We left our hero Arnold Schnabel in yet another awkward situation, here outside the entrance of Bob’s Bowery Bar, on this rainy August night in 1957…
(Kindly go here to read our immediately preceding chapter; those looking for a harmless new obsession may click here to return to the beginning of this 57-volume Gold View Award™-winning memoir.)
“What better way to spend a cold January evening than to sit by a roaring fireplace in one’s favorite easy chair, with a cup of hot cocoa made with Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup, and a volume of Arnold Schnabel’s towering masterwork?” – Harold Bloom, host of Fox’s U-bet “Arnold Schnabel Hour”, exclusively on the Dumont Radio Network, 10pm (EST) Tuesdays.
“Oh, man alive,” said Bert. “She is a little pistol, isn’t she?”
“Pistol!” said Emily, in the sort of voice the writers in the cheap paperbacks I read would call throaty, or maybe impassioned, or both, and she yanked again on what those same authors might call my manhood, but which term seems to me a slight overstatement.
Her eyes were open, but just barely, and I’m not sure she could see anything at all except for whatever extravagant fantasies were whirling around in her drunken brain.
“Bert,” I said, “for God’s sake –”
“Hey, pal,” he said. “I warned you before about the fucking language.”
“But,” I said, “but –”
I couldn’t think of anything else to say, except possibly the same word, but, over and over again, but to infinity…
“Okay,” said Bert, “you want my help, I’ll see what I can do. But don’t expect me to stand still for you taking the good lord’s name in vain, I don’t care if you are all buddy-buddy with his son.”
“Fine,” I said.
“Give me,” said Emily.
“Pardon me?” I said.
And she yanked on it again.
“Oh, Christ,” said Bert, and, hooking his umbrella over his left arm, he stepped over to me and Emily, and, reaching into the side pocket of his suit coat, he brought out what looked like a leather-wrapped slapjack or sap.
“No! Bert!” I yelped, but he ignored me and raising the sap high over his head he brought it down sharply on Emily’s, producing a little pocking sound, and she immediately slumped in my arms again, letting go at last of my still fully-erect erection.
“Jeeze, Bert,” I said, “I didn’t mean for you to knock her out –”
“Relax, kid, she’ll be okay.” He dropped the cosh back into his pocket. “She’ll have a headache tomorrow, but it looks to me like she was going to have one irregardless.”
“But you might have killed her,” I said, and retroactively I tried to compensate for the whine in my voice by adding. “I mean, hey, you know –”
“Do I? Well, let’s see what I know.” He reached into his inside coat pocket and brought out his flask again. “She –” he indicated Emily with the lit end of his cigar, “is the heroine of all this –” he waved the cigar at the universe, “this allegedly fictional world, or so you you say, right?”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s a novel called Ye Cannot Quench, by this crazy lady named Gertrude –”
“Whatever,” he said. He unscrewed the flask’s hinged cap. “And Enid here –”
“Emily,” I said.
“Emily? You sure you didn’t say her name was Enid?”
“I’m pretty sure,” I said. “I mean, that’s her name – Emily.”
“Don’t get shirty now, sonny.”
“I’m just stating the fact.”
“It’s your tone. I mean I’m trying to help you. I knocked her out for you, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” I said, trying, and trying successfully I might add, not to scream. “And I appreciate that. I’m sorry if I sounded ‘shirty’.”
“Apology accepted.” He raised the flask to his dried-up old lips, and took a good swig, then let out a raspy hissing sound, like the sound of dead leaves blowing along a gutter in an empty city street. “Now what was I talking about?” he said.
“I have no idea,” I said, in all honesty.
“Oh! I remember now. Ethel here, according to you, is the heroine, the protagonist, of this supposed novel we’re in, correct?”
“Well,” I said, “it’s not so much the actual novel at this point, but, rather, it’s the world or universe of this novel, which seems to include myriads of other universes which may or may not be fictional –”
He held up his hand.
“Stop. I didn’t ask for a goddam dissertation. Now, I’ll ask you again: is Eloise here the heroine of the book or not?”
I decided A. not to correct him about Emily’s name, and B. just to say:
“Yes,” I said. “She’s the heroine.”
“The main character if you will.”
“Yes,” I said, even though in all fairness I felt that I was the main character, but then I suppose everyone feels as if they’re the main character in the book of their lives.
“Okay, then,” he said. “Well, let me ask you –” he took another swig from the flask, then continued, after exhaling another rattling breath, “let me just ask you if I may – may I?”
“Yes,” I said, and perhaps I should mention here that my erection still persisted, pressing naked against Emily’s warm body despite her unconscious state.
“’Cause I don’t want you to think I’m implying that you’re really stupid or nothing, ‘cause I know you’ve probably been under a lot of pressure lately –”
“Please, go right ahead,” I said.
“Wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings, ‘cause I know how you humans get.”
“Don’t worry about my feelings,” I said.
”The painfully obvious question I want to ask you is: do you think the heroine of the novel, the main character, the protagonist – you think this lady is going to get killed by some little old geezer giving her a tiny minuscule love tap with a sap?”
“I guess not,” I said.
“You guess not?”
“Well, probably not,” I said.
“You’re damn straight probably not. Of course not. Oh, no, this little filly’s got quite a few chapters left in her, unless I’m very much mistaken.” He took another good swig from the flask. “What are you doing there anyway?”
“I’m trying to put away my – you know –”
“Your organ of supposed masculinity?”
“Not easy to do while holding up her limp body, is it?”
“Just let her drop, she won’t feel nothing.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Oh, come on, just set her down gentle like. Sit her against the wall till you can put your johnson away.”
“Well, okay. But, listen, Bert, would you mind turning away?”
“What’re you, modest all of a sudden?”
“Yes,” I said.
“You think I ain’t never seen a man’s johnson before?”
“I’m sure you have, Bert, but I would still feel more comfortable if you would just look away for a moment.”
“Adam and Eve were naked, you know, before the fall.”
“Bert, please –”
“Oh, all right, I’ll look away.”
And he didn’t exactly turn away, but he did crank the angle of his head just slightly to one side, those eyes so enormously magnified by his wire-rimmed glasses gazing, or seeming to gaze, out at the street and the crashing rain.
I shifted myself and Emily around, so that her back was to the bricks of the entranceway wall, and, as gently as I could, I let her slump down to the wet pavement. I still had her heavy black purse hanging from my shoulder, and her hand grabbed at its strap, proving she was still alive, anyway. I pried her hand loose, and she then started to slide over sideways, but I stuck my knee out and managed to hold her up.
“Wow, that’s some erection you’ve got there,” said Bert.
“Bert!” I yelped, turning so that the aforementioned erection was pointed away from my guardian angel. “Jeeze!”
“You said you would look away.”
“Stop acting like a faggot and put that thing back in your pants – if you think you can manage it.”
I said nothing, in fact I think I was literally biting my lower lip, and I set to work stuffing the thing back into my jeans.
“I used to get hard-ons like that,” said Bert.
I did not dignify his remark with a comment.
“I said,” he said, “I used to get big whopping hard-ons like that.”
Again I said nothing, as I tried to get the last button buttoned.
“What,” said Bert, “you don’t believe me?”
At last I had gotten my fly completely buttoned up. Inside my jeans the erection persisted, but I could only hope that it would subside now that it was no longer pressing against Emily’s body or being caressed and stroked by her hand.
I turned around, and despite myself emitted perhaps the most huge sigh I had ever emitted in my life, which, if I say so myself, is saying something.
“I used to get enormous whoppers of hard-ons,” said Bert, with a small smile, nodding his head. And now he sighed. “Whoppers.”
He took another slug from his flask, that bottomless flask of Windsor Canadian.
“Okay then,” I said, hoping against hope that the subject of conversation would change.
“Maybe you didn’t know that guardian angels could get hard-ons.”
“No,” I said. “I didn’t know that.”
“Learn something new every day, doncha?”
“Almost every day,” I said.
“’Course it’s been a while since I had one, not only a whopper, but even the slightest quivering inkling of boner,” he said. He took another slug of the whisky. “Several centuries in fact. More than several. Five, six, seven centuries. When was the Black Death?”
“I’m not quite sure,” I said.
“I remember having hard-ons during the Black Death. Sex meant something in them days, I’ll tell ya. People dying right and left in droves, dropping off like flies. It wasn’t hard at all to get a little tail in them days. It was like the women were desperate for just one last gasp of ecstasy before the plague got ‘em, ya know? Yes, I did pretty well during the Black Death, pretty well indeed. Why, by gummy, I remember this one little wench –”
“Listen,” I said, “Bert, I hate to interrupt you, but I think we should get Emily inside.”
“She’s okay where she is. Take her purse off your shoulder because you look like a fairy and drop it on her lap and let her sleep it off.”
“I just can’t leave her here.”
He took one more swig, then finally he screwed the cap back on the flask and put it away in his suit coat.
“There you go,” he said. “Acting all saintly like.”
“I’m not being saintly, Bert. I just don’t want to leave her here passed out on the wet pavement.”
“Okay,” he said. “Maybe you’re just like, what’s the word, beatific.”
I didn’t say anything. I hadn’t known Bert for very long, but I strongly suspected that he was the sort of person, or angel, who would be a colossal waste of time to argue with.
“Okay, Saint Arnold,” he said, “you take one arm, I’ll get the other one.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Just doing my job,” he said.
He stuck his cigar in his mouth and stepped over to Emily. He took her right arm, I took her left, and we hauled her up. He draped her arm over his shoulder, and I put my right arm around her waist.
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s get her inside, and then we’ll go meet your pal, the son of God.”
“Okay,” I said, although I knew deep down it wasn’t going to be that simple. And, of course, it wasn’t.
(Continued here, and onward, at the same stately and measured weekly pace.)
(Please scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a supposedly up-to-date listing of links to all other officially-published chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. We still have a limited assortment of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ left over from the holiday gift-giving season, so call now and get a 60% discount on all items – our operators are standing by!)