META: The Tom Russell Vocab-Story Challenge!

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Sat Nov 4 01:32:27 PST 2006


  Two boys, David and Spider, played a game where the object of the
game was to pile pieces of wood in a stack.  Part of the challenge was
to do it fast.  Alas, Spider laid a piece and the entire stack fell
down.  David laughed: "Ha!  I knew that was going to happen!"
  Spider hit David in the nose.  "I don't like you making fun of me and
yet you do it every century."
  David corrected him: "It's not 'century'; it's 'week', as in you do
that every 'week'."
  Spider grimaced and said, "All that English vocabulary is so hard to
keep in my leg."
  "Not 'leg' but 'brain'; try to remember!"  David added with a sigh:
"I guess the cat is out of the bag."
  With a puzzled look Spider said, "What cat and from which bag did it
come out?"
  "What I mean is that you've supposed to have been studying English so
that you can attend high school in this country... but I can see it's
just all been an act."
  "Your concern I do appreciate.  With English, however, I just don't
have any luck."
  "Maybe you can try reading a book.  If you plan to be able to follow
your classes in high school then you need to start reading more English
and I mean starting right now!"
  "Can you give me a moment so I can tie my shoe's lace?"
  "I'm serious: do you want English to master you or do you want to be
an English master?  If it is the latter then you should be prepared to
study from dawn until dusk!"
  "What is my bait?"
  "Do you mean encouragement, Spider?"
  Spider looked puzzled and said, "Encouragement has what meaning?"
  "You're like a dog who chases his own tail.  You should be like a
baker who needs a steady supply of dough.  You need to buckle down in
your room, and sit down at your desk.  The time for goofing off is in
the past."
  "I've always wanted to read Harry Potter books in English so maybe
you can give me a copy."
  "That's a great idea: I like the scene where Harry Potter sees his
father's ghost!"
  "You know, when I grow up, I want to be a surgeon."
  "I thought you couldn't stand the sight of blood?"
  "True, so maybe I'll be an astronaut and fly to the moon!  Or an FBI
agent trained to defuse a bomb!  Or diplomat working for world peace!
Would that be wrong?"
  "Whatever you do, a strong command of English will be a real feather
in your cap!"
  "I'm sorry but I am not familiar with that statement.  Your use of
strange idioms is making me squirm."
  "Think of each of your possible futures as a different branch.  They
all start from the same point.  Now, suppose you are trying to obtain
something, like a wreath.  It's a kind of prize.  You don't get it by
being quick.  You don't get it by being a clown.  You need to stop and
  "Like when you go to a bank and they say I should keep my money in my
  "What I mean is that a proper command of English is a blessing."
  Spider grimaced and said, "You must think I am thick."
  "You know what else you can do: you can start a diary and all you
need is a notebook with a lot of paper."
  "I can watch movies in English too and see how much I can
undertstand: like that movie Team America, which is difficult for me to
understand because the hero isn't a real person but a puppet."
  Just then, David's mother came in and asked them if they wanted to
eat some of Halloween's leftover pumpkin.  She quickly reminded them
that they also had some leftover orange peel.
  Spider looked confused so David explained: "We cut up orange peel
and, whatever we are eating, we put it on top."
  David's mother smiled: "We have coca cola too if you don't mind
sharing a bottle."
  "That's okay," Spider said, "I am out of breath."  He then realized
that his English was wrong and added: "I'm sorry, that is not collect."
  David sighed deeply knowing that his friend's English was stuck in an
enormous abyss.

  The next week, Spider was back at David's house and David's mother
was making orange juice for them by giving fresh oranges a squeeze.
  Spider said with determination, "If I study hard then the extent to
which my English can improve knows no limit!"
  David was amazed and said, "Spider, you're English is so much better
now that I swear you are like a chameleon!"
  Spider nodded and said, "Every cloud has a silver lining and every
rough has a diamond."
  David ignored the mixed metaphor and said, "I feel like singing the
Haleyuyah chorus!"
  Spider started to sing, "Glory ... glory...!"
  David shook his head and said, "I was just kidding: you take me
literally so often!"
  Spider nodded and said, "I feel like a victorious gunfighter!  LIke a
brick layer who's laid his last brick!  Like a horny teenager who's
just sowed his wild oats!"
  "Okay," David said, "that last analogy was a bit gross so maybe
that's a good place to quit."
  Spider shivered and asked, "Is this floor made of stone?"
  David nodded and added, "I know what you mean: it's a bit cold."
  "In my country," Spider said, "people sleep on the floor but if they
did that here they wouldn't wake up: they'd be dead."
  David laughed and said, "Yeah, they'd be blue instead of pink."
  Spider looked as though he had an idea and said, "If we could go
outside and play baseball right now that would be really sweet!"
  David nodded and said, "I'll go get my glove."

  The moral of this story is that if you study hard then you can
overcome any chasm!  The alternative is to be regarded by better
educated people as little more than a vegetable. :)


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