Wednesday, November 25, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 175: jealous

Let us return to that fateful long night in August of 1963, and to our hero, Mr. Arnold Schnabel – bruised, battered, bloodied and only slightly bowed, wending his way homeward (or at least to the boarding house of his three maiden aunts, to which he and his mother have resorted for the summer) through the streets of that ancient seaport of Cape May, New Jersey...

(Go here to read our previous episode, or here to go to the first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning epic, styled by the noted scholar Harold Bloom as “a book for all seasons, but particularly appropriate for gift-giving during the pagan winter-solstice festivities”.)

I made the left turn at Carpenter’s Lane. As empty as the streets were, it still seemed prudent to avoid the main drag of Washington Street, along or near which so many of tonight’s shenanigans had transpired. But when I got to the crossing of Jackson Street I couldn’t help but look to my left and up to that second floor above the jewelry shop: the windows of Elektra’s room were dark, but I saw lights in the apartment’s other windows along the side of the house.

I walked over and around to the side pathway and into that dark nighttime smell of ivy and of sleeping roses. I paused beneath a window and heard music, jazz music, a saxophone playing a sad song that seemed like it had started years ago and still had a long way to go.

And then I thought, no.

Enough was enough. And, besides, just look at me. God knew I knew next to nothing about women, but if I knew anything at all about them then Elektra would not leave unmentioned these scrapes on my every possible hand and arm and knee, not to mention a pronounced limp. It would be bad enough dealing with my mother and aunts in the morning.

But then I hesitated, because it occurred to me that of course Elektra would only see the scrapes tomorrow.

(Unless – unless I went over to Buddy Kelly’s again, and asked him for another swabbing with that scarlet medicine…)

What to do.

I turned and walked back to the sidewalk. But then I stopped again, looking obliquely up at those inviting second-floor windows, hearing that soft music.

Would it be so terrible after all to let Elektra fuss over me a little bit?

And then I saw the lights go out in those windows, and retroactively I became aware that the music had ceased also a few moments before. So even my bohemian friends were finally calling it a day, unless one or more of them should still be sitting up, staring into the darkness and silence, something I had done often enough in my life but hadn’t done lately.

So I continued my way homeward, turning down Carpenter’s Lane again. Up ahead was Perry Street, and when I reached it I would be in the home stretch, just a couple of blocks from my bed.

However, as I reached Perry I saw out of the corner of my eye three people all the way down near Beach Drive.

It couldn’t be, could it?

I quickly turned right, hunching my shoulders and lowering my head, but then I heard it: three voices, one male, two female, all of them shouting my name at the top of their lungs.

My impulse was to run, just to break into a run and not stop running until I was back in my aunts’ house, but unfortunately with my banged-up knees running was out of the question; it was all I could do to shamble, and painfully at that.

I stopped, and turned, and waited, and soon I was joined by Miss Evans and Mr. and Mrs. DeVore, all of them out of breath and panting after stampeding up the street.

“I knew I would find you,” said Miss Evans.

“Arnold, old buddy, what the hell happened to you?” yelled Mr. DeVore.

“He’s been beaten up,” gasped Mrs. DeVore. “Or were you hit by a car?”

“Neither,” I said, responding directly to Mrs. DeVore. “I fell.”

More nonsense was spoken, by all concerned, I won’t bore the reader or myself by trying to dredge it up and transcribe it, living through it once was bad enough. But pretty soon we got moving, myself and Miss Evans leading the way, Miss Evans hanging tightly onto my arm and the DeVores yapping away right on our heels.

“I knew I would find you, Arnold,” said Miss Evans, for about the ninth time. She was now speaking in an almost-English accent, sort of like the way Katharine Hepburn talks.

“It was meant to be,” she said. “I can’t wait to get you home. Oh, wait.”

She stopped, pulling me to a stop. The Devores almost ran into us.

“Stand back, you two,” said Miss Evans.

They both said sorry and stepped back a yard or so.

“Where did you go, with that Joshua fellow?”

She still held her arm tightly in mine.

“That’s a long story,” I said.

“You two,” said Miss Evans to the DeVores, “step back farther!”

This they did, a few more steps.

“It was them, wasn’t it?” she said, not quite whispering. “They were boring you silly, so you and Joshua ditched the lot of us.”

“Well –”

“Say no more. You poor man. Come on.”

She gave my arm a yank, and we resumed our progress.

The DeVores continued to follow us, keeping to a respectful few feet behind us.

“By the way, old bean, what’s up with those other friends of yours, that Mr. Arbuthnot and that Jack fellow?”

“Just some guys I barely know,” I said.

“What about this other chap, friend of this Jack blighter – 'Lucky'. Do you know him?”

“I’m afraid I do,” I said.

“What do you mean, you don’t like him?”

“No, I can’t say I do,” I said.

“So you don’t think I should sign with him?”

“Sign with him?”

“His management company. He and that Jack bloke say they can get all my books made into movies. Do you think they’re full of ordure?”

“Of what?”

“Caca. Feces. Of the bovine sort.”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes. I do in fact.”

Now it was I who stopped us. I held out a warning arm to the DeVores, and without a word they stopped and withdrew to the same distance they had held to during my immediately previous tête-à-tête with Miss Evans.

“Arnold, what’s come over you.”

“Miss Evans, you didn’t sign anything, did you?”

“What? What do you mean. Ha ha. Would I sign a contract with someone I had just met in a bar somewhere? Ha ha.”

“Did you?”

I peeled her arm from its steely grasp on mine.

“You’re being very rude, Arnold.”

“Listen, Gertrude –”



“You called me by my Christian name. You’ve never done that before without my prompting.”

“Miss Evans –”

“I do believe you’re jealous, Arnold.”

With one red-nailed finger she touched the open neck of my polo shirt.

I pulled her hand away.

“Oh, my, so forceful. I love you this way, Arnold. You beast.”

“Miss Evans, did you sign a contract?”

“No, you silly man, I didn’t sign a contract. Oh, they wanted me to but I played hard to get. That Lucky fellow said he’d take me to luncheon tomorrow and try to, as he put it, ‘ply me with champagne and oysters’.”

“She’s telling the truth, Arnold,” called DeVore.

“Yeah. Truth,” said Mrs. DeVore.

“We heard it all.”

“Heard all.”

“Now may we go home?” said Miss Evans.

She slid her arm back into mine, gave me a tug, and off we went.

“Oh, yes, I do believe you’re jealous,” said Miss Evans.

She continued to speak nonsense the rest of the way back.

(Continued here, because that nice new doctor says it’s harmless to do so and possibly even good therapy.)

(Feel free to cast your gaze to the right hand column of this page where you should find an allegedly current list of links to all other available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, the first six volumes of which will soon be available in handy pocket-sized editions from the The Big K Press, exclusively at K-Marts everywhere at the special low, low holiday price of $1.99 {US} apiece; quantities limited.)


Jennifer said...

Dear Lord... the DeVores are worse than Lucky!

You know, I'd always imagined Gertrude as having a voice that was a little bit Hepburn and a little bit Lovey Howell.

Unknown said...

Arnold doesn't seem the jealous type; in fact, I wonder if he's knows jealousy at all or ever will.

Unknown said...

The DeVores are responding to hand signals. Nice.
I like my hellhounds well trained.

Dan Leo said...

Hellhounds! That's perfect, they're like annoying needy yapping hellhounds. The kind you always have to kick off of your legs...

Unknown said...

I'm ready for the clock to start winding backwards--I don't want this night to end.
Though, there's always another day. Miss Evans has a luncheon date with Lucky.

Dan Leo said...

Manny, I'd like to be a fly on the wall at that lunch date!

Hmm, I wonder if that can be arranged...

Unknown said...

I'm still confused as to whether it's today or tomorrow.
Or, seeing as it's nearly morning, whether it's today or yesterday.

Dan Leo said...

Hey, Di, you think you're confused -- I just spent an hour trying to find out if Mrs. DeVore's real first name has been revealed yet. (Answer: no, but apparently it sounds something like Radish {at least to Arnold} but is not Gladys.)

Unknown said...

It's not Delores then (Seinfeld ref!)

Dan Leo said...

Oh my God, you have Seinfeld in Australia? That's cool. And only fair because I'm a major Kath & Kim fan. (But the American version sucked!)