Wednesday, December 17, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 115: way gone

Previously in our serialization of the memoir Harold Bloom has called “the one really essential American work of literature of the 20th Century, perhaps of any century”:

Having gone into Cape May’s Ugly Mug with his inamorata Elektra and his friend and collaborator Larry Winchester, our hero Arnold Schnabel has, at Larry’s urging, taken a mouthful of a mysterious dried fungoid substance. Meanwhile, Elektra has joined the jazz trio onstage and is belting out “Wade In The Water”...

Staring at Elektra up there through the cigarette smoke as I chewed my cud of mushrooms which was shrinking in size if not improving in flavor, it struck me as miraculous that this woman, singing this Negro spiritual to the nodding, smiling approval of her three accompanists, singing in a voice that seemed to enter me not only through my ears but through my eyes and my flesh, it struck me as fantastic that I should even know her let alone be intimate with her, this beautiful creature in the somehow Latin dress, with her shining dark hair and her gleaming skin.

I heard Larry’s voice thundering in my ear, like the rolling of a summer storm across the ocean.

“That babe is something else, Arnie.”

I half-heartedly tried to say something, nothing too demanding, a mere “yeah”, or a “you said it, pal”, but found myself unable.

The song went on, and I went with it.

And I finally understood what beatniks in shows like Johnny Staccato or Dobie Gillis, or Peter Gunn -- meant when they said, “Gone, way gone.” Listening to the choir at church had never done this for me, certainly the children singing in the May Procession had never done it, nor had our household favorites from the record club like Lawrence Welk and Liberace and the Jackie Gleason Orchestra, not even Mantovani nor Perry Como or Esquivel.

Elektra’s song came into me and filled me, and so did the shining physical warm apparition of her on that tiny stage.

“How ya feelin’, Arnie?”
Larry’s voice came tumbling into my ears as if from across the vast reaches of outer space even beyond the moon.
I turned to look at Larry, which took me an entire minute to do, perhaps a minute and a half, and although I saw and heard dozens of possible responses bouncing around like ping pong balls inside the cavern of my skull -- from the mundane “Okay, Larry,” to the more outlandish “Like a god, Larry, like a god amongst gods and goddesses!” -- I voiced none of them, because all I could think about suddenly was that my entire body had turned into an increasingly tumescent male organ of procreation and let us not forget micturition.

So this was what I got for staring so raptly at the beauty that was Elektra. My entire being had been replaced by one annoying and throbbing, mindless part of me. And I wondered: if my entire body had turned into a -- sorry, Mother, if you’re reading this; I must remember to burn these pages tomorrow -- a penis, then would there perforce be a small me hanging down there where the penis normally hung, useless and in the way until nature called it to spring into action? Had my role in life been reversed with that of my appendage? Unfortunately I couldn’t tell just by looking down, because I was wearing bermuda shorts, with boxer shorts on under those. But a quick glance told me that if it was indeed me down there, I was certainly erect.

“I think you’re feeling it,” said Larry, with a smile.

He made no reference to the fact that I had been transformed into a six-foot, one hundred and eighty pound, pulsing penis, which I thought was thoughtful of him.

I decided to force myself to hold a conversation with Larry. Only by ignoring Elektra’s song and by forcing myself not to look at her could I hope to lose this bodily erection and return to normal, or at least normal for me.

“So, Larry,” I said, trying to sound casual, and, incidentally, not insane, “tell me about this Paris deal.”

“Right,” he said. “I got a wire this afternoon, one of my alleged partners, some goddam Spaniard, has backed out of the project -- well, he had to back out, he got arrested back in Barcelona. Bad news, ‘cause he was bringing about a hundred grand with him, plus our Spanish leading lady. So I got to cut the budget and find a new leading lady, and I could use a co-producer, especially one like you that speaks French and German --”

“Wait, Larry --” I wanted to tell him how nearly nonexistent were my abilities to speak German with anyone but my mother or my aunts, or French with anyone, but he waved his hand.

“No, listen, don’t undersell yourself, Arnie. I trust you, and I’d like to have at least one American in my crew. Oh, but speaking of underselling, I can’t pay you much I’m afraid, but you’ll get a decent per diem, plus a modest hotel room, and I’ll give you five points off the net. This is on top of the grand I’m giving you for doing the screenplay with me of course. I did say a grand, didn’t I?”

“I don’t really remember, Larry, but that sounds fair.”

After all, I was still getting my half-pay from the Reading Railroad for my disability, and, besides, what did I care? It wasn’t as if I was doing anything much else with my time.

“So are you on?” asked Larry.

“On what?”

“Do you want to come to Paris and work on my movie with me?”

“Oh, sure,” I said.

“Put her there,” he said, extending his hand.

For a moment I wondered if I even had a hand, and then I realized that I was no longer an erect penis, or even a flaccid one.

“Come on, Arnie, don’t leave me hanging.”

I shook his hand, and we both turned to watch and listen to Elektra some more.

This time I managed to remain a human being, as opposed to an overgrown appendage of one.

For the time being.

(Continued here. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of of all other possible episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be a major motion picture from Larry Winchester Productions, starring John Cassavetes, Eddie Constantine, and Anna Karina.)

Gene, Anita, and Roy get off uptown:


Jennifer said...

then would there perforce be a small me hanging down there where the penis normally hung

What. An. Image!!!

Don't you think Esquivel would be a bit bummed to be mentioned in that company??

Dan Leo said...

Hey, what's the matter with that company? Now you should excuse me, I have to watch the Perry Como Christmas special with my mother.

Jennifer said...

Enjoy the show zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Unknown said...

Arnold remains incorruptible and always agreeable.

The way I remember it, Leopold Bloom didn't experience nearly this much during his day-long Odyssey.

Dan Leo said...

Kathleen, Bloomsday was a walk in the park compared to one of Arnold's days.

Jen, I feel so refreshed after that Perry Como special and the four-hour nap it induced!

Unknown said...

I know just how Arnold feels.

Dan Leo said...

Manny: ah, to be young again! (Or at least to be 42 again!)

Anonymous said...

Or to have sex again.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, me too