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.

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Worksheet84.91 KB

Language level

B2 English level (upper intermediate)

Submitted by thuy pham on Mon, 29/11/2021 - 05:55


In my opinion, Carter wants to his son have a holiday in the farm, because he want his son stay away from school where maybe his son makes a lot of trouble. Farm is a ideal place where is quite remote, uncrowded. Cater thinks his son can not be able make any trouble here.

Submitted by vishnu_saddikuti on Mon, 08/11/2021 - 03:48


In task2, question 6, I feel there's no clear cut answer for that. According to the passage, Mr Carter brought his son to the farm along with him as he had had some trouble in school. But this need not be the primary reason for Mr Carter to come to his house.

Hello vishnu_saddikuti,

This is certainly a question which requires some interpretation of the text as the answer is not spelled out explicitly. However, of the four options I think this is clearly the most likely choice. I think Carter's final comment ("Not much trouble out here for a young boy") is very telling as it informs us not only what the son's situation is but also how Carter sees the farm.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Allyana Woon on Tue, 26/10/2021 - 01:46


In my opinion, Mr Carter bring his son to the farm to let him know that life isn't easy when you grow up and can let his son have a tough experience at the farm.

Submitted by AHMED-star on Mon, 25/10/2021 - 08:35


in my opinion he brough his son to the farm to learn him life its difficult and you should work and struggle to could live.

Submitted by Abrarhussain on Sat, 23/10/2021 - 23:49


I think that Mr Carter has brought his son to the farm as he's had some trouble at school.

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Submitted by FrancktheDodger on Mon, 23/08/2021 - 19:46

Probably, Mr Carter has decided to get in touch with his son, in a neutral space for both. So, his family farm may be an ideal place to get know each other, not only as father-and-son relationship, but as human beings. Often, men believe that there is a special link that connects the male portion of a family and it is a natural, instinctive relationship that needs to be mend only among familiar individuals of the same sex. Fathers of some generations ago in facts believed that living adventures in a rustic, tough countryside, completely in contact with nature and her hard rules, was a key to conquest that male complicity, unfortunately faded away during the years. So, I figure that Mr Carter is a business man of that generation, who does not know what to do with a problematic teenager and hope to find out that feeling of trust they have lost long time before. In the farm, without any distraction and excuse, he hopes to reconquest his son, getting know each other better.

Submitted by Andrea Valencia on Wed, 21/04/2021 - 13:58

I think Mr. Carter wants his son to spend time in the field so that his son's behavior will improve.

Submitted by Mikhail1988 on Sun, 07/03/2021 - 13:14

I think mr Carter wants to teach his son to love work. Thanks to my grandparents for that. I worked at the village during all my childhood. I didn't like it. But know it really helps me to achive my goals.

Submitted by Tâlha Bay on Mon, 01/03/2021 - 08:44

I think Mr.Carter want to show to his son, school is easier than the real life and the give him a propose with real thing.

Submitted by Volna2021 on Fri, 15/01/2021 - 10:36

I think, Mr.Carter likes Sam. Although Sam is his workman, und he is the boss, but we can guess, that Mr.Carter has respect for Sam and admit his strength. He feels confusedly, uncertainly. Mr. Carter tries to bring his son here, from where there is no escape, for a punishment. But also for a challenge maybe.

Submitted by giuseppegualtieri on Sun, 10/01/2021 - 19:46

I'll try. I think he brought his son with him as the son can watch what people without instruction do for living. A kind of lesson. For this reason I think that the ultimate intention of Mr. Carter was to involve his son in the construction of fences, as he can finally see the difference between a Job and do well in school.

Submitted by Aye Nandar Oo on Tue, 29/12/2020 - 09:57

In my opinion,Mr carter wanted his son to feel relax in a new place.Then,His son could forget his problem and get more time to think deeply himself about his problem.And he would negotiate his father with his future.I think his father's did something right.This is because he did not scold his son for the problem that happened to his son.He gave time to his son.

Submitted by Ehsan on Thu, 24/12/2020 - 15:37

I think he just wants to gain more money. So he doesn't have enough time and he can't have a good relationship with his family especially his son. On the other hand, his son has some problems in his school because of his problems in his family. Mr. Carter wants to take advantage of the condition. Thus his son works for free and his son doesn't make any problem in the school. Mr. Carter just thinks about himself.

Submitted by Rena on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 06:38

By the way, can I ask you the name and author of the book

Hello Rena,

The name of the short story is Over the Edge and the author's name is Nicola Prentis.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot. Could you give me an advice which kind of books better to read to improve language? Again Thank You so Much

Hello again Rena,

I always recommend reading novels and short stories to my students. It's useful to read articles and so on but non-fiction tends to be limited in the language it uses, while fiction contains a much broader range: description, action, dialogue, commentary etc.


It's important to find books which are not too easy and not too difficult, and which are more than anything else interesting to you. That's an individual matter, of course, but it can be useful to read books in English which you have already read in your own language. A book you are already familiar with will be easier to understand.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rena on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 06:29

To keep him far from the lifestyle that spoil him, to help him avoid problems in future. Well- fed person does not know price of food, I think

Submitted by thuyphan on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 05:47

This story maybe is quoted from a novel so that I can’t understand the whole meaning of this story. However, I can see that the man in this story was trying his best to help his teenage boy to escape from school troubles and show him the meaning of the real life

Submitted by sarah Mansour on Tue, 03/11/2020 - 21:28

I think that Mr. Carter wants his son to face real-life and show him how his father leads this Farm after what he had done in School.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Thu, 29/10/2020 - 17:54

Truthfully I've found some difficulties in understanding this piece, especially because it's an only part of a short story that I don't know entirely. In any case I think Mr Carter has brought his son to the farm for accustoming him to the real life, after his trouble at school.

Submitted by Oscarsamuel on Sun, 25/10/2020 - 23:48

I think he is trying to teach something about the real life. Mr Cartes is a rich person, and I suppose that his son has been everything. Other point is that Carter’s son is a teenager, and all teenagers have a bad behavior at school or school. Life in the farm is a good place to teach or fix any behavior. I liked this sentence “ The more he kept out of his boss’s way, the longer he’d have a job.” I think that it is true. I didn’t get this “ Sam’s escape was his reality and he wasn’t going back.” Thanks guys.

Hi Oscarsamuel,

I'm glad you enjoyed the story :)

That sentence means that Sam was living and working on the farm as a way to escape from the real world. For him, the real world is not a nice place - it's "a place even people like Carter travelled to escape from". And, life on the farm has become his new reality, instead of the "real world". The end of the sentence ("he wasn't going back") shows that he has no intention of going back to the "real world".

Does that make sense?


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by danisep on Fri, 23/10/2020 - 23:05

what I can understand he brought his son to the farm to given a lesson, but what kind of lesson? perhaps he is gonna put his son to do hard jobs at the farm, I think that help in a farm and care the animals is not a punishment quite the opposite it is interesting learn to ride a horse and enjoy the farm. This text was really difficult for me. I had to use the translator many times, but I'm going to read it over and over again until I can get it.

Submitted by Jorgelina on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 21:54

Hello! Excuse me, but I don't understand the grammar of this sentence: "The fact it was Carter's house was no explanation..." Could you explain to me, please?

Hello Jorgelina,

I think the sentence has a quite simple structure but appears complex because it has a very long subject. We can replace the subject with a pronoun to show the sentence structure:

It had no explanation.

In your example, the subject is a long phrase, but otherwise it has the same structure:

The fact that it was Carter's house

The meaning of 'the fact that' is 'this piece of information'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Emma Jones on Fri, 09/10/2020 - 12:11

Hi, what is the name of this short story? I would like to read the rest :)

Submitted by shawn peter ru… on Wed, 07/10/2020 - 09:05

hi, i can't understanding the concept of reading that related to character i have that problem in SAT too what can i do in that readings ?

Hi shawn peter rual mendes,

I'm not sure what you mean. I understand that you have some problems in reading, but could you be more specific in describing them? What do you mean by 'related to character'?



The LearnEnglish Team

i mean that there are different type of readings for example there is a reading that relates science or there is other reading that related to history or big events of past or a reading that related to characters(people talking with each other) this type of reading such this reading that you place it in this site and it is name A short story extract is related the Conversation of characters and i cant read and understand something about this reading and i need to percive them because there are (characters conversation readings) are in the SAT exam

Hello shawn peter,

I'm afraid we don't provide any materials that are designed to help prepare you for the SAT exam. I'd suggest you do an internet search for something like 'SAT exam preparation' -- I'm sure you can find lots of resources this way. 

I hope this helps you.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Hennadii on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 09:53

It's hard to be sure from this short fragment of a story. But I think he might. From the text above we've already known Mr.Carter is an infrequent guest at his farm. Probably he's rich and has a lot to in the town. But now he has some problems with his son. Maybe the little boy made something bad or stupid at school so his father is forced to make some important decision: where does his son have to grow? In the town with all its seductions or at the farm. Maybe his wife is dead because he seeks Sam's advice. So the little Carter grows without mother. Perhaps that's the reason for this behavior? Who knows? It's not an easy move for Mr.Carter. Of course, on the farm, his son will be isolated from bad associations but how can you control the boy in the countryside? In support of this idea, Sam thinks about horses. What if the boy, who doesn't know how to ride, will try to escape his farm-prison on the horse? Where will he ride? What if he will fall from the beast? Tough choice for Mr. Carter though.

Submitted by Benaz on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 21:17

Mr Carter has brought his son to the farm to get him away from trouble. He wants him a different environment away from the vices - a place where he can have a different experience.

Submitted by Nehir on Sun, 20/09/2020 - 10:33

Maybe he want to give a good lesson his son so he will not do wrong anything in the school and he will understood the farm's difficulty life and he can like his school more.

Submitted by Roblox on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 17:21

He hopes the farm will give a good lesson and change his son better.

Submitted by Giahaitruong on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 08:56

Mr Carter has brought his son to the farm to change his environment. At the farm, Mr Carter'son could make the acquaintance with horses and Sam. Moreover, Sam can educate the teenage boy and make him become more docile.

Submitted by Annelin on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 08:12

I think Mr Carter will that his son get better education. I mean more practical. His son can learn about nature, animals and village life. He was a bad boy in the city.

Submitted by Tania Jrz A on Mon, 17/08/2020 - 04:42

I think he took him to the farm to work and to discipline him for his bad behaviour.

Submitted by Owen88 on Fri, 24/07/2020 - 07:22

This text isn't easy. In my opinion it's more advanced than b2. What do you think?

Submitted by Min Htet Kaung Aung on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 15:14

"There was a whole load of trouble a good rider could get into out here, miles away from anyone” In this sentence, does "out here” means "out of here”.I got little headache in trying to understand this extract.

Hello Min Htet Kaung Aung,

In this case, 'out here' means 'here on the ranch' or 'here in the country' or something like that. Sam is referring to the fact that Mr Carter's son will be in an environment that is very different from one that he is used to -- it doesn't specify where he normally lives, but I think it's safe to assume that it's a city rather than the country.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fernando Daniel on Mon, 22/06/2020 - 17:01

I think Mr. Carter has brought his son to the farm because the kid needs to be out of trouble for a while. Away from the place where he could generate them. That's why Mr. Carter says 'Not much trouble out here for a young boy'. It seems like the boy was a little restless...

Submitted by Marcos Alexand… on Thu, 18/06/2020 - 00:58

Good Lesson.