Fish and Chips (Ch15) – the final chapter

We have a baby girl. She was born on Christmas Day. We called her Angela, our little angel. Like the sun, everything revolves around her. Once, I used to put my head down on my pillow at night and not wake up again until morning. Not now. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I get three hours uninterrupted* sleep. But I don’t mind. I’m a father; I’m an incredibly proud, incredibly lucky father. Sometimes when Angela wakes me up at night, I don’t get back to sleep again. Usually, I take a spare duvet* and go downstairs into the living room. Then I sit and think about that night in the Fish and Chip shop. I haven’t told Helen anything about it. As far as she knows, the car broke down and I had to walk part of the way home.

I know it’s better to lie, but I wish I could tell her.

I look at my watch and take a sip of my tea. I’ve been awake since four, when Angela woke me up. It is nearly six now and still dark outside. There is also snow on the ground. Even if I couldn’t see it lying on the top of cars, I would know: snow and neon streetlights create an unmistakeable orange glow. I shiver at the thought of stepping out, but there is no alternative: I used the last remaining nappy* last night. I’ll get some more – no big deal*. There is a 24hr supermarket a mile away. I’ll take the car and be back in twenty minutes.

After I clear the snow off the car and get the car started, I put the heater on full and wait for the car to warm up. The warm air blowing on my legs feels good. I think of little Angela sleeping in her cot* all cosy and wrapped up in blankets. I smile. She is safe and warm and in my life. I drive off and head for the supermarket. Everything around me is deserted. I am in a snow desert. But up ahead is a junction. It is the turn that takes me onto the main road. The road I am on has been salted and covered in grit, but I slow almost to a crawl nonetheless. Next to the turn, there is bus shelter. I apply the brakes gently, getting ready to turn. I check to my left. All clear. As begin to turn right, I see that there is someone in the shelter. The person is huddled on the ground, covered with a light blanket. I feel suddenly sorry for this poor soul. Maybe I should stop and give the person some money or help in some way. As I move onto the main road, the person in the shelter suddenly sits up. I only get a glimpse, but I am sure. I am sure it is George. I am on the main road now. It has been cleared of snow. There are other cars, behind and in front. I pick up speed. I look in the mirror. George is still sitting up. He is watching me drive away. I can feel his eyes. They are locked onto my car. I press the accelerator harder. I watch in the mirror until George and the shelter have disappeared.

Until they have become nothing but a memory.

Copyright: eflshorts.com

GLOSSARY

uninterrupted* – not broken or disturbed

duvet* – a warm blanket

nappy* – a diaper, a piece of material wrapped around a baby’s bottom

no big deal* – not a big problem

cot* – a baby’s bed

Fish and Chips (Ch14)

The car slowed down and stopped. Angela put the car into neutral and I sighed. I was home. After all that had happened, I had made it back to my wife. I looked at my house and then turned to Angela, the woman who had been brave enough to help me. ‘I can’t thank you enough,’ I said. ‘If it hadn’t been for you…’

‘I’m only glad I could help,’ she replied, giving me a broad* smile. ‘Now off you go and don’t keep your wife waiting any longer.’

I nodded. Stepping out, the icy air stung my face. ‘Merry Christmas,’ I said, my breath surrounding me in white clouds.

‘Merry Christmas,’ she replied.

I closed the door and a moment later, the car moved away, its tires crunching through the ice on a puddle. But its red tail lights receded* quickly, and when I raised a hand and waved, it was too late: Angela’s car swung right at the bottom of the street and was gone.

Wary of slipping, I trod carefully up my driveway and was suddenly aware of snowflakes tumbling* past me. I stopped and stared into the looming* sky. The delicate flakes tumbled out of it and met with my skin. Sunrise was hours away, but to the east, a paler darkness was forming. I looked at my watch, and looked at it again. At some point during the night it had stopped. I guessed the time might be around five – early, but I knew Helen would be up. She must be frantic*. What was I going to tell her?

I stopped and looked in my front window. It was bow-shaped and its centre sat our Christmas tree, its lights glowing amongst the baubles* and pine needles*. I stared at it. I couldn’t see them, but I knew that at the base of the tree, there were gifts wrapped in bows, waiting to be opened. The life I had – a loving wife, a comfortable home, an unborn child – was now just a turn of the key away. I had come so close to losing it all, but I hadn’t.

Standing on that step and listening to my wife coming down the stairs, I began to cry.

I was grateful beyond words.

© EFLshorts.com

broad* – wide

receded* - grew more distant, became further away

tumbling*- falling

looming* – overhanging, threatening

frantic*- very distressed, upset

baubles*- spherical decorations

pine needles* – the leaves of a pine tree

An interview with Helbling Languages about The Right Thing

Recently, Walter and Scott did an interview for Helbling Languages. They spoke about their new story, The Right Thing, which will be published in March 2015, and the way that they write. Here is the link: http://blog.helblingreaders.com

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 18.04.38

Tagged , , , ,

Fish and Chips (Ch13)

I ran until I could run no further. When I eventually stopped, I could barely stand. Gasping*, I looked back towards the village. Was it the same night or the next? I wasn’t sure and didn’t even care. An orange glow lit the sky above where I presumed* the shop was. For a moment, a vision of the shopkeeper, dead on the floor with flames tearing at him, filled my head.

Suddenly, out of the dark, a car’s headlights flashed, disappeared and re-appeared again, weaving* along the bending road towards me. I ran into the middle of the road, waving my arms and shouting. There was a screech of brakes, and the car slowed down. It tried to go past me, but I launched myself onto its bonnet and made it stop. Inches from my face, a frightened young woman stared back at me through the front windscreen glass.

`Please,’ I yelled, ‘my car’s broken down. I need a lift.’

The woman shook her head. She looked terrified*. I couldn’t blame her.

‘I need to get home to my wife. She’s pregnant. I ran out of petrol. You’ve got to help me. Please. Please.’ I looked at the woman’s face. ‘I’m begging you.’

I could see that she didn’t know what to do. I was a stranger in the night; I could be a madman, but I could also be telling the truth. `Please,’ I said again, `It’s Christmas and I don’t want to miss the birth of my child.’ The woman bit her lip and looked around herself as though she were looking for someone who could make the decision for her.

Slowly, the fear drained* from her eyes and the car stopped completely. I climbed off the bonnet and began apologizing for what I had done, hoping that I was sounding like a normal person might.

A few moments after that, she unlocked the doors.

© EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

Gasping* - breathing very heavily

presumed* – assumed, guessed

weaving* – moving from side to side

terrified* – very, very frightened

drained* – emptied

Fish and Chips (Ch12)

‘Is he dead?’ I asked.

George didn’t answer. It was a stupid question. I had stood and watched while the shopkeeper’s limbs had thrashed*, while his face had contorted*, while George’s grip had tightened, while the shopkeeper had breathed his last breath and become still…

‘Of course he’s dead,’ said George, standing over the shopkeeper, his legs either side of the body.

I stared. I couldn’t think. The nightmare had taken yet another turn. I was numb. What were we going to do? This man had tried to kill us, and now he was dead, murdered in front of me. It was self-defence. The shopkeeper was a maniac*. Who knows how many other people he had killed. But George had committed a crime. He had made us criminals. There would have to be an investigation. We would have to defend our actions…

I was aware of George moving around the storeroom, looking for something.

‘What are you doing?’ I shouted, rage* suddenly erupting* from me.

George didn’t reply. Head down, he continued to rummage, mumbling to himself.

‘Answer me! What are you doing?’

George stopped and stared at me. ‘It was him or us,’ he said.

‘We should call the police. We can explain. There was a fight; we had to protect ourselves.’

George had a bundle of newspapers in his hands. He dropped them next to the body and began collecting more. He looked at me over his shoulder. I was in shock. I had no idea what he was doing. It was only when he returned with more papers, reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter that I understood. ‘I’m not explaining anything,’ he said.

The fire was already blazing when I barged* out of the shop.

© Eflshorts.com

GLOSSARY

*thrashed – moved violently

*contorted – moved to form strange shapes

*maniac – madman, lunatic

*rage – anger

*erupting – coming out suddenly

*canister – container

*barging – pushing

Fish and Chips (Ch11)

The knife was trapped under my feet. I began to nudge it towards George. `Can you reach it?’ I asked.

George stretched out his fingers and his nails touched the knife’s handle. By the tips* of his nails, millimetre-by-millimetre, he dragged the knife closer to him. The shopkeeper on the floor groaned again. ‘Hurry!’ I hissed. George had a good hold of the knife’s handle now. I slipped my hands down the pipe to the knife’s blade and together we began to cut through the rope that held us. I don’t know how long it took, but suddenly our hands were free.

We sat there for a moment, neither of us moving. I picked up the knife and stood. The room was eerily* silent. `I’m going to call the police,’ I said.

‘We should tie him first,’ said George. I nodded. With the rope that he had used on us, we bound* the shopkeeper’s hands behind his back.

When we finished, I stepped over the shopkeeper and went into the other room. The mobile phone was on a table. I walked over to it and picked it up. The screen was blank. I tried to switch it on, but nothing happened. I removed the back. No battery. It was a ruse* to get me back here. I wondered how many times he had done this. How many people had he tricked and killed? I put the phone down on the table and turned. I froze when I saw the scene in the storeroom next door.

George was sitting on top of the shopkeeper with his hands around the shopkeeper’s neck. The shopkeeper was awake. Eyes bulging*, his face tortured, he was kicking and thrashing his legs, trying to break free of George’s grip.

But the more he struggled, the tighter George’s grip became.

© EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

*tips – ends of

*eerily – strangely, frighteningly

*bound – tied

*ruse – trick

*bulging – sticking out

Fish and Chips (Ch10)

With an unblinking* stare, the man walked forward with the knife pointing at me.

‘No, please,’ I pleaded. `I have a wife and a family….’ I thrashed* my legs, aiming kicks towards him, trying to stop him from coming closer.

`Don’t struggle*,’ he said. `I can make it hurt – or not.’

I was desperate. It was a life and death situation. Afterwards, I felt ashamed*, but at the time I meant every word. ‘Kill him! Kill him!’ I shouted and looked at George. ‘He’s got nothing to live for. Don’t kill me. Kill him! I won’t tell. Just let me go!’

The man took one step more then stopped. My heart jumped. ‘He’s got no one,’ I said, almost whispering, ‘No one will miss him. Kill him but not me. Just let me go. You’ll never see me again.’ As I spoke, I glanced at George. His face said that he had heard my betrayal* but was struggling to believe it.

`You should get better friends,’ said the shopkeeper, changing his angle of attack and moving towards George. The knife rose up. I closed my eyes.

Then there was a small cry, the clatter* of steel and a dull* thump.

What had happened? I opened my eyes. The shopkeeper had slipped – or had George tripped him? I didn’t know and it didn’t matter: the shopkeeper had fallen and the knife, unbelievably, had bounced out of his hand was now lying inches from my foot. I curled my left leg, trapped the knife under my shoe and dragged it towards me. As I did so, I glanced at the shopkeeper. He groaned slightly and rolled over in our direction. His eyes, unfocused and blinking, looked around.

I had seconds: get the knife or die.

© EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

unblinking* - not opening and closing

thrashed* - moved violently

struggle* – fight against

ashamed*- embarrassed

betrayal* – disloyalty, bad faith, treachery

clatter* – loud noise, especially because hard objects smash together

dull* - not sharp, not distinct

Fish and Chips (Ch9)

‘There was another one,’ said George.

‘Another what? What do you mean?’ I asked.

George twisted his head and stared at me. `There was another man here before you. When I woke up, he was next to me – tied to the pipe – just like we are.’ George swallowed hard. `Then the shopkeeper came in with his knife and…’ He shook his head and swallowed again. `After the shopkeeper killed him, he dragged* his body through to the next room…and I could hear him chopping… it went on forever. Then it stopped and he walked past the door. He had a bucket in his hand…He put the contents into a mixer. He was making something. It was food…’

I shook my head. I didn’t want to hear any more. I thought about the sausages I had eaten and their hot, fatty insides. My stomach lurched*. Desperately, I pulled and twisted at the rope, but it was useless. It bit into my skin and I could feel my own hot blood run down my fingers.

Just then, the shopkeeper appeared at the door.

‘Why are you doing this?’ I screamed.

The man just stood and stared.

‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it, please!’ I was wailing now. ‘Don’t kill me. Please, don’t do it!’

‘Shut up!’ the shopkeeper snapped.

I stopped talking, but tears continued to run down my face. I glanced at George. He was shaking his head and mumbling*. I looked at the shopkeeper. His eyebrows rose up; and, like a bad magician, he brought out a knife from behind his back. As he waved it slowly in front of his face, light from the other room danced on its bright blade. He smiled.

‘So,’ he said, ‘who’s first?’

© EFLshorts

GLOSSARY

dragged* – pulled in order to move something heavy

lurched* - moved suddenly and unsteadily

mumbling* – talking indistinctly

Fish and Chips (Ch8)

I kept my voice low.

‘How did you get here?’ I asked George quietly.

‘I was going to Leicester…I was thumbing a lift*.’ George started to cough. `It was late. A car came and stopped. It was him. I got in and that’s the last I remember. I woke up here.’

`Do you know me?’ I asked.

‘Yes, you work for that homeless place…’ George started to cough again. He turned his head as he did so. I felt spittle land on my face, and I jerked* away, repulsed*. This time George couldn’t stop coughing.

The door opened across the room and the man appeared in the doorway. George kept on coughing. The man said nothing as he approached. His eyes were in deep shadow, but his narrow mouth was as thin and tight as a paper cut.

‘He’s not well,’ I said, ‘he needs a doctor.’

The man turned his head and stared at me.

George was struggling to breathe. The man leaned forward, grabbed George by the hair and stared into his face. George coughed and spit* covered the man’s face. He staggered backwards and stumbled into a metal shelf. A big plastic bottle fell and bounced on the stone floor.

The man was furious. He wiped his face and stared at his hand. His chest heaved and I could see him grind his teeth. He stood abruptly*, ran across the room and flung open the door. I could hear his heavy footsteps as he climbed the stairs to his rooms above; then the sound of running water.

George finally stopped coughing. I turned and looked at him. He stared back at me, his beard covered in spit, his eyes full of tears. I didn’t know which one I hated more: George or the man who had kidnapped us.

© EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

thumbing a lift* - signalling to a driver that you want them to take you somewhere

jerked* - moved, pulled suddenly

repulsed* – disgusted

spit* - the water in one’s mouth

abruptly* - suddenly

Fish and Chips (Ch7)

What was that noise? It was a roaring sound like a motorboat and it filled my head…I tried to open my eyes. Everything was blurred*. My head hurt. Where was I? What happened? And what was that smell? It was something familiar, something unpleasant. I wrinkled my nose and tried to shake the pain from my head. The room spun around. I stopped moving my head. I wanted to hold it in my hands, but I couldn’t. My hands were tied behind my back! Slowly, I remembered: the Christmas party, my car, the shop, the man behind the counter…

A cold, metal drainpipe dug into my spine*. I was tightly tied to it. The smell? He sat beside me, also tied to the drainpipe. I could feel him and smell him. His breathing was heavy and ragged*. I twisted my neck and leaned forwards as far as I could so that I could see his face. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew this man. His name was George. He often came into town and was a regular at the soup kitchen* on Hayek Street.

‘George?’ I whispered, ‘are you okay?’

There was silence for a while and then, `Yes.’

`What’s happening? What’s going on?’

`Talk quietly,’ warned George. `He’s in the next room.’

© Eflshorts.com

GLOSSARY

blurred* - not sharp

spine* – backbone

ragged* - not regular

soup kitchen* - a place that offers free food

Fish and Chips (Chapter 6)

The sausages were good. Delicious* in fact. I ate them quickly and enjoyed the hot, greasy* food. I felt better and my face glowed red. But while I ate, the man on the other side of the small room watched my every move. We were surrounded by boxes and bags of potatoes. The room smelled of wet soil. But at least it was warm.

I put the last chip in my mouth, screwed the newspaper into a ball and dropped it into the bin next to me. ‘Well, thanks for the food,’ I said. ‘I should be going. I need to find a phone.’ I stood up.

‘Wait,’ he said. ‘You can use my mobile if you want. It’s charging.’

‘That would be great. I need to call a garage and my wife. She must be worried.’

‘It’s through here,’ the man said, walking to the other door and opening it just a little. He stood back and gestured* that I should go through.

I stepped past him and put my hand on the door, ready to push it fully open. And that’s when he hit me. One moment, I was standing; the next, I was on the ground. As I lay there, stunned*, a kick struck me in the face. Then another.

After that, everything went black.

© EFLshorts.com

Glossary

Delicious* – good tasting

greasy* – fatty, oily

gestured*- moved hands in order to signal something

stunned*- knocked out, half-conscious

Fish and Chips (Ch5)

‘It’s…No, you can’t. It’s not working,’ he said.

It sounded like a lie to me, but what could I do? It was his phone, and it was his choice. The noise of the bubbling fat filled the silence. I shivered*. What a way to spend Christmas….‘Okay. In that case, can I buy something to eat?’

‘Nothing’s ready.’

I could feel myself getting angry. ‘I can wait,’ I said, the words as cold as the night outside.

We stared at one another. Then he gave a long sigh, released the door handle and moved to the fryer. Snatching* up a long, metal spoon, he stirred the contents of the fryer. Then, with his other hand, he raised a basket of fried food, shook it, and plunged it back into the swirling fat. He did this three or four times, paying me no attention at all.

‘Do you have any fish?’

He looked up, surprised. Had he forgotten I was there? He stared at me. In his eyes, there was a question. But instead of asking it, he continued to stare. Then, as suddenly as he looked up, his eyes found the metal spoon. He thrust it into the oil again and again; and as he did so, his face relaxed and he looked strangely happy.

‘There’s no fish,’ he said, his words slow and deliberate*.

‘Well, what do you have?’

‘Sausages.’

‘How much?’

He looked up and gave a thin smile. `Two pounds,’ he said, ‘and you can eat it in the back, if you like. There’s a fire in there.’

© EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

shivered* – shook because of the cold

Snatching* - picking up quickly

deliberate* - with careful thought, planned

Fish and Chips (Ch4)

I walked to the counter*. The activity in the shop surprised me. Why was the fryer on at this time? It was after one o’clock in the morning. Did the cook have insomnia*? And where was the cook? It was strange. I thought about leaving again. I had no right to be there. But the clouds of hot steam from the fryer smelt delicious. They smelt of hot, evaporated fat. I couldn’t see the contents of the fryer, but I could hear the bubbling oil in it. Pictures formed in my head: lots and lots of chips slowly turning brown. My stomach rumbled again. Behind the fryer, there was a door. It was open, but only a little. It was probably white, but the light from the fryer gave everything in the shop a warm, orange colour.

‘Hello?’ I said quietly – too quietly. The sound of the bubbling fat drowned my question.

‘Hello,’ I called again.

I thought I heard something, perhaps voices.

Suddenly, a head appeared. It looked in my direction and disappeared. A moment later, the door half-opened, and a tall, thin man slid out. He immediately pulled the door shut. He faced me; but behind his back, he held onto the door handle. I couldn’t see his face well – it was mostly in shadow – but he looked annoyed*.

‘Merry Christmas,’ I said. When he said nothing, I continued. ‘I am sorry, but the front door was open and…’

‘What do you want?’ he asked aggressively*.

I needed to call a garage or a repair service, and I needed to speak to Helen and reassure her. I ignored his aggressiveness. ‘My car stopped a few miles away. I think it ran out of petrol. I tried to call a garage from the phone across the street, but…’

‘What do you want?’ he asked again.

‘I’d like to use your phone. If you don’t mind.’ What was this guy’s problem? Asking to use his phone wasn’t such a big deal*, surely?

Copyright EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

counter* – place in a shop where customers are served

insomnia* – the inability to sleep

annoyed* - angry, irritated

aggressively* - very forcefully, in a way that suggests someone is going to attack

a big deal* – an important thing

Fish and Chips (Ch3)

The mist began to clear. With the help of a few orange streetlights, buildings, gardens, hedges and cars appeared. I was in a village. Not much of a village, but a village all the same. The road that I was standing on bisected* it. I guessed there were about ten or twelve buildings in total. Although it wasn’t very late, there wasn’t a single light in any of them. Stranger still, I noticed that there were no Christmas trees, no coloured lights, no decorations* at all. ‘Did they forget it’s Christmas time?’ I wondered.

In the silence, the complete stillness, my breathing sounded loud.

I checked my mobile again. Unbelievable! Now, I was out of battery* I looked around and saw an old phone box on the corner. My footsteps echoed as I walked down the road. I swung the phone box door open and picked up the receiver. I wanted to hear Helen’s voice, and I wanted to call a garage. But the phone line was dead. I dropped the phone. As I swung open the door again, a flicker of light caught my eye. It was down a lane just to my right.

I walked over to the lane, but stopped. The light was coming, I guessed, from the back of the shop next to me. I looked up. Though it was not switched on, I could read the unlit letters in the shop’s sign. `Fish and Chips’ it said. My stomach grumbled*. I was hungry. I stared through the front window. The shop looked empty. I went up to the door and pushed. I expected it to be locked. Instead, there was a gentle ‘Ting’ as a small bell rang above my head and the door swung open.

Copyright: EFLshort.com

Glossary

bisected*- cut in half

decorations*- adornments, things that beautify (esp. Christmas decorations)

out of battery* – there was no more power, the battery was flat

flicker - an unsteady light, light that shows briefly

grumbled*- made an angry sound, complained

Fish and Chips (Ch2)

I switched off my car’s headlights, opened the door and got out. The air felt heavy, wet, cold. I could feel it on my face and in my throat. I shivered and pulled on a jacket. I pressed the button on my keyring. The lights on my car flashed* and the car made a loud ‘beep’. The sound seemed very loud. It was too quiet, too still. I stood listening for a moment, hoping to hear another car. But there was nothing, not even a wind. I started walking but stopped. Did I imagine it? Was there a noise? I stood and stared into the blackness. ‘Hello?’ My voice sounded small and afraid. I waited. My heart beat faster.

Silence.

I started walking again, my footsteps loud on the road. Every now and again, I turned and looked behind. The car was gone, swallowed. Ahead, I could see nothing.

I don’t know how long I walked for. Perhaps twenty minutes or half an hour. I looked at my watch. It was now 12.10 pm. ‘Merry Christmas,’ I muttered* to myself and thought about my wife. Right now, she was sitting at home watching the clock, worrying.

Was there a town nearby? Was there a phone? How long should I walk before giving up? I didn’t want to spend the night in my car, but I didn’t want to get lost either. I thought about my job. I was a fundraiser for ‘Roof’, a charity for the homeless. It always made me furious when I thought about the human cost of homelessness. The homeless had no homes for many reasons, but there were so many young homeless people. How could society be so uncaring? Why did it turn its back on them? What future did they have?

Of course, sleeping in a car was nothing compared to sleeping outside in winter, but I still didn’t want to do it. I decided to walk a thousand paces more, and then turn back. I watched my feet and counted my steps out loud. ‘One hundred and thirty one, one hundred and thirty two…’

Then I walked into something very hard. For a moment, I was stunned. I staggered back and fell. I looked up. A lamppost. Its faint, yellow light was only just visible in the thick mist. I looked around and saw the outline of other things too – some houses, some cars, a post box. I was in a village. I got up. My hands were bleeding, and they stung. I pressed them together, as though I was about to pray, and blew on them.

Perhaps now I could find a telephone or a taxi – something or someone – to get me home to Helen.

Copyright EFLshorts.com

*flashed - shone briefly

*muttered – said in a low, unclear voice

*fundraiser – someone whose job is to raise cash for a charity

*charity - an organisation that relies on (cash) gifts in order to help others

*homeless – without a home

*furious – very angry

*turn its back – ignore

*stunned – surprised, knocked into a semi-conscious state

Fish and Chips (Chapter 1)

I drove slowly. The mist in front of me was like a great white wave, and my car was like a ship, slowly pushing through it. My car’s headlights reached out, but not far. I could see hedges. Their dark leaves guided me along this narrow, country road. I was anxious*. At any moment, another car could come along. But there were no other cars. Not one. Where was I? When I left my manager’s party thirty minutes ago, the air was clear. ‘I can get home in twenty minutes,’ I thought. But then the mist came down, and now I was lost.

I turned up the heater and leaned forward in my seat. Perhaps a town or village was round the next corner. I hoped so. I looked at my petrol gauge*. I needed petrol – quickly. I thought about my new job – my first after university – Mr Harkness, and his party. ‘I have a Christmas Eve party every year for the staff,’ Mr Harkness told me. ‘Enjoy yourself, lad.’ I did. The room was warm, the people from my work were friendly, and the food was good. But at 10pm, I decided to leave. Helen, my wife, was pregnant* and alone in our house. Mr Harkness understood. He walked me to the front door. ‘Is Helen’s morning sickness* still as bad?’ he asked. I told him it wasn’t. ‘Well, give my love to her,’ he said. I promised I would.

There was a CD player in the car, but I needed to concentrate*. My hands held the steering wheel tightly. I took a deep breath and tried to relax. Suddenly, the car hesitated*, jumped forward, hesitated again; then died. I was out of petrol. I was miles from nowhere and I was out of petrol. I dropped my head onto the steering wheel. I felt angry. ‘But that isn’t going to help,’ I told myself. I took out my phone from my pocket. No signal*.

An original story by eflshorts.com/Copyright EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

anxious* - worried

petrol gauge* –  instrument that shows how much petrol there is

pregnant* – will have a child soon

morning sickness* - nausea and vomiting that pregnant women often experience in the morning

concentrate* - focus

hesitated* - delay, move uncertainly 

No signal* - the phone cannot locate a mobile phone service provider

Final chapter of The Monkey’s Paw

Mr White sat and waited. A *candle burned in the corner of the room. Mrs White looked out the window. But nothing happened. ‘The wish didn’t come true,’ thought Mr White, and he felt glad. Then the candle spluttered and went out. In the darkness, Mr White slowly walked over to his bed and got in. After some time, his wife came and sat on the bed. They didn’t speak. Both heard the ticking of the clock downstairs. It was a windy night, and the house made other noises too: the stairs *squeaked and the gate *banged outside. After some time, Mr White got out of bed. His wife sat silently. She stared into the dark. Mr White found some *matches. He lit one and went back downstairs for a candle.

The wind still howled outside. At the bottom of the stairs, the match went out. Mr White tried to light another. Then he heard it. At first, he thought it was the wind. But it was a knock, a soft knock: the sound of *knuckles against wood. *Terror flooded through Mr White’s body. He dropped the matches on the floor. He stared at the door. The knock came again. This time, he turned and ran up the stairs to his room. He closed the bedroom door, but there was another knock from downstairs.

‘What is that?’ Mrs White cried.

‘Nothing,’ said the old man.

Another knock. This time, it was loud and heavy.

`It’s Herbert,’ said Mrs White. ‘It’s him!’ She ran to the bedroom door, but Mr White stood in front of her. He took her by the arm and held her. ‘What are you going to do?’ he shouted.

‘It’s my boy. It’s Herbert,’ she cried. `I forgot the cemetery was two miles away. Why are you holding me? Let me go, I must open the door.’

`No please,’ *begged Mr White, ‘don’t let it in!’

‘Are you afraid of your own son?’ screamed Mrs White. ‘Let me go. I’m coming Herbert… I’m coming.’

There was another knock, and then another and another. The old woman broke free of her husband and ran down the stairs. He called after her, but she didn’t stop. He followed her and heard the first *bolt on the door start to open. ‘Come quick,’ his wife cried, `I cannot free the second bolt. It is too high.’

But Mr White did not come to help her. He wanted to find the monkey’s paw. He wanted to find it before the thing outside got in. More knocks at the door: long, slow and loud. Mr White looked up and saw his wife put a chair against the door and stand on it. His wife began to pull at the second bolt; but at the same moment, Mr White found the monkey’s paw, and he made his last wish.

Suddenly, the knocking stopped. Mr White heard the bolt slide, the chair go back and the front door open. Then the cold wind howled, and so did his wife. He ran to the door.

Outside, there was nothing but a quiet, empty street.

Adaptation by EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

*candle – a long stick of wax

*squeaked – a high-pitched sound

*banged – hit together nosily

*matches – thin pieces of wood for lighting fires

*knuckles – the bony part of the fist

*terror – great fear

*begged – pleaded

*bolt – a large, metal pin that is used to stop a door from opening

Thank you, 40,000 times!

To all the people who have read our blog since it began in Feb 2012, we’d like to say ‘Thank you’. 40,000 views and counting…

Our adaptation of The Monkey’s Paw (Ch6)

In a big cemetery* two miles from their house, Mr and Mrs White buried* their son. Then they came back to their house, their hearts heavy with sadness*. Their son was dead. It all happened so quickly. Mr Mrs White could not think of life without Herbert. The days passed, long, lonely and silent. They did not speak to each other. There was nothing to talk about.

About two weeks after Herbert’s death, Mr White woke up in bed. It was the middle of the night. He put out his hand… his wife was not there. It was dark in the room, but he could hear the sound of his wife’s crying hear him. He lay and listened.

‘Come back to bed,’ he said after a while. ‘It’s cold.’

‘It is colder for Herbert,’ said his wife.

Mr White’s eyes were heavy with sleep, and he soon fell asleep again. But then a long cry from his wife awoke him again.

‘The paw,’ she cried, ‘the monkey’s paw!’

Mr White sat up in bed. ‘What? What is the matter?’

Mrs White came out of the darkness of the room. Her eyes were wild* and staring. `I want the paw,’ she said. `Where is it?’

`Downstairs in the cupboard,’ said Mr White. ‘Why?’

Mrs White laughed and cried at the same time. ‘We have two more!’

`Two more of what?’ Mr White asked.

‘Two wishes,’ said Mrs White. ‘We have two more wishes!’

`Was one not enough? ` Mr White said angrily.

‘You don’t understand,’ cried Mrs White. ‘We can use the paw. Go and get it and we can wish for our boy to be alive again.’

Mr White stared at his wife. ‘Are you mad*?’ he asked.

‘Get it,’ cried Mrs White, ‘get it quickly and wish…Herbert’s life depends on it.’

‘Get back into bed,’ said Mr White. ‘You don’t know what you are saying.’

But Mrs White continued. `The first wish came true,’ she said, her eyes full of tears. `Why not the second? Go and get it and make a wish!’

‘Herbert died more than ten days ago,’ said Mr White, his voice shaking. ‘We cannot wish for this…’

‘Bring him back,’ said Mrs White. ‘Bring my boy back.’

Slowly, Mr White got out of bed. He went downstairs and into the kitchen. Then, he opened the cupboard and looked in. The monkey’s paw was still there. The wind howled outside and in the dark Mr White became afraid. His body went cold and his legs shook. With the paw in his hand, he went back upstairs and into the bedroom.

His wife sat on the bed waiting. She watched him closely from mad eyes. Mr White was afraid of his own wife.

‘Make a wish,’ Mrs White cried in a strong voice. ‘Bring my boy back. Do it.’

‘I can’t,’ said Mr White. ‘I…’

‘Do it!’ cried Mrs White.

Slowly, Mr White held up his right hand and began to say the words…`I wish my son alive again.’

Adapted by EFLshorts.com

GLOSSARY

*cemetery – a place where dead bodies are put under the ground, a burial place

*buried – put under the ground

*sadness – unhappiness

*wild – unthinking, without reason, without restraint

*mad – crazy

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers