This Ain't Right
"I don' get it. I just don' get it!"
"What do you don't get, Slim?" George inquired glumly. He sat down in the hard wood chair and lifted his left leg up so his ankle balanced on his left knee. George crossed his arms while his eyes traced the patterns of the floor.
"I don' get how that tart can get herself a funeral when she didn't do no work here on the farm, but Lennie gets no show at all. They lef' him on the hill to rot away. Load of bull, that's what it is!"
"Slim, jus' stop thinkin' 'bout it. It's all we can do. At leas' we didn't let Curley shoot 'im in the stomach. He would have been bleedin'' still!" George and Slim chuckled softly at the joke seeing as Lennie was killed one week ago, but they quickly fell silent.
Slim crossed his arms uncomfortably and shuffled in his chair. He couldn't make eye contact. "We gotta do somethin' George," Slim whispered. "This ain't right."
"What you proposing, Slim?"
"I, uh, I dunno George. 'Ts nothing, really, let's just go back to the farm now. I'm gettin' tired of this here pub. Let's go back." Slim waved a wide arc out of his arm, beckoning George to the exit.
"Yeah, yeah. You go. I'll meet you outside." His head fell into his hands, elbows leaning on the bar counter. George's eyes quivered shut, ready to think about the problem before him and Slim. And he did just that.
George thought. He thought and thought about how he can make it up to Lennie. Slim was right. Lennie never deserved the punishment he got. He made a mistake. Everyone does. It just cost him in a more extreme way. George needs to make it up to him.
His head popped off of the counter, out of his hands and he dashed out of the bar. "I got it, Slim! I got it!"
Candy stared, dazed and confused at the two empty seats to his right. The cushions laid draped with lace to cover the holes and imperfections the chairs contained. He leaned to his left and nudges Carlson. "Where're George an' Slim? They should be here by now, shouldn't they?" His voice rose and lowered with a distinct nervousness, unusual for Candy, who has lost most emotion long ago for anything except for his dog and his dreams.
"They should be here soon. They wenna the bar earlier. I'm sure they'll be here. I don't got a doubt. The service don' even start for another ten minutes anyway. They'll be here. I'm sure."
"I get that you're sure Carlson! But why ain't they here now! George ain't one to be late, you know!"
"You never can tell with those two, Candy. Never can tell." Carlson shook his head in a complicated combination of worry, disapproval, and doubt. "Les just hope Curley doesn't git on 'em for bein' late."
The two young men trekked their way through the small town rather quickly, but not so quickly as to seem suspicious by other pedestrians. The sun shone dimly through the many clouds onto their faces in what seemed like a desperate attempt to raise their glum moods. The once puffy clouds gradually transitioned into dark, dreary, ominous shapes so as to cancel out all of the suns efforts.
Slim initiated the first dialogue of their entire journey after about an hour of silence. "You sure this is a good idea, George? Missin' the funeral?"
"Yeah, Slim. Yeah, I do." And only silence followed.
The men traveled slower this time than the last time they went up to the Salinas River. Not because they were less determined or less excited, but because they weren't in a rush. There was no volatile, short young man pushing everyone ahead, forcing George to be in front so Lennie didn't die of painful blood loss rather than shot in the head. George and Slim could take in the surroundings. The earthy smell of the land radiated through their nostrils in ways they've never previously witnessed.
"Sure is nice," Slim thought out loud, hoping to start something. But George didn't answer. He was too overcome with the surroundings to pay attention to the man trailing behind him.
Slowly though, this feeling evolved into fear. Fear of what George may find atop the hill that has adulterated his memory throughout the past week.
What George found though is exactly what he left: Lennie's corpse, untouched, unmoved. He was laying on the ground face down, one arm under his body, the other extended to the left. His big bear head rested on its cheek and its eyes were closed. The skin on the being had gone pale and flies swarmed around him. Aside from the obvious features of death, he looked like a sleeping baby. One that you would be afraid to awaken and disturb in fear that the big momma bear would come after you.
"We gotta do it. It's only right." George moved to the other side of the hulking beast lying on the dirt, across from Slim. "You push him up and I'll pull him this way so he's on his back." The men did as directed, revealing more of Lennie's face and his chest. It was caked with mud and dirt, making the formerly blue denim overalls a darker, less cheerful color.
The two men watched as the first drops of water hit Lennie's body. "Rain! Really?" George screamed. "I'm tryin' to do some good and whataya give me? Rain!"
Slim remarked, "Les' jus' finish this an' we can get outa here."
"This ain't supposed to be one of those 'let's get outa here' things! We supposed to take our time an' finish this properly! And by God I'll do it that way! Now grab your shovel and get digging!"
The body of Curley's Wife, Amelia, was displayed in a magnificent dress, her face layered with more makeup than usual. The lid of the coffin was closed over her and lowered into the ground. Curley rose to the front of the small audience. "This woman, my wife, never deserved to die. Especially at the hands of a stupid, dumb monster like she did. And through an intense amount of effort, he got what he deserved. He was killed. …Amelia will be missed greatly." The final part of his what-may-loosely-be-called-a-speech seemed rushed, like it was an obligatory statement he didn't even wish to say.
"That was, uh, weird," Carlson whispered to Candy. "Lennie didn't mean none, I'm sure."
"You know what else is weird?" Candy replied, "George an' Slim still ain't here."
"They prolly ain't comin'. Maybe they're mad at Curley." Curley shot daggers from his eyes at the two whispering men and Candy nudged Carlson telling him to shut up. The men froze, but then Carlson continued. "They're prolly with Lennie. That'd be the right thing to do."
The actions of George and Slim were slow and filled with regret and guilt. The limp Lennie was gingerly placed into the hole in the ground, one at least two times larger than any that would be necessary for George. He landed with a light splash from the water that had accumulated in the grave.
George started speaking, "Lennie, you were like a brother to me," He looked at the man in the shallow hole through squinted eyes to block out as much water as possible, "the person I could always count on to confide in, because I know that you wouldn't tell anyone. An' even though I would get mad at you sometimes for being, well, stupid… I knew we would always stick together. You never deserved to die. You were a good boy with the best intentions. We were gonna own a farm… and we were gonna life off the fatta' the lan'! And I still can. I promise, buddy. I'll get you that farm and I'll take care of the rabbits. Oh, they'll be wonderful rabbits. So wonderful. You woulda been proud. I'm sure of it. I wish you could still be here, pal. But it had to happen. I'm so sorry. We're both sorry. I… I love you, Len."
Lennie continued to lay unmoving in the grave, but George could have sworn he saw a smile on his face.
The rain continued to pound down on their aching backs as they filled the ground with dirt, covering smiling Lennie. Slim picked a branch with blossoming flowers off a nearby tree and felt the pink petals. "They're soft." Gently, he laid the branch over the site of Lennie's body.