Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"The Doomed", Part Five



The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel
The Early Years

Illustrations by Konrad Kraus and Rhoda Penmarq

Artistic direction by Rhoda Penmarq

As seen on the Dumont Network's Uneeda Cracker Hour


Available exclusively at "flashing by"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Molloy's Last Chance"



“This is your last warning, Molloy.”

“That’s what you said the last time, Captain.”

“Don’t crack wise with me, Molloy. I mean it this time.”

“Which is just what you said the last time, Captain. Right before I brought down the Kid Bosco mob.”

“Don’t try my patience, Molloy.”

“I seem to remember you also said that the last time --”

“Get out of my office. One more word out of you and you’re back pounding a beat on Skid Row.”

“One word?”

“One word.”

“So two words are okay then.”

The captain stood up. His face was the color of a freshly boiled hot dog.

“Well, I’ll see ya later, Captain,” said Molloy.

The Captain said nothing, but his face had changed color again, it was now the color of a hotdog slathered with yellow mustard.

Molloy turned and went to the door, opened it, and went out into the corridor. He left the door ajar. The Captain hated it when people didn’t close his office door behind them.

Molloy went down the stairs and through the hall and out through the big swinging doors. Night was falling on the city. He stopped and breathed in the dirty August air, then he took out his cigarettes and lit one up. He tossed the match down the steps to the filthy pavement. He had a case to crack. He had put up a tough front for Captain James, that arrogant fat know-it-all toad, but Molloy knew this was his last chance or he really would be pounding a beat down on the Row.

The Row.

Back where he had come from.

Back where he never wanted to go again.

Okay, so he had a case to crack, and probably a few heads to crack with it.

He went down the block to his car, got in it, started it up, and then headed down deeper into the Village, down to Madame Rue’s joint.


Molloy’s Last Chance, by Horace P. Sternwall, an Avon paperback original; 1952. Republished as An Ultimatum For Molloy, by “Hector Peter Stevenson”; a Faber & Faber Demotic Library paperback “original" (UK); 1954.


(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of many other lost classics from Horace P. Sternwall. "Proust. Joyce. Arnold Schnabel. Larry Winchester. Horace P. Sternwall. That pretty much wraps it up for 20th Century Classic Lit." -- Harold Bloom, in Criterion.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 243: stuff


It is precisely 12:39 PM by the priceless Bornholm grandfather clock in the rooms of the venerable Mr. Arbuthnot, here in the quaint resort and fishing port of Cape May, New Jersey, on this fateful rainy Sunday in August, 1963...


(Go here to read our previous episode; click here to be transported instantaneously back to the misty beginnings of this Gold View Award-winning 57-volume autobiography.)

Arnold Schnabel -- the very name itself conjures up an entire universe so much richer and more varied, so much more adventurous and glorious than that paltry world in which we ordinary mortals toil and moil in our divers ways to that single end: the grave.” -- Harold Bloom (in a speech given at the Arnold Schnabel Society’s annual “Schnabelfest”©, in Fisher Park).


“Well, that was very refreshing,” said Shnooby. “Might you have any more of that stuff perchance?”

“Oh, great,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, “now you’ve really done it, Arnold!”

“What has he done?” asked the cat, with a genuinely quizzical-looking expression.

“What has he done? He’s let you eat the stuff!”

“And you condemn him for this?” asked the cat.

“No, no, I don’t condemn him, Shnooby, but --”

“But you wanted it for yourself. You greedy old man.”

“Of course I wanted it!”

“Oh, and I don’t matter, I suppose.”

“Shnooby, you’re a cat! And a very well-cared-for cat I might add.”

“I was a cat. Now I’m a god,” said the cat, and he licked one of his paws.

“For as long as that stuff has its effect on you, you’re a god,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

At this Shnooby stopped licking his paw.

“Oh?” said the cat. “And how long will that be? This -- how shall I put it -- period of efficacy.”

“How should I know?” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “I’ve never seen a cat eat it before!”

The cat paused, his head cocked to one side, as if he were in thought, then he barely lifted one paw and lazily batted the empty canister, sending it sliding toward my feet where it was stopped by my Thom McAn cordovan.

“Arbuthnot,” said the cat, “you said you last partook of the stuff -- when was it -- nineteen-oh-seven?”

“Yes. In Istanbul, in this little shop near the Galata Br-”

“And how old were you then? If you don’t mind my asking.”

“I don’t mind at all. Let me see.” The old fellow took out his pipe. “In nineteen-oh-seven -- well, let’s see, yes, it was in the summer I recall, July, no, August it was, yes, August, and my birthday falls in Ocotber, so, let’s just do the maths here, shall we? Nineteen hundred and seven, yes --“ While he was dithering thus I picked up the empty canister, and also its cap, lest someone slip on them and break a neck, and I placed them on the dining room table. “Well,” said Mr. Arbuthnot at last, “I suppose I would have been just shy of ninety-nine then. Years of age.”

“And how much of the stuff did you consume?” asked Shnooby.

“Oh, it was a little tin of it just like the one you had. That’s been the standard measure for --”

“So,” said the cat, “that was like -- what year is it now, anyway?”

“What year is it?” repeated Mr. Arbuthnot. He patted his other jacket pocket, then brought out his tobacco pouch. “What is it - 1953? Fifty-two?”

“It’s 1963,” I said.

“Thank you, Mr. Schnabel,” said the cat. Then, turning to Mr. Arbuthnot again, “Fifty-six years ago you had that last ‘bump’ of the stuff, and just look at you now, you hardly look a day over eighty-five. So I’d say that’s a pretty powerful dose in one of those tins.”

“Yes, that’s undeniably true,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

“So, a little cat like me, I should think I’m looking at godlike qualities for at least a century or so.”

“Possibly,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. He stuck his fingers into his pouch of tobacco and brought out a nice bushy tuft of it.

“Things will have to change around here of course,” said the cat, with a slight yawn.

“Oh, I’m sure they will,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. Little stray wisps of tobacco fell to the floor as he filled the bowl of his pipe.

“Okay, first off,” said the cat, “no more of this Nine Lives crap. I want fresh seafood -- and I mean fresh, right off the boats thank you -- four, maybe five nights a week. I want fresh-killed chicken two, three times a week, and look, none of this supermarket garbage. I want farm chickens, locally raised.”

“And how am I supposed to get all this fresh seafood and poultry?” said Mr. Arbuthnot, putting away his tobacco pouch. “I don’t have an automobile to drive out to the farms and the docks.”

The cat yawned, then looked at me.

“You have a car?”

“No,” I said. “I mean, we do have a car, my mother and I, but we left it back in Phila-”

“Okay, I don’t need to hear your life story, my friend. Look, can you get a bicycle, preferably one with a basket on the handlebars?”

“Yes,” I said. “In fact my aunts have a couple of old Schwinns --”

“Problem solved,” said the cat. “You bicycle out to the docks and the farms, bring me back my grub. Arbuthnot will give you the money.”

“Now wait a minute,” I said.

“What? What’s the problem?”

“Well, excuse me, but you’re not even my cat.”

“Yes. And your point is?”

“I mean, why should I do all this shopping for someone else’s cat?”

“Look, pal, you’re not going to make this difficult, are you?”

“Um, no,” I said.

“Because it doesn’t have to go down that way.”

“But --”

“No buts. I’m gonna get my grub, and you’re gonna get it for me. In return you will have my protection. Here on out, anybody fucks with you, they fuck with me. And why? Because I like you? No, not really, not that I dislike you but that’s not the issue here. The issue is that you are my new food source, and nobody fucks around with my food source. Do I make myself clear? So anybody gives you any problems in any way, shape or form you come to me and I will do what I can to take care of the problem.”

The cat came over and rubbed against my trouser leg.

Then he stood on his hind legs and put both his front paws on my knees.

He looked up into my eyes with a very serious expression.

“Do we have a deal?”

I thought it over quickly. All that this deal really meant was a longish bike journey every day, and, after all, the exercise would be good for me, both physically and mentally, possibly even spiritually, whatever that last adverb meant.

“All right,” I said. “It’s a deal. But Mr. Arbuthnot pays for the fish and chickens.”

“Absolutely,” said the cat. “Fair is fair.”

“Great,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Swell.”

The cat jumped away from my legs and walked over to Mr. Arbuthnot, who had got his pipe lit and was now leaning back against the dining room table, puffing away.

“Okay, give him some money,” said the cat. “He might as well start today.”

Keeping his pipe between his dentures, Mr. Arbuthnot reached into his side trousers pocket and brought out a wad of greenbacks in a gold clip.

“All right, how much?” he asked.

“You’re asking me?” said the cat. He turned back to me. “Okay, what fish are running now, do ya know, Arnold?”

“Well, bluefish, I guess,” I said. “And scallops should be good this time of year.”

“Bluefish, scallops. Scallops, bluefish. Okay, tell ya what, bring me a nice fat little bluefish and say a half-dozen juicy scallops.”

“Okay,” I said.

“How much you think that will cost?”

“I don’t know,” I said “My mother and aunts do all the food shopping.”

“Christ,” said the cat. “Arbuthnot, just give him some money.”

“I think a five should cover it.”

“Give him a five then. No, give him a sawbuck, I don’t want him coming back here short-handed just because he didn’t take enough dough.”

“But --” started Mr. Arbuthnot.

“Give him a ten. He’ll bring back the change.”

“I still say a five --”

“A ten.”

“Oh, very well. Here you are, Arnold.”

I went over and took the ten he grudgingly peeled off.

“I’ll bring back a receipt,” I said.

“Don’t bother,” sighed Mr. Arbuthnot, dropping his money back into his pocket. “They do say a railwayman’s word is his bond.”

“Well, that’s not necessarily --”

He waved his hand.

“Y’know, It just occurred to me,” he said. “I think I might have a little bit of gage left, or maybe some kif. Would you like to share some?”

“If gage or kif are what I think they may be,” I said, folding up the ten and putting it in my pants pocket, “then I don’t think I had better.”

“I probably only have a little if any.”

“No, really --”

“A couple of tokes.”

“No, honestly --”

“Arnold, really --”

The cat jumped up onto the table and turned around so that he could have both of us in his field of vision.

“Excuse me, gentlemen, I hate to break up this delightful raillery worthy of an Oscar Wilde or a Bernard Shaw, but what about my grub?”

“I’ll bring some by later,” I said.

“Later? What’s wrong with straight away?”

“Arnold can’t leave straight away,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “He’s trying to dodge some idiot harness bull who’s trying to hang a pinch on him.”

“For what?”

“For being different.”

“Goddam cops. So how long’s Arnold got to lay low here?"

Mr. Arbuthnot glanced at the grandfather clock, which still stood awry and away from the wall.

“Maybe fifteen minutes,” he said.

“All right,” said the cat. “I guess I can wait. I’ll take a nap in the meantime.”

“By the way, Arnold,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, “would you mind pushing that clock back the way it was?”

“Oh, sure,” I said.

I went over and shoved the clock back into its place, which was easy to find by the pale stencil of a grandfather clock on the smoke-stained old wallpaper.

When I turned around the cat was already curled up in a ball on the lace dining-room tablecloth, apparently sound asleep.

Mr. Arbuthnot put his fingers to his lips, then gestured for me to follow him.

He headed off, and I followed him across the room and through a short hallway into what proved to be his kitchen, with an old scratched enamel table, yellowed white with red trim, and four chairs covered in cracked plastic, red with yellowed white trim. I suppose the set had looked cheery when he’d first bought it way back in the Roaring Twenties.


(Continued here, and until that last recalcitrant cow comes home.)

Kindly look to the right hand column of this page for a scrupulously up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©.

Coming soon from Penmarq Books: My Pal Arnie: a Personal Memoir of Arnold Schnabel by Horace P. Sternwall, available exclusively at Walmart (between the hardware and the gardening departments) “I breezed through this delightful book last night while I was watching TV -- it’s a winner!” -- Charlie Sheen, in his New Books of Interest column in the Hollywood Reporter.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"The Doomed", Part Four


The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel
The Early Years

Illustrations by Konrad Kraus and Rhoda Penmarq

Artistic direction by Rhoda Penmarq

A Hugo Haas Production


Available exclusively at "flashing by".

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Two Hoofers Named Helen"


“I’m tellin’ ya, doll,” said Big Helen, “my gams are so sore, for two cents I’d chop ‘em off and start sellin’ cigars on the sidewalk.”

“You’re tellin’ me, babe,” said Little Helen. “I need me some liniment, and not the kind you rub on your skin, neither.”

“Boy, I could go for a snort or three, too, girl. Whaddaya say we stop off at Johnny Mac’s?”

“You got a date, sister. Maybe we’ll find a couple of live ones.”

“At Johnny Mac’s? I’ll tell ya, doll, we’ll be happy to find one in that place that ain’t two weeks dead.”

“Ha ha, you said it, babe. Them guys are so square they don’t know enough to fall off the damn barstool when they’re croaked.”

“Yeah, who gives a damn, anyway, girlfriend. The beers are a nickel a glass and our trap is right up the stairs.”

“Let’s collect our shekels and blow.”

“Big” Helen Jones and “Little” Helen Moscowitz collected their pay from Matty the house manager and headed out the stage door and up the alley to 42nd Street.

“Hey, dolls,” said a dude standing on the sidewalk. He wore a blue zoot suit and a snap-brim fedora, and he swung a chain with a gold coin on its end.

“Dig Ricardo Cortez,” said Big Helen.

“Hey, fella,” said Little Helen, “Didn’t you get the memorandum? It’s 1952, not 1942.”

“Very funny,” said the dude. He reached into his trousers pocket and brought out a pearl-handled switchblade and flicked it open. “Maybe you think this stiletto is out of style.”

“That’s not what that cop behind you thinks,” said Little Helen.

The dude turned his head, and as he did Little Helen drove the pointed toe of her pump into the man’s crotch. As he doubled over with a groan Big Helen struck him over the head with her purse, which she always made sure held a stout pint jar of cold cream for just such eventualities as this.

The man crumbled into the entrance of the alleyway.

“Quick,” said Little Helen, “let’s grab his wallet for our trouble.”

“Good idea, sister,” said Big Helen. “I’m grabbing the switchblade, too. It’s cute.”


Two Hoofers Named Helen, by “Hannah P. Sauvage” (Horace P. Sternwall); a Midwood paperback original; 1952.


(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of many other classic but nearly impossible-to-find novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"An Easy Ten Grand"



“Them goddam stiffs,” said Packy O’Hara, taking out a fat Havana Churchill, “them goddam zombies, I would not urinate on them if they was on fire.”

Packy bit off the end of the cigar and spat it out onto the concrete backstage floor. Sonny already had his lighter out and he clicked it into flame.

“Atlantic City,” said Sonny. “Always a tough crowd. Tougher than the Catskills.”

“Thanks,” said Packy, drawing the flame into his cigar.

“Tougher than the Poconos, even,” said Sonny.

“I need a drink,” said Packy, exhaling smoke.

“Come on out to the bar. First one’s on me.”

They found a couple of stools out at the bar and Sonny ordered: double C.C. and seltzer for Packy, plain seltzer for Sonny.

“Hey, Packy,” said some square, and he clapped Packy on the shoulder. “Loved your show, sir.”

“Thanks, pal,” said Packy.

“Cadwallader’s my name. Jack Cadwallader. Mr. Cadwallader to my friends. Ha ha. Packy, I got a question for you. Do you do private events?”

“Yeah, but, listen, Jack --”

“Mr. Cadwallader.”

“Mr. Cadwallader. If you’d like to book me for an event you should talk to my manager Sonny here --”

“How does ten grand sound, Packy.”

“Pardon me.”

“Ten grand for one night’s work.”

“Ten grand.”

“Ten grand,” said the square.

“How many shows?”

“One show. Or 'set' as I believe you showbiz types call it.”

“Ten grand.”

“Ten grand American,” said the square. “Cash. On the barrel head.”

“I only got two questions for you, Mr. Cadwallader.”

“Shoot, pal.”

“When and where.”


An Easy Ten Grand, by Horace P. Sternwall; an Avon paperback original; 1953.

(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of many other fine but inexplicably out-of-print novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 242: Salt Chunk

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel in conversation with the venerable Mr. Arbuthnot in that gentleman’s rooms above his “Whatnot Shoppe”, in the quaint seashore town of Cape May, New Jersey, on a rainy Sunday in August of 1963...

Click here to read our previous chapter; go here to return to the beginning of this Gold View Award-winning 69-volume memoir, of which Harold Bloom has written (in Maxim), “How often in the course of my days when I find myself enmired in yet another idiotic conversation do I not wish that I could be home in bed with a thermos of Fox’s U-bet™ hot cocoa and one of my stout leather-bound volumes of Arnold Schnabel?”


“Food of the gods? In that little tin?”

“Yes,” he said, “in this little tin. The legendary ancient food of the gods.”

“Y’know, I’m not really familiar with what that is exactly.”

“You’re not.”

“No.”

“It’s referred to quite frequently in the classic works of Greek antiquity. Homer. Aristophanes. Sappho?”

“Um. Uh --”

He lowered his hands, and the little tin, and he sighed.

“One is tempted, Mr. Schnabel, to use phrases like ‘pearls before swine’.”

“It’s true,” I said, “that I had a poor and a truncated education.”

“Oh, well, at least you know enough to use words like ‘truncated’.”

“In my slipshod way I’ve picked up my share of big words,” I said in my own half-hearted praise. “I do like to read.”

“Ah, yes, modern poetry I’ll vouchsafe must be your line of country, being a young modern poet of today yourself. I’ll bet you’re a John Greenleaf Whittier man, aren’t you?”

“Uh --”

“Or perhaps Robert Browning.”

“Um --”

“I know, Housman, you’re a Housman lad if I ever saw one, you scamp.”

“No,” I said. “I’m afraid I just read cheap paperback novels mostly. Stories of murder, and dark passions, guys caught in whirlpools of deceit and despair, that sort of thing.”

“Oh, I get it, then you’re doubtless mad for this new crop of novelist Johnnies. Frank Norris. Jack London. Ford Madox Ford.”

While speaking this last group of words he gestured with his right hand across the room to a bookcase, apparently in an attempt to distract my attention, but his ploy failed because although I did glance at the bookcase, I nevertheless caught him from the corner of my eye slipping the little tin canister into the side pocket of his suit coat. I didn’t say anything, but I could see that he saw that I saw. For a few pathetic moments he pretended that he was not aware that he had pocketed the stuff, all the while rattling off authors’ names:

“James Branch Cabell. Joris-Karl Huysmans? George Gissing? Ronald Firbank? John Buchan?”

“Mr. Arbuthnot,” I said, “all you have to do is ask me for that stuff if you want it that badly.”

“What stuff?”

“Come on.”

“Oh, the stuff! Yes, oh my, where ever did I put it?”

“In your left jacket pocket.”

“Oh, yes.” He patted his pocket, then put his hand in it and brought out the tin. “Ah. Here it is. Heh heh. So you say I can have it?”

“I only have one question first. If it’s so valuable then why did you tell me what it is?”

“Oh. Why didn’t I lie, simply say it was ordinary snuff?”

“Yes.”

“Thus making it more likely that you would let me have it.”

“Yes.”

He looked away.

“It’s the stuff,” he said. “When one is within its propinquity one loses the ability to lie. No matter how much one wishes to lie.” He raised his face to look at me again. “And that’s no lie.”

“I’m not so sure I could make it through the day without lying,” I said. “So maybe it’s best that I let you keep it.”

“But you don’t even know what it is!”

“Food of the gods?”

“Yes, but do you even know what that phrase means?”

“Um, uh --”

“It makes you like a god.”

“Ah.”

“That’s why you can’t lie when you’re on the stuff. Gods don’t lie. What do they care? Unlike human beings gods really don’t give a shit what anyone thinks.”

“Well, it really doesn’t sound right for me then,” I said.

“Yes, but Arnold -- may I call you Arnold?”

“Sure.”

“Arnold, what about all the godlike qualities you could take on?”

“Hmm. Like what?”

“Like what? What do you think?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “X-ray vision?”

“X-ray vision.”

“Yeah, or maybe you could have super-hearing? Like, hearing what people a mile away were saying?”


“Wouldn’t that get annoying?”

“Um --”

“Isn’t it bad enough listening to people’s conversations when they’re right up close to you?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess --”

“But, no, my dear boy, I’m afraid being godlike does not necessarily entail having X-ray vision or what you call super-hearing.”

“Y’know, it’s interesting you say that, Mr. Arbuthnot, because my friend Josh, you know, the one who is really, uh --”

“Jesus?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I mean, I’ve spent a fair amount of time with him lately, and it turns out he’s not really omniscient at all, and definitely not, like, omnipotent, although --”

“Arnold.”

“Yes?”

“May we get back to the subject at hand?”

He held up the little canister between his thumb and forefinger.

“Oh, right,” I said.

“By the way, don’t you feel a bit awkward just standing here on either side of this coffee table?”

“I do, actually, a bit,” I said. “But I usually feel awkward anyway.”

“Would you like to sit?”

“Yes. But not in that sofa.”

“I don’t see why not. It’s quite plush.”

“It’s my back,” I said. For some reason, unlike Mr. Arbuthnot, I was still able to tell lies or at least prevaricate despite being in the presence of this food of the gods stuff. “I need a bit more support when I sit, or else my back goes out.”

“Why didn’t you say so?”

“I was foolish not to.”

“Shall we go into the dining room?”

“Sure.”

I came around the coffee table and started to follow Mr. Arbuthnot into the dining room when suddenly I realized I was about to step on Shnooby the cat, who was just lying there on the floor. I tried to halt my tread but nonetheless the sole of my shoe landed on the cat, who understandably squealed and leaped away as I hopped forward on my other foot and staggered into Mr. Arbuthnot who shot flying forward just as one would expect a five-foot-two old man to fly when tackled from behind by some six-foot oaf.

Quickly I hobbled over and picked Mr. Arbuthnot up by both shoulders from where he lay spread-eagled on a jumbled up carpet.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, setting him on his feet, and turning him gently around so I could see his face. “Are you okay? It was the cat, I didn’t see him --”

“That damned cat,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, breathing heavily. “I’ve told him once I’ve told him a thousand times. If he must lie down then lie on a divan or a bed like a normal human being.”

He put his fingers to his nose.

“My pince-nez has fallen off.”

“You mean your glasses?”

“You’re very astute.”

“Can you stand unaided?”

“I believe so.”

I let go of him. He didn’t fall down. I straightened out the carpet, and I saw the rimless glasses on the floor, fortunately unbroken. I picked them up and handed them to Mr. Arbuthnot with another mumbled apology.

He put the glasses on his nose, and then said, “Oh no.”

“What is it, Mr. Arbuthnot?”

“The stuff. I dropped it.”

“Oh.”

“You made me drop it. Where is it?”

“I’ll find it.”

“You must.”

“It’s got to be right around here,” I said, bending over and studiously looking.

“I don’t see it.” Mr. Arbuthnot was bending over and looking also, and being so much shorter than I he was much closer to the floor. “Look under that carpet I fell on,” he said.

I lifted one edge of the carpet a few inches.

“Damn it, man,” he said, “lift it up all the way, all the way, toss it aside.”

The carpet was about six feet square, but I picked the whole thing up with both hands and tossed it.

“I didn’t mean literally toss it, Arnold. That’s a 17th century Tabriz carpet you just blithely sent sailing across the room.”

“Sorry.”

“Oh, don’t be sorry, but, damn! The tin’s not there! Where is that thing? Where can it be, Arnold?”

“I’m looking.”

It would have helped if he had some lights on. The room really was pretty dim.

“Look harder,” said Mr. Arbuthnot.

“It’s got to turn up,” I said. “I mean it couldn’t have rolled or slid that far away.”

“So where is it?”

“Well, I’m looking.”

“So am I, and it’s nowhere to be seen!”

I straightened up. My back really was hurting a little now, maybe I had indeed thrown it out a little when I was struggling with Mr. Arbuthnot’s sofa, and all this bending over and prowling around like Groucho Marx wasn’t helping it any.

“Look, Mr. Arbuthnot,” I said, rubbing my sacroiliac. “It’ll turn up. Why don’t we just sit down a while. You can smoke a pipe, I’ll --”

“You’ll what?”

“Well, I’ll just sit there.”

“With nothing to drink, nothing to smoke? What are you, a goddam zombie?”

I said nothing to this. Mr. Arbuthnot stood there, staring at me, his fists clenched, his eyes bulging behind his glasses. His brow was wet with sweat. I looked away, towards a window and the falling rain outside. I wished I was out there somewhere.

“Mr. Schnabel?”

I turned and looked at the old man. He pulled a handkerchief from his sleeve, mopped his forehead, put the handkerchief away again, and sighed.

“I apologize,” he said. “But you see, Arnold, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve got the yen. I’ve got the yen now and I won’t be satisfied till I find that tin. Look, don’t give up. Help me find it and I’ll share it with you.”

“Okay,” I said, wearily, “I’ll help you find it, but I won’t share it with you.”

“What? You won’t give me any? After you said you would?”


“No,” I said, “I mean, yes, I’ll give it to you, but I don’t want any.”

“You fool! You unconscionable fool! Do you know what you’re missing out on?”

“I know. ‘Food of the gods’. Ancient legendary, you know --”

“No! You don’t know! How can you know if you’ve never tried it? Well I have tried it my good man. Last time? Nineteen hundred and seven, Istanbul, a little shop on the Asian side of the old Galata Bridge -- it’s always in these little shops you see, the most fetid and disreputable little holes-in-the-wall and dens of iniquity. And the time before that? Why it was at Salt Chunk Mary’s house, out west in Pocatello, Idaho, in, oh my, it must have been in the year eighteen hundred and --”

“Oh, wait,” I said, “excuse me, but there it is. I see it.”

“Where?”

“Under your dining room table over there.”

“Oh thank God.”

“I’ll get it.”

I went over to the table, with its lace cloth and its candelabrum and eight chairs. I could clearly see the canister now, glowing in a stray beam of pale light in the dimness under the table. I pushed a chair aside, got down on one knee and reached for the tin when suddenly Shnooby darted out of nowhere and batted the tin across the floor again and took off after it like a bat out of hell, or a cat out of hell I suppose I might as well say.

“That wretched cat!” cried Mr. Arbuthnot. “He’s trying to steal our stuff! Go after it, Arnold!”

I pulled myself up with the aid of one of the chairs and hurried around the table. I saw Shnooby over there, a few feet away from a big grandfather clock. The cat was facing me, and the canister was on the floor by his front paws.

“Don’t alarm him,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, from behind me.

“Nice cat,” I said. “Nice kitty.”

And I limped as inconspicuously as I was able to toward him and the stuff. I bent over to pick it up, but once again Shnooby batted the tin and sent it sailing under the carven legs of the grandfather clock and then bolted under the clock himself.

“Now he’s toying with us,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “He’s probably pissed off because we wouldn’t let him destroy the galaxy last night. Get down there and reach under and get it.”

I was getting really tired of this, but I had to kill some time anyway until it was safe to leave here, so I went over, got down on my knees, put one forearm on the floor and reached my right hand under the grandfather clock’s base.


“Ow!”

I yanked my hand out.

“Oh, did he scratch you, Arnold?”

I said nothing, but merely looked at the three scarlet lines on the back of my hand.

“I hope he didn’t scratch you too severely? I’ll get you some mercurochrome but first I think we should get that stuff, don’t you? You’re a strong stout young chappie, just push the clock aside.”

Wearily I got to my feet again.

“Just push it aside a bit. There you go. Careful though, that’s a genuine Bornholm clock, and nearly as old as I am, heh heh. Easy does it now. That’s it, use your shoulder. Ah, there’s the little rascal, there he is. Oh no. Oh God no. Oh God no, tell me it isn’t so.”

I had shifted the clock aside and away from the wall a bit, and there on the floor crouched Shnooby, looking up at me with his yellow eyes, and before him on the floor lay the little canister, open, its cap lying a few inches away.

The canister was completely empty.

Shnooby licked his chops.


(Continued here, for the sakes of our children’s children.)

(Please turn to the right hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to all other available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. This week’s episode sponsored in part by Fox’s U-bet™ the official chocolate syrup of the Arnold Schnabel Society’s upcoming “SchnabelFest©”, featuring an entire week of performances, lectures, exhibitions and discussions on all things Schnabel, culminating in a “Beef ‘n’ Beer Blast” at the VFW on Chew Avenue, musical entertainment provided by Rockin’ Harry Hirsch & His Combo (featuring the Crass Brothers), with special guests Missy McDonough and Joe Donatello.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"The Doomed", Part Three


The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel
The Early Years

illustrations by konrad kraus and roy dismas

Artistic direction by Rhoda Penmarq

A Danny Thomas/Desilu Co-Production


Available exclusively at "flashing by".

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Hell in the Amazon"


When my old navy buddy Buzz Maxwell called me up and asked me if I wanted to take a boat trip up the Amazon just for the hell of it with our other navy buddy Chip Weatherby, I said sure, it sounded like fun.

Boy, was I wrong.

Dead wrong.

Like flesh-eating piranha wrong.


Hell in the Amazon, by Horace P. Sternwall, an “Ace Double” paperback original, paired with Five Elegant Hit-Men, by “Henry Per Swenson” (yet another Sternwall nom de plume); 1953.


(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of many other fine but sadly obscure novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 241: old lace

Our previous episode closed with our friend Arnold Schnabel climbing a dark spiral staircase at the back of Arbuthnot’s Whatnot Shoppe, here in the quaint old seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey, on a rather portentously rainy Sunday in August of 1963…

(Go here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award-winning 37-volume masterpiece of autobiography.)

“Maybe I’m just getting old, but (except for my vintage old Horace P. Sternwall paperbacks and the Daily Racing Form) Arnold Schnabel is just about all I am able to read these days.” -- Harold Bloom, in Man’s Life.

When I reached the top of the stairs the cat was waiting, sitting on the back of the tiger-striped sofa, staring at me in a sort of grey opalescent dimness as if the apartment were halfway between being in an early Technicolor movie and an old black-and-white one; no electric lights seemed to be on, but through the windows a soft glow from the rainy outside world suffused these rooms, which seemed even more overstuffed (with old furniture and old objects either of art or utility or perhaps of historical or antiquarian interest) than they had the previous night, that previous evening which felt as if it had happened two years before at least. It was warm and close up here, although not nearly so hot and stuffy as the stairwell had been. The air smelled of tobacco and marijuana, of damp galoshes and moldy old newspapers, of a monastery cloakroom at a retreat for lonely Catholic bachelors who have abandoned all hope for happiness in the physical world.

Mr. Arbuthnot came up silently behind me, I didn’t know he was there until he spoke.

“Please make yourself comfortable, Mr. Schnabel. Take the sofa. I’m sure Shnooby wouldn’t mind sharing.”

I went around the coffee table to the far end of the sofa (as far away from Shnooby as I could get) and sat myself down, sinking into the couch’s recesses until my bottom was probably only an inch or so from the floor.

“Quite cozy, isn’t it, that divan?” said Mr. Arbuthnot over his shoulder. He was heading toward the far end of the room. “I sit down in it and I never want to get up again.”

“I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get up again,” I thought, but did not say. An antimacassar slid down and over my head and face. It felt stiff and dry. “Damn,” I said, aloud. With two fingers I picked the lace off of my head. It felt like a mummified cobweb.

“What?” said Mr. Arbuthnot, halting in his progress. From where I was buried in the chair I could just barely make out his little head. “Oh, you’re admiring my dentelle. Norman lace that is, over a hundred years old, priceless really. Very beautiful, very delicate, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I said.

His head disappeared from my restricted field of vision, and suddenly Shnooby the cat launched a lightning-quick attack and snatched at the lace with both front paws. I tried to pull the antimacassar away but the cat’s nails got stuck in it, and I found myself playing tug-of-war with Shnooby for a few brief but furious seconds until finally he leapt away with a squeal, leaving me holding the tattered remnants of the hundred-year-old lacework.

“Is that Shnooby bothering you over there, Mr. Schnabel,” said the old man’s voice.

“No, no bother,” I said.

Quickly I stuffed the destroyed old lace into the space between the back of the sofa and the seat cushions.

“Oh no!” said the voice.

So, he had seen me childishly hiding the tattered lace.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Arbuthnot,” I said.

“This is a disaster! A disaster of the first order, I tell you!”

“If there’s anything I can --”

“The Harvey’s Bristol Cream bottle is nearly empty!” he cried.

“What?” I said.

“My sherry! My Harvey’s. I tell you, it was that Jones fellow last night.”

“Oh?”

(What did I care who it was, as long as I was off the hook for the antimacassar incident.)

“Yes,” said Mr. Arbuthnot’s voice. “The old rummy must have polished it off when I was in the lavatory. And look, my fifth of Windsor Canadian, also empty but for half a thimbleful if that. What shall I do?”

“It’s okay,” I said.

“Perhaps a cup of tea?” said the voice.

“Don’t bother,” I said. To tell the truth I could have gone for a cup of tea, but this time I was thinking ahead: tea would greatly increase the odds that I would soon have to go to the bathroom, and I didn’t want to have to do that here.

“A quiet smoke perhaps then, Mr. Schnabel?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said.

Mr. Arbuthnot hove back into my view. By this time I had sunk so low that I was almost looking up at my kneecaps. The old fellow stood across from the coffee table and stared down at me, for once this was possible. His hands were folded together at his chest.

“You have something to smoke, Mr. Schnabel? Cigarettes? I know you younger generation are mad for those readymade cigarettes.”

“Well, no,” I said, trying to keep my chin up despite the awkward position into which I was folded, almost like those ancient guys who were packed off to the next world in big earthenware jars instead of proper coffins. “Actually I’ve given up smoking as of yesterday morning.”

“Oh yes now I recall you mentioning something to that effect. Then why may I ask did you just now agree to my suggestion of a quiet smoke?”

I sighed.

“To answer that question would require more knowledge of myself than I possess,” I said. “And more than I wish to have.”

“Ha ha,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, “you young fellows! Always ready with a witty riposte! You’re a regular William Powell, you are! A veritable Franchot Tone! Gee, I’d offer you some weed but I killed my last reefer with my morning coffee, and we smoked up the last of my opiated hash last night at Freddy and Ursula’s crib.”

“Oh, well, look, please, Mr. Arbuthnot, light your pipe. Don’t worry about me. I’ll just sit here.”

“And sitting comfortably are you? You look just as snug as a bug in a rug.”

“Uh, well, actually --”

“Ha ha, but you said Wally down at the cigar shop gave you something.”

“What?”

“Wally gave you something you said.”

“Oh, right, yeah.”

Still keeping his hands folded together, he bent forward towards me, smiling, his little head cocked slightly to one side. ”What is it I wonder.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You don’t know.”

He was still smiling, but the smile seemed a little forced.

“Yeah,” I said. “He just gave it to me.”

“But you don’t now what it is.”

“No.”

He finally gave up on the smile, although he bent even closer towards me, leaning over the coffee table.

“He just gave it to you.”

“Yes,” I said. “Said the first one was free. I told him I didn’t want anything, I was just there to buy my little cousin Kevin some comic books, but --”

“Yes, yes, of course, of course,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, “but I wonder -- may I see it?”

“What, this stuff he gave me?”

“Stuff? Ha ha! Stuff, indeed. Yes, may I see it.”

“Sure,” I said.

Awkwardly slumped down and almost buried in the sofa as I was, I tried to get my hand down to my right trousers pocket.

“Hold on,” I said.

“Yes, of course, I’ll hold on.”

“Wait a second.”

“Having some difficulty.”

“Yes.”

“You young fellows of this modern age are so big-boned and strapping, aren’t you? That poor old couch can barely support your great muscular frame.”

“Yeah,” I said, contorting.

“What you have to do is lean all the way over to your left side.”

“Uh-huh.”

“All the way now.”

I leaned over all the way and sank even deeper.

“Are you quite all right?”

“I feel like I’m wrestling with a giant marshmallow.”

“Ha ha your dry wit, flashing through the conversation like sheet lightning, now get your right hand in there, just work it in.”

“Hey, you don’t have a rope and pulley, do you?” I said. “I mean for when I have to get out of this?”

“Would that I did,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Would that I did. There, have you got it?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Pull it out now but do try not to throw out your sacroiliac.”

“I’ll try,” I said.

Finally I got the little tin canister out of my pocket, and from my sunken and twisted position in the sofa I held the thing out at arm’s length towards the old man.

“Oh, my,” he said. “May I see it? I mean of course I can see it, but I mean may I hold it, hold it in my hands?”

“Sure --”

Quick as a cat he darted out his hand and grabbed the canister from my fingers.

He straightened up, holding the tin just inches from his glasses.

“Well, well, what do we have here?”

“Beats me,” I said, trying to sit up again.

“What do we have here,” he said again, not as a question. “Would you mind if I opened it.”

“No, not at all, go ahead.”

“Very well. Very carefully.”

Holding the tin with his left hand he worked the cap with his right hand.

“Slow and easy, that’s the trick,” he said. “Slow and easy. As the nun said to the bishop. Oh. Here we go.”

He had the thing open now.

“Oh my,” he said. “Oh my indeed.”

He brought the open canister to his nose, bending his head forward. He sniffed, then lifted his face up. He wore a smile again now. I couldn’t tell if the smile was sincere or not, but it looked strange, as if invisible hooks pulling at either end of his mouth were forcing him to bare his neat yellow dentures.

“Well, haven’t seen this stuff in some time, no indeed, not in quite some time,” he said in a hearty-sounding voice.

He gave the open tin a quick pass by his nostrils, flaring them briefly but widely.

“So I guess you don’t really want this?” he said, in a hopeful-sounding way, still holding his smile.

“I didn’t ask for it,” I said. “What is it?”

“What is it? Oh, just, you know, uh, what do you call it --”

He suddenly stopped smiling, or grimacing, whatever it was.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Snuff?” he said.

“Snuff?”

“Yes,” he said. “Snuff.”

“Oh. Wally said you could smoke it, too, or put it in your coffee. Or chew it.”

“He did?”

“Yes.”

“Well, yes, I suppose you could, yes, why not? Chacun à son goût. Each to his own. Whatever. So you don’t want it.”

“Not really,” I said. “So it’s, like, what, tobacco?”

“Is this tobacco?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh no. No, it’s not tobacco. No. So, I wonder, if you really don’t want it --”

All through this I had been struggling to get into some kind of a comfortable sitting position on the sofa, but just then I got so frustrated that I put one hand on the outer edge of the seat beneath the cushion and just hauled myself up and out of it all by main force, winding up with one knee on the rug and my other hand on the coffee table.

“Ow,” I said, because I’d hurt my already sore knee.

“Careful there old man,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “You almost made me spill the stuff.”

“Sorry.”

“Well, it’s still your stuff after all.”

I pushed myself up to a standing position, and looked down on the little old man across the coffee table from me, with his old man’s head bent down as he screwed the cap back onto the tin.

“So what is it exactly, Mr. Arbuthnot?”

“What is it.”

“Yeah.”

“What is it, my dear boy?”

He looked up at me through his glasses.

“Yeah,” I said. “Like, what is it?”

“This,” he said, and he raised up the little canister with both hands, the way the priest holds up the host at its consecration, his fingers were trembling slightly, “this my dear boy --”

He paused, as if he weren’t so sure he wanted to spill the beans after all.

But finally he spoke.

“This my dear boy is what the ancient Greeks called the food of the gods!


(Continued here, and for ten or twenty more years at the very least.)

(Kindly look to the right hand column of this page for a current listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. “Makes Rousseau’s famous memoirs look painfully shallow.” -- Horace P. Sternwall, in Man’s Adventure.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"The Doomed", Part Two


The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel
The Early Years


illustrations by konrad kraus, rhoda penmarq, and the legendary roy dismas

Artistic direction by Rhoda Penmarq

A Quinn/Martin/Sternwall Production


Available exclusively at "flashing by".

Saturday, March 5, 2011

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 240: minuterie


The time:

A rainy noontide in August of 1963.

The place:
Mr. Arbuthnot’s Whatnot Shoppe (a quaint old establishment in the quaint old seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey).

The players:
Mr. Arbuthnot, prop., Arbuthnot’s Whatnot Shop, an old man of mysterious talents.

Shnooby, Mr. Arbuthnot’s black cat.


Arnold Schnabel, poet, adventurer, and memoirist extraordinaire.

(Go here to read our immediately preceding episode; new students may click here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 87-volume memoir.)

“Just the other morning I went out for what was meant to be a brief but brisk stroll, listening to my homemade audio book of Schnabel’s memoir on my iPod; imagine my surprise when I only came to my senses some sixteen hours later in another town and indeed another state entirely.” -- Harold Bloom, in Mechanix Illustrated.

(This chapter of Arnold's memoir is dedicated to our very talented friend, Kathleen Maher.)



I limped through the shadowy shop towards the back and to the doorway that led up to Mr. Arbuthnot’s living quarters. The cat Shnooby trotted along beside me, and Mr. Arbuthnot followed making no more noise than the cat did, perhaps less.

“The door is unlocked, my good fellow.”

I turned the knob, opened the door to a darker dimness, the short passage, the spiral staircase, a misty light which was only just barely light hanging like a pale shroud from the landing above.

“Oh, there’s an electric light switch to your right, Mr. Schnabel. Never use it myself during the daytime, I’m so used to the gloom, like an old bat, an old vampire bat, heh, heh. Just switch it on. Go ahead. No, to the right I said, the right. Yes. Lower. No, lower still. Lower, old man. You see we’re not all so tall as you strapping young bucks of today. There you go, almost there.”

I found the switch, flicked it, a low-wattage light came on in a greyish yellow ball high up on the landing above, the wooden staircase become somewhat more visible, and visibly dusty. Spiderwebs hung between banisters and walls covered with blistered and stained old paper reminiscent in color and design of photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls which I had once perused in a Life magazine at the barber shop.

I started up the spiral staircase. The cat darted between my legs and flew up ahead of me.

I stopped after a few steps.

“You know, Mr. Arbuthnot --” I said, over my shoulder. He was still at the foot of the staircase, but he had his small old hand on the railing.

“Yes, my boy, what is it.”

“Maybe I really should go after all. I mean Elektra only lives a block or so away.”

“And what if that flatfoot puts the pinch on you?”

“But I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“He didn’t seem to think so.”

“But really, I haven’t.”

“So you say, but it’s your word against his. He seems to have it in for you, my dear boy.”

“I know.”

“Why, may I ask? I mean if I’m not getting too personal.”

I paused, standing there, turned awkwardly on the staircase so that I could look down at Mr. Arbuthnot’s wizened face which was even less scrutable than that of the wooden Indian chief by the doorway of Wally’s Cigar Shop and Pool Room. The cat had come back down the steps partway, and he sat on a step at the level of my face, staring at me with his marbled and somehow questioning yellow eyes.

“The other night,” I said, “he -- “

“He being the flatfoot.”

“Yes,” I said. “He, uh, caught me, uh, talking to myself. On the street.”

“On the street.”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

“Uh, down on Perry Street, near Washington.”

“And what time of night was this?”

“I’m not sure. Pretty late.”

“I see,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “And were you perhaps, shall we say, in your cups?”

“Drunk you mean?”

“Merry, let’s say. Feeling little pain. Inebriate. You had a load on.”

“Just a little,” I said.

“A little load. Half a load, say.”

“Well, uh --”

“Were you also a little high maybe? I mean tea high? Or perhaps you had been hitting the old opium pipe with Freddy Ayres and Ursula?”

“Well, I had smoked some marijuana,” I admitted. “But it was my first time ever.”

“Oh, I’m sure it was. And this Johnny Law, does he know about your having just recently been released from a mental institution?”

“Well, it wasn’t that recent,” I said.

“When was it?”

"Um -- April?”

“April.”

“Well, uh --”

“And there you are. Pretty as a picture by Currier & Ives. In a custom-made frame. I give you a recently released mental patient. Drunk, and possibly reeking of Mary Jane. Talking to himself on the street at night. This is what the bulls call suspicious behavior on the part of a dubious character, and that’s all they need for an excuse to run you in. By the way, what were you talking to yourself about anyway? Nothing too inflammatory I hope.”

I sighed.

“I was talking to Jesus.”

“Jesus.”

“Yes,” I said.

“As in Christ.”

“Yes.”

“Ahem.”

“No, wait,” I said. “I just remembered. You met him.”

“I met who.”

“Jesus.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“You met him last night. My friend.”

“What, that nice naval fellow you were in here with?”

“No, that was Dick Ridpath. This was my other friend, Josh. You met him at the Pilot House.

"What, that drunken hobo?"

"He's not a hobo. He merely dresses casually."

"This 'Josh' fellow."

"That's sort of his human name."

“So you’re saying this Josh dude was Jesus.”

“Well, I wouldn’t call him a dude, either."

“That drunken fellow.”

“Well, yes, it’s true, he was drunk.”

“He was Jesus.”

“I know it’s hard to believe. But didn’t you see the way he brought Mr. Jones back from the dead?”

“Well, I can see how you might believe that’s what you saw.”

“No, he did. He’s all-powerful. Well, maybe not completely all-powerful, but pretty powerful.”

“Pretty powerful.’

“Yes,” I said.

Now Mr. Arbuthnot sighed.

“You’re not carrying, are you, Mr. Schnabel?”

“Carrying?”

“Dope. Tea. The big O.”

“No!” I almost yelled.

“Oh my, I was only asking a civil question.”

“I mean, no,” I said, in a quieter voice.

“Nothing at all, not even a roach?”

“Why would I be carrying a roach?”

“I mean the tail end of a reefer.”

“Oh. No.”

“No pills? Reds, yellows, goofballs? Black beauties? Pink footballs?”

“No, nothing like that,” I said, and then, “um.”

“Um what.”

“I forgot.”

“Forgot what?”

“That guy Wally, down at the cigar shop, he gave me something.”

“He gave you something.”

“Yes,” I said.
"What sort of something?"
"Well, it's this like little canister of something --"
"Canister."
"Yeah, like little, round --"
Suddenly the faint yellow light went out with a click and we were plunged into shadows again.

“What the hell,” I said.

“Don’t be alarmed,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “The switch is set to a minuterie. It goes off automatically after three-and-a-half minutes.”

“Only three-and-a-half minutes?”

“Yes,” he said.

It had felt like so much longer than three-and-a-half minutes, more like fifteen at least, or twenty. An hour. It was very warm and stuffy in this stairwell as well. The air smelled old.

“By the way,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, who made no move at all to flick the light switch on again, “aren’t you feeling a little awkward standing in the middle of the staircase that way?”

“Yes,” I admitted.

“Because I wouldn’t mind sitting down,” he said.

“Oh.”

“I’m not nearly as young as I once was you know. It’s 1963, not 1863 after all, ha ha.”

“Heh.”

“Go on up. We’ll talk in my flat.”

“But I --”

“If that copper runs you in,” said Mr. Arbuthnot, down there in the shadows, a stray beam of faint light giving a pale gleam to the lenses of his glasses, “if this junior Wyatt Earp tosses you in the cooler then you won’t see your girl at all. Even if you’re clean he’ll keep you at the station, grilling you with asinine questions all day just for something to do. And the whole town will hear about it. You know what this burg is like. Me, I know how to keep my trap shut, especially when it concerns a pal. You ask around, I never dropped a nickel on nobody and no one what didn’t have it coming. But the other busybodies and cheapjack stoolies in this town? You kiddin’ me? Take it from a guy what knows. Play it smart, Mr. Schnabel. Have a sherry. Relax for half an hour. Play it cool and play it as it lays.”

“Well --”

“What time does this mass let out about anyway?”

“Around one,” I said. “Depending on how long the sermon is, or --”

“So we keep an eye on the clock. At five to one we go downstairs, keep an eye through the window for the crowd. Soon as they start to come by in more than a trickle, we crack the door and you slip out. Boom. Two minutes later you’re rolling in your sweet baby’s arms.”

“Well, I think she’s working in her shop, so --”

“I did not mean that literally necessarily.”

“Oh.”

“Come on, let’s go. Start climbing. I’m getting a sore neck down here.”

“All right,” I said.

I turned finally, and started up the staircase, the cat darting up ahead of me. I had begun to sweat profusely while standing here in this airless dark well, and the palm of my hand felt slimy wet on the banister.

I sensed but did not hear Mr. Arbuthnot climbing the stairs beneath me.


(Continued here, and to heaven and to hell and back again if necessary.)

(Please turn to the right hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to sundry other other fine chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Be sure to check out rhoda penmarq's production of “the doomed”, a very special mini-series illustrated by the legendary Konrad Kraus and based on the first six chapters of Arnold’s saga, appearing exclusively in “flashing by”!)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"The Doomed", Part One


The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: The Early Years

Illustrated by the legendary Konrad Kraus

Artistic direction by Rhoda Penmarq

A Quinn/Martin Production


Available exclusively at "flashing by".