I wake and feel the fell
of dark, not day,
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
— 1 —
evening breezes brushed against the ivy curling around
the fir trees near Deady Hall. Sitting on the cold stone
steps, indistinct in the growing darkness, Doug Herman
gazed absent-mindedly as the ivy, awakened it seemed, clutched
the bark tighter, pressing its flat leaves against the
Around him on the campus, the wide-leaved oak, the madrona,
the thin fir and sharp pine began to rustle. The faint hint
of a rainstorm breathed in the wind.
At his back, the windows of Deady
Hall glowed through the shadows; the old history building
still hummed with energy. Occasionally he could hear the
doors of the examination room open and close, followed
by the sound of muffled voices—and
then a few tired students would walk down the steps and away
into the darkness.
With a summer of work ahead,
he tried to absorb the last impressions of freedom. His
first year at the university in Eugene was like an escape
from prison. Last night . . . last night was a silent farewell.
He’d walked into
this same darkness, down the tight asphalt alleys of the
city. From haggard brick walls, from water seeping down garbage-strewn
gutters, he’d slipped into newer, winding streets,
lawns stretching indefinitely, houses large and white with
windows like gray puddles.
As the houses thinned, he’d felt his spirits rise
and breathed deeper, taking the night into himself, and when
he reached a field of last year’s uncut hay, matted
and bleached by spring rain, he sprawled out on the earth
like a dog, while his mind ran free.
Youthful fantasies! Charging
through trees, sylvan, hairy-hooved, he’d trumpeted and thundered, half man, half beast.
Again he leapt, bounded like a startled deer, soared. Suddenly,
he saw spring slip off, naked, running through the forest—and
he was after her, exuberant, excited by his quickened pulse,
the crashing cascade of blood in his head. He chased nude
flickerings, buttocks gleaming between tree trunks, and then
she fell, gasping in the sand at the water’s edge,
melting away before him in the cool sea.
Now the vision faded again as Doug waited on the cold steps
for his best friend, Phil Lockfall, to finish the history
exam. Footsteps behind him announced the major horde of test
takers. Scuffling by, some gleamed in glory for inspired
essays; others drifted past, pale, but happy the torture
was over, retreating with sighs of relief.
But still no Phil.
Instead, Doug’s roommate came, short, fat Gordon Owens—pontificating
as usual. Doug saw him make his way through disciples eager
to know the answer. His clothes, swaying robes, his words,
majestic declamations of what they should have know.
Sliding over to let the chatterers
pass, Doug thought of his latest attempt to ruffle Gordon.
They were arguing about the existence of God and the afterlife.
At one point, tired of the discussion, Doug interrupted
to say there wouldn’t
be any Catholics in heaven, so Gordon might as well quit
worrying about its existence. Thinking of how Gordon had
flushed, Doug grinned. “For a preacher’s son,” Gordon
had replied, “you argue like an idiot.”
Leaning back into the steps of
Deady Hall, wrinkling his nose to lift his glasses, Doug
watched his roommate angle off up the sidewalk toward the
dorm. Good old Gordy sure had been distant since then.
But what had really shocked Gordon was the night Phil Lockfall
and Ray Spencer had carried Doug into the room—dripping wet and green sick. The
three had started the evening in Phil’s room, drinking
vodka and orange juice and playing cards. In the middle of
a game of Down the Tube, Phil suddenly jumped to his feet,
his black, curly hair bobbing over his forehead.
“Hey, let’s go get Rich Tyler,” he said.
Rich, a pimply- faced, crew-cut kid, worked in the fountain
area of Tiffany’s drugstore, just off campus. Doug
had met him once and didn’t care for him. All Rich
could talk about were the hot cars he and his buddies supposedly
spent their weekends stripping.
“His shift should be just about over,” Phil
said. “He can get us some free ice. No use drinking
this stuff warm.”
They hid the bottle and glasses
in a drawer under the bed—in
case the dorm counselor came by on inspection—and set
off for the store. While the others rounded up some ice,
Doug bought some Fritos, and when they were ready to go,
Rich came along with them, carrying a quart of Gallo wine
under his jacket.
Back in the room, it seemed everyone
was getting high except Doug. Rich was chugging his bottle
of wine and Ray and Phil were a conspiracy of giggles.
Doug, left behind in their exuberance, sat with drawn brows.
He was in a bad mood, first because he was drinking as
much as they and didn’t
feel it and second because Phil, in a fit of laughter, had
fallen back on the bed like an immense hard-shelled bug and
crushed his Fritos.
Rich’s bottle was nearly empty. “Hey!” He
stood and waved his arms dramatically. “This is Dads’ Weekend!
Let’s take a walk around campus and greet the poor
suckers.” Phil and Ray jumped at the idea. In a minute,
talking excitedly, they were in their coats and ready to
Doug had stopped them. “Give me a minute, will you,
Phil? I need another swig or two.” Phil, rising on
the toes of his tennis shoes, his wiry frame dancing, looked
at him and then frowned.
“Well, hurry it up. Let’s get going.” He
stared at Doug as if he thought Doug were bragging about
how much he could hold. Rich offered Doug the dregs of his
wine, but Doug shook his head and grabbed the bottle of vodka.
With the others at the door, he poured himself a full glass
and drank it down.
“Catch the desk lamp, will you?” Phil
“Hell, leave it!” Rich
Ray, more serious than the rest,
even when drunk, shoved him in the shoulder. “ Quieter,
Doug took another long swig from the bottle, capped it,
and ran for the door.
Outside, in the cold air of a May evening in Oregon, the
four stood in a huddle, zipping up their coats, and trying
to decide where to go first.
Ray, a tall handsome fellow who
was usually silent, finally made a suggestion. “Let’s
go up by Hamilton. Oggle all the freshmen women.”
Rich looked skyward, his eyes
rolling back into his head. “Aw,
come on. You gotta be kidding. They’re so stuck up
they hang from the ceiling.”
A discussion ensued, ending in
an argument. Ray, stubborn as always, took off by himself. “Now he’ll go
bust someone’s tail,” said Phil, who knew him
best. “Just let him go. He likes to be by himself anyway.”
With Rich in the middle, Phil and Doug had traipsed off
up the main sidewalk toward the Student Union. Rich was really
out of it by that time, swaggering and singing fragments
of dirty songs and shouting at girls across the street. An
older couple passed them on the sidewalk.
“Welcome folks!” Rich yelled at their backs. “Your
daughter’s safe. Long as we’re patrollin’ the
Phil and Doug dropped back. “Don’t mind him,” Doug
said, putting his hands in his pockets and shrugging. “He
just studied one day too many!” “After all,” as
Phil said to Doug when they were alone, we gotta hold up
the name of the school.” Hell, that was funny, they
thought, laughing until tears came. Rich was the one doing
When they’d calmed down,
Rich had disappeared somewhere in the car lot by the health
“I gotta take a leak,” Phil
said, stopping by some trees near a girls dorm.
“Dammit, Phil,” Doug whispered. “Those
people can see you.
Phil giggled. “Watch,” he shouted, “a
Doug stepped farther into the
shadows and relieved himself in turn, laughing so hard
he had trouble keeping his shoes dry. Phil came staggering
over. “You know what?” he
stuttered in between giggles. “I think a girl I know
saw me. Wonder what she’ll say in class Monday?” Looking
around to see if she was still in sight, Phil realized again
that Rich was gone. “Hey Doug, where’s Rich?”
“Shit, I don’t know. Come on. We’d better
find him. He’s pretty bad off.”
The two had set off around the
health building. At the far end they’d found Rich
lying on his face in the wet grass.
“Come on, Rich.” Doug pulled at his elbow. “On
Rich moaned and dug his hands
into the grass. Phil poked him in the back. “Hey, old man, you’ll catch
cold.” Rich turned his head away.
“We gotta get him moving,” Phil said. “Back
to the dorm. Let’s lift him.”
“God, he’s sure heavy!” Rich was hanging
on Doug’s left shoulder.
“Keep him on his feet. He’s lighter then.” The
two began to beg and order Rich along. “That’s
right, forward march! Keep those feet moving.”
Inside the dorm, they carried Rich to his room. Doug was
a little dizzy and told Phil he had to go to the bathroom.
“Go on then. I’ll
put him to bed and we can go out again. Get us a cup of
coffee at the Dog House.”
“He sure got drunk, didn’t
“God, anybody would on
a quart of wine. Rotten stuff, too. He drank it too fast.”
In the john on the toilet, Doug began to feel the vodka.
Too hot, he thought. Stuffy in here. Better to be outside.
He was reaching for his pants
when he started heaving. No chance to make it around to
the toilet. He couldn’t
think. He tried to get his head down inside the cubicle and
sprawled out on the floor, at first fighting tears in his
eyes from the vomiting, but soon oblivious to all.
What seemed like hours later,
he heard Phil’s voice. “Oh
shit! Hey Ray, Doug’s passed out. His pants are down
and he’s lying around the toilet.”
“Come on,” it was Ray, back from his own walk, “let’s
get him to the shower and clean up the place before Littlemier
But it was too late. The counselor
was in the john, followed by a group of laughing students.
For all of them this was the first time they’d seen Doug drunk. He’d always
seemed one of the “pure” ones, an egghead who
roomed with Gordon Owens.
The counselor, knowing Doug was a good student and one of
the more orderly of the dorm boys, discreetly left the john,
leaving word it would be forgotten if someone cleaned up
Doug, face down, felt himself
being lifted by his arms and legs. “Hey, Doug!” one of the guys yelled, laughing
and gawking. “You ever going to drink again?” Faces
had leered grotesquely inches from his, the words hitting
his ears like sticks on a kettle drum.
“Dammit, why not?” Doug muttered weakly. “Just ’cause
I got sick once. Doesn’t mean I won’t drink again.” The
damn idiots thought it was funny.
They laid him on the shower floor,
his face against the tiles. “Put the jacket under his head,” Ray
“Augghh.” Doug shivered when the water hit him. “Not
so cold.” His teeth began to chatter. “Come on,
Ray looked at Phil. “Hell, what’ll I do? It’s
already hot enough to burn me.”
“More! I want more!” Doug was bouncing on the
floor like spit on a hot griddle. “Hotter! Hotter!”
They turned the water as hot as it would go and left to
clean up the john. Doug lay on the floor swearing at himself,
feeling a fool but too sick to really care.
Later when Phil and Ray came
in for him, Doug protested. “Just
leave me here. Feels good.” They argued, while he hugged
the floor. “Nope,” Ray said finally. “Come
on, we can’t just leave you here all night. You got
to get to bed.”
So, in a half crouch, after they’d pulled off all
his clothes, Doug set out between the two down the hall.
He was apologetic. “Sorry to bother you two. I just
drank too much too fast. Shouldn’t have sat in that
“Gordon’ll have a shock,” Phil
“Oh God!” Doug moaned. “Do we have to
tell him? Maybe he won’t wake up.”
“He already knows,” Ray said. “It’s
all over the whole dorm. You don’t think it’s
going to be kept quiet that a preacher’s kid got crocked
out of his gord, do you?”
The only fortunate thing was
that Gordon had seen Doug was too sick to talk and had
discreetly kept his sermon to himself. Ever since that
night, Doug could tell Gordon considered him one of the
damned. Tough titty, he thought, now at least he didn’t
have to sneak off all the time as if Gordon were his chaperone.
With the cold stone steps beginning
to prickle, Doug stood up and leaned against the concrete
balustrade. Restless, anticipating Phil’s arrival and the promise of more
lively diversions, Doug thought of yesterday’s fracas,
typical of the free-for-alls of final’s week.
End of the term activities, it
seemed, acquired a special intensity—outlandish events
soothed tense minds; extravagance became a virtue. Even
the dorm rowdies, as long as they kept their commotion
outside the dorm, caroused with impunity.
Yesterday’s water fight, in which Doug’s
dorm had challenged McClain Hall, a girls dorm, was an
example of a cathartic moment which muddied his clothes,
but cleansed his mind.
Doug learned of the fight only as it neared its climax.
The thunder of feet in the hall brought him to his door,
while Gordon, still calmly seated at his desk, merely twisted
his head to learn what foolishness was now disturbing his
preparations for their upcoming history final.
“What is it?” someone
“Water fight! Come on! We’re
Doug tossed a history book on
his bed and tore off for Phil’s
room, leaving Gordon (thank God!) to study alone.
By the time Doug and Phil reached the mill race, the fight
was almost over. Several wet girls stood around awkwardly,
shoulders hunched as they tried to ring water from their
hair and drenched sweatshirts.
Curious onlookers were now in danger. Four stout guys grabbed
a girl walking down the sidewalk and rushed with her toward
the pond. Doug tried to join the group, struggling to find
a handhold, but failing.
Phil was beside him then, wet
and grinning. “Come
on!” he shouted. Let’s get another!”
Envious that Phil should be wet—had some girls thrown
him in?—Doug jumped into the pond with the next victim.
A gesture of courtesy, he told himself!
And that was yesterday. Doug looked over the balustrade
at another group of students disappearing beneath the trees
on their way to the Student Union. Where in the hell was
Phil? Had he somehow slipped by unnoticed? Just when he was
wondering if he should go back inside or leave, he felt a
clap on the back.
“Hey, man, didn’t think you’d
Before Doug could reply, Phil
took off running. “Let’s
go find some scantily dressed if not nude nymphs,” he
shouted over his shoulder.
Doug whooped, stumbled down the
steps, shouted “or
nymphomaniacs,” and took off springing after him.
In the dorm, Doug stopped to get a warmer coat before joining
Phil. The evening had turned cool, though it had been an
unusually warm May for Eugene. Out above Robbins Hall, Doug
could see the moon, small and pale; gray whisps of clouds,
like veils of spider web, floated past her face.
On their way to the Dog House
restaurant, riding bikes although neither one had a headlamp,
Phil mentioned the fact that he’d met a new girl
earlier in the day in the Student Union bowling alley.
Doug swerved to miss a barely
seen pothole. “What
“She knows you.”
He sat up and looked back at
Phil. “What’s her
Doug turned back, saw a car coming, and pulled to the right
to let it pass.
“Do you know anything about her?” Phil
“Not much really. Seen and said ‘hi’ a
few times. She was in my biology lab. Sat two tables away.”
“She thinks you’re
Doug snorted, pleased. “Hey, no surprise,” he
joked, knowing it would irritate Phil. “After all,
every girl in this school is dying over my bawd.” Gave
him a chance to get even. Phil liked to brag about all his
conquests and was always hinting that he’d taken so
and so to bed. Doug thought he was probably a virgin despite
what he said.
Phil paused for a moment, letting
the silence emphasize his words. “I’ve got
a date with her for Saturday night.”
Now Doug’s smile was forced. He was aggravated he
hadn’t had the guts to ask her out himself. She just
seemed too popular. He didn’t respond and they crossed
Franklin Boulevard in silence, the topic dropped while they
parked their bikes at the entrance to the restaurant.
In the Dog House, over coffee,
Phil continued. “You
know, Doug. I’ve found the secret to attracting girls.”
Oh shit, Doug thought. Here we go with another hour of boasting.
There was no one more irritating than Phil in his homiletic
“Self-confidence. All you gotta have is confidence.” Phil
droned on for fifteen minutes, rambling on and on from the
film Lust for Life-(“That could’ve been a picture
about me. Just don’t let people get to you.”)—to
Faust—(“You know what Mephisto tells Faust, right?
Self-confidence is the key. Goethe knew. Everyone’s
got to find out for himself though”).
Shit, what presumption. He’s not only Van Gogh, he’s
“I mean, let me give you an example. I saw Sharon
again last week—and you know how cool she’s been
to me recently. Anyway, I acted halfway indifferent to her
and she started responding. I wound up taking her to the
show with Ray—good thing one of us has a car! She kept
playing kneesies with me, and toesies too, and even elbowsies.”
Phil started to laugh and Doug
joined him. “I think
she had the hots,” Phil said, as they were leaving
the restaurant. “If we’d had the car to ourselves,
we’d have made it on the way home.”
Outside, Doug mentioned his English
final the next day. “Shit!” Phil
exclaimed. “The night’s young. The test’s
not till three. You can sleep in. Maybe we can crash a party.”
Doug started to protest but gave
in. Hell, summer and more work were coming soon enough.
They bicycled back across Franklin Boulevard toward campus. “You
know what I saw in front of the dorm last Friday night?
A bunch of frat guys had rented a U-Haul truck, put in
a few mattresses and a keg of beer. They were driving around
trying to pick up girls at the dorms.”
“Tell those frat shits to leave our women alone,” Phil
shouted, racing ahead. “You know what’s gray
and comes in quarts?”
Doug pedaled to reach him. “What?” was
his terse reply, a grin breaking out already.
They laughed insanely, but the crisp air soon sobered their
hilarity. The moon was hidden now by thicker clouds coming
in from the coast, yet in the darkness the campus lay strangely
more resplendent, golden lamps casting shadows and mysterious
shapes along the paths.
“Why don’t we ride over to Ray Spencer’s
house?” Phil suggested. “I have a bottle of sloe
gin there—if he hasn’t gotten to it yet.”
From the dusky campus, they rode
out to Broadway, nearly deserted now. It was as if they’d
passed through a curtain. Bright colored lights cut the
night, delineating every building with the sharpness of
a scalpel. Only the all-night Eugene Bakery showed any
sign of life; even the taverns were shut.
Ray Spencer lived out near 25th
and Alder in a garage converted into a small apartment.
There was only one room in the place with a small bathroom
and pantry at the back. When they arrived, the windows
were dark. “Is he asleep?” Doug wondered.
“Naw, I don’t think so. His car’s
gone. Probably out with his girl.”
Doug had seen Ray’s girlfriend once. A beautiful,
tall blonde, with a model’s angular face. Phil had
told him she liked Ray’s brand new ’65 Chevy.
Was that what it took to get dates? No, Ray was better looking
After trying in vain to pry open
the front and side windows, they found the small bathroom
window unlocked. Phil took off his coat. “Give me a push, Doug, and I’ll
let you in the front door.”
Doug bent over and started to boost him in head first.
“Hey, careful!” Phil protested. “There’re
rose vines here.” Half inside the bathroom, upside
down, Phil began to kick. A clatter of falling objects broke
the near silence. Doug leaned in. “Quiter, Phil, dammit.
We’ll wake the neighbors.”
“Hang on! Hang on! You’re
shoving my head into the toilet.”
“Put the seat down.”
“There isn’t any!”
Phil’s legs jerked out
of his grasp and Doug, laughing, heard another bombardment
of falling bottles. Phil floundered in the dark now, swearing.
“What’n the hell does Spencer keep on his toilet?
He’s got an antique shop in here.”
“Just don’t break anything. I’ll
meet you at the front door.”
Inside, they found the sloe gin,
washed a couple of dirty glasses, and made themselves at
home with a deck of cards. Ray didn’t return until after three. Although a little
peeved that they’d broken in, he sat down to play a
game of Hearts.
“Just one, though,” he told them. “I’m
going to bed after this game. If you guys are tired, one
of you can use the couch and one the other half of the bed.”
Phil jumped to his feet and pulled
a coin from his pocket. “Let’s
flip for the bed, Doug.”
Phil promptly won the flip and, soon after, the game as
Minutes later, happy he’d lost the coin flip, Doug
lay on the couch in darkness, thinking, wishing the summer
wasn’t so near. Phil intended to go to California to
work in a resort near Guerneville, and Ray would go back
home to Depoe Bay to work on his dad’s salmon fleet.
Both jobs sounded better to Doug than working on the farm
all summer. On the farm, if you weren’t picking up
hay bales all night ’cause you were afraid of rain
in the morning, or digging trenches ’cause you had
a tall cow in heat and a short bull, you were sweating in
the sun, feeding slop to the pigs, burning last winter’s
rotting hay, or cleaning chicken shit from beneath the wire
coops. None too exciting. At least there was a chance he
might get to do some construction work. His dad, a construction
superintendent since he’d left the ministry, might
put him on as a laborer.
Uncomfortable on the sofa, he
longed for activity. The gin hadn’t left any heaviness
or desire for sleep. Ray was lightly snoring and Phil seemed
“Phil,” he whispered. “You
“Yeah.” Phil responded
instantly, as if he too had been waiting.
“Want to go out again? I’m
“Me neither. Let’s
They glided to their feet quietly,
talking in whispers, picking their way in the dark around
the table and scattered chairs. Ray didn’t stir.
Outside in the cold, a new world
appeared. It was nearly four o’clock, the clouds had sealed in—hermetic—and,
except for the street lights, the world hunkered down solid
black. Each block took on a new dimension in the chill electric
light, the streets now somehow narrower and longer. In the
silence, the bicycle tires whistled plaintively. As they
drew near the center of town, Doug wondered if there were
any restaurants open that early and Phil mentioned the Greyhound
Station. “The food’s not great but they’ve
got magazines we can look at.”
Despite the hour, a few people were loitering on the barren
streets in front of the station with its blue neon clock.
After coffee and sweet rolls, Phil bought a magazine, the
one with the most pictures of semi-nude women, and the two
rode back toward campus, warmed and enlivened again.
When Doug suggested climbing
venerable Friendly Hall, familiar home of Modern Languages—and
said he knew a way, Phil greeted the announcement with
joy. Parking their bikes at the side, they found an old
fire escape leading to the roof.
“We can’t reach the bottom of that, can we?” Phil
“Sure. It’s not that high. It drops all the
way to the ground. I saw it from a window of my Italian class.
It’s just hidden behind those shrubs.”
Doug led the way and the two crawled along the stiff ground
under the prickly shrubs, forcing their way through the lower
branches. Next to the wall of the building, a cleared space
left room to stand and when they did before them rose the
“I’ll go first.” Phil’s
feet clambered already on the lower rungs.
“Okay, but take it easy.
They might be slippery.”
Phil, halfway to the landing
by the first floor window, stopped and whispered down to
Doug. “Yeah. Be careful.
There’s a mist or something frozen on them.”
They moved up slowly, climbing
past the first and second floor windows. The building was
higher than it seemed, the ground farther away than they’d
thought possible. When they reached the fourth floor and
looked down, both felt a clutch of fear.
“Hey Doug!” Doug looked up at Phil’s tennis
shoes, his friend’s form foreshortened above him. “There’s
a gable here we’ll have to get by. The roof slants
in, too, and there’s no ladder. If we can climb up
the eave without slipping, it’s flat on top.”
“Take it easy, okay?” Doug pleaded. “Don’t
go too fast, Phil. If you slip, we’re in a hell of
“I won’t. Come on.”
Reaching the top of the roof, Doug paused for breath, his
heart beating violently. A stretch of the fire escape ladder
climbed up in open air, and without the support of the wall
beside him he was cautious and scared. He climbed without
looking down, checking to make sure each time he gripped
the cold iron that his hands held firm.
Level with the gable finally,
he could see Phil bracing himself between the V of two
sloping walls. “How’d
you get up there?”
“I grabbed the gutter,
kept one hand on the ladder and pulled myself on to the
Doug did the same and for a moment felt the surge of adrenalin
that came with the realization he was hanging on the edge
of an icy roof. And then he clambered over the top, swearing
at Phil because he was laughing.
“Now, dammit, we have to climb up that slant. We can’t
grab the edge of the shingles, can we?”
Phil tried it. “They might break.” The
two paused to think.
“Say,” Doug exclaimed, “have
you thought about getting down?”
Phil grinned. “Let’s
not think about it. Maybe I can shove you up the side,
Doug, and once you get to the top you can give me a hand
“Will I be able to reach you when I’m
“I think so.”
Slowly, Doug crept up the slant,
Phil’s hands on his
“Hurry, Doug, it’s
hard to hold on here.”
“My hands are there.” Grasping
the edge, with an extra shove from Phil, he pulled himself
up, and soon both were standing on the roof, breathing
heavily, excited at their conquest.
Phil slapped his legs, running
along the roof. “God,
what a view! You can see half the campus and the mill race.” They
strolled back and forth along the top, admiring the campus,
glittering in early morning darkness, the dawn still delayed
by a blanket of clouds.
“I know what,” Phil burst out. “Let’s
take a leak off the side.”
Doug agreed happily and shortly a warm cloud of steam rose
from two arching waterfalls.
“Isn’t this fantastic, Doug? It’s
great staying up all night.”
“This is my first time,” Doug said. “I
wish we’d done it earlier in the term.”
As they talked, still panting
in excitement, small puffs of vapor rose about their heads
and, with the elusiveness of morning fog, disappeared into
the air. Below them lay thousands of sleeping dormitory
students in dark, solemn buildings. Silence loomed over
the campus, vast like an immense iceberg in a misty sea—and
nothing except themselves seemed real. After a bit, they
would see a campus policeman walking toward the building
and fearing he’d seen them
make an excited get-away back down the slippery fire escape
and away into the night. But at the moment, oblivious to
the future, they felt masters of the world that stretched
below them, masters of it and of the night.