Saturday, March 29, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Sixty-Four: like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom...

Arnold Schnabel -- poet, brakeman and possible saint -- continues his Casanova Award-winning memoir.

The time and place: 1963; an August evening in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May NJ; a gathering of some of the leading lights of the entertainment and literary worlds on the second-floor porch of the charming Biddle residence...

(Go here to review our previous chapter.)

Fortunately Elektra got up voluntarily from my lap soon after — she had to go to the ladies’ room — and so I’m happy to report that I am not yet a paraplegic.

I stretched out my legs and wiggled my toes in my Keds.

Sammy had finished his “new dawn new day” song and now he asked Frank if he would like to sing another one. Frank said sure, they exchanged a few more words, Sammy strummed a few introductory chords, Frank cleared his throat, coughed gently, tapped his cigarette ash into a nearby standing ashtray, and sang:
Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom
When the jungle shadows fall
Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock
As it stands against the wall…
“Why are you torturing me?” whispered Miss Evans in my ear.

“Pardon me?”
Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
“Torturing me. Sitting here like that, stretching your legs like some great panther.”

Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
“Showing off your muscular legs.”

She ran her hand over my right thigh. I unstretched my legs, and tried to unflex their muscles as best I could.
Whether near to me, or far
Its no matter darling where you are
I think of you, day and night
Larry had put away the hashish pipe, and had lit up another fine-smelling cigar. He was ostensibly watching Frank sing, but I noticed him looking at Miss Evans and me out of the corner of his right eye.
Night and day, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go
“Such sweet torture,” said Miss Evans into my ear.

I made bold enough to lift her hand away and I dropped it on her lap.
In the roaring traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
I noticed Steve staring at us wide-eyed, and even Miss Rathbone was observing our shenanigans from over the crest of her regal nose.
Day and night, night and day
Under the hide of me
I stood up, swaying slightly, from the drugs, from the alcohol, from sitting too long with Elektra on my lap, from everything.
There’s an oh such a hungry yearning
burning inside of me
“Where are you going?” said Miss Evans.
And this torment won’t be through
Until you let me spend my life making love to you
“I want a drink of water,” I said.
Day and night, night and day
“I want one, too,” she said, and she too stood up. 
I went over to the screen door, opened it and went through, and Miss Evans was right behind me.

I made it out to the hall and I was heading for the staircase when Miss Evans grabbed my arm.

She hauled herself in to me.

“Don’t think I didn’t see you looking at me,” she said.

It’s true, I had been shooting her the odd glance, but only in the way one would keep an eye on a large cat known for sudden attacks of hysteria.

“Um,” I said.

“I know your type,” she said. “You like to use your power over women.”

“Pardon me?”

She looked to her left, saw a door. Without letting go of my arm she reached over with her other hand and opened the door. The room inside was unlit. She pulled me into it, swinging me around as she did.

Still without letting go of my arm she reached behind her and closed the door.

Frank and Sammy had started on “Old Man River”, and I could hear Frank singing:
Tote that barge, you gotta heft that bale
Once again Miss Evans drew herself close to me, and now she gripped my other upper arm with her other hand (thus gripping both my arms, in case you’re trying to keep track).

Some faint light came in from the porch. Her face was like an enormous close-up from some old black-and-white movie, the part where the heroine says something extremely dramatic.

“You’re like Howard Roark, aren’t you?” she said.

“Who’s Howard Roark?”

“The protagonist of The Fountainhead. But that’s right, you haven’t read it.”

“I did see the movie,” I offered.

“Howard Roark is the Gary Cooper part,” she said.

“You must be kidding,” I said.

“False modesty will get you nowhere with me.”

“I assure you my modesty is warranted,” I said.

“Come to my room tonight.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said.

“You find me unattractive?”


“Is it because of Elektra?”

“Uh, yes,” I said.

“You don’t sound so sure. Are you sure that’s the only reason?”

“No,” I admitted. “It’s not the only reason.”

“Then what’s the other reason.”

“Oh, nothing.”

“Tell me.”

“I’d prefer not to.”

“Tell me.”

Her long red nails bit into my biceps, like two small but powerful ferrets.

“Um —”

“Tell me!” she said.

“You terrify me,” I said.

Finally, she let go of my arms. She straightened my polo shirt sleeves. She looked away, and then looked back to me, up into my eyes.

“You wicked man,” she said. “You wicked, wicked man.”

(Go here for our next steamy chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to all other extant episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, a Shel Talmy Production.)

And now a word from the Shangri-Las:


Unknown said...

(thus gripping both my arms, in case you’re trying to keep track)

A perfect aside, perfectly timed: I was trying to keep track; I'm always trying to keep track. Arnold's the first writer to help me out so deftly, tightening the focus rather than blurring it.

Jennifer said...

My gawd! Arnold's a manimal and he doesn't have a clue...