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English pages for children. English pages for everyone.

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English pages for children. English pages for everyone.

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Babs Bell (Bishop) Hajdusiewicz and her books

Bestselling author Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz, Ms.Ed. is the author of more than 100 books and 350 poems for children, including: Dont Go Out in Your Underwear!; Phonics through Poetry: Teaching Phonemic Awareness Using Poetry; MORE Phonics through Poetry: Teaching Phonemic Awareness Using Poetry; Rhythm & Rhyme Reader Series; Questions and Answers Series; Jacks and More Jacks, Words! Words! Words!; Words and More Words. She is also author of Steppingstone Stories Series; Peaceful Me and Sometimes I Feel Happy, Sometimes I Feel Sad; three Poetry Works! collections for early childhood through intermediate grades; middle-grades biography Mary Carter Smith: African-American Storyteller; and the Dainty Dinosaur Series.

Hajdusiewicz stars in the Wright Group staff-development video Developing Oral Language and Phonemic Awareness through Rhythm and Rhyme. She has written numerous children's stories, articles for teachers and parents, and has contributed to and edited many elementary textbooks.

An educator for 40 years, Hajdusiewicz taught early childhood, elementary, and special education at all levels, served school districts in Indiana and Michigan as director of special education, and taught graduate and undergraduate education courses at Eastern Michigan and Cleveland State Universities. She founded Booking the Future: Reader to Reader, a community-involvement literacy program that placed books in the hands and homes of more than 16,000 four, five, and six year olds, and Pee Wee Poetry, a language development program for children aged two through nine. Hajdusiewicz is a frequent conference keynoter for educators and parents and a popular visiting author in schools across the country and abroad.

Specialties: Poetry for kids; humor; parenting for literacy; school staff development; author of numerous classroom materials; emphasis on phonemic awareness before phonics instruction; building love of learning from infancy onward

(Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz , . 100 350 . , , , . . .)

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It's an old Middleton family recipe.
16 Hosting Rules Kate Middleton Never Breaks
Prince Philip to retire from public duties at age of 96
Quotes about Life
etc

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221

A Magic Ring

Once upon a time there lived a young farmer. He worked very hard but was very poor. One day when he was far from home in the forest, an old woman looking like a peasant came up to him and said, I know you work very hard, and all for nothing. I will give you a magic ring! It will make you rich, and your work wont be in vain. When you turn the ring on your finger and say what you wish to have, youll have it at once! But there is only one wish in the ring, so think carefully before you wish.
The astonished farmer took the ring given to him by the peasant woman, and went home. In evening he came to a big city. There he went to a merchant and showed him the magic ring. When the merchant heard the astonishing story, he thought of a plan. He invited the farmer to stay in his house for the night. At night he came up to the sleeping peasant, carefully took the ring off the mans finger, and put on another ring, which looked exactly like the one he had taken off.
In the morning when the farmer had gone away, the merchant ran into his shop, shut the door, and said while turning the ring on his finger, I wish to have a hundred thousand pieces of gold. And down they came, on his head, shoulders, and arms, like a rain of gold! The frightened merchant tried to get out of the shop, but in vain. In a few minutes he was dead.
When the farmer returned home, he showed the ring to his wife. Take a look at this ring, he said. Its a magic ring! It will make us happy.
The astonished woman could hardly say a word Lets try. Maybe the ring will bring us more land, she said at last.
We must be careful about our wish. Dont forget theres only one thing that we may ask for, he explained. Lets better work hard for another year, and well have more land.
So they worked as hard as they could and got enough money to buy the land they wished to have. What happy people we are! said the farmer.
I dont understand you, answered his wife angrily. Theres nothing in the world that we cant have, and still we spend days and nights working as hard as before, because you dont want to use your magic ring!
Thirty, then forty years had gone by. The farmer and his wife had grown old. Their hair became as white as snow. They were happy and had everything they wanted. Their ring was still there. Although it was not a magic ring, it had made them happy. For you see, my dear friends, a poor thing in good hands is better than a fine thing in bad hands.

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222

Room for One More

by Alvin Schwartz

A man named Joseph Blackwell came to Philadelphia on a business trip. He stayed with friends in the big house they owned outside the city. That night they had a good time visiting. But when Blackwell went to bed, he tossed and turned and couldnt sleep. Sometime during the night he heard a car turn into the driveway. He went to the window to see who was arriving at such a late hour. In the moonlight, he saw a long black hearse filled with people.
The driver of the hearse looked up at him. When Blackwell saw his weird, hideous face, he shuddered. The driver called to him, There is room for one more. Then he waited for a minute or two, and then he drove off.
In the morning Blackwell told his friends what had happened. You were dreaming,  they said.
I must have been, he said, but it didnt seem like a dream.
After breakfast, he went into Philadelphia. He spent the day high above the city in one of the new office buildings there.
Late in the afternoon he was waiting for an elevator to take him back down to the street. But when it arrived, it was very crowded. One of the passengers looked out and called to him. There is room for one more, he said. It was the driver of the hearse.
No thanks, Blackwell said. Ill get the next one.
The doors closed, and the elevator started down. There was a shrieking and screaming, then the sound of a crash. The elevator had fallen to the bottom of the shaft. Everyone aboard was killed.

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223

The Stonecutter

Once upon a time there was a stone cutter. The stone cutter lived in a land where a life of privilege meant being powerful. Looking at his life he decided that he was unsatisfied with the way things were and so he set out to become the most powerful thing in the land.

Looking around his land he wondered to himself what is it to be powerful. Looking up he saw the Sun shining down on all the land. The Sun must be the most powerful thing that there is, for it shines down on all things, and all things grow from its touch. So he became the Sun.

Days later, as he shone his power down on the inhabitants of the land, there came a cloud which passed beneath him obstructing his brilliance. Frustrated he realized that the Sun was not the most powerful thing in the land, if a simple cloud could interrupt his greatness. So he became a cloud, in fact, he became the most powerful storm that the world had ever seen.

And so he blew his rain and lightning, and resounded with thunder all over the land, demonstrating that he was the most powerful. Until one day he came across a boulder.

Down and down he poured and his thunder roared, lightning flashed and filled the sky, striking the ground near the boulder. His winds blew and blew and blew, and yet, despite all his efforts, he could not budge the boulder.

Frustrated again, he realized that the storm was not the most powerful thing in the land, rather it must be the boulder. So he became the boulder.

For days he sat, unmovable, and impassive, demonstrating his power, until one day, a stone cutter came and chiseled him to bits.

The moral of the story is: sometimes the most important thing to remember is that you have everything you need already, right inside of you. Power is an illusion.

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224

A Serious Case

I have a friend who is afraid of spiders. This isnt very unusual; a lot of people are afraid of spiders. I dont really like spiders much myself. I dont mind them if you see them outside, in the garden, as long as theyre not too big. But if one comes in the house, especially if its one of those really big spiders with furry legs and little red eyes, then I go yeeucch and I try to get rid of it. Usually Ill use a brush to get rid of the spider, but if I feel brave then Ill put a glass over the top of it, slide a piece of paper under the glass and then take it outside.
This is quite normal, I think. But my friend isnt afraid of spiders in any normal way. She isnt just afraid of spiders, she is totally, completely and utterly terrified of them. When my friend sees a spider she doesnt just go uurgghh! or run away, or ask someone else to get rid of the horrible creepy crawly. No: she screams as loud as she possibly can. She screams so loud that her neighbours worry about her, and think about calling the police. When she sees a spider, she shivers all over, and sometimes she freezes completely she cant move at all because she is so terrified. Sometimes she even faints.
But my friend had a surprise for me when we met for coffee last week.
Guess what? she asked me.
What? I said.
Ive got a new pet!
Great, I said. What is it? A dog? A cat?
No
A budgie?
No
A rabbit?
No
What then?
Ive got a pet spider.
I dont believe you!
Its true! I decided that it was time I did something about my phobia so I went to visit a doctor, a special doctor. A psychiatrist. This psychiatrist specialised in phobias helping people who had irrational fears to get better, and live normally. He told me I suffered from arachnophobia.
Its an irrational fear of spiders, he said. About one in fifty people suffer from a severe form of arachnophobia. Its not very uncommon.
Thanks said my friend. But that doesnt help me much
There are lots of different ways we can try to cure your phobia, said the psychiatrist. First, there is traditional analysis.
What does that mean? asked my friend.
This means lots of talking. We try to find out exactly why you have such a terrible fear of spiders. Perhaps its linked to something that happened to you when you were a child.
Oh dear, said my friend. That sounds quite worrying.
It can take a long time, said the psychiatrist. Years, sometimes, and you can never be certain that it will be successful.
Are there any other methods?
Yes some psychiatrists use hypnosis along with traditional analysis. My friend didnt like the idea of being hypnotised. Im worried about what things will come out of my subconscious mind! she said.
Are there any other methods? asked my friend,
Well, said the psychiatrist, There is what we call the behavioural approach.
Whats the behavioural approach? asked my friend.
Well, said the psychiatrist, Its like this
The psychiatrist got out a small spider from his desk. It wasnt a real spider. It was made of plastic. Even though it was only a plastic spider, my friend screamed when she saw it.
Dont worry, said the psychiatrist. Its not a real spider.
I know, said my friend. But Im afraid of it just the same.
Hmmmm, said the psychiatrist. A serious case He put the rubber spider on the desk. When my friend stopped screaming, the psychiatrist told her to touch it. When she stopped screaming again the idea of touching the plastic spider was enough to make her scream she touched it. At first she touched it for just one second. She shivered all over, but at least she managed to touch it.
OK, said the psychiatrist. Thats all for today. Thanks. You can go home now.
Thats it? asked my friend.
Yes.
Thats all?
Yes, for today. This is the behavioural approach. Come back tomorrow.
My friend went back the next day, and this time the plastic spider was already on the doctors desk. This time she touched it and held it for five minutes. Then the doctor told her to go home and come back the next day. The next day she went back and the plastic spider was on her chair. She had to move the spider so she could sit down. The next day she held the spider in her hand while she sat in her chair. The next day, the doctor gave her the plastic spider and told her to take it home with her.
Where do spiders appear in your house? asked the psychiatrist.
In the bath, usually, said my friend.
Put the spider in the bath, he told her.
My friend was terrified of the spider in the bath, but she managed not to scream when she saw it there.
Its only a plastic spider, she told herself.
The next day the psychiatrist told her to put the spider in her living room. My friend put it on top of the television. At first she thought the spider was watching her, and she felt afraid. Then she told herself that it was only a plastic spider.
The next day the psychiatrist told her to put the spider in her bed.
No way! she said. Absolutely not!
Why not? asked the psychiatrist.
Its a spider! replied my friend.
No its not, said the psychiatrist, Its a plastic spider. Its not a real one. My friend realised that her doctor was right. She put the plastic spider in her bed, and she slept there all night with it in her bed. She only felt a little bit afraid.
The next day, she went back to the psychiatrist. This time, she had a shock, a big shock. Sitting in the middle of the doctors desk there was a spider. And this time it was a real spider.
My friend was about to scream and run away, but she didnt. She sat on the other side of the room, as far away as possible from the spider, for about five minutes, then she got up and left the room.
See you tomorrow! shouted the psychiatrist to her as she left.
The next day she went back and this time the psychiatrist let the spider run around on his desk. Again, my friend stayed about five minutes, then left. The next day she stayed for ten minutes, and the day after that, fifteen. Eventually, the psychiatrist held the spider, the real spider with long furry legs and little eyes, in his hand. He asked my friend to come and touch it. At first she refused, but the doctor insisted. Eventually she touched the spider, just for a second. The next day she touched it for a few seconds, then for a few minutes, and after that she held the spider in her own hand.
Then she took the spider home, and let it run around in her house. She didnt feel afraid. Well, OK, she did feel afraid, but only a tiny bit.
So now Ive got a pet spider! she told me again.
Well done! I said.
Theres only one problem, she said, and as she spoke I noticed that she was shivering all over. Then she screamed and climbed up on the chair. She was pointing to something on the floor.
Over there! she screamed. Look! Its a beetle!!

THE END

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225

A Municipal Report

by O. Henry

It was raining as I got off the train in Nashville, Tennessee a slow, gray rain. I was tired so I went straight to my hotel.

A big, heavy man was walking up and down in the hotel lobby. Something about the way he moved made me think of a hungry dog looking for a bone. He had a big, fat, red face and a sleepy expression in his eyes. He introduced himself as Wentworth Caswell Major Wentworth Caswell from a fine southern family. Caswell pulled me into the hotels barroom and yelled for a waiter. We ordered drinks. While we drank, he talked continually about himself, his family, his wife and her family. He said his wife was rich. He showed me a handful of silver coins that he pulled from his coat pocket.

By this time, I had decided that I wanted no more of him. I said good night.

I went up to my room and looked out the window. It was ten oclock but the town was silent. A nice quiet place, I said to myself as I got ready for bed. Just an ordinary, sleepy southern town.

I was born in the south myself. But I live in New York now. I write for a large magazine. My boss had asked me to go to Nashville. The magazine had received some stories and poems from a writer in Nashville, named Azalea Adair. The editor liked her work very much. The publisher asked me to get her to sign an agreement to write only for his magazine.

I left the hotel at nine oclock the next morning to find Miss Adair. It was still raining. As soon as I stepped outside I met Uncle Caesar. He was a big, old black man with fuzzy gray hair.

Uncle Caesar was wearing the strangest coat I had ever seen. It must have been a military officers coat. It was very long and when it was new it had been gray. But now rain, sun and age had made it a rainbow of colors. Only one of the buttons was left. It was yellow and as big as a fifty cent coin.

Uncle Caesar stood near a horse and carriage. He opened the carriage door and said softly, Step right in, sir. Ill take you anywhere in the city.

I want to go to eight-sixty-one Jasmine Street, I said, and I started to climb into the carriage. But the old man stopped me. Why do you want to go there, sir?

What business is it of yours? I said angrily. Uncle Caesar relaxed and smiled. Nothing, sir. But its a lonely part of town. Just step in and Ill take you there right away.

Eight-sixty-one Jasmine Street had been a fine house once, but now it was old and dying. I got out of the carriage.

That will be two dollars, sir, Uncle Caesar said. I gave him two one-dollar bills. As I handed them to him, I noticed that one had been torn in half and fixed with a piece of blue paper. Also, the upper right hand corner was missing.

Azalea Adair herself opened the door when I knocked. She was about fifty years old. Her white hair was pulled back from her small, tired face. She wore a pale yellow dress. It was old, but very clean.

Azalea Adair led me into her living room. A damaged table, three chairs and an old red sofa were in the center of the floor.

Azalea Adair and I sat down at the table and began to talk. I told her about the magazines offer and she told me about herself. She was from an old southern family. Her father had been a judge.

Azalea Adair told me she had never traveled or even attended school. Her parents taught her at home with private teachers. We finished our meeting. I promised to return with the agreement the next day, and rose to leave.

At that moment, someone knocked at the back door. Azalea Adair whispered a soft apology and went to answer the caller. She came back a minute later with bright eyes and pink cheeks. She looked ten years younger. You must have a cup of tea before you go, she said. She shook a little bell on the table, and a small black girl about twelve years old ran into the room.

Azalea Aair opened a tiny old purse and took out a dollar bill. It had been fixed with a piece of blue paper and the upper right hand corner was missing. It was the dollar I had given to Uncle Caesar. Go to Mister Bakers store, Impy, she said, and get me twenty-five cents worth of tea and ten cents worth of sugar cakes. And please hurry.

The child ran out of the room. We heard the back door close. Then the girl screamed. Her cry mixed with a mans angry voice. Azalea Adair stood up. Her face showed no emotion as she left the room. I heard the mans rough voice and her gentle one. Then a door slammed and she came back into the room.

I am sorry, but I wont be able to offer you any tea after all, she said. It seems that Mister Baker has no more tea. Perhaps he will find some for our visit tomorrow.

We said good-bye. I went back to my hotel.

Just before dinner, Major Wentworth Caswell found me. It was impossible to avoid him. He insisted on buying me a drink and pulled two one-dollar bills from his pocket. Again I saw a torn dollar fixed with blue paper, with a corner missing. It was the one I gave Uncle Caesar. How strange, I thought. I wondered how Caswell got it.

Uncle Caesar was waiting outside the hotel the next afternoon. He took me to Miss Adairs house and agreed to wait there until we had finished our business.

Azalea Adair did not look well. I explained the agreement to her. She signed it. Then, as she started to rise from the table, Azalea Adair fainted and fell to the floor. I picked her up and carried her to the old red sofa. I ran to the door and yelled to Uncle Caesar for help. He ran down the street. Five minutes later, he was back with a doctor.

The doctor examined Miss Adair and turned to the old black driver. Uncle Caesar, he said, run to my house and ask my wife for some milk and some eggs. Hurry!

Then the doctor turned to me. She does not get enough to eat, he said. She has many friends who want to help her, but she is proud. Misses Caswell will accept help only from that old black man. He was once her familys slave.

Misses Caswell. I said in surprise. I thought she was Azalea Adair.

She was, the doctor answered, until she married Wentworth Caswell twenty years ago. But hes a hopeless drunk who takes even the small amount of money that Uncle Caesar gives her.
After the doctor left I heard Caesars voice in the other room. Did he take all the money I gave you yesterday, Miss Azalea? Yes, Caesar, I heard her answer softly. He took both dollars.

I went into the room and gave Azalea Adair fifty dollars. I told her it was from the magazine. Then Uncle Caesar drove me back to the hotel.

A few hours later, I went out for a walk before dinner. A crowd of people were talking excitedly in front of a store. I pushed my way into the store. Major Caswell was lying on the floor. He was dead.

Someone had found his body on the street. He had been killed in a fight. In fact, his hands were still closed into tight fists. But as I stood near his body, Caswells right hand opened. Something fell from it and rolled near my feet. I put my foot on it, then picked it up and put it in my pocket.

People said they believed a thief had killed him. They said Caswell had been showing everyone that he had fifty dollars. But when he was found, he had no money on him.
I left Nashville the next morning. As the train crossed a river I took out of my pocket the object that had dropped from Caswells dead hand. I threw it into the river below.

It was a button. A yellow button the one from Uncle Caesars coat.

THE END

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226

The Girl with Green Eyes
by J. Bassett

Of course, the man in the brown hat said, there are good policemen and there are bad policemen, you know.
Youre right, the young man said. Yes. Thats very true. Isnt it, Julie? He looked at the young woman next to him.
Julie didnt answer and looked bored. She closed her eyes.
Julies my wife, the young man told the man in the brown hat. She doesnt like trains. She always feels ill on trains.
Oh yes? the man in the brown hat said. Now my wife she doesnt like buses. She nearly had an accident on a bus once. It was last year No, no, it wasnt. It was two years ago. I remember now. It was in Manchester. He told a long, boring story about his wife and a bus in Manchester.
It was a hot day and the train was slow. There were seven people in the carriage. There was the man in the brown hat; the young man and his wife, Julie; a mother and two children; and a tall dark man in an expensive suit.
The young mans name was Bill. He had short brown hair and a happy smile. His wife, Julie, had long red hair and very green eyes the colour of sea water. They were very beautiful eyes.
The man in the brown hat talked and talked. He had a big red face and a loud voice. He talked to Bill because Bill liked to talk too. The man in the brown hat laughed a lot, and when he laughed, Bill laughed too. Bill liked talking and laughing with people. The two children were hot and bored. They didnt want to sit down. They wanted to be noisy and run up and down the train.
Now sit down and be quiet, their mother said. She was a small woman with a tired face and a tired voice.
1 dont want to sit down, the little boy said. Im thirsty.
Here. Have an orange, his mother said. She took an orange out of her bag and gave it to him.
I want an orange too, the little girl said loudly.
All right. Here you are, said her mother. Eat it nicely, now.
The children ate their oranges and were quiet for a minute.
Then the little boy said, I want a drink. Im thirsty.
The tall dark man took out his newspaper and began to read. Julie opened her eyes and looked at the back page of his newspaper. She read about the weather in Budapest and about the football in Liverpool. She wasnt interested in Budapest and she didnt like football, but she didnt want to listen to Bill and the man in the brown hat. Talk, talk, talk, she thought. Bill never stops talking.
Then suddenly she saw the tall mans eyes over the top of his newspaper. She could not see his mouth, but there was a smile in his eyes. Quickly, she looked down at the newspaper and read about the weather in Budapest again.
The train stopped at Dawlish station and people got on and got off. There was a lot of noise.
Is this our station? the little girl asked. She went to the window and looked out.
No, it isnt. Now sit down, her mother said.
Were going to Penzance, the little girl told Bill. For our holidays.
Yes, her mother said. My sisters got a little hotel by the sea. Were staying there. Its cheap, you see.
Yes, the man in the brown hat said. Its a nice town. I know a man there. Hes got a restaurant in King Street. A lot of holiday people go there. He makes a lot of money in the summer. He laughed loudly. Yes, he said again. You can have a nice holiday in Penzance.
Were going to St Austell, Bill said. Me and Julie. Its our first holiday. Julie wanted to go to Spain, but I like St Austell. I always go there for my holidays. Its nice in August. You can have a good time there too.
Julie looked out of the window. Where is Budapest? she thought. I want to go there. I want to go to Vienna, to Paris, to Rome, to Athens. Her green eyes were bored and angry. Through the window she watched the little villages and hills of England.
The man in the brown hat looked at Julie. Youre right, he said to Bill. You can have a good time on holiday in England. We always go to Brighton, me and the wife. But the weather! We went one year, and it rained every day. Morning, afternoon, and night. Its true. It never stopped raining. He laughed loudly. We nearly went home after the first week.
Bill laughed too.What did you do all day, then? he asked.
Julie read about the weather in Budapest for the third time. Then she looked at the tall mans hands. They were long, brown hands, very clean. Nice hands, she thought. He wore a very expensive Japanese watch. Japan, she thought. Id like to go to Japan. She looked up and saw the mans eyes again over the top of his newspaper. This time she did not look away. Green eyes looked into dark brown eyes for a long, slow minute.
After Newton Abbot station the guard came into the carriage to look at their tickets. Now then, he said, where are we all going?
This trains late, the man in the brown hat said. Twenty minutes late, by my watch.
Ten minutes, the guard said. Thats all. He smiled at Julie.
The tall dark man put his newspaper down, found his ticket, and gave it to the guard. The guard looked at it.
Youre all right, sir, he said. The boat doesnt leave Plymouth before six oclock. Youve got lots of time.
The tall man smiled, put his ticket back in his pocket and opened his newspaper again.
Julie didnt look at him. A boat, she thought. Hes taking a boat from Plymouth. Wheres he going? She looked at him again with her long green eyes.
He read his newspaper and didnt look at her. But his eyes smiled. The train stopped at Totnes station and more people got on and off.
Everybodys going on holiday, Bill said. He laughed. Its going to be wonderful. No work for two weeks. Its a nice, quiet town, St Austell. We can stay in bed in the mornings, and sit and talk in the afternoons, and have a drink or two in the evenings. Eh, Julie? He looked at his wife. Are you all right, Julie?
Yes, Bill, she said quietly. Im OK. She looked out of the window again. The train went more quickly now, and it began to rain. Bill and the man in the brown hat talked and talked. Bill told a long story about two men and a dog, and the man in the brown hat laughed very loudly.
Thats a good story, he said. I like that. You tell it very well. Do you know the story about . . . And he told Bill a story about a Frenchman and a bicycle.
Why do people laugh at these stories? Julie thought. Theyre so boring!
But Bill liked it. Then he told a story about an old woman and a cat, and the man in the brown hat laughed again. Thats good, too. I dont know. How do you remember them all?
Because, Julie thought, he tells them every day.
I dont understand, the little girl said suddenly. She looked at Bill. Why did the cat die?
Shhh. Be quiet, her mother said. Come and eat your sandwiches now.
Thats all right, Bill said. I like children.
The man in the brown hat looked at the childrens sandwiches. Mmm, Im hungry, too, he said. You can get sandwiches in the restaurant on this train. He looked at Bill. Lets go down to the restaurant, eh? I need a drink too.
Bill laughed. Youre right. Its thirsty work, telling stories.
The two men stood up and left the carriage.
The little girl ate her sandwich and looked at Julie. But why did the cat die? she asked.
I dont know, Julie said. Perhaps it wanted to die.
The little girl came and sat next to Julie. I like your hair, she said. Its beautiful. Julie looked down at her and smiled.
For some minutes it was quiet in the carriage. Then the tall dark man opened his bag and took out a book. He put it on the seat next to him, and looked at Julie with a smile. Julie looked back at him, and then down at the book. Famous towns of Italy, she read. Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples. She looked away again, out of the window at the rain. Two weeks in St Austell, she thought. With Bill. In the rain.
After half an hour the two men came back to the carriage. There are a lot of people on this train, Bill said. Do you want a sandwich, Julie?
No, she said. Im not hungry. You eat them.
The train was nearly at Plymouth. Doors opened and people began to move. A lot of people get on here, the man in the brown hat said.
The tall dark man stood up and put his book and his newspaper in his bag. Then he picked up his bag and left the carriage. The train stopped at the station. A lot of people got on the train, and two women and an old man came into the carriage. They had a lot of bags with them. Bill and the man in the brown hat stood up and helped them. One of the women had a big bag of apples. The bag broke and the apples went all over the carriage.
Oh damn! she said.
Everybody laughed, and helped her to find the apples. The train moved away from Plymouth station. After a minute or two everybody sat down and the woman gave some apples to the children.
Wheres Julie? Bill said suddenly. Shes not here. Perhaps she went to the restaurant, the man in the brown hat said.
But she wasnt hungry, Bill said. She told me. The little girl looked at Bill. She got off the train at
Plymouth, she said. With the tall dark man. 1 saw them. Of course she didnt! Bill said. Shes on this train. She didnt get off.
Yes, she did, the childrens mother said suddenly. I saw her too. The tall man waited for her on the platform. He waited for her? Bills mouth was open. But But he read his newspaper all the time. He didnt talk to Julie. And she never talked to him. They didnt say a word. People dont always need words, young man, the childrens mother said.
But shes my wife! Bills face was red and angry. She cant do that! he said loudly. He stood up. Im going to stop the train. Everybody looked at him and the two children laughed.
No, the man in the brown hat said, no, you dont want to do that. Sit down and eat your sandwiches, my friend.
But I dont understand. Why did she go? What am I going to do? Bills face was very unhappy. After a second or two he sat down again. What am I going to do? he said again.
Nothing, the man in the brown hat said. He ate his sandwich slowly. Go and have your holiday in St Austell. You can have a good time there. Forget about Julie. Those green eyes, now. He took out a second sandwich and began to eat it. I knew a woman once with green eyes. She gave me a very bad time. No, you want to forget about Julie.

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227

Mr Harris and the Night Train

by J. Bassett

Mr Harris liked trains. He was afraid of aeroplanes, and didnt like buses.
But trains they were big and noisy and exciting. When he was a boy of ten, he liked trains. Now he was a man of fifty, and he still liked trains. So he was a happy man on the night of the 14th of September.

He was on the night train from Helsinki to Oulu in Finland, and he had ten hours in front of him. Ive got a book and my newspaper, he thought. And theres a good restaurant on the train. And then Ive got two weeks holiday with my Finnish friends in Oulu.

There werent many people on the train, and nobody came into Mr Harriss carriage. He was happy about that. Most people on the train slept through the night, but Mr Harris liked to look out of the window, and to read and think. After dinner in the restaurant Mr Harris came back to his carriage, and sat in his seat next to the window.

For an hour or two he watched the trees and lakes of Finland out of the window.
Then it began to get dark, so he opened his book and began to read. At midnight the train stopped at the small station of Otava. Mr Harris looked out of the window, but he saw nobody. The train moved away from the station, into the black night again. Then the door of Mr Harriss carriage opened, and two people came in. A young man and a young woman.

The young woman was angry. She closed the door and shouted at the man: Carl! You cant do this to me! The young man laughed loudly and sat down. Mr Harris was a small, quiet man. He wore quiet clothes, and he had a quiet voice. He did not like noisy people and loud voices. So he was not pleased. Young people are always noisy, he thought. Why cant they talk quietly?

He put his book down and closed his eyes. But he could not sleep because the two young people didnt stop talking. The young woman sat down and said in a quieter voice: Carl, youre my brother and I love you, but please listen to me. You cant take my diamond necklace. Give it back to me now. Please!

Carl smiled. No, Elena, he said. Im going back to Russia soon, and Im taking your diamonds with me. He took off his hat and put it on the seat. Elena, listen. You have a rich husband, but I , I have no money. I have nothing! How can I live without money? You cant give me money, so I need your diamonds, little sister.

Mr Harris looked at the young woman. She was small, with black hair and dark eyes. Her face was white and afraid. Mr Harris began to feel sorry for Elena. She and her brother didnt look at him once. Cant they see me? he thought.

Carl, Elena said. Her voice was very quiet now, and Mr Harris listened carefully. You came to dinner at our house tonight, and you went to my room and took my diamond necklace. How could you do that to me? My husband gave the diamonds to me. They were his mothers diamonds before that. Hes going to be very, very angry , and Im afraid of him.

Her brother laughed. He put his hand in his pocket, then took it out again and opened it slowly. The diamond necklace in his hand was very beautiful. Mr Harris stared at it. For a minute or two nobody moved and it was quiet in the carriage. There was only the noise of the train, and it went quickly on through the dark cold night.

Mr Harris opened his book again, but he didnt read it. He watched Carls face, with its hungry eyes and its cold smile.

What beautiful, beautiful diamonds! Carl said. I can get a lot of money for these.
Give them back to me, Carl, Elena whispered, My husbands going to kill me. Youre my brother Please help me. Please!
Carl laughed again, and Mr Harris wanted to hit him. Go home, little sister, Carl said. Im not going to give the diamonds back to you. Go home to your angry husband.

Suddenly there was a knife in the young womans hand. A long, bright knife. Mr Harris watched with his mouth open. He couldnt speak or move.
Give the diamonds back to me! Elena cried. Or Im going to kill you! Her hand on the knife was white.
Carl laughed and laughed. What a sister! he said. What a kind, sweet sister! No, theyre my diamonds now. Put your knife away, little sister.
But the knife in the white hand moved quickly: up, then down. There was a long, terrible cry, and Carls body fell slowly on to the seat. The colour of the seat began to change to red, and the diamond necklace fell from Carls hand on to the floor.

Elenas face was white. Oh no! she whispered. Carl! Come back come back! I didnt want to kill you! But Carl didnt answer, and the red blood ran slowly over the floor. Elena put her head in her hands, and again in the carriage there was a long, terrible cry.

Mr Harriss face was white too. He opened his mouth, but he couldnt speak. He stood up, and carefully moved to the door. The young woman was quiet now. She didnt move or look up at Mr Harris.

In the corridor, Mr Harris ran. The guard was at the hack of the train and Mr Harris got there in half a minute.
Quickly! Mr Harris said. Come quickly! An accident a young woman oh dear! Her brother is is dead!
The guard ran with Mr Harris back to the carriage. Mr Harris opened the door and they went inside.

There was no dead body of a young man. There was no young woman no blood, no knife, no diamond necklace. Only Mr Harriss bags and his hat and coat.
The guard looked at Mr Harris, and Mr Harris looked at him.
But Mr Harris began. But they were here! I saw them! She the young woman She had a knife and she she killed her brother.
A knife, you say? the guard asked.
Yes, Mr Harris said quickly. A long knife, and her brother took her diamonds, so she
Ah! Diamonds! the guard said. Was the young womans name Elena? he asked.
Yes, it was! Mr Harris said. How do you know that? Do you Do you know her?
Yes and no, the guard said slowly. He thought for a minute, then looked at Mr Harris. Elena di Saronelli, he said. She had dark eyes and black hair. Very beautiful. She was half-Italian, half-Finnish. Her brother was a halfbrother. They had the same father, but his mother was Russian, I think.
Was? Had? Mr Harris stared at the guard. But she Elena shes alive! And where is she?
Oh no, said the guard. Elena di Saronelli died about eighty years ago. After she killed her brother with a knife, she jumped off the train, and died at once. It was near here, I think. He looked out of the window, into the night.

Mr Harriss face was very white again. Eighty years ago! he whispered. What are you saying? Were she and her brother But I saw them!
Yes, thats right, the guard said. You saw them, but theyre not alive. Theyre ghosts. They often come on the night train at this time in September. I never see them, but somebody saw them last year. A man and his wife. They were very unhappy about it. But what can I do? I cant stop Elena and Carl coming on the train.

The guard looked at Mr Harriss white face. You need a drink, he said. Come and have a vodka with me.
Mr Harris didnt usually drink vodka, but he felt afraid. When he closed his eyes, he could see again Elenas long knife and could hear her terrible cry. So he went with the guard to the back of the train.

After the vodka, Mr Harris felt better. He didnt want to sleep, and the guard was happy to talk. So Mr Harris stayed with the guard and didnt go back to his carriage.
Yes, the guard said, its a famous story. I dont remember it all. It happened a long time ago, of course. Elenas father was a famous man here in Finland. He was very rich once, but he had three or four wives and about eight children. And he liked the good things of life. So there wasnt much money for the children. Carl, the oldest son, was a bad man, people say. He wanted an easy life, and money in his hand all the time.

The train hurried on to Oulu through the black night, and the guard drank some more vodka. Now, Elena, he said. She didnt have an easy life with those three difficult men her father, her brother, her husband. One year she visited her mothers family in Italy, and there she met her husband, di Saronelli. He was rich, but he wasnt a kind man. They came back to Finland, and Carl often visited their house. He wanted money from his sisters rich husband. Elena loved her brother, and gave him some money. But di Saronelli didnt like Carl and was angry with Elena. He stopped giving her money, and after that well, you know the story now.
Yes, Mr Harris said. Poor, unhappy Elena.

Mr Harris stayed with his friends in Oulu for two weeks. They were quiet weeks, and Mr Harris had a good holiday. But he took the bus back to Helsinki. The bus was slow, and there were a lot of people on it, but Mr Harris was very happy. He didnt want to take the night train across Finland again.

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228

South for the Winter

by J. Bassett

I never stay in one country for a long time. It gets boring. I like to move on, see new places, meet different people. Its a good life, most of the time. When I need money, I get a job. I can do most things hotel and restaurant work, building work, picking fruit.

I like to go south in the winter Cyprus, or perhaps North Africa. Life is easier in the sun, and Northern Europe can get very cold in the winter. Last year I was in Venice for October. I did some work in a hotel for three weeks, then I began slowly to move south. I always go by train when I can. I like trains. You can walk about on a train, and you meet a lot of people.

I left Venice and went on to Trieste. There I got a cheap ticket for the slow train to Sofia, in Bulgaria. It takes a day and a half, but the express was too expensive.

The train left Trieste at nine oclock on a Thursday morning. There werent many people on it at first, but at Zagreb more people got on. Two girls went along the corridor, past my compartment. They looked through the door, but they didnt come in. The train left Zagreb and I looked out of the window for about ten minutes, then I went to sleep.

When I opened my eyes again, the two girls were in the compartment.

Hi! they said.

Youre American, I said. Or Canadian. Right?

American, the taller girl said. She smiled. And youre twenty-three, your name is Tom Walsh, youve got blue eyes, and your mum lives in Burnham-on-Sea, UK. Right?

How did you know all that? I asked.

The second girl laughed. She looked at your passport. Its in your coat pocket.

Oh. Right. My coat was on the seat next to me. I took my passport out of my pocket and put it in my bag in the luggage rack.

Who are you, then? I asked.

They told me. Melanie and Carol from Los Angeles, USA. They liked Europe, they said. They knew a lot of places Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece

They seemed like nice girls. They were older than me, perhaps twenty-seven or twenty-eight, but I liked them. We talked and laughed for hours. I told them a lot of stories about my life. Some of the stories were true, some werent. But the girls laughed anyway, and said I was a great guy. I asked them about Bulgaria, because I didnt know the country. They knew Sofia well, they said.

Hey, Carol, Melanie said. Were staying in Bela Palanka for a day or two. But lets go over Sofia this weekend and meet Tom there. We can meet him on Saturday night at the Marmara Hotel.

Great! I said. Lets do that.

The train got to Belgrade at six oclock in the evening, and a lot of people got off. There were only me and the girls in the carriage then. The guard came, checked our tickets, and went away again.

Carol looked at Melanie. Hey, Mel, she said. Why dont you and Tom go along the restaurant car? Im not hungry, and I want to sleep for an hour.

Er Foods very expensive on the train, I said. I havent got much money just now. Im going to get a job in Sofia.

Oh Tom! Melanie said. Why didnt you tell us? Look, youre a nice guy, right? Were OK for money this week. We can buy you a meal.

What could I say? I was hungry. They had money, I didnt. So Melanie and I went to the restaurant car and had a meal. When we came back, Carol was still asleep in the compartment.

Why are you getting off at Bela Palanka? I asked. What are you going to do there?
Melanie smiled. Find a cheap hotel, meet people, take a look around the town you know.

But theres nothing there!

Oh well, you never know, Melanie laughed. She put her feet on the seat and went to sleep.

A few hours later the train came into Bela Palanka station and stopped. The two girls got off and stood on the platform. They smiled at me through the window.

See you in Sofia, OK? The Marmara Hotel eight oclock. Carol said, Well take you to the best restaurant in town.

Then they picked up their bags and walked away. Nice girls. Well have a great time in Sofia, I thought.

The train crossed into Bulgaria at two oclock in the morning. Then it stopped and suddenly there were a lot of policemen on the train.

Whats happening? I said in Italian to the old man next to me.

I dont know, he said.

Then two policemen came into our carriage, a tall thin one and a short fat one. They looked at everybody carefully and then they looked at me again.

Come with us, please, the fat policeman said in English.

What? Me? Why? Whats the matter?

Is this your bag? the tall policeman asked.

I began to ask a question, but policemen never like questions from young men. So I stayed quiet and went with them.

In the station building there were a lot more policemen, and some people from the train. They were all young people, I saw. Some were afraid, some were bored. The police looked in everybodys bags, and then the people went back to the train. My two policemen took me to a table. Your passport, please, the fat policeman said, and open your bag.
They looked at my passport, and began to look through my bag.

Aha! the tall policeman said suddenly. All my dirty shirts and clothes were out on the table.

The policeman picked up my bag and turned it over. Onto the table, out of my bag, fell packet after packet of American dollars. Fifty dollar notes in big packets. A lot of money.

My mouth opened, and stayed open.

50,000 100,000 150 000 theres 200,000 dollars here, the tall policeman said. What an interesting bag, Mr Tom Walsh.

But its not my bag! I shouted.

There was a big, happy smile on that policemans face. Well, he said, its got your name on it. Look! So I looked, and of course there was my name, and yes, of course it was my bag. So how did 200,000 American dollars get in my bag?

You cannot bring US dollars into the country, the fat policeman said.

But I didnt bring them, I said quickly. Theyre not my dollars. I never saw them before in my life, and

There was a lot of noise in the station. I looked out of the window and saw my train. Slowly, it began to move.

Hey! I shouted. Thats my train

The tall policeman laughed.

Oh no, he said. Youre not getting back on that train. Youre staying here with us, in our beautiful country, he smiled, happily.

So I never got to Sofia on Saturday. I was very unhappy about that. I wanted to have a little talk with Melanie and Carol, ask them one or two questions, you know. Youre a nice guy, Tom. See you in Sofia, OK? Take you to the best restaurant in town. Yeah. Great.

And I never got down to Cyprus or North Africa that winter. Oh well, you live and learn. Its not an easy life in prison. But its warm in winter, and the foods not bad. And Im meeting some interesting people. Theres a man from Georgia Boris, his name is. He comes from a place by the Black Sea. Hes a great guy. When we get out of here, he and I are going down to Australia Brisbane perhaps, or Sydney. Get a job on a ship, start a new life. Yeah, next year will be OK.

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229

Rumpelstiltskin

Once upon a time there was a poor woodcutter who had a beautiful daughter. The woodcutter was very proud of her.
One day he boasted to the king, My daughter can spin straw into gold.
If your daughter can do this, said the king, bring her to me and I shall see.

So the woodcutter went home and told his daughter to wear her most lovely dress and come before the king. The king took the girl to a room in his castle that was filled with straw. As he showed her the spinning wheel in the corner he said, Spin this straw into gold by sunrise or you shall die.

The woodcutters daughter sat on the stool and began to cry. Suddenly, the door creaked open and a strange little man appeared. What will you give me to spin this straw into gold? asked the little man. Ill gladly give you my necklace. Good, he said taking the necklace. The little man set to work and by sunrise the room was filled with gold.

When the king saw the gold he became greedy. He got more straw. By sunrise all this shall be gold. Once more the woodcutters daughter began to cry. In a moment the door opened and in came the strange little fellow. What will you give me this time? he asked. Ill gladly give you my ring, said the girl. Good, said the little man as he sat down to spin the straw. By sunrise all the straw was gold.

Once more the king was pleased. He got even more straw. Spin this straw into gold and in the morning I shall marry you and make you my queen. When the king went away the little fellow returned. What will you give me this time? he asked. Ive nothing left to give, replied the woodcutters daughter. Then you shall give me your first child when you are queen. She promised the little man her first child.

By sunrise the straw was gold and the king married the woodcutters daughter. The happy queen had a baby boy and forgot all about her promise. One day the little man came to take the queens baby boy. The queen begged to keep her child. The little man said, You have three days to guess my name. If you cant, I shall take your baby boy.

All night the queen thought of every name. In the morning when the little man came she tried all of them. At each one the little man said, No. It is not I. On the second day she tried even more names. No. It is not I, said the little man.

That night one of the queens messengers came to her to tell of a strange sight indeed. While riding through the forest he had seen a fire. Around the fire danced an odd fellow who sang a song.

This was what he sang:
Today I bake, tomorrow I brew,
Then, dear prince, I come for you.
None can guess, none can claim
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name.

That night the little man came calling.
What is my name? he asked, jumping up and down.
Its Robin, answered the queen.
It is not!
Its Jack, said the queen.
It is not!
Then Rumpelstiltskin is your name.
At this the little fellow flew into a rage.
Curses!, he shrieked, and stamped his feet so hard that he fell through the floor and disappeared forever.

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230

How the Camel Got His Hump

by Rudyard Kipling

In the beginning of years, when the world was so new and all, and the Animals were just beginning to work for Man, there was a Camel, and he lived in the middle of a Howling Desert because he did not want to work; and besides, he was a Howler himself. So he ate sticks and thorns and tamarisks and milkweed and prickles, most scruciating idle; and when anybody spoke to him he said Humph! Just Humph! and no more.

Presently the Horse came to him on Monday morning, with a saddle on his back and a bit in his mouth, and said, Camel, O Camel, come out and trot like the rest of us.

Humph! said the Camel; and the Horse went away and told the Man.

Presently the Dog came to him, with a stick in his mouth, and said, Camel, O Camel, come and fetch and carry like the rest of us.

Humph! said the Camel; and the Dog went away and told the Man.

Presently the Ox came to him, with the yoke on his neck and said, Camel, O Camel, come and plough like the rest of us.

Humph! said the Camel; and the Ox went away and told the Man.

At the end of the day the Man called the Horse and the Dog and the Ox together, and said, Three, O Three, Im very sorry for you (with the world so new-and-all); but that Humph-thing in the Desert cant work, or he would have been here by now, so I am going to leave him alone, and you must work double-time to make up for it.

That made the Three very angry (with the world so new-and-all), and they held a palaver, and an indaba , and a punchayet , and a pow-wow on the edge of the Desert; and the Camel came chewing on milkweed most scruciating idle, and laughed at them. Then he said Humph! and went away again.

Presently there came along the Djinn in charge of All Deserts, rolling in a cloud of dust (Djinns always travel that way because it is Magic), and he stopped to palaver and pow-pow with the Three.

Djinn of All Deserts, said the Horse, is it right for any one to be idle, with the world so new-and-all?

Certainly not, said the Djinn.

Well, said the Horse, theres a thing in the middle of your Howling Desert (and hes a Howler himself) with a long neck and long legs, and he hasnt done a stroke of work since Monday morning. He wont trot.

Whew! said the Djinn, whistling, thats my Camel, for all the gold in Arabia! What does he say about it?

He says Humph! said the Dog; and he wont fetch and carry.

Does he say anything else?

Only Humph!; and he wont plough, said the Ox.

Very good, said the Djinn. Ill humph him if you will kindly wait a minute.

The Djinn rolled himself up in his dust-cloak, and took a bearing across the desert, and found the Camel most scruciatingly idle, looking at his own reflection in a pool of water.

My long and bubbling friend, said the Djinn, whats this I hear of your doing no work, with the world so new-and-all?

Humph! said the Camel.

The Djinn sat down, with his chin in his hand, and began to think a Great Magic, while the Camel looked at his own reflection in the pool of water.

Youve given the Three extra work ever since Monday morning, all on account of your scruciating idleness, said the Djinn; and he went on thinking Magics, with his chin in his hand.

Humph! said the Camel.

I shouldnt say that again if I were you, said the Djinn; you might say it once too often. Bubbles, I want you to work.

And the Camel said Humph! again; but no sooner had he said it than he saw his back, that he was so proud of, puffing up and puffing up into a great big lolloping humph.

Do you see that? said the Djinn. Thats your very own humph that youve brought upon your very own self by not working. To-day is Thursday, and youve done no work since Monday, when the work began. Now you are going to work.

How can I, said the Camel, with this humph on my back?

Thats made a-purpose, said the Djinn, all because you missed those three days. You will be able to work now for three days without eating, because you can live on your humph; and dont you ever say I never did anything for you. Come out of the Desert and go to the Three, and behave. Humph yourself!

And the Camel humphed himself, humph and all, and went away to join the Three. And from that day to this the Camel always wears a humph (we call it hump now, not to hurt his feelings); but he has never yet caught up with the three days that he missed at the beginning of the world, and he has never yet learned how to behave.

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231

Penpal

by Chad Garcia

About a month ago I moved into a new house in a small suburb of California. It was nice, rather upscale for its price. It even had a pool.

One day when I went to get the mail, I found a strange letter addressed to my house. It seemed plain, a standard 4 x 8 white letter. Oddly, though, there was no return address.

Walking inside, I scrutinized it thoroughly. When I opened it, a paper from inside fell out gracefully and landed on the table.

Hello, who are you? Please write back.

I laughed. Looking at the scrawling that could hardly be described as writing, I assumed it was some kid in the neighborhood playing a practical joke. I decided I would humor him or her. Taking the paper, I wrote a response on the back of the letter.

Hi, Im John, and Im an adult who works at the local Social Security bureau. May I ask your name?

I slipped the letter back into the envelope and tucked it away into the mail box again.

The next day I heard the mail man arrive. Walking out to the box, I found the usual bills, statements and junk mail. But among them was another crisp white letter.

When I opened it, there was the same paper, neatly folded into thirds.

Hello, John. My name is Chris, and this is my street. I used to have a cat, and I like writing. How old are you? Please write back.

I responded as any adult would to accommodate a small child.

Hi, Chris. What happened to your cat? Im about 33 years old. Could I ask why youre writing to me?

Again, I threw the letter back into the box, leaving the red flag up.

The next day, I went to fetch the morning paper. But this time the red flag was down. I walked up to the box and looked inside. There, by itself, was yet another white envelope. Its too early! I thought to myself. The mail man isnt even making his rounds yet!

Hello, John. My cat died in our swimming pool. Its made me very sad. Im writing to you to ask why you are living in my house. Please write back.

Inside the house, I quickly composed a response. The kids prank was beginning to weigh on my nerves.

Hi, Chris. What do you mean your house? Did you live here at one time and move?

I placed the response letter in the box and began to walk away. Thats when I heard a loud metallic thud.

My blood went cold. Inside the mail box laid another white letter. I picked it up, opened it, and read its contents.

Hello, John. No, I still live here. How long will you be staying? Please write back.

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232

Theres a Man in the Habit of Hitting Me on the Head with an Umbrella

by Fernando Sorrentino

Theres a man in the habit of hitting me on the head with an umbrella. Its exactly five years today that hes been hitting me on the head with his umbrella. At first I couldnt stand it; now Im used to it.

I dont know his name. I know hes average in appearance, wears a gray suit, is graying at the temples, and has a common face. I met him five years ago one sultry morning. I was sitting on a tree-shaded bench in Palermo Park, reading the paper. Suddenly I felt something touch my head. It was the very same man who now, as Im writing, keeps whacking me, mechanically and impassively, with an umbrella.

On that occasion I turned around filled with indignation: he just kept on hitting me. I asked him if he was crazy: he didnt even seem to hear me. Then I threatened to call a policeman. Unperturbed, cool as a cucumber, he stuck with his task. After a few moments of indecision, and seeing that he was not about to change his attitude, I stood up and punched him in the nose. The man fell down, and let out an almost inaudible moan. He immediately got back on his feet, apparently with great effort, and without a word again began hitting me on the head with the umbrella. His nose was bleeding and, at that moment, I felt sorry for him. I felt remorse for having hit him so hard. After all, the man wasnt exactly bludgeoning me; he was merely tapping me lightly with his umbrella, not causing any pain at all. Of course, those taps were extremely bothersome. As we all know, when a fly lands on your forehead, you dont feel any pain whatsoever; what you feel is annoyance. Well then, that umbrella was one humongous fly that kept landing on my head time after time, and at regular intervals.

Convinced that I was dealing with a madman, I tried to escape. But the man followed me, wordlessly continuing to hit me. So I began to run (at this juncture I should point out that not many people run as fast as I do). He took off after me, vainly trying to land a blow. The man was huffing and puffing and gasping so that I thought, if I continued to force him to run at that speed, my tormenter would drop dead right then and there.

Thats why I slowed down to a walk. I looked at him. There was no trace of either gratitude or reproach on his face. He merely kept hitting me on the head with the umbrella. I thought of showing up at the police station and saying, Officer, this man is hitting me on the head with an umbrella. It would have been an unprecedented case. The officer would have looked at me suspiciously, would have asked for my papers and begun asking embarrassing questions. And he might even have ended up placing me under arrest.

I thought it best to return home. I took the 67 bus. He, all the while hitting me with his umbrella, got on behind me. I took the first seat. He stood right beside me, and held on to the railing with his left hand. With his right hand he unrelentingly kept whacking me with that umbrella. At first, the passengers exchanged timid smiles. The driver began to observe us in the rearview mirror. Little by little the bus trip turned into one great fit of laughter, an uproarious, interminable fit of laughter. I was burning with shame. My persecutor, impervious to the laughter, continued to strike me.

I got off we got off at Pacifico Bridge. We walked along Santa Fe Avenue. Everyone stupidly turned to stare at us. It occurred to me to say to them, What are you looking at, you idiots? Havent you ever seen a man hit another man on the head with an umbrella? But it also occurred to me that they probably never had seen such a spectacle. Then five or six little boys began chasing after us, shouting like maniacs.

But I had a plan. Once I reached my house, I tried to slam the door in his face. That didnt happen. He must have read my mind, because he firmly seized the doorknob and pushed his way in with me.

From that time on, he has continued to hit me on the head with his umbrella. As far as I can tell, he has never either slept or eaten anything. His sole activity consists of hitting me. He is with me in everything I do, even in my most intimate activities. I remember that at first, the blows kept me awake all night. Now I think it would be impossible for me to sleep without them.

Still and all, our relations have not always been good. Ive asked him, on many occasions, and in all possible tones, to explain his behavior to me. To no avail: he has wordlessly continued to hit me on the head with his umbrella. Many times I have let him have it with punches, kicks, and even God forgive me umbrella blows. He would meekly accept the blows. He would accept them as though they were part of his job. And this is precisely the weirdest aspect of his personality: that unshakable faith in his work coupled with a complete lack of animosity. In short, that conviction that he was carrying out some secret mission that responded to a higher authority.

Despite his lack of physiological needs, I know that when I hit him, he feels pain. I know he is weak. I know he is mortal. I also know that I could be rid of him with a single bullet. What I dont know is if it would be better for that bullet to kill him or to kill me. Neither do I know if, when the two of us are dead, he might not continue to hit me on the head with his umbrella. In any event, this reasoning is pointless; I recognize that I would never dare to kill him or kill myself.

On the other hand, I have recently come to the realization that I couldnt live without those blows. Now, more and more frequently, a certain foreboding overcomes me. A new anxiety is eating at my soul: the anxiety stemming from the thought that this man, perhaps when I need him most, will depart and I will no longer feel those umbrella taps that helped me sleep so soundly.

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233

The Sphinx Without a Secret

by Oscar Wilde

One afternoon I was sitting outside the Cafe cie la Paix in Paris, watching the people passing along the street. I was wondering why some people were very poor while others were so rich.

Suddenly I heard somebody call my name.

I turned round and saw Lord Murchison.We had not met since we were at Oxford University together, nearly ten years before, and I was pleased to see him again. We shook hands warmly.

I had liked him very much at Oxford, and we had been very good friends. He had been so handsome, so full of life, and a very honest young man. We used to say that he would be the best person in the world if he was not always so honest. But I think we really admired him for his honesty.

Now, looking at him ten years later, he seemed different. He looked anxious and worried, and he seemed to have doubts about something. I could not believe that he was in doubt about religion or politics, because he always had such definite opinions about everything. So I thought the problem must be a woman.

I asked him if he was married yet.

I dont understand women well enough to marry one, he answered.

My dear Gerald, I said, it is our job to love women, not to understand them.

I cant love anyone that I cant trust, he answered.

I think you have a mystery in your life, Gerald, I said. Tell me about it.

Lets go for a drive, he answered. Its too crowded here. No, not a yellow carriage there, that dark green one will be all right.

And in a few moments we were driven away from the cafe.

Where shall we g to? I said.

Oh, I dont mind! he answered. The restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne? We can have dinner there, and you can tell me about yourself.

I want to hear about you first, I said. Tell me about your mystery.

He took a little leather case from his pocket and gave it to me. I opened it. Inside was a photograph of a woman. She was tall and beautiful, with long hair, and large secretive eyes. Her clothes looked very expensive.

What do you think of that face, he said. Is it an honest face?

I examined the face in the photograph carefully. It seemed to me to be the face of a woman with a secret. But I could not say if that secret was good or bad. The beauty of the face was full of mystery, and the faint smile on the lips made me think of the smile of the Egyptian Sphinx in the moonlight. Or was it the mysterious smile that vou sometimes see on the face of Leonardos painting, the Mona Lisa, in the Louvre in Paris?

Well, he cried impatiently, what do you think?

A beautiful sphinx, I answered. Tell me all about her.

Not now, he said. After dinner.

When we were drinking our coffee and smoking our cigarettes after dinner, I reminded him, and he told me this story:

One evening, he said, I was walking down Bond Street in London at about five oclock. There were a lot of carriages, and the traffic was moving very slowly. There was a small yellow carriage on my side of the road which, for some reason or other, caught my attention. As the carriage passed, I saw the face that I showed you in the photograph earlier. It went straight to my heart. All that night, I thought about the face, and all the next day. I looked for the yellow carriage in the usual places, but I couldnt find it. I began to think that the beautiful stranger was only something from a dream.

About a week later, I went to have dinner with Madame de Rastail. Dinner was for eight oclock, but at half past eight we were still waiting in the sitting room. Finally the servant threw open the door and said Lady Alroy. A woman entered the room and it was the woman I was looking for! The woman in the yellow carriage.

She came into the sitting room very slowly, looking lovely in a grey dress. I was pleased and excited when Madame de Rastail asked me to take Lady Alroy in to dinner. Lady Alroy then sat next to me at the table.

After we sat down, I said quite innocently, I think I saw you in Bond Street not long ago, Lady Alroy.

She became very pale, and said to me in a low voice, Please dont talk so loudly. Someone may hear you.

I felt unhappy about such a bad start to our conversation, and I started talking quickly about French theatre and other unimportant things. She spoke very little, always in the same low musical voice. She seemed to be afraid that someone might be listening.

I fell madly in love, and I was excited by the mystery that seemed to surround her. I wanted to know more much more about this mysterious lady.

She left very soon after dinner, and when she was going, I asked if I could visit her. She said nothing for a moment, looked round to see if anyone was near us, and then said, Yes. Tomorrow at a quarter to five.

I asked Madame de Rastail to tell me about her, but I learned only that her husband had died, and she lived in a beautiful house in the most expensive part of London. I left soon after that, and went home.

The next day I arrived at her London house at exactly a quarter to five. I asked to see Lady Alroy but I was told by a servant that she had just gone out.

I went to the club, very unhappy and quite confused. After some thought, I wrote a letter. I asked her if I could try again another afternoon.

I had no answer for several days, but at last I got a letter saying that I could visit her on Sunday at four oclock. At the end of the letter there was a strange note: Please dont write to me here again, it said. I will explain when I see you.

On Sunday she was at home when I visited her, and she was perfectly nice to me. But when I was leaving, she said, If you want to write to me again, will you address your letter to: Mrs Knox, Whitakers Library, Green Street? There are reasons why I cant receive letters in my own house.

After that, I saw her often. She continued to be pleasant and mysterious. I thought for a time that she might be in the power of a man, but I could not believe it.

At last I decided to ask her to be my wife. I wrote to her at the library and asked her to see me the following Monday, at six oclock. She answered yes, and I was wonderfully happy. I was very much in love with her, you understand. Perhaps because of the mystery surrounding her. No, no, thats not right! I loved the woman.The mystery worried me, its true. It made me angry.

So you discovered the answer to the mystery? I cried.

In a way, he answered. On Monday I had lunch with my uncle in his house in Regents Park. After lunch, I wanted some exercise, and I decided to walk to Piccadilly. The shortest way is through a lot of poor little streets. I was going along one of these when I suddenly saw Lady Alroy in front of me. Her face was half-hidden by a large hat, but there was no doubt in my mind.

She was walking fast. When she came to the last house in the street, she went up the steps to the front door, took a key from her bag, unlocked the door and went in.

So this is the mystery, I said to myself, and I hurried to the front of the house. It seemed to be a place where people can rent rooms.

She had dropped her handkerchief when she took the key out of her bag. It was lying on the doorstep, and I picked it up and put it in my pocket.

At six oclock, I went to see her as we had arranged. She was lying on a sofa in a silver-coloured dress and looked very lovely.

Im so glad to see you, she said. I havent been out all day.

I stared at her, very surprised. I pulled the handkerchief out of my pocket, and gave it to her. You dropped this in Cunmor Street this afternoon, Lady Alroy, I said very calmly.

She looked at me in terror, but she didnt take the handkerchief.

What were vou doing there? I asked.

What right have you to question me? she answered.

The right of a man who loves you, I said. I came here to ask you to be my wife.

She hid her face in her hands, but I could see the tears pouring from her eyes.

You must tell me, I continued.

She stood up and, through her tears, she looked straight into my eyes. Lord Murchison, she said. There is nothing to tell you.

You went to meet somebody! I cried. This is your mystery.

Her face went terribly white, and she said, I did not go to meet anybody.

Thats not true, I said.

It is true, she replied.

I was mad completely out of control. I dont know what I said, but I said terrible things to her. Finally I rushed out of the house. She wrote me a letter the next day, but I sent it back unopened, and left for Norway with my friend, Alan Colville.

After a month in Norway, I returned to London. When I returned I saw in the Morning Post newspaper a report about the death of Lady Alroy. She had caught a very bad cold at the theatre one evening, and had died a few days later.

I shut myself in my rooms and saw nobody for days. I had loved her so much, so madly. God! I had loved that woman!

You went to the street to the house in it? I said.

Yes, he answered. One day I went to Cumnor Street. I had to go. Doubts were destroying my mind. I knocked on the door, and a woman of good appearance opened it. I asked her if she had any rooms to rent.

Well, sir, she replied politely, the sitting room is really taken, but I havent seen the lady for three months. And the rent hasnt been paid, so I think I can let you have it.

Is this the lady ? I asked, and I showed her the photograph.

Oh, yes! Thats her! she said. When is she coming back, sir?

The lady is dead, I replied.

Oh dear! said the woman. Im very sorry to hear it. She paid me three pounds a week and she just came and sat in my sitting room sometimes.

Did she meet someone here ? I said.

No, sir, said the woman. Never. She always came alone, and she saw nobody.

What did she do here ? I cried.

She sat in the room, sir, reading books, answered the woman. Sometimes she had tea, but always alone.

I didnt know what to say, so I gave the woman five pounds and walked home. What do you think it meant? Do you think the womans story was true?

Yes, I do, I said.

Then why did Lady Alroy go there ?

Gerald, I answered, Lady Alroy was simply a woman who had to have a mystery. She took the room for the pleasure of going there secretly. She imagined that she was a mysterious character in a story. She had a great love ot secrets and mysteries, but she herself was just a sphinx without a secret.

Do you really think so? he said.

Im sure of it, I said.

He took the leather case out of his pocket, opened it, and looked at the photograph.

Ill never be sure, he said at last.

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Temptation of Harringay

by H. G. Wells

It is quite impossible to say whether this thing really happened. It depends entirely on the word of R.M. Harringay, who is an artist.

Following his version of the affair, the narrative deposes that Harringay went into his studio about ten oclock to see what he could make of the head that he had been working at the day before. The head in question was that of an Italian organ-grinder, and Harringay thought but was not quite sure that the title would be the Vigil. So far he is frank, and his narrative bears the stamp of truth. He had seen the man expectant for pennies, and with a promptness that suggested genius, had had him in at once.

Kneel. Look up at that bracket, said Harringay. As if you expected pennies.

Dont grin! said Harringay. I dont want to paint your gums. Look as though you were unhappy.

Now, after a nights rest, the picture proved decidedly unsatisfactory. Its good work, said Harringay. That little bit in the neck But.

He walked about the studio and looked at the thing from this point and from that. Then he said a wicked word. In the original the word is given.

Painting, he says he said. Just a painting of an organ-grinder a mere portrait. If it was a live organ-grinder I wouldnt mind. But somehow I never make things alive. I wonder if my imagination is wrong. This, too, has a truthful air. His imagination is wrong.

That creative touch! To take canvas and pigment and make a man as Adam was made of red ochre! But this thing! If you met it walking about the streets you would know it was only a studio production. The little boys would tell it to Garnome and git frimed. Some little touch Well it wont do as it is.

He went to the blinds and began to pull them down. They were made of blue holland with the rollers at the bottom of the window, so that you pull them down to get more light. He gathered his palette, brushes, and mahl stick from his table. Then he turned to the picture and put a speck of brown in the corner of the mouth; and shifted his attention thence to the pupil of the eye. Then he decided that the chin was a trifle too impassive for a vigil.

Presently he put down his impedimenta, and lighting a pipe surveyed the progress of his work. Im hanged if the thing isnt sneering at me, said Harringay, and he still believes it sneered.

The animation of the figure had certainly increased, but scarcely in the direction he wished. There was no mistake about the sneer. Vigil of the Unbeliever, said Harringay. Rather subtle and clever that! But the left eyebrow isnt cynical enough.

He went and dabbed at the eyebrow, and added a little to the lobe of the ear to suggest materialism. Further consideration ensued. Vigils off, Im afraid, said Harringay. Why not Mephistopheles? But thats a bit too common. A Friend of the Doge, not so seedy. The armour wont do, though. Too Camelot. How about a scarlet robe and call him One of the Sacred College? Humour in that, and an appreciation of Middle Italian History.

Theres always Benvenuto Cellini, said Harringay; with a clever suggestion of a gold cup in one corner. But that would scarcely suit the complexion.

He describes himself as babbling in this way in order to keep down an unaccountably unpleasant sensation of fear. The thing was certainly acquiring anything but a pleasing expression. Yet it was as certainly becoming far more of a living thing than it had been if a sinister onefar more alive than anything he had ever painted before. Call it Portrait of a Gentleman, said Harringay; A Certain Gentleman.

Wont do, said Harringay, still keeping up his courage. Kind of thing they call Bad Taste. That sneer will have to come out. That gone, and a little more fire in the eye never noticed how warm his eye was before and he might do for ? What price Passionate Pilgrim? But that devilish face wont do this side of the Channel.

Some little inaccuracy does it, he said; eyebrows probably too oblique, therewith pulling the blind lower to get a better light, and resuming palette and brushes.

The face on the canvas seemed animated by a spirit of its own. Where the expression of diablerie came in he found impossible to discover. Experiment was necessary. The eyebrows it could scarcely be the eyebrows? But he altered them. No, that was no better; in fact, if anything, a trifle more satanic. The corner of the mouth? Pah! more than ever a leer and now, retouched, it was ominously grim. The eye, then? Catastrophe! he had filled his brush with vermilion instead of brown, and yet he had felt sure it was brown! The eye seemed now to have rolled in its socket, and was glaring at him an eye of fire. In a flash of passion, possibly with something of the courage of panic, he struck the brush full of bright red athwart the picture; and then a very curious thing, a very strange thing indeed, occurred if it did occur.

The diabolified Italian before him shut both his eyes, pursed his mouth, and wiped the colour off his face with his hand.

Then the red eye opened again, with a sound like the opening of lips, and the face smiled. That was rather hasty of you, said the picture.

Harringay states that, now that the worst had happened, his self-possession returned. He had a saving persuasion that devils were reasonable creatures.

Why do you keep moving about then, he said, making faces and all that sneering and squinting, while I am painting you?

I dont, said the picture.

You do, said Harringay.

Its yourself, said the picture.

Its not myself, said Harringay.

It is yourself, said the picture. No! dont go hitting me with paint again, because its true. You have been trying to fluke an expression on my face all the morning. Really, you havent an idea
what your picture ought to look like.

I have, said Harringay.

You have not, said the picture: You never have with your pictures. You always start with the vaguest presentiment of what you are going to do; it is to be something beautiful you are sure of that and devout, perhaps, or tragic; but beyond that it is all experiment and chance. My dear fellow! you dont think you can paint a picture like that?

Now it must be remembered that for what follows we have only Harringays word.

I shall paint a picture exactly as I like, said Harringay, calmly.

This seemed to disconcert the picture a little. You cant paint a picture without an inspiration, it remarked.

But I had an inspiration for this.

Inspiration! sneered the sardonic figure; a fancy that came from your seeing an organ-grinder looking up at a window! Vigil! Ha, ha! You just started painting on the chance of something coming thats what you did. And when I saw you at it I came. I want a talk with you!

Art, with you, said the picture, its a poor business. You potter. I dont know how it is, but you dont seem able to throw your soul into it. You know too much. It hampers you. In the midst of your enthusiasms you ask yourself whether something like this has not been done before. And

Look here, said Harringay, who had expected something better than criticism from the devil. Are you going to talk studio to me? He filled his number twelve hoghair with red paint.

The true artist, said the picture, is always an ignorant man. An artist who theorises about his work is no longer artist but critic. Wagner I say! Whats that red paint for?

Im going to paint you out, said Harringay. I dont want to hear all that Tommy Rot. If you think just because Im an artist by trade Im going to talk studio to you, you make a precious mistake.

One minute, said the picture, evidently alarmed. I want to make you an offer a genuine offer. Its right what Im saying. You lack inspirations. Well. No doubt youve heard of the Cathedral of Cologne, and the Devils Bridge, and

Rubbish, said Harringay. Do you think I want to go to perdition simply for the pleasure of painting a good picture, and getting it slated. Take that.

His blood was up. His danger only nerved him to action, so he says. So he planted a dab of vermilion in his creatures mouth. The Italian spluttered and tried to wipe it off evidently horribly surprised. And then according to Harringay there began a very remarkable struggle, Harringay splashing away with the red paint, and the picture wriggling about and wiping it off as fast as he put it on. Two masterpieces, said the demon. Two indubitable masterpieces for a Chelsea artists soul. Its a bargain? Harringay replied with the paint brush.

For a few minutes nothing could be heard but the brush going and the spluttering and ejaculations of the Italian. A lot of the strokes he caught on his arm and hand, though Harringay got over his guard often enough. Presently the paint on the palette gave out and the two antagonists stood breathless, regarding each other. The picture was so smeared with red that it looked as if it had been rolling about a slaughterhouse, and it was painfully out of breath and very uncomfortable with the wet paint trickling down its neck. Still, the
first round was in its favour on the whole. Think, it said, sticking pluckily to its point, two supreme masterpieces in different styles. Each equivalent to the Cathedral

I know, said Harringay, and rushed out of the studio and along the passage towards his wifes boudoir.

In another minute he was back with a large tin of enamel Hedge Sparrows Egg Tint, it was, and a brush. At the sight of that the artistic devil with the red eye began to scream. Three masterpieces culminating masterpieces.

Harringay delivered cut two across the demon, and followed with a thrust in the eye. There was an indistinct rumbling. Four masterpieces, and a spitting sound.

But Harringay had the upper hand now and meant to keep it. With rapid, bold strokes he continued to paint over the writhing canvas, until at last it was a uniform field of shining Hedge Sparrow tint. Once the mouth reappeared and got as far as Five master before he filled it with enamel; and near the end the red eye opened and glared at him indignantly. But at last nothing remained save a gleaming panel of drying enamel. For a little while a faint stirring beneath the surface puckered it slightly here and there, but presently even that died away and the thing was perfectly still.

Then Harringay according to Harringays account lit his pipe and sat down and stared at the enamelled canvas, and tried to make out clearly what had happened. Then he walked round behind it, to see if the back of it was at all remarkable. Then it was he began to regret he had not photographed the Devil before he painted him out.

This is Harringays story not mine. He supports it by a small canvas (24 by 20) enamelled a pale green, and by violent asseverations. It is also true that he never has produced a masterpiece, and in the opinion of his intimate friends probably never will.

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An Egg

by Andy Weir

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And thats when you met me.
What what happened? You asked. Where am I?
You died, I said, matter-of-factly. No point mincing words.
There was a a truck and it was skidding
Yup. I said
I I died?
Yup. But dont feel bad about it. Everyone dies. I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. What is this place? You asked. Is this the afterlife?
More or less, I said.
Are you God? You asked.
Yup. I replied. Im God.
My kids my wife, you said.
What about them?
Will they be alright?
That what I like to see, I said. You just died and your main concern is for your family. Thats good stuff right there.
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didnt look like God. I just looked like some man. Some vague authority figure. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
Dont worry, I said. Theyll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didnt have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If its any consolation, shell feel very guilty for feeling relieved.
Oh, you said. So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?
Neither, I said. Youll be reincarnated.
Ah, you said. So the Hindus were right.
All the religions are right in their own way, I said. Walk with me.
You followed along as we strolled in the void. Where are we going? Nowhere in particular, I said. Its just nice to walk while we talk.
So whats the point, then? You asked. When I get reborn, Ill just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life wont matter.
Not so! I said. You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just dont remember them right now.
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. Its like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if its hot or cold. You put a tiny part or yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, youve gained all the experiences it had.
Youve been a human for the last 34 years, so you havent stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for longer, youd start remembering everything. But theres no point doing that between each life.
How many times have I been reincarnated, then?
Oh, lots. Lots and lots. And into lots of different lives. I said. This time around youll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 A.D.
Wait, what? You stammered. Youre sending me back in time?
Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.
Where do you come from? You pondered.
Oh sure! I explained. I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know youll want to know what its like there but you honestly wont understand.
Oh. you said, a little let down. But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, could I have interacted with myself at some point?
Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own timespan you dont even know its happening.
So whats the point of it all?
Seriously? I asked. Seriously? Your asking me for the meaning of life? Isnt that a little stereotypical?
Well its a reasonable question. you persisted.
I looked in your eye. The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.
You mean mankind? You want us to mature?
No. just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature, and become a larger and greater intellect
Just me? What about everyone else?
There is no one else, I said. In this universe, theres just you, and me.
You stared blankly at me. But all the people on earth
All you. Different incarnations of you.
Wait. Im everyone!?
Now youre getting it. I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
Im every human who ever lived?
Or who will ever live, yes.
Im Abraham Lincoln?
And youre John Wilkes Booth, too. I added.
Im Hitler? you said, appalled.
And youre the millions he killed.
Im Jesus?
And youre everyone who followed him.
You fell silent.
Every time you victimized someone, I said, You were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness youve done, youve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.
Why? You asked me. Why do all this?
Because someday, you will become like me. Because thats what you are. Youre one of my kind. Youre my child.
Whoa. you said, incredulous. You mean Im a god?
No. Not yet. Youre a fetus. Youre still growing. Once youve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.
So the whole universe, you said. Its just
An egg of sorts. I answered. Now its time for you to move on to your next life.
And with that, I sent you on your way.

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What is American food?

The answer is that it is part Italian, part British, part German, part Mexican, part Chinese When people from other countries came to live in the US, they brought different cooking traditions. Some of them opened restaurants. Today Americans enjoy food from all over the world.
Over the years some foreign dishes changed a little. Doughnuts were originally from Holland. In 1847 a young American boy told his mother that her doughnuts were never cooked in the middle. He cut out the centre and his mother cooked them and they were very tasty!
Maybe the US is most famous for fast foods. The first fast food restaurants served hamburgers, but now they serve other kinds of food too. Inside there is often a salad bar, where you can help yourself to as much salad as you want.
Americans eat a lot, and when they go to a restaurant, they dont expect to be hungry afterwards. Most restaurants will put a lot of food on your plate sometimes it can be too much. But if you cant finish it all, dont worry: they will give you a doggy bag and you can take it home.
Most Americans now have a light breakfast instead of the traditional eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice and coffee. But on weekends there is more time, and a large late breakfast or early lunch is often eaten with family or friends.

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American Music

Since the United States was settled by Europeans, it is not surprising that classical music and folk songs were brought over from that continent. Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Tchaikovskyi, Stravinskyi, Bach, Mozart and Verdi are but a few names of European composers which are often on orchestra or opera programmes.
English, Irish, Scottish folk songs are sung very often and have been sung in America by so many generations that Americans are not even conscious that these songs are of foreign origin.
But the greatest contribution to American music, however, has been made by the Afro-americans in the South. Negro songs are now part of the nations most precious musical heritage. Perhaps the Negros greatest contribution to American music has been jazz and rhythm-and-blues. Most contemporary music works root deeply in those styles. After the Civil War some of the brass instruments of the Confederate military bands fell into the hands of the Negroes, and the result was all kinds of rhythmical and melodic experiments. Thus jazz, free of conventions and written arrangements, was born.
Such composers as Aaron Copland and George Gershwin in America and Stravinsky in Europe have been influenced by American jazz. And one can say that rhythm-and- blues was the beginning of modern dancing music.

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Appearance

How important is it for you to be attractive? Although everyone wants to be good-looking, do you think beautiful people are always happy?
I dont think so. For example, it must be a problem to be a very beautiful woman, because some men may be more interested in looking at this woman than talking to her. They think of her like a picture rather than a person. Some people think that very pretty women and handsome men are stupid, as a rule. These people are thought to be only interested in their appearance.
Some people believe that only unattractive people can be clever. But surely no one wants to be really ugly; and no one wants to be plain either that is to have rather simple face that can be easily forgotten. Being attractive can help you find happiness, but it does not always make you happy. So maybe the best thing is not to worry about your appearance. It is more important to try to be an interesting personality, because interesting people are always attractive.

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At the Museum

The town I live in is not very large and there are no big galleries and museums in it. But we have a good Natural History Museum in our town.
Last week I was on an excursion there. First we listened to a lecture on the history of our region which was very interesting. Then a guide showed us the exposition of the museum. We walked through its halls looking at different stands with exhibits. There were ancient vases and coins, dishes and bowls, tools and arms. The guide told us about the origin and the age of the exhibits and answered our questions. The girls asked questions about national costumes and dishes and the boys were interested in arms.
The next hall was even more interesting. There we saw stuffed animals and birds. It was a small zoo of the region nature. There was also an aquarium full of different fish, tortoises and shells. The collection of minerals was interesting, too.
I have learned very much from my visit to the museum.

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The Open Window

by Saki


My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel, said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen; in the meantime you must try and put up with me.

Framton Nuttel endeavoured to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

I know how it will be, his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice.

Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of introduction, came into the nice division.

Do you know many of the people round here? asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent communion.

Hardly a soul, said Framton. My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here.

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.

Then you know practically nothing about my aunt? pursued the self-possessed young lady.

Only her name and address, admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.

Her great tragedy happened just three years ago, said the child; that would be since your sisters time.

Her tragedy? asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.

You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon, said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.

It is quite warm for the time of the year, said Framton; but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy?

Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their days shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favourite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it. Here the childs voice lost
its self-possessed note and became falteringly human Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back some day, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing Bertie, why do you bound? as he always did to tease
her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window

She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

I hope Vera has been amusing you? she said.

She has been very interesting, said Framton.

I hope you dont mind the open window, said Mrs. Sappleton briskly; my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. Theyve been out for snipe in the marshes to-day, so theyll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you men-folk, isnt it?

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic; he was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise, announced Framton, who laboured under the tolerably wide-spread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of ones ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. On the matter of
diet they are not so much in agreement, he continued.

No? said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention but not to what Framton was saying.

Here they are at last! she cried. Just in time for tea, and dont they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window; they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: I said, Bertie, why do you bound?

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall-door, the gravel-drive, and the front gate were dimly-noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid an imminent collision.

Here we are, my dear, said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the window; fairly muddy, but most of its dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?

A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel, said Mrs. Sappleton; could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of good-bye or apology when you arrived. One would think he had seen a ghost.

I expect it was the spaniel, said the niece calmly; he told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve.

Romance at short notice was her specialty.

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