Tuesday, December 29, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 179: new day

In our previous episode our author Arnold Schnabel, at the end of a very long Saturday in August of 1963, retired to his humble army cot in the attic of his aunts’ boarding house in Cape May, New Jersey, and, after reading several pages of Ye Cannot Quench (that bulky and now sadly-obscure novel of 1950s New York, given to him by its author, the hot-blooded novelist Gertrude Evans, a novel which includes the epic poem of 1950s New York The Brawny Embraces), finally drifted off into sleep...

(Go here to revisit the first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 37-volume masterpiece, #97 on Reader’s Digest’s "101 Notable Memoirs of the Year".)

I woke up, ravenous, to the sound of spattering rain and of wind.

Somehow I had never gotten that last little bite to eat that I had wanted last night, that final ham-and-cheese sandwich or left-over platter of sauerbraten and potatoes (perhaps chased with a quart of milk and some apple pie) which is always a sound idea after a late Saturday night.

But today was Sunday. My aunts and mother would be laying out an especially sumptuous breakfast, as they did every Sunday after their return from eight o’clock mass, just in time for my return from the nine o’clock (or the ten, depending on my hangover status) -- luscious piles of homemade blutwurst, stacks of buttery pancakes (made with the buckwheat flour they ground themselves with an enormous engraved cast-iron hand-cranked mill that pre-dated the discovery of electricity by half a century or so) and a plate of creamy scrambled eggs from the three fat hens kept in the pen out back behind the shower stalls, all of it washed down with copious cups of our family blend of coffee, strong and black (and laced as likely as not for my morning-after benefit with the schnapps the sisters distilled themselves out of some ancestral compulsion but to my knowledge never drank themselves -- no matter, more for me) followed with a thick slice of käsekuchen warm from the oven and maybe just a small glass of kirsch, also homemade...

I looked out the screen of my small window, thick rain splattering against it, the odd tiny sputter of spray landing gently on my face.

So, another rainy August day. Too bad for the vacationers, especially the ones with children, and indeed far worse for the children themselves who wanted only to leap madly about like savages in the burning sunlight on the beach all day, but were now doomed to be dragged howling through one tedious gift shop after another --

My railwayman’s internal clock told me it was roughly nine o’clock, so I’d had five and a half hours sleep or so; I could make up the difference with a good nap this afternoon, after my work session with Larry, provided we actually had a work session. Considering the state I had last seen him in, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave us the day off, which would be fine by me.

The thing to do now was go downstairs and eat. My mother and aunts would assume I was going to the ten o’clock mass. But, having slept on the matter, I decided right there and then that -- for the first time in my life, not excluding my eleven months of wartime service in the European Theatre of Operations -- I would forgo Sunday mass.

After all, was I not a personal friend of -- well, I preferred to think of him as he preferred to be called: “Josh”. What was the point of my going to church to attempt to commune with the son of God when I could merely stroll over to the Chalfonte and see him in person?

Of course I wouldn’t tell my mother and aunts I was skipping mass; they would be giving me enough trouble as it was for sleeping late and eating breakfast before mass instead of afterwards like a decent Catholic.

No, I would set forth in my Sunday best with an umbrella, but instead of going to church perhaps I would walk over to the jewelry shop and say hello to Elektra. I could stand there and watch her out of the side of my eye as she waited on customers. And, who knows, if it was slow, or if she could get one of her friends to cover for her, perhaps she and I could go even upstairs for a bit. After all, I wasn’t due to meet Larry before 10:30 or so, and he probably wouldn’t mind if I were a half-hour late, it would give him more time to wake up and rejuvenate, and if I knew Larry he wouldn’t mind if I were as much as an hour late if he knew the reason for my tardiness.

I felt certain that Josh himself would approve of a visit with Elektra as an alternative to mass...

Before getting out of bed I performed my routine hangover check, like a pilot checking his instruments and gauges before take-off:

Head: not too bad, a slightly constricted feeling, as if my brain had swollen a size or two and was pressing against the inside of my skull, trying gently to burst out like a chick from its shell.

Stomach: not bad, not bad, at all, no nausea, just this overpowering desire to be fed, soon, and in great quantities.

General disposition: mild malaise, but no worse than on many many other weekend mornings I had faced, and not a few weekday ones.

I remembered that I had scraped my arms and knees on the pavement, but these scrapes and their attendant bruises did not actively pain me, at least not yet, anyway.

There was something else different within the universe of myself, and it took me a few moments to realize what it was, as the rain clattered down outside and the wind thrashed the wet leaves of the oak outside my window, and then it hit me: I had no need or desire to cough, and -- wonder of wonders and concomitantly -- I had not the slightest desire or need for a cigarette. So I had that going for me.

Anyway, first things first, get into some clothes, go downstairs, wolf down some food, take a quick shower, climb into the Sunday suit and go to “mass”.

This plan shouldn’t be too hard to carry out, or so I thought.

But how wrong I was to think that, how terribly wrong, because as I threw aside the sheet and turned over to get out of bed I finally realized that I was not alone, no, for lying next to me facing away on her side lay a sleeping naked woman.


(Continued here, et ad astram.)

(Please look to the right hand column of this page to find what quite often may be a current list of links to all other available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. “The perfect book to take along to the pen after the feds finally catch up with you.” -- Bernie Madoff.)

15 comments:

dianne said...

What!!!?

Not expecting that.

kathleenmaher said...

Wonderful! Arnold's "universe of myself" is miraculous. For all the times I've remarked that despite his mental breakdown, he seems the sanest person, now I see that for all his supernatural experiences, he is supremely primed for life on earth. Waking with such presence and little pain after the wildest of nights strikes me as an Olympian feat.

Dean Rohrer said...

ruh roh revisited

Dan Leo said...

Dianne -- neither was Arnold expecting that! Never a dull moment in Arnold's world...

Kathleen, something tells me Arnold is going to have to be "supremely primed" for this brand new day...

Dean -- ruh roh is right!

Jennifer said...

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was basking in the lovely description of Arnold's breakfast... was reveling in the rain washing away the former day's grime... was cheering at Arnold forgoing mass... and then?!?! There was a damn female mass in his bed!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Dan Leo said...

Damn those female masses!

Jennifer said...

Damn those female masses!

Yes... the Catholic Church frowns upon female masses. :)

Dean Rohrer said...

in the voice of homer simpson..mmm female masses

Dan Leo said...

At least Arnold didn't go "D'oh!"

dianne said...

Kathleen, No doubt Arnold would have coped supremely without them, but remember he suffered not only divine but also extraterrestrial intervention (or maybe it was only from the future). Not that he's any less heroic for that.

kathleenmaher said...

Good point, Diane. Yet I suspect any of those interventions might stymie or even frighten someone given to ordinary, low-level anxieties.

dianne said...

He was anxious about Josh's appearances earlier in the tale. Maybe it was the eerie floating outside the window. He seemed to find that harder to take than the later drunkeness and womanizing.

Dan Leo said...

Di and Kathleen, I'll admit to peeking ahead a little, and all I can say is that Arnold's going to have to summon up his all best heroics for what's coming in this new day!

Manny said...

I'm arriving late as usual...
Arnold today seems to be distinctly more feisty than Arnold yesterday morning.

Dan Leo said...

Manny, I am even now in the midst of transcribing Arnold's next episode. Believe me when I say he will need all the feistiness he can muster.