Lennie hit the ground with a dull thud. The shot had been bang on target. George sat down next to the body and waited for the others to come crashing through the brush. With his head in his hands George tried to justify his actions.
'Crazy bastard was gonna get killed anyway, I hadda do it, I swear I did.' The men arrived within moments and Slim, taking stock of the situation immediately went over to George and muttered quietly to him. With a steadying arm Slim lead George away from the scene. The remaining men stood around the body, unsure of what to do now.
'Awful what he did' said Carlson with an apologetic glance towards curley. 'Jus' awful.' With a shrug and a grunt Carlson turned away and headed after George and Slim. Curly lingered a little longer muttering to himself ,
'Crazy bastard, shoulda killed him myself', staring intently at the body before going back to the ranch to get a shovel.
The sun beat down on the open field, slowly baking the sunburnt landscape. A dog barked, startling a flock of starlings into flight. The nearby river burbled happily to itself as the wildlife drank their fill. Suddenly a gust of wind came from over the nearby hill, bringing with it a hint of rain to come. The wind set an old rope swing to dancing erratically over the water from the large oak that it was tied to. The rope slowly stopped moving once the wind had passed and all was calm again. A fox watched a flock of ducks splashing around looking for food before turning and heading downstream, following the call of its kits from their nearby den. Leaves drifted towards the river, dislodged by the recent gust of wind before landing gently on the water, sending ripples out to the opposite banks. Crickets whirred in the tall grass lining the river banks.
There was a rustling as a small boy came running towards the stream, bringing with him a small dog. The dog yapped at the boy's heels as if to encourage him to run faster. The boy was small and chubby with a button nose on his rounded face. He looked to be around six years old. The dog was a mutt with a brown coat and a rat-like tail. He was eight years old. 'come on ruffy, chase me' he squealed. Suddenly the dog lunged towards a bush with a fierce growl. The boy leaped after it with a gasp of excitement. 'Get it ruffy. catch it.' The dog turned around with a dead mouse clutched in its muzzle. Laughing with delight the boy chased after the dog shouting 'gimme mousie now.' He grabbed the dog roughly by the neck and yanked the mouse out of the dogs mouth and turned away from the river. He ran back the way he came up towards a small house set next to a large field. A woman stood next to the house washing some clothes in a big metal tub. The boy ran up to the woman and proudly exclaimed,
'Look mama. Mousie.'
The woman smiled proudly at the boy. 'Look at you. Ain't you just the bravest son a woman could want.' She patted him fondly on the head and turned back to her washing. 'Why don't you go show your pa, Jack? he'l love it.'
Jack grinned and looked around. A man was standing nearby inspecting a water pump. A battered stetson had been shoved carelessly on top of his head, growing dark with sweat.
Jack ran towards him and stood at a polite distance before timidly saying 'Sir, look wah' I foun'.'
The man turned around and smiled briefly at his son before saying gruffly 'I told you ta call me pa for gawd sake. I ain't no gentleman.'
'yes pa.' he said looking contrite. At that moment his mother came to stand behind him.
'Now look here George, you frighten your son like that an' you don't get no supper.'
George rolled his eyes in annoyance.
'Look here woman. I ain't to be called sir by my own son. It feels wrong'
Looking at the boy hiding behind his mother's skirts, George made an effort to seem friendly. 'Whatcha got to show me?' he asked, smiling encouragingly.
'Thats better now isn't it.' She turned and walked back to her washing. Suddenly she heard the click of a hammer. Turning around she saw that George had snatched up the rifle that was leaning against the wall of the house and pointed it straight a Jack.
'Gimme that mouse, Lennie.' he said, his voice trembling.
Jack looked at him with a confused expression. 'who's Lennie' he asked nervously.
'Jus' give it here' George bellowed 'I know you killed it. I know you had it in your pocket and tha' you like to pet it, now give it here.'
'George' The woman yelled. ' you crazy son of a bitch, put that rifle down right now.'
George's eyes were wild and he was twitching and jerking around, nearly foaming at the mouth.
Fearing for Jack's life, she spotted an old horseshoe half buried in the ground, she picked it up and started to inch around George, whose eyes never left Jack.
'I already killed ya and now you come back' He started sobbing. 'never meant no harm Lennie, I swear I never.' The woman got behind George and hit him as hard as she could with the horseshoe. He fell to the ground with a thud. Jack then ran to his mother, and clutched her skirts in fear, screaming, 'Mama' over and over again. Picking up her son and the discarded rifle, the woman glanced contemptuously at George's unconscious body before walking back to the house. She smiled reassuringly at her son.
'We're gonna go live with Aunt Jessie'