Last time on The Shadow Club…
We got a boring history project from Mr Pearson! Boo!
Not only that, but Bethany said she had to be in our group, because she just couldn’t wait to discuss all her ideas about how the shadows work. In fact, she was so busy telling us, that when Mr Pearson asked what topic we’d chosen for our project, Max said we were doing the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages! I don’t know anything about that!
Bethany thinks that the shadows like negative energy, and we all agreed that Sanjeet was likely to be attacked again. Fortunately, we’ve been making friends with him, so that shouldn’t be a problem, but Bethany also thinks we all need weapons. Actually, it’s not a bad idea, but just what am I gonna choose?
Well, our school librarian, Mr Burne, says SHH! so much you could probably call it a weapon… but somehow, I don’t think he’d last against a shadow!
You can listen to the last episode of The Shadow Club at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow7.
There’s no shadow fights there. Boring! Although maybe you could go back and tell Mr Pearson to give us less work? No? Worth a try!
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Shadow Club. This is chapter eight, Ready to Fight. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow8. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow8. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So on the week this episode comes out, I will be going to London. And this is going to be my first time in London since before coronavirus. Actually, I checked in my calendar and the last time I went to London was November 2019, almost two years ago. That feels kind of crazy.
Some people seem to assume from the podcast that I live in London, but I’ve never actually lived in London. I grew up in Bath, studied in Cambridge and now have moved down to the south-west of the country, but I’ve always really liked going to London, and I visited there a lot when I was a student.
So the last time I was there was actually for a Spanish exam, which I failed, so that was really frustrating. But I just assumed that I must’ve been to London since then and the beginning of coronavirus. You know, I’m not the only one who’s experienced time changing and shifting around the covid-19 pandemic. It feels like it was years ago that I went for this exam.
This time, I’m going for something much more fun, which is the Frozen Broadway musical. So I bought tickets to see the Frozen musical last February, because it is one of my favourite films, but because of coronavirus, it was delayed twice, but I’m finally going to see it and I decided to make a longer trip out of it, so I’m also going to see some friends and family, and maybe even go out. Which is, um, kind of scary because I haven’t been out in, you know, years, let alone during the covid-19 pandemic.
So it’s gonna be scary and I’m a bit worried that being in a big city again will be overwhelming and there’ll just be so much going on, but I’m also excited, you know? I need a bit more excitement in my life right now.
Anyway, as I record this I am two weeks from having my second covid-19 vaccination. I got the Pfizer vaccination. So I am officially double-vaccinated and it’s been two weeks, which means I am safe to go out into the world and do as I want. So, yeah, I guess I’m kind of ‘going back to normal’ now. Obviously, not really. We probably will never get back to full normality after coronavirus, but I can start going out and shopping and doing things like before.
Which honestly feels so strange. I still wear a mask when I go into town, but most people don’t wear masks now in the UK, and I feel like I’m the weird one for wearing a mask in the street when there’s lots of people, but um, I’m just not ready to take the mask off, you know?
And also having just moved house, I don’t know, it just feels like I’m entering a new phase of my life. It’s kind of funny. When I was a student, I was very sociable, I did so many things, and then I kind of really went into my shell for a few years and, you know, well, I was transitioning, dealing with a lot of mental health stuff and, you know, reflecting a lot on my past. But now I’m ready to enter this new stage of my life and have a bit of fun! So yeah.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
When you play golf, you use a golf club, a long stick. There are different kinds of golf clubs. You use one golf club at the start, to hit the ball far, and then you use a different golf club when you are nearer to the hole.
A slingshot is a toy that many kids play with. Slingshots are made of wood, and they are in a Y-shape. Between the top of the Y-shape is a piece of elastic. You take a stone, or a metal ball, and pull it along the elastic, and then let go. The slingshot then fires, or shoots, the stone and hits something. Basically, it is a very simple weapon. Dennis the Menace is a famous British comic character who uses a slingshot.
When something happens for once, it means it has finally happened, it has never happened before. For example, I love cake, but maybe yesterday I walked past the bakery, and for once I didn’t go in and buy a cake. We often use ‘for once’ sarcastically. It doesn’t always mean that it has never happened before, just that it is very uncommon.
When you ease something, you make it easy, you make it less difficult or painful. For example, you might have a difficult situation because your two closest friends are fighting. So you try to ease the situation by inviting them both to dinner, but not telling the other person you’re inviting them, because you hope they’ll start talking again. Some people are very good at easing difficult situations. I am not!
When you scribble, you write something very quickly, and usually you write it with bad handwriting. Children often scribble because they do not know how to write well yet. Or you might scribble down some notes during a lecture because the teacher is talking very fast.
Fantasy is a genre of literature, a kind of book. Fantasy books are about worlds that are not real. Usually, fantasy books have magic in them. For example, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are fantasy novels. Novels are long books, basically. My favourite fantasy novel is probably Wicked by Gregory Maguire.
Evil means a very, very bad person. For example, Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter is very evil. Usually, it is witches and monsters who are evil.
When you drag something, you pull something that is heavy, or you pull a person who does not want to go somewhere. For example, if your kids really hate going to school, you might have to drag them to school. If you are carrying a very heavy suitcase, you will have to drag it around.
A punching bag is a big bag that boxers use to practise. They put on boxing gloves and punch the bag again and again. Punching bags are often hung from the ceiling, but you can also get punching bags that stand up on their own.
When it is very hot, or you do a lot of exercise, you sweat. When you sweat, water comes out of your body, and you start to smell bad. Some people sweat a lot, and others sweat less.
And I’ll just remind you of the meaning of some words from previous episodes of The Shadow Club.
Daft means stupid or silly.
A weapon is something you use to hurt other people, like a sword or a gun.
When you pretend to not see or hear someone, you ignore them.
A librarian is someone who works at a library.
When you move something up and down, or side to side, you swing it.
When you put a knife or a sharp thing into something else, you stab it.
A sword is a long, sharp weapon that people used in the Middle Ages.
A bench is a long chair that several people can sit on.
A loser is someone who has no friends and is ‘bad at life’.
When you hit someone many times, you beat them up.
If you beat someone up, you will leave marks on them, clear signs that you hurt them.
In British schools, twice a day students go to tutor group, called ‘homeroom’ in America.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Shadow Club Chapter 8: Ready to Fight
It felt a bit like we were planning to rob a bank or something, except instead of guns, we had a bunch of rubbish we’d found in our houses. Max brought in his dad’s old boxing gloves, just like he said before. Larry found an old golf club in his neighbour’s bin—he told the teachers at school that he was going to play golf with his dad later. And me? I decided to go back to my childhood, so I brought my old slingshot. I felt a bit daft next to the boys with their weapons, but if a stick could hurt a shadow, why not a slingshot?
For once, Bethany wasn’t prepared, and she came to school with nothing.
‘You could’ve told me!’ she said, jumping up and down like a frog.
‘You were the one who wanted us to do it!’ I said. ‘Wasn’t it obvious?’
‘We said we were gonna bring in weapons, yeah. But we didn’t say tomorrow. You three were probably messaging behind my back.’
‘We weren’t,’ said Larry.
‘Well, you spend so much time together you can probably read each other’s minds!’
‘It’s cool,’ I said, trying to ease the situation. Larry was blowing air out of his nose like a bull, and Max looked ready to hit him with the boxing gloves. ‘Bring something in on Monday.’
‘The three of us can start practising today, anyway,’ said Larry, ignoring my attempts to ease things. ‘Mrs Cowper never checks on us in The Shadow Club anymore. She won’t know if we’re practising in there.’
Unfortunately, however, Mrs Cowper had other thoughts about that. She was busy leading the drama club—she was a woman of many talents, that one. So instead, she got the school librarian, Mr Burne, to look after us. And he didn’t just check on us every ten minutes. No, he sat in the corner, got out a book and read. Meaning we actually had to play board games and act like a real after-school club.
I hadn’t had strong feelings about Mr Burne before. Sure, he shushed us all the time in the library, but clearly the other teachers didn’t like him very much. I mean, Mrs Cowper was one of the nicest teachers in the school, and even she was telling him what to do! I felt a bit sorry for him. But now, he was stopping The Shadow Club from happening, and that meant I did not like him.
Max was the only one of us who understood the rules of the board game—surprise, surprise, it was a Heroes of Forever board game—so the rest of us spent most of the time annoyed and wanting to go home. After several games where Max destroyed us, Bethany suggested we work on our history project instead, and for once, I actually agreed with her.
But I was curious about one thing. Sometimes, Mr Burne would put down his book and scribble something in a notebook. I wondered what he was scribbling down. A shopping list? His favourite words? Ideas for how to prevent students from ever making any kind of noise?
When Mr Burne went to the toilet, saying, ‘Don’t do anything bad and don’t make too much noise,’ I saw my chance. I got up and went to his notebook.
‘Don’t do that!’ said Bethany. ‘That’s private.’
‘Oh come on,’ I said. ‘I can’t be the only one curious about what he’s been scribbling all this time. I just want to see.’
‘I didn’t even notice he was scribbling,’ said Larry.
I opened the notebook, and it took me a minute to understand Mr Burne’s handwriting. But slowly I got it.
‘Oh, wow. Max, you’re gonna love this. He’s writing ideas down for a novel. Like, a fantasy novel, Lord of the Rings kind of thing. Damn, it sounds stupid.’
‘I said to stop looking at it!’ said Bethany. ‘You’re being a bully.’
She got up and came over to me. I was annoyed with her. I was more patient than Larry, but really, she couldn’t just come into our friend group and act like she had known us our whole lives.
So I didn’t let her take the notebook. I held it up in the air and said, ‘Come and get it.’
She wasn’t stupid enough to try and jump up—she knew I was too tall for her. So instead she kicked me between the legs.
‘Ow!’ I cried, dropping the notebook and falling to my knees. ‘Damn, Beth, that was—’
‘That was what you deserved,’ said Max, smiling evilly. Oh, I could kill him.
‘Yeah, Ricky,’ said Larry. ‘Not cool. But Bethany, you kicking him there isn’t cool, either…’
Bethany ignored him. She held the notebook as she spoke.
‘How would you like it if someone went on your computer and read your internet history?’ she said. ‘I would say your diary, but you probably don’t have enough thoughts to fill up one page.’
‘Alright, I get it, I get it!’ I said, walking backwards. I was worried she would make the notebook into her weapon. ‘Damn, Bethany, when did you get so evil?’
She smiled at that, like it was a good thing.
The door to the classroom opened, and we all turned around. Mr Burne stood there. Then he saw Bethany, who was still holding his notebook in the air like, well, like a weapon. She gasped, but it was like she couldn’t move. None of us could move. For a moment, I wondered if Mr Burne’s hair was going to fall out, or if he would shout at us. But he just walked over, took the notebook out of Bethany’s hands, and threw it in the bin.
‘Get out,’ he said. ‘Now.’
We didn’t need to be told twice. We quickly packed up our things and ran out the door. Bethany had gone bright red, and was shouting at me the whole way home. I tried to tell her it didn’t matter—who cared if Mr Burne didn’t like her?—but really, I knew she was right. I shouldn’t have touched the notebook.
On Saturday, Bethany texted us to say she’d chosen her weapon, and that we should meet up to practise. So we all went to Larry’s house. As usual, his dad was at work, and he dragged his dad’s old punching bag into the garden for us to use.
Bethany’s ‘weapons’ were her football boots. Of course, there were plenty of jokes about how she’d practised her kick on me the day before. Even Larry was starting to joke about it, and he never agreed with anything Bethany did. I would’ve complained, except I was happy that we were acting like a team.
However, actually using the weapons didn’t go so well. Max’s punch, boxing gloves or no boxing gloves, was weak, like an angry old lady. Larry kept swinging the golf club too hard, and it came flying out of his hands. And me with my slingshot? I couldn’t hit the punching bag! I could kick a football into a goal perfectly well, but a slingshot was completely different.
Bethany was the only one of us who’d chosen well. She ran across the grass and jumped into the air, stabbing the sharp bottoms of her shoes right into the punching bag, until Larry had to stop her.
‘Dad won’t be happy if it’s full of holes.’
‘You should all change weapons,’ Bethany said, panting. ‘Maybe that will help.’
‘Yeah, I want a go with the golf club,’ said Max.
I almost made a joke about Heroes of Forever—he really wanted to have a sword—but I stopped myself.
‘I’ll take the gloves,’ I said. I needed to get out some energy after being so bad with the slingshot.
I gave Larry the slingshot, and he looked at it like it was a bomb. I guessed that kind of weapon was not for him.
And I was right. Larry was even worse than me. He somehow managed to hit Max with the slingshot, although I wondered if he did that just for a laugh. Max managed to hit the punching bag with the golf club OK, but he kept complaining about how his arms hurt, and my punches weren’t much better than his had been.
‘This is impossible!’ I said, pulling off the gloves and throwing them on the ground.
‘Change again,’ said Bethany, like she was the leader of our group or something.
But we did as we were told. Max took the slingshot, Larry took the boxing gloves, and I took the golf club.
And this time, things went well. Max, despite his glasses, was great at shooting with the slingshot. He could hit the punching bag in the head again and again, and I could see him getting more and more confident.
‘It makes sense,’ he said. ‘I don’t fight with a sword in Heroes of Forever. I use magic.’
Next was Larry, and it was clear we’d made the right choice again. The boxing gloves looked like they were part of his body, and he moved like a real boxer, swinging his hands hard into the punching bag. He enjoyed it so much that he punched at it for ages, and we had to remind him that he wasn’t the only one here.
Finally, it was me. I felt nervous, holding the golf club in front of me. What if I was the only one who couldn’t do it? What if Ricky Marshall was the weak member of The Shadow Club?
My hands started sweating as I walked up to the punching bag, which only made it worse.
‘You can do it, Ricky!’ cried Max.
‘Show that punching bag who’s boss!’ cried Bethany.
‘But also, don’t leave any big holes in it!’ said Larry.
I ignored their shouts, and focussed on the punching bag. The golf club felt good in my hands. Heavy, but not too heavy. I practised swinging it a few times, and then I swung down as hard as I could.
‘Hrrrwaaah!’ I cried.
The golf club hit the punching bag, making a loud THUD as it did so.
It wasn’t quite as exciting as fighting a shadow—there was no lightning or screaming from the monster. But my friends seemed happy, and they clapped for me. I felt more confident, and kept swinging the golf club until I was sure.
Yeah, this was the weapon for me.
Finally, sweating like a pig, I dropped the weapon and fell back onto the grass.
‘We did it!’ I cried. ‘The Shadow Club has their weapons. We can take on anything.’
Bethany smiled. ‘See? Told you it was a good idea.’
We came into school on Monday with a new energy, and it was just what we needed. When we came into the playground, we saw Sanjeet standing in one of the corners, near our bench. He was surrounded by some year 9 kids, who were clearly bullying him.
‘No way!’ shouted Larry.
We ran there straight away. The bullies turned around, and when they realised we were year 10s, they didn’t look so confident. Still, there were five of them—all boys—and four of us, and they looked at Bethany like she was a bug under their shoe.
‘You leave him alone,’ I said. ‘He’s our friend. Go and fight someone your own size.’
‘Why are you friends with him?’ said one of the bullies. ‘All he does is sit on his own like a loser and read books, and play with that stupid rabbit toy.’
I looked down. Sanjeet was staring at the ground, like he could stop being there if he just ignored them all. In front of him, lying in the dirt, was a small white rabbit toy. It looked like the bullies were about to break it before we arrived.
Larry walked forward, picked up the rabbit and cleaned it on his leg.
‘Here you go,’ he said, holding it up to Sanjeet.
One of the bullies moved, to kick Larry while he was down.
‘Oh no, you don’t!’ I said.
I grabbed him by the neck and pulled him back, throwing him on the ground. Another one of the bullies tried to get me, but Bethany kicked him between the legs, and before I knew it, a fight had started.
It didn’t last long, but we showed those bullies exactly why they shouldn’t fight with The Shadow Club. We beat them up so hard that some of them would have marks for days. Mrs Cowper pulled us apart, told us we were in serious trouble, but I didn’t care.
We had done our job. We had protected the weak.
But Sanjeet didn’t look so happy. As Mrs Cowper shouted at us, he just took his rabbit toy and left, still staring at the ground. I wanted to go and talk to him, but more teachers were arriving, and I didn’t want to get into even more trouble.
The bell rang, and we had to go to tutor group. On the way there, Larry said something to me.
‘I think the shadow’s going to attack Sanjeet again.’
I looked over my shoulder, but I couldn’t see him anywhere.
‘I think you’re right,’ I said. ‘But this time, we’ll be ready.’
END OF CHAPTER 8
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