I studied "Of Mice and Men" in my last GCSE year and thought it was a wonderful book, despite being so sad.

I wrote this for my English teacher, not for an assignment or coursework, but because she once told me that every time she reads the book she wants it to end differently. She wants George to throw away the Luger and not to kill Lennie, although she agrees that it was kinder to kill him. And so, because she is probably the best teacher I have ever had, I decided to write that ending for her.

I'm not entirely happy with the way this turned out and it's rather short, but I was working to a deadline, perhaps I'll add more to it in the future.

The first part sticks mostly to the book, with only slight changes. It veers off to my own storyline when George pulls out the Luger.

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 among 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. A silent head and beak lanced down to pluck the snake out of the water, but sensing the movement above it, the snake made a sharp turn with its body and escaped certain death. It slithered away over the pool to disappear amongst some reeds.

A far rush of wind sounded and a 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 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, waiting for more prey to stumble across its path. But none came.

All was still, and the only movements were that of the two men sitting by the pool.

The larger of the two looked at the smaller of the two and said craftily, "Tell me like you done before."

"Tell you what?"

"'Bout the other guys an' about us."

"Guys like us got no family. They make a little stake an' then they blow it in. They ain't got nobody in the worl' that gives a hoot in hell about 'em –" said George.

"But not us," Lennie cried happily. "Tell about us now."

George was quiet for a moment.

"But not us," he said.

"Because –"

"Because I got you an' –"

"An' I got you. We got each other, that's what, that gives us a hoot in hell about us," Lennie cried in triumph.

The evening breeze blew over the clearing and the leaves rustled. The waves flowed up the green pool and the shouts of the men sounded again, this time much closer than before.

George took off his hat. He said shakily, Take off your hat, Lennie. The air feels fine."

Lennie removed his hat dutifully and laid it on the ground in front of him.

The shadow in the valley was becoming bluer by the minute and the evening came fast. On the wind the sound of crashing in the brush came to them.

"Tell how it's gonna be," Lennie said.

George had been listening to the distant sounds. For a moment he was businesslike.

"Look across the river, Lennie, an' I'll tell you so you can almost see it."

Lennie turned his head and looked off across the pool and up the darkening slopes of the Galibans.

"We gonna get a little place," George began.

He reached in his side pocket and brought out Carlson's Luger; he snapped off the safety, and laid the gun on the ground behind Lennie's back. He looked at the back of Lennie's head, at the place where the spine and skull were joined.

A man's voice called from up the river, and another man answered.

"Go on," said Lennie. How's it gonna be. We gonna get a little place."

"We'll have a cow," said George. "An' we'll have maybe a pig an' chickens … an' down the flat we'll have a … little piece of alfalfa –"

"For the rabbits," Lennie shouted.

"For the rabbits," George repeated.

"An' I get to tend the rabbits," Lennie giggled with happiness. "When we gonna do it George?"

"Gonna do it soon."

"Me an' you."

"You … an' me. Ever'body gonna be nice to you. Ain't gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from 'em."

"I thought you was mad at me, George," said Lennie.

"No," said George. "No, Lennie. I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want ya to know."

The voices were close now. George raised the gun and listened to them.

"Le's do it now. Le's get that place now," Lennie begged.

"Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta."

George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie's head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He tensed his finger against the trigger.

The shot never came. George stood with the gun pressed to the back of Lennie's head for twelve full heartbeats, then he dropped his hand.

"I can't," he said.

Lennie turned around.

"You can't?" he asked. "What, we can't get that place?"

"Yeah, of course we can. Le's go get it now," George said, hastily shoving the Luger back in his pocket.

He guided Lennie over to the pool and started to wade into the water.

"This way, Lennie," he said.

Lennie splashed noisily into the pool, the excitement of going getting the better of him. He sent large ripples running across the surface of the water, and the edges of the pool lapped on to the sand.

"Shush, Lennie," George said. "Ya gotta move quietly."

"Why George?" Lennie asked.

The shouts of men filled the brush and footsteps could be heard not far away. Slim's voice shouted, "George. Where you at, George?"

"Hurry, Lennie, hurry," George said, pulling on his arm.

Lennie followed and they both disappeared into the brush on the other side of the pool.

The group burst into the clearing, Curley in the lead.

"Where is he?" he shouted. "Where is that son-of-a-bitch?"

"Not here," replied Slim.

"I heard something. I heard splashing and voices," he said obstinately.

"There!" he pointed to the pool. "Someone's been through that water!"

"I di'n't heard anything," Carlson said.

Curley tensed and gripped his shotgun in hand, looking across the pool to the other side.

"There's something there," he said.

He raised his gun and fired into the brush. They waited, and heard the sound of a heavy object falling to the ground.

Curley laughed in delight and wasted no time in splashing across the pool. The others followed him. They burst through the brush on the other side and stared down at the sight before them. There was silence for a few moments, and then Slim said, "It's a coyote."

"I know what it is!" Curley snapped back at him.

"How d'ya mistake a coyote for him?" Carlson wondered.

"I thought I saw …" Curley started. "Never mind. Le's go."

The group moved off in search of Lennie and left the coyote where it was. No one looked back upon it as it continued to gaze blankly at the sky. Its mouth was slightly open, its tongue lolling against the ground. The fur ruffled slightly in the breeze and a single fly landed upon its muzzle.

… Two days later …

George and Lennie were sitting on a foothill slope, one that curved up to the GabilanMountains. It was evening, and the shade was climbing up the hills towards the peaks. It had already covered the two men and the air was growing colder as the night closed in.

They were several miles south of Soledad, and they could still see the SalinasRiver in the distance, twinkling in the dying sun.

By day they would travel south, aiming to get out of reach of Curley and eventually find work on another anonymous ranch.

George was watching the sun disappearing beneath the land, not saying anything. Lennie followed his gaze, and sat watching the sunset as well.

They were silent for a few minutes, but then Lennie shifted his position restlessly.

"George?" he asked. "Where we goin' George?"

George sighed and said, "I don't know Lennie. I don't know. Maybe we just keep goin' south to KingCity or Paso Robles, or maybe we head east, but I don't know. We can't go forever."

"No, no, that's when we get our place! The little farm with the alfalfa for the rabbits!" Lennie cried. "Tell about the rabbits George. Tell about the other guys an' us."

George sighed deeply, but began speaking.

"Guys like us are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to."

"Now tell how it is with us."

George went on.

"With us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us."

"Because I got you and you got me!" Lennie broke in.

"That's right, you got me an' I got you."

"Go on now, George. Tell how it's gonna be," Lennie persisted.

"O.K. Someday we're gonna get the jack together and get ourselves a little house and a couple of acres. We'll have a cow an' some pigs and we'll live off the fatta the land."

Lennie grinned delightedly, and his eyes were far away as though he was picturing the scene.

"The cream we make from the milk will be so thick you can hardly cut it. We'll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we'll just say the hell with going to work, and we'll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an' listen to the rain comin' down on the roof. An' that's how it'll be."

George finished speaking and sat back, watching the sunset. Lennie leaned back too and also watched the sun.

"We gonna do it soon, right George?" he said.

"Yeah, we gonna do it real soon," George replied.

And he let Lennie think that.