Wednesday, April 29, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 137: Catholic boy

Let us rejoin Arnold Schnabel (”Poet? Madman? Saint? All of the above?” -- Harold Bloom, on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon) and his friends (including that impish doll Clarissa) in the Ugly Mug, that cynosure of nightlife in the quaint old seaport of Cape May, NJ, on this strange warm night in August of 1963…

(Go here for our previous chapter or here for the beginning of this Gold View Award-winning memoir.)

The waitress came to our table, and, on Larry’s request, she went to bring “Josh” a beer mug, and, while she was at it, a fresh pitcher of beer and two more Manhattans for Steve and Miss Rathbone.

Josh proved himself to be a charming companion, by the simple expedient of asking the various people at the table about themselves. Having already flattered Larry he at once turned to Steve and asked him how long he and Miss Rathbone had been engaged, and he betrayed not the slightest impulse to burst out into peals of laughter when Steve told him that not only had they just gotten engaged that very day but that they had indeed only met the previous afternoon.

It went on like this, with Josh (I suppose I may as well call him that, if only to avoid possible confusion for scholars of the future who may be working their way through this drivel for a study of trends of mental illness in the mid-20th century) asking Steve and Miss Rathbone where they were from, what they did for a living, and so on.

The fresh pitcher came, we drank, and once again I felt myself doing that thing I frequently do, drawing into myself so that the conversation at the table was almost as a distant buzzing of bees on a summer’s day.

Josh was talking to Elektra, asking her questions. It occurred to me that I had never really asked her questions about herself. Was this a bad thing? Did it matter?

I looked down at Clarissa sitting there on my lap. She had fallen asleep, her face against my side, her eyes closed, one hand on my stomach. Well, that was good. Let her sleep.

And pretty soon I found myself getting sleepy as well. It’s true that I had had a nap that afternoon, and a deep one, but nevertheless it had been a taxing day to say the least. So I found myself nodding, and finally Elektra put her hand on my arm.

“Arnold, do you want to go home?”

“Well --”

“Come on, darling, you’re falling asleep.”

Some other things were said and done, of which I was only vaguely aware. I tried to put some money on the table but Larry kept giving it back to me, so finally I gave up.

Then I was standing by the table with Elektra. I had Clarissa in her box under my left arm, I was shaking hands with people.

Josh held onto my hand.

“Get a good night’s sleep, buddy,” he said.

“I think I will,” I heard myself saying, as if from across the room.

“Ten a.m. tomorrow morning!” said Larry. “Mrs. Biddle’s back yard! Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! We’ll dive into that second act!”

“Yes, sir,” I said, as if from underwater; I remember the song "Only Love Can Break A Heart" was playing on the juke box.

And finally Elektra and I were working our way arm in arm through the bar and out through the side entrance.

The warm and humid air of the sidewalk felt like the breath of life after the smoky bar, and I immediately felt not nearly so sleepy.

“You know, we don’t have to go home,” I said to Elektra. “If you wanted another drink, or --”

“I’d just as soon go home, Arnold,” she said. “It’s been a long day. Walk me home.”

We went down Decatur, into the soft breeze of the sleeping ocean. She held my hand.

“We’re going to be going to Paris together, Arnold,” she said.

“So it seems,” I said.

She turned her head and looked up at me.

“You didn’t put Larry up to this, did you?”


We walked past the Pilot House, she walked, I limped, we turned down Carpenters Lane.

“Okay,” she said. “But I want a separate hotel room.”

“Oh, of course,” I said.

“You’re such a gentleman.”

We crossed Jackson, and then Carpenters. Once again we went down the slate path at the side of her house, through the smell of damp roses and ivy, and then we were at the screen door in the rear. She put her arms around my shoulders.

I won’t go into all that transpired next except to say that while it did I was still holding Clarissa in her box under my left arm, and that while doing what I was doing one part of my mind was still in charge of holding the box as still as I possibly could so that Clarissa would not wake up.

Elektra opened the screen door from behind her, we stumbled into the dark foyer, and then against the wall in there.

What happened now seemed as inevitable as swimming after one has dived into the ocean.

And then we stood there, drenched, gasping into each other’s warm wet necks, Elektra’s arms still around my shoulders, Clarissa still in her box under my left arm.

Elektra drew her head back and looked into my eyes in the darkness.

She smelled like warm salt water taffy.

“What are you thinking, lover?”

Actually I was thinking, among dozens of other things, that I had only managed to remain in a state of grace for less than an hour since my second absolution of the day from Father Reilly; but I didn’t say that.

“I’m thinking that we didn’t use a, um, you know --”

I don’t think I’ve ever actually said the word condom.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m on the pill.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Is that okay? Catholic boy?”

“Oh, sure,” I said.

Like many non-Catholics I suppose she was not up on our curious ruling on the subject of sin, which was that one mortal sin was going to damn you to hell forever just as well as a thousand. So in other words I wasn’t about to quibble about variations on the sin of contraception if I was already condemned to everlasting agony for the act of fornication.

Suddenly I felt a movement in the box. I drew back from Elektra, and she let her hands slide down over my arms.

“Well, I suppose it’s bed time,” she said. “I’ll sleep like a log now.”

“Do you want me to walk you up?” I asked, hoping she would say no, and luckily she did, because I felt more movement in the box.

Elektra kissed me once more, bade me good night, and then went up the stairs. I quickly went out the door and started around the path to the side of the house.

“What a slut!” said Clarissa, from within her box.

“Quiet,” I whispered.

“I will not be quiet!”

“Just till we get past the house, please.”

She pushed against the lid, and I saw her pale face peeking out.

“Let me out and I’ll be quiet.”

I stopped and took the lid off. She got up, jumped onto my arm and then clambered down to the ground. She smoothed out the skirt of her dress and looked up at me, all innocence.

“I feel so refreshed after my nap,” she whispered.

“Well, come on,” I whispered back, and, replacing the lid on the box, I continued along the path.

“Where are we going?”

“We’re going home.”

We came out onto the sidewalk and she took my hand.

“Take me to the boardwalk!”

“No, Clarissa, it’s too late.” I took my hand away from hers to look at my watch in the lamp light. “Past eleven. You should be in bed by now.”

“I’m not a child you know.”

“Listen, Clarissa -- “ I turned to look down at her, and then found my glance rising up, for she had become a full-grown young woman, of perhaps five foot six or so.

“Oh, no,” I said.

“Don’t be so surprised, you silly man. If I can talk and fly I should also be capable of assuming my full height. Now take my arm and walk me down to the boardwalk like a gentleman.”

(Continued here. Please look to the right hand column of this page to find what could be an up-to-date listing of links to all other extant chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™. "A tome which deserves to enjoy pride of place in every well-stocked beach bag this summer." -- Mrs. F.X. Slattery, The Catholic Standard & Times.)

The Caravelles: you are here --

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 131: breakfast

It’s been a very long day and an even longer night, and finally our bloody but unbowed heroes and assorted lords and ladies are heading in to breakfast in the vast but homely dining room at Jake Johnstone’s ranch, just a long hoot and a short holler beyond the outskirts of a town called Disdain...

(Go here to read the preceding chapter, or here for the first chapter of this Gold View Award©-winning masterwork from Larry Winchester, the man Cormac McCarthy has called “the only other contemporary novelist I can bear to read”.)

They moved into the dining room and sat down and Esmeralda and Chang dished out scrambled eggs and grits and sausages and hot biscuits with homemade rutabaga preserves, and by each plate was a cold beaded can of Tree Frog beer for the grown-ups or a bottle of Dr Pepper for the kids, with a bottle of good tequila in the middle of the table. And after everybody had their plates full Big Jake did an unheard-of thing. He told Esmeralda and Chang to grab a couple of plates and sit down and join in. Esmeralda and Chang both looked at each other and shrugged, then got plates and silverware and sat down.

Just about everybody was pretty damned hungry. Dick and Daphne and Harvey had respectively had Beef Wellington and Lobster Fra Diavolo and Surf ‘n’ Turf in the Samba Room, but none of it had been very good and they had only picked at the food out of politeness; and besides, all that seemed ages ago. They were ravenous now.

Paco and Derek were all doped up, so they didn’t eat too much, and pretty soon Derek just crawled under the table and fell asleep while Paco concentrated on the beer and tequila.

The Doc ate a bit of egg and potato and then sat back smoking, sipping a glass of the yellow tequila.

Enid was fucking starving. She’d thrown up all her barbecue at Paco’s place and it had been one long night; she dug in.

Hope usually ate like a bird, but seeing her idols Dick and Daphne and Enid eating like ranch hands made her want to emulate them, so she dug in too, as well as she could.

Attie and Cleb were poor kids, you didn’t have to ask them twice to clean up their plates.

As for Mr. MacNamara, Buddy and Brad, well, it had been a long time since they had had real Earthling food, and they were in something close to ecstasy.

Brad got a little drunk.

“All things said and done, I gotta say I love this fucking planet,” he said. “Fucking love it.”

“Hey, watch your language, mister,” said Cleb.

Brad raised both his hands.

“Whoa, sorry, kid!” He looked around the table, smiling, his mouth full of sausage. “I don’t watch myself with this guy I’m liable to get a shiv in my neck!”

“Just remember there’s ladies present is all,” said Cleb, coldly.

“I will, slugger! I will! Ladies! Real human ladies! And food! Real food! And real booze!” He paused, sighed, muttered, “Not like the shit they gave us in that fuckin’ casino, man.”

Cleb was about to correct Brad’s language again, but he let it go, this time.

“Okay,” said Enid. “Daphne. Speaking of this so-called casino -- tell me, what exactly transpired there?”

And Daphne resumed her tale, in her fashion.

The Rat Pack, the Samba Room...

Jake, wise to the joke, kept chuckling and saying, “Aw, Miss Daphne!”

But the Doc realized that it was probably all true. And stubbing out his cigarette he remembered Omaha Beach, he remembered rising up out of his body and looking down, and that vague awareness he had had of others somewhere up there, also looking down. It all made sense. For the first time in his life things made sense. And he felt himself on the threshold of that mental displacement he had first felt as he staggered up the beach that morning after getting hit. He didn’t fight it now. He let it happen and it happened. He was there in his head and everything else in the world was out there. And it was okay.

“Hey, Doc,” said Big Jake. “You gonna eat them eggs or memorize ‘em?”

And now he was back.

There was Big Jake’s fat chewing smiling face.

There was everyone else, and the Doc was with them. And it was okay.

“Stuffed, Jake,” said the Doc. “Delicious though.”

And he shook out another cigarette and lit it up and went back to listening to Daphne’s story.

When Daphne found herself on the verge of the part about Frank’s saying that the spacemen had previously abducted Dick and Hope and hypnotized them so that they would have sex -- well, she found herself hesitating for just a fraction. She glanced over at Dick, and the poor man was just frozen, staring at her in what could only be called great apprehension. She decided it was best to keep this part a secret, at least for the time being, and quickly improvised a different version,
mutatis mutandis, of how and why she had got up from that table in the casino, “in an absolute huff”.

So on and so forth, and finally she got to, “So, it looks like curtains for us, with this horrible motorcycle madman just about to mow us all down with his machine gun, when -- thwoomp -- little -- Jed is it?”

“Cleb, ma’am,” said Cleb. “Cleb Parsons.”

Mister Parsons here saves the day, throws this knife right into the madman’s neck.”

“It were Bull Thorndyke’s knife,” said Cleb.

“Pardon me?” said Daphne.

“It were the knife what Bull Thorndyke pulled on Harvey t’other day. The one the sheriff made him drop on the barroom floor. I picked it up and took it when no one weren’t lookin’.”

“How foresightful of you, Jed,” said Daphne.

“Name’s Cleb, ma’am.”

“Cleb. You were wonderful, Cleb.”

“Just did what needed doin’.”

“Yes you did.” Daphne addressed the table at large. “Oh, the look on that motorcycle fellow’s face when he saw who had thrown the knife. It was priceless.”

Everyone stopped eating for a moment, looking at Daphne.

“Well, it was,” she said. “Wasn’t it, Dick?”

“Well,” said Dick, and he put his forearms on the table. “Let me put it this way. I think I’ve had enough excitement tonight to last me a lifetime.”

“Amen,” said Daphne.

They ate up all the food and then Daphne looked around and said, “God, I’m still hungry. I’m a pig.”

Before you knew it Enid was offering to make pancakes but Esmeralda wouldn’t let her and then Daphne said she knew how to make pancakes, her specialty was blueberry pancakes. There weren’t any blueberries but there were plenty of Esmeralda’s rutabaga preserves so pretty soon Enid and Daphne and Esmeralda were all working together in the kitchen making rutabaga pancakes while Hope hovered about trying to be helpful.

Meanwhile Cleb had fallen asleep in his chair, so Attie went in and asked Esmeralda where she and Cleb were to sleep. Esmeralda left the pancake brigade, Harvey picked up Cleb, and Esmeralda led him and Attie up to a room on the second floor and then she left them alone.

Harvey helped Attie get Cleb undressed down to his worn old jockey shorts, and Attie tucked him in under the cool covers.

He’d been half awake as they were undressing him and now he said, “You comin’ to bed, too, Attie?”

Attie told him she was going to stay up for a little while.

“G’night, Harvey,” said Cleb, and Harvey said goodnight too.

Outside in the dim hall Harvey and Attie immediately went into a clinch.

(Continued here. Please look to the right hand side of this page for what might could be an up-to-date listing of all other extant chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™. “A beach book you can read even when you’re not at the beach.” -- Mrs. Emily Grunger, Books Editor, The Olney Times.)

Friday, April 24, 2009


We realize it’s been some good little time since we last published an Arnold Schnabel poem, and, so, bowing to public pressure, we give you this classic sonnet, originally published in the Olney Times for Dec. 7, 1962, a mere month or so before Arnold’s complete mental breakdown and subsequent hospitalization at the Pennsylvania State Mental Hospital at Byberry.

“Ushers' Communion Breakfast”

Today we had our communion breakfast,
All the ushers and their wives, or friends,
Or, in my case and that of some others
Who have neither wives nor friends, our mothers;
Afterwards, it’s once a year, so, reckless,
Our merry crew marches down Fifth, descends
On the Green Parrot and orders all ‘round
Cold pitchers of Schmidt’s and shots of Schenley’s,
Also some Manhattans for the ladies;
We stand at the bar and listen to the sound
Of our voices for once not hushed and grey,
As an usher’s should be, but loud and gay;
Drunkenly we tell each other bold lies;
Several of us even loosen our ties.

(Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for links to other fine Arnold Schnabel poems, as well as to the many dozens of installments of his immortal memoir, Railroad Train to Heaven™. All rights reserved, the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia. Nihil Obstat, Msgr. James “Jim” Kirk, SJ.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 136: introduced

Let us rejoin Arnold Schnabel* and his friends (including that impish doll Clarissa) in the Ugly Mug, that cynosure of nightlife in the quaint old seaport of Cape May, NJ, on this strange warm night in August of 1963…

(Go here for our previous chapter or here for the beginning of this Gold View Award-winning memoir.)

*”Poet? Madman? Saint? All of the above?” -- Harold Bloom, on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.

I kept my left hand on Clarissa, to hold her up, but also, and primarily, to attempt to reassure her. Even I could tell that things weren’t going well between her and Elektra. I had never before been caught like this in the middle of the field of battle between two warring women, but I had read about such situations many times in my trashy paperbacks, and seen as such dramatized often on television programs such as Johnny Staccato, M Squad, and The Kraft Cheese Dramatic Showcase.

I tried to remember what courses of action or inaction the male protagonists took in these fictional contests, and I realized that no matter what the man did it seemed that someone nearly always wound up dead, sometimes more than one person, and quite often the man.

“We have some more good news for you, Arnold,” said Steve.

I waited for him to tell me.

“Well don’t you want to know what it is?” he asked.

“Oh, yes, sure,” I said.

“Charlotte and I are coming with you guys to France!”

My first thought was that Larry had now joined the legions of the insane and had just hired Steve and Miss Rathbone for his movie.

But then I thought, well, maybe Steve could design costumes, Miss Rathbone could paint scenery, who knows.

“Don’t you want to know why we’re going, Arnold?” asked Steve.

“Um -- the pay is good?”

“The pay?” said Steve. “What do you mean?”

I suppose I just stared blankly. I felt Clarissa pinch my thigh again.

“Oh!” said Steve. “I get it! Ha! You were joking! As if -- ha! Well, yes, Arnold, Charlotte and I do intend to be married in Paris, and no, you naughty man, I am not going to be on her payroll. Not much anyway!”

“Oh, Steve,” said Miss Rathbone.

“And guess what else, my best man?” said Steve.

This time I picked up the ball.

“What, Steve?”

“Elektra’s going to be our maid of honor!”

Elektra squeezed my thigh again.

“Isn’t that great?” asked Steve.

“Yeah. Great,” I said.

“And Larry here has agreed to give away the bride, because poor Charlotte’s father is no longer with us, God rest his soul in Heaven.”

“What the hell,” said Larry.

“My father is in Hell,” said Miss Rathbone.

“Wherever!” said Steve.

Miss Rathbone’s eyes and mine met at this moment, and through her drunkenness I seemed to feel all the thwarted longing of her life, but also a wild determination, and I wondered if she was challenging me to say what of course I thought, to wit, that it was insane for her and Steve to get married, in Paris or anywhere else.

But I said nothing, and looking into her eyes I tried to tell her silently that she should do what she wanted to do, or at any rate what she wanted to do after she sobered up, and not to worry about what a lunatic like myself thought.

“I wonder if we can get married at that big old cathedral?” Steve asked, of no one in particular. “You know, the one with hunchback?”

“Notre Dame, Steve,” said Miss Rathbone.


The end of the world song had faded away some little time ago and been replaced by a loud instrumental rock and roll song, and now -- seeming to roll up out of the crowd on a drum solo -- Jesus appeared by our table, smiling, and casually holding one of his ever-present Pall Malls.

He was still in his raffish seashore attire, this un-ironed and faded pinstriped Oxford shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, and his wrinkled khakis.

“Arnold, buddy! How’s it going?”

He gave me a tap on the shoulder.

“Um, fine, thanks,” I said, and immediately I wondered if he was really there, and if my companions weren’t watching me speak to the thin (well, smoky) air. But a quick glance told me that they as well were all looking and indeed smiling at this scruffy but handsome fellow.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends?” he asked. “This must be the famous Elektra! How are you, babe? Arnold has told me all about you?”

“He has?” said Elektra.

She nudged me with her elbow.

“Nothing bad, believe me,” said Jesus.

I knew this was the place where I was supposed to make the introductions, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Even my madness has its bounds.

Fortunately, he took over.

“I’m Josh, by the way,” he said to Elektra.

“Hello, Josh,” said Elektra.

Okay. Josh. That made it easier, certainly easier than Jesus, the Son of God. My politeness forced me to continue the farce.

“Josh,” I said, I think with a certain emphasis, to Jesus, “this is Miss Rathbone.”

She offered her hand and Jesus took it and brushed her knuckles with his lips.

“Oh my,” she said, smiling. “Do call me Charlotte, Josh.”

“I’m Steve,” said Steve, offering his hand.

“How are ya, Steve,” said Jesus, giving Steve’s pale hand a manly shake with his own tanned and strong carpenter’s hand.

“I’m Charlotte’s fiancé, by the way,” asserted Steve.

“Lucky guy.”

“Oh you,” said Steve, withdrawing his hand and waving it at Jesus.

“Larry Winchester, Josh,” said Larry, rising up slightly and reaching out his hand.

“Not Larry Winchester the film director?” said Josh, taking Larry’s hand.

“I think it be no other than e’en so,” said Larry.

Two For Tortuga? Ask Not The Hangman? White Slave Ship? Assignment in Bangalore? The Mystery of Old York Road?”

“At your service, sir.”

Larry disengaged his hand.

“I love your movies, Mr. Winchester,” said Jesus.

“Call me Larry and sit your ass down, friend, you’re drinking on me tonight.”

“Oh, I don’t want to intrude.”

“I said sit the hell down.”


Charlotte moved in closer to Steve, and Jesus sat down across from me. He looked at Clarissa, whose nose was just above the level of the table. I could see she was staring right at him.

“And who’s your little friend there, Arnold?” asked Jesus.

Once again I felt her pinch my thigh, but much harder now. It would definitely leave a mark.

“Clarissa,” I said.

“Hello, Clarissa,” said Jesus. “I’m Josh.”

She continued to pinch my thigh.

Gritting my teeth in pain, I said, “She’s very pleased to meet you -- Josh.”

Everyone at the table laughed, and Clarissa finally stopped pinching my thigh.

(Continued here and for approximately 5,978 further installments. Please look to the right hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, absolutely free of charge, although donations will be accepted in aid of the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia. Please make checks out to “cash”.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 130: late night drinks at Jake’s, or, Daphne runs the voodoo down

Our heroes, and our anti-heroes, those who have survived, have finally made it back to the Johnstone ranch, very late on this September night in 1969, just a short ride by Cadillac car from a town called Disdain...

(Go here to read our previous chapter, or here for the very first chapter of this Gold View Award©-winning epic from Larry Winchester, the man Harold Bloom has called “perhaps the only American writer of his generation who could give Arnold Schnabel a run for his money”.)

Jake insisted that everyone stay over, even Paco, but before they turned in he wanted to give them all a nice big Western-style breakfast. So, after telephoning Mr. Parsons and making sure it was okay for Cleb and Attie to stay, he woke up Chang and Esmeralda and put them to work while everybody sat in the parlor and had some liquid refreshment.

No one had yet spoken of the amazing things that had happened that night. Finally, though, after Enid had finished her first Manhattan and while Jake was mixing a new shakerful, she couldn’t take it any more.

“All right,” she said, “I give up. I’ll come out and say it since no one else seems to want to. What the hell happened tonight?”

Big Jake stopped stirring the cocktails.

“Now, Miz Enid, I don’t know as we have to talk about all that. Ain’t that right, Major?”

Mr. MacNamara remained suavely impassive.

“So you’re a major?” asked Enid.

“Used to be,” said Mac, sitting in his blood-stained suit in a comfortable stuffed leather chair. “Jake and I knew each other back in the war.”

“What --” Enid didn’t quite know what she wanted to ask next. She turned to Daphne, who was sitting next to her on the sofa. “Daphne, speak to me. What happened with that little sailor guy?”

Sailor, thought Jake. So the navy was involved too.

“Oh. The Sailor,” said Daphne. “He was killed, sad to say. Shot.”

“Killed? By whom?”

“Well, by that German person who was staying here, him and his trollop girlfriend or wife or whore. You remember, from the barbecue? Mein Herr and Frau Von Hideous?”

Hmmm, thought Jake. He hadn’t trusted them Germans one bit, no sir, even if they were nice and polite. Not one bit.

“Wh--, what --”

Again Enid didn’t know quite what she wanted to ask. Had it all been a peyote dream? But no, it wasn’t a dream that these people were splattered with blood, and that this Major and this Buddy person seemed to have bullet holes in their clothing.

“You see,” said Daphne, “they were in the spaceship.”

“Who? The Germans?”


“How did the Germans get in the spaceship?”

“The Sailor left the ramp down. He shouldn’t have done that.”

Leave it to the navy to fuck things up, thought Jake.

“Okay,” said Enid; “and what happened to the German people?”

“Well -- can I say this, Papa?”

Mac shrugged, and lit a cigarette. He looked as if he were quite enjoying Daphne’s summation of the evening’s events.

“Well,” she went on, after taking a sip of her Manhattan, “we went into the spaceship, Dick and the Sailor and I, and the Sailor closed the doors behind us by pressing some buttons on a panel on the wall, but then we found the Sailor’s friends shot by Adolph and Eva, and the Sailor went ape so they shot him, and Harvey I think shot the trollop, and they both shot Dick and Harvey, and the guy was going to shoot Dick again, and so I shot the guy. I don’t regret it either. Right through the head.”

“Dick and Harvey were shot,” said Enid.

“Yes. But the Sailor managed to heal them with this mystical life force thing with his fingers, before he died.”

“Oh, come on.”

“No, I’m quite serious, Enid. Then, while Dick and Harvey were recovering, I went to look for a ladies’ room and I found this sort of control room with a lot of TV screens in it, and one of them had a spaceman on it, and I told him what had happened and he said, okay, well, press such and such buttons and this will open the doors to the spaceship so we can leave, but I pressed the wrong buttons because I had to pee so badly and I couldn’t concentrate and I accidentally made the thing take off into outer space, and then into quite another dimension in fact.”

“Oh, please, Daphne.”

“Well, Enid, you asked, and that’s exactly what happened. And then, well, I really did have to pee and I never did find the ladies’ room, so I went in this grate and all sorts of smoke came out and I was absolutely terrified that we would all suffocate, but then we landed in this sort of casino in outer space.”

Big Jake realized she was fooling now. She obviously couldn’t give away all the top secret info about what really went on in that flying saucer, so she was just having fun, God bless her.

He gave the Manhattans another stir.

“And that’s where we met the whole Rat Pack,” said Daphne, “including Brad over there.”

“Hey, look,” said Brad, “I am only a hired hand.” Brad was standing with his drink. He was one of those guys who preferred to do his drinking standing up. “In fact,” he said, “come to think of it, I guess I’m not even a hired hand now. I seem to be out of a job.”

“Not necessarily,” said Mac. “I can always use a good man.”

“Hoo boy,” said Brad. “Somethin’ tells me I might be goin’ from the frying pan into the fire, but what the hell, I doubt they’ll take me back at the casino after all the shit that went down tonight, and since I ain’t eligible for unemployment comp, what the hell, you’re on, Major.”

“Call me Mac.”

Jake figured “the casino” must be code for the air force base they flew out of, maybe the local one, maybe not, maybe it was that Area 51 place he’d heard about. Anyways, he figured that Brad had probably been at least partially responsible for the saucer’s crash landing, maybe he was the pilot, and his ass was in a sling by consequence; but the Major was telling him don’t worry about it, Brad had a job with him if he wanted it. There were probably all sorts of different government and military factions involved, everybody trying to cover their own ass just like everywhere else.

Then Esmeralda came in and said breakfast was ready.

(Continued here. Kindly go to the right hand side of this page for what might possibly be an up-to-date listing of all other available chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, absolutely free, gratis, and for nothing, for a limited time only.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 135: triangle

It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was, however, the time of Arnold Schnabel...

Previously in this Gold View Award-winning masterpiece of autobiography our hero Arnold (carrying the alarmingly animated doll Clarissa) finally rejoined his friends in a booth in the Ugly Mug, that “fun stop for fun people” in the quaint fishing village and resort of Cape May, NJ, on a strange night in August of 1963:

Thank God (or, more likely, thank his opposite number, Jack Scratch’s employer), she behaved. For the time being.

“What the hell is that?” said Steve, leaning forward over the table. ”Barbie’s evil twin? Put her on the table.”

I took her out of the box, and, adjusting her legs, sat her, (comfortably I hoped) on the table, facing inward.

“Extraordinary,” said Steve.

“Quite,” said Miss Rathbone.

“Nice, Arnold,” said Larry.

“That’s not for me, I hope,” said Elektra.

“No, sorry,” I said.

“Because that’s the creepiest looking doll I’ve ever seen,” she said.

I was holding Clarissa by both her arms, and I could feel her little muscles twitch, as if she were about to start swinging at Elektra.

“She’s not creepy,” I said, holding her more tightly. “She’s just -- unusual.”

“Unusually creepy, Arnold,” said Elektra.

“I like her,” said Larry.

I could still feel Clarissa’s arm muscles pulsing, but I held her down, and at least she was keeping to her word about remaining silent.

“Where did you ever get her?” asked Steve.

“Well, she’s Dick Ridpath’s doll, actually,” I said.

“So what are you doing with her?”

I knew I needed to give an edited version.

“Well, Dick and I ran into each other, and we were on our way back here when we saw Miss Evans and the DeVores come out --”

“We told them we hadn’t seen you, Arnold,” said Steve.

“Thank you, Steve.”

“So, did they waylay you?” asked Miss Rathbone, pronouncing each syllable very distinctly.

“Well, before they could, Dick asked the proprietor of the Whatnot Shoppe if we could hide in his store for a while --”

“You lead a very interesting life, Arnold,” said Steve. Both he and Miss Rathbone were still drinking Manhattans, although Larry and Elektra were drinking draft beer.

“Do go on, Arnold,” said Miss Rathbone. She was smoking one of her pink Vanity Fair cigarettes.

“Well -- the proprietor, Mr. Arbuthnot, gave Dick the doll. To give to Daphne.”

“Why did he give Dick the doll?” asked Steve.
I couldn’t tell Steve it was because we had saved the universe. So I told a white lie.

“I guess because he likes Dick,” I said.

“Oh,” said Steve. “He likes Dick.”

“Yes. He gave me a pen.”

“A pen?”

“Yes. And ink. They’re in my pockets.”

“But you still haven’t explained why you have the doll.”

“Oh, Dick asked me to hold her while he lit a cigarette, and then he walked away, to find Daphne, and he accidentally left her with me.”

“I wonder if she has a name?” asked Miss Rathbone.

“Yes,” I said. “Clarissa.”

“Clarissa,” said Elektra.

Was it my imagination or was Clarissa staring coldly with her dark eyes at Elektra?

“I think she’s darling,” said Steve. “Hello, Clarissa!”

The “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” song had gone off by now, and another girl was singing a song about the end of the world.

“Can’t you put it back into the box?” said Elektra.

Again I felt a twitching of those small but puissant muscles and tendons.

Fortunately, Steve came to the rescue.

“Don’t you dare put her back in her box,” said Steve. “I think she’s absolutely darling.”

Clarissa turned her gaze indulgently on Steve, and I tried to make it look as if it was I who was turning her.

Fortunately our waitress appeared just then, loaded down with plates of hamburgers and baskets of French fries.

“Okay, eat, Arnold,” said Elektra, “we were optimistic about your return and we ordered for you.”

I put the box on the floor beneath the table and Clarissa on my lap, and I set to work on the food.

I hadn’t realized it before but I was ravenously hungry, and why not? It had been a busy and taxing evening. I had been chased by a madwoman (and that last epithet, coming from me, is saying something), I had been hunted also by two raging idiots who eventually teamed up with the madwoman on a seeming mission to destroy what little sanity I still might possess, I had witnessed Father Reilly’s dark night of the soul and in retrospect had been not only embarrassed by it but bored, in the course of which I had been visited yet again by him who was my own personal lord and savior or so it would seem, I had experienced an ecstasy with Elektra which if it was a sin then it was a sin I profoundly hoped to commit again as soon as was feasible, I had traveled to a floating casino in outer space and there resisted the blandishments of Frank and the Rat Pack, I had met Jesus again (for the sixth or seventh time that day) as well as St. Thomas Becket and Jack Scratch, as well as Mr. Arbuthnot in his shop of frightening wonders, I had traveled with Dick and Mr. Arbuthnot through a magic globe which granted us invisibility and inaudibility, we had dived also through a page of the Book of Time into a frozen world which Dick and I had only barely prevented Mr. Arbuthnot’s cat Shnooby from destroying, I had found myself possessed of this capricious doll, I had met Mr. Jones and Mrs. Davenport, and so on, and the evening was not yet over.

Also I had partaken of those mushrooms of Larry’s.

Anyway, I was very hungry.

Just when I was ready for it a pitcher of beer appeared on the table, and an empty mug for me, which I assented to allow the waitress to fill, and which I emptied two-thirds of in three long gulps.

I felt Clarissa pinch my thigh, and I realized I was comporting myself piggishly. I deliberately laid the last quarter of my burger on my plate instead of devouring it as quickly as I had each of its other three quarters. Then I forced myself to pick up merely one French fry and to eat only the first half-inch of it rather than all of it at once along with four or five of its fellows in a mouthful, which I had just done two or three times in less than a minute.

“We have more good news, Arnold,” said Larry, who had that admirable ability to eat and drink heartily and to talk all at the same time without seeming abominable. “Elektra’s joining us on the show.”

“The show?”

“The movie. She’s gonna play the nightclub singer.”

“Do you mind, Arnold?” said Elektra. She had a fleck of ketchup on her upper lip.

“No,” I said, as truthfully as I’ve ever said anything. “I don’t mind at all.”

She squeezed my thigh.

Clarissa pinched my other thigh.

What could I do? I picked up that ragged last quadrant of my burger and devoured it, then washed it down with beer. Then, not standing on ceremony, I filled my mug again from the pitcher.

(Continued here. Feel free to go to the right hand side of this page to find what purports to be an up-to-date listing of links to all other possible episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, fully vetted and approved by the Commissariat of Inspirational Literature.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 129: homeward

Let us return now to a certain momentous night in September of 1969, and to the desert beyond the darkness at the edge of a town called Disdain...

(Go here to review our previous chapter, or here for the first chapter of this Gold View Award©-winning chef d’ouevre from the battered Royal portable of Larry Winchester, the man Harold Bloom has called “the unholy love child of James Joyce and Jackie Collins”.)

Derek had gotten pretty banged up and cut up but the principal source of all his yelling was a dislocated knee. The Doc gave him some tincture of opium, and then Enid and Hope held Derek down while the Doc popped the knee back into place.

Paco hadn’t broken anything but he was pretty banged up too, so the Doc gave him some opium as well.

They were all hunkered down smoking cigarettes by the wrecked station wagon lying on its side when Jake’s Cadillac drove up.

Some moments are too weird for words. When very strange things happen it’s hard enough just realizing what’s happening; it’s even harder to say something about it.

And so Enid and Hope and the Doc and Paco and even Derek didn’t say very much at all when Jake pulled up with Dick and Daphne and Harvey and Cleb and Attie as well as these three other strange men, all of them except Jake and Cleb and Attie more or less splattered with gore.

Everyone piled out of the Cadillac, and Dick made the introductions. Everyone who didn’t already have a cigarette or a cigar going lit one up.

The Doc and Mr. MacNamara actually recognized each other from the OSS officers’ club in Paris and the night in 1944 when Mac had gotten the Doc laid by a Sorbonne student, but neither the Doc nor Mac made a big deal out of this reunion, and everyone else seemed to accept it as par for the course.

No one asked the obvious questions. The general feeling seemed to be, “All in good time. First let’s get out of this fucking desert.”

The immediate problem was transportation, so all the men except Paco and Derek pitched in and managed to turn Paco’s station wagon off its side and right side up again. The engine was shot to hell but the tires were still good, so they rigged the front of the station wagon to the back of Jake’s Cadillac with some rope Jake had in his trunk.

Everybody piled into both cars, and Jake started towing the station wagon to his ranch.

Harvey wound up in the far left back seat of the Cadillac with Attie on his lap. Mrs. Ridpath sat next to Harvey with Cleb on her lap. Cleb fell asleep with his head on Harvey’s right shoulder. Harvey could smell Attie’s hair in his face and she felt warm and not very heavy. Funny thing, up close like this in the starlight her skin didn’t look green at all. He started to get an erection, so he lifted one thigh up a bit to try to disguise it.

“Am I too heavy, Harvey?” asked Attie.

“Nope. You’re light as a feather, Attie.”

“Then why are you shifting around like that?”

“Oh, no reason.”

She shifted a bit herself.

“That better, Harvey?”

“Yep. Just fine.”

He was hard as a rock now and still trying to hold his one thigh higher to hide it when Attie shifted again so that her back was right against his stomach and she scrunched his leg down so that his hard-on went in between her buttocks.

Harvey sighed.

He’d tried to be a gentleman and there wasn’t much more you could do beyond that.

Well, it was only natural.

God only knew how much time Attie had on the Earth, or him either for that matter.

Who could begrudge them?

(Continued here. Please consult the right hand side of this page for what could very well be a complete listing of all other published chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™. Be sure to visit your local Woolworth’s to complete your collection of A Town Called Disdain Action Figures, this week only marked down 75%.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 134: Ithaca

Our previous chapter of this Gold View Award-winning memoir closed with its hero Arnold Schnabel -- freshly shriven by Father Reilly, and carrying the loquacious doll Clarissa safely in her cardboard box under his arm -- trying once again to get back to the Ugly Mug and his friends therein, at approximately 10:42 PM on the night of August the 10th, 1963, in the quaint seaport of Cape May, NJ...

I let this remark pass without response. She wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know.

I continued on down Washington Street.

“By the way, why are you limping?” she asked.

“I had a fall today,”* I whispered. “But I’m fine.”

“Oh good. Now, tell me about this lady friend of yours.”

“Look,” I said, trying to keep my voice low but audible while trying not to move my lips, in other words, sounding and acting like a madman, “I can’t really talk to you like this while I’m walking on the street.”

“Oh, but you’re such a stick-in-the-mud, Arnold! No one’s going to notice you. It’s Saturday night for God’s sake. Everyone’s quite merry and jolly!”

“Listen,” I said. On the other hand perhaps passersby took me not for a lunatic but merely for an incompetent ventriloquist practicing his act. “I just don’t want to get sent back to the nut-house. Understand?”

“Oh, but do tell me, what is this business of your being committed? Did you really go insane?”

“Yes,” I gasped.

“Not very pleasant I suppose.”


We had come to Mr. Arbuthnot’s shop. I quickened my pace.

“And was it the insanity that was unpleasant or the 'nut-house' as you call it?”

No one else was very nearby, so I answered as truly as I could manage.

“The insanity was something I learned to get used to. But I couldn’t get used to the hospital.”

“And so you did what you could to get out?”

“Yes,” I said.

I was getting a sore face from trying not to move my lips, but at least now we had come to the northern corner of Decatur and Washington. Catercorner across the street was the Ugly Mug, my Ithaca. I started across Washington with the light.

“And you determined never to go back, didn’t you, Arnold?”

“Well, let’s say I determined to try not to go back,” I said.

“No matter how mad you became?”

“My daily goal is not to become that mad,” I whispered.

By now I was across Washington, waiting for the light to change on Decatur. The Ugly Mug waited welcomely there right across the street. The light changed and I stepped off the curb.

“Now please stop talking, Clarissa, we’re getting ready to go into the bar.”

“I so love it when you call me Clarissa.”


“Oh, mum’s the word!”

Believe it or not I made it across the street and to the entrance to the Mug, finally, and opened the door.

“So we’re here then?” she piped.

“Yes, now --”

“Oh, Arnold, who are you talking to?”

It was that Jack Scratch fellow, and with him was St. Thomas Becket.

“No one,” I said.

“Talking to yourself, Arnold?” said St. Thomas.

“I guess so.”

“We were just heading on over to Pete’s Tavern to score some gage,” said Jack Scratch.

I noticed that the little bumps on either side of his forehead had become more pronounced.

“Well, good luck,” I said.

“Would you like some? Some muggles? It’s probably not great shit, but --”

“No thanks,” I said.

“What’s in the box, Arnold?” said St. Thomas. He seemed much drunker than when I’d left.

We were all still standing in the doorway, St. Thomas holding the door open.

“It’s a doll,” I said.

“A doll? Win it playing skee-ball?”

“No. It’s -- yes, yes,” I said, “I’m sorry, yes, I won it at skee-ball.”

“Brilliant,” said Mr. Scratch. “Come on, Tom, let’s go, I feel like getting baked.”

“Okay,” said St. Thomas. I noticed the top of his head was slightly awry again, from when he'd had it chopped off in his martyrdom. “Catch you later, Arnold.”

“Yeah, later, guys,” I said, and finally they went out.

“Who were those two weirdos?” she asked.

Fortunately it was very noisy and crowded in the bar. The band was offstage but the jukebox was playing “Blame it on the Bossa Nova”, very loud.

“One of them was St. Thomas Becket,” I said.

“Oh, right.”

“And the other was a fellow named Jack Scratch.”

I know him!

“I’m sure you do,” I said. “Now, look, I’m going down to join my friends now, so clam up.”

I could see them, still there in that booth near the small bandstand; there was Steve, gesticulating as vigorously as an orchestra conductor in mid-symphony, Miss Rathbone smoking and looking at him --

“All right, Arnold,” said Clarissa, “all right. God, you’re such a broken gramophone record!”

Elektra had moved over to the seat I had vacated next to Larry, and both she and Larry at least seemed to be listening to whatever it was Steve was saying.

“I’ll keep quiet,” said Clarissa, “but you have to take me out of the box.”

“I will,” I said, doing my bad Edgar Bergen impersonation, again, and I headed down the bar to my friends.

By the way,” she said, “I don’t think you’re insane.

Great,” I whispered.

Finally I reached the booth.

Noticing me, Steve stopped himself in mid-sentence and mid-gesticulation, and his eyes widened.

“Arthur! The prodigal son! Returneth!”

Miss Rathbone, Elektra and Larry all turned to look up at me.

“Arthur, we thought you had been captured!” said Steve. “By the evil people!”

“His name’s Arnold, Steve,” said Miss Rathbone, lowering his upraised arm with a gentle hand.

Arnold!” said Steve.

Elektra put her hand on my side, looking up at me, and I felt my heart swoon, although I managed to remain standing or not to float away.

“Hey, lover, you made it back,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Sorry I took so long.”

“Wasn’t all that long.”

It sure felt long, but I suppose she was right, in normal human time I suppose I had only been gone a half hour or so.

“What’s in the box?" she asked. "Sit down.”

She moved over, closer to Larry, and I sat down, with the box on my lap.

I took the lid off straight away because I didn’t want Clarissa to start complaining.

* See Episode 82.

(Go here for our next thrilling episode. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page to find what very well might possibly be an up-to-date list of links to all other extant chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™; grateful thanks to the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia, PA.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 128: requiescat

Larry Winchester, that master literary ventriloquist, now reverts back to the third-person semi-omniscient, on this fateful night in September, 1969, in the desert some several miles beyond the outskirts of a wretched little town called Disdain...

(Go here for our previous chapter, or here for the first chapter of this Gold View Award-winning epic.)

No one was especially surprised to see the headlights of what proved to be Big Jake’s Cadillac approaching across the dark desert and emerging from the still-descending cloud of dust. And for once in Jake’s life people were genuinely glad to see him. After all, it would have been a long walk back to the ranch.

Anyway, he pulled up and got out of the car, leaving the headlights on, and, after he greeted Dick and Daphne and Harvey, he and Mr. MacNamara looked at each other quizzically, their heads a bit tilted. They knew each other from somewhere.

Then Buddy spoke up.

“Hey, if it ain’t Staff Sarn't Johnstone.”

“What in hell,” said Jake.

“Goddamn,” said Mr. MacNamara, “so it is. Howya doin’, Sarge? Still makin’ a few francs?”

“Well, I’ll be goddamned,” said Jake.

“Probably,” said Mr. MacNamara.

“Major MacNamara,” said Jake.

“Private citizen now, Jake.”

“Well, put ‘er there, sir.”

Mac put her there. He’d done business with Jake back in the war. Jake had been the primary supplier of wine, liquor, tobacco and girls for the OSS officers’ club Mac had set up in Paris back in ’44.

“Damn, sir, that was you in that there space ship?”

Mac still held Jake’s hand. He now put his left hand over Jake’s as well.

“Jake, I trust you’re still the loyal American you always were.”

“I damn well am, sir.”

“Then I’m gonna have to ask you to keep all -- all this -- under that ten-gallon hat of yours.”

“You mean --”

Mr. MacNamara finally released Jake’s hand.

“That’s right, Jake. Top Secret. Let’s just say we were testing out a new experimental aircraft for the government, and, well, I suppose we’ve still got a few bugs to iron out.”

“Shee-it. And here I thought you was all spacemen.”

“Just good Americans like yourself, Jake. But you know how it is. If the Russkies were to get wind of a project like this, well --”

“Major, as far as I’m concerned, none of this ever happened, and as long as I got some say over what happens in this county none of it ever will happen, and like they say, a nod’s as good as a wink --”

“Good,” said Mr. MacNamara. “It’s tough about those motorcycle fellows, but something tells me they won’t be too sorely missed.”

“Well, I think you’re correct there, Major.”

Jake nudged Moloch’s body with his boot-tip.

“Fact is,” he said, “there’s plenty folks around here’d probly like to give ya the Distinguished Service Medal for bumpin’ off this piece o’ shit.”

“To tell the truth we didn’t bump him off. He was just about to shoot us all with that Sten gun there when a baseball came out of the sky and brained him.”

“No kiddin’,” said Jake. “Wonder if it was that ball Lefty Schiessen hit tonight?”

“Who the hell’s Lefty Schiessen?”

“Pitcher on the local minor league team. Hit a ball earlier tonight just as a flyin’ saucer went past -- I mean I reckon it was your, uh, experimental aircraft, and that ball just flew away up into the sky and never come down.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Mac, “that stuff happens. The craft, uh, pulls things into its, uh, gravitational field.”

“No shit,” said Jake. “Well, like you said, sir, these fellers won’t be too sorely missed. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.”

Actually Moloch’s death did in fact sadden Big Jake. He had made a fine shitload of money selling LSD to the Motorpsychos over the past couple of years. Well, there was always another angle if you just kept your eyes open.

“By the way, Major, you folks all right? You got a hell of a lot of blood ‘n’ gore on ya there.”

“Well, we lost someone in there, Jake, and, as you say, there was a lot of blood.”

“Oh. Shame.”

“But we’d like to keep that quiet, too, Jake.”

“Right. I understand, Major. Like none of this never happened.”

“That’s right, Jake.”

Jake turned and looked through the nearly-dissipated dust cloud at the broad dark path the saucer had scored into the desert.

“Well, them other fellas all got pretty squashed up. Whatever’s left the buzzards and the coyotes will take care of, or the desert sands’ll bury. As for ol’ Moloch here --”

Everyone looked back and forth at each other, and then Jake put his cigar in his mouth, reached down, grabbed the Sten gun in one hand and Moloch’s ankle in the other and started dragging the body over to the sink hole. Brad and Buddy came over, and each grabbed a dead arm to help out.

“What’s your moniker, buddy?” said Jake to Brad.


“You look familiar, too.”

“I got one of those faces,” said Brad.

They had the corpse almost at the edge when Dick said, “Uh, wait a minute, fellas --”

Brad and Buddy and Jake all turned and looked at Dick.

“Um, maybe we should, you know, say something --”

Jake and Brad and Buddy all dropped their respective limbs, Jake let the Sten gun drop onto Moloch’s belly, and they all continued to look at at Dick.

“Oh, I guess it’s up to me,” said Dick.

“Well, it was your idea, Mr. Smith,” said Jake.

“Yeah, well.”

Dick dropped his cigarette, stubbed it out with the sole of his shoe. He drew a blank until he remembered a favorite movie from his adolescence.

“Oh. I know.” John Wayne in They Were Expendable. “Let me see.” He cleared his throat. “Okay, I think I’ve got it:

Under the wide and, uh, starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die.
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
‘Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And --’ uh -- um -- shit -- what the fuck is it?"

'And the hunter home from the hill', you idiot,” croaked Moloch.

“Jesus Christ,” said Dick.

“Oh, my God,” said Daphne and she grabbed onto Harvey’s arm this time because he was the closest.

Moloch sat up, with that great bloody cavity in his head and with his crushed nose and with his one good eye glaring and glittering.

“See you in hell, sailor,” he said as he took up the Sten gun in his lap and pointed it at Dick.

Then there was a knife in his neck and he sat very still.

Dick stepped forward smartly and kicked the gun out of Moloch’s hand and off it went into the sink hole.

Then everyone, including Moloch, turned to see who had thrown the knife.

It was little Cleb Parsons, straddling his bike about thirty feet away. Attie was on her bike next to him. Both Cleb and Attie just barely glowed a beautiful soft green in the haze of dust illuminated by the headlights of Big Jake’s Cadillac.

Moloch made a noise as if clearing his throat and then, putting one hand flat on the dirt to his right, he tried to stand, amazingly, but failed and fell sideways over the edge of the sink hole and disappeared beneath the sand, joining the Sten gun and Lefty’s baseball and the Thorndykes and their truck, and Testicle and his bike, Colonel Masterson and Lieutenant Perkins and their jeep, Captain Pym, the flying saucer and Frank, Daphne’s riding boot, and God only knew who or what else.

There was a pause of a few moments and then Jake said, “Y’know, Brad, y’know who you look like? Like that feller in The Magnificent Seven, whatsisname.”


“Yeah, the one that thought the villagers had a secret stash o’ gold.”

“Yeah, I've gotten that before, actually.”

“What the hell’s that guy’s name?”

“Uh, Jake,” said Mr. MacNamara, “it’s getting a little cold out here, don’t you think?”

It was so late that Jake told Cleb and Attie they better just stay over his place that night, and he’d ring up Mr. Parsons to get his permission when they got back to the ranch.

Then he remembered Hope and Enid and the Doc and Paco and Derek, out there in the desert by Paco’s overturned station wagon.

(Continued here. Please look to the right hand column of this page for what might possibly be a current listing of all other published chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, now a major motion picture starring Michael Parks and Ann-Margret, coming soon to drive-ins everywhere on a double bill with Larry’s Italian-made thriller The Odd And The Odious, starring Franco Nero and Claudia Cardinale.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 133: friends

Let us now rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel, who (having just barely avoided the fate of Icarus) was last seen being carried through the air by that impish doll Clarissa above the ocean off Cape May, NJ, on a certain long evening in August, 1963…

(Go here to review our previous episode, or here to see the beginning of this Gold View Award-winning memoir.)

We were flying in toward the shore.

“I suppose also you’d like to go back now,” she said.

“Yes, I would, thank you,” I said.

“To your friends.”


“All right. I’ll find us a quiet place to land.“

It was odd being carried by her like this, sideways through the air. Not that flying through the air holding her hand hadn’t been odd also. I continued to hold onto the doll box.

“What do you say, by the way?” she asked.

“What do I say?”

“Yes, what do you say for my saving your life?”

“Oh, thank you,” I said, perhaps out of excessive politeness, since she would have never had to save me at all if she hadn’t pulled me up into the air in the first place and then suggested I let go of her hand.

“You’re very welcome, Arnold,” she said. “And, please, do call me Clarissa.”

I wasn’t about to argue while she was carrying me a couple of hundred feet up in the air, so I said, “Okay, Clarissa.’

“That’s better. Now tell me about these friends. There’s a woman, isn’t there?”

“Well, yes,” I said.

“Ha! I knew it. Anyone else, or is this really and in all actuality just a tête-à-tête?”

“Um --”

“Or a date as I suppose you would call it.”

“Well --”

“Perhaps assignation is the appropriate word.”

“No,” I said. “None of the above. There are some other, uh, friends there.”

“A party.”

“Just a get-together,” I said.

“You will introduce me to everyone?”

“Clarissa --”

“Yes,” she said, into my ear.

“How can I introduce you?”

I was twisting around, trying to look into her eyes, so human-looking, and yet I knew better, or at least I thought I did.

“Oh, right,” she said.

"Pardon me?"

“Of course you can't introduce me. After all I’m a mere doll. A plaything.”

“Well, it’s just that --”

“Oh,” she said. “Let’s stop here.”

We were approaching Our Lady Star of the Sea Church. Clarissa began descending and brought us down on top of its square bell-tower, planting me on my feet, but at slightly too fast a velocity, so that I stumbled forward and almost fell over the low brick wall on the rearward side. I pushed myself up from the wall, straightened up and turned.

She leaned back in the corner of the wall above Washington and Ocean Streets, one arm along the top of the wall, and she turned and gazed to her left down at the street.

“The passing parade,” she said.

“Um, Clarissa,” I said. Standing up here on top of this tower made me feel unpleasantly vertiginous, although oddly enough flying through the air had not especially bothered me.

“Yes, Arnold?” she asked.

She drew a strand of curly dark hair away from her eyes.

“I really do need to be getting back to my friends.”

“Go ahead, I’m not stopping you.”

“But --”

“There’s a trap door there in the floor. Just go on down.”

True enough there was a metal trap door in the brick floor, and it had a handle, and maybe it wasn’t locked.

“Aren’t you coming?” I asked, perhaps stupidly.

“I don’t know why I should. You’re not being very nice to me.”

“I’m really sorry if I offended you.”


“I’m sorry I offended you.”

She looked at me, then she turned around, put her forearms on the wall and gazed down again at the street and all the passing human beings.

Then she turned her head toward me. Her dark curls floated around her small porcelain face in the breeze.

“Perhaps I’ve been over-sensitive,” she said.

She returned her gaze to the murmuring pedestrian and motor traffic below.

Then she turned around and took a step towards me, smiling.

“Damn it, let’s do go meet your friends!”

“Great,” I said, not adding anything at all about how this was what we had been supposed to be doing all along.

“Open the box,” she said.

I opened the box, she climbed back into it, and with the box under my arm I leaned over and pulled open the trap door.

A metal ladder led down to the belfry just below, which was not completely dark, thanks to the starlight that came through the trap and the three tall gothic windows on each wall.

I climbed down the ladder with the box under my arm.

On the other side of the rack of bells was a railing winding down into a hole in the floor. Going over I saw a spiral metal staircase below, and I headed on down. There was just enough light for me to make my way down slowly step by step.

At the bottom of the stairwell was a door, its knob only just barely visible. I turned it, and, thank God if he was indeed responsible, it opened. I was now in recognizable territory, at the right of the narthex. I closed the tower door quietly behind me. All I had to do was go straight ahead to the front doors and out. Provided the doors weren’t locked. In which case I would have to come up with some new plan.

In any case I was not halfway to the entranceway when I saw Father Reilly come out from the nave. He was still wearing the casual civilian outfit he had been wearing earlier that night, and he had a large ring of keys in his hand that he was shaking up and down like a tambourine.*

He saw me and stopped, stopped shaking the keys also.

“Arnold,” he said.

“Hello, Father.”

“What are you doing here? I thought you were on a date with your lady friend?”

“Well, I was,” I said.

“And you’ve interrupted it to come back to church?”

I had to think fast.

“I wanted to know if you would hear my confession, Father.”

He seemed taken aback.

“I just heard your confession this morning.”

“I know, but --”

“But you’ve just committed another mortal sin.”

“Yes, Father.”

I felt a sort of kick inside the box.

“You know, it doesn’t work this way, Arnold, really,” he said. “You can’t just go to confession, run out and have sexual intercourse, then run right back to church and go to confession again. That’s insane.”

“So you -- don’t want to hear my confession?”

It didn’t matter to me, I just wanted to get out of there.

“It’s not about what I want, Arnold. It’s about -- you can’t just make up your own rules.”

“Okay, well, I can see that. I’ll just be going then, Father.”

“Wait, what were you doing coming from down the other end of the narthex there?”

“What was I, uh, doing?”

“Yes. Why didn’t you just come right into the church.”

“I -- I was -- wrestling with myself.”

“You were?”

“Yes, you know, wondering if I should -- uh -- ask you to hear my, uh, confession --”

“So even you knew you were doing something wrong.”

“Yes, I suppose I did, Father.”

“The wrong being not so much the intercourse, because that might very well have been a beautiful, perhaps even sacred act; no, but rather, the audacity of thinking you could make it a sin by confessing it.”

“Yes, Father.”

I felt and heard a giggling from inside the box.

“Was that you?” asked Father Reilly.

“It’s the beer I drank earlier, Father. A slight case of gas.”

He paused. I prayed she wouldn’t giggle again.

“All right, Arnold,” said Father Reilly. “Take a knee.”


“Kneel down.”

I felt and heard another giggle from the box, and, clearing my throat loudly, I got down on one bare knee, on that hard marble floor.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” said Father Reilly, making the sign of the cross, “I absolve you. Again. Ego te absolvo. Say three Hail Marys when you get the urge. Now get up.”

I stood up.

“Come on,” he said, “I’m going to lock up from outside.”

He went to the doorway, opened one of the big doors and waved me through. He came out, closed the door and locked it with a big key from his ring. He put the ring in his trousers pocket and then took his nearly-empty pack of Camels from his shirt pocket.

“Cigarette?” he asked.

I hesitated, even raising my hand, but at the last moment I said, “No thanks, Father.”

He shook one out for himself, put the pack away.

“Do you think you’ll see Miss Evans, Arnold?” he said, as if casually, putting the cigarettes back into his pocket.

“I have no doubt I will, Father.”

He reached into another pocket, took out his Pete’s Tavern matchbook and tore off a match, but instead of lighting his cigarette he looked straight at me and said:

“I want you to tell her something for me.”


“Tell her I’m sorry.”


He paused, still looking straight in my eyes. Then he lit his cigarette, waved the match, tossed it down the steps. He put the book of matches back into his pocket and exhaled smoke slowly through his thin nostrils as he gazed down toward the street.

He turned to me again.

“And tell her I won’t be able to see her any more, Arnold. If she wants further religious counsel tell her she should see Father Schwartz. He’s a good man. I wouldn’t recommend Father Fahey. He too has a weakness for the fairer sex. Make it Schwartz.”

“Yes, Father.”

“If Father Schwartz has a weakness it’s not for the ladies.”

“Well, good night, Father. And thanks.”

“Thanks? For what?”

“For absolving me.”

“Oh.” He waved his cigarette. “Good night, Arnold. Oh, wait, what’s in the box?”

“Oh, the box,” I said.


“It’s um, uh, it’s a present for my friend’s girlfriend, a doll. My, uh, friend forgot it, and, uh --”

“All right, good night, Arnold.”

“Good night, Father.”

I went down the steps and turned right on the sidewalk, without looking back.

“That man is a complete goose,” she said, from inside the box. “And you’re not much better!”

*See Chapter 109 for Fr. Reilly's previous appearance in Arnold's memoirs.

(Continued here, under the close supervision of a crack team of mental health professionals from the Mayo Clinic. Please see the right hand side of this page to find what might be an up-to-date listing of links to all other published episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™; Imprimatur, Cardinal Charles “Chuck” O’Malley.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 127: changed

Larry Winchester (”The sage of our benighted age.” -- Harold Bloom), bowing to the demands of his audience, assumes once again the inimitable voice of Mr. Big Jake Johnstone...

(Go here to freshen your memory of the previous chapter. Newcomers may go here for the first chapter of this Gold View Award©-winning masterpiece.)

Everything was just kinda still and quiet like. Great big old dust cloud that the saucer’d stirred up, just kinda hangin’ there over the desert ‘cause there wasn’t much of a wind out, but even so I could see where the saucer’d finally skidded to a stop, because it was still glowin’ this weird kinda soft green like neon or somethin’. The saucer was just restin’ like, ‘cept now all this green smoke starts pourin’ up out of it.

Then, wouldn’tcha just know it, that ol’ saucer just starts slidin’ an’ sinkin’, slow but steady, down into that ol’ sink hole. And then I could see what looked like some kinda creatures runnin’ over the top of the saucer an’ jumpin’ off it.

Then it was gone. The saucer I mean. Disappeared. But through the dust I could see them creatures, five or six of ‘em, standin’ there by the rim of the sink hole.

Well, I had me another hit of that Jack Daniel and, call me crazy or just plain stupid, I started that Caddy up and drove on in to where the saucer’d been. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it was on account of that prayer I’d prayed that the good Lord had seen fit to answer. He’d got me out of that scrape and I’d promised to be a good man if he did. And I’ve tried to live up to that promise. You ask anybody in these parts if I ain’t a changed man. And, well, maybe I figured, hell, I got through that pickle alive, maybe the good Lord wants to keep me around a while. And if I’m gonna be around it might just be in my interest to see what these creatures who’d jumped out of the saucer might have to offer. I mean I figured, hey, they are obviously much more technologically advanced than mankind, but still and all maybe they’d appreciate a savvy earth fella to show ‘em around, show ‘em the ropes so to speak. Maybe set up a few business and political connections for ‘em. Set up a few howdy-dos. Whisper a few words to a few people in the right places and grease a few wheels. Wouldn’t hurt just to introduce myself anyhow. Learned a long time ago bein’ shy is a good way to get nowhere fast in this life, and with all due respect to the Lord Jesus, the meek of this world don’t inherit jack shit in a leaky bucket.

So I headed on in.

Took another good jolt o’ Mr. Daniel and headed on in.

Now I wished I could tell ya what transpired next but I’m afraid I been sworn to secrecy. That’s right. Sworn. And a man ain’t as good as his word, well, that man is just about lower’n whaleshit in my opinion, lower than whaleshit at the bottom of the ocean.

Oh, now, I ain’t sayin’ I never told nobody. Somethin’ like what I’m talkin’ about, ya just gotta tell somebody, otherwise the fact of it’ll just keep growin’ in your brain, growin’ and growin’, like a goddam brain tumor. (Known quite a few people hereabouts what’ve had brain tumors. Knew one feller had a brain tumor got so damn big one day his head just split open while he was sittin’ drinkin’ a beer at Burt’s. Split right open right along the top of his skull, sprayin’ out blood and brain matter just like a fountain. Fell off the stool, smacked his head on the floor and out rolled a tumor size of a softball.)

So I told people, sure.
But the thing was I only told prostitutes. You know, lyin’ there, all calm an’ cozy after gettin’ my weezer wozzled, smokin’ a cigar, maybe sippin’ a little J.D., I’d tell some little gal what happened. Usually it’d be some little Mex gal who couldn’t understand what I was sayin’ no how. (All’s said and done I gotta admit I prefer women what don’t speak English. I find it much more, well, restful that way. And chances are they do too, come to think of it.)
Anyway, I’d lie back an’ tell ‘em all about it, an’ even the ones that did speak English probly just thought I was makin’ it all up. But I wasn’t. An’ even if they did believe it and repeat it, it wouldn’t matter none, ‘cause who gives a fuck what a prostitute says?

(Continued here. Kindly refer to the right hand column of this page for what might be an up-to-date listing of all other published chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, coming soon to drive-ins everywhere on a double bill with Larry’s bildungsroman bio-pic Young Marcel, starring Toby Maguire as Marcel Proust.)