Saturday, September 26, 2015

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 457: dig it


We left our hero Arnold Schnabel with his new companion Sylvester T. “Slick” McGillicuddy here in a crowded bar called Bill’s Bar, in a place called Nowheresville...

(Kindly click here to read our immediately precedent chapter; if you’re looking for something to fill up the lonely hours of your life then you may click here to go back to the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 69-volume autobiography.)

“I shall never forget that thrill I experienced when, on a rainy November afternoon in Philadelphia, the custodians of the Arnold Schnabel Society allowed me to hold in my silk-gloved hands and even  ever so carefully to turn the pages of one of Arnold Schnabel’s original holograph black-and-white marble copybooks: such an unpretentious and neat Palmer Method handwriting, obviously done with Arnold’s favorite writing instrument, a common ordinary Bic pen, and with surprisingly few crossings-out and emendations – but what wonders, what infinite and magical worlds did those pages contain!” – Harold Bloom, in the
Readers’s Digest Literary Supplement.





Great, I thought. 



Nowhere.

Was this where I had finally wound up, at long last, after all my adventures and wanderings?

Nowhere.



Which was what he said again, annoyingly, the way most things are said when they’re repeated three or more times, which doesn’t stop people from repeating the same things over and over again. Repeatedly.

“Nowhere,” he repeated. “No where. At all. That’s where you are, pal. Not just at the end of the road, but at the place that no roads lead to and that no roads go out of. And not just a place that is no place but a place that is not even not a place, because to say that it was not a place would be only to say what it is not, when in fact it is what is not. Which is nowhere. No place. You get it? I mean, you comprende, kemosabe?”



Never had I felt more as if I was in a fictional universe. Real people just didn’t talk this way.

“Do ya hear that noise, man?” he said, shuffling a step closer to me, so that I could smell his breath, which smelled like all the cheap whiskey and beer and all the cigarettes in the world, mixed together and boiled down into a perfume that was the essence of death in life. “Do ya hear that dark noise banging around in the walls of your skull like a junkie locked up in one of them cold bare concrete junkie cells they got up there at Bellevue? Do ya hear that sound? Not the sound of that beat-up old piano over there banging out the sacred Negro ragtime, not the sound of these drunks in here laughing away their despair and their hatred of their lives, but the deep dark empty sound of nothingness, the sound of the death beyond death, the sound of the big empty big nothing.”

He had his “serious” look on now, the sweat pouring down his face as if there were a tiny sprinkler system installed under his dingy damp straw hat.

“Nowhere,” he said.

“Okay,” I said.

“But can you dig it, daddy-o?” he said.

“Not really,” I said, “but don’t worry, it doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, I’m not worried,” he said.

“Good,” I said.

“I ain’t worried. At least not about you I ain’t worried. Why should I worry about you? Don’t I got plenty problems of my own to be worried about?”

“I suppose so,” I said, and, yes, I was wondering how I could ever extricate myself from this conversation – or was this it? Was this to be my eternity, standing here forever listening to this irritating man in this bar in the middle of what might well be nowhere, if nowhere could even be said to have a middle?

“You suppose so,” said the Dan Duryea guy, after a pause which I suspected he meant to be taken as meaningful. And then – again, I guess he really did like to repeat himself, or at least to annoy people – he said, sort of cocking his head as he said it: “You suppose I got problems.”

“Just a supposition,” I said.

“Judging from my appearance and my manner.”

“Yes...”

“You say yes but it sounded like three dots in the air after you said it. Yes and what else?”


“Just the things you’ve said,” I said.

“You mean my litany of complaint.”

“Yes.”

“I’m really sorry I bore you.”

So was I, but I kept quiet about it this time.

“Okay,” I said. “Well, thanks.”



“For what?”

“For uh, telling me where we are.”

“Which is like nowhere, brother!”

“Right,” I said. “Thanks for, uh, filling me in.”



“Don’t thank me,” he said.



“Okay,” I said.

“I’ve only told you what anybody in this joint could tell you.”

“All right,” I said.

“But I thank you for your politeness, Archie.”

“Arnold, actually,” I said.

“I thank you, Arnold,” he said. “I thank you for saying thank you. It’s that kind of thoughtfulness which makes being caught in a whirlpool of deadly betrayal in a place that is no place just a little bit more bearable. Not a lot. But a little. So thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“And there’s no need to say 'you’re welcome', neither. Again, I appreciate the sentiment, but it ain’t necessary.”

“Okay.”

“But thanks anyway for saying that. You’re welcome, Harold.”



“You’re welcome,” I said.

“I just said you didn’t have to say you’re welcome.”

“Oh,” I said. “Sorry.”

“No need to apologize.”

“Okay.”

“Although, again, I appreciate the – the politesse. You know what that means?”

“Politeness?”

“Yes. It’s like the way the Frogs say politeness. Except it’s somehow classier. And you, my friend, you got class.”

“Thanks?” I said.

“You’re quite welcome,” he said. “And I hope you enjoy your stay here in nowhere.”

He smiled, staring at me, and taking a drag on his Old Gold. He seemed to be waiting for me to say something, but I didn’t want to say anything to him, except maybe goodbye. I wanted just to walk away, but where could I go? If this really was nowhere, did that mean there was nowhere else to go? And if I just went down to the other end of the bar, as I had already suggested I might do, I would probably then only meet some other unpleasant person, maybe someone even more unpleasant than this guy.

“Slick” continued to stare at me through his cigarette smoke as these thoughts worked their way through the spongy mass of my cerebral matter.

And then, like most people, he couldn’t stand not to say something when no one else was saying anything, so he said, again, articulating the syllables in an annoyingly exaggerated way:



“No. Where.”

He smiled again. He seemed very pleased with himself.



“Or let me phrase it another way," he said. "Would you like me to?”

“Yeah, sure, uh –”

“Slick,” he said. “Call me Slick.”

“Sure, 'Slick',” I said.

No,” he said. “Place.”

Again he was smiling.

“Get it?” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “I get it. As you’ve explained to me, we’re nowhere. No place. Nowheresville.”

“Very good!” he said.

Now he stopped smiling.

“You seem to be taking it very well,” he said.

“Would it help if I didn’t take it well?” I said.

“No, it wouldn’t,” he said. “Although, just a suggestion, it might make you feel ever so slightly less miserable if you cried in your beer, just a little.”

I realized I was still holding the schooner, and that there was still beer in it, perhaps a third of a pint. I didn’t want to cry in it, but it seemed a waste to let it get warm and flat, so I raised it to my lips and drank it down, all of it, then I laid the empty schooner on the bar, and sighed.

“So you’re a sigher,” said Slick.

“A what?” It had sounded to me as if he said “sire”, which made no sense, even less sense than what he had been saying.

“You sigh,” he said. “Sigh. Like an exhalation of resigned acceptance of one’s fate. A sigh.”

“Oh, right,” I said.

“I’m guessing you sigh a lot, my friend.”

“You have guessed right,” I said.



“Let me ask you something, though, if I ain’t prying.”

“Sure,” I said.

“What the fuck have you got to sigh about?”

“I’d rather not talk about it,” I said.

“Don’t get all superior with me. Don’t be acting all like your shit don’t stink just because you don’t talk about yourself all the time.”

“All right, I said. “I sigh because ever since I woke up this morning I have had dozens of bizarre adventures in various dimensions and worlds, including what is perhaps incorrectly called ‘the next world’. I have wandered in and out of half-a-dozen fictional universes, several of them in the company of a talking fly named Ferdinand. I have spent time in the company of the son of God as well as the prince of darkness. I have been attempting for what seems like at least four years now to return to what I like to think of as my own world, or the real world if you will, but with absolutely no success, and in the last world I was in I became so frustrated with the people I was with, including a talking dead colonel in a painting, that I dove, arms outstretched, like a diver or like Superman, straight into the screen of a large Philco television set. I came through the screen and wound up here with you in this bar. And everything is in black and white. And now you tell me we are nowhere. So these are just some of the reasons why I sigh. I have plenty more, but I don’t want to bore you, or, even more so, myself, by recounting them.”


He stared at me for a moment after I had finished my little diatribe. Then he lifted up his own schooner of beer. It was still about half full. Or half empty. Anyway he raised it to his lips and drank, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat, and when he put the schooner back down on the bar it was completely empty. He wiped his lips with the sleeve of his dingy white suit-jacket. He had been wearing his serious face, but suddenly he smiled, brightly, or brightly for him. 
“Another beer?” he said.

“I don’t want another beer, thanks,” I said.



“Don’t thank me, Charlie,” he said; I didn’t know if he had forgotten my name again and thought it was Charlie, or if “Charlie” was just an annoying name he called people. I said nothing to fill up the ensuing conversational chasm, so after half a minute he elaborated: “Don’t thank me. Because I wasn’t offering to buy you a beer. Because it’s your turn to buy, my friend.”

“Well, I’ll buy you one,” I said, “but I still don’t want another one for myself.”

“How about a shot?”

“I don’t want a shot either,” I said.

“I didn’t mean a shot for you, Charlie baby.” Yes, he really did think my name was Charlie, but I didn’t care. He could call me Beelzebub for all I cared. “No,” he went on, after realizing I wasn’t going to ask him what he meant (because I didn’t care what he meant), “I meant a shot for me.”

“Okay,” I said. “Sure. I’ll buy you a shot. Provided I have any money on me.”

“You mean you don’t know if you got any money on you?”

“I can’t be sure,” I said.

“Check your wallet.”

I started to pat my pockets, for some reason starting with my jacket pockets, and I felt something hard and heavy in the right one.

“That’s odd,” I said.

“What’s odd? You ain’t gonna say you lost your wallet, are ya?”

“No,” I said. “It’s just there’s something in my pocket.”

“Let me see.”

I reached in to the pocket. It felt like a pistol. I brought it out. It was a pistol.

“A gat!” said Slick.

“I know,” I said.

“Put that thing away!”

I put it away.

“What’re you doin’ walkin’ around with a gat? Don’t tell me, Richie the Rat Ricciutto sent you, didn’t he?”

“Not that I know of,” I said.

“Not that you – oh, I get it. Richie didn’t want you to give it to me fast, which is why I’m still alive right now. He don’t want to make it quick. You’re supposed to take me out of here, right? To the basement of Richie’s restaurant, Fra Diavolo’s. Where him and the boys can grind me up into meatball meat. But slow. Real slow. Is that it?”

“No,” I said. “I remember now. This lady named Lily gave it to me.”

“A lady named Lily.”

“Yes,” I said. “She had this roadhouse where she sang and played piano.”

“Lily’s Roadhouse?”



“Yes,” I said.

“Except the neon sign is partly busted, so it looks like “L   S ROADHOUSE”?”

“So you know the place.”

“Sure I know it. Nice stoppin’ place. Lily and Laughing Lou. Good people.”

“Well, anyway,” I said, “Lily gave me the pistol.”

“How come?”

“I think to protect me from Laughing Lou.”

“Okay, so maybe Laughing Lou ain’t such a nice guy. Don’t ask me to get mixed up in any beef you got with Laughing Lou, okay?”

“I won’t,” I said.

“I got my own problems. So what about that beer and shot you were gonna buy me?”

“Oh, right,” I said, and I lowered my hand to pat my rear back pants pocket, which is where I normally carry my wallet, but now someone put a hand on my forearm, stopping it in its progress, and a woman’s husky rich voice said:

“Your money’s no good here.”

I turned, and it was a beautiful tall woman. She had long shiny wavy blonde hair to her shoulders, anyway I assumed her hair was blonde, although I couldn’t be sure, as everything was still in black and white. She seemed somehow familiar, but not like someone I knew, more like a movie star whose name I couldn’t remember, or never knew in the first place.

“Hello, Arnold,” she said. 


 



(Continued here, and onward, at the same stately but thorough pace.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page to find a rigorously-current listing of links to all other legally-released chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©; pre-order now for your own Railroad Train to Heaven™ hand-made artisanal action figures, the perfect stocking-stuffer for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or atheist or nondenominational mid-winter celebration.)





Saturday, September 19, 2015

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 456: nowhere


Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel, in yet another crowded smoky bar (“which would make it, oh, I don’t know, the one-hundred-and-fiftieth bar I had been in since waking up this day”) with his new acquaintance (who seems to bear a striking resemblance to the actor Dan Duryea), one Sylvester T. (“for Tyrone”) "Slick" McGillicuddy...  


(Please go here to read our previous thrilling episode; if you happen to be an obsessive completist you might want to click here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 59-volume memoir.)

“Some sanctimonious busybodies have complained that
Railroad Train to Heaven sets a bad example to today’s youth because of the amount of time depicted therein spent in bars, and in the drinking of various alcoholic beverages, and in the consumption of drugs, including, yes, even the fabled ‘food of the gods’. To this I can only reply that Schnabel’s towering chef-d'œuvre is hardly meant to be a primer for social behavior.” – Harold Bloom, in the Man’s Adventure Literary Supplement.






“Slick,” I said, trying to get right to the point for once, “may I ask you a question?”

“By all means, buddy,” he said, with a big smile. “I got nothing to hide. An open book am I.” 



But now his smile contracted suddenly.



“A book full of despair,” he said. “A book full of deception, and betrayal. A book describing in vivid detail one man’s descent into a harrowing nightmare of fear and shame. But go ahead, please. Ask me anything. What do ya want to know about me? Do you want to know if I have cheated, lied, betrayed those who in their poor judgment have loved me? Except no one ever really loved me. Hated me, yes, despised me, sure, took advantage of my once good nature, definitely – but loved? No. Sorry. I wish it weren’t true but it is. I mean I myself have loved, oh, yeah, boy have I loved, like a burning poker thrust in my heart and twisted around all like a corkscrew, yeah, that kind of love, sure. But what did I get in return?”

He stopped and stared at me, and I got the impression he wanted me to answer his question, so I said:

“Indifference?”

“Well,” he said, “yeah, I did get that, but I was thinking of something else. Guess again.”

“Revulsion?”

“Okay. Revulsion,” he said. “Wow. That hurts. But, y’know, Hughie {yes, I let it go}, again that was not quite what I had in mind. Try just once more.”



This time I thought about it for a minute, standing there dripping with rainwater and sweat, breathing in that somehow not unpleasant "bar air", thick with smoke and redolent of body odor warring with the fumes of perfume and whiskey and beer, amidst the shouting and laughing of drunk people and the crashing waves of chords and notes from the piano like pots and pans flung somehow musically against a steel wall, and I took another drink from the schooner of Rheingold before I finally replied:

“Betrayal?”



“Bingo!” he said, and he gave out with a big, and even sincere-looking, almost, smile. “The big B: betrayal. Every goddam time I fall in love. Every time. But, hey, whaddaya gonna do? I toldja I’m a loser. So what’d ya want to know about me?”

“Well –” I started.

“I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering to yourself: what’s this guy’s like whole-back story? Ain’t you?”



“Um,” I said.


“You’re wondering, just how did a guy like me wind up shit-faced and alone in this bar on this hot rainy night, in this dirty white suit, needing a shave and a good hot bath?”



Suddenly his smile disappeared again.



“Like maybe,” he said, “just maybe, it has something to do with what I did in the war? The things I seen. The things I done. How them things are still eating me up inside. How I wake up screaming every single night in a cold clammy sweat. But, okay, maybe you don’t wanta hear about all that. And to be honest I don’t really like to talk about it. I don’t like stirring up them memories, the screams, the blood. The, like, remorse. Or did you wanta hear about it? ‘Cause if you really do I will. Tell you all about it that is. If you want me to.”

“Um,” I said.



He took a drag on his cigarette, and then pointed the lit end of the cigarette at me, making little poking movements with it.



“Lookit, I know what you’re wondering, pal,” he said.

“You do?”

“You’re wondering, am I perhaps a private dick that nobody will hire anymore on account of I’m such a hopeless lush? Or maybe, just maybe, I am an ace homicide detective who got canned from the force on accounta accidentally discharging my Chief’s Special into the head of a little slum kid when I was aiming at a mobster you might’ve heard of, Richie the Rat Ricciutto? Or – am I just possibly a once-successful Harvard lawyer who threw it all away at craps and poker? Oh, I know, maybe like I’m a newspaper columnist who got blackballed on accounta something I wrote about the private sex life of a certain powerful and eminently crooked politician?”

He smiled again, but it seemed as if in a somewhat tentative way.

“Go, on, Henry,” he said, and, yes, I let it go, “what do ya want to know about me?”

“Actually,” I said, “I wasn’t going to ask you about you.”



“What.”



His smile vanished, as if someone had switched off a light.

“I wanted to ask you about something else,” I said.

“Something else.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“So you’re saying you don’t really care about me.”

“No,” I said, “it’s not that at all, but it’s just the question I really wanted to ask you was –”

“I don’t matter.”

“What?” I said.

“You don’t give a flying fuck about me. I should throw a thrombo from too much booze and tobacco and fall down on this filthy floor right now and die, you couldn’t give a fuck.”

“You misunderstand me,” I said.

“Don’t tell me what I do or don’t misunderstand. ‘Cause I don’t misunderstand. I don’t misunderstand you all too well, Egbert, which is a pretty faggy sounding name if you ask me.”

“My name’s not Egbert actually.”

“It ain’t?”

“No. It’s Arnold.”

“’Arnold.’ Is that what you said your name was?”

“Yes,” I said.

 
“You sure?”

“Pretty sure,” I said.

“Well, anyway, ‘Arnold’, I may be a loser, but I still got some dignity left, so, like, if you will pardon the expression, fuck you. Fuck you, man. Just, you know, that’s all. Fuck you. You can slap me around now if that’ll make you feel any better.”

“No thanks,” I said. “And I really didn’t mean to offend you.”

“And after I bought you a shot and a beer, too, a large pint schooner of beer I might add.”

“Well, I thank you for that,” I said.

“You know what you can do with your thanks, right?”

“I think so.”

“Shove ‘em up your supercilious superior holier-than-thou sanctimonious ass.”

“Right,” I said. 


“That’s what you can do,” he said.

I sighed.

“And now you’re sighing. Like I’m annoying you.”

“Well, look, um –”

“'Slick,'” he said.

“'Slick,'” I said. “Thanks for the shot and beer, but I guess I’d better just move along if you don’t mind.”



“So I am annoying you.”

“No,” I lied, as baldfacedly as I had ever lied in all my lifetimes in all the dimensions and various modes of reality I had ever been in.

“You say no, but you don’t sound like you mean it,” he said.

“Okay,” I said, “you’re annoying me.”

“I knew it. I annoy you. Didn’t I call it?”

“Yes, you did, uh, ‘Slick’ –”

“You seem kind of anxious to go. Am I really all that annoying?”

“Well,” I said, “yes, but, it’s not just that you’re annoying, but –”

“But what?”

“Look, I don’t want to offend you.”



“You already have offended me.”

“I don’t want to offend you further.”

“Quit pussy-footing around and spit it out.”

“I’m really bored,” I said.


“What?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I find you boring.”

“Oh.”

“Sorry.”

“I bore you,” he said.

“Maybe it’s me,” I said.



“Maybe it’s you.”

“Maybe,” I said.

“It’s not like you’re Mister Excitement,” he said.

“I realize that,” I said. “But, anyway –”



“It ain’t like you’re bringing a whole lot to the party, pal.”

“I realize that.”

“You’re not exactly George Jessel over here, or even George Gobel. Not by a long shot, buddy.”

“Okay,” I said, “Well, I think I’ll go now. Thanks again for the drink.”

Drinks. Plural. A shot of Carstairs and a large pint schooner of Rheingold.”

“Thanks for the drinks,” I said. “Goodnight.”

“Wait,” he said. “Where you gonna go? It’s prolly still pouring and pissing rain out there. And you with no umbrella.”



“Maybe I’ll just go to the other end of the bar,” I said. “Until it stops raining, anyway.”

“That would be awkward.”

“I’m used to awkwardness,” I said.



“You standing down there. Me here. Both aware that the other guy is there.”

“I think it would be less awkward than if I stayed standing here,” I said. “So, anyway –”



“You didn’t finish your beer.”

This was true, I still had about a half-pint left.



“Well, I’ll just take it with me,” I said.

“That is so rude. A fella buys you a beer – and a shot – and you won’t even stand and finish the beer with him. That’s cold, mac. Cold and rude.”

“Okay, I’ll finish the beer first.”

“No one’s asking you to chug your beer, my friend. Beer, believe it or not, is meant to be savored, not tossed into your gaping maw just like some goddam peasant would do.”



I lifted the schooner, resigned to taking a drink, a good one, but nonetheless to desisting from draining it all in the way I wanted to, in a one big barbaric gulp, but “Slick” put his hand on my arm, preventing me from lifting the schooner to my lips.



“And no one is saying you got to move down to the other end of the bar, either,” he said.

“But I don’t mind,” I said.

“Maybe I mind,” he said. “You ever think about that? Maybe I mind.”



“So you’re saying you want me to keep standing here?”

“You don’t seem to care about other people’s feelings so much, do you, pal?”

I started to sigh, but I repressed it, pressing my lips tight together.

“You got gas?” he said. “I get gas too. Bad. Indigestion I got. But know what else I got?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Guess. Take a wild guess.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Dandruff?”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes I got dandruff. But something else I got and you know what it is?”

“Well,” I said, “I’ve already said I don’t know –”


“Feelings I got,” he said.



“Oh.”

“Feelings. Which you don’t seem to mind blatantly trampling on.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but –”

“You know what you can do with your ‘sorry’, right?”

“Yes,” I said.



“Shove it up your ass.”

“Right,” I said.

“So ask me.”

“Pardon?”

“You said you had a question for me. So ask."

He took his hand away from my arm. Then he took a deep drag on his Old Gold and exhaled the smoke in my face. I don’t think he did this to be disrespectful to me. I think he just didn’t care if he exhaled smoke in someone’s face.



“Go on,” he said. He was smiling again, showing those stained teeth. “Ask away. Like I am the Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia. Like I am Beatrice Fairfax or Bishop Sheen. What is your question.”



By this time I had forgotten what my question was, but I concentrated for a half a minute and remembered:

“I just want to know where we are,” I said.

“Where we are.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re saying you don’t know where we are.”

“No,” I said. “I mean yes.”



His smile had been gradually fading, and now it disappeared entirely.



“You don’t know where we are.”


“No,” I said. “That’s why I’m asking. Where are we.”

“Bill’s Bar,” he said.

“Bill’s Bar,” I said. “Okay, but can you tell me what city we’re in?”

“You’re telling me you don’t know what city you’re in?”

“No,” I said. “I mean, yes, I don’t know what city I’m in.”



“Wow.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s strange, but it’s true.”

“You really don’t know what city you’re in.”

“No.”

“Ha ha. That is funny,” he said, although he wasn’t really laughing, or even smiling. “Ha ha,” he said. “Funny!”

“Yes,” I said. “I know it’s funny, but still it’s true. So I wonder if you wouldn’t mind answering my question.”



"The question of ‘where you are’.”

“Yes. That question,” I said.

“Man,” he said, “you are nowhere!”

“Right,” I said. “I know. I’m a nowhere kind of guy. But still I would appreciate it if you would just answer my question.”

“Nowhere!”

“Yes,” I said. “We’ve established that.”

“Nowhere!”

Now he was really starting to get on my nerves, even if he had bought me a shot and also a pint of beer, the latter of which I took another drink of before saying anything else, and I even counted to ten first.

“So where are we?” I said.



“I told you,” he said. “Nowhere.”

“You’re saying,” I said, the veil at last lifting, “like, literally nowhere?”



“Nowheresville, daddy-o.”


“Nowheresville?”

“Nowheresville.”

I sighed, I couldn’t help it.

He smiled.

“So welcome to Nowheresville, Artie.”



(Continued here, and onward, until Arnold Schnabel’s last marble copybook has been transcribed with all misspellings and typos intact.)

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find what one hopes to be an up-to-date listing of links to all other officially-published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©; an Arnold Schnabel Society™/Horace P. Sternwall Enterprises™ co-production.)





Saturday, September 12, 2015

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 455: “Slick”


On this fateful rainy night in August of 1957 we last saw our hero Arnold Schnabel hurling himself – “like a diver, or like Superman” – towards the screen of the Philco console television set here in the stately Bleecker Street townhouse of the decadent Belleforest siblings...  



(Kindly click here to read our immediately preceding chapter; if you are the literary equivalent of a long-haul trucker you may go here to return to the only dimly-remembered beginnings of this Gold View Award™-winning 71-volume memoir.)

“Some writers create worlds; Arnold Schnabel created (or should we say revealed?) not only worlds but worlds within those worlds, and worlds within those worlds within worlds. And so on, worlds without end.” – Harold Bloom, in the
Police Gazette Literary Supplement.



I had a moment of panic in mid-flight, because what if I simply smashed and crashed into that television set, just as one would expect any ordinary maniac to do who took it into himself to dive into a massive electronic appliance composed of glass and metal and hard wood? Time slowed down for me here, as it had done in other dire situations I had found myself in, and so I had time to think of the pain that would soon be produced when my outstretched fingers struck that TV screen: chances are the screen wouldn’t break, but my fingers no doubt would, and perhaps also my wrists, maybe even my forearms and elbows. One thing was pretty sure: that taking a straight-armed leap into that big solid console television set would cause as much physical damage to me as would throwing myself at a brick wall, and maybe even much more because of the possibility of shattered glass and electrocution.

And so this little caper could and probably would, if not kill me, then render my arms and hands useless, and cause them to become yet further wellsprings of excruciating pain, to match the pains that had already been emanating from my knees, and to a lesser extent from various other parts of my present corporeal host.

I would not only be barely able to walk, if at all, but I would be unable even to lift a shot of Carstairs to my lips to ease my pain, forget about a tall mug of beer, and even were I able to slurp beer from a bowl like a dog, I would be unable to unzip my jeans and extricate my supposedly virile member in order to void my bladder of that same beer.

But it was too late, I was already in the air flying straight for that TV screen and the smiling sweaty face of Dan Duryea, and all I could do was close my eyes.



But then I opened my eyes and I was in this bar with Dan Duryea.

He was standing leaning sideways on the bar with his left foot on the rail, smiling at me, and I was standing there facing the bar and him. He had a dirty white suit on, and a limp and stained straw hat, also dirty. He was smoking a cigarette. He needed a shave, and he was sweating profusely.

My little plan had worked. 

“Hiya, pal,” he said. “Looks like it’s still comin’ down out there.”

“What’s that?” I said.



“The rain. You’re soaking wet.”



This was true, my head and clothes were wet, my socks were wet and squishy in my shoes.

“Ah,” I said. “Yes.”



“You’ll catch your goddam death.” he said, “What you need is somethin’ to warm you up from the inside out. How about a whiskey? I’m buying.”


“Okay,” I said.

Actually I didn’t need to be warmed up. The air-conditioning must have been broken in this place, or maybe they just didn’t have air-conditioning, but it was a least ninety degrees in here, and humid, and very smoky and noisy.



Dan Duryea turned and waved to the bartender, I think it was William Frawley.

“Hey, Bill! Two shots of Carstairs down here!”



“Keep your fuckin’ shirt on,” William Frawley yelled right back. “I’ll get to ya when I get to ya, asshole!”

“Two large schooners of Rheingold, too!” yelled Dan Duyrea.



“Fuck you!” William Frawley yelled right back.



Dan Duryea turned back to me, smiling, still smiling.



“He really loves me, that Bill,” he said. “That’s just his way of showing it.”



He took a drag on his cigarette, and then went into a coughing fit.



I took advantage of his coughing fit to take a look around.

Yes, it was a bar, another one, which would make it, oh, I don’t know, the one-hundred-and-fiftieth bar I had been in since waking up this day, this day which had lasted what felt like four years and nine months already.



The place was crowded, and across the room and slightly above floor level a piano player was playing jazz, but old time jazz, at least it sounded old-time to me.

What city was I in? What world was I in?

One thing I did know, this wasn’t my world, because everything was in black and white and all the shades between, mostly the shades between.



Okay, so I was in some sort of black-and-white movie world. But this sort of thing was becoming old hat to me, this passing from one world to the next, and I had even been in some sort of old-movie world before. Somehow I had survived till now. Unless I hadn’t survived, unless I had died at any of various points in my long day’s and night’s journey, and this was my afterlife, an afterlife of senseless wandering, of frustration and pain, mixed in (I had to admit) with some amusing moments.



The thought of pain caused me to run a quick mental check on my physical condition:



As Dan Duryea had already indicated, I was wet, almost soaking, my head and my jacket and jeans, my shoes and the socks on my feet, so I had obviously been caught out in the rain again, either that or someone had poured a bucket or two of water over me, or someone had hosed me down, but that didn’t matter, being wet was uncomfortable but it wouldn’t kill me, not necessarily – the most important question was: how were my knees? 



And here was the good part, my knees didn’t hurt particularly, and for that matter neither did my head or face or my arms or hands. Oh, sure, I could detect a few or more aches and pains here and there, as if I had fallen or been pushed to the pavement a couple of times in the recent past, and maybe also had been beaten up a bit, but just with fists, no saps or pistol butts or purses loaded down with extra-large cold-cream jars, but nothing serious, nothing warranting more than a cursory visit to the emergency ward.



What luck!

I almost wanted to dance a jig for joy, not that I knew how to dance a jig, and not that I ever would have danced one even if I did know how, but nonetheless I almost felt that if I were the sort of guy you could imagine dancing a jig, I might have danced a quick step or two. After all, this was a bar, and it seemed like a pretty regular bar, the sort where a brief jig would not be cause for expulsion.

Finally Dan Duryea stopped coughing. He had been leaning over, holding his fist to his mouth, and now he looked at me and smiled again, sweating even more profusely.

“Goddam cancer sticks,” he said, and he held up the one he was smoking. “But I love ‘em!” 



He coughed again a couple times.



“You want one?” he said, and he reached into his jacket’s side pocket and pulled out a crumpled pack of Old Golds.

“No thanks,” I said.

His smile disappeared.

“Why not? You ain’t got the cancer, do ya?”

“No,” I said. “I’ve simply given up smoking, but thanks, anyway.”

Given up smoking,” he said, nodding his head slightly, his smile slowly disappearing.

“Yes,” I said. “I know it’s strange, but I seem to have given up smoking.”



He nodded his head some more, but then he held that crumpled pack out to me anyway, giving it a shake so that the end of exactly one Old Gold peeked out of the opening.


“Go on,” he said. “Live a little. Take one. I got plenty, and I can always get another pack. I ain’t flat broke yet. Close to it maybe, but not yet. Take one.

I was tempted. Really, did it matter if I smoked in this world? The me who was me in this world, was he really me? Did it matter if this version of me smoked even five packs a day? Why not take one? 



“You know you want one,” said Dan Duryea. He was smiling again.

It was true, I wanted one, and I raised my hand to take one, but just then I thought, “No.”

I had gotten this far without a cigarette, and maybe that wasn’t saying much, or anything, but right then it meant something to me, so I lowered my hand.

“No, really,” I said. “Thanks, but I’d rather not.”



“You’re serious,” he said, looking very serious now himself.

“Yes,” I said.

“Okay. Sure, pal,” he said.



He gave the pack another little shake, the cigarette that had been sticking out descended back into the pack, and he stuck it back into his pocket.

He smiled, but with just one side of his mouth, and briefly, almost like a tic.     

“Maybe later,” he said.


“Sure,” I said. “Maybe later.”

“If there is a later,” he said.

“Yes,” I said, and I thought of some other things to say, but decided not to say them.

William Frawley was there on the other side of the bar now, sweat streaming down his face, and he put down two pint-sized mugs of beer, or something that looked like beer. He had a bottle of Carstairs whiskey in his other hand, or at least it was what looked like a Carstairs whiskey bottle, with the correct shape and label. He picked up two shot-glasses that were standing in a row of upside-down shot glasses on a dirty-looking strip of nubbly rubber on his side of the bar, he set the two glasses down right side up on the bar and then filled them with brown liquid from the Carstairs bottle.

“Two bucks,” he said. So that was good, too, I was in another cheap bar, a good thing to know.

“Outa my pile there, Bill,” said Dan Duryea, and he tapped a small pile of damp and filthy-looking crumpled bills that may have been real greenbacks, maybe they were counterfeit, how was I to do know?



William Frawley picked up two one-dollar bills.

“Take one for yourself, Bill,” said Dan Duryea, and William Frawley took another single and then went away.

Dan Duryea turned to me and he was smiling again, I could see the dark outlines of nicotine stains on his teeth.

“See?” he said. “Bill loves me.”

He handed me one of the shots and picked up one for himself.


“What should we drink to, pal?” 



“It doesn’t matter to me,” I said, speaking the truth.

“How about we drink to escaping a deadly whirlpool of betrayal and violence?”



“Sounds good to me,” I said.

“Except there ain’t no escape,” he said, and now his smile was gone again. “Not for guys like us,” he said. “For guys like us there’s only one escape – death.”

I had no response at hand for this.

“Should we just go ahead and drink then?” I said.

I didn’t even especially want the shot, but on the other hand I did want to move things along if possible, and not spend hours standing here trying to decide what to drink to.

But Dan Duryea wouldn’t let it go at that.

“Just like that?” he said. For a second it looked like he was going to smile again, but it was a false alarm, and now he looked even more serious. “So we drink to nothing. Because that’s all we are, nothing. You, me, everybody in this joint, everybody in this whole wide stinking world. Nothing. Zilch. Zero.”

“Can I be honest with you –” I almost said “Mr. Duryea” but it occurred to me that if we were in a movie then he probably had another name.

“Sure,” he said. “Be honest. I can take it. And if I can’t take it, who gives a shit? Nobody.”

“Okay,” I said. “I just want to say that I really don’t care what we drink to, or if we drink to nothing at all. I’d really rather we just drink the shots and get it over with. I hope I don’t seem rude.”

He paused for a few seconds before speaking. He took a drag on his cigarette, coughed, and then smiled. He held up his shot glass.

“I like your style, pal. Let’s drink.”

So finally we drank our shots. It was whiskey all right, and it burned my throat, and tasted bad, nothing new there, it wasn’t the first shot of Carstairs I had ever drunk, far from it, and if I was lucky it wouldn’t be my last.



I put my empty shot glass down on the bar, and without waiting to be asked I grabbed one of the schooners and gulped down about a third of it, it was beer, the cheap kind, the kind I always drank, and it took away some of the fire in my throat.

Dan Duryea set down his own empty shot-glass and lifted the other schooner, but he just took a sip out of it.

He looked serious again. So far he had had two looks, smiling and serious, although neither one looked very genuine. But maybe for him not being genuine was genuine.

“What’dja say your name was, pal?”

“I didn’t, actually,” I said. “But my name is Arnold, Arnold Schnabel.”

“Schnabel? You a Hebe?”

“Not to my knowledge,” I said.

“So you must be a Kraut, right?”

“I suppose so,” I said.



“Don’t get me wrong, I got nothing against Krauts. Even though I killed more than a few of your countrymen in the war. Hope you don’t mind.”

“No, not at all,” I said. “Listen, can I ask you a question?”

“What’s my own moniker?”

Actually I had wanted to ask him where we were, what city we were in, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I said, “Yes.”



“Sylvester T. for Tyrone McGillicuddy,” he said. “At your service.”

Fortunately he didn’t offer his hand, and as I took grateful note of this I also noticed that his hands looked sweaty, the fingernails lined with grime at their bitten-down ends. Needless to say I did not extend my own hand.

“Pleased to meet you, Sylvester,” I said.

“Except they call me Slick,” he said.

“’Slick’,” I said.

“Slick,” he said. “And you know why they call me Slick?”

“No,” I said.

“Do ya wanta know?”

I didn’t, but I said I did.

“Take a guess,” he said. “Why do they call me Slick.”

“Because you’re slick?”

“Ah,” he said. “Ah. So you might think. But you’re wrong, Harry.”

I let that go. I didn’t care what he called me.

“You’re dead wrong,” he said.

I said nothing. I didn’t want to encourage him, but, now that I think about it, saying nothing probably encouraged him as much as anything I might have actually said. 

After a pause he spoke again, as I knew he would, I hadn’t met anyone in any of the worlds I had visited yet who could keep from talking once they got started.

“They call me Slick ‘cause that’s what I ain’t,” he said. “I ain’t slick. I ain’t slick at all. I’m a loser. Always have been, always will be. A loser. And that’s why they call me Slick.”



“Well, anyway,” I said. “Pleased to meet you, ‘Slick’.”

“And I’m pleased to meet you, Herbie.”

I let that one go, too.

(Continued here, and onward; an army of Schnabelians would have it no other way.)

(Please scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find what is meant to be and sometimes is a current listing of links to all other cybernetically-available chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, free, gratis and for nothing, although donations will be accepted by the editor of this website in aid of the Friends of the Arnold Schnabel Society’s “Arnold Schnabel Preservation Project”.)




Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"The Man Who Loved Coffee"


Zeke was fond of Rebecca, he truly was, but he was especially fond of a good cup of coffee, and Rebecca brewed terrible coffee.



Wife Killer, by Horace P. Sternwall (Topnotch Books, 1954; republished as The Man Who Loved Coffee, by “Hector P. Stephenson”, Battersea Books {UK}, 1957).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"The Bore"


For over thirty years Morton Peabody had cherished perhaps a dozen pet subjects which he would yammer on about to anyone who would listen, but now at the age of forty-eight he had discovered that it was getting harder and harder to get anyone at all to listen. 



The Bore, by Horace P. Sternwall; an “Ace Double” paperback original, 1953; published with Twelve Years on the Couch: Memoirs of a Mental Case, by "Herbert Peter Steinberg" (aka H.P. Sternwall).

Monday, September 7, 2015

"The Loneliest Guy in the World"


“Burton Soames had worked as a file clerk at Consolidated Ball Bearings for twenty-seven years. He was reasonably efficient at his job, but unfortunately he was loud, overbearing, opinionated, self-absorbed, and generally obnoxious. He suffered from poor personal hygiene as well as a host of physical ailments, and yet, like all human beings, Burton longed for love.”


The Loneliest Guy in the World
, by Horace P. Sternwall (a Zippo Books “paperback original”, 1955; reprinted as The Loneliest Cobber in the World, by Hal P. Shingleton, “never before published”, Didgereedoo Books {Australia}, 1959).

Saturday, September 5, 2015

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 454: crack corn


We left our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the stately old Bleecker Street townhouse of his new friends the Belleforest siblings – Nadine, Cathy, and Terence – on this long rainy night in August of 1957...
  

(Please go here to read our previous thrilling episode; if you are one of those who find
Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu to be a bit on the terse side for your tastes, you may click here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 69-volume masterpiece.)

“A question I am often asked
in re Railroad Train to Heaven: ‘Is it “fact” or “fiction”?’ To which I can only reply that as far as I am concerned every word of Arnold Schnabel’s towering chef-d'œuvre goes way beyond questions of mere fact or fiction – way, way beyond, into that rarest of all realms: the realm of Truth, with a capital T to be sure.” – Harold Bloom, from the “Introduction” to his Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven: an Abridged and Illustrated Version for Younger Readers (the Olney Community College Press).



“Arnold,” said Nadine, “stop being so weird and sit back down.”

“Yeah, you big weirdo,” said Cathy.

The both of them were yanking on my arms like bell ropes, but I kept myself standing, leaning forward as if into a stiff wind.



“Please,” I said. “Let me go.”

“You know you could stay for just a little bit longer, buddy,” said Terence, “after we went to all that trouble fixing you up such a nice little tray of food and all.”

“Yeah,” said Cathy. “Show some consideration, you big dope.”

“And what about my poetry?” said Nadine. “You’ve hardly read any of it.”

“Ha ha. Oh. I get it now,” said Terence. “Ha ha.”

“Ha ha what exactly?” said Nadine.

“Ha ha he read some of your alleged poetry, that’s what exactly,” said Terence.

“Ha ha,” said Cathy. (This whole family, including the colonel in the painting, had this annoying way saying “ha ha”. I can’t explain it, so I won’t try.) “Who can blame him for wanting to run screaming into that tempest out there? Ha ha.”

“How dare you two,” said Cathy. “Arnold said he liked my poetry – or at least he likes what he’s read so far, don’t you, Arnold?”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” I said.

“See?” said Nadine. “So there! What do you two illiterates know about poetry anyway?”

“I know it’s intensely boring,” said Terence.

“Especially Nadine’s,” said Cathy. “Ha ha.”

“My poetry is not boring!” said Nadine. “Arnold, tell them my poetry is not boring!”

“It’s not boring,” I said, “but I really have to go. Look, I promise I will come by some other time and read your poetry."

I have told thousands of lies of varying degrees in my life, but with that last sentence I think I really outdid myself. I didn’t fool the old colonel though, because he immediately said just one word:

“Liar.”

“I’m not lying,” I said, doubling down on my duplicity.

“No one said you were lying,” said Terence. “Although truth to tell now that you mention it you do sound rather as if you’re telling a great big fib, and not doing a terribly good job of it either I might add. Ha ha.”

“I’m really not lying,” I said, tripling the lie. “It’s just – it’s just – now that I’ve eaten those hashish brownies I just know that if I stay here I might never escape.”

“Escape?” said Nadine.

“That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?” said Terence.

“I wish I could escape,” said Cathy. “Take me with you, Arnold!”

She tugged particularly hard on my right arm.


“Arnold’s not taking you anywhere, dearie,” said Nadine. “Are you, Arnold?”

“No,” I said.

“Gee,” said Cathy.

“Ha ha,” said Terence. “Shot you right down, sis.”

“You can be awfully cruel, Arnold,” said Cathy.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t mean to be.”

“He’s cruel to me, also,” said Nadine.

“I’m sorry for that, too, N-”

Once again her name escaped me. And I don’t know why, but once again the colonel helped me out, and whispered but in a loud sort of way:



“Nadine!”

“I’m sorry, Nadine,” I said, trying to sound sincere, and as if I hadn’t forgotten her name again.

“If you wouldn’t behave in such a beastly manner you should not have to be so repeatedly sorry,” she said, giving my arm a good tug.

“Please let go of my arm,” I said.

“I think the thing of it is,” said Terence, “is that friend Arnold’s just a leetle bit paranoiac from this weed.” He still held the reefer, but it had apparently gone out. He took a lighter from his smoking-jacket pocket, and relit the reefer before continuing. “And the thought of how high he is going to be in a few minutes, after gobbling up all those hash brownies,” he said, holding in the smoke, “is making him even more paranoiac.”



He exhaled the smoke, sending the cloud in my direction.

“Is that it, Arnold?” said Cathy, pulling on my arm with one hand as she took the reefer that Terence was proffering her. “Are you paranoiac?”

“I would say no more than the average person,” I said. “Not that I am qualified to say how paranoiac the average person is. I am however, it is true, afraid of still being here when those brownies take effect, and if that’s being paranoiac, then so be it, but –”



Boring,” said Terence.

“A little,” said Cathy.

“Just a tad,” said Nadine.

“Boring as shit,” said the colonel in the painting.


“I know,” I said. “I’m boring myself actually, but nonetheless I am asking you –”



What was the one sister’s name, the one to my right?


“Cathy,” said the colonel, whispering.

“I’m asking you, Cathy, and you –”

I turned to Nadine 
but my brain went dead again, there was only a great yawning void where her name should have been, but for what must have been at least the fourth time the colonel came to my rescue, I don’t know why, I suppose he found all this amusing –

“Nadine!” he hissed.

“I’m asking you, Nadine, and, uh, –



“Cathy!” yelled the colonel.



“I’m asking you and Cathy to please let go of my arms and let me leave," I said. "Because I’m afraid.”

“But you’re perfectly safe here,” said Nadine. Cathy had “toked” I believe the word is, liberally, and Nadine with her free hand took the reefer. She toked herself, and deeply, before continuing. “You can even sleep over if you like,” she said, holding in the smoke. Then she exhaled a great cloud of warm redolent reefer smoke up into my face. “We have loads of spare rooms.”

“Oh, like you want him to stay in one of the spare rooms!” said Terence. “Ha ha. That’s pretty thick.”

“You could sleep in my room, Arnold,” said Cathy. “We could just cuddle.”

“Look,” I said, “I’ll tell you all right now that I very much appreciate the offer, but I am definitely not staying the night here.”

“Oh, dear,” said Terence.

“Here,” said Nadine. Continuing to hold onto my arm with her left hand, she reached up with her right hand and held the reefer to my lips. I was in such a distracted state I did the last thing I should have done, I “toked” on the reefer again, repeatedly, filling my lungs with smoke.

“This is better than a minstrel show
,” said the colonel. “Ha ha! I mean, really fucking hilarious. Hey, Arnold, sing us a song. You know ‘Camptown Races’? How about ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’?”




I stared up at him. The reefer, and I suppose also my general distressing circumstances, and the dubious state of my sanity, had affected me in such a way that I felt it incumbent upon myself to answer him seriously.

“I’m not sure if I know all the words to ‘Camptown Races’,” I said, after I had emptied my lungs of the smoke.

“What about ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’?”

“I might know some of the words to that one,” I said.

“He’s lost his mind,” said Terence.

“Yeah,” said Cathy, who now had the reefer again, and was partaking of it, “it’s like he’s talking to Great-Grandfather’s portrait.”

“Oh, he is, I think!” said Nadine. “I forgot to tell you two. He’s able to speak to and carry on conversations with Great-Grandfather Belleforest!”

“Well, that’s, um, unusual,” said Terence.

“I think it’s really neat,” said Cathy. “What are you talking about with him, Arnold?”

“Well, he asked me if I could sing ‘Camptown Races’ or ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’,” I said. “And I told him I wasn’t sure if I knew the words to ‘Camptown Races’.”

“What about ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’?” said Terence. “By the way, pass the reefer, Cathy.”



“I might know at least some of that one,” I said. “I probably couldn’t be sure until I started singing.”

“Sing for us!” said Nadine.

“Oh, yes, please do,” said Cathy.

“Yeah, sing a song,” said Terence, dragging on the reefer. “’Jimmy Crack Corn’!”

I had another one of my brainwaves at this point, but not one of my best ones.

“If I sing the song,” I said –

“’Jimmy Crack Corn’!” said Cathy.

“If I sing ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’,” I said, “will you let me go?”

“No one’s preventing you from leaving,” said Nadine.

“But you and Cathy are holding on to my arms,” I said.

“Ha ha,” said the colonel in the painting. “Ha ha, oh Christ. Sing, you fool! Sing for your supper!”

That was humiliating. To be honest, I think I really had been on the verge of singing ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’, or at least as much of it as I could remember, but now my pride was hurt.

“Well?” said Cathy, she had gotten the reefer back from Terence, it had gotten much shorter but it was still going, “are you going to sing ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’, Arnold?”

“No,” I said. “I’ve changed my mind. Instead I’m just going to leave here, even if I unfortunately have to drag you and – uh –”



“Nadine!” hissed the colonel.

“Even if I have to drag you and Nadine along as you hang onto my arms, I intend to leave.”

“But my poetry!” said Nadine. “You promised, Arnold! You promised to read my poetry!”

“I did read some of it,” I said.

“A dozen or so lines! That doesn’t count!”

“It’s all he had to read,” said Terence.

“Ha ha,” said Cathy. “Here, Arnold, take another toke.”

She held what was left of the reefer up to my lips, and, incredibly, I know, I drew upon it. It was as if my insanity were feeding upon itself at this point.

“Give me that roach,” said Nadine, “before Arnold burns his lips.”

She took that last little nubbin of reefer from Cathy’s fingers and dropped it into the nearest ashtray.

“Give it up, Arnold,” said the colonel. “You’re never getting out of here.”

“Yes I am!” I said, exhaling smoke and coughing.

“What?” said Terence.

“Yeah, what?” said Cathy.

“He’s talking to Great-Grandfather again,” said Nadine, “aren’t you, Arnold?”

“Yes,” I said.

I tried to pull my arms away again, but the sisters just wouldn’t let go.



“What did Great-Grandfather say this time?” said Cathy.

“He said I’m never getting out of here.”

“Ha ha,” said Terence.

“Oh, the hell with it,” said Nadine, and at last she let go of my arm. “Cathy, let go of Arnold’s arm.”

“But I don’t want him to go!” she said. “He’s ever so amusing.”

“I know he is, but if he wants to leave we must let him do as he pleases.”

“Oh, okay,” said Cathy, and finally, she too let go of my other arm. “But I’m terribly disappointed in him.”

“So am I,” said Nadine.

“Me too,” said Terence. “He’s quite the most amusing creature you’ve dragged in out of the rain, ever.”



“But I just want you to know I am very crushed, Arnold,” said Nadine. She picked up her can of beer and took a swig. “Terribly, terribly crushed that you won’t read my poems.”



“That was pretty shitty,” said Terence. “I mean to tell someone you’re going to do something, then wolf down a lot of food and swill a lot of beer and then just stand up and announce that you’re leaving – I mean, I know, I know, poète maudit, I get that, but still –”

“Trampling on my feelings,” said Nadine.

“I hate to pile on,” said Cathy, “but I concur. You are being a bit of a dick, Arnold, you should excuse my French, ha ha.”

“Maybe I should just toss my poetry into that fire,” said Nadine. “Maybe I should throw myself into the fire.”

“Look,” I said, deciding on the spur of the moment just to go ahead and tell the new most outrageous lie I had ever told in my life, but the only problem was I was about to address Nadine, and her name again came up a total blank in my brain. Quickly I looked up at the colonel for help, and smiling, he mouthed her name, without actually saying it, but I was able to read his lips. “Nadine,” I said, “I swear, by all that’s good and holy, on my life, on my honor, I swear I will come back here sometime and read your poetry.”

“Really?” she said. “When?”

“Oh, anytime,” I said.

“What about tomorrow?” she said.

“Tomorrow sounds good,” I said, sinking deeper and deeper into a dark murky vat of lies and broken promises.



“Shall we say about four then?” said Nadine. “We’ll have cocktails, and I’ll have Mrs. Murphy prepare some nice hors d'oeuvres.”

“That sounds good,” I said.

“No need to dress, we’re very informal about the cocktail hour here.”

“Okay,” I said.

“But tomorrow may never come,” said Cathy.

“That’s true,” said Terence. “What if someone drops an A-bomb?”

“What if a death ray from outer space incinerates the entire planet?” said Cathy.


“My siblings have a point, Arnold, dear,” said Nadine, after just a slight pause.

“Listen,” I said –



“Hey,” said Terence, “I just realized the TV is turned off. Who turned it off?”

“Arnold did,” said Nadine.

“I was watching that movie!”

“Oh, as if you care,” said Nadine. “All you do is lie around and watch television. Why don’t you get a job?”

“Why don’t you get a job?” said Terence, and he slipped off the couch and headed for the Philco.

“I have a job,” said Nadine. “I am a poetess!”

“Poetess, schmoetess,” said Terence, and he switched the TV back on.

“Terence,” said Cathy, “will you be a dear and open me another beer can?”

“Helpless,” said Terence.

“Open me another, too,” said Nadine.

“Helpless and helplesser,” said Terence, but he went over to the coffee table and opened cans of Rheingold and handed them to the girls.

“What about you, Arnold?” he said. “Another Rheingold?”

“No thanks,” I said.

“Oh, right, you’re leaving supposedly. Well, I’ll have another, thank you very much,” he said, and he opened one for himself.

The grey silent blankness of the TV was being replaced by humming sounds and flickering images expanding from the center of the screen, and the sounds became  people’s voices and music, and the images coalesced into the living, sweaty, black-and-white face of Dan Duryea.

“Hey, buddy!” he said. He seemed pretty drunk. “Good to see you again! Come on over!”

 
I don’t know why, but I looked up at the colonel.

“Don’t look at me,” he said. “It’s your life. Do what the fuck you want to do.”



And I don’t really know how I did it, especially with my badly damaged knees, which had been growing progressively more painful ever since I stood up, but all at once I leapt right over the coffee table, throwing myself with arms outstretched straight before me, like a diver, or like Superman, directly towards the television screen.



(Continued here, and for no one really knows how long if more caches of Arnold’s neatly handwritten copybooks keep turning up under piles of old magazines in basements and tool sheds.)

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find what the editor hopes is an up-to-date listing of links to all other officially-released chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™. Tickets are now available for the Autumn Walking Tour of Arnold Schnabel’s Cape May, culminating in a “Beef ‘n’ Beer Bash” at the VFW, entertainment provided by “Freddy Ayres ‘n’ Ursula ‘n’ Friends”,  featuring the vocal and Hohner electric piano stylings of the lovely “Magda”!)




Friday, September 4, 2015

"Portrait of a Loon"


Wendell was a religious maniac, a sports fan, and a political zealot. Although he had no job his days were very busy and he slept very little.”


Portrait of a Loon, by Horace P. Sternwall (a HiTone Books “paperback original”, 1955; republished as The Wackadoo, “An Original Novel – Never Before Published!” by "H.P. Steinhauser", Goliath Books, 1958).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Hillbilly Jesus"


Nothing much interesting had ever happened in Wheeler’s Corners until that fateful August afternoon when Jeb Peterson announced that he was the second coming of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ.



Hillbilly Jesus, by Horace P. Sternwall (Topflite Books, 1954; reprinted as Redeemer Redux, by "Harry P. Steubenville", Mitre Books {UK}, 1956).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"The Jade"


“Have you ever noticed,” said Reggie, “that the more enthusiastic people are, the more frightfully tedious they become?”

The Jade, by Horace P. Sternwall (Kozy Books, 1958; reprinted as A Frightfully Nasty Chap, by "Hugh Pear-William", “a daring new novel, never before published”, Clapham Books {UK}, 1959).