Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “My friend Sid”

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel and his new friend “Sid” (aka Siddhārtha Gautama, aka the Buddha) on this rainy summer night, here in the entrance area of Bob’s Bowery Bar... 

(Kindly click here to read last week’s thrilling adventure; if you would like to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 63-volume epic you may click here to order
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, available either as a Kindle™ e-book or as an old-fashioned softcover “book” printed on FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp.)

“Ah, summer! And what better way to pass the day than sitting on the shady porch of our quaint Victorian ‘cottage’ in Cape May and reading a few hundred pages or so of Arnold Schnabel’s enormous (and enormously rewarding)
chef-d'œuvre!” – Harold Bloom, in the Cape May Pennysaver Literary Supplement.

I didn’t know what to say to that remark, and so I said nothing, which of course is not always the case with me, to say nothing when I have nothing to say, in fact I would estimate that 99% of what I’ve said in my life has been said despite having nothing to say, and perhaps this very sentence is an example.

“A huge admirer,” repeated Sid.

“Uh,” said I, it was the best I could manage at the time.

“And I shall be ever so delighted to meet him. Do you think he’d like to meet me?”

“Oh, sure,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, sure, he’d like to meet you.”

“Yes, but the way you said it.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” I said, realizing that just because he realized he had a tendency to come on too strong didn’t of course mean he was likely to do anything about it.

“It sounded as if you were saying, ‘Oh, sure, he would like to meet you.’”

“That’s what I said.”

“Yes, but in a way that, oh, sure, he would like to meet anybody.”

“Well, I think he is that way,” I said. “Much more than me, that’s for sure.”

“Yes, but we’re not talking about you. We’re talking about Jesus Christ. The son of what I believe you Americans call ‘the chap upstairs’.”

“I realize that, uh, Sid,” I had almost addressed him as Mr. Buddha again, but caught myself in time.

“If you don’t think he would like to meet me I wish you would just say so.”

“Sid, I just told you I think he would like to meet you.”

“You really think so?”

“Yes, I really think so,” I said.

“Well, okay, then.”

“Let’s go in,” I said.

“Wait.” He put his hand on my arm. He had put his cigarette in his lips so that he could do this unencumbered, since he still had his umbrella hanging from his other arm. “Correct me if I’m wrong.”

“Okay,” I said.

“What you’re saying is he wouldn’t mind meeting me because he wouldn’t mind meeting anyone.”

“Yes,” I said.

“But not, you know, because.”

I knew he wanted me to say “Because of what?” but I just couldn’t bring myself to say that, my little revenge I suppose for his being so annoying.

“Because of the obvious,” he said.

Again I gave him no relief. I’m not proud of the way I was behaving, but I’m trying to be truthful in this chronicle.

“The obvious being,” he finally continued, realizing what a mean human being I was being, “because I am no other than Siddhārtha Gautama, perhaps better known as the Buddha.”

I sighed, this was I believe my ten thousandth sigh of this longest day in history, at least my own personal history.

“I don’t really understand what you’re getting at, Sid.”

“I mean,” he said, “one would think he would be delighted to meet me, he and I being in the same shall we say general line of work you see –”

“Oh, I get it now. Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be delighted to meet you, Sid.”

“You’re really sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Pretty sure.”

“Yeah –”

“’Pretty sure’. Okay. Wow.”

“I mean I can’t say for absolutely sure, Sid, but –"

“But you’re pretty sure.”


He still had his hand on my arm, gripping it uncomfortably tightly, and it was all I could do not to shake him off, or try to, try to shake him off and toss him out into the downpour and make my escape into the bar.

“I think I get it,” he said.

“Good,” I said.

“Oh, I get it.”

“Uh –”

“You’re fairly sure –”

Oh Christ, I thought, very loudly, in my brain.

Somewhat sure.”

“Oh, Christ,” I said, aloud this time.

Pretty sure,” he said, “provided that I don’t, in your parlance, ‘come on too strong’.”

“Yes,” I said, flatly, because, now that he mentioned it, that was probably what I had meant, more or less, although maybe not more, more likely less.

“Well, my dear sir, I have already assured you I will do my best not to, as you say, come on too – oh, dear. Oh my goodness. I just realized. I have been coming on too strong again, haven’t I?”

I didn’t say anything, again. I didn’t have to say anything.

“Okay. Look, Arnold – I can call you that, right?”


“Arnold, look, if I get out of hand again, I want you to slap me. Okay? And hard. I mean, really give me a strawmaker as you Yankees say?”

“I’m not going to slap you, Sid.”

“Okay, fine, but give me a nudge. Or, like, step on my foot, clear your throat – or, maybe you could fake a coughing fit?”

“Okay,” I said.

“You promise?”

“I promise. Can we go in now.”


He took his hand off my arm, took the cigarette from his lips and tapped off the ash, which I noticed tumbled down to land on the scuffed uppers of both of my work shoes. I made a move to turn and head through the doorway into the bar, but he quickly stuck the cigarette back in his mouth and grabbed my arm again. 

“But wait,” he said.

“Now what, Sid?”

“What’s he like?” he said, in almost a whisper, as if anyone was listening.

“You mean Jesus,” I said, loud and clear.

“Yes! Who else are we talking about?”

“He’s –” I paused, possessed by one of those occasional urges to tell the truth that sometimes descend upon me, “probably not quite what you would expect.”

“But he’s still perfect, right?”

“I can only assume so,” I said.

“Assume. You are so modest. Come, come, my good fellow – he’s the son of God! Of course he’s perfect. How could he not be perfect?”

“He likes to drink,” I said.

“Nothing wrong with a drink now and then.”

“He likes to drink a lot.”

“Oh. You mean he likes it a lot, or he drinks a lot.”

“Both,” I said. “To tell the truth he was pretty drunk when I last saw him.”

“Really. Well, maybe, just maybe when the son of God gets drunk it’s all part of his perfection. I mean, can we judge him the way we would judge an ordinary human, or one of the lesser gods?”

“The what?”

“Lesser gods.”

“Lesser gods?”

“Or any other gods.”

“Other gods?”

He stared up at me through the thick lenses of his glasses.

“Am I to believe you don’t know about the other gods?”

“As a Catholic I was brought up to believe there was only one God.”

“Oh, right. And yet your so-called ‘one God’ if I am not mistaken is really three gods, isn’t he?”

“Well, not exactly –”

He took his hand off my arm, made a fist, and then stick out his index finger. 

“Father,” he said.

Then he stuck out his forefinger, which had a gold ring with a tiny little Buddha made out of jewels on it. 


Next he popped out his ring finger, which had another gold ring on it, this one with a little crosslegged lady made out of jewels on it. 

“Holy ghost,” he said. 

He took his cigarette out of his mouth, and breathed smoke up into my face.

“Three gods,” he said. “Not one. Correct me if my maths is wrong.”

“Okay, Sid,” I said, I have no idea why, “but, you see, according to the doctrine of the Trinity, they’re really just, uh, you know –”

“What about the Sun God?”


“The Sun God. God of the Sun. The big yellow thing in the sky during the daytime? Sun God.”

“There’s a Sun God?”

“What about the God of Thunder?”

“Okay,” I said.

“God of the forest, or I should say gods of the forest –”

“All right –”

“Do I have to go on, enumerating hundreds more gods?”

“No,” I said.

“Bacchus, God of wine. Chandra, the reefer god.”


“Not to mention gods that even I don’t know about.”


“I forget that, enlightened as you are, you are still a human being, aren’t you?”

“Presumably,” I said.

“’Presumably.’ Ha ha. You kill me. ‘Presumably.’”

He took a drag of his cigarette, tapped the ash, which tumbled down to my shoes again.

“Unless,” he said. “Unless. Unless.

“Okay, unless what,” I said, it was either that or scream.

“Unless you yourself are a god.”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“You don’t think so, but maybe that’s just because you don’t know.”

“Hey, maybe we should go in now.”

I made a move to turn, but he quickly put his cigarette back in his mouth and grabbed hold of my arm again

“Y’know,” he said, “a lot of people think I’m a god.”

“Really? Y’know, we should go in, because come to think of it, I’m really hungry, I haven’t eaten since –"

“I once fasted for two weeks. Try to beat that.”

“I don’t think so, but, look, I am pretty hungry, and I’d like to order some food, and if we go in too late the kitchen might be closed.”

“Just because I started a religion with millions of followers, a lot of westerners think that makes me a god.”

“I think they have a late-night menu, but I’m not sure just how late they serve.”

“I’m the Buddha, but I’m not a god.”

“Okay, well –”

“Like Mohammed, same deal with him. Millions of adherents to the religion he started, but he’s not a god either. Allah is the God.”

“Okay, I wasn’t quite clear on that. So –”

“Your friend Jesus, though,” he said. “Wow, not only a God, but the son of God. That’s what you Americans call a double threat. Like Babe Ruth was not only a great batsman but an excellent bowler as well.”

“Can we go in now?”

“Sure,” he said. “I’m dying to go in.”

He took his hand off my arm, but just as quickly grabbed it again, and his grip was strong for such a little fellow, my forearm was actually getting sore from him gripping it so hard and for so long.

“Now what?” I said.

“How do I address him? Dear lord? Master? Divinity?

“Just call him Josh.”


“Yes,” I said. “He likes to be called Josh now, because he wants to be a human being instead of God.”

“Really? But he’s still the son of God, right?”

“I don’t think he wants to be the son of God anymore either.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re – I think the term is – fucking with me.”


“An instance of the much-vaunted American sense of humor perchance?”


“You’re telling me he doesn’t want to be God or the son of God anymore. At all.”

“Right. He just wants to be a regular human being.” 
“In your parlance again: wow.”

“I know. It’s kind of strange.”

“Strange is not the word. It’s – in your American argot – kind of fucked up.”
“Well, maybe so, but –”

“So I should address him as Joshua?”

“Just Josh.”



“Okay. All right. And, look, when you introduce us, maybe you should just introduce me as ‘Sid’, okay?”


“Like, ‘Josh, I should like to introduce you to my friend Sid.’


“I don’t want to come on too strong.”

“Good idea,” I said. “Could you let go of my arm now?”

“Oh, yes, of course,” he said, and he removed his vice-like grip from my forearm.

With my other hand I massaged the inflamed area of my arm.

“Okay, let’s go in,” I said.

“Certainly,” he said. 

He took a drag from his cigarette, which was smoked down to its last half-inch. He blew the smoke up into my face. You didn’t really have to smoke your own cigarettes with him standing there. He flicked the butt out into the unabated downpour where its tiny fire was immediately extinguished and the less tiny tube of tobacco and paper was flushed away into the gutter, to the sewer, to the Atlantic Ocean.

“I must say I’m getting thirsty,” he said, with a smile, and slipping his arm in mine. “This dreadfully humid heat. Are you thirsty?”

“Yes,” I said, although I wasn’t thirsty for water.

(Continued next week, provided this world is still here...)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “Navy Cut”

We last saw our hero Arnold Schnabel in the entranceway of  Bob’s Bowery Bar, accompanied by his new acquaintance the Buddha, who has assumed the form of a “small Oriental-looking man” in a white suit and a straw boater hat... 

(Please go here to read last week’s exciting episode; if you would like to begin at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 57-volume epic you may click here to order
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, available both as a Kindle™ e-book or as palpable “book” printed on FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp.)

“Now that the first volume of Arnold Schnabel’s
chef-d'œuvre is at last available for purchase, is there really any question as to what book should be number one on any book lover's list of ‘summer beach reads’?” – Harold Bloom, in the Reader’s Digest ‘Summer Fun’ Supplement.

“Very well done, my friend – very well done indeed!”

The little man smiled broadly, revealing perfectly white and gleaming teeth, and he looked past me into the entrance of the bar. 

“My, this does look a jolly place! I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve been in a tavern or an alehouse – are we going in?”

“Well, I was intending to go in, yes,” I said.

“And get a little – as you Americans say – ‘load on’?”

“Well,” I said, “I’m afraid that’s what usually happens in these places, but actually I’m hoping to find some friends of mine.”

“You have friends?”

“Believe it or not, yes.”

“Ha ha, no offense, old bean.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “In fact, there was a time when I had no friends.”

“You do strike me as the loner type. The brooding poet in his garret, that sort of thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a brooding poet in a garret.”

Little did he know that I actually did sleep in a small attic room, which I think is the same thing as a garret.

He had hooked the bamboo crook of his umbrella over his left forearm, and now he reached into the right side pocket of his suit coat, brought out a golden jewel-encrusted cigarette case, held it out to me and clicked it open.

“Player’s Navy Cut?”

I raised my hand to take one, but stopped myself.

“Go on,” he said. “Take one, I’ve got plenty as you see.”

“Well, I know this will sound hard to believe,” I said, “but I’ve given up smoking.”

“You have?” he said. “My goodness, I hope you won’t take offense if I should humbly ask why, in the name of all the gods, if I may be so bold as to pretend to speak for them?”

“Why did I quit smoking?”

“In the proverbial nutshell, yes, why would you possibly want to quit so pleasurable an activity as smoking?”

“Well, okay, the immediate cause for my, uh, quitting was that yesterday morning – although it feels like nine years ago – I woke up coughing my lungs out, just as I usually did, which was the opposite of pleasurable, then or ever, and I was tired of it. The other reason was that I didn’t want to die of cancer. Or emphysema. Or both.”

“So you’re that invested in your corporeal existence?”

“Yes,” I said. “Also, I dislike pain.”

“Okay. I get that. Far be it from me to judge. But you don’t mind if I smoke?”

“Not at all,” I said.

“Or.” He cocked his head. “Or, we could fire up a marijuana cigarette. A ‘reefer’ in your parlance.”

“Um, uh –”

“Come, come, dear sir, I know you appreciate the sacred weed. You certainly held your own with Wiggly Jones, ‘the little hippie lad’, and that’s saying something!”

“Well, yeah, but –”

“The reefer-smoking equivalent of ‘going the distance’ with the great Jack Dempsey!”

“Heh heh –”

“Hold on.”

He snapped shut the cigarette case, dropped it back into the side pocket of his suit coat, then reached into its inside pocket and brought out a Player’s Navy Cut cigarette tin. 

“Call me pretentious, but I like to keep my Navy Cuts in my nice Cartier case, but I find that these Player’s tins are excellent for carrying tubes of the sacred herb.”

He clicked the tin open, and there must have been at least a dozen fat and obviously hand-rolled cigarettes in it. 

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, “why not just keep them in my Cartier with the regular cigarettes? And I’ll tell you why, because if I see a flatfoot or what looks like a plainclothes bull about to brace me and shake me down I can quick just toss the Player’s tin of sacred smokeables down the nearest sewer, which I would hate to do with my nice Cartier case, I don’t even want to tell you how much they would charge over the counter for it, not that I had to pay retail, but still.”

It occurred to me that he really didn’t need to smoke any reefer, but I said nothing.

“So what do you say we fire one of these little ecstasy-sticks up?” he said.

“Listen,” I said, “Mr. Buddha –”

“Hey. Ernest.”

“Arnold,” I said, I don’t know why I bothered.

“Arnold,” he said. “What did I tell you about this ‘Mr. Buddha’ business? Call me Sid. I mean if you prefer to be more formal you can call me Siddhārtha – Siddhārtha Gautama is my full name, not that I expect you to remember that – but, look, I like to think we can be friends, so, please, call me Sid.”

“Okay, Sid –”

“Yes, Ernest?”

“Uh –”

“Just jesting,” he said. “Arnold. I remember your last name, too. Arnold Sch-, Scha-, Schu–”

“Schnabel,” I said.

“Schnabel?” he said.

“Yes,” I said, probably in a way that my favorite authors would describe as “wearily”.

“’Arnold Schnabel.’ Good, I’ll remember it now.”

He took out one of the handrolled cigarettes and put it in his lips. He snapped the tin shut, slipped it back into his inside pocket, then reached into his side pocket again and brought out a box of Tiger brand matches. He slid it open, took out a match, struck it on the side of the box, and lighted himself up. He tossed the match out into the rain, it sizzled out and was dashed to the sidewalk to be washed away into the gutter and then into a sewer and finally out to the ocean where it would drift forlornly till the end of time. He dropped the matches back into his pocket and then, holding in the smoke, his eyes bulging behind his round glasses, the Buddha proffered the reefer to me.

“Listen, uh, Mister –” his thin eyebrows popped up, so I immediately corrected myself, “I mean, Sid, maybe it’s not such a great idea to smoke that in public –”

He exhaled marijuana smoke up into my face.

“Arnold,” he said, with a small smile, “just take a look around at where you are.”

“I don’t have to look around, I know where we are.”

“Do you see any policemen around here? Do you think they’re out walking their beat in this torrential downpour? And, yes, I know, maybe a patrol car might cruise by, but even if it did, what are they going to see? Just two chaps taking the fresh air outside of a taproom, sharing a convivial cigarette. And as for the good people inside the taproom – just cast an eye.”

Involuntarily I turned and looked through the doorway at that crowd of drunken, dancing, shouting people, with the music blaring over them through the thick swirling smoke, a lady’s voice singing,
Roll another muggles, daddy,
roll it up thick and tight.
Now fire that muggles up, big daddy,
‘cause we gonna get real high tonight…

“You see what I mean?” said the Buddha, or Sid, as I suppose I should get used to calling him, “You think anyone in there cares? Now come on, you’re wasting the precious weed.”

I suppose I’d like to be able to say I took the reefer just to shut him up, and this was true as far as it went, but I also took it because I wanted to, indeed I even felt I needed to. At any rate I took the reefer.

“Thanks,” I said.

“It’s me who should be thanking you,” said Sid.

“For what?” I said, taking a series of quick inhalations like the expert I was apparently becoming.

“For what?” said Sid. “Why, for enabling me to assume the corporeal form of a human being again!”

“I did that?” I croaked, in a constricted voice, as I was still in the process of “toking”.

“You certainly did, old chap. I told you you were enlightened, did I not?”

“Yes,” I said, finally letting out a great cloud of smoke from my lungs. “But I didn’t know –”


“Didn’t know I had these sorts of –”



“Supernatural powers.”


I was staring at the reefer. It seemed unusually strong in its effect, and I was compos mentis enough to formulate the thought that I probably shouldn’t smoke any more of it.

“One powerfully enlightened being,” said Sid, “that’s what you are, my friend.”



“I don’t feel very enlightened,” I said, “I feel more like the opposite –” 

Sid took the reefer from my fingers.

“There you go,” he said. “Not only enlightened, but humble, too!”

“Well, if you were me you would be humble, too.”

“Spoken like a true guru of the old school!”

He drew on the reefer, he had his own method, a few very deep, very slow draws. He took his time, and then exhaled another cloud of smoke in the direction of my face.

“You know something, Arnold, If I didn’t want to get the knees of my trousers wet and soiled I would verily kneel before you in obeisance.”

“No need for that,” I said.

“So modest,” he said. “I wish all enlightened people were so humble and modest. But you know how it is. Chaps get a little enlightened, assume guru-hood, and then next thing you know they get a swollen head. Don’t let that happen to you, Arnold.”

He pointed the lit end of the reefer at me.

“I doubt it will,” I said.

“Unless,” he said, “– and I’m not saying this would happen, but still it’s something any guru needs to watch out for – unless you start becoming proud of your very modesty.”

“Oh. Uh –”

Or –” he took another smaller slow draw on the reefer, paused and then took another; at last he exhaled and resumed his sentence – “and I’ve seen this happen, more times than I would like to say – unless you start getting all full of yourself once you have all sorts of students and followers hanging on your every word of wisdom –”

“I don’t see that happening,” I said.

“Getting full of yourself?”

“Having students and followers,” I said. “And since I’ll never have students and followers I won’t be able to get full of myself about it.”

“Well, all I can say, Arnold, is, just, as you Americans say, like, wow.”

“Heh heh,” I said.

“You laugh.”

“Almost mirthlessly, though,” I said.

“But why are you laughing, albeit almost mirthlessly.”

“Never mind.”

“You think I’m joking.”

“Well, no –”

“Someday,” he said, “just you wait, there they’ll be, your students, disciples, sitting all around you, hanging on your every word, your every slight change of facial expression, or the tiniest gesture with a finger –”

He held up his left hand and made a microscopically small gesture with his little finger, which I noticed had a fancy gold ring on  it.

“See? Like that,” he said. “Just the tiniest wiggle.”

He tinily wiggled the finger again.

“Ha ha,” I said.

“Seriously. I’m not joking,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “and besides, I think that reefer is really strong.”

“Of course it is. Grown on the southern slopes of a certain verdant valley of my native Nepal. A little slice of heaven we like to call Shangri-La. Have some more.”

“No thanks,” I said. “I think I’d better not.”

“Save it for later.”

He pinched the light out of the end of the reefer with his finger and thumb.

“Here, stick it in your pocket.”

He held up the reefer. I took it and stuck it in my shirt pocket. I had sunk pretty low, I realize that. 

“Excellent,” said Sid, “now let’s get in there and get that aforementioned load on, shall we?”

“Wait, hold on, Sid,” I said. “I have to tell you something.”

“Great. Unmuzzle your wisdom, as your bawdy bard once wrote.”

“I’m not going in here just to get a load on.”

“No? Then whatever for?”

“I just want to say goodbye to my friends I told you about. And then I want to try to return to the real world.”

“All right,” he said, after just a moment’s pause.

He took his cigarette case out again, clicked it open, offered its contents to me. I shook my head, he shrugged, took out a cigarette and put it in his lips. 

“Sure,” he said. “Whatever.”

He clicked the case shut, dropped it back in his suit coat pocket, brought out the box of matches again.

“I’d like to meet these friends of yours,” he said. 

He took out a match, struck it, lighted up his cigarette, exhaled a great slow cloud of smoke up into my face. Again he flicked the match out into the downpour where it was extinguished and washed away to follow its fellow on an endless voyage into oblivion.

“I mean,” said Sid, he took the cigarette from his lips, holding it between his thumb and forefinger, looking at it, and then at me, “if you don’t mind introducing me –”

“Sure, I don’t mind,” I said.

“Do you think I’ll like them?”

“Uh, yeah – one old guy is kind of crusty –”

“I love crusty old men!”

“Well, I guess you’ll like him, then.”

“But will your friends like me?”

“I, uh –”

“What? You don’t think they will?”

“I don’t know –”

“You don’t know?”

“I mean I’m not sure.”

“Wow, that’s harsh.”

“I’m just trying to be honest, Sid.”

“As you should be. But wow. Am I that unlikable?”

“No, not really –”

“But I am a little.”

“Uh –”

“A little unlikable.”

“Not unlikable so much,” I said, “but –” and I would never have said this normally, but, again, that reefer had been very strong – “you come on a little strong, Sid.”


“I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s true,” he said. “Can I tell you something?”


“Do you know why I was just a cigarette lighter before you helped me assume a human corporeal host again?”

“Uh, no.”

“Because of my tendency to come on too strong. That’s why.”

He took a drag on the cigarette, looked out at the rain, and then back at me.

“I fucked myself. And one fine day I woke up and found that I was a cheap mass-produced table lighter. Well, not super cheap, I was produced at the Ronson factory in Newark, at least I wasn’t some Soviet-made knock-off, but, still. Anyway, I will do my best not to come on too strong with your buddies. And I mean that.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “They’re not perfect either. Except, well –”

“Except what?”

“Well, one of them might be perfect.”

“My goodness, a super guru. What’s his name?”

“Well, he’s Jesus Christ,” I said.

The Jesus Christ.”


“I am a huge admirer,” he said.

(Continued here, in this same time and space...)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “tantric”

Let’s rejoin our memoirist Arnold Schnabel just outside the open doorway of his old haunt Bob’s Bowery Bar... 

(Kindly click here to read last week’s thrilling chapter; those who would like to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 69-volume epic may go here to order
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, either as a Kindle™ e-book or as an old-fashioned actual “book” printed on FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp.)

“Summer vacation at last – and what better ‘beach read’ than Arnold Schnabel’s towering and magnificent
chef-d'œuvre?” – Harold Bloom, in the Better Homes and Gardens Literary Supplement.

Inside the doorway I saw a scene much like the one I had seen when last I had entered the bar: a mob of drunks dancing and thrashing in the smoky sweaty dimness to loud music that sounded like it was being performed by musicians in person as opposed to that which comes from a juke box.

“Well done, sir! I have known thousands, nay, millions of human beings in the past twenty-five centuries or so, but very few who could pull off this kind of a miracle. Well done indeed, sir!”

I looked to the right and left, I turned around entirely, but I saw no one, only the rain pouring down out of the darkness onto the deserted street.

“May I ask who is speaking?” I said.

“Check your right pocket, my friend.”

I started to shove my hand into the right pocket of my jeans, but the voice spoke again.

“I’m sorry, I meant the right pocket of your sport jacket.”

I put my hand in the right pocket of my seersucker jacket, and at first I thought I felt the revolver that the Lily woman had given me so long ago, but, no, whatever it was, hard and metallic to be sure, it wasn’t a revolver. I brought it out, and it was the Buddha-shaped cigarette lighter that had been on Dr. Blanche’s coffee table, or the one I had encountered in Wiggly Jones’s apartment, or the one in Mrs. Biddle’s living room, or some other one.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello to you, sir,” said the Buddha.

“Well, thank you,” I said.

“For what?”

“I don’t know, for helping me decide what to do.”

“That was all you, my friend.”

“Yes, but you winked at me, and, well, something about your wink made me realize what I had to do.”

“Okay, I get that. And you know what? You are very welcome, good sir.”

I stood there, with the Buddha in my hand, and then I looked out at the street, at the Bowery. I was under the shelter of the entrance area, but just a couple feet away from me the rain crashed down with a sound like a billion billion pinballs dumped down from the sky.

“I sense something is troubling you, my friend,” said the Buddha.

“You do?”

“Yes. You know, not for nothing am I called the Buddha. I’m very good on picking up on this sort of thing. ‘Reading’ people. It’s all part and parcel of being enlightened. But, hey, you’re an enlightened fellow yourself – you know what I’m talking about.”

“If you say so.”

“I do say so. So, please, tell me what’s troubling you. No good bottling it up. You bottle these problems up and it’s just like being constipated, only on the spiritual plane. You got to let that shit out.”

“Hey,” I said, “let me ask you something.”

“Fire away.”

“Are you really the Buddha?”

“Sure I am. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I guess it’s just that you sound kind of funny for a, you know –”

“For a Buddha?”


“And how would you expect a Buddha to sound?”

“I guess more – solemn?”





“Well, the hell with solemnity, my friend, and, pardon my French, but fuck formality too. Life is too short. Eternity is too short. So what’s bothering you? Talk to me.”

“Oh, it’s stupid, I guess.”

“I’ll be the judge of that. Come on, tell me. That’s what I’m here for.”

“Okay,” I said. “Well, the thing is, now I feel bad.”

“You do? What do you have to feel bad about?”

“I feel bad about leaving Dr. Blanche like that. Just disappearing all of a sudden. Without even saying goodbye.”


“You understand?”

“I understand perfectly.”

“Well, that’s why I feel bad. And I could tell that she, you know, liked me –”

“Liked you?”

“Yeah, I mean, she was really nice to me –”

“She wanted to have tantric sex with you my friend.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“You mean you don’t know what tantric sex is?”

“Yes, I don’t know what that word you said before sex is.”


“Yeah, that word.”

“Okay. But you do know what regular sex is.”

“Yes. I mean I’m no expert, but I think I know the basics. I mean the basic basics.”

“All right. Tantric sex. Well – in a nutshell, what it is is it’s just really, really, really good sex. Like sex on a whole other level. Not just the physical, but the spiritual as well.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Tantric sex. Maybe you should learn about it.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” I said. “But, anyway, even if Dr. Blanche did only want to have sex with me –”

“Tantric sex.”

“Even if she did only want to have tantric sex with me –”

“Don’t underestimate tantric sex, my friend. Not until you’ve tried it.”

“Okay, well, all I mean is I feel bad, about leaving her there. Without even saying goodbye.”

“When she was really looking forward to having tantric sex with you.”

“Yes. I mean, I didn’t exactly think of it in those terms, but –”

“Hey, Ernest – that’s what you like to be called, right? Ernest?”

“Arnold, actually.”



“So ‘Arnold’’s what you prefer to be addressed as.”

“Well, it’s my name.”

“What is it, Arnold Walker?”

“No,” I said. “Porter Walker is my name in this fictional universe, but my real name is Arnold Schnabel.”

“Oh. Okay. So it’s okay if I call you Arnold?”

“Sure,” I said. “Arnold’s good. I don’t really care at this point. You can call me Kilroy for all I care.”

“Ha ha. Arnold, then. Ha ha, funny by the way, I like your sense of humor. Fatalistic. Self-deprecating. That’s good. But, look, don’t worry about Dr. Blanche.”

“Why not? She has feelings too.”

“I’m not saying she doesn’t. But here’s the thing, in her world you’re still there.”

“I am?”

“Sure, you think this Herbert Walker guy is just going to disappear when he’s sitting next to her on her couch?”

“I thought that’s what I, uh –”

“You thought.”

“But that was me on her couch with her. And now I’m here.”

“And your point is?”

“How can I be here and also on Dr. Blanche’s couch.”

“Because Dr. Blanche is in another book. Another ‘fictional universe’ I think is the term you have used. And, trust me, if I know Dr. Blanche she has already begun to introduce you to the sweet mysteries of tantric sex – and modesty forbids me to say more!”

“Uh, okay –”

“And if you only knew what a time you’re about to have you might well wish you were back in Dr. Blanche’s world.”

“Yeah, maybe – but – how can I be in that fictional universe and this one at the same time?”

“Wow – I have to explain this?”

“Well, you don’t have to –”

“I know I don’t have to, but, look, try to follow me. Does Tarzan being in one novel preclude him from being in another Tarzan novel?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Mr. Moto? Sherlock Holmes? Inspector Maigret?”

“So you’re saying I’m a character simultaneously in a whole bunch of books.”

“Well, maybe not as many as Inspector Maigret –”

“But I’m in more than one book at the same time.”

“You need to get over this ‘I’ thing. The ego. You’re better than that, Ernest.”


“Sorry, ‘Arnold, you’re better than that.’”

“Well, I don’t know –”

“Listen. That’s you in Dr. Blanche’s little world. This is you in another world.”

“How many worlds can I be in at one time?”

“Look, I’m the Buddha. I am not the Encyclopedia Britannica. How many worlds would you like to be in?”

“I’d prefer just to be in one,” I said.

“Well, good luck with that. But look at it this way. Any world is better than no world. Right?”

“Okay,” I said.

“Why are you looking around, by the way?”

I hadn’t realized it, but I suppose I had been looking around, while I stood there holding the Buddha in my hand.

“Something’s bothering you again.”

“Something is always bothering me.”

“Tell me about it. Maya.”

“Pardon me?”

“Maya. The tawdriness of reality if you will. You keep looking around. What’s your problem this time?”

It finally hit me what was bothering me, and I decided to answer his question honestly.

“I’m afraid that someone will see me talking to a cigarette lighter.”

“Well, if that’s all it is, maybe I can help you out. Or, rather, maybe you can help yourself out, because, you know, helping people is not really what I do. I show the way. But it’s up to you to make it happen, my friend.”

“Okay, fine,” I said.

“You ready to give it a try?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Good. That’s very good. I told you were an enlightened guy. Now let’s try this. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes if you will.”

I had nothing to lose, so I closed my eyes.

“Now drop me,” he said.

“Okay,” I said.

“Wait, not yet. First I want you to imagine me as a mortal man, just like you.”


“Good, now fix that thought in your mind. Are you doing it?”

Actually I really wasn’t, I was just wishing he would get to the point, but I said yes.

“Great,” he said. “Now keep that thought, that image in your mind, and now drop me.”

“Just drop you?”

“Yes, just drop me. Don’t worry, I won’t break.”

I was reluctant, I was afraid there would be some kind of catch, and, after all, what did I care if anyone saw me speaking to a cigarette lighter, but I opened my fingers and let the Buddha fall. 

I heard no sound of the lighter landing on the pavement. It was as if the lighter had flown away, or just disappeared into some other dimension.

“Okay, open your eyes now.”

I opened my eyes, and a small Oriental-looking man was standing right in front of me. He had a straw boater on his head, and a pair of round wire-rimmed glasses on his nose. He wore a neatly-pressed  white suit, and he carried a furled black umbrella.

“Is this better?” he said.

“Yes,” I said, although I wasn’t entirely sure of it.

(Continued here, and so on, every one of Arnold’s marble copybooks has been transcribed, with only the most appalling misspellings silently corrected.)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “Rummies on Parade”

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the living room of the apartment of the beautiful lady psychiatrist Dr. Blanche Weinberg... 

(Please go here to read last week’s episode of this Gold View Award™-winning 67-volume memoir; those who would like to start at the very beginning of Arnold’s masterwork are invited to click here to order
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, available both as a Kindle™ e-book and a tangible book printed on FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp.)

“The confessions of a saint or the ravings of a madman? Or both? Let each reader judge for himself.” – Harold Bloom, in his
Introduction to Arnold Schnabel: An Introduction.

I was standing there staring out at the rain and just taking my first drink of this second highball when I heard Dr. Blanche’s voice again.

“You didn’t sit down,” she said.

I turned. She was just closing the door to her office.

“I was just going to,” I said. And thank God or Josh or no one, she had a small notepad in her hand.

“Please,” she said. “Make yourself comfortable.”


I went over to the couch and sat down, at the end closest to the windows.

Dr. Blanche came over and sat down right next to me, to my right.

“Your notepad,” she said, and she held out a thick pad with a plain blue cardboard cover, with three holes drilled into it near the spine so that it could be fitted into a binder.

“Thank you,” I said, and I took the pad. 

Could this be it, at long last? Would I finally be able to escape this universe of infinite fictional universes? 

I looked for somewhere on the cluttered coffee table to place my highball.

“What is it?” said Dr. Blanche. “I do hope you haven’t been stricken with writer’s block.”

“No, I’m just looking for somewhere to put my drink.”

“Oh, my goodness, how thoughtless of me!”

She pushed aside some of the clutter and came up with a coaster, square with rounded edges, made out of ceramic or something like ceramic and decorated with what looked like bacteria of various colors on a pale blue background. She cleared a small space on the table in front of me and put the coaster in it.

“There you are, Mr. Walker.”

“Thanks, doctor,” I said, and I put the Collins glass down on the coaster.

“Do you need a pen, or a pencil?”

“Actually,” I said, “believe it or not I think I might have a pen.”

I checked my shirt pocket, and it was still there, that yellow and green Eversharp ballpoint which I had gone to so many pains and so much pain to acquire, somehow it had survived all these journeys into and out of various worlds and near-death situations. I put the pad on my lap while I unscrewed the pen’s cap and stuck it onto the barrel.

“Do you mind if I smoke while you write?” said Dr. Blanche.

“No, not at all,” I said.

There was a wooden cigarette box on the coffee table, and she reached over and opened it, took out a cigarette, then looked at me.

“I know you said you’ve quit, but maybe a nice Philip Morris will help you relax.”

“It might,” I said, “but I don’t want to be distracted.”

“By a cigarette?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m afraid I would enjoy it so much that I would forget to write.”

“I could remind you.”

“Thanks,” I said, “but I think I’d better not.”

She closed the lid of the box. It was a different kind from the one she had in her office. This one was made out of some sort of dark wood, and to my embarrassment the lid was engraved with images of men and women copulating, similar to or exactly the same as the illustrations in the Kama Sutra book Dr. Blanche had given me to look at.

“Oh, yes, the engravings,” she said. “I saw it in a little shop in Paris and I simply knew I had to have it, which reminds me, what did you think of the Kama Sutra?”

“I only glanced at it,” I said. “And then I put it back.”

“The sex positions are only a small part of the book,” she said.

“Well, maybe not so small a part, but you see the book is actually a philosophical work, and not pornographic in its intent at all. A guide to living if you will. And is not sex a part of living?”

“Well, yes,” I said. “But isn’t everything?”

’Isn’t everything?’ How profound. Yes, I suppose everything is part of life, isn’t it?”

There was a cigarette lighter on the table, and I know this seems improbable, but it was in the shape of a fat little Buddha, similar to or maybe even exactly the same as the one that I had conversed with in the apartment of Wiggly Jones, “the little hippie boy” – which lighter in turn had been similar to or exactly the same as the one I had seen so long ago or was it only yesterday in the living room of Mrs. Biddle’s house back in Cape May in what I still persisted in thinking of as “my world”, although I was beginning to realize that I was thinking of that world less and less as “the real world”. This Buddha didn’t talk, at least not yet, anyway, and Dr. Blanche lighted her cigarette with it and then pulled a large red glass ashtray closer to her.

“So,” she said, “write away. Just pretend I’m not even here.”

This was not easy to do, as she was sitting so close to me that our hips touched, and I could smell that warm perfume of hers, gladioli after a summer rain, in the early evening, and under that scent I smelled something else, something warmer still, and alive.

I opened the pad to its first blank page, holding the book in my left hand.

“By the way,” she said, and then said nothing, apparently waiting for me to say something. I was tempted not to say anything and just to go ahead and start writing, but my good manners held sway once again.

“Yes?” I said.

“The gun.”

With a fingernail she tapped the cloth of the right pocket of  my seersucker jacket, producing a muffled metallic sound because of the pistol that was in there.

“Oh,” I said. “Yes. The gun.”

“Of course I felt it earlier when I was straightening your jacket, but I chose to say nothing. But now I feel I must.”

“Okay,” I said. “Well, I guess I’m going to give this writing thing a try now.”

“I think you said this Milly woman gave you the gun.”

“Her name was Lily, actually,” I said.

“Lily, yes. Another so-called fictional character.”

“Right,” I said.

“What was the book – Rummies on Parade?”

Rummies of the Open Road I think,” I said.

“Yes, of course, by Harold P. Sternhagen was it?”

“Horace P. Sternwall,” I said.

“Who is also a friend of yours.”

“Sort of a friend,” I said.

“Except that he is fictional as well.”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Anyway, back to the gun, the pistol.”


“I don’t suppose you have a permit to carry it.”



“No,” I said. “I’m afraid not.”

“You could get into trouble carrying that, you know.”

“I could get into even more trouble if I didn’t carry it,” I said.

“As with those three hooligans who accosted you in that alleyway?”

“Yes, I guess I told you about them.”

“Such colorful names. The Ox, the Snake, the Pig?”

“Actually I think it was the Bear, the Rat, and the Toad.”

“So your pistol certainly came in handy.”

“It may have saved my life. Or at least saved me a severe beating.”

“I’d just hate to see you get arrested for carrying a firearm without a license.”

“So would I, but I think I’m going to hang onto it anyway.”

“Living dangerously.”

“I feel that I would be living more dangerously if I didn’t have the gun.”

“Mr. Walker, may I speak frankly?”

“Sure,” I said, holding the pen in one hand and the notepad in the other, but she still didn’t get the hint, or if she did she chose to ignore it.

“I would feel better if you gave the gun to me,” she said. “For safekeeping.”

I said nothing.

“I know,” she said, “you are reluctant, but remember, Mr. Walker, that besides being a psychoanalyst I am a physician. And I feel that I would be remiss in my duty as a physician if I were to, to –”

“To let a madman walk around with a loaded and unlicensed firearm?”

“Well, that’s putting it rather bluntly.”

“Okay,” I said, and to be quite honest I only said it in the hopes of shutting her up so that I could concentrate on my writing.

I took the revolver out of my pocket and laid it on a magazine on the table. The magazine was Dissent, one I had never heard of. Dr. Blanche pushed the pistol and the magazine farther away on the table and then piled a bunch of other magazines on top of it – Commentary, Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, Holiday, the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“There, don’t you feel better now?” said Dr. Blanche.

“Yes,” I lied.

“I feel so much better as well.”

“Okay, then,” I said, “well, here goes –”

“This is rather exciting, isn’t it?”

“Well, I’m not exactly excited.”

“You’re not? But if you’re successful then you’ll have accomplished what can only be called a miracle – something beyond the ken of science.”

“Well, that’s true, I suppose.”

“Oh, it is. I know I’m excited.”

“Okay, then –”

“But you, strangely, are not excited. Now why I wonder is that?”

“Because I’m used to being frustrated.”



“Thwarted,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ve gotten used to being frustrated and thwarted, and so it’s hard to get excited.”

“How sad.”

“Yes, well, I’d like to try to write now.”

“I’ve never sat next to a writer, a poet, at the moment of creation.”

“Well, here goes,” I said.

“I wish you the best of luck.”

“Thanks,” I said.

I took a deep breath.

I stared at the blank page. It was a plain notepad page, with thin blue lines.

Now that Dr. Blanche had stopped talking, the room, the apartment, was silent, except for the sound of the rain rattling against the windows, the humming of the air conditioner.

A gentle warm cloud of cigarette smoke floated slowly between the page and my eyes.

I wondered if I should take up Dr. Blanche’s offer of a Philip Morris after all, but then after thinking it over for a half a minute I quickly dismissed the idea, not so much because I didn’t want a cigarette but because asking for one would only mean more of a delay.

I stared at the page.

Where to begin.

How to begin.

I remembered my Haig & Haig highball, which I had hardly touched. I put the pen in the crack between the the notebook’s inside cover and the first page, picked up the Collins glass and took a drink.

“Do you always drink when you write, Mr. Walker?”

“No,” I said. “Usually not.”

“That’s good to hear. So many poets have been ruined by alcoholism.”

I put the glass back down, took up the pen again.

“You know, Mr. Walker –” she started to say, but at last I couldn’t help myself and I interrupted her quite blatantly.

“Excuse me, Dr. Weinberg –”


“Dr. Blanche. I’m going to have to ask you please to be quiet for just a few moments. It’s hard enough for me to concentrate.”

“Oh, dear.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, and I know you’re trying to be helpful,” I was really being polite there, “but I just need to, to try to –”



“I am so sorry, Mr. Walker. I shall sit sit here quietly and you won’t hear a peep.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re quite welcome.”

I took a deep breath and stared at the page, trying to think of what I needed to write, trying to ignore this attractive woman sitting right next to me, her soft hip and now her thigh touching my hip and thigh.

I was drawing a blank, but I put the pen to the paper anyway, and just started writing the first thing that came to my mind:
    Suddenly I was back
I was about to write the words “in my own world”, but something stopped me, and it was the thought of my friends: Ferdinand the faithful fly, and loyal Ben, and Josh, and even Horace, and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Philpot. If they were not on the back of that farmer’s truck about to be obliterated by an enormous tornado, where were they? Were they back in Bob’s Bowery Bar? I know this might sound stupid, but I was suddenly not comfortable with the thought of leaving them without at least saying goodbye, not after all we had been through together. Of course, who could say, maybe I would find Ferdinand and Ben and Josh waiting for me back in “my” world – but could I be sure of that? No, I couldn’t, I wasn’t sure of anything.

I sighed, and looked up from the page.

My glance fell upon the little Buddha.

Was he going to start talking, to give me advice?

But, no, he wasn’t the sort of God to give advice, or even to talk if he didn’t want to, and so what he did do was to wink at me with one eye.

And what did he mean by that wink, if anything?

Suddenly I now was sure of at least one thing, and that was that this was the Buddha’s way of saying, “You know what you have to do. And if you don’t know, well, I sure can’t help you.”

I looked back at the notebook.

I couldn’t help it. I had summarily abandoned my friends once and I just couldn’t do it again. And so I put pen to paper and completed the sentence I had started.

     Suddenly I was back at Bob’s Bowery bar.

And just like that I was back at Bob’s Bowery Bar, not inside it but just outside the open front door, in the entrance area, and the rain was still crashing down hard, as hard as ever.

(Continued here, and onward, provided the world we live in is still here.)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “Haig & Haig”

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the cozy apartment of the beautiful lady psychiatrist Dr. Blanche Weinberg... 

(Kindly click here to read last week’s thrilling chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 73-volume masterpiece; if you would like to start at the very beginning of Arnold’s saga then please go here to order
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, available either as an affordable Kindle™ e-book or a deluxe “book” printed on FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp.)

“At long last Arnold Schnabel’s
massive chef-d'œuvre has begun to achieve the status it so richly deserves, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes a mainstay on the syllabi of any institution of higher learning worthy of the designation.” Harold Bloom, in the Olney Community College Literary Quarterly.

The drinks cabinet stood between two large windows, one of which had an air-conditioner humming in it, and among five or six other bottles of liquor was the Haig & Haig that Dr. Blanche had recommended. 

I didn’t really care what I drank, as long as it was some sort of whiskey, or gin, or vodka, or tequila, or brandy, domestic or imported, all the same to me, but I decided to do the agreeable thing and go for the Haig & Haig. 

There was an ice bucket with a lid on it, which I took off, revealing a couple of dozen large ice cubes. This struck me as odd, not that an ice bucket would have ice cubes in it, but that this particular one would have fresh ice cubes in it. When would Dr. Blanche have filled it if she had spent all evening listening to my hypnotized autobiography? It was just like in a movie, where rich people and nightclub singers always seemed to have freshly-filled ice buckets.

But then I remembered, again: this was not reality, but the world of a paperback novel, allegedly by Hannah Pierce Somebody {in Arnold Schnabel’s holograph copybook the name Sandler is written in the margin, with an arrow pointing to Somebody – Editor}, but undoubtedly really written by my friend Horace P. Sternwall, and I doubted that Horace would ever worry about questions like how did an ice bucket get filled, because who really cares anyway?

So I decided not to worry about it and just be glad there was ice at all, and – all that really mattered – liquor to be chilled by the ice, not that I wouldn’t have been almost perfectly happy to drink the booze at room temperature.

I chose a large highball glass, a Collins glass actually. There was a pair of tongs lying on a specially designed plate, but since no one was looking I just used my fingers to put some ice cubes into the glass, and then I filled it halfway up with the Haig & Haig. The cabinet held one of those big old-fashioned nickel-and-glass seltzer siphons (again just like in the movies), and so I filled the rest of the glass up with seltzer. An engraved metal cup held a dozen or so stainless steel swizzle sticks, and so I went whole hog and used one to stir the drink instead of resorting to my wonted method of just using my finger or not even bothering to stir the drink at all. I wasn’t sure what to do with the swizzle stick after stirring the drink, so I just shook off what moisture I could from it and put it back in the metal cup with its fellows.

I took a good drink and it was good.

Now that I think about it all first drinks (and this was, if far from the first of this endless day, more like the hundredth, then at least it felt like my first in about two months) are good, but some are better than others, and this was a better than average one.

I looked out of one of the windows, the one that didn’t have an air-conditioner in it. The curtains were drawn back and the blinds were up, and the rain streamed down the window-glass. Outside was a nighttime cityscape, not surprisingly a different view from the ones I had seen from the consulting room and the reception room, and after a few moments I recognized the profile of the Empire State Building, with its randomly-placed window-lights glowing through the rain. 

So, I was in New York City, or a version thereof. This was good, or at least better than being on that empty midwestern road in the back of a Ford Model AA with an enormous tornado approaching at high speed from the rear and about to sweep up me and my companions and send us whirling and cartwheeling howling to our doom.

Had it been cowardly of me to abandon my friends, those other five bums, not to mention that nameless good Samaritan of a farmer who had picked us up? Yes, it had been a cowardly move, but perhaps by saving myself I had saved them? Who was to say that they would not now be suspended indefinitely, like a page never turned, in that moment when I had escaped into my present fictional universe? And, anyway, what good would it have done them were I to have stoically (or gibberingly) sat there and awaited our common fate? And, if given the chance, would not my companions and the helpful farmer all have done the same as I had done? Even Ferdinand, even Ben? What about Josh, now that he had apparently lost his divine status? Would even he have become human enough to save himself if he could?

I decided not to kill myself worrying about it, what was done was done, and anyway hadn’t that all been in a fictional world, indeed a fictional world within a fictional world within yet another fictional world? Moreover, could people in novels ever really be said to die? All one had to do was skip backwards from the person’s death scene and he or she would be alive again, and so in a way all fictional characters are immortal as long as one copy of the book they live in exists, as long as one literate creature, human or otherwise, survives to read it.  

I took another good drink, staring out at that rainy nighttime city with its blurry vertical spatterings of electric light. I realized that this was my first moment alone with myself since entering Dr. Blanche’s world, and now my problem was my usual one, the one I had been grappling with all this endless-seeming evening during which I had wandered in and out of so many fictional worlds, this evening that felt like five years and three months at least: the problem of how to get back to my own world, to my own body, to Cape May, to my own version of reality, and, yes, to Elektra, the only girlfriend I had ever had and her warm smell of caramel and cotton candy.

Should I try once again to write myself home?

Yes, of course – what else could I do?

And so instead of passively standing here drinking my strong highball and staring out at the rain, what I should be doing was finding something to write on. Surely there was some blank paper somewhere in Dr. Blanche’s apartment – but once again I had to be careful, to be absolutely specific in what I wrote, or else God or Josh only knew what new world or hell I would wind up in.

I would just take one more gulp of scotch and soda and then look for some paper.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

It was Dr. Blanche’s voice. I turned around and she was standing right in front of me. For once she wasn’t smoking a cigarette, and she had removed her reading glasses and their little gold chain.

“I was thinking about how to get home,” I said.

“Yes,” she said. She raised both of those delicate hands of hers and adjusted the knot of my tie, something that I only realized now that my mother always did. “Home. Your so-called ‘real world’.”

“Yeah,” I said, and I breathed in a warm soft wafting of her scent of rain-wet gladioli.

“How’s your drink?”

“Good,” I said.

She ran her fingers down the wrinkled lapels of my seersucker jacket.

“Did you use the Haig & Haig?”

“Yes,” I said.

My jacket had been unbuttoned, and now she buttoned the middle button of its three.

“So you’re a scotch man?”

“I’m a drink anything that’s available man,” I said.

“Ha ha,” she said. She ran her fingers down the sides of my jacket, and gave its tails a little tug. “There, you look ever so much more presentable now. Not that a bohemian poet like yourself gives a hoot. Shall we get some food in you?”

She patted my belly.

“My, you have a flat hard abdomen. Do you do sit-ups?”

“Um, uh,” I said.

“Come, let’s fatten you up.”

“Okay,” I said. “I mean, no, wait, Dr. Weinberg –”


“Dr. Blanche, listen, I wonder if you could maybe get me something to write on.”

“You mean paper?”

“Yes,” I said. “Paper would be good.”

“What sort of paper?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Letter paper, or would a simple notepad do?”

“Sure, a notepad would be great.”

“Like one of the leather-bound ones I use in my work?”

“Sure, but it doesn’t have to be leather-bound.”

“Well, you see the actual notepads I use have only cardboard covers, but I fit them into the metal rings of the leather binder.”

“Okay, then just one of those pads.”

“I’ll get you a nice fresh one.”


“And what are going to write, if I may be so bold as to ask.”

“Dr. Wein-, I mean Dr. Blanche, you’ve just spent seven hours listening to me under hypnosis. I think you might be able to guess what I intend to do.”

“Intend to try to do.”

“Yes,” I said. “Intend to try to do.”

“Just wanted to hear you say it.”

“I understand,” I said, although I didn’t.

“Oh, but you did say you were hungry!”

“I am,” I said.

“Then let’s feed you! What would you like to eat?”

“I’d like the notepad first,” I said.

“Before you eat.”

“Yes,” I said.

“There’s an all night coffee shop downstairs. They make a lovely reuben. Or perhaps you’d prefer a corned beef special.”

“Either sounds good, but –”

“Hot pastrami on rye?”

“Yes, that sounds good, too,” I said, “but really I would like that notepad first. If it’s not too much trouble.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all. I just thought you might like to get some food in that manly hard washboard belly of yours first.”

“I’d really like the notepad first.”

“Yes, of course. In order to, to try to, to – how would you put it?”

“In order to try to write myself out of this universe. And back to my own universe.”

“Yes. Of course.” She looked past me, towards the window and the rain. I waited. Thirty seconds went by, and then she looked back at me. “I suppose there’s nothing for it then but to get you a notepad.”

“I would appreciate it.”

“But, please, Mr. Walker, if this – this writing on a notepad maneuver – if it should fail –”

“Then we can go to the coffee shop and I’ll get a corned beef special or a reuben,” I said.

“Or the hot pastrami.”

“Yes,” I said. “Or the hot pastrami.”

“But, Mr. Walker, if you should fail, well – I hope you won’t be too disappointed.”

“I’ll try not to be.”

“All of us sometimes would like to escape, to go to some imaginary other world.”

“I can’t speak for other people,” I said.

“You know, I think this might just actually be a very therapeutic exercise for you.”

“I hope so.”

“I must say though I am absolutely famished myself. I haven’t had my dinner yet either, and I only had a light lunch.”

“Oh. Well –”

“Just a bagel, actually.”


“With butter, but that was all.”

“Well, that’s uh –”

“But I can wait.”

“It shouldn’t take me long,” I said.

“How long do you think it will take, if I may ask?”

“To be honest,” I said, “I can’t really say.”

“I see.”

“I have no idea what the rules of this world are. If there are any rules.”

“Yes, of course, because you, uh, only shall we say entered this ‘world’ when you came to my office door, if I have it right.”

“Yes, that’s right,” I said.

“Like a newborn babe.”


“A newborn babe in the form of a strapping handsome fellow in a wrinkled seersucker jacket and blue jeans.”

“I’m not responsible for my clothing.”

“And who is, pray tell?”

“The lady who wrote the novel that I’m a character in.”

“Yes, of course. What was her name?”

I had to think for a couple of moments, it had been so long since I had thought about the woman in whose fictional universe I had been trapped for so long.

Gertrude Evans,” I said.

“Yes, Gertrude Evans. I must say I do detect a woman’s touch in your habiliment. A woman novelist’s conception of the way a handsome and slightly raffish young poet would dress.”

I looked at my glass. Except for some melted ice cubes, it was empty. I could only assume I had drunk its contents.

“Would you like another Haig & Haig?” she said.

“Actually,” I said, “I would really like that notebook.”

“Yes, the notebook. Okay. Let me get one. I have loads of notebooks in my consulting room desk. Why don’t you sit down on the couch.”


“Sure you don’t want another highball?”

“Well, maybe,” I said, don’t ask me why, maybe I had a drinking problem. Maybe I had sanity problem. Maybe I had a living problem.

“Won’t be a mo,” she said, and she turned, headed for the door that adjoined the consulting room.

I turned to the liquor cabinet again and went to work making another drink, but not so strong this time. I knew I had to keep my wits about me, whatever wits I still possessed.

(Continued here, and onward, relentlessly.)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “Kāmasūtra”

Our hero Arnold Schnabel has just awakened from seven hours of hypnosis on the couch of the attractive lady psychiatrist Dr. Blanche Weinberg.. 

(Please go here to read last week’s exciting episode of this Gold View Award™-winning 69-volume memoir; those who wish to start the journey at the beginning are invited to click here to order
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, available both as a Kindle™ e-book and a lurid large-format paperback printed on FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp.)

“To say that Arnold Schnabel deserves a place in the ‘American canon’ is to do him a grave injustice, for surely the so-called ‘Rhyming Brakeman’ constitutes and deserves a canon all his own.” – Harold Bloom, in the
Family Circle Literary Supplement.

“Or,” said the doctor – she had been wearing her glasses, but now she took them off, folded them and let them hang from their chain upon her bosom – “I could fix you something to eat here.”

“You have food here?” I said, and I suppose I looked around the dimly lit room for a sign of a refrigerator or cupboard.

“Not in this consulting room,” she said, “but in my apartment. You see, I live here through that door.”

She gestured with her cigarette to a door in the wall to her right.

“I didn’t realize,” I said.

“I did not announce the fact. Would you like to see my digs?”

“Um, uh,” I said.

“Don’t worry, I sent Donna home at five o’clock.”

“Oh,” I said.

“And please don’t think, Mr. Walker, that I am making a pass at you. I would be unceremoniously drummed out of the American Psychiatric Association for a caper like that.”

“Oh,” I said, “no, I, uh –”

“Put your shoes on.”

I did as I was told, and I could feel her eyes on me as I did so. When I finished I sat up and looked at her, sitting back with her legs crossed, smoking her cigarette and looking at me.

“Good,” she said. “Come with me, then.”

She closed her notebook and put it on the table, got up and went over to the door and opened it. She reached in and presumably flicked a light switch, at any rate light came on through the doorway. She turned and looked at me over her shoulder. I got up from the couch and went around it and her chair and followed her through into the other room. The doctor gently closed the door behind me.

It was the sort of apartment I would have to call “tastefully furnished”, although I ask the hypothetical reader to bear in mind that I know nothing or almost nothing about taste in such matters as domestic furnishings and decorations. Like the consulting room, this room – which with my eye for detail I identified as the living room – felt cozy and feminine, with lots of pictures on the walls that looked not like reproductions from Woolworths or rotogravures clipped from Sunday supplements but real paintings, most of them but not all of them of the abstract variety, and there were also hundreds and maybe even thousands of books on shelves, on tables and chairs and ledges and windowsills, and even a casual glance assured me that these were mostly hardback books, and not luridly-covered paperback novels about regular guys caught in whirlpools of despair and sin. There was another comfortable looking couch in here, and like the one in the consulting room it had a floral pattern, albeit of more subdued and faded colors, and in front of it was a glass coffee table with lots of magazines, books and newspapers on it. Beyond an archway was what looked like a dining room. 

“Sorry about the disorder,” said Dr. Weinberg. “A woman comes in to clean, but I have forbidden her to touch my books and papers and magazines.”

“I like it,” I said.

“To the right of the dining room in there is my little kitchen.”


“That door on the far side of the dining room leads to my bedroom. But don’t worry, I won’t show you that.”

“Good,” I said.

“I could take that the wrong way,” she said. “But I won’t.”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” I said.

“What way?”

“I didn’t mean to imply, uh, that –”

“That you find me unattractive?”

“Yes,” I said.

She paused, looking at me, smoking her Philip Morris Commander.

“I think maybe it’s best after all that we go out somewhere for a nosh.”

“If you say so,” I said.

“And I don’t mean because I have nothing to eat in my little Frigidaire.”

I said nothing. To be honest, I just wanted to eat, and as soon as possible, and I didn’t much care where I ate. But first there was something else I needed to do.

“Listen, Dr. Weinberg –”

“You can call me Dr. Blanche if you like.”

“Okay. Dr. Blanche –”


“Well, I was wondering, uh –”

“You would rather eat here after all?”

“No,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “Because I do have some pot roast I could heat up. My mother made it, so it’s quite good.”

“No, it isn’t that,” I said. “Um –”

“Why so awkward? I’ve just spent seven hours listening to your deepest secrets and fantasies, so please feel free, Mr. Walker.”

“I wonder if I could use your bathroom?”

“Oh. Oh, dear, of course. Just go through the dining room there. You’ll see the kitchen to the right, but to the left of it is the bathroom. I’ll wait here.”

“Thanks,” I said.

I followed her directions, and found the bathroom where she said it would be. Everything in the bathroom looked very clean, and the towels all looked fresh and ironed. I relieved my bladder, it took a while, and then I washed my hands, looking at my current incarnation in the mirror. I was still Porter Walker, romantic bohemian poet, with the wrinkled seersucker jacket and plaid shirt with the top button undone, and a loosened stained grey tie. I (or he) needed a shave, and I had a black eye and some other stray bruises and cuts on my face. How had I gotten the black eye anyway? And then it came back to me, my nemesis Emily (one of my nemeses) clobbering me with her purse and knocking me cold, yes. The memory incited me to do a wary check of my corporeal host for any other injuries, but except for a general chorus of dull pains from my knees and arms and head and face I felt nothing excruciating.

I heard a faint tapping and then a rushing rattling of rain and a boom of thunder. There was a hexagonal stained-glass casement window, composed of rectangles of glass of various colors separated by borders of lead or iron or some substance that looked like lead or iron, and the shadows of rain drops streamed down the glass.

I dried my hands and then straightened and tightened up the knot of my tie, but I left the top button of my shirt undone; I was a bohemian poet, and a certain laxness in my personal appearance was to be expected and forgiven.

I noticed a large bottle of Listerine on a shelf near the sink. My mouth felt dry and leathery so I poured some mouthwash into a pristine tooth glass on the sink and gargled. Then I rinsed my mouth out with tap water, and for good measure drank two glassfuls of water. I rinsed the glass well, and then dried it on a corner of a clean hand towel on the nearby rack.

When I came back out to the living room Dr. Weinberg (or Dr. Blanche as I was now beginning to think of her, how quickly people’s names can change) was sitting in an easy chair smoking what must have been a fresh cigarette and reading a New Yorker magazine. She took off her reading glasses to look at me.

“Or,” she said, “I could cease your treatment. Recommend one of my colleagues to take you on as a patient. Then there would be nothing unethical were we to become, if not lovers, then sexual partners.”

This seemed very sudden to me, but then I had no idea what had been going on during the seven oblivious hours of my hypnosis, so it may not have seemed so sudden to her. And I remembered that I was in the world of a Horace P. Sternwall novel, so something like the current situation should not have surprised me.

“Here’s the thing, Dr. Weinberg,” I said. 


“Here’s the thing, Dr. Blanche,” I started again, and then stopped. And before I could start again Dr. Blanche beat me to the punch.

“You feel faithful,” she said, “to this, what was her name, Penelope?”

“Elektra, actually, yes,” I said. “I guess I told you about her when I was hypnotized?”

“Oh, yes, in some detail. The caramel and cotton candy smell of her body.

“I said that?”

“Among many other things.”




“But she lives in another universe. Or so you said.”

“It’s true,” I said.

“But you are in this universe, Mr. Walker.”


“I think you find me attractive. No, I take that back, I know you find me attractive.”

“I do,” I said. “But.”


Even I knew I had to step easy. Dr. Blanche may have been a doctor, but she was still a woman, and, even more to the point, she was a woman in a Horace P. Sternwall novel.

“But I’m really hungry,” I said.

“Oh. Yes,” she said. “How inconsiderate of me. Let’s get some food into you. But first allow me to freshen up. I won’t be a mo. Here, take my seat, I’ve got it all warmed up for you.”

She stubbed out her cigarette and stood up, tossing the magazine on a table. 

“I think I’ll just stand,” I said.

“There’s the drinks cabinet over there by the window. Make yourself a highball.”

“I’d really like to eat first,” I said.

“Something to whet your appetite.”

“It’s pretty whetted already.”

“There should be ice in the bucket,” she said. “I recommend the Haig & Haig if you like scotch.”

She turned and walked toward the other room, but then she stopped at a bookcase, took out a large leather-bound book and brought it back to me.

“Here,” she said. “Something to look at while you’re waiting.”

I took the book and she turned and walked away again. I looked at the title of the book, embossed in gold on the soft black leather.

The Kama Sutra

I opened the book and leafed through it. Then I closed it. Call me a prude, but if there was one book I didn’t want to fall into and become a part of then this was it. I took it over to the bookcase and put it back.

Then I headed for the drinks cabinet. I figured I could use a drink after all, and maybe more than one.

(Continued here, even further into a seemingly endless night.)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “the couch”

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the cozy consulting room of the lady psychiatrist Dr. Blanche Weinberg...

(Kindly click here to read last week’s installment of this Gold View Award™-winning 77-volume epic of confessional literature; those curious souls who would like to start at the beginning may go here to purchase
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, available both as a Kindle™ e-book and a handsome large-format paperback.)

“Arnold Schnabel: outsider or the ultimate insider?” – Harold Bloom, in the
Us Weekly Literary Supplement.

I don’t know why I didn’t just say thanks but no thanks, get up, say goodbye, please send me the bill, and go. 
But then where would I go? Outside was the unknown, and inside here was also the unknown, but less unknown. And here was an attractive woman doctor who wanted to help me, and charging only five dollars an hour, and deferred at that, urging me to lie down on  a comfortable-looking couch, and I was tired, very tired, it felt like six and a half years since I had gotten out of bed that morning.

I got up and went over to the couch, walking on legs that felt as if they belonged to someone else in some other world, and wasn’t that the truth anyway. The couch was about seven feet long, more than enough for me to stretch out on, with three or four tasseled unmatched floral-patterned pillows at the left end, the end closest to the door, and a crocheted pink and orange and purple afghan folded at the other end. To the left of the couch was a cozy-looking easy chair, and this too was upholstered in a floral pattern, one that didn’t match the couch but which didn’t clash either. To the left of the chair was a small round lace-covered table with an ashtray and an old-fashioned electric table lamp, its curved base painted with flowers and its tasseled shade printed with more flowers. 

There were a lot of other things in the room – cabinets, book cases, shelves, little knick-knacks and sculptures, paintings, photographs – but I won’t attempt to enumerate or describe them because to be quite honest I barely noticed them at the time because all I really saw was that couch, that comfortable looking couch, and I was just bending my knees preparatory to flopping down on it when the lady doctor’s voice called and said, “I would ask you to take off your shoes, Mr. Walker.”

“Oh, of course,” I said.

I sat down on the couch and unlaced my work shoes, which were in fact very dirty. I had greyish white sweat socks on, and they were damp with sweat, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that. There was an oriental rug on the floor here, at least the rug looked oriental to me, although it could well have been made in Philadelphia for all I knew, anyway I set my dirty work-shoes side by side on the rug and lay down on my back on the couch, my head and shoulders on the pillows, the fingers of my hands joined over my stomach. It was almost as if I were dead finally, and on display in my coffin, and I felt almost as calm as if I were dead.

“You can take off that seersucker jacket if you like,” said the doctor. “It will get wrinkled. Or I suppose I should say more wrinkled yet.”

“That’s okay,” I said. 

“Yes, of course, you’re a poet after all, are you not, Mr. Walker? I suppose the wrinkled look is quite de rigueur in your profession. Unless perhaps you are T.S. Eliot.”

To be honest, now that I was lying down I just didn’t feel like sitting up to take the jacket off. Speaking of the jacket, I could feel in its right pocket what felt very much like the revolver that woman Lily had given me ages ago, so I still had that in this world, that was good to know.

Turning my head, I saw that Dr. Weinberg was pulling venetian blinds down over the windows and drawing the lace curtains together.

Then she walked out of my field of vision, and a moment later the overhead lights in the room went out. It was still daylight outside, so the room was dim but not dark. Then a light came on somewhere to the back of my head, but a low-wattage, pinkish blue-tinted light, and I heard Dr. Weinberg’s voice saying, from just behind and above my head:

“Would you like to tell me what’s on your mind, Mr. Walker.”

What a question.

All I could do was to answer with at least a modicum of honesty.

“I hardly know where to start, doctor,” I said.

“Why don’t you tell me why you made an appointment with me. Something must have been bothering you.”

“If I told you the truth I’m afraid you’ll think I’m insane.”

“I doubt that.”

“No,” I said. “You will.”

“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that. I didn’t get those diplomas on the wall behind my desk for my good looks you know.”

“Yes, you’re right, I suppose,” I said.

“Then I ask you, Mr. Walker, please, simply tell me the truth.”

I sighed.

“I mean of course as well as you’re able to,” she added. “The truth shall we say as you perceive it.”

Again I sighed, involuntarily, or as involuntarily as sighing ever is.

I heard the sound of a cigarette lighter being clicked, and then  I saw a small cloud of cigarette smoke wafting above my head.

“Oh,” said Dr. Weinberg’s voice. “I should have asked, because I know you said you quit smoking, but do you mind if I smoke?”

“Oh, no, please do,” I said. “It’s the next best thing to actually smoking myself.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a cigarette yourself.”

“Oh, I would definitely like one,” I said. “But I’m so comfortable lying here, and I’ve never liked smoking lying down.”

“You could sit up if you like.”

“No, I think I’ll just keep lying here,” I said. “But please feel free to blow the smoke towards me.”

“I shall then,” she said. “So.”

“So,” I said.

But then I said nothing. It was just all too much. I lay there and looked up at the ceiling, which was the same blue color as the walls of the office, a greyish blue now that Dr. Weinberg had closed the blinds and curtains and put out the overhead light. The table lamp that she had apparently turned on cast a gentle and vague circle of yellow and purple and pink on the ceiling, which was decorated with the molded outlines of large flowers and swirling vines.

I closed my eyes. I could hear the scribbling of pencil-lead on paper.

I began to doze, and in fact I even began to hear myself snore, but before I could fall solidly asleep I heard Dr. Weinberg’s voice again.

“Mr. Walker. You’re snoring.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Have you had a long day?”

“Very long,” I said.

“Six and a half years long?”

“Approximately,” I said.

“I can’t help you if you say nothing at all.”

I responded to this by saying nothing. I wasn’t trying to be annoying, I just couldn’t think of anything to say, or, rather, I thought of many things to say, too many things.

“I have an idea,” said her voice. “But I shall need your permission. Would you mind terribly if I hypnotized you.”

“That depends,” I said.

“On what?”

“It depends on if it’s going to make me crazier than I already am.”

“I stake my professional reputation on my assertion that hypnotizing you will make you no crazier – your term, not mine – than you already are, if indeed you are, although again 'crazy' is not a term we use in my profession.”

“I don’t know why not,” I said.

“Ha ha. Do I have your permission.”

“What is it like?” I said.

“Being hypnotized?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, I suppose the closest analogy would be to the dreaming state. It’s not the same as sleeping, but it does share some of the qualities of a good sleep, for instance, the so-called rapid eye movement –”

“Okay,” I said.

“Okay as in yes you agree to be hypnotized.”

“Yes,” I said. 

If it was anything like sleep I was all for it. I felt like I could sleep for twenty-four hours straight, but I would settle for a good nap.

“Very well, then, Mr. Walker. Now listen, I should like you to try to relax.”

“I actually feel pretty relaxed already,” I said. “This is such a comfortable couch.”

“Splendid. Now I would like you please to breathe deeply and slowly. Deeply. Slowly. That’s it. Deeply. Slowly. Feel your stomach rising and falling gently as you breathe. Slowly, deeply. Deeply, slowly…”

Then I was asleep, or hypnotized I suppose, or both, deep asleep, a sleep without dreams, no, that’s not quite true, I was aware of myself, or of someone, aware of myself dreaming or someone or some thing dreaming, but I didn’t know what the dreams being dreamt were, and I didn’t care, and centuries passed without fear or terror or desire, and then after six hundred years I heard Dr. Weinberg’s voice again:

“And now you will awaken.”

And I was awake, and the room was much darker, although the lamplight from behind and above my head was much brighter than it had been.

“You can sit up now, Mr. Walker.”

I sat up, swinging my stockinged feet down to the floor and the rug. The blinds on the windows were still down, the curtains still drawn, but no daylight shone through them, night had fallen. I looked to my right, and Dr. Weinberg was sitting in her chair, smoking a cigarette, her legs crossed, her leather-bound notebook open on her lap.

“How do you feel?” she said.

“Very well rested, thank you,” I said. “How long was I out?”

She looked at the tiny watch on her wrist.

“Oh, about seven hours,” she said.

“I thought the session was only for an hour.”

“Yes, so it was meant to be. But what you were saying was simply so interesting that I just let you go on. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No,” I said. “To be honest, I really needed the rest.”

“Yes, I imagine so,” she said.

“What did I tell you?”

“Oh, you told me quite a bit.”

“About – how I got here, and everything that happened before?”

“Yes. Or as much as could be told in seven hours. I’m sure there’s much more.”

“Oh, there is,” I said. “So.”


“So now you know I’m crazy.”

“I know nothing of the sort. Are you hungry by the way.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I am famished. Shall we get something to eat?”

“I’m not sure if I have any money on me.”

“Please allow me to treat.”

I’ve never been one to turn down a free meal, so I told her okay.

(Continued here, and onward, inexorably.)