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OK, let’s start the episode.
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 intermediate learners. The name of the story is Strange Friends. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/FriendsInt. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/FriendsInt. This is a levelled-up version of a beginner story. You can listen to the beginner-level version of Strange Friends at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Friends.
So today’s story is another relevel. You might remember, a few months ago I did The Little Frog with the Big Mouth, and I took that story and levelled it up.
There is actually a lot of research that shows that rereading the same story but at a different language level with new information added is a really fantastic way of learning. The fancy formal name for it is an ‘embedded reading’. So hopefully you’ll enjoy today’s embedded reading!
Recently, I’ve been following a new writing routine. Obviously, my writing routine is really important because I am a writer.
For a month or so already now, I have been doing journalling every day. So journalling is when you write in a diary. I write about my feelings, my anxieties, just what I’m thinking about first thing in the morning, so that when I do come to writing, I don’t have all of these thoughts moving about my head. It’s kind of like a form of therapy.
But I did find that sometimes I would do the journalling and then after, you know, exercising and showering and so on, I had lost the motivation and the kind of energy to write. So I decided, you know what? Writing is really important to me, so I should do it first thing in the morning, or in this case, second thing.
So what I do now is, the night before, I set up my laptop, I turn off the internet, I open a page with my latest project on it. Sometimes I open it full-screen so I just see that when I open it. And I put my laptop next to my diary, so in the morning I can pick up my diary, do my journalling, and then immediately start writing.
And so far, that’s worked really well. I’m usually able to focus and write for an hour or two, and over the last week I’ve written an average of over 3000 words every day, which is really great. If you talk to many writers, you will know that getting more than a thousand words out in one session is really good.
Of course, the amount of words that any one writer is able to write varies, right? We’re all different. But for me, this is a really comfortable pace, and I felt so satisfied with my writing and my work over this past week. It really does boost my confidence and my creativity.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
An altar is a special table that you find in churches. The altar sits at the front of the church, and the priest uses it to perform parts of the mass, the ceremony. Altars often have coloured cloths and crucifixes on them.
When you fantasise about doing something, you imagine and dream about doing it. Usually, it is something that is unlikely to happen. For example, many of us fantasise about being rich and famous. Those of us who are more realistic might fantasise about eating a really delicious chocolate cake…
In Christianity, when a child is born, there is an event called a christening. During a christening, the priest pours water on the baby’s head, and the parents officially name the child. Two friends of the parents come forward to become the godmother and godfather of the child. They accept the child as their godchild. Basically, they agree to help look after the child, and if anything happens to the parents, the godparents often look after them instead.
Anticipation is the feeling when you are looking forward to something. Many people feel a sense of anticipation about big events, like going to university or getting married. Anticipation can quickly lead to anxiety, though, if you think about it too much.
Spare can mean to give something that you have extra of. For example, if you are in class and your friend forgot their pen, but you have lots of pens, they might say, ‘Could you spare me a pen?’
‘Good things come in threes’ is a phrase we use to say that having three of something is good. For example, if you go to the bakery, but you can’t choose which cake to get because they all look so good, you might buy three. Then, if someone asks you why you bought three cakes, you can just say that good things come in threes!
From top to bottom means ‘completely’ or ‘thoroughly’. For example, if you clean the house from top to bottom, you clean the whole thing and you don’t leave anything dirty. To be honest, cleaning is usually the only thing we do from top to bottom, although personally I’m not very good at it…
Deter means to stop someone from doing something, usually by telling them about the risks. For example, many parents deter their children from playing with fire by telling them it hurts. But some children will not be deterred, and go and play with the fire, and, well, they’ll learn their lesson a different way.
Gravely means ‘seriously’. If someone says something gravely, they talk in a serious way.
If something evokes memories, it brings back memories of something. Smells, sights and sounds can all evoke memories. For me, the smell of Lapsang Souchong tea always evokes memories of my grandfather, because that’s the kind of tea he drank.
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support me on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5, you get an extra story every month, as well as Elevenses with Ariel, a daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners. You can support the show and get all the extra content at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
A big thank-you to my new patron, Leska Zavada. Thank you so much, Leska. Your support really means a lot to me.
Just so you know, I’m recording this episode early, so if anyone joined the Patreon recently, I might not announce you until next week. But thank you for supporting!
OK, so listen and enjoy!
Once upon a time, there was a cat and a mouse who lived together in a little house. Unlike others of her kind, the cat did not chase and eat the mouse, which meant that they could be friends, and friends they were. Everyone called them the ‘strange friends’, and they lived a peaceful life in the city.
One day, the cat came and spoke to the mouse.
‘We must think of winter. It is bright and sunny now, but in a few months’ time it will be dark and cold, and there will hardly be any food to eat. We should save something for winter. After all, if you go out looking for food in the winter, a cat might eat you!’
‘You’re quite right,’ said the mouse. ‘I know just the right food to keep. Let’s buy a pot of fat.’
So they bought a pot, and were about to store it in the kitchen, when the mouse said, ‘Wait! We cannot keep it here. If we see it, we will want to eat it. Let us put it somewhere where we will forget about it until we need it: in the church, under the altar.’
So they went into the church, hid the pot of fat under the altar, and then went home and promptly forgot about it.
Or at least, the mouse forgot about it, but the cat thought about the pot of fat very often.
At first she thought, ‘Ah, what a wonderful idea it was to get that pot of fat! We will be very grateful for it in winter.’
But as the weeks passed, she thought more and more about the fat, and her thoughts began to turn selfish. She fantasised about going and eating the fat. It would taste so good!
So the cat came up with a plan. She came to the mouse and said, ‘Dear mouse, I have to ask you a favour. You see, my cousin has given birth to a beautiful little kitten with white and brown fur. He really is very special, and my cousin has asked me to come to the christening and be his godmother. As I’m sure you can understand, this is an honour. Would it be alright if I left you to look after the house alone, just this one day?’
‘Of course, of course!’ said the mouse. ‘Family comes above all. Go and enjoy the christening, and if there is some nice food or drink, bring a bit back to me. In fact, I would love just a few drops of the wine—christening wine is always sweet and delicious.’
The cat smiled and said, ‘I’ll do my best.’
Naturally, the cat was lying. She had no cousin and nobody had asked her to be godmother. She happily walked out of the house and went straight to the church, pulled out the pot of fat, and opened it up.
Oh, it looked so good! The cat licked at it, enjoying the delicious taste, and she ate the top layer of the fat, until she was quite full up.
Then she went for a walk on the roofs of the city. She hoped to spot some dessert there, but finding none, she lay down in the sun and fell asleep. She fantasised about the pot of fat again, licking her lips in anticipation of the next time she could eat from it.
When she returned home that evening, the mouse said, ‘Well, you look like you’ve had a wonderful time! I suppose it was a good christening, then?’
‘Oh yes, the best I’ve ever been to.’
‘And what did they name the child?’
The cat thought for a moment and then said, ‘Top-Off.’
‘Top-Off!’ said the mouse. ‘I must say, I have never heard such a peculiar name in my life. Are there others in your family with that name?’
‘It is a perfectly normal name, thank you very much. You have a godchild, don’t you? He’s called Big Nose, if I recall. That’s just as strange a name as Top-Off.’
And with that, the conversation was over.
But the cat did not stop thinking about the pot of fat, and a week later, she was filled with the desire to eat more of it.
So once more, she went to the mouse and said, ‘My dear mouse, I’m afraid I must ask for your assistance again. My cousin has quite an active personality, and has already given birth to another child. This one has a white ring around her neck, which is quite a rare thing. They want me to be godmother again, and I am afraid I cannot say no. Would you look after the house one more time?’
‘No problem, friend! Go and enjoy yourself, and if you could possibly spare a few drops of that christening wine…’
‘Oh, we drank it up so quickly last time! But I will try.’
Of course, the cat did not go to any christening, but to the altar in the church. This time, she ate half the pot of fat, filling her stomach up completely.
‘Food tastes much better when you don’t have to share it with anyone else,’ she thought to herself.
Upon arriving home, the mouse of course asked her, ‘What did they name the child this time?’
‘Half-Done,’ said the cat.
‘Half-Done! Are you telling the truth? I have never heard of that name. I don’t think you would find it in a single name dictionary in the country!’
‘Then perhaps the dictionaries should be rewritten,’ grumbled the cat.
A few days later, the greedy cat got hungry again, and once more fantasised about the fat. Well, if she had already gone this far, why not go further?
‘Good things come in threes,’ announced the cat to the mouse. ‘I have been asked to be godmother again. This child is black with white hands, which makes it really quite a special kitten. I must attend the christening. Will you take care of the house while I’m gone?’
‘Top-Off! Half-Done! Those names really do make me think. I wonder what name it will be today?’
‘Well you just sit at home and wonder while I go and take part in the christening.’
So the cat headed off to the church. In the meantime, the mouse cleaned the house from top to bottom, while the cat ate the rest of the pot of fat.
‘It is so good to finish a meal,’ said the cat. She was so full that she had a long sleep on the roof and did not return home until the late hours of the night. The mouse eagerly asked what they had named the third child.
‘You’re not going to like this,’ said the cat. ‘He is called All-Gone.’
‘All-Gone!’ cried the mouse. ‘Why, that is the strangest name of all! I have never heard such a name in my entire life. What could it mean?’
Considering these questions, the mouse went off to bed.
After that day, the cat’s ‘cousin’ did not have any more children, and she was called to no more christenings. Winter finally came, and they ran out of food, but the mouse was not deterred by this.
‘It is a good thing we have that pot of fat!’ she said. ‘Let’s go to the church and enjoy our food.’
‘Yes,’ said the cat to herself, ‘although you could just stick your tongue out of the window and lick the air. It will have the same result.’
‘Hmm, what was that?’
‘Oh, nothing! I am simply anxious with anticipation.’
But when they arrived at the church, they found the pot empty.
‘Oh no!’ said the mouse. ‘I see what has happened. I thought we were friends, but in fact you have betrayed me! While you were “going to christenings”, you were really off eating the fat. First Top-Off, then Half-Done, then—’
‘Do not finish,’ said the cat gravely. Just the sound of the names evoked memories of the delicious fat, and she was getting very hungry. ‘If you say another word, I’ll—’
‘All-Gone!’ cried the mouse.
And with that, the cat jumped on her and ate her up.
Because that is the way of the world. Cats eat mice, and cats get fat.
If you enjoyed the story and want to say thank you, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Just go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click the orange button that says Buy me a coffee! Then you’ll be able to send me $3 so that I can buy a coffee, but really, I’ll probably get a bubble tea. And I’ll think of you while I drink it! Thank you for listening, and until next week.