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George looked sharply at him. "What'd you take outa that pocket?"
"Ain't a thing in my pocket," Lennie said cleverly.
"I know there ain't. You got it in your hand…" (1.25-27)
We hope you had a good chuckle, because Lennie isn't actually being "clever" at all. He's like a toddler playing hide and seek who puts a bowl over his head: if he can't see you, you can't see him. Precious moments, right?
Slim sat in silence for a moment. "Didn't hurt the girl none, huh?" he asked finally.
"Hello no. He just scared her. I'd be scared too, if he grabbed me. But he never hurt her. He jus' wanted to touch that red dress, like he wants to pet them pups all the time."
"He ain't mean," said Slim. "I can tell a mean guy from a mile off." (3.28-30)
Slim is our Wise Old Master, so if he says Lennie isn't "mean," then it must be true. He's just dumb. (Fun etymology Brain Snack: "in-nocent" essentially means "free of harm," since "nocere" means "to harm" in Latin. The more you know!)
Slim had not moved. His calm eyes followed Lennie out of the door. "Jesus," he said. "He's jes' 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." (3.44-45)
Uh, we don't know what middle school Slim and George went to, but where we're from, kids can be plenty mean—and mean plenty of harm.