So, before moving to 39 Paige Street, we decorated a house with our magical presence on North Pleasant St. in Amherst, the main road through town – connecting the UMass Campus with the rest of America. The house had a nice open porch in front, a curved staircase to the second floor, and maybe six rooms, the largest of which was on the second floor and had a kitchen. This was occupied by Dick, the blonde Afro rock star (now a banker) and his girl Nancy (aka “Smokey Stove”) . She kept trying to cook for us, but it rarely worked out. The stove fires were kept to a minimum though.
The front porch roof was a great place to sit and zone out, remarking on the traffic headed hither and yon, walking or wheel-based, and the ladies of the house got particular pleasure in September, when all the freshmen parents were driving past, by sunning themselves topless on the roof. Some glory weed may have been involved; it’s hard to say.
What the house lacked mostly was a mascot, so Dick and Nancy, and Kurt the sophomore lumber baron from NJ, endeavored one day to visit the local animal shelter and come home with a dog. So far so good. But naming the dog was not easy. By the time we reached agreement, it was too late: the dog answered to “Hereboy” and nothing else.
Now Hereboy wasn’t born with two oars in the water, so we consigned him to Smokey Stove’s place, where a cat was already in residence. The nameless cat (known as “Nameless Cat”) resented this, and took it out on Hereboy by waiting until the poor lad was sound asleep and suddenly pouncing on his head with all claws out.
A normal dog reaction would be electric, but Hereboy wasn’t normal. He’d raise his head, look around left and right, and eventually find Nameless Cat in the doorway, tail twitchin’. Dog finally added it all up and took off running down the hall after Cat, feet clawing and skidding for traction on the wood floor; whereupon Cat took off, made a sharp right turn at the head of the stairs, then a quick left, and down the stairs he went, Hereboy in hot pursuit – now with a full head of momentum and purpose.
Dog made the right turn pretty well, bouncing lightly off the Newell Post, self-correcting his flight, then turned left and downhill he went. I say down hill, because that’s what it was. His feet kept up for maybe the first 6 or 8 stairs, but then he lost it, went airborne, and thudded painfully into the wall at the bottom. Every single time. It shook the house, and we’d all yell, “Nancy keep your damned door shut! We’re trying to study.”
You might think that’s the end of the story, but no.
One terrible day, Cat decided to alter the routine. It was a September Saturday, so we were all on the porch roof, freshmen driving by, the ladies decked out in their absentee-finery, and suddenly we hear the sounds of a Cat attack through the open porch window behind us. We paused, and before long here it came – racing Cat and traction-seeking Hereboy. Chickichickichicka, down the hall madly.
But does Cat turn right at the Newell post, as he always does; always and forever? No. He goes straight ahead, down a few feet of hall, out the porch window, across the roof, and into a big cedar tree on the front lawn.
Now Hereboy may be dumb, and he was, but he caught on fast this time. Instead of bouncing off the Newell post, he plowed straight ahead after Cat, down the side hall, out the open window, past the ladies sunning gloriously on the roof, then off the roof and dead ahead and … ohhhh shit …head over teakettle into the cedar tree.
For a moment, he stuck there like Nutty Putty on a wall. He turned to look at us for guidance then, hoping to find the right road home, and then he began to slide, clawing at every branch until he landed in a highly undignified heap on the ground.
Hereboy was never much into into Cat races after that.
Eventually he was hit by a car, but I’ve never known another dog who ever had a joyride in life like Hereboy.