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American Short Stories for the EFL Classroom

continued from No. 11


The orphanage is high in the Carolina mountains. I went there in the autumn for isolation to do some troublesome writing. I wanted mountain air to blow out the malaria from too long a time in the subtropics, and I was homesick for the flaming of maples in October, for corn shocks and pumpkins and black-walnut trees. I found them all around a cabin that belonged to the orphanage, half a mile beyond the orphanage farm. When I took the cabin, I asked for somebody to chop wood for the fireplace.
Late one afternoon I looked up from my typewriter, a little startled. A boy stood at the door. My pointer dog, my companion, was at his side and had not barked to warn me. The boy was probably 12 years old, but undersized. He wore overalls and a torn shirt, and was barefoot. He said, “I can chop some wood today.”
“You? But you’re small.”
“Size don’t matter, chopping wood,” he said. “Some of the big boys don’t chop good. I’ve been chopping wood at the orphanage a long time.’’

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

“Very well. There’s the ax. See what you can do.” I went back to work, and he began to chop. The blows were rhythmic and steady, and shortly I had forgotten him, the sound no more of an interruption than a constant rain. I suppose an hour and a half passed before I heard the boy’s steps on the cabin stoop. “I have to go to supper now,” he said. “I can come again tomorrow.”
I said, “I’ll pay you now for what you’ve done,” thinking I should probably have to insist on an older boy. We went together back of the cabin. An astonishing amount of solid wood had been cut. “But you’ve done as much as a man,” I said. “This is a splendid pile.”
I looked at him, actually, for the first time. His hair was the color of the corn shocks; and his eyes, very direct, were like the mountain sky when rain is pending – gray, with a shadowing of that miraculous blue. I gave him a quarter. “You may come tomorrow afternoon,” I said, “and thank you very much.”
He looked at me and at the coin, and seemed to want to speak, but could not, and turned away.
At daylight I was half wakened by the sound of chopping. Again it was so even in texture that I went back to sleep. When I left my bed, the boy had gone, and a stack of kindling was neat against the cabin wall. He came again after school and worked until time to return to the orphanage.
His name was Jerry; he had been at the orphanage since he was four. I could picture him at four, with the same grave gray-blue eyes and the same – independence? No, the word that comes to me is “integrity.” It is bedded on courage, but it is more than brave. It is honest, but it is more than honesty.
The ax handle broke one day. Jerry said the orphanage woodshop would repair it. I brought money to pay for the job and he refused it. “I’ll pay for it,” he said. “I broke it. I brought the ax down careless.”
“But no one hits accurately every time,” I told him. “The fault was in the handle.”
It was only then that he would take the money. He was standing back of his own carelessness. He was a freewill agent and he chose to do careful work; and if he failed, he took the responsibility without subterfuge.
And he did for me the unnecessary thing, the gracious thing, that we find done only by the great of heart. Things no training can teach, for they are done on the instant, with no predicated experience. He found a cubbyhole beside the fireplace that I had not noticed. There, of his own accord, he put wood, so that I might always have dry fire material ready in case of sudden wet weather. A stone was loose in the rough walk to the cabin. He dug a deeper hole and steadied it, although he came, himself, by a shortcut over the bank.
I found that when I tried to return his thoughtfulness with such things as candy and apples, he was wordless. “Thank you” was, perhaps, an expression for which he had had no use, for his courtesy was instinctive. He only looked at the gift and at me, and a curtain lifted, so that I saw deeper into the clear well of his eyes; and gratitude was there, and affection, soft over the firm granite of character.
He became intimate, of course, with my pointer, Pat. There is a strange communion between a boy and a dog. Perhaps they possess the same singleness of spirit, the same kind of wisdom. It is difficult to explain, but it exists.
When I went across the state for a weekend, I left the dog in Jerry’s charge. Fog filled the mountain passes so treacherously that it was Monday noon before I returned to the cabin. The dog had been fed and cared for that morning. Jerry came early in the afternoon, anxious. “The superintendent said nobody would drive in the fog,” he said. “I came last night and you hadn’t come. So I brought Pat some of my breakfast this morning. I wouldn’t have let anything happen to him.”
I gave him a dollar in payment, and he looked at it and went away. But that night he came in the darkness and knocked at the door. “Come in, Jerry,” I said, “if you’re allowed to be away this late.”
“I told them – maybe a story – that I thought you would want to see me,” he said.
“That’s true,” I assured him, and saw his relief. “I want to hear about how you managed with the dog.”
He sat by the fire with me, and told me of their two days together. The dog lay close to him, and found a comfort there that I did not have for him. “He stayed right with me,” he told me, “except when he ran in the laurel. There was a place where the grass was high and I lay down in it and hid. I could hear Pat hunting for me. When he found me he acted crazy, and he ran around and around me, in circles.”
We watched the flames.
“That’s an apple log,” he said. “It burns the prettiest of any wood.”
We were very close and he was suddenly impelled to speak.
“You look a little bit like my mother,” he said. “Especially in the dark, by the fire.”
“But you were only four, Jerry, when you came here. You have remembered how she looked, all these years?”
“My mother lives in Mannville,” he said.
I did not know why finding that he had a mother so greatly disturbed me. Then I understood my distress. I was filled with a passionate resentment that any woman should go away and leave her son – especially a son like this one. The orphanage was a wholesome place, the food was more than adequate. Granted, perhaps, that the boys felt no lack, what blood fed the bowels of a woman who did not yearn over this child’s lean body that had come in parturition out of her own?
“Have you seen her, Jerry – lately?” I asked.
“I see her every summer. She sends for me.”
I wanted to cry out. “Why are you not with her? How can she let you go away again?”
He said, “She comes up here from Mannville whenever she can. She doesn’t have a job now.”
His face shone in the firelight. “She wanted to give me a puppy, but they can’t let any one boy keep a puppy. You remember the suit I had on last Sunday?” He was plainly proud. “She sent me that for Christmas. The Christmas before that” – he drew a long breath, savoring the memory – “she sent me a pair of roller skates. I let the other boys use them, but they’re careful of them.”
She had not, then, entirely deserted or forgotten him. But what circumstance other than poverty...?
“I’m going to take the dollar you gave me for taking care of Pat,” he said, “and buy her a pair of gloves.”
I hated her. Poverty or no, there was other food than bread, and the soul could starve as quickly as the body. He was taking his dollar to buy gloves for her and she lived away from him, in Mannville, and contented herself with sending him skates.
“She likes white gloves,” he said. “Do you think I can get them for a dollar?”
“I think so,” I said.
We did not speak of Jerry’s mother again. His having a mother, any sort, relieved me of the ache I had had about him. He was not lonely. It was none of my concern.
He came every day and cut my wood and did small helpful favors. The days had become cold, and often I asked him inside. He would lie on the floor in front of the fire, with one arm across the pointer, and they would both doze and wait quietly for me to finish work. Other days they ran with a common ecstasy through the laurel, and he brought me back vermilion maple leaves, and chestnut boughs dripping with imperial yellow.
I was ready to go. I said to him, “You have been my good friend, Jerry. I shall miss you. Pat will miss you, too. I am leaving tomorrow.” He did not answer, and I watched him go in silence.
I expected him the next day, but he did not come. Late in the day I stopped by the orphanage and left the cabin key with Miss Clark.
“And will you call Jerry for me to say good-bye to him?”
“I don’t know where he is,” she said. “I’m afraid he’s not well. He didn’t eat his dinner this noon. One of the other boys saw him going up the hill into the laurel.”
I was almost relieved; it would be easier not to say good-bye.
I said, “I wanted to talk with you about his mother – why he’s here – but I’m in more of a hurry than I expected to be. Here’s some money. I’d like you to buy things for him at Christmas and on his birthday. It will be better than for me to try to send him things. I could so easily duplicate – skates, for instance.”
She blinked her honest spinster’s eyes. “There’s not much use for skates here,” she said.
Her stupidity annoyed me.
“What I mean,” I said, “is that I don’t want to duplicate the things his mother sends him. I might have chosen skates if I didn’t know she had already given them to him.”
She stared at me.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “He has no mother. He has no skates.”

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

orphanage n. an institution to care for children who have lost both parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent
isolation n. the quality or state of being alone
shock n. stalks of corn or other grain gathered together in bundles
pointer n. type of dog used for hunting birds
overalls n. loose trousers worn over clothes for work
splendid adj. excellent, fine, or very good
pending adj. waiting to be decided or settled
texture n. the way a surface or material appears or the way it feels when touched
kindling n. bits of material, such as dry wood, used for starting a fire
grave adj. dark; somber
integrity n. freedom from faults or defects; strict honesty
bedded based
subterfuge n. deception
gracious adj. kind, favorable
cubbyhole n. a small space
granite n. a very hard, usually gray or pink rock
treacherously adj. dangerously
superintendent n. a person who oversees or directs some work, organization, district, etc.; supervisor
laurel n. a small evergreen tree or bush with smooth, shiny leaves
impel v. force; drive; cause
distress n. sorrow; physical or mental suffering
wholesome adj. conducive to moral or general well-being; beneficial
bowels n. the digestive tract below the stomach
parturition n. the act of giving birth
doze v. sleep lightly; nap
ecstasy n. delight
vermilion adj. bright red
bough n. a branch of a tree, esp. one of the larger or main branches
blink v. to open and close the eye
spinster n. a older woman who has never married

Some of the statements below are true and some are false. Choose the false statements and tell why they are incorrect.
1. The author was homesick for the subtropics.
2. The author expected to find a large pile of wood after the boy’s first day of work.
3. Jerry could chop wood as well as a man.
4. Jerry paid to have the ax repaired.
5. Jerry did other jobs around the cabin without being asked.
6. The author’s dog was fed and cared for while she was away.
7. The dog had tried to run away from Jerry in the high grass.
8. The author sympathizes with Jerry’s mother.
9. Jerry did not stop by the cabin to say good-bye to the author.
10. Miss Clark told the author that Jerry had no mother.

Key: 1. F; 2. F; 3. T; 4. F; 5. Т; 6. Т; 7. F; 8. F; 9. Т; 10. Т

Choose the meaning that is closest to the meaning in the context of the story. Look for clues to help you guess correctly.

a. inexactly
a. secretive
b. precisely
b. quiet
c. independently
c. friendly


a. reproduce
a. privacy
b. fool
b. companionship
c. lie
c. dislike


a. happiness
a. tie
b. desire
b. dog
c. disagreement
c. cow


a. rejected
a. pile
b. turned
b. log
c. pushed
c. stick


a. wholeness
a. repititiously
b. trustworthiness
b. lonely
c. interest
c. faithlessly

Key: l. b; 2. a; 3. a; 4. c; 5. b; 6. c; 7. a; 8. b; 9. a; 10. с

The words below each have more than one meaning. Choose the sentence in each group that contains the word used as it is in the context of the story.
1. bank
a. The banks are very slippery; don’t fall into the water.
b. He kept very little money in the bank, preferring to invest it in the stock market.

2. quarter
a. I really would not recommend visiting that quarter of the city.
b. You will need change for a quarter to make a phone call.
c. Each of them took a quarter of the pie and ate it immediately.

3. shock
a. The farmers piled up large shocks in the field after cutting the grain.
b. The news came as a shock to everyone who knew her.

4. stoop
a.In the summer we used to enjoy sitting on the front stoop and watching people pass by.
b. He walked with such a stoop that he seemed to always be looking for something on the ground.

Key: l. a; 2. b; 3. a; 4. a

1. Why does the storyteller go to the mountains?
2. How did an incident with a broken ax handle illustrate Jerry’s integrity?
3. How does the author explain the good relationship between Jerry and the dog?
4. What was the author’s reaction when she learned that Jerry had a mother in Mannville?
5. How did the author and Jerry say good-bye to each other?

1. Given Jerry’s integrity, why would he make up a story about having a mother?
2. Before learning about the mother in Mannville, what was the author’s relationship with Jerry? Do you think it would have continued if he had not made up the story about his mother?



The package was lying by the front door – a cube-shaped carton sealed with tape, their name and address printed by hand: “Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lewis, 217 E. Thirty-seventh Street, New York, New York 10016.” Norma picked it up, unlocked the door, and went into the apartment. It was just getting dark.
After she put the lamb chops in the broiler, she sat down to open the package.
Inside the carton was a push-button unit fastened to a small wooden box. A glass dome covered the button. Norma tried to lift it off, but it was locked in place. She turned the unit over and saw a folded piece of paper Scotch-taped to the bottom of the box. She pulled it off: “Mr. Steward will call on you at 8:00 p.m.”
Norma put the button unit beside her on the couch. She reread the typed note, smiling.
A few moments later, she went back into the kitchen to make the salad.
The doorbell rang at eight o’clock. “I’ll get it,” Norma called from the kitchen. Arthur was in the living room, reading.
There was a small man in the hallway. He removed his hat as Norma opened the door. “Mrs. Lewis?” he inquired politely.
“I’m Mr. Steward.”
“Oh, yes.” Norma repressed a smile. She was sure now it was a sales pitch.
“May I come in?” asked Mr. Steward.
“I’m rather busy,” Norma said. “I’ll get you your whatchamacallit, though.” She started to turn.
“Don’t you want to know what it is?”
Norma turned back. Mr. Steward’s tone had been offensive. “No, I don’t think so,” she replied.
“It could prove very valuable,” he told her.
Monetarily?” she challenged.
Mr. Steward nodded. “Monetarily,” he said.
Norma frowned. She didn’t like his attitude. “What are you trying to sell?” she asked.
“I’m not selling anything,” he answered.
Arthur came out of the living room. “Something wrong?”
Mr. Steward introduced himself.
“Oh, the –” Arthur pointed toward the living room and smiled.
“What is that gadget, anyway?”
“It won’t take long to explain,” replied Mr. Steward. “May I come in?”
“If you’re selling something –,” Arthur said.
Mr. Steward shook his head. “I’m not.” Arthur looked at Norma. “Up to you,” she said. He hesitated. “Well, why not?” he said.

Richard Matheson

They went into the living room and Mr. Steward sat in Norma’s chair. He reached into an inside coat pocket and withdrew a small sealed envelope. “Inside here is a key to the bell-unit dome,” he said. He set the envelope on the chairside table. “The bell is connected to our office.” “What’s it for?” asked Arthur.
“If you push the button,” Mr. Steward told him, “somewhere in the world someone you don’t know will die. In return for which you will receive a payment of $50,000.”
Norma stared at the small man. He was smiling. “What are you talking about?” Arthur asked him. Mr. Steward looked surprised. “But I’ve just explained,” he said. “Is this a practical joke?” asked Arthur. “Not at all. The offer is completely genuine.”
“You aren’t making sense,” Arthur said. “You expect us to believe –”
“Who do you represent?” demanded Norma.
Mr. Steward looked embarrassed. “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to tell you that,” he said. “However, I assure you, the organization is of international scope.”
“I think you’d better leave,” Arthur said, standing. Mr. Steward rose. “Of course.” “And take your button unit with you.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t care to think about it for a day or so?” Arthur picked up the button unit and the envelope and thrust them into Mr. Steward’s hands. He walked into the hall and pulled open the door. “I’ll leave my card,” said Mr. Steward. He placed it on the table by the door.
When he was gone, Arthur tore it in half and tossed the pieces onto the table.
Norma was still sitting on the sofa. “What do you think it was?” she asked.
“I don’t care to know,” he answered.
She tried to smile but couldn’t. “Aren’t you curious at all?”
“No.” He shook his head.
After Arthur returned to his book, Norma went back to the kitchen and finished washing the dishes.
“Why won’t you talk about it?” Norma asked.
Arthur’s eyes shifted as he brushed his teeth. He looked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror.
“Doesn’t it intrigue you?”
“It offends me,” Arthur said.
“I know, but” – Norma rolled another curler in her hair – “doesn’t it intrigue you, too?”
“You think it’s a practical joke?” she asked as they went into the bedroom.
“If it is, it’s a sick one.”
Norma sat on her bed and took off her slippers. “Maybe it’s some kind of psychological research.”
Arthur shrugged. “Could be.”
“Maybe some eccentric millionaire is doing it.”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Arthur shook his head.
“Because it’s immoral,” he told her.
Norma slid beneath the covers. “Well, I think it’s intriguing,’’ she said.
Arthur turned off the lamp and leaned over to kiss her. “Goodnight,” he said.
“Good night.” She patted his back.
Norma closed her eyes. Fifty thousand dollars, she thought.

In the morning, as she left the apartment, Norma saw the card halves on the table. Impulsively, she dropped them into her purse. She locked the front door and joined Arthur in the elevator.
While she was on her coffee break, she took the card halves from her purse and held the torn edges together. Only Mr. Steward’s name and telephone number were printed on the card.
After lunch, she took the card halves from her purse again and Scotch-taped the edges together. “Why am I doing this?” she thought.
Just before five, she dialed the number.
“Good afternoon,” said Mr. Steward’s voice.
Norma almost hung up but restrained herself. She cleared her throat. “This is Mrs. Lewis,” she said.
“Yes, Mrs. Lewis.” Mr. Steward sounded pleased.
“I’m curious.”
“That’s natural,” Mr. Steward said.
“Not that I believe a word of what you told us.”
“Oh, it’s quite authentic,” Mr. Steward answered.
“Well, whatever –” Norma swallowed. “When you said someone in the world would die, what did you mean?”
“Exactly that,” he answered. “It could be anyone. All we guarantee is that you don’t know them. And, of course, that you wouldn’t have to watch them die.”
“For $50,000,” Norma said.
“That is correct.”
She made a scoffing sound. “That’s crazy.”
“Nonetheless, that is the proposition,” Mr. Steward said. “Would you like me to return the button unit?”
Norma stiffened. “Certainly not.” She hung up angrily.
The package was lying by the front door; Norma saw it as she left the elevator. Well, of all the nerve, she thought. She glared at the carton as she unlocked the door. I just won’t take it in, she thought. She went inside and started dinner.
Later, she went into the front hall. Opening the door, she picked up the package and carried it into the kitchen, leaving it on the table.
She sat in the living room, looking out the window. After a while, she went back into the kitchen to turn the cutlets in the broiler. She put the package in a bottom cabinet. She’d throw it out in the morning.
“Maybe some eccentric millionaire is playing games with people,” she said.
Arthur looked up from his dinner. “I don’t understand you.”
“What does that mean?”
“Let it go,” he told her.
Norma ate in silence. Suddenly, she put her fork down. “Suppose it’s a genuine offer?” she said.
Arthur stared at her.
“Suppose it’s a genuine offer?”
“All right, suppose it is?” He looked incredulous. “What would you like to do? Get the button back and push it? Murder someone?”
Norma looked disgusted. “Murder.”
“How would you define it?”
“If you don’t even know the person?” Norma said.
Arthur looked astounded. “Are you saying what I think you are?”
“If it’s some old Chinese peasant ten thousand miles away? Some diseased native in the Congo?”
“How about some baby boy in Pennsylvania?” Arthur countered. “Some beautiful little girl on the next block?”
“Now you’re loading things.”
“The point is, Norma,” he continued, “what’s the difference who you kill? It’s still murder.”
“The point is,’’ Norma broke in, “if it’s someone you’ve never seen in your life and never will see, someone whose death you don’t even have to know about, you still wouldn’t push the button?”
Arthur stared at her, appalled. “You mean you would?”
“Fifty thousand dollars, Arthur.”
“What has the amount –”
“Fifty thousand dollars, Arthur,” Norma interrupted. “A chance to take that trip to Europe we’ve always talked about.”
“Norma, no.”
“A chance to buy that cottage on the Island.”
“Norma, no.” His face was white.
She shuddered. “All right, take it easy,” she said. “Why are you getting so upset? It’s only talk.”
After dinner, Arthur went into the living room. Before he left the table, he said, “I’d rather not discuss it anymore, if you don’t mind.”
Norma shrugged. “Fine with me.”
She got up earlier than usual to make pancakes, eggs, and bacon for Arthur’s breakfast.
“What’s the occasion?” he asked with a smile.
“No occasion.” Norma looked offended. “I wanted to do it, that’s all.”
“Good,” he said. “I’m glad you did.”
She refilled his cup. “Wanted to show you I’m not –” She shrugged.
“Not what?”
“Did I say you were?”
“Well” – she gestured vaguely – “last night...”
Arthur didn’t speak.
“All that talk about the button,” Norma said. “I think you – well, misunderstood me.”
“In what way?” His voice was guarded.
“I think you felt” – she gestured again – “that I was only thinking of myself.”
“I wasn’t.”
“Norma –”
“Well, I wasn’t. When I talked about Europe, a cottage on the Island –”
“Norma, why are we getting so involved in this?”
“I’m not involved at all.” She drew in a shaking breath. “I’m simply trying to indicate that –”
“That I’d like for us to go to Europe. Like for us to have a cottage on the Island. Like for us to have a nicer apartment, nicer furniture, nicer clothes, a car. Like for us to finally have a baby, for that matter.”
“Norma, we will,” he said.
He stared at her in dismay. “Norma –”
“Are you” – he seemed to draw back slightly – “are you really saying –”
“I’m saying that they’re probably doing it for some research project!” she cut him off. “That they want to know what average people would do under such a circumstance! That they’re just saying someone would die, in order to study reactions, see if there’d be guilt, anxiety, whatever! You don’t really think they’d kill somebody, do you?!”
Arthur didn’t answer. She saw his hands trembling. After a while, he got up and left.
When he’d gone to work, Norma remained at the table, staring into her coffee. I’m going to be late, she thought. She shrugged. What difference did it make?
While she was stacking dishes, she turned abruptly, dried her hands, and took the package from the bottom cabinet. Opening it, she set the button unit on the table. She stared at it for a long time before taking the key from its envelope and removing the glass dome. She stared at the button. How ridiculous, she thought. All this furor over a meaningless button.
Reaching out, she pressed it down. For us, she thought angrily.
She shuddered. Was it happening? A chill of horror swept across her.
In a moment, it had passed. She made a contemptuous noise. Ridiculous, she thought. To get so worked up over nothing.
She threw the button unit, dome, and key into the wastebasket and hurried to dress for work.
She had just turned over the supper steaks when the telephone rang. She picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Lewis?”
“This is the Lenox Hill Hospital.”
She felt unreal as the voice informed her of the subway accident – the shoving crowd, Arthur pushed from the platform in front of the train. She was conscious of shaking her head but couldn’t stop.
As she hung up, she remembered Arthur’s life-insurance policy for $25,000, with double indemnity for –
“No.” She couldn’t seem to breathe. She struggled to her feet and walked into the kitchen numbly. Something cold pressed at her skull as she removed the button unit from the wastebasket. There were no nails or screws visible. She couldn’t see how it was put together.
Abruptly, she began to smash it on the sink edge, pounding it harder and harder, until the wood split. She pulled the sides apart, cutting her fingers without noticing. There were no transistors in the box, no wires or tubes.
The box was empty.
She whirled with a gasp as the telephone rang. Stumbling into the living room, she picked up the receiver.
“Mrs. Lewis?” Mr. Steward asked.
It wasn’t her voice shrieking so; it couldn’t be. “You said I wouldn’t know the one that died!”
“My dear lady,” Mr. Steward said. “Do you really think you knew your husband?”

By Richard Matheson

broiler n. the part of a stove used for broiling
watchamacallit n. (Informal) something whose name or specific designation is not known, from what-you-may-call-it
monetarily adj. of money
gadget n. device; an ingenious mechanism
thrust v. to push or drive with force; shove
intrigue v. plan in a secret way; plot scheme
offend v. insult one’s moral values
curler n. a device for curling one’s hair
practical joke a joke whose humor stems from the tricking or abuse of an individual placed somehow at a disadvantage
eccentric adj. odd; peculiar
immoral adj. violating one’s sense of ethics
authentic adj. worthy of acceptance; true
abruptly adj. (to move) suddenly, unexpectedly
furor n. wild enthusiasm or excitement craze; mania
contemptuous adj. feeling or showing disapproval or disgust
shoving pushing strongly
shriek v. to let out a loud, shrill cry

Some of the statement
s below are true and some are false. Choose the false statements and tell why they are incorrect.
1. Norma found the carton in front of her door as she arrived home.
2. Norma believed that Mr. Steward was a salesman.
3. Mr. Steward took out a key and opened the box for Norma and Arthur.
4. Arthur and Norma have the same reaction to Mr. Steward’s proposition.
5. Norma could not resist calling Mr. Steward back.
6. Norma did not agree with Mr. Steward to have the button unit brought back.
7. Arthur said he believed that Mr. Steward’s offer was a genuine one.
8. Norma wants Arthur to understand that she is interested in the proposition because the money would help the two of them.
9. Arthur could accept participating along with Norma if they were part of a research project.
10. Norma called Mr. Steward after she learned of Arthur’s death.

Key: l. T; 2. Т; 3. F; 4. F; 5. Т; 6. Т; 7. F; 8. Т; 9. F; 10. F

Choose the meaning that is closest to the meaning in the context of the story. Look for clues to help you guess correctly.

a. avoid
a. break
b. sob
b. pile
c. tremble
c. dry


a. disappointment
a. happily
b. disagreement
b. slowly
c. dismissal
c. suddenly


a. range
a. shoe
b. spy
b. glove
c. area
c. pajamas

Key: l. c; 2. а; 3. а; 4. b; 5. c; 6. a

Below are words from the story, each followed by a group of synonyms and antonyms. Decide which are synonyms and which are antonyms by referring to the context the word is used in.
1. repress: restrain, liberate, suppress, prohibit, emancipate, release, loosen
2. authentic: fallacious, genuine, legitimate, erroneous, untrustworthy, valid, orthodox, controvertible
3. eccentric: abnormal, conventional, peculiar, ordinary, common, irregular, queer, bizarre, typical
4. incredulous: skeptical, unbelieving, gullible, trustful, suspicious, inconvincible, simple, deceivable
5. numb: insensible, sensitive, conscious, unfeeling, dead, acute, dull, responsive, sharp, perceptive
1. S, A, S, S, A, A, A
2. A, S, S, A, A, S, S, A
3. S, A, S, A, A, S, S, S, A
4. S, S, A, A, S, S, A, A
5. S, A, A, S, S, A, S, A, A, A

Locate the items below in the story and give a paraphrase of the meaning. This exercise may be written or done orally as a basis for class discussion.
1. “I’ll get it...”
2. “Up to you...”
3. “Who do you represent?”
4. “...international scope.”
5. “...it’s a sick one.”
6. “Not that I believe a word...”
7. “Let it go...”
8. “Now you’re loading things.”
9. “...she gestured vaguely...”
10. “His voice was guarded.”
11. “...she cut him off.”
12. “...turned over the supper steaks...”

1. What do you think there was about Mr. Steward’s “tone” and “attitude” that Norma found offensive.
2. What kind of psychological research project might use the technique proposed by Mr. Steward? Have you ever heard of this kind of research? In your opinion, would this be an acceptable method to study human psychology?
3. Do you believe that Norma pushed the button “for us” – that is, to benefit her husband and herself? Why?
4. Explain the significance of Arthur’s life-insurance policy.

1. What does Norma’s comment about “Chinese peasants” and “diseased natives” reveal about her character?
2. Do you think most people would agree with Norma’s assertion that the death of someone you have “never seen...never will see...don’t even have to know about” is not important to you? How much do people care about the suffering of those whom they will never know?
3. How would you summarize the author’s point about human nature as expressed in this story?

Submitted by Erin Bouma