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A short story extract

Read a section from a short story to practise and improve your reading skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and do the exercises.

Reading text

Sam squinted against the sun at the distant dust trail raked up by the car on its way up to the Big House. The horses kicked and flicked their tails at flies, not caring about their owner's first visit in ten months. Sam waited. Mr Carter didn't come out here unless he had to, which was just fine by Sam. The more he kept out of his boss's way, the longer he'd have a job.

Carter came by later while Sam was chopping wood. Carter lifted his hat as if he were waiting for an appointment with the town priest, and then removed it completely as if he were talking to his mother. He pulled out a pile of paper from his back pocket and held it out.

'Don't pick up your mail often, do you?'

Sam took it without a glance and dropped the envelopes onto the bench.

'Never,' he replied and waited for Carter to say why he was here. The fact it was Carter's house was no explanation and they both knew it. Carter twisted his hat round and round, licking his lips and clearing his throat.

'Nice work fixing those fences,' he said finally.

'I'll be back to the beginning soon,' Sam said. It wasn't a complaint. A fence that took a year to repair meant another year's work to the man who did it well.

'Don't you ever want to take a holiday?'

'And go where?' A holiday meant being back out in the real world, a place even people like Carter travelled to escape from. Sam's escape was his reality and he wasn't going back.

Mr Carter wiped the sweat from the back of his neck. The damp patches on his shirt drew together like shapes in an atlas. His skin was already turning ruddy in the June sun. Otherwise he had the indoor tan of a man that made money while other people did the work.

'I've brought my son with me on this trip. He's had some trouble at school.' Mr Carter's eyes flicked up, blinked rapidly and then shifted back to the hat occupying his hands. 'Not much trouble out here for a young boy.' He attempted a laugh but it came out like a dog's bark.

The two men looked towards the northern end of the property. It stretched as far as the eye could see. Even the fences were barely visible from where they stood. However bored and rebellious a teenage boy might get, it wasn't possible to escape on foot. Sam looked at the biggest of the horses, kicking at the ground with its heavy hooves. Could the boy ride? he wondered. There was a whole load of trouble a good rider could get into out here, miles away from anyone. But maybe there was even more trouble for someone who knew nothing about horses and wanted to get away from his father.



Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


The fact that Mr. Carter owns such wealth implies that his son may have been adopting a glib lifestyle mindset, getting to a point where where has a shallow perspective with regard life, (no wonder he has problems at school) hence, with this he aims to make a shift in his vision by getting him away from the simplicity that a life full of luxuries has plunged him into

I think Mr. Carter has brought his son to the farm because his had some trouble at school. He thought that there won't be any trouble if his son stay in he farm.

I think Mr. Carter brought his son to the farm as a way to change the environment. Perhaps farm activities would make Mr. Carter's son feel better. Away from the problems.

I think that Mr. Carter’s son is a boy that has a lot of money, but he lacks from warmth. He needs that his father takes care about his feelings and wishes in life. Maybe the change of environment could help, but the most important thing is the good relationship the kid would have with his father and adult people. Sam thinks the boy could be a problem, and he didn’t think in which way he could help to his employer.

I think Mr Carter brought his son to the farm to rebuild a new future. Perhaps a gap year out of the noisy and crowded town. Hard working at the farm and learn to ride on a wild horse could reshape to an excellent person. Rebuilding selfconfidence and taking self-control to take leadership later on in life.

I think Mr. Carter failed to deal with his son and instead of solving the problem he try to put the burden on sam’s shoulders.

He'd like to punish his son for not working well at school.

why is "were" used in seventh sentence? becouse of the "if"?

Hello mehdi_84

Yes, it's because of 'as if'. We use 'as if' (or 'as though') to describe a situation by comparing it to a different situation. Since our comparison talks about something imaginary and not real -- for example, here, Carter is not waiting to speak to a priest or to his mother -- we use a past tense form to show this.

This is explained on our Past tense page and also this one -- where it talks about hypotheses, that's another way of talking about something imaginary. As it explains there in more detail, we use a past simple form to speak of a present or future imaginary event and the past perfect to speak of a past imaginary event. Conditional structures (with 'if') also use these tenses in the same way.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

These paragraphs are very difficult for me. How can I understand them. Do anyone have suggestions?