Fall 1997, Chapter 2: Chet

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Chet returned to Wintertree 79 to find Dick sprawled out again on the loveseat, staring blankly at a Simpsons rerun. He became aware of a small shift in the room's atmosphere from its state when he left seven hours earlier. "Are the new kids here?" he asked. Dick grunted in the affirmative.

Chet didn't fuck with rope ladders (a formerly fat child, he had a healthy distrust of any structure meant to hold his weight that swayed or bent; you couldn't pay him enough to set foot on a rope bridge), so he climbed up the sturdy wooden ladder to the second landing on the north side of the loft and stepped down to the platform that served as 79A's porch. He stuck his head through the door and said "Hello?"

"They left," said Dick.

"Where?"

Dick shrugged. Chet and Dick had roomed together in 79 last year, thrown together by DUH's Random Roommate Assignment Supercomputer or whatever, and though they hadn't exactly become best friends forever, one would have to be insane to give up such palatial digs as 79 Wintertree. So he agreed to maintain the arrangement for a second year. Chet liked Dick all right, generally – the kid was smarter than he looked, though Chet had to admit he did look pretty fucking dumb - but his patience for Dick's default monosyllabic passive-aggressive hick mode was wearing pretty darn thin.

"What are their names? Where are they from? What are they like?"

"I don't know, man. Tim, I think? Drew something. I'm trying to watch TV."

Chet stepped into 79A. Whichever one of the new kids claimed the good bed had a lot more stuff. But he had also left his Handbook behind. Chet peeked at the cover: ANDREW DUNCAN BOYD. The other guy, Tim I Think, he only had one bag, but he was smarter. They made the Handbook small enough to fit in your pocket for a reason. Chet patted his left thigh, feeling its reassuring heft.

Chet stepped back out onto 79A's porch. Dick was right across the room on the TV landing, slackjawed and slack-bodied, not even enjoying the instant-classic Simpsons he was watching, the one where Marge joins the country club. Chet watched along in silence for a minute, getting sucked in, before realizing that he'd sit here and watch cartoons all night if he didn't stop himself. "Where'd they go?" said Chet.

Dick sucked some phlegm up his nose and back to his throat with a disgusting shwork. "Weston, I think."

"Come on. Let's go eat."

It was dark by the time Chet got Dick off the loveseat and outside, but the freshmen were still hauling in their bags and boxes, all the precious crap from home they couldn't live without. They'll learn, he thought. Or some of them will. And the ones that don't, you don't really need to worry about.

For 8:00 on a Thursday, Weston was pretty deserted; most of the freshmen were surely downtown with Mommy and Daddy, getting one last restaurant meal paid for in exchange for one more hour spent as children who need taking care of. Once classes started, the dining hall would be packed.

Dick wandered off in search of KRÜMMFAUVEN!, which was rumored to be among Weston's inaugural cereal selections for fall quarter. Chet spotted Tim and Drew, or who he assumed were Tim and Drew, easily enough. One was a bronzed god, lean and muscular, the blue of his eyes and white of his teeth vivid even from across the room. The other was an afterthought of a person: neither tall nor short, shapeless in ill-fitting clothes, hair of no particular color. He hunched over his plate of Chicken Supreme, while the other sat up straight and proud, seemingly lit from within. Chet had a hunch he knew which was the smart one. As Chet approached the table, he saw the familiar purple brick of a Handbook next to the tray of the less impressive kid. "You must be Tim," Chet said.

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