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!)

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