Saturday, February 28, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 121: interview with Dick and Daphne Ridpath, July 14, 1987

Larry Winchester now leaves us in suspense as to the fates of the earthbound portion of our cast, and turns the camera and microphone onto “America’s most lovable literary literary couple”,* Dick and Daphne Ridpath, last seen in a flying saucer somewhere between the Earth and the Moon...

(Go here to see our previous chapter, or here to see the first chapter of this third-place prize-winner of the Bayer Aspirin Award for Old-Fashioned Epic.)

(N.B.: This episode rated X for Excruciating Marital Dialogue.)

*John Updike, on his deathbed.

“So I take the pilot’s seat while Brad hunkers down and goes to work on Mr. MacNamara,** and I figure, Okay, let’s give this a shot.

“You were marvelous, dear.”

“Well, so were you.”

“Oh, hush.”

“No, you were. I mean, the poor kid, her dad’s lying there all shot up and whatnot. You were quite a trouper. You really helped."

“Right, I got coffee.”

“Well, sweety, right then I needed coffee.”

“I know. I said to him, ‘Dick, what can I do?’ And Dick says, well, he could use a cup of that joe. And I say, ‘Right, joe.’ I mean, I can do that. I can at least get coffee. And Brad looks up from where he’s holding his finger in my father’s bullet wound, and he says he could go for a cup too. So I’m there, two cups. Right. But I go over to the refreshment nook and guess what? All the coffee’s spilled. It had all just floated out during free-fall. It was then I realized that it had this special screw-on lid to keep the coffee in -- plus the bottom of the pot was magnetized somehow to keep it on the warmer-thing -- but of course we hadn’t put the lid on. And now I’m just cursing a blue streak. I mean, I just got upset and started to cry. And right then poor Harvey wakes up. Poor thing, he was just like a little boy waking up from a nightmare. Although I guess it was more like waking up into a nightmare. But he’s very disoriented, going what the f-word, what the f-word, and so on. So I go to him and start babbling about how I’m trying to get it together to make some coffee, and I’m sobbing buckets, and Harvey just says, ‘Calm down, Mrs. Ridpath, we’ll make the coffee together.’”

“Harvey was good."

“Harvey was a brick. and you know, he just sort of shook the cobwebs out of his head, got right up, marched over to that refreshment nook and started to make coffee like no one’s business.

“So, while Harvey got to work on that aspect of the mission -- and because I was standing there uselessly wringing my hands -- he suggested I get the cups and saucers and things ready. So I found some clean cups and saucers and a tray and some Oreos and put them on a plate and then just sort of hovered around while we waited for the coffee to finish dripping.”

“So -- I -- uh --”

“I kept glancing anxiously over at Brad doing that mumbo-jumbo revivification finger ceremony on poor Papa, and -- even though I was nearly petrified just to look -- a couple of times I did tiptoe gently over just to say, ‘Brad, is there anything I can do? Anything at all.’ And he’d say, ‘Just waitin’ for that java, Mrs. R.’ So I’d go back and watch the coffee drip some more. Oh, the tension. I was all a wreck.”

“You did fine, Daphne.”

“Thank you, Dick. So, finally, the coffee’s ready, I get the cups and saucers and the cookies all nicely arranged on the tray, and to save time I’d already fixed it the way Dick and Brad liked it, black for Dick, four packets of Sweet ‘n’ low and lots of Cremora for Brad, and I bring it over to Brad who pops an Oreo in his mouth and takes a cup, all the while holding a finger in poor Buddy’s bullet hole -- he’d already finished with Papa, who was still lying there comatose, and I bring the tray over to Dick, Mr. Mad Driver here, when -- whoosh!”

“I know, I know --”

“Coffee, all over the place, over me, over Dick, over his little dashboard --”

“Yeah, well, we’d just entered the Earth’s atmosphere, sweety. Things got a little rocky --”

“Oh, I’ll say. I had coffee all over my -- my front.”

“She burned her boobs.”

“Well, I did, and it hurt.”

“Well! So, anyway, there we were, crashing into the earth’s atmosphere --”

“They did hurt!”

“I know, sweety.”

“Well, okay, as long as you know. Because I really was trying to help. And now I was just devastated and miserable and my boobs were burnt. I was wearing this purple satin dress and it was low-cut, and --”

There was a pause in the conversation here.

“Right, so I never got my cup of coffee, and --” Mrs. Ridpath gave him a gentle slap on the forearm, “so, there I am at the wheel, trying to bring this baby in, trying to aim it at North America at least --”

“And I’m crying again --”

“Well, you’d spilled coffee all over yourself.”

“I know, but I don’t think you needed me bawling about a damn spilt cup of coffee.”

“Well, to be honest, I wasn’t really paying that much attention to you, sweety.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Darling, I was trying to land a spaceship.”

“Oh, I know. Tell your story.”

“Well, okay, so --”


“So, I --”

“I did bring you another cup of coffee, didn’t I?”

“Yes you did. And I really appreciated it, too.”

“Thank you. See, I wasn’t totally useless.”

“No, not at all. So --”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. So, there I am, zooming in. And after a minute I find North America. Great. Zoom in some more. Now -- where the hell is New Mexico?”

“Not easy to tell.”

“No --”

“No state lines, no color codes, just this undifferentiated mass.”


“Not like a map or a globe at all.”

“Yeah, so --

“Plus it’s nighttime.”

“True --”

“I don’t know how you ever found the right place.”

“Well -- um, how I found it was --”

“Oh, you are explaining.”

“Trying to.”

Sorry, darling. I’ll just sip my vin ordinaire. Don’t mind me.”

“Thanks. So, what I did was, I thought I’d try to find the Rio Grande --”

“See, I’d never have thought of that.”

“Yeah, so --”

“I’m horrible at geology.”


“Whatever. All these ‘phies’. I remember one time at Bennington I tried to drive with my friend Sophie Furness to New York and we wound up in Philadelphia. I remember seeing Billy Penn’s statue up on top of City Hall and thinking, ‘Wait, this can’t be New York!’ But go on, Dick.”

“Where was I?”

“Rio something. The Road to Rio.”

“Right. So, using my vast store of recollected, uh, geology, I finally zero in on New Mexico and the general area of this town called Disdain -- and this whole time we’re watching on one screen this whole business with Enid and Hope and the motorcycle gang -- don’t even ask me about the technology of this, how they were able to keep some sort of cameras on all this --”

“The outer space people are clever.”

“Damned clever.”

“I’m half outer space person.”

“At least. So, I could tell they were near that butte or mesa we’d been on earlier that day, the one with the atomic sinkhole under it, and so I just tried to find it. There’s lots of butte-things around there, but I remembered its position roughly vis-à-vis that atomic bomb-test town, so I found the atomic town finally, and there off a ways from it I saw the butte or mesa and I saw the headlights of the motorcycle guys streaming across the desert and I could see on the other screen that they were heading for Enid and Hope who were running across the desert, and so, well, I just held my breath and started to bring that baby down.

“Of course the problem here being that Brad was still busy trying to save Buddy, and I actually hadn’t the faintest idea how to land this flying saucer.”

“You did the best you could, dear.”

**{See Episode 115. -- Editor}

(Continued here. Please go to the right hand side of this page to find a possibly complete listing of links to all other published chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, soon to be a major motion picture from First National, directed by Vincente Minelli and starring Ava Gardner and James Mason.)

Zoot Money: Zoot’s Suit --

Thursday, February 26, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 126: loose

“...the one single author who out-creepies Poe, who out-confesses Augustine, who out-sensitives Proust, who out-epics Homer, who out-geniuses the Bawdy Bard himself: Arnold Schnabel.” -- Harold Bloom, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey.

Previously in this Catholic Standard and Times Award-nominated memoir:

Arnold with his friend Dick Ridpath and the aged shopkeeper Mr. Arbuthnot wander (through the mysterious agency of the Book of Time) a Cape May stopped exactly at 10:08:14 PM on the 10th of August, 1963.

Unfortunately Mr. Arbuthnot’s cat has begun to attack the open book, thus endangering all of existence...

“Quick,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, knocking the contents of his Meerschaum out against the railing, “we have to run!”

And, shoving the pipe into his pocket, off he shuffled back down the pier alongside the convention hall.

Dick and I traded the briefest of glances, like “What next?” and then Dick tossed his cigarette away over the side railing, and off we went running after Mr. Arbuthnot.

In about one second we were up to him, and I think both Dick and I realized at once that Mr. Arbuthnot's version of running was roughly equal to what we ourselves might consider a slightly brisk stroll.

“Hurry!” cried Mr. Arbuthnot, already getting out of breath, and as if Dick and I were the ones who were slow. “He’ll kill us all, the little bastard!”

Indeed the wooden planks of the pier were buckling and almost rippling like stormy waves themselves and the air shrieked as if the heavens were being torn in two.

Without thinking about it I scooped up Mr. Arbuthnot in both arms and carried him along, running with Dick by my side.

“Faster, Arnold!” cried Mr. Arbuthnot. “Faster!”

We made it down the steps from the promenade and ran across Beach Drive with its immobilized stream of cars now trembling and bouncing like the cars in a toy-train village laid out on a table which was being shaken vigorously by a naughty child.

“Try to run faster, Arnold!” yelled Mr. Arbuthnot, inches from my panting face.

He probably didn’t weigh too much more than a hundred and twenty pounds or so, and I’m in pretty good shape, but, still, you try running with a hundred-and-twenty pound old guy in your arms some time and see how soon you get out of breath.

I made it down the block almost as far as the miniature golf course on the corner of Ocean Street and then I started to falter.

Dick saw my condition and opened his arms; without a word I passed Mr. Arbuthnot laterally to Dick in mid-stride, and without losing a step he swung the old fellow over his shoulders like a large doll and trotted on.

“Faster, Mr. Ridpath! Cut through the miniature golf course!”

Dick ducked through the entrance and we dashed through the links, leaping little streams and fairways and ponds and sandtraps, bounding over the roof of a Taj Mahal, trampling the stunted trees of a Japanese garden, leaping the moat and towers and battlements of a medieval castle, and finally vaulting the fence on the Ocean Street side.

A sound like God sneezing shook the earth again and suddenly everyone on the sidewalk started walking backwards while all the cars on the street went by in reverse.

“Oh no” cried Mr. Arbuthnot, upside down over Dick's shoulders, “Shnooby must be scrabbling the pages backwards! If we don’t hurry he could change the whole course of history!”

“Well, you already said he could destroy the universe,” panted Dick.

“And he might still do that! My God! Hurry!”

Suddenly the earth seemed to drop several feet in space and then the cars and people began going forward again, but now at thrice their normal speed. Dick and I now had to dodge the trampling hordes of tourists as if they were some hideously numerous and fleetfooted football team determined to trample us underfoot.

One woman whacked me with her red plastic handbag and sent me almost tumbling to the gutter, but I stumbled on, and then with a great hiccoughing sound and another titanic lurch all the people and cars froze in their tracks again.

“Christ!” muttered Dick, stumbling and losing his hold on Mr. Arbuthnot who flew backwards flailing his arms and legs, but I managed to bend down and scoop him up in my arms before he hit the pavement.

I tossed him over my right shoulder, Dick gave me a clap on the arm, and on we ran down Ocean Street and across Columbia Avenue.

Dick and I passed off Mr. Arbuthnot again as we reached Hughes Street, and as we ran on I looked up through the trees and saw those immense marbled eyes the color of warm peach Jell-O looking down at us impassively from the nighttime sky.

Mr. Arbuthnot by the way had continued to yell variations of “Faster!” through all this. As we got to Washington Street, Dick, who was again carrying Mr. Arbuthnot over his shoulders, said, “Okay, Mr. Arbuthnot, I get it! Now shut the f**k up.”

“You sailors and your language,” huffed Mr. Arbuthnot and that awful ripping noise screeched through the air again.

Looking up I saw an enormous paw descending upon us.

“That’s it, we’re all dead!” cried Mr. Arbuthnot, and indeed the earth now shook more mightily yet. Looking up and back I saw the cat’s paw tapping the square bell-tower of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, trying to decide whether to knock the whole thing down all at once or in easy stages.

“Oh thank God!” cried Mr. Arbuthnot, because now, thank God (or thank my and especially Dick’s athletic conditioning) we had reached the entrance to the Whatnot Shoppe.

Dick heaved the old fellow off his shoulders and set him deftly in front of the glass-fronted door.

Mr. Arbuthnot had not bothered to lock up of course, and in a trice we were through the shop and following the old man up the rear stairs to his apartment.

I came up right behind Dick, and the room suddenly rocked violently, like a cabin in an old-fashioned ocean liner caught in the grip of a typhoon. Mr. Arbuthnot scurried into the dining room, screaming at his cat, who stood over the Book of Time on the table, one paw raised to strike again.

“Shnooby! Bad cat! I’ll kill you!”

The cat jumped off the table and darted across the room and under an old credenza as Mr. Arbuthnot went over to the open book.

“That damned cat! Pardon my language, gentlemen, but --”

He bent forward over the book, and Dick and I drew closer, breathing heavily and streaming with sweat.

The room had stopped shaking. All was still and silent again except for the sound of our own labored breathing.

“Okay,” said the old fellow, “here goes. I must try to find the exact moment when we stopped time. What was it again, Mr. Schnabel?”

“I believe it was 10:08,” I said, “and fourteen seconds.”

“Very well, now or never --” in the pages of the book I saw tidal waves attacking the Jersey shoreline, jagged mountains rising up from the ocean, and the burning moon descending to the earth like a cannonball, while from the great Pine Barrens all hell broke loose from fresh-torn canyons in the earth’s surface.

Mr. Arbuthnot thrust his bony finger to the page and suddenly the chaos in the book subsided, the air around us breathed and moved, we could feel the earth enter the gentle stream of time again.

Mr. Arbuthnot looked from Dick to me.

“Check your watch, please, Mr. Schnabel.”

I did.

“10:08,” I said, “fifteen seconds, and counting.”

Mr. Arbuthnot sighed.

“Saved,” he said. He took his handkerchief from his breast pocket and mopped his brow, and then he closed the Book of Time.

“Now I really need a drink,” he said. “Will you join me for a quick one, gentlemen?”

(Continued here. In the meantime, please feel free to go to the right hand side of this page to find a supposedly complete listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™; all contents vetted and approved by the College of Cardinals; Nihil Obstat, Msgr. Frank X. Fahey, SJ.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 120: shitless

Larry Winchester* now cuts to the bold sculptress/café owner Enid and the ethereal rancher’s daughter Hope, running across the desert on this fateful night in September of 1969, somewhere near a dodgy little town called Disdain...

(Go here for our previous chapter; curious newcomers may go here for the first chapter.)

*”The Sergei Eisenstein of prose.” -- Harold Bloom

As they ran Enid saw the station wagon heading towards them fast at an angle from the left. She grabbed Hope’s arm and they both stopped, sweating and panting. (They both smoked entirely too much.) They stood there and watched as the car approached. Enid saw with some alarm that Derek was driving. Then Paco brandished a rifle from the passenger window, leaned his head out, and let loose with a mediocre war cry which abruptly collapsed into a coughing fit.

Enid suddenly realized that the shooting behind them had stopped. She looked back and saw that the Motorpsychos had now remounted their bikes and were wheeling out noisily.

She heard a horrible screeching and turned to see the station wagon veering off to her left as Derek apparently floored the brake. The car skidded and swerved, then turned left full circle and headed once again full speed straight at her and Hope. She didn’t know which way to duck. Then about six feet from the women the car U-turned brutally to the left again, rising up on two wheels and blowing exhaust and dust in a great cloud, then it turned on its side and skidded for about twenty yards with a sound like an enormous jagged chalk scraping across an enormous blackboard; and then it lay there, its tires spinning and its motor groaning like a dying elephant.

Enid and Hope looked at the wreck and beyond and through its cloud of dust they saw the Motorpsychos roaring and surging towards them across the desert.

Derek was such an ass.


“Oh, shit, Doc,” said Jake. He stroked the barrel of his Colt. Despite that good dose of the Doc's laudanum he was scared shitless again now. “Shit, fuck and double-damn, I can’t do this!”

They were about five hundred yards from the overturned station wagon and Hope and Enid. And maybe half a mile farther beyond came the roaring swarm of Motorpsychos.

The Doc lit up a cigarette with the dashboard lighter.

“They gonna kill us, Doc!”

The Doc shoved the lighter back into the dashboard and floored the accelerator.

“Don’t worry about it, Jake.”

They could see Enid and Hope pulling someone out of the upturned passenger side of the station wagon.

“Awww, shit!” whined Big Jake, putting one hand on top of his cowboy hat.

“Just think, Jake, Hope will think you’re a hero.”

Enid and Hope had gotten the guy out and he was sitting next to the station wagon holding his head.

“For maybe two seconds she’ll think I’m a hero, ‘fore them Motorpsychos kill us all!”

“Two seconds of glory, Jake.”

Enid and Hope were now apparently trying to get someone else out of the car.

“Don’t want two glorious seconds! Want a billion glorious seconds! Wanta live!”

“We all gotta go sometime, Jake.”

“I know that! But I don’t wanta go now! Wanta go later! Lots later!”

The Doc pulled the Caddy up to the side of the station wagon.

The guy on the ground was Paco, the Indian. He had his hand on his head and blood was pouring down his face. Enid and Hope were trying to pull that English rock star kid out of the car and he was shouting and cursing. He also had blood all over his face. The station wagon’s uppermost headlight was still lit and it laid an ever-widening silvery carpet across the desert for the Mortorpsychos roaring closer and closer at top speed.

“Bloody fuckin’ Jesus fuckin’ bloody fuckin’ Jesus fuckin’ fuckin’ Christ!” yelled Derek.

“Shut the fuck up, Derek, we’re trying to get you out,” growled Enid.

“Hi, Daddy,” said Hope, over her shoulder. She was hoisting Enid on her narrow shoulders as Enid struggled with Derek.

“Get in this goddam car, girl!”

“In a minute, Daddy.”

The Doc had put his cigarette in his mouth and grabbed his black bag off the floor, and now he got out of the car, leaving the ignition on and the door open.

“Now where the fuck you goin’, Doc!”

The Doc walked around the front of the Cadillac and over to the wreck.

Jake lurched his big ass over to the driver’s seat.

“Hope Johnstone, you get in this auto-mo-bile this instant!”

“Fuck you, Daddy, you’re a coward.”

She and Enid had finally gotten the groaning Derek out of the station wagon and they were lowering him to the ground.

“Don’t you call me a coward you little wetback!”

“Fuck off.”

Jake slammed the driver’s door shut.

“All right, then,” he said. “Fuck all y’all!”

The Doc turned around and flicked away his cigarette.

“Calm the fuck down, Jake. You’re not gonna outrun those guys anyway.”

But Big Jake was thinking if he took off now maybe the Motorpsychos would concentrate on doing whatever they were going to do to Hope and Enid and the Doc and the Indian and the Limey, and while they were picking them over he would be zooming away across the flats at the highest speed this old high-powered hunk of Detroit steel could muster, yessiree Bob, and maybe he could live, live God damn it, live, and he jolted the car in gear and turned it around one-eighty, and that’s when he saw it swooping down out of the night sky, first as tiny as a little green star and then getting bigger and bigger till it was just this big fucking green glowing saucer that looked like it was going to slam right into them all and paste them right over the desert floor.

And Jake had never been much of a praying man but in that moment he addressed the Lord:

“Lord -- if You’re up there Big Buddy and I ain’t sayin’ You are and I ain’t sayin’ You ain’t but right now I sure hope to hell You are -- Lord, if You see fit in Your almighty wisdom and mercy to get me out of this here scrape with this wretched old heart of mine still tickin’, why Lord old buddy You are gonna see one brand new changed Big Jake Johnstone and that’s for sure, an’ not the mean vile selfish nasty and concupiscent asshole I been for more’n these past past fifty years but a good man, someone folks’d see drivin’ his Cadillac down the road an’ say that man there, that man is not an asshole! No sir! No sirree Bob, sir!

But saying this heartfelt prayer as he was driving at top speed abandoning his only daughter and them other ones to their fates as that old fuckin’ flying saucer just kept on coming straight at him with that rabid pack of bloodthirsty motorcycle bandits roaring up to the back of him, Big Jake just couldn’t help but adding:

“But shit damn, good Lord, I ain’t a one to criticize your works and ways, but God damn it if this precious gift of life you have given us don’t eat shit sometimes!”

(Continued here. Kindly see the right hand side of this page to find a supposedly up-to-date listing of links to all other possible chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, third-place prize-winner of the 20 Mule Team Borax Award for Sprawling American Epic.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 125: in amber

“On the one hand we have the usual suspects: Joyce, Proust, Mann, et alia, and on the other hand we have only one name, one man, one giant: Arnold Schnabel.” -- Harold Bloom, on The Bonnie Hunt Show.

Previously in this Parade Magazine Award-nominated memoir, our hero Arnold and his fellow adventurers Dick Ridpath and Mr. Arbuthnot (and through the mystic means of that old gentleman’s Book of Time) stepped outside the Whatnot Shoppe into a world where time has come to a halt at exactly 10:08:14 PM (EST), on the 10th of August, 1963, in the quaint and somewhat careworn seaside town of Cape May, NJ...

It was as if all the world had become a wax museum.

“Jesus Christ,” said Dick, and he flicked his cigarette into the gutter. I watched it roll into the street a few feet, the only moving thing in the universe, and when it came to a stop a thin stream of smoke rose up from it in the bright still glare of the headlights of a frozen red Corvette convertible driven by a somewhat wild-eyed man whose own cigarette trailed a tendril of unmoving smoke off to one side of his head; the woman next to him seemed to be staring at me, or through me, with indifference if not boredom.

“Why don’t we take a stroll now?” said Mr. Arbuthnot, smiling as if proudly, cradling the bowl of his little Meerschaum in his little bony fist. “We can take as long as we want.”

“I’m not quite sure I can deal with this, to be honest,” said Dick. “I feel as if I’m in a dream. And I’m not sure how pleasant a dream it is.”

“It can be quite pleasant,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Sometimes I wander around for a whole day. Poking about. Looking at things. Touching things. Sometimes I’ll stop time in the middle of a fair day and take a stroll along the beach in my Panama hat. I’ll find some young beauty sunbathing on a towel and sit down next to her. Touch her velvety skin --”

“Okay, I get it, Mr. Arbuthnot,” said Dick. He took his cigarette case out of his pocket.

“Sometimes I’ll even put my hand on a young lovely’s warm breast,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

“That’s weird, Mr. Arbuthnot,” said Dick. He clicked open the cigarette case. “Not to mention presumptuous.”

“But the young lovelies are never aware of my caresses. Or my kisses. Or my -- well, let’s only say I’m sure that I leave no evidence of my pleasures. I’m sure that the young ladies are only aware of the slightest odd fleeting sensation, a sensation perhaps not completely unpleasant.”

Dick had taken out a cigarette during this last little speech, but now he put it back, shut the case and dropped it back in his trouser pocket.

“You are one disturbing old gentleman, Mr. Arbuthnot,” said Dick.

“I don’t know why you say that. No harm done.”

“Yeah, I suppose so.”

“Someday you’ll be old and celibate.”

“If I live long enough,” said Dick. He was looking around at this paralyzed nighttime world. He sighed, and looked at me. “What do you think, Arnold?”

To tell the honest truth I was getting used to this sort of experience. Once in the hospital I remember looking at the radium dial of my watch as the second hand went round and in the space of one terrestrial minute I could have sworn I lived a century, and a very tedious century it was. And another time, again at Byberry, I remember distinctly a whole week flashed by in the time it took to watch an episode of I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster.

Yes, stepping outside of my body, flying high above myself, chatting with Jesus, visiting God’s house in Heaven or enormous flying saucers in space, it was all in a day’s work for me, but I realized that the present situation was probably very unusual to say the least for Dick. He probably didn’t even remember that we had visited 1890s France the previous evening.

“I suppose I could take a short stroll,” I said. “But only if you’re in the mood.”

“It’s creepy,” said Dick.

“Normal life is creepy,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

“This is really creepy.”

“You’ll get used to it!” said Mr. Arbuthnot. He had become quite animated now. He turned away from Dick, facing the street, his arms outstretched. “The world! The world is ours!

Dick looked at me. Like, “What a wacko.”

So we walked around a bit, through the frozen town.

We went down to the boardwalk. Since it was well into the evening Mr. Arbuthnot couldn’t troll the beach looking for bathing beauties to caress, but he seemed quite happy with the many trapped-in-amber girls we passed in their summer dresses and shorts. He refrained from touching them, perhaps out of deference to Dick and me.

We came to Frank’s Playland.

“Want to go in?” asked Mr. Arbuthnot. “A game of ski-ball perhaps? What I do is, I go over to Frank and just pop a handful of quarters out of his coin-change machine; one day I played ski-ball for four hours absolutely free!”

“I’ll take a pass,” said Dick.

“Yeah, me too,” I said. I found Frank’s Playland unnerving enough even under normal circumstances.

“There’s the miniature golf course up ahead. A quick round on the house?”

“Maybe some other time,” said Dick.

I concurred. Miniature golf is one of the many amusements that for some reason not only fail to amuse me but indeed tend to induce deep despair.

We strolled on up the boardwalk.

There was the movie theatre, still showing A Gathering of Eagles, with Rock Hudson.

And I wouldn’t have minded losing myself in a movie for a couple of hours, or at least until the mushrooms wore off a bit.

“Sorry, Arnold,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, reading my mind, “that’s one thing we can’t do. We could go in of course but all we’d see is one frame, frozen like a snapshot. Very dull.”

“Okay,” I said.

We walked up the boardwalk towards the new Convention Hall, which extends out over the beach and the usually crashing but now silent surf. We walked past the gift shops, the fudge store, the store that makes the salt water taffy, the hot dog place.

“Bite to eat?” asked Mr. Arbuthnot. “It’s all free.”

“No, thanks,” said Dick. He’d finally broken down and lit another cigarette.

“Arnold?” said Mr. Arbuthnot. Somehow we’d gotten to a first name basis, at least on his part.

“I don’t want to spoil my appetite,” I said. “I’m supposed to have a burger some time tonight.”

“Ah, yes. With Alexandra,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Let’s go look at the ocean.”

“Okey dokey,” said Dick.

So we walked around the side of Convention Hall, out to the pier that extends out over the ocean when it’s at high tide, which it now was.

Waxwork people stood there, looking out at the frozen waves, the women’s hair suspended in the air in soft strands behind their heads.

One attractive girl of twenty or so was bent forward looking into one of those coin-operated binoculars as her boyfriend looked admiringly at her. I wondered what she was looking at. Was she hoping to spy a porpoise? It seemed a waste of a dime to me. The three of us joined the living statues leaning on the rail. Unlike them though we looked at an ocean that was not moving and surging, but absolutely quiet and still, like an ocean that had given up and died.

The day’s rain had left the night sky free of clouds, and thousands of cold unblinking stars were sprinkled across the darkness above us.

Then suddenly the world trembled and an enormous cat’s paw descended from above and tapped the ocean perhaps a mile from the shore. The earth shook, and we could see a surge of large waves rushing toward us as if a herd of giant maddened whales were invading us from underwater.

“Oh no!” cried Mr. Arbuthnot, gripping the rail. “It’s Shnooby!”

“Who?” said Dick.

“My cat! Shnooby! He’s attacking the Book of Time! We must get back before he destroys the entire universe!”

And looking up I saw the titanic cat, looking down at us, raising his paw again, trying to decide where to strike next.

“F--king hell,” said Dick.

(Continued here, that is if our heroes can make it back to Mr. Arbuthnot’s in time. Please look down on the right hand side of this page to find a purportedly up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™; this project made possible by a generous grant from the Uneeda Cracker Foundation on the Arts.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 119: reprieve

Larry Winchester, by overwhelming popular demand,* now returns to perhaps the most oddly compelling of his dramatis personae, the motorcycle gang leader Moloch, last seen knocked unconscious in the cab of Enid’s 1954 Dodge flatbed truck, on this fateful night in September, 1969, somewhere in the New Mexico desert near a town called Disdain...

(This episode rated R for unpleasant language and content. Go here for our previous chapter, or here for the first one.)

*”Give the people what they want.” -- L. Winchester

Moloch awoke to the crackling of gunshots, to the pain in the wreckage of his nose and to the all-too-familiar taste of blood in his mouth.

The bitches were gone.

Where? The driver’s door was open. He scuttled across the seat and peered out into the desert.

There they were, the two mad cows, running, carrying pistols (one of them doubtless his own trusty Webley), running in that wretched wrists-raised hip-wagging way bitches ran. And, to make matters even more distressing, speeding toward the bitches from the left distance were the jouncing headlights of a motorcar or lorry. And, fuck it all, farther out in the direction of that atomic town was the dark approaching shape of yet another vehicle with its headlights extinguished.


He leapt from the truck -- and what were his men doing, those scum?

There they were all lined up straddling or standing next to their hogs, facing that butte or mesa or whatever you called those hideous desert hill-things, apparently taking target practice, ignoring, bloody ignoring the escape of the two bitches.

With his hands still annoyingly tied behind his back Moloch ran over to his men, shouting in his best parade-ground voice:

“What the bloody hell are you bloody fucking swine doing!”

They all turned.

One of them, called Canker, a tall thin scabrous youth with a incongruous long wiry beard and two greasy long pigtails hanging out from under his Viking helmet, lowered the Sten gun which he had just been about to unload at Captain Pym’s still-living head. He had dismounted his hog the better to fire.

“Wow, whut happen to your nose, Moloch?”

The nose or what was left of it had started to bleed in force again and Moloch sprayed blood into Canker’s face as he shouted:

“What the bloody hell do you think happened to my nose, you fucking idiot?”

“Jeeze, Moloch, I dunno --”

Then Moloch noticed the mournful head wearing a naval officer’s cap in the middle of the sink hole.

“Who the fuck is that?”

“It’s a sailor,” said Canker. “We shootin’ at him.”

“Sailors is faggots,” said Pigmind.

This was all too much. Isufuckingportable.

“Testicle flied in there,” said Canker. “Him and his hog.”

“Fuck Testicle,” said Moloch.

“Testicle was my brudder,” said Canker.

Moloch fixed Canker coldly with his one good eye.

“My dear Canker, simply because he buggered you on a nearly daily basis -- and was sometimes kind enough to use a bit of Valvoline as lubricant -- this did not make Testicle your brother. Now, while we are chatting those two bitches are making good their escape. Be so good as to cut me loose.”

Trying to restrain his anger but breathing heavily, bubbles of blood foaming and popping in his nose gash, Moloch turned around.

“But that’s your old college scarf, ain’t it, Moloch?”

“Cut it, please, Canker.”

“Okay, Moloch.”

Canker slung the Sten over his shoulder, took out his Bowie knife and sliced through Moloch’s scarf.

Moloch turned and unknotted the ragged remains of his Magdalene College scarf from his wrists and threw them in the dirt. For more than twenty years he had managed to keep the foul rag, one of his few mementoes of his former civilized existence. Well, fuck it.

“Now,” he said, caressing his wrists, “we are going after the bitches. Canker, let me have that Sten.”

Canker obediently unslung the gun and handed it over.

“I’ll take your bike,” said Moloch. “You ride bitch with someone else.”

“I don’t ride bitch wit nobody.”

Canker still held the Bowie knife by his side. How fucking dare he.

“How dare you,” said Moloch.

“Well, I don’t, Moloch. I don’t ride bitch wit --”

Moloch smashed him in the face with the steel butt of the Sten gun and Canker staggered back into the sink hole and immediately sank to his waist.

Canker spat out a tooth and some blood and said:


Moloch gave him a short burst in the chest with the Sten, Canker sank back and disappeared, and that was that.

Bugger, thought Moloch. He had forgotten himself. He had meant to kill Ridpath first. This night was just not turning out right. Not right at all.

He turned and looked out into the desert. The closer of the two cars he had seen had almost reached the two bitches.

He took one deep breath.

“All right, men,” he said. “We still have a chance to salvage a modicum of dignity from tonight’s festivities. The bitches are about to get into a car and drive away. I suggest we go after them. Unless --” he raised the Sten gun ever so slightly, “anyone has any other suggestions or comments?”

“Wayull, ah jes’ got one,” ventured Pigmind.

“Yes my dear Pigmind.”

Moloch gently caressed the Sten gun’s trigger.

“Whut about that head out there?” asked Pigmind. “Cain’t we shoot him fust?”

Moloch glanced at the wan pale face of Pym.

“No,” he said, certainly not out of any feeling of mercy, but simply to reaffirm his primacy. “Fuck the head.”

A faint muttering and groaning of disappointment fluttered from the ranks.


Best to nip this sort of nonsense in the bud. But there were so many of them, and they were so undisciplined, and so well armed. Sometimes one had to throw the curs a bone.

“However,” pronounced Moloch heartily, slinging the Sten over his shoulder, “let me just say that the first man to drag that queen bitch out of that car by her hair has my permission to have his way with her first when we gangbang her and the little bitch!”

“Huzza,” yelled a few of the men.

“I just got one more question,” said Pigmind. “If I may.”

“Yes, Pigmind, of course,” said Moloch, through his teeth.

“Whut if we would prefer to have our way with the little bitch first?”

“Yes, of course, Pigmind, whichever you prefer.”

“Huzza, then!” shouted Pigmind.

“Huzza!” cried the rest.

And bloody well fuck you all, thought Moloch, as he mounted Canker’s hog and kicked and twisted it into belching life.

So, thought Pym. A reprieve. Or at least a stay of execution. He watched the bikes roar away. His calves were very tired, standing as he was on his toes, buried up to his chin in this sand. Soon he supposed he would lose his strength, sink back, suffocate -- asphyxiate? -- and die. Unless something else happened.

As he watched the gang roar off in a great cloud of unquiet somber dust he now felt the return of a feeling he now recognized as the dominant one of his life:

He was bored.

(Continued here. Please refer to the right hand side of this page to find a purportedly complete listing of links to all other extant episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, soon to be a major motion picture from the Rank Organisation, featuring Ralph Fiennes as Moloch.)

The Ronettes. That’s Estelle Bennett to the right:

Friday, February 13, 2009

A poem for the special day

This classic sonnet was written by Arnold Schnabel during his three-month stay at the Philadelphia State Mental Hospital at Byberry.

Published initially (and until now, solely) in the sadly defunct Olney Times for February 15, 1963, and rebroadcast now thanks to the kind permission of the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia, PA.

Nihil Obstat, Bishop John J. (“Mighty Jack”) Graham, SJ.

St. Valentine’s Day, 1963

It’s St. Valentine’s Day, a day for those
who love someone special, and who hope that
person loves them as well, or at least knows
they exist; but what of him who looks at
life not even from the sidelines but from
up in the bleachers? Who has none but Mom
to exchange cards with, to buy flowers for,
what of the lonely, confirmed bachelor?
he and his sister the old maid will grin
stiffly, and stay home and watch the TV,
and try to keep their tears and their brains in
a place that no one can possibly see;
but if they don’t have a day, why worry,
they have, at last, a home, called Byberry.

(Kindly look to the right hand column of this page to find links to many other fine poems by Arnold Schnabel.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 124: still life

“John Updike called Arnold Schnabel ‘the Marcel Proust of our time’, but I think it more accurate to call Proust the Schnabel of his own time.” – Harold Bloom

In our previous episode our memoirist Arnold and his friend Dick Ridpath learned through the means of Mr. Arbuthnot’s mysterious globe what it’s like to walk through and observe the world as ghosts do, unnoticed and invisible. However, Arnold has left his lady friend Elektra waiting in the Ugly Mug, and so the three astral travelers have returned to Mr. Arbuthnot’s apartment above his shop on Washington Street in old Cape May, NJ, on this warm August evening in 1963...

The little black cat was rubbing himself against my calves, circumnavigating first one leg, then the other.

“Perhaps just one more sherry, gentlemen?” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

“We really should go,” said Dick.

“I have other things I could show you,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

“Really?” said Dick.

“Oh yes indeed.”

“Well –” Dick turned to me. “What do you think, Arnold?”

“I should get back,” I said.

“You don’t want to keep a lady waiting,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

“No,” I said. “Or anyone, really.”

“I believe you pride yourself on your punctuality,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Like all good railroad men.”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

We still stood there in front of the old globe. The cat rubbed against my bare calves. Mr. Arbuthnot puffed on his little Meerschaum.

“Time,” he said, “our inexorable enemy.”

“So we’ll see you later, Mr. Arbuthnot” said Dick, putting his hand on my arm. “Thanks for the sherry, and for – everything.”

“My pleasure,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “But what if I told you I had a book which can stop time.”

“Pardon me?”

“Just one moment.”

Off he went again, this time to a large bookcase. Putting his pipe in his mouth, he pulled over a set of three wooden steps, climbed up on them, reached up to the top shelf on his tiptoes, and with both hands brought down a rather large leather volume. He hopped down the steps with the book and said, “Follow me, gentlemen, into the dining room.”

“We really should go,” said Dick.

“This will only take a minute,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

“Well –”

“I promise. One minute. Come with me.”

He went into the next room, and Dick and I, after glancing resignedly at each other, followed him into a dining room lit by an electric chandelier and as crowded as the living room was with all sorts of odd objects; in the middle was a large table, covered in lace, with eight chairs around it and a brass candelabrum in its center with unlit candles in its sticks.

Mr. Arbuthnot went up to the near corner of the table, laid the book down, and pushed the two nearest chairs each a couple of feet away.

“It’s best if we look at it standing,” he said, cupping his pipe in his hand. “Better angle this way. Come stand on either side of me, gentlemen.”

We did as he bade us. I stood to Mr. Arbuthnot’s right, Dick to his left. The cat had come into the room with us, and he jumped onto a chair and then onto the table, watching us.

Mr. Arbuthnot put one small hand on the volume. Its leather was cracked and worn, and free of any printing or engraving.

“This, gentlemen, is the Book of Time.”

“Wow,” said Dick. “Where’d you get it?”

“That, my friend, is a slightly involved story, and you said you were pressed for time.”

“Oh, right,” said Dick.

“Okay, here goes,” said the old man. “You’re ready?”

“I wouldn’t know,” said Dick.

“Well spoken. Here goes then.”

He opened the book, and on its first page was the beginning of time, in other words darkness, but before we could fall into it he flipped the pages rapidly, shuffling through the epochs and the years, shuffling through time and the ages of the Earth.

“As you can see, it takes eons before man even appears.”

“There’s the dinosaurs,” Dick pointed out.

“Yes,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, flipping the pages. “And here’s the woolly mammoth. Look at the size of that baby. Okay, here we go.”

Finally men in their rudimentary stages made their appearance, shuffling across vast prairies in search of something to kill and devour.

“Nasty creatures,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “But things clip along a little more quickly now. Here we go, ancient Phoenicians, the Egyptians, here come the Greeks, the Romans. They all had their day in the sun.”

“Do you have an ashtray?” asked Dick.

“Oh, yes, of course,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Mr. Schnabel, keep turning the pages, but whatever you do, don’t go past the present moment.”

He went away from the table. I reached down and turned the pages of time. I didn’t want to take forever here, so I began to turn forty or fifty pages at a time. Pretty soon what looked like George Washington’s time came along, and I kept flipping batches of pages and decades rapidly, through the 19th century, and into the 20th.

Mr. Arbuthnot came back to the table and put an ashtray in front of Dick, who immediately tapped his ash into it.

“How are we doing, Mr. Schnabel?”

“Pretty good,” I said, and turned another sheath of the lives and the years of mankind.

“Oh no!” cried the old man, and he grabbed my hand.

I caught a glimpse of the future. To be honest it didn’t look too much worse than a lot of what had gone before.

“You can’t look at that!” said the old man, and with a bump of his small bony hip he pushed me aside.

“Why not?” said Dick.

“Because –” with the scrabbling fingers of both his hands Mr. Arbuthnot turned the pages back, “you may be looking at a time in which you no longer exist.”

“Oh,” said Dick. “And why would that be so bad?”

“Trust me,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “You don’t want that to happen. It might cause the entire universe to explode. Or implode. At any rate it wouldn’t be very pleasant.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“No harm done. Personally for myself I couldn’t care less. I’ve lived my life. But you fellows are young. You have your whole lives et cetera.”

He had shuffled the pages safely back to what looked like the late 1950s, and now, turning the pages more slowly, he finally came to the present.

“And here we are,” he said finally, turning one last page. “August 10, 1963. Mr. Schnabel, the time by your admirable Ball railwayman’s watch.”


“What time is it, sir, to the second.”

“Oh. 10:08,” I said. “And fourteen seconds.”

“Good. And here,” he poked his finger into the book, “we are. There. It’s done.”

He lifted his finger.

“What’s done?” asked Dick.

“We have stopped time. It will now remain 10:08 and fourteen seconds on August the, uh –”

“The tenth,” said Dick.

“– right, the tenth of August, 1963, until I touch the book again. Come on, I’ll show you.”

And, leaving the book open on the table, off he scurried again, this time heading for the doorway back in the living room. He opened the door and turned and waved us on; Dick and I followed him, down the stairs, and through the dark shop.

At first I didn’t notice anything unusual about the outside world as Mr. Arbuthnot took out a keychain, put a key in the front door lock and turned it.

He withdrew the key, opened the door and beckoned us through. Dick went first, and then myself, with Mr. Arbuthnot following and shutting the door.

And then I saw that all the world was still and silent, as if I had stepped into a photograph. All the people walking on the pavement and crossing the street, all the automobiles in the street, even the leaves on the trees and the dark grey clouds in the sky, even the light of the stars, all was still and frozen.

Time had stopped.

(Continued here. Please look to the right hand side of this page to find an allegedly up-to-date listing of links to all other extant chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, third-place prize-winner of the Comet Cleanser Award for Patriotic Literature.)

Procol Harum: the devil came from Kansas --

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 118: bonding

Larry Winchester now turns away from the plight of Captain Pym (see our previous chapter) to that of the sculptress/café owner Enid and Big Jake’s daughter Hope, sitting in Enid’s disabled truck with the unconscious motorcycle gang leader Moloch, in the desert outside a town called Disdain on a fateful night in September, 1969...

Enid threw her cigarette over Moloch’s lolling head and out the window. The Motorpsychos were all taking turns shooting into the sink hole -- at what she couldn’t see.

She suddenly remembered that she had taken peyote and that she was still very high.

The whole plot of this story was getting so out of control.

“What are they shooting at, Enid?”

“Damn if I know, Hope.”

“What are we going to do?”

Enid took a deep breath, looking from the Motorpsychos out to the surrounding vast dark desert.

“We’re getting out of here, sister.”

“Cool,” said Hope. “Should we shoot him first?”

“Uh, no, Hope. Those guys might hear the gunshot.”

Hope drew Moloch’s commando knife from her belt with her left hand.

“I should cut his throat.”

“Um, no, Hope.”

“Why not?”

“It would -- be bad karma?”

“Fuck karma.”

“You can’t fuck karma. That’s the whole point. Fucking karma is -- bad karma."

Enid realized she was talking rubbish.

“But he’s evil,” said Hope. “He killed Whisper. He killed my pony.”

“I know, sweety. But you -- you don’t want that on your conscience.”

“It wouldn’t be on my conscience.”

“Well. But -- you might get in trouble, Hope, with the law.”

“My dad will fix it. Let me kill him. I want to see his blood squirt the way Whisper’s did.”

Hope started to raise the knife.

Enid put her hand on Hope’s wrist. This wrist was childishly thin, but it felt to Enid as if she needed all her own strength to hold it back and the small fist with the big knife in it.

“No, Hope. Let’s just split, okay? Besides, you’d get his blood all over my upholstery.”

“Well -- okay.”

Enid let go of her wrist, and Hope leaned back in her seat.

The palm of Enid’s hand and the underside of her fingers were hot and sweaty.


“Yeah, Hope.”

“I love you.”

Oh, great, thought Enid, but she said, “I love you, too, Hope.”


Big Jake and the Doc were now about half a mile from the truck.

“They all shootin’ at somethin’, t’other side of the truck. What the fuck they shootin’ at, Doc?”

“Beats me, Jake.”

“Drive slower, Doc. They might hear us comin'.”

“Over all that shooting?”

“Well, they might.”

“What the hell’s that,” said the Doc.

Jake holstered his gun and lifted up the binoculars.

“Well,” he said. “Hot dog.”


“It’s Hope. And Enid. They’re runnin’ away from the truck. Comin’ in our direction. Stop the car, Doc.”

“Stop it?”

“Yeah. Don’t wanta take no, um, unnecessary risks --”

“You fucking coward.”

“Look, no need to call names, Doc --”

“That’s your goddam daughter out there.”

“I know that, Doc. I know that, it’s just, it’s just -- look, whyn’tcha just slow down a mite --”


“But, Doc, it’ll blow the whole deal, them Motorpsychos hear or see us. Just slow down a little bit and let them gals come to us --”

“Fuck --”

The Doc slowed down a little bit. Maybe Jake had a point, even if he was a fucking coward.

Then --

“Shit, now what?” said the Doc.

Off to the right a big old station wagon had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, its headlights blazing across the desert, and it was roaring at about seventy miles per hour in the general direction of where Enid and Hope were running.

(Go here to see what happens next, if anything. And kindly look to the right hand side of this page to find an allegedly up-to-date listing of links to all other possible episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, third-place prize-winner of the Shell Oil Award for Sprawling Epic.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 123: the watcher

Previously in this critically lauded memoir* our hero Arnold Schnabel and his friend Dick Ridpath found themselves granted the power of invisible observation thanks to the mysterious globe of the old shop-keeper Mr. Arbuthnot, at approximately 9:59 PM on the sultry evening of August 10, 1963, in the then still quaint and even slightly weatherworn seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey...

*“Like A Million Little Pieces but without the bad words” -- Oprah Winfrey

Mr. and Mrs. DeVore followed hard on Miss Evans’s heels, the both of them skipping to catch up with her brisk pace.

“Well, it looks like our little maneuver succeeded,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

And Dick and I both stared wide-eyed as a great fat man in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt came barreling down the sidewalk headed straight for Mr. Arbuthnot, but, instead of trampling him underfoot like a hippo, he instead rolled right through him as though Mr. Arbuthnot were nothing but a colored shadow.

Mr. Arbuthnot chuckled at our expressions as he drew a miniature Meerschaum pipe from his side jacket pocket.

“Yes, my friends, we are not only invisible and inaudible, but immaterial. By the way,” he took a leather tobacco pouch from his opposite jacket pocket, “we’re still able to enjoy the pleasures of the leaf in this state of being, so – smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”

Even though Dick had just put out a cigarette he took out his cigarette case, clicked it open and offered its contents to me.

I sighed.

Dick looked at me quizzically.

“I decided to quit today,” I said.

“Oh, good for you, Arnold,” said Dick, taking a cigarette for himself, “I’m going to kick these some day,” and he snapped the case shut and dropped it back into his pocket before I could say what I meant to say, i.e., “But I’ll have just one now.”

Mr. Arbuthnot tamped some tobacco into the bowl of his pipe with his little finger.

“Would you fellows like to take a little walk around?”

Dick lit his cigarette with his scuffed Ronson lighter, and as he did so he stepped aside for a passing young couple, even though there was no need to.

“Is that what you do then, Mr. Arbuthnot?" asked Dick. "Walk around, look at people?”

He offered his light to Mr. Arbuthnot, but the old man shook his head.

“No thank you, I always use matches with my pipe.”

He took out a box of wooden matches, and set to work lighting his pipe with quick piping little inhalations.

Dick and I glanced at each other, but said nothing.

“Yes. I walk around,” said the old man. “I observe people. Listen to them. Watch them.”

“And what’s that like?” asked Dick.

“Truth to tell, it’s awfully boring most of the time,” said the old fellow. “The things people talk about. The things they do. It’s as if they thought they had all the time in the world to fritter their lives away on nonsense. But sometimes – sometimes it gets interesting. Usually in a rather lurid way I’m afraid. You know, I’m far too old to avail myself of the more carnal pleasures of life, but – sometimes I watch.”

“You watch people –” started Dick.

“Yes, I’ll admit it, like a fly on the wall, like God, or one of his angels, I watch as people huff and puff through what seems of the utmost importance to them at the time.” He took a few thoughtful-seeming puffs on his pipe. “But then of course without all this huffing and puffing none of us would be here, would we? Let’s take a walk, gentlemen. Let’s see what we can see. A fight? A love scene? Or if not love at least a scene of drunken lust?”

“It’s tempting,” said Dick, “but Arnold’s lady friend is waiting for him. Right, Arnold?"
"Yes," I said.

“Oh, yes. Galateia," said Mr. Arbuthnot. I didn't bother correcting him. "Yes, hubba," he said. "But perhaps you, Mr. Ridpath – perhaps you --”

“Some other time maybe, Mr. Arbuthnot.”

“Oh, you probably want to meet up with Mrs. Biddle’s granddaughter. Agatha is it?”

“Daphne,” said Dick.

“Daphne. Yes.” Mr. Arbuthnot puffed on his pipe, looking away, looking at the people coming and going on the street. “All as it should be. Your lot to live life, mine to watch it.”

“So,” said Dick, “not to rush you, Mr. Arbuthnot, but how do we get back?”

“You have never left, my young friend. You and Mr. Schnabel are still standing before my globe, as am I. We here now are spiritual projections of ourselves.”

“I suspected as much,” said Dick. “So, uh, can we go back now?”

“Oh, yes, of course, pardon me. Okay, close your eyes, very tightly, and imagine yourself back in my living room, staring at the globe. Are you doing it?”

“Yes,” said Dick.

Dick indeed was standing there with his eyes tight closed, as was Mr. Arbuthnot.

“And you too, Mr. Schnabel?”

“Yes?” I said.

“Do you have your eyes closed tightly?”

“Oh, no, sorry,” I said, and I closed them.

“Good,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “They’re closed tight now?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“Okay. Imagining the globe?”

“Imagine the globe?”

“Yes,” he said, slightly shortly. “Visualize the globe in your mind, at the same spot you were staring at before.”

“Okay,” I said.

“You’re doing it? Eyes closed, imagining the globe?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“And Mr. Ridpath?”

“I have had my eyes shut and I have been imagining the globe,” said Dick. “Already.”

“Good,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Now everyone, open their eyes.”

We opened our eyes, and we were back in Mr. Arbuthnot’s apartment, staring at his old globe.

(Continued here. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page to find a possibly complete listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be boiled down to a 90-minute live broadcast on the DuMont Television Network’s Cavalcade of Stars, hosted by Sid Caesar, starring Ernest Borgnine as Arnold and featuring the Pete Condoli Orchestra with the Mitch Miller Singers and the June Taylor Dancers.)

The Exciters:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 117: target

Larry Winchester*, master of montage if not meaning, now returns to the embarrassing plight of that villain we love to hate, Captain Alexis J. Pym of the Unites States Navy’s mysterious “Q Section”, last seen (in Episode 114) buried up to his chin in sand beneath a mesa in the atomic bomb-blasted desert several miles outside of a town called Disdain, NM, on a September night in 1969...

(This episode rated EL for excessively lurid prose. Click here to see our previous chapter or here to see how the whole epic started.)

*”The working stiff’s John Updike” -- Harold Bloom

The motorcyclists had drawn up their bikes to the curving bank of the sinkhole and their headlights lit it brightly.

The only flaw in its smooth silvery surface was the head of Pym, still wearing his tan naval officer’s cap.

“Who dat?” asked one fellow.

“It’s a head,” replied another.

“What’s a head doin’ in there?”

Pym spoke:

“What do you think I’m doing?”

The Motorpsychos were stumped, silent but for the purring of their idling motors.

“You fools,” added Pym.

“Let’s shoot the head,” yelled one of the Motorpsychos.

Another of the gang obligingly took a shot with his Luger but missed by several yards.

“Ha! You suck, Pigmind.”

“Fuck you!” yelled Pigmind, and he fired several more shots, all misses, until the gun was empty.

All the other Motorpsychos laughed.

“I am a United States naval officer!” called Pym.

“Sailors suck dick,” yelled back one of the Motorpsychos, and all of them laughed.

Pym had no reply for this. It was true, some sailors did suck dick. Not all, but some. It was a tradition among seamen that probably went back to the first long voyages of the Phoenicians. Men needed an outlet on long sea voyages in cramped quarters with no women. Undoubtedly even those paragons of masculinity the Vikings had availed themselves of their own hearty brand of rough-and-tumble homosexual sport --

“Let’s take turns shootin’ at him,” suggested one Motorpsycho.

“Good idea,” said another.

This was not a good way to die. A fitting way to die perhaps, but nonetheless…

One fellow on the far left raised a long-barreled revolver and began cracking off shots in the direction of Pym’s head.

Pym tried to think of some suitable terminal thought, but thought of nothing.

Which is what I soon shall be, he thought.

Which thought seemed suitable enough.

And having thought this last thought he was now as ready as he would ever be, which was not very ready, not very ready at all.

But it would have to do.

(Continued here. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page to find a soi-disant up-to-date listing of links to all other extant episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™. Be sure to pick up your complimentary “Town Called Disdain” lunchbox with the purchase of ten hot dogs with sauerkraut at any Kresge’s 5&10 lunch counter, while supplies last.)