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Advanced level English - short story


A short story for EFL / ESL - level B2 

A Few Good Reasons  - a short story    

by Sue Quinn

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ElisCaroline       Life really is strange, Caroline decided, as a tear trickled down into the corner of her mouth. Just when she thought it held nothing for her – now, when she was clinging to the railings of a road bridge, 100 feet above the estuary, ready to jump – why should it be now that she was aware of a comforting, warm summer breeze brushing around her bare midriff and the hem of her jeans, sifting through her long, fine blonde hair? And why should she now notice a dazzling flock of seagulls soaring in the clear blue sky, at home in their element?
    In all her 19 years, Caroline couldn't remember being so struck by the beauty of these simple things. Trust her to notice when it was too late. And it was too late, because she had made her mind up.
    She had to do something to take the pain away: the pain of abandonment by her mother and years of negligence in various foster homes. Nothing she had tried so far worked for long enough. The drugs, the lousy boyfriends - nothing worked. But this seemed guaranteed to do the job.
    She sighed, and loosened her grip. The pressure of the railings eased along her back and legs, and glancing down at the churning muddy waters below, she breathed in, closed her eyes and let go...
    "Hello there!" A voice from behind her shouted.
    Startled, Caroline fumbled and regained her grip on the rails then turned her head sharply to see who was there. She saw a short, dark-haired, middle aged woman in a long flowery dress looking up at her.
    "Go away!" Caroline hissed, trying to focus ahead. "You put me off. Go away and leave me alone."
    "Why are you up there?" The woman said, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand.
    "I'm painting the railings for winter!" snapped Caroline. "Why the hell do you think, you dozy cow? I'm going to kill myself, can't you tell?"
    "Oh, I can see that!" the woman said, unperturbed. "I mean why would you want to?"
    Caroline rolled her eyes. "What business is it of yours?" she said, feeling the pressure of the railings once more digging into her back as her grip tightened in anger.
    The woman dropped her hand and seemed to be inspecting the strap across the front of her open toed sandals. "It's none of my business, I suppose. In that I don't even know you. But I can't help thinking it's a terrible thing to do, on such a fine summer's day."
    "What difference does the weather make?"
    The woman shrugged her shoulders. "Well, you look like you would still have quite a few summer days to look forward to - in the normal way of things - and it seems a shame that you won't be here to appreciate them."
    "That's so lame. Don't jump, it's such a nice day! As if that's a good enough excuse," Caroline sneered.
    The woman looked hurt. "I didn't mean it like that. You must have good cause to be up there, after all."
    Caroline didn't respond, but the woman carried on anyway.
    "I'd like to think there is something worth coming down for. But only you can decide if life is worth living. I'm just telling you how I see it. If you could see it my way, you wouldn't want to do it for sure. But I'm not you - am I?"
    Caroline frowned. "You're talking rubbish."
    "Maybe," the woman agreed. "Or maybe I know what you're going through because I've been there myself."
    Yeah, right! Caroline thought as she turned and looked at the woman again, who was smiling encouragingly at her. Was she lying? Could she really know anything about her pain? Of course, it was obviously a ploy to get her attention and stop her from jumping. But she was intrigued; she wanted to know what this woman could say that could possibly make a difference.
    "OK. You've got me! I'll buy it. Give me your best shot."
    Over the next hour, the woman - whose named turned out to be Joyce - talked, and Caroline talked too. It seemed easy with Joyce: she cared, she'd had a hard life, and knew all about the pain. And for the first time ever, Caroline felt that she had been listened to, and more importantly, understood. Joyce didn't have the answer to all her problems, but she helped her find a few good reasons for continuing.
    She was half way down from the railings, determined, - with Joyce's offer of help - to put her life together, when the bridge security guard drew up in his little white van, with the orange flashing light.
    "Get down from there!" he growled at Caroline. "I thought I told you last time that I didn't want to see you here again."
     "You mean you've done this before?" said Joyce, eyebrows raised.
    Caroline looked sheepish. "Last week. I didn't have the nerve to go through with it then. But I would have this time, if it hadn't been for you."
    "It's a good job I came along then," smiled Joyce.
    "Get a move on. Haven't you got a home to go to?" shouted the guard.
    "Actually, Yes. I have now." Caroline grinned, reaching for the hand that Joyce had proffered - when suddenly she felt herself slipping. She grabbed wildly for the railings, and in that moment of scrabbling uncertainty realized that she didn't want to die - she had just been afraid to live. But not anymore.
    She regained her footing and climbed down to a relieved Joyce and a truculent security guard. Life really is strange, Caroline decided, as for the first time she started looking forward to the years ahead.




WORDS:

churning: turbulent - dozy: stupid - flock: group - focus ahead: look straight forwards - foster home: adoptive home - fumble: reach for an object to hold - grin: smile - grip: attachment - hem: bottom edge - lame: feeble - midriff: waist - proffer: put forward - railings: metal rils, barrier - relieved: calmed - sheepish: guilty - sift: pass through - sigh: breathe out deeply - sneer: talk sarcastically - soar: circle - trickle: flow slowly - truculent: aggressive - trust her: it was typical of her.






Discover more short stories from Linguapress

Copyright © Sue Quinn and Linguapress.  Artwork © Linguapress
First published in 2001 in Spectrum magazine.
Do not copy this document to any other website
Copying permitted for personal study, or by teachers for use with their students


 

WORKSHEET

A Few Good Reasons

Comprehension :

After you haveread the story or have listened to it being read to you, answer the following questions:
1. Describe in detail the situation in which Caroline is at the start of the story. (50 words)
2. Explain why she is in this situation.
3. Who is Joyce, and why does she befriend Caroline?
4. Explain the title of the story.
5. What do the following words and expressions mean?
a) You put me off  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
b) I can’t help thinking  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
c) the woman carried on  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
d) It was a ploy  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
e) I’ll buy it.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 f) Give me your best shot.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
g) to go through with it.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 


Ideas for teachers :

Using this story in class :

Comprehension: This excellent original short story by Sue Quinn, a young American writer, is the type of document that is probably best used initially for aural comprehension. Either read the story to your students, or record it and let them listen to it without the printed text.
After they have listened to the story twice, ask the following oral questions:
    1.    Where does this story take place?
    2.    What time of year is it?
    3.    Why is Caroline on the Bridge?
    4.    How old is she?
    5.    Why does she want to kill herself?
    6.    How does Joyce manage to get her confidence?
    7.    What realization does Caroline make at the end of the story?
    8.    What happens at the end?

For your interest....  the words aural and oral are homonyms that are often mixed up. Aural means by ear, oral means using the mouth. The common expression "oral comprehension" is incorrect, as nobody can understand something through their mouth.

Reading: work through the story in conjunction with the written text. There are plenty of words and expressions that will probably be unfamiliar to your students, but are not explained in the Vocabulary guide. Context should make them understandable, so ask students what they understand by words like.....
to cling  /  struck by  /  lousy  /  to do the job  /  glancing  /  You put me off  /  shielding  /  grip  /  shrugged her shoulders /  a ploy  /  I'll buy it  /  

Reusing information. Ask students to rewrite this story in the form of a first-person narrative, as written by Caroline in her diary, a week after the event.

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Advanced level English resource

Level - Medium
CEFR  LEVEL :  B2
IELTS Level :  5-6
Flesch-Kincaid  scores
Reading ease level:
86 - Fairly easy
 
Grade level: 4
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First published in Spectrum, the advanced level English newsmagazine.
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