Saturday, November 30, 2013

An Arnold Schnabel Potpourri, Part 4

In honor of the recent national holiday, and not at all because of the woeful laziness of your humble amanuensis, the next installment of Arnold Schnabel’s immortal classic Railroad Train to Heaven™ will be delayed for one week, and in its stead we present another of our occasional collections of excerpts from that sprawling masterwork.

Enjoy, responsibly.

I told the little voice to be quiet and to go away, at least for now. 


That was it, I felt like I was coming home, even though it was a home I’d never had, a home I had never been to. I had walked through hell to get here. But now that I was here, now that what remained of me was here, I was glad.


I much prefer books about hardworking young men who somehow commit murder or who become trapped in webs of betrayal.


I didn’t know what to say, which is not unusual for me of course. However, after many years of social doltishness, I’ve gradually realized that people are much more comfortable if you say something, anything other than saying a great resonant nothing, no matter how inane…


That was it for me, I had exhausted my supply of sparkling repartée.


What would it be like if I had to have my legs amputated?

On the plus side I wouldn’t have to go anywhere.

On the negative side I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere, except in a wheel chair.


“At least I’m not a pseudo-intellectual,” said Steve.

“Steve,” said Miss Rathbone, “you’re not any sort of intellectual.”


Both my legs were more or less completely numb now, my brain a little less so.


“Don’t think I didn’t see you looking at me,” she said.

It’s true, I had been shooting her the odd glance, but only in the way one would keep an eye on a large cat known for sudden attacks of hysteria. 


Her face was like an enormous close-up from some old black-and-white movie, the part where the heroine says something extremely dramatic.


“False modesty will get you nowhere with me.”

“I assure you my modesty is warranted,” I said.


Where was my friend Jesus when I needed him, I wondered.

“Right here, buddy,” he said.


I moved quickly. I certainly wouldn’t have put it past her to come running out after me and grabbing me again, perhaps to throw me down on the hall carpet with a jiu-jitsu maneuver.


I suppose I looked like a lunatic. Which I suppose is what I should have looked like, since I was acting like a lunatic.



At the foot of the stairs I could hear the gentle, crackling-leaf voices of the old people in the dining room, playing their canasta or shooting craps or whatever it was they were doing.


The kitchen was empty of other human beings, but I felt life all around me, as if even the walls of this house were alive.


Sometimes it's hard to say enough, and sometimes I think it's easy to say too much. I've come to realize that some men's souls are like bombed-out cities. But even the most bombed-out city can be rebuilt in time.


And she brushed past us and into the kitchen, leaving a fugitive fragrance of dried roses and Scotch.


I’ve come to realize that when it comes to odd behavior I am in no position to be critical.


He was sitting near the open French doors, but rather than facing the terrace and the dark green sea beyond he sat sideways, facing in the direction of the bar, so that with a look to his right he could gaze on the saloon and its inhabitants, and by looking to the left he could gaze at the ladies under their parasols, the gentlemen in their straw hats, the bright green neatly-mown grass, the quietly stirring chrysanthemums, the sea with its toylike boats in slow motion, and, off farther to the left, a grove of sighing lindens, and, under the trees, benches with people sitting at them, the women’s dresses as colorful and exuberant as the flowers that exploded gently all about these sunny grounds.


Dick said some names I didn’t recognize and whose sounds left no corresponding sequence of letters on my brainpan.


“He says he has no idea what he’ll write about,” said Dick. “Because he doesn’t really do much in his life and he says he has no imagination to create stories and characters.”

“Tell him I’ve never let any of that stop me,” I said.


We then experienced one of those silences that drift over the best of conversations.


I drank my beer.

If this was one of my psychotic episodes it was certainly one of my more realistic ones.


It had always been my policy that if I must get drunk I would do it within easy stumbling distance of my own humble abode.


In the day’s waning light even more of the ladies had come out to sit or stroll on the terrace or to stand by the trelliswork fence gazing out at the sea which was now blazing up in the setting sun, and it’s true that with their delicate parasols and their hats blossoming like mad flowers and their voluminous dresses of rich reds and blues and greens and purples and with their light singing voices on the breeze they seemed like a garden that had somehow become human.


Right then and there I just didn’t feel like exposing yet another facet of my lunacy.


…but in a sense I walked around every day feeling as if I had been transported into the future, a minor character in an impossibly long and plotless episode of The Jetsons.


It was all starting to come together now.

(Kindly tune in next week when we will present an all-new thrilling episode of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven© in its usual time-slot. This has been a Horace P. Sternwall Production,in association with penmarq studios™ ; all contents vetted and approved by the Arnold Schnabel Society. )

Saturday, November 23, 2013

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 373: novel

We left our hero Arnold Schnabel here with his companions (Thurgood, Pat, Henry James and Ferdinand the fly) in the cramped, hot and stuffy manager’s office of that strange Greenwich Village boîte known as "Valhalla"…

(Kindly go here to read our preceding thrilling episode; click here to return to the all-but-forgotten beginning of this 69-volume Gold View Award™-winning memoir.)

“I tell my students that Arnold Schnabel is not merely part of ‘the canon’, nay, but a canon in and of himself.” — Harold Bloom, blurb for the paperback edition of
Duck’s Blood Soup: the Philosophy of Arnold Schnabel, by Dan Leo, the Olney Community College Press.

I had been gypped.

I had paid Mr. Philpot five dollars for this so-called novel, almost half of my savings in this world, and here the book didn’t have even a single word in it. Not to mention not a single picture.

“My dear Porter,” said Henry, “aren’t you having a libation?”

Porter. That was me.

“Oh, right, thanks,” I said. 

I closed the book and went the few steps over to the desk (and indeed this office was so small that it was impossible to go much more than a few steps in any direction).

Thurgood and Pat had already reached out and grabbed a Dixie Cup apiece, Henry held another one up in a sort of tentative salute, and I saw that Ferdinand was already floating in the liquid in one cup, lapping away. 

I picked up the remaining Dixie Cup.

Henry raised his cup higher, with a very serious-looking expression on his face. It occurred to me that the face of a fat man was somehow even more depressing when it looked serious than that of a normally-sized or even skeletally thin man. Nonetheless, I forced myself not to look away from him, not wanting to seem rude, as I was sure that no one likes to know that his visage engenders a horror of life in the viewer.

“Let us drink to literature,” said Henry.

“Here, here,” said Thurgood, “to literature.”

“Bottoms up, fellas,” said Pat, and she took a slug.

Henry didn’t drink yet though, because he wasn’t finished his toast.

“But,” he said, “let us drink not to trashy literature, nor to evanescent best-sellers, to insubstantial and passing fads, no, let us drink to great literature.”

“Now you’re talking,” said Thurgood. “To great literature,” and he put his cup to his lips and drank.

“Excuse me, but I’m not quite finished,” said Henry.

“Oh, sorry, ” said Thurgood, and he wiped his lips with the sleeve of his suit jacket. “Please, go on, Mr. James.”

Without a second’s pause Henry went on.

“Let us drink then only to the greatest of the great books,” he said, “those books which will outlive us all, those books which will live, indeed, forever!”

No book will live forever,” said Ferdinand’s voice, echoing up from his Dixie Cup. 
“What’s that, my infinitesimal fellow?” said Henry.

“You heard me,” said Ferdinand, and he flew up from his little lake of liquor and perched on the rim of his cup. “No book lives forever, because someday everything will die. This whole world and everything in it. The whole shooting match. Dead, gone, remembered by no one and nothing.”

“Everything?” said Henry.

“Everything,” said Ferdinand. “Unless of course the human race figures out a way to travel to another habitable planet before this one dies. But I wouldn’t bet on that eventuality.”

No one said anything. There was nothing to say to this.

“The truth hurts,” said Ferdinand. “But things could always be worse. Try being a fly. Go ahead. Try it. Well, let me tell ya, being a fly is no fun, no matter what anyone tells you.”

There was another silence here, not complete silence of course, as the jukebox music still blared right outside the door of this small office, but inside the office everyone was silent for a few moments.

“Well,” said Henry, at last. “Shall we drink then to the books that live at least as long as the human race lives?”

“Whatever,” said Ferdinand, and he dove back down into his cup.

“Amen,” said Thurgood, and he took another drink. 

Henry also took a drink, while Pat, who had realized she still held in one hand the cocktail glass she had come in here with, poured what was left of her new drink into the glass, swirled it around in the melting ice cubes in it, and took another drink. Then, with a slight sigh, she crumpled up her now empty Dixie Cup and tossed it onto the desk.

“Trash that for me, will you, Henry?” she said.

“Of course, milady,” said Henry, and he picked up the wadded paper cup and flipped it backhanded toward an overflowing wire wastebasket under the staircase to his right. The cup hit the side of the basket and caromed to the floor. I considered going over and picking it up, but decided on the spot, for once, not to bother. There would probably be a lot more trash on that floor before this night was over. Perhaps even I would be on that floor before the night was over.

“You are not drinking, Porter,” said Henry.

“Oh,” I said. I was getting used to being called Porter. 

I raised my Dixie Cup and took a drink. It tasted like scotch, but also a little like bourbon, and, to be honest, it also reminded me a little of plain ordinary Schenley’s whiskey, which is what I often drank if I just wanted a cheap shot of potential oblivion.

“So, what do you think?” said Henry. “As I was saying, this is my extra special private stock, aged thirty years in Madeira barrels –”

“Good shit,” said Ferdinand, and he flew up out of his cup and landed on its rim again. “Damn good shit, Henry.”

“Why, thank you, my microscopic friend,” said Henry. “I am so glad you are enjoying it.”

“Good shit,” said Pat. 

She opened her fingers and let her burnt-down cigarette drop to the floor, even though there was an ashtray right in front of her on Henry’s desk, and all she would have had to do was lean forward and extend her arm a bit. But to be fair to her I should mention that there were quite a few other cigarette and cigar stubs on that floor. She didn’t seem disposed to step on the butt, and so I did. 

“Yeah, really good shit,” said Thurgood. “So, Porter, you said you wanted to read some of my book?”

“Oh, God,” said Pat, and she took another sip from her glass.

“Just a brief passage,” said Thurgood. “Ten or twenty pages.”

He held his book out in my direction. His outstretched arm was near Pat’s face, and she pushed it away.

“Right,” I said.

It had been my idea, after all, part and parcel of my recent brainwave. I started to step over to take the book, but Henry held up his hand, not the one that cradled his drink, but his other one, which had his still-burning cigar in it.

“Perhaps Mr. Thurgood would like first to say a few prefatory words.”

“Words?” said Thurgood.

“Yes. Prefatory,” said Henry.

“Prefatory,” said Thurgood.

“Like a preface,” said Ferdinand.

“I need another cigarette if I’m going to listen to this crap,” said Pat.

“I have cigarettes!” said Thurgood.

He reached into his jacket pocket and brought out two slightly damp and malformed cigarettes, and I figured these must be the ones he had stolen from Mr. Philpot’s engraved wooden cigarette box earlier that evening, or a year-and-a-half ago, depending on how you looked at it.

Pat took one of the cigarettes, and put it in her mouth, and, while Thurgood proceeded to fish out a kitchen match and strike it on his dirty thumbnail, I thought over my brainwave.

My plan such as it was (and it could not have been more vague and half-baked if I had tried to make it so) had been to enter into the world of Thurgood’s novel by reading aloud from it, and then somehow try to pass from that fictional universe back into my own and presumably non-fictional world. After all, hadn’t I previously traveled into not just one but two other worlds by reading his book, and then back into this one? If I had done this sort of thing once, couldn’t I do it again?

Thurgood had lit cigarettes for both Pat and himself, and now they both sat back in their armchairs, exhaling clouds of smoke which immediately merged with that originating from Henry’s cigar, and after slowly waving out the match Thurgood politely leaned forward and dropped it into the ashtray on the desk instead of tossing it to the floor. The smoke from the two cigarettes and one cigar was already filling this little room, and I could almost feel the oxygen being forced up the spiral metal staircase toward that narrow dark corridor that led to Mr. Philpot’s shop.

“So,” said Henry, “Burwood.”

“Yes?” said Thurgood. I guess he was afraid to correct Henry.

“Tell us about your book.”

“My book?” said Thurgood.

He looked at the front cover cover drawing of a man standing on a street corner, holding a suitcase and smoking a cigarette.

“Yes,” said Henry. “Tell us a little about your book.”

“Well - it’s called Two Weeks in a One Horse Town,” said Thurgood.

Two weeks you say,” said Henry.

“Yes,” said Thurgood. “In a One Horse Town.”

“I see,” said Henry. “Would that I could come up with such an arresting title for one of my own books. Do go on. Please tell us something about it.”

“Oh,” said Thurgood. “Something about it?”

“Yes,” said Henry, and if this reads painfully I assure you it was even more painful in actuality.

“Okay,” said Thurgood. “Let’s see. Well, there’s this guy, see, this man, and he comes to this town, this –”

“One horse town?” said Henry.

“Exactly,” said Thurgood. “He comes to this one horse town.”

“For two weeks I suppose.”

“Yes,” said Thurgood. “Two weeks.”

“And why does he come to this town?”


“Yes. I assume he had some reason for going to this town.”

“Right,” said Thurgood. “His reason. Well –”

He looked at me, and I could see the poor fellow was pleading for help, being put on the spot like this when after all he had never even seen his book before this very night.

“If I may interject,” I said.

“Oh, please do, Porter,” said Henry.

“Well,” I said, “I haven’t read Thurgood’s entire book yet, but from what I have read I think the reader doesn’t really know why the man goes to the town.”

“Ah,” said Henry.

“However, he does seem to be running away from something.”

“Right,” said Thurgood. “Exactly. He’s running away.”

“But as to what it is he's running away from," I said, trying to sound as if I cared, "it’s a mystery.”

“Right,” said Thurgood. “A mystery.”

“So the reader’s like kept in, um –”

I was running out of steam, but Henry jumped in.

“Suspense?” he said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Ah,” he said. “Mystery and suspense.”

“Yeah,” said Thurgood, although he didn’t sound so sure of it. “I mean, that’s okay, right?”

“Certainly,” said Henry. “I used both mystery and dare I say suspense in a little bagatelle I wrote myself, perhaps you’ve read it. The Turn of the Screw?”

“Turn of the Screw,
” said Thurgood. “You know I’ve always meant to read that.”


“I hear it’s – swell.”


“Yes. Like, really good.”

“So some people seem to think.”

“I mean I’ve heard it’s really good,” said Thurgood.

“Well, that’s reassuring,” said Henry. “But tell us, Kerwood, what were the themes you wished to pursue in this work?”

“The themes?”

“Yes. The deeper subject matter. It can’t just be about a man stopping in a small town for two weeks, can it? It must have some deeper level?”

“Deeper level,” said Thurgood. He shifted around in his seat, and took another drink from his Dixie Cup. “The deeper level.”

“Yes. Presuming it has a deeper level,” said Henry.

“Oh, sure, sure it does,” said Thurgood. He took a drag from his cigarette and glanced over at me again with a look like that of a man who knows that you are the only one in the world who can give him an alibi proving he really wasn’t at the scene of a murder.

I felt sorry for him, and so I began to speak nonsense again.

I think the deeper level is man’s sense of being lost in the modern world,” I said. “A sense of always striving for a place of belonging.”

“Right!” said Thurgood. “That’s exactly it. Thank you, Porter.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“And this is really what you had in mind when you sat down to write it?” said Henry.

“When I – sat down to write it?” said Thurgood.

“Yes,” said Henry. “Unless you write standing up. Or lying down.”

“Well, I, um, yeah, sure, I guess,” said Thurgood.

“Great,” said Henry. “Because I’ll tell you right now I hate these so-called novelists who sit down to write something with no deeper level in mind.”

“Me too,” said Thurgood. “You gotta have that deeper level.”

“A theme,” said Henry.

“Definitely,” said Thurgood.

I saw that Pat’s eyes had closed, and although she still held her drink in one hand and her cigarette in the other, she emitted a gentle snoring sound. 

“Wait a minute, though,” said Thurgood. “I just remembered. It’s also about redemption.”

Redemption?” said Henry. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Well, you know,” said Thurgood, “at the end of the book the hero gets, like, redeemed –”

“What twaddle. What is he, a pawn ticket?”

Pat’s head bobbed up and her eyes opened.

“Ha ha,” she said.

“All right, this is driving me insane,” said Ferdinand. “I’m having another drink.”

“Me too,” said Pat.

Ferdinand dove down into his cup again, the third time for him, and Pat lifted her glass to her lips.

Henry raised his cup to his lips again also, and suddenly I had another brainwave.

Maybe it wasn’t such a good thing for me to read aloud from Thurgood’s book. After all, what had my previous reading done for me but bring me right back to where I had started from? And, conversely, if that’s the word, and it’s probably not, maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that the pages of my own book were blank.

A blank page was a page that hadn’t been written yet, and a book full of blank pages was a world that hadn’t been created yet.

I looked at the plain green cover of my book, with its embossed dark blue lettering.

The Ace of Death

a novel of despair and terror


Horace P. Sternwall

Perhaps it was up to me to create the world of this book, and if it was up to me, then maybe I could create a world in which I could go back home.

“You look very pensive, my dear Porter,” said Henry. “Is something on your mind?”

“No,” I lied.

(Continued here, and for no one really knows how long now, as yet another cardboard box of marble copybooks filled with Arnold Schnabel’s small but meticulous handwriting has just recently been discovered in the rafters of his aunts’ house in Cape May, NJ.)

(Please turn to the right-hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to all other other legally-accessible chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©; accept no substitutes. Now published simultaneously in the Collingswood Patch™: “So much more than a small-town gossip rag.”)

Friday, November 15, 2013

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 372: office

Let’s rejoin our memoirist Arnold Schnabel and his motley crew of companions on this hot and fateful August night in 1957, here in the crowded front barroom of a rather unusual Greenwich Village establishment known as “Valhalla”…

(Please click here to read our previous chapter; go here to return to the only dimly-remembered beginnings of this 73-volume Gold View Award™-winning masterpiece.)

“Starting a new chapter of Arnold Schnabel’s monumental
chef-d'œuvre can feel very much like wandering into a strange foreign city, a city in a universe where none of the normal rules of life (and of death) apply.” — Harold Bloom, in The Olney Times (Sunday Weekend Edition).

I felt bad, but what could I do, the damage was done, and at least I had my book back now.

And so we made our way across that crowded barroom to where Henry stood waiting by the door marked “Private”, that door I had already passed through once while trying to escape from Emily, the putative heroine of this universe I was determined to escape from.

“Where’d you get the book, Porter?” said Henry.

“Oh, this,” I said, attempting, I don’t know why, to sound casual.  “I dropped it in the men’s room, and I guess somebody found it, and the, uh, waitress, uh –”

I suddenly realized I had forgotten her name again.

“The waitress?” said Henry.

“Yes,” I said, “the, um, the waitress, um, gave it back to me.”


“Yes,” I said. 

I didn’t know why, but I felt as if I were lying.

“You don’t sound very sure,” said Henry.

“No, it was, um, her,” I said.

“The waitress,” he said.

“Yes.” Suddenly a name popped up through the quicksand of my mind. “Elizabeth Barrett Browning,” I said, loud and clear.

“What?” he said. “Who?”

“Elizabeth,” I said. “Barrett? Browning?”

“Elizabeth Barrett Browning.”

“Yes?” I said.

“Mrs. Browning is not a waitress here.”

“He means Harriet Beecher Stowe,” said Thurgood.

“Oh, Harriet,” said Henry.

“Yes,” I said. “That’s what I meant to say. Thank you, Thurgood.”

“You are quite welcome,” he said, and I was glad he had helped me out, but I wished he didn’t have to look so horribly smug.

“So, Porter,” said Henry.

Quite quickly I remembered that I was Porter, for the time being anyway, and possibly for the rest of my life.

“Yes?” I said.

“What you are saying,” said Henry, “– and correct me if I’m wrong – is that Harriet gave you that book?”

“Yes,” I said, and suddenly I just wanted to lie down and take a nap.

“Can we please get a drink now?” said Pat. She still had one arm in mine, but she held her glass in the other, and she showed it to Henry. “I need a refill, pops.”

“Yes, of course, milady,” said Henry. “Posthaste.” But he was leaning down, trying to read the cover of my book. I held it up for him to see the front cover.

He leaned his head forward closer toward the book, I suppose he was nearsighted.

The Ace of Death,” he read aloud, “a novel of despair and terror, by Horace P. Sternwall. Didn’t you have that with you earlier tonight?”

“Yes,” I said, and I felt myself beginning to despair again, fearing that I would spend the rest of eternity standing here in this noisy crowded barroom, talking nonsense and getting nowhere. “I – I lost it – in the men’s room –”

“In the men’s room? Did those bore-asses in there try to steal it from you? Melville, Hawthorne, Cooper, that crew? Emerson?”

“I don’t think they meant to steal it,” I said, “but a sort of scuffle broke out, and, I don’t know, I dropped it.”

“Brawling again,” he said.

“Just a little scuffle,” I said. “No big deal.”

“I should go in there and kick their asses, scuffling with a gentleman like you.”

“Really, no need to,” I said.

“I’ll be the judge of that. I’ve had it up to here with those bores. I’ve got a mind to go in there right now and kick the whole pack of them back down to the sub-basement.”

“Please don’t,” I said.

“You try to be nice to these fellows. You let them hang about in the men’s room. And they abuse the privilege. Every goddam time –”

“All right, stop right there, Henry,” said Ferdinand, and he swooped down angrily and hovered right in his face. “You said we were going to go in your office and get our drink on.”

“Yes, of course, my minuscule friend, but of course.”

“Then why are we still jaw-wagging out here?”

“Yeah, let’s go, pops,” said Pat.

“Yes, of course,” said Henry, but he reached over and put his pudgy finger and thumb on the upper part of the spine of the book.

Ace of Death. Never read it, although I think I’ve heard good things about Sternwall. Is it any good?”

“I have no idea,” I said. “I haven’t read it yet.”

“Hey. Let’s go, Henry,” said Ferdinand.

“Oh, Yes. All right,” said Henry, and he reached into his trousers pocket and took out a ring of keys. He put his cigar in his mouth, held up the keys, fingered through them. “Weird key, funny key, round key, skinny key, big square key, here we go – little square key.”

Having separated one key from the rest he leaned downward and tried to insert it into the keyhole, but the key wouldn’t go in.

“How odd,” he said.

“What’s the hold-up, Henry?” said Ferdinand, swooping down and hovering near the doorknob.

“Key won’t work,” said Henry. “That’s weird.”

“You sure you’re using the right key?”

“Little square key,” said Henry, and he held it up. “Little square key.”

“Try it again,” said Ferdinand.

Again Henry tried to get the key into the keyhole, tried and failed and tried and failed.

The rock-and-roll music crashed all around us, the dancing hot and sweating human beings surged and shoved against us. My knee hurt. My head ached in two places. My clothes were dirty and wet and I should mention that perspiration once again flowed freely from my every pore, so that I felt as if my insides would soon be as dry as a mummy’s. My mouth tasted of the recent memory of vomit and my tongue felt like a small mouse that had crawled in there and was dying. The incipient despair I have referred to now welled up within me, and soon, very soon, it would fill all my being, and I would go mad, and if I went mad this time, I somehow knew I would never go sane again.

“Little square key,” said Henry. “Works every other time.”

“I’m gonna scream,” said Ferdinand. “I swear to God I’m gonna scream bloody murder I don’t get a fucking drink soon.”

Pat had been leaning her head against my shoulder, I think she might have been dozing, but now her head popped up.

“Yeah, let’s get a fucking drink, pops,” she said.

“If you like I could try to pick the lock,” said Thurgood. “I’ll just need a hatpin or the like.”

Suddenly I remembered that I had opened this door once before, and without the aid of a key.

“Excuse me, Henry,” I said. “May I try it?”

“Help yourself,” he said, holding out the ring of keys. “Little square one. It used to work. I honestly don’t know what the problem is.”

“Okay,” I said.

I took the keys, stepped forward to the door, put my hand on the knob, turned it, pushed, and the door opened, inward, just as it had done before.

I stepped to one side.

“Jesus Christ,” said Ferdinand.

“Well, that was amazing,” said Henry. “How did you do that?”

“It wasn’t locked,” I said. 

I held out the ring of keys. He took them. 

“Now that’s really weird,” he said. “I always keep it locked. All right, look, just to make me happy, close the door again.”

“Seriously, I am going to scream,” said Ferdinand.

“Just one moment, my tiny friend,” said Henry.

I closed the door, because he asked me to, because this night would never end.

Henry bent down and again attempted to insert the key in the lock. This time it went in. He turned the key, took it out of the keyhole.

“All right, try to open it now,” he said.

I put my hand on the knob, turned it, but now the door was locked.

“It’s locked now,” I said, and my voice sounded like someone else’s, I don’t know who, just someone else.

“Now that is really weird,” he said. “You know, I think I’m going to write a short story based on this incident. I shall call it ‘The Recalcitrant Lock’.”

“How about this for a title,” said Ferdinand. “How about ‘The Drunk Man Who Couldn’t Get His Key in the Lock’?”

Henry stared at Ferdinand, who was now floating up and down, at around Henry’s eye level, up and down, six or eight inches each way.

“So you’re saying,” said Henry, “I was too drunk to get my key in the lock?”

“I am not saying anything of the sort,” said Ferdinand. “But please will you please unlock the door again so we can go inside and start drinking. Like now. Please.”

“Why, yes, of course!” said Henry.

I simply must spare the reader (my nonexistent reader) and myself (existent at the time of writing) an accounting of the next two minutes, beyond saying it took us that long to get the door open again, and this time only by the expedient of I myself taking the keys from Henry’s soft pudgy hand and unlocking and then opening the door.

At last we were in his office, and after only a delay of another thirty seconds Henry found the overhead light switch, turned it on, and we all followed him in.

Thurgood came in last.

“Close the door and turn the deadbolt,” said Henry. “We don’t want anyone disturbing us.”

“Got it,” said Thurgood, and he did as requested.

“Please have a seat, everyone,” said Henry. “I’ll get the bottle.”

“Oh, thank God,” said Ferdinand.

I had to admit that I felt the same way. I needed a drink. It didn’t have to be private stock fine malt whisky, but if that was what Henry was pouring then it would do.

It was a very small office, and windowless, with a small cluttered desk with a chair behind it, and two other arm chairs right in front of it. Metal filing cabinets, cardboard and wooden boxes on the floor, shelves on the walls filled with books and magazines. To the left was an iron spiral staircase, the one that led upstairs to Mr. Philpot’s shop. The room smelled of cigars and booze and dust, and it was hot, even more hot athough maybe slghtly less humid than the barroom throbbing right outside the door.

“Please, sit anywhere,” said Henry, and he went behind the desk, bumping into a corner as he did so.

Thurgood plopped down in one chair, Pat finally let go of my arm and sat in the other one. Henry sat down in a swivel chair behind the desk, and that took care of all the available chairs. He opened a drawer, took out a bottle and a stack of multi-colored paper cups.

“You will please forgive the Dixie Cups,” he said. “If you prefer I could dash out to the bar and get some proper glassware –”

“The Dixie Cups are fine,” said Ferdinand. “Now pour away, Henry.”

“This I’ll have you know is not just my private stock fine malt whisky,” said Henry. “It is my very special private stock, aged twenty years in Madeira barrels –”

“Henry,” said Ferdinand.

“Yes, my Lilliputian friend?” said Henry.

“Pour the goddam whisky.”

“Ha ha, yes, but of course!”

Henry unstacked and laid out five Dixie Cups, uncorked the bottle, which had no label, and poured what looked like a triple shot into each cup.

As he was doing this I opened up my book, The Ace of Death. It still had Mr. Philpot’s book marker in it, between the front cover and the flyleaf. I turned the page, and there was another blank page, two facing blank pages to be exact. I turned another page, and there were two more blank pages. I turned several more pages, all blank, then I flipped through the book with my thumb.

All the pages of the book were blank.

(Continued here, damning the torpedoes and full steam ahead.)

(Kindly refer to the right-hand column of this page for a listing of links to all other other published chapters of Arnold
Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, all contents approved by the Arnold Schnabel Society. Now appearing also in the Collingswood Patch™: “Living proof that literacy lives in South Jersey.”)

Friday, November 8, 2013

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 371: Harriet

August of 1957: a rainy hot night in Greenwich Village, and we rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in a most exclusive basement boîte called “Valhalla”…

(Kindly go here to read our previous thrilling episode; if you’re looking for a new and relatively harmless hobby to last you into your golden years you may click here to return to the very beginning of this 69-volume Gold View Award™-winning memoir.)

“As I slowly work my way through the seemingly infinite universe that is Arnold Schnabel’s massive
chef-d'œuvre I have come to the happy realization that it only gets better as it goes along.” — Harold Bloom, in The Collingswood Patch™.

She pulled her face back away from my ear and looked up into my eyes. Yes, a glance told me she too was drunk, which didn’t surprise me at all.

“What’s the matter?” I said. Meaning what was the matter besides the fact that she was drunk.

“This creepy guy is bothering me,” she said.

“Oh. Are you sure he’s creepy?” I said, I don’t know why, I suppose I just didn’t want any more trouble than what might be absolutely unavoidable.

After blinking her eyelids for a moment or two she spoke.

“Of course I know,” she said. “You think I don’t know a creepy guy when I see one?”

“Say, who is this creepy guy, Pat?” said Thurgood, who was still holding onto my left arm, just as Henry still held onto my right arm, just as Pat still had her arms around my neck. “Just point him out to me.”

“What?” she said.

Thurgood didn’t reply right away, because he had started to  take a drink from his glass with his free hand, dipping his face down to the drink so that he wouldn’t drop the book he had under that arm. I supposed it was fine malt whisky he was drinking, since Josh had probably been buying the rounds. He swallowed his mouthful, maybe a little too quickly, because he coughed. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Went down the wrong way. But what I said was, show me who this creepy guy is. Just point him out and I’ll give me the old one-two I will.”

“You will do nothing of the kind,” said Henry, who had been unusually quiet, and in fact he had had his eyes closed for a few seconds there, and I think he might have fallen briefly asleep on his feet.

“I won’t?” said Thurgood.

“No,” said Henry. “I’ll have no common brawling in this establishment. If there are any creepy fellows in here then I’ll deal with them.”


Henry said nothing, but he took his hand off my arm, at last. He put his cigar in his mouth, and then put his hand into his suit-coat pocket and brought out a set of tarnished and well-worn brass knuckles and slid them onto his pudgy white right hand.

He took the cigar out of his mouth and then held up his now-armored fist.

“Yes,” he said. “Me. And my little friend here. I call him Mr. Knuckles.”

“Oh,” said Thurgood. “Okay then.”

“Now, where is this creep, milady?” said Henry.

“Right here,” said Pat. She kept one arm around my neck, but she took the right one off so that she could point at Thurgood with her cigarette. “Him. He’s the creep. Been bothering me all night.”

“Hey now wait a minute,” said Thurgood. “I am not a creep. I am a writer, a bohemian author, as you can tell by my wrinkled summer suit, my unpressed and open-necked shirt, by the bandanna around my neck, by the very beret upon my head, and my stubbly beard, and, lastly but certainly not least, by my brand new book.” He finally took his hand off my arm so he could take the book out from under his arm and show it to Pat. “See, Two Weeks in a One Horse Town, by Theophilus P. Thurgood. That, ‘milady’, is me.”

“I know,” she said. “How many times are you going to tell me. But get this, author-man, I don’t care about your stupid book.”

“It is not a stupid book,” he said. “It’s a, a muscular, sprawling epic, sensitive and poetic, but not fancy-poetic –”

“It looks boring,” said Pat.

“What do you mean? How can a book look boring?”

“The same way a creepy guy can look creepy.”

“What poppycock. You are literally judging a book by its cover.”

“Also, your name is Theophilus?”

“I didn’t give myself the name, so give me a break,” said Thurgood.

“Your name is stupid and your book looks boring,” said Pat.

Suddenly I remembered what had happened when I had started reading Thurgood’s book aloud, earlier that evening, or a year and seven months ago, whenever it was. And now just as suddenly I had a brainwave – an incipient and amorphous brainwave it’s true, but it was better than no brainwave at all.

“Hey, Henry,” I said. “Do you think Thurgood and Pat could join us in your office? I was thinking that if Thurgood didn’t mind I might read a passage from his new book.”

What?” said Henry.

“Thurgood’s book,” I said. “I could read a bit of it.”

“What?” said Thurgood. “You mean, like, read it aloud?”

“Sure,” I said.

“All right, just hold on here,” said Henry.

“I don’t want to listen to his stupid book,” said Pat.

“No, it’s pretty good,” I said. “I read some of it earlier tonight, and I thought it was, um –”

“Gripping, you said,” said Thurgood. “Also riveting, and spellbinding.”

“Yeah, right,” I said.

“I want another drink,” said Pat. She had both her arms around my neck again now, and she was pressing her body against mine.

“Sure,” I said. “We’ll all have a drink.”

“Hang on,” said Henry. “Porter, you’re saying you want him to join us. In my office.”

He had taken his brass knuckles off, but he still had them in his hand, and he pointed at Thurgood with them.

“Just for a little while,” I said. “I’ll buy Thurgood and Pat a drink. I have six or seven dollars I think.”

“I am not talking about your buying drinks, my dear fellow, please do not injure me, but – oh, all right, damn it all, man, I can see having the lady here join us in my office, but –”

He glanced at Thurgood, and he didn’t say anything but he gave me a look that said, “My dear fellow, please!”

“No, Thurgood’s okay,” I said. “He’s –” 

I searched for a reasonable word. 

I didn’t find one, so I said, “He’s cool.”

“I am?” said Thurgood. “Really?”

“No, he’s not cool,” said Pat. “He’s a creep.”

“You just don’t know him well, Pat,” I said.
“Yeah, I’m a – a cool guy,” said Thurgood, although he didn’t sound very convinced of it himself. 

I regret to interpolate here that Pat’s pressing of herself against my own body had produced the first stirrings of a completely involuntary erection on my part. I put my hands on her hips, and tried to push her gently apart from me, but she wouldn’t budge, she was very muscular for a girl.

“Hey,” said Ferdinand, who had amazingly said nothing all through this last series of exchanges. He had been buzzing around above our heads, but now he stopped in mid-air, hovering just above my eye level and a few inches away. “May I say something? May I?”

We all looked at him. Pat didn’t say anything, all she did was take a drag from her cigarette. Maybe she had encountered talking flies before. And why not? 

“You have the floor my antliophoric friend,” said Henry, with a smile, and he finally put his brass knuckles away.

“Thank you, I think,” said Ferdinand. “And, now that I have your attention one and all, may I please suggest that we stop this maddeningly inane chatter and start drinking, or else I am going to fly over to that bar this very second and I don’t care whose beer I land in or whose Old Fashioned, but it’s gonna be somebody’s.”

“You know, Ferdinand has a point, I think,” I said, to Henry.

“And, yes, I must concede that it is a good one,” said Henry. “Very well, then, if you will, Porter – and your, uh, friends – please come with me.”

“Now we’re talking,” said Ferdinand.

“Okay, then, lead the way, Henry,” I said with what I hoped was at least a passable air of polite conviviality, but which sounded horribly strained to me. Fortunately Henry and Pat were pretty drunk, so I don’t think they noticed, and Thurgood, although he seemed only half-drunk, was probably too self-involved to notice or care, and I’m sure Ferdinand didn’t care even if he did notice, and Henry abruptly turned and forged into the crowd. 

I forcibly removed Pat’s arm from around my neck, causing some of her drink to spill onto my seersucker jacket, but that was a matter of complete indifference to me. I took her right arm in my left and followed hard on Henry’s heels, walking as quickly as I could, hindered as I was by what was now an almost full-blown erection.

“Hey, wait for me,” said Thurgood.

Henry was like a fat icebreaking sea ship, plowing his way relentlessly through that surging mob of dancers, and I saw he was not afraid to use his elbows when he had to. Some new old rock and roll song was on the jukebox, I don’t know what it was, one of those guys who sounded like Elvis Presley but probably wasn’t Elvis Presley, I didn’t care, I just wanted to get into that office and try to implement my new and as-yet only half-baked brainwave. 

Through the mass of people to my right I could see the heads of Hemingway, of Jack and Bill, crowded close together at the bar. I also saw another fellow, standing right near them, perhaps with them, a tall slim dark-haired man, and I thought he might have been my nemesis, Lucky, or Nicky, the prince of darkness, whatever he was calling himself these days, but then he turned towards the bar and I couldn’t see his face. I kept going, shoving along with Pat on my arm, following Henry across the room, with Ferdinand buzzing in excited circles above my head. 

“Hey, good-looking,” said a woman's voice, and yet another hand grabbed my arm. This one belonged to that waitress, what was her name, Louisa May Alcott? Or was it Charlotte Brontë? 

I stopped.

“Yes?” I said.

Jane Austen? No, that wasn’t it.

“Is this yours?”

She held up a book, another book. It looked new, but dirty, and stained, and the dust jacket was torn. 

The Ace of Death 
a novel of despair and terror
by Horace P. Sternwall

“Oh,” I said. “Yes.”

My book. That book. I had totally forgotten about it. But then I had had so many things on my mind.

“Somebody found it on the men’s room floor,” she said.

She held it out to me, and I took it from her.

“Gee,” I said.

Yes. This might possibly work even better than Thurgood’s book; or worse, I had no way of knowing. But still –

“I never heard of it,” she said.

“Yes, it’s new,” I said, without going into the mysterious details of how I had obtained it. 

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a – a shattering story of a man caught in a deadly whirlpool of passion. And despair.”

“Oh,” she said. “Sounds good.”
Pat was pulling on my arm, and now Thurgood was pushing me from behind.

“Well,” I said, “um, thanks a lot –”

“Sure, Porter,” she said.

It was slightly embarrassing that she remembered my name. And then it hit me. Of course – Edith Wharton –

“Yeah, I’ll see you later, Edith,” I said.


“Um, I’ll see you later?”

“What did you call me - Edith?”

“Um, Willa?” I said.

She paused only for two seconds before speaking, but they were both very long seconds.

Harriet, asshole,” she said. “Beecher Stowe. Harriet.”

“Harriet,” I said. “Right. Little Women –”

“Fuck you,” she said. “Just – fuck you.”

She turned and headed back to the bar. 

Ferdinand flew down and hovered in front of my face and gave me a hard look with every one of his eyes.

Come on, let’s go, pal.”

Pat tugged on my arm.

“Yeah, come on, buddy.”

Thurgood gave me a little push from behind.

“Yeah, come on, man.”

I went on.

(Continued here, at the same measured and stately pace.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to all other other available chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, absolutely free of charge, which is the way Arnold would have wanted it. Now published also in the Collingswood Patch™: “All the news that’s fit to print, plus Arnold Schnabel.”)

Friday, November 1, 2013

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 370: Pat

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel on a rainy hot night in August of 1957, here in that most exclusive Greenwich Village nightspot known as “Valhalla”...

(Please click here to read our immediately preceding chapter; if you’ve finally at long last given up trying to read Proust you may go here to return to the very beginning of this 62-volume Gold View Award™-winning memoir.)

“A lot of mugs down at the pool hall say to me, ‘
Railroad Train to Heaven, isn’t that kind of, well, long?’ ‘No’, I reply, every time, ‘in point of fact it’s not nearly long enough.’” — Harold Bloom, in the Prairie Schooner.

“Son of God, huh?” said Hemingway. “That’s impressive.”

“But aren’t we all sons of God?” said Jack.

“Or none of us,” said Bill.

“No, you guys don’t get it,” said Ferdinand, who was circling around my head in that way he sometimes did, like a halo. “He’s the one and only son of God. The real deal. J.C. himself.”
“You know, I thought he seemed a very cultivated fellow,” said Henry.

“He had very nice manners,” said the bartender, the one Henry had called Mr. London. “Quite a generous tipper, too.”

“And here I always thought there was no God,” said Hemingway. “Let alone a son of God.”

“I still say we’re all sons of God,” said Jack.

“At least those of us who aren’t sons of bitches,” said Bill. 

“Anyway, sorry, old man,” said Henry, to me. “He left.”

“Not five minutes ago,” said the bartender.

“Yes,” said Henry. “You know, he had gone out earlier to bring you a small vial of laudanum which I was happy to give him, said you had hurt your knee.”

“Well, yes, I did,” I mumbled. “But I was waiting out there on the stoop for a while and he didn’t come out, so –”

“You should have waited. You see I had to go and get the laudanum from my flat all the way upstairs. And then bring it back down. Four flights. I’m not as quick on my feet as once I was.”

“Yes, I should have waited,” I said. “And I really appreciate your going to all that –”

“You young fellows,” he said, waving his cigar. “So terribly impatient. And how is your knee now?”

“It’s not so bad,” I said, although in fact now that he mentioned it, it did hurt quite a bit, and I shifted my weight to the other leg.

“Well, lookit, if I may butt in,” said Ferdinand, “what say we get a drink?”

“Ho ho! And what is your name, Mr. Fly?” said Henry. “If I may be so very bold as to ask?”

“Just call me Ferdinand,” said Ferdinand.

“And I suppose you are with Mr. Walker as well?”

“Oh yeah. Me and Arnie, I mean, me and Porter, we go way back,” said Ferdinand, and he landed in a familiar way on my shoulder. “Don’t we, Arnie I mean Porter?”

“Yes, he’s my friend,” I said.

“Well, if you’re with Mr. Walker, then of course you are welcome here,” said Henry.
“Thanks,” said Ferdinand. “Not that I couldn’t just sneak in if I wanted to.”

“Ha ha. Your point is well-taken, sir,” said Henry. 
“Just like I did earlier tonight in fact,” said Ferdinand.

“What a little rogue you are, sir!” said Henry. “I tell you I feel privileged to have such an amazing creature in our humble establishment.”

“Easy, Henry,” said Ferdinand. “It ain’t that big a deal. And I like I said, I already been in this joint once tonight, so, you know, big whoop.”

“Ah, yes, my tiny but eloquent friend,” said Henry, “but however I was not aware of your presence here before, and isn’t awareness of a wonderful event necessary to the full appreciation of it?”

“Yeah, sure, whatever, Henry,” said Ferdinand.

“Well, anyway, is everything okay here, Mr. James?” said the bartender. “I got a full bar over there.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” said Henry. He gave me a hard look. “These gentlemen really are with you, Porter?”

“Yes,” I said, but without much enthusiasm. To tell the truth I wasn’t feeling very much enthusiasm for anything at that point.

“Very well, you may all come in,” said Henry, with a very small wave of his cigar, almost a twitch rather than a wave.
“Okay, I’m getting back to the bar then,” said the bartender, and he went away.

“Well, this is great,” said Hemingway. “Thanks so much, Henry.”

“You may call me Mr. James, sir,” said Henry.

“Mr. James, I mean,” said Hemingway. “But, look, call me Papa, okay?”

“I most certainly will not,” said Henry.

“Oh, well, you know,” said Hemingway. “So, what say we belly up to the bar, guys? I got the first round. By the way, Mr. James, do you make frozen daiquiris here?”

“Frozen daiquiris.”

“Yes. Frozen daiquiris. They’re just like regular daiquiris except you make ‘em in an electric blender. I got a good recipe for them, too. First, you –”

“We don’t have an electric blender.”

“You gotta get some fresh limes –”

“We don’t have an electric blender.”

“Oh,” said Hemingway. “You don’t have an, uh –”

“A blender,” said Henry

“Oh, you don’t have a blender.”

“No,” said Henry. “No blender.”

“Oh, well, I guess we could just get regular daiquiris then –”

“Yes, I suppose you could.”

“Okay, well, then,” said Hemingway, and I think even he could tell that he was skating on thin ice and that he was on the verge of getting flagged from the place before he even had a chance to order a drink. “So. Hey. Come on, fellas, let’s get those drinks.”

“Yeah, let’s wade in,” said Bill.

“Into the hot churning mass of sacred souls, worshipping the god of the grape noble Bacchus and his boon buddy John Barleycorn,” said Jack.

And the three of them plunged off into that crowd of dancing people, heading toward the bar, and, by some sort of inexplicable instinct I was just about to join them when Henry put his hand on my arm, my left arm.

“Just a moment,” said Henry. “A word if I may.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I think I can tell that you have no overwhelming inclination to join those three,” he said. 

“Well, uh,” I said.

“You may speak freely.”

“I have only one overwhelming inclination,” I said. “And that is to go home.”

“Then – and I hope you’ll pardon me for being too obvious – why do you not do so?”

“He ain’t able to,” said Ferdinand, who was still sitting on my shoulder. 
“He ain’t – I mean he isn’t able to?” said Henry, to Ferdinand. “And may I ask why?”

“It’s a long story,” said Ferdinand.

“I love long stories,” said Henry.

“So do I if they’re well told and inneresting,” said Ferdinand. “And especially if one has a libation or two to enjoy whiles said story is being told.”

“Oh. May I then offer you two gentlemen some of my private stock fine malt whisky?” said Henry.

“Now you’re talking,” said Ferdinand. “Providing of course it ain’t gonna cost Arnie I mean Porter an arm or a leg, ‘cause the last time I checked he didn’t have but six or seven bucks on him.”

“Oh, no, my dear fellow,” said Henry, “when I said ‘may I offer’ I assure you I meant on the house, with my compliments, free, gratis, and for nothing.”

“Sounds good to me then,” said Ferdinand.

“Splendid. We’ll go into my private office so that we won’t be disturbed.”

“Wow,” said Ferdinand. “Your private office. We’re getting the V.I.P. treatment here.”

“As well you both should be, my anthropomorphic friend. I assure you it is not every night that we are able to welcome not only a talking fly but a personal friend of the son of God himself.”

“Not that you know of,” said Ferdinand, “on both counts.”

“Yes, indeed, ha ha, not that we know of. Right then, pray wait here for a moment, fellows, I just want to tell Jack to keep an eye on the door for me.”

“Hurry back,” said Ferdinand.

“I shall be swift, verily, as unto the wind,” said Henry, and he turned and staggered off toward the bar.

“That guy’s a weirdo,” said Ferdinand. “But what the hell, he’s offering us free whisky.” He had been flying in circles again in an excited way, but now he stopped and hovered a few inches away from my face and looked into my eyes with every one of his tiny little eyes. “What? What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know what to do,” I said.

“We’re gonna have a drink or two of this bird’s fine malt whisky, that’s what we’re gonna do.”

“Yes, but I don’t know what to do about getting back to my world.”

“We’ll work something out. Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

“You think so?”

“Oh, come on, Arnie. How the hell do I know? If I was so smart would I be a fly?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Wrong answer. I wouldn’t be a fly if I was – oh, wait, who’s this?”

Suddenly out of the crowd that guy Thurgood emerged, all sweaty, tall and disheveled, and looking wide-eyed and drunk. It seemed like a year-and-half since I’d seen him but of course in his world such as it was it had probably only been an hour or so ago. He looked like he had been dipped from head to foot in a vat of dirty sweat, even the beret on his head looked soaked, his sparse beard glistened, and strands of his black hair lay stuck to his forehead like leeches, but his skin was not quite so pallid as before, less like the flesh of a clam, more like the belly flesh of a bluefish, maybe. He carried a book in his right hand and he had a glass with something brown in it in the other.

“Porter, old man! Where have you been?”

He put the book under his left arm and put his right hand on my left biceps and squeezed and tugged on it as if he were attempting to dislodge my arm from its socket.

“I, um,” I said.

“I never even saw you leave!”

“Yes, well, uh,” I said.

“Those chicks, man! Those chicks! Carlotta? And Pat? Hey, that Carlotta went off with your buddy Josh.”

“Yes, I know,” I said.

“Y’know what I said to him? Y’know what I said to him?”

“No,” I said.

“I said to him, I whispered in his ear when he was getting up to leave with her, you know, whispered, so Carlotta couldn’t hear, I whispered –”

“Oh, Christ, will you get to the point,” said Ferdinand, who was now hovering just a little above my head and to the left.

“Hey, how’d you do that?” said Thurgood to me. “I didn’t know you were a ventriloquist. That was good, damn good. Sounded just like that fly was talking.”

“Oh, brother,” said Ferdinand. “You know this nitwit, Arnie?” 

“Damn, you did it again!” said Thurgood. “You are good, and, hey, if the writing thing doesn’t work out you should go on the stage, just get one of those dummies –”

“Like you maybe?” said Ferdinand.

“Ha ha, that’s good, Porter, very good, but, you wanta know what I said to him, your pal Josh, ya know what I said to him, whispered to him, when he was getting up to leave with that Carlotta chick?”

“Oh, Christ almighty,” said Ferdinand. “Will you please just fucking say it?”

“Ha ha,” said Thurgood. “Good! Very good! So what I says to him, I said, leaning in close to his ear so Carlotta couldn’t hear, I says to him, I say, ‘Hey, Josh, do me a favor: put it in once for me, pal.’ Heh heh.”

“Brilliant,” said Ferdinand.

’Put it in once for me,’ I says,” said Thurgood.

“Yes, we heard you the first time,” said Ferdinand.

“We?” said Thurgood. “But it’s just you and me here, Porter.”

Henry had come back and he put his hand on my right arm.

“Okay, I’m covered,” he said. “Let’s go.”

“Where you going?” said Thurgood, who was still holding onto my left arm and showed no signs of letting go.

“Mr. Walker and I are going to have a private chat,” said Henry. “We and his friend Ferdinand.”

“Who’s Ferdinand?” said Thurgood.

“Me, moron,” said Ferdinand, and he dived at Thurgood’s face and hit him on his shiny grey nose and then bounced away and flew around in a circle above our heads.

“Gee,” said Thurgood. “A talking fly?”

“Deal with it,” said Ferdinand.

Then Carlotta’s friend Pat was there in her black dress and with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other one and her purse hanging from one arm. She came right up to me and put her arms around my neck. So, if you’re keeping track, I had Thurgood holding onto my left arm, Henry holding onto my right arm, and Pat with her arms around my neck. She felt very warm, and damp, and soft, and she whispered in my ear:

“Porter,” she said, “you gotta rescue me.”

(Continued here, we’ve only just begun to begin.)

Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page for a listing of links to all other other available chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, free, gratis, and for nothing, certainly the bargain of the century so far. Published also in the Collingswood Patch: "Not just for intellectuals!)