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“A New Dawn”

Updated: Jun 26

By: Vincent Wang

The bar was a long, run-down building with wooden boards and floor tiles barely staying in place. Rambunctious clapping, dancing, and singing greeted the two men. Stained, muddy wooden boards covered the ground. Quiet men sulked alone in corners, faces covered by shadows made from tattered remains of cloaks. With people kicking them, broken seats rocked about the floor like drunken men struggling to get back up. Smells of smoke and tobacco filled the air as a group of men lit their cigars and bit them between crooked, blackened teeth. Mice scuttled along the feet of the customers and picked up scraps of food that frequently made their way to the floor. Beer spilled and teeth flew as men brawled violently over trivial issues. George absentmindedly followed Slim, his mind still stuck on Lennie’s death.

Slim dragged George to the bar, stained by countless pints of beer with cracks and jagged edges poking out, likely from brawls. George and Slim started drinking, George drowning his sorrows in pints of beer. The drinks kept coming, and George finally spoke again. He remorsefully shared his deepest regrets concerning Lennie to Slim: he shared with Slim how much he wished they had decided to leave sooner, how he should have kept a better eye on Lennie so that this wouldn’t have happened. George spent quite a bit of money paying the tab, though he found it hard to care. On the way back, the two supported each other, and together, they drunkenly stumbled back to their respective bunks and fell asleep.

The next morning, George woke and found Candy and Crooks for he planned to leave that day. The three went to town, got a horse and a carriage, packed their belongings, and left.

“Safe travels, my friends, ” Slim told George as they were departing, even as Curley

grumbled and sneered about how he would be glad to see the “three good-for-nothings” go.

The trio, who departed from the ranch, were in high spirits. Butterflies circled around the carriage, and a few landed on George’s nose. George imagined their landing and fluttering wings were like Lennie’s warm embrace. Large trees of the forest surrounded the dusty road. Large oak logs laid about, smoothed down by the many that had come before them. The occasional animal came out to stare at them curiously before returning to the dark, endless depths of the forest. Remains of fires lay about on the sides of the rundown road, where people who had come before made camp. The bumpy road often had potholes that shook the whole carriage. Several times, they had come close to losing some of their possessions, but what was most important to George was keeping the money safe. He had been so concerned with keeping it safe, that he had even taken the precaution of hiding it in a secret cache under the carriage where no one but him had access.

“The money is hidden in a spot that it would be impossible for anyone to find it,” George thought silently to himself.

“If only he were here to see it.” George thought to himself again, staring into the distance, his thoughts, like his gaze, distant.

Candy and Crooks were behind George, excitedly talking about their new life and the new ranch. George, too, felt hopeful, yet still remorseful, even as they got ever so close to their new ranch.

“Maybe… Maybe I’ll belong somewhere, finally have someone to talk to, to play cards or horseshoes with,” Crooks thought to himself.

It was at this moment six men, each dressed in leathers stained with blood, jumped out of the bushes and surrounded the carriage.

With brutal efficiency, the six intruders overcame the small group of three men and knocked them out with swift punches to the back of their heads.

“What’ll we do with these three, boss?” One bandit asked.

“I don’t care what you do with them, but don’t leave anything,” came a greedy reply from a nasally voice as the round silhouette of a man stepped onto the road. He was a portly, mean-looking old man, with a gray, receding hairline. A hooked nose carrying a wart perched atop his face.

When the trio finally woke up, they woke up on the ground, left with only the clothes on their backs and a small bag of provisions. Cursing, George desperately scanned the spot where he had hidden the money, praying to the gods, anyone that might hear them that the bandits had not found the stash. Fixing his gaze on an empty hiding spot that blankly stared back at him, George felt as if the gods themselves were trying to spite him. It was already hard to find jobs, and money and food were scarce.

Wallowing in guilt and self pity, he kept thinking, “I should have hid it better. I should have tried harder to protect it. Maybe then we would still have the money.”

Even as fear’s arms gripped George into their cold embrace, a sense of hopelessness filled George; was Curley’s wife right? What if they truly weren’t capable of getting the ranch?

“What’ll we do now?” Crooks asked the question not directed towards anyone in particular.

“We move on,” came a terse reply from the sullen George, as he silently decided that no, he would not give up on the dream, the ranch. Not now, and not never.

Knowing that the bandits were likely long gone, the three kept moving. However, they had to leave the carriage as the bandits had taken their horse. At times, they got so desperate that they made camp in hollowed-out logs, used leaves, or what remained of their clothes as blankets, and had to ration what little food they had left. Rain and mud drenched and stained their clothes. The ranch was the only thought on any of the men's minds. They did this for the dream that they all strived towards, the hope that gave them the strength to continue on.

Ducking under a branch, George said to Candy as Crooks trailed behind them, “Someday. Someday we are going to get that ranch together, me, you, and Crooks. No matter what people say or what they do, nothing will stop me from getting that ranch.”

Heads held high, the three men walked into the horizon, a swarm of butterflies trailing behind them.

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