Sunday, September 28, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 101: "...this world, or any other world..."

Previously in this third-place prize winner of the Wasilla Award for Christian Memoir, our hero Arnold Schnabel, having agreed to go out for drinks with Daphne, Sister Mary Elizabeth and Tommy, excused himself outside his aunts’ boarding-house in order that he might go in and, as he put it, “change”. Night approaches from across the great Atlantic on this sultry August day in 1963, in the then-quaint seaside resort of Cape May, New Jersey…

“If you like,” I said, “you can go ahead, and I’ll meet you.”

“Oh no,” said Daphne. “We’ll wait. Can we dawdle on your porch?”

“Uh, sure,” I said.

So I led the way, unlatching the wobbly bloated wooden gate (perhaps someday I will fix it, if I can find some time in my hectic schedule) and stepping onto that mossy bluestone path to the porch just as Mr. and Mrs. DeVore — the young couple who had proven to me the night before that although there may be human limits to pain or to pleasure there are apparently no limits to banality — came wheeling around the side of the house and immediately assumed expressions which would have been suitable if President Kennedy and all his clan had suddenly arrived to play a brisk game of touch football.

“Mr. Schnabel!” said Mrs. DeVore. “We heard all about your evening out!”

“Oh, yes,” I said, not stopping.

“Sinatra!” shouted Mr. DeVore. "Ol' blue eyes!"

“Uh, yeah,” I said, making it to the porch steps.

“And who are your nice friends here?” demanded Mrs. DeVore.

I was trapped, so, turning at the top of the porch steps I quickly declaimed:

“Mr. and Mrs. DeVore, this is Tommy, and Daphne, and Sister Mary Elizabeth.”

“Sister Mary Elizabeth?” said Mrs. DeVore.

“Just Mary Elizabeth,” said Sister Mary Elizabeth.

“Oh,” said Mrs. DeVore.

“Arnold was joking,” said Daphne.

“Heh heh,” said Mr. DeVore.

“Heh,” said Mrs. DeVore.

“I have to change now. Excuse me,” I said.

“Where are you all going?” said Mrs. DeVore as I turned away, and I heard Daphne say

“Nowhere” as I opened the screen door and almost toppled over my cousin Kevin who had been standing inside the doorway unbeknownst to me.

“Who are those people, Cousin Arnold?”

“My friends,” I said.

“Lady!” he suddenly yelled, catching sight of Daphne.

“Hello, cutie!” she yelled back, and the little scamp shoved past me as if the house was on fire.

But now I faced a phalanx of wide-eyed familial old-womanhood right inside the doorway, my mother, my Aunt Elizabetta, Aunt Greta and good old Aunt Edith.

“It’s that girl,” said Edith. “His new girlfriend.

“Arnold,” said my mother, “did you eat?”

“Who are all those people?” asked Elizabetta.

“Which one’s his girlfriend?” asked Greta.

“She’s not my girlfriend, I had something to eat, thank you, Mom, those are my friends, and they’re just going to wait while I change,” I said, and I went around their flank, through the living room room and dining room and kitchen, down the hall and up the stairs, taking two or three steps at a stride, sore leg or not.

On the third floor I slowed down, and walked carefully, quietly, as if through a mine field, holding my breath, past the always treacherous doorway to Miss Evans’s room.
I got past it safely and made it to the bathroom. I bolted the door behind me, then tested it, just to make sure. Then I went to the toilet, unzipped, freed my organ of micturition and of at least potential procreation, and allowed my bladder to empty itself of urine.
And as it all streamed so gloriously out of me, I thought of that fateful rainy afternoon so long ago. Had I been in some measure responsible for Jimmy’s unfortunate demise? Had I — with that lowest and even unconscious degree of will which can nevertheless produce terrible and even fatal actions — stuck out my foot and tripped Jimmy, causing his great drunken bulk to hurtle forward and off through the screening of that second-floor veranda? Who knows? I had to admit that the world was undoubtedly better off without his presence, but still, it was not my prerogative to hasten his departure. I would have to remember to confess these thoughts to Father Reilly next Saturday. I wasn’t sure however if it would be a good thing to mention to him that this incident occurred thirty years ago.

Of course most likely it had all been a waking dream. But are we responsible for sins committed in our dreams? I would perhaps bring this up with Father Reilly as well, unless I sensed that I had already tried his patience enough for one day.

I zipped up, washed my hands, looked into the mirror. I can’t even say how gratifying it was to see myself, not in tropical linen, but in my slightly iridescent Krass Brothers suit which looked sometimes the color of wet cigarette ash, occasionally almost black like the asphalt of a city street at night, and other times, like now, the color of a storm cloud about to burst.

I decided to go whole hog, and brushed my teeth.

Feeling pretty good about myself I put my ear to the door, just to make sure that Miss Evans wasn’t coming or going (I felt I could recognize her step by now, as quiet and ghost-like as it often seemed to be), then opened the door and went out to the hall.

Luckily for me it seemed to be exactly the same hallway I had left a few minutes before, and I went on up to my attic room.

Once again my mother had worked her magic. My narrow bed was made, the room was swept and dusted. A clean white polo shirt and a fresh pair of madras Bermuda shorts lay folded on top of my dresser, and I changed into them. I exchanged my Thom McAn brogues for my Keds, worn raffishly with no socks, and I ran a comb through my hair, bending down into the small round mirror on its swivel.

I opened the night table drawer which held my cigarettes, my trusty Pall Malls. I picked up the open pack in there, and my old Zippo lighter. Then I thought, no, and I put them back and closed the drawer. You see, I wanted to live.

I hurried downstairs, come hell or high water and everything between.

I felt that the world — this world, or any other world I might wander into — I felt that all this world was my oyster, or as much mine as anyone’s.


(Click here for our next exciting installment. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find a listing of links to dozens of other chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, all rights reserved by the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia, PA.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain", Episode Ninety-Five: Captain Pym (USN) investigates...

Larry Winchester, that past master of the interweaving (dare we say mind-boggling) plotline, now leaves our Dick, Daphne and Harvey to their own devices for a spell while he turns the harsh truth of his camera’s eye on a character we haven’t seen in some little time...

(This episode rated EP for Excessively Pulpy.)


The flashlight’s beam illuminated the dead body of a blond young woman in a chiffon dress and angora cardigan lying face-down on a dark-red saucer-shaped stain in the scrubby earth. She looked like a department store mannequin fallen from the back of a truck. A well-polished black shoe turned her over. The woman had been shot twice in the chest, and in her small right hand was a large semi-automatic pistol.

The light quickly traveled a few feet away from the dead woman and came to rest on the corpse of a blond young man in a plaid sportjacket and rep tie. He too had been shot twice in the chest, and gripped tightly in his right hand was a pistol identical to the one in the dead woman’s hand.

A kid-gloved hand reached down and began to pull the pistol out of the dead man’s hand, which seemed not to want to let go. Captain Alexis Pym (USN) gave the barrel a sharp twist, the pistol came free, and the dead man’s arm fell back to the earth.
Captain Pym examined the pistol with his flashlight. He was dressed for the cool desert night in a tan naval officer's topcoat and a peaked khaki cap.

Behind him, at the wheel of an open air force jeep, Lt. Perkins sat looking nervous and frightened in a new nylon flight jacket and a stiff combination cap.

Several feet to the right of Pym stood Colonel Masterson, wearing his worn old leather flight jacket and his dashingly broken-in “50-mission” cap.

An open 1968 Range Rover sat nearby on this desolate hilltop pocked with a smattering of forlorn dark cacti, some ocotillo and rabbit brush.

The brisk night air smelled of old pennies and blood.

“Captain Pym,” said Colonel Masterson, “don’t you think we ought to leave all this for the police to examine?”

“No,” said Pym, not looking at the man, “I don’t think so. These two people are naval officers.”

“Christ,” said Masterson. “You -- knew them?”

“Yes,” said Pym. Awkwardly holding his light and the pistol in one hand, he popped out the magazine. “They were in my section.”

“What --” said Masterson, “were they -- undercover?”

Pym didn’t answer the question. He shone his light briefly on the magazine, then carelessly dropped the clip, letting it fall onto the dead man’s chest. Putting the flashlight under his arm, he pulled back the pistol’s slide and popped out the chambered bullet. He put the barrel of the pistol to his nose, and then tossed the pistol to the ground.

“What about those other two?” said Masterson.

He referred to two dark forms lying in the dirt about thirty feet downhill toward the road.

“Oh,” said Pym. "Those.”

Taking his flashlight from under his arm he panned its beam down the slope to illuminate the remains of two young men in blood-blotched windbreakers and well-pressed chinos. These dead men also held semi-automatic pistols in their right hands.

“Well,” said Masterson, “do ya know who they are?”

Pym flicked off his flashlight and put it in his coat pocket. He took out a pipe and tobacco pouch and began to fill the pipe’s bowl.

“Well?” said Masterson. He normally talked in an willfully gravelly and deep baritone, but now his voice cracked.

Pym put his pouch away and took out a silver-plated butane lighter.

“Company men,” he said, putting the flame to the tobacco. “CIA.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Masterson. “So what is this? Navy spooks and CIA guys shooting it out in the fucking desert?”

Pym drew on his pipe with delicate little puffs.

“So it would seem,” he said.

“Well,” said Masterson, “we gotta get back to the base and report this.”

Pym looked at Masterson for the first time since this conversation had begun.

“It already is reported,” Pym said. “To me. I am in charge of this investigation.”

“Says who?” said Masterson.

Having made sure his pipe was well-lit, a comforting pulsing bead of crimson on this chilly dark hilltop, Pym clicked his lighter shut and put it back into his pocket.

“Radio back to the base,” he said. “Ask to be patched through to Admiral Hackington at the Pentagon. He will confirm my authority in this case. And let me add this.” Pym deigned to glance momentarily even at the ghost-faced Lt. Perkins. “If either of you breathe one word about this incident to anyone at all you will both be flying day-and-night sorties over North Vietnam before you can say Jack Robinson.”

Masterson took a step toward Pym.

“I’ve flown day-and-night sorties over North Vietnam, pal. I’ve flown two-hundred-and-eighty-three sorties over Vietnam and I never got a scratch.”

“You were lucky, Colonel,” said Pym. “Perhaps you won’t be so lucky next time.”

Masterson glared at Pym.

“Hey, C-colonel,” spoke up Perkins, “l-let him carry out his d-dumb investigation. Y-you, you, you don’t want to get mixed up in this sh-shit. Sir.”

“You mean, said Masterson, addressing Perkins but continuing to glare at Pym, “you don’t want to get mixed up in it.”

“W-well, you’re right, sir. I. I. I don’t. Don’t. Sir.”

“Not too keen to fly those day-and-night sorties, either, are ya?” said Masterson.

“No,” said Perkins, very quickly. And then, after a pause, “No. Sir.”

Masterson continued to glare at Pym, who gazed back at him as if he were looking not into a man’s eyes, but off into empty space.

“Okay,” said Masterson, finally. “You can have your filthy investigation, Captain Pym. But not because I’m afraid of your, your pissant threats. No, but because I really don’t want to, to sully my hands with this, this --”

“Thank you, Colonel,” said Pym.

“All right then,” said Masterson.

In the unpleasant silence that ensued, unpleasant for Masterson and Perkins anyway, Pym stood there quite still, smoking, staring at Masterson, but somehow not acknowledging his presence.

“Um, I know I’m just the amateur here,” said Masterson, “but aren’t you supposed to, you know, look around? For shell casings, spent slugs? Evidence?”

“What ever for?”

“You mean -- ‘cause it’s so obvious these people killed each other?’

“Oh no,” said Pym. “Of course that’s what we’re supposed to think.”

“Oh,” said Masterson.

Pym took out the flashlight, clicked it on, sent its beam down the hill to the road below, where a 1956 Buick Riviera was parked next to two Honda dirt bikes.

“The Buick belonged to, or was rented by, the man and woman here. The motorcycles go with the two dead CIA fellows.”

“Okay,” said Masterson, his brow furrowed in at least feigned concentration, “I’m with you so far.”

“That leaves us with this Range Rover.”

Pym flashed his light on it, then clicked the light off.

“Who’s that belong to?” asked Masterson.

“It belongs to Hertz, but it was rented by someone called Feldschmitt -- real name: Hans Grupler.”

“Uh-huh. So he did the killings?"
“Probably,” said Pym. “He happens to be a rather notorious international assassin, him and his slut girlfriend, a woman called Marlene.”

“And -- and -- these two are out here somewhere?”

“Relax, Colonel. If Grupler is out here and he wanted us dead I assure you we would be dead already.”
Pym turned and started walking towards the side of the hill away from the road.

“C-c-colonel,” said Perkins, “m-m-maybe we, we, we should --”

“Shut up, Perkins,” said Masterson.

“Y-yes, sir.”

Pym stopped and looked down the opposite slope. Below in the starlight lay a scattering of darkened Quonset huts, trailers, old cars and pick-up trucks.

Masterson, walking as if he were crossing a pool of deep mud, came over and joined Captain Pym.

“What’s that down there?” asked Pym.

“Indian reservation,” said Masterson.

Pym flicked on his flashlight again and ran it along the ground, picking up two sets of footprints leading down the hill.

Without a word Pym started down the slope, following the footprints.

Masterson went back to the jeep.

“F-fuck this Sherlock Holmes, shit, sir,” said Perkins. “It’s not our, not our, not our --”

Masterson climbed into the front passenger seat.

“Follow him down, Perkins.”
Masterson unsnapped his belt holster, took out his .45 and racked the slide.

“But, but, but --” said Perkins.

Masterson re-holstered his pistol.

“Shut up and drive, Perkins.”

Perkins started the jeep, put it in gear, and headed slowly in the direction of the slope down which Pym had disappeared.

On the opposite side of the hill a coyote who had been lying very still behind an ocotillo now sprang up and trotted silently over to the body of Mr. Philips, formerly of the Central Intelligence Agency.


(Go here for our next blood-curdling chapter. In the meantime check out the right hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of every other extant episode of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, winner of the Wasilla Public Library Award for Unobjectionable Christian Literature.)

Bobby Hatfield, very righteously (hat tip to Dino):

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 100: “Sometimes good guys don’t wear white…”

Is it already the one-hundredth chapter of our serialization of these memoirs of the man Harold Bloom has called “perhaps the greatest writer these United States have produced, and, quite frankly, I don’t see any better ones looming on the horizon”? It seems like only yesterday when we posted our first chapter, and, of course, it was in fact only six or eight weeks ago in Arnold Schnabel’s slowed-down universe.

Let us rejoin Arnold on the second-floor screened porch of the Biddle residence, in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May, NJ, on a late August afternoon in that unjustly forgotten year of 1963…

(Go here for our previous installment, or here for our very first chapter -- now enshrined on a great marble plaque at the Smithsonian Institute.)


“Do you want to go out with us, Arnold?” said Daphne.

“Go out?” I said. Again threatening neither Oscar Wilde nor Levant in the rapier wit department.

“Yeah, to get a beer or something.”

“Well —”

“Go ahead, Arnold,” said Mrs. Biddle, lighting a cigarette with a paper match, “keep an eye on her. Try to keep her out of jail if you can."

“Um, uh,” I replied.

“Go on, Arnold,” said April. “Live a little.”

“What do you say, Arnold?” said Daphne.

“Well, I — uh —”

Daphne had changed her clothes also. She wore a yellow dress, with straps, and flashes of orange light danced along the fabric each time she moved. She too wore lipstick, of a brownish red, and also eye make-up, although not as much as Sister Mary Elizabeth did.

“Do you have plans?” Daphne asked me.

Suddenly I recalled that — a circumstance which would have been incredible a couple of weeks — I actually did have plans.

“Well, yes,” I said.

“A date with Elektra?”

At last someone who got her name right.

“Yes,” I said.

“When?”

“Eight o’clock.”

“Good, we have plenty of time for drinks, and then you can go to Elektra. Or even have her join us if you like. You should see her, Mary Elizabeth. Stunning.”

“Really?”

“Simply stunning.”

“You’re not turning lesbian on me, are you?” said her mother.

“What if I am?”

Sister Mary Elizabeth put her hand over her mouth.

“All right, enough of this madness,” said Mrs. Biddle. “Help me up, Arnold.”

I took her proffered arm and did what I could. In her free hand she had taken up a pack of Lucky Strikes from the table, and a paper book of matches.

“Hand me that walking stick.”

Her cane was leaning against the wall near the end of the sofa. I handed it to her.

“How’s the bum leg?” April asked her.

“I’ll never dance the Watusi again,” said Mrs. Biddle.

“My mother broke her leg dancing the Watusi,” said April to me.

“I can think of no better way to have broken my leg,” said Mrs. Biddle.

Somehow our small army made it down to that living room, no longer in black-and-white, but now looking somewhat like a living room from a 1950s movie, but a movie taking place in the 1930s, if that isn’t too complicated, and somehow I think it is.
Tommy suddenly loomed up from somewhere as we were all milling about in this Technicolor world suffused with all the colors of the rainbow and some others I had never noticed before.

“Going out for drinks?” he said, to me in particular. “I’m frantically jealous.”

“Come with us,” said Daphne.

“Go out? With the young people?”

“Why not?”

“Oh I don’t know.”

This went on for a while, and a lot more seemed to go on while I stood there and smiled like an idiot whenever some sort of reaction seemed to be called for regarding what seemed like the twenty-seven conversational paths which were being trampled on more or less simultaneously but which were probably only ten or twelve in number; and all I know is that finally the four of us, Daphne, Sister Mary Elizabeth, myself, and yes, Tommy, were walking (well, I was limping, my leg was still hurting) along North Street together, the two girls in front, Tommy and I walking side by side.

“Drinks with the young people!” said Tommy again, as he had several times before.

“Oh wait!” said Sister Mary Elizabeth, and she stopped, turning sideways to Daphne and putting her hand on her arm.

I noticed they were both carrying purses. Daphne’s was red plastic, Sister Mary
Elizabeth’s was black leather, although I suppose they both belonged to Daphne.

“I don’t have any money,” said Sister Mary Elizabeth. She removed her hand from Daphne’s arm and put it on the purse she held in her other hand. She stared at the purse and then back at Daphne.

“Oh,” said Daphne. “Not a cent?”

“Not a red cent. I’ve taken a vow of poverty.”

“Right. Come to think of it I only have a few dollars.”

Both the women looked at us. Their dresses, a glowing blue on Sister Mary Elizabeth, a flashing yellow on Daphne, and their skin – Daphne's tanned like polished oak, the sister's white like a statue in church – pulsed in the bright failing light falling through the trees.

“I suppose I’ve got twenty or so on me,” said Tommy.

“That’ll get us started,” said Daphne. She turned to Sister Mary Elizabeth. “But what you need to understand, Mary Elizabeth, is we’re women. We don’t really buy drinks.”

“We don’t?”

“I certainly don’t.”

“That seems hardly fair.”

“Life is completely unfair,” said Daphne and she turned and started walking again.
The extremely attentive reader will be aware that I had still not managed to go to the bathroom since leaving my aunts’ house about a century ago. As we approached my aunts’ house I said, “Excuse me, can I just stop here briefly?”
Daphne turned.

“Why?”

“I want to change.”

Of course I couldn’t say I had to use the bathroom. Not in front of a nun. Even if she were dressed in civilian clothes, and wearing make-up.

“Changing out of your conservative dark grey suit?” said Daphne.

“Yes,” I said.

“Good,” she said. “We’re not going to a funeral, you know.”


(Go here for our next thrilling chapter. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for a complete and up-to-date listing of links to every other possible episode of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, approved for the second year running by the Wasilla Alaska Commissariat of Acceptable Literature.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Ninety-Four: Mr. MacNamara to the rescue...

Previously in this sprawling masterwork, Daphne, Dick and Harvey, attempting to escape from an enormous invisible space station, are surprised by the sudden appearance of Daphne’s father, the mysterious “Mac” MacNamara --

He was a big tall powerful-looking man of about fifty, in a trenchcoat and fedora. With one hand he lit a cigarette with a scuffed old Ronson lighter, and in his other hand he held a beat-up leather briefcase. To Harvey he looked like a combination of Robert Mitchum and William Holden. And Humphrey Bogart.

“Papa,” said Daphne.

“Hiya, Bubbles,” said Mr. MacNamara, dropping his lighter into his coat pocket. “Come give Papa Bear a hug.”

Holding her pistol outward, Daphne walked slowly, wobbling slightly on her high heels, towards Mr. MacNamara.

Papa,” she said. “I thought your aeroplane went down. Over the Pacific.”

“Indian Ocean, actually. But that was just a cover story, sweetheart. I had some business to attend to back in the old world. I didn’t know how long it would take, so, it seemed best to -- well -- leave the stage for a time.”

Daphne rushed the last few steps to Mr. MacNamara and threw her arms around him. Leaning to one side, he put his briefcase on the floor, and then he wrapped his arms around Daphne and kissed the top of her head.

Harvey lowered his gun.

“This is fucked up,” he said to Dick.

Dick had let go of Frank’s tie, and now he stepped back away from him, but still keeping his pistol waist-high and pointed at Frank.

Frank straightened his toupée, and then his tie.

Brad stood off to the side, puffing on his cigar.

Harvey shoved his revolver into his waist band, took out his Tareytons and his Zippo, and, looking away while Daphne and Mr. MacNamara continued to hug, he lit up.

“Really fucking weird,” he said.

“I grant you that,” said Dick.

He squeezed Harvey’s upper arm, affectionately.

“Keep these jokers covered, will you, Harve? I’m going to have a word with my, uh, father-in-law.”

Harvey nodded, took out his pistol and waved it at Brad.

“Get on next to your buddy, there, Brad.”

“Easy, kid,” said Brad. “Just take it easy.”

Brad moved over next to Frank, who was now mopping the cut on his cheekbone with his monogrammed silk display handkerchief.

“You and your big mouth,” muttered Frank.

“My big mouth --” said Brad, “what about --”

Harvey cocked his revolver.

“No rappin’,” he said.

Frank and Brad shut up.

Dick had come up next to Daphne and Mr. MacNamara, who were still embracing. Daphne was crying, quietly. Dick gently patted her on the hip, and she turned her face and looked at him.

She stepped away from her father. He handed her his handkerchief, and with her free left hand, the one not holding the gun, she patted her eyes and cheeks.

“Hi, Mac,” said Dick.

“Hi, Dick.”

Dick switched his Browning from his right hand to his left, and the two men shook hands.

“So,” said Mac, “it seems like you kids have got yourselves in a bit of a pickle.”

“That’s an understatement,” said Dick.

“Well, that’s why I’m here, Dick. When I found out what was going on I got here as soon as I could.”

“Thanks,” said Dick.

Mac picked up his briefcase.

Daphne handed his sodden handkerchief back to him.

“Papa, I’m just so glad you’re not dead.”

“My pleasure, Bubbles.” He stuffed the handkerchief into a side pocket of his trench coat. “Well, we better get a move on.”

He started walking down the hall, toward Harvey and Frank and Brad; Dick and Daphne walked along with him, with Mr. MacNamara in the middle.

“I brought a replacement saucer, by the way,” he said.

Daphne put her arm in her father’s.

“Fabulous! I always said you were the best father in the whole wide world.”

“I have my moments,” said Mac. He turned to Dick and whispered, “By the way, Dick, you weren’t really going to shoot old Frank just then, were you?”

“No,” said Dick, in a low voice. “I did want to scare the bastard though.”

“Well, I think you succeeded in that,” said Mac.

In fact, the dull and worn blue carpet under and around Frank’s feet to a radius of eighteen inches was stained a wet and darker blue with Frank’s own urine.


(Go here for our next hardboiled chapter. To be continued seemingly indefinitely. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find a complete listing of links to all other extant episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, third-place prize-winner of the Jackie Collins Award for Epic or Picaresque Romance.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 99: April...

In our previous chapter of this third-place prize-winner of the Lehman Brothers Award for Confessional Literature, Arnold Schnabel*, having traveled back in time to 1933 and across the world to a plantation somewhere in the Philippines, now finds himself safely back in 1963, on the second floor porch of a charming and massive Victorian house in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May, NJ, sharing tea with his new friend Mrs. Biddle...

* “...not only one of the greatest writers of his century, but also, by all accounts, a really nice guy.” -- Harold Bloom.

She sighed, looking away toward that setting sun spilling streaks of liquid red and orange and yellow across the sky, its watery light filtered by the porch screening turning the skin of her face into the color and seeming texture of a ripened peach.

For some reason — perhaps for many reasons, or perhaps for the single reason that I am not quite right in the head — I touched her face, if only briefly, running my finger down her cheek.

Needless to say she turned and looked at me, her eyebrows raised quizzically. But far from getting angry and slapping me, she said only:

“Have another cookie.”

I took one. They were the same butter cookies she had given me back in 1933.

“I love to see a man eat,” she said.

I chewed and swallowed.

I became aware that this was the same porch I had been sitting on last night, but a different part of the porch, and that the room I had just walked through, Mrs. Biddle’s room, was the one in which I had only barely escaped the advances of Miss Evans.  All of that seemed so long ago, certainly much further distant in time than my more recent visit here, in 1933.

“Did you ever re-marry?” I asked.

“No. Once bitten,” she said. “Why have you never married?”

I’ve been asked this question so many times in my life, and I’ve always responded with something stupid, or inadequate, or both.

This time I told the truth:

“I don’t know, really.”

“You remind me of him,” said Mrs. Biddle.

She didn’t say his name, but I knew who she meant: my double.

“He was a regional manager for the railroad,” she said. “One day they found him naked, walking along the rails, headed into the mountains.”

This sounded like something I would do.

“They hospitalized him in Manila for a month. He was convalescing with some neighbors of mine when I met him one day. He —”

Mrs. Biddle looked up, over my shoulder. I turned. A woman of about my age had come out onto the porch.

“Hello, mother,” this lady said. “Introduce me to your friend.”

I stood, swallowing the last of my cookie and wiping my hands on my trousers.

“This is Mr. Schnabel, April,” said Mrs. Biddle. “Arnold, this is my daughter, April.”

April held out her hand and I took it.

She wore pleated tan slacks, sandals, a white blouse like a man’s sport shirt, tucked in under a wide black belt. She had dark blond hair brushed back from her forehead and fastened somehow behind her ears.

She wore a single strand of white pearls, and a diamond glittered on each of her ears.

“My daughter has told me all about you, Mr. Schnabel,” she said, holding onto my hand.

“I hope you don’t intend to relieve her of her virtue.”

“Absolutely not,” I said.

She still held onto my hand.

“You seem oddly familiar,” she said.

I could have set these ladies’ minds at rest, and told them it had been me with Mrs.
Biddle that rainy day thirty years before, that it had been I who had broken the sad news to young April on the telephone. But, not particularly wanting to be hustled onto the next ambulance back to Byberry, I said nothing.

April relinquished my hand.

“So you’re writing a screenplay with Larry?” she asked.

I had almost forgotten about that.

“Yes,” I said.

“I love Larry’s movies. They’re so lurid. I hope there’s a murder.”

“Oh, yes,” I said.

“Good.”

She was a beautiful woman, taller than Mrs. Biddle although not so tall as Daphne. When I had spoken to her on the phone I had had a mental image of a childish version of Daphne, with blond ringlets, and now the womanly April stood before me, an older version of Daphne, a younger version of her mother.

“You don’t say much, do you?” she said.

“I think it’s best I don’t,” I said.

“Are you staying long, April?” asked her mother.

“No. I have a flight for Africa the day after tomorrow.”

“Always traveling,” said Mrs. Biddle.

“Never a dull moment,” said April, reaching past me to take one of those butter cookies.

She smelled like fresh butter.

“You and Mac,” said her mother.

“Busy as bees,” said April. She bit into the cookie.

“April’s a journalist, Arnold,” said Mrs. Biddle.

“Oh,” I said, as usual not challenging Oscar Wilde as one of history’s great wits.

“He’s not impressed,” said April, chewing her cookie. “Sit down, Arnold, please.”

I resumed my seat.

“Just wanted to say hi,” said April. She put the remainder of the cookie back onto the plate. “I’ll leave you two. Oh.”

Daphne had just come out onto the porch, with a red-headed girl in a light-blue dress covered with little metallic black cross-hatchings.

“Hi, mother,” said Daphne to April. She kissed her mother’s cheek. “This is my friend Mary Elizabeth.”

“Hello, Mary Elizabeth.”

“Very pleased to meet you,” said the girl, young woman rather.

“And that’s my grandmother there,” said Daphne. “Everyone calls her Mrs. Biddle.”

“Hello, Mrs. Biddle,” said Daphne’s friend.

“Hello, dear,” said Mrs. Biddle.

Being an inveterate gentleman, I had risen from my seat again, and there I stood.

“Arnold, how do you like Mary Elizabeth’s make-over?”

I had no idea what she was talking about; so of course I do what I usually do when this sort of thing happens, I faked it.

“Excellent,” I said.

“I dyed her hair 'fiery auburn’. It’s the new her.”

“Do I look stupid?” asked the girl, addressing me, and it wasn’t till then that I realized that this was Sister Mary Elizabeth.

“No,” I said.

In my defense I’ll say that she was also wearing red lipstick, and eye make-up.

“A man of few words,” said April.

“Few spoken words,” said Mrs. Biddle.

True to my description, I said nothing, instead of what was on my mind, namely that I felt as if I were floating in this shimmering filtered red and gold light in a great pool of time, the past and the present flowing through me like light through a stained glass window, into a future which would soon enough be the past, if it wasn’t already.

Somewhere a blackbird cackled, and the trees in the yard shook their leaves in a gust of wind from the ocean.

I became aware that a few seconds had gone by. As so often in my life, by keeping quiet I had disquieted my fellow human beings. I scrambled through my brain, if not for a witticism, at least for an acceptable banality.

I came up with nothing.

“Q.E.D.,” said April.


(Go here for our next thrilling chapter. To be continued till the end of days. In the meanwhile, feel free to consult the right hand side of this page for a complete listing of all other available episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be a major motion picture starring Jeremy Irons, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Kate Beckinsale, and Dame Judi Dench; a Larry Winchester Production.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Ninety-Three: introducing a very special guest star...

In our previous episode of this sprawling masterwork: Dick, Daphne and Harvey, intent on escaping from an enormous space station in an alternate dimension, have kidnapped Frank and Brad and forced them to take them in an elevator down to where the flying saucer is docked, despite the fact that Frank has told them that the saucer is out of commission on account of Daphne peed in its engine. Ladies and gentlemen, this is real literature:


The elevator doors hissed shut behind them, and they now stood in what looked like a hotel corridor identical to the one they had tumbled into just a few hours before (although it seemed like weeks ago): pale blue walls and ceiling, worn carpeting of a darker, dirtier blue.

“Let’s go, Frank,” said Dick. “You and Brad, lead the way.”

“This is so stupid,” said Frank, but he started walking, down to the right, and Brad walked along beside him, on Frank’s left.

Dick and Harvey stayed back a couple of paces. They held their pistols at waist level, Dick behind Frank, and Harvey behind Brad. Daphne walked along on the other side of Harvey, swinging her little .38 by her side.

“So stupid,” said Frank. “We’re gonna get to the saucer, you’re gonna see it won’t fly --”

“Let us worry about that, Frank,” said Dick.

“But y’know what gets me,” said Frank -- he was gesturing, talking to the empty corridor before him as if delivering a monologue, “what gets me is this is the thanks we get, for, for guiding you earthlings -- for helping you, through all your trials and hardships and vicissi-, vicissi-, what’s the fucking word?”

“Vicissitudes,” said Dick. “And come off it. You already said you did all that just to keep your operation running smooth.”

“Well, maybe so,” said Frank, “but still and all, irregardless and nonetheless --”

Brad’s cigar had gone out, and now he was re-lighting it with a stainless-steel butane lighter as he walked.

“Don’t believe all the shit this bird tells ya, Mr. Ridpath. Hey, what about Hitler, Frank?”

“Hitler? I don’t know what you're --”

“Tell him about Adolph Hitler. Tell him about Uncle Joe Stalin. Tell him about Mao Tse Tung and Genghis Khan. Vlad the Impaler. Torquemada.”

“I do not know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

“Attila the fuckin’ Hun.”

“You want to keep your job you just shut the fuck up, Brad.”

“You already fired me, Francis.”

Frank stepped in front of Brad, faced him and poked him in the chest.

“So I hire you back,” he said. “Now shut the fuck up before I fire you again.”

“You poke me again I’m gonna break your fuckin’ finger.”

“Okay,” said Frank. He put down his hand. “No need to --”

“Tell them about Charlie Manson,” said Brad.

“Who?” asked Dick.

“Nobody,” said Frank. “Nothing. This guy’s full of --”

Dick grabbed Frank by the lapel, shoved him back against the wall, and pressed the muzzle of his Browning against Frank’s heart.

“Tell me about it, Frank,” said Dick.

Frank’s cigarette was in his mouth.

“Hey, nothin’ to tell, Dick, honest --” The cigarette fell from his lips. “Shit, I dropped my cigarette, gonna fuck up the carpet.”

“Don’t worry about the carpet, Frank,” said Dick.

“Sure, Dick. Hell, we need to replace this shit anyway.” He ground the cigarette into the carpet with his shiny and pointy black shoe. “I’m thinkin’ of layin’ a nice shag down, y’know, with these new micro-fibers they’re comin’ out with --”

“Tell him,” said Brad. “Tell him how you stuck a little voice in Hitler’s head, telling him how it was up to him to create a thousand-year Reich and bump off every Jew in the world.”

“Hey, I got lots of Jewish friends. Look at Sammy --”

“Tell him,” said Brad, “how whenever things got a little dull on earth we cooked up something just to make things a little more interesting.”

“These allegations are simply fantastic. I think you been chewing Jimson weed, my friend.”

“Tell him about the Black damn Plague, Frank.”

“The Black Plague? That was an accident,” said Frank. “We never meant for it to, to --”

“Tell him how we’ve convinced that motorcycle guy, Moloch, that he has to go on a rampage, killing and raping and destroying everything in his path, starting a world-wide epidemic of madness and murder.”

“Like this is something new?” said Frank.

Dick shoved the Browning against Frank’s throat and cocked the hammer.

“Hey, Dick,” said Frank, breaking out in a profuse sweat. “Be careful there.”

“So all that stuff,” said Dick, “about Moses and Confucius and Gandhi -- that was all bullshit.”

“It was not,” said Frank. “I swear. On my mother. On all five of my mothers. Brad, help me out --”

“Well, yeah,” said Brad, “it’s true, those guys were part of our operation too.”

Dick lowered the hammer of the Browning with his thumb, but he kept the muzzle of the pistol against Frank’s throat.

“Yin and yang, huh, Frank?”

Frank sighed, and shrugged stiffly.

“Sure, Dick. You understand. Good and evil. We need them both for good entertainment. Conflict. This is the source of all drama --”

“’As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.’”

Frank very gently pushed away the barrel of Browning with his fingers.

“Now that’s where you got us wrong, Dick. We have never personally killed nobody. We have never had to. It was you guys who did the killing. Guys like you, Dick. And Harvey there. You guys did the dirty work. All we did was -- you know -- try to make it interesting.”

“Interesting,” said Dick

“Hey, all we can do is give people ideas. We do not twist nobody’s arm. It is business, Dick. Strictly business. Okay, I will be the first to admit that sometimes things got a little out of hand. Like World War II for instance. How did we know Hitler would be so successful? I mean, true, we were looking for a ratings boost, we wanted a war, but we had no idea -- I mean, all we do is suggest -- and you humans take it from there. And let me tell ya somethin’, sometimes we don’t even got to suggest. Like with the A-bomb. Believe it or not, this was not our idea. I mean, if there’s anything gonna blow our operation down there, it’s them damn A-bombs, H-bombs, whatever. But you humans, you don’t give a shit, you like the the carnage. Even you, Dick, tell me you don’t enjoy it, tell me you didn’t get a kick that first guy you ever killed, back in Korea, poor little Chinese kid, drafted into the Red Army, poor little peasant boy with a mother who loved him, and you sneaked up behind him and cut his throat like a goddam animal, the hot blood blurting out all over your hand, and you fucking enjoyed it --”

Dick slammed the barrel of the Browning across Frank’s cheek and Frank slid down the wall, blood streaming down his face. Dick grabbed the knot of his tie, yanked him up, held the pistol to his forehead and re-cocked the hammer.

“Wai-wai-wait -- wait --” gibbered Frank.

“Sir,” said Harvey.

There was a pause.

Everyone held still. Brad stood with his cigar halfway to his mouth. Daphne held her left hand over her mouth. Harvey stood with his left hand raised, as if to grab the pistol away from Dick.

Frank stared at Dick with his eyes bulging, his toupée slipping, his face red and streaming with sweat.

“Sir,” said Harvey. “Dick.”

“Yeah,” said Dick, staring into Frank’s terrified eyes.

“Dick,” said Harvey, “you shoot him you’re gonna be provin’ him right.”

“That is right, Harvey,” babbled Frank. “You are so right. I mean, surely, Dick -- uh, how shall I put this, a wonderful, talented guy like yourself, a gentleman, a prince --”

“Besides,” said Harvey, “we may need him to get back to the Earth.”

“That is so true,” said Frank. “So true, Harvey. And believe me, I will do everything in my power, everything, to, to --”

“Shut up, Frank,” said Dick. “Just shut up for a while. Do you think you can handle that?”

Frank shut up.

Dick lowered the pistol and uncocked the hammer.

“First time I’ve seen that guy clam up in about nine hundred years.”

Everyone turned to see who had said this.

It was Daphne’s father, “Mac” MacNamara.


(Go here for our next mind-boggling chapter. To be continued for a really long time. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to many other fine episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, third-place prize winner of the Kresge’s 5 & 10 Award.)

And now a word from Miss Barbara Lewis:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, part 98: guilt

Previously in our exclusive serialization of the memoir critic Harold Bloom has called “perhaps the greatest work of confessional literature since Augustine, certainly since David Niven”, our hero Arnold Schnabel continued to find himself marooned in the year 1933, on a plantation in the Philippines, in a rainy world of blacks, whites and greys…

What if I had to stay in this world, for the rest of my life?

I supposed there could be worse fates. Apparently I belonged at least somewhat in this present universe. After all, young Mrs. Biddle and Tommy seemed to know me and accept me. Perhaps this indeed was my real world, and I merely suffered from a delusion that I lived in 1963. But, if that were the case, then I was apparently suffering from a severe case of amnesia regarding this present world of circa 1933, which as far as my memory served, had only begun for me perhaps an hour before.

On second thought, perhaps my real life was in that world of the 1890s that I had visited yesterday with Dick, and both this 1930s universe and my previous 1960s world were merely bizarrely realistic psychotic fugues. Psychiatrists and literary historians of whichever future this document finds itself, I forward this question over to you.

Oh well, as Tommy had said regarding leaving Jimmy in the mud and the rain, whatever my situation was, it couldn’t be helped.

Or could it?

I went over to where Tommy sat. He was now reading the book whose pages he had been cutting. I saw that the title was The King in Yellow.

“Excuse me, Tommy?”

He looked up, smiling.

“Yes, Mr. Schnabel?”

Mrs. Biddle was still talking with her daughter on the phone.

“I have to use the bathroom,” I said, in a low voice.

“Oh, go right up,” he said. “There’s one in the back of the house but the one on the second floor is much nicer. Do you know where it is?”

“I think so,” I said.

So far this house had seemed almost identical to Mrs. Biddle’s house in 1963.

He smiled again and went back to his book. I started to head for the hall but suddenly Mrs. Biddle called.

“Arnold, where are you going?”

I hesitated, and fortunately Tommy came to my rescue. He cleared his throat and pointed to the ceiling, in the direction presumably of the bathroom.

“Oh, go right ahead, Arnold, darling.”

Waving her hand at me, she went back at once to her telephone conversation.

I went out of the room and down the hall, then up those all-too-familiar stairs.

I stopped at the landing. Now that I really looked at the paintings I saw that only one of them was from 1963, the one with the French vacationers by the seaside. The other two paintings seemed to be different. Unfortunately neither one seemed to depict a house in Cape May, circa 1963.

I put out my hand to the French painting again, and, after pausing only a second I thrust it into the painting, into that fresh crisp seaside air.

After a moment or two I pulled my hand back out. Sure, I could climb on through, and perhaps I would meet that nice Monsieur Proust again, but the last thing I needed or wanted now was to go even further back in time.

I went on up to the second floor, but instead of going to the bathroom (even though I did in fact have to go), I went back to Mrs. Biddle’s door. I had closed it behind us when we left her room earlier.

I had an idea, and I had nothing to lose from trying it, even though by doing so I would be committing the rudeness of entering a woman’s bedroom on my own and uninvited.

I took the traditional deep breath and put my hand on the doorknob.

I closed my eyes and took another breath.

Then I said to myself, or to whomever, Dear Jesus, please let me come home; I promise to be a good man if you do.

“And if I don’t, then what? You’re going to be a bad man?”

I opened my eyes, and there he was, standing to my right, smoking one of his Pall Malls as usual.

He now wore a rumpled, stained, apparently once-white tropical suit (of the same sort I wore, and as did Tommy, and as had the late Jimmy). He wore a formerly-white, sweat-stained fedora, and a grey-and-black striped tie, loose at the unbuttoned collar. He had a two-or-three day’s growth of beard, and his hair, although not its traditional shoulder-length, was at least a month overdue for a cut. Nevertheless he looked somehow dashing, like a professional gambler, or gun-smuggler.

“Are you surprised to see me?” he asked.

“To be honest, no,” I thought but did not say. I didn’t want to talk aloud, for fear of possibly alarming Tommy or Mrs. Biddle, even if they were all the way downstairs.

“You haven’t answered my initial question, Arnold,” he said.

I had already forgotten what that was.

“Will you be a bad man if I don’t arrange to return you to, you know —”

I sighed. I know it’s impolite to sigh, but I couldn’t help it.

“No,” I said, silently. “I’ll at least attempt to be good, either way, I suppose. As good as I can manage. Which may not be saying much.”

He smiled and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Arnold, may I make a suggestion?”

“Sure,” I didn’t say.

“Stop asking me for favors. Despite the common superstition, I – and I think I speak for my father and for the Holy Ghost as well – I, we, are decidedly not in the business of answering prayers. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

“Good. Now go back to doing whatever it is you were going to do.”

“All right,” I said, this time aloud, despite myself.

I closed my eyes again. My hand was still on the doorknob.

I held my breath, opened the door and stepped through.

I opened my eyes and the room, the world, was in color. I let out my breath, and without looking back I closed the door behind me. I could hear talking out on the porch.

I walked slowly and carefully out to the French doors that opened onto the porch, and there, sitting side by side on a wicker sofa, having tea, were myself and the older Mrs. Biddle. She was telling a story, smiling, and I was listening, holding a teacup.

Beyond us I could see through the screening at the other end of the porch the sun going down over the houses and the trees, amidst pale wispy clouds, beginning its journey across the continent and over the Pacific, on to the Philippines and points beyond.

The air smelled of magnolia, of honeysuckle, of the Atlantic Ocean.

I walked over to myself and Mrs. Biddle, and then I stepped into myself.

I looked at Mrs. Biddle from my eyes.

She had changed into what I believe is called a summer frock, with little red rose petals on an orange background.

“I never saw him again after that night,” she said. “Soon afterwards he went back to work for the railroad, and they transferred him to Mindanao. He was killed in the war. Am I boring you?”

“No, not at all,” I said.

“People always think their own lives are so fascinating.”

“I’m not bored,” I said.

“Is it terrible that I was happy that my husband died?”

“No,” I said.

“I did feel guilty. I went to confession about it, and the priest absolved me.”

“Well, there you go,” I said.

“The only thing is, I didn’t really believe in the church or God or any of that, and I still don’t. I only went to confession to ease my conscience.”

“That’s why a lot of people go to confession,” I said.

“Yes but still.”

I gazed out through the screening at the breathing world all green and white, blue and orange and every other color.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Biddle,” I said, "what was that man’s name again? The guy — the man – who —”

“Who didn’t kill my husband?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Arthur,” she said. She looked away. The reflections of the failing sun lit up her face and she looked young again, or anyway younger. “Arthur Schaefer,” she said.

“Arthur Schaefer,” I repeated.

As Miss Evans would say, mon semblable, mon frère.


(Continued here. And kindly look to the right hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of all other possible episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven, soon to be a major motion picture starring William Bendix, Kay Francis and Lloyd Nolan; produced, written and personally directed by Larry Winchester for Realart Pictures.)

And now, a brief word from The Caravelles…

Saturday, September 13, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Ninety-Two: "...a whatchamacallit caravanserai..."

Previously in Larry Winchester's Walmart Award-winning A Town Called Disdain: Dick, Harvey, and especially Daphne have had quite enough of Frank and his so-called Rat Pack, and they decide to take their leave from the Samba Room, which happens to be in an enormous space station (invisible from the earth) and go back home. Frank and his goons try to stop them, but Daphne pulls a revolver from her purse, lays its muzzle on Frank’s forehead, and demands a flying saucer. Unfortunately, the only flying saucer on board is out of commission because Daphne urinated in its machinery (she really had to go, and couldn’t find a ladies’ room).

Mulling it all over, Dick says,“Okay, fine. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to bring this whole damn space station back to the Earth...”

“Ah, but, Dick, you forget,” said Frank, with Daphne still pressing the business end of the snubnose against his glistening forehead, “we are not in your earthling state of reality.”

“So we’re gonna fly this damn thing back into our state of reality,” said Dick.

“Oh, Dick,” said Frank, smiling weakly, “you do not understand. This here hotel and casino -- as fabulous as it all is -- is still merely a station. Think of it as a whatchamacallit caravanserai in the vast desert of space. It is not designed, nor is it equipped, to break out of, of --”

“Fishtown,” said Daphne.

“Yes,” said Frank. “Fishtown. This dimension. For that you need one of our marvelous specially designed flying saucers, outfitted with a, a, uh --”

“A Reality Woofer,” said Daphne.

“Correct,” said Frank. “I can see you were paying attention. By the way, Mrs. Ridpath, I wonder if I might have a cigarette?”

“No,” said Daphne.

Dick looked at his own cigarette, then stubbed it out in a stand-up ashtray near the host-stand.

“All right,” he said. “Take us to the saucer.”

“Hey, pal,” said Brad Dexter, “I just finished telling you the saucer is on the fritz thanks to your old lady --”

Like a flash Dick pulled his trusty old Browning Hi-Power out of his side jacket pocket, cocked the hammer, and pointed the gun at Brad’s chest.

“Cut the bullshit,” said Dick. “You and Frank are coming with us to the saucer. Everybody else stays here and enjoys the show.”

Joey slipped his hand under his jacket again.

“Say the word, Frank, and they never make it through the door.”

Harvey whipped his big revolver out of his waistband, cocked it and pointed it at Frank’s head.

This was now two revolvers pointed at Frank’s head.

“Go ahead, Frank,” said Harvey. “Say the word.”

“I got just one question,” said Frank. “Who the fuck was in charge of frisking these people?”

“Let’s go, Frank,” said Dick. “We’ve got a flight to catch.”


Two minutes later, Dick, Daphne, Harvey, Frank and Brad were all in an elevator car, going down. Brad and Frank were closest to the doors, Frank to the right and Brad to the left, with Dick and Harvey behind them. Dick had his gun pointed at Frank’s back, Harvey’s pistol was in Brad’s back. Daphne stood in a corner, smoking her cigarette and holding her revolver at her side.

“Y’know, Dick,“ Frank said, “I find it a little hard to believe you would shoot me in cold blood.”

“It wouldn’t give me any pleasure, Frank, but you gotta believe I would do it. You know how violent we humans are. And you know I’ve had to kill people before.”

“Okay, granted, you’re a tough guy. But you bump me off, where’s that leave you?”

“Brad will help us,” said Daphne. “Won’t you, Brad?”

“Lady,” said Brad, “long as I got a rod pointed at my back, you say jump I say how high.”

“Faggot,” said Frank.

“Hey, ya know what? Fuck you, Frank,” said Brad. “I been putting up with your bullshit like three thousand years now, and let me tell you, these people put one in your skull you won’t see me shedding a tear.”

“Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t ya, punk? Don’t think I don’t know you’ve had an eye on my job --”

“Fuck you, fuck your job.”

“Cocksucker.”

“All right, both of you, shut up,” said Dick.

Frank turned around.

“Okay, tough guy,” he said. “Shoot. See what it gets you. You fucking ignorant earthling. Don’t you realize you kill me my superiors will fucking give you a fate worse than fucking death? How’s an eternity in fucking blackness and solitude and immateriality and silence sound to you, pal? Just you. Just you, and your own pissant awareness of your own paltry self for the rest of fucking eternity, huh, buddy? You think I had a rough time in the stockade from Ernie Borgnine in From Here to Eternity? You ain’t seen nothing, my friend. We’re talking eternity in the fucking hole, pal.”

Frank took his gold cigarette case out of the side pocket of his jacket, took out a cigarette and put it in his mouth. He snapped the case shut, dropped it back in the pocket, then took his thin gold lighter out of the opposite pocket, and lit up.

“On the other hand,” he said, “you play ball, you’re the king of the damn earth -- plus you got practical immortality. This is not a bad deal for an earthling. I am sorry about your two friends on the earth down there, but there is nothing we can do to help them. If we had an operable saucer we would move right in there with a death ray attack and deal with the situation, I assure you. But going off half-cocked like this -- this is just --”

The elevator came to a stop with a slight lurch, and after a second or two the doors slid slowly open.

“Our floor, Frank,” said Brad.

“So whaddaya say, Dick?” said Frank. “Put away the hardware and all is forgiven and and all is forgotten.”

“Nice speech, Frank,” said Dick. “Now get out of the elevator.”

“Ah, you’re fuckin’ nuts,” said Frank.

“Sure,” said Dick. “I’m an earthling. Now move it.”


(Click here for our next thrilling chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to all other extant episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, a Monogram Production.)

Branded!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 97: bad news

In our previous episode of this critically-acclaimed (“Were I forced to take only one book to my Saint Helena, this would be it.” -- Harold Bloom) memoir, our dauntless hero Arnold Schnabel joined Mrs. Biddle and her friend Tommy for highballs following the sudden demise of Mr. Jimmy Biddle.

We seem to be on a plantation of some sort in the Philippines, circa 1933, and everything is in black-and-white..


After a moment Tommy said a few words to someone on the telephone, and then he said to Mrs. Biddle:

“They’re getting April now. Are you sure you want to tell her? I could break it to her gently.”

Mrs. Biddle hesitated, chewing one side of her lower lip, then said, simply, “Give me the phone.”

I felt awkward. It seemed that Mrs. Biddle should have some privacy while telling her daughter that Jimmy had suddenly died.

But then it occurred to me that perhaps my presence, baleful as it often seemed to me – condemned as I was for life to put up with it – even so might make this difficult moment somehow easier for her. Besides, I learned a long time ago that I wasn’t put on this earth for the purpose of not feeling awkward. Far from it, I have felt awkward for approximately 95% of my waking life, and for a not insignificant percentage of my sleeping life. But still I thought perhaps the thing to do would be at least to get up from the couch, perhaps to go and stand at a window, gazing out at that crashing rain relentlessly attacking the outside world like an army of angry monkeys wielding stout bamboo sticks. And indeed I started to get up, but Mrs. Biddle — who had taken the phone from Jimmy and was sitting very upright, holding the receiver to her ear with her right hand while holding a cigarette in the other — whispered:

“Don’t get up. Stay.”

So I stayed. A few long moments passed into the present and then into the past.

“Hello,” she said, finally, into the phone. “April — what? No, you don’t have to come home yet. What? Well, yes of course you can stay over there tonight if you like. Of course. Yes. Oh, you won at canasta? That’s marvelous, darling. Eight dollars, golly. Yes, dear, of course you can buy anything you want with it. Yes. Nancy Drew books? Yes, lovely. But listen, April, the reason I’m calling —”

She paused, and then put her hand over the mouthpiece.

“How do I tell her?” she asked, looking from Tommy (who was still standing there) to me.

Tommy didn’t say anything.

She said to me again, “How do I tell her, Arnold?”

I could hear a young girl’s voice coming from the phone, saying, “Mother, are you there?”

“Just tell her,” I said. “There’s no easy way.”

Suddenly she handed the receiver to me, and then put her hand over her mouth.

I put the phone to my ear.

“Hello?” I said.

“Who’s this?” said the girl’s voice.

“I’m a friend of your mother’s. Arnold Schnabel.”

“Arnold what?”

“Just call me Arnold.”

“Okay. I’m April.”

“I know. Listen, April, I have some bad news. Your mother wants me to tell you because she’s —”

“Upset,” whispered Mrs. Biddle through her fingers.

“She’s upset,” I said.

“What is it?”

“I’m afraid your father has had an accident.”

“An accident? Is he dead?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“Did he crash his car?”

“No, no, he, uh — he fell off the veranda on the second floor.”

“Was he drunk? He must have been drunk.”

“I think he’d been drinking, yes,” I said.

“You’re sure he’s dead.”

“Well —”

“Did you take his pulse?”

“No, no, I didn’t, but — Tommy —”

“Tommy said he was dead?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, he must be dead then.”

“Yes,” I said.

There was a pause here, but it didn’t feel awkward.

I realized that both Tommy and Mrs. Biddle were staring intently at me.

Then April spoke again:

“Can I talk to my mother now? Do you think she’s able to talk?”

“Let me ask,” I said.

“That’s a good idea,” said the little girl.

I put my hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and turned to Mrs. Biddle.

“April wants to know if you’re able to talk now.”

Mrs. Biddle still had her slender fingers over her mouth, but after a moment she lowered them.

“How is she taking it?” she asked.

“Not too badly,” I said.

She hesitated again, chewing her lip, then took the receiver out of my hand.

“Hello, darling,” she said.

This time I did get up, taking my drink.

I shrugged at Tommy, he shrugged at me.

I walked over to one of the large front windows and looked out through the torrent. I could see the white blob of Jimmy’s body out there, being pummeled by thousands of gallons of rain, lying in the mud as if it were floating in a dirty lake.

Mrs. Biddle’s voice spoke softly behind me, murmuring to her daughter.

I turned away from the window. Mrs. Biddle still sat very upright on the couch, her head inclined to the telephone receiver, one long bare arm reaching out to tap her cigarette into the big glass ashtray.

Tommy had sat down in a leather easy chair, and, with a cigarette between his thin lips, he was cutting the pages of a book with a knife.

I wondered if I would ever make it back to 1963. After all, I did have a date with Elektra that night.


(Continued here. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find an exhaustive listing of links to dozens of other episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be a major release from First National Pictures, starring Franchot Tone, Kay Francis, and Edward Everett Horton; written and directed by Larry Winchester.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Ninety-One: a slight contretemps at the host stand

In our previous episode of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™ (winner of the Uneeda Prize for Best Sprawling Epic), Daphne had finally had enough of Frank and his so-called Rat Pack, and she got up from their table in the Samba Room and walked off, joined by Dick and Harvey. At the entrance they are stopped by the maître d’, (Henry Silva). Frank and the Pack come up and Frank asks, “Where do you think you’re going and how do you think you’re going to get there?” A reasonable question considering that our heroes are in a massive invisible flying saucer somewhere between the Earth and the Moon.

By way of response, Daphne pulls a revolver from her purse and lays its muzzle on Frank’s forehead.


“Mrs. Ridpath,” said Frank, “leave us not do anything we might regret here.”

“Don’t worry about what I might regret, Frank. All you have to worry about is keeping your brains intact inside that fat head of yours.”

“Just say the word, Frank,” said Joey. He had his right hand inside his jacket at the hip.

“Do not move, Joey,” said Frank. Sweat glistened on his smoothly tanned face. “Do not do anything and do not say anything. In case you have not noticed I am the one who is standing here with a snubnose .38 pressed against my skull.”

“Smart boy,” said Daphne, and just then the club’s doors swung open and in walked Brad Dexter, cigar in hand.

“What the fuck,” said Brad.

“No sudden moves, Brad,” said Frank, looking at Brad out of the corner of his eye, “please.”

Brad took in the situation and then glared at Henry Silva, who still stood there with his right hand hovering near the pistol butt sticking out of his cummerbund.

“What the fuck, Henry,” said Brad, I can’t leave you alone for five fuckin’ minutes --”

“Forget about Henry,” said Frank. “Where the hell you been? You’re on the door like you’re supposed to be, maybe I’m not standing here with some crazy broad holding a gat to my forehead.”

“Control room called,” said Brad. “Emergency down on Earth. Seems that Hope chick and that Enid dame are stuck in a Mexican stand-off with that motorcycle gang, the Motorpsychos.”

“Shit. Why didn’t you come and get me?”

“What do ya think I was just tryin’ to do?”

“What’s this about a Mexican stand-off?” asked Dick, lighting a cigarette.

“Light me one, will you, darling?” said Daphne.

“Of course,” said Dick. “Have this one.” He placed the cigarette between Daphne’s scarlet lips. “Do you want me to hold the gun?” he asked.

Before answering, she inhaled, drew the cigarette from her mouth with two fingers of her left hand, and exhaled the smoke into Frank’s heavily perspiring face.

“No, thanks,” she said. “I’m fine.”

Dick lit a cigarette for himself and turned again to Brad.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”

“Dexter, Brad Dexter. I’m the manager here. And a thankless job it is, too --”

“I’m Dick Ridpath.”

“I know,” said Brad.

“Now what’s this about a stand-off?”

While saying this, Dick went easily over to Henry Silva and drew the pistol from Henry’s cummerbund; it was a .38 Chief’s Special.

“Them motorcycle bandits,” said Brad. “They stopped Hope on the road to the reservation --”

Dick gave the .38’s cylinder a spin, saw that it was loaded.

“What was Hope doing on the road?” he asked.

“She was trying to sneak out and join you folks at the peyote ceremony. She took her pony, called Whisper.”

“I see.”

Dick slipped the pistol into his waistband.

“The Motorpsychos stopped her,” said Brad. “Were gonna rape her probably. Moloch killed the pony.”

“He killed her pony?”

“I know. He’s an asshole. But then Enid comes along in her truck, she gets out and throws down on Moloch with an M1911. Beautiful. Except all the other Motorpsychos are armed to the teeth and they throw down on Enid. And that’s where it stands: a Mexican stand-off.”

“We’d better get back there,” said Dick.

“Right,” said Daphne. “Here’s what we’re gonna do. Frank?”

“Yes, I am still here,” said Frank.

“Frank,” said Daphne, “you are going to lead us right to one of your cute flying saucers and you are going to take us tout de suite straight back to New Mexico where we will deal with this little problem of Hope and Enid’s.”

“I don’t think so, lady,” said Brad. “Ya see, it seems somebody took a leak in the saucer's engine.”

“Oh,” said Daphne.

“That baby’s gonna be in the shop I don’t know how long. Don’t know what it is about earthling broad piss but I’ll tell ya, lady, you fritzed up that saucer something royal.”

“Well, surely you have some other flying saucers around here,” said Daphne.

“Lady,” said Brad, “what kinda budget you think we got for a third-rate planet like this? That baby was the last operable saucer we got.”

“He’s right, Mrs. Ridpath,” said Frank. “I’ve had a request in for three replacement saucers for what? Twenty earth years?”

“Twenty-two,” said Brad. “Ever since that accident at Roswell.

“You mean we’re stuck here?” asked Daphne.

“Until we get that saucer you peed in fixed -- yeah,” said Frank.

“Y’know, you guys kill me,” said Dick. “You’re going to set us up as rulers of the Earth and you’ve only got one flying saucer?”

“Hey,” said Frank, “business is not what it used to be. New planets opening up, the fickleness of the public -- always with the new, the new, the goddam new -- plus I already told ya how expensive this operation is -- what with the overhead, the fucking unions --”

“Poor management,” said Brad.

“Hey, fuck you, Brad,” said Frank.

“Mr. Ridpath,” said Brad, “you know why the big brass back home want humans in on the operation now? It’s ‘cause Frank and his buddies are fuckin’ it up --”

“Okay,” said Frank, “that’s it, you’re fired. Go pick up your pay, you don’t work here no more.”

“Fuck you, Frank,” said Brad, “you and your pissant job --”

“Dick?” said Daphne.

“Okay,” said Dick, “Brad, Frank, both of you, shut up.”

Dick took a contemplative drag on his cigarette. The band had been playing obliviously through all this, they were now jamming on “Afro Blue”, and indeed most of the audience and help seemed unaware of the contretemps at the host stand.

“Okay,” said Dick, after a moment. “Frank, this thing we’re on, it’s a great big space station, right?”

“That is correct, sir. And lookit, we got all the comforts of home for ya here, Dick, a beautiful suite of rooms, swimming pool, credit line at the casino --”

“Okay,” said Dick, “fine. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to bring this whole damn space station back to the Earth.”


(Click here for our next pulse-pounding chapter. Please turn to the right hand side of this page to find a complete listing of links to all published episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, soon to be a major motion picture starring Richard Egan, Mara Corday, and Rory Cochrane; written, directed and produced by Larry Winchester for Realart Pictures.)

Paladin!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 96: post-mortem

In our previous episode of this Pall Mall* Award-nominated memoir, Arnold Schnabel, having traveled back in time and across the world to 1933 in the Philippines, finds himself attacked by the brutish and drunken Jimmy, the husband of Mrs. Biddle. Jimmy stumbles and crashes through the screening of the second-floor veranda and breaks his neck in the muddy yard below as the tropical rains come pouring down…

*“A smoother, less irritating smoke.”

We went downstairs. Her living room looked much the same, that is as if William Powell or Carole Lombard might walk in at any second, except now everything was bright and new and polished. Again though, everything was in black or white or shades of grey. It was still only late afternoon, but the windows were almost dark with that thick crashing rain outside.

Tommy came in from the porch just as we reached the middle of the living room. He closed his glistening umbrella and stuck it in an ivy-patterned vase in the foyer.

“If it’s any consolation, death must have been instantaneous,” he said.

“The poor man,” said Mrs. Biddle.

“May I get you a drink, Mrs. Biddle?” said Tommy.

“Oh, Tommy, look at you, your trousers are ruined.”

“Don’t worry about my trousers now.”

“And your shoes. Your lovely white shoes.”

“I’m going to make you a drink,” he said. “Why don’t you sit down. You’ve had a shock.”

“I don’t think I can sit.”

“Mr. Schnabel —” said Tommy. He was heading toward the drinks cabinet.

“Yes?”

He made a movement with his head, but I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by it, if anything.

He stopped, and pointed to the larger of the two sofas. Then he pointed to Mrs. Biddle, and then back to the sofa.

“Oh,” I said. “Oh. Mrs. Biddle, come on, sit down.”

“Will you sit with me?”

“Sure.”

I sort of guided her over to the sofa, although God knows she knew where it was, and she sat down. I sat next to her, to her left. She put her hand on mine.

“Will you have a cocktail, Mr. Schnabel?” asked Tommy.

“Okay,” I said.

To tell the truth I really felt like I could use one at this point.

“Whiskey and soda?”

“Sure.”

“Ice? I can go get some from the ice box.”

“I’ll just have it the way Mrs. Biddle is having it.”

“No ice then.”

Tommy went to work preparing three drinks, using a quart of Old Forester and a large glass soda syphon. Outside the rain drummed down, like a million tiny bongo drums played by a million tiny madmen.

“Should we get the boys to bring him in?” said Mrs. Biddle, her voice breaking slightly.

“Not until the police get here,” said Tommy over his shoulder.

“The police?” she said. “Will that be necessary?”

“It would probably be for the best in the long run."

“I suppose you’re right,” said Mrs. Biddle. “I hate to think of him lying out there in that mud.”

“Can’t be helped,” said Tommy. “Oh. Does anyone want a little something extra?” he asked.

He turned and held up a small brown bottle, taking the cork from it as he did so.

“Yes, Tommy,” said Mrs. Biddle. “For my nerves, thank you.”

“Mr. Schnabel? A touch of laudanum?”

“Well, just a little,” I said.

I wasn’t quite sure if any of this was really happening, so I saw no harm.

“Will you ring the police, Tommy?” asked Mrs. Biddle. “I don’t think I could bear it.”

“Certainly. But may I make a suggestion?” he said, bringing three tall drinks over to us on a silver tray.

“Of course,” said Mrs. Biddle.

“Let me telephone Dr. Rodriguez. I’ll tell him the situation, and we’ll let him handle it.”

“Do you think that’s best?” she asked.

Tommy laid the tray on the coffee table in front of us.

“Yes, I think so,” he said. “Bottoms up now.”

We all took a glass. Tommy didn’t sit, but stood with his drink on the other side of the table.

“To Jimmy,” he said.

We all drank.

“Well, I must say I needed that,” said Tommy. “I’ll telephone Rodriguez now.”

He took his drink over to a side table on which a white telephone sat.

“Light me a cigarette, Arnold,” said Mrs. Biddle. “One of those in that box there.”

The box was the engraved wooden one I had seen here before. The table lighter in the shape of the fat Buddha was there also. I opened the box and offered it to her, she took out a cigarette, and I gave her a light with the smiling philosopher.

“Won’t you have one, Arnold?” she said, in a soft voice.

I think I actually sighed, because I really did want one. But I had gotten this far today without one, I had gone through so much, somehow I felt like holding out, whether any of this was real or not, so I told her no thanks. I have to say I think the laudanum-spiked highball was a factor in my being able to abstain.

“Hello,” said Tommy, speaking in a loud voice into the telephone receiver. “Hola. May I speak to Dr. Rodriguez, please. Tell him it’s Tommy, from the Biddle plantation.” He put his hand over the phone, and looked to us. “He’ll be right on.”

“Tell him to hurry, Tommy,” said Mrs. Biddle.

“I will,” said Tommy. “Oh. Dr. Rodriguez, Tommy here. Yes, how are you? Listen, there’s been an accident, and Mrs. Biddle asks that you come right over. Yes. It’s Mr. Biddle. Jimmy, yes, he fell, and, well, he broke his neck I’m afraid. Yes, he’s dead I’m sorry to say.” He listened for a few moments and then put his hand over the mouthpiece again and looked toward Mrs. Biddle. “He wants to know how it happened.”

“He stumbled and fell off the second floor veranda,” said Mrs. Biddle.

Tommy repeated this down the telephone line.

There was a pause, and then he said, “Yes, he had been drinking I fear. Yes. Yes. Very sad. Yes. Listen, Dr. Rodriguez, do you think you could, um, deal with the police concerning this. Yes. Yes. Thank you. Muchas gracias, doctor, adiós.”

He hung up the phone.

“Well, that’s done,” said Tommy. “He said he’ll drive right over, and after he has, uh, assessed the situation, he’ll call the appropriate person in the police.”

“Oh good,” said Mrs. Biddle.

Tommy started to walk over towards us with his drink.

“Oh wait,” said Mrs. Biddle.

Tommy stopped.

"April,” said Mrs. Biddle.

“Oh, right,” said Tommy.

She turned to me.

“My daughter,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

“Tommy —” she said.

“I’ll take care of it,” said Tommy. “I’ll call. Shall I — shall I tell her?”

“Yes," said Mrs. Biddle. "Or, no. I’ll tell her. But dial the number for me, will you please, Tommy?”

Tommy went back to the telephone.

“May I make another suggestion, though?” he said. He held his drink in his left hand, and with his right hand he draped the telephone cord over his left wrist.

“Of course,” said Mrs. Biddle.

With his right hand Tommy picked up the telephone and brought it over to us.

“Let her stay at her little friend's house for a few hours. At least until they take the — until they take Jimmy away.”

“Of course,” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought of that. Thank you, Tommy. You’re such a brick.”

“It’s nothing.”

He laid his drink down on the table, and, still standing, he dialed a number on the white telephone.

“You’re a brick, too, Arnold,” said Mrs. Biddle, patting my hand. “I want to thank you so much.”

“For what?” I said.

Tommy, cradling the receiver to his ear, reached down with his left hand to take a cigarette from the box.

“Just for everything,” Mrs. Biddle said.

Tommy, waiting for someone to answer on the other end, picked up the fat smiling Buddha and gave himself a light.


(Continued here. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of all other possible episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, a Merv Griffin Production.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Ninety: in which Frank makes a proposition...

Previously in our exclusive serialization of the “director’s cut” of this unqualified masterpiece from the inexhaustible Remington portable of Larry Winchester (“The one writer who makes Philip K. Dick seem normal, who makes Melville seem shallow, who makes Proust seem terse” -- Harold Bloom), Frank revealed to our heroes that Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had all been abducted by his alien race, the Swampoodlers, who had “planted in their brains these lovely ideas, whose import boiled down was really just: hey, don’t be a fucking asshole all your life. That’s all. Simple message…”

“Okay,” said Dick. “Fine. So why are we here? Because if we’re supposed to set up some new religion or what-have-you I think you might have the wrong people.”

A smattering of laughter made its away around the Rat Pack.

“Y’know, fellas,” continued Dick, getting just a little bit pissed off, “I like to think I can take a joke with the best of them, but -- Jesus Christ --”

All the Rat Packers chuckled again, except for Joey, who said, “Hey, relax, pal! Wait’ll you hear our proposition.”

Just then Johnnie Ray came to the end of his act. He thanked everyone very much for being such a lovely audience, and he sent out a special hello to Frank and Dean and Joey and Sammy and Peter and Richard Conte and their charming guests. The band played him off the stage, and then segued into a steaming but cool jam of “Fernando’s Hideaway”.

“What’s this here proposition?” asked Harvey.

“To put it bluntly, my friend,” said Frank, “we would like to offer you good people a piece of the territory.”

“What territory?” asked Harvey.

“Why, the Earth of course,” said Frank.

“Holy shit,” said Harvey.

“You mean,” said Daphne, “like -- rulers of the Earth?”

“Not like,” said Frank. “Precisely.”

“Fuck,” said Harvey.

“Someone needs to take control down there,” said Frank. “Of course we’ll back you up. Spaceships, death rays, mass hypnosis -- whatever you need, all you gotta do is ask. And it goes without saying we will grant you virtual immortality on the physical plane -- barring unforeseen severe accidents, of course.”

Dick was the first to reply, after a pause.

“Frank, with all due respect, is this a joke?”

“No joke, my friend. For many years we have had our eyes on you three. And on the lovely young Hope too of course and what a shame she could not be here tonight.”

Harvey tapped a cigarette on the edge of his ashtray and muttered under his breath:

“Fuck this shit.”

“You see, my friends,” said Frank, “not only have we have been monitoring your progress for years, we have also on occasion done what we could to assure your progress. Harvey, it was no accident you broke your leg jumping out of that chopper, or that you just happened to burst in on Major Green doing the dirty with that nurse, thereby assuring that you would be relieved of all future combat duty.”

Dick and Daphne stared at Harvey quizzically. He would have to explain it all to them later, or let them read his memoirs.

“And, Dick,” continued Frank, “and you, Daphne -- I mean, not to take anything away from you guys, did you think it was just luck -- not to mention your not inconsiderable resourcefulness -- that you two have slipped through all those jams of yours unscathed? Brawls, shoot-outs, riots, revolutions, wars? Why do you think we arranged for you two to come to New Mexico? Why did you hook up with Harvey, and Hope? Yes, my friends, you three, with the aforementioned Hope, are the most advanced humans -- or in your case Mrs. Ridpath, half-human -- on your planet. You mentioned royalties before, Mr. Ridpath. Well, perhaps it’s only fitting that you very wonderful and may I say magnificent people should be the new -- and you should forgive my choice of words here -- the new and very all-powerful Royal Family of the Earth! And, may I say, your children, who I am most sure will be just as beautiful and talented as you good people -- starting with the child that you, Mr. Ridpath, have engendered in the aforementioned very lovely and nubile Miss Hope Johnstone --”

“Excuse me,” said Daphne, “what?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Mrs. Ridpath; you were not aware of Mr. Ridpath’s and Hope’s little tryst the other night --”

“What?” said Daphne.

“Yeah,” said Dick, “what?”

“Please Mrs. Ridpath,” said Frank, “do not be jealous. Dick didn’t know what he was doing.”

“What?”

“We abducted him.”

“You what?” said Dick.

In your sleep,” said Frank. “Along with Hope. And under hypnosis we had you two shall we say make like the beast with two backs.”

“Makin’ whoopee,” said Sammy.

“Slam bam,” said Joey.

“Thank you, ma’am,” said Dean.

“And a good show it was, too,” said Peter.

“I’ve seen better,” said Richard Conte.

“Dick!” said Daphne.

“Darling,” said Dick, “this is all news to me.”

“Like I said,” said Frank, “you were both hypnotized. Please do not hold it against Dick, Mrs. Ridpath. You see, we had to see if he and Hope were compatible. Because it’s all part of the master plan, to breed a new Royal Family of the Earth. We hope that you, Mrs. Ridpath, and Harvey also will be willing to -- um, oh how shall I put it --”

“Hey, wait a minute, pal --” said Harvey.

Daphne grabbed her purse, tossed her cigarette case and lighter into it, and stood up.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ve had quite enough of this. Goodbye.”

She turned and walked off through the tables.

Dick quickly jumped up, not forgetting to pocket his own cigarettes and lighter, and hustled over to catch up with her and take her arm. She stopped, and fixed him with her flashing hazel eyes.

“What?” she said.

“Wait,” said Dick.

“What for?


“Well -- for me.”

She continued to look at him for a long moment. In the background the band was now playing “Caravan”.

“These people stink, Dick,” she said. “And I think their whole set-up stinks. And I don’t want any part of it. I want to go home. I want to go back to the earth.”

“All right then,” said Dick. “Let’s go.”

She paused again, then gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Oh, just wait till I get you home, mister.”

Harvey had gotten up also, and he came over to them.

“You guys ain’t leavin’ without me,” he said.

“Right,” said Dick. “Well, let’s go then.”

Without looking back they walked on through the crowded room to the entrance. They came to the maître d’s stand, where Henry Silva stood very seriously with his arms folded, but before they could go past he came out from behind his little podium, blocking the path to the exit.

“May I ask where you’re going, sir?”

“Anywhere but here, buddy,” said Dick.

Henry held up his left hand.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you leave, sir.”

With his right hand he unbuttoned his tuxedo jacket, revealing the butt of a pistol protruding from his red cummerbund. He put his hand on the pistol but did not draw it.

Frank and his friends had all gotten up from the table and followed close behind Dick and Daphne and Harvey.

Dick looked from Henry back to the Rat Pack, who were all spread out in a semi-circle about six feet away.

“Mr. Ridpath,” said Frank, “Dick, let’s be reasonable. Where do you think you’re going and how do you think you’re going to get there?”

Daphne opened her gold lamé purse and looked into it.

“That’s it,” said Frank. “Have a cigarette. It will calm your nerves. Soothe your hurt feelings. Okay, I’ll be the first to admit, maybe we were just a bit out of line. You know, hypnotizing Dick and Hope and all, and having them, uh --”

“Do the nasty,” said Joey.

“Zip it, Joey,” said Frank.

“I’m zipped,” said Joey.

Daphne stuck her hand into the purse.

“Here,” said Frank, taking out his thin gold lighter and stepping forward, “allow me, Mrs. Ridpath.”

In a fluid half-second Daphne drew Dick’s Smith & Wesson Airweight .38 out of her purse, cocked it, and laid its muzzle right in the center of Frank’s broad forehead.

Everyone froze.


(Click here for our next thrilling chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for a complete listing of links to all other possible episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, soon to be a major television mini-series event starring Tori Spelling, Shannon Doherty, Jason Priestley, and Luke Perry. A David Susskind Production.)

And now if you please, welcome back to our stage the very talented Miss Helen Shapiro: