Saturday, September 1, 2007

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Fifteen: an appearance by an old acquaintance

Previously in our serialization of Railroad Train to Heaven, Arnold Schnabel, the famed “Rhyming Brakeman of Nedro Avenue” (also known as “The Walt Whitman of Olney”), still recovering from a complete mental collapse the previous winter, finds himself in a compromised position on a second-floor rear porch with the dark-haired bohemian girl Elektra.

It is a night in July or possibly August, 1963, in Cape May, N.J.

“I think we should go inside now,” she said, still touching that organ which never seemed to give Jesus or any of the saints any trouble.     
“Oh, wait, I can’t go in just yet,” I said.     
“Why, Arnold?”     
Again she pressed herself hard against me; but a curious thing, when a girl presses hard she feels soft.     
But unfortunately I was not.     
“Why can’t you go in?” she asked again.    
 “Because, well, I have an, uh, you know —”     
“A hard-on?”     
“Well, yes,” I admitted.     
“So what? Can’t you walk with it?”     
“Well, yeah, I suppose, so, but, well, the others, Gypsy Dave and Rocket Man, and — Fair Child?”     
“Yeah, Fairchild.”     
“Is that one word or two?”     
“She spells it as one word. Her real name’s Mary Margaret.”     
“Ah, okay. But, anyway, maybe we should wait —“     
“Arnold, we’ll just go right past them and straight into my bedroom.”    
“Oh. Right into the, uh —”     
“You don’t want to?”     
Those universe-sized dark eyes stared up at me again. Who was I to disappoint her?     
“Um, is Elektra your real name?” I asked.     
“It’s Betsy,” she said.     
"But I changed it to Elektra.”     
“Good,” I said. “Much more — striking.”     
“Great," she said. "Now let’s go in.”     
“Go ahead, Arnold.”     
It was a man’s voice. Behind me. I turned and saw Jesus, just sort of hovering there, right beyond the railing.     
I hadn’t seen him since him since that one night in Byberry.      
“Really, Arnold,” he said. “It’s all right. It’s perfectly natural. Go ahead.”     
“What is it, Arnold?” said Elektra. She brought her body around so that she was between me, and the railing, and Jesus, who was now drawing a pack of Pall Malls (my brand!) from within his robes.     
I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what I was actually seeing, so instead I kissed her again.     
“Oh, Arnold,” she said, in a very quiet voice..    
“Yes?” I said. 
She tasted of wine and cigarettes and spaghetti (as no doubt did I) but this was not a bad taste.     
“Arnold,” she breathed.     
“She’s just saying that, old boy,” said Jesus, smiling, exhaling a cloud of smoke that swirled and danced and flew up to the sky to lose itself in the Milky Way. “It’s an exclamation,” he continued, “and it requires no verbal response. Go ahead, put your hand under her dress.”
    This took me aback I have to say, and I stared at him. Wait a minute, I thought. What if he were not Jesus, but the Devil, or at any rate a devil. (I doubted that the Devil himself would deign to appear to the likes of me; more likely he would send one of his lesser minions).     
“No, Arnold,” he said, reading my thoughts. “It’s really me. Jesus. Now stop staring off into space and kiss that girl again.”    
I obeyed his injunction.     
I began to wonder if I would ever get off that damned porch, but I had to admit this was a pleasant sensation, more pleasant than clocking out at the end of a workday, more pleasant than lying in bed and wishing I were dead, more pleasant than drinking beer and watching Sgt. Bilko, more pleasant by far than receiving Holy Communion had ever been.     
After a minute or two, or maybe three, Elektra drew her face away from mine.     
“Wow,” she said.    
I went to kiss her again but she stopped me with a hand on my chest.     
“I just realized,” she said. “You are incredibly stoned on that grass, man, and that’s why you’re acting so weird.”     
“Oh,” I said. “You know, you’re absolutely right.”

And suddenly I realized that this could be the explanation for Jesus standing there in mid-air, smoking a Pall Mall: I was, as Elektra said, stoned.   
“Hey, now wait a minute, Arnold,” said Jesus, “I’m really here!”     
I closed my eyes. If he is a figment of the marijuana, I said to myself, he will be gone when I open my eyes.     
“Wait, Arnold, don’t —” he said.     
I opened my eyes.     
He was gone.     
“Right,” I said, to Elektra. “So, do you want to go inside now?"

(Click here for our next thrilling installment. For links to other episodes of Railroad Train to Heaven -- soon to be a major television event brought to you by PBS and a generous endowment from the Arnold Schnabel Society -- and to many fine poems from the pen of Arnold Schnabel, check the right hand column of this page.)


Unknown said...

Jesus! So much more than even I would dream of asking for. I know people say He's divine, but to me? Well, you know...
Or, maybe you don't: to me, He's Sublime.

Dan Leo said...

Kathleen dear, not only does Arnold thank you for your kind appreciation, but Jesus thanks you too.

And all you Arnold fans, get on over to Kathleen's fabulous site and dig some real literature. Again, it's called "Diary of a Heretic", but actually she's a true believer: