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The deep green pool of the Salinas River was still in the late afternoon. Already the sun had left the valley to go climbing up the slopes of the Gabilan Mountains, and the hilltops were rosy in the sun. But by the pool amond the mottled sycamores, a pleasant shade had fallen.
A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows. The heron silently lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.
A far rush of wind sounded and gust drove through the tops of the trees like a wave. The sycamore leaves turned up their silver sides, the brown, dry leaves on the ground scudded a few feet. And row on row of tiny wind waves flowed up the pool's green surface.
As quickly as it had come, the wind died, and the clearing was quiet again. The heron stood in the shallows, motionless and waiting. Another little water snake swam up the pool, turning its periscope head from side to side.
Suddenly Lennie appeared out of the brush, and he came as silently as a creeping feline moves. The heron pounded the air with its wings, jacked itself clear of the water and flew off down river. The little snake slid among the reeds at the pool's side.
When he finished, he sat down on the bank, with his side to the pool, so that he could watch the trail's entrance. He embraced himself and laid his chin down to the water, pursing his lips softly and taking a long swallow from the river.
The light climbed on out of the valley, and as it went, the tops of the mountains seemed to blaze with increasing brightness.
Lennie said softly, "I di'n't forget, you bet, God damn! Hide in the brush an' wait for George." He pulled his hat down love over his eyes. "George gonna give me hell," he said. "George gonna wish he was alone an' not have me botherin' him." He turned his head and looked at the bright mountain tops. "I can go right off there an' find a cave," he said. And he continued sadly, "---an' never have no ketchup - but I won't care. If George dun't want me... I'll go away. I'll go away"
"Lennie!" George called. His face was moist with perspiration and his jeans were soiled as if he had fallen to the ground a few times. "Lennie, we got to get you outta 'ere!"
"I dun get to tend no rabbits now, do I George," Lennie questioned sadly.
"We dont have no time for that, Lennie," George said. "Now dammit we need to get clear of here! Curley and the guys have set out to shoot you. Now you need to come with me before you get yourself killed!"
"I sorry, George," Lennie continued. "I done another bad thing. I di'n't mean no harm to that girl. I jus - - - " Lennie's words were interrupted by the shouts of men and the galloping of horses down the hard earthen path that trailed through the woods.
"God damn," George sighed as Curley and Slim strode across the river, followed shortly by Carleson and a few other ranch workers.
"Ther's that big bastard!" Curley yelled as his eyes landed on Lennie. The party of men strode up onto the bank and Curley, red in anger, drops from the horses back and walks furiously towards George.
"You... you son of a bitch, you... you knew it was him all along di'n't you, you bastard!" Curley's tone grew even more angry with each word. "I even bet you were in on it wasn't you!?"
"Now Curley, listen here..." George said calmly, placing the palms of his hands out as if trying to back Curley away. "Now just calm down a second and let me explain."
There was no exlpaining for Curley. Within a blink of an eye, Curley had embedded the flat of his good fist into the George's jaw. George fell to the ground, impacting brutally. As he connected with the ground, Carleson's Luger falls from the back of his jeans into the dirt a few feet from Geoge. He quickly makes his way back to his feet, wiping the blood from his lip.
Curley continued in on George, throwing his good arm into George. George quickly catches himself and brings his elbow into Curley's bad arm, leaving him yelling in pain.
As Curley makes to his feet he charges forward and drives his knee into George's gut as hard as he could, sending George to his knees breathless. He then swiftly brings his foot to the face of George and George hits the ground face first.
"I'ma gonna show you, ya son of a bitch," Curley yells as he walks over to his horse and grabs his shotgun. "I'ma gonna shoot your face off, then kill that God damned friend of yours, too!"
George looked up at Curley, pain and grief in his eyes. Blood trickled down his left brow and mixed in with the dried dirt that layered his face.
Seeing absolutely no pity in Curley's eyes as he rose the shotgun, George knelt his head down and braced himself for his unbridled fate.
"Curley," Slim interrupted, "Now come on Curley, think about what your doing."
"Shut up," Curley shouted. "These sons-a-bitches are gonna die!" Curley then turns back to George, aiming the barrel for the center of his face. Curley's finger rests on the trigger and a drop of perspiration falls from his cheek to the ground. As the tiny droplet of sweat hits the ground, the gunshot rings through the woods.
George looks up, the barrel of the gun dropping to the ground, followed by the rest of the rifle. Curley's eyes are wide open and he looks down to his chest. A bloodied bullet hole stains his shirt and he places his hand upon the wound before falling dead to the ground.
"Ain't nobody gonna do no hurt to George," Lennie mumbled as he remained with his arm extended, Luger in hand. A cloud of smoke still lingered in the barrel of the pistol then with a gust of wind was gone.
"Lennie... hand over the gun... now Lennie... give it to me," George nearly whispers as he makes slowly to his feet, extending his hand for Lennie to place the Luger.
The other men stood silent, watching. No one had made a sound the entire time. Slim had watched patiently, and Carleson seemed nearly in shock. The others were awestruck and speechless.
"I ain't never meant to do no bad things, George... I know I ain't no good to you...."
"Now Lennie, listen here... hand me the gun... stop talkin' that nonsense and give the damn gun."
Lennie began to cry. "All I ever wanted was to tend dem rabbits... and feed them alfalfa... tell em George... tell em 'bout it..."
"You're right, Lennie," George spoke softly. "You would get to feed them alfalfa every mornin' and tend them when they needed tendin', and they woul'nt be anybody's but yours."
"But I is always doing bad things, George," Lennie cried. "I ain't no good... ain't no good for nothin'. I always doing bad things.. and now I went and killed that purty lady and I went and kill't Curley... I am a bad person, George. A bad person."
"Now that ain't true, Lennie! You know you ain't never done none of this out of meaness."
"You dun't want me anymore, George..." A last tear fell from Lennie's face as he lifted the Luger up to the side of his head and pulled the trigger.
"No!" George yelled as he leaped forward and grasped hold of Lennie's limp body before he fell to the ground. The gun fell to the dirt with a short thud and set still. "No... no... no... " George cried as he held Lennie's body in his arms. His hand stroked Lennie's hair gently as he cried over his shoulder.
Slim finally dismounted from his horse and walked slowly over to George, kneeling down. He places his hand on George's back
and whispers into his ear, "C'mon George... c'mon..."
George remained with Lennie for a few minutes more before finally letting go of Lennie. He rest his head softly on the ground and stood up. Turning back, he walked slowly back to the horses with Slim.
A week had passed since the day when Lennie, Curley and Curley's wife had died. Curley's father was heart-broken and nearly canned George. But Slim had talked to him about it and convinced him to let George stay.
Work at the ranch was different. Not much talk happened. Still in shock at all the tragedy that had happened only seven days before still overwhelmed everyone on the ranch.
Candy sat upon a wooden rocker on the porch of the bunk house, staring off at the sky and the gigantic white clouds that surfed across the sky like balloons. George steps out onto the porch over towards Candy and leans against the shutters beside the window. He had an envelop in his hand and a letter.
"Them old folks say that they still got that land that we were wantin' to buy. They say they'll take the four-hundred and let us pay off the rest, if we want to." He paused and looked down at the letter once more. "I reckon by the end of the month we'll be able to take on out of here."
Candy remained silent. Not once did he look up at George. His eyes kept fixated on the clouds, watching them pass by ever so slowly.
George sighs and brings himself off the bunk house and steps down from the porch. Walking across the ranch he makes his wa y out toward the meadow. The green plain sat calmly, seeming a majestic ocean of motionless waves sitting on the face of the land.
He made his way to the top of the hill slowly. At the top he approaches a dirt mound, lined with stones and picked flowers. A headstone sitting at the base of the mound has Lennie's name carved into it with a knife.
George looks mourningly at the grave site, kneeling down. He places his hand on the mound and with a low whispering voice says, "I love you, Lennie..."