Of Mice and Men: Final Chapter
The whitewashed walls of the bunk house were uninviting, but there was another depth to the darkness in the long, rectangular building; the small, square windows revealed the darkness that lay beyond them. The normally hard, sharp corners and edges of the bunks and boxes were fading into the shadows. Playing cards had been left scattered around the small table in the centre of the room: the men never bothering to tidy up their games but it was the calmness and stillness of the room that was the most haunting. The room which, at this time, was normally buzzing with action, as the men played cards and drank, lay empty and so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
The strong door swung open, a gust of wind unsettled the scattered cards from their resting places. Candy hobbled into the room and the heavy door slammed shut behind him. The old man stumbled toward the centre of the room, his good hand clambering for the tin light. Eventually the light flickered on, illuminating the small table in a pool of harsh light and leaving the rest of the room coated in dark, black shadows.
"George! Lennie! You guys in here," Candy's voice called into the darkness. No response came. "C'mon don't kid me!"
The silence was even more prominent as Candy's words hung in the air, the low buzzing of the lamp the only thing keeping the room alive. Candy slumped down onto one of the boxes in the middle of the room wondering silently to himself what had been the fate of the others.
Suddenly voices could be heard coming towards the bunk house, sounds which would not normally be heard but now rang out around the room. Candy could hear the gravel popping beneath the men's feet as they reached the small, wooden steps leading up to the bunk house. The solid door creaked open as Slim lead George inside. George's face was sombre as the door swung shut.
"Evenin' Candy," Slim's greeting was empty. George had slumped onto his bunk and was sat with his head in his hands and hat by his side.
"What's happened?" Candy's question hung in the air as the two men looked silently away. Slim turned toward George who was looking out one of the square windows, then sighed and turned back to Candy, who was looking on in wonder.
"Lennie's dead," the conviction in Slim's voice brought George back to reality and he collapsed backwards onto the bunk.
"By God. How?" Candy sighed. "How?"
"George got 'im," Slim muttered. "Saved 'im from Curley and the rest of 'em."
"You musta been very brave to do that, George," Candy looked over to the short man lying in a heap on the bunk.
"I don't feel it," George said, more to the roof than Candy.
"C'mon don't ya talk like that," Slim cried impatiently. "You're the best kinda guy I've ever come upon."
"I killed the fella that was my only friend," George spat, sitting upright. "Now please explain to me how that makes me a saint."
"You got 'im quick and painless an' saved him from near enough torture."
"I gotta leave," George's statement was met by silence from the others.
Clambering to get up George grabbed the few belongings lying beside his bunk and forced them into the bindle at the head of the bunk.
"No George, you ain't leavin'," Candy's voice broke on the last words as he realised what was happening.
"I gotta Candy. I ain't gonna be able to stay here after what's been happenin'," George's movements were quick and sharp as he grabbed everything.
"But what about our place?" Candy's question stopped George's movement completely.
"I ain't got Lennie, so I ain't gonna do it," George stated clearly as he turned to face the others.
"Why not do it in his memory? For him," Candy pleaded.
"No," George said firmly. "The only reason I wanted to do it was Lennie and now he ain't here, I have no reason."
"Well, what are ya gonna do?" Slim's question hung in the tense atmosphere.
"What I've always done," George said, matter of factly, walking towards Slim. "I'm gonna move on to a new place. Get a fresh start."
"You ain't leavin' without me," Slim's voice was firm and George knew he wouldn't be able to change his mind.
"Fine," George cried, grabbing his bag and heading for the door.
"What about me?" Candy croaked form the corner.
"What about ya?" Slim turned from packing his bag to face the old man.
"Where am I gonna go?" Candy's eyes were wide.
"Ya can go where ya want to go," Slim looked at the man in impatience.
"Can I come with you boys?" Candy's eyes filled with hope.
"I thought you like it here, Candy," George looked at the old man curiously.
"Well, what do I got here?"
"C'mon then," George resigned, wandering to the window as Candy eagerly began packing.
"We'd better head off," Slim's voice broke the silence. "Before the others get back."
George pulled himself away from the window and grabbed his hat from the bunk and threw his bag over his shoulder. Slim knelt beside his bunk and pulled something from underneath. George watched as he sighed and clambered back to his feet.
"To the first night of our new lives," Slim cried, holding up the bottle and taking a drink. He handed Candy the bottle.
"To everythin' that comes to us," then he too swung the bottle back and then handed it over to George.
George studied the bottle, it wasn't anything fancy but he knew that it would have cost Slim quite a fair amount any way. He held the bottle up in the air.
"To havin' each other and not bein' like them other guys," he swung the bottle back and then handed it back to Slim.
All three men placed their hats upon their heads and Candy turned out the tin light to leave the room in a pool of darkness, a calm release from the harsh, blinding beams of the tin light. The silence hung over the three men as Slim pulled the door open and they stepped out onto the wooden steps.
The yard was coated in moonlight; everything was silent and still as the men crossed the yard and left the ranch one last time.