Friday, March 7, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Fifty-Nine: Arnold makes yet another new friend

When last we saw our hero, Arnold Schnabel was experiencing a rare moment of -- dare we say it -- happiness, sitting on the second-floor porch of the Biddle residence with his “innamorata” the Bohemian Elektra.

Also in attendance, Sammy (strumming a guitar), Dean (crooning), Shirley (sitting on Dean’s knee), and Arnold’s friend Steve with his date Miss Charlotte Rathbone.

Dateline: Cape May NJ; August, 1963...


Next Shirley sang a song with Dean:
If our lips should meet, innamorata
Kiss me kiss me sweet, innamorata…
The words were pretty inane, but who was I to be critical? After all, just now I found on the floor a clipping of a sonnet I wrote last year, it must have fallen out of my scrapbook when I took it down to Miss Rathbone:
"First Communion, St. Helena’s, 1962"

The little children pass all dressed in white,
their first communion gravely to receive,
that they might not dwell in eternal night;
the Good Lord has granted them His reprieve.
but what of the Hindu, Jewish, Moslem,
and Protestant boys and girls, whom, through no
fault of their own, God chooses to condemn
to at best an afterlife in Limbo?
He has His reasons for this I am told,
but still it seems a little harsh to me,
a bit arbitrary, a trifle cold;
and worse, some say that they might even be
sent to Purgatory or even Hell;
this seems far from fair to me, truth to tell.
What the — go on, say it, they can only damn me once — what the hell was I thinking?

It wouldn’t be so bad if the above lines were a joke, but at the time I wrote them I was quite serious.

I’m becoming convinced that I didn’t just go mad this past January, oh no, I think I was secretly quite mad for many years, perhaps since birth.

And for that matter how mad is my longtime editor at the Olney Times, Mr. Willingham? (An Episcopalian I might add.) He’s the one who printed this rubbish. But then I’ve suspected for some time he only glances at my copy once or twice a year, if that.

So, yes, I had been a madman. But was I still a madman?

Frank Sinatra and Miss Evans came up and joined us. More songs were sung. Frank did a nice version of “The Lady is a Tramp”…

Then the guy who had been in the car with Frank and Sammy and Dean and Joey came through the screen door, the guy that neither Steve nor Miss Rathbone nor I had recognized.

He was a hearty, muscular guy of about my age, with a receding hairline and a face like a boxer’s. He wore khakis and a pale blue alligator polo shirt, and he smoked a fine cigar.
He said hello to Sammy and Frank, Dean and Shirley, how-do to Steve and Miss Rathbone, to Miss Evans and to Elektra. Then he said to me that I must be this Arnold he’d been hearing about.

I said I was, and he put out his hand. The knuckles were scarred and gnarled.

“My name’s Larry,” he said. “Larry Winchester. Pleased to meet you, Arnold.”


(Click here to dig our next grooving chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for listings of links to all other existing episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, as well as to many of his classic poems.)

7 comments:

Jennifer said...

but quietly mad. Acceptably mad.

And that's how the powers at be seem to like it.

Linda said...

Thank God Arnold went crazy. So he could get sane.

Manny white said...

"But what of the Hindu, Jewish, Moslem,
And Protestant boys and girls,"

Life's tuff but nothin compared to what awaits the the ones that dare resist catholicism.

Anonymous said...

arnold and larry intersect--the big day

Dan Leo said...

Jen: Word.

Linda: Word up.

Manny White; Dig it, those pagans babies got a rough deal.

Anon: We all knew it had to happen

kathleenmaher said...

I love it when we get to read Arnold's poems. And I love it when women toss repressive propriety to the wind and act like Shirley.

Dan Leo said...

Kathleen, I think that Shirley knows that we may or may not live more than one lifetime, but we only get to live one of them at a time.