Saturday, June 25, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 490: pathetic

Let’s rejoin our memoirist Arnold Schnabel here in the cluttered but spacious “pad” of his timely new friend Wiggly Jones, “the little hippie boy”...

(Please click here to read our immediately preceding episode; if you are curious as to what led up to all this you may go here to return to the very first chapter of this Gold View Award™-winning 68-volume autobiography.)

“A full-hearted immersion in Arnold Schnabel’s sprawling and massive
chef-d'œuvre may lead us to question not only the author’s sanity but indeed our own.” – Harold Bloom, in The Woman’s Home Companion Literary Supplement.

While I pondered Wiggly’s question, a question to which of course there could only be one answer, I noticed the bottle of Tree Frog ale on the coffee table before me – I had been so preoccupied with talking nonsense and smoking the reefer that I had somehow forgotten to drink, and so I raised the bottle to my lips and remedied this oversight, for some reason or reasons not lowering the bottle until it was empty.

“Wow, man,” said Wiggly, “you must have had a powerful thirst.”

“Not thirst so much,” I said, after thinking his statement over for half a minute as the ale did its work on my inner machinery, “but a desire for relief, even if only temporary.”

“Because of those dudes down in the alleyway.”

“They’re the least of my problems,” I said. 

“Not if they find you and kill you, man.”

“Good point,” I said. “Although –”

I paused, as I often do when an idea is slowly taking shape in my brain, like an egg slowly growing limbs and a head and even a brain of its own inside that head.

Wiggly was patient, and while I was pausing he lifted his own bottle of Tree Frog, and also emptied what was left in it at one go. Then he poured me another healthy shot of the mezcal, as well as another for himself. I picked up my glass, Wiggly picked up his, and we both drank our shots down without ceremony. This new infusion of alcohol was all my brain needed to suddenly produce the following sentence:

“If I’m a fictional character and those guys kill me, maybe I won’t really die,” I said. “Because this whole world and everything in it, including me, is not real.”

“Dig it,” said Wiggly. He picked up the packet of cigarette papers he had used to roll the reefer we had just smoked, Tops papers they were. “I mean, like, who knows, man?”

“Right,” I said. “Who knows? Maybe at the moment of supposed death I’ll find myself back in my own world.”

“That’s very possible,” said Wiggly. He detached a sheet from the packet of Tops, licked its gummed edge, and laid it on the coffee table top. “I mean, like,” he said, “uh, whatever –”

He detached another cigarette paper, and carefully attached its ungummed edge to the wet gummed edge of the first sheet.

“But then again maybe I won’t,” I said.

“Won’t what, buddy?”, he said, tearing off a third sheet of cigarette paper.

I was getting the impression he was only barely paying attention to what I was saying, but, again, who was I to be critical, I did the same thing all the time.

“Maybe,” I said, “I won’t wind up back in my own world. My reality. My version of reality. Maybe I’ll just die.”

Wiggly had wet the gummed edge of the third piece of cigarette paper, and had attached it sidewise to the first two. He tore off a fourth piece and wet it and then rather abruptly spoke:

“That too is a like possibility, man,” he said. “It’s like I said, if this is a fictional world then, like,  anything is possible.”

“Right,” I said.

“And if your own world is fictional too, well, then, hey man, like, look out! You dig?”

“Yes,” I said.

He attached the fourth paper to the previous three, and then tore out yet another sheet. 

“Hey, you look bummed, my man,” he said.


“Like, down, like way down.”

“Yes,” I said. “I suppose I am. I just don’t know what to do.”

“Do any of us?”

He licked and attached the fifth piece of paper to the four others.

“Some people seem to know what to do,” I ventured to say.

He tore off a sixth piece of paper, and then finally put the packet of Tops down. He licked the paper.

“Only the holy men know, man.”

“The holy men.”

“Yeah.” He added the sixth and final sheet to its fellows on the table, making one rectangular sheet the size of a postcard. “Oh, and like the peasants, man. Working the fields and shit. They know.”

“They do?”

“Yes, man. The noble fellaheen of the singing earth, man.”

Now he was picking clumps of marijuana out of the carved metal box, and crumbling it onto the papers on the table. 

“That always seemed like a hard life to me,” I said. “Being a peasant I mean.”

“Y’know,” said Wiggly, he paused in his work and looked up at me, “it probably is, man, it probably, like, is. Maybe the peasants don’t know after all. But you agree with me about the holy men at least, right?”

“Possibly,” I said.

He was rolling the marijuana and the papers into a reefer now, an especially big one.

“Maybe, man,” he said, “I mean, maybe – maybe nobody knows, man.”

“Excuse me,” I said, “but what are we talking about exactly?”

“About whether the holy men know what it’s all about.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, I really wouldn’t know.”

“Why not, man?”

“Well,” I said, and I could almost hear the clanking of the gears in my head, “if only holy men know, then that means that I can’t know, because I’m not a holy man. So there’s no way I can even know if holy men know.”

“That’s deep, man. Maybe you’re like a holy man.”

“I doubt that very much,” I said. “And anyway.”

“Anyway what, man?”

“Anyway, aren’t there all sorts of holy men? And don’t they all say different things? They can’t all be right, can they?”

“I don’t know, man. Can they?”

“I don’t know either,” I said. 

“Because you’re not a holy man.”

“Yes,” I said. "I mean no, I'm not –"

“Not that you know of,” said Wiggly.

The reefer was rolled now, big, long and fat, and Wiggly ran his tongue along the length of it.

“I’m afraid,” I said, it just came out.

“I don’t blame you – I’m sorry, it’s Alan?”


“Arnold.” With his dexterous slender fingers he was gently smoothing the bumps in that enormous reefer. “I don’t blame you, Arnold. I would be scared, too. And, like, hey, if you really are the like hero of this novel we’re in, then like what happens to me? Like if you get killed does the novel just end and then I end, too? Man?”

“I wish I could answer that in a way that would not be frightening to you, Wiggly,” I said.

“Oh, no, Alan, it’s cool –”


“I mean, oh no, Arnold, it’s cool. I mean, if I really am a fictional character, well, you know, I mean, I guess I just have to be like zen about it. Or like, I don’t know, man. But it’s cool.”

“But, Wiggly, doesn’t it bother you to know that you’re just the creation of some writer?”

“Not really,” he said. He gave the great big reefer a couple of more light licks with his tongue. “I mean, like, how is being the creation of some author any different from being the creation of some like divine being?”

Wiggly politely proffered me the reefer.

“Oh, no,” I said.

“Come on –” he paused, still holding out that reefer the size of a Dutch Masters cigarillo, then suddenly he almost shouted: “Arnold!”

“Yes?” I said.

“It is Arnold, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said. “You got it right that time.”

“Come on, Arnold, don’t leave me hanging, man. Take the joint, dude.”

“I think I’ve had too much already,” I said.

“Why? You got someplace you got to be?”


“Come on, man, it’ll free your fine mind.”

I don’t know why, but I took the reefer, and the smiling Wiggly Jones gave me a light with the smiling Buddha lighter.

I sucked it in, that warm thick smoke, and then, Wiggly style, I sucked a couple more good draws in without inhaling, and then I handed the reefer back to Wiggly.

“What,” he said, “and, look, man, I’m just speculating here. What if everything is the real world – like everything, man – like right here, and this other dimension you come from –”

I exhaled a cloud of smoke that all but obscured Wiggly from my sight, and said, “Dimensions.”

“I beg your pardon, man?”

“I’ve been in several dimensions or worlds, whatever you want to call them,” I said. “More than several.”

“Okay, then – Arnie? I can call you Arnie?”


“So like what if all these dimensions are real, man?”

I sighed.

“Yeah, I have to say they feel real when I’m in them,” I said.

“You know, you’re both pretty pathetic,” said the smiling Buddha lighter.

“Oh, shit, man,” said Wiggly. “You hear that, dude? Arnie?”

“Yes,” I said. “I heard that.”

“Of course he heard it,” said the Buddha. “He’s not deaf. Dumb maybe, but not deaf, heh heh? Get it?”

“Yeah, man,” said Wiggly, “I like, get it.”

Pathetic. The both of you,” said the Buddha.

“We’re, like, sorry, man,” said Wiggly.

“Oh, don’t be sorry,” said the Buddha. “You can’t help it. You’re humans.”

“That is, like, so true, man, sir, your holiness,” said Wiggly. “But, like, wow, man.”

“’But, like, wow, man,’” repeated the Buddha, and then he addressed me. “And what have you got to say for yourself, bright boy?”

“Nothing?” I said.

(Continued here, and onward, until every last one of those black-and-white marble copybooks filled with Arnold’s surprisingly neat handwriting has been transcribed.)

(Kindly cast an eye down the right hand column of this page to find a soi-disant up-to-date listing of links to all other legally-released chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. Please click here to order the new fully-illustrated  paperback edition of our friend rhoda penmarq’s poems for everyone, by wiggly jones, "the little hippie boy"– on sale now for a risibly reasonable $2.13 plus shipping!)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 489: hero

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the pad of his new friend Wiggly Jones, “the little hippie boy”...

(Kindly go here to read last week’s exciting chapter; if you think you might like to go in for the long haul then click here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 59-volume memoir.)

“To the young people of today I say: ‘Tear yourselves away from your puerile computer games! If you really want to experience adventure vicariously, then dive headfirst forthwith into Arnold Schnabel’s massive and towering chef-d'œuvre!’” – Harold Bloom, in The Gawker Literary Supplement.

“Reality,” said Wiggly, in a way that those authors of the only kinds of books I read might describe as pensive or maybe laden with meaning. 

He had finished rolling the reefer, as fat as a big fat man’s little finger, and now he put out his tongue and lightly licked the reefer along its length a few times, turning it as he did so. Then he put one end of the reefer between his lips and picked up a table lighter from out of the piles of books and magazines and other odds and ends too numerous to list on the coffee table. The lighter was shaped like a smiling Buddha, or rather the lighter mechanism was on the Buddha’s lap, as if he were holding it there. Anyway, no matter, Wiggly clicked the lighter into flame and lit his reefer, taking what I now considered his usual big drag. Then without exhaling he took another drag, again a big one. And then, I don’t know why, maybe he felt that smoking marijuana increased his ability to talk nonsense with a madman, he took yet another big drag, and he held all three drags in while he proffered the reefer to me.

I took the reefer, but I suddenly became aware that I already was extremely under the influence of marijuana, on top of the big shot of mezcal I had just drunk and the good healthy gulp of Tree Frog ale, on top of everything else, like for instance being marooned in yet another outlandish fictional world. But I took a moderate drag anyway; I didn’t want to seem impolite or ungrateful, especially to someone who might well have just saved my life.

Wiggly exhaled an enormous cloud of reefer smoke my way.

“Y’know, Arnold,” he said, “it’s funny, because I always considered this dimension to be reality.”

I exhaled my own modest lungful of smoke.

“I’ll admit that all this –” I said, waving my hand in a half-hearted way – “certainly seems, uh, realistic.”

“That’s what I’ve always thought,” said Wiggly. “So, dig, tell me about this ‘reality’ you come from, man.”

He held out his hand, and I realized I was still holding on to the reefer. I gave it back to him, he took another drag, and held it in. 

He sure liked his reefer, but who was I to be critical of anyone else?

He exhaled.

“Well?” he said.

“Yes?” I said.

“Your reality, man. The dimension you come from. What’s it like?”

“Oh. Well,” I said, “I suppose it’s like any other reality, really, you know, just the so-called ‘real world’, or, uh –”

“So you have, like, people, cars, trains, buildings, the United States of America, like, I don’t know –” he looked around – “like – things?”

“Yes,” I said. “We have all the usual stuff.”

“And so how is it different from this dimension?”

“If I answer that,” I said, after a brief pause which Wiggly made use of by taking another drag of his reefer, “you may find the answer disturbing, Wiggly.”

Wiggly exhaled a fresh warm lungful of smoke in my face, some of which I’m sure made its way into my own lungs.

“I think I can handle it, man,” he said. “Maybe. Go ahead, and I’ll just tell you to stop if it gets too weird for me.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s pretty weird.”

“Take another toke on this doobie and try me.”

He held out the aforementioned “doobie” and I took it, I don’t know why, nor why I took a good-sized drag off of it.

“In a nutshell, Wiggly,” I said, after exhaling a cloud of my own broken dreams, “this is a fictional world.”

“This one here,” he said. “The one we’re in right now.”

“Right,” I said. “It’s the world of a novel called The Ace of Death, by Horace P. Sternwall.”

“Oh, man – Horace P. Sternwall, I love that cat’s books.” 

“Yes,” I said, “I see you have one here.”

I picked up the Jolly Six Bums paperback, holding it so that Wiggly could see the cover.

The Jolly Six Bums – I don’t think I’ve read that one yet. I read so many books.”

“Well,” I said, “at any rate, we’re in one of his books.”

The Ace of –”

Death,” I said. “It’s called The Ace of Death.”

“That’s so weird, man.” I was hogging the reefer again, so Wiggly reached over the table and took it from my fingers. “And, like, how did you get into this fictional world?”

“Well,” I said, “it’s all a pretty long story, really, but I was in another fictional universe, and this friend of mine named Big Ben Blagwell –”

Big Ben Blagwell?”

“Yes,” I said.

“The hero of Set Sail for Tortuga! by Horace P. Sternwall?”

“Yeah, maybe, ” I said, “I mean I haven’t read that one, but –”

“And what’s that other one, They Call Her Bangkok Betty, also by Horace P. Sternwall?”

“Uh –”

“Or Sapphic Sisters of the Sulu Sea? That was this one where Ben gets taken prisoner by these lesbian pirates, and –”

“Well, I don’t think I’ve read those books,” I said, “but it’s probably the same Ben Blagwell. He’s apparently a recurring hero in Horace’s books.”

“So you actually know this Big Ben Blagwell?”

“Yes,” I said. “I guess you could say we’re friends. Anyway, we were at this bar, and Ben started to read aloud from Horace’s book –”

“You say Horace like you know him.”

“Yes, well, I do, actually – I guess he’s sort of a friend of mine as well. Anyway, we were at this bar, me and Ben and Horace, and, uh, some other guys –”

“And who were they?”

“Oh, just some guys.”

“More friends of yours?”

“Well, sort of. One is more like an acquaintance, really –”

“Who is he?”

“Well, his name is, uh, Mr. Philpot –”

“Not Mr. Philpot the bookseller?”

“Yes, him,” I said. “You know him?”

“Of course! What a crazy old dude! So, like, he’s fictional too?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” I said.

“So go on.”

“I forget what I was saying.”

“You were saying how you got into this dimension.”

“Oh, right, so we’re sitting at this booth – me, Ben, Horace, Mr. Philpot, um, and a couple other guys –”

“Who were they?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Maybe it does, man.”

“Okay, one was the son of God, except now he’s become a human being again, and he goes by the name of Josh.”

“Cool. Very cool. And who else was there?”

“I hope you won’t laugh at me.”

“I promise not to laugh at you, dude.”

“The other person there was a talking fly, named Ferdinand.”

“A talking fly.”

“Yes,” I said. “A talking fly. Named Ferdinand.”

“Ha ha!” Wiggly laughed. “Ha ha ha!”

“I know this is all a little hard to believe,” I said.

“Oh, no, man, it’s very easy to believe.”

“It is?”

“Sure, man, so, go on, how did you make the scene into this dimension, daddy?”

“Okay. Well, as I say, Ben started to read from this book –”

The Ace of Doom.”

“Ace of Death, actually.”

“I dig. Death. Cool.”

“Yeah,” I said, “um, okay, so Ben started reading the beginning of the book out loud, and next thing I knew I was in the book. I was in that alley down there, being threatened by those three hoods.”

“Uh-huh. That must have been a mind fuck.”

“Well, these things happen to me,” I said. “I – I fall into fictional universes, and it’s, well, it’s hard to get out of them. I know it sounds odd.”

“No, man.”


“No, Reginald.”

“My name is Arnold actually.”

“So, like, no, Arnold. I mean, like, it all makes sense now.”

“It does?”

“At last, man, it explains like everything.”

“I see.”

“You do?”

“Not really,” I said.

“It makes sense because if this whole world is fiction then like anything can happen. Which like explains why everything has happened.”

“It does?”

“Why else would everything be so weird, man?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, now you do, my friend. Now you do.”

“But my world is weird also,” I said.

“Okay then.”


“Yeah. Okay. That means your world is probably fictional, too, dude.”

“You’re saying I’m fictional.”

“Just like me, man. Slide me some skin.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Put your hand out, man. Palm up.”

I held out my hand.

Wiggly ran his open hand over my open hand.

“Brothers, man.”


“The union of our two fictional worlds, Harold. But, like, who is the hero?”

“The hero?”

“Like who’s the like hero of this book we’re in, man?” 

“Uh –”

“Who’s the main character, the, like, protagonist, the hero – wait, your name’s not Harold, is it?”

“No,” I said.

“Don’t tell me. B. – Bernard?”

“Arnold,” I said.

Arnold, right. Who is it, Arnold?”

“Who is what?”

“Who’s the hero of the book we’re in, the world we’re in, this fictional universe we’re in? Who’s the like main character, man?”

We had been passing the reefer back and forth through all this, and now it was considerably shorter than it had been when Wiggly rolled it. It was in my fingers now, and I took a drag before answering Wiggly’s question.

“I like to think that I am the main character of my life,” I said, “if not the hero.”

“Well, that’s the thing, man, isn’t it?” said Wiggly, and he took what was left of the reefer from my hand.

“Isn’t what it?” I said.

Wiggly took his customary deep drag off the nubbin of reefer, held it in for a good thirty seconds, and then exhaled a great roiling fog bank of fragrant smoke my way before continuing.

“Isn’t everybody the hero of their own life?” he said.

(Continued here, and onward, until every remaining one of those hundreds of marble copybooks filled with Arnold’s small but neat handwriting has been transcribed, with only the most obvious chirographic and spelling errors silently corrected)

(Please scroll down the right hand column of this page to find a more usually than not current listing of links to all other officially-available episodes of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. Kindly click here to order the handsome new illustrated  paperback edition of our esteemed colleague rhoda penmarq’s poems for everyone by wiggly jones, “the little hippie boy” – on sale now for a laughably cheap $2.13 plus shipping!)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 488: reality

We last saw our hero Arnold Schnabel following his new acquaintance Wiggly Jones (“the little hippie boy”) up a fire escape in some dark, dank and reeking alleyway...

(Please click here to read last week’s thrilling episode; if you are the sort of person who is said by those perhaps more cruel than kind to have way too much time on your hands you might as well go here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 68-volume autobiography.)

“To enter into the world of Arnold Schnabel is to enter into many worlds, including even, I daresay, that one which we lesser mortals inhabit.” – Harold Bloom, in
The AARP Literary Quarterly.

As I climbed the fire escape I took stock of my current corporeal host, and despite the uncertainty of my situation I was relieved to realize that except for an ache in the back of my head, and two others on my left forearm and hip – all no doubt accrued after my tumble from the lid of the trashcan – as well as another persistent pain in my right elbow from where I had been sapped by the Rat, and a stinging above my Adam’s apple from where the Toad had pricked me with his knife – aside from all these I was free of physical agony. Spiritual or moral agony of course were other matters.

And so I climbed, all the way up to the uppermost landing – which was at the fifth or sixth or maybe even the seventh floor, it wasn’t as if I had been keeping count – where Wiggly waited, smoking his reefer again, leaning casually back against the railing, apparently not suffering the least fear of heights.

“I see you’re hardly even winded,” he said, handing me the reefer. “Well done, old chap! Do you play tennis?”

“No,” I said. I obligingly, no, strike that, I thoughtlessly took a big drag off the reefer, and held the smoke in my lungs, I was learning how to be a dope fiend. After no longer than half a minute I exhaled, and out of politeness or to hear myself talk I expanded upon my simple negative,  “I swim a lot, or at least I used to swim a lot.”

“Used to?” he said. “No longer?”

“I hope to get back into the habit,” I said, letting it go at that, and taking another drag of the reefer. 

With one hand on the fire escape rail, I looked down, towards the exit of the alleyway. I could see that it led out onto a city street. A car like a toy car rode past, followed by a toy bus, with little toy people in it.

Wiggly took the reefer from my fingers, and he took a drag from it.

I looked up over the roofs of the buildings across the street. I saw the lights of a bridge off to the right, with two streams of headlights crawling back and forth over it.

Wiggly blew a great rich cloud of reefer smoke into my face and then it drifted off disappearing into the nighttime sky. There were no stars out, no moon, the sky looked like a lake of tar. Standing here on the landing of this fire escape I felt as if I were floating in the warm and humid dark air.

“Exercise is cool,” said Wiggly. “Unless you don’t feel like exercising.”

“Uh, yeah,” I said.

“Cats don’t exercise,” he said. “Did you ever notice that?”

“Yes,” I said. “I mean, I guess I never thought about it, but I, uh –”

Wiggly passed the reefer back to me, and I duly put it to my lips and drew deeply on it.

“Unless they feel like it,” said Wiggly.

“Feel like it?” I said, after slowly exhaling, the question mark being there because I had lost the thread of the conversation, such as it was.

Wiggly took the reefer and dragged, held it in, exhaled.

“Unless they feel like it,” he said. “Cats. They don’t exercise unless they feel like it.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s true,” I said, after thinking it over for a minute, a minute during which the reefer changed hands from Wiggly to me and back to Wiggly again.

“That’s what I do,” he said.

“Pardon me?”

“I only exercise if I feel like it.”

“Ah,” I said.

“And if I don’t feel like it I don’t.”

“Uh,” I said.

“Uh-oh,” he said. He was looking back down into the alleyway. “It’s those dudes.”


“The three dudes you fired the gun at,” he said. “Look, they’re peeking around the corner of the alley. Probably looking for you. Hey, maybe they’ve got guns now, too!”

I looked down, and I saw them, the three of them bending forward to peer into the alleyway – the Toad, and leaning over him the Rat, and over the Rat the Bear

“Um, Wiggly,” I whispered, “I wonder if we could go inside?”

“Into my pad?”

“Yes,” I said.

“That might be a good idea. Come on.”

There was an open window with pulled-back paisley curtains right there off the fire escape, and Wiggly climbed through it as gracefully as a cat. When he was inside he beckoned to me. 

“Come on in, Arnold, but watch your step. It’s a few feet down to the floor.”

I managed to climb through without falling down, and I was in a large room maybe forty feet square, dimly lit, with lots of pictures on the walls, lots of clutter everywhere, bookshelves, oriental-looking hangings on the walls, folding screens with paintings on them, couches, chairs, tables, cushions and ottomans on the floor, bongo drums and other musical instruments whose names I didn’t know, a hi-fi set, a big TV. Far away on the other side of the room were windows with multi-colored curtains


There didn’t seem to be air-conditioning in here, but on the other hand there must have been a half-dozen or so electric fans on in various places and windows, some of them oscillating, and so it was not too unpleasantly hot.

“This is my pad,” said Wiggly, waving his hand that held the reefer. "You dig it?”

“Uh, yes,” I said.

“I of course am a bohemian, but then you’ve probably already gathered that by my beard, my longish hair, and not least by the reefer.”

“Yes, I had surmised that much, I think,” I said.

“Come sit over here on the divan,” said Wiggly. “I daresay you’ve had quite a shock.”

“Yes, I won’t deny it,” I said.

I followed his lead to what he called the divan, I would just call it a small couch, anyway, it was there, covered in some sort of big Chinese or Japanese sheet, with a cluttered carved wooden coffee table in front of it. I sat down.

“How about some refreshment?” said Wiggly. “Cognac? Schnapps? Beer? Wine? Old Fashioned or Manhattan?”

“Whatever you’re having,” I said.

“Righto,” he said.

He took another big drag on the reefer, what was left of it, then leaned forward, holding what was left of the reefer out to me. I took it, and he went off, leaving a trail of slowly exhaled reefer smoke behind him, crossing the room diagonally to the left and going through a bead curtain into what I would have presumed to be the kitchen if I had bothered to presume anything.

I took another big drag off the nubbin of reefer, then another. It was almost gone. There was a glass ashtray on the table, and it had what looked like a dozen other butts of reefers in it. I added one more, stubbing it out so as not to waste its precious weed.

The table was covered with books and magazines, papers, notebooks and other odds and ends.

I noticed one paperback book with an interesting cover painting.

The book’s title was The Day My Mind Exploded, and Other Poems. And below that it said by Wiggly Jones, ‘the little hippie boy’. The painting on the cover showed a man’s head bursting open, but instead of brains and blood flowers were flying out of it.

I picked up the book and opened it at random, came to a page that had a poem with the apparent title of “poop”. I read the following:

i don’t know why people speak ill of poop.
poop is good. i mean, it feels good to poop!

me, i look forward to pooping each day,
and in fact I might go so far as to say
that pooping is the highlight of my day.
That was it. That was the poem in its entirety.

There was another poem on the facing page. That one was titled “piss” and it read:

gosh gee i like to take a piss

and please don’t take it amiss
when I say I like to watch it hiss
so merrily into the toilet bowl…

There was more to that poem, but I had seen enough. I closed the book and put it down.

Another poet.

Well, there was no point in pretending that I was any better. 

I picked up another paperback. This one was called Love Songs of a Lunatic. Also by Wiggly Jones, ‘the little hippie boy’. The cover painting showed a man behind a barred window, gripping the bars, and shouting, or singing, or at any rate with his mouth open. 

I didn’t bother opening that one up, and I put it back down. 

Another paperback caught my eye, and I picked it up. The title of this one was The Jolly Six Bums, and I can’t say I was surprised to see that the author was Horace P. Sternwall. Well, if I was in a Horace P. Sternwall novel, why shouldn’t I find another one of his books in it? This cover showed what looked like five bums walking along a road. I wondered why there were only five bums when the title said six, but on closer inspection I saw a fly merrily buzzing along among the bums, and that of course would be the sixth one, the fly, and I wondered if his name was Ferdinand in the book. There also was Big Ben Blagwell walking along, with his beat-up yachting cap and his Hawaiian shirt, and Horace with his worn brown leather jacket and his fedora, and little old bald-headed Mr. Philpot in his ancient three-piece suit, dusty from the road, and Josh, in his blue suit, needing a cleaning and pressing, and there I suppose was me, bringing up the rear, in my wrinkled and dirty seersucker jacket, looking as lugubrious as ever.

Wiggly came back into the room, carrying a fancy silver or silver-looking tray with a bottles and glasses on it. I put the book down, face down, but that didn’t help much, because there was an author’s photograph of Horace on the back cover.

“I hope Tree Frog ale is okay,” said Wiggly.

“I’m not familiar with that brand,” I said, “but if it’s beer or ale it’s okay with me.”

“So you’re not particular,” he said. 

“No,” I said, I had who had freely drunk thousands of bottles and mugs and glasses and schooners of Schmidt's and Ortlieb's in my time. 

“Do me a favor," said Wiggly, "clear a space on that table, will you? For the tray.”

I did as he asked, moving some books and papers and magazines aside into piles, and Wiggly put the tray down in the space I had cleared.

There were two pint bottles on the tray, as well as a bigger bottle with something murky and yellow in it, also two rocks glasses, a little china bowl with wedges of limes, a salt shaker.

With his foot Wiggly pushed a flowered print hassock over to the opposite side of the coffee table from me and sat down.

“The stuff in the yellow bottle is mezcal,” he said. “It’s a booze the Mexicans make from some crazy plant. I hope you don’t mind.”

“As long as it’s booze,” I said, which has always been my philosophy, maybe my only philosophy.

He held the bottle up. It had no label, and there was something shriveled and grey at the bottom of it. 

“That’s a worm down there. When you get to the bottom you’re supposed to swallow the worm.”

I decided right then that I would let Wiggly have the worm. 

He pulled a cork out of the bottle and then poured two good shots into the rocks glasses.

“So here’s how you do it,” he said. “You lick a little salt off the heel of your hand, then drink the shot, then you suck a lime wedge. Want to try it?”

“Okay,” I said.

Without thinking I picked up the glass closest to me and drank it down. It wasn’t bad. I could tell it had alcohol in it, and that was the main thing.

“You forgot the salt and the lemon,” said Wiggly.

“Oh,” I said. “Sorry.”

“I think I’ll try it your way,” he said. 

He picked up the other glass, drank it down in one go.

“Not bad,” he said. 

Then he lifted up one of the pint bottles, and drank, deeply.

I picked up the other pint bottle. Sure enough the label read:

Tree Frog Fine Ale
It’s good for what ales you!

There was a painting of a frog on a branch of a tree. 

I had seen enough. I raised the bottle to my lips, upended it, and drank deeply.

When I lowered the bottle I saw that Wiggly had opened an engraved metal box of some sort, and in it was a lot of green stuff which somehow I knew was reefer. He had a book of cigarette papers, and he began rolling one.

“So tell me about yourself, Arnold,” he said.

I suppose the mezcal and the Tree Frog ale and all the reefer I had smoked had relaxed my usual inhibitions, because without beating about the bush for once I got right to the point.

“I come from another dimension,” I said.

“Cool,” said Wiggly. “What’s this dimension called, man?”

“I call it reality,” I said.

(Continued here, and ever onward, ad astram if not ad infinitum.)

(Please look down the right hand column of this page to find a rigorously current listing of links to all other publicly released chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. Kindly click here to order the handsome paperback edition of our esteemed colleague rhoda penmarq’s poems for everyone by wiggly jones, “the little hippie boy” – on sale now for a risible $1.89 plus shipping!)

Friday, June 3, 2016

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 487: Wiggly

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in some sweltering dark alley, where he has just gotten the drop on the three menacing goons called the Toad, the Rat, and the Bear…

(Kindly go here to read our immediately preceding chapter; if you are a hopeless victim of an obsessive compulsive literary disorder you might want to click here to start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 73-volume autobiography.)

“Each volume of Arnold Schnabel’s massive and towering
chef-d'œuvre packs as much punch as a dozen novels by any other American novelist of the 20th century, with the possible exception of those of his friend the prolific Horace P. Sternwall.” – Harold Bloom, in The US Weekly Literary Quarterly.

Original art by rhoda penmarq, for penmarqetable™ productions.

“Okay,” I said. “Everybody, back up.”

“I say we rush him,” said the Bear.

“I’m game,” said the Rat.

“Fuck you guys,” said the Toad. “He ain’t pointing the rod at your ugly mugs. Do what he says and back up.”

The Toad backed up a couple of steps, and the Bear and the Rat, with seeming reluctance, did as well.

“Okay,” I said. “Now here’s what I want you guys to do. Just turn around and run.”

“Where to?” said the Bear.

“I don’t care,” I said. “Just out of this alley.”

“And then what?” said the Rat.

“Keep running,” I said.

“Which way?” said the Toad.

“Uh,” I said. “To the right.”

“Oh, okay,” said the Toad. He glanced at the Rat and the Bear. “Sure. We can do that, right, pals? Run to the right?”

“Yeah, sure,” said the Rat. He looked up at the Bear and winked. “To the right, right, Bear?”

“Yeah, right.” said the Bear. “To the right. Gladly. Let’s go, fellas.”

Something about their willingness to run to the right gave me pause.

“On second thought,” I said, “I’m sorry, go to the left.”

“We don’t mind going to the right,” said the Bear.

“Yeah, to the right’s good for me,” said the Rat.

“Yeah, we might as well just run to the right,” said the Toad.

“To the left,” I said.

“Why?” said the Toad.

“Yeah, why?” said the Rat.

“What’s wrong with us going to the right?” said the Bear.

“Here’s what’s wrong with it,” I said. “I’m going to follow you to the end of the alley and if you don’t run to the left I’m going to start shooting at you.”

“You think you can hit a running man with that snubnose, punk?” said the Bear.

“Somebody as big as you I think that’s a possibility, yeah,” I said.

“Punk ass,” said the Bear.

“Faggot,” said the Rat.

“Schmuck,” said Toad.

“Okay, I guess I’ll shoot you first, Toad,” I said. (By the way, I have no idea how I knew their names, or nicknames, but I did.)

“Awright, awright,” said the Toad. “Keep your shirt on.” He folded up his knife, it was a folding knife, and stuck it in his jacket pocket. “Let’s go, fellas. We can take care of this putz later.”

The rat put his sap away in his jacket pocket.

“You ain’t getting away with this, douchebag,” he said and he pointed a finger like some long and misshapen dried-up tuber at me.

“Yeah,” said the Bear, and he did that punching his fist into his other palm thing again. “Someday, somehow, somewhere, we’re gonna catch up with you, and when we do –”

“If you like I can shoot you first, Bear,” I said, and I pointed the gun at his chest. I had to point it upward to do so.

“Awright, awright,” he said, holding out those massive hands of his, they were like two first-basemen’s gloves, except without so much webbing. “Jeeze, pal, don’t be so touchy.”

“Faggots are always touchy,” said the Rat.

“Or I can shoot you first, Rat,” I said, and I pointed the pistol at his scrawny chest and cocked the hammer. I had seen people cock the hammers of revolvers in movies, but as soon as I did it I realized that I didn’t know how to uncock it, and simultaneously I wondered how much easier the pistol would be to shoot with the hammer cocked, and I wondered if I might shoot the gun without meaning to, and then sure enough, the gun went off with a sound like a garbage truck smashing into a brick wall.

Fortunately for the Rat the bullet didn’t hit him, but it probably did fly very close to the side of his narrow head, and even though I had not meant to fire the gun I suppose these three didn’t know that, and all three of them produced yelping sounds, stumbled back a few more steps almost as if they were doing a dance routine in unison, then turned and ran off down the alleyway, knocking over a few trashcans as they went, down to the exit maybe thirty feet away, making sure to turn to the left, and I could hear their running footsteps clacking and thudding away into the distance.

I sighed.

The gun had made a tremendous lot of noise, and so had the falling trashcans, but now all was silence. Maybe the people around here were used to this sort of thing.

Now what? I had no idea where I was, except in some sort of dark alley, with some dim patches and bars of pale light from a few windows above me and from the exit down there. Now that I had a moment to pay attention to my physical senses I became aware of a general foul stench in the dank hot air, and I continued to sweat profusely. I knew I had to get out of there, but to where? I glanced back in the opposite direction from where the three thugs had run, but the alley ended in a dead end wall extending up five or six stories high. There were two fire escapes in the alley, one on the left towards the exit about ten feet ahead of me and another one on the right a bit further down. The pavement was dull slimy-looking cobblestones, and in the faint half-light I could see rubbish, boxes, trash cans along the walls. I took one step towards the exit, but then I stopped. What if the three goons had crept back and were crouching just around the corner of the alleyway, waiting for me to come out, ready to pounce?

“Hey, buddy!” said a voice. “Up here!”

The voice came from above, to my left. I looked up. Way up there at the very top of the fire escape someone was leaning over the rail.

“Get up on the one of those trash cans,” called the voice, in a sort of whisper that still carried all the way down. “Reach up and pull the fire escape thing down, then climb up. I do it all the time when I forget my keys!”

“Who are you?” was all I could think of to say.

“A friend!” said the voice. “Come on! You don’t want to take any chances with those guys. It’s easy. Just push one of those trash cans under the fire escape.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Well, it’s up to you, daddy-o.”

I saw a tiny glowing dot of redness near the man’s head, as if he were dragging on a cigarette.

I sighed again, but wound up doing as I had been advised. I put the pistol back in my jacket pocket, went over to below the fire escape on the left, moved a trash can directly under it, made sure the lid was secure and that the can was against the wall.

If you’ve ever tried to climb up onto a metal trash can, even if it is set against a wall, I think you’ll discover this is not such an easy thing to do because of the convex shape of the lid, the handle in the center of it, and also because the lid may be slippery with ancient alleyway ooze. It wasn’t easy for me, and in fact the can immediately tumbled away under my feet and me with it, and I only had time for a brief shout of fear and despair before I was thrust into unconsciousness.

“Ah, you’re awake!” said the voice.

A face was above me, the face of a young man with a wispy blond beard. 

I was lying on my back. Apparently I was still in the alleyway, lying on the hard filthy cobblestones. My head hurt, but that was nothing new.

“Um,” I said.

“Hiya, buddy,” said the voice of the young man with the beard. “How are ya feeling?”

“I’ve felt worse,” I said.

“Let me help you up.”

The next thing I knew the young guy was helping me to my feet, and once I was on my feet I managed to stay there.

“Thank you,” I said.

The young fellow was shirtless and wearing what looked like a pair of old tennis shorts. He needed a haircut, and I noticed that he was wearing rope sandals. He was smoking a reefer.

“What’s your name, brother?” he said, and he offered me the reefer. I took it, I have no idea why.

“Arnold,” I said. I took a drag on the reefer. What did I have to lose? “Arnold Schnabel,” I said, without exhaling.

“Hi, Arnold. I’m Wiggly.”

I exhaled. I had to admit I felt better already. But, wait, what had he said his name was?

“Pardon me?” I said.

“Sure,” he said, and he took the reefer from my fingers.

“No,” I said, “I mean, what did you say your name was?”

He took a few drags before replying.

“Wiggly,” he said, and he exhaled a great cloud of fragrant reefer smoke in my face.

“Wiggly,” I said.

I had thought he said that, but needless to say I wanted to make sure I had not misheard.

“Wiggly Jones,” he said. “They call me ‘the little hippie boy’.”

“But you’re not little,” I said.

“That’s just what they call me,” he said.

“I see,” I said, although I didn’t.

“But my friends just call me Wiggly,” he said. “Call me Wiggly.”

“Hi, Wiggly.”

“Come on,” he said. He pinched the reefer out with two fingers, and then put the reefer behind his ear. “Let’s go up to my pad.”

In a blur of seamless movement, or in what seemed to me a blur, he picked up a lidless trashcan that was lying on its side, probably the one I had just fallen off of, put its lid back on it, set it up near the wall under the fire escape, leaped gracefully on top of it, grabbed the bottom step of the fire escape, pulled its lower section creaking and clanking down and then climbed onto it.

He turned to me and beckoned with one hand.

“Come on, Arnold! Don’t be afraid. Follow me.”

And he started up the steps.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I went over to the fire escape and climbed on. Wiggly Jones, the little hippie boy, was scrambling up the steps above me as quick as a monkey. I followed him, not so quickly.

(Continued here.)

(Kindly scroll down the right hand column of this page to find an up-to-date {or nearly so} listing of links to all other published episodes of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©. Please click here to order the excellent new paperback volume by our esteemed colleague rhoda penmarq: poems for everyone by wiggly jones, “the little hippie boy” {first edition} – now on sale for a mere $1.89 plus shipping!)