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


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Language level

Average: 4 (147 votes)
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 joyie 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.