Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Improve your reading skills - story to read


His name was John Dafte, or as the school register put it, Dafte John. No one made jokes about it. He was a tall, hairy boy,with huge shoulders and long arms and a voice like a big drum. Junior boxing champion, captain of both the cricket and football teams – there wasn’t a sport he didn’t excel at. We called him, respectfully, Prince Kong.

I admired him tremendously. He was a smiling, good-natured hero, with a strong sense of fair play. He had only to stroll out onto the playground for the bullies to crawl back into their holes. ‘Pick someone your own size,’ he’d say. (It must have limited his choice: there was no one at school anywhere near his size. He dwarfed even the masters). I thought him a true prince. It didn’t worry me that he looked like a gorilla. I like gorillas. On the Monday morning after half term, he came to school with two black eyes, and a split and swollen nose, decorated with dark scabs like beetles. We crowded round him sympathetically. ‘Hey, Prince, you got dark glasses on?’  ‘ ’Ad an argument with a bulldozer, ’ave you?’‘Your mum been beating you up?’ I was not as surprised as the others that he should have come off worst in a fight. I’m good at maths, and can work out that it’s no use having the strength of ten, ‘If you happen to pick a quarrel with eleven. It would be just like Prince Kong, I thought, to go charging in to save someone from a gang of toughs, without stopping to count: what did puzzle me was that he should lie about it. I’d have expected him to smile and say, ‘Can’t win ’em all.’ Something like that. Instead he shouldered us roughly out of his way, his head down, his eyes furtive, muttering furiously, ‘Walked into a door.’

‘Poor old door, it didn’t stand a chance,’ I said, and wished I hadn’t when he glared at me. ‘Sorry, Prince.’ I said hastily, stepping back. I am thin and, like glass, very breakable. We watched him limp into the school building, and followed at a safe distance, puzzled and a little dismayed.
He and I were in different forms, so I did not see him again until school was over. I was waiting for one of my friends when he came down the steps, caught sight of me and hesitated, staring at me out of his bruised eyes. For the first time I felt nervous of him, and smiled uneasily. He limped over and stood looking down at me. A long way down
‘You’re clever, aren’t you?’ he said. I thought he was referring to my stupid remark about the door, and said hastily, ‘I’m sorry, Prince. I didn’t mean …. I was only joking.’ ‘What?’ he asked, puzzled; then shrugged the question away and went on, ‘I mean, you come top all the time. Brainy. Good at working things out – you know, problems.’ I wriggled my shoulders and replied with modesty, ‘Oh, I dunno. Just lucky, I guess.’

‘No, you’re clever.’ he repeated. I realised suddenly that he wanted me to be clever. His eyes, between their swollen, discoloured lids, were gazing at me pleadingly. If it had been anyone else but Prince Kong, I’d have thought he was frightened. ‘Well …..,’ I said – it wasn’t the thing to boast, but I didn’t want to let him down – ‘sort of, I suppose.’ I thought he looked relieved but he did not say anything. The silence became embarrassing.

‘Is there …..? Can I ….? I mean, if there’s anything I can do, just ask,’ I mumbled, uneasy beneath his strange, gloomy stare. ‘Is it maths? Latin? Not that I’m all that good …’ I tailed off. ‘Walking home with anybody?’ he asked. ‘No,’ I lied. I could see Mark on the steps, watching us from a respectful distance. I knew he would understand. It was an honour to walk with Prince Kong. Anyone would have jumped at the chance.

‘C’n I come with you, then?’ he asked. ‘Only I got a problem, see?’
‘Yes,’ I said eagerly. ‘Of course.’ I didn’t see. I couldn’t imagine what problem it could be. Not maths or Latin. Prince Kong never worried about his schoolwork. Conscious of his own enormous power, he was content to stay at the bottom. Like a submarine lying low. ‘If you tell anybody, I’ll skin you,’ he said. ‘I won’t!’ ‘You’d better not.’

excel - to be good at doing something
bruised - injured
limped - walked with difficulty
tailed off - became weaker

Answer the following questions:
1. There are two main characters in the story. Who are they?
2. Who is narrating the story? How do you know?
3. Why did Prince Kong attract a sympathetic crowd when he came to school on Monday morning?
4. Who is the school’s cleverest student in ‘The Champions’?

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