The old swamper sat in silence, slowly observing the contents of the barn surrounding him. He sat in the hay where he had found Curley's wife's weeks earlier. His eyes where fixed on one corner of the barn in particular, where a long fraying rope was hanging down, swaying from the rotting boards above.
He walked towards it. Considering its offer.
What had he left in the world? He had lost his best friend, and the bittersweet hope of living off the land with George and Lennie had long faded away. Looking back on his life he was full of regret. He wondered what had happened if he had done something differently, and was then hit with the sharp pain of remembering that he couldn't go back.
His dog. His loyal companion. He had been put out of his suffering. Something the old swamper knew he should've done himself. And Lennie too, had been put out of his own suffering... But, the old swamper knew, that within a year or two, he would have to leave the farm... and then what?
He wouldn't be able to find another job. He wouldn't have a home. Couldn't afford one. He'd be on the streets. Begging. Sick, hungry, and ashamed of his life. He didn't want that.
The offer was looking more and more promising. Candy walked towards it.
"Right, George? George?"
I had to. George told himself. I had to. It was for his own good! He'd have been locked up an' chained an' it wouldn't a been no good for him. I told him I'd protect him, damn it! I told him to go there. He remembered. He trusted me!
"George?!" Slim yelled.
"Wha- What?" George murmured.
"Where are you?"
Slim frowned. "You gotta stop thinking about em. It's been weeks now."
"I ain't thinking 'bout no one." George grumbled, his voice somewhere far away.
"Sure, you ain't." Slim frowned, and then he added. "It hadda be done, George. Ya hadda do it!"
"We were just so damn close!"
"So close to what?" Slim inquired.
George sighed. "We where gonna get a little place an' live off the fatta the lan'. We almost had enough money. Candy was gonna pitch in. By god, we could've done it!" He laughed bitterly.
"You could still do it, now." Slim opted. " How close are ya?"
"I can't." George murmured, voice full of pain. "Not without Lennie, this was our plan, our dream... it's over now...don't know why I'd ever thought it was possible... a guy like me... an' a guy like him. No..."
Slim stared down at his empty glass, not knowing what to say.
Candy held the rope in his hand. Studying it. It was simple. Easy. Escape.
He pulled on the end. The boards above creaked, but it seemed sturdy enough.
Candy pulled out a chair from Crooks' room and set it under the rope. Carefully he stepped up, again taking the rope in his head, this time tying a loop. He then put the rope around his neck and tightened it. For what else had he to do?
The old swamper looked toward the door, half hoping that someone would burst through and stop him, half hoping that they wouldn't.
With one last murmured word, heard by no one but himself, he kicked the chair aside, and gasped for air until his frail body went limp.
George turned his gaze to the old oaken door. "I told em we could do it, 'cause we was different, then them other guys... They don't got nobody in the worl' that give a hoot in hell about 'em. But I had him an'-"
An' I have you, George.
"I have to go." George downed the remaining liquor from his glass.
"Where you going?" Slim asked.
George ignored the question and slid through the crowded bar and out the door. Then he ran.
George shivered and looked around at the all too familiar place surrounding him. He crouched down where he had behind Lennie just nineteen days ago, and looked out over the water into the horizon.
"Why'd ya do it, Lennie?" George spoke, not recognizing his own broken voice. "Why'd ya hafta do it? I know she was probably askin' for it. Probably yelled and had ya scairt... but Jesus, Lennie!"
George sighed. "I don't blame ya Lennie. I ain't mad. I weren't ever mad wit' ya. I didn't want ya to go away. I wanted ya to stay here with me... "
"I hope you found that place." George continued. "With the rabbits an' the field of alfalfa. I hope you're feeding 'em every day, 'cause that's what ya should be doin' Lennie. You ain't done nothing wrong. I hope you got all the rabbits you could ask for."
George pulled Carlson's Lugar from his pocket. "I can't take it anymore, Lennie." he murmured. "Sure I got Slim an' the other guys but they ain't half a good a friend you were."
"Slim says I could jus' go get that lan' without you an' live on the fatta the lan' myself. But that wouldn't be no good, Lennie. That was our dream together, not mine alone. I ain't gonna do it without you. I ain't gonna do nothing without you ever again, Lennie."
His voice shook. "There ain't no good left in this world, Lennie... just grief an' pain... "
George held the muzzle of the gun to the back of his neck, and took a deep breath.
A single tear fell before the shot sounded and George Milton was lost to the world.