Wednesday, December 31, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 111: trapped

Larry Winchester, that master of montage, now cuts back to the sculptress/café proprietor Enid and the plucky young Hope Johnstone in a '54 Dodge flatbed truck with their prisoner Moloch, surrounded by his uncouth biker gang the Motorpsychos, on a night in September, 1969, on a desert road some several miles from a town called Disdain...

(Click here to review our previous chapter. This episode rated NC-17, for excessive violence to the English language.)

All four of the truck’s tires had been shot out by the Motorpsychos who now gleefully circled around it, yelping and screeching and ululating, firing their weapons into the air, popping wheelies, and generally behaving just as one would expect.

It was still a long way from town, stark starlit desert all around. Off to the right hulked Dead Horse Mesa, a once popular spot to sit and watch the atomic bomb tests. The crescent-shaped depression of the atomic sinkhole below it spread out to about a hundred yards from the base of the mesa.

“Turn off the ignition, Hope,” said Enid. She still held the .45 firmly against Moloch’s left temple.

Moloch smiled, another pallid greenish glob of drool sliding from his mouth into his chin whiskers. Unlike the vast majority of Englishmen, he had once had a fine full set of pearly strong teeth, but, alas, several years of a complete eschewal of oral hygiene allied with round-the-clock ingestion of crystal methamphetamine, marijuana and hashish -- not to mention dozens of blows to the mouth from fists, baseball bats, night-sticks and monkey-wrenches -- had all combined to make his smile ungodly revolting. Moloch was well aware of this and indeed he quite often used his ghastly rictus as a psychological and emotional weapon, but this smile now was a genuine response to the real joy he felt at the awful noise and spectacle his men were making, a kind of joy he had whilom known only in great symphony halls or alone in his study with his gramophone, tears rolling down his cheeks as he listened to, perhaps, Kirsten Flagstad’s rendition of Brünnhilde's immolation scene.

Indeed his present situation filled him with an intense love of life, so much more intense than anything he had allegedly felt in his previous life of dedication to philosophy and music and literature, to family life and healthful walks across beautiful moors armed only with a thermos of sweet milky Earl Grey tea, a few slices of white toast, and a limp leather volume of Mallarmé.

What a fool he had been.

This, this, all this was so much richer than any so-called work of art!

He turned, still smiling, to face Enid, her gun’s snout now pressed between his eyes. He began to sing, softly, raspily, but in pitch and not without talent (had he not been in the buggery choir at Eton, the poncey Rupert Brooke Memorial Glee Club at Oxford?). The melody was slightly adapted from Radamés’s invocation to the god at the end of Act Two of Verdi’s Aïda:

We are going to rape you
We are going to rape you
You and your little friend
You and your little twitty friend

Then we are going to kill you
Then we are going to kill you
In a rather savage way
You, you and your little bitty twitty friend

Enid couldn’t help it, and just as Moloch was beginning another verse she quickly swung the .45 back across her left shoulder and then slammed the butt hard into his nose with a satisfying crunch.

He slumped down, out cold, mirrored shades sliding off his face, blood streaming from the jagged gash on what had been his nose, a bubbly purring sound coming out of his slackened mouth.

“What do we do now, Enid?” asked Hope.

Enid had the .45 aimed at Moloch’s head. She was watching the blood pouring out of his nose. She took Moloch’s Webley revolver out of her waistband and held it out to Hope.

“Know how to use this?”

“Sure do,” said Hope, briefly lapsing into a southwestern accent. She took the gun. “Should we start shooting them?”

“No --” said Enid, “not yet. Light me a cigarette, will you?”

She reached into her jacket pocket with her left hand, took out her cigarette case and popped it open. Hope took out a cigarette, lit it with her own lighter, and then put the cigarette between Enid’s lips. The Motorpsychos still circled the truck, screaming and shouting and firing their guns into the night. In their excitement they didn’t seem to have noticed that Enid had walloped and knocked out their leader. Hope took out her own Mexican silver cigarette case and got herself a pastel blue Vanity Fair.

(Continued here. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find a purportedly up-to-date listing of links to all other extant episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™. Be sure to take advantage of our post-Christmas Town Called Disdain™ Action Figures Sale Event, all items marked down another 55%, exclusively at Ross Dress For Less. All action figures made of the highest quality Chinese plastic and tested for lead and several other toxins.)

Nancy Sinatra: Sugar Town --

Monday, December 29, 2008

Arnold's Olney, Part 2

Thanks to recently released Russian archives, we present the above spy photo of another portion of the little world of Philadelphia’s “Rhyming Brakeman”, Arnold Schnabel, circa 1962.

The inverted red teardrop on the upper right indicates the Pvt. Raymond T. Osmond VFW post, on the southwest corner of Chew and Lawrence, immortalized in Arnold’s beloved poem “New Year’s Eve on Chew Avenue”.

Walking east on Chew we come to 5th Street, also known as the “Old Main Drag”, home to numerous shops frequented by Arnold and his mother.

Turning left on 5th, Arnold would often go up to the sprawling second-floor Fahey’s Book Shop, where he would buy used copies of paperback novels by the likes of David Goodis, Richard Stark, Peter Rabe, and Jim Thompson. Having read them, he would bring them back to Mr. Fahey and trade them in for more of the same.

It was in Fahey’s shop that Arnold gave the one-and-only poetry reading of his career, on a cold and rainy Tuesday night in November of 1962. So many Olneyites (mostly women) came out to hear their bard that many had to stand in the back or sit on the floor or on the long windowsills.

Despite the success of the evening, the modest Arnold declined all future invitations to read his work.

5th Street below Chew, 1962 (Fahey's Bookshop entrance to the right of the cigar store)

(Go here for Part 117 of Arnold Schnabel's memoir Railroad Train to Heaven. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for listings of links to all other published chapters of this magnum opus as well as to many of Arnold's easy-to-understand poems. All material published with the kind permission of the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia PA.)

Spencer Davis Group: Waltz For Lumumba --

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A poem for the season

Somehow it’s been almost ten months since we’ve run a classic Arnold Schnabel poem. We are happy now to present a masterful sonnet from that dour period immediately preceding Arnold’s complete mental breakdown, originally published in the Olney Times for January 4, 1963; two weeks later he would be in a padded cell at the Philadelphia State Mental Hospital at Byberry.

If the present poem appears particularly gloomy even for this time of the year, please remember that this particular new year's eve was a mere two months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which the destruction of mankind suddenly loomed as a very actual possibility, and concerning the horror of which Arnold Schnabel had already versified so beautifully.

(The “Chew Avenue” of the title refers to the location -- on the corner of Chew and Lawrence -- of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, now sadly defunct.)

New Year’s Eve on Chew Avenue

It’s New Year’s Eve, it seems we’ve made it,
If only barely, through another year;
The terror, if not gone, has abated
Into a dull and grey persistent fear.
My mother’s sound asleep by eleven,
So I go to the VFW,
Shove to the bar of this drunkard’s heaven,
And say, “Pat, if you please, I’ll trouble you
For a Schmidt’s, backed with an Old Forester,
And keep them coming till I say not to,
Or until you throw me out; whatever;
Do what your conscience says that you’ve got to.”
I take that first sacred drink of cold beer:
“Happy new (let’s hope it’s not our last) year.”

(Republished for the first time since 1963 with the permission of the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia, PA. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for a listing of links to many other fine poems by Arnold Schnabel, many of them suitable for recitations and toasts at family, business or social gatherings, weddings, and funerals during this holiday season. Be sure also to visit our ongoing serialization of Arnold's classic memoir  Railroad Train to Heaven.*)

*"I read a page or two every night before retiring." -- Bertrand Russell

Willie Mitchell: that driving beat --

Sunday, December 21, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 116: St. Thomas Becket and the lives of the saints

Previously in our serialization of the memoir Harold Bloom has called “the one really essential American work of literature of the 20th Century, perhaps of any century”:

Having gone into Cape May’s Ugly Mug with his inamorata Elektra and his friend and collaborator Larry Winchester, our hero Arnold Schnabel has, at Larry’s urging, taken a mouthful of a mysterious dried fungoid substance. Meanwhile, Elektra has joined the jazz trio onstage and is belting out “Wade In The Water”...

Elektra finished her song to great applause and shouting, and after blowing kisses to the musicians she leapt down from the stage and came smiling back to us. Larry got to his feet to embrace her and kiss her on the cheek. I however remained glued to my barstool -- no, not glued, it was more as if the stool had mysteriously become one with my body, or as if I had become one with the stool.

“Arnold,” said Larry, “move over one, will you? I want to have a word with Elektra.”

Since I was unable to get out of my seat, I began an awkward shuffling maneuver which consisted of me sliding my barstool into the space where Elektra’s was while simultaneously sliding her stool out of the way and over to where my stool was.

“Arnold, what are you doing?” asked Elektra.

“Just moving over,” I said.

“Just get out of your stool.”

I sighed, averting my eyes from hers. I was hoping not to have to explain my predicament.

“He’s feeling the mushrooms,” said Larry.

“Oh,” she said.

She then put her hands on my upper arms and lifted me to a standing position as if I were the weight of a kitten.

I looked down at her face, and into her kind brown eyes, still glowing from the music she had created.

“It’s okay, Arnold, it’s just the mushrooms.”

“The mushrooms?”

“They’re making you high. Like reefer, only a little stronger. You’ll get used to it.”

“Oh, well, that’s a relief,” I said. “I thought I was part of my stool.”

“Now sit down in the other stool and behave.”

“Sure,” I said, trying to do what I had so often done in bars, i.e., to act as if I were not completely out of my gourd.

So I managed to sit down in the seat that had been Elektra’s, and she sat in the one I had just vacated.

There was another transitional moment where Elektra slid my half-drunk mug of beer in front of me and grabbed her own barely touched one. She and Larry dove into conversation, and I felt the music of the band -- they were now playing “A Taste of Honey” I believe -- flowing over me, filling the smoky air all around me as if the music were a warm liquid and I and all the other people in here were some exotic aquatic race living in a submerged Atlantis under the sea.

So, for once I got to be slightly crazy and not feel bad about it.

I sighed, and took a drink of beer, which, because Larry had ordered it, was Tuborg, a more expensive but only slightly less insipid brew than the swill I normally drink, but which now tasted like the nectar of the gods, or at least of the saints, gently gurgling like magical mountain spring water all the way down my throat and esophagus to my belly, where the sacred mushrooms, which I had by now finally swallowed in their entirety, radiated wonder and warmth throughout the inner regions of my body.

When I looked up from my beer the barroom was no longer a big aquarium, but on the other hand now all the people around me had become saints, straight out of my tattered old paperback of the abridged and revised Father Butler’s Lives of the Saints For Young People, which my mother had given me as a Christmas present in 1945. The only difference was that the drawings in that book are in black-and-white, whereas in here everyone was in full color. But there they all were, including quite a few of the lesser known ones, like St. Eadnot, St. Epagaphras, St. Engelbert, St. Abakerazum, St. Zeno, and the husband-and-wife Saints Vitalis and Valeria, along with a half-dozen or so of the better-known ones, like John the Baptist, St. Sebastian, and St. Thomas More.

Saint Thomas Becket was sitting next to me, and he raised his beer mug in my direction.

“Is that your lady friend there?” he asked.

“Why, yes, she is,” I said.

“Bravo, old man.”

He had an English accent, which made sense. I should mention that he, like all the other saints here, was dressed in modern clothing. He was wearing bermuda shorts, in a madras pattern, and a short-sleeved white shirt with epaulettes.

“If I had had something like that to live for, old man, I’ll tell you one thing, I would have thought twice about being such a hard case and allowing myself to be martyred by those bastard knights of King Henry’s.”

I nodded. But:

“May I ask you a question, Your Excellency?”

“’Thomas’, please, or better still, ‘Tom’.”

“Tom --”

“And may I know your name, good sir?”

“Arnold,” I said. “Arnold Schnabel. You can call me Arnold.”

“And call you Arnold I shall.”


“You had a question, Arnold?”

“Um -- oh, right, Tom, I hope you don’t mind me bringing it up, but -- wasn’t the top of your head chopped off?”

“It was indeed. However, once we martyrs get to the other side we are all restored to the way we looked in our prime. Which is a good thing since so many of us were burned at the stake or torn limb from limb or eaten by lions or whatnot.”

“Right. That makes sense.”

I took a drink of beer, which emptied my mug.

“Allow me to replenish your goblet, sir,” he said.

“Oh, no --”

“No no no, my good man, you see I am spending eternity trying to dispel the dreadful canard that an Englishman will never buy a round.”

He got one of the bartenders’ attention and ordered whatever I was drinking again and same again for himself.

“I was a damned fool,” he said.

I didn’t know what he was talking about, but rather than ask as a normal person might have done, I simply nodded my head.

“You agree then?” he asked.

“Um --”

“I was a fool, wasn’t I? To go and annoy the king so much that he sent those knights to kill me. Get the top of my damned head lopped off, brains splattered all over the tiles. A bloody fool.”

“Well, I don’t know, Your Excellency --”

“’Tom’,” he said.

“Tom --”

“You disagree.”

“Well, I mean, if that’s what you believed in, I mean, the, uh, principle of the thing --”

To tell the truth I couldn’t quite remember why he had been martyred, but I figured he must have had a good reason for going through with the deal.

“Tosh,” he said.


“To die for a religious principle is absolute tosh. Of course I can say that now without fear of damnation, since I’m already in the ranks of the saints, even if we martyrs are in the lesser ranks. We’re not even allowed in God’s house; no, no martyrs in God’s house, and so that’s why we wander the earth for all time. Oh well, could be worse I suppose, no use complaining.”

To tell the truth, from what I had seen of God’s house and the way it was run, Saint Thomas Becket’s fate didn’t seem so bad.

The bartender had finally put our beers in front of us.

“Ah, thank you, my good man,” said St. Thomas Becket.

I noticed he paid the bartender for the drinks in exact change and then put the rest of his money back into his pocket.

He quickly polished off the mug he had been drinking, and raised his new one to me.

“To your very good health, sir,” he said.

I raised my mug.

“Cheers,” I said.

We drank, and then he leaned in towards me, and with a movement of his eyes he referred to Elektra. I glanced at her -- she was deep in conversation with Larry, turned towards him and leaning forward slightly.

“That, my friend,” he said, “is far more important than some nonsensical religious principle.”

I wasn’t about to argue with him.

He leaned back and took a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, Camels. He offered me one, but I shook my head. Fortunately there was so much smoke in this place that smoking itself seemed redundant.

He lit himself up with some paper Ugly Mug matches, even though he had a lighter lying in front of him on the bar. Then suddenly he seemed to forget I was there. He sat there, smoking, staring down at that mysterious nether region one sees in the inside of U-shaped bars, all those dark shelves with their boxes of straws and their jars of cherries and olives, the cartons of packaged beer nuts, the bottles of back-up liquors waiting to be called into service.

St. Thomas Becket carefully placed his cigarette in an ashtray, and then his eyes closed, his head slumped forward, and the top of his head slipped down an inch or so over his forehead as if it were no more than a cheap toupée.

I turned away. Given the choice to look at a saint sleeping at the bar with the top of his head slipping down or looking at Elektra’s lovely back and shoulders, believe me, I chose the latter.

(Go here for our special holiday entr'acte, "Arnold's Olney, Part 2", a Ken Burns Production. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of of all other possible episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be a major motion picture from Larry Winchester Productions, starring Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, and Anna Karina.)

The Modern Folk Quartet -- this could be the night:

Friday, December 19, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 110: ascared?

Larry Winchester now leaves the tortured mind of Testicle and turns his attention back to the rancher Big Jake Johnstone, to the town physician Doc Goldwasser, and to the two Parsons kids, Cleb and Attie, on this fateful night in September, 1969, somewhere in the desert outside a town called Disdain...

Attie and Cleb hauled their bikes and themselves into the back of Big Jake’s Coupe de Ville, and Big Jake started out toward where the two headlights had disappeared into the blackness below the mesa.

“How’s your headache, Doc?”

“It’s better,” said the Doc.

“That laudanum really works, huh? Y’know, I was wonderin’ maybe you could get me a script just for like when I drunk too much tequila the night before, and, shit --”

It was a gunshot, coming from the right out there across the desert from that mass of headlights now seemingly headed straight toward the mesa as well. Then came another shot and then a ragged volley, and the mass of lights came to a stop. Or rather the crowd of lights stopped and circled round and round in a circle around two stationary lights, perhaps a mile from Jake’s car. And then came another volley of gunshots.

Big Jake slammed on the brakes next to a big dead barrel cactus.

“Whut in goddam hell.”

A burst of machine-gun fire ripped through the night air.

“Shit and goddam,” he said. “We better get outa here, pronto.”

Big Jake was looking at the Doc but the Doc just sat there smoking an Old Gold.

“Let’s go see what it is,” said Cleb.

“You crazy, boy?” asked Jake. “That’s shootin’ goin’ on there.”

“You ascared?” asked Cleb.

“Hell no I ain’t scared,” said Jake, twisting around in his seat, “it’s just, it’s just --”

“You’re ascared,” said Cleb, and Attie gave him a little nudge with her elbow.

“Kill the lights, Jake,” said the Doc.

“Good idea,” said Jake, and he switched off the headlights.

“All right,” said the Doc, “now you two kids get out of the car, with your bikes, and Mr. Johnstone and I are going to drive up just a little closer so we can see what the hell’s going on.”

“Hell, no!” said Cleb.

“Get the hell out of the car, Cleb,” said the Doc.

“Make me!”

“Cleb,” said Attie, “don’t sass the Doc. Now get out of the car.”

“Damn!” said Cleb. “You don’t let me do nothin’.”

“Get out before I punch you.”

“Uh, Doc,” said Jake.

“Yeah, Jake?”

Cleb and Attie were getting out of the car with their bikes, Cleb on Jake’s side, Attie on the other.

“Um,” said Jake, “doncha think it’s maybe best we drive the kids home?”

“You kids wait near that dead cactus,” said the Doc. “We’re not back in five minutes, cycle back into town and tell the sheriff.”

“Now wait a dang minute,” said Jake.

“You really are yella, mister,” said Cleb, and he slammed the back door.

“Yella?” said Jake. "I’ll show ya who’s yella. Look what I got, kid. This here’s why I ain’t ascared.”

Jake pulled his hand-engraved pearl-handled Colt New Service out of his shoulder holster and attempted to twirl it but it flew against the dashboard and clunked down into the footspace.

“Ha,” said Cleb, and Attie put her hand over her mouth.

The Doc stared coldly at Big Jake.

“Huh, slipped out my hand, hand’s a little stiff from this night air,” mumbled Jake, reaching down over his gut and scrabbling for the gun.

“Is that thing loaded?” asked the Doc.

“Wouldn’t carry it, it weren’t, Doc,” puffed Jake.

“Then do me a favor, don’t twirl it when I’m around.”

“Sure thing, Doc.”

Jake finally brought the pistol up. He was a little out of breath from bending over.

“You’re ascared,” said Cleb.

“Ascared am I?”

All bug-eyed in the starlight, Jake squirmed around, looking at Cleb, then over at Attie, then at the Doc. Sweat glistened on Big Jake’s face.

“Okay, then,” he said. “Let’s just go take a look-see!”

And then he just sat there, holding his pistol in both hands and breathing heavy.

Another volley of shots clattered through the night from the direction of that pack of circling lights across the desert, and Jake’s massive shoulders flinched and hunched together.

“Whatcha waitin’ for then?” asked Cleb.

“Nothin’,” said Big Jake, and he put the pistol away, missing once or twice as he tried to get the long barrel of the gun into its holster. “Absolutely nothin’. We’ll just go a little closer, right, Doc? Just for a look-see. I got a pair of Kraut field-glasses in the glove compartment, an’ we can do a little reconnoiterin’.”

“All right, Jake,” said the Doc, and he flicked his cigarette out into the desert.

(Continued here. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find an allegedly up-to-date listing of links to all other published episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™. Be sure to collect every single Town Called Disdain™ action figure, now on sale exclusively at your local K-Mart -- the ideal choice for holiday gifts for young and old. High-quality plastic model of Big Jake’s 1969 red Coupe de Ville convertible available free when you purchase the complete set. Offer void where restricted.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 115: way gone

Previously in our serialization of the memoir Harold Bloom has called “the one really essential American work of literature of the 20th Century, perhaps of any century”:

Having gone into Cape May’s Ugly Mug with his inamorata Elektra and his friend and collaborator Larry Winchester, our hero Arnold Schnabel has, at Larry’s urging, taken a mouthful of a mysterious dried fungoid substance. Meanwhile, Elektra has joined the jazz trio onstage and is belting out “Wade In The Water”...

Staring at Elektra up there through the cigarette smoke as I chewed my cud of mushrooms which was shrinking in size if not improving in flavor, it struck me as miraculous that this woman, singing this Negro spiritual to the nodding, smiling approval of her three accompanists, singing in a voice that seemed to enter me not only through my ears but through my eyes and my flesh, it struck me as fantastic that I should even know her let alone be intimate with her, this beautiful creature in the somehow Latin dress, with her shining dark hair and her gleaming skin.

I heard Larry’s voice thundering in my ear, like the rolling of a summer storm across the ocean.

“That babe is something else, Arnie.”

I half-heartedly tried to say something, nothing too demanding, a mere “yeah”, or a “you said it, pal”, but found myself unable.

The song went on, and I went with it.

And I finally understood what beatniks in shows like Johnny Staccato or Dobie Gillis, or Peter Gunn -- meant when they said, “Gone, way gone.” Listening to the choir at church had never done this for me, certainly the children singing in the May Procession had never done it, nor had our household favorites from the record club like Lawrence Welk and Liberace and the Jackie Gleason Orchestra, not even Mantovani nor Perry Como or Esquivel.

Elektra’s song came into me and filled me, and so did the shining physical warm apparition of her on that tiny stage.

“How ya feelin’, Arnie?”
Larry’s voice came tumbling into my ears as if from across the vast reaches of outer space even beyond the moon.
I turned to look at Larry, which took me an entire minute to do, perhaps a minute and a half, and although I saw and heard dozens of possible responses bouncing around like ping pong balls inside the cavern of my skull -- from the mundane “Okay, Larry,” to the more outlandish “Like a god, Larry, like a god amongst gods and goddesses!” -- I voiced none of them, because all I could think about suddenly was that my entire body had turned into an increasingly tumescent male organ of procreation and let us not forget micturition.

So this was what I got for staring so raptly at the beauty that was Elektra. My entire being had been replaced by one annoying and throbbing, mindless part of me. And I wondered: if my entire body had turned into a -- sorry, Mother, if you’re reading this; I must remember to burn these pages tomorrow -- a penis, then would there perforce be a small me hanging down there where the penis normally hung, useless and in the way until nature called it to spring into action? Had my role in life been reversed with that of my appendage? Unfortunately I couldn’t tell just by looking down, because I was wearing bermuda shorts, with boxer shorts on under those. But a quick glance told me that if it was indeed me down there, I was certainly erect.

“I think you’re feeling it,” said Larry, with a smile.

He made no reference to the fact that I had been transformed into a six-foot, one hundred and eighty pound, pulsing penis, which I thought was thoughtful of him.

I decided to force myself to hold a conversation with Larry. Only by ignoring Elektra’s song and by forcing myself not to look at her could I hope to lose this bodily erection and return to normal, or at least normal for me.

“So, Larry,” I said, trying to sound casual, and, incidentally, not insane, “tell me about this Paris deal.”

“Right,” he said. “I got a wire this afternoon, one of my alleged partners, some goddam Spaniard, has backed out of the project -- well, he had to back out, he got arrested back in Barcelona. Bad news, ‘cause he was bringing about a hundred grand with him, plus our Spanish leading lady. So I got to cut the budget and find a new leading lady, and I could use a co-producer, especially one like you that speaks French and German --”

“Wait, Larry --” I wanted to tell him how nearly nonexistent were my abilities to speak German with anyone but my mother or my aunts, or French with anyone, but he waved his hand.

“No, listen, don’t undersell yourself, Arnie. I trust you, and I’d like to have at least one American in my crew. Oh, but speaking of underselling, I can’t pay you much I’m afraid, but you’ll get a decent per diem, plus a modest hotel room, and I’ll give you five points off the net. This is on top of the grand I’m giving you for doing the screenplay with me of course. I did say a grand, didn’t I?”

“I don’t really remember, Larry, but that sounds fair.”

After all, I was still getting my half-pay from the Reading Railroad for my disability, and, besides, what did I care? It wasn’t as if I was doing anything much else with my time.

“So are you on?” asked Larry.

“On what?”

“Do you want to come to Paris and work on my movie with me?”

“Oh, sure,” I said.

“Put her there,” he said, extending his hand.

For a moment I wondered if I even had a hand, and then I realized that I was no longer an erect penis, or even a flaccid one.

“Come on, Arnie, don’t leave me hanging.”

I shook his hand, and we both turned to watch and listen to Elektra some more.

This time I managed to remain a human being, as opposed to an overgrown appendage of one.

For the time being.

(Continued here. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of of all other possible episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be a major motion picture from Larry Winchester Productions, starring John Cassavetes, Eddie Constantine, and Anna Karina.)

Gene, Anita, and Roy get off uptown:

Monday, December 15, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 109: in which we enter the tortured mind of a man called Testicle

Larry Winchester leaves for the nonce our primary band of heroes in their bad scene in the flying saucer, and returns to planet Earth and to another bad scene:

Enid and Hope have taken the Motorpsychos’ leader Moloch prisoner, and are barreling along in Enid’s '54 Dodge truck on a dark desert road accompanied by Moloch’s hog-riding band of cutthroats, five or six miles from a town called Disdain...

(This episode rated NC-17, for excessively purple prose.)

Testicle wanted to do something for his lord and master.

It was not right that Moloch should be held prisoner by that bitch in her truck, that bitch and her little, her little oh-so-fucking delicate sub-bitch. No, Moloch should be free and wild with his men -- with Testicle -- on his glistening mighty black Black Shadow. (And was not this fierce brave romping leaping roaring black Black Shadow kept black and glistening by none other than bold Testicle himself? He loved to do things for his lord, as much as he knew deep down inside how little, indeed how less than little, his lord cared for him.)

How dare those bitches! And where were they now riding but inexorably toward that benighted flyspot Disdain, where doubtless the Queen Bitch would turn Moloch over to that fat pig Sheriff Dooley. Who would at the very least lock up Moloch -- perhaps he would even shoot him; hadn’t he said he would shoot Moloch if Moloch showed his ravaged but noble face in Disdain again? Well, all right, Dooley probably wouldn’t shoot Moloch. But he would lock him up. Him! He! Moloch! Locked up in some backwater jail cell! Never! Testicle could not bear the thought -- unless, unless, perhaps, perhaps, he, Testicle, were himself to be locked up with Moloch, in the same cell…

Testicle had allowed himself to long for something. Something precious: Moloch’s callused fingers touching tenderly Testicle’s pocked and scarry face and dipping into the oily and wiry filthy bush of Testicle’s beard, making an opening in the bush around Testicle’s dead-wormlike chapped lips so that Moloch could bring his own scarred thin cruel lips, puckering like some dry hungry flower, to Testicle’s: such were Testicle’s dreams of love, or at least some of them. There were others, featuring bold and merciless manly buggering and lusty firm-gripping fellatio, but his mind durst not go there now, lest he perhaps lose control of his hog and wind up breaking his bullish neck.

And so as he roared alongside the hated truck through the desert night Testicle wondered: what should he do? He was used to having Moloch tell him what to do, especially when on a “run”. While out on a run Testicle would literally dare not even stop to defecate without Moloch’s permission.

Agonizedly he gazed at his captive lord’s head in the window of the truck. If only Testicle could read his thoughts!

But then Moloch’s head turned, his mirrored shades seemed to look at him, at Testicle!

Testicle could feel Moloch’s one good eye looking into his eyes. And then that ravaged noble visage lowered ever so slightly, and it, he, Moloch, seemed to be looking down and ahead, in the direction of the right front wheel. And then that oft-broken aquiline nose rose and turned again to point directly at Testicle, and its nostrils flared once and briefly.

Testicle’s heart swelled. His lord had spoken. And commanded.

Testicle raised his sawed-off full-automatic Remington 7188 shotgun in one hand, drawing his bike closer to the truck, so close to the steely mirrored gaze of Moloch that he could feel his gaze pressing warmly against him.

Testicle aimed. And squeezed the trigger.

And the report of the gun was one with the complete and pure explosion of the right front wheel of that Queen Bitch’s fucking truck.


(Go here for our next lurid chapter. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find an ostensibly current listing of links to all other published episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, third-place prize-winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Award for Religious Fiction.)

Otis does the Temptations:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 114: proposition

In our previous episode of this third-place prize-winner of the Frank McCourt Award for Heartwarming Memoir, our intrepid hero Arnold Schnabel prepared to enter Cape May’s perennially popular The Ugly Mug with his inamorata Elektra and his new friend Larry Winchester, at approximately 8:52 PM on the 10th of August of that now-forgotten year of 1963...

With a small deep cry of joy Larry pulled us along into the entrance before its door even began to close, he pulled Elektra through the side hall past the packaged goods store and she pulled me along and then we came into that crowded smoky temple packed with the worshippers of Bacchus.

A jazz band blared away on the tiny stage, three colored men in grey suits and slender dark ties playing respectively an electric organ, a saxophone, and drums.

“Larry!” Elektra cupped her hand to the side of her mouth and yelled into Larry’s ear. “The place looks totally full!”

“No,” he said, his voice carrying through the surrounding noise as an actor’s does in a movie. “There’s always room. Leave it to me.”

Elektra held my arm, and we stood there by the cigarette machine at the back hallway entrance as Larry plunged forward to the long elliptical bar to our right.

“What have we gotten into?” Elektra asked.

“We can escape if you want,” I said.

“Oh, no, that wouldn’t be cool. But if Larry gets completely out of hand, then let’s escape. I don’t feel like getting into another brawl tonight.”

“Me neither,” I said.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Larry, it’s just that I had seen lots of fellows in similar states of excitement in lots of bars in my lifetime, and how well I knew that at any moment barstools could be flying through the air, bodies tumbling to the floor, and women heartily screaming their lungs out.

Elektra and I stood there, and listened to the band. They were playing “Caravan”.

I’m not sure what Larry said or did, but a couple of minutes after he left us he was back and pulling Elektra by her arm. She pulled me, and we went past the kitchen and its serving window and by the band in the opposite corner; Elektra waved to the musicians as we passed by, and they all nodded to her with a grace I will perhaps possess in four or five more incarnations.

On this other side of the bar Larry had somehow caused three empty barstools to appear just a couple of yards from the stage. Larry guided me into the middle seat, he sat to my left, and Elektra to my right. Soon cold mugs of cold beer were before us, and, at Larry’s insistence, shots of tequila, which I had never tasted before.

“A toast,” he said.

We raised our shot-glasses.

“To nothing,” said Larry.

We drank, to nothing, and the tequila tasted no more vile than the Four Roses or the Windsor Canadian I had been drinking most of my adult life.

“Now,” said Larry. I realized that he had taken out a plastic Baggie enclosing some sort of dried and twisted substance. He opened it in his lap. “Arnold, I want you to try a chaw of this.”

“Well, I don’t normally chew tobacco, Larry,” I said, although I had never seen chewing tobacco like this before.

“It’s not tobacco. It’s mushrooms.”

“Mushrooms? We’re going to order burgers in a minute, aren’t we?” I asked. “And fries?”

“Yes, of course. But this will be an appetizer.”

He held out a chunk the size of a very large walnut between two fingers.

Elektra leaned over.

“Larry, you naughty boy.”

“Yeah, sure, have a bite, sweetheart.”


She took the chunk and put it in her mouth.

“Chew it slow,” said Larry.

“Oh, I will.”

“So, Arnie,” said Larry, digging out another chunk. “Try some?”

“What’s it like?”

“It will make you happy. The Indians down in Mexico take it as part of their religion.”

Well, big deal, I thought. As a Catholic I had eaten thousands of slivers of unleavened bread as part of my religion, and look what that had gotten me, a trip to the nut house.

“Live it up a little, Arnie.”

Larry held out his hand, the withered grey plug in his palm.

But then on the other hand my life had become infinitely more interesting since my stay in the nut house.

“Well, okay,” I said, and I took the proffered chunk and popped it in my mouth.

“Now chew it slow,” said Larry.

“Got it,” I said.

It didn’t taste great. It reminded me of bad army vegetables.

Larry popped a third chunk into his own mouth, and then put the Baggie away into the pocket of his khakis.

He put his hand on my shoulder.

“Arnie, do you have a passport?”

Oddly enough, I did, and do. Every other year for the past ten years years I had gone on a parish trip to various holy places in Europe. Once I even got to meet Pope Pius XII; well, I kissed his ring anyway, if you can call that meeting someone. This was over the Labor Day weekend of 1958, only a month or so before that pontiff’s heart failure and death, which I sincerely hope our brief meeting in no way hastened, although sometimes I wondered, as I could not have failed to notice the look of grey horror which fell over that good man’s face as I awkwardly dropped to one knee before him.

“Oddly enough, I do, Larry, have a passport,” I said, realizing I had paused perhaps a little too long before answering his question.

“Good. I take it you speak German.”

“I can speak the village dialect that my mother and her sisters speak, after a fashion,” I said, still chewing the mushroom. I didn’t bother mentioning that, in the seven or eight months I had served in Germany I had met not a single German who understood more than every seventh or eighth word of this dialect.

“Good. What about French?”

“They made me take a crash course in the army, and I spoke it a little sometimes when we were in France and Belgium. But not very well.”

Not even getting into how impossible it had been to understand the French that the French and Belgians spoke when they talked to me, the GI who supposedly spoke French.

“I suppose you haven’t had much chance to speak it since the war.”

“Well, only twice really,” I said. I was still dutifully chewing the mushroom, occasionally moistening it with a mouthful of beer on its way to my throat. “Once when our parish group visited the shrine at Lourdes, and I was in charge of asking for directions, and --”


It occurred to me that the only other time I had attempted to speak French since the war had been yesterday, when I had gone back in time and across the Atlantic Ocean with Dick, and had met that nice young Monsieur Proust and his short little friend Henri.

“Um, actually it was only that once,” I said, chewing and lying at the same time. Or is it a lie to deny an experience which might very well have been an hallucination? Anyway, “Just that once,” I said, “when I, um, went to Lourdes.”

“You’ll pick it up again.”

I became aware now that the musicians had finished “Caravan” and the organist was speaking into his microphone and inviting “the lovely Miss Elektra” to get up and sing.

“Go!” said Larry. “I want to hear this voice everybody’s talking about.”

“What the hell,” she said, and, after taking a quick drink of beer, she got off her stool and went over to the little stage.

Larry had taken his hand off of my shoulder some time ago, but now he put his hand on it again.

“I want you to come to Paris with me, Arnie, and help me produce my movie.”

I said nothing. I didn’t even know where to start. I just kept chewing.

“I know,” said Larry. “You’re gonna say you know nothing about making movies. But don’t worry, I’ll show you the ropes. And we’ll have a ball. Oh, wait, Artemis is getting ready to sing. Let’s listen.”

Elektra stood next to the organist, his microphone in her left hand, and after he had played a couple of rolling measures that reminded me of the ocean at night, she began to sing a song about wading in the water.

(Continued here. Kindly refer to the right hand side of this page for an exhaustive but not exhausting list of of all other published episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven, soon to be a major motion picture from Larry Winchester Productions, starring John Cassavetes, Eddie Constantine, and Anna Karina.)

Judy Henske, too cool:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 108: bad scene

After a brief foray on planet Earth, Larry Winchester now returns to our heroes in their hijacked flying saucer, and to the inimitable voice of that charming rogue Dick Ridpath.

(This episode rated NC-17, for excessive violence to the English language.)

Things got very confused at this point.

The problem was that Daphne couldn’t get her seat belt on. She always has problems with seat belts. Don’t ask me why. I’m sure it didn’t help her nerves that there was this high-pitched screeching noise going on. But, anyway, I can see she’s getting more and more pissed off and frustrated, so, you know me, always the gentleman, I unbuckle my belt and reach over to try to help her when all of a sudden Frank jumps over and wham! he rabbit-punches me right behind the ear, I fall into Daphne’s lap, and then in a flash Frank grabs Daphne’s little gold lamé purse which was lying on the ledge in front of her, he rips it open, takes out the little .38 and presses it against the side of her head.

I know, I know, I fucked up, and believe me I felt like God’s own asshole. What can I say? You have to remember that we were still tripping on that peyote we’d taken earlier that evening, plus of course I had probably had one martini too many, but, no excuse, I fucked up.

So I stand up straight, a little wobbly, Mac and Buddy are still busy at the controls, navigating us out of one dimension and into another, Brad’s just sitting there bug-eyed, I don’t know what Harvey’s doing, with this ungodly screeching science fiction sound getting louder and louder, and over it Frank shouts something dramatic like, “Okay, Mac, now turn this crate around or I introduce some lead into the lovely Mrs. Ridpath’s brain.”

“Well fuck you, mister,” snaps Daphne, turning around so that the pistol’s pointing right in her face.

“No, excuse me, bitch,” says Frank. “Fuck you.”

“Oh!” says Daphne, and she turns to me. “Dick, kill him.”

“Um, excuse me again,” says Frank, “you dizzy fucking broad, perhaps you have not noticed it is I who have got the fucking gat --”

Then, well, my wife has a temper.

She suddenly just whacks at Frank’s gun-hand with her hand, and as she does the gun goes off, I hear a grunt, I turn, and there’s Mac holding the side of his gut with blood streaming through his fingers, and I hear Frank say, “Oh shit,” and then Mac says, “You’re saying oh shit,” and then Frank’s pointing the gun at Buddy and yelling, “Turn this fucker back, Buddy!” and Buddy says, “Okay, Frank, okay, stay calm,” and he presses a button and then wham.


Frank starts floating. I start floating. We’re in free fall. Daphne’s rising up in her seat but she’s holding onto her armrests, and Frank’s in mid-air thrashing his arms and legs and yelling, “Buddy, you fucker!” and I’ve got two damn guns on me, my Browning in my jacket pocket and this .38 Chief’s Special I’d taken off of Henry Silva in my waistband, and I’m trying to grab one or the other of them, but I’m spinning in the air like a drunken acrobat and the guns are flying away from me and all this blood is floating in these scarlet globules all around Mr. MacNamara and then through all the blood I see Buddy, who’s strapped into his chair, he’s got a .45 out from inside his coveralls and he’s snapping the slide back and aiming the gun at Frank and then Frank’s gun goes off again and Buddy gets hit in the lung, but he fires too and as I cartwheel around again I see that Frank’s been hit in the chest and he’s spinning back head over heels pouring out blood as Buddy empties his clip at him and now there’s just blood swirling around everywhere in red clouds and streams as if we were in a big aquarium and someone had just dumped a couple of buckets of red paint into it and then, well, I suppose it was then that we passed through this wall between the two dimensions.

I’d been conked out the first time we went through it, and so except for a few very weird dreams I had been blissfully oblivious on account of having been shot a couple of times by Grupler and Marlene, but now I was awake, and it was -- well -- difficult to put into words really -- like describing an orgasm or an acid trip or something of that nature.

Physically I felt as if my insides were rushing out of me through my head, through my ears and nose and mouth, through my eyes.

Mentally it was, well…

As you know, earlier that night while shaking hands with the Sailor Spaceman I’d had this instantaneous rush of memory, of everything I’d ever experienced from the womb on -- but now it was like I was experiencing practically everything anyone had experienced back through the whole history of man. Every life that had contributed to my life, all my ancestors, living all their lives in reverse, like some awful epic cinéma verité movie run backwards, I saw, I was, I don’t know, a caveman, thousands of years of cavemen, and before that some kind of ape man and so on back and back till I was something slithering out of the ocean -- or actually I was slithering back into the ocean -- and then I was something in the ocean and then back, and finally I was some kind of protozoa I suppose, if that’s what they’re called, and then it was just a bright light for a long time, a very long time, and then it was darkness, just darkness and silence, again, but, once again, oddly enough, I wasn’t afraid.

It keeps coming back to this empty black silence business, doesn’t it? The thing we’re all afraid of. Well, one of the things we’re afraid of. But, again, I wasn’t afraid. I was just there. Back in the old black hole again. But I don’t think I’ve quite described it properly. It was...damn it, I’m no writer, what do I mean? Well -- everything was nothing and I was nothing and everything. And this seemed to be an eternity. I mean I, it, everything and nothing was, were, is beyond time. It all just was. Neither good nor bad, it just was…

Well, whatever.

Okay, to cut it short, all good things must come to an end I suppose because suddenly, an eternity later, I was aware of a light, or I was the light, and then, well, the whole deal started up again but this time in the forward direction, I was the beginning of creation and everything that followed, flying forward through all of history, through the whole damn thing all over again.

And, well, I know Daphne’s going to jump all over me here but through all this it seemed I became aware of something, some sort of profound revelation or epiphany, but unfortunately it was like one of those profound revelations that happen in dreams. When you wake up it’s gone. You know you’ve had it, but you don’t have it now. Oh well. That’s life.

(Continued here. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find an allegedly complete and up-to-date listing of links to all recovered episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, soon to be a major motion picture event from AIP, starring John Saxon and Anjanette Comer, produced and directed by Larry Winchester.)

Marvin Gaye: hitch hike, baby!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 113: multitudes

When last we saw Arnold Schnabel, he was attempting to avoid answering Elektra’s questions concerning his friend Jesus, when -- luckily for him -- he is hailed by Larry Winchester, the noted film-maker, novelist, and bon vivant.

The time: 8:48 on a warm evening on the 10th of August, 1963, in the quaint and slightly run-down seaside resort and fishing town of Cape May, New Jersey.

(Go here for our previous chapter or here to go back to the beginning of this critically-lauded memoir, soon to be serialized on The Lux Video Theatre, starring Sidney Falco and Susan Hunsecker.)

Larry came up and shook my hand. He held a fat cigar in his other hand.

“Hello, Larry,” I said.

“And Artemis,” said Larry, beaming at Elektra and dropping my hand like a dead fish.

“Elektra,” she said.

“Elektra. You look more ravishing than ever.”

“Thank you, Larry, but you only met me last night.”

“I heard some very rave notices of your singing.”

“Really?” said Elektra.

“Oh, yes,” said Larry. “Have you ever sung professionally?”

“Oh no.”

“And you play guitar?”

“A little.”

Larry gazed at her for a long moment, as if he were one of the shepherd children at Fátima gazing at the apparition of the Blessed Mother. Suddenly he turned to me.
"How come you're limping?"
"I was trying to climb down a drainpipe from a third-floor bathroom window so that I could escape Miss Evans, and I fell. Fortunately, Jesus appeared and turned me right side up, so I only sprained my leg falling into the rhododendrons."

“Very funny. So, we’re still on for tomorrow morning, right?”


Larry was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, and people streamed by us in both directions. He seemed somehow like the captain of a sea ship standing on deck, and all the rest of us were crew members or passengers.

He turned again to Elektra.

“Did Arnie tell you we’re writing a screenplay together?”

“Yes,” she said.

“He’s brilliant. Easiest guy I ever worked with. Can’t believe he’s been working on the railroad all these years. Writing his poems for the -- The Olney Times.”

“What’s wrong with that?” said Elektra.

Larry paused, his mouth slightly open.

“You are a very profound woman,” he finally said, and he drew on his fat cigar, which I noticed was very wet on the unlit end.

“And you are high,” she said.

He smiled.

“You are very profound,” he said. “And where are you two crazy kids going?”

“Up to the Mug for burgers and beer,” said Elektra.

“Burgers and beer,” said Larry, as if she had mentioned free and unlimited champagne and caviar for life, and perhaps even into the afterlife. “Ah yes. Burgers. And beer.”

“Are you inviting yourself to join us, Larry?” said Elektra.

“I wouldn’t want to intrude. But perhaps just for one libation. I have a proposition for Arnie. And I also have a proposition for you, Ari-, Ere-, Elektra.”

“A proposition?” she said. “You work fast, Larry.”

“Not that kind of proposition, my dear. And why are we standing here?”

“I have no idea,” said Elektra.

“We must move swiftly,” said Larry. “Arnie, take Elektra’s streetside arm, and I shall take the other.”

Soon we were marching along the sidewalk up Carpenter's Lane three abreast.

“Look at all these fools,” said Larry suddenly, speaking in a voice loud enough so that the people on the opposite sidewalk could hear him, as well as anyone who wasn’t stone deaf fifty feet ahead of us and behind us.

“Why do they live?” asked Larry. “Why do they bother? Look how boring they all look.”

He stopped to point with his cigar at a representative couple approaching us -- the woman looked frightened, hanging onto the arm of the man, who looked worried -- but Elektra pulled Larry’s arm, and we continued on, passing the couple, Larry turning his head to glare at them.

“Larry!” said Elektra.

“What, sweetheart?”

“It’s rude to point and stare at people.”

“But how can they bear to live and be so boring?”

“How do you know they’re boring?”

“Did you see them?” asked Larry.

“Of course I did,” said Elektra.

“They were horribly boring.”

“Those people buy the tickets for your movies.”

Larry stopped again, staring at Elektra.

“Those people pay your wages,” she said.

“You’re right,” said Larry. “You’re absolutely right. Arnold, this girl is as profound as she is beautiful.”

“You’re just high, Larry,” said Elektra.

“I know. Mushrooms. Got them from Dick. Government issue.”

“That Dick guy?” Elektra pulled Larry into motion. She had let go of my arm, I think so that she could concentrate on keeping Larry moving. “Isn’t he in the navy?”

“The military gets all the best drugs,” said Larry. “But, still, how do they do it?”

“How do who do what?” asked Elektra.

“These people.” Larry stopped again, and with his free hand he swept his cigar in an undulant gesture indicating all these human beings passing to and fro. “How do they go to their little jobs, come home to their little families? How did you do it, Arnold?”

“What, Larry?”

“Work for the railroad all those years? Wasn’t it boring?”

“Well -- sure,” I said.

“How could you do it?”

“I had to earn a living,” I said, although this immediately seemed to me an inadequate answer.

“Larry,” said Elektra, tugging on his arm, “everybody can’t be a movie director. Somebody has to work all these other millions of jobs.”

Larry opened his mouth, but before he could say anything Elektra gave his arm another tug, and we started walking again, or rather Larry and Elektra started walking again, and I did a little hop and a skip to catch up.

I put my arm in Elektra’s, although I suppose it’s more proper for the female to put her arm in the man’s.

I had to admit that Larry had a point with all this. I had spent my life in a boring job, helping to make possible the transportation by rail of millions of people to and from their own boring jobs, along with various goods and foods whose purpose was to make possible and more bearable the lives of all these millions.

How often I had stood hanging onto the end of a railroad car, smoking a cigarette and looking at men and women and children getting on or off the train, their faces for the most part serious, each face the center of a universe, and there was I, the center of my own universe, a steel handrail under one hand and a Pall Mall in the other, and in my brain a lifetime of moments culminating in this moment already receding into all the rest. No wonder I went to daily mass for many years. I needed something to assure me that all these mysterious universes were not in aid of only their own brief continuance. No wonder I finally went insane.

Looking at all these people passing to and fro, as much as I hate to admit it now, they did look pretty boring for the most part, and the older they were the more bored and boring they looked.
Larry and Elektra were talking, I don't know what about, their words seemed far away.

And suddenly I saw not only the people who were there all around us, but all the people who had been there, the streets and sidewalks teeming with men dressed in top hats and with ladies in enormous hats decorated with plumes and stuffed birds, I even saw some colonial people, the men in tri-corner hats, the women in bonnets, and even some Indians, dressed in buckskin and carrying bows, with quivers full of arrows on their backs, while Model T Fords jockeyed along the street amidst carriages and wagons and men on horseback dressed in the uniforms of the Civil War. Just about the only thing I didn’t see was cavemen or people from the future, although perhaps they would have showed up too if I had looked long enough.

I closed my eyes and let myself be guided along by Elektra’s arm, as if I were a blind person.

When I opened my eyes after a few seconds we were almost at the side entrance of the Ugly Mug, off Decatur, and the people passing by were all 1963 people. Their ancestors had receded back into the past, or, if not into the past, then into invisibility.

Some people burst out of the door from the Mug, laughing uproariously as they rejoined the multitudes all around us.

(Continued here, and ad infinitum. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for a complete listing of links to all other published episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™; this project made possible by a grant from the Reed Richards Foundation for the Humanities.)

Rufus Thomas: walking the dog --

Monday, December 1, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 107: the verge

Previously in this third-place prize-winner of the General Motors Award for Epic and/or Inspirational Literature, our heroes prepared to re-enter our dimension, but meanwhile, back on the planet Earth, not far from a town called Disdain…

The shrieking noise blended into the howling of a coyote, a howling which gradually died out in the cold night desert air, as if the animal had lost heart and simply given up.

An open jeep drove slowly across the top of the mesa.

Lt. Perkins drove, Colonel Masterson sat next to him. In the back behind Perkins sat Captain Pym, his lit pipe in his mouth, leaning over the side and running his flashlight along the wasted ground.

“Slow down, please,” said Pym. Then, after a few more seconds, “Okay, stop. Stop I said.”

Perkins stopped the jeep and Pym leapt lightly out.

“Sh-should I keep the motor running, sir?”

“Yes. Stay with me, but try not to run me over,” said Pym and, following some tire tracks in the dirt with his light, he started walking toward the edge of the mesa, some twenty feet away.

“Run him over,” muttered Masterson.

“S-seriously?” asked Pym.

Masterson sighed, and flicked away a cigarette.

“Just follow him, Perkins,” he said.

“Y-yes, sir.”

Pym came to near the edge of the mesa. The ground here was churned up with horse-hoof prints. He walked around, shining his light on the tortured dry earth, then after a minute he stopped, and, crouching down, he picked up a half-smoked hand-rolled cigarette. He put it to his nose, sniffed once, and his thin nostrils quivered. He stood up.

Perkins stopped the jeep to the left of Pym.

“Whatcha got there, Pym?” asked Masterson, trying not to sound too interested.

Pym handed the cigarette to Masterson, who did exactly as Pym had just done and put it to his nose.

“I’m not supposed to know what this is,” he said.

“You were in Vietnam,” said Pym. “You know what it is.”

Pym held out his hand and Masterson handed the cigarette back to him. Pym placed his pipe on the hood of the jeep and took his lighter out of his coat pocket. He lit the joint and took a good toke. He held it in, gazing down at the desert spread out before him, and at the somber small geometrical shapes of the distant abandoned atomic town. Two tiny stationary lights glowed from the within the town square.

Looking off to the left, over the hood of the car, he saw a knot of headlights streaming across the desert like a living blob of mercury, seemingly headed directly for the mesa on which he stood.

Pym turned to Masterson and, finally, exhaled.

“Thai stick,” he said. “Very hard to find in this country.”

He took another good toke and then proffered the joint to Masterson. Masterson stared at him. Unperturbed, Pym extended his hand past Masterson and offered the joint to Lt. Perkins. Perkins hesitated, but then, habitually obedient, he took the joint. He put it between his thin lips, but before he could inhale Masterson grabbed the joint and flicked it away over the the hood of the jeep.

Pym watched the little speck of light disappear over the slope of the mesa, and then he exhaled a great cloud of smoke.

“This is where you saw the truck disappear?”
he asked Perkins.

“Y-yes, sir.”

Pym picked his pipe up and then tapped the dead ash out against the side of the hood. He paused for just a moment, and then climbed back into the jeep behind Masterson. He took out his tobacco pouch and began to refill his pipe.

“Do you think you could take the jeep down this slope without breaking our necks, Perkins?”

“Um, I, uh, I, uh --”

“Oh, Christ, Perkins,” said Masterson, “just do it, will you?”

“Y-yes, sir,” said Perkins, and he put the jeep in gear.

Pym took out his lighter, and drawing with precise little puffs, he began to light his pipe as Perkins carefully nosed the jeep over the dipping verge of the mesa.

The coyote began to howl again.

Straight ahead across the desert the two tiny lights still glowed like a pair of marooned stars in the deserted atomic town, and off in the left distance the mass of headlights drew closer, its lights separating from one another like an approaching swarm of fireflies.

Cleb and Attie Parsons stood with their bikes by the driver’s side of Big Jake’s idling red Coupe de Ville convertible. Cleb wore a red-and-white striped polo shirt, a blue windbreaker, dungarees and Keds. Attie wore a pale blue shirtwaist dress, a pale grey cardigan and saddle shoes. Their clothes were clean and ironed, but looked well-worn. A very faint green nimbus outlined their bodies.

Doc Goldwasser, grimacing, still held his hand over his right ear.

“What’s ailin’ the Doc?” asked Cleb.

“The Doc’s got a war wound, son,” said Jake. “He’ll be okay soon’s his medicine takes full effect. But doncha think it’s a little late for you kids to be bikin’ out here in the desert?”

“We lookin’ for the flyin’ saucer,” said Cleb. “Same as you, I reckon.”

“Well, I do admire your scientific curiosity, Cleb,” said Jake, “but --”

Cleb raised his arm and pointed in the distance, beyond and to the left of the car.


Big Jake and the Doc both turned and looked.

In the distance they saw what looked like two automobile headlights bumpily descending the slope of a large mesa.

“Shit,” said Jake. “That the saucer?”

“Don’t think so,” said Cleb. “Think it’s a car. And it’s headed right down into one of them atomic sink holes.”

“Damn idiotic fools,” said Jake.

Paco and Derek were still smoking dope and watching it all go down on the little TV.

“It’s all starting to come together now,” said Paco.

“Dig it,” said Derek.

Suddenly the screen went haywire -- strange sounds, weird psychedelic patterns.

“What the fuck,” said Derek.

“It’s the Woofer, man,” said Paco. “The Reality Woofer.”

“Fuckin’ ‘ell,” said Derek.

(Breathlessly continued here. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page to find a complete and up-to-date listing of links to all recovered episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™. Buy your limited edition Town Called Disdain action figures now, available exclusively at Kresge’s 5 & 10s everywhere.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 112: buddies

(a very special Thanksgiving edition)

In our previous episode of this critically acclaimed (“If the
Bible weren’t already my Bible, this book would be my Bible.” -- George Will) memoir, our intrepid hero Arnold Schnabel managed, after an astral flight into space, to return safely to his own body and to the boudoir of his inamorata Elektra, on the second floor of a charming Victorian house on Jackson Street, in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May, New Jersey, on an August evening in 1963...

“So how was your day?” she asked me, touching my chest.

Well, not counting the previous twenty-five minutes, which Elektra already knew about, so far today I had quit smoking, gone to confession and confessed that which I had just done again, almost collapsed from tobacco deprivation, walked and talked with Jesus, started work on a screenplay with Larry Winchester, fallen from a second-floor window while trying to escape Miss Evans but had been saved through the intercession of my friend Jesus, I had gone swimming with Daphne and been struck by lightning, I had then visited God’s mansion in the company of His son my friend, I had tea with Mrs. Biddle on a plantation in the Philippines in 1932 and had at least indirectly contributed to the sudden death of her husband, I had returned to the present to find myself pursued relentlessly by Miss Evans and Mr. and Mrs. Devore, I had had a somber colloquy with my disgraced confessor Father Reilly, during which Jesus made yet another appearance, and I had flown to an enormous flying saucer between the Earth and the Moon where I had only barely managed to resist the blandishments of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.

“It was an interesting day,” I said.

“Do you want a cigarette?”

She had turned on her back and was reaching for her Marlboros on the night table.

“No, thanks,” I said. “I’ve decided to quit.”

“You’re kidding me.”

I told her I wasn’t, and hadn’t had a cigarette since that monumental one first thing that morning which had instigated my abstinential decision. I must pause for a moment now as I admire what is perhaps the worst sentence I have ever committed to paper. And now, onward:

Holding the pack of cigarettes, she stared at me for a moment, as if to make sure I was serious. Then she sat up, holding the sheet chastely to her bosom with one hand, and tossed the cigarettes into a waste basket on the other side of the night table.

“Good,” she said. “A stupid habit, and I’m quitting too. Now let’s go down to the Mug and get a couple of burgers before I have a nicotine fit.”

“Okay. But listen --”


“We might be -- accosted.”

“Accosted? Who by?”

“Well --”

“By that crazy Evans woman?”

“Yes. But also by that couple the DeVores, the ones who were on my aunts’ porch last night?”

“What, they’re obsessed with you too?”

“So it seems.”

“Well, thanks for the warning. Now let’s get dressed, I’m starving.”

And all the miracles I had experienced that day paled in comparison to that of her rolling out of bed in the glow from the streetlight and reaching down to find her underwear on the rug.

She put the Mexican-seeming dress back on, and she allowed her hair to fall freely down around her shoulders.

When we came out to the living room Elektra asked Gypsy Dave if he wanted to come with us, and he said he might join us later, but right now he was just digging the music, which was jazz music that sounded like walking through dark city streets at night but not being afraid and not caring if the morning ever came.

We went down the back stairs and around the front, and Elektra said she wanted to go into the shop to get some money out of the register. I told her she didn’t need any money, but she pointed out that I wasn’t working, and went on in, leaving me on the pavement. The shop had five or six browsing vacationers in it now as well as Rocket Man and Fairchild. When Elektra got back behind the counter a large lady with a small man in tow asked her a question, and Elektra took a tray of bracelets out and laid them on the counter top.

I put my hands in my shorts pockets and turned away from the window, gazing down Jackson toward the beach and the just visible dark line of the ocean. Normally this would be another ideal time for a cigarette, a waiting time. And how often, in the early days of my addiction, had I stood or sat around doing absolutely nothing and getting paid for it by the U.S. Army while I filled the time with the burning and inhaling of those lovely tubes of cancerous dried weed while talking nonsense with my fellow GIs. In retrospect I wonder how we won the war when we seemed to spend the vast majority of our time smoking and chatting. Maybe the only reason we won was simply because there were more of us than there were of the Germans.

“Or maybe God really was on your side,” he said.

He had apparently just crossed the corner of Carpenter's Lane and come up the pavement behind me. Of course he was smoking. And why shouldn’t he, I thought, he didn’t have to worry about cancer or emphysema.

“Was He?” I asked.

“My father doesn’t choose sides, Arnold. That wouldn’t be fair.”

“So men have to fight it out all on their own,” I said.

“Yeah, I’m afraid so. You’d think that men would have learned by now that praying for God’s assistance or blessing in their battles doesn’t have any effect whatsoever either way.”

“Well, I think it makes them feel better, though, even if the evidence doesn’t back up the uh --”

“The efficacy of prayer?”

“Yes,” I said.

He gazed into the shop window.

“She’s really lovely,” he said.

Elektra was holding a necklace up to her neck, showing it to the lady, the necklace glittering against her tan skin.

“Yes, sir,” he said, his arms folded, staring in at the window, tapping his cigarette with one finger.

“Yeah,” I said. Then, I think wanting to forestall him from making any more comments about Elektra, I said, “How did it go with Father Reilly?”

“Oh. Him. I’m afraid he has a long way to go, Arnold. A long way.”

“Did you talk to him?”

“What? No. No, he’s not ready for that, if he ever will be. No.”

“So you just sat there?”

“Just sat there, yes.”

“Is he okay?”

He looked at me.

“Is he ‘okay’?” he repeated.

“Yeah, I mean --”

“Oh, he’ll be all right. Or he won’t be.”

“Well, still --”

“I know, I know, I’m being cold. But, Arnold, there’s a couple of billion people on this planet, okay? Most of them would love to have Father Reilly’s problems.”

“Well, still --”

“Right,” he said. “Look, Saint Arnold, while you’ve been lying in bed having a high old time with her --” he pointed his cigarette at Elektra, who was handing a necklace to Rocket Man, “I’ve been sitting watching our good Father Reilly gnashing his teeth and pulling his hair and generally acting as boring as humanly possible, which is saying a lot, so get off your high horse. All right, it looks like Elektra has made her sale, so excuse me but I’m going to make like a leaf and blow. Good luck, buddy, and don’t drink so much tonight.”

“I’ll try,” I said.


He sauntered up Jackson in the direction of the beach, merging with the other pedestrians coming and going into and out of the tree-dappled light of the streetlamps.

Elektra came out of the shop and put her arm in mine.

“Who was that guy?” she said, as we started down the sidewalk.

“Um, guy?”

“That guy you were talking to. That beach bum-looking guy.”

“Kind of long hair, needs a shave?” I said.

“Were you talking to any other guy, you nut?”

“Um, no,” I said.

We were crossing Carpenter's Lane. Another small block to the Ugly Mug.

“Friend of yours?”

“Um, just from around town,” I said.

I was trying not to lie blatantly, while still somehow not actually telling her that I had just been chatting with my friend the son of God.

“So what’s his name?”

“Arnie!” bellowed a commanding voice behind me, and I nearly jumped out of my Keds.

I turned, and there was Larry Winchester coming up Jackson Street.

He looked magnificent in khakis and a white short-sleeved sport-shirt and sandals, and I thanked Jesus for allowing him to appear just then, that is if Jesus had had anything to do with it.

(Go here for our next heroic adventure. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to all other recovered episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, soon to be a major Broadway musical starring Dick Powell and Tallulah Bankhead, book by John O'Hara, songs by Adolph Green and Betty Comden, choreography by Gene Kelly, produced and personally directed by Larry Winchester.)

Rod the Mod --

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 106: bumpy

We return to Larry Winchester’s masterpiece, in medias res, with Daphne’s father “Mac” MacNamara accusing Frank of some very coldblooded machinations as the gang all sip their cocktails in the flying saucer as it hurtles through space.

(A passing familiarity with our previous episode will make this one slightly less incomprehensible, if no less preposterous.)

“I wonder what your next step was going to be, Frank? The Home Office had already approved my basic plan, so you would have to do something cute, something that would not only get rid of Daphne and Dick and Harvey, but that would make the whole idea of giving humans autonomy look like a mistake -- maybe something involving that little worm Pym?”

Dick, who was in the midst of raising his martini to his lips, paused.

“Pym?” he said. “Al Pym?”

“Yeah,” said Mac. “One of Frankie boy’s little pet projects. He’s been feeding subliminal suggestions to that weasel and that goofy Admiral Hackington for years now. I guess you know Hackington killed Admiral Quigley.”

“Well, no,” said Dick, “I mean, I, uh, had my suspicions, but --”

“Oh, yeah,” said Mac, “Frankie boy’s slick all right.”

“Hey, Mac,” said Frank, refilling his own martini glass and spilling some more gin over the counter, “guess what? Real life is not a Quinn Martin Production, and you are full of shit.”

Brad stubbed out his cigar, got up with his empty glass and headed for the bar.

“You’re the one’s full of shit, Frank.”

“Clam the fuck up, Brad.”

“No, you clam the fuck up, motherfucker. And let me get some of that gin before you hog it all.”

Brad shoved Frank aside, Frank stumbled, trying to keep his drink from spilling.

“Asswipe,” he muttered, but not too loudly, as Brad was much bigger than he.

Brad poured himself a drink, properly using a long cocktail spoon to prevent the ice cubes from plopping into his glass.

“I been eatin’ your shit for over two thousand years now, Frank, and I’ve had it.”

He took a drink, savored it, put the glass down on the counter and took out a pack of Old Golds.

He stared at the pack.

“Look at this shit, I just finished a cigar and now I’m grabbing a cigarette. This is the nerves I got from working this job.”

He shook one out, took out his gold-plated lighter, and lit up.

“Candy-ass,” muttered Frank.

Mac shook his head, took his drink back over to the command console and sat down.

Brad slowly exhaled cigarette smoke, staring at Frank.

“I heard what you said to Henry when you came in the casino tonight, Frank, and I quote: ‘These humans get outa line, don’t be afraid to use your piece. They ain’t gonna be around too long anyhow.’ End quote. I heard you, Frank. That’s your problem -- no, excuse me, that’s one of your fucking problems -- you got a big fuckin’ mouth, Frank.”

He picked up his martini, took another drink.

Back in Paco’s little tin house, watching this go down on the little black-and-white Philco, Derek said, “Fuckin’ A, man.”

“Right on, Brad,” said Paco, and he passed the joint to Derek.

Frank, sweating now, had returned to his seat. He put his drink down and took out his gold cigarette case, clicked it open, took out a cigarette, snapped the case shut and tapped the cigarette on its lid.

“Oh, by the way, Frank,” said Brad. “Don’t even worry about firing me, ‘cause I quit. Salut.

Frank finally got tired of tapping his cigarette, and lit it up with his thin gold lighter. Everyone was looking at him. Even Buddy turned away from his controls for a moment and stared at him.

“Okay,” said Frank. “So I am a bad man. So I am a very bad man. So I was possibly -- and I stress the whatchamacallit adjective ‘possibly’ --”

“Adverb,” said Brad.

“Whatever. Possibly I might have found it necessary to bump off these admittedly very resourceful and talented people here and run the the Earth operation my way -- which, if you will grant me, for argument’s sake, is undoubtedly in fact the right fuckin’ way -- grant all that. Granted, let’s say. Okay. But. Answer me this, Mister MacNamara: just what the fuck do you intend to do now? You’ve fuckin’ hijacked a government saucer, kidnapped me, who by the way is still in command of this Earth operation, plus this jamoke --” he indicated Brad with his cigarette. “Just what the fuck you think you’re gonna do now?”

Buddy checked a gauge and flicked a switch.

A high-pitched noise came from somewhere.

“Two minutes till we engage the Woofer, Major!”

“Okay,” said Mr. MacNamara, swiveling around in his seat to face the console. “Everybody grab a chair and fasten your seatbelts. This part of the ride gets bumpy sometimes.”

“If you ask me,” said Daphne, “this ride has already gotten a bit bumpy.”

The shrieking noise continued as Dick took the seat to Daphne’s right, one empty seat away from Frank, and Brad finished his drink and came over and sat to Frank’s right.

Everyone started to buckle up.

(Continued right here. Please look to the right hand side of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, a Quinn Martin Production.)