Tuesday, July 31, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 66


by manfred skyline

illustrated by roy dismas, rhoda penmarq, and konrad kraus

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

williams was a night person, and found his employment as butler with the collinsons congenial. all the members of the family expected immediate service at any hour of the day or night, and an unspoken agreement had evolved that he would be available at night, and that the under-butler or one of the maids would be sufficient during the day after breakfast (when they - the collinsons - tended to be asleep or absent). williams had found that the collinsons expected prompt, but not constant service, and so he was free to spend most of his time at night daydreaming, looking out the windows at park avenue or 86th street, doing crossword puzzles, or doing absolutely nothing at all.

especially since the demise of old colonel collinson, the nights had passed like a parade of peaceful dreams...

(click here to go to the complete thrilling episode. a rhoda penmarq studios production.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 310: afterwards

We last saw our hero Arnold Schnabel sinking into oblivion in an alleyway in Singapore. We certainly hope he’s okay -- well, obviously he’s not “okay”, but let’s just hope and pray that something really, really horrible isn’t happening to him. But, in the meanwhile, what of big Ben Blagwell, last seen going off for an assignation with that sultry exotic “canary” Maxine Parraquette?

(Kindly click here to read our previous thrilling episode; if you are recovering from a nervous breakdown and have been ordered to take six months’ bed rest and are afraid of getting bored, then you might want to go here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award©-winning 97-volume masterpiece.)

“The serial publication of Arnold Schnabel’s massive autobiography is perhaps the greatest phenomenon in the world of letters since a young actor named William Shakespeare first took up his quill pen, dipped it into his inkwell, and then put to paper the words ‘
Actus primus, Scena prima’.” -- Harold Bloom, The Weekly Reader.

Well, as soon as we were finished, no flies on Maxine as they say, she turned the bedside lamp on, jumped right out of the rack and made it for the bathroom. She kept the door open and I could hear a shower come on. That was good, that she had a shower I mean, because I’ll tell ya, I had been sweating like a pig even before we tumbled into the eiderdown, but now I felt like I was floating in the Dead Sea that mattress was so soaked. I figured I had lost at least twenty pounds in those ten minutes we had been playing hide-the salami. It had been better than a Turkish steam bath in that regard, and a hell of a lot more enjoyable, too.

I reached down to the floor and grabbed my Sweet Caporals and Musso and Frank’s matches out of the pocket of my Hawaiian shirt that was lying there, then I scrunched back up against the brass tubing of the headboard and lit up a smoke, tossing the match into the overflowing glass ashtray Maxine had on her night table. “Palm Grove Hotel, Singapore,” was painted on the ashtray in red.

I smoked and looked down at my gut.

Yeah, the old belly did look a little smaller maybe, more like a tight basketball than say a slightly deflated beach ball: who knows, maybe I had lost even twenty-five pounds.

To tell the truth, although I’ve always been a big muscular powerful kind of guy, I’ve also always tended to pack it on a little if you know what I mean, especially when I’m in between ships. What can I say? I like to eat. Why, just that morning I had started the day off with a big fat T-bone steak and a dozen fried eggs, with hash browns. This had been at a joint called Bill’s Sail-Right Inn which caters to the Yankee sea-dog trade, and it’s the closest you can get to a decent American hash-house in Singapore. I washed it all down with seven or eight cups of black Joe laced with a little whiskey, which old Bill isn’t supposed to serve, but he does anyway, God love the mug.

Then for lunch it had been what they call a rijsttafel at this other joint that caters to Dutch swabbies, called Dutchman Bob’s, and that had been a pretty big lunch too with I guess about thirty-five or forty dishes, with seconds and thirds of pork bellies and lots of shrimp crackers, all of it washed down with about half-a-dozen bottles of good Dutch lager. I figure I must’ve gained a good ten pounds at that meal alone.

Then after an afternoon at the pub me and some of the boys went over to this other joint called Chip’s Chippie which caters to the British nautical types, and we had what they call a “tea”, which consisted of four different types of sausages, rashers of bacon a half-inch thick, lots of toast with butter and jam, and mountains of what they call “chips”, but don’t worry, they’re just French fries really. Of course you had to drink tea, too, but what they hell, when in Rome, and anyways I’m used to living it rough in exotic foreign climes, and I won’t deny that I’ve eaten cat and dog and snake as well, even insects when push came to shove, although no matter how desperate and starving I was I swear on my dead mother’s grave I never tasted one bite of what they call “long pig” out there.

The thing was though, I still hadn’t had dinner, not really. I mean, sure, I guess I’d eaten a couple or three big bowls of peanuts when I had been playing poker downstairs, but I still hadn’t had a proper meal since that tea at Chad’s Chippie, and here it was going on eight bells on the last dog watch, and all of a sudden I realized I could eat a horse, and not a little seahorse either, but a real horse, full-grown, and come to think of it I have eaten horse on at least one occasion, down in Paraguay it was…

Maxine came out of the bathroom, still in her birthday suit except for her string of pearls which she had never bothered to take off. They gleamed on her wet skin, like drops of moonlight, or maybe like tiny little moons, or, I don’t know --

“You can use the shower if you want,” she said.

“Thanks, baby,” I said. “Maybe I will.”

She picked her shiny silvery dress up off the floor and gave it a couple of good shakes, because you never know what’s going to be crawling around on the floor in Singapore.

“Water pressure’s pretty low, don’t be surprised if it runs out halfway.”

She didn’t bother looking for her underwear, she just pulled that shiny dress on over her head.

“I’ll soap up and rinse it off real quick then,” I said. “I hate that itchy feeling when you don’t get all the soap off --”

“Yeah,” she said. “That stinks, so you better make it quick.”

She was dipping her feet into her high-heeled pumps, pulling each lovely gam back behind her a little so she could screw the shoe on with her delicate little hand. She looked really pretty.

“Y’know, it’s funny, Maxine,” I said, blowing out a sophisticated-type cloud of Sweet Caporal smoke. “Some guys like to linger in the shower, I know, in fact a lot of sailors are like that, beats me why, but --”

She was bending down to look in the mirror over her dresser, and she ran a brush through her hair a couple of times.

“No hot water of course,” she said.

“Fine with me, doll,” I said, “fine, a warm night like this, you know, I think it’s kinda refreshing to --”

She uncapped a tube of lipstick and gave her lips a quick smear. She smacked her lips together a couple of times, then capped the lipstick and dropped it into her purse.

“I got to go to work, big boy.”

“Yeah, sure, doll,” I said. “I understand --”

She yanked the stopper out of a perfume bottle and gave herself a few quick splashes from it.

“Don’t set the bed on fire with that cigarette, and make sure the door’s locked when you leave. Just turn the little button on the doorknob before you go out.”

“Little button?”

“Little button, on the doorknob, turn it vertical before you go out.”


“You want me to write it down for you?”

“No, I think I got it,” I said. “Vertical, right?”

She just looked at me for a moment, and then she turned and headed for the door.

“Hey, Maxine,” I said, kind of throaty-like, and loud, but not yelling-loud. I just wanted to get her attention.

She stopped and turned, but just her head, her body she kept facing the door.

“What?” she said.

“Maybe later we can, you know, have a drink, maybe have a little, I don’t know, talk.”

“Talk,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Talk.”

She looked at me, over her shoulder.

“Talk about what?” she said.

“Gee, doll,” I said, “I don’t know. Whatever you want to talk about. Flowers, puppies.”

“Flowers and puppies.”


She stared at me for another long moment, then turned her head to the front again, opened the door, and walked out, closing the door behind her.


I never will figure them.

I thought dames liked flowers and puppies and kittens, but I guess not all of them do.

Well, what the hell.

I heaved myself up and managed to make it to my feet. It always felt funny to me being in a broad’s room. Kind of like you were someplace you could just go back to bed in and smoke a few more cigarettes, maybe take a little nap before going out and facing the world again, but that bed was so sweat-soaked I decided against that, and anyways, I needed to get some food in my gut. I wondered if Maxine kept anything up here that was edible, just something to hold me over, but a quick recce revealed nothing more edible than a jar of Pond’s cold cream, and I wasn’t that hungry.

I did find something else though, shoved in the night-table drawer, under some old movie magazines: a snubnose .38, Smith & Wesson. I took it out, spun the cylinder. All five chambers were loaded. Hey, call me old-fashioned but I like something a little bigger like the old service .45, but that’s just me. A little dame like Maxine, a snubby .38 was good for her, and God knows a good-looking dame has to be able to defend herself in this day and age. There’s too many bums out there who are just not gentlemen, and a .38 slug or two somewhere in the torso was probably gonna do the job almost as well as a .45 and without making so much of a mess, too. I stuck the pistol back under the magazines, and shoved the drawer shut.

I walked over to the one and only window she had. It looked out on the alley next door and on the terminal road out front. I took one more drag of my Sweet Caporal and then flicked it down into the darkness.

Time to hit the shower, get dressed and go back downstairs and find out about this caper that Mojo the Midget had talked about. I still only had six bucks in my poke, so what I decided to do, I decided I would ask Mojo for a little advance on my cut of the take, just so I could go get a good dinner over at this joint called Shanghai Sally’s, the proprietress of which, despite her moniker, hailed from Kansas City, Kansas, and she served the thickest juiciest porterhouse water-buffalo steaks you ever did taste, but then I couldn’t believe my eyes because walking past the alleyway’s entrance came Mojo and Arnold, Mojo practically pulling Arnold along, and Arnie looking like he was about to keel over any second.

Then they were gone, past the corner of the building across the alley.

Something was wrong.

Why did those two leave without me?

Why was Arnie staggering?

Why was Mojo pulling Arnie along like Arnie was a stubborn mule instead of the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet, and a personal friend of mine?

Something was definitely wrong. I turned from the window and went back to where my underwear and dungarees and Hawaiian shirt and my deck shoes and my yachtsman’s cap were lying on the floor.

I had to get dressed, and quick, and I decided that while I was at it I’d better borrow Maxine’s snubnose .38, just in case.

As for the shower, well, that was just going to have to wait, and it looked like maybe that porterhouse water buffalo-steak was going to have to wait, too.

(Continued here; we have only just begun to scratch the surface.)

(Kindly refer to the right-hand column of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to all other legally-accessible chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Coming soon from the Olney Community College Press: Give Us Each Day Our Daily Arnold: Words of Wisdom For Every Day of the Year; edited and with an introduction by Bennett Cerf, with a foreword by Steve Allen and an afterword by Oscar Levant.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 65

"Mr. Zilch"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo*

illustrated by roy dismas, rhoda penmarq,
and konrad kraus

*Associate Professor of Latin Literature, Assistant Pep Rally Coördinator, Olney Community College; editor of A Sense of Dread: Six Short Novels of Suspense by Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press, “The Sternwall Initiative”.)

It was just another cold November day on the Lower East Side.

As usual I rolled out of the sack around two in the afternoon, threw on my best and my only suit, and went down to the Chinaman’s for my usual breakfast of chop suey and three or four pots of lapsang souchong.

Outside the window the afternoon was grey, and some rain started to fall as if it had nowhere else to fall and it might as well be here.

After I ate I poured another cup of tea, lit up a cigarette and took out my little black book.

I had six pick-ups to make, and after them I was free until 8:30, when Big Moe had asked me to meet him at the Mobambo Room.

Big Moe never asked me to meet him at the Mobambo Room.

For that matter Big Moe hardly ever asked me to meet him anywhere, and why should he?

I was strictly small potatoes, so far down the chain of command that you couldn’t get any lower, except the gutter or the grave.

But maybe Big Mo asking me to meet him at the Mobambo meant something.

Maybe after all these years Moe had me in mind for a promotion.

Maybe I could move out of that crumby shotgun apartment on Hester Street and get something classier.

Maybe I could buy a new suit.

Maybe I could even get a car. Nothing fancy, nothing new, maybe just like a ‘41 Ford, one of them two-door coupe jobs maybe.

for complete episode, click here

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 64

"closing time at al's"

by manfred skyline

illustrated by konrad kraus , roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

for complete episode, click here

Friday, July 20, 2012

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 309: oblivion

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel, last seen entering through the back door of a low dockside bar in Singapore, ready as he’ll ever be to face the music…

(Please go here to read our previous chapter; hearty souls in search of a bold new adventure may click here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award©-winning 69-volume autobiography.)

“Arnold Schnabel’s masterpiece is not just the story of one extraordinary man’s life, nay, rather say it is the story of all mankind.” -- Harold Bloom, “The Only Book You’ll Need on Your Summer Vacation”,
Reader’s Digest.

The bar if anything had gotten more crowded, more noisy and more hot, more smoky and redolent of sweat and of perfume and Old Spice, of Brylcreem and Aqua Net, and above and through the shouting and the laughter of the patrons the music of the band crashed along heedlessly as if the musicians were furiously attacking their instruments while tumbling down the side of a steep rocky cliff to their doom; however, as I shoved through the crowd I consoled myself with the thought that this after all was a fictional universe -- how much longer could it go on? A couple of hundred pages, tops, and probably less as this was only the world of a cheap paperback novel. It could be worse, this could be one of those really long books like Gone With the Wind or Raintree County, or the Bible. I should be happy that I had not been exiled into Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia, or the Philadelphia White Pages...

But then it occurred to me that even in the shortest of novels, even in short stories and fairy tales, it was not unheard of that very long periods of time might pass in the space of a sentence or a few words. All the writer had to do was type something like, “And so he spent the next twenty years in Sing Sing.

And now I felt not consoled at all.

No, I had to escape. I had done it before. I would just have to buck up and figure out how to do it again.

Mojo the midget was still at the bar, but now, instead of sitting right on top of the bar with his little legs dangling off of it, he sat like a child on the barstool that Ben had vacated. The peacock feather in his white straw hat just barely reached the level of the counter, and he had to keep his arm extended to its full length above his head just to keep his hand around what looked like a brand new pousse-café on the bar top. He was still smoking his enormous cigar, which somehow had not grown any less enormous, and he was turning his head to the right and left constantly, as if he didn’t want to miss a thing. So he saw me coming.

“Ah, Monsieur Schtürkel, everything come out all right I pray?”

I really dislike it when people say this sort of thing. Especially when they’re referring to masturbation. You might think that working on the railroad all those years, plus my three years in the army, might have inured me to such raillery, but I’ve never gotten used to it.

“Mission accomplished,” I said.

Asseyez-vous, mon ami, look, your drink is all ready for you -- Planter’s Punch, with a float of ‘151’.”

“Yeah, great,” I said. “Thanks.”

I sat down on the same stool I had sat in before. The drink was sitting there, all deep red and swirly and beaded, with its little multi-colored paper umbrella and a big black plastic straw and with a cherry and a slice of lime impaled together by a little yellow plastic arrow.

“Just a word to the wisenheimer as you Yanks say,” said Mojo. “I wouldn’t eat the lime and the cherry. Fruit flies you know.”

“Thanks,” I said. I removed the cherry and lime and arrow and laid them on the bar.

“Just throw them down into the spit gutter,” said Mojo. “That’s what it’s there for.”

I picked up the arrow and lime and cherry and dropped them down to the spit gutter.

Bien,” said Mojo. “Just remove the umbrella as well. It’s purely decorative, and, though I suppose some might consider it a wasteful use of paper and dye and wood, think of the poor wretched coolies who make a good living manufacturing them by hand so that we can toss them into the spit gutter at our feet.”

I took out the umbrella and placed it on the bar. Mojo stretched out his little arm, almost falling off his stool, grabbed the umbrella and tossed it down to the spit gutter at my feet.

“It’s a tradition,” he said. “You toss it down into the spit gutter.”

“What difference does it make?” I said.


“I said what difference does it make?”

“What difference does it make?”

“Yes,” I said.

“May I climb onto your lap?”

“What?” I said.

“May I sit on your lap? It’s so hard to talk like this, because you’re so very tall, I can barely hear you.”

“You’re not missing anything,” I said.


“Never mind,” I said.

“Let me sit on your lap. Benjamin always lets me sit on his lap when we’re at a bar together.”

“I don’t think I would like that,” I said.

“No one’s going to think you’re queer. I am Mojo, Mojo the Midget, I sit on all my tall friends’ laps, even the ladies’. Especially the ladies’.”

“Why can’t you just sit on the top of the bar again?”

“Yes I suppose I could. But I am hurt.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“If I were some attractive little Oriental trollop in a tight red silk dress I suppose you would re-think the matter.”

“Even then I would probably decline,” I said.

“I shall never understand you Americans.”

“I don’t understand us either,” I said.

“So you are quite adamant,”

“Yes,” I said. “Anyway, it’s too hot.”

“Hot? You call this hot?”

“Yes,” I said.

“This isn’t hot.”

“It must be a hundred degrees in here,” I said.

“I don’t call that hot.”

“You’re insane,” I said. (I realized this wasn’t the way I normally talked to anyone, even the most annoying person, but, after all, this was a fictional world, and I figured I could give myself some leeway.) “I’m sweating buckets. Even you’re sweating buckets.”

“I am not here to argue with you, Herr Schteüben. But if you insist on being so priggish will you at least lift me up onto the bar top?”

“Okay,” I said, and I reached over, grabbed him with both hands at his waist and lifted him up and onto the edge of the bar, with his little legs hanging over.

“Ah,” he said, “this is better, isn’t it?” He picked up his drink with his right hand. His cigar was in his left. “Although I would be more comfortable in your lap.”

“No,” I said.

“I mean, this is okay sitting here,” he said. “But I really would be so much more comfortable in your lap.”

“But I would be very uncomfortable,” I said.

“I should think Monsieur Strudel you might take pity on someone not so gifted as you in the heighth department.”

“I do take pity on you,” I said. “But not enough to let you sit on my lap.”

“No need to get nasty old chap.”

“I don’t mean to be nasty,” I said.

“Perhaps you are being nasty without meaning to be.”

“Look,” I said, “tell me about this lady you were talking about. This one who might be able to help me.”

“Madame Chang?”

“Yes,” I said.

“You’re not drinking your drink. Drink, and we will talk.”

“Okay,” I said. I took the straw out of the drink and dropped it down to the spit gutter.

“You’re really supposed to drink it through the straw, mon ami.”

I ignored this remark, lifted the drink up and took a good gulp. To be quite honest, it tasted delicious. I took a breath and then took another good gulp.

“What do you think?” said Mojo. “Good, eh?”

“Yes,” I said. “It really is.”

“Finish it up, then, and we’ll go.”

“Go where?”

“To Madame Chang’s of course.”

“But I thought you said I would need three or four thousand dollars to get her to help me.”

“Yes, at least that, possibly even as much as five thousand dollars.”

“I don’t even have five dollars.”

“We’ll work something out.”

“I’m not pulling any capers,” I said.

“Perhaps just a little caper.”

“How little?”

“Very little. A tiny caper. We can do it on the way to Madame Chang’s. Come on, drink up, she only lives right down the road a piece.”

“And you’re saying I can pull off some caper on the way over that will get me five thousand dollars?”

“Oh, at least that.”

“A little while ago you said we would make only three or four thousand off this caper.”

“I was being conservative in my estimate.”

“What about Ben? I thought you wanted him for the job too.”

“Ben is otherwise engaged. Making the beast with two backs with Maxine.”

“I think they’re finished by now,” I said.

“How can you know?”

I could have told him that when I was outside in the back courtyard I had heard their cries and shouts of ecstasy reach a crescendo and then die away, but there are some things which although I may scribble them down in my marble copybooks I could still never bring myself to say aloud.

“They’ve had plenty of time,” I mumbled. I suddenly realized that I was starting to feel drunk. It must have been that float of “151” on top of the drink.

“Look,” said Mojo, “do you want to go back to what you imagine to be your own world or not?”

“Yes,” I said, although I realized it sounded a little like “yesh”.

“Then let’s stop dithering, Herr Stockhausen. Finish your drink and let’s go.”

“Look,” I said, “I’m not doing anything --”

I paused, because I had forgotten what I was going to say.

“Speak freely,” said Mojo.

“What was I shaying. Saying.”

“Something about your not doing anything.”

“Oh, right,” I said. It came back to me now, bobbing to the surface like a boring and inedible fish. “I’m not doing anything --”

It had slipped beneath the surface again.

“Yes?” said Mojo. “In your own words.”

“I’m not doing anything --”

Again I was drawing a blank, as well as losing interest.

“Perhaps illegal is the word you are searching for,” said Mojo.

“Right,” I said. “Legal.”

“I think you mean illegal.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Not doing anything legal.”

“Of course not,” said Mojo. “Now let’s drink up and blow this joint.”

He put the straw of his pousse-café between his lips and emptied the nearly-full glass in one long, drawn-out slurp. It sounded like the death-rattle of a small dog.

I lifted my glass and drank the rest of my own drink down in two or three gulps. It really did taste good. I looked down into the glass, but there was nothing in it but ice and a dead moth. At least the moth appeared to be dead. Maybe it was only sleeping. I put the glass down.

“Lift me please if you will, Monsieur Stuka,” said Mojo.

I got off my stool, grabbed Mojo by the waist again, and lifted him down from the bar.

Chouette,” he said. “Now let’s split what you Americans call this popsicle stand.”

“Lead the way,” I said. My words felt like chewing gum that I had been chewing too long.

Évidemment,” said Mojo, way down there, the French syllables rising slowly up like bubbles and bouncing off my face.

He took off, and I followed him through the crowd. We went out through the front entrance. The street outside was utterly unfamiliar to me, as of course it would be since I had made my first appearance in this novel back in the bar we had just left.

The street was fairly busy, people walking around, some cars and trucks going back and forth, and I found this activity somewhat reassuring. The air, although it was still very hot and muggy, was much less close than inside the bar, and nowhere near as foul as in that courtyard behind the bar, let alone that wretched outhouse in which I had only minutes ago spilled my seed. I turned and looked at the bar. A red neon sign said Club Tiki-Tiki Bar & Grill & Cocktails. Okay. Good to know, in case I wanted to come back here for some reason. A smaller, hand-painted sign to the side of the doorway read “Now playing: the Spike Fontaine Combo, featuring the lovely Maxine Parraquette”. There was a photograph of Maxine tacked to the sign. She looked angry.

“Come, mon ami, it is not far,” said Mojo.

He started off down the sidewalk, and I went along.

The street looked very foreign, which stood to reason, since we apparently were in Singapore. Of course we could have been anywhere for all I knew, as long as that anywhere was hot and muggy and had a lot of Oriental people all around.

I guess I was lagging a bit behind, because Mojo turned and made a gesture with his hand as if he were fanning himself.

Allons-y, mon ami. We must move swiftly.”

I had only heard people talk like that in movies or in books, but I put this thought out of my head.

“Wudza rush,” I said.

“You want to get back to your own universe, don’t you?”

“Well,” I thought about it, “yeah,” I said.

“Then shake, as you Americans say, a foot.”

“We don’t say that,” said this voice that was mine.

“What do you say.”

“We say shake a leg.”

“Then shake it.”

We walked along at a good pace. He was pretty quick for such a little guy, I’ll hand him that.

“By the way,” he said. “The gat.”

“The wha?”

It was hard to concentrate because my feet felt as if they were on someone else’s legs.

“That Luger you got stuck in your pants. It is fully charged I hope.”

“You mean -- loaded?”

“Yes, please don’t quibble, this is serious.”

“Yeah, it’s loaded, I guess,” I said. My voice sounded far away.

“A full magazine?” said Mojo’s voice.

“Beats me,” I said. And then, “Why?”

“Just asking.”

“I’m not going to shoot anyone,” I said, some voice said.

“Then why are you carrying it?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” the voice said. I think it was George Sanders for some reason.

“You Americans,” said Mojo. “Always with the humor.”

Another one of those sentences you only heard in movies and cheap paperbacks, but then again that figured.

“Okay, down this alleyway,” said Mojo, waving his big cigar.

“Wha?” I said.

All of a sudden we had come to the entrance of a perfectly dark narrow alley. I could see a few feet of cobblestone paving, and then only darkness.

“It’s okay,” said Mojo. “What are you afraid of?”

I thought about it.

“Everything,” I said.

“Ah ha ha, you Amegigans. Zujge dry humor. You are brobably a beeg fan of Meezdair Zhairy Lewee.”

“Wha?” I said.

I felt as if I were floating in the humid hot air. Oh, good, I thought, maybe I’m about to fly back to my own world.

“Or Danny Kaye, yay, yay, yay,” said Mojo. “Yay.”

Suddenly his face had grown to the size of a basketball.

“Danny,” I said. “Kaye, yay, yay, yay. Yay?”

Now his head had turned into a beach ball, and it was floating above me.

I was sitting against a wall, at least I thought I was sitting, but I couldn’t feel my backside. Maybe I had become part of the wall. Maybe my head was mounted on the wall, like the head of a moose someone had shot. But, no, I wasn’t mounted on the wall, because now I was looking at a brick, a damp, warm enormous brick, it was pressed against my nose. I turned my head so that my nose wouldn’t press against the brick. Now my cheek pressed against the brick, except the brick turned into warm wet mud, and I sank into the mud, and everything was dark.

(Continued here, and until the last cow comes home, and then some more.)

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find an up-to-date listing of links to all other officially-approved chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Coming soon from Olney Community College Press: I Remember Arnold: The Story of a Friendship, by Gertrude Evans (author of Cast Caution to the Winds, My Mother My Enemy, and many other bestsellers.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 308: face it

We last saw our hero Arnold Schnabel in a not very pleasant outhouse in a courtyard to the rear of a low dockside bar in Singapore…

(Kindly click here to read our previous episode; those who dare may go here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award©-winning 52-volume memoir.)

“Just when you think Arnold Schnabel can’t get anymore ‘wack’ (as the young people say), he calmly gets twice as ‘wack’.” -- Harold Bloom, on The Rachael Ray Show.

{Editor’s note: Unfortunately an entire sheet is missing from Arnold Schnabel’s marble-copybook holograph here, the only occurrence (so far) of such brutal self-editing in his massive oeuvre. We pick up his narrative at the top of the next page.}

...staggered out the door, and started weaving my way across the courtyard. I probably looked like a man who had just been shot, and all I wanted to do was to collapse like a shot man, and I would have done so if it weren’t for all the broken bottles and shards of glass underfoot. As it was, after what seemed like five minutes I made it to the back entrance of the bar, and turned and sat down on the upper of the two wooden steps there. And then, because the wood of the step was wet with God knows what, I got up again, and just stood there, sweating, still panting. Then I sat down on the step again. The seat of my trousers was already wet -- in fact all my clothes were soaked with sweat anyway -- so what difference did it make?

Above me the harsh barking and the shrieking of Ben and Maxine -- which had never ceased since shortly after I had first come out here -- now abruptly reached a crescendo, and then just as suddenly subsided, leaving only the noise from the jazz band inside and the drunken laughter and shouting of the patrons.

The Luger was digging into my side, so I pulled it out of my waistband and held it on my knee.

I tried to think, to review my situation.

If I was insane, if all this was imaginary, then there was probably nothing I could do to get me back to what I thought of as “my” world. But if all this around me (including myself) was “real”, or at least a version of “real”, then it stood to reason that if I had gotten here then I could leave here.

I’m not sure even now if this line of reasoning was logical, but nevertheless this was the way I was thinking.

So -- how had I gotten here?

By opening a cheap paperback novel, Say It With a .38, by Horace P. Sternwall, and reading, and thus somehow leaving the world I was in and becoming part of the world of the novel. But matters were complicated because I had picked up this novel in another fictional world, the world of Two Weeks in a One Horse Town, by -- what was his name -- I just had to go over my old copybooks and check -- Theophilus P. Thurgood. And, of course, the world in which I had picked up Thurgood’s book was also fictional, that of Ye Cannot Quench, by my old nemesis (one of my nemeses), Miss Gertrude Evans.

Therefore, summing up, it seemed that I had attained the power to enter various fictional universes merely by picking up a book and reading it. But how to return to my own and presumably non-fictional world? My previous long foray into Miss Evans’s fictional world (in which I had assumed the part of “Porter Walker, bohemian poet") had only ended after I defeated the prince of darkness through some trickery involving a magic fountain pen, and then, with the same pen, had taken a sheet of paper and written the following words (again, I’ve had to scrabble through my masses of old copybooks to find the sentence): And so Porter wrote the words that would take him back to his own self, to his own world. Then I had gone to bed and fallen asleep, to awaken, back in my former self and in my own body, in my army cot in the attic of my aunts’ house in Cape May, on a rainy Sunday morning in August of 1963, on a day that was still, in some senses, today.

So, it seemed to me that if I really wanted to get back home then why not try what had worked before, and write myself out of it? But there was one big problem with this plan. I didn’t have the magic pen. At least I was pretty sure I didn’t have the pen, but a quick pat-down of my various pockets assured me that indeed I didn’t have it. I didn’t even have the stub of a pencil. All I had was the sweat-soaked suit on my back, a dollar and change, and the Luger I held on my knee.

The Luger.

I lifted it up, and looked at it. It was heavy, warm and hard. I clicked the safety off. I had never fired a Luger. I had never fired any pistol except for one morning at Camp Wheeler back in 1943 when I emptied one clip of an army .45 in the direction of a target before handing the gun to the next guy in line.

I clicked the safety on again. Then I clicked it off. Supposedly there was a round in the chamber, indicated by the word GELADEN on the the left hand side of what I think is called the extractor.

I put my finger on the trigger, and then I put the muzzle of the gun to my temple, just under the brim of my hat.

I was a fictional character, apparently not even the main character of the novel I was in. If I killed myself I wouldn’t be killing me, I’d be killing the character. The novel would go on without me, just as real life goes on obliviously when any human being dies.

The music and the shouting and laughter continued in the bar behind me, and it would no doubt continue after I pulled the trigger. To my right I could hear the scrabbling of the rats in the trashcans. The rats didn’t care. To my left was the wall at which the hundreds of young Chinese men had been shot. The dead Chinese were beyond caring.

Ben would probably care. He was my friend, after all, even if he was only a fictional character as well. But he would get used to my death as time wore on. I would become another one of his stories. The crazy friend who shot himself. Crazy Arnie.

I pressed the pistol’s muzzle more firmly against my temple. If I were going to do this I wanted to do it right. I didn’t want merely to give myself a sloppy and painful frontal lobotomy, and become just another poor brain-damaged idiot begging on a street corner or spending the rest of his life in a poverty-ward hospital bed.

“Poor Arnie, couldn’t even shoot himself right. Now all the poor guy does is drool.

So I would have to hold the gun very firmly against the side of my head. Maybe take a deep breath first and then hold it in before firing. My last breath, which unfortunately would be of this foul, thick, humid air.



But if I shot myself, who was to say that I would return to my own world? Maybe I would go to hell, the hell where fictional suicides are consigned to. It would just be another and possibly even more unpleasant world that I would need to escape from.

I took the gun away from my head. I sighed. I thumbed the safety catch back down to GESICHERT: safe.

I stood up, shoved the pistol back into my waistband.

I looked out at the dark filthy courtyard.

I breathed in the reeking warm air, which was, at least, less foul than the air in the outhouse.

A mosquito bit me on the knuckle. I didn’t bother trying to slap him.

I looked up past the surrounding buildings at the sky. It was like looking into a pool of motor oil, with the stars reflecting dimly off of it.

I buttoned one button of my suit jacket, then I buttoned the top two buttons of my shirt and tightened the knot of my tie. I took off my fedora, and pushed my wet hair back down on my head. Then I put the hat back on, turned around, went up the two wooden steps and back into the bar, to face the music, whatever that music would be.

(Continued here, and so on, until legally enjoined not to.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to all other presently-available chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©, a Danny Thomas Production for Quinn Martin. Coming soon from the Olney Community College Press: I Know That I Don’t Know: Words of Wisdom From Arnold Schnabel, edited by Dan Leo, available exclusively at Kresge’s 5&10 stores, nationwide and in Canada.)