Saturday, January 30, 2016

“Gang War”

"Gang War"
by Horace P. Sternwall

Originally published in “’Real’ Crime Stories”, December, 1950; reprinted for the first time in book form in “Never Trust a Square John”: The “Gwendolyn and Auntie Margaret” Stories of Horace P. Sternwall, Vol. 7, the Olney Community College Press; edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Forgotten 20th Century Fiction, Olney Community College.

Original illustrations by rhoda penmarq for penmarqitron™  productions, ltd.

(Click here to read the previous Gwendolyn story; go here to return to the very beginning of the saga.)

Dearest Pippi,

Do please accept my apologies for the alarming gap in our correspondence but when you hear all about what’s been happening out here and how busy I have been I hope you will understand. I also hope that my remissness in writing will be made up for to some small extent by the “little something” which you will find baked into the bottom of the chocolate babka which you should have received by the same post. Be careful with that babka darling as my Auntie Margaret’s friend Serge who made it from the recipe he says of his old family cook back in Russia has laced it quite liberally with this Russian liquor he likes called Nalivka quite tasty but the thing is he always mixes it with vodka and it is thus rather extremely alcoholic. So a word to the wise, no more than two thick slices of the babka at a time unless you want a dreadful hangover the next morning, something I learned the hard way believe you me when I wolfed down a third of the previous one Serge baked.

The “little something” is wrapped in wax paper but do mind that you in your eagerness don’t cut it in two or God forbid fork it down with the babka.

Oh my I have so much to tell you.

As I said in one of my previous missives I have been looking for ways to invest our gelt. At first I was thinking, well, maybe after all I should set up my own Shylock operation, without dealing through a middleman like the late lamented Tommy S------n, thus keeping all the profits for me and the gang. I put the Monkey and Sluggo on the case to bring me some “gen” on how to get into the business, but they soon reported back to me that the whole reason Tommy had been “rubbed out” was because of a dispute with this Jimmy Mazzaro character about who should run the “Shy” throughout Greenwich Village and Little Italy and the Bowery. You know me Pippa I don’t back down from a scrape, but then why look for trouble, especially from the Mafia, unless of course it really can’t be avoided?
So I looked for some other way to invest our gelt and that’s where these two grown-ups I told you about Sniffy and Rooster  come in.

I had already used them in two capers where we needed grown-up “fronts” and also to drive a car on the one job and a stolen cement truck in the other, and although they needed constant supervision they worked out okay because neither of them look like criminals and because they are both greedy as sin. The woman Sniffy looks like an ill-tempered scarecrow if you can imagine that and the man Rooster looks like a bank clerk with a nervous condition. I noticed that in order to calm their nerves before a job they liked to smoke what is called “weed” in the argot of the underworld. I asked them where they bought it and how much it cost and I must say I was impressed at the amount they paid even for a quarter-ounce of the stuff! Well, you know me, Pippi, no flies anywhere on or near me!

And so I got to thinking that there could be some real money in this "reefer" stuff, especially for a party who has so much “capital” already packed into hatboxes in the bottom of my Auntie’s closet, gelt that could be put to use making lots more lovely gelt.

To cut a long story short I told Sniffy and Rooster to find us a wholesale merchant of “weed”, and within a week we had ten pounds of the stuff fresh off a tramp steamer in from Panama. We hid the “stash” in a ventilation duct down in the basement of the hotel, accessible by removing a grill in the alleyway. It’s a very narrow duct but the Monkey is small and wiry and can easily crawl where no grown man could, so he is in charge of getting the stuff out.

I immediately put the gang to work “moving” it as they say and boy oh boy, talk about profits! Rooster and Sniffy did most of the selling, working the jazz joints and low bars of the Village and the Bowery, and using as their headquarters that place Bob’s Bowery Bar next door to where you and your poor mother used to live. I of course insisted that no selling would be done on the Hotel St Crispian premises. I mean to be honest a lot of the guests and staff there and all of the band Tony W-----n and his W---------s have become regular customers for our “stuff” but if they want to do business they have to go out to the alley or to the restrooms of the automat like everybody else, no exceptions.

After careful consideration I decided not to sell to the girls at Miss Churchill’s for the very good reason that those girls talk too much and couldn’t keep a secret if their lives depended on it. But on the other hand there was the boys’ prep school right across the street The Falworthy School filled with filthy rich spoiled boys and so Elizabeth and Ruth and I soon built up a very good trade with those blue-blazered hooligans, I’ll tell you.

But isn’t there always a fly in the ointment?

Things were going swimmingly for a couple of weeks and we were already getting ready to order another shipment, perhaps twenty pounds this time when unfortunately one night Rooster and Sniffy got “braced” as they say by Jimmy Mazzaro and three of his “goons” just as they were leaving Bob’s Bowery Bar.

Jimmy and his boys dragged poor Rooster and Sniffy into a car and it was only a short ride from there to some dark alley near the East River where they dragged Rooster and Sniffy out of the car and fortunately didn’t fill them with lead or fit them with concrete overshoes but they did beat up Rooster quite severely.

Then they told him he was not to sell reefer on Jimmy’s territory anymore. “Jimmy’s territory”! Who died and made him king of the Village and the Bowery that’s what I’d like to know. Then Jimmy asked Rooster and Sniffy who they were working for. Sniffy told me that Rooster blurted out without hesitation, “A little twelve year old girl named Gwendolyn!” and that was when Jimmy hit Rooster a really good one with a set of brass knuckles breaking his nose, and told him not to make a chump out of him. Then he asked Sniffy the same question and she admitted to me that also without a moment’s pause she said “A little twelve year old girl, her name is Gwendolyn!” and so Jimmy socked her a good one too, breaking her jaw. This woman really likes to talk, I’ll tell you, so Jimmy really hit her where it hurts that’s for sure.

Well, anyway, since Jimmy couldn’t get anything more out of these two, at least nothing he would believe, after beating them both up some more he just left them there in that alleyway, bleeding and groaning, and boy was I angry when Rooster called me the next day from the hospital with the news.

What would Napoleon do, I wondered, as I laid the telephone receiver back in its cradle.

To be honest Rooster and Sniffy are pretty annoying and tedious, but still they are members of the gang and a general has an obligation to her troops and also an obligation not to let herself be summarily cut out of a good money-making racket by some two-bit Italian thug Mafia or no Mafia.

I’m sure you have heard through the criminal grapevine at Rozensweig’s Home for Girls what happened next.

It was just two nights later, which was all the time I needed to carry out my bold plan.

An innocent conversation with Serge, pumping him for info about the proper way to make a “Molotov cocktail”, which he had used to some good effect as a partisan fighting the Nazis in the last war. A bit of reconnaissance on the part of the Monkey and Sluggo, revealing that Jimmy Mazzaro and his top lieutenants always played poker on a certain night in the back room of a certain Italian Social Club on Minetta Street, a game which often lasted to the early hours of the morning, but a game which on this night was brought to a sudden and fiery end by four Molotov cocktails thrown simultaneously through the rear window.

And that was the end of the Jimmy Mazzaro mob.

They won’t be missed.

Now I must fly as I have a geography test tomorrow and I haven’t even opened the book yet I’ve been so terribly busy.

Write soon.

I remain,

your pal,


PS Again I do hope you enjoy the chocolate babka dearie but remember no more than two big slices at a time and don’t forget that little something extra in the wax paper.


(This is a slightly revised version of a story that originally appeared, with artwork by the justly-famous rhoda penmarq, in New Tales of the Hotel St Crispian.)

(Our staff has taken a week off to work on the editing of the first volume
of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, which we hope to bring out sometime this millennium as an e-book and possibly even a book made of paper. An all-new thrilling chapter of Arnold’s saga will appear in this space at the usual time next Saturday!)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 472: Babylon

Let us rejoin our intrepid hero Arnold Schnabel and his companions Bowery Bert and Emily, here outside the entrance of Bob’s Bowery Bar, on this rainy hot night in August of 1957…

(Please click here to read our previous thrilling episode; the idly or morbidly curious may go here to return to the very first chapter of this 63-volume Gold View Award™-winning autobiography.)

“How wonderful is it that this eminently humble man, Arnold Schnabel, who never even finished high school (although he did indeed acquire his high school equivalency diploma in his early twenties during his army service), should have given us what is undoubtedly the crowning masterwork of American literature?” – Harold Bloom, host of
Philip Morris Commanders Present “Tales of Arnold Schnabel”, Wednesdays at 9pm (EST), exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.

Bert and I got Emily and ourselves to the open doorway again, awkwardly, needless to say (but there, I’ve said it, needless or not, and I hereby grant permission to any imaginary future editors of these memoirs to excise the adverb “awkwardly” directly above, along with any other verbiage they deem redundant or painfully obvious or without interest even to the most obsessed scholars of lunacy, up to and including every word I have written, am writing, or will write), what with Bert being so short, me being so much taller than he, and still possessed of a persistent erection, and Emily halfway between us in height, as well as completely unconscious.

The doorway was not wide enough for us to go through three abreast, and so Bert took the initiative and went through first, keeping Emily’s arm over his narrow old shoulders, and I went through last, keeping my right arm around Emily’s waist as she dragged her feet on the floor, and this time I didn’t worry about closing the door behind me, if anyone challenged me on the matter of being brought up in a barn I would improvise a response then, if I could, but I really couldn’t worry about closing the door during this maneuver, as fraught with the possibility of disaster as it already was. I should perhaps remind the reader that I still had Emily’s heavy hard black purse hanging by its strap over my left shoulder, and I found myself wondering what else she kept in there besides an economy size jar of Pond’s cold cream, because it felt suspiciously like there were a half-dozen hand grenades clanking around in it as well.

“Okay,” said Bert, once we were inside and on the verge of that mob of drunken people dancing, thrashing about, and falling flailing to the filthy strawdust-strewn floor to the music not of the jukebox now but rather of what sounded like musicians in the living flesh somewhere off to the right, although I couldn’t see them through the mob, “what do you say we just jettison Sleeping Beauty here, and then we’ll go meet your good buddy, what do you call him, ‘Jack’?”

“Josh, actually.”

“’Josh’, yes, the son of the big fellow himself!” Bert still had that shriveled little cigar in his mouth, he was one of those guys who could expertly talk with a cigar in his teeth or, as in his case, dentures. “Okay,” he said, “let’s just lay her down in the corner in back of this booth here –”

He started to pull Emily in the direction he had indicated, the back of a booth just to our right, but I held tight to Emily’s waist and stood my ground.

“Look, Bert,” I said, or yelled, we were both yelling now that we were back in the bar, “we’re not just laying her down on the floor.”

“Well, I was thinking in terms of sort of sitting her up kind of –”

“We can’t just leave her sitting on the floor either.”

“Okay, fine,” he said, “so what do you propose we do with her?”

“We find my publisher, Julian, and we hand her off to him.”

“In other words let her be his problem, not yours.”

“Well, yes – but, you see he’s her, uh, employer –”

“Employer and employee, out on a little spree, huh?”

“Yes, I suppose you could say that –”

“I sense something unsaid in your tone.”

“I leave many things unsaid in my tone.”

“Oh, I get it.”

“You do?”

“This what’s his name, Justin?”


“He’s boning her too, isn’t he?”

“Bert, I wish you wouldn’t use that sort of language. She’s right here between us you know.”

“She’s completely passed out and can’t hear a word we’re saying.”

“But still –”

“So let me put it this way then: this Jules –”


“This ‘Julian’ is having carnal relations with Edina.”


“With Emily.”

“I think he might have had relations with her, yes,” I said.

“So, wow, this little number gets around, don’t she? Boning both you and your publisher!”

“Bert, I really wish you wouldn’t be so crude.”

“What did I say that was crude? Arnold, I got news for you, pal: you and everybody else in this room, well, except for me and for your buddy – I’m sorry, what do you call him?”


“Everybody in here except for me and ‘Josh’ wouldn’t even be here if their parents hadn’t boned.”

“I just wish you would stop saying that.”

“What? Boned?”

“Yes,” I said.

“You’re a pip, you are,” he said. “You don’t mind boning a gal, but you just don’t want it referred to as such.”

“But it wasn’t me who – you know – had relations with her. I told you, it was this fictional character, Porter Walker.”

“So you are adducing the fictional-character defense.”

“All I can say is that I, Arnold Schnabel, would not have had relations with her.”

“You say that with a boner still likely to burst out of your jeans like a jack-in-the-box.”

What he said was true. I was still possessed of an almost full erection, probably kept alive by the fact of Emily’s warm body pressed close to mine.

“Look, Bert,” I said, “there are some things over which I have no control. Many things in fact. And, unfortunately, what you are referring to –”

“Your boner.”

“My whatever,” I said, “unfortunately that is one of them. 
But, look, can we please just find Julian?”

“And pass the problem of Edina here on to him.”

“Emily, Bert. Her name is Emily.”

“Great – 'Emily' it is then. So where is this Jonathan fellow?” 

“Bert, are you deliberately trying to drive me crazy?”

“Not deliberately, no.”

“Then one last time: Julian’s name is Julian, and Emily’s name is Emily.”

“Someday you’ll be old and you’ll have trouble remembering names.”

“If I live that long, yes,” I said.

“It won’t seem so funny to you then.”

“I don’t think it’s funny now,” I said.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t get so goddam condescending when I have just a little bit of trouble remembering human names now and then.”

“Okay, sorry,” I said.

“Because let me tell you something, boyo, as old as you might get you will never get as old as me. You dig? Not even close. Not even close by a couple of thousand years.”

“I said I was sorry,”

“So get over yourself.”

“Okay,” I said, “I will. Now look, can we move along and try to find Julian?”

“You’re the one who’s been holding us up, not me. Where is this what’s-his-name, anyhow?”

“He must be in here somewhere. Let’s drag Emily through this mob to the bar and look for him there.”

“I don’t think he’s going to be happy about us foisting a passed-out doxie on him.”

“He probably won’t be happy,” I said, “but – well –”

“Hey, he brought her here, right?”

“That’s true.”

“So it ain’t like she’s your responsibility.”

I said nothing to this, but I suppose my face again betrayed me, or revealed me.

“What?” said Bert. “Now what’s your problem?”

“Now I feel somehow –”


“I feel as if I'm not behaving very well.”

“So, what, now you’re saying you don’t want to foist her off on this Jules guy?”

“Julian,” I said. “And, no, I still want to foist her off on him, but I still feel as if I am behaving somehow, I don’t know –”


“Somewhat, yes.”


“Maybe –”

“Arnold, lookit, what do you want to do, drag this little dolly around with you all night, and then when she wakes up have her pulling on your johnson again like she wants to yank it out by the roots?”


“So, great, so get over your scruples and let’s find this Gerald guy.” 

“All right,” I said.

“Good,” said Bert. “Now, what I suggest we do is we both get a good grip on Little Miss Whore of Babylon here and plunge without ceremony straight into this throbbing mass of dancing drunken fools, but walking sideways, with me leading the way, wielding my umbrella like a cudgel if necessary, and we don’t stop till we reach the bar.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Don’t be afraid to use your elbow if need be.”

“I won’t,” I said.

“Don’t pussy out on me now.”

“Let’s just go,” I said.

“On the count of three. You ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I said. Not that I was really ready, or even halfway ready, no, I was merely as ready as I ever would or ever could be. My erection had subsided just a little bit in the last couple of minutes, so at least I had that going for me.

(Continued here.)

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find a purportedly accurate and current listing of links to all other published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. Yes, a recent inventory of our warehouse reveals that we still have an extremely limited assortment of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ {Arnold, Bowery Bert, Emily Julian, Big Ben Blagwell, and even Ferdinand the fly!} left over from our big holiday sales event, so call now and get a 75% discount on all items – free delivery on all orders of $25 or more!) 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 471: beatific

We left our hero Arnold Schnabel in yet another awkward situation, here outside the entrance of Bob’s Bowery Bar, on this rainy August night in 1957…

(Kindly go here to read our immediately preceding chapter; those looking for a harmless new obsession may click here to return to the beginning of this 57-volume Gold View Award™-winning memoir.)

“What better way to spend a cold January evening than to sit by a roaring fireplace in one’s favorite easy chair, with a cup of hot cocoa made with Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup, and a volume of Arnold Schnabel’s towering masterwork?” – Harold Bloom, host of
Fox’s U-bet “Arnold Schnabel Hour”, exclusively on the Dumont Radio Network, 10pm (EST) Tuesdays.

“Oh, man alive,” said Bert. “She is a little pistol, isn’t she?”

“Pistol!” said Emily, in the sort of voice the writers in the cheap paperbacks I read would call throaty, or maybe impassioned, or both, and she yanked again on what those same authors might call my manhood, but which term seems to me a slight overstatement.

Her eyes were open, but just barely, and I’m not sure she could see anything at all except for whatever extravagant fantasies were whirling around in her drunken brain.

“Bert,” I said, “for God’s sake –”

“Hey, pal,” he said. “I warned you before about the fucking language.”

“But,” I said, “but –”

I couldn’t think of anything else to say, except possibly the same word, but, over and over again, but to infinity…

“Okay,” said Bert, “you want my help, I’ll see what I can do. But don’t expect me to stand still for you taking the good lord’s name in vain, I don’t care if you are all buddy-buddy with his son.”

“Fine,” I said.

“Give me,” said Emily.

“Pardon me?” I said.


And she yanked on it again.

“Oh, Christ,” said Bert, and, hooking his umbrella over his left arm, he stepped over to me and Emily, and, reaching into the side pocket of his suit coat, he brought out what looked like a leather-wrapped slapjack or sap.

“No! Bert!” I yelped, but he ignored me and raising the sap high over his head he brought it down sharply on Emily’s, producing a little pocking sound, and she immediately slumped in my arms again, letting go at last of my still fully-erect erection.

“Jeeze, Bert,” I said, “I didn’t mean for you to knock her out –”

“Relax, kid, she’ll be okay.” He dropped the cosh back into his pocket. “She’ll have a headache tomorrow, but it looks to me like she was going to have one irregardless.”

“But you might have killed her,” I said, and retroactively I tried to compensate for the whine in my voice by adding. “I mean, hey, you know –”

“Do I? Well, let’s see what I know.” He reached into his inside coat pocket and brought out his flask again. “She –” he indicated Emily with the lit end of his cigar, “is the heroine of all this –” he waved the cigar at the universe, “this allegedly fictional world, or so you you say, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s a novel called Ye Cannot Quench, by  this crazy lady named Gertrude –”

“Whatever,” he said. He unscrewed the flask’s hinged cap. “And Enid here –”

“Emily,” I said.

“Emily? You sure you didn’t say her name was Enid?”

“I’m pretty sure,” I said. “I mean, that’s her name – Emily.”

“Don’t get shirty now, sonny.”

“I’m just stating the fact.”

“It’s your tone. I mean I’m trying to help you. I knocked her out for you, didn’t I?”

“Yes,” I said, trying, and trying successfully I might add, not to scream. “And I appreciate that. I’m sorry if I sounded ‘shirty’.”

“Apology accepted.” He raised the flask to his dried-up old lips, and took a good swig, then let out a raspy hissing sound, like the sound of dead leaves blowing along a gutter in an empty city street. “Now what was I talking about?” he said.

“I have no idea,” I said, in all honesty.

“Oh! I remember now. Ethel here, according to you, is the heroine, the protagonist, of this supposed novel we’re in, correct?”

“Well,” I said, “it’s not so much the actual novel at this point, but, rather, it’s the world or universe of this novel, which seems to include myriads of other universes which may or may not be fictional –”

He held up his hand.

“Stop. I didn’t ask for a goddam dissertation. Now, I’ll ask you again: is Eloise here the heroine of the book or not?”

I decided A. not to correct him about Emily’s name, and B. just to say:

“Yes,” I said. “She’s the heroine.”

“The protagonist.”


“The main character if you will.”

“Yes,” I said, even though in all fairness I felt that I was the main character, but then I suppose everyone feels as if they’re the main character in the book of their lives.

“Okay, then,” he said. “Well, let me ask you –” he took another swig from the flask, then continued, after exhaling another rattling breath, “let me just ask you if I may – may I?”

“Yes,” I said, and perhaps I should mention here that my erection still persisted, pressing naked against Emily’s warm body despite her unconscious state.

“’Cause I don’t want you to think I’m implying that you’re really stupid or nothing, ‘cause I know you’ve probably been under a lot of pressure lately –”

“Please, go right ahead,” I said.

“Wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings, ‘cause I know how you humans get.”

“Don’t worry about my feelings,” I said.

”The painfully obvious question I want to ask you is: do you think the heroine of the novel, the main character, the protagonist – you think this lady is going to get killed by some little old geezer giving her a tiny minuscule love tap with a sap?”

“I guess not,” I said.

“You guess not?”

“Well, probably not,” I said.

“You’re damn straight probably not. Of course not. Oh, no, this little filly’s got quite a few chapters left in her, unless I’m very much mistaken.” He took another good swig from the flask. “What are you doing there anyway?”

“I’m trying to put away my – you know –”

“Your organ of supposed masculinity?”


“Not easy to do while holding up her limp body, is it?”


“Just let her drop, she won’t feel nothing.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Oh, come on, just set her down gentle like. Sit her against the wall till you can put your johnson away.”

“Well, okay. But, listen, Bert, would you mind turning away?”

“What’re you, modest all of a sudden?”

“Yes,” I said.

“You think I ain’t never seen a man’s johnson before?”

“I’m sure you have, Bert, but I would still feel more comfortable if you would just look away for a moment.”

“Adam and Eve were naked, you know, before the fall.”

“Bert, please –”

“Oh, all right, I’ll look away.”

And he didn’t exactly turn away, but he did crank the angle of his head just slightly to one side, those eyes so enormously magnified by his wire-rimmed glasses gazing, or seeming to gaze, out at the street and the crashing rain.

I shifted myself and Emily around, so that her back was to the bricks of the entranceway wall, and, as gently as I could, I let her slump down to the wet pavement. I still had her heavy black purse hanging from my shoulder, and her hand grabbed at its strap, proving she was still alive, anyway. I pried her hand loose, and she then started to slide over sideways, but I stuck my knee out and managed to hold her up.

“Wow, that’s some erection you’ve got there,” said Bert.

“Bert!” I yelped, turning so that the aforementioned erection was pointed away from my guardian angel. “Jeeze!”

“Now what?”

“You said you would look away.”

“Stop acting like a faggot and put that thing back in your pants – if you think you can manage it.”

I said nothing, in fact I think I was literally biting my lower lip, and I set to work stuffing the thing back into my jeans.

“I used to get hard-ons like that,” said Bert.

I did not dignify his remark with a comment.

“I said,” he said, “I used to get big whopping hard-ons like that.”

Again I said nothing, as I tried to get the last button buttoned.

“What,” said Bert, “you don’t believe me?”

At last I had gotten my fly completely buttoned up. Inside my jeans the erection persisted, but I could only hope that it would subside now that it was no longer pressing against Emily’s body or being caressed and stroked by her hand.

I turned around, and despite myself emitted perhaps the most huge sigh I had ever emitted in my life, which, if I say so myself, is saying something.

“I used to get enormous whoppers of hard-ons,” said Bert, with a small smile, nodding his head. And now he sighed. “Whoppers.”

He took another slug from his flask, that bottomless flask of Windsor Canadian.

“Okay then,” I said, hoping against hope that the subject of conversation would change.

“Maybe you didn’t know that guardian angels could get hard-ons.”

“No,” I said. “I didn’t know that.”

“Learn something new every day, doncha?”

“Almost every day,” I said.

“’Course it’s been a while since I had one, not only a whopper, but even the slightest quivering inkling of boner,” he said. He took another slug of the whisky. “Several centuries in fact. More than several. Five, six, seven centuries. When was the Black Death?”

“I’m not quite sure,” I said.

“I remember having hard-ons during the Black Death. Sex meant something in them days, I’ll tell ya. People dying right and left in droves, dropping off like flies. It wasn’t hard at all to get a little tail in them days. It was like the women were desperate for just one last gasp of ecstasy before the plague got ‘em, ya know? Yes, I did pretty well during the Black Death, pretty well indeed. Why, by gummy, I remember this one little wench –”

“Listen,” I said, “Bert, I hate to interrupt you, but I think we should get Emily inside.”

“She’s okay where she is. Take her purse off your shoulder because you look like a fairy and drop it on her lap and let her sleep it off.”

“I just can’t leave her here.”

He took one more swig, then finally he screwed the cap back on the flask and put it away in his suit coat.

“There you go,” he said. “Acting all saintly like.”

“I’m not being saintly, Bert. I just don’t want to leave her here passed out on the wet pavement.”

“Okay,” he said. “Maybe you’re just like, what’s the word, beatific.”

I didn’t say anything. I hadn’t known Bert for very long, but I strongly suspected that he was the sort of person, or angel, who would be a colossal waste of time to argue with.

“Okay, Saint Arnold,” he said, “you take one arm, I’ll get the other one.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Just doing my job,” he said.

He stuck his cigar in his mouth and stepped over to Emily. He took her right arm, I took her left, and we hauled her up. He draped her arm over his shoulder, and I put my right arm around her waist.

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s get her inside, and then we’ll go meet your pal, the son of God.”

“Okay,” I said, although I knew deep down it wasn’t going to be that simple. And, of course, it wasn’t.

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

(Please scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a supposedly up-to-date listing of links to all other officially-published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. We still have a limited assortment of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ left over from the holiday gift-giving season, so call now and get a 60% discount on all items – our operators are standing by!)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 470: mobombo

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the entrance to Bob’s Bowery Bar on this rainy hot night in 1957, with the unconscious heroine Emily in his arms…

(Please click here to read our previous thrilling episode; if you are curious as to just what happened in the 368 episodes before that one then you may go here to start at the very beginning of this 71-volume Gold View Award™-winning autobiography.)

“Arnold Schnabel consistently denied his own sanctity, but would it not be meet and just to hail him as a saint, if not of the Church, then of Literature?” – Harold Bloom, in the
Catholic Standard & Times Literary Supplement.

The door was still wide open, and so I thought that before I did anything else I should shut it, but this was easier said than done with the dead weight of Emily in my arms, especially because the door opened outward, and so I couldn’t just push or shove it shut. So (and if this is tedious, forgive me, dear reader, but I can’t seem to help myself, and in fact maybe I’ll just cross this whole section out when I’m finished) I stepped across the threshold, with Emily in my arms, and, holding her tightly against me with my left arm, I reached down and grabbed the door handle, but before I could back up and pull the door closed, Emily suddenly began to struggle.

“Magumba!” she said.

I looked down at her face, lit by the watery light from the streetlamp. Her eyes were closed, but her lips were open, and a high-pitched, distant-sounding keening now emerged from between them.

“It’s okay, Emily,” I said, in a voice I tried to make soothing.

“Not okay!” she said, and her body wiggled under my arm, and pressed against my body.

I became aware that I, once again, was now possessed of a full-fledged erection, or as full-fledged as an erection of mine probably would ever become.

“Magumba,” she said, again, in a thoughtful sounding way.

“Pardon me?” I said, and I don’t know why I said that, but in the interests of full disclosure I must admit that I did say it.

“Ma-gum-ba!” she said, with greater volume and emphasis, but still not opening her eyes, and continuing to squirm against me. 

I let go of the door handle. Something told me that I should not shut the door just yet, not while Emily was in this present unruly state. I put my right arm back around her waist, and attempted to calm her down.

“Go back to sleep, Emily,” I said. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

As if I were able to predict the future, I, who never knew from one second to the next what was going to happen nor what I was going to do or attempt to do when it did.

“Magumba,” she said again, but more softly now, and her eyelids parted, but only slightly and briefly. “Magumba?”

“Yes,” I said. “Magumba.”

This seemed to calm her, and she rested the side of her face against my chest. Her squirming stopped, and her body went limp again. Maddeningly, even for me, my erection continued to hold its own, pressing against Emily’s warm body, and this warm body in its turn pressing against my erection.

I remembered the door. Yes, I still felt it incumbent upon myself to close the door, and I had just tightened my grip on Emily with my left arm, preparatory to reaching for the door handle again with my right hand, when it suddenly occurred to me that there was no real reason for me to close the door at all. What did anyone inside this crowded saloon care if the door was open or shut? The place had no apparent air-conditioning, and so it wasn’t as if I were letting the cold air out; if anything I was letting some fresh air in – or I suppose I should say I was letting some relatively fresh air in, after all this was the Bowery out here, not some pristine beach – and, conversely, if that’s the word, and it’s probably not, I was giving some of the smoke in that crowded barroom and its effluvia of drunken sweating unwashed human beings a chance to escape out into the rainy Bowery night.

And so I decided to leave the door as it was, wide open. If someone asked me if I had been brought up in a barn, well, then I supposed I would just have to apologize and drag Emily and myself back and close it.

So, that was one less problem to deal with, maybe, but I still had the problem of what to do with Emily.

Then I had yet another of those brainwaves which occasionally rise up at random intervals from the depths of my being.


Julian Smythe: my publisher, or at least the publisher of ‘Porter Walker’, of him whose body and superficial persona I currently inhabited. Julian certainly hadn’t gone out this front entrance while I had been here, so – unless there was some other exit he had escaped by – he perforce must still be in the bar. Julian, yes – wasn’t it time that he took over some narrative responsibility in this world, which, when all was said and done, was Emily’s world? Julian was Emily’s employer after all, and apparently if not exactly her lover then at least her partner in concupiscence; so, maybe, just maybe, I could foist her off on him. After all, it was he who had been spending the whole evening with her, he who had even shared his bed with her this day, he who perhaps had even committed the act of darkness with her in Henry James’s office back at that Valhalla bar, so it seemed fair to say that she was more his responsibility than mine. I realize this was not a noble way for me to be thinking, and in fact I realized my ignobility in thinking such even at the moment I was thinking it. Yes, I realized my ignobility, and, yes, proving without a doubt that I was no saint, I accepted this ignobility. 

We, Emily and I, were still just outside the threshold of the doorway, protected by the overhang of the entranceway from the continuing crashing downpour.

So, all I had to do was drag Emily back through the bar, through that mob of dancing drunken people, find Julian, and hand Emily off to him.

And as soon as I thought the above I realized how impossible a task I was setting myself. I might as well have been planning to drag Emily to the North Pole if I really thought I was going to manage to get Emily and myself through that crowded barroom and find Julian without encountering at least a dozen disasters on the way, but I didn’t know what else to do. My next impulse was to pray fervently and abjectly to Josh and implore him for his help, but then I remembered that in my immediately previous state of desperation I had promised I would never again ask him for anything. He had caused Emily to pass out, he had done his job, and now I had to do mine, or at least attempt to do it, no matter how certainly doomed to abject failure that job might be.

But wait – what about Bert, Bowery Bert, presumably still somewhere back there in the bar? If he really was my guardian angel, wasn’t it his job to help me? What else was he here for? So that’s what I would do, I would drag Emily back inside, find Bert, and ask him to help me.

As I have said, I was still facing out to the street, and so I turned, with Emily in my arms, and started to step back over the threshold.

But I had forgotten about Emily’s purse, which she had dropped on my foot, my left foot to be exact. Unbeknownst to me, when I had stepped forward to try to close the door, my foot had gotten caught in the purse’s strap, and so when I turned to step back into the bar I somehow tripped over the purse, and stumbled sideways against the door jamb; with Emily’s weight in my arms I lost my balance entirely and fell backwards, outside the doorway, landing on my backside on the hard wet pavement and banging the back my head against the brick wall of the entrance area.

I gritted my teeth in preparation for yet another onslaught of pain of the sort that had been befalling me so frequently of late, and yet, amazingly, what pain I did feel – in my right upper buttock and the lower posterior quadrant of my skull – was negligible. This was puzzling for only the moment it took me to remember the pain-killing pill Bowery Bert had given me not long ago, even if in a sense it felt like several weeks ago. So: well done, Bert. He was annoying, but he definitely had his uses.

All I needed to do now was to get myself and Emily up again.

She lay sprawled against me where I sat against the wall, but now her torso began to slip sideways, towards the pavement.

I had taken my arms off of her when I fell, but now I put them around her again, pulling her up to my chest.

“Okay, Emily,” I said, and again, I don’t know why, because she was obviously unconscious, “I’m going to stand up now, and I’m going to pull you up.”

“Mogamba,” she said, her eyes remaining shut.

“Right,” I said. “Mogamba.”

I didn’t know what had happened to “magumba”, and I didn’t care.

I’ll spare the reader and myself a detailed description of what transpired in the next two or three minutes of my life’s struggle, but it resulted in me once again standing, but this time with my back to the entranceway wall, holding Emily up again in my arms, her purse hanging from my shoulder.

“Okay,” I said, sweating profusely for the sixty-ninth time that day and huffing and puffing. “Now we’re going to take you inside, Emily.”

“Moboomba?” she said, her eyes closed.

“Yes,” I said, “moboomba.”


“Mobombo too, whatever,” I said, but then her right hand was clutching my organ of supposed virility again, or at least clutching it through the material of my blue jeans.

“Mobombo,” she said.

“Emily,” I said, “please don’t do that.”

“Mobombo!” she said, in a demanding sort of way.

“No!” I said. “No mobombo!”

I wanted to pull her hand away, but both my arms were occupied in holding her up.

“Mo-bom-bo!” she said, even more forcefully this time, and now to my horror I realized that she was unbuttoning the fly of my jeans (yes, these were old-school button-fly bluejeans, a detail I might not have mentioned before, and, come to think of it I might just as well not have mentioned it ever).

“Emily,” I said, “please don’t do that. We are in a public place.”

“Not public,” she said, lapsing into intelligible if muddled English words.

“Well, semi-public,” I said. “If a policemen were to see us we could be arrested.”

“Fuck police,” she said. 

Her eyes were open now, or rather halfway open, the eyelids fluttering as she looked up at me, her eyes glinting in that watery light from the street lamp.

“Please, Emily,” I said. “I beg you.”

“Fuck me, big boy, right here,” she said, her voice sounding as if her mouth were full of warm devil’s food cake, and then I realized that my poor organ had been freed from its confines of bluejeans and boxer shorts and now pulsed naked in her sweaty hand.

“Well, I guess you’re not a saint after all, are you?” said a familiar man’s voice, and there, standing in the doorway was Bowery Bert, grinning and baring his yellow dentures, leaning on his umbrella and taking a puff from his gnarled little black cigar. His watery grey eyes seemed to be pulsing up against the thick lenses of his glasses, like two importunate slugs.

My guardian angel.

“I need help, Bert,” I said.

“You think so?” he said. “Looks to me like you’re doing just fine, my boy!”

“Mogambo!” cried Emily, and she yanked on my organ of sin, hard, as if she wanted to pull it off.

(Continued here, and onward, with only the occasional break every four or five weeks so that our editorial staff may complete its preparations for the long-awaited e-publication of Volume One of Arnold’s memoirs.)

(Painting by Ernest “Darcy” Chiriaka. Kindly turn to the right-hand column of this page to find a purportedly current listing of links to all other legally-released chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. We still have an extremely limited stock of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ left over from our big holiday sales event, so place your order this week and receive a one-time-only discount of 50% on all items!)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 469: prayer

Let’s return to a certain hot and rainy night in 1957 and rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel as he is being pulled toward the exit of Bob’s Bowery Bar by the drunken and amorous Emily

(Kindly go here to read our immediately preceding chapter; the puzzled and the curious may click here to start at the very beginning of this 63-volume Gold View Award™-winning memoir.)

“It has become fashionable amongst the chattering
littérateurs of today to refer to Arnold Schnabel as ‘the American Proust’ – but would it not be more à propos to deem Proust ‘the French Arnold Schnabel’ – ‘avant le lettre’, bien sûr?” – Harold Bloom, in the Cape May Star & Wave Literary Supplement.

In a matter of seconds we were at the door, and, keeping my right arm clamped tightly in her left, Emily pushed it open with her free hand.

Outside the downpour continued unabated, or, if it had abated, it had begun again.

“Oh, well,” I said, “looks like it’s still raining pretty hard,” as if Emily were blind, although even if she were blind she couldn’t have mistaken the multifarious crashings and clatterings of that downpour, like billions of ball-bearings being dumped from the skies by an angry or maybe just bored god.

After staring out at the tempest for half a minute she turned her head and looked up at me.

“Just think how romantic it will be to walk arm-in-arm in the rain.”

“But we could catch our death,” I said, not hesitating to dredge up any boring cliché at all which might have the slightest chance of helping me escape from her clutches.

“Yes,” she said, after a pause which might have been meant to be dramatic, but which might also have been just a plain ordinary drunken pause, and with a genuine glint in her eyes, no doubt from the light of the streetlamp, “but what a grand way to die! What a splendid way to die!”

She had suddenly lost her southern accent, and now she was speaking in that sort of English accent she sometimes used.

I wouldn’t mind if I died,” I said, after a pause which I hoped might seem dramatic, but during which I was actually trying to think of a plausible lie, “but you, Emily, you are too young to die. You have all your, like, life ahead of you.”

Now it was her turn to pause again, and after a full minute, during which her eyes almost closed, but then popped suddenly open, she said, “Come on, cut the shit, Porter, you only live right round the corner.”

That was a fact I had forgotten. In fact my apartment was probably right above where we now stood.

“You sure you don’t want to wait until the rain stops?” I said, trying to hide my desperation.

“Fuck that shit,” she said. “We’ll dash around ever so quick and be there in a mo.”

“Well, it’ll take more than a mo,” I said.

“Don’t cavil with me, Porter,” she said. “If not a mo, then a trice – and, anyway, look at you, you’re already soaked. Now come on, I’m getting the distinct notion, dear boy, that you do not want to invite me up to your digs.”

And with that she gave my arm a good strong yank, trying to pull me through the open doorway, but I held my ground, if barely.

“Emily,” I said, “do you remember when I recited that jazz poem at the Kettle of Fish I think it was?”

“Yes, and I thought you were marvelous, darling, even if you did start to lose your audience just a teensy bit towards the end there.”

“Yeah, well, remember the part about how I come from a faraway land, called my mind?”

“Yes, lovely,” she said, but with no apparent enthusiasm.

“And I think I mentioned how the prince of darkness had transformed me into an absurd character in a stupid novel I was reading?”

“A charmingly fantastic conceit, maybe not your best work, no, not by a long shot, my dear, but not even Hart Crane hit a home run every time he stepped up to the plate.”

“But what if I told you that I actually do come from another world, a world I think of as, well, ‘reality’?”

“Ha ha, you slay me, Porter.”

“But, Emily,” I said, “what if I told you that all this –” I waved a hand with a halfhearted outward sweep, “all of this really is a fictional universe. What if none of it is really real.”

“Ho ho. You absolute card, Porter.”

“What if I were to tell you that I am in real life a railroad brakeman on a mental disability leave, named Arnold Schnabel, and I have been wandering around for what seems like years in this fictional universe in which it is my fate to inhabit the corporeal form of the ‘romantic bohemian poet’ Porter Walker.”

“And what if you were to tell me all that?” she said.

“Well, that is what I’m telling you,” I said. “My real name is in fact ‘Arnold Schnabel’, and all I really want to do is to return to my own world, which, at least to me, is the real world.”

“And so, in other words, you are saying you are suffering from rather a severe case of certifiable insanity?” she said.

“Well, I know it all sounds insane,” I said. “But it’s the truth.”

“And I believe, dear boy, that for you it is indeed the truth. You mad, dear, precious poet. Take me up to your pad now.”

“But, wait, in this other world, the ‘real world’ –”

Your ‘real world’.”

“Okay, ‘my’ real world – anyway, in that world I have a girlfriend.”

“Oh, you do, do you? And what is her name?”

“Well, she’s called Elektra.”

“And what kind of a stupid name is that?”

“Okay, her real name is Betsy.”

“That’s more like it. Now, is there any other fantastic rubbish you want to tell me or can we cut the shit, run up to your place and get down to business?”

“Um, well,” I didn’t know what to say – nothing was working anyway; for some reason I tried, “the son of God is back there in the bar.”


“Yes, except I know him as Josh.”

“Charming. And tell me, old bean, what is it like to have such a creative mind?”

“But I’m not creative. It’s all true.” 

She was facing me now, standing very close to me, her fingers stroking the damp and dirty material of my seersucker jacket.

“May I ask you a personal question, Porter?”

“Um, okay.”

“Have you taken LSD today? And please be honest now.”

I looked away.

“You have,” she said. “Haven’t you?”

“Well, yes,” I said. “But really, that has no bearing on anything I have just told you.” 

“Ha ha. How charmingly risible. But this is why I like you, Porter. You’re just not like all the other chaps, are you?”

“Yes, I suppose that’s true,” I said. “But, but –”

“But what, darling?”

“I haven’t told you even one one-thousandth, one one-millionth of what I have gone through, the different worlds I have visited, including, yes, the next world, and all the adventures I have had with both the living and the dead, or the fact that I have a friend named Ferdinand, who is a talking fly –”

“Okay, stop.”

“All right.”

To be honest I didn’t mind stopping. I had already begun to bore myself.

“Porter, I want you to feel something. Do you mind?”

“I’m not sure if I will mind or not,” I said. “But I expect that I will.”

“Go ahead and mind then. This is what I want you to feel.”

And with that she put her hand on my organ of supposed procreation, not that I had ever used it for procreative purposes. Or rather she put her hand on the crotch of my jeans within which was said organ.

“Oh,” I said.

“Does that feel fictional?” she said.

“No,” I said.

“I knew you were a wild rover, Porter. A bold bohemian boy, untrammeled by the mores of the American middle-class. You are a wild young stallion, not meant to be tamed. And yet still, nonetheless, and indeed perhaps because, I want you to take me up to your poet’s garret now and make savage love to me.”

She gave me, or that part of me, a squeeze, and despite myself it started to grow.

“Um,” I said.

“And, the great spirit of the earth-mother willing, you will, tonight, put me in the family way.”


“I hope you’ll make me pregnant tonight, old chap.”

“Hey, now, hold on, Emily.”

She took her hand away from my organ of despair at last, and now she began playing with the knot of my tie.

“What? Are you afraid?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Be afraid then,” she said. “I shall be courageous enough for the both of us!”

With that she put her arms around my neck, her heavy hard purse banging painfully on my spine as she did so, and she pulled my head down and kissed me.

While she was kissing me I decided to go to my last resource: I prayed.

“Josh,” I prayed, “I hope you’re still in this bar, and if you are, and if you can hear me, please, I really need your help. If you help me out now I promise never to ask you for anything ever again.”

“Arnold, is that you?” said Josh, in my head.

“Yes!” I shouted, silently, as Emily forced her tongue against mine.

“What’s up, buddy? Where are you?”

“I’m here, at the front door of the bar.”

“Of this bar? What’s it called?”

“Bob’s Bowery Bar.”

“Bob’s, yes, Bowery Bar, of course. So come on in, pal, we’re having a great time!”

“Well, that’s why I’m praying to you, actually, Josh.”

“Oh, this is a prayer?”

I said. “You see, I need your help.”

My help.”

I said. “I mean if you don’t mind.”

he said, in my brain, “Arnold, may I be frank?”

“Of course,” I said, thought, prayed as Emily shoved me roughly back against the door jamb.

“The thing is, Arnold,” Josh went on, “that I, or we – my father, H.G., and I – you remember H.G. –”

I said.

“Better known as the holy ghost, or holy spirit as they’re calling him nowadays, but, you know, I always think of him as H.G. –”

“Uh-huh –”

“I forget what I was saying –”

“Uh –”

“What was the last thing you said? Maybe that will, you know, help me get back onto my train of – whatever –”

I said.

“My train of thought. What were we talking about?”

“I was saying that I was praying to you for help.”

“Oh, right, well, here’s the thing you humans always get wrong, I mean if I may be perhaps brutally frank. May I?”


“Praying to us for something doesn’t mean shit.”


“You can pray all night and all day, but, sorry, don’t expect to get any help from us just through prayer.”

“Oh, okay,”
I said. 

“Not saying we
won’t help you out if we feel like it. And I think I have helped you out here and there, Arnold, if I may say so.”

“I know you have, Josh. And I really, you know, appreciate it –”

“But the thing is, Arnold, you really can’t just expect me to help you out every single time you have a problem.”

“I see.”

“It just doesn’t work that way. I’m sorry.”

“Well, never mind then,”
I said.

“Okay, then, and I hope there’s no hard feelings.”

“No, not at all, Josh,”
I said. “I realize now how presumptuous I was being.”

“But just out of curiosity, what is your problem this time?”

“Oh, it’s nothing important,”
I said.

“So, like, not as important as all the millions of babies being born into abject poverty all the time. Not as important as warfare, disease, earthquakes.”

“No, not as important as those things.”

“Erupting volcanoes. Tidal waves. Forest fires.”

I said. “It’s really of no importance at all.”

“But just, again, out of curiosity, you know, what is it?”

“You can’t see me?”

“The all-seeing eye thing?”


“No, Arnold, I’m really trying not to do that sort of thing. I told you, I’m attempting to be a regular human. Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t even be talking to you telepathically this way, but, you know, I consider you my friend, so I’m giving you a little leeway here. So, anyway, what’s the big problem? The big problem
this time.”

I said. “Do you remember the girl who’s the heroine of the stupid novel whose universe I am stuck in –”



“Yes, Emily! Of course, what about her?”

“She’s kissing me right now, and also she’s caressing my, uh, you know –”

“Organ of procreation?”


“So it sounds to me like you don’t need any help at all, buddy.”

“No, you don’t understand, Josh, she wants me to take her up to my apartment –”

“Yes, and?”

“And – I don’t want to take her up to my apartment.”

“She’s a very pretty girl, as I recall. Looks kind of like Natalie Wood, right?”

“Yes, I guess so, but –”

“So I don’t really see what the problem is.”

“Well, you see, she’s – she’s extremely drunk, and –”


“Yes, really drunk.”

“Like, what –


“Oh. I get it.”

“You do?”

he said. “And, just – wow.”

“Pardon me?”

“You really are a gentleman, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know about that, Josh, but I just don’t want to, you know –”

“Commit the act of darkness with her. In her present state.”

“Well, to be honest, I –”

“Arnold, I am so impressed with you right now.”

“You are?”

“I am. And I’m beginning to wonder if maybe – just
maybe – you really are a living saint?”

“Look, Josh, I’m no saint. I just want to escape from this girl, and then, if possible, find a way to get back to my own world.”

“Wow. Again. Okay. You know what, Arnold?”


“Is she still kissing you?”


“Still caressing your, you know –”


“Okay, what I want you to do is put your arms around her.”

“Do I have to?”

“Please, Arnold, I’m trying to help you.”


I had been holding my arms stiffly down at my side, but now I put them around Emily’s waist.

“Do you have your arms around her?”


“Now hold her tight, really tight.”

I said, thought, communicated telepathically, and I squeezed her body close to mine, notably against my pulsing erection.

“Oh, Porter,” she said, finally drawing her mouth away from mine. “You make me swoon when you squeeze me like that!”

And then she did swoon, in my arms, her head drooping to the side to loll just above her shoulder, her arms limp, her legs giving way. Her purse, which had been hanging by its strap over one of her arms slipped down and landed with a thump on my foot. I could easily have just let Emily herself slip to the floor, but I suppose I was too much the gentleman to do that, so I held her up.

“Did it work?” said Josh.

“If you mean did she pass out, yes,” I said.

“Well, there, you see, I haven’t completely lost my touch, have I?”

I said. “Thanks. I really appreciate it, Josh.”

“My pleasure. Now get on over here.”

I said.

Now all I had to do was find a good place to put Emily’s unconscious body. I thought of asking Josh for help, but then I remembered that I had promised never to ask him for his help again,  and I didn't want to press my luck.

(Continued here, and on into the new year, and, as new caches of Arnold’s neatly handwritten marble copybooks continue to be discovered, no one at this point can say how many more years beyond.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page to find what our editorial staff hope to be an up-to-date listing of links to all other officially-published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. We still have a very limited supply of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ left over from the holidays, so order now and receive a one-time-only discount of 25% per item!)