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A short story in two parts   Part 1 

by Andrew Rossiter

Like many teenagers, Martin needed a bit of money; and the offer of a job clearing out an old house seemed to be just what he needed..
the trap Martin was not happy.
    He'd wanted to work during the half-term break and earn a bit of much-needed money, but wherever he'd asked he'd got more or less the same reply.
    "Sorry young man, we don't need any help," said the man in the supermarket.
    "I'm afraid not," said the lady at the newsagents.
    Then, on the Tuesday before half term, he spotted a small ad in the local paper.
    HELP WANTED.Two people needed for one week. Packing. No experience needed. Phone 25573.

    Without wasting a moment, Martin was on the phone. To his surprise and disappointment, all he got was an answerphone, with a message: "You've reached 25573. I'm sorry but there is no-one here at the moment. Please leave your name and number, and we'll get back to you as soon as possible."
    "Oh well, too bad," thought Martin. "They'll have a whole pile of people leaving messages. I might as well forget that one."
    At nine fifteen that evening, however, the phone rang. "Martin," called his Mum, "It's for you. Someone about a job."
    Martin's spirits bounced up as he picked up the phone. "Hello!... Yes, it's me!  Next week?... Yes perfect!... Sixteen....  No, but I can easily find a friend..... Tomorrow after school? Yes, that's fine...... O.K., we'll come round tomorrow."
    "What was all that about?" asked his Mum.
    "A job; I've got a job for half term — with a bit of luck. I've got to go and see a bloke tomorrow after school."
    "What bloke?"
    "The guy that just phoned. He wants to see me first."
    "And what's the job then? Babysitting?"
    "No, clearing out some old house or something."
    "Well you just be careful Martin, I don't want you getting into any trouble or anything. There's so much of it around these days."
    "Oh Mum, for goodness sake, I'm sixteen!"

    It was an address in Hollydown, a leafy district of big Victorian houses that had seen better days. No.6 Royston Road was a two-story house. The garden was very overgrown, and giant weeds were competing for space against untamed climbing roses and white-flowered convolvulus.
    A man with a thick grey beard answered the door, and invited Martin in.
    The house smelt damp, as if no-one had lived in it for several years. Most of the floor was covered in cracked brown lino, and the walls decorated with cream-coloured  wallpaper. All the woodwork was dark brown.
    "Rather unusual, isn't it?" said the man.
    "Yes," answered Martin, slightly surprised by the ancient air that seemed to hang over the house.
    "I want you to get the whole place cleared out by the end of next week. Drawers, cupboards, attic... the lot. Everything's got to be sorted out and packed carefully in boxes. I want a complete  inventory of everything that's packed, down to the smallest teaspoon."
    "What for?" asked Martin.
    "It doesn't matter what for. I want it done. D'you think you can do it? You'll need someone to help you. You'll get £400, if that's O.K."
    Martin, who had not expected to get more than £100, was astonished — though he made sure he didn't show it, in case the man changed his mind.
    "Yeah, that'll be O.K.. I'll be back on Monday morning then, with a friend."
    "I'll get you started," said the man, "Then I'll leave you to get on with the job. And by the way, my name's McAlister. Doug McAlister. If you need to call me, you can always leave a message on my answerphone."

    Finding a helper was not as easy as Martin had imagined it would be. The friends he asked had all got other things arranged. "What about Emily Winter?" said Phil Dawson; "I know she wants to earn some money."
    Martin hadn't thought of getting a girl to help him, but if Emily was looking for a job, well why not? They got on pretty well together, and she was fairly reliable.
    On Monday morning at 8.20, Martin got on his bike and rode round to Emily's. Just before nine, they stood outside no. 6 Royston Road.
    A young man opened the door. "You're Martin, I suppose. Good. I'm glad you're on time. Come on in."

End of part 1.       Continue to part 2..

clear out: empty - newsagents: newspaper shop - ad : announcement - disappointment : sadness - spirits: feeling - bloke, guy: man -  Victorian - 19th century -  overgrown: full of vegetation - weeds: plants that are not wanted - untamed : semi-wild -  attic: below the roof of a house - inventory: list - reliable: dependable, sure.

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The Trap - part 1.   Student worksheet  

Telephone English.

Imagine the complete telephone conversation that took place when the man phoned Martin's home at 9.15. Write your sentences into the boxes, which will expand to take whatever you write.
The man : 
    Martin's Mum (calls to Martin) Martin, It's for you. Someone about a job.
(Martin comes down and picks up the phone.)
    Martin: Hello.
The man : 
    Martin: Yes, it's me.
The man : 
    Martin: Next week?
The man : 
    Martin: Yes, perfect.
The man : 
    Martin: Sixteen.
The man : 
    Martin: No, but I can easily find a friend.
The man : 
    Martin: Tomorrow after school? Yes that's fine.
The man : 
    Martin: OK, we'll come round tomorrow.
The man : 


For teachers:  lesson plan

Stage 1 - Reading comprehension oral expression : 
Have pupils read this story carefully, then, collectively, ask them to tell the story orally in their own words. To encourage oral replies, you could ask the following leading questions. Why was Martin not happy? / How did he find his job? / What sort of job is it? / Where is he going to have to work? / Why does he think it's a good job? / How does he find someone to work with him?

: What is the "Trap"? Who has set it? Who is going to get caught in it? Why? What role are Martin and Emily going to play? 

Completing the story: in a short story, the writer is often obliged to jump from event to event, without mentioning what happens between. Where does the writer jump in this story? What events happen in the periods over which the writer jumps?

Points to ponder.   Vocabulary: Get/got.

This text is deliberately rich in exam­ples of the words get and got. Have pupils mark them as they read through the text, and divide them into four categories: get/got = obtain, got = obligation, get = auxiliary (I'll get you started — compare with I want the whole place cleared out), get/got = other meanings (notably in prepositional uses).
     Having done this, have students to write other sentences reusing get/got in parallel examples. (four point line)
Synonyms: here are synonyms of words and expressions used in the story. Have pupils find the original words: (answers below): noticed / advertisement / phone answering machine / a lot of / became excited / very / emptied / arranged / 
Answers: spotted / ad / answerphone / a whole pile of / ('s) spirits bounced up / decidedly / cleared out / sorted out. (four point line)
Other words to note: note the five adverbs of degree used in this story: decidedly, rather, slightly, pretty, fairly.  Explain the meaning of the expression: I might as well ....

Syntax:  irregular verbs. Have pupils pick out all the irregular verbs in this article, and check that they know the principal forms of each one (infinitive, preterite, past participle).

Stage 2 -  Writing activities: 

2.1.  Have students do the interactive telephone English exercise above.

2.2. completing the story:

The first part of this story sets the scene; there are plenty of ideas that can be followed up, and lots of potential endings to this story. Encourage students to be imaginative as they write their ending.

Stage 3 -      Grammar and language: further exploration.

     There are a number of interesting language points to look at in this story. Note in particular further use of get/got a number of prepositional verbs, and several interesting expressions (in italics) that may need explaining: on the dot (precisely) / I could do with (I would like to have) / That'll do (that is adequate)., etc . Try getting students to guess the meanings of these words and expressions. This exercise  can be well done with students working in pairs.

Stage 4 -   (next lesson or home reading)

     Continue to prt 2 of this story

Other ideas?
EFL teachers: Help develop this resource by contributing extra teaching materials or exercises.
To contribute 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 )

This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress renewed 2022. Originally published in Freeway, the Intermediate level English newsmagazine.
Republication on other websites or in print is not authorised

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Linguapress intermediate English reading
Level:  intermediate
Target readers : teenagers, young adults

Readability -
Easy. Flesch-Kincaid      Grade level: 3
Reading ease level:  89.7
CEF level: B1
IELTS Level  5 

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Selected grammar pages
Verbs in English
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Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English

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