Of Mice and Men

Page 14


Slim looked up questioningly. “What you want me to read that for?”
Whit said, “Go on. Read the name at the bottom.”
Slim read, “’Yours for success, William Tenner.’” He glanced up at Whit again. “What you want me to read that for?”
Whit closed the magazine impressively. “Don’t you remember Bill Tenner? Worked here about three months ago?”
Slim thought..... “Little guy?” he asked. “Drove a cultivator?”
“That’s him,” Whit cried. “That’s the guy!”
“You think he’s the guy wrote this letter?”
“I know it. Bill and me was in here one day. Bill had one of them books that just come. He was lookin’ in it and he says, ‘I wrote a letter. Wonder if they put it in the book!’ But it wasn’t there. Bill says, ‘Maybe they’re savin’ it for later.’ An’ that’s just what they done. There it is.”
“Guess you’re right,” said Slim. “Got it right in the book.”
George held out his hand for the magazine. “Let’s look at it?”
Whit found the place again, but he did not surrender his hold on it. He pointed out the letter with his forefinger. And then he went to his box shelf and laid the magazine carefully in. “I wonder if Bill seen it,” he said. “Bill and me worked in that patch of field peas. Run cultivators, both of us. Bill was a hell of a nice fella.”
During the conversation Carlson had refused to be drawn in. He continued to look down at the old dog. Candy watched him uneasily. At last Carlson said, “If you want me to, I’ll put the old devil out of his misery right now and get it over with. Ain’t nothing left for him. Can’t eat, can’t see, can’t even walk without hurtin’.”
Candy said hopefully, “You ain’t got no gun.”
“The hell I ain’t. Got a Luger. It won’t hurt him none at all.”
Candy said, “Maybe tomorra. Le’s wait till tomorra.”
“I don’t see no reason for it,” said Carlson. He went to his bunk, pulled his bag from underneath it and took out a Luger pistol. “Le’s get it over with,” he said. “We can’t sleep with him stinkin’ around in here.” He put the pistol in his hip pocket.
Candy looked a long time at Slim to try to find some reversal. And Slim gave him none. At last Candy said softly and hopelessly, “Awright — take ‘im.” He did not look down at the dog at all. He lay back on his bunk and crossed his arms behind his head and stared at the ceiling.
From his pocket Carlson took a little leather thong. He stooped over and tied it around the old dog’s neck. All the men except Candy watched him. “Come boy. Come on, boy,” he said gently. And he said apologetically to Candy, “He won’t even feel it.” Candy did not move nor answer him. He twitched the thong. “Come on, boy.” The old dog got slowly and stiffly to his feet and followed the gently pulling leash.
Slim said, “Carlson.”
“You know what to do.”
“What ya mean, Slim?”
“Take a shovel,” said Slim shortly.
“Oh, sure! I get you.” He led the dog out into the darkness.
George followed to the door and shut the door and set the latch gently in its place. Candy lay rigidly on his bed staring at the ceiling.
Slim said loudly, “One of my lead mules got a bad hoof. Got to get some tar on it.” His voice trailed off. It was silent outside. Carlson’s footsteps died away. The silence came into the room. And the silence lasted.
George chuckled, “I bet Lennie’s right out there in the barn with his pup. He won’t want to come in here no more now he’s got a pup.”
Slim said, “Candy, you can have any one of them pups you want.”
Candy did not answer. The silence fell on the room again. It came out of the night and invaded the room. George said, “Anybody like to play a little euchre?”
“I’ll play out a few with you,” said Whit.
They took places opposite each other at the table under the light, but George did not shuffle the cards. He rippled the edge of the deck nervously, and the little snapping noise drew the eyes of all the men in the room, so that he stopped doing it. The silence fell on the room again. A minute passed, and another minute. Candy lay still, staring at the ceiling. Slim gazed at him for a moment and then looked down at his hands; he subdued one hand with the other, and held it down. There came a little gnawing sound from under the floor and all the men looked down toward it gratefully. Only Candy continued to stare at the ceiling.
“Sounds like there was a rat under there,” said George. “We ought to get a trap down there.”
Whit broke out, “What the hell’s takin’ him so long? Lay out some cards, why don’t you? We ain’t going to get no euchre played this way.”
George brought the cards together tightly and studied the backs of them. The silence was in the room again.
A shot sounded in the distance. The men looked quickly at the old man. Every head turned toward him.
For a moment he continued to stare at the ceiling. Then he rolled slowly over and faced the wall and lay silent.
George shuffled the cards noisily and dealt them. Whit drew a scoring board to him and set the pegs to start. Whit said, “I guess you guys really come here to work.”
“How do ya mean?” George asked.