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.


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Submitted by wally on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 01:58

"Sam's escape was his reality and he wasn't going back." In the above sentence, did it mean Sam escaped from his reality, or Sam escaped to his reality? And I hardly understood why Mr. Carter felt nervous while talking to Sam:^( Also, I thought Mr. Carter was rich and had tanned skin because the text mentioned June sun or indoor tan while it implied his wealth in some parts.

Hello wally,

It's not made explicit in the extract, but the implication is that Sam has escaped from something - possibly prison - and is now working on Mr. Carter's land. It could be something else, such as an escape from an unhappy life of some sort, but I think we are meant to understand that Sam has a dark past of some kind.


Mr. Carter is nervous, I think, because Sam is quite an imposing character. He is quiet and reclusive, and he does not try to be open or friendly. I think Mr. Carter is not sure how to speak to him, and is not comfortable with someone who does not participate in the conversation willingly.


'Indoor tan' is meant to be ironic. It means that Mr. Carter is pale because he spends his time inside while others work outdoors for him. His skin is described as ruddy, which means red, because he isn't used to being in the sun.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nour92 on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 15:43

I think Mr.cater want to teach his son a lesson by making him work hard on the farm with sam

Submitted by Rachelle Underwood on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 19:13

is there an actual title to this short story extract? or is it just called 'A short story Extract"

Hello Rachelle Underwood

I'm afraid I don't have that information. Sorry!

Best wishes


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ali Alsari on Thu, 16/04/2020 - 14:34

Carter twisted his hat round and round, licking his lips and clearing his throat What this meaning

Hello Ali Alsari,

The sentence describes Carter's actions. He has the hat in his hands and is turning it around, perhaps because he is nervous. He licks his lips because they are dry - another sign of nervousness. Finally, he clears his throat as a way of getting attention before speaking.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jazmin marquez on Sat, 11/04/2020 - 14:35

First, I thought that Mr. Carter had brought his son to the farm to teach him a lesson, because life in the country is very difficult and perhaps this would help the young man to be a better person. But, after thinking it over, I belive that Mr. Carter wants to hide and protect his son for something very bad he did.

Submitted by shahhoseini on Fri, 13/03/2020 - 16:59

This reading text was very difficult for me. I have to make more effort!
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Submitted by Smiley1 on Sat, 07/03/2020 - 06:18

Love this kind of writing with an appropriate length to run through. Hope to read further. ;) By the way, can anyone tell me the meaning of “like shapes in an atlas”?