A Eurology for Lennie
George sat in the bunkhouse and stared morosely at the small fire which, apart from the small oil lamp on the cards table, provided the only light in the darkened room. He watched the flames dance and thought sourly about his upcoming task. It had been Slim's idea originally, and George had been a bit shocked that Slim could understand what he was going through. The rest of the ranch-hands, Curley, Carlson, Crooks, Whit, and even Candy the old swamper had been dead set against any idea of commemorating Lennie, but Slim had patiently reminded them that Lennie wasn't the only guilty one and they had all agreed to go ahead with the funeral. They respected Slim that much. Curley had been furious that Lennie should be remembered, and had sulked furiously for hours on end. It was only when Candy had mentioned the fact that Curley's arm was still in a sling from his scuffle with Lennie, that he came around. He had not spoken since then.
George was disrupted from deep thought when Carlson stalked into the room, his belly preceding him to the card table where he sat with a cigarette in his hand. "Jus' buried her." He told George sadly, " 'an Curley di'nt cry nor nothing, jus' dug the 'ole and was on 'is way." George nodded and bowed his head, Curleys wife didn't get a funeral, but Lennie did and that was what Curley was mad about. Not that Curley gave a damn about his wife, nor her funeral, but moreover that it was Lennie the oaf who got the funeral. Curley had refused to speak to George since the day of Lennie and Curley's wife's death. Candy had said he was grieving, but Crooks had known better and scoffed wisely, " 'e ain't grievin' e's sulkin. No more glove fulla Vaseline!"
Crooks had been worked overtime for that, and Curley had shut himself in his own empty house for the whole day. Nobody doubted his reasoning.
The sun had set in the Salinas valley and the green river ran deep, flowing and winding its way through the mountains. The birds had hidden from view and only the occasional mouse scuttled across the yard. Slim's puppies were pining quietly and as the red sky reached its peak, George stepped out of the bunk house and made his way down to a little field near the river. It was where Lennie had been shot, and where Lennie would be buried. For tonight was Lennie's funeral.
Carlson and Slim had dug the grave earlier that day, while George had hidden himself away from the others. Whit and Crooks had kept to themselves, as usual and Curley had been sulking in his house. Candy looked after Slims puppies, still in grief over the loss of his dog.
Whit had built a wooden coffin from spares at the ranch and George helped, along with Slim and Carlson; to heave Lennie's body into the wooden box and lower it into the ground with a heavy thud. Slim nudged George and George gulped before standing at the top of the grave, where Lennie's feet were and spoke quietly.
"I've known Lennie for a long time. He was a big guy with a big hart, 'an he would always try 'an do what was right. Lennie was…" George broke off, and cringed at his helplessness, " 'e was my bes' friend, 'an I…was his." George found it hard to continue, and tears were running down his face, stopping him from speaking.
Slim interrupted, "I only knew Lennie for a lil while," he said quietly, "but he was the bes' God Damn worker I 'av ever seen. Lennie was jus' like a lil kid, wan'ed ta play with ever'thing 'an anything he could, 'an sadly that cos' him his life. But we won' never forget Lennie, no. Not Lennie Small."
Carlson looked to Slim and to George before breathing in and stepping forward, "Now Lennie did wrong in his life, but he never men' it. I know that in his hart he was a goodun, all he ever wan'ed to do was 'elp people. Ain't never met nobody like Lennie, no guy could care for another guy the way Lennie cared for ever'one, specially George." Carlson nodded and Whit spoke up, but then in a whisper, "I never talked to Lennie much," he admitted, "But when I did, all he ever talked about was what he wan'ed to do. 'He wan'ed to get a farm, like any guy does. 'An he wan'ed to be the boss, jus' the way ever' guy will. Lennie jus' wan'ed to fit in."
Crooks shook his head sadly and refused to speak, until Slim coaxed him and he exclaimed, "Oh awight!"
"Lennie was a nice fella, heck. He was a hell of a nice fella, came 'n saw me 'n jus' wan'ed to set and talk, like any guy would. Lennie di'nt care 'bout my colour, di'nt call me nigger, di'nt do nothing mean nor nasty to nobody. Lennie jus' wan'ed to please George, 'an gawd almighty I 'ope he was 'appy when he…he…died. Cos nobody deserves what he got, 'an yet, it was the only thing that cudda been done."
Curley had still not spoken, and as the party stood in silence he finally choked out a few words. "All he ever wan'ed to do was stroke them ruddy pups!" The group chuckled sadly, and fondly reminisced but Curley gulped and said some more, "He killed my wife, 'an he killed that Pup, 'an god knows what he did in Weed that made you come 'ere in the firs' place, bu' I knows he never men' it. I wish 'e had, cos then I cudda been angry, but I can't be angry no more, 'cause I know Lennie never men' nothing, and that's jus' so hard."
George nodded absently, not taking in what people had said, and then he spoke. "Lennie was…" he spoke with a finality in his voice. "Lennie was jus' a guy, gawd damn good worker. Jesus," he cried, "Lennie was jes' like a kid, a lil kid, 'an sometimes," he paused, trying to find the words, "sometimes he was one crazy bastard."
The ranch hands smiled bitterly at the casual mention of Lennie's nickname and looked to George, for what they knew to be the last they would see of him. They could see George bend down and pick some of the dry dirt from the ground and drop it into the grave. "Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust." George looked up and gave a pained smile, wiping the tears from his face with his muddy hands and he gasped, falling to his knees and pounding the ground with his fist "All he ever wanted to do, was to tend those god damn rabbits."