Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Railroad Train to Heaven", Part Three: the astonishing tale of A. Schnabel, alias the Ant-Man

This section of Arnold Schnabel’s memoir Railroad Train To Heaven picks up precisely where our preceding episode left off, in fact, oddly, in the very same paragraph, continuing the comic book motif which was so brilliantly materialized in the poem “The Hawkman and I”. He is still enjoying the life of Reilly, on leave of absensce from the railroad, in Cape May with his mother. The year is 1963, the month is probably still June.

(Note: Pancho Herrera and Johnny Callison: players for the Philadelphia Phillies. Steve Allen, Victor Borge: witty and popular entertainers of the day.)

(This special broadcast courtesy of the Armed Forces Network in conjunction with the Arnold Schnabel Society.)

I did something I should not have done yesterday. Against not only several doctors’ orders but my own personal experience and supposed good sense, I had one too many last night, all right, perhaps two, what am I saying, three, all right, say four, four too many considering two is my limit and I had six, but no, wait, I think I had seven.     
It was at the Ugly Mug on Washington Street. Normally I prefer the slightly more refined Pilot House, but since I had been to the Pilot House two nights running and still felt like going out for a cocktail I chose “the Mug”.     
All went well, considering, until that sixth Manhattan. I had a sort of conversation with a couple of coast guardsmen, primarily on the efficacy of Pancho Herrera as opposed to Johnny Callison {Callison and Herrera were players on the 1963 Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. — Editor}, and I managed not to disgrace myself. Then a sort of chat with a charming middle-aged couple from Allentown. Well, boring middle-aged couple, but then I was no Steve Allen or Victor Borge in the sparkling repartée department either. Then a blank hour or so staring at the TV and a Yankees-Red Sox game. An hour I shall never retrieve. Then a jumbled sort of exchange of grunts and whinnyings with a couple of young college guys, about God knows what and who cares anyway. Then a period of void vague silent drunkenness, surrounding by chatter and madness, and then it happened.     
It happened again, this leaving of the body, this departure from within myself to without, myself cooly observing the wreckage of myself leaning upon the bar, surrounded by laughing yelling people shouting words that meant nothing even though the beings shouting them thought they meant something, but none of it meant anything, not their words, nor their thoughts, nor them, nor that drunken wreckage leaning upon the bar there, that thing called me.     
I considered leaving it all for good. Just floating away, and this time no punking out and coming back, in no matter how comatose or psychotic a state. Just leaving it all for good.     
Well, obviously I didn’t.     
Somehow I found myself reeling home through the cool salt ocean air. Arriving at my aunts’ house I heaved myself into my accustomed wicker rocker on the porch. By the dim porch-light I saw on the blue wooden floor a pile of my young cousin’s comics, all of which I had read and reread earlier that day. I shoved my hand down and scrabbled them all up, laid them in my lap.     
Which super-hero shall I be tonight? I thought, riffling through the comic books. What about Iron Man, after all I wear a layer of iron around me twenty-four hours a day. Or The Thing, because the way the Thing looks is exactly how I look inside, the Human Torch because I am aflame, Mr. Fantastic because I can stretch myself endlessly, the Invisible Girl because no-one, not even I, sees the real me. Or the Incredible Hulk, because I am scarcely credible and fully a hulk, or Spider-Man because a spider is my soul, but no, here we are: the Ant-Man. Yes, that’s it. I am the Ant-Man. Digging my little hole, crawling about looking for my grains of sugar, crawling back into my hole with my precious sweet cargo, I am Dr. Henry Pym, at your service, sir, yes: The Ant-Man.     
Perhaps I should write a poem based on the above tale.     
But then again, no.

(Scurry over to here for Part Four of Arnold's memoirs. Turn to the right hand side of this page for listings of links to other episodes of Railway Train to Heaven as well as to many of his excellent poems.)

“Shake a Hand” --


Anonymous said...

Arnold should've submitted to the New Yorker

Dan Leo said...

Arnold Schnabel in the Shawn-era New Yorker; now there's a thought. This could have shifted the entire direction of 20th Century literature.

Anonymous said...

"All went well really, considering, until that sixth Manhattan."

Isn't that always the case...

Dan Leo said...

I think there should be a two-Manhattan amendment to the Constitution, as in: no one is ever allowed to have more than two Manhattans, ever.

The only ones to suffer from this new law would be the aspirin companies

Anonymous said...

It's the ol' "one's not enough, two's too many, three's not enough..."