On this hot rainy night in old Greenwich Village we left our hero Arnold Schnabel standing under the awning outside the entrance to a bar called Bill's with his new acquaintance, the mysterious and beautiful Beverly ..
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“I have written and spoken often of the ‘many worlds of Arnold Schnabel’, but, more truthfully, should one rather not speak of Schnabel’s one single but infinitely various, infinitely rich universe – a universe, which, yes, includes (and, perforce, is included in) that which we so risibly like to call ‘the real world’?” – Harold Bloom, in the Cosmopolitan Literary Supplement.
The hashish brownies.
Those spiked brownies I had so obliviously stuffed into my mouth in that strange house – but, wait, aren’t all houses strange? – very well, perhaps I should rather say: “that house even stranger than the average house of my acquaintance” which I had just escaped from.
How many of those brownies had I eaten? Five? Six? One thing I had to admit was that if I had been allowed to eat a dozen of them I would have done so, eagerly, so ravenous or perhaps I should just go ahead and say gluttonous had I been, despite their rather chewy texture compared to the kind my mother made. Now that I thought about it I could still feel the gummy residue of the brownies in the spaces between my back teeth, I could even still taste them, even after having drunk a shot of Carstairs and a pint of Rheingold, in fact I felt as if their essence was even now being absorbed through my taste buds, that essence which now suffused more strongly with each passing millisecond my entire physical corpus, including every cell in that living mass of spongey material pulsing against the inside walls of my skull, that essence which had filled me up the way that helium fills a balloon and which now caused me to hover in the air at least six inches above the concrete which somehow still pressed so solidly against the soles of my work shoes, those shoes and the feet within them which felt at a minimum thirty yards distant from my gently throbbing brain-hive of consciousness.
“Why do you look so funny all of a sudden,” said Beverly, her voice reverberating as if she were a woman in a movie and I was a patron sitting hunched down way in the back row.
I sighed, an action which felt like a great tidal wave of warm air rising up from somewhere deep in my stomach, from yet another unknown universe hidden in there, up through my chest and throat and softly out of my mouth.
I could see that Beverly was staring at me, her enormous face in close-up, and artfully lit with the dappled pale reflected glow of the streetlamp in that crashing rain, staring at me with what I could tell might actually be sincere concern.
“You’re not having a coronary, are you?” she said.
“No,” I managed to say, somehow working the word out of my mouth and into the air, and then, after breathing back in some of that same warm wet air, I garnered all the will I possessed and squeezed the following out: “I have a confession to make.”
“Oh,” she said. “So you did kill Billingsly. Well, that’s okay, Arnold. Don’t worry, I’ll help you. Do you need some cash, to go on the lam? I could go with you, if you want me to.”
She moved closer to me, and somewhere way down there I could feel the blood pouring like a river into my organ of ostensible procreation.
“Um –” I said, by way of preamble, but before I could get another word out she continued.
“Or,” she said, “do you think it might be better to stay in town and just hope they don’t pin the rap on you. However, even if the cops don’t pinch you, you still have to worry about Richie Ricciutto and his boys. If Richie finds out you killed Billingsly he’s going to want to know where that dough that Billingsly owed him is. Do you have that dough, Arnold? The hundred grand from the Golden Peacock caper?”
I took a breath, and then just waded in.
“Okay – Beverly,” I had had to make an effort to recall her name – “please pay attention because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to say this twice, or even once for that matter. So, and for what I hope is the last time: I didn’t kill Billingsly, and –”
“But,” she said –
“Beverly, please,” I said, I figured if I kept saying her name I might remember it – “let me finish, and then I’ll listen to any questions you have, and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.”
“But everybody knows Billingsly –”
“Beverly,” I said, “please.”
“But,” she said.
“Please,” I said.
“Oh, okay, go on. But do be quick about it.”
“Okay,” I said. “Where was I.”
“You were claiming that you didn’t kill Billingsly.”
“Right,” I said. “I didn’t, and, as I said, I have no idea at all even who this ‘Billingsly’ is –”
“So you’re really sticking with this amnesia angle.”
“Right,” I said. “I mean, no, I don’t have amnesia.”
“Well, if you don’t have amnesia you’re sure as tootin’ acting like you have it.”
“Can I just continue, please?” I said.
“Sure,” she said. “Please do.”
“Okay,” I said.
I was wishing she wouldn’t stand so close to me, because of my growing erection, which was making it even harder for me to concentrate.
“But what about Richie Ricciutto,” she said. “Doesn’t it occur to you that ol’ Richie just might not buy this amnesia gag you’re laying down?”
“Okay,” I said. “Look –” it took me a second this time, a long second, to remember her name, but then it came to me – ”Beverly, I don’t know who this Richie Ricciutto is either. And, at the risk of sounding repetitive, until a few minutes ago I didn’t know who you were, or what’s his name in there –”
“’Slick’,” she said. “Seymour T. for Terence McGillicuddy, except everybody calls him Slick, which he is definitely not, the loser.”
“Right,” I said. “I didn’t know Slick either.”
“Well, of course you would say that,” she said. “I mean if you’ve really got amnesia, or did you forget that, too.”
“Please –” what was her name again? oh, right – “Beverly, just let me finish.”
“Here’s the thing,” I said. “I only entered this world a short while ago, by diving into a television screen.”
“Hold on, maniac –”
“You said you would let me finish.”
“Oh, right. Well, please, continue.”
“Okay, then –”
“One question though.”
“Is this supposed ‘explanation’ going to go on all night?”
“No,” I said. “It could, but I’ll give you just the essentials.”
“That’s good. Because if it was going to take all night I’d rather, like, get away from this entranceway here and go someplace more comfortable like.”
“It won’t take long,” I said. “Or at least I hope not. Can I continue now?”
“No one’s stopping you.”
“Okay.” I took a breath, but just a short one, because somehow I knew she was just about to interrupt me again. “Until just ten minutes ago, maybe less,” I said, speaking as quickly but as clearly as I could, which was hard, because each word seemed like a big wad of mashed potatoes in my mouth, ”I was in another universe, in this strange house with these strange people I had just met, and, anyway, I unknowingly ate some hashish brownies there –”
“I ate some hashish brownies.”
“Yes, but –”
“Okay. I get it now.”
“But you see I didn’t know they were hashish brownies. I thought they were regular brownies.”
“Did they taste regular?”
“They were a little chewy,” I said. “Anyway, after I realized I had eaten these hashish brownies, I knew I had to get away from these people.”
“They were just, I don’t know, really crazy.”
“They were crazy.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know how that sounds, but it’s true. So I wanted to get away from them and get back to my friends.”
“Yes,” I said. “You see, I left them at this Bob’s Bowery Bar.”
“Yes,” I said. “I left them at the bar, and so I really wanted to get back to them before the hashish brownies kicked in.”
“So why didn’t you just get up and leave this ‘strange house’.”
“I tried to, but these people made it very difficult for me.”
“Who were they, anyway, these ‘strange people’?”
“It was a, uh, brother, and two sisters.”
“Oh. Two sisters. And were they attractive?”
“Well, yeah, but still –”
“And were they attracted to you I wonder?”
“Well, to be honest, they were all acting very, uh, sort of friendly towards me.”
“No, but, I really wanted to escape. You see, there was also this painting above the mantlepiece, of their great-grandfather, in a Civil War uniform, and I know it sounds weird, but he was talking to me.”
“The painting was talking to you.”
“Well, the man in the painting was. Their great-grandfather. He was, a, uh, colonel –”
“The man in the painting was a colonel. And he was talking to you.”
“Well, I know how that sounds too, but, look, anyway, I really wanted to get away, so there was a TV on, with a Dan Duryea movie on, and so finally I just got up, dove into the screen, and came out inside the bar here. Which is where I met Slick. And then you.”
She said nothing, she just looked at me, smoking her Pall Mall.
“Oh,” I said, “and that’s why maybe I’m acting a little weird now. Because I’m feeling the effects of those hashish brownies I ate.”
She paused, staring at me, and then she spoke.
“And how many of these hash brownies did you eat?”
“Let’s see,” I said. “Well, I ate three, and then these people I was with, the brother and the two sisters, they each ate one. And so there were two left. And then I ate them. So it was five I guess. Yes, five.”
“Well, I think they were pretty strong,” I said.
“You think?” she said.
“Yes,” I said. “In fact I don’t even know how I’m managing to talk right now. It feels almost as if someone else is talking, but somehow the words are leaving my mouth.”
“And I feel as if I’m as it were floating in the air, even though I can feel the soles of my feet pressing down through my shoes against the pavement.”
“Can you feel this also?” she said.
And she put her hand on my now full-blown erection, throbbing like some frisky small animal against the material of my jeans.
“Yes,” I said. “I can feel that. And I apologize.”
“Oh, don’t apologize, Arnold. I find it flattering.”
“Well, I’m glad,” I said, although I wasn’t, “but –” Barbara? No. Bertha? No. Oh, wait – “Beverly, I wish you would take your hand away.”
“Well, for one thing we’re out in public.”
“There’s no one out here.”
As it happened another car swished by in the rain just then, it was just a Ford sedan, blue, another early fifties model.
“A car just went by,” I said, lamely I know, and I knew it then.
“So what?” she said.
“Look,” I said. “I have a girlfriend.”
“You do!” she said. Finally she took her hand away, so that was good, although on the other hand she balled that hand into a fist, a raised fist. “Who is she? Tell me!”
“You wouldn’t know her,” I said. “She comes from another world.”
“What, like a Martian?”
“No,” I said. “She comes from what I like to think of as the ‘real world’.”
“Wow,” she said.
“So it’s nothing personal,” I said. “It’s just I already have this girlfriend. Back in my own world. I know it sounds –”
“I know, you know it sounds weird.”
“Yes,” I said.
“But what about this,” she said. And she put her hand on my aforementioned organ again, gripping it firmly through the material of my jeans. “This thing doesn’t seem too concerned with this alleged girlfriend from another universe.”
“I have no control over that, that thing,” I said.
“You may not,” she said. “But it appears that I do.”
“I must ask you to take your hand away,” I said.
“And I in my turn must ask you not to ask me that.”
And so we had reached an impasse, or, rather, I had reached an impasse, whereas it didn’t look as if anything could stop this woman from doing whatever she wanted to do.
I had no idea what to do, or I suppose I should say what to “try to do”, but – and maybe this was because I was in a fictional universe, where things happen in dramatic ways that they don’t in real life – a yellow Checker taxi pulled up splashing through the water streaming through the gutter and stopped at the curb right in front of us. The driver’s side was facing us, and the driver rolled down his window a few inches.
“Yez want a cab,” he yelled through the rain, and he seemed familiar, but maybe I had just seen him in the movies.
“Yes!” I found myself yelling. “One moment, please!”
Beverly gave my organ of annoyance another squeeze.
“Let’s go to my pad,” she said. “We’ll get you out of these wet things and into a hot tub, and I’ll break out some Old Sunny Brook and we’ll have ourselves a party. And everything – the coppers, Richie Ricciutto and his mob, all of them and the whole stinking world can go to hell. Right to hell, Arnold.”
I’ll admit it, I was tempted. But, somehow, good sense, or better sense, prevailed.
“I’m sorry, Beverly,” I said. “Please forgive me, but in another lifetime and in another universe things might have been different.”
I pulled her hand away, it wasn’t easy, like all the women I had been meeting lately she was very strong, and then I stepped past her, and, leaning forward awkwardly because of my erection I plunged down the steps into the rain, floated across the sidewalk to the cab, yanked open the passenger door, got in, and shut the door. Through the rain-streaming window I looked back at Beverly, standing there at the top of the steps under the awning, beautiful in her blue liquid-seeming dress. She made a twirling motion with her fingers, the burning end of the cigarette they held creating a small spinning wheel of glowing orange in the air, and I realized after only a few moments that she was signaling me to lower my window. I cranked it down a quarter of the way. Rain splashed in and against my face.
“Fuck you!” Beverly yelled, loudly, through the rain.
I rolled the window back up again.
“Where to, Mac?” said the driver.
“Do you know where Bob’s Bowery Bar is?” I said.
“That dive? Sure,” he said.
“I’d like to go there,” I said.
(Continued here; God knows, and thank God, there’s plenty more where this came from.)
(Please scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a reasonably possibly current listing of links to all other available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. By the way, we still have a few tickets left for the Arnold Schnabel Society’s Annual Fisher Park Hayride in the historic Olney neighborhood of Philadelphia. Remember, each ticket also includes the open bar and unlimited food at the Beef ‘n’ Beer Blast afterwards at the Green Parrot Tavern; vegetarian and vegan options will be available also for those not interested in the juicy roast beef sandwiches, not to mention roast pork and seven types of German sausages from Diener’s Butcher Shop on Fifth Street; musical entertainment of course provided by “Freddy Ayres & Ursula”, featuring “special guest” the lovely and talented “Magda” on the Hohner electric piano and vocals!)
“In fact I don’t even know how I’m managing to talk right now. It feels almost as if someone else is talking, but somehow the words are leaving my mouth.”
Laughed out loud at this fully sober. Perfect buildup.
Always glad to cause an LOL in a reader, Kathleen!
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