The Hero by Martin Green
The door opened and the loveliest girl Id ever seen stood there. She was a bit on the short side but had a classic face with dark eyes, jet-black hair, a straight little nose and full lips. Her hair was long, raven black. Her figure was sensational. She reminded me of a young Elizabeth Taylor. Hello, Bill, she said. Bill was my younger brother, whod be a high school senior in the fall.
Hi, Susan. This is my brother George. Hes going to NYU. Hes home for the summer.
Yes, I said. New York University.
Is that in New York?
Oh, that must be so exciting. Isnt New York where the Empire State Building is?
Yes, it is.
I bet youve been there lots of times. Is it scary to be up so high.
George is afraid of heights, Bill put in. This wasnt true. When we were kids wed had a tree house and I was careful climbing up and down, thats all.
Im not afraid of heights, but Ive never been to the Empire State Building. Its in mid-Manhattan and NYU is in lower Manhattan.
Thats a borough in New York City, like a county upstate.
Oh. Her pretty face looked disappointed. At least she didnt ask what a county was. Where are my manners? she said. Come in. Im so glad Bill brought you.
At that moment a furry object appeared at Susans feet. She quickly scooped it up and said, This is my cat Henry. She tapped Henry on his nose and said, Bad boy. What are you doing in here.? Do you want to get stepped on?
She led the way in and we followed her. Id never liked cats and Henry must have sensed that because he looked over Susans shoulder and hissed at me. Too bad, I thought, Susan was hot all right but something of a dimwit, and then there was the cat.
I hadnt been too eager to go to this party with Bill, expecting it would be all high school kids. But I didnt have anything better to do so I let him persuade me. They have a great pool, hed said. Everyone will be going swimming. As we went into a large room half-filled with people I was relieved to see a few older ones, but it was still mostly a high school crowd. Bill introduced me to some more of his friends. They all seemed nice small-town kids. I had to describe how it was to live in that big city downstate. I danced a few times with a nice brown-haired girl who said shed applied to NYU. I told her to let Bill know if she was accepted. Eventually we all moved outside. As Bill had said, it was a nice pool. It was a warm night and most of the party-goers had worn swimsuits under their clothes. The pool quickly filled up. Susan was in a bikini and she was certainly worth looking at.
I found a deck chair and watched the young people, as I thought of them, cavorting around. Suddenly there was a piercing scream. It was Susan. No, no one had pushed her into the pool. She was on the patio looking up at a large tree close to the house. Its Henry, she cried. Hes stuck up in the tree.
Henry? Then I remembered; it was her cat. I left my chair and joined the crowd looking up at the tree. Henry was meowing loudly. Evidently hed jumped from a window ledge on the second floor to a branch and now, as sometimes happened with cats, couldnt figure out a way to get down. What are we going to do, wailed Susan. We have to get Henry down.
Why dont we call the fire department? It was my brother Bill. I thought it was a sensible suggestion.
We cant. said Susan. I promised I wouldnt have a party when my parents left. She looked around and her gaze fixed on me. George, you can get him down, cant you? Youre the tallest one here.
Me? Even with our tree house, I had to prod myself to get up and down. I realized that now everyone, not just Susan, was looking at me. Ill take a look, I said, but I cant promise anything. There were no lower branches so that you could hoist yourself up into the tree. Whats that room closest to the tree? I asked.
Its my bedroom, said Susan.
All right. Show me up to it. Bill, you come along, too.
The bedroom, I noticed, was all in pink with a lot of stuffed animals around. I looked out the window. Henry saw me and meowed but didnt move along the branch. I looked out. There was a narrow ledge beneath the window. If you could get out on the ledge it was barely possible that you could jump over to the branch Henry was on, then it would be a matter of getting to him. That was of course if you didnt fall off the ledge.
I edged myself out the window. Luckily there were some vines growing on the side of the house. If theyd hold me . I maneuvered myself up on the ledge, telling Bill to hold my legs. Once I was out there, I told myself not to look down below, where the teen-agers were yelling encouragement to me. I grasped the vine, took a deep breath and told Bill to let go of my legs. I jumped and missed. No, I managed to grab the branch with both hands. I hung there for what seemed like a long time, then pulled myself up. Henry was a few feet back on the branch.
Come on, Henry, I said. The cat didnt move. I yelled, Susan, call your cat.
She called out in a cooing voice and Henry inched toward me. I grabbed him by the neck and backed up toward the house. Somehow, I really dont know how, I managed to get Henry and myself back through the window, Bill pulling us in. Susan promptly grabbed her cat. I looked down at my arm and saw a long scratch. The ungrateful cat had done it.
Im not sure what happened after that but the party broke up. I was ready to go back with Bill when Susan came up to me. I have to put something on that scratch, she said. Bill, you go on home. Ill take care of George. Once again, I followed Susan up to her bedroom. She took me into the bathroom and put something that stung on the scratch. Then she said. You saved Henry. That was brave. Youre my hero. Before I knew it, she was kissing me, then before I knew it the bikini, such as it was, had come off, and shed pulled me onto her bed. She was surprisingly strong. Well, what could I do? She may have been a little dim but she was beautiful and sexy. The inevitable, as they say, happened. I have to say it was very pleasurable.
But there was a next morning and when I woke up there was Susan, dressed in a tee shirt and shorts. I have to get you back and clean up the house before my parents get back, she said.
Did I tell you youre my hero? Ill call you as soon as I can. Oh, what a wonderful summer well have together. I cant wait to tell my parents Im engaged.
Of course. I mean, after last night, you know. Anyway, we can talk about our plans later. I have to drive you back.
Once back, I went into the kitchen. I was hungry. I also had to do some fast thinking. Bill was in the kitchen having breakfast. He gave me a meaningful look. How was your night? he asked.
Fine, and dont ask me about Susan.
After I had a quick breakfast I made a phone call to my NYU roommate. Yes, he could put me up. I packed my suitcase and told Bill that Id gotten a job in New York and had to leave right away. I dont know if he believed my story but he drove me to the bus station. I had made my escape, or so Id thought.
Susan found my New York phone number and made innumerable calls. Then, just as the new term was about to start she suddenly showed up at our apartment. I wont describe the scene we had, but it wasnt pretty. So thats why Im now going to a small college in Montana instead of NYU. And all because of that damned cat.
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