Tuesday. Rooftop.

Lucky it wasn’t raining. Lucky he wasn’t afraid of heights. Lucky he just got paid. Jesus, $14 for Jameson and soda. Cheap, considering that it was nectar of the Gods. Gods. He forgot. He had to keep the project on track. It was about Gods.

“Pardon me. I was wondering.” Caleb dipped a toe in.

“Wondering?” The target, toned, coiffed, short-skirted, impeccable, sized Caleb up. His Breitling was a nice touch. Marriage material, but not a total spendthrift. “What is it you were wondering? Do I or don’t I? Do people still wonder that?”

Knuckleball time. “Wondering if it’s on a logarithmic scale. Your shoes. The ratio between shoe price and sole thickness. If the soles get to be paper thin, would they cost $60,000? Sorry. I calculate stuff I see. Stuff other people don’t think about calculating. Even have a book about it.”

Premature. “A book? You’ve got a book? Listen pal, I’m off duty. Find me on QueryTracker so I can lose you. And get out of my bar.”

Wednesday. Blarney Rock.

Three O’clock was Caleb’s bet. And of course, Caleb got thrown right way; the clock had the numbers in reverse order. This was a place you would go to if you needed a snort in the middle of the day. Sure enough, that was who showed up. Sad, as the new President tweets. Just turn around and get out, Caleb. Go see a movie. Maybe Genius is playing at a rep house somewhere. Oh, wait. No more rep houses.

Thursday. Hotel bar. His first worst hope.

Caleb took it in. Nice, polished wood. TV screens all wall mounted, properly flat, closed captions on. Long bar, plenty of party-sized tables, even more cozy and quiet ones. But what was this? A Priest? Caleb remembered from the days he caught the train from Penn; there was a convent around here. The Sisters would need a confessor. And then, paydirt. Reading glasses in Peoples frames. Galleys! Was the lady with the poodle haircut holding a green pencil? Is this an episode of Time Tunnel? Caleb triangulated. He could sit at the bar to the left of the priest, and if he spoke loudly enough the literary women would “overhear” him.

“Whaddaya drinkin’ Padre? I know you’ve got those vows.”

“That’s kind of you, my son.” Midwest twang. Mackerel out of water. “That may be a big investment, I could be here a while.”

“The longer you’re here, the better for me. Nearer to God.” Caleb offered his hand. “Caleb Levy.”

The Priest’s hand was calloused, all 34 muscles taught. A working Priest. “Michel Langer, Piarist.”

“I’m guessing you’re the guy who builds the schools before teaching in them, eh?”

“Points for you, Caleb. You may be the only one in a Manhattan bar tonight who knows that. What’s this about being near God? He’s eternally equidistant, you know.”

Caleb took his leap. “What if that’s real? Objectively? Let me show you something.” He took out his visual aid. “Joseph. Famine. Real. Mt. Santorini. 1626 BC. Horse-drawn vehicles in Egypt, real, 1600 BC. Abraham. Circumcision. Adults drinking milk. Real. 2100 BC. Nimrod. Fire hardened bricks. Real. 2600 BC. All the way up, wine, ice age flooding. Neanderthals schtupping humans. Real. Held out until 23,000 BC. Time of Lamech. All the way up, religion, animal hide clothing, the whole shebang. Look at this. Here are all the events and their dates on this line. Here are the dates of everyone from Adam to Jacob on this line. What do you see?”

“It’s the same line. If this gets out, people are going to shit all over this. Pardon my English, my son. What are you going to do with this?”

“I’m doing it, Padre. This needs to get out, and to get out it needs controversy.” Caleb ramped up the volume, but the Priest beat him to the punch. He used his sermon voice.


That got the green pencil ladies’ attention. “’Scuse us. Did someone say more controversial than Satanic Verses?”

Both men had their proposals and manuscripts out before you could say ‘Hoc est enim corpus meum.’

“By any chance do you boys have representation?”


2 thoughts on “The Radius by Andrew Grell

  1. You caught my curiosity and kept me reading. I found myself laughing and choking on my water at the end. Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much, Wilma, you made my day! This is a fictionalization of something I actually did to get a book published but it didn’t work. Then a couple of weeks later, it got picked up by a publisher I met at the AWP conference in DC. You can check it out on amazon or the NYPL, Scapegoats: The Goat Protocols.

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