Saturday, October 29, 2011

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 274: the crossing

Come with us to that world beyond this world, where our hero Arnold Schnabel and his companion that ancient reprobate Mr. Jones make their way along a narrow brick road through a thick forest beneath a steel-grey sky…

(Go here to review our previous thrilling episode; those who are not afraid of the challenge may click here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award©-winning 61-volume masterpiece of autobiography.)

“The other day I woke up from my afternoon nap thinking that I was a character in Arnold Schnabel’s magical universe; then the cobwebs disappeared and I realized I had been cast yet again into my own all-too-mundane world. Quickly I picked up the volume of Railroad Train to Heaven that always lies by my bedside, and soon I rectified the appalling situation.” -- Harold Bloom, on The Maury Povich Show.

We proceeded in silence for a couple of minutes. What was there to say. There was nothing to say. My legs pained me, but I didn’t complain. After all, Mr. Jones was eighty-seven years old, in fact he was technically dead, and he wasn’t complaining. It’s a funny thing, though – well, not really funny, but remarkable, no, not really remarkable, but, having started, I will complete my thought, especially since it doesn’t matter anyway as no one will ever read this – it’s a slightly remarkable fact that although it doesn’t feel awkward to walk alone without speaking, it does feel awkward to walk with someone else without saying anything. And so:

“I hope it’s not too much farther,” I said.

Mr. Jones deigned not to reply, nor even to look at me.

He continued to shuffle, I continued to limp. After another two minutes I spoke again.

“I hope you’re not too tired, Mr. Jones. Would you like me to carry you piggyback for a while?”

This time he did deign to answer me.

“At my age I’m always tired. But I’ll drag myself along under my own steam for a ways. How are your legs?”

“Well, they do hurt a bit,” I said.

“It could be worse,” he said.

“That’s true,” I said.

“That’s always been my motto. It could be worse. Of course sometimes that motto means nothing. Sometimes things could not be worse.”

“That’s true, too,” I said.

“And, when those times come, there’s little you can do.”

“True,” I said.

“Except to weep, and wail, and gnash your teeth.”

“Yes,” I said.

“If you have teeth to gnash.”


“What could be more humiliating than gnashing one’s dentures?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Try gnashing your toothless gums.”

“Um, uh.”

The awkwardness of silence was now being replaced as it so often is with the awkwardness of the spoken word.

“Well, uh,” I said after a half a minute, “it shouldn’t be long now.”

“And what basis have you for saying that?” said Mr. Jones.

I limped a couple of painful paces before replying.

“None,” I said.

“I’ve been saying that for twenty years,” said Mr. Jones.


“No. ‘It shouldn’t be long now.’”

“Ah,” I said. “So –” I tried to think of a new topic of conversation. Suddenly I remembered an almost universally popular subject, at least in male company. “Um, who do you think will make it to the World Series this year?”

“I have no idea,” said Mr. Jones. “Nor do I care. I have not followed that noble pastime since the days when Ty Cobb used to sharpen his spikes before each game with a whetstone, the better to lacerate the calves of opposing infielders, those halcyon days when Babe Ruth would devour a dozen hotdogs and quaff a pitcher of lager before taking the field and slamming a couple or three out of the park; no, it’s a matter of complete indifference to me who reaches the World Series. Next question.”

“Um – I suppose football is –”

“Damn it, man, we’re in the next world, the world of eternity, and you’re asking me about sports!”


“Ask me something with some depth.”

“Okay,” I said. I limped along, waiting for something to rise up, and after a minute something did. “Saint Peter gave you another chance.”

“Barely,” he said. “And begrudgingly.”

“Yes, that’s true, but now that you have this second chance, at, at –”

“At life.”

“Yes,” I said. “Do you think you’ll try to, to –”

“Change my ways?”


“Change my ways after eighty-seven years of living for my own pleasure?”

“Um –”

“Even when those selfsame pleasures are so often succeeded by the miseries of the damned?”

“Yes,” I said. “After all –”

“It’s true I grant you that the pleasures available to me at the age of eighty-seven are few. Not like in the good old days when I had a house account at Salt Chunk Mary’s establishment out in Pocatello, in the spanking new state of Idaho, and believe you me I took advantage of my signing privileges, with sometimes one girl in the morning, another after lunch, and yet another one at bedtime. Nowadays unfortunately my shriveled old johnson is good only for urination, and even that act is far from as enjoyable as it was forty or even thirty years ago.”

Mr. Jones paused, as if to give me opportunity for comment, but I said nothing. He continued after a moment.

“All I have left for vices now I’m afraid are liquor and beer and tobacco. Muggles when I can get it, and, yes, the occasional bowl of hop. Am I to deny myself these paltry pleasures for the few months of life I have left?”

“I don’t think they count as mortal sins,” I said. “You’ll probably get off with some time in purgatory.”

“There’s still however the little problem of those million mortal sins that are already on my account, as friend Saint Peter was so good to point out.”

“Well, I think he said it was a bit less than nine hundred and seventy thousand.”

“That still seems like a lot, even to me.”

“You can go to confession and have them all absolved.”

“It’s that easy?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Isn’t it embarrassing though?”

“They say that priests have heard it all, so you shouldn’t be shy. Especially since, well, considering –”

“The stakes involved.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Eternal damnation.”


“Very well, then. I’ve never been a religious son-of-a-bitch, but what the hell, if that’s all it takes, I’ll swallow my pride. Do you know a good priest I could go to?”

“Yes,” I said. “There’s Father Reilly at the Our Lady Star of the Sea church in Cape May. He’s pretty understanding.”

“Not one to blanch when I stroll in and confess a million mortal sins?”

“Probably not,” I said. “He usually lets me off with a few Hail Marys and an Our Father for my penance.”

“And what sort of sins do you confess to him?”

“I’d prefer not to say.”


“Yes,” I said. “And –”

“Go on, we’re all friends here.”

“The sin of self-abuse.”

“What the hell is that?”

I sighed.

“Masturbation,” I said.

“You call that self-abuse?”

“The Church does.”

“I call it strangling the worm. But I would hardly call it a sin. Is it mortal?”

“Technically, yes.”

“That makes no sense. Might as well bang your babe on the beach if they’re going to send you away just for milking your willy.”

“Well, um, uh –”

“I know, you don’t make the rules. Do I need to make an appointment?”

“For confession?”

“No, for the dentist.”

“Heh heh. Well, ordinarily they hear confessions on Saturday afternoons.”

“Today’s Sunday. What if I drop dead before Saturday.”

“Well, I guess you could go by the rectory and request a special confession.”

“Considering my advanced years.”


“I’ll make a point of it then. But tell me, surely I’m not expected to enumerate every single one of these nine hundred and seventy thousand mortal sins.”

“Probably not,” I said. “It would take too long, anyway. He’ll probably just ask you to, to –”

“Give him the general outlines.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Rough it out in broad strokes.”


“No need to go into every sordid detail, even if I could remember them all.”

“He’ll ask questions if he wants to know more,” I said.

“He’s a trained professional,” said Mr. Jones.

“Yes,” I said.

By now Mr. Jones was shuffling so slowly as to be only barely moving. It was all I could do to limp slowly enough not to leave him behind, and to tell the truth I was getting impatient.

“Mr. Jones,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant, “how about that piggyback ride now?”

“Am I going too slow for you?”

“Well, uh –”

“That anxious to get back to the earth and make whoopee with your lady friend?”

“Um –”

“Just kidding, to tell the truth I am getting rather pooped. Bend down a bit and flex your knees so I can climb up.”

I did as he asked, and soon I felt his childishly thin arms around my shoulders, his small torso on my back. I hooked my arms under his legs, stood up straight, and proceeded again to limp forward. I felt his old breath on my neck. I limped on down that red brick road, I say down because the road did seem to be inclining downward now.

The road, which had been going straight on, now curved gently to the right, and as we turned the bend I saw that the bricks came to an end at an opening in the woods directly ahead.

“Now what,” said Mr. Jones, in my ear, almost like a voice in my head.

“Well, wait a minute,” I said.

“I got nowhere else to go, pal.”

I kept going, on into the opening in the woods. The ground, which was covered with patchy grass and fallen leaves and pine cones, continued to slope downwards. I kept going. There seemed to be a fog down below and ahead. Then I saw beneath and through the fog what looked to be a river or lake, and finally I made out a small boat on the water near the bank. The opposite side of the river or lake was obscured by the fog. Then through the mist I saw what looked at first like a tree stump on the bank near the boat, but as I got closer I saw it was a man sitting in a canvas and wood folding chair, facing the river, and reading a book. Still carrying Mr. Jones on my back I made my way toward him.

“Excuse me,” I said, when I was about six feet away.

I saw the man’s shoulders flinch, he jumped up and turned. He was a fat man of about fifty, wearing a faded denim jacket and dungarees, a cloth cap, work boots, a plaid flannel shirt. He had a cigar in one hand and a paperback book in the other. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and he needed a shave.

“What the hell,” he said. He had a raspy, high voice.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to alarm you.”

“Who are you and what is that on your back?”

“Oh, sorry.”

I bent my knees and leaned forward so that Mr. Jones could slide down off me, which he did.

“My name is Arnold Schnabel,” I said, after I straightened up. “This is Mr. Jones.”

“We come in peace,” said Mr. Jones.

“Who sent you here?”

“Saint Peter,” I said.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes,” I said.

“You’re not a couple of these runaways.”

“Oh, no,” I said.

“We’re bonafide,” said Mr. Jones.

“Well, you look okay.” He had been holding his paperback open with one finger, but now he folded over the upper corner of one of the open pages and closed the book up. I caught a glimpse of the cover. Backstreets of Bangkok by Horace P. Sternwall. He shoved the book into his jacket pocket and said, “I guess you gents want to go across, huh?”

“Well,” I said, “we’re trying to get back to the, uh –”

“To the land of the living,” said Mr. Jones.

“You want to go across,” said the man.

“Yes,” said Mr. Jones. “Are you by any chance the ferryman?”

“That I am, mister.”

“Great,” said Mr. Jones. “Let’s go then.”

“Hold on,” said the man. “You got the fare?”

“Oh, Christ,” said Mr. Jones. “Here we go again.”

“You shouldn’t take Jesus’s name in vain like that,” said the man. “Especially not on this side of the river.”

“Sorry,” said Mr. Jones. “What’s the fare cost?”

“For two?”

“Yes, for the both of us.”

“One way?”

“We hope, yes.”

“So one way.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Jones. “Two, one way.”

“Fifty cents apiece. One dollar, total. Payment in advance. No checks or promissory notes.”

“Okay,” said Mr. Jones. “Arnold, you got a buck?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Take care of this and I’ll pay you back my share later. That little Chinee kid cleaned me out.”

“It’s on me,” I said, taking out my wallet.

“Great. Give him a dollar and let’s get the hell out of here.”

I opened my wallet, took out a single, held it out to the man.

He put his cigar in his mouth, took the bill, held it up with both hands to the pale grey light that filtered down through the trees, then, apparently satisfied, he shoved it into his dungarees pocket.

“All right,” he said.

He took off his glasses, folded them up and put them in his shirt pocket. I suppose they were reading glasses.

“My name’s Harry, by the way. Get in the boat, gentlemen, and I hope you enjoy the crossing."

(Continued here, indefatigably.)

(Kindly turn to the right-hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to all legally-sanctioned chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, free, gratis and for nothing, although contributions will be accepted in aid of the Arnold Schnabel Society’s proposed Arnold Schnabel Museum, in the building where Fink’s Bakery used to be, over on Spencer Street. Illustration by Mort Künstler. A big tip of the Leo lid to Bob Deis at Men's Pulp Mags for the above and many other illustrations I have so blatantly borrowed.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 34

"prelude to a rumble"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo*

illustrated by rhoda penmarq , konrad kraus and roy dismas

*Ass’t Professor of Classics and Ass’t Boxing Coach, Olney Community College; editor of The Golden Nib: Seven Previously Unpublished Radio Plays by Horace P. Sternwall (1943-1944); Olney Community College Press

for complete episode, click here

Saturday, October 22, 2011

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 273: Pierce-Arrow

Let’s rejoin our memoirist Arnold Schnabel, seated uneasily in the front seat of a 1929 Pierce-Arrow “French Brougham” with that ancient reprobate Mr. Jones and the car’s driver, Saint Peter, as they motor along a narrow brick road through a forest in a world beyond this world…

(Click here to read our previous episode; if you think you’re ready for the long haul then go here to start at the beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 69-volume epic).

“Scholars of the future will undoubtedly look on the discovery of Arnold Schnabel’s memoirs as an event equal to if not surpassing Columbus’s so-called discovery of the New World.” -- Harold Bloom, on The Joe Franklin Show.

Neither Mr. Jones nor I said anything, although we did glance at each other, briefly. For half a minute Saint Peter also kept silent, but then he spoke again.

“I tell you quite clearly to go one way,” he said. “And then you go the other.”

“Hey, look,” said Mr. Jones, “we weren’t sure whether you meant go left facing the road or go left facing the house. Okay?”

“Then why the hell didn’t you just get on the intercom again and ask me?”

Again, neither Mr. Jones nor I said anything, and, again, we glanced at each other, even more briefly this time.

“And then I see you two nitwits going the wrong way,” said Saint Peter, after another brief pause, “and I get up off of my comfortable chair, and go ring the intercom again, but do you two stop? Do you?”

“Oh,” I said.

“’Oh’ what?” said Saint Peter.

“Y’know,” I said, “I thought I heard a ringing back there, but --”

“But what?”

“Well, I think I asked Mr. Jones if he heard it, but then we started talking about something else, and I guess I got distracted, and, well --”


Once again both Mr. Jones and I chose to remain silent here, although the old fellow did give me a nudge with his elbow in my ribs.

“You two are just lucky I was able to get the car out of the garage and get out here in time,” said Saint Peter.

“Well, we really want to thank you, uh, Saint Peter,” said Mr. Jones. “Don’t we Arnold?”

“Yes,” I said, quickly. “Thanks a lot. We really appreciate --”

“You saw those damned people,” said Saint Peter. 

“Yes,” I said.

“I mean you saw them, right?”

“Yeah, we saw them all right,” said Mr. Jones.

“You two are so lucky. They would have dragged you down to the deepest pit of hell so quick.”

“Right,” I said. “Thanks a lot.”

So quick.”

“Um --”

“Your heads would be spinning,” said Saint Peter.

“Right,” I said again.

“I mean literally,” he said. “Literally they would be spinning.”

“Literally?” said Mr. Jones.

“Yes,” said Saint Peter. “Literally. I’ve seen it and it’s not pretty. Not pretty, at all.”

“I imagine,” said Mr. Jones.

“And those damned people would be laughing all the way. Laughing, and screeching.”

“I hate that fucking screeching,” said Mr. Jones.

“I’d appreciate your not using that gutter language in this motorcar.”

“Sorry,” said Mr. Jones.

“You know who this car belongs to, don’t you?”

“To the, uh, Deity?”

“Correct. So show some respect.”

“Like I was in church,” said Mr. Jones.

“Exactly,” said Saint Peter.

“Well,” said Mr. Jones, “I will, uh, certainly --”

“But I hate it too,” said Saint Peter.

“What’s that,” said Mr. Jones.

“That screeching,” said Saint Peter. “Hate it.”

“Yes, it’s very, uh -- hateful,” said Mr. Jones.

“Exactly,” said Saint Peter. “Hateful. Listen --”

He paused.

“Yes?” I said. He seemed to want someone to say something, so that’s why I said this. I didn’t want him to get any more upset than he already was.

“There’s a reason,” he said.

“A reason,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “There’s a reason those people are damned.”

“Oh, right,” I said.

“They are not nice people.”

“No,” I said.

“Not nice at all.”

“I could see that,” said Mr. Jones.

“Well --” I said.

“Well what?” said Saint Peter.

“Well, thanks again,” I said.

“For what?”

“For, uh, driving out and rescuing us --”

“Yeah, thanks a million,” said Mr. Jones.

“Yeah,” I said. “Thanks, you know, thanks a lot --”

“Okay, enough,” said Saint Peter. “It’s all part of my job, there’s no need to thank me.”

We were passing by the grounds of the big house now, with the spiked wrought-iron fence.

“Beautiful motorcar you have here by the way,” said Mr. Jones. "What’s this, the 1930 Pierce-Arrow?”

“I wouldn’t drive the 1930 model,” said Saint Peter. “The ’29 was the last really quality year for Pierce-Arrow.”

“Oh, really?” said Mr. Jones. “So what year’s this baby?”

“The ’29.”

“It’s a beauty.” Mr. Jones ran his hands along part of the dashboard. “What’s that, mahogany woodwork there?”

“Of course.”

“Only the best,” said Mr. Jones.

“Some people might prefer, say, the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, especially with the Thrupp & Maberly body,” said Saint Peter.

“Highly overrated automobile,” said Mr. Jones.

“I have to agree,” said Saint Peter. “To tell the truth I’d take the 1930 8-litre Bentley over anything Rolls ever put out.”

“Oh, definitely,” said Mr. Jones.

“But then when Rolls bought out Bentley, in ‘31?”

Saint Peter looked at us, took his right hand off the wheel and turned its thumb down.

“Downhill,” said Mr. Jones.

“In my opinion, yes,” said Saint Peter. He put his hand back on the wheel and, thank God, or whomever, turned his eyes back to the road.

We were coming up to the entrance of the big house, but Saint Peter gave no signs of stopping, and in fact he drove right on past the gate. I was about to ask him how much farther we had to go, but he spoke first.

“But even that 1930 Bentley had nothing on this machine,” he said.

“Oh, I agree,” said Mr. Jones. He gave me another nudge in the ribs. “Don’t you agree, Arnold?”

“Oh,” I said, “uh --”

“It’s only my opinion,” said Saint Peter.

“You’re preaching to the choir, sir,” said Mr. Jones.

“Just call me a Pierce-Arrow man.”

“Shame Pierce-Arrow had to go out of business,” said Mr. Jones.

“Yes, it was,” said Saint Peter.

“Wasn’t there something you could have done about that?”


“Something you could have done to keep the company in business.”

“Who? Me? No,” he said. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”


“Yes, really.”

“You couldn’t, like, have said a word, to -- you know -- the big guy?”

For a moment Saint Peter said nothing, he just kept his eyes on the road. He was driving at a steady seventy right down the middle of that narrow brick road. Keeping his right hand on the wheel, with his left hand he now reached into his jacket pocket and took out his meerschaum pipe and put it in his mouth. Then he reached into the same pocket again, brought out his leather tobacco pouch and thumbed it open.

“What I mean is,” said Mr. Jones, “couldn’t you have taken the big man aside and said, like, “Hey, chief, this Pierce-Arrow outfit, they make a great quality motorcar, can’t we fix things up for ‘em --”

Saint Peter now did something I hate to see living human beings do, that is to drive a car at high speeds with only their elbows on the steering wheel while they fill their pipe with their free hands. It’s very disconcerting. I think it even bothered Mr. Jones, because as soon as Saint Peter got the pipe filled and had put away his pouch Mr. Jones had his matches out and was offering him a light.

“Oh, thank you,” said Saint Peter, inclining his head to one side so that Mr. Jones could apply the match he had just struck. When the pipe was well lit, Saint Peter pulled out the ashtray on the dashboard, and Mr. Jones popped the match into it.

Saint Peter smoked, and drove, the smoke trailed out the window in a horizontal grey ribbon. The fenced-in grounds of the big house on the left side had given way to more forest now. Saint Peter kept the car going at seventy, right down the middle of the road. I suppose there was no other traffic here. After a minute he suddenly took the pipe out of his mouth and glanced at Mr. Jones.

“What did you just ask me?” he said.

“I asked if you couldn’t have like talked to the big guy about helping out the Pierce-Arrow Company. On accounta they made such a fine quality motorcar.”

“No,” said Saint Peter.


“No.” He took a couple of puffs on his pipe, and then he continued. “Look. Every day somebody somewhere is dying of some horrible disease, or starving to death, or being massacred. Every day the innocent get trampled into the mud. Every day there are earthquakes, floods, typhoons. Every day. Wars breaking out. Epidemics. All right, maybe not every day but almost every day. Every horrible human misery you can imagine. Every day. So, think about it, with all this going on I’m supposed to ask the father to bail out an automobile company?”


“Yeah. Oh.”

“I never thought about it like that.”

“No one ever does,” said Saint Peter.

We drove along in silence for another long half a minute. The forest seemed to be encroaching closer and more thickly now, on both sides. Then Mr. Jones spoke again.

“May I ask you another question?”

“Go ahead.”

“Them people you ran over.”

“Couldn’t be helped.”

“No, of course not. And that other guy what Arnie yanked off the roof.”

“Yes,” said Saint Peter. “Well played, by the way, Mr. Schnabel. You could have simply shot him through the roof with the .45, but then we would have had one or two very ugly holes through it. Not to mention a lot of blood all over the roof and dripping down off it.”

“Uh, yes,” I said.

“So my question --” said Mr. Jones, “them people we just run over, and that guy Arnold dumped down onto the road --”

“Yes, what about them?”

“Well, presuming they got killed --”

“Oh, I think we can safely assume they were killed.”

“Okay, assuming that, then, like where do they go to? I mean since we’re already in the next world?”

“Where do they go?”

“I mean like their souls.”


“Yeah. Is there like another hell they go to? Or maybe they get off easy and they go to another purgatory?”

“Where do they go.”

“Yeah,” said Mr. Jones. “Where do they go?”

“I have no idea,” said Saint Peter.

“Oh. So God never, like, told you, or --”

Suddenly Saint Peter was slowing down, putting the brake on and pulling the car over to the right side of the road.

“Okay,” he said. “This is as far as I take you.”

“So we like get out here,” said Mr. Jones.

“Yes,” said Saint Peter. He kept the motor running. “Just keep walking straight ahead.”

“Straight ahead?” said Mr. Jones.

“Straight ahead.”

“Okay,” said Mr. Jones. He held out his hand, but Saint Peter just kept looking straight ahead, puffing on his pipe, his right hand on the gear shift.

I opened the passenger door, got out onto the side of the road. I helped Mr. Jones out.

“Please don’t slam the door,” called out Saint Peter. “It damages the lock mechanism.”

Carefully I pushed the door to, but it wouldn’t shut all the way.

“Pull the handle out a bit and then close the door,” said Saint Peter.

“Oh, sorry,” I said. I pulled the handle out a bit and pushed the door in, but it still wouldn’t close.

“Pull the handle out,” said Mr. Jones.

“I thought I was,” I said.

“Do it again,” said Mr. Jones.

“Will you please just shut the door,” called Saint Peter.

I pulled the handle out a bit more and pushed the door shut, successfully this time, or so I thought for a fraction of a second.

“I asked you not to slam it,” said Saint Peter.

“Sorry,” I said.

Saint Peter sighed, put the car in reverse, backed up into the roadside, then pulled the car out, turning around in the road and taking off in the opposite direction.

“He asked you not to slam the fucking door, Arnold,” said Mr. Jones.

“I know,” I said. “I was nervous.”

“Don’t sweat it. Well, I guess it’s shank’s mare from here on.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said.

We started walking along the road, or, rather, as before, I started limping, and Mr. Jones started shuffling. All around us was silence. The ragged strip of sky above our heads still was overcast. Not a bird sang, or screeched. Not a breath of air stirred the leaves of the trees that thickly walled in both sides of that narrow red brick road.

(Continued here, because God told us to.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page for a current listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, absolutely free to all readers of this site. Place your orders now for your “Arnold Schnabel Action Figures™” -- limited quantities still available for delivery in time for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or Pagan Winter Solstice.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 33

"across time and space"

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas

"you're not afraid, miss hartford?"

"oh, no, captain. especially not now - that you have invited yourself on board."

was she was one of these modern smart-aleck dames, acting all sarcastic? if she was, burke barraday had to hand it to her - she was doing it in a time of supreme danger - her ship, the "mary read ii" had been badly strafed by dimension 22 pirates, and had been careening wildly through hyperspace when barraday had spotted it, on his way back to i i g headquarters after a little r and r on sublevel x-3.

"you've got a hyperdrive badly in need of repair - you know that, don't you?"

"really? i don't think the hyperdrive has anything to do with the situation we are in. although i appreciate the thought you showed in coming on board." miss hartford reached into the side pocket of her spacesuit and took out a pack of venusian cigarettes, and a lighter in the form of a clown. " i would offer you one, captain, but i understand the space corps is strictly forbidden to indulge. how about a drink? the failing hyperdrive seems to have spared the bar - it looks fully functional."

barraday looked out the cracked window of the ship. "are you insane? if you don't want me to repair the ship at least you and your crew can come on to my ship! look! the nebulae are turning red! a sure sign this ship and everything in it is about to be destabilized into y-atoms! let's go!!"

"relax, captain." miss hartford took a deep drag on her cigarette. "everything is under control."

(for complete episode, click here.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 272: damned

Our hero Arnold Schnabel and the aged reprobate Mr. Jones have gotten lost in a forest in the world beyond this world. They encounter a little boy whom they’ve met before and who offers to lead them out of the woods, but only at a price...

(Click here to read our immediately preceding episode; if you’re still not quite ready to begin Proust’s immortal chef-d'œuvre you may go here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 53-volume memoir).

“How did I spend my summer vacation? Lying in a hammock beneath a shady oak tree in Cape May, reading Arnold Schnabel.” -- Harold Bloom, on The Jack Paar Show.

“Here ya go, kid,” said Mr. Jones, and he handed the boy the pipe. The kid put the stem in his mouth and Mr. Jones struck a match. “Just two puffs now, sonny. You don’t wanta stunt your growth.”

The kid looked at him with an impatient glare, and Mr. Jones gave him a light.

“Two puffs,” said Mr. Jones, “and hold it in.”

The kid took three puffs and was just about to take a fourth one, but Mr. Jones took the pipe away.

“I said two puffs. Now hold it in.”

The kid held his breath and Mr. Jones put the pipe in his own mouth and puffed away. When he had sufficiently filled his leathery old lungs he handed the pipe to me. There didn’t seem to be much left in the bowl anyway, so just to be polite I finished it off with one good drag.

Mr. Jones took the pipe off me and looked in the bowl. He exhaled his smoke before speaking.

“Yeah, it’s kicked.”

He stuck the pipe back in his jacket pocket along with his matches.

The boy was still holding his breath.

“You can let the smoke out now, sonny,” said Mr. Jones.

The boy slowly let the smoke out through his mouth, and I did too.

“Not bad,” said the boy. “You sure you got no more?”

“I’m cleaned out, kiddo,” said Mr. Jones.

“What about you, Joe?” the boy said to me.

“No, uh,” I said, “I’m sorry, I, uh –”

“What else you Joes got?”

“What?” said Mr. Jones.

“What else you got.”

“I just told you that was the last of our weed,” said Mr. Jones, “and we ain’t got no more cigareets, neither.”

“Where you go, anyhow?” said the kid.

“That’s none of your business, little boy,” said Mr. Jones. “Just take us to the road like we agreed.”

“You go purgatory?”

“Certainly not,” said Mr. Jones.

“Where you go then.”

“I just told you that’s none of your goddam beeswax,” said Mr. Jones.

“Listen, little boy,” I said, before things got out of hand, “we just want to get back to the land of the living. We, uh, got the okay from St. Peter, and –”

“Land of living.”

“Yes,” I said. “The world of the, uh –”

“Land of living,” said the kid. “Highly ovulated.”

“Pardon me?” I said.

“Highly ovulated”


“Ovulated. You deef, Joe?”

“Um, uh --”

“I think he’s trying to say ‘overrated’, Arnold,” said Mr. Jones.

“Yeah,” said the boy. “Ovulated.”

“Ha ha, gotta say I agree with you, sonny-Jim,” said Mr. Jones.

“Well, overrated or not we’d still like to get back to it if you don’t mind,” I said.

“I no mind,” said the boy. “What else you got.”

“Um –”

“Look, kid,” said Mr. Jones. “what do you want? You want some money? How about a nice shiny nickel.” He put his hand into his trousers pocket, brought it out, and opened his palm, with some small change in it. “Here. Two nickels. And a dime. A coupla pennies. Go to the penny arcade and have yourself a ball.”

The boy looked at the change for a moment and then with lightning swiftness his little hand darted out, swiped the coins up, and stuffed them in the pocket of his shorts.

“Okay,” said Mr. Jones. “You’re welcome by the way. Now lead on.”

The kid ignored him and looked at me. Then he seemed to look down at my left pocket. I patted this pocket and my right one, too. I stuck my hand in the right pocket and felt a coin. I brought it out, a quarter.

“Gimme,” said the little boy.

I gave him the quarter and he stuck it into his pocket. Then he pointed at my left hand.

“Ling,” said the boy.

“Pardon me?”

He pointed to my left hand.



“He means ‘ring’, Arnold,” said Mr. Jones. “He wants your goddam ring.”

“Oh, my ring,” I said. I held up my splayed hand with Mr. Arbuthnot’s gold ring on my little finger.

“Kid’s a highway robber,” said Mr. Jones.

“Listen,” I said, “little boy, this is not actually my ring. It belongs to someone else --”

“Gimme ling,” said the boy.

“But –”

“Gimme ling, I take you load.”


“Gimme ling, I take you load.”

“He means road,” said Mr. Jones. “Give him the ring and he’ll take us to the road.”

“Yeah,” said the kid. “Gimme ling, I take you to the load.”

“But --”

“Oh, Christ, Arnold,” said Mr. Jones, “give him the damn ring. He’s got us buffaloed and he knows it.”

“But –”

The kid held out his hand.

“LIng,” he said.

“Give him the goddam ling, Arnold,” said Mr. Jones. “And let’s get the hell out of this joint.”

“Well, I really shouldn’t,” I said.

“Give it to him.”

“Ling,” said the little boy. His upturned hand was still outstretched. He wiggled its fingers.

I twisted the ring off my finger, it only took me a minute or so, and I placed it into the lad’s palm. He quickly secreted it into the same pocket he had put Mr. Jones’s coins.

“Okay, now I take you to load.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Without another word the boy turned and started walking off quickly through the woods, going in the direction Mr. Jones and I had just been headed. We followed.

“How ya like that?” said Mr. Jones, in a low voice. “We coulda just kept going the way we was.”

“Yes,” I said. “But we didn’t know that then.”

“Kinda like ironic,” said Mr. Jones. “And to think he got some free Mary Jane out of us. And your precious ring. And your quarter.”

“And your twenty-two cents,” I said.

“Little bastard. Still, I suppose it’s a modest price to pay to return to the land of beer and Manhattans.”

We forged ahead and then not a minute later we saw the reddish-brown brick of the road through the trees.

“Goddam,” said Mr. Jones.

The boy stood there just at the edge of the forest, waiting for us.

“Well,” I said, when we reached him, “thank you, little boy.”

“You sure you got no more cigareets.”

“Yeah, sorry,” I said.

“Next time you bring more cigareets.”

“We will,” I said.

“Next time we’ll bring a couple of cartons,” said Mr. Jones. “Will that be okay?”

“Sure, Joe.”

“Any particular brand?”

“Luckies,” said the boy.

“Luckies it is, then,” said Mr. Jones. “Maybe we’ll bring you some more weed, too.”

Suddenly the kid looked even more serious than he usually did. At first I wondered if he had somehow taken offence at Mr. Jones’s badinage, but then I realized he was looking at something behind us.

I turned, and I saw moving shapes in the depths of the woods. Then I heard that awful screeching beginning again.

“Oh, shit,” said Mr. Jones, who was looking at what I was looking at.

“Oh, no,” I said. “Look, we’ll have to run across the road and try to lose them in the woods again.”

“Getting tired of this shit, man,” said Mr. Jones.

“Well, come on,” I said. I stepped out toward the road, but the little boy was now pointing to the other side. Sure enough, I saw movement in those woods as well.

“Goddam,” said Mr. Jones.

The boy started running up the road, back in the direction we had been coming from earlier.

“Look at that kid go,” said Mr. Jones.

“Okay, piggy-back, Mr. Jones.”

“I find all this very undignified.”

I turned my back to him, flexed my knees. He clambered up onto me, I took hold of his marionette’s thighs, and headed off up the road after the little boy.

The screeching grew louder behind us. I ran. After a dozen paces both my legs were throbbing with pain, I think it was primarily my right knee and my left ankle this time. But I ran on.

The little boy scooted along in front of us, and after a minute he disappeared into the woods on the left. I knew I couldn’t make it much farther, so I determined to duck into the woods at roughly the same place, but then I tripped somehow, I think the pains in my knee and ankle just caused me to lose balance.

I landed on the hard bricks with my hands first, so at least I didn’t bang up my legs again, too much, but Mr. Jones of course flew off of me and rolled toward the middle of the road while his hat rolled to the side of the road.

“Goddam it, Arnold!”

“Sorry,” I said.

I pushed myself to my feet again. The heels of my hands were bruised, but that was my least worry now. I glanced back and I could see that naked horde from hell again, screeching with a sound like a thousand air raid sirens.

I staggered over to Mr. Jones, scooped him up with both hands and tossed him over my shoulders in a fireman’s carry.

“Hey, easy!” yelled Mr. Jones.

Holding him by one skinny leg and one skinnier arm I staggered toward the woods to the left, flinching with pain with each step I took.

The screeching grew louder and I could hear the drumming of hundreds of naked feet on brick.

I was panting again, of course, and sweating like a pig. Mr. Jones was making little grunting noises in my ear. I wondered what hell would be like.

And then I heard another, newer sound, and yet a familiar sound, a deep whirring noise from the opposite direction of the encroaching horde from hell.

I raised and turned my head and there up the road a motor car was roaring toward us.

I had been trying to get into the woods again, but now I turned and ran straight up along the side of the road, staggering and panting, the car came closer, got bigger, it was an old car, and a big one, dark green – a Duesenberg? No, a Pierce-Arrow, I could tell by the headlamps. It skidded to a stop to my right, and of course I stopped too.

Inside at the wheel was Saint Peter.

“Get the hell in,” he yelled through the open passenger window.

He didn’t have to tell me twice. I opened the door, tossed Mr. Jones into the front seat and got in next to him. I slammed the door shut just as the damned of hell finally caught up to us, wide-eyed and screeching naked men of all ages, and some women too.

The road was narrow, so instead of doing a U-turn, Saint Peter put the car into reverse and backed up at an angle to the side of the road.

As he shifted into first and began to turn the wheel to the left the damned swarmed all around the car.

“Goddam it,” he said.

Turning the wheel with his left hand he reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a cocked and locked army .45, thumbed the safety down and held the gun out to me.

“You got one in the chamber. Don’t be afraid to use it.”

I had actually carried one of these pistols in the war, but except for one afternoon on the firing range back at Fort Benning I had never fired one. But I took the gun anyway.

Saint Peter was already making his turn, and a couple of naked damned people were crawling over the hood of the car. Saint Peter pressed down on the gas pedal, wrenching the steering wheel hard with both hands, the dead people rolled off the hood and I felt an awful bump as we ran over someone with a front wheel and a fraction of a second later a second bump as the rear wheel went over him or her. Someone reached through my window and grabbed at my neck, screeching hideously.

“Shoot the damned bastard, Arnold!” yelled Mr. Jones.

I couldn’t do it. I was in an awkward position to shoot anyway, with the gun in my right hand and this damned person hanging onto my neck. Fortunately, as Saint Peter wheeled the big car around, the dead man’s grip weakened, I put my elbow up into his face and he fell away, still screeching, but more and more damned people were crowding all around the car. I did what I could. I fired a couple of shots out the window above their heads, some of them threw their hands up and flinched. There was another double bump as we ran over someone again, and then a second later Saint Peter had shifted gears again and we were roaring up the highway and the screeching was fading away behind us. Then another hand came through my window, a grasping, clawing hand, someone was on the roof of the car.

“Shoot through the roof, Arnie boy!” cackled Mr. Jones.

A single tortured voice screeched from above and the hand kept reaching in, grasping, clawing at my face.

“Goddam it, shoot the bastard” yelled Mr. Jones.

But I couldn’t do it. I switched the gun to my left hand, grabbed the dead person’s arm with my right hand and yanked hard. A naked body came down off the roof, I let go of the arm, the naked damned person dropped screeching down behind us to the road, the screeching stopped abruptly, and I saw the man roll six feet backwards and then lie perfectly still and shrinking smaller and smaller as we drove away.

I turned to the front again. I was panting, and drenched with sweat. Mr. Jones was panting also and his naked bald skull was beaded with sweat.

We kept straight on up the road at high speed.

“Put the goddam safety on that gun,” said Saint Peter.

I pushed up the safety lever. My hands were shaking.

“Give it to me,” said Saint Peter.

I handed the gun over to him. He looked at it to make sure the safety was really on, then stuck it into his jacket pocket.

For a minute none of us said anything. Saint Peter’s knuckles on the steering wheel were white. Finally he spoke.

“Tell me something,” he said. “Does being stupid come naturally to you two, or do you work at it?”

(Continued here, shamelessly.)

(Kindly turn to the right-hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to all other available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Sponsored in part by S.S. Kresge’s 5&10 Cent Stores©. This week only mention Arnold’s name and get a half-price hot dog with sauerkraut.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 32

"hyacinth: miss brown to you"

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas

"stand up straighter please, anne marie. the part of esmeralda calls for forthrightness and standupishness. don't stand there slouching like an upstairs maid who has just finished her weary rounds."

"oh but my ankle is sore, miss dorian. and i am sure you can guess why."

"no, anne marie, i can not guess why. and i am not sure that i want to try."

"because agatha brown bites me on it, that's why!"

"i am sorry but you have to stop telling these ridiculous stories about your classmates. if you want to compete for a part, you will have to behave like a grownup, not a kindergardener."

"but she does bite me, miss dorian, she does! and scratches and pinches me and pulls my hair - she counts on nobody believing it! she is the nastiest thing on two feet! "

"stand up straight, anne marie, and begin esmeralda's speech again, if you please."

"and you always stick up for her - that's the worst part! it's not fair!" anne marie burst into tears.

for complete episode, click here

Saturday, October 8, 2011

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 271: from hell

Our hero Arnold Schnabel and that ancient reprobate Mr. Jones, trying to return to the land of the living from the land of the dead, desperately shuffle and limp respectively into a forest in an attempt to escape the screeching hordes of hell..

(Click here to read our previous thrilling episode; the bold of heart may go here to return to the beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 68-volume memoir).

“Larry Winchester, Horace P. Sternwall, and Arnold Schnabel: the holy trinity of Post-Post-Modernism.” -- Harold Bloom, on Person to Person, with Edward R. Murrow.

It was slow going, what with my bad legs and Mr. Jones’s eighty-seven years, and with the thick thorny bushes growing in between the trees, the creepers and vines in our way, the fallen branches and the thick layers of dead leaves at our feet, the increasing dimness as we plunged further into the forest. After a few minutes the horrible screeching noise reached a crescendo behind us and I could tell that the mob from hell had reached the place on the road that we had just entered the forest from.

“Oh, shit,” panted Mr. Jones, “now we’re in for it.”

He stopped, and leaned his arm against a thick cypress tree. We had probably made it in no more than a hundred yards from the road, but it might have been a mile for all we could see, which was nothing but the thick, almost dark interior of the forest.

“Fuck this shit,” said the old fellow. “I’m gonna have a fatal heart attack at this rate.”

“You can’t have a fatal heart attack,” I said.

“Why the fuck not?”

“You’re already dead.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that.”

“Come on, Mr. Jones. We can make it.”

“I wonder if you can die again if you’re already dead?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But come on.”

“All right,” he said.

We plunged through the underbrush for a few more yards, and then Mr. Jones tripped and fell to his hands and knees.

“Oh, shit,” he said. “Shit and damn.”

His straw hat had fallen off, and he was talking without raising his bald little head. He looked very pathetic.

“Are you okay?” I said, stupidly, I know.

“Am I okay?” he said. “Do I look okay?”

“Come on,” I said, “I’ll help you up.”

“Fuck this.”


“I can’t go no farther, pal. You go on.”

One of my legs was killing me again. Well, not literally killing me of course, if that was even possible in this world, but hurting me rather intensely. I think it was the right leg this time, not that it matters which leg it was.

“Go on, beat it,” said Mr. Jones, talking directly to the dead leaves and twigs on the ground. “They’re gonna get me sooner or later anyway.”

“Okay,” I said.

I got down beside him on one knee, the knee that wasn’t hurting me more than the other one at the moment, and leaning forward a bit, I grabbed his left arm with my left hand and pulled it over my shoulder.

“What the fuck you doin’,” he said.

“Okay, alley oop,” I said.

“Wait, my lid.”

“Your what?”

“My fedora.”


With my free hand I reached under him and got the hat and planted it on his head. Then I forced myself to a standing position, with Mr. Jones on my back.

“Okay,” I said. “Get your other arm around my neck and I’ll carry you piggyback.”

He did this, and I have to say he didn’t weigh very much, ninety pounds maybe. If my legs had been in good shape I think we would have been fine, at least for a short while anyway, but as it was I took two steps, and then I tripped over a vine or something with my better leg, my worse leg went out from under me and I went down headfirst, with Mr. Jones on my back.

I lay there for a moment, panting, in pain, with Mr. Jones’s shallow breath on my neck.

“Well, at least you tried, pal,” he muttered, and he rolled off of me and lay next to me on his back, his hat coming off again.

I pushed myself up and into a sitting position, facing back in the direction we had been coming from.

“Face it, Arnold,” said Mr. Jones. “We’re doomed.”

I reached down, took hold of his twig-like arm, and pulled him up into a sitting position also. Then I reached behind him, got his hat and put it on his head.

“Thanks, kid.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“Doomed,” he said again. “Or I suppose I should say we’re damned, rather than doomed.”

“Wait a minute,” I said.

“Sure, I got nothing but time, kid.” He reached into his jacket pocket and took out his pipe. He poked his finger into the bowl. “We’re in luck, the muggles didn’t spill. Will you join me in one last bowl before we are dragged screaming hellward?”

“No, wait, Mr. Jones, listen.”

“Wonder what hell’s like, anyway? Who knows, maybe it’s no worse than some of the joints I already been in.”

He took out his book of matches.

“I feel sorry for you, though, Arnold,” he said. “Nice guy like you, personal friends with Jesus and all, I’m sure you would’ve rated a nice private room in that big house up there on the hill. And now you’re gonna be down in the pits with all the scum and the scoundrels, the skells, the two-bit yeggs and the spivs. Tough break, buddy.”

He put the pipe in his false teeth, and pulled a match from the book.

“Wait a second,” I said, putting my hand on his arm. “Let’s listen.”

“Let go of my arm, buddy, I’m trying to light my bowl here.”

“No, wait, hold it, hear?”

“Hear what?”

“The noise, the screeching, I think it’s moving along.”

Mr. Jones cupped a hand behind one ear and leaned forward. Then he took the unlit pipe from his teeth.

“By jove, I think you’re right, Arnold. It’s receding.”

“They must think we ran away on the road.”

“Yes, the stupid damned fools.”

“Sounds like they’re running up the road, trying to catch up with us.”

“Good. Now let’s light up.”


“Wait for what?”

“It’s quiet now.”

“Good, that racket was driving me nuts.”

“Yeah, but why did it get completely quiet?”

“Because like you said, they ran up the road.”

“Oh, no,” I said.


“They’re coming back.”

Sure enough the screeching cacophony was returning.

“Ah, shit,” said Mr. Jones. “Might as well get high then.”

He had the pipe back in his mouth, and he was just about to light it, but I grunted my way to my feet again.

“Oh, now what, Arnold? Can’t you relax?”

“Put the pipe away, Mr. Jones.”

“Ah, shit, man --”

I reached down, put my hands under his arms and pulled him to his feet.

“Put the pipe away, Mr. Jones.”

“Damn your eyes,” he said, but he tossed the match away. Then he stuck his finger in the bowl, pressed its contents in, and put the pipe and his matches away. “I find all this running quite undignified.”

“You can go piggyback again or across my shoulders.”

“A ‘fireman’s carry’ as it’s called.”


“Do you know the proper way to execute that carry?”

“I’ll manage.”

“Not that I don’t trust you, but I think I’ll go for the piggyback.”

“Fine,” I said.

I bent forward a bit, the old fellow clambered up onto my back. I put my arms under his stick-like thighs and he grabbed onto my shoulders.

“Onward,” he said.

I plunged onward into the woods. The screeching noise behind us grew louder, sounding as if the damned had plunged into the woods themselves.

“Wheel toward the right,” said Mr. Jones. “We foxed them once before, we’ll do it again.”

I wheeled to the right, but after a minute the noise started getting louder again.

“Okay, now wheel left I think,” said Mr. Jones.

I wheeled left. After a minute or two the screeching sounds started to diminish.

“Okay, now to the right again,” said Mr. Jones.

“Are you sure,” I panted.

“Look, leave the directions to me, and you concentrate on not falling down.”

“Okay,” I said. I kept going. My legs still hurt, but not unbearably. At any rate I reasoned to myself, the pains in my legs were surely nothing compared to the everlasting torments of hell, or so I could only presume.

“Okay,” said Mr. Jones, after another minute or two, “now head slightly to the left there.”

I did what he said. It was true that the screeching was fading considerably now.

After a couple of minutes more Mr. Jones said, “Okay, stop.”

I stopped. The gloomy patch of forest we were in looked pretty much like every other patch of it we had passed through.

“Listen,” whispered Mr. Jones. “You hear anything?”

I cocked my head. All I could hear was my own labored breathing.

“No,” I said.

“Goddam,” said Mr. Jones. “We lost ‘em. The infernal damned bastards. We’re home free now. Okay, head on back to the road, Arnold.”

“All right,” I said, hitching Mr. Jones up a bit on my back. “Which way is that, do you think?”

“Which way?”

“Yeah. Which way.”

“Um, it’s, uh, to the right I think.”

“Are you sure?”

“Um, yeah, pretty sure.”

“Okay, then.”

I started off to the right.

After a minute Mr. Jones said, “I’m not too heavy, am I?”

“Well, I suppose I can manage a bit farther,” I said.

“I ask that because you are panting like a dog and sweating like a pig.”

“I can make it till we reach the road,” I said, suddenly aware of my panting and sweating.

“I’m afraid you’re gonna keel over again and me with you.”

“No, really,” I said, stumbling just slightly, “uh, I can, uh --”

“Tell ya what,” said Mr. Jones, “let me down and I’ll make it under my own steam.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah. To tell the truth I think we’ll make better time that way. Not that I’m criticizing, mind.”

“Oh, no, sure.”

I bent my legs and Mr. Jones slid down off my back.

“Okay, straight on, my boy!”

We set off again, Mr. Jones shuffling through the dead leaves and fallen twigs with renewed vigor and me limping along behind him, still panting like a dog and sweating like a pig. After a minute he started to slow down, and I caught pace with him, or caught shuffle I suppose I should say.

“Ah, won’t be long now,” said Mr. Jones. “Soon we’ll be back in the good old world of the living, sipping ice cold beers side by side at the bar in the Ugly Mug, how’s that sound? And I got the first round. Least I can do.”

“Well, I’ll probably take a pass on that,” I said.

“What, you got a hot date?”

“Well, no --”

“Some babe you’re gonna bang on the beach?”

“No,” I said, “I just have some errands I have to do.”

“Let ‘em wait!”

“Well, we’ll see,” I said.

“An icy cold draft beer, all gleaming and beaded and glistening -- or perhaps even a Manhattan, how’s that sound?”

“Well, I have to admit they both sound good,” I said, “but I told Mr. Arbuthnot I would go to the docks and get some fresh seafood for his cat.”

“For Shnooby?”

“Yes, for Shnooby.”

“That little bastard. Let him eat Nine Lives like any normal cat. You and me, pal. The Ugly Mug. First round’s on me.”

“Well --”

“I don’t want any argument. You brought me back from the dead. Least I can do is buy you a beer.”

“Well, we’re not back yet,” I said.

“No, that’s true. Where’s that road anyway?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I was hoping we would have reached it by now.”

“Maybe we’re going the wrong way.”


“I said maybe we’re going in the wrong direction.”

“But I was following you,” I said.

“What do I look like, a trained boy scout? I thought it was this way. Let’s keep going a little farther.”

We went farther, this time without saying anything, for two or three more minutes. My thought processes during these minutes consisted mostly of me trying to tell myself not to panic.

Finally Mr. Jones stopped and put his hand on my arm.

“Doesn’t this look like the woods are getting thicker?” he said.

I looked around. 

“They’re definitely not getting any thinner,” I said. “If that’s the word, or --”

“I hate to say this, Arnold, but I think we’re lost.”

I paused now before speaking. I had never really liked being in woods. I looked around. There was nothing to see but woods.

“Yeah,” I said, finally. “We’re lost.”

“I know this though,” said Mr. Jones.


“One direction is the right direction.”

He reached into his jacket pocket and took out his pipe. He put his finger in the bowl.

“We still got a little left,” he said.

He reached into his pocket again and brought out his matches. Sticking his pipe in between his dentures, he struck a match and put it to the pipe, drawing on it with little sucking sounds.

He handed me the pipe, and, once again without thinking, I drew a modest lungful.

Mr. Jones exhaled, and took the pipe from me.

“Well, if it don’t work out, Arnold, we gave it the old school try.”

“Yeah,” I said, and then I exhaled. I was learning to talk while holding smoke in my lungs.

“Hey, misters,” said a child’s voice.

Mr. Jones and I both turned around toward my right. The little oriental boy was standing just a few feet away.

“Holy shit,” said Mr. Jones. “Where did you come from?”

The boy ignored this question.

“You got any more cigareets,” he said.

“No, no more cigareets,” said Mr. Jones. “I gave you my last pack.”

“You got pipe tobacco,” said the little boy.

“Okay,” said Mr. Jones. “First off, this ain’t tobacco in this pipe. It’s Mary Jane. Marijuana. Savvy? And second of all we only got a little bit left.”

“Gimme puff,” said the kid.

“How you like this kid?” Mr. Jones said to me. “Persistent little bastard.”

“Come on, Joe,” said the boy. “Gimme puff.”

“This stuff ain’t for kids,” said Mr. Jones.

“Gimme puff.”

“Little boy,” I said. “Do you know the way back to the road?”

“Sure I do, Joe. You want me take you?”

“Yes,” I said. “Please.”

“You give me puff I take you.”

I looked at Mr. Jones. He looked at me. He shrugged. I suppose I shrugged too, or gave a facial expression equivalent to a shrug. Normally I would never in a million years allow some old degenerate to give marijuana to a small child to smoke, but let’s face it, the kid had us over a barrel.

“Okay,” I said. “You can have one puff.”

“Two puffs, Joe,” said the boy.

“Well, all right,” I said. “But only two.”

(Continued here, and so on, relentlessly.)

(Please turn to the right-hand side of this page to find what quite often might be a current listing of links to all other published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. This week’s episode sponsored in part by Krass Brothers© Men’s Store : “Where Arnold Schnabel’s mother shopped for Arnold’s suits!”)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 31

"Rumble in the Prince Hal Room"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo*

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and konrad kraus

*Ass’t Professor of Classics and Ontology; Olney Community College; editor of The Looming Wall: Previously Uncollected Poems and a Play in Verse by Horace P. Sternwall(1940-1941); Olney Community College Press; “The Sternwall Papers”.

for complete episode, click here