Lennie held out his hands pleadingly. “Give ‘um to me, George. I’ll take ‘um back. I didn’t mean no harm, George. Honest I didn’t. I jus’ wanted to pet ‘um a little.”
George handed the pup to him. “Awright. You get him back there quick, and don’t you take him out no more. You’ll kill him, the first thing you know.” Lennie fairly scuttled out of the room.
Slim had not moved. His calm eyes followed Lennie out the door. “Jesus,” he said. “He’s jus’ like a kid, ain’t he?”
“Sure he’s jes’ like a kid. There ain’t no more harm in him than a kid neither, except he’s so strong. I bet he won’t come in here to sleep tonight. He’d sleep right alongside that box in the barn. Well — let ‘im. He ain’t doin’ no harm out there.”
It was almost dark outside now. Old Candy, the swamper, came in and went to his bunk, and behind him struggled his old dog. “Hello, Slim. Hello, George. Didn’t neither of you play horseshoes?”
“I don’t like to play ever’ night,” said Slim.
Candy went on, “Either you guys got a slug of whisky? I gotta gut ache.”
“I ain’t,” said Slim. “I’d drink it myself if I had, an’ I ain’t got a gut ache neither.”
“Gotta bad gut ache,” said Candy. “Them God damn turnips give it to me. I knowed they was going to before I ever eat ‘em.”
The thick-bodied Carlson came in out of the darkening yard. He walked to the other end of the bunk house and turned on the second shaded light. “Darker’n hell in here,” he said. “Jesus, how that nigger can pitch shoes.”
“He’s plenty good,” said Slim.
“Damn right he is,” said Carlson. “He don’t give nobody else a chance to win—” He stopped and sniffed the air, and still sniffing, looked down at the old dog. “God awmighty, that dog stinks. Get him outa here, Candy! I don’t know nothing that stinks as bad as an old dog. You gotta get him out.”
Candy rolled to the edge of his bunk. He reached over and patted the ancient dog, and he apologized, “I been around him so much I never notice how he stinks.”
“Well, I can’t stand him in here,” said Carlson. “That stink hangs around even after he’s gone.” He walked over with his heavy-legged stride and looked down at the dog. “Got no teeth,” he said. “He’s all stiff with rheumatism. He ain’t no good to you, Candy. An’ he ain’t no good to himself. Why’n’t you shoot him, Candy?”