- a short story
"It's a really good bargain,"
said the man in the showroom ; and as far as Shafi could tell,
was telling the truth.
for just £5,000!" he continued. "You won't find a better buy
anywhere else in the North; and what's more, we'll give you a
with it. Free!"
Shafi eyed the vehicle longingly;
it was bright red, and just over a year old - and inside it had that
smell of polish that comes with a new car. There was just the
matter of the price - it was more than he had planned to spend on his
first car, and more than he actually had available.
"Five thousand?" he asked, hoping rather hopelessly that he
had somehow misheard.
"Five grand! That's it. But you can 'ave it for three in cash
now, and the rest in three months. You can get a loan
from the bank!"
he'd taken his first job at the burger bar at the age of 17,
been saving up for a nice car; of course, he could have made
do with a cheap wreck
years ago - but that was not what he wanted. Shafi wanted a good car, a
nice car, one that would make him feel as if he had achieved
better in life than serving in a restaurant.
He handed over the crisp fifty pound notes. Even if the
insurance was only third-party, he reckoned
it was a good buy at the price.
to the driving seat, he adjusted it for position, and turned the key.
Within minutes, he had passed the outskirts
of Leeds, and was headed
for Gemma's house in Frampton. After all, she'd been badgering him to
get a car, ever since he'd first mentioned the idea to her a month or
He knew that she'd be impressed.
"So you bought it at last!" she exclaimed. "Great!" Now we
can go places!"
"Yes. And it goes like a dream!"
"Let's take it over to Sawby tonight," she
suggested. "Jess is on the door, he'll let us in free."
only sixteen miles away, but the quickest way to get there was
to take the motorway ; and besides Shafi was keen to see how fast he
could get the new car up to.
"Hey, take it
easy," said Gemma, as the speedometer edged up towards the 100 m.p.h.
mark. "You don't want to get done for speeding on the very first day!"
Shafi slowed down; the exit for Sawby was coming up fast.
As luck would
have it, there was a space just opposite the club as Shafi proudly
arrived in the shining new car. A group of young men watched from the
pavement opposite as he carefully parked by the kerbside.
on the door after all, and they had to pay to get in; but the
atmosphere in the club was hot and exciting as usual. It was a popular
place, and with some of the best D.J's in the region, it attracted
people from all round, even from Manchester.
"So you've got your car at last, eh Shafi, boy!" said a voice
in the semi-darkness.
round. He recognised the speaker at once, and was not pleased. It was
Rooksby, Gemma's former boyfriend. The three of them had
together a year ago in a restaurant, until Rooksby was sacked
insulting a group of foreign tourists.
"Hello," said Shafi.
"Yes," he answered. "Very nice thankyou...."
"A bit too smart for someone like you, ain't it?"
"Oh give over!" said Gemma.
Rooksby gave a sarcastic laugh, and moved away.
It was almost 3 a.m. as they emerged from the club.
"Hey!" exclaimed Shafi, looking across the street. "Where's
the car? We left it there, didn't we?."
"Yes, I think so," said Gemma.
"Oh no, don't say someone's gone an' nicked it already,"
The tears were
already beginning to well up in his eyes.
"What did you do with the keys?" asked Gemma.
"They're here," he answered, rummaging in his pocket. "Or at
least I think they are."
frowned. "They've gone.... They can't have.... I must have put them
down somewhere.... No! this is ridiculous."
He was looking increasingly desperate.
At that moment, a red car roared past them, and disappeared
up the road.
"But that's the car," Shafi exclaimed. "It's my car! Come
"No good yelling after 'em," said a voice from
behind, "Looks like
you've lost it, doesn't it, Shafi boy!"
They turned and saw Rooksby again, a wry
smile on his twisted lips.
"That's brilliant!" said Gemma. "You bring me out here, then
the car gets nicked. How'm I goin' to get home?"
"I'll call a taxi," said Shafi.
"I'll run you home if you like," said Rooksby. "I've just got
room for one!"
"You?" said Gemma. "Well I suppose it's better 'n nothing."
Two weeks later, the police called Shafi's employer,
asking for the owner of a red car.
phone; "You've found it?" he asked excitedly.
"Yes Sir," said the voice on the other end of the phone.
"It's in the pound
Birmingham.... but I'm afraid you can't have it back now."
"What? Why not?"
"Well Sir, you see it's a write-off."
Shafi felt a lump rising in his throat. "You mean...."
"Fatal accident, Sir. The driver was killed, and the
passenger's in intensive care.
She's just told us you were the owner of the car."
"What? Who was it then?"
give us her name. She just says she wants to see you. She says she's
sorry. Perhaps you can help us with our enquiries."
for the Firefox
© Linguapress. Do not copy
this document to any other website
Copying permitted for personal study, or by teachers for use with their
OF THIS SHORT STORY ON ANY OTHER WEBSITE IS NOT
story: the Car
closest equivalent of
the following words and expressions used in the story:
- eyed: a) looked
at, b) saw, c) noticed
- achieved: a)
finished, b) begun c) done
- badgering: a)
forbidding b) helping c) persuading
- take it easy: a)
Go on! b) don't be difficult! c) calm down!
- give over: a) Say
that again. b) Stop it! c) Let me have it!
- yelling: a)
running. b) looking c) shouting
- nicked: a)
stolen b) lost c) damaged
- a write-off: a)
An advertisement b) A ruin c) A form to fill in.
the missing words exercise:
Fill in the
missing words in
this short extract from the story:
_____ he'_____ taken his first job _____ the burger bar _____ the age
of 17, he_____ _____ saving _____ _____ a nice car; of course, he _____
_____ made do with a cheap wreck years _____ - but _____ was not _____
he wanted. Shafi wanted a good car, a nice car, _____ that would make
him feel _____ _____ he had achieved __________ better in life _____
serving in a restaurant.
the dialogue exercise:
wenf fo "help the
police with their enquiries"; he was asked a lot of questions. Here are
the answers: What were the questions ?
Shafi: Well, for just over two weeks.
Shafi: Yes, she was a good friend.... or at least,
I thought she was.
Shafi: Well when I left her outside the club at
Shafi: I don't remember really. I think I said
Shafi: Well of course not.
Police: And did
Shafi: Well, I did have some suspicions, but I
knew she didn't do it..... well not personally.
Police: Do you
Shafi: Well, yes, it's Rooksby
How difficult is this text?
The text scores as C1 l
evel on the CEFR (Common European Framework) scale, yet as 90 - easy
on the Flesch Kincaid scale. Why the difference?
Essentially because the CEFR score ranks a document for difficulty for
non-native speakers of a language, whereas the Flesch Kincaid scale
grades the difficulty of texts for native speakers. Most of the time
the two grading systems produce similar results. However in some cases
they do not.
This is particularly the case for texts
which include a lot of dialogue and short sentences, as does this short
story. The dialogue vocabulary and short sentences make this story easy
to follow for native English speakers, but not so easy for students
learning English as a foreign language.
With this sort
of document, a Flesch Kincaid analysis tends to underestimate the
difficulties, even for native speakers. The Linguapress grading for
this text, "plain English", takes account of the different grading
This story is rich in language points, structures,
and vocabulary, and the story and narrative technique can provide
enough in the way of activities to keep a class going for several
hours. Here are some suggestions.
1) None of the characters in the story
are ever described deliberately; but by the end of the story, it is
possible to characterise Gemma, Shafi and Rooksby quite closely. Have
students describe each of them with as much detail as possible.
2) What details in the story suggest
Rooksby is a racist.
b) Shafi wants to improve his situation
in life, but people exploit him.
c) Gemma is dishonest.
1) Have students complete
2) Complete the story in
up to 400 words.
3) Or do so in first
form, as seen from Shafi's point of view.
4) Imagine either the
between Shafi and Gemma, when Shafi reaches the Birmingham hospital; or
A conversation between Shafi and his brother on the day after the car
is stolen. This classroom activity can be well done as pair work, with
students working together to produce their own short sketch.
EFL teachers: Help develop this resource by contributing extra teaching
materials or exercises.