Friday, July 25, 2014

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 404: Trixie


Let’s rejoin our intrepid memoirist Arnold Schnabel here at the bar of a certain roadhouse existing somewhere in the world of an extremely obscure “paperback original” novel called Rummies of the Open Road

(Kindly go here to read our preceding episode; if you’ve finally gone quite hopelessly insane then you may click here to return to the very first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 59-volume autobiography.)

“Oh, what glorious joy to check the morning’s post and find that – yes! – the latest volume of Arnold Schnabel’s consummate
chef-d'œuvre has finally arrived!” – Harold Bloom, in The Sports Illustrated Literary Supplement.


“So, the disgusting little fly talks,” said Trixie. “I’m supposed to be impressed?”

“Look, sister,” said Ferdinand. “I came in here in good faith, with my two buddies, to get a load on, and maybe – just maybe – to meet a nice young lady. I did not come in here to be insulted.”

“Oh, yeah? And what are you gonna do about it, small fry?” said Trixie. 



“Don’t push me, blondie,” said Ferdinand.



“Oh, no?” she said. “Or what?”

“You don’t want to know what,” said Ferdinand.

He was still perched on the edge of my shot glass, but I could see he was quivering with anger and ready to attack at any moment.

Fortunately the big fat man, Laughing Lou, spoke up. I say fortunately because I had no idea what to do.

“Now, Trixie,” said Laughing Lou, “why don’t we just –”

“But it’s a goddam fly!” she said. “And he insulted me!”

“You started it, baby cakes,” said Ferdinand. “Calling me disgusting.”

“You are disgusting,” she said. “I don’t care if you can talk. You’re just a vile disgusting filthy little insect, and you don’t know how to talk to a lady, neither.”

“You ain’t no lady,” said Ferdinand.



“And you eat shit,” she said.

“Okay,” said Ferdinand. “You asked for it, doll face.”

I knew he was going to attack now, and the last thing I wanted was to get in a brawl here, so finally I spoke up.

“Ferdinand,” I said, realizing even before I said it how lame what I was going to say was going to be, “let’s stay calm.”

“Why should I stay calm?” he said. “I got feelings too, y’know.”


“I know,” I said. “But I’m sure Trixie didn’t mean, uh –”

“Oh, I meant every single word I said, all right,” she said. “He’s a disgusting shit-eating fly.”

“I have an idea,” said Horace, who had perhaps understandably held his peace throughout the foregoing exchange. “Why don’t we just start all over? Trixie, I’d like you – and Laughing Lou as well – to meet our tiny friend, Ferdinand.”

“So you’re friends with a goddam fly too, Horace?” she said.

“Ah, but dear Trixie, as you see, Ferdinand is not just any fly, but a miracle – a talking, sentient fly!”

“But he’s still a fly,” she said. “And flies are disgusting.”

“All right,” said Ferdinand, and he flew up off of the glass.

“Wait! Ferdinand –” I said.

“Don’t try to stop me, Arnie,” he said. “I’ve taken just about all I’m gonna take from this bitch.”

Horace stepped in front of Trixie.

“Ferdinand,” he said, holding up his hands, one of which held his cigar, and the other his shot of bourbon. “Please. We are guests here.”

“Get out of my way, Horace,” said Ferdinand.

“But –” said Horace. I could tell he was upset. The poor fellow hadn’t even drunk his shot yet, and I knew how much he had been looking forward to drinking alcohol. “But –”

“May I make a suggestion?” said Laughing Lou.

“Yes,” I said, emphatically, especially for me.

“I wonder if you two gentlemen, and our friend Ferdinand here –”

“The filthy fly,” said Trixie.

Laughing Lou shot a glance her way, but her forged on.

“I wonder if you fellows would care to join me somewhere more private, so we can all sit and have a nice quiet chat?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Sure, Laughing Lou,” said Horace.

“Yeah, great, go,” said Trixie. “Get them all away from me. Especially that fly.”

“Bitch,” said Ferdinand.

“Insect,” said Trixie. “Shit-eater.”

“Trixie,” said Laughing Lou, “that’s enough now.”

“Okay,” said Trixie. “For you I’ll clam up, Lou. For you. But for these two ham-and-eggers and their shit-eating friend? For them I don’t shut up. That fly says he’s got feelings? Well, I got feelings too, y’know. I’m a lady.”

“Whore, you mean,” said Ferdinand.

“Ferdinand,” I said. “Cool it.”

“Yes, heh heh,” said Horace. “Let’s all be civilized.”

“He comes near me I’m swatting him,” said Trixie. “I’ll poke him with my cigarette.”

She made a poking gesture with her cigarette.

“So,” I said, addressing Laughing Lou, “shall we, uh, you know –”

“Bust a move?” said Laughing Lou. “Ha ha! Yes! But – we haven’t drunk our toast yet!”

“Shall we drink to peace and good will?” said Horace.

“Yes, ha ha!” said Lou. “Bottoms up!”

And so Horace, Laughing Lou and I all drank down our shots of Heaven Sent bourbon. I didn’t really want a shot, but I suppose I succumbed to peer pressure, and also to a desire just to move things along. I gasped, because even after all these years I still find it hard to drink down a shot of whiskey all at once. 


I leaned over and put the shot glass on the bar, which brought me very close to Trixie, and she said to me, in a quiet voice, “You just drank a shot of whiskey that a fly was drinking out of.”

 
“It’s okay,” I said.

I picked up one of the bottles of Tree Frog ale that were sitting there on the bar where the bartender had put them just a few minutes or hours or days before. 



“You don’t care about his germs?” she said.

“Well –” I said.

To tell the truth I did feel slightly disgusted, now that she had mentioned it, but I decided just to forget about it and to wash it down with a good gulp of ale, which I did.

Horace and Laughing Lou had both also put down their shot glasses and picked up their own respective bottles of Tree Frog ale.

“So, come with me, if you please, gentlemen,” said Laughing Lou. ”Ha ha!”

“Is there more booze where you’re taking us?” said Ferdinand.

“Oh, yes, there’s more booze, my friend, ha ha!” said Laughing Lou.

“Then lead on, big guy,” said Ferdinand.

“So, Trixie,” said Laughing Lou, “if you will excuse us –”

“Go,” she said. “Go. I’m fine right here.”

She raised the straw of her drink to her lips and slurped, and the rest of her multi-colored drink disappeared, except for the ice in the glass.

“Émile!” yelled Laughing Lou. “Another Pousse Café for Miss Trixie, on my tab!”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Lou!” yelled back the bartender.



Laughing Lou put his big cigar in his mouth and his arm in Horace’s arm, said, “Ha ha! This way, gents!” and pulled Horace away.

Ferdinand flew after them and I started to go but Trixie put her hand on my arm. She had put down her empty drink and she now held her cigarette in the hand that wasn’t gripping my arm.

“I thought we had something,” she said. “Between you and me. A vibration, like. A sort of electrical current. I thought maybe, just maybe, it could be love.”

I looked at her. I realized that she must be extremely drunk, and perhaps also insane, but still I felt a certain pity. After all, I had been a pathetic wretch my own self through most of my life.

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “But, you see, I have a girlfriend –”

“Of course you do,” she said. “All the decent guys have girlfriends. Or wives.”

“Well, maybe not all of them,” I said.

“You mean I still might meet a decent guy?” she said.

“Sure,” I said. “I mean, you’re a pretty girl, so, uh –”

“Pretty,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “You’re very, uh –”

“But what about my personality?”

“Oh,” I said, “well, you seem like a, uh –”

 
“What?”

“Um, I don’t know,” I said. “A nice girl?”

“No one has ever called me a nice girl,” she said. “Ever. Even when I was a little girl. Even then everybody said I was bad.”

“Well, uh –” I said.

“You gonna tell me all them people my whole life were wrong about me being bad? About me being a bitch? And some other words I won’t say on account of I’m a lady? You gonna tell me all them people were wrong?”

“It’s possible they judged you too – harshly,” I said.

“You really think so?” she said. “Don’t you find it a little hard-to-believe that all them people were wrong about me?”

She took a drag on her cigarette, staring at me as she did.

 
I paused before answering, trying to find a way not to lie.

“I’ve discovered that the most hard-to-believe things can actually be true,” I said.

“Yeah?” she said. “Like what?”

“Like that a fly can talk,” I said. “And that a man can travel not only into fictional worlds but to the world beyond death and back again, and also into the past and back.”

“You’ve done all that?” she said.

“So it would seem,” I said. “Unless I hallucinated it all.”

She paused, staring at me, and then she flicked the cigarette to the floor. I resisted the urge to step on it.



“And what about this?” she said. “Is this a hallucination?”

And before I could leap away she got up off her barstool, took me by both arms, pulled me to her, and kissed me on the lips. This lasted for several seconds, and I confess the experience was not unpleasant.

Then she drew her face away from mine and looked up into my eyes.

“That’s for what might have been,” she said. 



“Thank you?” I said.

“What might have been if you didn’t have a girlfriend. And if maybe I was a bigger goddam bitch than I am.”

“Um,” I said.

“Go,” she said.

“I mean, um,” I said.

“Go!”

She climbed back up onto her barstool.



“You heard me,” she said. “Scram.”



She turned and picked up a red plastic purse from the bar.

“Okay,” I said.

“Laughing Lou is waiting for you,” she said. She took out a compact mirror, and clicked it open. “Look at him over there.”

I turned, and it was true, Laughing Lou had stopped about ten feet away down the bar, still with his big arm in Horace’s. He took the cigar out of his mouth with the hand that held his bottle of Tree Frog ale, and he made a beckoning gesture to me.

“Well,” I said, “I’ll see you, uh –”

“Sure,” said Trixie. “Later, maybe.” She was looking at her lips in the compact mirror. She pressed her lips together, then ran her fingertip along the outside lines of her lipstick.



“Um,” I said.



“Now seriously, go,” she said. She snapped the compact shut, and dropped it back in her purse. She clicked the purse shut and then she looked at me. “I think Lou’s got a job for you.”

“A job?”

“Yeah, a job. You think he bought a couple of hard luck cases like you and Horace a round out of the kindness of his heart?”

“Well, I, uh –”

“We could have had something, Arnie,” she said. “You and me. We really could have had something. But ya know what? I think maybe this isn’t one of them kind of books. One of them books with true love. And romance. Too bad for me. And too bad for you. But who knows? Maybe, just maybe our paths will meet again. It all depends what kind of story this is. And like you said, that ain’t up to us.”



“Um,” was all I could manage, again.



“You got lipstick on your lips,” she said.

I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.

Then she swiveled around on her barstool just in time to grab up the fresh multi-colored drink that the bartender had brought over.

I left her, and, taking my bottle of Tree Frog ale with me, I headed back down the bar to join Horace and Ferdinand and Laughing Lou.



There was only one way to find out what kind of story this was going to be.


(To be continued unrelentingly.)



(Illustration by Charles Copeland. Please look to the right hand column of this page to find a  quite possibly current listing of links to all other available chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 403: Lou


We left our hero Arnold Schnabel in a crowded roadhouse somewhere in the world of a “paperback original” novel titled Rummies of the Open Road

(Please click here to read our previous chapter; if you’ve finally lost all your marbles then you might want to go here to return to the only dimly-remembered beginnings of this Gold View Award™-winning 73-volume memoir.)

“What better way to spend a summer afternoon than to fire up a big fat spliff and lie in the backyard hammock in the shade of the old elm tree and lose oneself in the infinitely fascinating universe of Arnold Schnabel?” – Harold Bloom, in
The High Times Literary Quarterly.


Finally we got to the bar.

“Jeeze, you guys,” said the blonde. “What were you doing out there? Ratifying a new inter-galactic constitution?”

“What?” said Horace.

“Or maybe you were planning a pirate raid on that new shipment of Centaurian Dragon Diamonds that the starfleet is rumored to be bringing in to the spaceport this week?”

“Okay,” said Horace. “Baby, may I say something?”

“Sing it,” said the blonde. “Sing it like one of the giant three-eyed mockingbirds of Mars."

“The what?”

“You know, Horace," she said, "the giant singing three-eyed mockingbirds of the Kornbluth Mountains of Mars.”

“All right,” said Horace, after a slight pause. “Listen, Trixie, this is not a science fiction novel we’re in. It’s not that kind of book at all.”


“Oh no?” she said. “So what is it? One of them tales of a man caught in a deadly whirlpool of passion and violence?”


“Well – not really,” said Horace. “Although perhaps that’s what friend Arnold here would prefer –”



She looked at me, with her head cocked to one side.

She took a sip of her drink through the straw, finishing it. Then she said:

“Is that the kind of book you would like to be in, Arnold?”

“No,” I said. “But I don’t think that’s up to me.”

“Funny guy,” she said, but she wasn’t smiling. “You know what kind of novel I see you in, Arnie?”

“A bad novel?” I asked.

Funny guy,” she said. “And just what do you mean by a ‘bad’ novel?”

“Formulaic trash?” I said. “Written quickly to order by desperate men squandering what little talent they might possess?”

“Oh,” she said. “So I guess you like to read these high tone authors you got to have a Harvard degree to understand? Herman Wouk, Harold Robbins, Annie Rand?”

“Actually,” I said, “I prefer novels about guys who get caught in a deadly whirlpool of passion and violence.”

“And what about novels about girls who get caught up in a deadly whirlpool of passion and violence?”

“Those are okay, I guess,” I said.



“Reason I ask is,” she said, “and please don’t take this the wrong way, Arnie, but I don’t see you so much as the hero of a book. Uh-uh. What I see you as is one of these guys who meets up with the heroine of the book, in one of these books where a girl is the main character, and this girl, she thinks you’re kind of cute even though she knows you’re trouble with a capital T. And finally she has to dump you because she realizes she’s better off with a nice guy named Howard who has a good steady job, as a lawyer, or maybe he’s a young intern in a hospital. But this guy that you are, you don’t get the message, see? You start stalking her, and bothering her boyfriend, the nice guy, the doctor or young lawyer. Until one night you break into her house and try to force yourself on her. But she has a comb by her bed with a long pointed handle like an icepick. And she stabs you in the jugular. And right before you croak, lying there getting blood all over her bedroom rug, you say, ‘I love you, Trixie.’ Then you croak. End of story. That’s the kind of book I see you in, Arnie.”

I really had nothing to say to this, and for once I said nothing when I had nothing to say.

“Well –” said Horace.

“Maybe this is that kind of book,” said Trixie. “You never know until you’ve read a couple chapters.”

“No –” said Horace.

“No what?” said Trixie.

“Well, you see, my dear Trixie,” said Horace, “this is more of a picaresque adventure, about –” 


“Picturesque?” she said.

“No, dear – picaresque, it means –” 


“Hey, Horace,” said the blonde, “my drinkie’s empty.”

She showed him her cocktail glass, empty except for some mostly-melted ice cubes. She shook the glass and the ice.

“See?” she said. “Empty.”

“Yes,” said Horace, “so it is. Oh, well –”

He reached in his back pocket and brought out his cracked brown leather wallet, but before he opened it he glanced at the bar.

“Oh, by the way,” he said. “Did you order me and Arnie those two bottles of Tree Frog Ale and two shots of Heaven Sent bourbon?”

“Sure did, Horace baby,” said Trixie.

“Um, may I ask where they are?” said Horace.

“Their contents are in my tummy. The vessels they came in have been taken away by the bartender.”

“You drank our beer and whiskey?” said Horace.

“Hey,” said Trixie, “you were out there with your boyfriend at least a half hour. How did I know if you were coming back?”

“Oh, man, Arnie, I like this girl!” said Ferdinand, who had flown into my ear again.

“Am I supposed to sit here with nothing to drink?” said Trixie.

“Well, you could always have bought yourself another one with those two five-dollar bills I gave you,” said Horace.

“That first fiver was for me,” she said. She reached inside the bodice of her blouse and into her brassiere and brought out a folded-up five-dollar bill. She showed it to Horace. “For my hope chest. You don’t want me to have a hope chest?”

“Well, I, uh –” said Horace.



She stuck the bill back inside her brassiere.

“You don’t give a tinker’s dam about my hope chest. And you begrudge me a couple of Tree Frog Ales,” she said. “And a brace of shots of Heaven Sent bourbon.”

“I don’t begrudge you them,” said Horace.

“And you begrudge my hope chest.”

“I didn’t mean to imply that,” said Horace.

“You think I want to spend the rest of my life in this dive, cadging drinks and rolling drunks?”

“Why,” said Horace, “no, of course not. Did you say rolling drunks?”

“Y’know, Horace,” said Trixie, “I should’ve known better with you. Look at your clothes. Look at that unshaven mug. Look at your goddam fingernails.”



Horace did in fact raise his right hand to his face and look at his fingernails. It was true, they were dirty.

“And this guy,” she said, tossing a glance my way. “He don’t look a hell of a lot better. What’ve you been doing, Arnie, taking a swim in the sewer?”

“Arnie,” said Ferdinand, in my ear, “I really, really love this girl!"

“A couple of bums,” said Trixie. “Stealing chickens from the barnyard and pies off of kitchen windowsills. Tramps.”

“Okay, what you obviously fail to realize, Trixie,” said Horace, “is that Arnold and I both are free-spirited jolly bohemians, not bound by the superficial strictures of society.”

“In other words a couple of bums is what you mean,” said Trixie.

“You say the word ‘bums’ as though it were a pejorative term,” said Horace.



“Your big words don’t impress me,” said Trixie. “Now buy me another Pousse Café, hotshot.”

“Oh, very well,” said Horace. He opened his wallet and looked into it. He looked very sad, and I suspected he knew now that he might not be able to afford to get drunk tonight, and also that he probably would not after all be able to play what he called “hide the salami” with Trixie.

“Put your wallet away, pal,” said a big tall fat man who had suddenly appeared. He wore a three-piece navy blue suit, and a matching derby. “Ha ha!” he said.

Horace looked at the man. He had a big cigar in one hand, a much bigger cigar than the one Horace was still working on.

“But I still have some money,” Horace said. He showed the open wallet and the few bills in it to the big man. “See, I can pay.”

“Yes, I can see you have some money there,” said the big man. “Now put it away. Ha ha!”

“Why are we being thrown out?” said Horace, his voice breaking. “We’ve been well-behaved.”

“Bums,” said Trixie. “The both of them a couple of no-account vagabonds off the highway. A couple of two-bit drifters. And this one –” she pointed her finger at Horace – ”begrudging me a couple of Tree Frog Ales and a brace of Heaven Sent shots. Where was this guy when they were handing out the class? Sleeping late under a railroad bridge or in ditch at the side of the road?”

“Ha ha,” said the big man, “Trixie, you crack me up.”

“I mean seriously, Lou,” said Trixie. “Honestly. Ya know?”

“Ha ha,” said the big man, saying the “ha ha” more than laughing it, “I know, dear, I know, things are tough all over!”



“There ain’t no gentlemen left no more,” she said. “Except for you, Lou.”



“Ha ha,” said the big man. “Flattery will get you everywhere!”

He put his big fat fingers into his vest pocket and brought out a currency note folded up in quarters. He gave it a flick and the bill unfolded and became a one-hundred dollar bill. He raised it up in the air and Trixie’s eyes followed it. Then, using only the fingers of that one fat hand, he folded the bill up into quarters again and then reached over and slid it into the top of Trixie’s brassiere. 

“For your hope chest, Trixie,” he said.

“Aw, gee, Lou,” she said. “You’re a real gentleman you are. Class is what you got, in spades.”

“Ha ha! You are too kind, my dear,” said this fat man who was apparently named Lou. Then he looked past Trixie to the bar. “Hey, Émile!” he bellowed.

Somewhat surprisingly, there was now a bartender nearby on the other side of the bar.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Lou,” he said.

“A drink for the lady,” he said, in a voice that sounded like what writers probably mean when they say a voice sounds commanding. “On my tab. And for these two gentlemen, whatever they’re having.”

“Two Tree Frog Ales,” said Horace without a moment’s hesitation, “and two shots of Heaven Sent bourbon.”

“And a Pousse Café pour moi,” said Trixie.



“Make that a Pousse Café and three Tree Frog ales, Émile,” said the big man, “and three shots of Heaven Sent.” He turned to Horace. “I said put your wallet away, friend.”

“Oh, sure,” said Horace, and he quickly folded up the old wallet and stuck it back into his pocket.

“Lou’s my name,” said the man. “Lou Abernathy. But everybody calls me Laughing Lou. Ha ha! Because I like to laugh. Put ‘er there, sir.”

He held out his great fat hand and Horace took it in his own large but not so large hand.

“Sternwall’s my name,” said Horace. “Horace P. Sternwall. But please call me –”

“Wait,” said the big man. “Not the Horace P. Sternwall? The writer fellow?”

“Well,” said Horace, “unless there’s another Horace P. Sternwall who labors modestly with his pen –”


The Burglar and the Babe?” said the big man. He had now put his cigar in his mouth so that he could wrap his other enormous hand around Horace’s, so that Horace’s hand was now completely encased in the great mass of flesh and bones that was this man’s two hands. “Female Residence?” said the fat man. “They Call Him Cad?”

“Yes, I must admit I wrote those epics, heh heh,” said Horace. His face was turning a little red, probably from the pain of the big man squeezing his hand.

“Ha ha!” said the big fat man. “You know what you write like?”

“No. What do I write like?” said Horace. Beads of sweat had popped up on his forehead.

“I’ll tell you what you write like,” said the big man. “You write like a goddam son-of-a-bitch! Ha ha!”

“Heh heh,” said Horace, and now his face had grown pale, and I wondered if he was going to pass out.

Suddenly the big guy let go of Horace’s hand and, taking that enormous cigar out of his mouth, he turned to Trixie.

“Pardon my French, Trixie,” he said. “But this gentleman here is one of my absolute favorite authors! Ha ha!”

Trixie had put a cigarette in her mouth and I suppose she was waiting for someone to light it.

“He still looks like a two-bit vagrant to me,” she said, talking around the unlit cigarette.

“That’s because he is an artist,” said the big man. “Artists, writers, creative people – they often look like vagrants, don’t they, Horace?”

“Well, in truth,” said Horace, who was rubbing his right hand with his left, trying to restore his circulation, “yes, I suppose –”

“Ha ha!” said the big fat man.

Suddenly he pulled a lighter out of his jacket pocket, flicked it, and held it to Trixie’s cigarette. It was an expensive-looking butane lighter, mother-of-pearl I think.

“Thanks, Lou,” she said.

“You’re welcome, Trixie,” said the big fat man. 

He slipped the lighter back into his jacket and then suddenly turned to me.

“You must be an artist, too, then, sir. A painter? Or a poet perhaps? You have that certain sensitive look of the poet about you.”



“Well –” I felt very uncomfortable. I always feel uncomfortable telling people I write poetry.

“You are a poet!” said the fat man. “Ha ha! I knew it! Tell me, do you write narrative poems? Epic? Lyric perhaps.”

“Um,” I said.

The bartender was back now. He laid down a tray with three bottles of Tree Frog ale, three filled shot glasses, and one of those big multi-colored drinks that Trixie was drinking, and he began transferring the drinks from the tray to the bar top.

“Here’s your drinks, Mr. Lou,” yelled the bartender. In fact Lou had been yelling, too, all along, and I thought how unfair it was that the lady singer in the combo, who was still singing and playing, hadn’t scolded him for speaking loudly. But then I didn’t walk around handing out hundred-dollar bills, either.

“Thank you, Émile,” said the big guy, whom I was now thinking of as Lou. “Oh, and for your trouble.”



He stuck his big fingers into his vest pocket again, did something with his fingers to unfold it, revealing it to be a twenty-dollar bill, and then tossed it onto the tray.

The bartender quickly snatched up the twenty.

“Gee, thanks, Mr. Lou,” he said.

“Don’t mention it,” said Lou. Putting the big cigar in his mouth he picked up two of the shots of bourbon and handed one each to me and Horace. “I propose a toast,” he said. “Didn’t catch your name, though,” he said, looking at me.

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “I guess it’s Arnold.”

“Ha ha!” he said. “You guess it’s Arnold! Ha ha! Well, as I said, my name is Laughing Lou Abernathy, and I’m glad to know you.”

I made a point of keeping the shot glass in my right hand so that he wouldn’t try to shake it. The big guy picked up the third shot glass and then turned to me again.

“Raise your glass, Arnold,” he said.

Suddenly Ferdinand, who had been unusually reticent throughout all this, flew out of my ear and buzzed around my shot glass, landing on the rim.

“Wow – Arnold,” said Laughing Lou, “that is one bold fly right there.”

“Um,” I said.

Ferdinand was now actively drinking my bourbon.

“Jeeze, thirsty little fella, ain’t he?” said Lou.

“It’s okay,” I said. “He’s my friend.”

Trixie had already been drinking her Pousse Café, sipping it through its straw, but now she stopped.

“That fly is your friend?” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“That’s just disgusting,” she said.

Ferdinand stopped drinking, straightened up and looked right at her.

“Pretty strong words from a common roadhouse trollop,” he said.

“Why you filthy little insect,” she said.

“Ha ha!” said Laughing Lou, but he wasn’t really laughing.


(Continued here, and so on, thanks in part to the sponsorship of Bob’s Bowery Bar™, at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery. “Bob’s Bowery Bar™ has been my home away from home  – and sometimes my home – for, lo, these many years now.” – Horace P. Sternwall, author and motivational speaker.)



(Kindly turn to the right hand column of this page for what quite often is to a current listing of links to all other published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©; also appearing with worse formatting in the Collingswood Patch™: “It’s South Jersey. What can we do?”)




Friday, July 11, 2014

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 402: lost soul


Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel in the graveled lot outside a roadhouse existing in the world of a paperback novel titled Rummies of the Open Road

(Kindly go here to read our preceding episode; if you think you might be ready for the commitment you may click here to return to the all-but-forgotten beginnings of this Gold View Award™-winning 77-volume autobiography.)

“A well-meaning neighbor in Cape May invited me to go fishing in his boat, and, wishing not to seem rude, I went out with him, but all the time I sat there holding my rod (and catching not a nibble all day I might add) I wished I could be back at the house, or more precisely in the hammock behind our house, losing myself in the infinitely rich and manifold universe (or should I say “universes”) of Arnold Schnabel.” – Harold Bloom, in
The Field & Stream Literary Supplement.


Horace got to the door and opened it. He turned and with a smile waved for me to go through, for me and Ferdinand to go through, and we did, Ferdinand buzzing in a broad halo around my head. 

“Nice place!” said Ferdinand. “My kind of place!”

I hadn’t really looked at it before, but now I did.

It was just a big smoky barroom like a million other barrooms, maybe bigger than most, filled with laughing and talking people. Jukebox music had been playing before, but now a small combo was playing, off to the right side, on a platform only a foot or so off the floor. It was a slender woman of about thirty playing a greyish piano, along with a man in a grey suit playing a double bass and another guy in a grey suit playing drums. The woman wore a sparkly black dress and she started to sing a song into a microphone that was angled over the piano.

I didn’t know the song, but the words she sang rang clearly in my head, and it seemed to me the woman was staring right into my eyes as she sang these words:

“You’re just a lost soul, a lost and lonely lost soul,
wand’ring in a world that has no meaning and no rhyme.
You’re just a lost soul, a terribly wretched lost soul
I wonder if you’ll find your way back home this time?”

Horace put his hand on my arm.

“Hey, Arnie, baby, I know she’s hot stuff,” he said, “but our drinks are waiting.”

“But that woman is singing about me,” I said. “Listen.”

“Oh, boy,” said Ferdinand, “here we go.”
“You’re just a lost boy,” the woman sang, looking right at me, “a little fearful lost boy, wond’ring where your mommy and your daddy have gone. You’re just a lost boy, a so bewildered lost boy. You don't even know what planet this is that you are on.”

“See,” I said, addressing both Ferdinand and Horace. “She’s singing about me. That’s me. In the song.”
“Arnie –” said Horace.



“It’s a song about me,” I said. “And she doesn’t even know me.”

“Right,” said Horace. “Okay. Sure.”

“What?” I said.

 
“Oh, nothing,” he said. “Nothing at all.”

“It didn’t sound like you meant nothing at all,” I said.

 
“Well –” said Horace.

But he didn’t say anything. He just put his cigar in his mouth and looked away toward the bar. 

The woman was still singing.

“You’re so desperate,” she sang, still looking right across the room and into my eyes, “and so terribly desolate too –”

Ferdinand said something but I didn’t really hear him because I was trying to listen to the song. I’d never had a song written about me before. Not that I knew of.

 
Well, Arnie?” said Ferdinand, in a louder voice, right into my ear. “May I?

“May you what?” I said.

“I said may I say something,” said Ferdinand. “May I?” 


“What?” I said.

“May I say something?” he said, enunciating the words emphatically into my ear.

“Oh,” I said. “Sure.”

“And I don’t mean any disrespect,” he said.

“What?” I said. I was getting just slightly annoyed because I couldn’t hear the words of the song while we were talking like this.

“What I want to say," said Ferdinand, "is that everything is not always all about you, Arnie.”

“Oh,” I said. 

“Not everything in the world."

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“Not every goddam thing,” he said.


“You know, Arnie,” said Horace, “if I may interpose – maybe you should listen to your friend.”



“You think so, Horace?” said Ferdinand.



“I do,” said Horace. “I really do.”

“You see?” said Ferdinand, hovering right in front of my face now. “I mean, look, Arnie, don’t get me wrong, I like you. You’re my friend. But you do have a tendency just to be a little, how shall I put it –”

“Self-absorbed?” said Horace.

“Self-absorbed,” said Ferdinand. “Maybe even shall we say – self-obsessed?”

“Narcissistic?” said Horace.

“Well, I don’t know if I’d call Arnie narcissistic, exactly –” said Ferdinand.

“Solipsistic?” said Horace.

“Not exactly solipsistic even,” said Ferdinand. “Just very, very –”



“Self-absorbed,” said Horace.

“Very, very,” said Ferdinand “very –”



“Self-obsessed?” said Horace.



Possibly,” said Ferdinand.

“Just a little,” said Horace.

“A little self-obsessed,” said Ferdinand.



“Self-absorbed, anyway,” said Horace.



“I mean no offense, Arnie,” said Ferdinand. “Horace, what do you think?”

“To be honest?” said Horace.

“Of course,” said Ferdinand.

 “To be honest,” said Horace, “I’ve noticed what Ferdinand is talking about too, Arnie.” 


“You have?” said Ferdinand.

“Oh yes,” said Horace.

“Not that this shall we say self-absorption automatically makes Arnie a bad person,” said Ferdinand.



“No, not necessarily,” said Horace.

“Not a bad person,” said Ferdinand.

“But, still,” said Horace, “I think you’ll agree, Ferdy, that it’s something Arnold might want to work on –”

Okay!” I yelled. “I get it! Okay? I know I’m self-absorbed! Maybe I’m self-obsessed! Maybe you two guys would be self-absorbed or self-obsessed if you had spent what seems like years and years wandering through fictional universes, having one absurd adventure after another, meeting all sorts of crazy people – meeting the devil! You both do know the devil is after me, right?”

“Arnie,” said Ferdinand, “calm down.”

“The devil!” I said. “I don’t know why he wants me but he does! I’ve always tried to be a good man –”

“Hey, Arnie,” said Horace.

“And that woman is singing about me!” I yelled.

Suddenly I realized that the music and the singing had stopped, and with it the sound of all the laughing and talking people in the place, and then I heard an amplified woman’s voice echoing through the barroom, which had otherwise grown quiet.

“Hey, buddy,”
said the woman’s echoing and reverberant voice. “We’re trying to play up here. Do I come to your job and fuck up your work?”

I looked at the stage. Yes, of course it was the woman in the black dress, speaking into the microphone, at me.

“How about clamming up?” she said. “Or do we have to throw you out of here?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, my voice cracking through the quiet bar like a snapping branch in a dark forest.

“What?” she said.

“I’m sorry!” I yelled, a bit louder. “I got – I got –”

“You got excited?” she said.

Laughter suddenly broke through the bar like a merry wave.

“Yes,” I said, as the laughter subsided, in a voice that must have been hardly audible by anyone more than three feet away from me.



“What?” said the woman, in that loud echoing amplified voice.



“I said I’m sorry,” I said, a little louder.

“Okay,” she said. “Well, just keep it down while we’re playing, okay, pal?”

“Yes!” I said. “I’m sorry! I –”

Horace grabbed my arm again and gave me a pull.

“You apologized, Arnie,” he said. “Don’t push it.”

“Yeah, what about them drinks?” said Ferdinand.

Horace pulled my arm again, and we headed toward the bar. I could see Trixie sitting on a barstool there, holding a drink, looking our way.

The combo was playing again, the woman in black singing:

“You’re a lost guy, a crazy wild lost guy
Don’t know just what you should do, do you?
Yeah, a lost guy, a completely bewildered lost guy
No idea where you are or where you’re going to…”


I didn’t care what anyone said, I was convinced she was singing about me. But I kept quiet about it.

We were almost at the bar. The blonde girl Trixie was still sitting there, looking at me.

“Hey,” said Ferdinand, “Horace, is that the girl you were talking about?”

“Indeed she is, little buddy,” said Horace.

“Hubba hubba,” said Ferdinand. “You think she’s got a friend?”

“Oh, I’m sure she does,” said Horace. He stopped, looking at Ferdinand. “You mean for Arnie, right?”

“Yeah,” said Ferdinand. “For Arnie. But, like, for me, too.”

“For you? Like,” said Horace, “a human girl?”

“Yes, Horace,” said Ferdinand. “A human girl.”

“Well, sure,” said Horace. “I’m sure Trixie has more than one friend, but –”

“But what? But I’m a fly?”

“Well, frankly, yes,” said Horace.

“How little you know about women, my friend,” said Ferdinand, after a short pause. “And about flies. How very, very little.”

“Well, I don’t claim to be an expert –” said Horace.

“You are an author,” said Ferdinand. “And a damn good one I might add.”

“Thank you.”

“However, if you want to ascend to the top of Olympus, to the very top, then you must learn to plumb the depths of a woman’s soul. And also that of a fly.”

“Well, you’re probably right,” said Horace.

“I know I’m right,” said Ferdinand. “Now let’s cut the palaver, get over there, and see about Trixie fixing me and Arnie up with a couple of her friends.”

“Splendid idea,” said Horace.

“And also let’s get drunk,” said Ferdinand.

“I’m with you a hundred percent on that, my good friend!” said Horace.

So we started toward the bar again, over toward Trixie, who was still sitting, sipping her multi-colored drink through a straw, and staring at me. 


Ferdinand flew into my ear.

“He don’t know, does he, Arnie,” he said. “A smart guy, a talented writer, but he don’t know.”

“No,” I said, communicating telepathically, “I suppose he doesn’t.”



"We know, though, don’t we, pal?” said that small but loud voice in my ear.

“Yes,” I said, or thought. “I suppose we do.”

We know,” he said.

You‘re just a lost soul,” sang the woman in black, her voice reverberating inside my head, “just a lost and lonely lost soul.” 


(Continued here, and onward, as a service to all sentient creatures everywhere.)



(Please look to the right hand column of this page for what is meant to be an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©; also appearing in the Collingswood Patch™: “The lone voice of literacy and beauty in the cultural wasteland that is South Jersey.”)

Friday, July 4, 2014

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 401: reunion


We left our hero Arnold Schnabel in the world of a paperback novel called Rummies of the Open Road, in the company of that book’s nominal author, one Horace P. Sternwall…

(Please click here to read our previous chapter; if you have entirely too much time on your hands then feel free to go here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 67-volume memoir.)

“I know of no better way to deal with an oppressive heatwave than to retire to my study, crank up the A/C, and lose myself in the wondrous universe of Arnold Schnabel.” – Harold Bloom, in
The Mechanics Illustrated Literary Supplement.


I didn’t know how to begin to answer his question.

Everything could go wrong.



But then everything could always go wrong. 



Horace P. Sternwall tugged on my arm again with that big soft but oddly strong hand of his.



“Arnie, our beers are gonna get warm, and flat. And I hate warm flat beer. I mean, I’ll drink it, sure, but I am a proud American not a Limey, and I prefer my beer to be cold, and bubbly. And not only that, but I hate to tell ya, my blonde friend Trixie isn’t gonna wait all night for us. She’s not that kind of gal, I can tell. And ya know, what? I don’t blame her. So do me a favor, stop standing there looking like I just suggested we take a swan dive off the top of the Empire State Building, and let’s go.”

“I don’t know, Horace,” I said at last.

“What don’t you know, buddy? Explain it to me. Concisely if you will.”

“I just don’t know if it’s a good idea for me to go back in there.”

“In the name of all that’s holy, Arnie,” he said, “why the hell not?”

This I had a ready answer to.

“Because,” I said, “lately every time I go into a bar something crazy happens.”

“You got something against crazy?” he said, after only a slight pause.

“I’m tired of crazy,” I said. “I want sanity for a change.”

“You want sanity,” he said. He took his hand away from my arm, and he took another drag of his cigar. He let the smoke drift up into the light of the street lamp and stared at me for a few moments before speaking. Then:

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay?” I said.



“You want ‘sanity’,” he said. “Okay. Fine! So don’t come in the bar.”

He raised his left arm from his side, the arm with the big soft hand that wasn’t holding a cigar, and with his forefinger he pointed, out to that dark road.

“There,” he said, “is the open road. Go, my friend. Go out onto that open road and start tramping. But to the right or to the left? That I am afraid is a decision you must make yourself. But go. Go off down that dark highway. I would say God speed, but why bother? If there is a God, and he chooses to speed you on your journey to wherever the hell you think you’re going, I doubt very much he would be swayed one way or the other by anything I might say. So, go – and I wish you the best of luck, my friend, not that anything I might wish will affect your luck one way or the other, but – go.” He lowered his arm, took a dramatic sort of pause, and then continued: “And as for me, well, as for me I am going in that roadhouse and I intend to get righteously drunk, and then I may only hope that I shall succeed in playing a vigorous game of hide-the-salami with little Trixie before I pass out. And so farewell. If I don’t see you round, perhaps I’ll see you square.”

He put his cigar in his mouth, snapped off an army salute, and turned toward the roadhouse.

“Wait,” I said. “Horace.”

He turned to face me, and he took the cigar out of his mouth.

“Yes?” he said.

“I’m afraid of the road,” I said.

“What?” he said. “Afraid of that dark road in the middle of nowhere? Perhaps leading to nowhere? Or to horrors untold?”

“Yes,” I said.

“More afraid than of going back into the bar?”

“Frankly, yes,” I said. I paused. “As I said before, I am a coward.”

“As am I, old buddy,” he said. “As am I. If I may call you ‘old buddy’? Despite our brief acquaintance?”

“Somehow it doesn’t feel brief,” I said. “And, yes, you can call me old buddy. I don’t care.”

“Great,” said Horace. “Now let’s get back in there and –”

“Same old Arnie,” said a voice. A familiar voice.

“What?” said Horace. “Did you hear that, Arnie?”

“He heard it all right,” said the voice, and I saw the fly hovering just above our heads, and between us.

“Okay, this is weird,” said Horace. “I didn’t realize my character was going to hear voices.”

“Don’t worry, pal,” said the fly. “Arnie hears me, too, loud and clear, don’t you, Arnie?"

“Yes,” I said. “Don’t be alarmed, Horace. This is my, um, friend.”

I pointed at the fly.

“That fly is your friend?” said Horace.

“Hiya, Horace,” said Ferdinand.

“A talking fly?” said Horace.

“At your service, sir,” said Ferdinand.

“But –” said Horace. “I’m confused, if only because I was under the impression that we were in a more or less realistic novel, not some sort of science-fiction, or, how shall I put it, broad fantasy or fable –”

“It appears,” said Ferdinand, “that some changes have been made.”



“But,” said Horace, “but –”


“So, Arnie,” said Ferdinand, turning his tiny little body toward me, “another fine mess, hey?”

“Yes,” I said. “But I have to say, Ferdinand, I’m happy to see you.”

“The fly’s name is Ferdinand?” said Horace.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m being rude. Horace, this is my friend, Ferdinand. Ferdinand – Horace.”

“Not Horace P. Sternwall?” said Ferdinand.

“Why – yes,” said Horace. “You’ve heard of me?”

“I am a big fan of your work, sir,” said Ferdinand. “The Penultimate Hit? Trouble on Exxon-B? The Magic Pen Wiper?”

“That was a good one, wasn’t it?” said Horace.

The God’s Honest Truth? A Desperate Man? Talk to the Six-Gun?”

“You even liked Talk to the Six-Gun?”

“You kidding me? You should write more westerns!”

“Well, maybe I will, my friend,” said Horace. “Maybe I will!”



“So,” said Ferdinand, “I believe there was some talk of entering yon inviting caravanserai?”

“Why, yes, there was,” said Horace. “Would you care to join us, sir?”

“Arnie,” said Ferdinand, “would you in your turn care to answer the question Mr. Sternwall has just put to me?”

“I think Ferdinand would probably go for a drink, Horace,” I said.

“A ha!” said Ferdinand. “You see, Mr. Sternwall, our friend Arnold knows me only all to well!”

“So you will join us for a libation?” said Horace.

“Certainly I will,” said Ferdinand, “and with pleasure! And I believe I also heard some talk of ‘hiding the salami’?”

“Ha ha! Well, my little friend,” said Horace, “as the poet, said, ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast’!”



“And so also in the insectoid breast,” said Ferdinand. “Lead on, good Mr. Sternwall, lead on!”

“Oh, but you must call me Horace, sir!” said Horace.

“And you in turn must call me Ferdinand,” said Ferdinand. “Or Ferdy if you will!”

“Ferdinand or Ferdy it is, then!” said Horace. “Arnold, shall we hie us hence?”

“Pardon me?” I said.

“He means let’s get a move on, Arnie,” said Ferdinand.

“Oh, yeah, sure,” I said.

“Great,” said Horace, and putting his arm in mine he started back to the roadhouse, pulling me with him, with Ferdinand buzzing merrily in circles above our heads.

I didn’t mind going back to the roadhouse now. 



Now that Ferdinand was here I didn’t feel so lost and alone. 

He may only have been a fly, and a fly with a drinking problem on top of it, but, nevertheless, he was my friend. In fact, going into it a bit deeper, he may well have been a fictional fly with a drinking problem, but, still, I didn’t care.

He was my friend.

(Continued here, thanks in part to the sponsorship of Bob’s Bowery Bar™, at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery. “A cool dark haven of solace amidst the hurly-burly of the modern world. Try Bob’s own ‘basement-brewed’ house bock – goes delightfully well with the house-cured tongue sandwich!” – Horace P. Sternwall, author, poet, and motivational speaker.)



(Kindly turn to the right hand column of this page to find what should be a current listing of links to all other published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©; Arnold’s adventures also appear in the Collingswood Patch™: “More local crime news than you could possibly want to read, plus Railroad Train to Heaven™.”)