Saturday, February 13, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 474: the son & I


Let’s return to the crowded and jumping Bob’s Bowery Bar on this rainy hot night in 1957 and rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel, at long last reunited with his deific friend “Josh”…

(Please click here to read our previous chapter; housebound agoraphobics looking for a new means of amusement may go here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 71-volume masterpiece.)

“I foresee a day when Arnold Schnabel’s towering
chef-d’œuvre will achieve if not surpass the popularity of the sagas of Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen.” – Harold Bloom, in The Philadelphia Daily News Literary Supplement.


There we were, the son of God and I, surrounded by this mob of dancing, thrashing drunks. I could tell that Josh was drunk too of course, just as when I’d left him, if not more so, but his black eye and facial bruises had disappeared, and his nice blue suit which had been wet and wrinkled and dirty the last time I had seen him this evening now looked as if it had just come back from the cleaners. His darker-blue tie was neatly knotted and his straw trilby hat sat at only a slightly rakish angle on his head. With his perfectly clean fingers he smoothed down the sleeves and the front of my own filthy seersucker jacket, all filthy, wrinkled and wet as it was even though Emily had given it to me only that afternoon, or at least that afternoon in this universe, an afternoon  which felt to me like six years ago. 

“So what happened to the asshole?” he said, as he adjusted the knot of my necktie.



“I managed to get rid of him,” I said.

“No kidding?” He took the cigarette out of his mouth and exhaled a gentle cloud of smoke that smelled like roses in early summer. “And how’d you manage that?”

“Well, I had his cigarette holder, you see, and –”

“His cigarette holder.”

“Yeah.”



(I was practically yelling to be heard over the music and the all the yelling and laughter all around us, but Josh on the other hand was speaking in a normal tone of voice that was nonetheless perfectly audible.)

“And, excuse me,” he said, smiling, “but how did you happen to have his cigarette holder in your, uh, possession?”

“I picked it up off the pavement after the last time I got rid of him.”



“The last time –”


“It was outside Mr. Philpot’s shop earlier. I got rid of him by saying your name, and the name of your father, and of the holy ghost.”

“Oh, he hates that!”

“Yeah, I know. But I couldn’t do that this time because of his ears being stopped up.”

“With the essence of two million – what did you say – bitter men’s souls?”

“So you were paying attention earlier.”

“Arnold, I always try to pay attention. But it’s not always easy you know, when you’ve got a whole universe crying for your attention.”

“I know,” I said, although of course I didn’t know.

“Plus universes within universes, and universes within those universes, and –”

“I know,” I said.

“I do try.”

“I’m sure,” I said.

“Although, gee, if I succeed in becoming human, I guess I won’t be even attempting to try anymore.”

“I guess not,” I said. 



“You’re human, do you find it hard to pay attention to every little thing?”

“I pay attention to very little beyond what’s right in front of my nose, that and the usual chaos of random thoughts and images swirling in the great echoing cavern of my brain.”

“Heh heh – so, you were saying something about the jerk’s cigarette holder –”

“Oh, right, well, on impulse I took it out of my pocket and looked through it at him, and his face at the other end was the face of a big crying baby.”

“Which is what he is, really.”

“Then, and again I don’t know why, but I put the mouthpiece into my lips and blew, and it was like some great wind just blowing him away, and he disappeared into the crowd.”

“Amazing,” said Josh. “Well done.”

“Thank you.”



“How did you know to blow through the cigarette holder?”

“I didn’t. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Well, it worked, so, you know, remember that for next time.”

“I’m afraid I lost it,” I said.

“Lost what?”

“The cigarette holder. Someone bumped into me and I dropped it.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, because what will you do if he reappears again? And he probably will.”

“Yes,” I said. “He probably will, and I don’t know what I’ll do next time.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

“I hope so.”

“Or if I’m around I’ll help you.”

“Thanks,” I said.



“I mean I’ll help you as best I can.”

“I appreciate that,” I said.

“Oh, but, hey,” he said, “what happened by the way with this girl what’s her name –”

Emily.”

“Yes, Emma, what happened with her?”

“My guardian angel dragged her off, through the crowd –”

“Wait. Back up,” he said. “Guardian angel?”

“Yes, I’ve apparently been assigned a guardian angel.”

“No one told me that.”

“Oh,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

He took a drag on his cigarette, and gazed out at that mob of dancing drunks who surrounded us. I noticed that he didn’t seem to be sweating at all. As for me, I was pouring with sweat, for the one-hundredth time that day. He turned back to me.



“You see, normally these sort of things are group decisions. You know – me, my father and the, uh, other guy.”

“The holy ghost,” I said.

H.G., yes. You see, contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, we are equal, you know.”

“Sure,” I said.

And indivisible. So, you see, my father and H.G. assigning you a guardian angel without even consulting me – well, it’s as if they’ve already written me off, isn’t it? Or maybe – just maybe they’re warning me – you know, like, ‘Hey, you wanted to be human. Deal with it.'”

I was trying to listen and to be sympathetic, but on the other hand I suddenly once again felt the need to urinate, and soon. It was all those beers I had chugged at that crazy woman Nadine’s house and at that Bill’s Bar with that pathetic guy Slick.



“Listen, Josh – “ I said.

“Some guardian angel,” he said.



“Pardon me?”

“If he’s supposed to be your guardian angel then why isn’t he here, you know, guarding you?”

“We got separated in this mob.”

“If he was doing his job properly he wouldn’t have allowed you two to get separated. Did he tell you his name?”

“I don’t want to get him in trouble.”

“Oh, wait, is it Bowery Bert?”

“Um –”

“It is him, isn’t it?”

“Well –”

“Bowery Bert,” said Josh. “He’s getting old, you know.”

“I didn’t realize angels got old,” I said.

“Well, they do,” he said. 



“I really do think he was trying his best,” I said.

“There’s a reason he’s working down here in the Bowery, you know, Arnold.”

“Um –”

“You know what that reason is?”

“I guess there’s a lot of people around here who need a guardian angel,” I ventured.

“People everywhere need guardian angels,” he said. “But Bert works on the Bowery because this is where all the hopeless cases are. They can’t be helped anyway, so we give them Bowery Bert, who can barely help himself.”

“He really did try to help me,” I said. “And right now he’s probably trying to get Emily back to Julian –”



“Back to who?”

“Julian Smythe. He’s my publisher, or at least he’s my publisher in this universe, and anyway he came here with Emily, and so Bert and I thought we would try to sort of –”

“Get him to take care of her.”

“Well, yeah, and –”

“Whatever. Bert still shouldn’t have let you get separated like this.”

“Okay,” I said. I didn’t want to argue with him. And, besides, now I really had to go to the men’s room. “But, look, Josh, I – uh – um –”

“Yes?”

“I really need to, you know –”

“Oh, that’s right! You wanted to get some food! Well, we’ll get you some! Where’s that waitress? I’ll bet they have really good food here –”

 
“Wait, Josh,” I said.



“Probably the burgers are good –”

“Josh, I’m not hungry.”

“I thought you were starving.”

“I was,” I said, “but I ate at that woman’s house –”

“What was her name – Maureen?”

“Nadine.”



“Nadine?
"Yes.”

“So she fed you. Anything good?”
"It was okay, but, uh –"
“Well, good! Now we can have our little tête-à-tête talk finally.”



“Yeah, sure,” I said, “but –”



“I need your help, Arnold.”

He looked at me with those blue eyes that contained all the universe, and all the universes in the universe, and all the universes within those universes. I could even see stars and whole galaxies twinkling in them.

“Um,” I said. “Uh –”



“Yes?”



“Here’s the thing –”

“Go on. You know you can tell me anything.”

“I have to pee, Josh,” I said.

“What, not again?”

“Yes.”

“It seems like you always have to pee.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s pretty boring, really.”



“You know, I still haven’t tried it. Peeing that is. Is it really that boring?”

“Well, it gets boring having to go all the time, but when you’re actually doing it it’s pretty enjoyable really.”

“You’ve convinced me then. I’m going to try it. Shall we go to the men’s room together?”

“All right,” I said. “But –”

“But what?”

“I have to warn you, Josh, that things tend to happen to me when I go to the men’s room.”

“Things happen to you no matter where you go, Arnold.”

“Right,” I said. “I forgot.”

“So buck up and let’s go take a pee.”

“Okay,” I said,

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

I chose not to hazard an answer to that question.


(To be continued next Saturday, and onward, until Arnold’s last marble copybook has been transcribed.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page to find what might well be an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. We still have an extremely limited assortment of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ left over from this past December’s big Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa sales event, so order now and get a special 90% discount on each and every item in stock, with free delivery on all orders of $10 or more! Our operators are standing by!)





Saturday, February 6, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 473: baby


Let us return to this fateful August night in 1957 and rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the Bacchanalian confines of Bob’s Bowery Bar…

(Kindly go here to read our immediately preceding thrilling episode; students of “outsider” literature may click here to start at the somewhat tentative first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 73-volume memoir.)

“And how did I fare during the recent blizzard? Quite well, thank you – having spent the entire day and evening sitting by a crackling fire, with my meerschaum to hand, as well as a constantly refilled steaming mug of cocoa prepared with Fox’s U-bet™ chocolate syrup, and – snuggled in the thick Navajo blanket draped over my lap – a volume of Arnold Schnabel’s towering
chef-d'œuvre!” – Harold Bloom, host of Fox’s U-bet Presents Harold Bloom’s “The Arnold Schnabel Television Theatre”, Tuesdays at 10pm (EST), exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.





“Wait a minute,” said Bert. “Before we make our move, let me just ask you, do you have to wear that purse over your shoulder? Because I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but you really do look like a faggot.”

“But –”

“No ‘buts’. Just take the fucking thing off and drape it around the Jane’s neck, crosswise, so it don’t fall off.”

“Okay,” I said, humbly, and I did as I was told, an operation which took no more than a minute.

“All right,” said Bert. He still had Emily’s right arm draped over his narrow shoulders, gripping her wrist with his left hand, his umbrella in his right hand, and I had my right arm around her waist. “Now. Are we ready?”

“I’ve been ready, Bert.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

“Then why did you ask?”

“Don’t get smart with me, Arnold. I’m here to help you, remember?”

“Right, sorry,” I said, as usual just trying to move things along. “Let’s go.”

“Okay,” he said. “On the count of three, all right?”

“Can’t we just go now?”

“No, we can’t just go now. We’re gonna go on the count of three. I mean if that’s all right with you.”

“Sure,” I said. “Count of three.”

“Okay, then. Now, when I say three, we go. Not a little before, not a little bit after. But right on three. You got it?”

“I think so.”

“So what do we go on?”

“Two?”

“Don’t fuck with me, Arnold.”

“On three,” I said.

“That is correct.”

Emily remained unconscious through all this. She was lucky.

 
“All right,” said Bert. “Here goes.”

But instead of starting the count he turned and stared out into that mob of thrashing drunkards, I suppose just getting the lay of the land, but still I wanted to let out a great keening whine of despair, and, believe me, it took every ounce of my willpower not to.

He turned to face me again, that little cigar still in his teeth, or dentures.

“On three,” he said.

“Right,” I said, “three,” holding back everything I wanted to say and scream.

 
“One!” shouted Bert, at last. “Two! And – three!”



And, with his umbrella raised high and threateningly, off the little guardian angel plunged into that sweating churning reeking mob, plowing sideways, pulling Emily’s dead weight along with him, and me with her, and, as various drunks shoved and flailed against us my hand slipped upward until despite myself I was perforce holding Emily up with my hand directly under her right breast.



At first we made some slight progress, perhaps going as far even as three or four feet in only two minutes or less, but then we came to a standstill, or rather, we came to a halt but we were not standing still, buffeted front and back by this pungent hot mass of people behaving as if they were all in the throes of delirium tremens, and, now that I think about it, that might well have been the case.

I kept my arm firmly around Emily’s ribcage, and my hand was now tightly gripping her right breast, but, I hasten to emphasize, not in a lustful fashion but only because that was simply where my hand somehow wound up as I attempted to do my bit in preventing her from falling to the floor where she might well have been trampled if not to death, then quite possibly to the point of hospitalization. Faces loomed up against mine, male and female, leering, wide-eyed, shouting and laughing, and human bodies pressed and rubbed against mine, front and back and against my exposed left flank. My physical and moral discomfort was not decreased by the fact that my erection – aided and abetted by the body parts pressing and rubbing against it, and by the female breast I held in my hand – had by now regained its fullest tumescence. 



The loud music continued, above and with the screaming and shouting and laughter all around, and now an amplified voice, a deep female voice – or maybe a high male voice – sang out:



Oh, shake me, daddy, shake me up right,
do me, papa, do me up tight,
roll me, Romeo, roll me all night,
till the break of dawn,
till my back ain’t got no bone,
whatever comes first,
‘cause I got the thirst,
the thirst for your love…
“Hi, buddy!” said an enormous face directly in front of my face, and then I realized that it was really just a normal-sized man’s face, but it seemed enormous because it was so close to mine.

And then I realized it was the face of Nicky, Nicky Boskins, also known as Lucky, but better known as the prince of darkness, back again, as somehow I knew he would be, even after I had seen him with my own eyes dissolving into a stream of filthy gutter water.

“Oh, Christ,” I said.

“Ha ha, I know what you just said,” he said, baring those shiny white teeth. “And guess what, you can say it all you want, and all the other various names of each one of the trinity, or as I call them, the three divine assholes, ‘cause you know why? Because it won’t affect me in the least because I’ve plugged up my ears. Look –”

He turned his head to one side and pointed at his ear, and, sure enough, the ear was plugged up all right, with some yellowish substance.

“You know what that shit is?” he said. 



“I don’t know,” I said. “It looks like a bad case of ear wax.”

“What’s that?” he said. “I’m reading your lips, and I’m pretty good at it, but if you don’t articulate it’s hard even for me.”

He was smoking a cigarette, and he was wearing the same exquisitely pressed iridescent grey suit he’d been wearing before, or one very like it. The skin of his paper-white face was as usual perfectly shaven, his dark hair shiny and gleaming, his eyes the same deep black so deep they were almost purple.

“I said it looks like a bad case of ear wax,” I said, speaking very slowly, and loudly, although I realized that it didn’t matter how loudly I spoke.



He stopped smiling. 


“Did you just say, ‘I guess I’ll just ask Beatrice Fairfax’? Is that supposed to be, what, clever?”

“Oh, forget it, Lucky, or Nicky, or whatever your name is.”

“What? You’re saying I stuffed my ears with fried elephant jizz? I don’t even know how to begin to respond to that. But before you say anything else stupid, I’ll just tell you. I stuffed my ears with the boiled-down essence of bitter men’s souls. This is like the essence of one million bitter men’s souls in each ear.”

“I really don’t care,” I said, and I turned my head, because his breath smelled, like death.

“What’s that you said?” he said. “You ‘need some air’? Well, I’m sorry, my good friend, but where you’re going there isn’t any air. You think this place smells bad? Just wait till you get down in my neighborhood.”

So this was the way it was going to be. Him yammering, and me yammering back and him not understanding a word I said. But instead of feeling frustrated, I suddenly felt an enormous freedom to speak my mind honestly in a way I had so rarely ever done in my life.
 Despite his foul breath I turned to face him directly again.

“I have some very disconcerting news for you, Nicky, or Lucky, or dick face,” I said, and I assure the reader that this was the first time I had ever called anyone dick face, a phrase that really makes no sense when you think about it.

“What?” said Nicky. “You’d like to ride in a flying saucer into the depths of space? That’s just weird, man.”

“No,” I said, “My news for you is that you’re really very boring, and pathetic, even if you are the prince of darkness, and also your breath smells like pig shit, no, it smells worse than that, it smells like the week-dead corpse of a dead pig.” 


Nicky’s smile flickered briefly into life and then disappeared.

“So, if I’m understanding you,” he said, “you’re saying that the galaxies and all their stars are roaring, as in the time of the Aztecs, and it’s all a big mess, and that’s about the size of it, but when you get to hell of course you’ll be Mr. Big? Okay, you know what, Arnold? I know you’ve had mental problems, so I am not even going to attempt to make sense out of any of that.”



“Fuck you,” I said, and I think this might have been another first for me, which doesn’t excuse me at all, but please consider the circumstances.



“Did you just say ‘thank you’ to me?” he said.



This was getting pretty dull, even if I was on the verge of being dragged screaming down into the eternal fires of hell.



“No,” I said.

“’Go’? Go? No, I’m not going to ‘go’,” he said. “What do you think I’m here for?”


“Well, to drag me, or try to drag me, I guess, to hell again.“

“To brag to you, and nag you, and peck my breast like a pelican? Okay, tell you what, Arnold, I’ve had just about enough of your little mind games, so this is it. Forget about trying any of your little tricks and ruses, because at long last I’m going to drag you down to hell now. Get ready for a world of pain, asswipe.”


And with that he just stared at me, with those jet black eyes of his. And in those eyes I saw hell. But I didn’t get drawn in all at once. No, it was very, very slow and gradual, but I could feel myself being drawn closer and closer into those dark eyes, darker than anything I had ever seen before, and I had seen some darkness in my time.

My boredom gave way to fear, but what could I do? The only good thing about my present situation was that my erection had subsided – Nicky’s reappearance had sufficed to make that happen. 


And then suddenly I remembered that Josh was in here, probably still sitting in that booth no more than a few yards away.

“Josh,” I prayed, silently, “can you hear me?”

“Who’s that? Arnie?” said his voice in my head.

“Yes, it’s me, and I know I said I wouldn’t ask for your help anymore, but the prince of darkness is here, and I think he’s trying to take me away to hell.”

“That asshole! Tell him to fuck off.”

“I can’t tell him anything. He’s stopped up his ears with the essence of two million bitter souls.”

“What a jerk!”

“Josh, help me, because I can feel him drawing me in.”

“In to where?”

“Into his eyes. Down into hell.”

“Okay, no problem, I’ll make him disappear.”

“Thanks,”
I said, in my brain.



I waited, but nothing happened, and I felt my essence drawing closer and closer to those jet-black eyes.

“How’s that?”
said Josh, in my head. “Did he disappear?”

“No,” I said, silently.

“Shit,” he said. “That’s weird. Okay, look, hold on and I’ll be right there. Where are you exactly?”

“I’m stuck somewhere in the midst of all these dancing drunkards, and for God’s sake Josh hurry!”

“I
am God, you know.”

“Sorry, yes, but please hurry!”


And I felt myself just about to fall into those eyes of Nicky’s.


Could this really be it, the end, or if not the end then the beginning of eternal damnation and agony in the fires of hell? But then I remembered what my new guardian angel Bowery Bert had reminded me of earlier, i.e., that this was a fictional universe. And in fictional universes anything could happen, and a situation in which in real life one would have no hope, in a story or a novel there was always some way out. But what could that way out be if Josh, who, to be honest, sounded pretty drunk, and perhaps also pretty ineffectual, failed to make his way through the crowd in time to rescue me?

Then I remembered Nicky’s cigarette holder, the one I had picked up off the pavement earlier. Where did I put it? In my inside breast pocket of my seersucker jacket.

My right arm was still holding Emily up, and so with my left hand I awkwardly reached into the jacket, and brought it out, that shiny dark black tube.

“Hey, that’s mine!” said Nicky.

He made to grab it out of my hand, but I jerked my hand free. Then, I don’t know why, some crazy instinct I suppose, but I held the narrow mouthpiece of the holder up to my eyes and looked into it, and down its length I saw Nicky’s face, but now it was the face of a terrified naked crying baby.

“Give me that thing!”
he yelled again, and once more tried to grab it out of my hand, once more I pulled my hand away, and then, and again I don’t know why, but I put the mouthpiece in my lips and blew through it as hard as I could, and, as if he were being pulled by the scruff of the neck by some invisible giant, Nicky was drawn away, crying and screaming like a baby, into that mob of drunken dancing and thrashing people, and then he disappeared.

 
Someone bumped into me, and knocked the cigarette holder out of my mouth and my hand, it fell to the floor, and I thought of trying to bend down and pick it up, but of course I was still trying to hold Emily up, so that was impossible, and then Bert was yelling at me.

“Hey! Buddy boy! Wake up! I think I see an opening! You ready?”


“Yeah, sure,” I said.

And Bert, his umbrella raised high, holding Emily’s arm over his shoulder, plunged into the mob once more, dragging me along too, but then someone bumped into me again, hard, I stumbled, and I let go of Emily’s waist and breast so as not to bring her down. I staggered, from side to side, buffeted by drunks, but somehow not falling, the bodies somehow holding me up, I could no longer see Emily and Bert, they were somewhere in that mob, I would have to forge ahead and try to find them, but then some big truckdriver-type guy backed up into me and I began to fall backward, someone else elbowed me in the small of my back, and I spun around in pain and began to fall forward, but then someone caught me in his arms, and straightened me up.

It was Josh, with a cigarette in his mouth.

“Hey, pal,” he said. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I said. “Now I am.”

(Continued here, and onward, at our usual relentless weekly schedule.)

(Special guest artist: Albrecht Dürer. Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find what is at least meant to be an up-to-date listing of links to all other publicly available chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. It’s hard to believe, but our warehouse reports that we still seem to have a small assortment of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ remaining from our boffo holiday sales event, so order now and get a this-week-only 85% discount on all items – free delivery on all orders of $15 or more!)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

“Gang War”


Originally published in “’Real’ Crime Stories”, December, 1950; reprinted for the first time in book form in “Never Trust a Square John”: The “Gwendolyn and Auntie Margaret” Stories of Horace P. Sternwall, Vol. 7, the Olney Community College Press; edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Forgotten 20th Century Fiction, Olney Community College.



Original illustrations by rhoda penmarq for penmarqitron™  productions, ltd.



(Click here to read the previous Gwendolyn story; go here to return to the very beginning of the saga.)



Dearest Pippi,


Do please accept my apologies for the alarming gap in our correspondence but when you hear all about what’s been happening out here and how busy I have been I hope you will understand. I also hope that my remissness in writing will be made up for to some small extent by the “little something” which you will find baked into the bottom of the chocolate babka which you should have received by the same post. Be careful with that babka darling as my Auntie Margaret’s friend Serge who made it from the recipe he says of his old family cook back in Russia has laced it quite liberally with this Russian liquor he likes called Nalivka quite tasty but the thing is he always mixes it with vodka and it is thus rather extremely alcoholic. So a word to the wise, no more than two thick slices of the babka at a time unless you want a dreadful hangover the next morning, something I learned the hard way believe you me when I wolfed down a third of the previous one Serge baked.



The “little something” is wrapped in wax paper but do mind that you in your eagerness don’t cut it in two or God forbid fork it down with the babka.



Oh my I have so much to tell you.



As I said in one of my previous missives I have been looking for ways to invest our gelt. At first I was thinking, well, maybe after all I should set up my own Shylock operation, without dealing through a middleman like the late lamented Tommy S------n, thus keeping all the profits for me and the gang. I put the Monkey and Sluggo on the case to bring me some “gen” on how to get into the business, but they soon reported back to me that the whole reason Tommy had been “rubbed out” was because of a dispute with this Jimmy Mazzaro character about who should run the “Shy” throughout Greenwich Village and Little Italy and the Bowery. You know me Pippa I don’t back down from a scrape, but then why look for trouble, especially from the Mafia, unless of course it really can’t be avoided?
So I looked for some other way to invest our gelt and that’s where these two grown-ups I told you about Sniffy and Rooster  come in.



I had already used them in two capers where we needed grown-up “fronts” and also to drive a car on the one job and a stolen cement truck in the other, and although they needed constant supervision they worked out okay because neither of them look like criminals and because they are both greedy as sin. The woman Sniffy looks like an ill-tempered scarecrow if you can imagine that and the man Rooster looks like a bank clerk with a nervous condition. I noticed that in order to calm their nerves before a job they liked to smoke what is called “weed” in the argot of the underworld. I asked them where they bought it and how much it cost and I must say I was impressed at the amount they paid even for a quarter-ounce of the stuff! Well, you know me, Pippi, no flies anywhere on or near me!



And so I got to thinking that there could be some real money in this "reefer" stuff, especially for a party who has so much “capital” already packed into hatboxes in the bottom of my Auntie’s closet, gelt that could be put to use making lots more lovely gelt.


To cut a long story short I told Sniffy and Rooster to find us a wholesale merchant of “weed”, and within a week we had ten pounds of the stuff fresh off a tramp steamer in from Panama. We hid the “stash” in a ventilation duct down in the basement of the hotel, accessible by removing a grill in the alleyway. It’s a very narrow duct but the Monkey is small and wiry and can easily crawl where no grown man could, so he is in charge of getting the stuff out.



I immediately put the gang to work “moving” it as they say and boy oh boy, talk about profits! Rooster and Sniffy did most of the selling, working the jazz joints and low bars of the Village and the Bowery, and using as their headquarters that place Bob’s Bowery Bar next door to where you and your poor mother used to live. I of course insisted that no selling would be done on the Hotel St Crispian premises. I mean to be honest a lot of the guests and staff there and all of the band Tony W-----n and his W---------s have become regular customers for our “stuff” but if they want to do business they have to go out to the alley or to the restrooms of the automat like everybody else, no exceptions.

After careful consideration I decided not to sell to the girls at Miss Churchill’s for the very good reason that those girls talk too much and couldn’t keep a secret if their lives depended on it. But on the other hand there was the boys’ prep school right across the street The Falworthy School filled with filthy rich spoiled boys and so Elizabeth and Ruth and I soon built up a very good trade with those blue-blazered hooligans, I’ll tell you.


But isn’t there always a fly in the ointment?



Things were going swimmingly for a couple of weeks and we were already getting ready to order another shipment, perhaps twenty pounds this time when unfortunately one night Rooster and Sniffy got “braced” as they say by Jimmy Mazzaro and three of his “goons” just as they were leaving Bob’s Bowery Bar.

Jimmy and his boys dragged poor Rooster and Sniffy into a car and it was only a short ride from there to some dark alley near the East River where they dragged Rooster and Sniffy out of the car and fortunately didn’t fill them with lead or fit them with concrete overshoes but they did beat up Rooster quite severely.



Then they told him he was not to sell reefer on Jimmy’s territory anymore. “Jimmy’s territory”! Who died and made him king of the Village and the Bowery that’s what I’d like to know. Then Jimmy asked Rooster and Sniffy who they were working for. Sniffy told me that Rooster blurted out without hesitation, “A little twelve year old girl named Gwendolyn!” and that was when Jimmy hit Rooster a really good one with a set of brass knuckles breaking his nose, and told him not to make a chump out of him. Then he asked Sniffy the same question and she admitted to me that also without a moment’s pause she said “A little twelve year old girl, her name is Gwendolyn!” and so Jimmy socked her a good one too, breaking her jaw. This woman really likes to talk, I’ll tell you, so Jimmy really hit her where it hurts that’s for sure.



Well, anyway, since Jimmy couldn’t get anything more out of these two, at least nothing he would believe, after beating them both up some more he just left them there in that alleyway, bleeding and groaning, and boy was I angry when Rooster called me the next day from the hospital with the news.

What would Napoleon do, I wondered, as I laid the telephone receiver back in its cradle.





To be honest Rooster and Sniffy are pretty annoying and tedious, but still they are members of the gang and a general has an obligation to her troops and also an obligation not to let herself be summarily cut out of a good money-making racket by some two-bit Italian thug Mafia or no Mafia.

I’m sure you have heard through the criminal grapevine at Rozensweig’s Home for Girls what happened next.

It was just two nights later, which was all the time I needed to carry out my bold plan.



An innocent conversation with Serge, pumping him for info about the proper way to make a “Molotov cocktail”, which he had used to some good effect as a partisan fighting the Nazis in the last war. A bit of reconnaissance on the part of the Monkey and Sluggo, revealing that Jimmy Mazzaro and his top lieutenants always played poker on a certain night in the back room of a certain Italian Social Club on Minetta Street, a game which often lasted to the early hours of the morning, but a game which on this night was brought to a sudden and fiery end by four Molotov cocktails thrown simultaneously through the rear window.



And that was the end of the Jimmy Mazzaro mob.

They won’t be missed.

Now I must fly as I have a geography test tomorrow and I haven’t even opened the book yet I’ve been so terribly busy.



Write soon.

I remain,

your pal,

G-------n



PS Again I do hope you enjoy the chocolate babka dearie but remember no more than two big slices at a time and don’t forget that little something extra in the wax paper.



                                                         ****




(This is a slightly revised version of a story that originally appeared, with artwork by the justly-famous rhoda penmarq, in New Tales of the Hotel St Crispian.)



(Our staff has taken a week off to work on the editing of the first volume
of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, which we hope to bring out sometime this millennium as an e-book and possibly even a book made of paper. An all-new thrilling chapter of Arnold’s saga will appear in this space at the usual time next Saturday!)


Saturday, January 23, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 472: Babylon


Let us rejoin our intrepid hero Arnold Schnabel and his companions Bowery Bert and Emily, here outside the entrance of Bob’s Bowery Bar, on this rainy hot night in August of 1957…

(Please click here to read our previous thrilling episode; the idly or morbidly curious may go here to return to the very first chapter of this 63-volume Gold View Award™-winning autobiography.)

“How wonderful is it that this eminently humble man, Arnold Schnabel, who never even finished high school (although he did indeed acquire his high school equivalency diploma in his early twenties during his army service), should have given us what is undoubtedly the crowning masterwork of American literature?” – Harold Bloom, host of
Philip Morris Commanders Present “Tales of Arnold Schnabel”, Wednesdays at 9pm (EST), exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.




Bert and I got Emily and ourselves to the open doorway again, awkwardly, needless to say (but there, I’ve said it, needless or not, and I hereby grant permission to any imaginary future editors of these memoirs to excise the adverb “awkwardly” directly above, along with any other verbiage they deem redundant or painfully obvious or without interest even to the most obsessed scholars of lunacy, up to and including every word I have written, am writing, or will write), what with Bert being so short, me being so much taller than he, and still possessed of a persistent erection, and Emily halfway between us in height, as well as completely unconscious.



The doorway was not wide enough for us to go through three abreast, and so Bert took the initiative and went through first, keeping Emily’s arm over his narrow old shoulders, and I went through last, keeping my right arm around Emily’s waist as she dragged her feet on the floor, and this time I didn’t worry about closing the door behind me, if anyone challenged me on the matter of being brought up in a barn I would improvise a response then, if I could, but I really couldn’t worry about closing the door during this maneuver, as fraught with the possibility of disaster as it already was. I should perhaps remind the reader that I still had Emily’s heavy hard black purse hanging by its strap over my left shoulder, and I found myself wondering what else she kept in there besides an economy size jar of Pond’s cold cream, because it felt suspiciously like there were a half-dozen hand grenades clanking around in it as well.



“Okay,” said Bert, once we were inside and on the verge of that mob of drunken people dancing, thrashing about, and falling flailing to the filthy strawdust-strewn floor to the music not of the jukebox now but rather of what sounded like musicians in the living flesh somewhere off to the right, although I couldn’t see them through the mob, “what do you say we just jettison Sleeping Beauty here, and then we’ll go meet your good buddy, what do you call him, ‘Jack’?”



“Josh, actually.”



“’Josh’, yes, the son of the big fellow himself!” Bert still had that shriveled little cigar in his mouth, he was one of those guys who could expertly talk with a cigar in his teeth or, as in his case, dentures. “Okay,” he said, “let’s just lay her down in the corner in back of this booth here –”

He started to pull Emily in the direction he had indicated, the back of a booth just to our right, but I held tight to Emily’s waist and stood my ground.

“Look, Bert,” I said, or yelled, we were both yelling now that we were back in the bar, “we’re not just laying her down on the floor.”


“Well, I was thinking in terms of sort of sitting her up kind of –”

“We can’t just leave her sitting on the floor either.”

“Okay, fine,” he said, “so what do you propose we do with her?”

“We find my publisher, Julian, and we hand her off to him.”



“In other words let her be his problem, not yours.”


“Well, yes – but, you see he’s her, uh, employer –”

“Employer and employee, out on a little spree, huh?”

“Yes, I suppose you could say that –”


“I sense something unsaid in your tone.”

“I leave many things unsaid in my tone.”



“Oh, I get it.”

“You do?”


“This what’s his name, Justin?”

”Julian.”

“He’s boning her too, isn’t he?”

“Bert, I wish you wouldn’t use that sort of language. She’s right here between us you know.”

“She’s completely passed out and can’t hear a word we’re saying.”

“But still –”

“So let me put it this way then: this Jules –”

“Julian.”

“This ‘Julian’ is having carnal relations with Edina.”

“Emily.”

“With Emily.”

“I think he might have had relations with her, yes,” I said.

“So, wow, this little number gets around, don’t she? Boning both you and your publisher!”

“Bert, I really wish you wouldn’t be so crude.”



“What did I say that was crude? Arnold, I got news for you, pal: you and everybody else in this room, well, except for me and for your buddy – I’m sorry, what do you call him?”

“Josh?”



“Everybody in here except for me and ‘Josh’ wouldn’t even be here if their parents hadn’t boned.”

“I just wish you would stop saying that.”

“What? Boned?”

“Yes,” I said.

“You’re a pip, you are,” he said. “You don’t mind boning a gal, but you just don’t want it referred to as such.”

“But it wasn’t me who – you know – had relations with her. I told you, it was this fictional character, Porter Walker.”


“So you are adducing the fictional-character defense.”

“All I can say is that I, Arnold Schnabel, would not have had relations with her.”

“You say that with a boner still likely to burst out of your jeans like a jack-in-the-box.”



What he said was true. I was still possessed of an almost full erection, probably kept alive by the fact of Emily’s warm body pressed close to mine.

“Look, Bert,” I said, “there are some things over which I have no control. Many things in fact. And, unfortunately, what you are referring to –”



“Your boner.”

“My whatever,” I said, “unfortunately that is one of them. 
But, look, can we please just find Julian?”

“And pass the problem of Edina here on to him.”

“Emily, Bert. Her name is Emily.”

“Great – 'Emily' it is then. So where is this Jonathan fellow?” 

“Bert, are you deliberately trying to drive me crazy?”

“Not deliberately, no.”

“Then one last time: Julian’s name is Julian, and Emily’s name is Emily.”

“Someday you’ll be old and you’ll have trouble remembering names.”



“If I live that long, yes,” I said.

“It won’t seem so funny to you then.”

“I don’t think it’s funny now,” I said.



“Then maybe you shouldn’t get so goddam condescending when I have just a little bit of trouble remembering human names now and then.”

“Okay, sorry,” I said.

“Because let me tell you something, boyo, as old as you might get you will never get as old as me. You dig? Not even close. Not even close by a couple of thousand years.”

“I said I was sorry,”

“So get over yourself.”

“Okay,” I said, “I will. Now look, can we move along and try to find Julian?”

“You’re the one who’s been holding us up, not me. Where is this what’s-his-name, anyhow?”



“He must be in here somewhere. Let’s drag Emily through this mob to the bar and look for him there.”

“I don’t think he’s going to be happy about us foisting a passed-out doxie on him.”

“He probably won’t be happy,” I said, “but – well –”



“Hey, he brought her here, right?”

“That’s true.”

“So it ain’t like she’s your responsibility.”

I said nothing to this, but I suppose my face again betrayed me, or revealed me.

“What?” said Bert. “Now what’s your problem?”

“Now I feel somehow –”

“What?”

“I feel as if I'm not behaving very well.”

“So, what, now you’re saying you don’t want to foist her off on this Jules guy?”

“Julian,” I said. “And, no, I still want to foist her off on him, but I still feel as if I am behaving somehow, I don’t know –”

“Selfishly?”

“Somewhat, yes.”

 
“Crassly”

 
“Maybe –”

“Arnold, lookit, what do you want to do, drag this little dolly around with you all night, and then when she wakes up have her pulling on your johnson again like she wants to yank it out by the roots?”

“No.”

“So, great, so get over your scruples and let’s find this Gerald guy.” 

“All right,” I said.

“Good,” said Bert. “Now, what I suggest we do is we both get a good grip on Little Miss Whore of Babylon here and plunge without ceremony straight into this throbbing mass of dancing drunken fools, but walking sideways, with me leading the way, wielding my umbrella like a cudgel if necessary, and we don’t stop till we reach the bar.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Don’t be afraid to use your elbow if need be.”

 
“I won’t,” I said.

“Don’t pussy out on me now.”

“Let’s just go,” I said.

“On the count of three. You ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I said. Not that I was really ready, or even halfway ready, no, I was merely as ready as I ever would or ever could be. My erection had subsided just a little bit in the last couple of minutes, so at least I had that going for me.




(Continued here.)

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