Crooks possessed several pairs of shoes, a pair of rubber boots, a big alarm clock and a single-barreled shotgun. And he had books, too; a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905. There were battered magazines and a few dirty books on a special shelf over his bunk. A pair of large gold-rimmed spectacles hung from a nail on the wall above his bed.
This room was swept and fairly neat, for Crooks was a proud, aloof man. He kept his distance and demanded that other people keep theirs. His body was bent over to the left by his crooked spine, and his eyes lay deep in his head, and because of their depth seemed to glitter with intensity. His lean face was lined with deep black wrinkles, and he had thin, pain-tightened lips which were lighter than his face.
It was Saturday night. Through the open door that led into the barn came the sound of moving horses, of feet stirring, of teeth champing on hay, of the rattle of halter chains. In the stable buck’s room a small electric globe threw a meager yellow light.
Crooks sat on his bunk. His shirt was out of his jeans in back. In one hand he held a bottle of liniment, and with the other he rubbed his spine. Now and then he poured a few drops of the liniment into his pink-palmed hand and reached up under his shirt to rub again. He flexed his muscles against his back and shivered.
Noiselessly Lennie appeared in the open doorway and stood there looking in, his big shoulders nearly filling the opening. For a moment Crooks did not see him, but on raising his eyes he stiffened and a scowl came on his face. His hand came out from under his shirt.
Lennie smiled helplessly in an attempt to make friends.
Crooks said sharply, “You got no right to come in my room. This here’s my room. Nobody got any right in here but me.”
Lennie gulped and his smile grew more fawning. “I ain’t doing nothing,” he said. “Just come to look at my puppy. And I seen your light,” he explained.
“Well, I got a right to have a light. You go on get outa my room. I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room.”
“Why ain’t you wanted?” Lennie asked.
“’Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me.”
Lennie flapped his big hands helplessly. “Ever’body went into town,” he said. “Slim an’ George an’ ever’body. George says I gotta stay here an’ not get in no trouble. I seen your light.”
“Well, what do you want?”
“Nothing — I seen your light. I thought I could jus’ come in an’ set.”
Crooks stared at Lennie, and he reached behind him and took down the spectacles and adjusted them over his pink ears and stared again. “I don’t know what you’re doin’ in the barn anyway,” he complained. “You ain’t no skinner. They’s no call for a bucker to come into the barn at all. You ain’t no skinner. You ain’t got nothing to do with the horses.”
“The pup,” Lennie repeated. “I come to see my pup.”
“Well, go see your pup, then. Don’t come in a place where you’re not wanted.”
Lennie lost his smile. He advanced a step into the room, then remembered and backed to the door again. “I looked at ‘em a little. Slim says I ain’t to pet ‘em very much.”