Saturday, December 14, 2013

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 375: sidekicks

Let’s rejoin our hero intrepid hero Arnold Schnabel here in one of the most exclusive of all Greenwich Village basement saloons, on this hot and rainy night in a version of August of 1957…

(Please click here to read our previous thrilling episode; the morbidly curious may go here to return to the barely-remembered misty beginnings of this 63-volume Gold View Award™-winning memoir.)

“Once again the holidays approach, and what better present – be it for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa or some pagan sect – than a complete edition of Arnold Schnabel’s works on Kindle™, or, better still, in a handsome ‘morocco’-bound hardback edition, available by subscription only from
Publisher’s Clearinghouse™?” — Harold Bloom, in the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Weekly.

Over to the left through the mob I saw Hemingway and Jack and Bill, still at the bar, and, also, talking with them, smiling and gesturing with his cigarette holder – my nemesis: Lucky, or Nicky, or whatever the hell name he was going by these days, but it was him all right, the prince of darkness. 

I kept my head down and kept moving through that crowd of dancing people.

I didn’t know how Lucky had escaped from hell again, I didn’t care, and, most importantly, I didn’t want to find out. However, because I was hurrying with my head down I suppose I wasn’t paying quite so much attention as I should have as I made my way through that crowd of madly gyrating dancers, because I slammed into someone, or someone slammed into me, and someone’s foot caught under mine, and once again I came crashing to the earth, or in this case to the hard wooden floor.

A mixture of pain from both my knees and from my right elbow, of pain and humilation – and of impatience, and of general weariness – suffused my being for several seconds as I lay there with my face on the floor, which was covered with beer-dampened sawdust as well as tobacco ash and cigarette-and-cigar butts. I was tempted just to go to sleep right there, but I knew that wouldn’t do, and I also knew I probably wouldn’t be able to fall asleep there anyway in the midst of this throng of thrashing and stomping people, so there was nothing for it but to get up, or to try to get up.

But then to my surprise a strong hand gripped my right bicep and I found myself being lifted up, with another strong hand pulling me up from under my left armpit, both hands pulling me up as though I were nothing up an oversized rag doll, and then I was standing, in pain and dazed, and who should I see standing in front of me – indeed looming over me as he was about four inches taller than I – but my friend, I suppose I must call him that, even if he was a fictional character – Ben Blagwell.

He was still wearing the same outfit he’d been wearing every other time I had seen him: the sweat-stained yachting cap which had perhaps once been white, the unpressed, faded Hawaiian shirt, the worn dungarees; and as usual he looked like he hadn’t shaved his ginger whiskers in the better part of a week.

He was smiling, with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, and he was sweating profusely, as indeed was I.

“Arnie!” he said. “Or should I call you Porter?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said.

“You okay, buddy?”

(I should perhaps inform the reader – for perhaps someone will find these copybooks someday, moldering in a cardboard box in my aunts’ attic, and out of boredom or morbid curiosity actually start reading them – I should indicate to this hypothetical reader that Ben and I were in fact shouting at each other, because the barroom was still very noisy with yelling and laughing drunken people and rock and roll jukebox music.)

“Yes, I think so,” I said, shouted, which wasn’t true really, I was now in even greater pain than I had been in before, but nobody likes a complainer.

No one was paying attention to us, including whomever I had collided with and whoever’s foot I had tripped over. Everyone around us was dancing to the rock and roll music and having a good time, or at least trying to have a good time, they didn’t care about me and my troubles, and why should they have?

Ben let go of my my left arm but held onto the other one.

“Good,” he said, “let’s go then,” and he gave my right arm a pull, but not in the direction of the exit.

“Wait,” I said, shouted, “go where, Ben?”

“Back downstairs, where the broads are.”

“The broads?”

“Yeah, you know, Becky and Hester and Lady Brett.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I’m telling you, Arnie, these babes are ready to go. I got them all warmed up for you, especially that Lady Brett.”

He gave my arm another squeeze and a tug with that enormous hand of his, of course enormous was the only kind of hand he had, but I insert the adjective anyway. You can mentally change it to huge or hamlike, it doesn’t matter to me.

“What?” said Ben, because instead of saying anything I was trying to think of adjectives to describe his hands. I decided that hamlike was not really accurate. A ham had no fingers, and is usually not decorated with wiry ginger-colored hairs, and with scarred and callused knuckles.

“What, Arnie?” he said, again.

I came back to reality, to a sort of reality.

“I have to go, Ben.”

“Go? Why? I’m telling you, Arnie, these babes are ready to roll! Especially Brett, that English babe. She thinks you’re dashedly good-looking, Arnie. That’s the very phrase she used, ‘dashedly good-looking’.”

“Well, that’s nice, Ben,” I said, “but I really have to get out of here.”

“What? Don’t tell me – again with the going back to your own world routine?”

“Yes, Ben,” I said. “I know I’m a bore on the subject.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say you’re a bore on the subject, Arnie.”

He let go of my arm, and, for the first time since he had helped me up, he took his cigarette from his mouth, and gave it a tap, watching its ash fall to the floor.

“But I will say,” he said, and he was looking at me out of the corner of his eye, “if I may, that you have a fucking bee in your bonnet on the subject.”

“I know,” I said. With my left hand I rubbed my left right biceps, where Ben’s mighty hand had been gripping it with the strength of ten men. “But, Ben, you have to realize that to me it feels like I’ve been stuck in this world for about a year now.”

“A year?”

“Well, ten months, say.”

“Ten months.”

“Yes,” I said. “I mean it feels like it’s been that long.”

“So, okay, if it’s been ten months then why is it too much to ask you stick around another hour and get your end wet?”

“My what?”

“End wet.”

“I thought you said that,” I said. “But, look, Ben, I appreciate it, really I do, but, you see, for one thing, I have a girlfriend back in my own world.”



“And you want to get back to her.”

“Well, yes,” I said, but –”

“But what?”

“It’s not just her,” I said. “It’s my whole world. My universe. My body. Myself. I can’t really say why, but I want to get back to it. To my - you know –”

“To your world.”


Ben paused here, taking a drag of his cigarette, as the dancers churned and whirled all around our little two-man island, and occasionally bumping into one or the other of us.

“Y’know, Arnie,” Ben said, yelled, after this pause, which I must say seemed a little self-consciously dramatic, and he made it even more dramatic by leaning forward and aiming his yelling at my right ear, “if I may say so, I mean if I may be completely honest.”

“Sure,” I yelled back.

“It sounds better if you say you want to get back so you can rejoin Alberta.”

“Elektra,” I yelled.

“Whatever,” he said. “It just sounds better to say you want to get back to the woman you love.”

I had nothing to say to this. I said nothing.

“You ain’t mad at me, are you, Arnie?”

“No, of course not,” I said.

“But you see what I mean, right?”

“Um –” How could I tell him that I didn’t care what he meant? He was my friend after all, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. “I guess so,” I said.

“Then what do I mean?”

“I forget,” I said, which wasn’t really true, because you can’t forget something you never knew in the first place.

“What I mean is,” he yelled, “it’s more romantic like to say you want to get back to the woman you love.”

“Oh, right,” I said.

“There is a great tradition in that, like, concept,” he yelled in my ear. “The hero struggling like hell to get back to the woman he left at home.”

“Right. Like Ulysses,” I said.

“S. Grant?” said Ben.

“No,” I said. “I meant the mythological character called Ulysses.”

“Mythological character.”

“Yes,” I said. “He’s in this epic poem. I never read it, but I read the Classics Illustrated comic. He has to go through all these adventures to get back home to his wife.”

“Well, that’s exactly what I was talking about,” he said. “Except I was thinking about, say, Slaver of the Sulu Sea, by Horace P. Sternwall. You ever read that one?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t think so.”

“A rollicking red-blooded two-fisted aventure yarn about an American epidemiologist who gets kidnapped by these lesbian pirates, and –”

“Ben,” I said, “listen, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I really do have to get out of here.”

“And get back to the girl you left behind.”

“Yes,” I said. “Sure.”

At some point during the above exchange he had put his hand on my right arm again, and I am too lazy to go back and put in where he did, if it matters, which I doubt, but now he let go of it but then immediately slammed me on my shoulder with that enormous hamlike hand.

“Okay, then, let’s go, Arnie,” he said.

“Both of us?”

“Sure. We’re a team, you and me. You say you want to get back to your world, to Annabella –”

“Elektra,” I said.

“To her,” he said. “You say you want to get back to that babe, and Arnie, I’m gonna do what I can to help you do just that.”

“But what about the three dames, I mean young ladies, downstairs,” I said.

“They’re just gonna have to wait,” he said.

“They might have to wait a while,” I said. “I mean the way things have been going.”

“Let ‘em wait then.”

“Y’know, Ben,” I said, “don’t take this the wrong way, but I can probably make it by myself.”

“What? You don’t want my help?”

“Well, no, it’s not that,” I said, although to be honest, it was that. “But don’t you want to get back to, you know, Becky, and Hester, and, uh –”

“Brett, Lady Brett.”

“Lady Brett,” I said.

“I was gonna save Brett for you, pal, and I was hoping – hoping mind you – I might get some threesome action myself with Becky and Hester.”

“Well, then,” I said, “I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun –”

“You’re not spoilin’ nothin’, pal. Dames come and dames go, but a pal is a pal.”

“Um,” I said.

He gave me another playful but still painful blow on the shoulder, and I staggered to the side a half-step, but Ben grabbed me by my other arm.

“I’ll get you back to that girl of yours,” he said. “I’ll get you back to her or my name ain’t Big Ben Blagwell.”

“Okay,” I said, and sighed.

“But afterwards, I just might have to come back here, I mean if the joint’s still open.”

“Sure,” I said.

“’Cause there’s three girls down there, and I’m tellin’ ya, Arnie, they are hot to trot.”

“Well, uh –”

“So, sooner we get goin’, sooner I get you back to your gal, the sooner I can hightail it back here.”

“Okay. Great, let’s go then,” I said.

“Sure,” he said. “Come on, pal, let’s get a drink and talk over our plan of action.”

“Ben,” I said, “wait, I can’t get a drink here.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too much for me to explain right now, but I can’t stay here.”

I glanced over toward the bar. Lucky was still talking with Hemingway and Bill and Jack, he was laughing, waving his cigarette lighter around, the other three men had big grins on their faces, and I guessed that Lucky was telling a funny story.

“It’s somebody over at the bar there, right?” said Ben.

“I just have to go, Ben,” I said.

“You just point the bastard out to me and I’ll mop the floor with him.”

For half a second I was tempted. 

But, no.

“I really have to go, Ben,” I said.

“Why didn’t you just say so?” he said. “Come on, I’ll get you out of here, pal.”

Before he could grab me by the arm again I turned to go, but who should be standing there but Lucky, Nicky, whoever, the prince of darkness, smiling and holding his shiny black cigarette holder with a lit cigarette in it. He was wearing the same suit he’d worn when I last saw him, it was a nice slightly iridescent grey suit without a wrinkle in it. His face was perfectly shaven, and his dark hair was gleaming and neat as if he had just got up from the barber’s chair. His teeth were whiter than pearls and they glistened like pearls. His eyes were not brown or blue or hazel but a deep purplish black.

“Hi, there, buddy,” he said. He held up a book with a green cover. “I think you dropped your book.”

(Continued here; what else can we do?)

(Please turn to the right-hand column of this page to find a current listing of links to all other officially released chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Now published also in the Collingswood Patch™: “South Jersey’s last gasp of literacy, humanism, and reasoned discourse.”)


Unknown said...

I had been wondering where Ben was but not Lucky, and am eager to learn how Ben takes him home.

Dan Leo said...

You mean 'if Ben takes him home'...

Unknown said...

Ben seemed confident, but then that's him.