The sun, barely visible, hovered low behind the tall, rocky Gabilan mountains. The red glow of the evening sun flooded the sky, producing enough light to keep the guys from falling over the long twisting roots of the willows and the sycamore trees that surrounded the path they had been walking on.
The walk of the men along the dusty road held a silence between them that had continued since the funerals earlier in the day. The only sounds to be heard were the soft skitters of lizards hurrying across the crisp leaves that lay crumpled on the dirt and the faint sounds of the ranch they were approaching.
George Led the way through the rusted gate that hung on only one hinge, whilst the other was left to pull away from the wooden fence it had been once attached to. Slim followed close behind, kicking the gate back into place as it started to pull away more. He crept up behind George and leant on his shoulder.
''You did what you hadda George, there aint no need to feel guilty about nothin', an' don't let no one tell you any different.''
George lifted his head from the direction of his torn, leather boots which he had been staring at in deep thought.
'' I told him about that damn dream again, told him he could tend the rabbits, told him to look across the river as if he could almost see it. If anyone hadda kill him, I wanted to make sure I did it. I wanted to do it whilst the poor bastard was feeling happy, saddest thing I ever done.''
Slim looked confused as he wasn't quite sure what George meant when he used the term dream, or where Lennie had got the idea of being able to tend to rabbits, but instead of questioning George into answering his awkward feeling of 'missing something' he simply smiled sympathetically, took of his hat and walked towards the bunk - house.
George entered soon after, and shuffled towards his bed. The guys that were already there stopped playing euchre and talking about the events of the past few days and lifted their heads to stare at him in silence, their eyes following him as he lay down on his bunk and curled into the wall, like Candy had done when his dog was shot.
It had been two days since Lennie died, and not a minute past were George didn't think of him. Was Lennie having a better time wherever he was now?, Was it the right thing to do? Deep down he knew it was the right thing to do, he just wished he wasn't the one with the feeling of guilt and grief gathering at the same time.
The rest of the guys turned their heads away and continued with their conversations, lowering their voices so they didn't disturb George and his thoughts. Curley however, disagreed at this action, he emerged from the dark corner he had been disguising himself in and started to shout at George.
''This is all your fault! If it wasn't for you bringin' that damn son-of-a-bitch to this ranch in the first place I'd still have my wife an' my God damn han'!''
Slim jumped up from his bunk and pushed Curley to the wall in sudden anger, The fear in Curley's eyes, the sound of his heart pounding and his lungs gasping for air made Slim let go, but even as he walked away Slim knew his message was put across to Curley.
''Just you wait an' see, I'll get my ol' man to can the lot of ya, jus' wait an' see.'' Curley Picked up his hat from the floor which had fallen off as Slim had pushed him, and stormed out of the bunk-house, the door swinging fiercely behind him. Still, George did not move from his bunk. To the other guys he seemed motionless and still but the tears streaming from his eyes facing the wall proved a different story.
All was quiet at the ranch. The early, western sun was rising, and the occasional sparrow flew over head as the guys on the ranch started to work. Strands of grain escaped into the breeze from the men rasseling grain bags and the noise of the cultivator seemed to echo in the warm air.
George lifted what felt like his thousandth bag of grain and slumped it up onto the van which would take it away. He sighed deeply and walked, his head held low, to lift and carry yet another bag.
The other men at the ranch continued with their jobs but couldn't help but notice George's behaviour.
''You'd think he'd be over it all now, he ain't the only god damn guy to lose someone they like, he's jus' gonna needa move on.'' Carlson said, pushing past Slim.
Slim glanced over at George, then back at Carlson. He said nothing yet the expression on his face indicated that he had wanted to say something, that he had wanted to say alot, instead, he took off his hat and ran his hand along the line of sweat that had been produced along his brow line, he fixed his hat back upon his head and walked towards the bunkhouse.
Over looking the events at the ranch, Candy moved patiently off the tree stump he had been resting on, his new pup which Slim had given him to make up for the death of his old dog, perched his head on his paws and stared at the men working on the ranch.
'' Jus' you sit there pup, I ain't gonna be long.''
Candy tread across the ranch and stood beside the van which George had bean continuously placing the bags of grain.
''The guys are worried George, ya can't go on like this forever ya know, why if Curley's ol' man saw you this down he'd sen' you away.'' Candy said cautiously.
George threw the bag onto the van more aggressively than the previous times and glared at Candy.
'' Curley's ol' man can do what he please, if he wants to can me, so be it.''
George turned away and headed for the water fountain at the side of the wooden fence. The tall patch of weeds tangled round his ankles as he stomped through them. George's thoughts of anger however, were interrupted, everyone's thoughts were interrupted.
''Guys, Guys! He's done it, the damn son-of-a-bitch has done it.'' Slim gasped running from the bunk-house towards them.
''What you on about Slim, I hope this aint gonna be one of your damn story tellin's is it?'' Carlson said resting on the handle of his shovel.
''Curley, his ol' man canned us, the lot of us, even Crooks.'' Slim replied.
George had stopped stomping through the weeds when he had first heard the commotion, he turned on his heels and walked curiously towards Slim.
The deep green pool of the Salinas river glistened brightly in the sun light as all the men that worked on the ranch marched slowly back along the path, surround by the willows and the sycamore trees that arched over their heads. The men walked in silence, not only because they were too upset or angry to talk, but because the silence seemed to say everything that was needed.
Candy stopped, and leant back against a tree to catch his breath, the rest of the guys stopped too, Slim threw down his bindle onto the dusty path and picked up a stone, he skipped it across the river, causing small splashes of water to rise as it bounced across. He did this several times before George joined him.
'' What you reckon we oughta do now Slim, we aint got no where else to go.'' George said, glancing at the mountains.
'' The only thing we can do George. We gotta jungle-up. We'll find somewhere to stay in the town tomorrow, right now jus' tell the guys to unpack their stuff.''
The men spent their evening amongst the trees by the river, lying staring at the stars that twinkled above them. Carlson sat far from the rest of the guys, in the shadows of the tallest sycamore that curved over the edge of the river, its reflection darkened the water that Carlson could see his face in. Candy sat, with his pup in his lap, singing to him, crooks sat polishing his shoes, mumbling to himself at how he got canned for no reason and George and Slim lay in the grass thinking of what was going to happen next, they had considered moving to another ranch but began to wonder if it was the right choice. Suddenly, George had an idea.
It had been three years. The sun was setting over the Gabilan mountains, the alfafa growing, the rabbits hopping across the grass and Candy's pup, now older, chasing them. Candy had passed away a year ago, peacefully in his sleep. Carlson had found him, in his bed, next to his dog. Carlson got a job in the outskirts of Soledad, he visited occasionally and never turned down an opportunity to see the guys again. Crooks, eventually was accepted by the men that had worked on the ranch and Slim had made a man of himself, he met a woman in the town one day, they plan to get married soon. George, learned that the feeling of grief fades and that doing what he had to was not a reason to feel guilty, he knows that Lennie would have loved to be were they are now, tending to the rabbits and having a feeling of calling somewhere home.
George Stood by the porch and smiled to himself. ''Here we are Lennie, home.''
© Copyright 2018 clarky. All rights reserved.
I had to write a chapter 7 for Of Mice and Men for English class, so I said, "What the heck," and decided to put it up here. Hope you like it!
The deep green pool of the Salinas River was still. The sun had already left the valley to go climbing up the slopes of the Gabilan mountains, and the hilltops were rosy in the sun. The wind whispered through the trees all the secrets that had been shared there. The heron still stood ankle deep in the water, completely still in the fading mid afternoon sun as it waited for a small treat to swim by.
George sat on the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore behind the ash pile made by many fires. He stared out over the water, pondering whatever horror haunted his mind. His face was haggard, deep rifts and ridges carved into the weather-worn leather of his skin. As he pondered, a man came up behind him, climbed gracefully over the branch, and sat to George's left. They sat in silence for a moment before the man spoke.
"Why'd ya do it George? Why'd ya do it? I didn't want no trouble George, I jus' wanted to tend them rabbits," Lennie mumbled in George's dream.
"I didn't wanna kill ya Lennie! I swear I didn't! I jus' didn't have no choice!" George whispered, denying his role in Lennie's death.
Lennie just looked at George sadly and said, "There's always a choice, George."
George sat straight up in his bed, panting, sweat running a glistening trail down his face.
"You 'kay, George? You was mumbling in your sleep," Slim called from his nearby bunk.
"Yeah, no problems here," George muttered under his breath.
Slim obviously heard him as he frowned, a worried look crossing his face, before he said, "if ya say so," then settled back down and was almost immediately asleep.
George laid back down, but was unable to close his eyes for fear of seeing Lennie's face haunting his dreams once more.
The next morning the bunk was a bustle of activity. Slim and CArlson were getting ready to head out into the fields. Candy was in his corner getting dressed, and George was just sitting on his bunk with his feet on the ground, just staring at the empty bunk next to him. Slim noticed and went over to sit down next to him.
"You sure you don't wan' the day off, George? I'm certain I could arrange somethin' with the boss to let you stay in your bunk an'-"
"NO!" George started, his eyes drawn to Slim. "I don' wanna stay in here all day. Please, jus' gimme a moment and I'll be all ready, kay?"
Slim looked at George with knowing eyes. "Well, if ya say so. We'll be headin' out in fifteen minutes. Try to be out there on time." Then he got to his feet, called the rest of the guys together, and everyone left the bunk. George spent a moment more staring at Lennie's empty bunk before getting ready to head out into the hot day to work.
George shot straight up in bed, panting and covered in sweat, his shirt sticking to him like a fly on fly paper. "I'm sorry, Lennie. I really am." George laid back down in bed, but,like the night before, he was unable to close his eyes, even for a brief moment, before a accusing face flashed in front of him. Lennie.
The next day the sun was beating down on the guy's backs and the non-existent wind offered little reprieve. George was a zombie. He hadn't stopped for water since the work had started almost five hours ago, and Slim noticed that the look in George's eyes indicated that he wasn't there. Finally, Slim called George over.
"Now listen here," he started, "you're dead on your feet. Don't try to deny it, you're pretty much gone."
"I'm fine Slim, I really am-" George began.
"No. I want you back at the bunkhouse this instant to get some rest. No arguments, or I'll keep you there tomorrow too."
Faced with Slim's determination, George silently turned and began to head back to the bunkhouse. He arrived and plopped down on his bed, and without a glance at the bunk next to him, he fell deeply asleep.
George was back at the pool, staring at the water like it held his answers. Again, Lennie came up from behind him, climbed gracefully over the branch, and sat to George's left. The two men sat in silence for a moment, before Lennie spoke.
"It wasn't your fault you know."
George jumped and stared at Lennie. His dream was differing from the usual.
"Ya had no choice. I got in trouble, so ya had to give me hell. My fault," Lennie said simply.
George felt a wetness on his cheeks, and when it reached his lips they were salty.
Lennie smiled at him, then spoke. "Now, why don' you tend those rabbits for me now, 'kay?"
When Slim arrived back at the bunkhouse, he wasn't surprised to find George awake, but he was surprised at the tears running down his face.
"George, what happened!" He yelled, as he rushed over, worried for his friend.
"He forgave me," George mumbled, and Slim knew then and there that everything would be fine.