(Click here to return to the first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning memoir. “It’s a family tradition in my home to sit by the fire and read Schnabel aloud throughout all twelve nights of Christmas.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in Town and Country.)
Finally we made it to my aunts’ house on North Street, and our little troop went through the gate, up the front path and around to the side entrance steps. My female relatives (despite their obdurate thriftiness) had kindly left the little light bulb burning over the doorway. I turned to the Devores. I knew that they had the room on the ground floor left rear, which meant that here was the perfect place to divest myself of them. (Miss Evans, I knew, would be a different and far more difficult matter.)
“Well, good night, uh –” I couldn’t remember DeVore’s first name, and I had never known his wife’s name, although I had the vague notion that it possibly sounded like some sort of tuber or vegetable. “Good night, Mr. – uh –”
Suddenly his wife leaned over one of my aunts’ azaleas and began to vomit.
“Let’s go, Arnold,” said Miss Evans, pulling on my arm.
Mr. DeVore, ignoring his wife, held out his hand to me.
“Good night, pal. This is the best night I ever had in my life. And I really mean that.”
I shook his hand quickly, then pulled my hand away.
His wife continued to vomit.
“Would you two like to stop back to our place for a little nightcap?” he asked.
“No,” said Miss Evans.
“No thanks,” I said.
“You’re sure?” he asked. “I got a bottle of Four Roses –”
“No,” said Miss Evans.
“Yeah, it’s a little late,” I said.
His wife continued to vomit still.
“Hey, we should do something tomorrow, Arnold,” he said. “Just you and me.”
Miss Evans pulled on my arm.
“Yeah,” said DeVore. “What do you like to do, Arnie? You like to fish?”
It had been such a long night. I confess I was on the verge of beginning to lose my patience. Mrs. DeVore, still vomiting prodigiously, had fallen to her knees, her sweat-soaked back buckling violently with each spasm. One would not have thought this smallish woman’s stomach capable of producing so much vomit, but it kept bursting out with no signs of diminishment.
“Listen,” I said, “Mr. DeVore –”
“Bob, call me Bob.”
He took out a pack of Kools from somewhere, gave the pack a shake, and several cigarettes flew out of it.
“Bob –” I said.
“Or maybe we could play a round of golf,” he said.
“Let’s go, Arnold,” said Miss Evans.
“Do you play?” asked DeVore. “Golf I mean.”
“No,” I said.
“What about miniature golf?”
“Oh my f**king God,” moaned Mrs. DeVore.
“Honey,” said Mr. DeVore, putting a cigarette into his mouth, “watch your language.”
“Sorry,” she moaned.
“Sorry about that,” said DeVore to both me and Miss Evans. “She’s not used to the booze.” He was trying to light a cigarette with a Zippo that wouldn’t light. “So, Arnold -- y’know what we should really do? What we should really do tomorrow is just sit in a bar and watch the Phillies on TV. They’re playin’ the Giants. What do ya say? Just you and me, us guys.”
He smiled the way a puppy smiles.
How could I tell him I would rather die?
“Come on, Arnold,” said Miss Evans.
She was squeezing my arm so tightly that I could feel the blood to my hand being cut off.
“I want to show you my etchings,” she said.
“Etchings?” said DeVore. “I’d like to see your etchings too.”
"I think you should attend to your wife," said Miss Evans.
"Oh," he said, glancing down at the heaving and gasping small woman, "yeah, I guess you're right. Well, then, Arnold, how about it?"
"How about you and me, tomorrow. We'll get a little crazy. What do you say?"
You can imagine what I wanted to say.
But then an odd thing happened, to wit, DeVore suddenly turned into Jesus Christ. Not the Josh I had just left passed out on a couch at the Chalfonte, but a shorter and much more mundane-looking Jesus, but Jesus all the same.
“Yes,” he said. “Even the most boring man has something of me in him. Remember that, Arnold, and be kind.”
Then just as quickly he changed back into DeVore.
“Okay,” I said then. "Uh, look, Bob, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
This seemed vague enough.
“When?” he asked, shaking his lighter.
“Um, in the morning,” I said.
“In the morning it is, then buddy!”
He clicked his lighter again. It failed to light.
“Good – night – Arnold,” moaned his wife, hunched over, holding her hair back with one hand, and looking sideways up at me.
“Good night –”
What was her name?
No matter. She vomited again.
“Ta ta,” said Miss Evans and then she pulled me up the steps, threw open the screen door and yanked me inside.
The hallway in there is narrow, as are the stairs, and she finally let go of my arm. Not standing on ceremony I headed up the stairs first. I didn’t want her blocking my way.
I climbed the steps as quickly as I could with my injured knees and made it to the second floor without incident, but halfway up to the third floor Miss Evans could no longer restrain herself and she grabbed at my rear end, causing me to leap involuntarily, trip, and flop forward onto the steps, with my right knee taking the hard brunt of the fall.
“Oh, dear, are you okay, Arnold?” she said, from below me on the stairs, and yet above me.
“Sure,” I said, and I pushed myself up to a standing position again. I took another step but my knee gave out, and I collapsed to my slightly more functional left knee.
“Are you quite sure you’re all right, Arnold?”
I didn’t answer, but, putting my hand on the bannister, I hauled myself up again. Going very slowly, one halting painful step at a time, I pulled myself up the rest of the way to the third floor.
I stopped to catch my breath, and to prepare myself for the walk down the hall to the attic door, when she came up beside me and took my arm once more.
“You poor thing and it’s all my fault.”
“No, I’ll be fine,” I said.
“You’d better come to my room. I’ll put some ice on that knee.”
“No thanks, Miss Evans.”
“Clean you up a bit.”
“I’ll take a shower in the morning.”
I took a step, and almost but not quite fell. Miss Evans skipped forward and grabbed my arm.
“Here, let me help you.”
I took another painful step.
“There there,” she said. “Easy does it now.”
A few more steps took us abreast of her door.
“I can make it from here,” I said.
“Oh can you?”
“Yes, thank you,” I said, through gritted teeth.
“Well, good night, then.”
“Good night, Gertrude.”
Don’t ask me why I tossed her the bone of addressing her by her first name. I felt sorry for her. But I shouldn’t have done it. Next thing I knew she had her arms around my neck and was kissing me.
It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want her to kiss me, although it’s true, I didn’t want her to, but the thing was that with my bad knee I could barely support my own weight, forget about the addition of hers, and so the combined action of my trying to pull away from her and of my right knee collapsing sent us both tumbling to the floor, with me on my back and Miss Evans lying on top of me.
“You brute,” she whispered. “Do you intend to take me right here in the hallway?”
I shoved her off, turned over, tried to get up, failed, fell to my knees, in great pain.
She grabbed my belt at the back, yanked, and pulled me to the floor again.
I was on my back, she was on her knees straddling my chest, staring down at me. She had her hard black purse slung over one shoulder, and both her hands were free to press down against my shoulders. Her face seemed enormous looming above mine, and even in the dim light of this hallway her eyes glittered with tiny bright flames.
“So,” she said, “you like it rough, do you?”
“Please, Miss Evans,” I whispered. “We’ll wake up the whole house.”
“That’s true,” she said. “Can’t have that.”
Two seconds later she was dragging me by the shoulders back toward her door. I had not known before this night that a mortal woman could possess such strength.
(Continued here, and indefinitely, due to contractual obligations.)
(Kindly turn to the right hand column of this page to find a putative up-to-date listing of links to all other previously broadcast episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Farther down you will find a listing for many of the fine poems of Arnold Schnabel, suitable for quoting on Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa cards.)