Another lovely English story from Jose Molina Marco. You’ll learn some new vocabulary and improve your listening comprehension.
I have adapted Jose’s story slightly from its original version.
A coach (or carriage) of a train
A little odd (strange)
To stare / to gaze
To put someone off (to stop them doing something) “Don’t put me off, I’m trying to concentrate.”
To be down on your luck
To be transfixed – to become motionless (paralyzed) with horror, wonder, or astonishment.
To pull away (a train, bus, car, etc)
Listening comprehension questions
1.Why did the old man need to tell his story quickly?
2. What happened to the old man’s parents and brother when he was young?
3. What did the old man do with the satchel when it was given to him?
4. What happened at the end of the story?
The Old Satchel by Jose Molina Marco
I was waiting for the train in the underground station. After a while, I could hear the sound of the train approaching and then I saw the light of the first coach appearing in the darkness of the tunnel.
I got on the train. The coach was almost full of people. I sat down in one of the few free seats. In front of me, there was a young mother with her son who looked about 8 years old. On the other side of her, there was a good-looking elderly man who had an old leather satchel on his lap.
I noticed that every so often, the boy leaned over and stared at the old satchel which seemed a little odd to me. His mother appeared a little uncomfortable about the behavior of her child and apologized to the elderly man. This didn’t put the boy off and he kept leaning over more often to stare at the satchel. His mother told him off again in a low voice.
Just as the child’s mother apologized yet again, a labourer in dirty work clothes, who had been sitting in front of the old man, stood up to get off the train. The boy immediately jumped from his seat and ran to this new free seat before somebody else could take it. Sitting there he could see the old leather satchel more easily. The train continued on its way to the next stop. The kid couldn’t help staring at the satchel and the elderly man politely said to his mother. “It seems that the boy likes this old satchel”
The mother said, “yes, it does”.
“Can I tell him the story of this old satchel?” The man asked.
“Yes, please, as long as this story finishes before the next two stops”. She replied.
So, the old man asked the kid If he wanted to know the story and the boy nodded very excitedly. The boy stared at him and the nice old man with his well-combed gray hair started the story.
“Many years ago, when I was not much older than you are now, I was living in a small village with my parents. My family was down on their luck, my father drank too much and he lost his job. As a result, he started to drink even more. This ruined his life completely.
My mother had a complicated pregnancy and felt ill all day. We didn’t even have money to buy food but we all loved each other. I knew my parents loved me a lot. I wanted to help them and, in spite of my young age, I started to look everywhere for a job. I didn’t know what to do to help my parents. Out of desperation I did something very wrong in a grocery store and, as a result, I was sent to a reform school far away from my home”.
“I was very happy there. Not because it was a good place to stay but because my parents didn’t have to take care of me and I had something to eat every day. A little later, I was told that my father had passed away because of cancer and my mother has also died giving birth to my brother who sadly did not survive either.”
At this moment the train stopped at the next station. The boy gazed open-eyed at the old man. He was transfixed by his story. The next minute, the train pulled away again on its way to the next station. The old man would have enough time to finish the story, so he continued.
“When my parents died, I was alone. I didn’t have a family. I only had one or two friends in the reform school. I was a lonely boy with no real home trying to behave myself and stay out of trouble”
“One day, I was sitting under the only tree there was in the small school garden when an old man, like I’m now, came to me with this same old satchel. I don’t know why but it really interested me at once”
“Hi” he said to me. “What are you doing?”. Then I answered him. “I’m hanging out just passing the time. Actually, I’m wasting my time doing nothing”.
“I can see that”, the old man replied, “and this is the reason I’m here. I want to give you this old, empty satchel. I know you’re alone but, I’m sure, you will know how to fill it with books that will help you to move forward and get through this particular period of your life”.
He handed me the satchel and I took it. That same day I began to take books from the reform school library and, since then, I’ve never stopped reading. I went to college and became a teacher. I’ve been a teacher all my life.”
The boy was smiling and his mother said “I’m sorry but we have to go. The train’s slowing down. We’ve got to get off at the next stop. Thank you for sharing this lovely story.”
“Do you know, I’ve been carrying the satchel around with me to pass it on to somebody who deserves it.” said the teacher. “Now, I’m sure that your boy is the right person”.
The teacher showed the satchel to the mother and said, “Can I, please?“
“I don’t understand what is happening here.” She replied, “but you’re right to think that my son is perhaps the right person”.
The mother moved closer and lowering her voice so that her son couldn’t hear, said “Our family situation is a bit different but strangely quite similar to yours. I can’t explain much more to you now, but please, I would appreciate it a lot if you would pass the satchel on to my boy”.
The teacher, smiling, handed the satchel to the boy who, wide-eyed with excitement, took it happily and said to the teacher “Thank you, sir”
When the train pulled away, the teacher was sitting, with his eyes closed, smiling happily.
Comprehension questions – answers
1.Why did the old man need to tell his story quickly? – The mother and the boy had to get off the train in two stops.
2. What happened to the old man’s parents and brother when he was young? – They all died.
3. What did the old man do with the satchel when it was given to him? – He filled it with books from the library.
4. What happened at the end of the story? – The old man gave the satchel to the boy and they we both very happy.
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English.
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