Tuesday, June 30, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 148: be cool!

The time: a sultry Saturday night in August of 1963.

The place: Sid’s Tavern (“Had enough of the hot crowded beach? Come across the street and enjoy one of our quart-size frosted mugs of ice-cold Ortlieb’s beer!”), in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May, New Jersey.

Dramatis Personae:

Bob DeVore: an average clod.

Mrs. (unknown first name) DeVore: Bob’s wife.

Gertrude Evans: author of the bestseller (“Shocking.” -- J.J. Hunsecker) Ye Cannot Quench.

Jack Scratch: second-tier demon.

St. Thomas Becket: martyr.

“Josh”: son of God.

Arnold Schnabel: son of man

(Kindly scroll down or click here for our previous chapter; go here for the beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning memoir. ”The one book I’ll be sure to bring with me to the federal pen.” -- Bernie Madoff)

We headed back down through the crowd. The “Sugar Shack” song was playing now, and Thomas and Jack forged ahead of us, both of them staggering a bit, bumping into other people and each other.

Josh put his hand on my shoulder and leaned close in as we walked.

“Arnold, have you really finally taken complete leave of your senses?”


“Oh. Great. And what do we do about these other nitwits?”

He meant of course Miss Evans and the DeVores, whom we were quickly approaching.

“Just follow my lead,” I said.

In a matter of seconds our little group met up with the above-mentioned three, who once again formed a defensive wedge in our path, with Miss Evans on point.

“Well, Arnold,” she said, holding up in a somewhat martial fashion what looked like a brand-new martini, “and who are your friends, pray tell.”

“Oh, Miss Evans,” I said, “this is, uh, Tom, and this is Jack.”

“Very pleased to meet you, lovely lady,” said Jack.

She had not offered her hand, but he grabbed it up anyway and planted a kiss on her knuckles. She quickly pulled her hand away and rubbed the area he had kissed on the shiny material covering her thigh.

“And Mr. and Mrs. DeVore,” I said. “Meet Jack and Tom.”

“Call me Bob,” said DeVore, and he thrust out his hand toward Jack, who paid no mind to it but took a step toward Mrs. DeVore.

“And what is your Christian name, Mrs. DeVore?” said Jack, taking a puff on his pipe. “Provided you are a member of that proud spiritual tradition.”

“Pardon me?” she said.

“He wants to know your first name,” said Thomas. DeVore had shifted his outstretched hand over toward him, but Thomas ignored it just as Jack had done. “I wouldn’t tell him it if I were you.”

“Why not?” she asked, seeming frightened, as well she should have been.

“Pish, posh and paddle,” said Jack. “Loved your last book by the way,” he said, turning to Miss Evans.

“Oh, did you? So you know who I am?”

“But yes, of course, although I must say your dust-jacket photo does you a grave injustice, Miss Evans.”

“Do you think so?”

“I do indeed.”

So far so good.

“We were just going to step outside for a minute,” I said.

“Oh, really,” said Miss Evans. “Why?”

Jack performed an exaggerated dumbshow of pretending to smoke a cigarette and holding in the smoke.

“You’re already smoking a pipe,” said Miss Evans. “Why do you need to go outside to smoke.”

Jack stepped even closer to her, he was so much shorter than her that his nose was almost between her breasts. Looking up, he whispered, smiling, “Gage, sweetheart. Wacky tobaccy. The good stuff. Spade tea, baby.”

“Oh, dear.”

She turned to me.

“You never fail to surprise me, Arnold.”

I shrugged.

“What are they talking about, honey?” said Mrs. DeVore to Mr. DeVore.

“Wow,” he said, in a loud voice. “You guys are really gonna smoke mari--?”

“Shhh,” went Thomas. “Discretion, old man.”

“Oh, sorry,” said DeVore.

Josh had kept quiet through all this. He lifted his great mug, polished it off and put it down on the bar. Like magic the bartender was there again.

“Another one, sir?”

“No thanks. What do I owe you? For my friend Arnold, too, and, uh, for this lady.”

“Oh, on the house!”


Josh reached into his pocket, came out with a twenty-dollar bill that looked like it had come fresh from the mint, tossed it on the bar.

“Oh, thank you, sir!”

“They do like you here, Joshua,” said Miss Evans.

“Yeah, well --”

“I wonder,” she said, “if I may join you gentlemen outside.”

“Can we come too, fellas?” said DeVore. “I’ve always wanted to try mari-”

Shhh!” said Thomas. “Be cool, man.”

“Oh! Sorry!”

“Wait, go where?” said Mrs. DeVore.

“You don’t have to come, Gladys,” said Miss Evans.

“My name’s not --”

“Oh, but we want to come!” said Bob DeVore.

“The more the merrier,” said Jack. “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” said Mrs. DeVore.

“Just across the street,” said Jack. “To the beach.”

“To the beach? At night? Why?”

“Shhh,” said DeVore, “be cool, honey.”

“Let’s split,” said Jack. “Finish your drink, Miss Evans.”

She lifted her martini and polished it off in two gulps. Jack took the glass out of her hand and put it on the bar.

“Great,” he said. “Allons-y!” He took Miss Evans’s arm. “Brains and beauty! My kind of gal!”
She picked her shiny black purse up off of the bar top.
“Don’t get any ideas,” she said.

“Oh no, of course not!”

“I still don’t know why we’re going to the beach,” said Mrs. DeVore.

“All will be revealed,” said Thomas. “May I take your lovely wife’s arm, Bob?”

“Uh, yeah, sure, Tom,” said DeVore.

“Cheers,” said Thomas, and putting his arm in Mrs. DeVore’s he started pulling her toward the door.

Jack was yanking on Miss Evans’s arm, but she held her ground and addressed me.

“You are coming, aren’t you, Arnold?”

“Oh, sure,” I said. I took one last drink from my mug and then put it down even though it wasn’t empty.

Jack pulled Miss Evans along after Thomas and Mrs. DeVore.

“Hey, wait up,” said DeVore, and he followed.

Josh turned to me.

“I hope you know what the hell you’re doing, pal,” he said.

(Continued here, and until someone or some thing stops us. Please go to the right hand side of this page to find a possibly up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™. A J. Arthur Rank Production.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 147: masterplan

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, to Sid’s Tavern (“Let our cold beer and bracing cocktails assuage the trauma of yet another day spent senselessly broiling on the hot blistering beach.”), in the then-still somewhat quaint seaside resort of Cape May, NJ, as our hero Arnold Schnabel chooses songs on the jukebox while his friend “Josh” feeds the machine with his inexhaustible supply of dimes.

(Go here to see our previous episode, or here to return to the first chapter of of this Gold View Award©-winning memoir by the man Harold Bloom has called “the working-stiff’s Proust”.)

In the meantime some other song had been playing, the one about does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight.

“What about ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’?” I asked.

“You know what?” said Josh. “Let’s just blow.”

He dropped the rest of his dimes into his trousers pocket.

“But we’ve still got some songs to play,” I said, always the cheeseparing German.

“Leave them for someone else, Arnold. Come on, let’s make like a breeze.”

“Well, look who it is,” said someone behind us.

We both turned, and who did we see but Jack Scratch and Thomas Becket. It was Jack who had spoken.

“Walking the earth, I see,” said Jack, to Josh. “Walking among men. With your good friend Arnold here.”

Josh took his eternal cigarette from his mouth, dropped it to the floor, and stubbed it out with his sandal.

“We were just leaving, Jack,” he said. “We left some songs on the jukebox if you want to play them.”

“Yeah? Any good teenage devil music in this box?”

“Lord,” said Thomas Becket, “don’t listen to him. He’s high.”

“We’re both high, you mean,” said Jack.

“Well, that’s true,” said Becket.

They both looked considerably more rumpled than they had when I’d last seen them, as they were leaving the Ugly Mug. St. Thomas had what looked like a ketchup stain on his white shirt, and the top of his head was askew again.

“Okay, great,” said Josh. “See you later, fellas.”

“Wait, dear Lord,” said Becket.

“Just call me Josh, Thomas.”

“Josh -- I was wondering, now that I have you here. I was wondering, is there any chance, that your father, and you of course, and the Holy Ghost --”

“We don’t really call him the Holy Ghost any more, Thomas.”

“The Holy Spirit?”

“Yes, what is it.”

Even though Josh had just put out a cigarette he took out his pack of Pall Malls from his shirt pocket. I suppose he really didn’t have to worry about cancer or emphysema.

“I was just wondering --” said Thomas.

“Yes?” said Josh. He shook up a cigarette, put it between his lips.

In a flash Becket had a lighter out and was giving Josh a light, although it took him about four tries to get the flame going.

He spoke very quickly now:

“I was just wondering if there was any chance at all that the, uh, the ban on martyrs might be lifted, that we, or at least some of us, might be allowed into your father’s house --”

“Forget it, Tom,” said Jack.

“I didn’t ask you, Jack Scratch,” said Becket.

“Excuse me,” said Jack.

He pulled his pipe out of his seersucker jacket, dropped it. I bent down to pick it up for him, and I did, but he bent over also, and our heads bumped. He staggered backwards and I grabbed his arm.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Oh, I’ve taken worse knocks he said,” rubbing his bald pate. I noticed that the horn bumps on either side of his upper forehead were visible again.

I handed him his pipe.

“Thank you, my good man.”

He reached into one of his jacket pockets again and brought out a faded leather tobacco pouch.

St. Thomas was still standing there holding his lighter.

“Are you two quite finished with the music-hall act?”

“The music-hall act is never finished,” said Jack Scratch, and he proceeded to load his pipe, spilling handfuls of tobacco onto the floor.

“So, Lord --” said Thomas, to Josh.

“Josh, Thomas,” said Josh.

“Josh, what do you think? Any chance at all of me getting into your father’s house? Just on a provisional basis perhaps? Perhaps I could be a sort of, I don’t know, a doorman?”

“We already have a doorman. Named Peter.”

“Or I could take people’s coats, and hats, or --”

“Look, I don’t make the rules, Thomas,” said Josh.

“But, Lord --”


“Josh -- for almost seven hundred and ninety-three years I’ve been down here, wandering, wandering --”

“Ha!” said Jack. He thrust his tobacco pouch back into his pocket and grabbed Thomas’s lighter out of his hand. “Ha!”

“What?” said Becket.

Seven hundred and ninety-three years.” Jack clicked the lighter but it wouldn’t light. “Kid stuff. I could do seven hundred and ninety-three years standing on my fucking head.”

“Well, fuck you, Jack.”

“What’s the matter with this lighter.”

“You’re doing it wrong.”

“Piece of shit thing.”

He kept clicking it, but it wouldn’t light.

“That’s a Ronson,” said Thomas. “Finest lighter money can buy.”

“Piece of shit.”

Josh had his own lighter out now, and he gave Jack a light.

“Well, thank you, sir.”

“Don’t mention it,” said Josh.

“Here, take your lighter back that doesn’t work,” said Jack to Thomas.

“Nothing wrong with this lighter,” mumbled Saint Thomas, taking the lighter. He clicked it, but it didn’t light.

“Ha,” said Jack, puffing great clouds of sulfurous smoke from his pipe.

“It must need fuel,” said St. Thomas.

“All right, see you later, fellas,” said Josh.

“Wait,” said Thomas, “Lord, Josh -- can you at least talk to your father?”

“Okay, sure.”

Josh tried to get past, but Thomas put his hand on his arm.

“And the Holy Ghost? I mean the Holy Spirit?”

“Next time I see him,” said Josh.

“I mean,” Thomas said, “Arnold here got into your father’s house, right?”

“True,” said Josh. He pulled Thomas's hand off of his arm.

“Well --” said Thomas.

“Well what?”

“Well, I’m sure Arnold’s a nice chap and everything, but look at me, I went up against King Henry, I -- I may have been misguided in my zeal, but I -- I stood for something --”

“Look, I’ll talk to the other two, okay?”

“Oh, splendid. Splendid. That’s all I ask.”

“I’m not making any promises.”

“No, no, of course not. Of course not --”

“You’re doomed, Tom, face it,” said Jack, smiling, puffing on his pipe.

“Oh, bugger you, Jack,” said Thomas.

At the other end of the bar I saw Miss Evans, standing now. The DeVores were still with her, and they were all looking at us.

I began to have the faint glimmering of an idea. Yes, I have ideas.

“Hey, wait,” said Jack. “Listen, you boys want to get high?”

“What do you mean?” said Josh.

“Tea. Muggles. Mary Jane. We picked up some dynamite stuff at that Negro bar.”

“I don’t think so,” said Josh.

“Come on, don’t be a square. How about it, Arnold? We can go across to the beach.”

I didn’t quite know what my plan was yet, and yet I felt it beginning to take form.

“Okay,” I said. “What the heck.”

“Are you serious, Arnold?” said Josh.

“Sure,” I said. “If I drink any more I’m just going to get hungover.”

“Well, if you want to --”

“There you go,” said Jack. “Arnold’s no square.”

“No square indeed,” said St. Thomas.

(Continued here. Kindly see the right hand column of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to all other published episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™. This project made more possible than it would otherwise be by a generous grant of Betty Crocker Savings Coupons from the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia, PA.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 146: huge

Welcome back to Sid’s Tavern (“A refreshingly cool and dark oasis right across the street from the sun-blasted purgatory of the beach.” -- J.J. Hunsecker), in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May, New Jersey, where our memoirist Arnold Schnabel stands awkwardly at the bar between the stools occupied by his friend “Josh” and the implacable authoress Gertrude Evans, on this long Saturday night in August of 1963...

(Scroll down a post or click here to see our previous episode; go here to see the first chapter of of this Gold View Award©-winning memoir.)

Miss Evans said nothing but stared intently into my eyes.

I looked away. Some rock and roll song with no words had been playing, and now there was one of those pauses that happens in the universe of a bar, when one song goes off the jukebox but another one hasn’t come on yet, and all you hear is people shouting and laughing into the void.

“I’ll tell you why, Arnold,” she said.

I had already forgotten what it was she was talking about, and what she now proceeded to say did nothing to enlighten me, because just as she began to speak -- leaning slightly toward me, but speaking not in the somewhat high and trilling tones she had been using but in a low and more serious-sounding voice -- unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, all I could hear was this new song that had come on the jukebox, Lesley Gore singing about how it was some other girl named Judy’s turn to cry. I could see Miss Evans’s lips moving, and I heard some sort of vocal noise coming out from between them, but I hadn’t the faintest notion what she was saying. I suppose I could have leaned forward, or asked her to speak up, or both, but instead I just nodded my head in time to the music.

Finally the song faded away. My head was still nodding I think.

“So you agree?” she said.

“Oh. Yes. Absolutely,” I said.

“This is why I like you, Arnold. You’re very astute.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Isn’t he astute, Joshua?” asked Miss Evans.

“Pardon me?” said Josh. I’m pretty sure he hadn’t been paying attention either.

“Isn’t Arnold astute?”

“Oh, sure,” said Josh.

I was thinking that I could make it through this as long as songs kept coming on the jukebox. Another one about a guy with two faces came on, and I lifted my great mug to take another drink of beer when someone clapped me on the back, causing me almost to chip a tooth on the glass.

“Arnie, baby!”

It was DeVore, and with him of course was his wife. He held a partially consumed manhattan in one hand, she held both a manhattan and a martini.

“I thought you were gonna come join us at our table,” he said.

I would rather die, I thought, but all I said was, “Um.”

DeVore thrust his free hand past me toward Josh.

“Bob’s the name, fella, Bob DeVore.”

Josh rose from his seat again and shook DeVore’s hand.

“My name’s Josh.”

“Pleased to meet you, Josh. And this is my little lady --”

He said her name I think, but don’t ask me what it was. It sounded like Radish, but that couldn’t be it.

“Hello,” said Josh.

Mrs. DeVore made some chirping noises, and I noticed Miss Evans lowering her eyebrows at her. She spoke, and now I could hear her clearly over the music.

“Listen, we’ll be over in a little while.”

“Why not come over now?” said Mr. DeVore.

“Arnold and Joshua and I are having a private conversation.”

“What are you talking about, Arnold?” asked DeVore.

He had me stumped.

“Uh,” I said. “Um.”

“Look, we ordered you a martini, Gertrude,” said Mrs. DeVore. She raised up the pristine martini. “Very dry, just the way you wanted it.”

“Oh. Thanks.” Miss Evans polished off the martini she was already holding, put it down, then took the fresh one off of Mrs. DeVore. “We’ll be along in a minute.”

“You promised,” said Mrs. DeVore.

“In a minute,” said Miss Evans brightly, but firmly.

“But --” said Mrs. Devore.

“Perhaps two minutes,” said Miss Evans

Mrs. DeVore started to cry.

“Oh, please don’t start blubbering, Gladys. It’s silly cows like you who give our gender a bad name.”

This didn’t help. Mrs. DeVore began to emit a sound like a police car siren drawing closer and closer.

“Frank,” said Miss Evans, “you’re her husband. Make her stop this hideous keening.”

“My name’s Bob.”

“Bob. Make her stop. Stop it, Gladys.”

“My name’s not Gladys,” sobbed Mrs. DeVore.

Josh, who had halfway re-seated himself, now got up again with his beer mug.

“Where are you going, Josh?” said Miss Evans, putting a hand on his arm.

“Just going to play the juke box,” said Josh.

“Hurry back.”

“Oh, I will,” he said. He pulled his arm free, tapped me on the shoulder.

“Come on, Arnold, help me choose some tunes.”

“Oh, I really don’t know much about music,” I said.

“Sure you do. Come on.”

Now he grabbed my arm, firmly, and pulled.

“Okay,” I said.

“Play something lively,” said Miss Evans.

“Play some Kingston Trio!” said DeVore.

“Play some more Lesley Gore!” said Mrs. DeVore, snuffling.

“Sure,” said Josh, and he pulled me along and down through the throng to the other end of the bar where the jukebox was.

When we got there he said, “Don’t look back.”

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a handful of dimes, and began dropping them into the slot.

“Punch some songs in, Arnold.”

“What do you want to hear?”

“It doesn’t matter. Anything.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Arnold,” he said, dropping in his dimes from his seemingly inexhaustible supply, “I’ve spent forty days and forty nights in the desert, surviving off the flesh of insects. As you well know I was brutally scourged, and then nailed to a cross. I spent three days in a tomb.”

“Yes, I know.”

I saw a Kingston Trio song, “Tom Dooley”, so I punched in the numbers and letters for that one.

“I’ve been through battles, Arnold. I’ve stood toe to toe with Beelzebub himself on a crag in the Atlas Mountains, fencing with thunderbolts. For thirty-six hours we dueled in a blinding tempest.”

“Did you win?”

“I didn’t win exactly but I fought him to a draw. Play another song.”

I saw a Lesley Gore, so I played that one.

“I don’t scare easily,” said Josh. “But that woman scares the hell out of me. How do you deal with her?”

“I try to avoid her.”

“Why didn’t you run away just now?”

“To be honest I was planning to do that after I finished my beer.”

“And leave me alone with her?”

“Yes,” I admitted.

“Well, I guess I can’t blame you. Look, let’s both make a run for it.”

“She’ll only follow us if we leave together,” I said. “And so will the DeVores.”

“What are we going to do?”

“I have no idea,” I said.

“Damn. Oh, wait. Play that one. ‘Please Please Me’.”

“The Beatles? Never heard of them.”

“Trust me, they’re going to be huge.”

I punched in the song.

(Continued here, and indefinitely if not infinitely. Please refer to the right hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other extant episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, as serialized on the Chock Full O’Nuts Dramatic Showcase Hour, hosted by Oscar Levant, on the DuMont Television Network.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 145: intrigued

In our previous episode of this Gold View Award©-winning masterpiece our memoirist Arnold Schnabel introduced the hot-blooded novelist Gertrude Evans to his friend “Josh” at Sid’s Tavern (“Right across from the beach and within staggering distance of your hotel”), in the quaint port of Cape May NJ on this strange hot night in August, 1963...

“So,” she said, “Joshua, what is it exactly that you do?”


He had drunk half of his triple whiskey in one go. I hoped he could handle it.

“Yes. What do you do. For a living. If anything.”

The bartender appeared with Josh’s fresh quart of beer.

“Ah, thank you,” said Josh. “Here, wait --”

He placed his cigarette in an ashtray, then lifted his half-drunk quart mug to his mouth, and, leaning progressively backward, drank its contents in four continuous gulps.

Then he leaned forward, smiling, and handed it to the bartender.

“Take it away, my good man.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” said Miss Evans.

Josh wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“What was the question again?”

“What, if anything, is it that you do for a living?”

“For a living?” he said. “Nothing, I’m afraid.”

He picked up his cigarette, and tapped its ash into the tray.

“Now I am intrigued,” said Miss Evans. “And where if I may be so bold as to ask do you get the shiny shekels to pay for your drinks and your cigarettes?”

Josh seemed to consider the question for a moment. Or maybe he really couldn’t handle his booze and he was just being slow on the uptake.

“I suppose you could say I get my shiny shekels from my father.”

“Oh, and is he very rich?”

“Oh, yes.” He drew his fresh quart mug closer. “That guy has all the shiny shekels in the world.”

“And are you your father’s son and heir?” asked Miss Evans.

“His only son,” said Josh.

“Oh really.” said Miss Evans. “Now I am very much intrigued. So tell me, Joshua, what do you do with yourself all day since you don’t have a job.”

Josh drew on his cigarette before answering.

“I watch things,” he said.

“You watch things.”

“Yes, and I listen.”

“You watch and listen.”

“That’s about it.”

Josh lifted his mug, one hand on its handle, his other hand cradling its bottom.

“But you don’t do anything,” said Miss Evans.

He smiled.

“Watching and listening is what I do, Gertrude.”

He took a small drink, nodded approvingly, as if to say the first quart is always good, but the second one is even better.

I don’t know about those two, but I felt that this conversation was very likely and very soon about to drive me to the point of climbing up a wall, or, more probably, to throwing down my own quart-size mug and running screaming out of there.

I decided to finish my beer as quickly as possible, make my excuses, and take my leave, come hell or high water (and the way this night was going I wasn’t about to discount the possibility of either).

Miss Evans had been regarding Josh from under her lowered dark eyelashes. She picked up her martini and took another drink.

“How did you know who I was, Joshua?” she asked. “Have you read my books?”

“Oh, sure,” said Josh.

“I am more and more impressed. Not too many men read my books.”

“I read everything,” said Josh.

“Oh do you,” she said.

Finally Josh’s face seemed to betray boredom, as if he had suddenly realized just then that not only was this as good as this conversation was going to get, but that from here on out it was only going to get worse, and very probably much worse.

“Which of my books is your favorite?” Miss Evans asked him.

And it occurred to me right then that as boring as all this was at least I had been excluded so far from active participation. So I had that to be thankful for.

“My favorite of your books,” Josh said, after seeming to ponder the question a moment. “Well, I guess I like the most recent one best --”

Ye Cannot Quench.


“Arnold’s reading it now.”

“Right,” said Josh. “What do you think of it, Arnold?”

So much for me being thankfully excluded.

“It’s uh, really -- really incredible,” I said.

“Oh, thank you, Arnold,” said Miss Evans.

“You’re welcome.”

“And how far along are you?” she asked.

“Well, um, I’m a very slow reader.”

“I’m happy you’re reading it at all. As I say, usually men don't appreciate my work. And do you know why? Do you, Arnold? Yes, I can see by your expression you do know. Don’t you?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You don’t know, or you don’t know that you know?”

I took a deep drink of beer before answering.

“I don’t know,” I said. “And I also don’t know if I know.”

(Continued here, and until Josh only knows when. Kindly go to the right hand column of this site to find a listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™. “Schnabel makes Proust seem terse.” -- Harold Bloom.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 144: “Guess there's no use in hangin' 'round. Guess I'll get dressed and do the town...”

Previously in this Gold View Award©-winning memoir our hero Arnold Schnabel was headed for the men’s room at Sid’s Tavern (“Why sit on the hot nasty beach when you can sit in here and drink an ice-cold beer?”), in the quaint seaside town of Cape May NJ on this momentous night in August, 1963...

I waded through the crowd and no one else tried to stop me. I pushed the men’s room door open; fortunately one urinal was unoccupied, although guys were using the other two urinals and both stalls, while another two fellows were at the sinks, running water over their combs and combing their hair.

I did what I had to do, sighing with relief, and then I zipped up and flushed.

I’ll admit I did look to see what avenues of escape this men’s room might afford, and there was indeed a double louvered window, but it was about eight feet above the floor, and I couldn’t see myself trying to climb through it in front of all these men. I do have some standards. I walked over, waited patiently for one fellow to put the finishing touches to his hairstyle, then I stepped up, rinsed and dried my hands. I had no comb, but I gave my hair a couple of pats. I felt that I looked no more insane than the average man.

But they were waiting out there for me.

I needed to take a firm hand.

These people didn’t want just me, no, they wanted my last few shreds of sanity, soaked in my life’s blood...

But, I attempted to reason, hadn’t I fought off the blandishments of Jack Scratch? Hadn’t I -- with Dick Ridpath’s stout help -- saved the world from destruction at the claws of Mr. Arbuthnot’s cat Shnooby? Had I not successfully resolved the thorny problem of Clarissa?

Very well, if I had done all of the above, and I was pretty sure I had, then surely I could extricate myself from the clutches of three mere humans like Miss Evans and the DeVores…

“Hey, pal, you finished with the sink?”

This was a fellow standing beside and just a little to the back of me.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, and I stepped aside.

“Lost in thought, huh?”

“Uh, yeah.”

It seemed to me that he was showing signs of wanting to continue the conversation, so I hurried to the door, and out.

Sure enough they were still there, standing midway between me and Josh. They formed a wedge-shaped phalanx, Miss Evans in her shiny dress a couple of paces closer to me than her minions, with Mr. DeVore to the right and Mrs. Devore to the left. As I walked slowly but purposefully through the crowd and down the bar the three of them held their ground, not advancing, but obviously poised and ready to wheel around the split second I might try to outflank them, or to give rapid pursuit should I turn tail and try to escape through the kitchen.

The surfing song had gone off and now it was a song about wishing to have a hammer.

“Hello, Miss Evans,” I said, as I came up to her.

I attempted to go to her right but Mrs. DeVore slipped directly into my path.

“What’s the big hurry, Arnold?” said Miss Evans. “Have a drink with me.”

“Yeah, have a drink with us, Arnie,” said Mr. DeVore.

Miss Evans stepped between Mrs. DeVore and me. She mouthed the words, “With me.

“My friend is waiting,” I said.

“That beach bum.”

“He’s my friend.”

“Introduce me.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Miss Evans.”

“Gertrude,” she said.

“Gertrude,” I said.

“Introduce us to your buddy,” said Mr. DeVore.

“I think he’s cute,” said Mrs. DeVore.

Miss Evans pressed herself against me, again.

She mouthed the words, “Introduce me, not these idiots.

“Miss Evans --”


“Gertrude,” I said.

I was on the verge, the very verge of telling her to leave me the hell alone, that she was driving me crazy, or crazier, and so were the DeVores.

But I lost my nerve.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll introduce you.”

“Us too?” said Mr. DeVore.

“Yes,” I said. “Everyone.”

“Oh, but we’ll frighten him if we all descend upon him at once,” said Miss Evans. “Frank, why don’t you and Gladys --”

“My name’s not Frank,” said Mr. DeVore.

“And my name’s not Gladys,” said Mrs. DeVore.

“Oh yes of course I know that, I call everyone Frank and Gladys, ha ha, listen, you two go back to our booth, I’ll go over to the bar with Arnold and see if I can convince him and his raffish friend to come join us.”

“Are you sure?” said Mr. DeVore.

“Quite sure. Order me another martini. Tell the waitress to make it drier next time. Very dry.”

“Dry,” said Mr. DeVore.

“Just a kiss of vermouth.”

“Right,” he said.

“Please come right back, Gertrude,” said Mrs. DeVore.

“In a jiffy,” said Miss Evans, and putting her arm in mine she pulled me away.

She put her lips near my ear.

Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll ditch those two.

We came to where Josh sat. His quart mug of beer was half-empty, and his whiskey glass was completely empty.

A new song had come on the jukebox, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”, and Josh was nodding his head to the music, staring at nothing in particular. As usual, he was smoking a Pall Mall.

“Hello, you,” said Miss Evans.

Josh turned and looked at her.

“Hello,” he said, getting up off his stool.

“So you’re the famous friend of Arnold,” she said.

“I have that privilege.”

“I’m Gertrude,” she said, offering her hand.

“Gertrude,” he said, taking her fingers in his. “Don’t tell me. Evans. Novelist. Age --

“That will do, thank you,” she said. “But it is so nice to be recognized. And your name is?”

“Jesus,” he said, and he kissed her hand.


She drew her hand away.

“Josh,” I said, quickly. “Josh, Miss Evans. I mean Gertrude.”

“Why did you say Jesus?” she said to him.

“Oh, I meant, uh, ‘Jesus, you’re a very attractive woman.’”

“Oh. Well thank you. Thank you very much indeed. Josh is it?”

“Joshua. Josh. Whatever.”

“I’ll call you Josh.”

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Evans.”

“Gertrude, please, Joshua. Any friend of Arnold’s.”

“Gertrude, then; may I offer you a drink?”

“Perhaps a martini.”

She slipped onto the empty stool next to Josh’s, the one that was supposed to be mine, with my untouched quart mug of beer in front of it on the bar.

Jesus raised his finger and hey presto the bartender was there.

“A martini for the lady, please,” said Josh.

“Thank you,” said Miss Evans to Josh, and to the bartender she said, “Tanquerary, very cold and very, very dry.” She touched the bartender’s hand. “Like a bone in the desert.”

“Very dry,” said the bartender.

“And another Old Forester for me,” said Josh. “I suppose you may as well make it another double. Oh, and bring me another one of these big boys,” he said, pointing to his quart-size mug, “thank you. Here, sit down, Arnold.”

“No, you sit, Josh,” I said. “I prefer to stand.”

Actually I figured it would be easier for me to make my getaway if I stayed standing.

“Okay,” said Josh, and he sat back down on his stool. “Drink up, Arnold, I’m way ahead of you.”

Using both hands he passed me my full mug of beer, then picked up his own mug again and took a good drink.

“So you like your beer, do you, Josh?” said Miss Evans, standing her purse on the bar top.

“Oh, yes,” said Josh. “Beer, grog, mead...”

“Ha ha.”

She opened the purse, it was hard-looking, shiny and black. She took out a cigarette case, clicked it open, extricated a cigarette and waited for one of us to be a gentleman. I had no lighter but Josh quickly grabbed up his and gave her a light.

The bartender laid a martini down before her and another triple shot of whiskey for Josh. In all my years as a barfly I had never seen a bartender perform his job so quickly.

“I’ll be right back with the beer, sir,” he said.

“Thank you,” said Josh.

Miss Evans raised her glass. Josh put down his beer mug and lifted his whiskey glass.

“To new friends,” said Miss Evans.

They both touched their glasses to my beer mug, and then they touched theirs.

We all drank.

“Oh, good,” said Miss Evans. “Finally a perfect martini. You must have pull around here, Joshua.”

“You might say that,” said Josh.

(Continued here, and ad infinitum if not ad nauseam. Please refer to the right hand column of this site to find a listing of links to many other fine chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™. “Not just a book but a way of life.” -- Harold Bloom.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 138: dawn

And so we come at last to the close of Larry Winchester’s sprawling masterwork. (“I finished it wishing for at least another thousand pages.” -- Harold Bloom)

(Go here to review our previous chapter. Newcomers, or old-timers who simply want to re-live the glory, may go here for the first chapter.)

Finally Dick and Daphne and Rafael walked us back, through the old streets, the old buildings leaning in toward us. The Ridpaths’ apartment was right down the street from our hotel, on Claude Bernard. Everyone kissed and hugged and shook hands goodnight, then they walked off and we went into the hotel.

Heather and I went up to the third floor in the grill-work elevator.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“They are so cool,” she said. “I wish you had friends like them back in L.A.”

“Yeah, me too,” I said.

We didn’t say anything specifically about Rafael. I didn’t want to torture her.

We had adjoining rooms. I kissed her good night.

I lay in bed but now I couldn’t sleep. And I didn’t mind not sleeping.

There was a wrought-iron and glass door that opened out onto a very small iron balcony overlooking the street below, the rue Broca. I went out onto the balcony, just wearing my boxer shorts, and I put my hands on the railing. I looked out at what I could see of that bunched-up, crammed-up old neighborhood, and I looked up at the sky. It was a pale bluish grey. A few tiny stars. I breathed it all in. There was a bakery on the corner and I could smell bread baking.

I had one of those moments where you become aware of your solitude in life and in the universe. Then I thought of my daughter in there sleeping in the next room. Occasionally a car drove by. Above me the sky was lightening, morning was coming on. The earth turned beneath my feet.

I heard a knocking from inside my room, and I went back in. Was Heather up too? Did she want to talk? She probably wanted to talk about Rafael.

“Be right there,” I said to the door. I hadn’t turned a light on, but I could see around the room well enough. I went to the door, opened it.

Mr. MacNamara was standing there, smoking a cigarette. To his right was Buddy Kelly, to his left was Brad. They all looked a little older, but not nineteen years older.

“How ya doin’ Harvey?”

“Okay, sir,” I said.

“Call me Mac, kid.”

“Mac,” I said.

“Gonna invite us in?”

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “Come on in.”

I stepped back, they all came in. I shook hands with them in turn, Mac, Buddy, Brad.

“Good to see ya, pal,” said Buddy.

“How’s it hangin’, soldier?” said Brad.

Brad closed the door. I went over and sat down on the bed.

There was a sort of easy chair by a small table, and Mac sat down in that. There was one other chair, but Buddy and Brad both chose to stand.

“You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?” said Mr. MacNamara, holding up his cigarette.

“No, not at all,” I said. “Oh, let me put a light on --”

I started to reach for the lamp on the bed table.

“You don’t have to,” said Mr. MacNamara. “It’s nice like this.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Sorry for showing up out of the blue like this, Harvey,” said Mr. MacNamara.

“That’s okay, sir, I mean, Mac,” I said.

“Do you mind if I light a cigar?” said Brad, and he pulled a leather cigar case out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket. “I could stand by the window.”

“No, not at all,” I said. “I’m a cigar smoker too.”

“Oh, take a few of mine, then,” he said, and, coming over, he clicked the case open.

“Cubans,” he said. “Can’t get these back in the States. Not legally, anyways.”

There were four cigars in the case. Cohibas.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll just take one for later.”

“Take three, just leave me one. I got a whole box.”

“Well, okay.” I took three from the case, and laid them on the night table.

Brad went over by the balcony.

“Me, I gave up smoking,” said Buddy.

“Good for you, Buddy,” I said.

He stood there with his hands in his pockets. Mr. MacNamara and Brad were both wearing suits, but Buddy wore a grey windbreaker and a pair of khakis, a madras shirt.

“Harvey,” said Mr. MacNamara; there was an ashtray on the little table next to his chair, he reached over, slid it closer, tapped his cigarette into it; “the reason we’re here is we have a proposition for you.”

“A proposition?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “That is, if you would like to hear it.”

“Sure,” I said. “Let’s hear it.”

The End

(Thank you to everyone who has read this far, and much thanks for the many kind comments and e-mails. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page to find a complete listing of links to all other chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, soon to be a major motion picture provided the financing doesn’t fall through again.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 143: the weight

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel, as he enters Cape May’s historic Sid’s Tavern* with his personal lord and savior, Josh, on this momentous night in August, 1963...

*“Slake your thirst after a broiling hot day at the beach with Sid’s famous ‘Quart of Ort’ -- a 24oz frosty mug of Ortlieb’s premium pilsner -- and assuage your pangs of hunger with Sid’s equally renowned quarter-pound pretzels.” -- Walter Winchell

(Click here for the previous episode of this Gold View Award©-winning memoir, or here for the first chapter.)

The place was packed. It was Saturday night, past midnight, the height of the season.

I leaned close and put my hand near Josh’s ear.

“I really don’t see a spot for us, Josh. Maybe we should just --”

“O ye of little faith,” said Josh. “I do have certain powers you know, Arnold.”

Facing the bar, he raised one finger and gently waved it back and forth. Two men who had been sitting near each other rose up in their seats and slid their stools away from each other, leaving a gap of about two-and-half feet near the street end of the bar.

“Let’s go, pal,” said Josh, and we squeezed in at the bar.

A bartender stopped washing some glasses and came right over to us.

“How may I serve you, O Lord?” he asked, looking somewhat frightened, and shooting a nervous glance at me.

“What are you drinking, Arnold?” asked Josh.

“Oh, just a beer, I guess --”

“How about a shot, too?”

“Oh, I don’t think I’d better.”

“Well, suit yourself.” He turned to the bartender, who was still standing there, leaning forward. “Two of those famous quart mugs of yours, uh, Ortlieb’s I guess --”

“Oh, Josh --” I said.

“Yeah? Change your mind about a shot?”

“Well, no --”

I was trying to get the word in edgewise that I only wanted a normal-size mug of beer, but Josh turned back to the bartender.

“And just one shot please.” He turned to me again. “What’s a good whiskey, Arnold?”

“Uh, I don’t know, Old Forester?”

“A shot of Old Forester,” said Josh to the bartender. “Better make it a double, thanks.”

The bartender hurried off down to the beer taps.

“I don’t know, buddy,” said Josh. “I know I told you not to drink too much tonight, but -- don’t you ever just feel like getting plastered sometimes?”

“Sure,” I said. To be honest I felt like getting plastered practically every day. “But, um --”


“Well, never mind --”

“No, tell me.”

“Well, it’s just that I would have thought that you, um --”

“That I would be above such urges?”

“Well --”

“Son of God and all that?”

“Well, yeah --”

“So, I suppose I'm meant to be -- what -- without pain? Above pain?”

“Well, no, of course not,” I said.

“And I’m not talking about the pain of being scourged and crucified.”

“Oh,” I said.

“It’s not all fun and games for me, Arnold. Imagine just for a moment having the whole weight of the world on your shoulders. Literally.”

A new song had come on the jukebox. “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

“I’m not whining, mind you,” he said. “It’s just sometimes it all gets to be a bit -- much. And that, my friend is why I’m looking forward to this.”

He smiled as the bartender laid down two enormous foaming frosty mugs of beer.

But right now a new problem presented itself. Just the sight of these two huge flagons of beer had suddenly made me realize that my bladder felt likely to burst at any moment, or at the very least to produce an embarrassing stain in my bermudas.

“Um, Josh,” I said.

“What?” He pulled his great mug closer with both hands, and smiled as the bartender filled a rocks glass with about six fingers of Old Forester.

“I have to, uh -- you know --”

“What, Arnold?"

"I have to go to -- um -- I have to --"

"Oh," he said. "Hit the head?”


“Go in peace.”

He lifted his right hand from his mug to give me his blessing.

“I’ll be right back.”

“Take your time,” he said and he turned back to his beer and his whiskey.

I headed back towards the men's room through the crowd. “Surfin’ USA” was still on the jukebox. How odd, I thought, that there should be songs about riding a plank of wood on a wave. But why not? Certainly people never seemed to grow tired of singing about romantic love, or about the love of God. Why not the love of a sport? Why not ski ball, for instance? And why were there so few if any songs about darts, or snooker --


A man gripped my arm. It was Mr. DeVore.

“Where you been, pal? We’ve been looking for you all night?”

His wife bobbed up next to him, ducked under his arm and put her own arm around my waist.

“Arnie!” she cried. Even in this crowded and smoky place the two of them reeked of the unmistakable smell of Manhattans, Four Roses Manhattans if I had to make a guess, and quite few of them.

Suddenly two slender but strong bare arms separated the two DeVores, wrenching the couple free of me, and Miss Evans pushed herself up against my body.

“I knew you would find me,” she said.

Her smell was of Martinis, not Fleischmann’s or Banker’s Club but the good stuff, Tanqueray at least.

“I was just going to the men’s room,” I said.

“You and the toilet. You love to go to the toilet, don’t you?”

“I don’t dislike it,” I said.

“I suppose you’ve been drinking like a fish.”


“At that Pete’s place you said you were going to fetch the waitress. But you disappeared. Where did you go?”

“I, uh, had an attack. Of insanity. So I ran out.”

“Oh you and your vaunted insanity. And are you sane now?”

“Um, partially --”

And getting less so by the second I could have added.

“You naughty man,” she said.

“Excuse me, Miss Evans --” I said.


“Gertrude -- I really have to go to the men’s room.”

“Oh, very well, then. We’ll talk when you emerge. I’ve been waiting to catch you alone.”

“I’m not alone.”

“Who are you with? That, that Greek girl?”

“She’s not Greek --”

“Italian, whatever. I can see you’re drawn to hotblooded Mediterranean females. But what of the austere poetic passion of the northern woman. I wonder if you’ve read Jane Eyre? Or the Nibelungenlied.”

“No,” I said.

“Where is she? Your dusky Gypsy?”

Miss Evans turned away to scan the bar in the direction from which I had come.

“I’m not with, uh, her,” I said. “I’m with a friend.”

“A friend? Who? Where?”

I pointed over her shoulder, down the bar at Josh, who was lifting his titanic frosted mug of beer to his lips with both hands; Miss Evans and both the DeVores turned to stare at him.

“That bearded fellow?” said Miss Evans.

“Yes,” I said.

“Hmmm,” said Miss Evans, turning back to me, “he seems a rather louche character. You do intrigue me, Arnold.”

“I really have to go,” I begged.

“I’m not keeping you," she said, although she was gripping both my arms tightly.

Without another word I pried her hands away from my arms, turned, and continued on my way to the men’s room.

By this time I had to go so badly that I decided that if there was a line I would just run madly out, duck across the street and the boardwalk, and go down among the dark pilings underneath Frank’s Playland.

(Continued here, and at this rate, well into the latter half of this century. Kindly go to the right hand side of this page to find a listing of links to other chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™. “I always take Schnabel with me to the beach.” -- Harold Bloom.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 137: the movie

What’s better than being in a smoky jazz club in the Latin Quarter of Paris, in the company of old friends you haven’t seen in nineteen years? Nothing, that’s what...

(Go here to read our previous chapter, or here to return to the beginning of this Gold View Award©-winning epic from the 1950 Royal portable of Larry Winchester, “Perhaps the only novelist working today who can be mentioned in the same breath with giants such as Tolstoy, Dickens, Balzac, or Schnabel.” -- Harold Bloom.)

After a while Dick asked me what I knew about the old Disdain gang, and I filled him in, what I knew. Paco and Doc Goldwasser were still alive, amazingly, last I heard. But Derek, the English dude? He had OD’d on alcohol way back in the early 70s..

Dick kept saying, “Do you ever see…” or “Do you ever hear from…” and I had to keep saying no, no, sorry, no.

“Even your friend, what was his name, Skip?”


“Tip --”

I told him no, you know how it is.

“Yeah. Yeah, people wander --”

“Or they don’t wander,” I said.

“Yes, there are those,” said Dick.


“We meet people sheerly at random,” said Dick. “Circumstances throw you together for a while. But then the circumstances change.”

“And we change.”

“Yeah, we change,” he said. “We get older, anyway."

I suddenly realized that he wasn’t smoking; so, yeah, things change.

“What about Hope?” I said. This was the first time that I had asked about someone.

Dick said, “Oh, Hope,” and I suddenly remembered what I had not thought of when I asked the question, namely that she was Rafael’s actual mother. And I had no idea what, if anything, Rafael knew about her. I leaned closer to Dick.

“Am I being indiscreet?” I said, low.

“Not at all,” said Dick, also speaking low. “But may I ask you another question?”

“Consider me an open book.”

“Do you still get high?”

“Are you holding?”


“Let’s go,” I said.

“Darling,” said Dick, to Daphne, who was still deeply in conversation with Heather and Rafael. “Harvey and I are going to step out for some air.”

She waved at us, and went back to her conversation with the kids.

Dick and I went out, he suggested we go down to the bridge that was right down the street, and we did.

We stood in the middle of the bridge and leaned against the rail on our elbows, looking down at the river and at the cathedral of Notre Dame off there to the left, beyond another old bridge. Dick pulled a joint out of his shirt pocket, we lit it up.

We had chatted about the neighborhood ever since we left the club, nothing heavy, but now, after four or five tokes of this extremely powerful weed -- and really, would Dick have any other kind -- he said, “So, you were asking about Hope?”

I was so stoned already I said, “I was?”

“Yeah,” said Dick.

“Oh, right, now I remember,” I said. “Hope. The dope on Hope.”

“Right,” said Dick. “I suppose you didn’t hear about her?”


I was expecting him to say she had died. Overdose? Suicide? But no --

“She went insane.”


“I’m afraid so.”


To tell the truth I wasn’t surprised.

“How did she go insane?” I asked.


“Stupid question,” I said.

“No,” said Dick, “not really.” He toked, held it in, then he let it out slowly, the smoke drifting off upriver. “She went insane kind of slowly and sporadically at first, and then all at once.”

“When was this?”

“I guess it was about five years ago that she went totally cuckoo. We hadn’t heard from her for a year or so, and then one day I got a call from Big Jake. He wanted me to find her, because she had been calling him at all hours, raving, apparently, about, uh, beings. From the, uh, sky. From the heavens.”



“Maybe she wasn’t raving,” I said.

Dick sighed.

“Jake wired me some money, and I went looking for her. I found her on Mount Olympus, in Greece.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I wish I was.”

“What was she doing on Mount Olympus?”

“Waiting for the gods to come down.”

“Oh. So she really was, uh --”

“Yeah,” said Dick.

“So what did you do?”

“I called Jake. He came out to Greece. We managed to get her into a hospital in Athens. Jake stayed, I went back to Paris. After a while he he got her transferred to a sanitarium in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She’s been there ever since.”

“Damn,” I said. “Even my mother didn’t know about this.”

“That’s because Jake keeps it all on the QT. But it’s a very nice place she’s in. We go to visit her there every year. Daphne and Rafael and I.”

“And what is she like? I mean --”

“She seems happy enough. She’s in her own world. Spends a lot of time working in the garden.”

“Damn. So -- Rafael -- he knows that she’s his, uh --”

“Oh, yes. He’s always known she was his real mother, since he was old enough to understand, anyway. And she would come to visit us every once in a while, before she went completely wacko.”

“And how does he -- how does Rafael --”

“Deal with it all?”

Dick had been bogarting the joint for a while, and I took it out of his fingers.

“Oh, sorry,” he said.

I toked.

“What did you just ask me?” said Dick.

“I was wondering about Rafael,” I said, holding in the smoke.

“Oh, right. Well, I guess he just accepts the situation. What else can you do?”

I let out the smoke.

“You can piss and moan,” I said.

“Oh, that’s not Rafael,” said Dick.

“Good,” I said. "Nobody likes a pisser and moaner.”

“No, not unless you can be funny about it,” said Dick. “Entertaining.”

“Right,” I said, staring up along the gleaming river, past the bridge up ahead, staring at the electric-lit spires of the cathedral. “Um --”

“What?” said Dick.

“I just had a really disturbing flash.”

“Lay it on me.”

“Remember how that Frank dude said that the human race was just like this big entertainment industry for those outer space guys? Well, what if everything that happened to us back then, including the whole business with Frank, those motorcycle guys, all that shit, what if the whole thing was, was just a big movie for those outer-space people. I mean, it might not have been completely scripted, but, who knows, maybe Frank and those guys were like actors, improvving, playing off what we did, while the whole thing was being broadcast back home, like a movie, or a mini-series --”

“Wow,” said Dick. “That’s fucked up.”


It was me who was bogarting the joint now. Dick took the joint gently from my fingers, took a small toke, held it in, let it out.

“Here’s a thought,” he said. “What if the movie’s still going on? What if this is part of the movie?”

He waved his open hand. The bridge we stood on, the river, the church, the city, the stars, the world, and us.

We said nothing for a while, then Dick put out the roach, put it into his shirt pocket, and we headed back to the club.

(Conluded here. Kindly go to the right hand side of this page to find what might well be an up-to-date listing of links to all other possible chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™. “One of those books you want never to end, and it almost doesn’t.” -- W.H. Auden.)