Of Mice and Men

Page 16


“Me an’ Lennie’s rollin’ up a stake,” said George. “I might go in an’ set and have a shot, but I ain’t puttin’ out no two and a half.”
“Well, a guy got to have some fun sometime,” said Whit.
The door opened and Lennie and Carlson came in together. Lennie crept to his bunk and sat down, trying not to attract attention. Carlson reached under his bunk and brought out his bag. He didn’t look at old Candy, who still faced the wall. Carlson found a little cleaning rod in the bag and a can of oil. He laid them on his bed and then brought out the pistol, took out the magazine and snapped the loaded shell from the chamber. Then he fell to cleaning the barrel with the little rod. When the ejector snapped, Candy turned over and looked for a moment at the gun before he turned back to the wall again.
Carlson said casually, “Curley been in yet?”
“No,” said Whit. “What’s eatin’ on Curley?”
Carlson squinted down the barrel of his gun. “Lookin’ for his old lady. I seen him going round and round outside.”
Whit said sarcastically, “He spends half his time lookin’ for her, and the rest of the time she’s lookin’ for him.”
Curley burst into the room excitedly. “Any you guys seen my wife?” he demanded.
“She ain’t been here,” said Whit.
Curley looked threateningly about the room. “Where the hell’s Slim?”
“Went out in the barn,” said George. “He was gonna put some tar on a split hoof.”
Curley’s shoulders dropped and squared. “How long ago’d he go?”
“Five — ten minutes.”
Curley jumped out the door and banged it after him.
Whit stood up. “I guess maybe I’d like to see this,” he said. “Curley’s just spoilin’ or he wouldn’t start for Slim. An’ Curley’s handy, God damn handy. Got in the finals for the Golden Gloves. He got newspaper clippings about it.” He considered. “But jus’ the same, he better leave Slim alone. Nobody don’t know what Slim can do.”
“Thinks Slim’s with his wife, don’t he?” said George.
“Looks like it,” Whit said. “’Course Slim ain’t. Least I don’t think Slim is. But I like to see the fuss if it comes off. Come on, le’s go.”
George said, “I’m stayin’ right here. I don’t want to get mixed up in nothing. Lennie and me got to make a stake.”
Carlson finished the cleaning of the gun and put it in the bag and pushed the bag under his bunk. “I guess I’ll go out and look her over,” he said. Old Candy lay still, and Lennie, from his bunk, watched George cautiously.
When Whit and Carlson were gone and the door closed after them, George turned to Lennie. “What you got on your mind?”
“I ain’t done nothing, George. Slim says I better not pet them pups so much for a while. Slim says it ain’t good for them; so I come right in. I been good, George.”
“I coulda told you that,” said George.
“Well, I wasn’t hurtin’ ‘em none. I jus’ had mine in my lap pettin’ it.”
George asked, “Did you see Slim out in the barn?”
“Sure I did. He tol’ me I better not pet that pup no more.”
“Did you see that girl?”
“You mean Curley’s girl?”
“Yeah. Did she come in the barn?”
“No. Anyways I never seen her.”
“You never seen Slim talkin’ to her?”
“Uh-uh. She ain’t been in the barn.”
“O.K.,” said George. “I guess them guys ain’t gonna see no fight. If there’s any fightin’, Lennie, you keep out of it.”
“I don’t want no fights,” said Lennie. He got up from his bunk and sat down at the table, across from George. Almost automatically George shuffled the cards and laid out his solitaire hand. He used a deliberate, thoughtful slowness.
Lennie reached for a face card and studied it, then turned it upside down and studied it. “Both ends the same,” he said. “George, why is it both ends the same?”
“I don’t know,” said George. “That’s jus’ the way they make ‘em. What was Slim doin’ in the barn when you seen him?”
“Sure. You seen him in the barn, an’ he tol’ you not to pet the pups so much.”
“Oh, yeah. He had a can a’ tar an’ a paint brush. I don’t know what for.”
“You sure that girl didn’t come in like she come in here today?”
“No. She never come.”
George sighed. “You give me a good whore house every time,” he said. “A guy can go in an’ get drunk and get ever’thing outa his system all at once, an’ no messes. And he knows how much it’s gonna set him back. These here jail baits is just set on the trigger of the hoosegow.”
Lennie followed his words admiringly, and moved his lips a little to keep up. George continued, “You remember Andy Cushman, Lennie? Went to grammar school?”
“The one that his old lady used to make hot cakes for the kids?” Lennie asked.
“Yeah. That’s the one. You can remember anything if there’s anything to eat in it.” George looked carefully at the solitaire hand. He put an ace up on his scoring rack and piled a two, three and four of diamonds on it. “Andy’s in San Quentin right now on account of a tart,” said George.