Wednesday, June 11, 2008

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Eighty: woo boy

 Previously in our serialization of this Third-Place Prize-Winner of the Walmart Award for Excellence in Confessional Literature, our hero Arnold Schnabel spent the morning hammering out a first act for the film Sidewalks of Blood with the noted auteur Larry Winchester. Retiring to the kitchen of Mrs. Biddle’s house for a modest lunch of ham, cheese, and beer, Arnold and Larry are joined by the dangerously lovely Daphne MacNamara...

Daphne sat down and took a good long gulp of the iced tea. She put the glass on the table, still holding it, staring pensively off at nothing in particular and probably gauging the tea’s effect. Her lips opened, she sighed.

“Well,” she said, “that’s an improvement. Now, Arnold, what did Dick say about me?”

“Um, uh —”

“Larry,” she said, commandingly.

“At your service, miss.”

“Will you be a darling and go get me some cigarettes. There should be a box on the big coffee table in the living room. I should have grabbed one myself but I forgot.”

“Of course.”

Larry got up and left and she watched him go.

She leaned across the table towards me. She smelled like a garden.

“Quickly now. What did Dick say?”

“He wants to marry you. He asked my advice.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I suggested he wait a few years.”

“So you think that’s best?”

“What’s the rush?” I said.

“Good question. I’m only nineteen after all. Did he go for your advice?”

“I think so.”

“Well, that’s a load off. Now I can relax.” She rattled the ice in her glass and took another but smaller drink. “What’s the deal with you and this Calliope person?”

“Elektra,” I said.

“Elektra,” she said. “Well?”

“Um, she, uh — she and I —”

“She is very pretty, isn’t she?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Intelligent, too.”

“Yes. More intelligent than I am.”



“You’re sleeping with her, right?”

“Well —” I realized that I was breaking out in a sweat again, for about the twelfth time that day — ”we haven’t exactly slept together –”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yes,” I said, my sweat immediately turning cold.

“Does she like it?” she asked. Then, “Wow, you’re blushing.”

Her mouth blossomed into a great smile, her eyes flashed, the hot sweat streamed like a river down my back.

(And where was Larry? How long did it take to go to the living room and back?)

“Okay,” she said. “You don’t have to answer that. But I was watching how she looked at you. I think she likes it. I think she likes it very much. So, are you two going to get married?”

“I don’t — think so,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Wouldn’t a better question be ‘Why’?”

“Fair enough.” She rattled her ice cubes in the glass again. “Do you like to swim?”

“Very much,” I said. “I go for a long swim every day.”

“Come for a swim with me. I warn you I swim like a absolute seal.”

I wasn’t sure about this.

“I just had lunch,” I said.

“So go home and change into your bathing suit and we’ll take a little stroll or sit on the beach while you digest your lunch, and then we’ll take a nice long swim.”

My problem — or I should say one of my problems — is I don’t know how to say no to people.

“Okay,” I said.

“Good. Oh, here’s Larry.”

Larry came in with a carved wooden box; he opened it and held it out to Daphne, who picked out a cigarette and waited for Larry to put the box on the table and then take out his matches and give her a light.

“Thanks,” she said. “Arnold and I are going for a swim, Larry.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes. Want to come?”

“No. I think I’ll take a nap.”

She picked up her glass, rattled her ice one last time and then polished off the rest of her iced tea.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m just going up to get into my suit. I’ll be right down.”

And she flew gracefully out of the room, leaving behind only the trail of her cigarette smoke and the flowery scent of herself.

I had stood up as she left the table, and Larry had never sat down again.
He looked at me.

“Woo boy,” he said. “What did I tell you about women and maniacs?”

I looked at the box of cigarettes on the table. On the one hand I wanted to smoke two or three of them simultaneously while stuffing the rest of them in my various pockets. On the other hand I figured I had gone this long, why not keep moving and see if I could hold out till after my swim?

“All right, Arnie,” said Larry, and he grabbed my shoulder. “I’m gonna hit the hay. Good luck.”

“We’re only going for a swim.”

“Sure. Good luck anyway.” He pinched up the sodden material of my shirt from my shoulder. “You’re drenched with sweat.”

It was one of those statements to which no reply seemed necessary, or wise.

“Same time tomorrow?” said Larry. “We’ll dive into that second act.”

“Sure,” I said.

“Do what I do and try not to think about it till then.”

“Okay,” I said.

That would be easy for me. I barely think about my writing even when I'm doing it, let alone when I'm not doing it.

He patted my shoulder one last time.

“Enjoy your, uh, swim, Arnie,” he said.

“It’s just a swim, Larry,” I said.

“Sure, pal. See you tomorrow.”

He straightened out my shirt collar for me and then walked out of the kitchen. I sat down again and stared at the open cigarette box.

I reached over and closed the lid.

(Go here for our next thrilling chapter. And kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to all extant episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven™, all rights reserved by the Arnold Schnabel Society; donations accepted.)

Swing it, Ronettes:


Unknown said...

Wow! I've always loved how everyone mistakes Elektra's name for that of another mythic semi-goddess. But is Daphne the first to name her as an outright Muse, the one who inspires epic poetry, no less?

I'd have remembered if anyone had called her "Polyhymnia," yet, let alone, "Erato."

Dan Leo said...

Yep, Kathleen, Daphne was the first to do this, and you, dear lady, were of course the first to notice it!

Anonymous said...

I don't know what plans you have for Dick and Daphne in "Railroad Train to Heaven" or "Town Called Disdain", but if they manage to survive into the 1970's, maybe you can do a third book where they hang out at Plato's Retreat or Studio 54. That intro for the Ronettes by George Hamilton is a classic. He starred in two of my favorite biopics, one about Evil Knievel, the other about Hank Williams.

Dan Leo said...

Tedster, maybe Larry will hire George for the movie he and Arnold are writing. Of course George would probably have to lower his asking price a little.

Jennifer said...

I somehow thought Arnold was going to grab some cigs and we'd see him simultaneously swimming and smoking. I'm guessing Arnold could pull it off.

I thought Elektra had been called by a muse name another time. Wasn't she Calliope once? At least no one has called her Electrolux. ;)

Dan Leo said...

"Electrolux" -- luv it.

Companies really knew how to name themselves and their products back in the old days: "Frigidaire". "Philco". "Old Masters". "Thom McAn". "Robert Hall". "Pep Boys". "Kool". "Thunderbird". "Impala".

And of course Arnold's brand, the classy "Pall Mall".

Unknown said...

And don't forget Kent and Chesterfield. The cigarette companies had an English royalty thing going on: Viceroy...even Marlboro, before the cowboy wandered in and changed everything.

(Another great post, by the way. Arnold is so at sea in this crowd; he has the innocence of a child.)

Dan Leo said...

And then there were Philip Morris cigarettes with that strange bellboy and his eerie cry (I'm showing my age here):

Anonymous said...

a little dab'll do ya

Dan Leo said...

"She'll love to run her fingers through your hair!"

Dig it:

Jennifer said...

"She'll love to run her fingers through your hair!"

Although this was for Brylcreem, I now have this jingle running through my head...

Every Jean and Joan and Alice,
Loves a guy who wears Vitalis!

Dan Leo said...

Jen, I just checked, and I'm happy to report that both of these fine hair-grooming products are still available. I'm going to rush right out and but some Vitalis right now:

Jennifer said...

Well thank GAWD!

I know I'm on the hunt for some Dippity Do so I can sport some wicked pin curls!

Dan Leo said...

Good news, Jennifer!

Dippity Do, is still available:

And only $2.86 a jar! Who says there are no bargains any more?

Anonymous said...

Burma-Shave, Maypo,"Love That Squirt!"

Jennifer said...

I'm now wondering if it smells the same... I'd buy it for the smell.