Tuesday, January 5, 2010

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 180: postscript

In our previous chapter our memoirist Arnold Schnabel awoke on a rainy Sunday morning to find a naked woman sleeping in his bed, one who had not been there when he had gone to sleep...

(Click here to return to the first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning chef-d'œuvre, which the noted scholar Harold Bloom has called “the ne plus ultra of 20th century literature -- oh, hell, of any century’s literature!”.)

She slept obliviously, her hip rising up and dipping down to her slim waist, her arm crossed down across her bosom, her face hidden from the rain-dappled light by tousled dark hair.

And then I noticed some other odd things.

For starters, I was naked too, I who had never in my born days gone to bed without wearing at the very least my boxer shorts.

Also, it now dawned on me that either I had suffered a thrombosis in my sleep which had struck me colorblind, or once again I had found myself in a world of black-and-white, or, more accurately, a world composed of varying tones of grey, with highlights here and there of black or white.

The next thing I noticed was that this was not my narrow army-surplus cot but a regular medium-sized bed with cast-iron piping at the head and foot.

Then, finally, it dawned on me that this was not at all my humble attic room; it was a small room, granted, but not my room. The walls were largely covered with mostly-unframed drawings and paintings and posters. There was a cluttered old wooden chest of drawers with an oval mirror; a table with a portable typewriter on it and a straw-covered Chianti bottle with a candle stuck in it; a small refrigerator with a toaster on top of it; a stove; and just this side of the refrigerator was a claw-foot bathtub. On a wooden crate sat one of those record players that fit in their own little suitcase. In lieu of shelves were more of the wood crates stacked along the walls, the crates packed with books and records, magazines, papers, notebooks.

Next to the bed was an old scarred end-table with a tasseled lamp, a chipped glass ashtray overflowing with butts, some of them stained with red lipstick, an opened pack of Pall Malls and a Zippo lighter, a pile of paperback books, a bottle of ink, a tortoise-shell fountain pen, and a couple of marble-covered copybooks of the sort I write these memoirs in. Lying on top of one of these copybooks was a lined sheet of paper apparently torn from it or one of its fellows. I reached over the sleeping girl and picked up the paper, held it to the soft rippling light coming in from the small window:

See if you can get yourself out of this one, wiseguy!
Catch you later today, maybe.

Heh heh.

All the best,

Your pal,

Lucky

P.S. Fuck you.

(I have included that last line unexpurgated only in the interests of historical accuracy. I apologize in advance to you, dear Mother, if you have glanced into this copybook in which now I write, and, once again I respectfully ask you, for your own sake, please not to look into these writings of mine while “straightening up my room”.)

I folded up the sheet of paper, folded it again, and once more for good measure. Then, reaching over the sleeping girl, I slipped the paper into the copybook.

“Mmmpff,” said the girl, and brushing her hair from her eyes she turned onto her back and opened her eyes.

“Oh no,” she said.

“Pardon me?”

I didn’t know what else to say.

“We shouldn’t have,” she said. “I shouldn’t have.”

She reached down, grabbed the sheet, and pulled it up over her body, or at least up far enough to cover her breasts.

“You probably think I’m hideously hypocritical,” she said.

“No,” I said.

In fact I was thinking (among many other things) that she looked remarkably like the actress Natalie Wood, say around the time of Marjorie Morningstar.

“After all I practically threw myself at you,” she said.

“You did?”

“You don’t think I did?”

“Well, um, let me ask you this -- uh --”

I didn’t know her name.

“What?” she said.

I had to think quickly.

“By the way,” I said, “how do you prefer to be addressed?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I mean, do you have a nickname, or some diminutive --”

“LIke ‘Em’, or ‘Emmie’?”

“Uh, yeah --”

“No, I despise all those variations. Just call me Emily.”

“Emily.”

“Yes. Just Emily. What about you? What do you prefer to be called?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you, Porter. Mr. Porter Walker. Such a lovely name, a poet’s name.”

“Damn it.”

“What? What is it, Porter?”

Damn that Lucky. Damn him to hell. Which on second thought seemed a redundant thing to say.

“Porter, what is it?”

“Oh, never mind,” I said.

How could I tell her that she was only a character in a novel, in Miss Evans’s novel, and that I had become a character in it as well. And that the Devil himself had stuck me here.

“Porter, talk to me.”

At least she was the main character.

“You’re so mysterious, Porter, so moody.”

Holding the sheet over her bosom with one hand (and not very efficiently, either), she reached over and picked up the pack of Pall Malls from the end table. Well, at least they were my brand, in case I decided to take up smoking again, which the way things were going seemed quite possible.

“Mr. Walker! Mr. Walker!”

This was a heavily-accented woman’s voice, yelling from somewhere outside the room’s door.

“Yes?” I called somewhat tentatively. “Who is it?”

“It’s me, you meshuggenah, Mrs. Morgenstern! You’re wanted on the telephone!”

“Oh, okay,” I called. “I’ll be right there.”

So even in this world I was besieged by women.

“Who is it do you think?” asked Emily, lighting a cigarette with the Zippo, which was either the one I owned in my other life or one very much like it.

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” I said, and truer words I have never spoken.

“You’d better get it. It may be important.”

I’ve not had a vast experience with the female sex, granted, but I have never understood the prompt readiness of the few women I have known to answer the telephone. I’ve never wanted to answer a telephone’s ring in my entire life. (Or in any of my lives.)

Emily, calmly smoking her cigarette, and still holding the sheet over her bosom, but less and less efficiently, obligingly pulled her legs up so that I could get out of the bed. I was so disconcerted that I barely had the presence of mind to be embarrassed by my nakedness, but still I was embarrassed. Fortunately I saw a pair of blue jeans on the floor by the bed, and I pulled them on without bothering to look for my boxer shorts. I saw a plaid workman’s shirt on the floor a few feet farther away and I put that on, too.

“Hurry back, Porter,” said Emily.

“Okay,” I said.

Where else was I going to go?

I went to the door through which Mrs. Morgenstern’s voice had passed, and into a rather dingy corridor. Not surprisingly, I didn’t see any telephone. But I heard voices down the hall, so I went toward them. I came to an open door, looked in to see a family sitting around a table, eating.

“Come in already,” said the woman who was at the table, her voice matching that of the disembodied Mrs. Morgenstern. I had imagined a middle-aged shrew for some reason, but she proved to be in her thirties. Also at the table was a man of about the same age, wearing a t-shirt, and a little boy and girl.

“Porter!” said the man. “The poet! Write any immortal poetry yet today?”

He also had a heavy accent.

“No,” I said, “not yet.”

“Ya lazy bum ya.”

“Get the phone, Porter,” said the woman.

“Where is it?” I asked.

Both the children burst into uproarious laughter.

“Don’t be funny, Mr. Wiseguy,” said Mrs. Morgenstern. “The phone is where it always is.”

Desperately I looked around the apartment, which, sadly, did not look too much bigger than mine, and I saw a black telephone on a small lace-covered table, the receiver off the hook.

I walked over, very much aware that I was barefoot, and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?” I said.

“Walker! That you?”

“I suppose so,” I said.

“I got one question. What’s your excuse?”

“My excuse?” Who was this, one of Lucky’s agents? “For what?”

“For what? For bein’ an hour late for work, asshole!”

“An hour?”

“You expect that cab to drive itself?”

“No,” I said.

“All right, tell ya what, Mr. Intellectual, don’t bother comin’ in at all, ever! You’re fired, got me? You still owe me for three gallons of gas, but tell ya what, we’ll make that your severance pay. And do not bother comin’ round askin’ for no second chance, neither.”

“Uh, okay,” I said.

“Fuck you very much, and goodbye!”

He hung up, whoever it was. I put the receiver back on its cradle.

“Everything okay, Porter?” said Mr. Morgenstern, or at least I presumed he was Mr. Morgenstern.

“Yes, fine,” I said.

“You want some kasha?”

“No thanks,” I said. “Thanks for the use of the phone.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“You want a sweet roll, Mr. Walker?” said Mrs. Morgenstern. “Cup of coffee?”

“No thanks,” I said.

I said thanks again to Mr. Morgenstern, and good morning to all, walked over to the door, went out and closed the door.

I headed back to my room.

Emily was still there, of course, but at least she had gotten dressed. She was sitting at the table reading from a sheath of typed paper, smoking a cigarette.

“Everything okay, Porter?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I got fired.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re too talented to be driving a cab. I’ve been reading your poem, you know, for my boss at Smythe’s.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes.”

She laid the sheet of paper she’d been reading face down on the stack in front of her and patted the stack’s sides to make it a nice neat cuboid.

“I think it’s the finest poem of our time.”

I said nothing.

“Would you like me to make you some breakfast, Porter?”

What could I say? I was ravenous.

“Yes, thank you,” I said.

(Continued here, an army of hungry fans demands it.)

(Kindly look to the right hand column of this page for what is allegedly an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, absolutely free of charge as per the mandate of the Arnold Schnabel Society {executors of the Arnold Schnabel estate} and their expressed wish to “share the joy”.)

8 comments:

dianne said...

"those record players that fit in their own little suitcase"


Yep, we had one of those. I used to play Jim Reeves and Elvis on it.

Jennifer said...

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!! And we're back on the roller coaster!

kathleenmaher said...

At least she was the main character.

Yes, being the lead would soften the blow of also being fictitious.

I've never heard of the Devil doing this to anyone, but as of now, I'm going to be very selective in what I read before going to sleep--in case that makes a difference.

Dean Rohrer said...

love it--awakening in fiction...ain't it the truth!

Dan Leo said...

Thanks, everybody, and as usual Arnold's (or Porter's) mom thanks you too.

(Dianne, I really want one of those little suitcase record-players now...)

Jennifer said...

Dan, I thought you had a Close-N-Play. :)

Dan Leo said...

I wish I did have a Close-n-Play!

Check this out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAKZ-O70wNg

Jennifer said...

LOL! Awesome!