Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960

   

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An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

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John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men, 1937

 

Death of Lenny

Death of Lenny:

The little evening breeze blew over the clearing and the leaves rustled and the wind waves flowed up the green pool. And the shouts of men sounded again, this time much closer than before.

George took off his hat. He said shakily, "Take off your hat, Lenny. The air feels fine."

Lennie removed his hat dutifully and laid it on the ground in front of him. The shadow in the valley was bluer, and the evening came fast. On the wind the sound of crashing in the brush came to them.

Lennie said, "Tell how it’s gonna be."

George had been listening to the distant sounds. For a moment he was business-like. "Look acrost the river, Lennie an’ I’ll tell you so you can almost see it."

Lennie turned his head and looked off across the pool and up the darkening slopes of the Gabilans. "We gonna het a little place," George began. He reached in his side pocket and brought out Carlson’s Luger; he snapped off the safety, and the hand and gun lay on the ground behind Lennie’s back. He looked at the back of Lennie’s head, at the place where the spine and skull were joined.

A man’s voice called from up the river, and another man answered.

"Go on," said Lennie.

George raised the gun and his hand shook, and he dropped his hand to the ground again.

"Go on," said Lennie. "How’s it gonna be. We gonna get a little place."

"We’ll have a cow," said George. "An’ we’ll have maybe a pig an’ chickens…an’ down the flat we’ll have a …little piece alfalfa—"

"For the rabbits," Lennie shouted.

"For the rabbits," George repeated.

"And I get to tend the rabbits."

"An’ you get to tend the rabbits"

Lennie giggled with happiness. "An’ live on the fatta the lan’."

"Yes."

Lennie turned his head.

"No, Lennie. Look down there acrost the river, like you can almost see the place."

Lennie obeyed him. George looked down at the gun.

There were crashing footsteps in the brush now. George turned and looked toward them.

"Go on, George. When we gonna do it?"

"Gonna fo it soon."

"Me an’ you."

"You…and me." Ever’body gonna be nice to you. Ain’t gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from ‘em."

Lennie said, "I thought you was mad at me, George."

"No," said George. "No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now. That’s a thing I want ya to know."

The voices came closer now. George raised the gun and listened to the voices.

Lennie begged, "Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now."

"Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta."

And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the mussel of it close to the back of Lennie’s head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger. The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again. Lennie jarred, and then settled slowly forward to the sand, and he lay without quivering.

George shivered and looked at the gun, and then he threw it from him, back up the bank, near the pile of old ashes.

The brush seemed filled with cries and with the sound of running feet. Slim’s voice shouted, "George. Where you at, George?"

But George sat stiffly on the bank and looked at his right hand that had thrown the gun away. The group burst into the clearing, and Curley was ahead. He saw Lennie lying on the sand. "Got him, by God." He went over and looked down at Lennie, and then he looked back at George. "Right in the back of the head," He said softly.

Slim came directly to George and sat down beside him, sat very close to him. "Never you mind," said Slim. "A guy got to sometimes."

 

 

But Carlson was standing over George. "How’d you do it?" he asked.

"I just done it," George said tiredly.

"Did he have my gun?"

"Yeah. Tha’s how." George’s voice was almost a whisper. He looked steadily at his right hand that had held the gun.

Slim twitched George’s elbow. "Come on, George. Me an’ you’ll go in an’ get a drink."

George let himself be helped to his feet. "Yeah, a drink."

Slim said, "You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me." He led George into the entrance of the trail and up toward the highway.

Curley and Carlson looked after them. And Carlson said, "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?"

 

 

   
 

Adrienne Nater, 2008

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