Of Mice and Men: Alternate Ending
The sun had barely begun to inch over the horizon when George entered the bunk house. His hat sat at a slant on his dishevelled looking hair and he had large bags under his eyes. He had obviously slept on the street that night. His face showed profound grief and sadness, tinged with deep thought.
He looked round; Slim had returned and was asleep on his bunk. None of the other men had returned from the pub yet. George sighed deeply, sunk down onto one of the boxes sat around the table and began to lay out his solitaire hand. Suddenly a voice spoke up, taking him by surprise.
"Did you do it?" Candy asked, sitting up from his bunk. George hadn't noticed him as he had been covered by the sack used as a sheet.
"Yeah…" George mumbled gruffly, fighting back a fresh wave of emotion. "Yeah, I did it."
"I think it showed a lot of courage. I couldn't have done it." Candy admitted. "I couldn't even kill my own dog, let alone my childhood friend."
"I know… But it doesn't make it any easier." George's eyes looked down at the cards in his hand. He pushed one of the nearby boxes closer to his with his foot, a silent invitation for Candy to sit down. Candy stood up and shuffled over to the box. George shuffled the cards and dealt them out between the two of them, setting the spare cards down next to him. They stared at the cards for a while, not saying anything.
"The land is still there." George finally piped up.
"Yeah, I saw the advertisement still in the window."
"We were so close." Candy said. "We could almost smell the alfalfa."
"The fresh paint on the windmill…" George muttered with a faraway look in his eyes
"The fresh straw in the barn, the hot sun on the roof tiles…" Candy joined in, staring out the window, where the sunlight had just begun to peep through the glass.
Suddenly there was a movement outside that caught their eye. A few seconds later, the door creaked opene d slowly and a hesitant face peered in. Seeing no one but George, Candy and Slim the face retreated and the door was pushed open a bit more and Crooks kept in, keeping close to the wall.
"I heard what happened." He said his eyes on the floor. He wasn't used to being in the bunkhouse so thought it best to play it safe.
"Who hasn't?" George sighed. "It'll make the news by tomorrow by the way the news is spreading."
"I – I just wanted to offer my condolences. It musta' bin hard for you… to do that."
George said nothing, but nudged the box next to him. Crooks took the hint and, cautiously, perched on it. George pushed the spare cards over to him, and then offered a weak smile. Crooks smiled back and studied his hand.
"Go fish?" George offered, the other two nodded.
They played quietly for a short while, keeping their voices down so not to wake Slim. Finally, Crooks spoke up.
"I- I was remembering… the last time I spoke to Lennie… he mentioned that you guys were plannin' on buying some land…"
"What of it?" George said absent-mindedly, studying his card hand. "Got any fours?"
"Yeah." Crooks handed over two of his cards. "Well…. I've been keepin' it quiet for a while, in case any of the others nicked it…. But I've still got some money left from compensation for when I got kicked by that horse… About 70 dollars… I was saving it for a rainy day and well… it hasn't clouded over for weeks…"
"You'd be willin' to put it into the stake for the land?" George caught onto what Crooks meant
Crooks shifted uncomfortably. "I never seen anyone get anywhere near this far too gettin' land before. And I remember Lennie and Candy saying they'd be willin' to let me work for nothin' if they got the land…" Crooks said, then hastily added "If that's alrigh' with you…"
"Everybody wants a little piece of land…"George whispered to himself, remembering what Candy had said earlier. "Not much. Jus' somethin' that was his…" He looked up from his cards, his eyes for the first time in two days bright with the prospect of new ideas. He turned sharply to Crooks. "You mean that?" He asked hopefully "You'd be willing to put your money towards the land?"
"Yeah…" Crooks shrugged. "If there was room for me…"
"If you put your money in, I could see to it that you got a real room instead of that crummy shed."
"You mean that?" Crooks asked. George nodded. "…..Ok then. I'm in."
"Me to." Candy said. "I've still got that money to compensate my hand. If we put our money together, with what George gets at the end of the month…" Candy's eyes grew wide with excitement. "We could still do it…"
"Let's do it." George agreed "For Lenny."
"For Lenny." The others nodded.
It was a bit of a close call on the Ranch when the others finally returned. As before, George, Candy and Crooks vowed not to speak a word of the plan to the others. When the boss discovered not only that his son's wife had been killed but also the farm hand responsible, he flew into a rage. Strangely, Curley and the others didn't tell him George had been responsible for Lennie's death, instead claiming that Lennie, in a state of despair, had done himself in afterwards. Satisfied, the boss finally managed to calm down and stalked off, muttering to himself.
A short funeral was held at midday for Curley's wife, where all the farm hands wore their best clothes, Curley and the boss wearing their Church clothes that had been dragged out of the back of the wardrobe. Few of the farmhands had anything to say, but not out of sorrow. In fact there were a few smirks back at the bunkhouse and whispered conversations about whether their bets on how long Curley's wife would take to leave the ranch still counted.
That evening, George, Candy, Crooks and Slim snuck out under the excuse that they were heading to the pub, and made their way to the brush, beside the Salinas River. They had buried Lennie earlier, beside the old tree that he and George had leaned against the night before coming to the Ranch. The others left soon after the service had ended, but George remained, sitting on the root beside Lennie's grave, until the sun set and the stars were bright in the sky.
Two months later and the sun was high in the sky, a small bird twittered in one of the trees of the small Ranch. George looked up from the Alfalfa he was picking and watched it flit and flutter across the sky, flying into the open door of the barn, where so many others were making nests in the rafters.
Crooks was also by the barn, leading out two large shire horses, who were dragging a plough behind them. He handed them to one of their hired farm hands who then led them off to plough one of the fields.
The old couple who they had bought it from had been all too happy to sell it to them when the three of them had handed over the money with a promise to pay off the rest later. They had moved in about two weeks later, after handing in their notice at the ranch. It had taken everyone by surprise and there had been threats not to buy the land. But it was too late, and soon George, Candy and Crooks were lifting their stuff onto the bus, taking one last look at the ranch in the distance. As the bus had driven away, George looked on at the brush, shrinking into the distance.
George put the last of the alfalfa in the basket and lugged it over to the stables, dumping most of it in the cattle's trough. He kept some of it though, and brought it outside again, walking up past the windmill, where pigeons and doves were roosting in the upper windows, and into the back of the barn. There, sitting at the back, between the chicken pen and the bags of wheat ready to take to the windmill, sat two large hutches. Inside each one sat a dozen bright eyed rabbits, busily cleaning their ears. They all scuttled to the back as George opened the door and placed the Alfalfa inside, all except one. A large, doe eyed white rabbit, larger than the rest. He was undeniably slower than the rest, in speed and in brains, but was very affectionate towards the people who came to the hutch to feed them. When George or one of the others let the rabbits out into the outside run to eat grass, the larger white rabbit always stuck to the fence, next to where the person was standing.
"Hello Lennie." George said, picking him up and stroking his ears. The rabbit twitched its nose and rubbed its head against his arm affectionately. It was a good name, George thought. An ironic tribute.
He put 'Lennie' back inside the hutch and closed the door. He walked out the front of the barn, where he could see Candy in the house making the breakfast. He motioned to Crooks who was stood in a nearby field helping put up a scarecrow, he nodded and began to make his way down the field towards the gate.
Before he also went towards the house, George paused by a small carved plaque beside the barn door. It read,
And below there was a carving of a small rabbit with a flower held in its mouth. George smiled and walked away.
A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm to, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.
That same sunlight now, as it travels across the sky, lays a lazy eye on the small mound of raised earth below an old Sycamore tree. At that moment, a small mouse scurries out from under a nearby pile of leaves, spooked by the rustlings in a nearby bush. It pauses for a moment, atop the mound of earth, sniffing around as if sensing something. It looks out at the small pool and the trees bowing in the light breeze, blinks and sits there for some seconds as if expecting something. A sudden cracking of twigs disturbs it and it scuttles away through the leaves, as two figures emerge slowly out of the brush, pushing rouge branches aside. The mouse pauses, looks hesitantly back to the pool as if wanting to warn the men of some great danger, but then turn and scurries through a small hole in the bushes and vanishes from sight.