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.
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
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
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
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.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *