Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Flannery O'Connor" She wrote about the South. VOA.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I'm Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: And I'm Ray Freeman with the VOA Special English program, People in America. Today, we tell about writer Flannery O’Connor.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Late in her life someone asked the American writer Flannery O’Connor why she wrote. She said, "Because I am good at it." She was good. Yet, she was not always as good a writer as she became. She improved because she listened to others. She changed her stories. She re-wrote them, then re-wrote them again, always working to improve what she was creating. Flannery had always wanted to be a writer. After she graduated from Georgia State College for women, she asked to be accepted at a writing program at the State University of Iowa. The head of the school found it difficult to understand her southern speech. He asked her to write what she wanted. Then he asked to see some examples of her work. He saw immediately that the writing was full of imagination and bright with knowledge, like Flannery O’Connor herself.

RAY FREEMAN: Mary Flannery O’Connor was born March twenty-fifth, nineteen twenty-five, in the southern city of Savannah, Georgia.

Flannery O'Connor grew up in the small southern town of Milledgeville, Georgia. The year she was born, her father developed a rare disease called lupus. He died of the disease in 1941. By that time the family was living in the small southern town of Milledgeville, Georgia, in a house owned by Flannery's mother. Life in a small town in the American South was what O’Connor knew best. Yet she said, "If you know who you are, you can go anywhere."

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Many people in the town of Milledgeville thought she was different from other girls. She was kind to everyone, but she seemed to stand to one side of what was happening, as if she wanted to see it better. Her mother was her example. Her mother said, "I was brought up to be nice to everyone and not to tell my business to anyone." Flannery also did not talk about herself. But in her writing a silent and distant anger explodes from the quiet surface of her stories. Some see her as a Roman Catholic religious writer. They see her anger as the search to save her moral being through her belief in Jesus Christ. Others do not deny her Roman Catholic religious beliefs. Yet they see her not writing about things, but presenting the things themselves.

RAY FREEMAN: When she left the writing program at Iowa State University she was invited to join a group of writers at the Yaddo writers' colony. Yaddo is at Saratoga Springs in New York state. It provides a small group of writers with a home and a place to work for a short time. The following year, 1949, she moved to New York City. She soon left the city and lived with her friend Robert Fitzgerald and his family in the northeastern state of Connecticut. Fitzgerald says O’Connor needed to be alone to work during the day. And she needed her friends to talk to when her work was done.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: While writing her first novel, “Wise Blood”, she was stricken with the disease lupus that had killed her father. The treatment for lupus weakened her. She moved back to Georgia and lived the rest of her life with her mother on a farm outside Milledgeville. O’Connor was still able to write, travel, and give speeches. “Wise Blood” appeared in nineteen fifty-two. Both it and O’Connor's second novel, “The Violent Bear it Away,” are about a young man growing up. In both books the young men are unwilling to accept the work they were most fit to do. Like all of Flannery O’Connor's writing, the book is filled with humor, even when her meaning is serious. It shows the mix of a traditional world with a modern world. It also shows a battle of ideas expressed in the simple, country talk that O’Connor knew very well.

RAY FREEMAN: In “Wise Blood”, a young man, Hazel Motes, leaves the Army but finds his home town empty. He flees to a city, looking for "a place to be.” On the train, he announces that he does not believe in Jesus Christ. He says, "I wouldn't even if he existed. Even if he was on this train."

Many people in the town of Milledgeville thought she was different from other girls. His moving to the city is an attempt to move away from the natural world and become a thing, a machine. He decides that all he can know is what he can touch and see. In the end, however, he destroys his physical sight so that he may truly see, because he says that when he had eyes he was blind. Critics say his action seems to show that he is no longer willing to deny the existence of Jesus but now is willing to follow him into the dark.

The novel received high praise from critics. It did not become popular with the public, however.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: O’Connor's second novel, “The Violent Bear it Away,” was published in nineteen sixty. Like “Wise Blood,” it is a story about a young man learning to deal with life. The book opens with the young man, Francis Marion Tarwater, refusing to do the two things his grandfather had ordered him to do. These are to bury the old man deep in the ground, and to bring religion to his uncle's mentally sick child. Instead, Tarwater burns the house where his grandfather died and lets the mentally sick child drown during a religious ceremony.

RAY FREEMAN: Critics say Tarwater's violence comes from his attempt to find truth by denying religion. In the end, however, he accepts that he has been touched by a deeper force, the force of the word of God, and he must accept that word. Both of O’Connor's novels explore the long moment of fear when a young man must choose between the difficulties of growing up and the safe world of a child.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Flannery O’Connor is at least as well known for her stories as for her novels. Her first book of stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” appeared in nineteen fifty-five. In it she deals with many of the ideas she wrote about in “Wise Blood,” such as the search for Jesus Christ.

In many of the stories there is a conflict between the world of the spirit and the world of the body. In the story, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," a traveling workman with only one arm comes to a farm. He claims to be more concerned with things of the spirit than with objects.

RAY FREEMAN: The woman who owns the farm offers to let him marry her deaf daughter. He finally agrees when the mother gives him the farm, her car, and seventeen dollars for the wedding trip. He says, "Lady, a man is divided into two parts, body and spirit. . . The body, lady, is like a house: it don't go anywhere; but the spirit, lady, is like an automobile, always on the move."

He marries the daughter and drives off with her. When they stop to eat, the man leaves her and drives off toward the city. On the way he stops and gives a ride to a wandering boy. We learn that when the one-armed man was a child, his mother left him. Critics say that when he helps the boy, he is helping himself.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen sixty-four, O’Connor was operated on for a stomach disease. One result of this operation was the return of lupus, the disease that killed her father. On August third, nineteen sixty-four, Flannery O’Connor died. She was thirty-nine years old. Near the end of her life she said, "I'm a born Catholic, and death has always been brother to my imagination."

RAY FREEMAN: The next year, in nineteen sixty-five, her final collection of stories, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” appeared. In it she speaks of the cruelty of disease and the deeper cruelty that exists between parents and children. In these stories, grown children are in a struggle with parents they neither love nor leave. Many of the children feel guilty about hating the mothers who, the children feel, have destroyed them through love. The children want to rebel violently, but they fear losing their mothers' protection.

In nineteen seventy-one, O’Connor's “Collected Stories” was published. The book contains most of what she wrote. It has all the stories of her earlier collections. It also has early versions of both novels that were first published as stories. And it has parts of an uncompleted novel and an unpublished story. In nineteen seventy-two this last book won the American book industry's highest prize, The National Book Award. As one critic noted, Flannery O’Connor did not live long, but she lived deeply, and wrote beautifully.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This Special English program was written by Richard Thorman. I'm Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: And I'm Ray Freeman. Join us again next week for another People in America program on the Voice of America.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Cop and The Anthem by O. Henry

On his bench in Madison Square in New York City, Soapy moved uneasily. The wild geese were calling loudly. Couples snuggled up for lack of winter coats. Snow began to fall. It was very, very cold. No wonder Soapy was nervous about the coming winter.

A dead leaf fell in Soapy's lap. That was a sign from the winter spirit, Jack Frost. Jack Frost knows there are homeless people sleeping on benches, and he is kind enough to give them plenty of warning that, yes, winter is on the way. At the corners of the four streets leading to Madison Square, Jack Frost hands out his “cards”, the falling leaves, carried by the North Wind, so that the inhabitants of the outdoors may read them get themselves ready.

Soapy became aware of the fact that the time had come for him to prepare himself for all the difficulties that were coming. He needed to plan a strategy. That’s why he nervously moved on his bench.

Soapy didn’t have a lot of options. He wasn’t a bear, so he couldn’t hibernate. He wasn’t rich, so he couldn’t go on any Mediterranean cruises, to warm places under Southern skies like Acupulco or tropical beaches on Hawaii. Three months on the Island was what his soul craved. Three months of certain board and bed and congenial company, safe from wind and cops, seemed to Soapy the essence of things desirable. Yes, you guessed it, the Island was a prison.

For years the nice warm Blackwell's Island Prison had been his winter quarters. Just as his more fortunate fellow New Yorkers had bought their tickets to Palm Beach and the Riviera each winter, so Soapy had made his modest arrangements for his annual stay at the Island. And now the time was come. On the previous night three Sunday newspapers, one under his coat, another around his ankles, and the third over his lap, had failed to prevent the cold from getting to him as he slept on his bench near the fountain in the ancient square. He wasn’t very fond of shivering as he tried to sleep. So he looked forward to a warm cell in the Island prison. It was time. He didn’t want any charity, he didn’t want to stay in any shelter provided by the city. In Soapy's opinion the Law was better than Philanthropy. Sure, there were many opportunities for a free meal and a room provided by the city or by some church. But to one of Soapy's proud spirit the gifts of charity are not an option. You have to pay for it one way or another. If you don’t pay for it with money, you must pay in humiliation of spirit for every benefit received at the hands of philanthropy. For every bed of charity, you must take a bath, for every loaf of bread, you’ll have to answer questions or promise to look for a job, or some painful prospect like it. That’s why it is better to be a guest of the Island Prison, which though conducted by rules, does not interfere inappropriately with a gentleman's private affairs.

Soapy, having decided to go to the Island, at once set about accomplishing his desire. There were many easy ways of doing this. The most pleasant was was to dine luxuriously at some expensive restaurant; and then, after refusing to pay for the meal, be handed over quietly and without much fuss to a policeman. An accommodating judge would do the rest.

Soapy left his bench and strolled out of the square and across the level sea of asphalt, where Broadway and Fifth Avenue flow together. Up Broadway he turned, and stopped at a shiny cafe, where every night you could find the best wines and the finest food.

Soapy had total confidence in himself from the lowest button of his vest to the top button of his shirt. He was shaven, and his coat was decent and he had a neat black, very nice necktie that had been presented to him by a lady missionary on Thanksgiving Day. If he could reach a table in the restaurant without getting thrown out, success would be his. The portion of him that would show above the table would raise no doubt in the waiter's mind. A roasted duck, thought Soapy, would be about the thing--with a bottle of Chablis, and then Camembert Cheese, a cup of expresso and a cigar. One dollar for the cigar would be enough. The total he would simply say, he couldn’t pay. Then would come his arrest, and yet the meat would leave him filled and happy for the journey to his winter refuge in the jail.

But as Soapy set foot inside the restaurant door the head waiter's eye fell upon his dirty, torn trousers and decadent, worn out shoes. Strong and ready hands turned him about and pushed him in silence and haste to the sidewalk and so the fine meal of duck wouldn’t land on Soapy’s plate that night.

Soapy turned off Broadway. It seemed that his route to the desired island was not to be through the pleasant unpaid meal in a restaurant. He must invent some other way of breaking the law so he could enter the nice, warm jail.

At a corner of Sixth Avenue electric lights and cleverly displayed wares behind plate-glass made a shop window stand out. Soapy took a stone and threw it at the glass. People came running around the corner, a policeman in the front. Soapy stood still, with his hands in his pockets, and smiled at the sight of brass buttons.

"Where's the man that done that?" inquired the officer excitedly.

"Don't you figure out that I might have had something to do with it?" said Soapy, not without sarcasm, but friendly, as one greets good fortune.

The policeman's mind refused to accept Soapy even as a clue. Men who smash windows do not remain to talk about it with the cops. They run away as fast as they can. The policeman saw a man half way down the block running to catch a street car. He took out his club and he ran after the man. Soapy, with disgust in his heart, shuffled away. Now he was unsuccessful twice!

On the opposite side of the street was an inexpensive restaurant. It served people with large appetites and modest purses. It was crowded. The plates and silverware weren’t very fancy. The soup wasn’t bad, but also wasn’t very substantial. Into this place Soapy took his worn out shoes and torn, dirty trousers, and he wasn’t much different from any of the other customers. At a table he sat and ate a beefsteak, pancakes, doughnuts and pie. And then to the waiter be confessed that the he didn’t even have a dime to pay for any of it. Then he said to the waiter:

"Now, get busy and call a cop, and don't keep a gentleman waiting."

"No cop for you," said the waiter, with a tough voice and eye burning like bright cherries. "Hey, Con!"

Two waiters threw Soapy onto the sidewalk. Soapy landed there on his ear. He got up slowly, and beat the dust from his clothes. Arrest seemed but a rosy dream. The Island seemed very far away. A policeman who stood before a drug store two doors away laughed and walked down the street.

Five blocks Soapy traveled before his courage permitted him to try again to commit some crime in order to be arrested. This time the opportunity presented itself to him in a way that looked very, very simple. A young woman who looked modest and pretty was standing before a show window gazing with a lot of interest at its display of shaving mugs and inkstands, and two yards from the window a large policeman who looked pretty tough and mean leaned against a fire hydrant.

It was Soapy's plan to play the part of a crude womanizer. He pretended to sexually harass the young woman. The refined and elegant appearance of his victim and the appearance of the serious cop encouraged him to believe that he would soon feel the pleasant official grab on his arm that would insure his winter quarters on the right little, tight little isle.

Soapy straightened the lady missionary's tie, dragged his hands out of his sleeves, rubbing them together, set his hat at an angle and marched toward the young woman. He made eyes at her, then started coughing and clearing his throat. He smiled, winked, and acted very obnoxiously toward her. With half an eye Soapy saw that the policeman was watching him carefully. The young woman moved away a few steps, and again placed her attention on the shaving mugs in the shop window. Soapy followed, boldly stepping to her side, raised his hat and said:

"Ah there, honey baby! Don't you want to come and play in my yard?"

The policeman was still looking. The persecuted young woman had only to wave at him and Soapy would be practically on the way to his island. Already he imagined he could feel the cozy warmth of the station-house. The young woman faced him and, stretching out a hand, caught Soapy's coat sleeve.

“Sure, Mike," she said joyfully, "How about you treat me to a pint of good beer? I'd have spoken to you sooner, but the cop was watching."

With the young woman playing the enthusiastic receiver of his inappropriate advances, Soapy walked past the policeman overcome with sadness. He seemed doomed to liberty, unable to do anything wrong.

At the next corner he shook off his companion and ran. He halted in the district where by night are found the very well lit streets, happy hearts, great restaurants and theaters.

Women in furs and men in overcoats moved gaily in the wintry air. A sudden fear grabbed Soapy. He imagined that he was under some sort of curse that made him immune to arrest. The thought brought a little of panic to him, and when he came to another policeman lounging grandly in front of a richly decorated theatre he decided that he would try the crime of "disorderly conduct."

On the sidewalk Soapy began to yell drunken gibberish at the top of his harsh voice. He danced, howled, raved and caused enough noise to wake the dead.

The policeman twirled his club, turned his back to Soapy and remarked to a citizen.

"It’s one of those damn Yale students celebrating their football victory over Harvard. You know, Yale won and Harvard got zero points. He’s noisy; but no harm. We've instructions to leave those Yale students alone."

Disappointed, Soapy stopped his useless racket. Would a policeman never lay hands on him? In his imagination, the Island seemed like an unattainable paradise. He buttoned his thin coat against the chilling wind.

In a cigar store he saw a well-dressed man lighting a cigar at a swinging light. His silk umbrella he had set by the door on entering. Soapy stepped inside, secured the umbrella and walked off with it slowly. The man with the cigar followed quickly.

"My umbrella," he said, angrily.

"Oh, is it?" sneered Soapy, adding insult to petty theft. "Well, why don't you call a policeman? I took it. Your umbrella! Why don't you call a cop? There stands one on the corner."

The umbrella owner slowed his steps. Soapy did likewise, with a fear that luck would again run against him. The policeman looked at the two curiously.

"Of course," said the umbrella man--"that is--well, you know how these mistakes occur--I--if it's your umbrella I hope you'll excuse me--I picked it up this morning in a restaurant--If you recognise it as yours, why--I hope you'll--"

"Of course it's mine," said Soapy, viciously.

The ex-umbrella man retreated. The policeman hurried to assist a tall blonde in an opera cloak across the street in front of a street car that was approaching two blocks away.

Soapy walked eastward through a street damaged by road work. He threw the umbrella angrily into an excavation. He muttered against the men who wear helmets and carry clubs. Because he wanted to fall into their grasp, yet they seemed to treat him as a king who could do no wrong.

At last Soapy reached one of the avenues to the east where the glitter and turmoil was but faint. He set his face down this toward Madison Square, for the homing instinct survives even when the home is a park bench.

But on an unusually quiet corner Soapy came to a standstill. Here was an old church, quaint and rambling and gabled. Through one violet-stained window a soft light glowed, where, no doubt, the organist praticed over the keys, making sure of his mastery of the coming Sabbath anthem. For there drifted out to Soapy's ears sweet music that caught and held him transfixed.

The moon was above, shiny and calm; vehicles and pedestrians were few; sparrows sang sleepily under the roof--for a little while the scene might have been a country churchyard. And the anthem that the organist played glued Soapy to the iron fence, for he had known it well in the days when his life contained such things as mothers and roses and ambitions and friends and pure thoughts and collars.

The mixture of Soapy's receptive state of mind and the influences about the old church created a sudden and wonderful change in his soul. He viewed with immediate dislike the terrible life he had drifted into, the degraded days, unworthy desires, dead hopes, and bad decisions that made up his existence.

And also in a moment his heart responded excitedly to this new emotion. An immediate and strong impulse moved him to battle with his uncertain fate. He would pull himself out of the dirt; he would make a man of himself again; he would get rid of the evil that had taken possession of him. There was time; he was comparatively young yet; he would resurrect his old ambitions and follow them without failure. He would go back to work. He would go to night school and improve his situation. Those solemn but sweet organ notes had set up a revolution in him. Tomorrow he would go into the downtown district and find work. A fur importer had once offered him a place as driver. He would find that person tomorrow and ask for the position. He would be somebody in the world. He would--

Soapy felt a hand on his arm. He looked quickly around into the broad face of a policeman.

"What are you doing here?" asked the officer.

"Nothing," said Soapy.

"Then come along," said the policeman.

"Three months on the Island," said the judge in the Police Court the next morning.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pearl Buck, Author of "The Good Earth" from VOA

FAITH LAPIDUS: I’m Faith Lapidus.

JIM TEDDER: And I’m Jim Tedder with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the award-winning writer Pearl S. Buck.


FAITH LAPIDUS: The year was nineteen thirty-one. Americans were suffering through the Great Depression. The famous criminal Al Capone was sent to prison for not paying his taxes. “The Star Spangled Banner” officially became America’s national song. The Empire State Building in New York City was completed. And the top selling book in the United States was “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck.


JIM TEDDER: Pearl Buck won the Pulitzer Prize for the best novel by an American writer. She was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She wrote more than one hundred books. She also wrote short stories, poetry, plays, essays and children’s literature. But most people remember Pearl Buck for her novels about China. She knew the country and its people very well. For nearly forty years, China was her home.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Pearl’s parents were Caroline and Absalom Sydenstricker. They were religious workers in China. In eighteen ninety-two they were visiting in the United States when Pearl was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Three months after her birth, the family left the United States and moved back to China.

Pearl and her family lived among the Chinese people. Pearl played with Chinese children and visited their homes. She listened to their ideas and learned about their culture. From an early age, she spoke both Chinese and English.

JIM TEDDER: Pearl’s education began at home. Her mother taught her many of the things she would have learned in an American school. A Chinese tutor taught Pearl other subjects. They included the writings of the famous thinker Confucius and Chinese reading, writing and history. When she was seven, she began reading the works of British writer Charles Dickens. Many years later, after she had become a famous author, she said that Dickens’ writing style had the greatest influence on her own style.

FAITH LAPIDUS: In nineteen ten, Pearl went back to the United States to study philosophy at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. After graduation, she returned to China. Three years later, she met John Lossing Buck. He was a religious worker who studied agriculture. They were married and moved to a small village in the north of China. Their life among the poorest people provided the subject matter for many of the books she later wrote.


JIM TEDDER: In nineteen twenty, Pearl and John Buck’s first child was born. Her name was Carol. Doctors found that Carol had an unusual disease called PKU. This caused her to have trouble learning. Carol was sent to live at a special school in New Jersey. Pearl Buck was deeply saddened by having to send her only child to live far away from home. She also learned that she would never be able to give birth again.

But if it had not been for Carol’s health problems, her mother might never have become a famous writer. The reason was money. Pearl Buck needed a lot of it over the years to pay for her daughter’s care. So she tried writing books about the subject she knew best. Her first novel was called “East Wind, West Wind.”

It tells the story of a Chinese girl who learns about the western world. But it was Pearl Buck’s next book that made her famous and brought the money she needed.

PEARL BUCK: “Now when I began to write, not having anything else to write about, I only knew China. And my first very successful book was “The Good Earth.” I used to say to these young people, ‘Why don’t you write about your peasants? They are wonderful people.’ And they would say, ‘Oh nobody would be interested.’ And so I said well I’m gonna write that book then. If none of you will do it, I will write it. So I wrote ‘The Good Earth.’”

FAITH LAPIDUS: “The Good Earth” became the top selling book in the United States in nineteen thirty-one and nineteen thirty-two. Pearl Buck won the Pulitzer Prize. She also received the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In nineteen thirty-seven, “The Good Earth” became an Oscar-winning motion picture. The next year, Pearl S. Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

JIM TEDDER: “The Good Earth” is the story of a poor Chinese man named Wang Lung. His wife is O-Lan. They work together very hard and finally make enough money to buy some land for a farm.

After a time, they grow enough crops to feed their family well, with some left over to sell. Their lives improve greatly, and they are happy. But the good times do not last.

FAITH LAPIDUS: For a long time it does not rain. The land dries up and no crops will grow. Many people starve to death. Wang sells all he owns, except the land. Once again his family is poor and hungry. They beg on the streets to survive. Wang fears that they will die. But just when it seems that the end is near, good luck arrives.

JIM TEDDER: Poor people attack some rich people, hoping to get food and money. A crowd forces Wang into a rich man’s home. The rich man fears Wang and gives him gold coins. With this new-found wealth, Wang and his family survive. Every chance he gets, he buys more land. After a while he is richer than he ever thought he would be. For the rest of his life, Wang finds happiness in owning land and raising crops. He tells his sons that after he dies, they must never sell their land.

PEARL BUCK: “Now you couldn’t imagine anything less interesting to Americans, you would say, than a book like ‘The Good Earth.’ It came in the midst of depression times. And it was a comfort to the American people to know that there were people worse off than they were.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: In nineteen thirty-two, Pearl Buck wrote a book called “Sons.” It tells about Wang Lung’s family after his death. Three years later, she wrote “A House Divided.” This book is mostly about Wang Lung’s grandson, Wang Yuan, who lives during a time of revolution in China. This book tells how China’s people began to change from their old ways to a more modern way of thinking.

Pearl Buck wrote her first books about China at a time when most people in the world knew almost nothing about the Chinese way of life. She told her stories with honesty. Her readers soon learned that the Chinese were far different from the way they had been shown in Hollywood movies.


JIM TEDDER: After almost forty years in China, the writer moved back to the United States. She bought Green Hills Farm in eastern Pennsylvania. She began to write articles for newspapers and magazines. She expressed her opinion on war, politics, religion, equal rights for all people and many other subjects.

PEARL BUCK: “One of the sad things about war is’s not so much that you lose the money because you can always make money, somehow. But you lose people that you can’t replace … the people who should lead our country are the best, who die early … the bravest, the most brilliant, the ones with the best leadership … and they are the ones who die, out of proportion to their numbers.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: Pearl Buck’s ideas often brought her criticism. But she continued to speak and write about her support for the civil rights of black people in the United States. She also believed in birth control and equal rights for women. She said that there would be world peace only when all races had respect for each other.

PEARL BUCK: “We are one world and if we don’t know it, it’s dangerous. But I think we are beginning to know it more and more, and that does not mean that we give up our nationhood or our differences.”

JIM TEDDER: Pearl Buck gave many speeches in America. She talked to young people about the importance of a good education. She told them they needed to know more about other people around the world.

PEARL BUCK: “I beg of you to pay special attention to your history. Not just the history of the United States, but the history of the countries with which we are involved.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: In nineteen forty-nine, Pearl Buck helped start the Welcome House Adoption Agency. She had become very concerned about the children of mixed races around the world. She urged families to adopt these children without concern for the color of their skin or their cultural background. Pearl and her second husband, Richard Walsh, raised seven adopted children. Two of these were of mixed race. They also cared for many other children while they lived at Green Hills Farm.


JIM TEDDER: Pearl Buck died in nineteen seventy-three. She was eighty years old. She was buried near her house in Pennsylvania. Her memory lives on in the work done by Pearl S. Buck International. This organization provides adoption services and help to adopted people and their families. It also supports cultures around the world and works to end prejudice.

FAITH LAPIDUS: This program was written by Jim Tedder and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Faith Lapidus.

JIM TEDDER: And I’m Jim Tedder. You can learn about other famous Americans at You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"The Business of Winemaking, Part One" from Voice of America

FAITH LAPIDUS: I’m Faith Lapidus.

DOUG JOHNSON: And I’m Doug Johnson with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Since ancient times, people have grown grapes to produce wine. Join us as we tell about the history of wine and how it is made. We will also visit a vineyard in the United States and meet a winemaker.


FAITH LAPIDUS: It is hard to say how long people have been drinking wine. Wine is far older than recorded history. Some experts say it is as old as civilization itself.

The first wine ever made was probably an accident. People in ancient times might have picked ripe grapes. Some juicy grapes at the bottom of the container were crushed together. As the grapes broke open, yeasts on the skins went to work turning sugar from the fruit into alcohol. This is the fermentation process that turns grape juice into wine.

DOUG JOHNSON: Winemaking probably began in the ancient Near East and Egypt. Burial places in ancient Egypt provide information about wine and its importance in Egyptian culture. Egyptian rulers were buried with wine offerings to help them in the afterlife. Archeological evidence also suggests that some of the earliest known wine producers were in Georgia and Iran thousands of years ago.

FAITH LAPIDUS: North Africa, Spain, France and Italy had their first vineyards during the Greek and Phoenician empires. The ancient Romans greatly expanded the winemaking industry. By the end of the Roman Empire, almost all of the major wine producing areas still in production today had been established in western Europe.

During the period of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church owned many of the great vineyards of Europe. Wine also played an important part in the church’s religious ceremonies.

Wine was not just about having an enjoyable drink. It could be stored for future use. And, it was nutritious and often much safer to drink than water during early times, especially in cities.

Some experts say that up until the the sixteen hundreds in Europe, wine was one of the only prepared drinks. After that, wine had competition from beer, coffee and tea.

DOUG JOHNSON: One thing was very important for the start of the modern wine industry. Wine needed a better storage method. In the mid sixteen hundreds people began making glass wine bottles that were stronger and low cost. Before that, wine was transported in containers made out of wood, clay or leather.

Glass bottles and the tight seal of a cork permitted wine to last longer in storage. It became clear that wine aged well and tasted even better over time. These developments led to a whole new kind of wine culture.

Today, the top wine producing countries in the world are Italy, France and Spain, followed by the United States.

Although Europe is still important in the wine industry, many other countries around the world are making top wines. These include Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Australia. Wine production is even increasing in countries like India and China.


FAITH LAPIDUS: Before we discuss how wine is made, we tell about several kinds of grapes. Some grapes are grown internationally. Chardonnay is probably the best known white grape. sauvignon blanc and riesling are other well known white grapes. Grapes for making red wine include pinot noir, syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

Other kinds of grapes are special in certain areas. For example, albarino and tempranillo are grown in Spain while Italian grapes include vermentino and nebbiolo. Other more local examples include Austria’s gruner veltliner grape and Hungary’s kadarka.

DOUG JOHNSON: Grapes contain water, sugar, acidity and tannin. These four elements are influenced by the kind of grape and the soil and climate of the vineyard. Wine growers can also affect the taste of their wine using other methods.

The French have a special name for the importance of the place where a grape is grown and its effect on the taste of a wine. “Terroir” is the word used to describe how a vineyard’s soil and climate give a wine special qualities. For example, a chardonnay wine grown in France will taste very different from one grown in California.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Now that we know about grapes and geography, we have some important tools for understanding the label on a bottle of wine. Some vineyards define their wine by the kind of grapes used in making the wine. Others define their wine based on where it is produced, such as wine made in France.

A bottle of wine may cost several dollars or hundreds of dollars. The cost of a wine usually has to do with how it was produced. Some wines are mass produced by companies with well known brand names. Other wines are made in very small quantities and require a great deal of time and effort to produce.


DOUG JOHNSON: How grapes become wine begins with the harvest. A winemaker must make an important decision about the best time to pick the grapes. Next, the grapes must be prepared for fermentation. The grapes are closely examined and sorted. Diseased or overly ripe grapes are thrown away.

Some winemakers choose to keep the stems of the grapes, while others remove them. The grapes are then crushed by machines. In the past, people crushed the grapes with their feet inside large containers. Some winemakers today still use this method. The grapes and their liquid are then stored in large containers where fermentation takes place.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The juice of white grapes is separated from the skins before fermentation. The skins of red grapes stay with the juice during fermentation. The skins give the wine its red color and much of its taste.

During fermentation, sweet grape juice slowly turns into a dryer and more complex tasting wine. During this stage, yeasts are changing sugar into alcohol, heat and carbon dioxide. Next, the wine is pressed so that solids are removed from the liquid.

Wine is often then stored in wooden containers called barrels. Aging the wine in barrels permits the flavors to come together. The oak wood can also give the wine a special taste. After the wine has aged for an extended period of time it is put into bottles. The wine is now ready to drink.


DOUG JOHNSON: Our description of winemaking is very general, but it gives you an idea of the process. In the United States, California is the most famous and top producing state for wine. But most people do not know that there are wineries in all fifty American states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

In nineteen forty-five, there was just one vineyard in the state of Maryland. Today, there are about forty vineyards in the state and that number is growing.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Earlier this month, we visited Black Ankle Vineyards in Maryland to learn more about wine production. Ed Boyce and Sarah O’Herron are a husband and wife team who own this fifty-nine hectare farm.

During our visit, many of the grapes were being harvested. Ms. O’Herron took us to check on the remaining grapes.

SARAH O’HERRON: “So this is Cabernet Sauvignon, that’s still on the vines. So they’re coming along.”

REPORTER: “So when will these be ready?”

SARAH O’HERRON: “ Two weeks maybe? They’re getting close, though.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: Ms. O’Herron tastes a grape and looks at its seeds.

SARAH O’HERRON: “And then these skins are still a little bit crunchy still. A little tannic, but not so much. It’s getting, these guys are getting close, which is good.”

DOUG JOHNSON: Ms. O’Herron shows us containers of newly picked pinot noir grapes. These grapes are now going through the wine process we talked about earlier.

Ed Boyce and Sarah O’Herron once worked as business professionals. But they spent a great deal of time travelling around the world and researching wine and the wine industry.

They decided to change careers and make wine their life’s work. They bought the farm that would become Black Ankle Vineyards in two thousand two. Their first full harvest was in two thousand six.

We asked Ms. O’Herron about the difficulties of being a winemaker.

SARAH O’HERRON: “First and foremost, it’s farming. We grow everything here right on this farm, so you are very much beholden to the weather, just like any other kind of farming. This year has been mostly a hot dry year, that’s generally good for us. But we can have a big rain storm, we just had a bunch of rain, and that will make an impact.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: Ms. O’Herron says their vineyard is getting increasing attention for the quality of their wine. She says this is partly because people do not expect such great wine to be produced in a state that is relatively unknown for its wine traditions.

Black Ankle Vineyards is a good example of how local winemakers are adding to the culture of wine production in the United States.

DOUG JOHNSON: Next week, we will continue our discussion about wine and talk to a wine professor and writer. This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Doug Johnson.

FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus. You can comment on this program on our website, Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Graves-End Road" by Caty Weaver, from VOA

PAT BODNAR: Now, the VOA Special English program AMERICAN STORIES.

I'm Pat Bodnar. October thirty-first is Halloween. In the spirit of this ancient holiday, we present a story written by Special English reporter and producer Caty Weaver. It's called "The Boy on Graves-End Road.

NARRATOR: Kelly Ryan was making dinner. Her ten-year-old son Benjamin was watching television in the living room. Or at least she thought he was.

KELLY: "Benny-boy, do you want black beans or red beans?"

BEN: "Red beans, Mama."

Kelly: "Don't do that, Ben. You scared me half to death! You're going to get it now ... "

NARRATOR: Ben had come up quietly right behind her.


KELLY: "I'll get back to you, stinker!"

NARRATOR: Kelly goes to the phone, but as soon as she lays her hand on it, the ringing stops.

KELLY: "How strange. Oh, the beans!"

NARRATOR: Kelly turns her attention back to cooking. As soon as she does, the phone rings again.

KELLY: "Honey, can you get that?"

BEN: "Hello? Oh, hi. Yes, I remember. Sure, it sounds fun. Let me ask my mom. Can you hold? She might wanna talk to your mom. Oh, um, OK. See you tomorrow."

KELLY: "Ben, your rice and beans are on the table. Let's eat."


KELLY: "So, what was that call about?"

BEN: "That was Wallace Gray. You know him, from class. He wants to play tomorrow. Can I go home with him after school? Please, Mom? I get bored around here waiting for you after work."

KELLY: "But, Ben, I don't even know his parents. Maybe I should talk to them."

BEN: "You can't, Mom. He was with his babysitter. He said his parents wouldn't be home until late tonight and they would leave before he went to school in the morning. Please Mom, Wallace lives right over on Graves-End Road. It's a five-minute walk from here. PLEASE,?”

KELLY: "Well, OK. What's so great about this guy, anyway? You've got a ton of friends to play with."

BEN: "I know. But Wallace is just different. He's got a lot of imagination.”

NARRATOR: The school week passes, and Ben starts to go home almost every day with Wallace. Kelly notices a change in her son. He seems tired and withdrawn. His eyes do not seem to really look at her. They seem ... lifeless. On Friday night she decides they need to have a talk.

KELLY: "Sweetie, what's going on with you? You seem so tired and far away. Is something wrong? Did you and your new friend have a fight?"

BEN:"No, Mom. We've been having a great time. There's nothing wrong with us. Why don't you like Wallace? You don't even know him, but you don't trust him."

KELLY: "Benjamin, what are you talking about? I don't dislike Wallace. You're right, I don't know him. You just don't seem like yourself. You've been very quiet the past few nights."

BEN: "I'm sorry, Mom. I guess I'm just tired. I have a great time with Wallace. We play games like cops and robbers, but they seem so real that half of the time I feel like I'm in another world. It's hard to explain. It's like, it’s like ... "

KELLY: "I think the word you're looking for is intense."

BEN: "Yeah, that's it -- it's intense."

KELLY: "Well, tell me about today. What kind of game did you play?"


BEN: "We were train robbers. Or Wallace was. I was a station manager. Wallace was running through a long train, from car to car. He had stolen a lot of money and gold from the passengers. I was chasing right behind him, moving as fast as I could. Finally he jumps out of the train into the station to make his escape. But I block his path. He grabs a woman on the station platform. She screams 'No, no!' But he yells 'Let me through, or she dies.' So I let him go."

KELLY: "What happened then?"

BEN: "Well, that's what was weird and, like you said, intense. Wallace threw the lady onto the tracks. And laughed. He said that's what evil characters do in games. They always do the worst."

NARRATOR: Later, after Ben went to bed, Kelly turned on the eleven o'clock news. She was only half-listening as she prepared a list of things to do the next day, on Halloween.

KELLY: "Let's see, grocery shopping, Halloween decorating, dog to the groomer, hardware store, clean up the garden ...


NEWS ANNOUNCER: "... the victim, who has not been identified, was killed instantly. Reports say it appears she was pushed off the station platform into the path of the oncoming train. It happened during rush hour today. Some witnesses reported seeing two boys running and playing near the woman. But police say they did not see any images like that on security cameras at the station. In other news, there was more trouble today as workers protested outside the Hammond ... "

KELLY: "No! It can't be. The station is an hour away. They couldn't have gotten there. How could they? It's just a coincidence."

NARRATOR: The wind blew low and lonely that night. Kelly slept little. She dreamed she was waiting for Ben at a train station. Then, she saw him on the other side, running with another little boy.

It must be Wallace she thought. The little boy went in and out of view. Then, all of a sudden, he stopped and looked across the tracks -- directly at her.

He had no face.

NARRATOR: Saturday morning was bright and sunny, a cool October day. Kelly made Ben eggs and toast and watched him eat happily.

KELLY: "You know, Benny-boy, a woman DID get hurt at the train station yesterday. She actually got hit by a train. Isn't that strange?"

NARRATOR: She looked at Ben.

BEN: "What do you mean, Mom?"

KELLY: "Well, you and Wallace were playing that game yesterday. About being at a train station. You said he threw a woman off the platform, and she was killed by a train."

NARRATOR: Kelly felt like a fool even saying the words. She was speaking to a ten-year-old who had been playing an imaginary game with another ten-year-old. What was she thinking?

BEN: "I said we played that yesterday? I did? Hmmm. No, we played that a few days ago, I think. It was just a really good game, really intense. Yesterday we played pirates. I got to be Captain Frank on the pirate ship, the Argh.

"Wallace was Davey, the first mate. But he tried to rebel and take over the ship so I made him walk the plank. Davey walked off into the sea and drowned. Wallace told me I had to order him to walk the plank. He said that's what evil pirates do."

KELLY: "I guess he's right. I don't know any pirates, but I do hear they're pretty evil!"

BEN: "So can I play with Wallace today when you are doing your errands? Please, Mom? I don't want to go shopping and putting up Halloween decorations."

KELLY: "Oh, whatever. I guess so. I'll pick you up at Wallace's house at about five-thirty, so you can get ready for trick or treating. Where does he live again?

BEN: "Graves-End Road. I don't know the street number but there are only two houses on each side. His is the second one on the left."

KELLY: "OK. I can find that easy enough. Do you still want me to pick up a ghost costume for you?"

BEN: "Yep. Oh, and guess what, Mom: Wallace says he's a ghost, too! I suppose we'll haunt the neighborhood together."

NARRATOR: Everywhere Kelly went that day was crowded. She spent an hour and a half just at the market. When she got home, decorating the house for Halloween was difficult.

But finally she had it all up the way she wanted.

KELLY: "Oh, gosh, five already. I don't even have Ben's costume."

NARRATOR: She jumped into her car and drove to Wilson Boulevard. The party store was just a few blocks away.

Kelly soon found the ghost costume that Ben wanted. She bought it and walked out of the store.

EILEEN: "Hey, Kelly! Long time no see. How's Benjamin doing?"

KELLY: "Eileen! Wow, it’s great to see you. How's Matt? We've been so busy since the school year started, we haven't seen anyone!"

EILEEN: "Matt's good. Well, he broke his arm last month so no sports for him. It is driving him crazy, but at least he's got a lot of time for school now!"

EILEEN: "Anyway, Matt was wondering why Benny-boy never comes by anymore. We saw him running around the neighborhood after school last week. It looks like he’s having fun, but he's always alone. We don't need to set up a play date. Ben should know that. You just tell him to come by anytime -- "

KELLY: "Wait, wait a minute. Alone? What do mean alone? He started playing with a new friend, Wallace somebody, after school, like everyday this past week. Ben hasn't been alone. Wallace Gray, that's it. Do you know him? Does Matt?"

EILEEN: "Oh, Kell. Kelly, I'm sure he's a fine kid. I don't know him but don't worry, Ben's got great taste in friends, we know that! I'm sure he wasn't really alone, he was probably just playing hide and seek or something. I didn't mean to worry you. I guess everybody's on edge because of what happened to the Godwin boy this morning."

NARRATOR: Kelly suddenly felt cold and scared. What Godwin boy? And what happened to him? She was not sure she wanted to know, but she had to ask.

EILEEN: "Frank Godwin's youngest boy, Davey, the five-year-old. You know Frank, we call him Captain. He used to be a ship captain. Well, this morning the rescue squad found Davey in Blackhart Lake. They also found a little toy boat that his dad made for him. Davey and his dad named it the Argh. Davey must have been trying to sail it. It’s so sad."

KELLY: "Wait, he's dead?

EILEEN: "Yes. Davey drowned."

KELLY: "Where's Blackhart Lake?"

EILEEN: "It's right off Graves-End Road, right behind that little cemetery. That's why they call it Graves-End. Kelly, where are you going?"

Kelly: "I've got to get Benjamin."


NARRATOR: Kelly raced down Main Street. She had no idea who Wallace Gray was or how he was involved in any of this. But she did not trust him and she knew her child was in danger.

Finally she was at Graves-End Road.

BEN: "Only two houses on each side."

NARRATOR: She remembered what Ben had told her.

EILEEN: "Right behind that little cemetery."

NARRATOR: And what Eileen had told her. Kelly got out of the car and walked down the street. She looked around.

BEN: "It’s the second one on the left."

NARRATOR: She could see the lake. Some fog was coming up as the sky darkened on this Halloween night. But there was no second house. Instead, what lay before her was grass and large white stones. The cemetery. Kelly walked through the gate into the yard of graves.

Kelly: "Ben?"

NARRATOR: No answer. She kept walking.

KELLY: "Ben? Answer me. I know you're here."

NARRATOR: Again no answer. But the wind blew and some leaves began to dance around a headstone. Kelly walked slowly toward the grave. Suddenly the sky blackened -- so dark, she could not see anything. She felt a force pushing at her. It tried to push her away from the grave. But she knew she had to stay.

KELLY: "Benjamin Owen Orr, this is your mother. Come out this second!"

NARRATOR: No one answered, except for the sound of the blowing wind. The darkness lifted. Silvery moonlight shone down directly onto the old gravestone in front of her. But Kelly already knew whose name she would see.

KELLY: "'Wallace Gray. October thirty-first, nineteen hundred, to October thirty-first, nineteen hundred and ten. Some are best when laid to rest.'"

NARRATOR: Kelly took a deep breath. Then ...

KELLY: "Wallace Gray this play date is OVER! Give me back my son. Wallace, you are in TIME-OUT."

NARRATOR: Suddenly, the ground shoots upward like a small volcano. Soil, sticks and worms fly over Kelly's head and rain down again -- followed by her son, who lands beside her.


KELLY: "Ben! Ben!"

BEN: (COUGHING, CHOKING) "Mom, Mom! Are you there? I can't see. All this dirt in my eyes."

KELLY: "Ben, I'm here, I’m here baby, right here. Oh, sweet Benny-boy. Can you breathe? Are you really ok? What happened? How long were you in there?"

BEN: "I don't know, Mom. But I didn't like it. I didn't like where Wallace lives. I want to go home."

KELLY: "Oh, me too, Sweetie. C’mon, Ben, put your arm around me. C’mon.


BEN: "And Mom, one more thing ... "

KELLY: "What is it, Ben?"

BEN "I don't want to be a ghost for Halloween."


PAT BODNAR: Our story "The Boy on Graves-End Road" was written and produced by Caty Weaver. The voices were Andrew Bracken, Faith Lapidus, Katherine Cole, Shirley Griffith and Jim Tedder. I'm Pat Bodnar.

Join us again next week for another American story in VOA Special English.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Beyond The Door" by Philip K. Dick
Read by Roy Trumbull

Did you ever wonder at the lonely life the bird in a cuckoo clock
has to lead--that it might possibly love and hate just as easily as
a real animal of flesh and blood? Philip Dick used that idea for
this brief fantasy tale. We're sure that after reading it you'll
give cuckoo clocks more respect.

"Beyond The Door" by Philip K. Dick

Larry Thomas bought a cuckoo clock
for his wife--without knowing the
price he would have to pay.

That night at the dinner table he brought it out and set it down beside
her plate. Doris stared at it, her hand to her mouth. "My God, what is
it?" She looked up at him, bright-eyed.

"Well, open it."

Doris tore the ribbon and paper from the square package with her sharp
nails, her bosom rising and falling. Larry stood watching her as she
lifted the lid. He lit a cigarette and leaned against the wall.

"A cuckoo clock!" Doris cried. "A real cuckoo clock like my mother
had." She turned the clock over and over. "Just like my mother had, when
Pete was still alive." Her eyes sparkled with tears.

"It's made in Germany," Larry said. After a moment he added, "Carl got
it for me wholesale. He knows some guy in the clock business. Otherwise
I wouldn't have--" He stopped.

Doris made a funny little sound.

"I mean, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to afford it." He scowled.
"What's the matter with you? You've got your clock, haven't you? Isn't
that what you want?"

Doris sat holding onto the clock, her fingers pressed against the brown

"Well," Larry said, "what's the matter?"

He watched in amazement as she leaped up and ran from the room, still
clutching the clock. He shook his head. "Never satisfied. They're all
that way. Never get enough."

He sat down at the table and finished his meal.

The cuckoo clock was not very large. It was hand-made, however, and
there were countless frets on it, little indentations and ornaments
scored in the soft wood. Doris sat on the bed drying her eyes and
winding the clock. She set the hands by her wristwatch. Presently she
carefully moved the hands to two minutes of ten. She carried the clock
over to the dresser and propped it up.

Then she sat waiting, her hands twisted together in her lap--waiting for
the cuckoo to come out, for the hour to strike.

As she sat she thought about Larry and what he had said. And what she
had said, too, for that matter--not that she could be blamed for any of
it. After all, she couldn't keep listening to him forever without
defending herself; you had to blow your own trumpet in the world.

She touched her handkerchief to her eyes suddenly. Why did he have to
say that, about getting it wholesale? Why did he have to spoil it all?
If he felt that way he needn't have got it in the first place. She
clenched her fists. He was so mean, so damn mean.

But she was glad of the little clock sitting there ticking to itself,
with its funny grilled edges and the door. Inside the door was the
cuckoo, waiting to come out. Was he listening, his head cocked on one
side, listening to hear the clock strike so that he would know to come

Did he sleep between hours? Well, she would soon see him: she could ask
him. And she would show the clock to Bob. He would love it; Bob loved
old things, even old stamps and buttons. He liked to go with her to the
stores. Of course, it was a little awkward, but Larry had been staying
at the office so much, and that helped. If only Larry didn't call up
sometimes to--

There was a whirr. The clock shuddered and all at once the door opened.
The cuckoo came out, sliding swiftly. He paused and looked around
solemnly, scrutinizing her, the room, the furniture.

It was the first time he had seen her, she realized, smiling to herself
in pleasure. She stood up, coming toward him shyly. "Go on," she said.
"I'm waiting."

The cuckoo opened his bill. He whirred and chirped, quickly,
rhythmically. Then, after a moment of contemplation, he retired. And the
door snapped shut.

She was delighted. She clapped her hands and spun in a little circle. He
was marvelous, perfect! And the way he had looked around, studying her,
sizing her up. He liked her; she was certain of it. And she, of course,
loved him at once, completely. He was just what she had hoped would come
out of the little door.

Doris went to the clock. She bent over the little door, her lips close
to the wood. "Do you hear me?" she whispered. "I think you're the most
wonderful cuckoo in the world." She paused, embarrassed. "I hope you'll
like it here."

Then she went downstairs again, slowly, her head high.

Larry and the cuckoo clock really never got along well from the start.
Doris said it was because he didn't wind it right, and it didn't like
being only half-wound all the time. Larry turned the job of winding over
to her; the cuckoo came out every quarter hour and ran the spring down
without remorse, and someone had to be ever after it, winding it up

Doris did her best, but she forgot a good deal of the time. Then Larry
would throw his newspaper down with an elaborate weary motion and stand
up. He would go into the dining-room where the clock was mounted on the
wall over the fireplace. He would take the clock down and making sure
that he had his thumb over the little door, he would wind it up.

"Why do you put your thumb over the door?" Doris asked once.

"You're supposed to."

She raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure? I wonder if it isn't that you
don't want him to come out while you're standing so close."

"Why not?"

"Maybe you're afraid of him."

Larry laughed. He put the clock back on the wall and gingerly removed
his thumb. When Doris wasn't looking he examined his thumb.

There was still a trace of the nick cut out of the soft part of it.
Who--or what--had pecked at him?

* * * * *

One Saturday morning, when Larry was down at the office working over
some important special accounts, Bob Chambers came to the front porch
and rang the bell.

Doris was taking a quick shower. She dried herself and slipped into her
robe. When she opened the door Bob stepped inside, grinning.

"Hi," he said, looking around.

"It's all right. Larry's at the office."

"Fine." Bob gazed at her slim legs below the hem of the robe. "How nice
you look today."

She laughed. "Be careful! Maybe I shouldn't let you in after all."

They looked at one another, half amused half frightened. Presently Bob
said, "If you want, I'll--"

"No, for God's sake." She caught hold of his sleeve. "Just get out of
the doorway so I can close it. Mrs. Peters across the street, you

She closed the door. "And I want to show you something," she said. "You
haven't seen it."

He was interested. "An antique? Or what?"

She took his arm, leading him toward the dining-room. "You'll love it,
Bobby." She stopped, wide-eyed. "I hope you will. You must; you must
love it. It means so much to me--_he_ means so much."

"He?" Bob frowned. "Who is he?"

Doris laughed. "You're jealous! Come on." A moment later they stood
before the clock, looking up at it. "He'll come out in a few minutes.
Wait until you see him. I know you two will get along just fine."

"What does Larry think of him?"

"They don't like each other. Sometimes when Larry's here he won't come
out. Larry gets mad if he doesn't come out on time. He says--"

"Says what?"

Doris looked down. "He always says he's been robbed, even if he did get
it wholesale." She brightened. "But I know he won't come out because he
doesn't like Larry. When I'm here alone he comes right out for me, every
fifteen minutes, even though he really only has to come out on the

She gazed up at the clock. "He comes out for me because he wants to. We
talk; I tell him things. Of course, I'd like to have him upstairs in my
room, but it wouldn't be right."

There was the sound of footsteps on the front porch. They looked at each
other, horrified.

Larry pushed the front door open, grunting. He set his briefcase down
and took off his hat. Then he saw Bob for the first time.

"Chambers. I'll be damned." His eyes narrowed. "What are you doing
here?" He came into the dining-room. Doris drew her robe about her
helplessly, backing away.

"I--" Bob began. "That is, we--" He broke off, glancing at Doris.
Suddenly the clock began to whirr. The cuckoo came rushing out, bursting
into sound. Larry moved toward him.

"Shut that din off," he said. He raised his fist toward the clock. The
cuckoo snapped into silence and retreated. The door closed. "That's
better." Larry studied Doris and Bob, standing mutely together.

"I came over to look at the clock," Bob said. "Doris told me that it's a
rare antique and that--"

"Nuts. I bought it myself." Larry walked up to him. "Get out of here."
He turned to Doris. "You too. And take that damn clock with you."

He paused, rubbing his chin. "No. Leave the clock here. It's mine; I
bought it and paid for it."

In the weeks that followed after Doris left, Larry and the cuckoo clock
got along even worse than before. For one thing, the cuckoo stayed
inside most of the time, sometimes even at twelve o'clock when he should
have been busiest. And if he did come out at all he usually spoke only
once or twice, never the correct number of times. And there was a
sullen, uncooperative note in his voice, a jarring sound that made Larry
uneasy and a little angry.

But he kept the clock wound, because the house was very still and quiet
and it got on his nerves not to hear someone running around, talking and
dropping things. And even the whirring of a clock sounded good to him.

But he didn't like the cuckoo at all. And sometimes he spoke to him.

"Listen," he said late one night to the closed little door. "I know you
can hear me. I ought to give you back to the Germans--back to the Black
Forest." He paced back and forth. "I wonder what they're doing now, the
two of them. That young punk with his books and his antiques. A man
shouldn't be interested in antiques; that's for women."

He set his jaw. "Isn't that right?"

The clock said nothing. Larry walked up in front of it. "Isn't that
right?" he demanded. "Don't you have anything to say?"

He looked at the face of the clock. It was almost eleven, just a few
seconds before the hour. "All right. I'll wait until eleven. Then I want
to hear what you have to say. You've been pretty quiet the last few
weeks since she left."

He grinned wryly. "Maybe you don't like it here since she's gone." He
scowled. "Well, I paid for you, and you're coming out whether you like
it or not. You hear me?"

Eleven o'clock came. Far off, at the end of town, the great tower clock
boomed sleepily to itself. But the little door remained shut. Nothing
moved. The minute hand passed on and the cuckoo did not stir. He was
someplace inside the clock, beyond the door, silent and remote.

"All right, if that's the way you feel," Larry murmured, his lips
twisting. "But it isn't fair. It's your job to come out. We all have to
do things we don't like."

He went unhappily into the kitchen and opened the great gleaming
refrigerator. As he poured himself a drink he thought about the clock.

There was no doubt about it--the cuckoo should come out, Doris or no
Doris. He had always liked her, from the very start. They had got along
well, the two of them. Probably he liked Bob too--probably he had seen
enough of Bob to get to know him. They would be quite happy together,
Bob and Doris and the cuckoo.

Larry finished his drink. He opened the drawer at the sink and took out
the hammer. He carried it carefully into the dining-room. The clock was
ticking gently to itself on the wall.

"Look," he said, waving the hammer. "You know what I have here? You know
what I'm going to do with it? I'm going to start on you--first." He
smiled. "Birds of a feather, that's what you are--the three of you."

The room was silent.

"Are you coming out? Or do I have to come in and get you?"

The clock whirred a little.

"I hear you in there. You've got a lot of talking to do, enough for the
last three weeks. As I figure it, you owe me--"

The door opened. The cuckoo came out fast, straight at him. Larry was
looking down, his brow wrinkled in thought. He glanced up, and the
cuckoo caught him squarely in the eye.

Down he went, hammer and chair and everything, hitting the floor with a
tremendous crash. For a moment the cuckoo paused, its small body poised
rigidly. Then it went back inside its house. The door snapped tight-shut
after it.

The man lay on the floor, stretched out grotesquely, his head bent over
to one side. Nothing moved or stirred. The room was completely silent,
except, of course, for the ticking of the clock.

* * * * *

"I see," Doris said, her face tight. Bob put his arm around her,
steadying her.

"Doctor," Bob said, "can I ask you something?"

"Of course," the doctor said.

"Is it very easy to break your neck, falling from so low a chair? It
wasn't very far to fall. I wonder if it might not have been an accident.
Is there any chance it might have been--"

"Suicide?" the doctor rubbed his jaw. "I never heard of anyone
committing suicide that way. It was an accident; I'm positive."

"I don't mean suicide," Bob murmured under his breath, looking up at the
clock on the wall. "I meant something else."

But no one heard him.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Grammartalk 10HB, Page 1 - Prepositions of Place and Time

"Women in the Garden" Claude Monet, 1866

A: Where do you live?
B: I live on Valencia Street. It’s in the Mission District.
A: Do you live near 16th Street?
B: Not too far. I live between 20th and 21st Streets.
A: Where do you attend English class?
B: I attend English class at Mission Campus

A: How can I find your apartment?
B: It’s on the top floor. I live in Number 31.
A: Is there an elevator in the building?
B: Yes, there is. My apartment is on the right as you leave the elevator.
A: How long have you lived in San Francisco?
B: I’ve lived here for six years.

A: How long did you live in Mexico City?
B: I lived there for sixteen years. I moved in 1995.
A: How long have you studied at Mission Campus?
B: I’ve studied English at Mission Campus for two semesters.
A: Are you interested in the computer classes also?
B: Yes, I’m also interested in the computer classes.

A: Where is Mission Campus located?
B: It’s at 106 Bartlett Street.
A: Is it near 22nd Street?
B: Yes, it is. It’s on the corner of Bartlett and 22nd.
A: When is the first class at Mission Campus?
B: The first class begins at 8:30 am.

A: Could you tell me where the canned soup is?
B: It’s in aisle 3 on the second shelf.
A: Could you tell me where the potatoes are?
B: You’ll find them in the middle of aisle 4, on the bottom shelf.
A: I’m looking for disposable diapers. Where are they?
B: There aren’t any diapers in this store. You’ll find them at Walgreens. It’s on Mission Street.

A: Do you live on Mission Street?
B: No, I don’t. I live on Noe Street.
A: Do you live on the top of the hill?
B: No, I don’t. I live on the bottom of the hill.
A: Is there a patio in back of your house?
B: No, there isn’t. But there’s a small garden in front of my house.

A: Could you tell me how to get to Mission Campus?
B: Certainly. Walk up Mission Street to 22nd.
A: This is 18th. Is 22nd four blocks from here?
B: That’s right. Turn right on 22nd. Walk along 22nd.
A: Ok. I turn right on 22nd and walk along 22nd.
B: Yes. You’ll see Mission Campus on the left, at the corner of Bartlett and 22nd.

A: Can you tell me how to get to the post office?
B: Sure. Walk along 22nd Street to South Van Ness.
A: Let’s see. Walk along 22nd Street to South Van Ness. Is that what you said?
B: Yes. When you reach South Van Ness, turn right.
A: So I turn right on South Van Ness.
B: Yes. Walk up South Van Ness, and you’ll see the
post office on the right, at the corner of South Van Ness and 23rd.

A: I’m trying to reach Mr. Parker. Is he at home?
B: No, he isn’t at home right now. He’s at school.
A: I tried to reach him at school, but I couldn’t.
B: You couldn’t reach him at school? He must be at work.
A: No, I tried to get him at work. He wasn’t there.
B: That’s right. He’s at the laundromat. I forgot.

A: You can buy the book for this class at the bookstore.
B: Could you tell me where the bookstore is?
A: Yes, it’s on the first floor.
B: Is it near the entrance of the building?
A: Yes. As you enter the building, you’ll see it on the left.
B: Okay. As I enter the building, it’ll be on my left.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Grammartalk 16, Page 2 - Present, Unreal Conditional

"Portrait of Mary Cassatt" by Edgar Degas, 1880-1884

A: If I weren't really hungry right now, I wouldn't eat this pizza.
S: I wouldn't eat the whole thing if I were you. If you eat that pizza, you might get sick.
A: I wouldn't get sick unless I ate two extra large pizzas. This one is just a medium.
S: If it didn't have all that sausage and pepperoni on it, it would be healthier.
A: Thanks for your advice, but I really don't think I'll be any the worse for having eaten it. S: If I were you, I would eat less pizza and more fruits and vegetables.
A: If I had some beer right now, this pizza would taste a million times better.

A: My work schedule has been changed. If I had the same schedule as before, I could attend class.
B: Many students have the same problem. If employers understood the importance of learning English, they wouldn't make it impossible for students to go to school.
A: If I didn't have to make a living, I wouldn't let my job stand in the way of my education.
S: The teacher understands your situation. He will welcome you back when you're able to attend school again.
A: If I didn't have to miss so many classes, I would be able to progress to the next level.
B: You would be exposed to more English if you had to speak it at your work place.

A: Would you like to go swimming at the pool this weekend?
S: I don't know how to swim. If I knew how to swim, I'd like nothing better than to go swimming.
A: Professor Hopkins is giving a lecture on modern painting tomorrow night. How about going with me? S: Thanks for asking, but I don't really enjoy modern painting. If I appreciated it more, I'd really like to attend that lecture.
A: Let's not stay home and watch TV tonight. There really isn't much on. Let's go to the movies instead.
B: Unfortunately, I saw the Entertainment Section today. There are no movies I'm especially interested in. If there were an interesting movie, I'd certainly like to go and see it.

A: Mr. Atkins, I'd like to talk to you about your orchard. You have far too many apple trees in it.
S: Thanks. I think so too. If I didn't have such a large orchard, I wouldn't have so many apple trees.
A: And if you didn't have so many apples, you'd be able to sell them all and make more money.
S: If more people came to the farmer's market, I'd sell a larger quantity of apples.
A: You should sell some of your orchard to a developer. He could build some nice houses.
B: No way. If I sold my land to a developer, I would have too many noisy neighbors.

A: I wish I weren't so busy. If I weren't so busy, I would be able to take a break once in a while.
S: You don't relax enough. If you relaxed more and didn't drink so much coffee, you'd feel a lot calmer.
A: I like to stay busy. When I'm real busy, I don't have time to worry about my problems.
B: You shouldn't run around like a chicken with its head cut off. If I were you, I'd stay home and read instead of going to another party.
A: If I were twenty-five, I wouldn't worry about my overactive lifestyle. But I'm afraid it's going to catch up with me some day.
B: You would feel a lot more relaxed if you took a short afternoon nap once in a while.

A: Would you mind if I asked you some advice? I'm considering getting married next month.
S: I hope you're not thinking of marrying Karl Woodruff. He's rich but he's not very nice. You would be miserable together.
A: If I married Karl Woodruff, would I be making a terrible mistake?
B: Yes. To tell the truth, I wouldn't marry that idiot if I were you. If you looked around, you'd find a better boyfriend.
A: So, what kind of guy do you think I should marry? Do you have any bright ideas?
B: Yes. I think you should marry my brother Ralph. If you married him, you'd be very happy in my opinion.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grammartalk 15, Page Three, Modal Plus Present Perfect

"Around the Fish" Paul Klee, 1926

A: I can't find Charlie's Restaurant in the phone book. It used to be so popular.
B: He must have gone out of business. I'm not surprised. The quality has been going downhill in recent years.
A: The chef he had working for him was top notch. The food was really exceptional.
B: That chef must have quit. He might have found a higher paying restaurant.
A: It's really a shame. Charlie's Restaurant was one of the best places for seafood in town.
B: We must have eaten there more than fifty times, but that's a rough guess.

A: I'm really frustrated. Every time I call this number, I get their voice mail.
B: It's twelve thirty. They must have gone out to lunch. What's the problem?
A: I'm having trouble with this new printer. I'm trying to get some advice from technical support.
B: The power light isn't on. You must not have plugged it in.
A: My God. How could I have forgotten to plug it in? That's what's wrong, of course.
B: Try plugging it in and see if that solves your problem. If not, you might have to take your printer back to the place you bought it.

A: How is the investigation proceeding, Detective Polumbo? Are you any closer to solving the mystery?
B: I have several important clues. You see those muddy foot prints? They must have been left by the killer.
A: That's unlikely, sir. Look at your own shoes. You must have tracked mud in here yourself.
B: Hmm. You're right. These prints are exactly my shoe size.
A: Any other important clues to report?
B: I just analyzed the bullet wound. It must have been caused by a Smith and Wesson revolver.
A: That's exactly the kind of revolver you're carrying. You must be the murderer!

A: Do you know where my reading glasses are? I thought I left them on the bookshelf.
B: I saw them on your briefcase next to the kitchen table.
A: I must have used them to read the morning paper. Then, I must have just set them on the briefcase absentmindedly.
B: Be careful where you leave your glasses. Some day, you might lose them.
A: Do you have any idea where my briefcase is? I must have searched everywhere for it.
B: I think it's in the kitchen. Don't you remember? I just told you that your glasses are sitting on it.

A: You very tired today, aren't you? You must not have slept very well last night.
B: Every morning, I get up at five. That means I have to be in bed asleep no later than ten.
A: So, you must have gone to bed too late. When did you finally fall asleep?
B: I didn't fall asleep until around two in the morning. I was too nervous to sleep.
A: I know. You're a fan of horror movies. You must have seen a really scary movie on TV before you went to bed last night. Right or wrong?
B: You guessed it. I saw "Night of The Serial Killers." It was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. And, it scared the daylights out of me.

A: Judy has been smiling all day long, and she hasn't been concentrating on her work.
B: She must have had a good time on her date last night. She went out with Jeff Hoyle again.
A: But she has gone out with Jeff Hoyle before. She has never been this happy the next day.
B: I think he finally must have proposed to her. That's why she's acting so distracted.
A: Is that why she keeps looking at that ring on her finger instead of typing reports?
B: It's definitely an engagement ring. The diamond is huge. It must have cost a fortune.