Having just taught Of Mice and Men for twentieth-ish time since I began teaching, I could bear the trauma no more. I’m not suggesting this is how Steinbeck should have ended it – because that would make his whole message pointless – it is just how I wish it had ended for George and Lennie and all the others. I haven’t proof read either, so forgive any typos – I just needed to exorcise my OMAM demons!
For all the traumatised students out there, I give you:
Of Mice and Men – The Optimist’s Ending
George wiped his forehead with an old towel and looked around the kitchen. A slow but steady grin spread across his face. Old Candy had a rich stew bubbling gently on the stove, the chickens were fed and fresh pail of creamy milk stood in the corner. Crooks, having finished his chores was sitting in the shade of an old cherry blossom just talking and talking and talking, while Candy sat beside him carefully listening and occasionally nodding off. Lennie was in the rabbit run again, lifting one rabbit after another and holding them against his cheek.
‘Gently, Lennie,’ George called over, more out of habit than anything else.
‘I… I’m being gentle George. I’m being real gentle!’ Lennie placed a white and brown rabbit back by the hutch as if it were made of the thinnest glass. His hand hovered just above the fur in an impression of stroking. George chuckled and stretched contentedly.
Before he could sit, there was a sudden noise. Someone banging on the door. Lennie, Candy and Crooks turned six eyes to George in surprise.
‘We ain’t expecting no-one today,’ Candy said, raising his bushy eyebrows.
George sighed, ‘Guess I’ll get it then.’
He opened the door just as Slim was raising his hand to knock again.
‘Well hey George, thought I’d call in and see how you guys are getting on.’
‘Come in… come in and see for yourself. Candy, Crooks, Lennie… look who it is!’ George waved Slim through the farm house, delighted to see his old friend again. Slim’s steady brown eyes took in the cosy front room with four armchairs arranged by the fireplace; the kitchen with its huge wooden table and welcoming warmth; through to the garden with peach trees and orange trees, a duck pond and brood of chickens; and the three happy faces of Candy, Crooks and Lennie, all too delighted to show him where they belonged.
‘Okay, okay, give the guy his arm back!’ George laughed as the others shook Slim by the hand eager to point out their own favourite parts of paradise. ‘Here Slim, set down here and I’ll fetch you a slug of whisky’. George placed two chairs in the shade of the tree and he and Slim sat and took a drink in companionable silence.
‘Well this is really something.’ Slim gazed around appreciatively before turning to look at George. ‘You don’t know where there’s another little place like this do you?’
‘’You serious? Happens I do.’ Slim turned to see if George meant it.
‘Our neighbours up the valley a little. They’re selling up and moving North to live with their daughter. I wondered if we could get it ourselves, it’s so close, but we don’t got no need for more land. This here is perfect. Why are you asking Slim? You got a stake together?’
‘Sure have. I met a girl some months back in town. Sweetest thing you ever seen and clever too. Reads all the time, can set an’ talk about real stuff, you know?’ George nodded, although he wasn’t too sure himself. ‘Anyway, she’s got a little bit of money come to her and I’ve been saving my wages. We got enough between us to swing it. She don’t want no big, fancy wedding or party. She just wants us to have our own place.’
George nodded with more conviction. ‘Congratulations Slim, she does sound pretty swell.’
‘Yeah I got lucky alright. Life on the ranch hasn’t been much fun since you guys left. You know Curley’s wife up and left him?’
‘What a tart!’ Candy mumbled as he shuffled past to refill his glass.
‘Well, I don’t know Candy. Selina was alright. Just made a few bad choices.’ Slim’s comments fell on deaf ears as the old man kept shaking his head.
‘Selina?’ George asked.
‘Sure. That was her name. Now she’s Selina the Silver Songbird! Turned out she had a great voice and the next time the travelling show came through, Selina threw a few things in a bag and stole out at night. She ran after that show and sang for the manager there and then. He loved her! She’s top billing. Curley’s so mad, you can’t even imagine!’
George exploded with laughter. ‘Oh I can Slim, I sure can,’ he managed at last. ‘I suppose show folk don’t care if she’s married, single or what. As long as she’s pretty and can hold a tune folk’ll pay to see her. They don’t live by the same rules that the rest of society do.’
Slim nodded sagely. ‘You got it George. She escaped when she saw her chance. I think seeing you four fellas make a go of this place made her even more determined. Now old Curley stomps around the ranch like a bear with a sore head. He’s so angry he’s going to make himself sick.’
‘How’s his hand?’ George asked, a shadow flickered briefly across his face as he remembered a darker time.
‘Pretty useless,’ Slim replied, ‘like its owner but his Father’s planning on retiring soon and leaving Curley in charge, so I guess he’ll feel better when he’s the big boss.’
‘You need to get out before that happens,’ George commented.
The two men shared a nod of agreement. ‘I’ll go speak with your neighbours on my way back,’ Slim confirmed.
‘You’ll stay for a bite to eat first though? There’s plenty.’
‘I will George thanks, it smells mighty tempting,’ Slim settled back comfortably in the garden chair.
‘Yeah, old Candy said he could cook and he wasn’t lying!’
George looked out over the farm. Lennie chuckled as rabbit fur tickled his nose and Crooks snored gently in the peace of the moment. The only other sound was Candy humming happily to himself in the kitchen. The setting sun sent a golden glow over the farm and bathed everything in shades of apricot and peach. And life was good.
So, there you go – a tongue-in-cheek, how-I-wish-it-had-ended version. Hope it made you smile and helped to deal with the scars of English lessons past 🙂
And may all your dreams come true!