A short story extract

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.

Task 1

Task 2


Worksheet84.91 KB

Language level

Average: 4 (145 votes)
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Profile picture for user Cheick Sadibou

Submitted by Cheick Sadibou on Tue, 09/07/2019 - 02:19

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

Submitted by mehdi_84 on Sat, 06/07/2019 - 03:24

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

Profile picture for user Sai Leng Wan

Submitted by Sai Leng Wan on Wed, 05/06/2019 - 10:13

These paragraphs are very difficult for me. How can I understand them. Do anyone have suggestions?
Hello Sai Leng Wan We're happy to help you understand specific phrases or sentences if you want to ask about them, but please of course first consult a dictionary to see if that will help, for example the Cambridge Dictionary (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/). Another option would be to choose readings at a different level, for example B1 (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/reading/intermediate-b1-reading). You could also do our level test (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/content) and then search for pages at your level. Please let us know if there's anything else we can do to help you. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sarah-njzh on Sun, 19/05/2019 - 03:27

maybe Mr Carter want his son to experience something in the farm and realize the real world

Submitted by Escobar on Mon, 13/05/2019 - 23:19

in order to punish his son

Submitted by Peya on Wed, 10/04/2019 - 20:58

I think that he brought his son to the farm, so that Sam could help him deal with him, because it seems like he don't really know how to handle him. I think that's why he was a little bit uncomfortable with Sam when he was talking about his son. It's seems like he's rich, so he may be kinda busy and don't really have time to either come to the farm or spend time with his son, and so he don't really know him and don't know how to handle the situation. Therefore, he might have thought that a new environment, far from the trouble of big cities and Sam could help his son

Submitted by beatrizGY on Thu, 04/04/2019 - 11:22

To take him away from his school for a time because he is having problems there.

Submitted by natylesca on Wed, 03/04/2019 - 23:14

In my opinion, because the son of Mr Carter need to see the real work in the farm and understand the sacrifice of the workers for stop to be lazy in the school.