Saturday, March 15, 2014

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 388: downpour

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in Greenwich Village’s Kettle of Fish tavern, where he has just been struck down by a roundhouse thwack from a lady’s purse…

(Kindly click here to read our previous thrilling episode; go here to return to that long-ago and faraway very first chapter of this 63-volume Gold View Award™-winning autobiography.)

“A steaming mug of hot cocoa prepared with Fox’s U-bet™, a plate of Uneeda™ Biscuits slathered generously with Chee Whiz™, and – the most important ingredient of all – a volume of Arnold Schnabel’s stupendous and towering
chef-d'œuvre: such indeed is a recipe for ecstasy!”  – Harold Bloom, in the Maxim Literary Supplement.

I fell into oblivion, and when I awoke – oddly enough not in severe pain – I was lying on my back on the floor, and Ben’s face loomed above mine from my right side. 

“Bowza boong gonga wonnie?” he said, obviously speaking in some exotic language, I knew not why. I decided to ask him.

Wazza beega mogga langa?” I said, asking my question apparently in the same obscure foreign language.

Ma gogga?” replied Ben, whatever that meant.

I decided to go back to sleep. I was lying in a cobblestone gutter next to a dark factory, it was uncomfortable, but no one was around, and I thought if I could just rest here for a bit I could get up and try to find my bed, but just when I was sinking into complete oblivion again someone started batting my cheeks with a ham.

Mog ba,” I said. “Mog ba.”

Monga moo,” said a voice, and the ham thwacked my face again.

I woke up.

“Stop that,” I said, in English, because Ben’s hand was raised, about to slap me again.

“Oh, good, you’re coming round,” he said.

“Yeah, he’s all right, I told you,” said Ferdinand, who was hovering around above my face.

“She really caught you a good one, boy,” said Ben, who was squatting to my right and leaning over me. He was smiling.

“Suckered you good,” said Ferdinand. “What’d you do to this dame, anyway?”

“Well,” I said, and then I stopped. I wasn’t quite clear on what I had done to her.

Way up high, almost hidden by swirling clouds of smoke, I saw a giant looking down at me, but it turned out it was only the rude bartender in his white shirt and his apron and his enormous stomach.

“Yeah, he’s all right,” his voice thundered down. “He’ll live.”

Suddenly Emily was there kneeling next to me, on my left side, stroking my forehead.

“I’m sorry, Porter,” she said. She was crying, and black streaks oozed from her eyes and over her cheeks. “Can you ever forgive me?”

“Sure,” I said.

Amazingly I was still not in great pain from the mighty thwack she had given me, and then I remembered the ambrosia-laced bock beer I had drunk, and I imagined and hoped that this relatively painless state would last for at least as long as the ambrosia suffused my corporeal being.

“How ya doin’ there, buddy,” said a deep voice from another giant, and this time it was my publisher – or at least my alter ego Porter’s publisher – Julian Smythe, standing up above me to my left, leaning slightly down toward me and holding a briefcase, and also down there just beyond where the toes of my work shoes pointed up I saw Bunny Wilson, and Robert Frost and Eddie Guest. I had attracted a crowd.

“All right, let’s get him on his feet, boys,” said the bartender. “Can’t leave him lyin’ there on the floor all night. It don’t look good.”

Strong hands grabbed both my upper arms, and I felt myself rising up, up, the faces all around me a blur as if I were on a Ferris wheel, and then I was standing, Ben holding my right arm and Julian my left, and I flinched because Emily was standing in front of me and she was reaching both her hands toward my throat, but it turned out that she wasn’t trying to strangle me, but was only straightening the knot of my tie.

“Your nice grey tie that I bought you at Macy’s Men’s,” she said. “Hey, did you vomit  on it?”

“Um,” I said.

“Yeah, he threw up earlier –” said Ferdinand. “after goddam swallowing me with some beer!”

Emily just ignored what Ferdinand said, and the fact that it was a fly saying it. Maybe she thought it was someone else speaking, a human being. To tell the truth I don’t think she was really listening to anyone but herself. 

“I’m so sorry, Porter,” she said. “But you’re so terribly cruel.”

She was slipping into that English accent of hers again, or maybe it was more like a Bette Davis accent.

“Okay, look, you two,” said the bartender, what was his name? Vito, “if you’re gonna have a lover’s quarrel take it somewheres else.”

Emily turned to the bartender, opening her purse as she did so.

“He toyed with my feelings,” she said.

“Well, that wasn’t very nice,” said Vito.

Emily reached into her purse. For an awful moment I thought she was going to pull out one of those little automatics women always have in movies, but she only took out a lace-trimmed handkerchief and then snapped the purse shut again.

“These young louts are like that,” said Robert Frost. “No respect for the female gender.”

“Love ‘em and leave ‘em, hey, Porter?” said Eddie Guest.

“I was the same way when I was young,” said Bunny Wilson.

All three of them had drinks or beers in their hands, and as one they raised them and drank.

In the meantime Emily had licked a corner of her handkerchief, and now she was rubbing my tie with it.

“Don’t listen to these filthy old men, Porter,” she said. “I know you can’t help yourself.”

“Would you like to sit down, old man?” said Julian.

“No,” I said. “I have to go to Philpot’s.”

“What the hell is Philpot’s,” he said.

“It’s a book shop across the street,” said Ben.

“And what the hell do you want to go to a book shop for, Porter?” said Julian.

“Um,” I said.

“Oh, your nice tie!” said Emily.

“It’s only a little beer,” said Ferdinand. “It’ll come out.”

Once again Emily ignored the talking fly. Yes, I think she really wasn’t what you would call a good listener. But again, I’m the same way, so I shouldn’t pass judgment.

“Okay, look,” I said, “I’ll get the tie cleaned later.”

“Do you promise me, Porter?” she said. “Promise me you’ll have it cleaned?”

“I promise,” I said.

“I’ll make sure he gets it cleaned,” said Ferdinand.

“Who said that?” said Emily.

“Okay, look,” I said. “I promise I’ll get my tie cleaned. But I have to go now.”

“Where?” she said.

“To Philpot’s,” I said.

“What is Philpot’s?”

“I just said,” said Ben. “It’s a book shop across the street.”

“Why on earth do you want to go to a book shop at this hour?”

“I was wondering exactly the same thing,” said Julian.

“Listen, guys,” I said, “I think you can let go of my arms now.”

“You’re quite sure?” said Julian. “That really was quite a wallop you took.”

“I didn’t mean to hit him so hard!” said Emily. She opened her purse again and dropped the handkerchief into it. Then she paused and took out a large jar of Pond’s cold cream. She held it up for everyone to see, and shrugged.

“There ya go,” said Ben. “Might as well’ve had a brick inside there.

“I’m really so dreadfully sorry,” said Emily, and now she was in her full-blown English voice, it was way beyond Bette Davis now. She dropped that big thick jar back into her purse, then snapped it shut in a decisive sort of way.

“Maybe we should take you to the hospital, Porter,” said Julian. “Just to, you know, make sure there’s no permanent brain damage or whatever.”

“Oh, pish,” said Emily. “He’ll be all right.”

“Yeah,” I said, “please let me go, Julian. I’m fine.”

“He’s fine,” said Vito.

“A strapping hard-headed youth,” said Robert Frost.

“Strong as a young ox,” said Bunny.

“And as randy I’ll warrant,” said Eddie Guest.

“All right, I got customers,” said Vito, and he went away.

“Okay, please let me go, guys,” I said.

“All right,” said Julian. “Excuse me,” he said, addressing Ben, “what’s your name, buddy?”

“Ben,” said Ben. “Ben Blagwell. They call me Big Ben Blagwell.”

“I can see why,” said Julian. “I’m Julian Smythe, Porter’s publisher.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Smythe. Y’know, if you’re looking for some good real-life stories, I got a million of ‘em. I’ve battled and brawled my way across the storm-tossed seven seas, and–”

“Ben,” I said, “please.”

“Sorry, pal” said Ben. “Maybe we can talk about it later, Julian. I ain’t much of a writer, but maybe you could hire a secretary to write my yarns down like in shorthand while I spin ‘em, and –”

“Ben!” I said.

“Okay, sorry, buddy,” said Ben.

“All right,” said Julian, “we can talk about your proposal later if you like, Ben, but –”

“Great,” said Ben. “Any time, Julian.”

“But, here’s the thing,” said Julian, “getting back to the present problem, I suggest that I let go of Porter’s arm first, while you hold on, just to make sure he doesn’t collapse in a heap. So get a good grip on your arm.”

“Okay,” said Ben, and he squeezed my biceps so hard it felt as if it were about to burst like a ripe tomato. “I got him, pal.”

Julian let go of my left arm, and I’ll admit I probably sagged a bit on that side, but I didn’t collapse.

“You okay there, buddy?” said Ben.

“Yes, really, I’m fine, Ben,” I said. “You can let go of me. You’re hurting my arm.”

“You sure?”

“Yes,” I said. “Positive.”

“Okay, pal.”

He let go of my arm. I didn’t fall.

“Okay,” I said. I rubbed the inflamed area of my right biceps with my left hand. “Let’s go.”

“Are you quite certain you forgive me?” said Emily. She hadn’t gone anywhere.

“Yes,” I said.

Everyone but Vito was still there, staring at me.

“Say it,” said Emily. “Say it oh dear Porter.”

“Say what?” I said, and I’m afraid a note of annoyance may have crept into my voice.

“Say you forgive me,” she said.

“I forgive you,” I said.

“No grudges,” said Eddie Guest, “that’s the best way.”

“Tell a woman what she wants to hear, that’s the best way,” said Bunny Wilson.

“I heard that, you gross old man!” said Emily.

“Easy there, Bunny,” said Robert Frost. “She’ll wallop you next, man!”

Emily turned back to me.

“Go then, Porter,” she said. “Go to whatever little trollop it is this time!”

Julian had been lighting a cigarette, and he clicked his lighter shut.

“Come on, Emily, let’s have a nightcap, and then it’s homeward bound for me.”

“At least you’re honest about being a cad, Julian,” said Emily.

“I am?” he said.

Emily turned back to me.

“Why are you still here? Isn’t she waiting for you?”

“Okay, then,” I said. “Well, good night.”

“By the way, Porter, old man,” said Julian. “I’ve got your typescript right in here, safe and sound.”

He patted the briefcase he was carrying, which I now remembered was actually Emily’s briefcase. Not that I cared.

“That Porter’s book?” said Bunny. “This epic poem of his?”

“Yep,” said Julian. “Swell poem, too.”

“What do you know, you haven’t read it,” said Emily.

“That’s why I employ you, dear Emily,” said Julian.

“Ha ha, that’s my kind of publisher!” said Robert Frost.

“Okay, let’s go, Ben,” I said.

“Arnie,” said Ferdinand, buzzing in front of my face, “speaking of books, ain’t you forgetting something?”

“What?” I said.

“Your blank book.”


I turned and looked down at the floor, swiveling my head back and forth. (The floor was filthy by the way, which meant of course that I was filthier than I had been a few minutes ago, but I didn’t care.)

“Where is it?” I said, yelled, whined. “Did anyone see this green book I was carrying? It was a green hardback –”

“Hey. Sport,” said Eddie Guest, and he held up my book, The Ace of Death by Horace P. Sternwall, my book full of empty blank pages, my only hope. “Looking for this by chance?”

“Oh, thank you,” I said. I rushed over and reached for the book but he pulled it away.

“Hold on,” he said. “Promise me.”


“Promise me that you will write well.”

I said nothing. This was one promise I could not make, and the ambrosia I had drunk prevented me from just going ahead and vowing falsely through my teeth.

“Oh for God’s sake give him the book,” said Robert Frost.

“Oh, all right,” said Eddie Guest. He held the book toward me and I snatched it away.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Go to your whore now,” yelled Emily, but Julian was pulling her by her arm, toward the bar.

I turned around.

“Now can we go?” said Ben.

“Yes,” I said. “Before something else happens.”

I limped over to the door, opened it. The rain was crashing down, even harder than before. It still looked like we were under the Niagara Falls, but I could vaguely make out the buildings across the street, and the electric lights behind the windows of Mr. Philpot’s shop.

“Christ, we’re gonna get soaked out here,” said Ben.

“Tough guy,” said Ferdinand. “Afraid of a little rain.”

“I am a tough guy,” said Ben. “That don’t mean I like getting soaked. Arnie, what say we have another drink or two, just till this downpour dies down?”

“No, Ben,” I said.

“He’s on a mission, big guy,” said Ferdinand.

“A mission,” said Ben. “Like one time I had to paddle into this tropical island of sin where some buddies of mine had been made slaves by these lesbian harlot love-pirates –”

“Ben,” I said. “Look, I want to get this over with.”

“Ha ha,” said Ferdinand, and he flew into my ear. “Okay, Arnie, let’s do it.”

“All right,” I said. I stuck the book inside my jacket, and held it there with my arm.

I took a breath and then dashed out into that crashing downpour.

(Continued here, bashing on regardless.)

(Please turn to the right hand column of this page to find a rather frequently updated listing of all other available chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©, now available for a mere pittance on your Kindle©.)


Unknown said...

Bravo! & Shapely! (If that sounds pretentious, remember, that's the way I was born.)

Dan Leo said...

Pretentious? Never!

Thanks, Kathleen!