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 Beetle and the Boy. This is chapter one of three. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Beetle1. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Beetle1. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is an original story, it’s a story that I wrote myself, and I have to say I am very proud of it. The genre is romance and romance is not a genre I write very often. I used to not really read any romance at all but now I read it occasionally and I write it occasionally, and I really enjoyed writing this story.
I actually came up with the story through free writing. So free writing is where you just start a timer, maybe for ten minutes, and you write and write and you don’t stop writing until the timer runs out. It’s a really great way to let out creative energy. If you’re not feeling very creative it can help you work past that problem and I do it every now and then just to try and find new ideas.
A problem I have with free writing, though, is that I often write chapters, like I write parts of really big stories that I just can’t write the whole thing. I can’t write 10 novels at once. But occasionally, every now and then, I come up with a story like this which is contained, it’s short, and I really am happy with it.
So this episode is chapter one of three of this story. I split it up into three episodes because it’s a bit longer than the usual stories I put on here and I don’t want the episodes to be like an hour long. Also it’s just easier for my voice to record shorter episodes. So look forward to chapters two and three over the next two weeks.
A key theme of this story is bullying. So usually in school when children make fun of someone, maybe attack them physically. It’s a problem I personally experienced at school and I think it’s something that… Well, in modern society, at least in Britain, it’s being discussed more and people are treating it like a serious problem because it really can have strong psychological effects on someone.
However, I do feel like there’s a big issue with bullying. People treat it like a problem with children. They try to find solutions with individual cases. So they’ll try to stop the individual bully and help the individual person who is being bullied, but really it’s a wider problem. I think bullying comes from the school system we have. In order for bullying to go away we would have to change the whole school system and, well, that would be difficult to do. Personally, I really don’t like the school system we have. I think education is a broken system and I think for a modern society it really needs to be completely changed.
So aside from that theme there’s also the element of magic in the story. I can’t write a story without putting in some kind of fantasy, but I won’t spoil what happens, OK?
There are some Scottish characters in the story, so characters from Scotland. If you don’t know, Scotland is the northern part of the UK. It’s very cold and there are lots of islands there. And the capital of Scotland is Edinburgh.
So I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who is good with accents but I realised recently that actually I’m pretty good with them. I just need to hear an accent enough to be able to copy it. So I’ve decided to try and do the Scottish characters with a Scottish accent. Hopefully, it will be OK. Please let me know if it’s awful, maybe if there are any Scottish people listening. I’ve decided to do a not very strong accent because I want to make sure you can understand.
I actually have some cousins from Scotland. They live in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh accent is not very strong compared to other parts of Scotland, so the accent I will be doing will be based on that one.
I really want to learn to do more accents in future. Actually, a while ago I was even considering becoming an accent coach. So an accent coach is someone who teaches other people how to speak in different accents. It’s something for the theatre and for film stars so that, OK, say you’re Leonardo DiCaprio and you have to play a Scottish character in your next film. Then an accent coach will teach you how to do that.
I would say I’m very good at pronunciation when it comes to learning a foreign language. Pronunciation is my strongest area. I can very quickly learn new sounds and how to sound good in a new language. So I do think I could do accents really well if I just studied it a bit.
I had a lovely surprise the other day. Occasionally, I look on iTunes to see how the podcast is doing there and I saw that in the section on Language Courses in iTunes we showed up in “New and Noteworthy”. So that means that we’re doing pretty well, I think!
And if you would like to help us to do even better, please go to iTunes and give us a review. Five stars, please, nothing less! No, but really, it would really show that people care about the podcast and I really want as many English learners as possible to be able to listen to it. I think there are so many bad resources for language learning out there, so many boring resources, and I really hope I’m doing something different that speaks to people in a more interesting way.
OK, so I will now just explain some words that will show up in the story.
Nursery is a kind of place that children go to before school, so when they’re between two and four years old, and they do maybe some similar activities to school. They play games, they have lots of toys, they maybe learn some basic skills. In America it’s called preschool or kindergarten, but in the UK we call it nursery.
A magnifying glass is a small, round piece of glass that has a handle attached to it and you use it to make something look bigger. If you think of traditional detectives like Sherlock Holmes, they go around with magnifying glasses and they use the magnifying glass to see things more closely, to try and find clues. Nowadays, I would say they’re mainly used by older people. Say, they want to read a book but they don’t have very good eyesight. So they can use a magnifying glass to make the text in the book look bigger.
Rot. Rot is when something goes bad. I mean, it’s usually food or a plant. So you know when you buy maybe a bag of oranges and you leave them in the fridge and you eat them quite slowly, and then one day you look in the bag and you find one of the oranges is green and it has fur all over it and you don’t want to eat it and it smells very bad. So that orange has rotted.
Beans are a type of vegetable. I mean, there are lots of types of beans, but there’s also specifically green beans, or runner beans, which are long and thin. When beans go old they go very wrinkly. They look like an old person, which is the type of bean we’re talking about here.
Finally, stag beetles. So beetles are a type of insect that crawl on the ground. Well, all insects crawl on the ground… Beetles have shells. They’re usually black and they can grow quite big.
Stag beetles are very big. They have a very hard shiny black shell, and they have kinds of horns. We actually call them pincers but they look like a male deer, which is a stag, so that’s why they’re called stag beetles. So stag beetles are some of the most interesting beetles, in my opinion. They look very magical with their big pincers, well, horns, and even a bit scary.
You may even have heard of Spike the stag beetle. Spike the stag beetle is a particularly famous stag beetle. So he’s owned by a human and there is a Twitter account where they put lots of pictures and videos of Spike online and make stickers and have merchandise and it’s hugely popular on Twitter.
It is a very cute beetle, don’t get me wrong, but I think probably the appeal is just because… Well, there are lots of people online now, if you have dogs or cats, who are like internet personalities and they take pictures and videos with their dogs and cats, but I guess this person was the first person to do it with a stag beetle and just because of that they managed to get lots of attention.
So, listen and enjoy!
The Beetle and the Boy Chapter 1
I had always been good at hiding. In a crowd, a corner, or even just against the walls: I was always difficult to find. It caused my parents all kinds of trouble. When I was a baby and my cries filled the house, they ran from room to room, unable to find me. When I didn’t cry, it was even worse. The first few years of my life were awful for them. They spent half the time thinking they must be terrible parents. And they were boring for me, because I had to wait so long to be fed.
When I grew a little older I understood my power better. On the first day of nursery I sat in the corner drawing ladybirds on my own. Not a single other child spoke to me. I liked it that way, and I continued through school, hiding in the corner.
That was, until Mike moved into the house at the end of the street. It was a tall, mysterious building and he was a tall, mysterious boy. And he went to the same school as me. To the teachers, Mike was a good student, to his friends, he was a good laugh, and I guessed to his parents he was a good son. To me, he was everything.
Despite this, I couldn’t change my habits. I was too used to being the weird kid, sat alone in the corner. At breaktime, I used to climb inside an oak tree in the playground, which the other kids never noticed. I would stare at Mike from the tree, studying him like an insect under a magnifying glass.
Not all was good, though. It was around then that the Bad Times started. During Biology class, Mr. Blare mentioned the old oak tree in the playground, and the magic spell was broken. Suddenly, the other kids could see the tree which they couldn’t see before. The tree I sat in every breaktime. And the next day, the mean kids came to see me.
Darren was the biggest kid in our year, and the meanest. He came to my tree with his friends, and then the Bad Times followed. Those months were hell for me, and I don’t like to think back on them, even now. I spent night after night wishing for bad things to happen to Darren. I wished that his eyes would rot and fall out in his sleep, that his nails would come off, that his skin would dry up and break into a thousand pieces, like sweets smashed on the concrete.
Then one day, he didn’t show up to school. There was nobody I could ask what happened to him, but eventually I heard that he had some kind of skin disease. He had dried up like an old bean and gone to hospital, and it didn’t look like he would get better.
The others left me alone after that. I don’t know why. Maybe they thought I had something to do with Darren’s Problem. I also wondered if I had something to do with it. Could you wish pain upon someone so much that bad things really happened to them?
A few weeks later, Mike came to visit me in my tree.
I was sat inside, reading a book about bugs while hundreds of bugs climbed over me. I didn’t know what to say, so I ignored him and kept reading my book.
‘Hey,’ he repeated.
I looked up. But I didn’t dare look at him.
‘It was your birthday last week.’
Our class leader, Ms. Mezzle, announced class birthdays at the beginning of each week. Luckily, mine had come at the same time as several others’. Nobody noticed the name of a boy who they didn’t even know was in the class. Except for Mike.
‘Mmrmh,’ I said, sounding like a dying cat.
‘I got you a present.’
‘Oh?’ My heart beat fast.
‘It’s special, though. You’ll need to come collect it.’
‘Engh?’ It seemed I could only communicate in animal noises now.
‘Come over to mine at 5pm tonight.’
He knocked his hand against the tree and walked away.
I held my book tightly. I thought through what had just happened.
Mike had got me a birthday present. He knew I existed. I was going to his house.
The happiness disappeared and was replaced by ice-cold fear. What was I going to wear? How was I going to act? What was I going to say?
The feeling followed me around all afternoon. It was as if someone had poured a bucket of ice over me and left me dripping wet. That afternoon, a horrible autumn wind blew, and huge drops of rain fell from the sky. When I knocked on his front door at five, I was freezing cold.
His mother, a tall and unmysterious woman, opened the door.
‘You must be Cecil! Come in. Gosh, you look freezing. Here, it’s nice and warm in the living room.’
I followed her through a tall corridor into a tall room, where Mike was standing in front of some kind of box. It was covered with a blanket that had a stars-and-moon pattern. He was playing with his watch, and he jumped a little as I came in.
‘Happy birthday, Cecil.’
He pulled back the blanket, and underneath there was a plastic cage with some sticks in it. I wanted to stay by the door, but I wanted to see what was in the cage more. I walked over to look, and saw something small and black crawling around among the sticks. A stag beetle.
‘Oh, stag beetles are my favourite!’
Mike’s face shone like a birthday cake.
‘Really? I’m so glad. Oh, I was worried that, well, maybe you hate bugs.’
I laughed. The idea was silly. I loved all insects. I opened the cage and picked up the stag beetle. He had a very shiny shell, and a big horn.
‘I’m going to call you Little Mike,’ I said to the beetle, loud enough that Mike could hear.
I carefully put him back in the box and closed it, and then I did the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I hugged Mike.
‘Thank you. It’s perfect.’
‘You have to tell me when your birthday is.’
‘February the thirteenth.’
I repeated the date to myself so that I would remember it. What I didn’t know was that that date would end up being very, very important.
END OF CHAPTER 1
I hope you enjoyed the story. You can support the podcast by leaving a review on iTunes. Search for Easy Stories in English, give us a star rating, and say what you like about the show. It would really help us grow. Thank you for listening, and until next week.