edited by professor dan leo
illustrated by konrad kraus
part one of six
"arnold schnabel is the american strindberg or hamsun - perhaps even the american hofmannsthal" - horace p sternwall
I hate the beach, and truth be told I’m not all that crazy about sunshine.
But I have come here, to my aunts’ place in Cape May, because my mother thinks it would be good for me, and because she likes to see her sisters now and then.
My mother also has no interest in the beach. She spends her days mostly working in the garden, or trimming the hedges.
I read, walk around, try to stay sane.
I go to mass every morning without fail, and I think that helps. (Or so I pray. I pray that the daily mass helps. I pray that my prayers help.)
Occasionally I stop in a bar and nurse a beer. I look at baseball games on the television.
Sometimes I get into conversations with people. Americans seem to be a friendly sort by and large. People like to talk. With little or no prodding they will and do tell you everything about themselves.
I listen, or sort of listen, I like to think I have always been very much a nice guy, but I do not reciprocate their autobiographical effusiveness.
What can I tell them?
That I live with my mother and except for the few years of my decidedly unheroic military career have always lived with my mother, that, again excepting for my time in the modest service of Uncle Sam, I have worked my entire life as a brakeman for the Reading Railroad, that last winter I went completely out of my mind and spent eight weeks in Byberry?
That after a while I returned to work but, following a few embarrassing episodes (some of which I was aware of at the time, others to which I was oblivious), it was strongly suggested that I take an extended leave of absence on half-pay?
That I was on prescribed pills but stopped taking them?
That after ceasing to take these pills I would occasionally suffer the most frightening hallucinations, hallucinations which while they were happening were as real as anything I have experienced in my life?
And that -- knock on wood -- it has now been a few weeks since my last “episode”?
No, I choose not to share all this with my new temporary friends.
I won’t say no one wants to hear this sort of thing because actually people love to hear horror stories, as of course do I.
No, I simply don’t want to be the one telling them, with me as the subject; except for here, in this notebook, where it’s all between me, myself and that other lunatic: I.