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.
“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.)