Wednesday, December 9, 2009

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 177: big splash

When last we saw the rhyming brakeman Arnold Schnabel his nemesis (well, one of his nemeses -- for such a nice guy he seems to have a lot of them) that hot-blooded novelist Gertrude Evans was dragging him by the shoulders toward the door of her apartment in Arnold’s aunts’ big old rooming-house in Cape May, NJ, at approximately 3:30 AM on the 11th of August, 1963...

(Click here to read our previous episode, or go here to return to the first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning memoir. “Surely a masterwork to which people of all creeds -- and even those who have none -- may turn for wisdom, inspiration and comfort as our world goes merrily to hell in a hand basket.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in The Catholic Standard & Times.)

Uselessly my fingers scrabbled at the scrupulously polished floor.

I may not have known much but what I did know was that I couldn’t allow her to get me into her room.

I went limp, hoping to lull her into a false sense of victory as she pulled me along like a sack of potatoes, and I waited till she let go her left hand so that she could open the door, which like all the doors in my aunts’ house, had been left unlocked. Then, as she pushed the door open, I twisted out of the grasp of her right hand, and turned onto my knee – unfortunately my more badly-injured right knee – and, stifling a grown of agony, once again I collapsed, this time face-first onto the floor.

“Stop struggling,” she whispered. “You’ll hurt yourself.”

She took hold of my left arm with both her hands and quickly dragged me across the threshold, and although I tried to grab onto the door jamb with my free hand, she simply gave my other arm a sharp twist and a good yank and I lost my grip.

Once she had me well in she shut the door with her foot and then hauled me over next to her bed.

“All right,” she said, “now let’s take a look at your boo-boos." She tossed her purse to the floor. "Come on, help me get you onto the bed.”

I got up onto one knee, my less-damaged left one this time.

“Can’t we have a little light?” I asked.

“What for?”

“So you can see.”

“See what?”

“My, uh, boo-boos?”

“Oh, right.”

I was hoping to make a dash for the door while she switched on a lamp, but she kept hold of my left arm with one hand while she reached over to the tasseled lamp by her bed and pulled the cord.

“There,” she said. “Light. Now get onto the bed like a good boy.”

With her pulling my arm I got up and sat on the side of the bed.

She finally let go of my arm and stood before me, stretching and flexing the fingers of her hands.

“At long last,” she said.

“Miss Evans,” I said.


“Gertrude. I have to tell you something.”

“No need to tell me, Arnold. Words fail at moments like this. Should I get some iodine and a wet rag now or should we wait until after.”

“After what?”

“I think you know what, you great brute.”

“Gertrude, I’m engaged.”


This kind of lie had worked a month or so ago with that Rhonda or Mona woman, whatever her name was, it was worth a try now.

“Elektra and I, we got engaged tonight.”

“You. And that Greek girl.”

“Well, she’s Jewish actually, but yes, her. And me.”

“And does she know about you and me.”

“What? What about you and me?”

“Our special bond.”

“Um – no,” I said.

“Then it will be just our secret. Lie back now.”

Crossing her arms, she reached down, grabbed a bit of her silvery dress in each hand, and pulled it up over her head.

I figured that the fraction of a second that her garment was over her head would be my last of my last chances, and I made a break for it.

However, even with her eyes covered she was way ahead of me, sticking a foot in my path, sending me once again sprawling to the floor, which at least at this spot was covered with an old woven rug.

I turned over on my side, I saw her toss the dress away, and then, clad only in what I suppose must be called panties, and not unlike the wrestler Haystacks Calhoun performing his dreaded “Big Splash” coup de grâce, she threw herself bodily in my direction.

Meaning no one harm, especially myself, but acting instinctively as God will surely bear witness, I rolled quickly to one side and out of her way as she landed with a thump.

I was about to drag myself to the door, when, glancing back, I saw that Miss Evans was not moving.

Pushing myself up and onto my haunches I made a silent prayer. Josh I knew was no doubt still asleep, and so (never feeling comfortable addressing the Holy Ghost, or Spirit) I addressed his father.

“Please, dear God,” I said (again, silently, I wasn’t that far gone), “please don’t let her be dead. And, if you can find it within the purview of your mercy, also let her not be paralyzed or otherwise seriously injured. On the other hand please let her remain unconscious, but not comatose, until the morning. Amen.”

I shuffled on my aching knees over to her, leaned over.

Thank God, she was breathing.

I ran my hand along her neck. All felt normal. I leaned over farther and, fingering her hair away, I examined her face. She had a very small bump on her forehead.

“Mwa,” she said, her eyes half-opening. “Mwa?”

“It’s okay, Miss Evans,” I said. “We’re just going to put you to bed.”


I got to my feet, and then, reaching down, I lifted her up with my hands beneath her shoulders. For such a strong woman she was really very light. She didn’t struggle, and soon I had her in her bed, her nakedness covered up with a sheet.

“Mwa,” she said again.

“Good night, Miss Evans,” I whispered.

“No, kizz me,” she mumbled.

I relented, gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, she said “mwa” again, and I put out the light and left the room, closing the door behind me.

I limped slowly down the hall. It was a miracle that the whole house was not awake. Come to think of it, the whole house probably was awake.

I made it to the bathroom.

Using wet toilet paper (I didn’t want to leave blood on washcloths or towels) I dabbed at my various scrapes, dropping the wads of paper into the toilet.

I urinated, flushed, washed my hands, and then for good measure I brushed my teeth.

As I brushed I looked at my face in the old mirror, the sort of mirror that makes your face look even more alien than it normally might, as if you’re looking not at your reflection but at a different version of yourself in some other world looking into a similar mirror and seeing this somewhat dubious version of myself that was me.

I rinsed out my mouth, switched off the light, and then waited for a moment before opening the door, listening, just to make sure Miss Evans hadn’t revived and was waiting outside ready to pounce. I heard nothing, only the faint faraway breathing of the ocean from the open bathroom window.

I opened the door, went out and across the hall and up to my attic room.

(Continued here, come hell or high water.)

(Please look to the right hand side of this page for a scrupulously up-to-date listing of links to all other available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, soon to be available in a 24-volume handsomely-bound edition from Funk & Wagnall’s, sold exclusively at better Woolworth’s 5&10s everywhere. Food stamps accepted.)


Unknown said...

That was a close call.
Is Gertrude a succubus?

Dan Leo said...

Holy cow, I hope not! And Arnold definitely hopes not...

Jennifer said...


Arnold finally, finally, finally made it to his room!!!

I have to say, I fully expected Gertrude to have her way with him and for Arnold to awaken then next day with a Bride of Frankenstein hairdo.

Great song.

Dan Leo said...

Jen, apparently Jesus does love Arnold.

(And Jesus loves those early Kinks songs, too!)

Unknown said...

Agreed, Jennifer!

"Arnold finally, finally, finally made it to his room!!!"

I was holding my breath so long, I believe I nearly fainted.

But - is Arnold weaving a tangled web, starting with one little white lie?

Unknown said...

Just listened to the music. Must buy husband a Kinks CD for Christmas.

Dan Leo said...

The Kinks for Kristmas! What a great present!

Unknown said...

Can't wait for the hell and high water!

Dan Leo said...

Knowing Arnold, Manny, expect both hell AND high water!