Saturday, February 27, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 476: bang

Let’s return to a certain fateful rainy August night in 1957 and rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel just outside the entrance of Bob’s Bowery Bar, and in the company of: the brawling seafaring adventurer Big Ben Blagwell; that purveyor of the rarest of rare books Mr. Philpot; the eminent but now sadly obscure author Horace P. Sternwell; Ferdinand the talking fly; and “Josh” – also known as the son of God…

(Please click here to read last week’s thrilling episode; if you are the unfortunate victim of an obsessive compulsive disorder and are looking for a relatively harmless new project then you may go here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 69-volume masterwork of autobiographical literature.)

“And, in the end, although of course there is no end, isn’t Arnold Schnabel’s quest that age-old one of brave Ulysses – the quest for ‘home’?” – Harold Bloom, in
The South Philly Review Literary Supplement.

I waited, awkwardly.

At another time in my life, in fact just a couple of days ago, in the world I had left behind, a couple of days that felt like eight years, in that faraway time and world I would have taken out the pack of Pall Malls I was never without and I would have lit one up, and I would have been, if not happy, then at least occupied with doing something that brought me if not pleasure then at least the postponement of the displeasure of nicotine deprivation. 

But I had given up smoking, or at least the smoking of tobacco, and so all I could do was stand there and wait for my companions  to finish urinating into that crashing downpour of rain.

To lessen the boredom I took a personal inventory, patting my various pockets. 

I still had my wallet, in the back pocket of my jeans, Porter Walker’s wallet anyway. I didn’t bother taking it out and checking, but I knew there wasn’t much money in it, six dollars or so I supposed; but I took comfort in at least having a wallet, with some identification in it, even if the person identified was not really me, but this “Porter Walker”, the bohemian romantic poet, a character in a novel called Ye Cannot Quench, written by a woman named Gertrude Evans, a madwoman, but who was I to talk?

In the right pocket of my dirty and damp seersucker jacket I was slightly surprised to realize I still had the revolver given to me by that Lily woman back in the world of Horace’s novel Rummies of the Open Road, a Chief’s Special I seemed to remember her calling it. It occurred to me that I didn’t have an owner’s permit for the pistol, let alone a permit to carry it around in my pocket. Great, just what I needed, another source of anxiety and worry, and so I decided right then that I would get rid of the gun at the first opportunity.

In the inside breast pocket of my jacket I was surprised also to feel what felt like a paperback book. I took it out and held it so it caught the rain-filtered light from the streetlamp and it all came back to me – it was that Songs from a Negro Slum Tenement, by Lucius Pierrepont St. Clair III, with its cover painting of poor-looking Negroes sitting on the stoop of what must have been a slum building. Here was a book I had no interest in even opening, let alone reading, or attempting to read, but I supposed it was better than having nothing at all to read if I were stranded on a desert island, maybe. I put the book back in my inside jacket pocket.

In my shirt pocket was a ballpoint pen, yellow and green, an Eversharp, and it took me a moment to remember how I had acquired it, earlier that evening about two years ago, bought for (if I remembered correctly) thirty-two cents and a subway token from that Eddie Guest guy. I put the pen back in my work-shirt pocket. It might come in handy, I might still be able to write myself out of this world.

I next took an inventory of my physical being. I was aware of the damage done to me physically during this evening which had lasted at least four years now and showed no signs of ending soon, the sprains and scrapes and bruises on my knees and arms and hands and face and head, but that all-purpose painkiller pill that Bowery Bert had gave me seemed still to be doing its work, and I felt only the memory of pain and agony, for the time being.

I felt vaguely drunk, and vaguely under the influence of hashish brownies, not to mention laudanum and LSD and even the nectar of the gods, but – again, thanks to one of Bert’s pills, the so-called "anti-high pill" – far from debilitatingly so.

Horace, standing on the far right, was the first one to turn around, with his cigar in his mouth and wiping his hands on his dirty dark green work trousers.

“Y’know,” he said, “I once wrote a poem about pissing in the open air.”

“Oh, really?” I said, just to be polite.

“Would you like to hear it?”

“Um,” I said, “sure,” although if I was sure of anything it was that I was sure I didn’t want to hear his poem.

I don’t want to hear it,” said Mr. Philpot, who had been standing to the immediate left of Horace, and who now also turned around. He had his corncob pipe going, and he didn’t bother wiping his hands on his clothes.

“Hear what?” said Ben, who had been standing to the far left, and was now also turning around, wiping his hands on his Hawaiian shirt, a cigarette in his mouth.

“It’s a poem I wrote about pissing in the open air,” said Horace.

“Oh,” said Ben. “Is it long?”

“Twelve cantos,” said Horace, “each canto made up of twelve verses of twelve lines each.”

“Tell you what, Horace,” said Ferdinand, buzzing merrily about, “why don’t you just give us like two lines.”

“Wow,” said Josh, turning around last, a cigarette in his lips. “That was enjoyable.”

He had apparently let the rainwater wash his hands, as had I, and he waved his hands gently before him to dry them.

“Would you like to hear my poem, Josh?” said Horace.

“Of course,” said Josh.

“I call it ‘Pissing in the Cool Night Air’,” said Horace.

“Oh, Christ,” said Ferdinand.

“Look, I don’t have to recite it,” said Horace.

“Good then – don’t,” said Ferdinand.

“Ha ha,” said Mr. Philpot, in a voice like old newspaper being roughly ripped.

“Heh heh,” said Ben, in a voice like a bowling ball bouncing down concrete steps.

“Shall I commence then?” said Horace.

“Please,” said Josh.

Horace began:
Pissing in the cool night air, in an alley behind a saloon
or in a grassy meadow, or in a field filled with wheat,
or in a ditch by the side of the road, lit by a full moon,
or if no one’s around, why not right out in the street – 

“Okay, Horace,” said Ferdinand. “We’ve heard enough.”

“It gets better,” said Horace.

“I’m sure it does,” said Ferdinand. “And maybe you can give us a few more lines after we have a couple more drinks, how’s that?”

“Drinks sounds good,” said Ben.

“Let’s go,” said Mr. Philpot.

“Well, I must agree, a drink would not be amiss at this juncture,” said Horace.

“It’s that eternal cycle,” said Ben. “Piss it out. Drink some more. Then piss some more. Then drink some more. Then go piss again. Then drink some more –”

“We get it, Ben,” said Ferdinand.

Ben put his great hand on my shoulder.

“Hey, it’s great to have you back, Arnie.”

“Thank you, Ben,” I said.

“We’re gonna get loaded now, Buddy. It’s something you and I really haven’t had a chance to do yet, all this time we’ve known each other –”

“Well, uh –”

“I mean staggering, falling down drunk.”

“Um –”

“I mean shore patrol batting our skulls with billy clubs like it’s batting practice drunk.’

“Well, I –”


“Well, you see, Ben –”

He still had that massive hand on my shoulder, and he gave it a squeeze. Fortunately it didn’t hurt too much, I guess thanks to that pill that Bowery Bert had given me.

“Hey, don’t let me down, Arnie,” he said. “We been through too much together for you to let me down now.”

“But it’s just that –”

“What? Spit it out, pal. I can take it. You haven’t joined that Alcoholics Anonymous, have you?”

“No,” I said. “Not yet, anyway, but –”

“Then what is it, damn it, tell me, man.” He gave my shoulder a little shake, and my whole body shook like a marionette. “Don’t hold out on me, Arnie. What the hell is the problem?”

“Josh wanted to have a talk with me,” I said, as quickly as I could before Ben could interrupt me again.

“Oh,” said Ben, after a pause. He finally took his hand off my shoulder and turned to Josh. “Sorry, man. I didn’t mean to try to hog Arnie. But he’s my pal.”

“I understand,” said Josh.

“I’ll tell you what, Josh,” said Ben. “I’m gonna let you guys have your little ‘talk’. But afterwards, that’s when Arnie and me get roaring falling down drunk. You understand that, Josh, don’t you?”

“I think I do,” said Josh.

“And you’re welcome to get drunk with us if you want to.”

“Thank you for the offer, Ben, and I just might take you up on it.”

“Good,” said Ben. “I’m glad we got that all cleared up. So let me just ask you: how long is this little talk you want to have with Arnie going to take?”

“Oh, gee,” said Josh, “that’s hard to say –”

“Just approximate like,” said Ben.

“Well,” said Josh, “I hope not more than – oh, I don’t know – an hour?”

“An hour,” said Ben. “Okay, how about we knock that down to fifteen minutes.”

“That doesn’t seem like a very long time for an in-depth conversation,” said Josh.

“It may not be,” said Ben, “but it’s a long time for me to wait till I can get rip-roaring drunk with my best buddy.” 

“I’ll try to keep it short,” said Josh.

“That’s all I’m asking,” said Ben. “I mean, I hope I’m not out of line, you being the son of the big guy and all.”

“Not at all, Ben.”

“Good. Where were you guys going to have this talk, anyway.”

“Gosh,” said Josh, “I really hadn’t given that much thought.”

“Here’s my plan, then,” said Ben. “We go back inside the bar. The rest of us – me, Horace, Ferdinand and Mr. Philpot – we go back to our booth and order up some more drinks. You and Arnie, you two go grab some space at the bar. You order a beer, maybe a shot and a beer, it don’t matter, and you have your little talk. We’ll give you fifteen minutes. No more. Then you come back to the booth, and we all get fucking roaring drunk if you’ll pardon my français.”

“All right,” said Josh.

“Now listen,” said Ben.  "And again, I hope I am not out of line, but if you two ain’t back at the booth in fifteen I am coming to get you.”

“That’s fair,” said Josh.

“I wonder, though, Josh,” said Ben, “if you could lend me a little drinking money. I’ll pay you back when I get it.”

“Of course,” said Josh, and without hesitation he took his wallet out of his back pocket and opened it.

“Maybe ten bucks,” said Ben, “just so I can spring for a round or two.”

Josh was looking into his wallet.

“I only seem to have hundred-dollar bills at the moment –”

“If you give me a C-note I’ll get you some change from the waitress.”

“Well, let’s just make it I’m lending you a hundred,” said Josh.

“You’re sure?” said Ben.

“Positive,” said Josh, and he took out a hundred-dollar bill, a very new and crisp one, and handed it to Ben. I wondered how real that hundred was, but then that wasn’t my problem, at least not yet it wasn’t. 

Ben folded up the bill and stuck it in his dungarees pocket.

“I don’t care what they say about you, Josh,” he said. “You’re A-OK in my book.”

“Why, I’m glad to hear that, Ben,” said Josh, and he put his wallet away.

“These other holy Joes,” said Ben, “the Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Vishnu, Baal, whatever – they got nothing on you, my friend.”

“Thanks, Ben,” said Josh. “I appreciate the sentiment.”

Mr. Philpot and Horace were waiting by the open door, and Ferdinand was hovering in a lazy sort of way above them, breathing in their pipe and cigar smoke.

“Okay, fellas,” said Ben. “We’re ready.”

They all went back into the bar, except for Ferdinand, who flew over to me.

“See ya soon, Arnie,” he said. “Don’t be going off on any crazy adventures without me.”

“I’ll try not to,” I said.

Ferdinand now flew over to Josh.

“Take care of him, Josh,” he said. “I’m counting on you.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” said Josh.

Ferdinand gave me a wink, I don’t know how exactly, but it seemed like a wink, and then he flew back into the bar.

“Well, Arnold,” said Josh. “Here we are, finally. Alone together at last!”

“Yes,” I said.

The rain was still crashing down, and inside the bar the drunks continued to laugh and yell, and the band played a raucous song, the singer singing:

“Bang me, daddy-o, bang me like a drum.”

(Continued here, as Arnold continues to go where no man has gone before.)

(Painting by Norman Saunders. Please scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find what is meant to be a listing of links to all other officially-published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. Coming this year: Volume One of Arnold’s saga in e-book form – and plenty more after that, the good Lord willing!)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 475: relief

Let’s return to the merrily packed Bob’s Bowery Bar on this hot and rainy night in 1957 and rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel, at last reunited with his friend “Josh”, also known as the son of God…

(Kindly go here to read our immediately preceding thrilling episode; anyone looking for a new hobby is invited to click here to start at the very first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 67-volume memoir.)

“What the great Marcel Proust is to French literature, so also is Arnold Schnabel to the American literary canon, although it must be said that
Railroad Train to Heaven is so universal in all its utter particularity that it seems somehow unjustly limiting to label it as merely ‘American’ – perhaps ‘human’ would be the more appropriate adjective?” – Harold Bloom, in The GQ Literary Supplement.

“So, great,” said Josh, “what we’ll do is we’ll both take a good pee, and then you and I are finally gonna have our little chinwag. I mean, if you don’t mind –”

He looked at me with those deep sparkling eyes, his head cocked slightly under his slightly cocked trilby.

“I mean,” he said, “if you do mind –” 

“I don’t mind,” I said.

“You’re sure?”

“Uh, yeah –” 

“But what?”

“Pardon me?”

“Arnold, I haven’t completely divested myself of all my divine powers. I distinctly sense an unsaid but heartfelt ‘but’. But what?

Why fight it? Not for nothing was Josh still the son of God.

“But,” I said, “after we talk, and, again, I really don’t mind our having a talk, and if there’s any way I can help you, I’ll certainly be glad to try, but –”

“Yes, go on,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “afterwards, I’d like to see if we could possibly maybe find some way to get me back to my own world.”

“Your own world,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “You know, my, uh, nonfictional reality.”

“But who’s to say what’s nonfictional and what isn’t?”

Laughing and shouting dancing drunks continued to thrash up against us, the band continued to blare its music through the room, and their singer sang, a different song now:

Oh, roll me, daddy, like a driving wheel,
show me, sweet daddy, the way you really feel,
take me on a sweet ride to a place called ecstasy,
make me forget what it’s like to be me –
Josh took a drag on his cigarette, which he had smoked down almost to the end. He smiled.

“What is 'reality' anyway? This feels pretty real, don’t you think?”

With a slight gesture of the divine hand that held his cigarette he indicated the packed and smoky and noisy and smelly barroom churning all around us.

He seemed to want an answer, and so I gave him one.

“Yes, it feels real,” I said. “But I still want to go back to my own world. By which I mean the world I think of as real.”

“I’m glad you said that last part.”

“I am trying to learn to speak truthfully.”

“And I’m glad you are,” he said. “Because it’s not easy for a human being, is it, not just not to speak complete and utter nonsense all the time, but – if I may be so bold as to say – I think it rather important for men, and women, at least to attempt to, to –”

“Josh,” I said, “please, I really can’t get involved in this sort of discussion right now, not standing here in the middle of all these drunken people and this noise and loud music while I really, really have to pee.”

“Okay, fair enough!” he said. “Tell you what, we’ll go pee, and then, after we have our little talk, you know what I’m going to do?”

“No,” I said, in all honesty.

“What I’m going to do,” he said, “is I am going to see just what I can do, if anything, anything at all really, about getting you back to what you call your world.”

“Thanks, Josh,” I said.

“I mean, I know I tried before, and I failed, but, here’s the thing, even if I can’t manage it, who knows, maybe – just maybe – and I admit it’s probably or possibly a long shot – but maybe I can get H.G. or, who knows, even my father to, you know, help you out, or, hey, you know what? Maybe we can get my mother to intercede –”

“Your mother?”

“You know, Mary –”

“Oh, right,” I said.

“But then you haven’t met her, have you?”

“Not that I know of,” I said.

“Well, we’ll just have to take care of that little lapse in your personal history! She’ll love you, too, I’m sure.”

“Josh –”

“And I think you’ll really love her too, Arnold. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my mother.”

“Uh –”

“Thing about my mother, she’s got a soft spot for – I don’t want to say ‘hopeless cases’ –”

“Thanks –”

“But for those who struggle, beneath burdens that would crush the average guy. Chaps who just keep going on. Following their destiny. No matter how shall we say quixotic –”


“The losers of the world who refuse to give up.”


“Knock ‘em down, they get right back up again –”

“Uh –”

“If they’re able to get up.”

“Okay –”

“But even if they can’t get up, then they crawl, ever onward, through the mud –”

“Josh –”

“Trying to fulfill – for want of a better word – their destiny –”

“Josh, for Christ’s sake!”

“Well, I am the Christ, ha ha, but – yes?”

“I have to take a pee,” I said, doing my best not to scream the words. “Like, right now. I can’t hold it in anymore.”

“Oh! Sorry! Let’s go then. Do you know where the men’s room is?”


“Great, then –”

“Arnie!” yelled Big Ben Blagwell, looming up to the right of Josh. 

“Hey, buddy!” yelled Ferdinand, the fly, buzzing above Ben’s enormous left shoulder.

“What are you guys up to?” said Ben, or “roared Ben” I suppose I should write.

“Yeah, what the fuck you up to,” said Ferdinand.

(Both Ben and Ferdinand sounded drunk, needless to say, or drunker I suppose I should say, since they were both already drunk when I had last seen them an hour or so ago, an hour that felt like seven months.)

“How’d it go with that broad, Arnie?” said Ben. He had a cigarette going, and he blew a great redolent cloud of Sweet Caporal smoke my way.

“Yeah, ‘dja get your end wet?” said Ferdinand.

“Ha ha,” said Ben, no, sorry, “guffawed Ben”.

“Oh, that’s right, I’m so self-centered,” said Josh, addressing me. “How did it go with Noreen?”

“Nadine,” I said.

“Nadine,” he said, “sorry. So – I know you said she fed you, but was there also some sort of, oh, how shall I put it?”

“Hanky panky,” bellowed Ben (okay, I can’t write “bellowed” for every time Ben said something, I’m sorry, so I ask the reader to mentally change the word “said” to “bellowed” whenever I’m referring to Ben while we were in this barroom).

“Hiding the salami,” said Ferdinand, yelled actually (but again, please assume that everyone is yelling or bellowing for the time being, except for Josh, who didn’t have to yell to be heard in here, he was still that much a divine being).

“Well, Arnold?” said Josh, with a smile that I guess writers like Horace P. Sternwell would call “amused and indulgent”. “You can tell us. Did you, as we used to say in biblical times, ‘lieth carnally’ with her?”

“Look,” I said, “I didn’t lieth carnally with her, okay?”

“Well, did you at least get a blowjob?” asked Ben, with a serious-seeming expression on his face.

“Yeah,” said Ferdinand, “tell us at least you got a handjob out of her?”

“Look,” I said, “there was no, uh, hanky panky,” which of course was not entirely true, but I just didn’t want to go into it, and anyway, I didn’t think it was any of their business, except for Josh, maybe.

“She sure looked like she was ready for hanky panky,” said Ben.

“Yeah,” said Ferdinand, “how’d you let that one get away?”

Josh finally dropped what little of what was left of the cigarette he’d been smoking to the floor and rubbed it out with his shoe, while simultaneously taking out his cigarette case and clicking it open.

“Cigarette, Arnold?” he said, offering me the case, which was exactly filled with cigarettes, Pall Malls, my brand.

I started to take one and then stopped myself.

“No, thank you, Josh,” I said. “I’ve quit smoking, and all I want to do is take a pee.”

“Cigarette, Ben?” said Josh, offering the case to him, but Ben showed him the cigarette he was already smoking.

“No, thanks, Josh,” said Ben, “I got one going.”

“One for later?”

“What brand?”

“Pall Mall.”

“No, thanks, buddy, I prefer my own. Sweet Caporals. To me Pall Malls are –”

“Okay, guys,” I said. “I really hate to interrupt you but I really really have to go pee now.”

“Hey, that sounds like a great idea,” said Ben. “Let’s all go take a slash.”

“Oh, do you have to go too, Ben?” said Josh. He had taken a cigarette out and put the case away, and now he put the cigarette between his lips.

“Josh,” said Ben, and he politely held out his own cigarette so that Josh could take a light from it, “can I tell you something?”

Holding his own hand in a manly way over Ben’s, Josh got his cigarette lit from Ben’s and exhaled before replying. “Yes, by all means, Ben,” he said. “Please.”

“Here’s the thing,” Ben said. “The way I put away the booze, and the beer, even though I’m more of a rum drinker normally, but I like beer, too, y’know?”

“Sure,” Josh said. “I’m like that, except I prefer whiskey, but beer is great, too.”

“Like I say,” said Ben, “the way I drink, no matter what I’m drinking, I pretty much always got to take a pee. I mean, as soon as I walk out of the head I practically got to pee again. It’s like I spend my whole life just going to and coming from the head. Or else thinking about going to the head. Holding it in and wondering how long I can hold it in till I got to go again. Which is like I said, like always.”

“Jesus, Ben,” said Ferdinand, “all Josh asked was did you need to take a pee. He didn’t ask to hear your whole neurotic life story.”

“Fuck you,” said Ben. “You know, Ferdy, you’re not always like fucking Oscar Levant you’re such a brilliant raconteur.”

“Ha ha,” said Ferdinand, “I hurt the behemoth’s feelings.”

“Ah, shaddap before I swipe ya, shrimp,” said Ben.

“Okay, guys,” I said. “I’m going to the men’s room now, you can stay here if you like.”

Josh was standing to my left, between me and the men’s room, and Ben was directly in front of me. Without further ado I decided to go around to the right of Ben, even though that would take me a step or two farther away from the men’s room, but I intended to veer to the left again, as soon as I got past Ben, and forge on as best I could and as fast as I could through the crowd to the men’s room, or at least in the direction the men’s room had been the last time I had been in here.

And once again I was foiled, this time by Horace and Mr. Philpot, looming up out of the mob of drunks, Horace to the left, Mr. Philpot to the right.

“Oh, no,” I could not stop myself from saying, or moaning, whining even.

“What the hell’s going on here, a convention?” said Mr. Philpot, yelled Mr. Philpot. He had his corncob pipe in one hand.

“Arnie babe,” said Horace, who was now smoking a cigar, “how’d it go with Miss Nadine?”

He made a punching gesture with his fist.

“Nothing’s going on,” I said, “and I didn’t have sex with Nadine, and I really have to go to the men’s room, and so if you guys will excuse me –”

“I could use a pee,” said Horace, with a thoughtful expression.

“So also I,” said Mr. Philpot.

“We’re all going to the head,” said Ben, coming up beside me to my left and clapping my shoulder with that enormous hand and almost knocking me over. “Josh too, right, Josh?”

“Yes,” said Josh, coming up around my other side. “I’m quite looking forward to a good ‘slash’ as Ben calls it.”

“Enough talking about it,” said Ferdinand, buzzing happily amongst us. “Let’s ride, muchachos.”

“I just hope there’s not a line,” yelled Horace. “Because now that we’re talking about it I really gotta go!”

“Yeah, me, too,” said Ben. “I got first dibs on the urinal.”

“Age before beauty, young fellow,” said Mr. Philpot. “You can go after me, or else use the crapper.”

“There probably is a line,” said Ferdinand. “As crowded as this joint is right now?”

“If there’s a line, we wait then,” said Ben. “But I’m first in line.”

I couldn’t take it anymore, and, completely on impulse I turned and headed for the exit, shoving my way through dancing and stumbling drunks and being shoved in turn by those same drunks, but in less than a minute I made my way to the door, which was still open. My quickly formed plan, such as it was, was to run out, find the nearest alleyway, and relieve myself in the open air.

But I had forgotten about the rain. I stepped out into the sheltered entrance area and looked out at the downpour which had not lessened at all since I had gone into the bar. The rain crashed down, as if an ocean suspended in the nighttime sky had decided to burst down upon the earth and drown it.

I wanted to cry, but even more so, I wanted to pee, but on the other hand I didn’t want to get soaked again, and so I did something I have only done before in cases of extreme intoxication, in other words probably no more than few hundred times in my life, maybe a thousand – I stepped forward, and, standing just under the edge of the overhang, I unbuttoned my fly and proceeded to relieve myself, onto the pavement, my urine mixing with and being washed away by the rain.

After a couple of minutes I finished. I put it away and buttoned it up. I held my hands out palms upward to the downpour and let the rain wash them clean, or as clean as they were going to get without soap. I withdrew my hands, shook them a few times, then wiped them on my damp and dirty jeans.

I turned around.

Standing there in front of the open doorway from left to right, were Horace, Mr. Philpot, Josh, and Ben. Ferdinand hovered in the air between Josh and Ben.

“I’m sorry,” I said, to one and all. “I just couldn’t wait any longer."

“Looks like a good idea to me,” said Ben.

“Me, too,” said Horace.

“And to me as well,” said Mr. Philpot.

“Who am I to say no,” said Josh.

“Yeah, me too,” said Ferdinand.

I stepped aside to let them all pass, and soon their urine also joined with that crashing pouring rain to be washed away from the pavement to the gutter and down into the sewers of the Bowery.  

(Continued here, and for no one knows how much longer, as yet another cache of Arnold’s marble copybooks filled with his neat Palmer Method handwriting has been discovered in an old orange crate in the basement of the Olney Branch Library in Arnold’s old Philadelphia neighborhood of Olney.)

(Kindly turn to the right-hand column of this page to find what is at least supposed to be a listing of links to all other publicly-released chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. We urge all lovers of literature to order Arnold’s friend Kathleen Maher’s splendid novel Diary of a Heretic – now available in paperback!)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 474: the son & I

Let’s return to the crowded and jumping Bob’s Bowery Bar on this rainy hot night in 1957 and rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel, at long last reunited with his deific friend “Josh”…

(Please click here to read our previous chapter; housebound agoraphobics looking for a new means of amusement may go here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 71-volume masterpiece.)

“I foresee a day when Arnold Schnabel’s towering
chef-d’œuvre will achieve if not surpass the popularity of the sagas of Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen.” – Harold Bloom, in The Philadelphia Daily News Literary Supplement.

There we were, the son of God and I, surrounded by this mob of dancing, thrashing drunks. I could tell that Josh was drunk too of course, just as when I’d left him, if not more so, but his black eye and facial bruises had disappeared, and his nice blue suit which had been wet and wrinkled and dirty the last time I had seen him this evening now looked as if it had just come back from the cleaners. His darker-blue tie was neatly knotted and his straw trilby hat sat at only a slightly rakish angle on his head. With his perfectly clean fingers he smoothed down the sleeves and the front of my own filthy seersucker jacket, all filthy, wrinkled and wet as it was even though Emily had given it to me only that afternoon, or at least that afternoon in this universe, an afternoon  which felt to me like six years ago. 

“So what happened to the asshole?” he said, as he adjusted the knot of my necktie.

“I managed to get rid of him,” I said.

“No kidding?” He took the cigarette out of his mouth and exhaled a gentle cloud of smoke that smelled like roses in early summer. “And how’d you manage that?”

“Well, I had his cigarette holder, you see, and –”

“His cigarette holder.”


(I was practically yelling to be heard over the music and the all the yelling and laughter all around us, but Josh on the other hand was speaking in a normal tone of voice that was nonetheless perfectly audible.)

“And, excuse me,” he said, smiling, “but how did you happen to have his cigarette holder in your, uh, possession?”

“I picked it up off the pavement after the last time I got rid of him.”

“The last time –”

“It was outside Mr. Philpot’s shop earlier. I got rid of him by saying your name, and the name of your father, and of the holy ghost.”

“Oh, he hates that!”

“Yeah, I know. But I couldn’t do that this time because of his ears being stopped up.”

“With the essence of two million – what did you say – bitter men’s souls?”

“So you were paying attention earlier.”

“Arnold, I always try to pay attention. But it’s not always easy you know, when you’ve got a whole universe crying for your attention.”

“I know,” I said, although of course I didn’t know.

“Plus universes within universes, and universes within those universes, and –”

“I know,” I said.

“I do try.”

“I’m sure,” I said.

“Although, gee, if I succeed in becoming human, I guess I won’t be even attempting to try anymore.”

“I guess not,” I said. 

“You’re human, do you find it hard to pay attention to every little thing?”

“I pay attention to very little beyond what’s right in front of my nose, that and the usual chaos of random thoughts and images swirling in the great echoing cavern of my brain.”

“Heh heh – so, you were saying something about the jerk’s cigarette holder –”

“Oh, right, well, on impulse I took it out of my pocket and looked through it at him, and his face at the other end was the face of a big crying baby.”

“Which is what he is, really.”

“Then, and again I don’t know why, but I put the mouthpiece into my lips and blew, and it was like some great wind just blowing him away, and he disappeared into the crowd.”

“Amazing,” said Josh. “Well done.”

“Thank you.”

“How did you know to blow through the cigarette holder?”

“I didn’t. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Well, it worked, so, you know, remember that for next time.”

“I’m afraid I lost it,” I said.

“Lost what?”

“The cigarette holder. Someone bumped into me and I dropped it.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, because what will you do if he reappears again? And he probably will.”

“Yes,” I said. “He probably will, and I don’t know what I’ll do next time.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

“I hope so.”

“Or if I’m around I’ll help you.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“I mean I’ll help you as best I can.”

“I appreciate that,” I said.

“Oh, but, hey,” he said, “what happened by the way with this girl what’s her name –”


“Yes, Emma, what happened with her?”

“My guardian angel dragged her off, through the crowd –”

“Wait. Back up,” he said. “Guardian angel?”

“Yes, I’ve apparently been assigned a guardian angel.”

“No one told me that.”

“Oh,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

He took a drag on his cigarette, and gazed out at that mob of dancing drunks who surrounded us. I noticed that he didn’t seem to be sweating at all. As for me, I was pouring with sweat, for the one-hundredth time that day. He turned back to me.

“You see, normally these sort of things are group decisions. You know – me, my father and the, uh, other guy.”

“The holy ghost,” I said.

H.G., yes. You see, contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, we are equal, you know.”

“Sure,” I said.

And indivisible. So, you see, my father and H.G. assigning you a guardian angel without even consulting me – well, it’s as if they’ve already written me off, isn’t it? Or maybe – just maybe they’re warning me – you know, like, ‘Hey, you wanted to be human. Deal with it.'”

I was trying to listen and to be sympathetic, but on the other hand I suddenly once again felt the need to urinate, and soon. It was all those beers I had chugged at that crazy woman Nadine’s house and at that Bill’s Bar with that pathetic guy Slick.

“Listen, Josh – “ I said.

“Some guardian angel,” he said.

“Pardon me?”

“If he’s supposed to be your guardian angel then why isn’t he here, you know, guarding you?”

“We got separated in this mob.”

“If he was doing his job properly he wouldn’t have allowed you two to get separated. Did he tell you his name?”

“I don’t want to get him in trouble.”

“Oh, wait, is it Bowery Bert?”

“Um –”

“It is him, isn’t it?”

“Well –”

“Bowery Bert,” said Josh. “He’s getting old, you know.”

“I didn’t realize angels got old,” I said.

“Well, they do,” he said. 

“I really do think he was trying his best,” I said.

“There’s a reason he’s working down here in the Bowery, you know, Arnold.”

“Um –”

“You know what that reason is?”

“I guess there’s a lot of people around here who need a guardian angel,” I ventured.

“People everywhere need guardian angels,” he said. “But Bert works on the Bowery because this is where all the hopeless cases are. They can’t be helped anyway, so we give them Bowery Bert, who can barely help himself.”

“He really did try to help me,” I said. “And right now he’s probably trying to get Emily back to Julian –”

“Back to who?”

“Julian Smythe. He’s my publisher, or at least he’s my publisher in this universe, and anyway he came here with Emily, and so Bert and I thought we would try to sort of –”

“Get him to take care of her.”

“Well, yeah, and –”

“Whatever. Bert still shouldn’t have let you get separated like this.”

“Okay,” I said. I didn’t want to argue with him. And, besides, now I really had to go to the men’s room. “But, look, Josh, I – uh – um –”


“I really need to, you know –”

“Oh, that’s right! You wanted to get some food! Well, we’ll get you some! Where’s that waitress? I’ll bet they have really good food here –”

“Wait, Josh,” I said.

“Probably the burgers are good –”

“Josh, I’m not hungry.”

“I thought you were starving.”

“I was,” I said, “but I ate at that woman’s house –”

“What was her name – Maureen?”



“So she fed you. Anything good?”
"It was okay, but, uh –"
“Well, good! Now we can have our little tête-à-tête talk finally.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, “but –”

“I need your help, Arnold.”

He looked at me with those blue eyes that contained all the universe, and all the universes in the universe, and all the universes within those universes. I could even see stars and whole galaxies twinkling in them.

“Um,” I said. “Uh –”


“Here’s the thing –”

“Go on. You know you can tell me anything.”

“I have to pee, Josh,” I said.

“What, not again?”


“It seems like you always have to pee.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s pretty boring, really.”

“You know, I still haven’t tried it. Peeing that is. Is it really that boring?”

“Well, it gets boring having to go all the time, but when you’re actually doing it it’s pretty enjoyable really.”

“You’ve convinced me then. I’m going to try it. Shall we go to the men’s room together?”

“All right,” I said. “But –”

“But what?”

“I have to warn you, Josh, that things tend to happen to me when I go to the men’s room.”

“Things happen to you no matter where you go, Arnold.”

“Right,” I said. “I forgot.”

“So buck up and let’s go take a pee.”

“Okay,” I said,

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

I chose not to hazard an answer to that question.

(Continued here, and onward, until Arnold’s last marble copybook has been transcribed.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page to find what might well be an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. We still have an extremely limited assortment of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ left over from this past December’s big Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa sales event, so order now and get a special 90% discount on each and every item in stock, with free delivery on all orders of $10 or more! Our operators are standing by!)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 473: baby

Let us return to this fateful August night in 1957 and rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the Bacchanalian confines of Bob’s Bowery Bar…

(Kindly go here to read our immediately preceding thrilling episode; students of “outsider” literature may click here to start at the somewhat tentative first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 73-volume memoir.)

“And how did I fare during the recent blizzard? Quite well, thank you – having spent the entire day and evening sitting by a crackling fire, with my meerschaum to hand, as well as a constantly refilled steaming mug of cocoa prepared with Fox’s U-bet™ chocolate syrup, and – snuggled in the thick Navajo blanket draped over my lap – a volume of Arnold Schnabel’s towering
chef-d'œuvre!” – Harold Bloom, host of Fox’s U-bet Presents Harold Bloom’s “The Arnold Schnabel Television Theatre”, Tuesdays at 10pm (EST), exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.

“Wait a minute,” said Bert. “Before we make our move, let me just ask you, do you have to wear that purse over your shoulder? Because I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but you really do look like a faggot.”

“But –”

“No ‘buts’. Just take the fucking thing off and drape it around the Jane’s neck, crosswise, so it don’t fall off.”

“Okay,” I said, humbly, and I did as I was told, an operation which took no more than a minute.

“All right,” said Bert. He still had Emily’s right arm draped over his narrow shoulders, gripping her wrist with his left hand, his umbrella in his right hand, and I had my right arm around her waist. “Now. Are we ready?”

“I’ve been ready, Bert.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

“Then why did you ask?”

“Don’t get smart with me, Arnold. I’m here to help you, remember?”

“Right, sorry,” I said, as usual just trying to move things along. “Let’s go.”

“Okay,” he said. “On the count of three, all right?”

“Can’t we just go now?”

“No, we can’t just go now. We’re gonna go on the count of three. I mean if that’s all right with you.”

“Sure,” I said. “Count of three.”

“Okay, then. Now, when I say three, we go. Not a little before, not a little bit after. But right on three. You got it?”

“I think so.”

“So what do we go on?”


“Don’t fuck with me, Arnold.”

“On three,” I said.

“That is correct.”

Emily remained unconscious through all this. She was lucky.

“All right,” said Bert. “Here goes.”

But instead of starting the count he turned and stared out into that mob of thrashing drunkards, I suppose just getting the lay of the land, but still I wanted to let out a great keening whine of despair, and, believe me, it took every ounce of my willpower not to.

He turned to face me again, that little cigar still in his teeth, or dentures.

“On three,” he said.

“Right,” I said, “three,” holding back everything I wanted to say and scream.

“One!” shouted Bert, at last. “Two! And – three!”

And, with his umbrella raised high and threateningly, off the little guardian angel plunged into that sweating churning reeking mob, plowing sideways, pulling Emily’s dead weight along with him, and me with her, and, as various drunks shoved and flailed against us my hand slipped upward until despite myself I was perforce holding Emily up with my hand directly under her right breast.

At first we made some slight progress, perhaps going as far even as three or four feet in only two minutes or less, but then we came to a standstill, or rather, we came to a halt but we were not standing still, buffeted front and back by this pungent hot mass of people behaving as if they were all in the throes of delirium tremens, and, now that I think about it, that might well have been the case.

I kept my arm firmly around Emily’s ribcage, and my hand was now tightly gripping her right breast, but, I hasten to emphasize, not in a lustful fashion but only because that was simply where my hand somehow wound up as I attempted to do my bit in preventing her from falling to the floor where she might well have been trampled if not to death, then quite possibly to the point of hospitalization. Faces loomed up against mine, male and female, leering, wide-eyed, shouting and laughing, and human bodies pressed and rubbed against mine, front and back and against my exposed left flank. My physical and moral discomfort was not decreased by the fact that my erection – aided and abetted by the body parts pressing and rubbing against it, and by the female breast I held in my hand – had by now regained its fullest tumescence. 

The loud music continued, above and with the screaming and shouting and laughter all around, and now an amplified voice, a deep female voice – or maybe a high male voice – sang out:

Oh, shake me, daddy, shake me up right,
do me, papa, do me up tight,
roll me, Romeo, roll me all night,
till the break of dawn,
till my back ain’t got no bone,
whatever comes first,
‘cause I got the thirst,
the thirst for your love…
“Hi, buddy!” said an enormous face directly in front of my face, and then I realized that it was really just a normal-sized man’s face, but it seemed enormous because it was so close to mine.

And then I realized it was the face of Nicky, Nicky Boskins, also known as Lucky, but better known as the prince of darkness, back again, as somehow I knew he would be, even after I had seen him with my own eyes dissolving into a stream of filthy gutter water.

“Oh, Christ,” I said.

“Ha ha, I know what you just said,” he said, baring those shiny white teeth. “And guess what, you can say it all you want, and all the other various names of each one of the trinity, or as I call them, the three divine assholes, ‘cause you know why? Because it won’t affect me in the least because I’ve plugged up my ears. Look –”

He turned his head to one side and pointed at his ear, and, sure enough, the ear was plugged up all right, with some yellowish substance.

“You know what that shit is?” he said. 

“I don’t know,” I said. “It looks like a bad case of ear wax.”

“What’s that?” he said. “I’m reading your lips, and I’m pretty good at it, but if you don’t articulate it’s hard even for me.”

He was smoking a cigarette, and he was wearing the same exquisitely pressed iridescent grey suit he’d been wearing before, or one very like it. The skin of his paper-white face was as usual perfectly shaven, his dark hair shiny and gleaming, his eyes the same deep black so deep they were almost purple.

“I said it looks like a bad case of ear wax,” I said, speaking very slowly, and loudly, although I realized that it didn’t matter how loudly I spoke.

He stopped smiling. 

“Did you just say, ‘I guess I’ll just ask Beatrice Fairfax’? Is that supposed to be, what, clever?”

“Oh, forget it, Lucky, or Nicky, or whatever your name is.”

“What? You’re saying I stuffed my ears with fried elephant jizz? I don’t even know how to begin to respond to that. But before you say anything else stupid, I’ll just tell you. I stuffed my ears with the boiled-down essence of bitter men’s souls. This is like the essence of one million bitter men’s souls in each ear.”

“I really don’t care,” I said, and I turned my head, because his breath smelled, like death.

“What’s that you said?” he said. “You ‘need some air’? Well, I’m sorry, my good friend, but where you’re going there isn’t any air. You think this place smells bad? Just wait till you get down in my neighborhood.”

So this was the way it was going to be. Him yammering, and me yammering back and him not understanding a word I said. But instead of feeling frustrated, I suddenly felt an enormous freedom to speak my mind honestly in a way I had so rarely ever done in my life.
 Despite his foul breath I turned to face him directly again.

“I have some very disconcerting news for you, Nicky, or Lucky, or dick face,” I said, and I assure the reader that this was the first time I had ever called anyone dick face, a phrase that really makes no sense when you think about it.

“What?” said Nicky. “You’d like to ride in a flying saucer into the depths of space? That’s just weird, man.”

“No,” I said, “My news for you is that you’re really very boring, and pathetic, even if you are the prince of darkness, and also your breath smells like pig shit, no, it smells worse than that, it smells like the week-dead corpse of a dead pig.” 

Nicky’s smile flickered briefly into life and then disappeared.

“So, if I’m understanding you,” he said, “you’re saying that the galaxies and all their stars are roaring, as in the time of the Aztecs, and it’s all a big mess, and that’s about the size of it, but when you get to hell of course you’ll be Mr. Big? Okay, you know what, Arnold? I know you’ve had mental problems, so I am not even going to attempt to make sense out of any of that.”

“Fuck you,” I said, and I think this might have been another first for me, which doesn’t excuse me at all, but please consider the circumstances.

“Did you just say ‘thank you’ to me?” he said.

This was getting pretty dull, even if I was on the verge of being dragged screaming down into the eternal fires of hell.

“No,” I said.

“’Go’? Go? No, I’m not going to ‘go’,” he said. “What do you think I’m here for?”

“Well, to drag me, or try to drag me, I guess, to hell again.“

“To brag to you, and nag you, and peck my breast like a pelican? Okay, tell you what, Arnold, I’ve had just about enough of your little mind games, so this is it. Forget about trying any of your little tricks and ruses, because at long last I’m going to drag you down to hell now. Get ready for a world of pain, asswipe.”

And with that he just stared at me, with those jet black eyes of his. And in those eyes I saw hell. But I didn’t get drawn in all at once. No, it was very, very slow and gradual, but I could feel myself being drawn closer and closer into those dark eyes, darker than anything I had ever seen before, and I had seen some darkness in my time.

My boredom gave way to fear, but what could I do? The only good thing about my present situation was that my erection had subsided – Nicky’s reappearance had sufficed to make that happen. 

And then suddenly I remembered that Josh was in here, probably still sitting in that booth no more than a few yards away.

“Josh,” I prayed, silently, “can you hear me?”

“Who’s that? Arnie?” said his voice in my head.

“Yes, it’s me, and I know I said I wouldn’t ask for your help anymore, but the prince of darkness is here, and I think he’s trying to take me away to hell.”

“That asshole! Tell him to fuck off.”

“I can’t tell him anything. He’s stopped up his ears with the essence of two million bitter souls.”

“What a jerk!”

“Josh, help me, because I can feel him drawing me in.”

“In to where?”

“Into his eyes. Down into hell.”

“Okay, no problem, I’ll make him disappear.”

I said, in my brain.

I waited, but nothing happened, and I felt my essence drawing closer and closer to those jet-black eyes.

“How’s that?”
said Josh, in my head. “Did he disappear?”

“No,” I said, silently.

“Shit,” he said. “That’s weird. Okay, look, hold on and I’ll be right there. Where are you exactly?”

“I’m stuck somewhere in the midst of all these dancing drunkards, and for God’s sake Josh hurry!”

am God, you know.”

“Sorry, yes, but please hurry!”

And I felt myself just about to fall into those eyes of Nicky’s.

Could this really be it, the end, or if not the end then the beginning of eternal damnation and agony in the fires of hell? But then I remembered what my new guardian angel Bowery Bert had reminded me of earlier, i.e., that this was a fictional universe. And in fictional universes anything could happen, and a situation in which in real life one would have no hope, in a story or a novel there was always some way out. But what could that way out be if Josh, who, to be honest, sounded pretty drunk, and perhaps also pretty ineffectual, failed to make his way through the crowd in time to rescue me?

Then I remembered Nicky’s cigarette holder, the one I had picked up off the pavement earlier. Where did I put it? In my inside breast pocket of my seersucker jacket.

My right arm was still holding Emily up, and so with my left hand I awkwardly reached into the jacket, and brought it out, that shiny dark black tube.

“Hey, that’s mine!” said Nicky.

He made to grab it out of my hand, but I jerked my hand free. Then, I don’t know why, some crazy instinct I suppose, but I held the narrow mouthpiece of the holder up to my eyes and looked into it, and down its length I saw Nicky’s face, but now it was the face of a terrified naked crying baby.

“Give me that thing!”
he yelled again, and once more tried to grab it out of my hand, once more I pulled my hand away, and then, and again I don’t know why, but I put the mouthpiece in my lips and blew through it as hard as I could, and, as if he were being pulled by the scruff of the neck by some invisible giant, Nicky was drawn away, crying and screaming like a baby, into that mob of drunken dancing and thrashing people, and then he disappeared.

Someone bumped into me, and knocked the cigarette holder out of my mouth and my hand, it fell to the floor, and I thought of trying to bend down and pick it up, but of course I was still trying to hold Emily up, so that was impossible, and then Bert was yelling at me.

“Hey! Buddy boy! Wake up! I think I see an opening! You ready?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said.

And Bert, his umbrella raised high, holding Emily’s arm over his shoulder, plunged into the mob once more, dragging me along too, but then someone bumped into me again, hard, I stumbled, and I let go of Emily’s waist and breast so as not to bring her down. I staggered, from side to side, buffeted by drunks, but somehow not falling, the bodies somehow holding me up, I could no longer see Emily and Bert, they were somewhere in that mob, I would have to forge ahead and try to find them, but then some big truckdriver-type guy backed up into me and I began to fall backward, someone else elbowed me in the small of my back, and I spun around in pain and began to fall forward, but then someone caught me in his arms, and straightened me up.

It was Josh, with a cigarette in his mouth.

“Hey, pal,” he said. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I said. “Now I am.”

(Continued here, and onward, at our usual relentless weekly schedule.)

(Special guest artist: Albrecht Dürer. Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page to find what is at least meant to be an up-to-date listing of links to all other publicly available chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. It’s hard to believe, but our warehouse reports that we still seem to have a small assortment of Railroad Train to Heaven Action Figures™ remaining from our boffo holiday sales event, so order now and get a this-week-only 85% discount on all items – free delivery on all orders of $15 or more!)