To write something that happened as long ago as the Sixties requires some digging through old memories. This morning I woke up to my cat sitting on my chest, softly batting at my nose. It brought to mind another cat and events on Grove Street in Boston. I decided to share.
Everyone had a “handle” – a nickname, at the Folkie Palace. Our fearless leader was the Teahead of the August Moon; then Monk, Mike the Vike, the Canary, and my friend Bill known as Red. Even the cat had a handle. She was called Neurotic, and she was.
Her off-kilter behavior allowed her to fit in with aberrant norms at the Palace. Neurotic was not an unwilling prisoner. She had equal rights to all the other residents, except she alone was allowed to sit on the kitchen table. If there were one rule you could not break at the Palace, it was don’t hurt the cat. People who tried found themselves unwelcome.
A visitor from New York found this out on Sunday. We just finished watching Treasure Island on television when he was caught dangling the cat from the front window.
He had earned the handle Sadist on his first evening at the Palace. It was not good to receive a handle right away. A handle got awarded on the considered evaluation of behavior. Rapid branding was a hint to leave. But the Sadist did not listen. So when he was caught dangling the cat out the window pretending to toss her, we decided he had to go.
The plank was a long wide balk of wood we stored on the roof. It was barely long enough to span the distance between our building and the adjacent one. Everyone walked the plank at one time or the other. The distance between the two buildings could not have been eight feet, but it felt like eighteen on the plank. That evening we sat on the roof and drank Narragansett beer from Giant Imperial Quarts. Playfully we all began to take turns walking the plank. We told the Sadist that walking the plank was a right of passage into the Palace’s Inner Circle. The Sadist refused to walk. We began to insist.
At last, he agreed. He shimmied across on his rump. We jeered, and the cat silently watched from atop a firewall. Once on the other side, we instructed him to open the note we gave him before the crossing. In it was five dollars, and a piece of paper with a large black spot. We withdrew the plank. He sneered at us, turned, and walked to the stairwell door. It was locked. We had marooned the Sadist.
He began screaming, pounding on the door, and throwing pebbles at us. Noticing Neurotic, he started tossing stones at her. She moved further back on the roof and began cleaning herself, not bothered. The Sadist grabbed fallen clothespins, old beer bottles, and all the detritus he found on the roof and began tossing them wherever. Neurotic retreated down the stairwell, and we followed.
Soon, the sounds of a squad car was heard coming along Grove Street. The good folks next door had called Boston’s finest to take care of the problem on their roof. At the open window, Neurotic sat, lashing her tail. We joined her just in time to see officer Cappuchi escort the Sadist into the car and off Beacon Hill. Cappucci glanced up at us as we waved and shouted goodbye to the Sadist. His look seemed to say, ” You’re next, you filthy Folkies.”
Not likely, officer Cappucci.