Friday, July 3, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 149: miracle


Cape May, New Jersey. (Frank's Playland to the right.)

Let us return to Sid’s Tavern (“Why sit and suffer on the beach when you can come right across the street and enjoy our frosty refreshing quart-size mugs of frothy cold Ortlieb’s beer?”), in the seaport and resort of Cape May, NJ, a town which at the time of our story (August of 1963) could still reasonably be described as “quaint”.

(Scroll down or click here to go to our previous episode. Go here to see the first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning memoir from the exalted hand of Arnold Schnabel.)

“To be honest,” I said, “I’m improvising here.”

“Did you really want to smoke pot with these maniacs?”

“Oh, no," I said. "But look, we’d better go.”

I could see the group of them standing just outside the open doorway, looking in at us, ready to give chase should we try to escape through a back exit.

Slowly Josh and I walked together through the mob.

“All I wanted was to tie a quiet load on in peace,” said Josh.

“I know,” I said. “The only safe way to do that is just to stay home, I’ve found.”

“Kind of depressing, that.”

“Yes, there is a trade-off.”

We got to the doorway.

“Great,” said Jack Scratch, “all assembled. Let’s go across.”

Without bothering to go down to the corner, and pulling Miss Evans along, he started jaywalking across Beach Drive, and the rest of us followed. Traffic was light, and none of us was run over. Josh and I went last. We all walked along the other side to the steps that led up to the promenade near Frank’s Playland, which had closed for the night.

“Come on,” said Jack, “we’ll go down and around Frank’s. No one will see us there.”

Looking profoundly suspect, the seven of us went across the promenade and down the wooden steps to the beach side.

“Why are we going to the beach?” said Mrs. DeVore, not for the first time.

“We’re gonna get high, baby,” said Jack, over his shoulder.

“Get high?”

She started to drag her feet but St. Thomas pulled her along.

“Don’t worry, milady,” he said. “You’re in good hands.”

“Yeah, don’t worry, honey,” said Bob DeVore, and then he fell down in the sand on all fours. “I’m all right!” he said, although no one had asked.

Finally we were all standing in the shadows of the seaward side of Frank’s, by those enormous wooden pilings sunk in concrete on which it rests. The arcade had been hit hard by the northeaster of the year before, and this side of Frank’s had been rebuilt, but it was still the same old Frank’s, sticking out grimly and implacably over the beach.

Up above, the great sky had clouded over, and about fifty yards away the ocean did what the ocean does, splashing around either side of the rock jetty there. The beach smelled of dead seaweed and damp sand.

Jack knocked his pipe empty against a piling, stuck the pipe in a jacket pocket, then reached into his shirt pocket and brought out a thin tightly-rolled reefer.

”Who’s got a light?” he said.

“I do,” said DeVore, and he brought out a lighter.

“Bob --” said Mrs. DeVore.

“Relax, love,” said Thomas, taking out another reefer from his own shirt pocket.

“Wait, what’s that?” she said.

“What?” said Thomas.

Devore had lighted Jack’s reefer and was now lighting Thomas’s.

“There’s someone in there,” she whispered, pointing into that stygian gloom beneath Frank’s.

Everyone held still and silent, even Jack.

Sure enough there emerged from out of the blackness among those pilings the sounds of a pair of grunting and panting human beings, a male and a female.

“Someone’s being murdered,” hissed Mrs. DeVore.

“Far from it,” said Jack, quietly, drawing in the smoke from his reefer and holding it in. “Here,” he said to Miss Evans, “take a hit.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” she said.

Thomas had also taken in a lungful, and he offered his reefer to Mrs. DeVore.

“What is it?” she said.

“Ganja. Bhang. Muggles. Weed.”

“What?”

“Marijuana,” said her husband.

“Oh no I couldn’t.”

“I’ll try some,” said DeVore, and he took the reefer from Thomas’s fingers.

Meanwhile the groaning and the yelping beneath Frank’s approached a crescendo.

“Listen to those two go at it,” said Thomas.

“There are indeed certain advantages to being human,” said Jack. “Hey, Gerty, don’t bogart the joint, babe.”

Miss Evans had been puffing steadily away on the reefer.

“What?” she said.

“Pass the doobie. We’ve only got these two left.”

“Oh. I didn’t know. I wish we had more. This makes me feel --”

She stared at the reefer’s glowing end. The sea crashed, the lovers moaned and groaned and yelped.

“Like what?” said Jack.

“Like the queen of the world,” she said.

“I told you it was good stuff,” said Jack. “Pass it to Josh.”

“Oh. Yes,” she said. “Joshua.” She looked at him, and she took another puff. “You handsome devil.”

“Far from it, Miss Evans,” said Thomas. “At least the devil part.”

“Oh, really,” she said.

“Gertrude, pass the joint,” said Jack.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, and she offered the reefer to Josh. He shrugged slightly, dropped the cigarette he’d been smoking to the sand, and took the reefer.


“Wow,” said Bob DeVore meanwhile, puffing away, “I feel, I feel -- I feel --”

“Pass it to Arnold, Bob,” said Thomas.

“What?” said DeVore.

“Pass the joint, old man.”

“Oh, okay.”

He passed it to me, what was left of it. It was wet with his slobber.

“I’ll pass,” I said. I handed the reefer delicately over to Thomas.

“Christ, Bob,” said Thomas, looking at the soggy little stick in his fingers.

“I feel holy,” said Bob.

Meanwhile the groaning and yelping under Frank’s had ceased, replaced now by heavy breathing, a few soft unintelligible words, sweet nothings I suppose.

“What we should do,” said Jack, taking the reefer back from Josh, “is go back to Pete’s before they close, and score some more.”

I had been waiting for another one of my brainwaves and now I finally got one. I leaned close to Josh and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned, looking very bored. He had been holding in smoke, and now he slowly let it out.

I mouthed the words, “Loaves and fishes.

He cocked his head, looking puzzled.

I nodded toward the reefer that Thomas was trying to smoke, keeping the wet end separate from his puckered lips and sucking deeply.

Fortunately Bob DeVore had resumed talking, loudly, about how holy he felt, and Miss Evans was simultaneously expanding on the theme of her queenliness.

Loaves, and fishes,” I whispered.

Oh,” said Josh. “Right.”

“What are you two rascals whispering about?” said Jack, smiling, but looking suspicious.

“I completely forgot,” said Josh. “I have some on me. Here.”

He reached into his khakis pocket and brought out a handful of reefers, and not like the skinny ones that were already being smoked, but big fat ones.

“Wow,” said Bob DeVore.

“Here ya go, everybody,” said Josh, and he handed everyone a reefer, even Mrs. DeVore. “Good stuff, Jamaican.”

“Oh, good,” said Miss Evans. “Now we don’t have to go through this tedious passing ritual.”

“That’s right,” said Josh.

Jack and Thomas put out what was left of the two thin reefers with their fingertips and dropped them back into their pockets, and in a matter of seconds everyone was individually smoking one of Josh’s fat reefers, even Mrs. DeVore. I had lit one to be polite and not to draw attention to myself, but I only took a couple of small puffs.

“I want you to tell me,” Jack Scratch said to Miss Evans, “why has none of your books ever been made into a motion picture?”

“I haven’t the faintest,” said Miss Evans.

“Oh, but this latest one is so cinematic in its possibilities. I have good friends in Hollywood. Perhaps I could help you.”

“Really? Do you think so?”

“Oh yes indeed.”

“How do you like it, Mrs. DeVore?” said Thomas, running his finger along her bare plump arm.

“Like what?” she said.

Josh tugged on my shirt. I looked at him. He nodded.

“I have to take a pee,” he said.

“Yeah, me too,” I said.

“I would love to have Rock Hudson play the part of Julian,” said Miss Evans. “In fact I wrote it picturing Rock Hudson.”

“Brilliant,” said Jack. “I know Rock’s agent. I’ll call him tomorrow.”

Josh and I started quietly sidling away.

“Where are you two going?” said Miss Evans.

“We have to pee,” repeated Josh. “We’re just going round the corner.”

“You only just took a pee, Arnold,” said Miss Evans. But then she seemed not so sure of it. “Didn’t you?”

“I drank a lot of beer,” I said, shrugging.

“I really feel like God,” said Bob DeVore.

“I feel like I can see the air,” said Mrs. DeVore.

"You have such a charming way about you, Mrs. DeVore," said Thomas.

“And who do you see for the female lead?” Jack said to Miss Evans.

“Oh. Natalie Wood?”

“Natalie, great. I’m friends with her agent too.”

Without another word Josh and I turned around the corner of Frank’s and back the way we had come.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” he said in a low voice.

“So you don’t really have to pee?”

“Oh, I have to pee all right, but it can wait.”

"We'd better put these out," I said, meaning the reefers.

We stopped just long enough to stub them out on one of the pilings, and we pocketed the extinguished remains.

Just then two young people came out from under Frank’s ahead of us, a teenaged boy and girl. They looked at us, and then ran for the steps up to the promenade.

We followed right behind them.


(Continued here, and until the seas are all dried up. Kindly turn to the right hand column of this page for what might well be a complete listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™. “The literary equivalent of really good sinsemilla.” -- Harold Bloom)


5 comments:

kathleenmaher said...

Sublime episode, Arnold. The DeVores may be horrible bores in real life but they're hilarious from where I sit.

Manny said...

Lovely, and so evocative I can smell the smells and taste the weed.
One question: Did Rock Hudson and Natalie Wood ever make that movie together?

Dan Leo said...

Kathleen, I have to admit the DeV's crack me the hell up too. I think one of my other readers said he would hate to get high with them, but I think it would be fun at least once "for the experience". Or would it?

And. Manny, you don't know how much I want to see that movie. In glorious mid-sixties Technicolor, with Hollywood back-lot "Midtown Manhattan Publishers" and "Greenwich Village" sets, a Mancini score, a theme song sung by Nat Cole or Johnny Hartman (preferably with lyrics by Johnny Mercer)...I could die happily...

Manny said...

Someday we'll all see that movie. (that is, as long we don't make go making deals with Jack Scratch)

Jennifer said...

Wow- this latest escapade is surely one of those that changes lives, but leaves the participants thinking, what just happened??

I think this post did the same thing for the reader...

Also, laughing at the loaves and fishes substitution. Poor Jesus/Joshua... always having to work, never getting a break, and here he is, just wanting to tie a quiet load on in peace.

One more thought, because there's always one more. I suspect that after the Vatican gains knowledge of the writings of Arnold Schnabel, the Bible will most likely be updated to include the Book of Arnold.