Last week on The Shadow Club…
Me and the boys looked ALL around the school but there were no shadows to be found. Boring! Some kid knocked Larry over, and I threw tomatoes at Max, but that was about all that happened.
Seriously, nothing interesting here. Don’t listen to The Shadow Club. We just sit around talking…
OK, fine, something else did happen. I got, I got—God, I can’t say it without feeling sick! I got a piece of creative writing homework.
I know, I know. My life is over. Not even seeing Ms Knight, our English teacher, shouting at a year 7 student could make me feel better. Oh, poor Ricky Marshall!
Speaking of annoying things, Bethany wouldn’t stop talking to us during football practice. She noticed we’ve been hunting for shadows, and she wants to know what we’re up to. Go away, Bethany!
There was something else, but I forgot… Wait, I remember! ARGH, I still have to revise for my chemistry exam!!
You can listen to the last episode of The Shadow Club at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow4.
Please go back! Then I’ll have more time to revise!
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 five, Bullies or Heroes?. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow5. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow5. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So yesterday my new book, Easy Stories in English, came out! Woo! Except I’m recording this episode a week before, so as I’m recording this, the book hasn’t actually come out yet. Boo! But when you’re listening to this, the book will be out and available.
Anyway, you’ve heard me talk about it 100 times, so I’m not going to explain more about it, but I am going to tell you where you can buy it!
Seriously, I want to help everyone. If you can’t figure out how to buy it, I will help you!
AND thank you so much to everyone who has already bought the book! If you enjoyed the book, or are enjoying the book, I would love it if you left a review.
A review is basically when you write a little note saying what you liked about the book and what you didn’t like about it. You can leave the review on whichever site you bought the book! So if you bought the book on Amazon, leave a review on Amazon, if you bought it on Apple Books, leave a review there, and so on.
It would be so helpful if you could leave a review. Reviews help other people discover the book and the podcast, and then I’ll be able to do even more books in future.
So again, thank you all so much for helping me launch my book, and I look forward to reading all of your reviews!
I just want to explain some things that appear in the story to do with the school system in the UK.
So it mentions tutor groups. Tutor group is similar to what they call ‘homeroom’ in American schools. Basically, tutor groups meet twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon, for about fifteen minutes, and the students in each tutor group are a mixture of different classes, but usually they’re all the same year.
In the tutor group, the tutor, the teacher of the tutor group, gives the students advice, gives them news about the school, and sometimes there are other discussions.
Also in this chapter is mentioned Model United Nations. So Model United Nations is a club that exists at many different schools. In Model United Nations, the students pretend to be different nations, different countries, from the United Nations, the UN, which is a global organisation. And then they do debates and so on.
I never did Model United Nations because I think it looks quite boring!
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
An element is one of 100 things we talk about in chemistry. Examples of elements are hydrogen, helium, oxygen and carbon. There is a big table, a box, with all the elements in it, and it is called the periodic table. Elements on the table have a short name. So the four elements I just mentioned would be H, He, O and C.
When you press the button on a toilet, you flush it. When you flush a toilet, lots of water goes down it to clean it out. Sometimes, nasty kids in school put someone’s head in a toilet and flush it. They flush their head down the toilet. Fortunately, this never happened to me!
When you finish an exam, a teacher takes it and marks it. They look at your answers, and write down which you got correct and which you got wrong. After they’ve marked it, they give you your mark, your grade. In the UK, we use letter grades for marking: A*, A, B, C, D, E, F, and U—that means ‘ungraded’, and it’s when you don’t even show up for the exam!
When you catch up on something, you do something that you haven’t done for a while, and that you needed to do. For example, maybe your favourite TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race comes out once a week. You’re so busy that you don’t watch it for three weeks. Now you have three episodes to catch up on. However, you might also have to catch up on something less fun, like your homework. Hopefully, you have something nice, like Easy Stories in English, to catch up on…
When you consider the possibility of something, you think about whether something could happen. For example, many people say that aliens and ghosts don’t exist, but others think we should consider the possibility. Personally, I consider the possibility of eating chocolate cake every day.
When you stomp, you walk very loudly, you hit your feet on the ground very loudly. People stomp when they are angry. If you stomp around your house, you might damage something.
Do your business is another way of saying you are going to the toilet. It is a euphemism, which means something nice you say to avoid saying something disgusting. So when you need to go to the toilet, but you don’t want to talk about exactly what you’re doing, you can say, ‘I’m going to go do my business.’
A cubicle is a small part of a room that is used for something else. Cubicles have small walls around them. Offices often have cubicles now. There will be one big room, and then smaller walls to break up the room into individual offices. Public toilets also have cubicles. You go into the cubicle, lock the door and do your business.
When you bully someone, you are mean to them for no reason. Most bullies are found in schools, and they are mean to and hurt other kids for fun. Bullying is a serious problem, because if you are bullied, it can affect you for your whole life.
And I’ll just remind you of the meaning of some words that appeared in previous episodes of The Shadow Club!
When you resit an exam, you do an exam again because you failed it.
Mark can also mean a part of something that looks different. For example, you fell over, and now you have a purple mark on your knee.
A patrol is when a group of people look around a place to find people doing bad things, for example a police patrol.
When you stare at something, you look very long and hard at it.
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. Last week I talked about how my comfort zone has gotten smaller, living in a suburban area and not eating for 20 hours a day. 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 patrons: Islam, Monika Wojtkowiak and an anonymous patron. Thank you so much. Your support really means a lot to me. Plus, we have an anonymous patron! Ooh, mysterious…
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Shadow Club Chapter 5: Bullies or Heroes?
I would’ve stayed up all night revising if I could. But after a few hours of studying at Max’s house, my mum came round and insisted I come home.
‘There’s no point in revising so much that you fall asleep during the exam!’
Still, she seemed pleased. She thought that this was in addition to all the revision I’d been doing during the week. She didn’t know that this was the only work I’d done!
I came to school on Friday morning with my head full of experiments, elements and strange liquids, but I wasn’t sure I actually knew the right name for each thing. It all mixed together in my head, like water in a toilet when you flush it.
When I sat down to do the exam, I realised that I had no idea what I was doing. Everything had seemed so clear when Max explained it and I could ask questions, but now I was completely lost. I looked across the silent exam hall and saw Max writing quickly. I looked to the other side and saw Larry biting his pen and looking confused.
I thought, ‘Oh well, at least I’m not the only one.’
But then Larry smiled and started writing.
I did my best. If I didn’t know the answer to something, I just thought of my own name. I made some wonderful new elements: Rickium, Larrium and Maxium. I wasn’t going to get any marks for them, but at least I had some fun.
As soon as we came out of the exam hall, Max said, ‘So how did it go?’
‘No!’ I cried. ‘None of that. You know I hate discussing exam results. I want to forget this ever happened, and I can worry about it when we get our marks.’
‘Well, you won’t have much time to forget,’ said Larry. ‘They’re using a new marking system. We should have our marks next week.’
‘What?!’ I cried.
Normally, it took weeks for us to get our marks back. Plenty of time to forget how badly I did.
‘It’s a good thing,’ said Max. ‘If you do need to resit, then you’ll have more time to prepare.’
The day didn’t get much better from then on. In English class, Ms Knight reminded us many times about our creative writing homework. I still hadn’t started it, and I didn’t think it would be easy to on the weekend. I was catching up on football practice on Saturday, and on Sunday, Mum and Dad were taking Willow to a birthday party.
For most kids, this would be something fun, but my sister said she didn’t want to go, and started crying every time they mentioned it. I mean, normally I would just say, ‘OK, maybe Willow doesn’t have to go.’ But if she didn’t go, she’d spend all weekend online or lost in her Fighting Cats books, and this party was for her one friend. If she didn’t go, she would have zero friends.
Either way, it was not going to be a quiet weekend, and as I have mentioned several times, I hate writing!
After school, at least, we had our first official Shadow Club meeting. That was exciting, except I didn’t really like being at school after lessons ended. It was all quiet, and the only people around were the orchestra and other sad clubs like the Model United Nations. Plus, Max’s tutor group leader, Ms Cowper, came in every ten minutes to check we weren’t breaking anything.
Max had brought a few board games, and we put them on the table to pretend we were playing, but really we just talked.
‘So,’ said Larry. ‘None of us have seen a shadow all week, we don’t know anyone else who have seen shadows, and the shadows didn’t leave any permanent marks on us. I think we need to consider the possibility that we’re crazy and imagining all this.’
‘No way!’ said Max, banging the table. ‘If it was just one or two of us, sure. But three of us? They have to be real.’
‘But maybe Larry is right,’ I said. ‘We don’t know anything about the shadows. We might never see them again. Maybe we should stop looking for them.’
‘Ricky,’ said Max. ‘You saved my life.’
‘We don’t know that,’ I said. ‘We don’t know what happens when a shadow attacks someone.’
‘We don’t want to find out,’ said Larry. ‘Those were your words.’
‘Ugh,’ I said, getting out of my chair and walking around the room.
It had seemed so simple before. We would just kill the shadows, right? But we had wasted our week hunting for air. And I had football practice, and homework, and if I failed my exams my parents would kill me, and…
‘Let’s take a break,’ I said. ‘I need the toilet.’
I left the room and stomped all the way to the boys’ toilets. As I did my business, I just got more and more angry.
This was stupid. Why was I staying at school after lessons ended, sitting in an empty classroom and talking about nothing? I should’ve been outside playing football with my friends.
Not that the weather was good enough. It was raining, and playing in the rain would just make me more annoyed. I decided that, when I got back to the classroom, I’d end the meeting and we’d all go home.
When I came out of the cubicle, I jumped. There was another kid there, standing in front of the sink. He had come in so quietly I hadn’t even noticed him.
I saw his short black hair and scared face and recognised him.
‘Hey, you’re that kid who Ms Knight shouted at.’
He turned around, and his eyes grew wide. Clearly, he hadn’t seen me. For a moment, we just stood there, looking at each other. Then he made a whimpering noise and ran into one of the cubicles. The door clicked as he locked it.
‘Uh, OK then…’
I went to leave, but then I heard something. It was quiet, but he was crying. I felt bad. Clearly, this kid had some problems. But what could I do about it?
The door to the bathroom opened, and Larry stood there.
‘You’re taking ages. Look, Max has a really stupid idea, and I want your opinion.’
‘Hey!’ cried Max from behind him. ‘You can’t tell him it’s stupid before he’s even heard it!’
Larry looked around. ‘What’s that noise?’
The boy’s crying stopped for a moment, as he’d clearly heard us. Then he started again, even louder. It sounded horrible. He must’ve been really sad, because he was crying like a baby. I could even hear the toilet shaking under him as he sat on it.
‘Oof,’ said Max, from behind Larry. ‘Let’s get out of here. If a teacher comes, they’ll think we bullied him or something.’
Hearing Max say those words, I realised how cruel we were being.
‘No,’ I said.
‘No?’ said Max.
‘Look, we’re The Shadow Club,’ I said, talking quietly. ‘We said we were gonna protect the weak kids from monsters. This kid’s probably being bullied. We should help him!’
‘We’re here to fight monsters,’ said Max. ‘Not fight bullies.’
‘Max, what would the characters in Heroes of Forever do?’
‘Well, my character would probably burn that kid with magic fire for being so loud.’
‘Ugh, you know what I mean. Larry?’
I turned to my other friend, hoping he would agree with me. But he just bit his lip and said nothing. He often stood in the middle in situations like this.
The door to the toilet cubicle unlocked and opened. We turned around, and the kid came running out of the cubicle. Before he could stop him, he ran past us, knocking Max to the ground.
‘Hey!’ I cried.
I tried running after him, but he was too fast. He disappeared down the stairs, and there was no way we would catch him.
‘That’s the kid who knocked me over,’ said Larry. ‘I think he can protect himself.’
‘Ow…’ said Max.
I helped him get up, but secretly, I thought he deserved it.
‘We’ll see,’ I said. ‘For now, let’s just go home.’
We did a quick patrol of the school, just to make sure there were no shadows, but we found nothing.
The weekend wasn’t much better. It rained all of Saturday, too. I met up with the boys and played a bit of football, but we all fell over so many times that it just wasn’t fun anymore. Still, we went round to Larry’s place and ate three apple pies that his dad had brought home from work. Max ended up being sick in the toilet, which gave me and Larry a good laugh.
On Sunday, after Willow fought with Mum and Dad to stay at home, and failed, I finally started my creative writing homework.
After spending about an hour biting my pen and staring at the wall, I decided to just write about the first shadow we fought. I changed all the names, and made it a bit more interesting. I mean, I wanted to sound like a hero. Don’t we all? After I started writing, I actually enjoyed it, and when I finished and saw the clock I was shocked. Had that much time really passed?
I came into school on Monday feeling confident. So I probably did bad in the chemistry exam, and we couldn’t find any shadows, but at least Ms Knight wouldn’t shout at me.
The first half of the week passed quietly. On Wednesday morning, we got our exam results back, and I’d done better than expected. I got a C. Not exactly top marks, but not bad enough to have to do a resit, I hoped. I started to feel a bit better. Maybe I wouldn’t fail all my science exams.
Then, at the end of the day, we got our English homework back, and I almost fell off my seat.
‘Uh, Ms Knight, I think you’ve made a mistake. You gave me an A.’
Ms Knight smiled. ‘Mr Marshall, I have made no mistake. You wrote a great piece of work. It was gripping, even. Tell me, do you remember what that word means?’
‘It means when a story is so good it grabs you by the throat.’
‘Exactly. I look forward to reading more of your stories in future.’
The best part of it? Max got a B. I actually did better than him at something!
I came into The Shadow Club that afternoon feeling strong. Powerful. We were gonna find those shadows and destroy them.
And what do you know? Larry ran into the room and said, ‘Guys, I’ve just seen one. A shadow.’
END OF CHAPTER 5
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