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THE CAR  - a short story

 by Andrew Rossiter
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NOW WITH AUDIO. : Click to open/close audio player then hit the ► play button

 "It's a really good bargain," said the man in the showroom ; and as far as Shafi could tell, he was telling the truth.

   "It's yours 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 year's insurance 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!"

   Ever since he'd taken his first job at the burger bar at the age of 17, he'd 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 something 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.

   Settling in 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 so earlier

   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."

   "Good idea."

   Sawby was 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.

   Jess wasn't 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.

   Shafi looked round. He recognised the speaker at once, and was not pleased. It was Rooksby, Gemma's former boyfriend. The three of them had worked together a year ago in a restaurant, until Rooksby was  sacked for insulting a group of foreign tourists.

   "Hello," said Shafi.

   "Smart job, ain't it!" said Rooksby.

   "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," Shafi groaned. 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."

   Then he 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 back!"

   "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.

   Shafi eagerly took the 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 in 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?"

   "She won't 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."

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Short story: the Car

Words and meaning exercise:

Select the closest equivalent of the following words and expressions used in the story: click the arrow buttons to see the options.

Fill in the missing words exercise:   

Fill in the missing words in this short extract from the story : you will need to add one or two words in each space

Ever   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.

Complete the dialogue exercise:   

When Shafi wenf fo "help the police with their enquiries"; he was asked a lot of questions. Here are the answers: What were the questions ? You can add as many words as you wish into each box.

Police inspector:  How ....
Shafi:    Well, for just over two weeks.
Police inspector:  Did ....
Shafi:    Yes, she was a good friend.... or at least, I thought she was.
Police inspector:  When ....
Shafi:    Well when I left her outside the club at Sawby.
Police inspector:  And what...
Shafi:    I don't remember really. I think I said "goodbye".
Police inspector:  Did ....
Shafi:    Well of course not. 
Police inspector:  And did ....
Shafi:    Well, I did have some suspicions, but I knew she didn't do it..... well not personally.
Police inspector:  Did you ....
Shafi:    Well, yes, it's Rooksby
Police inspector:  Is ....
Shafi.     Yes.

Missing punctuation exercise

Almost all the punctuation, including capital letters, has been removed from this extract from the story. Replace it all to make the text readable again.
You can add punctuation directly, add line breaks, and make changes using the box below.

at that moment a red car roared past them and disappeared up the road but thats the car shafi exclaimed its my car come back
no good yelling after em said a voice from behind looks like youve lost it doesnt it shafi boy they turned and saw rooksby again a wry smile on his twisted lips thats brilliant said gemma you bring me out here then the car gets nicked howm I goin to get home i'll call a taxi said shafi ill run you home if you like said rooksby ive just got room for one you said gemma well I suppose its better n nothing


 Lesson plan - teaching tips

How difficult is this text?  The text scores as C1 level on the CEFR (Common European Framework) scale yet scores 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 methods

Initial text study:
In order to be able to run through this story without a break, check out the vocabulary guide with students first. The vocabulary guide will open in its own window, which can stay open if you are using a compartmented screen. Check that they understand the explanations. Once you've worked on the vocabulary, play the audio text to students, pausing if necessary to check comprehension. If you can play the story through the first time without pausing, that is even better.

 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) Have students do the two interactive vocabulary exercises above

2) Do the punctuation exercise. This can be done individually or collectively if done on a connected screen or interactive whiteboard.. For the vocabulary of punctuation in English, see Punctuation.

2)  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  
3) Oral or written comprehension. What details in the story suggest that:
    a) Rooksby is a racist
    b) Shafi wants to improve his situation in life but people exploit him
    c) Gemma is dishonest

Final stage: written expression 

1) Have students complete the police interview above  

2) Complete the story in up to 400 words 

3) Or do so in first person narrative form as seen from Shafi's point of view 

4) Imagine either the conversation 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

Other ideas?
EFL teachers: Help develop this resource by contributing extra teaching materials or exercises
Click here for further details

Or visit the Linguapress guide to working with written documents:   
Reading comprehension in the English class
(Version française : Petite méthodologie de la compréhension écrite )


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Advanced level English resource

Level - Plain English
IELTS Level :  7
Flesch-Kincaid  scores
Reading ease level:
90 - Easy

Grade level: 36

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from Linguapress
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Big red London buses
USA: Who was Buffalo Bill?
USA: Close encounters with a Twister  
And more:  More intermediate reading texts  
Selected grammar pages
Online English grammar
Nouns in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Themed crosswords for EFL
The short story of English

CopyrightCopyright information

This resource is © copyright Linguapress  renewed  2022
Originally published in Spectrum magazine
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