Reggie is one of those big, sissified boys, brown curly hair, horn-rimmed glasses. He talks in that cultivated, well-modulated voice — his idea of what an intellectual should sound like. Although we tell Reggie’s story for him, this story is basically true, except that we were kind enough to give “Reggie” a pseudonym.)
My father died when I was a toddler, but my mother stepped up and, along with my older sisters, raised me to be a decent human being. They instilled in me a sense of taste for art and music and for the nobler aspects of mankind. They gave me a strong sense of right and wrong, and a strong sense of what was proper and what was not. They taught me the difference between what I modestly call the upper class, of which we felt ourselves to be members, and the great unwashed — which comprised an all-too-large segment of society.
When the time came for me to go off to college, I was thrilled. I knew That in college I would meet more people like myself — cultured, proper people. I would have friends. I never had many friends in high school because so few of my classmates were suitable. Mother discouraged my association with them.
Shortly before leaving to pursue my higher education, I received a letter from the housing manager at South Dakota State College in Brookings. I had been assigned a room in East Men’s Hall, and my roommate would be a fellow by the name of Arthur Aubrey.
Arthur Aubrey, I thought. What a fine name — its bearer must certainly be a cultured person of fine family. I immediately began to entertain visions of having a friend with whom I could attend cultural events, play chess, and explore the philosophy of life.
So you can imagine my dismay when I opened the door to my new room at East Men’s and it was full of — COWBOYS — all engrossed in a game of whist.
There must be a mistake, I thought, so I said, Excuse me, but this is my room, and I am looking for my roommate, Arthur Aubrey.
Who? You’re looking for who? Arthur? Oh, you must mean Arf. He’ll be back in a minute — he had to go out for some snoose.
And at that moment, the door opened and there stood this grinning hayseed.
His face was mostly nose, his little eyes were set close together, and one of his slightly protuberant front teeth was blackened. He was about five-nine (at 6-2, I towered over him). He was wearing a western shirt, and his knobby knees were threatening to erupt through his faded jeans. I, at least, had the decency to wear a coat and tie to show my respect for higher education.
Hey, Arf, said one of the cardplayers. This guy says this is his room.
He must be your roommate.
Well, Arthur — Arf — grins even wider and extends his hand. Still somewhat stunned, I take it. So you’re Reggie Smithers, this seedy gnome says. Hyuk, hyuk. Pleased to meet you. Have a dip of snooze — and he proffers a can of Copenhagen. I recoiled, said, Thank you, no, and left the room.
I went immediately to the dormitory manager’s office to tell him the roommate arrangement was entirely unsuitable. The manager, a fine man by the name of Bruce Fernhand, was very sympathetic, but the dorm was full and there was no alternative. I would have to remain with Arf.
The visit was not a total loss, however, as Bruce, who viewed the world much as I did, was to become a fine friend and ally.
My relationship with Arf started at a low point and went down hill from there. For one thing, he was poor, and I hated to be seen with him in his shabby clothing. For another, he was a cheat. We all took our entrance exams, and Arf ended up in the advanced sections of English and math. There is no way the bumpkin could have done this honestly — there was no legitimate way he was always getting A’s on his tests. I would not believe his friends when they told me he was the smartest guy they had ever met. And the whist game never stopped — it went 24 hours a day, with different players rotating in and out of the chairs. Arf was always amiable, though, even when I would deliver a severe chastising. He would just grin and chuckle that infuriating chuckle of his — hyuk, hyuk.
One day I was delivering my sternest lecture yet, and I told him just what kind of a degenerate he was. His brow darkened and he slid from his top bunk and walked toward me. I felt no fear, I was much larger than Arf, outweighing him by a least 60 pounds. He placed his hand on my upper arm and said, “Reggie, I have been patient with you. You are a son of a bitch, your feet stink and you don’t love Jesus. If you don’t get a-holt of yourself I will make you leave this room and not come back.” Then he began to squeeze my arm, and a bolt of pain lanced through me. Just as I thought the bone would crush in that steel grip he released me, grinned, and crawled back onto his bunk.
I got off my knees and ran downstairs to tell Bruce what had happened.
He was greatly angered and accompanied me back to the room. Arf was still on his bunk, reading a comic book, and paid no attention whatsoever when Bruce read him the riot act.
In a fury, Bruce walked out, and I said to Arf — Well, you are the one who had better shape up, or Bruce is going to get rid of you for good.
Arf said nothing; he just spit a cheekful of snoose drippings into a two-pound coffee can, which was half filled with the repulsive substance.
I went to the movie that night, and when I returned to the room it was dark, and Arf was asleep. I slid into my bed and it was like sliding into mud — wet and slimy. I leaped out, turned on the light and threw back the covers.
The sheets were soaked brown. Then Arf sits up on his bunk, dangling his now-empty snoose can, and braying with laughter —Haw, Haw Haw!
I ran, dripping, from the room and told Bruce what had happened. He was insane with rage, and together we charged back to my room.
Bruce, standing at the foot of Arf’s bed, began to scream at him. You could have heard him all the way across the campus. Arf just laid there and grinned, making Bruce even more furious. Then, Bruce paused for breath and Arf, wearing only his underpants, lifted his leg and fired a tremendous fart right at Bruce’s face. Bruce’s eyes got as big a saucers, his head swelled up and turned red, and he stomped out of the room, me at his heels. As we stormed down the hall we heard — Haw Haw Haw.
The next day, I was moved to another dormitory. Arf remained where he was, dipping snooze and playing whist. And I still can’t believe he made the dean’s list at the end of that quarter.