Dickie Hepplewhite. By Martin Green.
The first time Arnold talked to Dickie Hepplewhite was in the college gym. The year was 1950. Dickie said, You were in my English class last year, werent you?
Yeah, I think so.
Im Dickie Hepplewhite. To Arnolds surprise, he reached out to shake hands. Arnold had no choice but to take it. He gave his name.
What did you do to your knee?
Dislocated it playing handball Im doing physical therapy. Its mostly riding the stationary bicycle. I also go bike riding on weekends as much as I can.
Got a three-speed?
No, just an old truck bike.
Mmm. Call and let me know if you want to borrow my three-speed. Im never here on weekends.
Again Arnold was taken aback. Okay, he said. Thanks.
Dickie Hepplewhite closed his locker and went off. Arnold saw he was carrying a squash racket.
* * *
Arnold had in fact known of Dickie Hepplewhite. Dickie had been pointed out to him as one of the rich kids. His grandfather had been lieutenant governor of Connecticut or something; his father was a judge. Dickie was barely skating through his classes. The talk was that he drank a lot. In his freshman year hed smashed a car into a tree and it was said his blood alcohol was over the legal level. If it was, nothing was done about it because Dickie still had his license and drove his car. On weekends he went back home to the family compound, something like the Kennedys. Maybe introducing yourself like that and then offering the loan of his bike was something that rich kids did when encountering one of the commoners.
Arnold would have forgotten about this meeting except that a few weeks later Dickie Hepplewhite came up to him as he came out of the college dining room. Hey, hows the knee?
You never called about the bicycle.
Ive been pretty busy.
Im not going to be here this weekend. Look, thats where I park it. Let me give you the key.
Uh, okay. Thanks.
The bike was a three-speed English racer, a Raleigh, in those days the finest you could buy.
Arnold rode the Raleigh that weekend, then almost every weekend that spring. The first time Arnold returned it Dickie invited him into his rooms and asked if he wanted a drink. Arnold said, No, thanks. Dickie had a glass in his hand. Youre a scholarship student, arent you?
Bet you spend a lot of time studying.
Yeah, they know me at the library.
I went to the library once. It gave me the willies. Its like a dungeon.
Its pretty gloomy.
At this point one of Dickies roommates came in. Arnold was introduced. The roommate looked at him as if he was some strange creature. Arnold shook hands and made his escape.
* * *
The first weekend of June Dickie called Arnold. How about riding together? You can still have my bicycle. Ill take my roommates. Arnold didnt feel he could refuse. After all, hed been riding Dickies bike for weeks. Okay, he said.
They set out at the next day about ten oclock. Arnold had found some nice roads in the country outside the college. Traffic was light. They passed farmhouses, old barns and fields where cows contentedly grazed. They bicycled for about two hours and it was getting warm. Arnold led the way to a piece of high ground where they could sit in the shade of a large tree.
Whew, said Dickie. That was a workout. Your knee must be in good shape now.
Yeah. Ill be able to work in the forestry service again this summer.
The forestry service? Where at?
Arnold told him about his experiences in Idaho the previous year.
I think Id like doing that, said Dickie. Too bad I cant.
Can you imagine me in the forestry service? Anyway, my folks wouldnt let me. What did you decide to major in?
I thought it was going to be math, then Id be a college math teacher. Now Im not sure. I think I might want to go out to California and get a job there.
I envy you.
You do? Why?
You can do something like go to California. My parents have my life all mapped out. I even know who Im going to marry Well, maybe not the exact girl, but the kind of girl everyone in my set marries. Then the kind of job and the kind of life.
Your kind of life doesnt look that bad to me.
Dickie didnt say anything for a while. Hed plucked a blade of grass and was twisting it through his fingers. Then, Its nice here. I wish this kind of day could go on longer. He paused. Im flunking out.
Yeah. I never could stand my classes.
But if you flunk out cant you wait a term and then reapply?
I could. Dickie paused again. Actually, Im being expelled for cheating. I knew Id fail my econ final and tried to copy some answers and got caught. It was stupid.
Arnold didnt know what to say. The best he could manage was, What will you do?
If my father doesnt kill me? I dont know. Theyll think of something.
He wont cut you off without a penny, will he?
No, I dont think so. Anyway, I have a trust fund from my grandfather when Im 21.
Well, maybe getting out of college will be a good thing. You dont have to go on with whatever they had planned for you. You can break away. Hey, you can go out to California.
Dickie smiled. I wish I could. We better be getting back. I have to go to a cocktail party this afternoon.
* * *
On the first day of the fall term, someone told Arnold about Dickie Hepplewhite. He smashed his car into a tree again. This time he wasnt so lucky. He broke his neck.
Was he drinking?
Probably. If he was, they covered it up. Rich kid dies in regrettable accident. Hey, you knew him, didnt you?
He let me use his Raleigh over weekends. But, no, I never really knew him.
* * *
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