Tuesday, June 29, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 56: woman talk

In our previous episode our hero Buddy Best, who in his long career has been responsible for the cinematic shootings of hundreds of people, innocent or otherwise, finally found himself at the wrong end of a pistol he was trying to wrest from the suicidal grasp of his daughter Liz’s disturbed ex-boyfriend Craig (or is it Keith?)...

(Newcomers may click here to go back to to Chapter One of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “Buddy Best is a hero for our times, not that this says much for our times.” J.J. Hunsecker in Man’s Life.)

They got an outside table and immediately lit up the cigarettes.

“Y’know, Cordelia, I really don’t want a fucking Diet Coke,” said Liz. “I think I’ll scream if I have another fucking Diet Coke today.”

“Have a glass of wine. I’m gonna have one.”

“I’m not supposed to drink. I have a problem.”

“A drinking problem?”

“Well, my main problem was diet pills, speed, coke if I could get it. Then I went into rehab. Then I met this guy, Craig. The guy who -- anyway, he was an alcy, I met him in a meeting, and he slipped and started drinking, and I was an idiot, so I started drinking. A lot. That’s why I had to move back home with Dad.”

“Oh. Do you mind if I have one?”

“Oh, please do.”

“Maybe you’re not an alcoholic.”


“Maybe it was just because of the guy.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Maybe you should go ahead and have a glass of wine, Liz.”

“Oh, but then I’ll have to tell everybody in my AA group all about it.”

“So just don’t tell them. I mean, jeeze, how often does your father get shot and almost bleed to death? I mean, that’s a very stressful thing. To happen.”

“You’ve got a point.”

“We’ll just have one.”

“Well, okay.”

“One each.”

“Okay. But totally don’t let me have more than one, all right?”

“Sure. I never have more than one myself anyway.”

By this point the waiter was standing there, had been standing there, so Cordelia ordered a Merlot and Liz ordered a Chardonnay.

“God this tastes good,” said Liz.

“Yeah, mine too.”

They were quiet for a bit. Sade’s “Smooth Operator” played over the sound system, the one millionth time each of the girls had heard this song.

“So you think he’s going to be okay?” said Cordelia.

“Dad? Yeah, I think so. The doctor said the bullet missed the artery, and it only scraped the bone, it’s just the bullet traveled all the way from the top front of his thigh and then out the lower back part of it and he lost a ton of blood. You wouldn’t believe the blood in our living room when Philip and I got home. It was fucking gross.”

“Did you have to clean it up?”

“Well, believe it or not, Joan came over this morning and cleaned it all up. And then she waxed the floor.”

“That’s cool.”

“I guess.”

Liz was staring at the table. Sade went off and like clockwork a Phil Collins song came on, “You Can’t Hurry Love”.

“Who were all those women there, Liz?”

“Ah, the women. Well, besides Joan -- there was my mom, the really thin, granoly one who apparently looks like me?”


“She took the bus down from this Buddhist ashram where she lives, up in the mountains. Then there was my grandmom, that’s Dad’s mom. And my Aunt Ro, his sister, they just flew in from Philadelphia. Then there was Debbie, she was the short tanned one, she’s kind of his business manager. The black woman is Marlene, she’s their office manager. Heather’s the thin girl? She line-produces Dad’s movies, she’s his partner Harvey’s daughter.”

“Who was that cute English lady, with the cellphone?”

“Her name is Marjorie something. She’s Dad’s publicist.”

“Ah,” said Cordelia. “Marjorie. She seemed nice.”

“Yeah,” said Liz.

“Lots of women. Deirdre and her little chum.”

“Trish, yeah.”

“He’s got a regular harem there.”

“I know,” said Liz. “It reminds me of that scene from 8 1/2
-- you ever see that? Marcello Mastroianni, in a house with all the women in his life?”

“Oh, I love that movie.”

“I feel so fucking guilty.”

“You didn’t shoot him, Liz.”

“No. But my loser ex-boyfriend did.”

“Really? Wait, I thought it was supposed to be like some burglar or something --”

“Right. That’s what my dad told the cops, just so they wouldn’t look for Craig.”

“Craig is the alcoholic ex-boyfriend?”


“He -- Buddy -- your dad -- he told you this?”

“Yeah. I asked him not to lie to me, and so he told me the truth.” She paused. “He told the cops it was some guy with a ski mask on, because that way he wouldn’t have to make up a description.”

“That was clever of him.”

“But he made me promise not to tell anyone.”

“You told me.”

“I know. I suck.”

“Well,” said Cordelia, “he was trying to give Craig a break.”

“I know. He said it was an accident. Craig was trying to commit suicide, my dad tried to knock away the gun, it went off.”

“Do you believe that’s what happened?”

“Oh yeah, Craig was always threatening suicide. Now I hope he does do it.”

“Have you heard from him?”

“No. Not a word. And this is after phone calls nearly every day since I left him, or rather since my dad flew to Milwaukee, kicked his ass, threw him out and brought me home.”

“Wow, Buddy did all that?”

“Yeah. He was great. Unlike Craig who is a pathetic self-pitying alcoholic loser.”

“Well, forget him.”

“I’ll never forget him, but I hate him.”

“Well, okay.”

“Fuck him. Y’know?”




“If he ever shows his face to me again he won’t need to commit suicide.”


Liz got quiet, and Cordelia let her be quiet. Then Liz said:

“You seem really nice, Cordelia.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“You’re cute, too. I don’t blame my dad for liking you.”

Cordelia nodded, looked away, and gnawed her lower left lip. Then she said:

“Y’know, we never actually slept together. I mean we slept together but we never actually had sex. I mean, full-blown sex.”



“Wow, I thought --”

“I know. Then when I heard he got shot I almost wished we had. Had sex. Full blown.”


“Do you want to get something to eat now?” said Liz.

“Yeah. You know what I want?’”


“Something fattening.”

“Me too,” said Liz.

They ordered cheeseburgers and french fries, well, it was very much more complicated than that, but basically that was what they ordered, along with two more glasses of wine, except this time Liz ordered a Pinot Noir and Cordelia ordered a Shiraz.

After the waiter went away in defeat from taking their order Liz said:

“Hey, if you don’t mind my asking, how come you and my dad never, um, you know, had full-blown -- you know. I mean, weren’t you, or --”

“I don’t know. We came close a couple times, especially once in an alley, but he didn’t have a condom.”

“Oh my God, did you say in an alley?”



“Don’t tell anybody, okay?”

“About the alley?”

“Well, about us never -- yeah, the alley too I guess, but -- oh, never mind --”

“I’d never.”


“So you like Dad, right? I mean in a way.”

“Yeah. He was different. I mean he is different.”

“Yeah. He’s not dead yet.”

“I hope not,” said Cordelia. “It’s --”

She stopped, or didn’t go on.

“What?” said Liz.

“I don’t know. It’s -- oh, I don’t know.”

“I know,” said Liz.


“So, you really have to fly back tonight?”

“Yeah. The show must go on.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t get to see him.”

“That’s okay.”

“He was just adamant. He didn’t want you to see him all fucked up the way he is. All the tubes and everything.”

“I understand. Does he really look really bad?”


There was a pause, and now it was another one of those songs you could never escape, The Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River”.

(Don’t worry. Continued here. )

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™; soon to be a major mini-series event on the Lifetime Channel, starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Haviland, featuring Wallace Beery as "Buddy"; written, produced and directed by Larry Winchester.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 205: foothills

Our hero Arnold Schnabel has been exiled by the prince of darkness into the overheated pages of a novel called Ye Cannot Quench (written by Gertrude Evans, author of many other sadly-out-of-print bestsellers, such as They Called Her Tramp; The Thrush Warbles Not For Me; Speedway Girls; and The Devil’s Rest Stop), and things are getting ever so slightly out of hand in the Kettle of Fish, that mosque of licentiousness in this mecca of Bohemia known as Greenwich Village, on a steamy wet night in the summer of 1957...

(Go here to read our previous chapter; newcomers who have a lot of time on their hands may click here to return to the beginning of this Gold View Award-winning fifty-seven-volume memoir, which Harold Bloom, in the Saturday Evening Post, gave the first fifty-seven spots in his list of “100 Books You Really Need to Read Before You Die”.

The fly suddenly appeared out of the shifting clouds of smoke and dived at Emily’s face like a tiny kamikaze fighter plane, bouncing off her nose and then quickly soaring away before she could swat it.

“Damn the flies in this place!” she said. “It’s disgusting.”

“Well, they have to live too,” I said, pretending to be philosophical.

“But must they attack me?”

“Maybe he likes you.”


“The fly?”

“Maybe the fly likes me? Are you insane?”

“Well, now that you mention it, I have had mental problems in the past.”

“You didn’t mention that in your proposed jacket copy.”

“Do you think I should have?”

“It might be a selling point. Many of the best poets have spent time in institutions. Robert Lowell, Ezra Pound, Artaud. You must tell me all about it.”

“Some other time. I should really get back to my friend.”

“You really are very cruel, aren’t you?”

“But she’s waiting for me.”

“Well what about me?”

“You have Julian.”

“Oh, yes, I forgot. Very well. Go to her. Go to her, Porter. I hope she makes you very happy.”

Have I mentioned I was dripping with sweat? Well, I was.

“Thank you,” I said.

“I didn’t mean it, Porter,” she said. “You’re so callous. Just to take up with another girl like that.”

My wet clothes felt almost like something living, draping itself over my flesh.

“But you’re with Julian,” I said. When I should have said simply nothing for all the good saying anything at all could possibly do with this young woman.

“That’s different,” she said.

“How is it different.”

It wasn’t just that the room was hot, it was, but what was making me sweat like a basting pig was Emily herself, standing there so determinedly close to me.

“You really don’t understand, do you?” she said, after staring at me for a few moments.


It was like standing next to a stove standing next to her.

“And you call yourself a poet. I thought poets were meant to understand human nature.”

“I think that’s a misconception,” I said.

“You do, do you.”

“Yes. I’m a poet and I don’t understand human nature at all.”

“Very funny.”

Through that warm swirling fog of tobacco smoke I looked longingly toward Betsy, still apparently absorbed in conversation with Pat and Carlotta. Ralph Edwards smilingly tried to insinuate himself between Pat and Carlotta but they closed ranks and continued to ignore him.

“Must you stare at her like that?” said Emily. “Don’t you know how it rends my heart?”

“Sorry,” I said, and I reluctantly returned my gaze to Miss Evans’s heroine, whom I couldn’t help but notice was acting more and more like her creator every second.

“His soulful eyes met hers,” said Miss Evans’s voice from above. “Perhaps she had misjudged him. Perhaps it was he who had been hurt. And now he was seeking solace in the first Village scamp to come along. Should she just let him go and have his fun then? Get it out of his system? After all, reasoned Emily, she did have Julian, strong handsome Julian, waiting patiently for her at the bar. Should she not seek her own solace in the strapping publisher’s muscular beefy arms, if only for this one night?”

“Sure, why not?” I said.

“What?” said Emily.

“I mean, what’s the harm?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

I suddenly realized that I had been replying to Miss Evans’s indirect internal monologue.

“I, um, I thought you said something.”

“You were looking right at me. Did you see my lips move?”


“No, they weren’t. What do you take me for, a ventriloquist?”

“Um, uh, no, I was, uh --um --”

“Perhaps he had been engaging in his own private dialogue,” said Miss Evans. “Who knew how a poet’s brain worked?”

“I -- I think I was engaging in my own private dialogue,” I quickly said. “In my, um, poet’s brain?”

“Oh, good heavens, Porter, you’re impossible.”

“I know,” I said.

“Here, hold this.”

She handed me her briefcase. Her shiny black purse had been hanging on its strap over her right shoulder, and now she took it off, opened it, fumbled in it, and took out an opened pack of Vanity Fair cigarettes, the “pastel pink” kind.

“Here, take this too,” she said, meaning the purse. Shifting the briefcase to my left hand, I took the purse in my right. She shook the pack and then without using her fingers but only her pursed red lips she drew one of the cigarettes out.

She stared at me, her small head slightly cocked, the pink cigarette poised in her mouth.

I realized that Ursula was playing her saxophone again, improvising on the tune of “Miss Otis Regrets”.

“It’s come to this,” said Emily, the white filter of the cigarette still between her lips.

“What has?” I said.

“You used to light my cigarette.”

“Oh, sorry, I -- uh --” I put the purse under my left arm and went through the doomed motions of tapping various pockets. “I -- gave up smoking -- I think -- and I don’t think I have a lighter or matches on me --”

She sighed, leaving the cigarette between her lips.

“There should be matches in my purse.”


I took the purse from under my arm, and, shifting the briefcase to under the other arm, I opened the purse and looked into it, running my fingers through its contents: bobby pins, barrettes, a handkerchief, condoms, what I think were some sort of “ladies’ products”, two plastic combs and one wooden hairbrush, a tin of aspirin, some loose change and transit tokens, a few crumpled dollar bills, a dozen or so loose keys, a paperback edition of The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, a compact, two or three mirrors in cases or without, several lipsticks, a jar of cold cream and a jar of Vaseline, a Benzedrine inhaler, a couple of make-up brushes, an eyeliner pencil, half a dozen or so little jars and tubes whose purposes were unknown to me, one nylon stocking, a pair of white gloves, a nail file, three emory boards, a bunch of safety pins and straight pins, a couple of spindles of thread, some needles, a box of Sucrets and half a roll of Life Savers, some Bazooka bubble gum as well as Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit, a black leather blackjack, a switchblade knife, a can of Aqua Net hairspray, a red leather lady’s wallet with no money in it but a West Virginia driver’s license and a Social Security card and some snapshots of a family like Ma and Pa Kettle’s as well as studio portraits of Tyrone Power, Robert Taylor, Tony Curtis and Robert Wagner, there was also a diary, the kind that says “My Diary”, bound in shiny pink plastic and with a lock, but no matches.

“I don’t see any matches,” I said.

“Side pocket.”

It was a matter of less than a minute for me to find this side pocket, and sure enough, buried under a pile of movie ticket stubs, there was a book of matches in it, from “The Prince George Hotel -- where the service is swell!” -- but before I could give Emily a light Nicky was there clicking an engraved gold lighter.

“Oh, thank you so much, Mr. Boskins,” said Emily.

“My pleasure,” he said. “But please, dear Emily, call me Nicky. And how is your little editorial meeting going?”

“Oh, swimmingly,” she said, exhaling a cloud of smoke my way. “Can’t wait to get to work with Porter.”

I had put the book of matches back in the purse, and snapped the purse shut.

“Here’s your pocket book back,” I said.

“Thank you, Porter.”

She re-slung it over her shoulder.

“And your briefcase,” I said.

“Yes,” she said, taking it. “Don’t want to lose this. With your precious manuscript in it.”

“Okay,” I said, “I guess I’ll get back to -- uh --”

“Betty,” said Emily.

“Betsy,” I said.

“Very attractive young lady there, Porter,” said Nicky.

“Oh, do you really think so, Nicky?” said Emily.

“Well, uh, yes --”

He was smoking too, using his shiny black holder.

“You like that type, do you?” Emily asked him

“Well, uh --”

“That shall I say swarthy type.”

“Um, well, I like to think I appreciate feminine beauty of any type, heh heh --”

“Men,” said Emily.

“Heh heh,” said Nicky. “I’m not sure I quite understand, heh heh --”

It was nice to see someone else on the hook for a change, especially Nicky, I must admit.

“Okay, then --” I said.

“Okay what?” said Emily.

“Well, uh, I, uh --”

“Heh heh,” said Nicky, and his eyes darted around, as if even he wanted to escape.

“What are you laughing at?” said Emily.

“Me?” said Nicky.

“Yes, you, you, you smarmy --”

“Heh heh?” he said.

“Must you chortle so? It’s hideous.”

I started to walk away.

“You, Porter, you don’t even say goodbye?” said Emily.

“Sorry, I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“Ha,” she said. “All right, then. Go. Go to your little Gypsy tramp.”

“Well, she’s not really a Gypsy --”

“Don’t stay up too late making whoopee. We start editing your manuscript tomorrow.”


“I’ll come to your place.”

“All right.”

“Nine on the dot.”

“Nine it is.”

Nicky slipped away quietly away from us right around here, going back over to the TV fellows’ table. He had met his match.

“That guy’s creepy if you ask me,” said Emily.

I said nothing.

“All right, go to your dark temptress,” she said. “Just don’t be hungover tomorrow.”

“I’ll try not to be,” I said.

“Good,” she said. Suddenly her tone had softened. “Shall I bring coffee?”

“That would be nice,” I said.

“Perhaps a cinnamon bun or two.”

“That would be nice too.”

“I only hope I don’t get savagely raped and murdered in that bad neighborhood.”

“We could meet somewhere else.”

“Don’t worry about it. Tomorrow then, Porter.”


“Where are you going now?” she asked.

“Well, like I said, just over to Betsy there.”

“Oh. And then where.”

“Just to the bar, to get a drink.” Which I really needed by that point I might have added.

“Well, I suppose I’ll see you at the bar then.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said.

“He’s very handsome, isn’t he?” she said.

“Who? Nicky?”

“No, not Nicky -- Julian.”

“Oh. Yes, very,” I said.

“Handsome and rich.”

I started to step away.

She put her hand on my cheek.

“But you’re handsome, too, Porter,” she said.

“Yes. But I’m not rich.”

“If your book is a bestseller then you’ll be rich.”

“I somehow doubt my book will be a bestseller,” I said.

“We’ll see about that,” she said.

“And making a fist with her delicate hand she gave him a playful punch on the jaw,” said Miss Evans’s voice, which didn’t sound so much like Audrey Hepburn’s any more, “sending him on his way, back to his Levantine minx.” Her voice sounded a little older and as if wiser now. “No matter. He would come crawling back, she had no doubt.” Like Barbara Stanwyck? Dame Edith Evans? “Of this she had no doubt at all.” No, Joan Crawford, that’s who it sounded like. “In the meanwhile she still had Julian with whom to seek her womanly fulfillment. Provided of course she could keep him from getting too drunk and passing out before she could approach even the foothills of the mountains of ecstasy.”

(Continued here, if only because of certain legal obligations that we won’t go into right now.)

(Kindly turn to the right hand column of this page to find a reasonably up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©; available free, gratis and for nothing, thanks in part to the sponsorship of Rheingold Beer. “Our beer will not make you feel sick if drunk in reasonable quantities and at a moderate pace.”)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 55: troubadour

Let us rejoin our hero, that slightly superannuated Lochinvar Buddy Best, as he returns to the ancestral Mission Tudor manor in Hollywood, land of the stars...

(Go here to read our previous episode or click here to return to Chapter One of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “If there is a moral in this grim tale it is this: dames spell trouble.” J.J. Hunsecker in Argosy.)

Yeah, it was good to be back on good old Ivar. The month of May in old Hollywood all ripe and bursting with life after yesterday’s monsoon, the smell of eucalyptus, blood-orange sun sinking through the palms, and just the slightest breath of Sunday smog drifting down from the freeway, home was good, home was fucking good.

Buddy parked the car out front, grabbed his overnight bag and headed into the house. Ming was waiting inside the door and Buddy leaned down and patted her on the head. Okay, he really had to masturbate, but first he had to eat, so he dropped the bag by the door and headed into the kitchen.

The phone rang, he picked up the kitchen wall phone and said hello, but it was another one of those annoying no-answer jobs, so he hung it up.

He could smell something good; he looked in the oven. Oh, yes, Liz had made a lasagne, still hot under a sheet of foil, possibly a vegetarian lasagne, but that was not a bad thing. Liz: she’d even laid a place setting on the kitchen table.

He opened up a Valpolicella and poured a glass. Ming took her place by the back door and began to meow. All right. Buddy went over and let her out. But wait, music, he wanted music --

He went into the living room, looked at his racks of CDs, then decided he wanted to hear Trovatore (Price, Domingo, Milnes), which he had started to listen to on the flight but most of which he had blissfully slept through. He went over to the front door and got the overnight bag, and he was heading back to the stereo while unzipping the bag when the doorbell rang.


Still holding the bag, he walked back to the door and looked through the peephole: some vaguely familiar young guy with a nearly shaven skull and a goatee -- a friend of Philip’s? Well, he didn’t look completely like a criminal and he was pretty scrawny, so Buddy opened the door.

“Hi, Mr. Best.”

The kid had a backpack over one shoulder.

“Uh, hi.”

“Do you -- remember me?”

“Wait -- you’re not -- uh -- Chad, are you?”


“No, I mean Jeremy. Jeremy.”


“Philip’s friend? You know, Deirdre? No --”


“No, what am I saying --”

“Um --”

“So, anyway, Philip went to the movies.”

“I’m not Philip’s friend.”


“I’m Liz’s friend.”


“From Milwaukee?”

“Oh --”

Oh. The drunken loser boyfriend. Okay:

“So, you, uh, shaved your head.”


“And grew a goatee.”


“Is that a new look out in Milwaukee?”

The kid looked puzzled.

“So,” said Buddy. “Keith --”

“Craig. My name is Craig.”

“Craig -- sorry. Craig Craig Craig.”

“I want to see Liz, Mr. Best.”

“She’s not home, Craig.”

“Can I wait?”

“Uh -- does she know that you were -- uh, dropping by?”

“No. She told me not to come.”

“Ah, you spoke to her.”


“In person?”

“On the phone.”


It was dawning on Buddy that the kid was at least a little drunk, or high, or both.

“Kei- Craig. Craig, have you been calling here and hanging up, not saying anything, that sort of thing?” Craig hung his head. At least a little drunk, maybe one or two horse-tranquilizers thrown in. And more or less insane. “Do you know how annoying that is, Craig?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Okay, well, don’t do it anymore, all right?”

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to talk to Liz.”

“Well, I take it you have gotten through to her.”

“Yeah, sometimes she would answer the phone.”

“And did she want to talk to you?”

“Um, uh --”


“Well, I don’t know if she wanted to talk to me, but she talked to me. At first. Sort of.”

He had a really dumb midwestern accent, like his mouth was full of bubble gum.

“Right,” said Buddy.

“Yeah, then she said she didn’t want to talk to me.”

“And yet you kept calling. And then you come all the way out here from Milwaukee --”


“Madison. You come all the way out to Hollywood from Madison, Wisconsin, to see a girl who doesn’t want to talk to you?”

“I love her.”

“Craig --” all right, go easy here, Buddy -- “if you really love her then you should respect her wishes.” And fuck off.

Buddy was still holding his overnight bag in one hand. It seemed best to hang on to it.

“I’m in love with her.”

“Craig --” The kid had bloodshot blue eyes, and behind them was some sort of human being, a fucked-up human being, but still human, try to remember that -- “Listen. Being in love is like having the flu. It can be very intense and very painful. But, believe me, after a while it goes away. And then, well --”


“Then you’ll be fine.”

“No I won’t be.”

“Yes you will.” Well, come to think of it, maybe he wouldn’t be. But -- “Look. You’re young. I’m old. I know. I’ve gotten over so many chicks it’s not even funny.”

“I won’t get over Liz. I’ll never get over Liz. Not in a million years. She’s the only woman I’ll ever love.”

“Come on, Craig -- what’re you, like the Wisconsin Heathcliff?”

“Who’s Heathcliff?”

“Who’s --?”

“Heathcliff is a dog isn’t he? Are you saying I’m like a dog?”

“No. No, I’m not saying that. And the Heathcliff in the comic is a cat. But the Heathcliff I’m talking about was a character in a novel. Wuthering Heights.”

“Oh. Sorry, I never read that book.”

“Well, there’s a good movie version you can rent, with Laurence Olivier.”

“Can I come inside?”

“No, Craig. You can’t come in, Liz doesn’t want to see you. What you should do is -- how’d you get out here, anyway, did you drive, ‘cause you don’t look in such good --”

“I took the bus.”

“All the way from Milwaukee.”


“Right. That’s impressive. Well, look, Craig, what you need to do is just go back to Madison, and get over it.”

The kid just stood there.

“Do you have a return ticket?”


Fuck this. Just when you’re ready to sit down and eat some lasagne --

“Okay,” said Buddy. “Do you have any money?”

“I have like fifty-some dollars. And I have a MAC card but I only got like twenty-some dollars left in my account.”


“Do you have a place to stay?”

“Not really.”

“When did you get into town?”


“Is that all your stuff there, in the backpack?”


“That’s everything?”


“Okay. I’ll tell you what we’re going to do, Craig. I’m going to drive you to the airport, I’m going to buy you a ticket, and we’re going to get you on the next flight to Madison. And while we’re waiting I’ll buy you a nice dinner and we can talk everything over.”

“I can’t get on a plane.”

“Why. Why can’t you get on a plane? You’re afraid to fly? I’m terrified to fly and I fly all the time. You just suck it up. Order a drink, two drinks --”

“I’m not afraid to fly. I have a gun.”

Oh fuck.

“You have a gun.”


“And why do you have a gun, Craig?”

“I was gonna shoot myself.”

“Ah. And do you still want to shoot yourself?”

“I don’t know.”

All of a sudden Buddy was very much in the here and now. Okay:

“Craig, you say you love Liz. How’s that gonna make her feel if you shoot yourself.”

“I know. It’s selfish.”

“Yes, and stupid. Now Craig, where is this gun?”

“It’s in my backpack.”

“Okay. Now I think you should let me have the gun, Craig.”

“It’s not mine.”

“Whose is it?”

“My uncle’s.”

“Does he know you have it.”

“I don’t think so.”

“So you stole it?”


“Well, look, let me have it. I will ship it back to your uncle.”

“I don’t know.”

Okay --

“All right, Craig, listen, you can’t carry guns on airplanes. So here’s what we’ll do. Give me the gun, I’ll ship it back to your uncle. You can give me his name and address, and I’ll just ship it anonymously, he won’t even know where it came from.”

“They have metal detectors at the post office. They’ll find out it’s a gun and think it’s like, um, terrorists.”

“Look, Craig, tell you what, I’ll throw the fucking gun away, and I will mail your uncle the cash to buy a new gun, anonymously.”

“He doesn’t need the money.”

“Okay, Craig, fuck this. Just give me the gun and I’ll dispose of it.”


“Craig, if you don’t let me take it I’m going to call the cops.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong. We’re just talking.”

“You’re carrying a stolen gun.”


“So give it to me. I put it away, I drive you to the airport.”



“’Cause I think I want to shoot myself.”

“Okay. All right. Here’s what I’m going to do, Craig. I’m going to ask you one more time, and if you say no I’m going to close the door and I’ll call the police.”

“I’ll shoot myself.”

“Well, I’m sorry. Now, let me have the gun.”

Craig took the backpack off of his shoulder. “No,” he said.

“All right, Craig, I’m sorry.”

Buddy started to close the door and Craig rushed him and knocked him back into the house. Buddy staggered back but stayed on his feet. Craig stumbled a bit too, and then stepped back towards the doorway. He pulled a zipper on the backpack, reached in and brought out an ancient-looking blue-steel six-shooter. He slung the backpack over his shoulder again.

“Craig,” said Buddy. “Don’t be a douche bag.”

Craig put the muzzle of the gun in his mouth. He was staring at the floor. He pulled the trigger but the gun didn’t fire. He pulled the trigger again. It didn’t fire. With extreme clarity Buddy realized it must be an old single-action model, you had to cock the hammer to shoot it, this kid was just so not with it. Craig drew the gun out of his mouth and stared at it. Buddy stepped forward and swung his overnight bag at the gun just as Craig was pushing back the hammer with the heel of his left hand.

The gun went off, and Buddy went down.

He was on his back on the hard wooden floor, his left leg was bent up, and there was the bullet hole in his thigh with blood pouring out and down, soaking his crotch.

“Oh, shit,” said Buddy.

“I’m sorry,” said Craig. “I didn’t mean to. I’m so sorry.”

“Thanks, Craig.”

“I’m really, really sorry.”

“Right,” said Buddy. He was bleeding like a motherfucker. He didn’t know if the bullet had hit an artery or not but he was definitely bleeding like a motherfucker. “Okay, Craig. Listen, I need you to call for an ambulance.”

“I’m gonna go to jail. I better shoot myself.”

“Craig, just stop the bullshit. There’s a phone on the table next to the sofa. Go get it, dial 911. Tell them someone’s been shot, you need an ambulance.”

All right, the pain now, but the pain was not the problem.

“Okay,” said Craig.

Buddy lay there, bleeding, the pain throbbing and growing from his leg, wondering if he was going to live, trying to stay awake, and yet also watching himself, and wondering how he would do this scene in a movie, and being aware of how he was watching himself, oh fuck it -- he could hear Craig’s stupid mumbling Wisconsin voice. Buddy knew he might die from this, this was a new experience -- he’d had close calls on the freeways before like anyone else, but, fuck it, fuck this -- part of him was sinking away but the rest of him was trying to concentrate on staying alive, his whole ridiculous life draining away while he watched and got sleepy, what a stupid way to go, was there a smart way to go?

Craig was standing there again. He still had the backpack slung over one shoulder and he still held the pistol.

“I called them.”

Buddy was actually glad to see Craig there, at least Craig was part of the world.

“They said they’d send an ambulance right over.”

Buddy made an effort to concentrate.

“Okay, now, Craig, get out of here. And throw that gun away.”

“You won’t report me?”


“Why not?”

“Why not? I don’t know, because it was an accident. Here --”

Buddy tried to get his wallet out, it was in his right front pocket, but his fingers weren’t working properly. The wallet came partway out, he sort of knocked it the rest of the way, it slid down onto the floor.

“There should be a hundred. And twenty, thirty bucks in there. Take it. Take it and. Get on the next bus. To Milwaukee. Madison,” said Buddy. “Madison.”

“Why would you not report me?”

“Why should I? Now take the -- take the money. And split before the cops get -- cops get here. And lose that fucking gun. Throw it -- away.”

So, update: he couldn’t move but he could still talk. But his voice felt like someone else’s voice. And the pain felt further away, which was scary.

“Where should I throw it?”

Christ what a retard --

“It doesn’t matter, Craig. Just toss it. In a dumpster. Fuckin’ --”

Craig put the pistol into his backpack and zipped it in, then he got down on one knee and picked up Buddy’s wallet. He took out all the cash and laid the wallet back down. He stood back up, shoving the money into his jeans pocket.

“If you report me I won’t blame you.”

“Fine. Just go. Now, Craig. And. Do me a. Favor.” Now it was getting hard to talk. But with this nitwit it would be best to spell everything out --

“Yeah?” said Craig; now the nitwit was pulsing in place, tilting sideways towards the doorway, all of a sudden he’s itching to get the fuck out of here --

“Um leave the door open so the paramedics can --” What? Oh. “Get in.”



The idiot took off, and Buddy just lay there, bleeding like a stuck pig, his entire left leg and hip numb now. He felt drowsy but aware. Panic lay right around a mental bend but he didn’t want to die that way if he had to die, so he thought about Liz, and Philip, and Deirdre, and he told himself that if he lived he would try to be a better father, okay, he thought of his mother and told himself he would call her more often, if he lived, also he’d really try just to be a better, all-round -- yeah, right -- then he thought about Cordelia...she was a good thing to think about...he went over it all in his head, going back to the first time he’d seen her, back when he didn’t even know who the hell she was, on stage, that play, what the fuck was it called ...that slip she wore fucking hell...

-- ambulance screaming, what a fantastically wonderful sound, voices out front, okay...

(Continued here.)

(Pease turn to the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™; rated R for absurd violence.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 204: awkward

It seems that our hero Arnold Schnabel has crossed the prince of darkness just one time too many, and that wily fallen angel has taken his revenge by exiling our hero in the pages of Gertrude Evans’s novel Ye Cannot Quench (Simon & Schuster, 1959; reprinted in paperback as The Rag Woman’s Prophecy; Permabooks, 1960) which Arnold had been painfully forcing himself to read, if only because its author had given him an inscribed copy, and, since she was staying downstairs from him in his aunts’ boarding house it would have been awkward for him not to read it, or at least not to try to read it, but that’s another story or another strand of the same seemingly endless story.

Let’s rejoin Arnold now in his current guise as “Porter Walker, handsome romantic young poet” in that bohemian Greenwich Village hot-spot the Kettle of Fish, where, once again, he has found himself in a rather awkward situation…

(Click here to review our previous episode; go here to return to the very first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 56-volume memoir, which Harold Bloom (in Boy’s Life) has deemed “just the thing to have around the house in case the electrical grid totally and permanently breaks down one day, God forbid.”

“Emily’s eyes flashed,” said Miss Evans’s voice. I looked at Emily, and her eyes weren’t exactly flashing, but then whose eyes do flash? “But did she have any right to be jealous of Porter? She who had just left Julian’s enormous and exceedingly comfortable bed in his Sutton Place luxury flat?”

“Okay,” I said to Betsy. “Do you want to go to the bar?”

“Yes, please,” she said.

I felt a hand on my arm. It seemed someone was always grabbing my arm. This time it was Emily.

“Wait, Porter, before you go --”

“Hey, Porter, introduce us to your girlfriend,” yelled John Cameron Swayze.

“Rude bastard,” said Edward R. Murrow, referring to me I was pretty sure.

“Yeah, we wanta buy her a drink, remember?” said John Cameron Swayze.

“Now, fellas,” said Ralph Edwards.

“Hey, ya know what your problem is, Ralph?” said Mr. Swayze (I’m sorry, I’m getting tired of writing out these names in their entirety every single time). “You’re too goddam nice all the time.”

Ralph smiled. Well, no, actually he had never stopped smiling, but now the smile seemed perhaps slightly strained.

“But, Cam,” he said, “how can one be too nice? And, really, I’ve asked you before please to remember that there are ladies present, so if you could just watch your language a little --”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” said Mr. Swayze.

“Ha,” said Mr. Murrow.

“Come on, Porter,” said Betsy. She grabbed my arm, the one that Emily wasn’t still grabbing.

“No, wait,” said Emily, gripping my arm all the tighter, and she had a pretty strong grip for a girl, something she had in common with her creator, Miss Evans.

“Look at them, fighting over the boy,” said Mr. Swayze. It’s funny, he always seemed so sober and genial on TV, but I guess we all have to blow off some steam sometime.

“Porter,” said Ralph Edwards, “y’know, John Cameron has a point, you actually never did introduce us to the lovely Betsy.” He leaned toward Betsy, smiling, and here I had thought he was on my side.

“Sorry,” I said. “Betsy, meet Mr. Edwards, Mr. Swayze, and Mr. Morrow --”

“Murrow!” said Murrow. “Don’t you watch TV? Murrow! Edward fucking R. Murrow!”

“Now Ed --” said Ralph Edwards.

“Well at least get my name right,” said Murrow, there, I got it right that time.

“Nice meeting you, gentlemen,” said Betsy, “but now Porter and I must leave you.”

She tugged on my arm, but Emily still held onto my other arm with what Miss Evans would probably call a death grip, or at least a vise-like grip.

“Oh, please, Betsy, have one drink with us,” said Nicky.

I had almost forgotten he was there. He put his hand on my shoulder, that weirdly strong and warm hand. So now I had his hand on my shoulder, my right shoulder, Betsy’s hand on my left arm, and Emily’s steely grip on my right arm. It felt as if I were being arrested.

“Yes, Betsy, have a drink with these nice gentlemen,” said Emily. “While I just take Porter aside and have one tiny little word with him.” She was smiling, showing her teeth. “I absolutely promise I’ll give him back to you in a moment. You see I am his editor.”

“Oh,” said Betsy.

“Yes,” said Emily. “What do you do, dear?”

“I’m a student.”

“So young. So terribly young.”

“How old are you?”


“That’s not exactly ancient, is it?”

“Ha ha,” said Emily. “Really, just a quick word with dear Porter. It has to do with his book you see...”

I heard a woman singing a song in a foreign accent, I turned my head and looked back through the crowd, it was Magda, singing at the piano, “Miss Otis Regrets”, and then one of those odd things happened, I rose up out of the top of my head, not too far, just a few feet, and I was looking down on myself, on Porter rather, on Nicky and Betsy and Emily and the three television gentlemen. It was just like old times. Swayze and Mr. Murrow were speaking to each other, Emily had never stopped speaking to Betsy, Ralph Edwards said something to Nicky, Nicky said something back to him, but all I heard was the music, Magda’s voice and her piano, and under her the gentle wheezing of Freddy’s accordion, the thrumming of the bass fiddle and the frenetic tapping of the bongoist. Now Nicky was saying something to Betsy. He still had his hand on my shoulder. Ralph Edwards stood there, beaming alternately at Betsy and Emily. The waitress came by the table again, John Cameron Swayze said something to her, Edward R. Murrow spoke to her as well.

Betsy looked at me, at Porter, she said something, then let go of my arm, of Porter’s arm.

The fly flew up to me, to where I was hovering a few feet above myself.

“You let her go now then that’s it, pal. You’ve blown it. Don’t let this little Emily bitch push you around.”

“You know,” I said, “I think you’re right.”

“I know I’m right. Now get back in there.”

As quickly as I could I forced myself down into my body, or Porter’s body.

“Wait, Betsy,” I said.

She had been turning to head away, but now she stopped, looking at me.

Suddenly Pat and Carlotta were there, brushing past Ralph Edwards. Each of them held a mug of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

“Hello, Porter,” said Carlotta.

“Which one’s your mystery date?” said Pat.

“Unbelievable,” said John Cameron Swayze.

“Never seen anything like it,” said Edward R. Murrow.

“Hello, ladies,” said Ralph Edwards, but the girls either didn’t hear him or they ignored him.

“And who were these two painted jezebels?” asked Miss Evans’s voice. “Two typical distaff denizens of the bohemian cellar clubs and all-night ‘jam sessions’, subsisting on a diet of Dexedrine and espresso, sticks of ‘tea’, Gauloises, and Rheingold beer, none of which they ever paid for themselves, and hopping nightly like rabbits into bed with whomever the latest ‘cool’ poets or ‘hot’ jazz musicians might be.”

“Porter, aren’t you going to introduce us?” said Carlotta.

“Yeah, we’re dying of curiosity,” said Pat.

“I’ve seen you around,” said Carlotta to Betsy. “Are you the girl we’ve heard so much about?”

“No, that must be me,” said Emily.

“You’re Porter’s date?” said Pat.

“Well, uh, I -- uh, no, not exactly, I’m with his publisher --”

“Oh, you’re the Emma girl,” said Carlotta.


“Oh. So you,” said Carlotta to Betsy, “you must be the uh, oh dear, I hope Pat and I haven’t committed a faux pas.”

“Incredible,” said Mr. Murrow.

“I’m Ralph Edwards,” said Mr. Edwards, “This Is Your Life?” But again the girls didn’t seem to notice him.

“Hey, Porter,” said Mr. Swayze, “can we have your leftovers?”

“Betsy,” I said, “this is Carlotta and Pat. They’re my neighbors. And now if you’ll excuse us, everyone, Betsy and I are going over to the bar for a drink.”

“Oh, but really I just need one minute, Porter,” said Emily, smiling so broadly her face looked as if it were ready to break in two.

The fly zoomed down like a minuscule dive bomber right at her face, she swiped at him, but he zoomed up again.

“Porter,” said Betsy, “give her a minute, I’ll wait.”

“Yes, just a minute,” said Emily. “A teensy minute.”

Before I knew it she had pulled Nicky’s hand off my shoulder with one hand, and with the other, which had never stopped gripping my left arm, she pulled me a few feet away from the table and then turned me completely around so that my back was to it and she was standing directly in front of me.

“It didn’t take you long, did it?” she said.

“Long for what?” I said. I suddenly realized that my voice sounded like someone else’s. Then I remembered that it was someone else’s.

“To find some new doxie,” she said. “That Betty girl.”

“Betsy,” I said.

“How can you be so cruel.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I thought we had an understanding.”

“Maybe I misunderstood,” I said, which was putting it mildly. “Our understanding.”

“You just assumed I went off with Julian, didn’t you?”

“No,” I said.

“Yes, you did.” A tear came to her eye, appeared on the edge of one eyelid. “And, all right, maybe I did.”

“Well, then --” I said. It seemed to me that I was off the hook then, but how little I knew about women. How little I still know.

“But look at him over there,” she said.

I tried to do as she said, to pick him out at the crowded bar, but she put her hand on my face and turned it back toward her.

“Don’t look at him,” she said.

“Okay,” I said.

“But those broad shoulders, that easy savoir-faire. That shining black hair. Those deep brown eyes, those, those muscular thighs...”

“Hey, that rhymes,” I said.

“Stop joking for once, you idiot.”

“All right,” I said, although I hadn’t been joking, only making an observation.

“I admit it,” she said. “I was weak. I said stop looking at him.”

Actually I was looking at Betsy, hoping she wouldn’t just up and leave me here, not that I would blame her in the least, but in fact she seemed to be deep in conversation with Pat and Carlotta.

“Okay, sorry,” I said. “What was it you wanted to talk about anyway, about my book?”

“Oh, bother your book. I want you to forgive me, Porter.”

“Okay,” I said.

“So you do, you do forgive me?”


That single tear was still perched on her lower eyelid, and now she brushed it away.

“I have to tell you something,” she said. “Perhaps I shouldn’t.”

“It’s okay if you don’t want to,” I said.

“But I do want to.”

“You were my first, Porter.”


“Why do you say that?”

“Wasn’t there a guy back in West Virginia?”

“Oh, did I tell you about him?”

Now that she mentioned it, she hadn’t told me about him. I had read about him in Miss Evans’s novel.

“Um,” I said, “uh --”

“Anyway, that was the past. This is now. You were my first in New York anyway. My -- my first, and -- and -- oh no, I can’t say it. I can’t!”

“That’s okay,” I said.

“All right, if you insist, I’ll tell you. Yes, I went with Julian this afternoon. I -- I was weak. But -- but -- no! I can’t say it!”

“Really, it’s okay then,” I said. “You don’t have to say it.”

“All right, I’ll tell you. I went up to his place with him. But -- but -- I can’t tell you!”

“You don’t have to tell me.”

“All right, I’ll tell you. I -- I went to bed with him,” she said. “But.”


“But --”

“He -- he -- oh, it’s so embarrassing.”

“Maybe it’s best you don’t tell me.”

“Oh but I want to.”


“He fell asleep.”


“Before we could do anything.”


“Can you forgive me.”


“You’re so good, Porter.”

I was hoping we could wrap it up now but she wasn’t through yet.

“I’m so ashamed.”

“Well, don’t feel bad,” I said.

“He fell asleep, and after a while I slept, too.”

“Well, naps are good,” I said.

“When I awakened, he was coming in from the shower, in his robe, toweling that thick black hair of his.”

“He does have a nice head of hair,” I said.

“And do you know what he said?”


“He said -- oh, I can’t say it.”

“You probably shouldn’t say it then,” I said.

“He said, 'Well, how was it for you, baby?’”

“How was what?”

“You know what.”

“But I thought you said you didn’t do anything.”

“We didn’t.”


“He didn’t remember, Porter. He didn’t even remember!

“Well --”

I had no idea what to say. But that teardrop had reappeared on her lower eyelid, well, I suppose it was a different teardrop.

“I’m so mortified,” she said.

Then I thought of something.

“It could have been worse,” I said.

“How could it possibly have been worse?”

“Well, what if you -- if you had done something.”


“What if you had done something and he didn’t remember.”

“Yes,” she said. She wiped the teardrop away. “I suppose that would have been worse. But still. It’s all so -- so very -- oh, what’s the word?”


“Yes. Awkward,” she said.

(Continued here, because we have no choice.)

(Please turn to the right hand column of this page to find a purportedly up-to-date listing of links to all other publicly available chapters of Railroad Train To Heaven©; a Danny Thomas Production.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 54: voice mail

Welcome to the bustling modern terminal of Vancouver International Airport, where, on this drizzly spring Sunday afternoon in the year 2003, we find a certain handsome middle-aged gentleman, Mr. Buddy Best, of Hollywood, California...

(Go here to read our previous episode or click here to return to Chapter One of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “A tale of frustrated lust that certainly struck a chord with me and all the other lonely bachelors in my Knights of Columbus book club.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in the Catholic Standard & Times.)

Buddy had almost two hours to kill before his flight, so he sat down at a table in a lounge, had a Maker’s Mark on the rocks and read the New York Times. After about ten minutes of this it occurred to him to check his cellphone voice mail. He had kept the phone turned off ever since getting on the plane yesterday. He opened it up, turned it on, and waited. And after what seemed like a slightly more than reasonable time he was just about to close it up when the thing suddenly triple-beeped and a screen came on telling him he had 21 New Voice Mails, and giving him the choices of Listen or Ignore. Buddy sipped his whiskey, thought it over, and opted for Listen. When he finished listening he sipped again, and pondered how twenty-one voice mails in succession can really dump you back into the fucking world you came from. Then he called Harvey back.
“Yo Bud, what up, still in Vancouver?”
“Yeah, how’d you know I was in Vancouver?”
“Marlene told Debbie and Debbie told me.”
“Oh, okay.”
“So, how’s Vancouver?”
“And did you get your end wet?”
“You’re kidding me.”
“I wish I was.”
“Why not?”
“She didn’t want to, why d’you think?”
“Oh, yeah, that makes sense. But -- let me put it this way, are you going to get your end wet?”
“No, I’m at the airport now, I’m getting a 3:45 flight back.”
“Oh. So it didn’t work out.”
“It worked out fine. We had a great time.”
“Yeah. We had a really -- good time.”
“But -- you didn’t fuck her.”
“So -- all you did was -- just, like -- hang out?”
“Well, we made out a little.”
“Ah, you made out. Like, heavy making out?”
“Fairly heavy.”
“But no fucking.”
“I think we already established that, Harve.”
“Right. I’m sorry.”
Buddy wondered if he could smoke a cigar in this joint.
“Did you at least get a blowjob?” said Harvey.
“What? No. No blowjob.”
But he didn’t have any cigars with him.
“Buddy --”
Ah, but he could probably get Cubans here.
“Tell me something. Are you like in love with this chick?”
Yeah, a box of Cubans would certainly make the whole absurd adventure a little more -- what?
-- plausible?
“Are you in love with this girl?”
“Ah. Y’know, you’re not the first one to ask me that.”
“Are you?”
“I don’t know --”
“Just asking.”
“Yeah, well --”
“Well, okay.”
“So,” said Harvey.
“So you’re just giving up?”
“What do you mean, giving up.”
“I mean, go back and give her some pretty flowers. Some fucking perfume.” Ouch. “Some chicks you got to work on a little, Buddy. You know that.”
“Except I don’t want to work on her.”
“Why not?”
“Because -- because I have no desire ever to work on any chick ever again in my life. And anyway even if I did I wouldn’t work on this girl. She’s too nice. She’s -- I don’t know. I like her.”
“Oh. I get it.”
“You are in love with her.”
“Ah, fuck you, Harve.”
“You are.”
“Well, even if I am, so what? Who gives a shit?”
“I’m your friend. I give a shit. I give a shit deeply. And I’ll tell you this, if she made out with you, she’ll fuck you. So, stop being such a New Age wimp and go back and give her some fucking flowers. Christ --”
“Fuck that, I’m tired and I’m drinking bourbon and I just wanta go home and, like, you know, John Travolta, whack off and go to bed.”
“Well, okay, so’d you get my message?”
“Yeah, so Iggy thinks the movie’s finished?”
“That’s what he says, screening it tomorrow down at the lot.”
“Cool, eleven a.m.?”
“That’s right.”
“Okay. I’ll be there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”
“Next stop Cannes, baby.”
“Yeah, whoopee. Okay, Harve --”
”Hey, Buddy, I hope I didn’t fuckin’, you know, offend you, I mean about Rosalind --”
“What’s-her-name, the Mariner’s daughter.”
”Oh. Cordelia.”
“Cordelia, sorry.”
“I’m not offended.”
“You’re sure?”
“Absolutely. I know I’m acting like a fool, anyway.”
“I don’t know about that. I only saw her that one time at the office, but. She looked kind of cute. Nice body, too. I mean from what I could see --”
“Yeah, she’s a cutie.”
“The fucking Mariner’s daughter.”
The fucking Mariner. Whom Buddy had promised a part in their next movie, and about which he was going to have to tell Harvey and Iggy, but not fucking now.
“Okay,” said Harvey, “I’m being an asshole, I know, so I’ll get the fuck off now.”
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, Harve.”
Well, that was a lot of fun, and Buddy decided not to return the calls from Debbie, from Marlene, and from Marjorie, two from Marjorie, oh well. Or from Iggy or Heather, or from three different people at Sony, one of whom he had never heard of, or, no, he undoubtedly had heard of the person but had forgotten the fucker’s name. Madge/Shakira had called twice; later for her. Philip; Liz, who’d called three times leaving a message that it wasn’t anything important; Deirdre, and Joan, ah well -- he called Deirdre’s cell.
“Okay, Uncle Bud, I want to hear all about it.”
“Yeah, hello to you, too.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. ‘Hello, Uncle Buddy!’ Okay, now tell me all about it.”
“Uh, no.”
“Fuck you.”
“All right --”
“No, wait -- Uncle Bud, can you hold for a minute --”
So, should he have another bourbon? He definitely had time, and it would sure as hell make the flight go easier. He flagged down the waitress, ordered another drink and went back to his newspaper with the cellphone to his ear: Iraq. Iraq. No banned weapons found yet, uh huh. But on the other hand the war all over now, supposedly, except for the shouting, hmm, yeah, now fucking what --
“What a bitch,” said Deirdre suddenly.
“I said what a bitch.”
“Who, your mom?”
“Well, she’s always a bitch, but no, that was Trish.”
“Oh, are you two having some uh --”
“Oh, like you care about my teenage shit --”
“Well, of course I --”
“Uncle Buddy, even I barely care about my teenage shit.”
“Oh. Oh, thank you.”
“For what?”
“Why are you thanking me?”
“Oh. That was a waitress. She brought me a drink.”
“Oh. It’s just she’s so immature.”
“Trish. Who do you think I’m talking about?”
“Oh. Trish, well, what do you expect? She’s, what, fifteen?”
“Okay, sixteen. You want her to act like uh --”
He tried to think of a female model of maturity and drew a blank.
“I just don’t want her to act like a fucking cunt.”
“Okay. I can see that.”
“You’re not getting on my case about my language.”
“Oh. Right. Okay, don’t talk that way.”
“So, how’d it go? Are you still in Vancouver?”
“Yeah, I’m at the airport.”
“Tell me how it went. With Cordelia.”
“Uh, fine.”
“Did you guys, like, you know --”
“All right, look --”
“Just --”
“Just what?”
“Just --”
“I hope you didn’t get SARS.”
Buddy took his conversational-speed-bump pause, and then said:
“Yeah, me too.”
“But I think that’s just Toronto.”
“Don’t sit next to any Chinese people on the plane.”
“I’ll try not to.”
“If you do, don’t let them breathe on you.”
“Right. Look,” said Buddy, “I’m getting in around 6:30, you want me to pick you up?”
“You don’t have to. We’re going to the Mighty Ducks playoff game tonight and Stephen will drive me home.”
“Mighty Ducks? Since when are you into ice hockey?”
“Since never. But Stephen is, ‘cause he’s gay, and he seems to think he’s providing me with some great thrill so I’m going to go.”
“Oh. Is your mom going?”
“Yeah. Woo-hoo.”
“Well, okay, then -- I’ll see you tonight.”
“Wait. Just tell me how it went with Cordelia. Did you have a good time?”
“Yeah, it was fun. We had a good time.”
“Did you have sex with her?”
“Did you have sex with her?”
“None of your business.”
“Well, you make my sex life your business.”
“You’re too young to have a sex life.”
“You’re probably right. But did you?”
“Why not?”
“Oh, Christ --”
“She might, you know, if you give her time.”
“Who made you such an expert?”
“Well -- that’s just my opinion.”
“But what the hell do you know about it?”
“Jeeze, Uncle Bud, don’t get all Polly Pissy Pants on me.”
Buddy heard what sounded like -- and which come to think of it he’d already heard a couple of times in this conversation but hadn’t registered -- a toke on a joint.
“Are you smoking pot?”
“Oh, Christ, in Stephen’s house?”
“No, I’m on the beach behind his house. Behind his stupid smelly boat.”
“Well, okay.”
“It’s Stephen’s pot anyway, I raided his stash.”
“Stephen has a stash?”
“Oh yes. He and Mom walk on the beach and smoke pot. They think I don’t know. But I found his stash.” Well, thought Buddy, better than my stash -- “She does like you, you know,” said Deirdre. “You-know-who. She told me so.”
“Who, Cordelia?”
“Who else?”
“When did she tell you this?”
“Well, yesterday for instance.”
“You talked to her?”
“What, on the phone?”
“No, telepathically.”
“What -- since when did you two start having phone chats?”
“Since like a week or so ago. She called to talk to her father and I picked up, so we talked, and we’ve talked a few more times since then. She’s nice.”
Buddy let this sink in for a moment.
“Do you mind?” said Deirdre.
“That she and I talk to each other?”
“No. No. Why should I mind?”
“Okay. I’m gonna get off now.”
“Wait -- what do you guys -- what do you -- what do you talk about?”
“Just stuff.”
“What kind of stuff?”
“Men? What do you know about men?”
“Oh.” Drawing another blank, then -- “Oh, the molester.”
“She agreed with you. That I was too young for him.”
“Or he was too old for you.”
“Whatever. Well, goodbye, Uncle Bud.”
“Wait --”
“Um --”
He wanted to ask her what else Cordelia had said about him. But somehow he couldn’t quite do this, so instead he said, “What’s the big rush to get off the phone?”
“I want to call Cordelia. She’ll tell me everything, you know.”
“Oh. Great.”
“I’ll see you tonight, Uncle Bud.”
“Oh, and call Liz.”
“I don’t know. Just call her. She asked me to ask you to call her if you called me.”
“Is something the matter?”
“Maybe. Just call her.”
So, all right -- one more phone call and that was it. He called home, it rang four times, the answering machine came on, and he was starting to leave a message when Liz picked up.
“Hi, Dad. Dad, it’s me.”
“Oh, hi, Liz, how’s it going?”
“Okay. Are you still in Vancouver?”
“Yeah, still in Vancouver, tell The National Enquirer.”
“Okay, when are you coming back?”
“My flight gets in at 6:33, supposedly.”
“Everything okay?”
“Yeah. No. Sort of. I don’t know. We’ll talk tonight.”
“Let’s talk now, I got time before my flight.”
“No, it can wait. It’s no big deal really.”
“Well --”
“No, it’s cool, Dad. Philip’s here, anyway.”
“You mean you don’t want to talk in front of Philip?”
“Then --”
“Dad, everything’s fine. There is something I wanted to talk to you about but I’d rather wait till tonight.”
“Well, okay --”
“Okay,” she said.

“So, I guess I’ll see you, I don’t know, whenever I --”
“Philip and I are going to the movies, so we probably won’t be here when you get in.”
“Oh, okay -- what’re you seeing?”
X-Men. X2. Whatever.”
“Okay. So I’ll, uh, see you after the movie?”
“Yeah, sure.”
“You’re sure you’re okay.”
“Sure. I just want to go to a movie, okay? Is that so strange?”
“No, not at all --”
“Oh. Wait. I didn’t even ask. How did it go with Cordelia?”
“Uh, it went fine.”
“Tell me about it.”
“We’ll talk tonight.”
“Dad --”
“Hey, tonight.”
“All right.”
“You want me to leave you something to eat?”
“Don’t bother, I’ll --”
“I’ll leave something in the oven for you.”
“Well, okay, thanks, Liz --”
“Dad --”
She hesitated. Now what?
“Oh, never mind,” she said. “We’ll talk after the movie.”
“Well, all right.”
“Okay, ‘bye.”
“’Bye, Liz.”
“But wait, I have to know, did you and Cordelia --”
“Goodbye, Liz. I’ll see ya tonight.”
“Well, okay. See ya, Dad.”
She hung up. And to tell the truth Buddy was glad the house was going to be empty for a while when he got home. He was looking forward to masturbating in peace.

(Continued here, just in case something happens.)

(Feel free to turn to the right-hand column of this page to find a current listing of links to all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™, available free of charge for a limited time only, although gifts of money and beer are gratefully accepted.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 203: when universes collide, or, those stumbling words

Our hero Arnold Schnabel has been marooned by the prince of darkness in a novel of 1950s New York City, Gertrude Evans’s Ye Cannot Quench* (Knopf, 1959; reprinted in paperback as She Loved Too Well, Handi-Books, 1960). In his current guise as “Porter Walker, bohemian poet”, he has just met up with his date Betsy at the Greenwich Village bistro the Kettle of Fish when the PR man Nicky Boskins drags him over to a table to meet the famous TV personalities Ralph Edwards, John Cameron Swayze and Edward R. Murrow; but then who should walk in the door but the putative heroine of the novel, Emily...

(Click here to read our previous episode or go here to return to the first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning memoir.)

*Good news. Coming soon from the Library of America, Gertrude Evans: Four Early Novels; featuring Ye Cannot Quench (first time ever in its full unbowdlerized form); Crocodile Road; Angst; and Tears of the Damned; introduction and notes by Kitty Carlisle.)

If Nicky was the last person I wanted to run into here, then Emily ran a close second.

For a brief moment I considered putting down my shot glass, turning a quick about-face, and then, hunching over as far as I could without drawing undue attention to myself, ducking back through the crowd to Betsy, grabbing her by the arm and trying to find a back exit out of this place. But no, then Betsy would think me crazier than she already thought. No matter, Emily saw me nearly right away, for an awful moment our eyes locked through the smoke, you could almost see the alternating close-ups if this had been a movie. But then behind her I saw Julian, folding up a black umbrella; this was good, or at least better. Perhaps with Julian as a buffer whatever was about to happen might not be so bad after all.

“If there was one person Emily did not wish to see at this moment it was Porter, and there he was, holding a shot glass, standing with Nicky Boskins by a table of distinguished-looking gentlemen, and staring at her, at Emily!”

It was that voice again, Miss Evans’s voice, sounding not so much like Katharine Hepburn this time, but like some other actress, with an even more of a sort of English accent --

“She knew she shouldn’t have come here with Julian. But he had wanted his ‘taste of your louche bohemian milieu’ as he had put it, and so she had relented; she knew she could never say no to him, not to those enormous commanding brown eyes nor to those thick broad shoulders.”

Her voice drowned out everything else, the people’s chatter, Gabriel’s trumpet --

“The question was: would she ever be able to say anything but yes to Porter? Soulful intense poetic Porter. There was but one thing to do. Hold her head up high.” Audrey Hepburn, that’s who the voice sounded like. “Hold her head up high and march right up to Porter and say hello.”

Sure enough, Emily marched right over to the table.

She was wearing the same clothes she’d been wearing at lunch, the grey skirt and jacket, and she had her black purse and her briefcase, but her hair had lost its Nazi helmet-like quality. It looked more like a halved coconut now.

“Well, Porter, hello there,” she said.

“Hello,” I said.

Ralph Edwards was still standing, but now John Cameron Swayze and Edward R. Murrow also stood up, and this time John Cameron Swayze didn’t almost fall down, but he did knock his chair over.

Julian came up just then, reached down and pulled the chair upright.

“Having fun, boys?” said Julian. Unlike Emily he had changed his clothes, he had on a blue blazer with white trousers and a pink polo shirt with the collar turned up.

“And who is this lovely young lady, Julian?” said John Cameron Swayze.

“Oh, pardon me,” said Julian. And he went through the round of introducing Emily to the TV guys. He mentioned her last name, but I didn’t quite catch it, Fotherington, Fotheringham, Fotheringay, I supposed I would find out sooner or later. She seemed very excited to meet these gentlemen, but she also kept darting quick glances my way all through the introductions.

“Did Porter know?” continued Miss Evans’s voice. “Did he suspect?”

“A native of a small town in West Virginia,” Ralph Edwards was saying, “Emily came to New York City not only to seek a career but to find love --”

“Hey, Ralph,” said John Cameron Swayze, “you’re off the clock, baby. Cool it.”

“Oh, sorry,” said Ralph Edwards.

“Porter’s eyes were avoiding hers,” Miss Evans went on. “If he didn’t know, then he suspected.”

Suspected what, I wondered. The only thing I knew or suspected was that I wanted to escape from her and these other people as soon as possible.

“What are you doing with this Smythe scalawag, young lady,” said Edward R. Murrow.

“I work for him,” she answered, and Miss Evan’s voice added, ”shyly.”

“Works with me,” said Julian. “Emily just got promoted to the post of editor today, and her first project is Porter here’s new book.”

“The voice of his generation,” said Edward R. Murrow, “the so-called Beat Generation, goateed devotés of avant-garde jazz and all-night ‘tea’ parties, tea being slang for marijuana, also called ‘gage’ or ‘muggles’ --”

“Ed,” said John Cameron Swayze, “will you shut the goddam hell up about this so-called Beat Generation? All’s it is is the latest goddam fad. In our day it was bearskin coats and swallowing goldfish. And bathtub gin. Who gives a shit?”

“Um, ladies present, Cam,” said Ralph Edwards.

“Oh, I’m sure Emily has heard far worse down in the ancestral holler in West Virginny, haven’t you, sweetheart?”

“Well, uh,” she said, “heh heh --”

“Didn’t see you at the club this evening, Julian,” said Nicky. “I’m sure they all missed you and your absolutely lethal serve on the racquets court.”

“I was, uh, otherwise engaged,” said Julian, and it seemed that he made a point not to look anywhere near Emily as he said this, whereas she flinched as if someone had just pinched her and then quickly opened her purse and started running her fingers inside it. “Did you play?” Julian asked Nicky, and Miss Evans’s voice added, “although Emily doubted that he cared one whit whether Nicky had played or had not.”

“Oh, no, after I finally cut loose from Truman and Norman and Flannery -- dumped ‘em at Toots Shor’s -- I met up with Kerouac and Ginsberg and those fellows down at the San Remo, along with a very interesting fellow whom I believe Porter is good friends with, chap called Josh, and --”

“You met Josh,” I said.

“Yes. He speaks very highly of you, too.”

“Who was this ‘Josh’, Emily wondered,” said Miss Evans’s voice.

Emily snapped her purse shut, as if she had just been making sure she hadn’t lost her keys.

“Anyway,” said Nicky, addressing Julian again now, “you know how it is. Libations were partaken of --”

“Yeah, sure,” said Julian, “speaking of which,” and he put his arm in Emily’s, “let’s hit the bar, Em. If you’ll excuse us, gentlemen, I haven’t had a drink in like an hour, and that just won’t do.”

“Wait, Julian,” said Emily, slipping her arm free from his, “you go ahead, I just want a lightning-quick word with Porter. Really I’ll be ever so quick.”

“Sure,” he said. “What are you drinking?”

“Oh, I don’t know, whatever you’re having --”

“Do you think they make Old Fashioneds here?”

“Possibly,” she said.

“Old Fashioneds it is then. See ya, gents.”

As he turned, I could be mistaken, but I think I saw him breathe a sigh, perhaps of relief. And off he went to the bar.

“Now was the moment,” said Miss Evans. “She must tell Porter.”

I felt a touch on the back of my arm. I turned. It was Betsy.

“Hi,” she said. “The waitress said these guys wanted to buy me a drink. Gabriel’s laying out again now, so here I am.”

I hadn’t noticed, but now Freddy was singing, “These Foolish Things”…

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Look, let’s just --”

“Who was this dark Mediterranean beauty so obviously displaying her sultry charms to Porter?” asked Miss Evans’s voice.

“Hello,” Emily said to Betsy. Emily was suddenly standing right near Betsy and myself.

“Hello,” said Betsy.

The next second seemed to last a week, with Freddy singing “These Foolish Things” over and over again. I realized I was sweating profusely.

“My, Porter, aren’t you going to introduce us?” said Emily.

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “Uh, this is Elek- I mean, Betsy, Betsy, and, uh, Betsy, this is Miss, uh --” I had no idea what her last name was, and to my horror I realized I couldn’t even remember her first name --

“Oh, please, just call me Emily. Any friend of Porter’s.”

The two girls shook hands.

Ralph Edwards still stood there beaming, holding his big blue book, but Edward R. Murrow and John Cameron Swayze had sat down again and were drinking beer.

“Look at young Porter there,” said John Cameron Swayze. “The ladies love him.”

“As handsome as he is talented,” said Ralph Edwards, picking up his glass of beer, “young women have been known to swoon when he takes the stage at an open-mike poetry reading --”

“I used to get babes like that,” said Edward R. Murrow. “Soon as they heard I was on the radio --”

“I trust you’re having a pleasant evening out with young Julian?” said Nicky to Emily.

Emily, blushed, and finally I got it. And even if I hadn’t got it, Miss Evans’s voice immediately gave it to me:

Nicky knew, she thought. Nicky knew and Porter knew. Probably even this dark temptress now so blatantly forcing herself on Porter knew, and by tomorrow all of New York would know. She, Emily, the small-town so-called ‘nice’ girl from Herbert’s Hole, West Virginia, she was Julian’s latest conquest!”

The three television guys there were talking through all this, I knew because I could see their lips moving even if I couldn’t hear them.

Then Emily said, “Oh, I just happened to run into Julian, I mean Mr. Smythe. He invited me for a drink, and so --”

“So you just happened to wander in here,” said Nicky. “How nice.”

Betsy squeezed my arm, put her lips near my ear and whispered:

“Let’s get away from these people.”

Sweeter words I had never heard.

(Continued here, only twenty-six-and-a-half volumes to go.)

(Kindly look to the right hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other possible chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, free, gratis, and for nothing, although generous monetary donations are accepted. “For me a day without Schnabel is like a day without my pre-dinner martini.” -- Harold Bloom, in Argosy.)

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