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Advanced level English short story: 

Lucky Jim

An original short story by Walda Cameron
WORDS:   Click here to open vocabulary guide
Lucky Jim Conley had raked in millions at the gaming tables, quadrupled his winnings in the stock market, won a fortune in the state lottery. Jason, the only child of Lucky Jim and his beloved Myrna, was used to having his own way. During the two years since Mom's death, Jason had waited patiently for Lucky Jim to follow suit and bequeath him full control of the family wealth. Jason was eager to be a high roller in his own right.
   But Jim's luck was outlasting Jason's patience. After his last medical exam, Lucky Jim's doc had proclaimed the old man to be fit as a forty-year-old. "Lucky Jim'll outlive us all, Jason."
   Not if I have my way, Jason thought. No way.
   He breathed in the fog that hung like ghostly sails around the Lucky Too, as they made their way out to the lobster grounds. Jim claimed that that was where the biggest and best fish hung out too.
   She was a sturdy boat. Twelve black numbers shone against her white hull. Jason and Lucky Jim sat in chairs on the bridge. Lucky Jim leaned toward his son and yelled over the engine's noise: "Fog hanging light makes hungry fish bite."
   "Same old crap every time," Jason thought. "But, hey, that's what gave me my plan. Fishing in the fog....". Jason smiled at his father and nodded. He wouldn't attempt a reply since the old man's hearing was his only failing faculty.
   "Mind the lobster pots," the old man hollered.
   Jason nodded again. He knew exactly where the trap buoys were located. He'd come here every day for the past two weeks, drawn diagrams, memorized bobbing floats and channel markers. He'd disabled the maritime radio, concealed his weapon, left nothing to chance.

   They were almost there. The buoy's fog horn blasted its rude warning every fifteen seconds.
   "I'll tie up at the buoy," Jason called to Lucky Jim. "You get the lines over."
   Lucky nodded and moved to the stern, carrying two fishing poles.

    Jason put in ear plugs before tieing a heavy rope over the buoy's flashing light. He pulled it tight under a square metal box half-way between light and water. A wave gauge? Weather predictor? Battery casing? The current swung the stern around. Jason turned toward Lucky Jim.
   The old man stood at the side of the deck, profile toward Jason, head bent, intent on preparing his lines. Jason reached behind him and lifted a three-foot length of two-by-four.
   Lucky Jim never knew what hit him. Jason dropped the bloodied weapon overboard, grasped Jim from behind, tossed him over the side. The satisfying splash soaked Jason. He untied the vessel from the buoy and headed home, full-throttle. Damn the fog! Lucky Jim's good fortune had reverted to him. At least the fortune itself had. He smiled.

    The perfect crime. No witnesses to contradict his story that Lucky Jim had slipped on the deck, bumped his head, fallen overboard, been swept away before his valiant son could save him. Poor Jim was lost.
   "Yes, Officer," Jason rehearsed, "Dad and I always fished in the fog. Lucky Jim thought the fishing was better when clouds met water, but everyone knew it was Jim's luck that made the fishing good."

    As Jason eased, bow-first, into his docking berth, he saw two uniformed figures on the dock. He cut the engine and climbed from the boat, his eyes wide with alarm.
   "Thank God, you're here, Officers! There's been a tragic accident."
   "We know," the taller cop said.
   "My fath..." Jason pulled out the ear plugs. "What did you say?"
   They cuffed Jason's hands behind his back and frisked him. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you..."
   "Wait! Wait! What's going on here?"
   "Don't waste your breath, buddy." said the shorter cop, a woman with hard eyes.
   "But, my father's just fallen overboard, I gotta get help....."
   "Yeah son, we know all about it......?"
    Jason's jaw fell. His eyes glazed with disbelief. He never even noticed when the female cop cradled his head and shoved him into the back seat of the car.
    "But honestly he fell in, I didn't push him," said Jason feebly.
   "Yeah," she said. "That might of made a convincing story last week, but I guess you didn't notice the infra red camera they just set up on the buoy out there to catch the lobster thieves.... It can see through the mist and the night like it's broad daylight.... The moment you reached those lobster grounds, they had you under surveillance. They thought you were the guys who've been taking their lobsters...."
   "But you're a lucky guy," the male cop continued as he climbed behind the wheel. "Coast Guard just picked him up."
   "And alive!" his partner said as she took her place beside him.
   "Alive?" Jason croaked from the back seat.
   "Yup," said the driver. "Unconscious, he was, but, last I heard, his heart was still pumping. Good luck for you. You'll be charged with attempted murder rather than murder. You'd better pray some of your luck rubs off on the old man and keeps him kickin'." 

bequeath: leave, give - berth: place where a boat ties up - blast: make a loud noise - bob: go up and down on the surface of the water - bow (rhymes with cow): front end of a ship or boat - buoy: large floating marker - conceal: hide - cradle: took hold of - crap: rubbish, shit - cuff: handcuff, tie - disable: disconnect - eager: keen, wanting - ear plug: an ear plug stops you hearing noises - ease: maneuver, move - fit: in good form, healthy - follow suit: do the same - frisk: check that someone is not hiding weapons - full throttle: full speed - gauge (rhymes with page): meter, measurer - have one's own way: get exactly what one wants - holler: shout - hull: the main part of a boat - in the stock market: on Wall Street - intent on: concentrating on - jaw: bottom half of the mouth - lobster: a large and expensive crustacean, like a long crab - no way: certainly not - outlast: last longer than - rake in: win - rehearse: prepare a speech - revert to: come to - sails: a sail catches the wind, and makes a sailing ship move forwards - soak: wet - stern: back end of a boat - sturdy: tough, resistant - was used to having: was in the habit of having (do not confuse with used to have) - witness: person who sees a crime - yell: shout - yup: yes
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Teachers: print out these exercises for your students.

Lucky Jim:

Words and meaning:
Select, logically, the nearest equivalent to each of the words or phrases indicated, from among those proposed:

1. high roller: a) a pilot, b) a big player, c) a top sportsman

2. if I have my way: a) if things happen as I want, b) if I go away and live my own life, c) if I take charge of this boat.

3. Jim claimed: a) Jim pretended, b) Jim shouted, c) Jim believed.

4. The best fish hung out: a) the best fish lived, b) the best fish disappeared, c) the best fish could be dried

5. his only failing faculty: a) almost the only thing he could do easily b) the only function of his body that was not still as good as ever c) the only thing he had never done well.

6. two-by-four: a) two feet by four feet b) eight feet long c) two inches by four inches.

7. overboard: a) into the boat, b) as fast as possible, c) into the water.

8. Don't waste your breath. a) Stop talking b) Don't breathe too hard c) Speak louder!

9. Shoved: a) guided, b) pushed, c) helped

10. You didn't notice. a) you didn't see, b) you didn't pay attention to c) you didn't think about

11. thieves: a) people who take things that are not theirs b) fishermen c) guards

12 broad daylight: a) just daylight b) full daylight c) night.


Lucky Jim:

Reusing information:
After Jason's arrest, the local coast guard chief had to write a report explaining the events that took place. Here is the report he wrote, complete it as appropriately as possible.

On Thursday morning, I was in my office as usual. At 9.15, I looked at the closed-circuit TV monitor, that we had recently installed in order ........

I noticed ...........

At 9.21 the boat, which I recognised as .....

I knew that Jim Conley and ......

I did not think that ......

Nevertheless, I continued watching, as .........

At 9.23, I saw Jason Conley take .....

The old man ....

Jason .......

I could see ......

So immediately I ordered one of our boats to .... 

Thanks to the camera, I was able to .......

The victim was ........

My officers applied first aid, and brought .....

I also phoned the police, who immediately sent a patrol car to ....

Mr. Jason Conley .....


Lucky Jim worksheet 2.     Student's name: ...............................

Comprehension questions:

1. Why did Jason commit this crime?

2. Why was he caught?

3. Why did Lucky Jim go out in the fog?

4. Why do you think that Jason had "disabled the maritime radio"?

5. Can you explain the difference between Lucky Jim's "fortune" and his "good fortune"?

Questions from answers:

Jason was interrogated by the police, once he reached the police station. Here are some of his answers. What were the policeman's questions?

1.Q  Why...

It was his idea. He always liked fishin' in the fog.

2. Q  Didn't ...

No, he didn't like going out by himself.

3. Q  Why ...

'Cos he still treats me like a little child.

4. Q  Did ...

No, I'd planned it all before.

5. Q

Well he has all this money, and he won't let me have any.

6. Q Did ....

Yes, because I didn't realize there was a camera.

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