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 Mice Discuss. This is chapter one of two. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Mice1. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Mice1. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today, before I begin, I have a rather embarrassing story to tell you. A few days ago I almost set my house on fire. I almost caused a big fire in our house.
So I’m very bad at cooking. Or rather, I just don’t cook very often, and I actually want to learn to cook more. That was my resolution for this year: I will learn to cook.
So the other day, I decided to make something easy. I thought I would make chicken salad. The salad part is easy to put together, and you just have to cook the chicken and chop it up. It should be simple, right?
Well, not so much. So we didn’t have a big frying pan to use to cook the chicken, so I put a saucepan on the hob instead. And I left the saucepan to heat up before I put the oil in. Now this was my first mistake. I didn’t realise that you’re not supposed to leave an empty pot on the heat, and I left it there for more than I intended. I was only going to leave it there for five minutes, but I got distracted on my phone, and I left it there for more like ten minutes, and it was on full heat!
So, after it had heated up, and believe me, it had heated up, I poured in the oil. And the oil started to bubble. It started to boil. And I thought, “That’s strange. Oil usually doesn’t boil.” And before I could think more about it, it burst into flames! Whoosh. The fire was maybe half a metre high and I panicked because our house currently has a problem: we can’t open the windows. So no air will come in. I thought, if I leave it here and call the fire brigade, the fire will just spread throughout the house, and it will destroy all of our things, so I thought, “I have to do something right now.”
Because it’s an oil-based fire, I knew that you’re not supposed to add water, because the water will make it bigger. But equally, we didn’t have a fire blanket. So a fire blanket is like a big towel that you throw over this kind of fire and it puts it out.
So what did I do? I knew I had to get it out of our flat, so I ran out the door, ran down the stairs, and went out into the street, and I banged it on the pavement, bang bang bang, until it went out. Basically, I thought, as long as I get it outside it can’t damage our house, and thankfully I was able to put it out in the end.
One of the funnier things that happened with it is that when I was running outside with the pot, the fire blew into my face and it burned away all of my nose hair. I realised this later when I wiped my nose.
So altogether, it was a very scary experience, and I don’t think I’m going to be cooking again any time soon! Or at least, I’ll just stick to the oven for now, and maybe in like a month or two, I’ll go back to the hob.
Today’s story is another story that takes place in the Great Forest. So the Great Forest is the world I have built based on Aesop’s Fables. But if you haven’t listened to the other ones, don’t worry. This story kind of stands on its own, but I would still recommend listening to the other stories, of course, because I want you to know the full story!
So, I’ll just explain some words before we begin.
So a trap. A trap is something you use to catch something. For example, if you have mice in your house, you might want to put down mousetraps. Mousetraps are usually made of wood and they have a metal piece on top. You put a piece of cheese on the mousetrap, because mice like cheese, and the mouse comes, sees the cheese, and eats it. When they step on the trap, the metal part closes on them, killing the mouse. So this is a type of trap, because you use it to catch mice. Traps can also be used to catch bees, or wasps, uh, bears, dogs. There are also traps for people, although that usually only happens in films.
Speaking of mousetraps, I recently discovered a very interesting YouTube channel. So for this story I was doing some research on mousetraps, because I wanted to know how long they’ve existed. Anyway, it turns out that mice have always been a problem for humans, and you can find mousetraps going back to the ancient Egyptian times. There is a YouTuber called Shawn Woods, and Shawn Woods does a whole YouTube channel about different types of mousetraps. So what he does is he finds old books that talk about ancient mousetraps and he reconstructs them. He has a barn in his garden, so a big building in his garden, where lots of mice come at night, and he tests out all of these different types of traps.
It sounds very strange, and it’s certainly very specific, but it’s actually also very interesting. These days, with YouTube, there are lots of channels like these that focus on a really specific interest, and they’re good at them. I mean, I don’t think there’s anyone else who is doing videos on antique mousetraps like Shawn Woods is! So if that interests you, do go and look it up.
The last word is gasp. Instead of telling you what this word means, I will just gasp. [gasps]. So it’s a sound you make when you’re very surprised, and in bad TV shows people are always finding out shocking things and gasping. “[Gasp], oh my God!” And so on.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Mice Discuss, Chapter 1
One day, Gentle the mouse received a letter from his brother, Nosy. Gentle’s family was very big, but he was the only one who lived in the Great Forest. The rest of his family had moved to live underneath a big house. They told him he was stupid to stay in the forest, because in the house there was always lots of delicious food. But Gentle loved living in the forest, and didn’t want to live under a house, where it was dark and cold.
Gentle didn’t hear from his family very often, so he was interested to read what Nosy had to say in his letter.
“I am writing to you because we have a problem here in the house. I have heard all about what you have been doing. I am very impressed, and I am sure you will help us.
“For many years we have happily eaten the humans’ food. We learned to avoid their traps, and we only come out at night, when they are asleep. We even know how to open the cupboards, so that we can eat all the food in the kitchen.
“The humans are not happy about this, but they have so much food. It is too much for them. We are helping them, really.
“The problem is, recently the humans brought a cat into the house. It is a big, orange, ugly thing, with sharp teeth and claws. It has already killed cousins Podgy and Limp. Now at night we are afraid to go out, because the cat is always waiting to kill us.
“I hear that you are doing very well in the forest. I hear that you are very powerful now. The frog, Hoppy, brings you food every day. The hawk, Bright Eyes, shakes in fear when she sees you, and carries you from one place to another like a pet. You were even able to make Crush, the great lion, afraid of you. I hear that now he has no teeth and claws, because he is so afraid of you.
“All of us in the house are amazed at you, Gentle. You are not the same scared mouse anymore! Please, we need your help soon. We don’t have much food left. Get on your pet hawk and come and kill the cat for us.
“Lots of love, Nosy the mouse.”
Gentle was surprised. All the things Nosy had said about him were untrue. Hoppy did not bring him food. Bright Eyes was not afraid of him. And Crush had removed his teeth and claws because he fell in love with Charcoal the deer. It seemed that news had left the Great Forest, but it was not the truth.
Gentle didn’t know what to do. It sounded like his family was in big trouble. But he wasn’t the amazing mouse they thought he was. He couldn’t argue with a cat, and he certainly couldn’t kill one. But he cared about his family a lot, and he wanted to help them.
So Gentle asked Bright Eyes to take him to the house.
‘Haha!’ said Bright Eyes. ‘No way. I only helped you before because you were friends with Crush. But without his teeth and claws, Crush can do nothing to hurt me. I don’t have to do anything for you, Gentle.’
‘I know you don’t have to, Bright Eyes. But please, I need your help. I know you’re good, really. You let Hoppy live when he deserved to die.’
‘Oh, fine,’ Bright Eyes snapped. ‘I’ll take you if you agree to not tell anyone about that.’
‘It’s a deal.’
The journey over to the house was uncomfortable. Bright Eyes held Gentle in her claws, and he thought she was holding him a bit tighter than necessary.
When they landed, it was nighttime, and the mice were waiting outside. There were dozens of them.
‘Cousin Gentle, cousin Gentle!’ they all cried. ‘And this must be your pet Bright Eyes.’
‘Pet?!’ cried Bright Eyes. ‘Gentle, just what did you tell these mice?’
‘It’s a long story. You can head back, Bright Eyes. I’ll meet you in one night’s time.’
Bright Eyes flew away, complaining quietly.
‘Quick!’ said Nosy. ‘Let’s get inside. The cat could be anywhere.’
They went through a hole into the mice’s home. It was very big, and lit by small candles.
‘Good to see you.’
‘It’s been a long time.’
‘You’re looking healthy.’
They said their greetings, and pushed Gentle to the centre of the room, onto a matchbox, and stood all around him. The eyes of all his cousins, brothers, and sisters shone before him, lit by the weak light. They waited in silence.
‘Dear family. Thank you for inviting me here. I am sorry that I had to come at a difficult time for you all.’
‘But not difficult for long!’ cried Nosy. ‘Gentle, tell them all of what you have done!’
‘You’ve all heard all sorts of stories about me. But you only have part of the truth. It is true that I am friends with Crush the lion and Bright Eyes the hawk, but it is not how you think.’
Some of the mice whispered to each other. There was a nervous atmosphere in the room. Gentle raised his paw and cleared his throat.
‘I made friends with Crush after I saved his life.’
‘So you see!’ cried Nosy. ‘You were strong. You saved the life of a lion!’
‘All I did was to bite on some rope until it broke. I don’t know if that’s “strong”.’
‘But what about his teeth and claws?’ a deep voice cried out.
‘Crush chose to remove his own teeth and claws,’ Gentle explained. ‘He fell in love with the deer Charcoal, and the King of Deer made him do it in order to marry her.’
Gentle was surprised this news hadn’t spread to the house, but he supposed that mice didn’t care much about the lives of deer.
‘But how did you get the hawk to fly you here?’ said a fat mouse. ‘Hawks usually eat mice!’
‘Because of my friendship with Crush, Bright Eyes will not harm me.’
‘And Hoppy the frog…?’
‘Hoppy is not my friend. I don’t think he’ll hurt me again but… I don’t think he’s scared of me, either.’
A terrible silence broke out among the mice. Gentle bowed his head and climbed down from the box. He felt many eyes coldly looking at him. It had been a mistake to come.
Nosy jumped up in Gentle’s place. ‘Brothers, sisters, cousins! We must decide what to do with the cat problem. Our original plan has not worked.’
Then the mice started to argue. They were like the mice of the Great Forest, who loved to sit around in the field and discuss all day. But Gentle’s family were not as clever as the forest mice, so they shouted at each other and made suggestions without listening to the other mice’s.
Life in the dark house had made them stupid, and they were terrified, too. Gentle watched, playing nervously with his tail, as the discussion grew more and more angry.
Finally, a mouse as thin as a twig climbed up onto the matchbox and shouted, ‘Enough! Let me have my say, and if any of you hairy idiots interrupt me, I’ll beat you.’
Gentle looked up, and in shock, realised who it was: Crackle, his younger sister. Crackle was weak and sickly. They all said she would fade away like the crackle of a fire. But Gentle had believed in her, and when they were growing up he looked after her constantly. She was much bigger now, standing tall on the matchbox, and she was more confident than ever before. But she was still the same thin mouse, with a voice like the crackle of a fire.
‘We cannot get rid of the cat,’ said Crackle, ‘but perhaps we can at least avoid it. The problem now is that we only come out at night, and we cannot know where the cat is. I have a solution.’
From behind her, she pulled a large, round metal object. It was heavy, and she panted as she pulled it into the centre of the room.
‘The humans call this a “bell”. When you move it, it makes a noise.’
She rolled the bell over and it tinkled. The other mice gasped. They had never seen anything like it.
‘If the cat is wearing this bell on its collar,’ Crackle continued, ‘when she comes we will hear her and be able to run away.’
‘An excellent idea!’ shouted Nosy, and all the other mice agreed. ‘Well done, Crackle! Perhaps we did not need to invite Gentle along at all.’
Again, dozens of cold looks cut into Gentle.
But Crackle shook her head. She was the only one who did not look at him.
‘There is a problem. We still need someone to attach the bell, and as you can see, it is very heavy. Who will be brave enough to do this task?’ As she finished speaking, a tiny smile spread over her lips.
There were whispers around the room, and then slowly all eyes turned onto Gentle. Even Crackle was looking at him.
Now he knew that coming here had been a bad idea.
END OF CHAPTER ONE
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