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 House of Secrets. This is chapter one of four. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Secrets1. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Secrets1. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is a story I actually wrote with one of my classes. So thank you to all my students for being so creative and willing to take part. We started by creating characters. So we came up with personalities, appearances, and then I revealed that all of these characters were going to be living together and they would each have a secret that would be revealed. After that we improvised scenes with the characters. So we each played our own character and pretended to be them in a scene.
It was very comedic because I like making jokes, like, very stupid jokes, and it was very dialogue heavy. That’s actually something I really like about this story. It has a lot more dialogue, so a lot more talking, than my other stories, which I think is a natural result of doing it through improvisation. I’m really happy with how this story came out. It’s a bit unusual, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. So once again, thank you to Steven, Davy and Marta for making this story come to life!
Now, let me you tell you about the characters.
First, we have Elisabeth, and this is the character I made. Elisabeth is a theatre lover and an amateur actress. So she’s still not a professional actress, but she’s doing her best to get there. She loves being in Shakespeare plays and she always plays the male parts when she does Shakespeare.
Her dream is to perform at the Globe Theatre in London, which is a special theatre preserved to be like the theatres in the time of Shakespeare, where they only perform Shakespeare plays. Her strength is her confidence and her weakness is her inability to remember lines. So, lines of dialogue, which is obviously not a great weakness to have when you are an actor.
She is friends with Steve, one of the other housemates, as they share an interest for morbid things, so ghosts and skulls and things like that, and she is enemies with Xu, as they disagree over whether classical or modern art is better.
Next up is Steve. Steve is fascinated by monsters and ghosts. He works as a psychic online and he also does magic. So he’s a magician, as well. So this means he does things like do tarot readings to find out people’s future. He also does seances, so, calling ghosts from the past. He generally does a lot of strange, magical things. And as I said before, he loves morbid things like ghosts and monsters and skulls. He has one long arm and one short leg, and this will be important later.
Steve’s dream is to become a medium who can talk directly to ghosts. At the moment he can’t quite communicate with them as he wants to. He would also like to turn invisible. Um, I think that’s a skill that all of us would like to have, actually.
His strength is in observation and finding details and his weakness is that he is bad at lying. He is friends with Elisabeth and he doesn’t know Rosa or Xu very well.
Xu is the most artistic one of the house. She’s a photographer, a baker, and a painter. She has an affinity for cute things. So she just adores cute things, such as cats.
Her dream is to become a professional artist and get married to a handsome man.
Her strength is her eye for colour. So she is really great at picking out colours. Xu is only 5′1″ (five foot one) so people are always overlooking her because she is very short, but she really wants people to treat her seriously. Xu is enemies with Elisabeth and she doesn’t know Steve very well. She thinks that Rosa doesn’t like her, but she’s not really sure.
Finally, Rosa is the grumpy old gossip who owns the house that they all live in. She is the landlady and she inherited the house, along with lots of money, from her father.
Rosa’s dream is to become the mayor of the city because she knows everyone’s business. As I said, she is an old gossip.
Her strength is her wealth and her weakness is her jealousy of pretty much all other women, but she is especially jealous of the young, attractive artist, Xu.
OK, so I’ll just explain some words that are in the story.
Rehearse. Rehearse is essentially when you practise something. So you rehearse for a play, you rehearse for a musical performance, and so on.
Gesture. A gesture is when you make a sign with your hands. For example, if you put your thumb up it means good. At least in the UK it does.
An amateur production is a play that is not professional. So “amateur” means when you do something and you are not a professional, you just do it for fun, and a production is when you put on a play.
Applause. Applause is when you clap after a play or a musical performance to show you really enjoyed it.
A seance is when a psychic or a magician talks to the dead. Traditionally seances involve sitting in a dark room around a table with candles in the middle, everyone holds hands, and you call forth the ghost from the other side.
Pulling out weeds. So weeds, weeds are plants that grow in your garden but you don’t want them. They’re bad plants and they spread very easily. They’re usually quite ugly. So if you don’t want weeds to be there you need to pull them out.
Another thing you can do to make your garden tidy is to mow the lawn. Mow means to cut the grass, and the lawn is the patch of grass in your garden.
Finally, summon. Summon means to call forward something, but specifically it’s often used for summoning ghosts or summoning demons or monsters. Something magical.
Remember, if you would like to book an online class with me, you can go to the website EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click “CLASSES” at the top. I would love to teach you and make some stories together.
So, listen and enjoy!
House of Secrets Chapter 1
Rosa stared at her renters, and her renters stared back at her. They were all gathered in the living room of her house, sitting on the ancient sofa, looking very annoyed at being there. Xu probably wanted to be outside taking pictures of traffic lights and dogs, and Elisabeth had been loudly rehearsing Macbeth in her bedroom when Rosa called them all down. She didn’t want to know what Steve had been doing, but he looked the same as always, like a naughty child.
‘So you can probably guess why I’ve called you here,’ Rosa said, crossing her arms.
‘You’re joining the circus!’ Elisabeth cried out hopefully.
Rosa scowled. ‘Of course not!’
‘You want to see my bone collection?’ Steve said, smiling wickedly.
‘No, please, no.’
‘You want to model for my photo project?’ Xu said.
‘NO! It’s because of your rent, obviously. Xu, you owe me two months, and Elisabeth, you haven’t paid me anything.’
‘Then why am I here?’ said Steve. ‘I pay my rent on time! Well, sometimes.’
‘I know you all talk about me behind my back,’ Rosa said. ‘So I needed to sit you all down together to talk.’ She smiled widely. ‘Now, would you like a cup of tea?’
‘I’d prefer poison,’ Elisabeth muttered, and then quickly added, ‘Yes, some peppermint, please!’
‘We don’t have peppermint. I’ll give you Earl Grey.’
‘Can I have a cup with three spoonfuls of sugar?’ Xu said in her high-pitched voice.
‘We don’t have any sugar.’
‘I’m fine with whiskey,’ said Steve.
‘We don’t have any whiskey! Be quiet and stay where you are.’
Rosa left to get the drinks, and just to be safe, she locked the door while she was gone.
‘That old witch!’ Elisabeth said dramatically. She looked at Xu. ‘Why haven’t you paid your rent? I thought you were making lots of money selling photos online.’
‘I’m making some money,’ said Xu, gesturing with her child-sized hands. ‘I’ve only made a few sales so far. My work is too experimental. Anyway, aren’t you in a play? Don’t they pay for you that?’
‘It’s an amateur production. I get paid in applause, and that’s more than enough for me.’
‘Well,’ said Steve, ‘I’ve been making quite a lot recently doing seances online. It’s amazing what you can do with the Internet.’
Rosa unlocked the door and walked in with a tray of steaming tea. There was a bright pink teapot, painted with flowers, and it looked completely out of place next to Rosa’s wrinkled, angry face.
‘Now, I have a proposal for you lazy youths. Since you seem unable to find a normal job and make money that way, you can work for me instead. You won’t be able to complain about travel times when it’s in the same house!’
‘What kind of work?’ said Xu, turning red. She turned red when she was nervous.
‘Cleaning up this place. It’s a beautiful old house, but buildings like this need work to look their best. I’m sure you’ve all seen the attic, full of dust and boxes and old books. Xu, I want you to clean it out. Get rid of all the dust, the spiders’ webs, and organise my belongings. There are some valuable antiques in there.’
‘Me? Just because I asked?’ She looked to the other two for help, but they ignored her.
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ Rosa said, holding her flowery teacup tightly in her hand. ‘I have jobs for all of you. Elisabeth, you will sort out the garden.’
‘The garden? We don’t have a garden. We have a forest.’
‘Well, it should be a garden. Don’t look at me like that. You just need to pull out the weeds and mow the lawn. It will only take a few days.’
‘I can’t be doing that! I have to learn my lines for Macbeth. Don’t you care about the theatre?’
‘Absolutely not,’ said Rosa, sipping her tea with pleasure. ‘I think you theatre people are all a bit strange, if I’m being honest.’
Elisabeth opened her mouth to insult Rosa back, but Xu spoke before she could.
‘I’ll do it. The attic, I mean. There’s got to be some interesting things in there. I could do a whole set of photos on them. Uncovering the Past, I’ll call it.’
Elisabeth snorted. ‘Just like the last photo you took in this house.’
Xu went completely red, like a tomato.
‘What’s this about?’ said Rosa. ‘Have you been taking photos in my house without my permission?’
‘Don’t worry,’ said Steve, putting down his untouched tea and standing up. ‘It was very artistic. Now, I have some… business to deal with. I’m sorry I can’t stay and chat all afternoon. But I’ve paid my rent, so I suppose I can go?’
Rosa smiled, revealing dozens more wrinkles. ‘Of course, Steve. As long as you’re not doing any of that magic.’
‘Of course not, Rosa! You can trust me.’
He smiled at Elisabeth and headed upstairs. Elisabeth tried to get up and leave as well, but Rosa pushed a cup of tea towards her, almost spilling it on her.
‘You can’t leave yet, dear! You haven’t finished your tea. And you haven’t said yes to my agreement yet.’
She smiled again, and Elisabeth thought she looked just like one of those monsters that Steve was always trying to summon.
END OF CHAPTER ONE
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