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!)