Of Mice and Men

Page 9


Lennie’s eyes were frightened. “I don’t want no trouble,” he said plaintively. “Don’t let him sock me, George.”
George got up and went over to Lennie’s bunk and sat down on it. “I hate that kinda bastard,” he said. “I seen plenty of ‘em. Like the old guy says, Curley don’t take no chances. He always wins.” He thought for a moment. “If he tangles with you, Lennie, we’re gonna get the can. Don’t make no mistake about that. He’s the boss’s son. Look, Lennie. You try to keep away from him, will you? Don’t never speak to him. If he comes in here you move clear to the other side of the room. Will you do that, Lennie?”
“I don’t want no trouble,” Lennie mourned. “I never done nothing to him.”
“Well, that won’t do you no good if Curley wants to plug himself up for a fighter. Just don’t have nothing to do with him. Will you remember?”
“Sure, George. I ain’t gonna say a word.”
The sound of the approaching grain teams was louder, thud of big hooves on hard ground, drag of brakes and the jingle of trace chains. Men were calling back and forth from the teams. George, sitting on the bunk beside Lennie, frowned as he thought. Lennie asked timidly, “You ain’t mad, George?”
“I ain’t mad at you. I’m mad at this here Curley bastard. I hoped we was gonna get a little stake together — maybe a hundred dollars.” His tone grew decisive. “You keep away from Curley, Lennie.”
“Sure I will, George. I won’t say a word.”
“Don’t let him pull you in — but — if the son-of-a-bitch socks you — let ‘im have it.”
“Let ‘im have what, George?”
“Never mind, never mind. I’ll tell you when. I hate that kind of a guy. Look, Lennie, if you get in any kind of trouble, you remember what I told you to do?”
Lennie raised up on his elbow. His face contorted with thought. Then his eyes moved sadly to George’s face. “If I get in any trouble, you ain’t gonna let me tend the rabbits.”
“That’s not what I meant. You remember where we slep’ last night? Down by the river?”
“Yeah. I remember. Oh, sure I remember! I go there an’ hide in the brush.”
“Hide till I come for you. Don’t let nobody see you. Hide in the brush by the river. Say that over.”
“Hide in the brush by the river, down in the brush by the river.”
“If you get in trouble.”
“If I get in trouble.”
A brake screeched outside. A call came, “Stable — buck. Oh! Sta-able buck.”
George said, “Say it over to yourself, Lennie, so you won’t forget it.”
Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off. A girl was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. “I’m lookin’ for Curley,” she said. Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality.
George looked away from her and then back. “He was in here a minute ago, but he went.”
“Oh!” She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward. “You’re the new fellas that just come, ain’t ya?”
Lennie’s eyes moved down over her body, and though she did not seem to be looking at Lennie she bridled a little. She looked at her fingernails. “Sometimes Curley’s in here,” she explained.
George said brusquely. “Well he ain’t now.”
“If he ain’t, I guess I better look some place else,” she said playfully.
Lennie watched her, fascinated. George said, “If I see him, I’ll pass the word you was looking for him.”
She smiled archly and twitched her body. “Nobody can’t blame a person for lookin’,” she said. There were footsteps behind her, going by. She turned her head. “Hi, Slim,” she said.
Slim’s voice came through the door. “Hi, Good-lookin’.”
“I’m tryin’ to find Curley, Slim.”
“Well, you ain’t tryin’ very hard. I seen him goin’ in your house.”
She was suddenly apprehensive. “’Bye, boys,” she called into the bunk house, and she hurried away.
George looked around at Lennie. “Jesus, what a tramp,” he said. “So that’s what Curley picks for a wife.”
“She’s purty,” said Lennie defensively.
“Yeah, and she’s sure hidin’ it. Curley got his work ahead of him. Bet she’d clear out for twenty bucks.”
Lennie still stared at the doorway where she had been. “Gosh, she was purty.” He smiled admiringly. George looked quickly down at him and then he took him by an ear and shook him.
“Listen to me, you crazy bastard,” he said fiercely. “Don’t you even take a look at that bitch. I don’t care what she says and what she does. I seen ‘em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be.”
Lennie tried to disengage his ear. “I never done nothing, George.”
“No, you never. But when she was standin’ in the doorway showin’ her legs, you wasn’t lookin’ the other way, neither.”