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math/[mæθ]/ n. 数学...

Charles

Now, the Special English program American Stories. Our story today is called "Charles". It was written by Shirley Jackson. Here is Kay Gallant with the story.

The day my son Laurie started going to school, he began wearing blue jeans with a belt. I watched him leave with the older girl who lived next door. I clearly saw that this was the end of a period in my life. My sweet-voice baby had suddenly changed. He was now a little man who was too full of himself to say goodbye to his mother. My son came home the same way. He shut the front door hard, threw his hat on the floor and shouted, "Isn't anybody here?"

At lunch he spoke roughly to his father.
"How was school today?" I asked.
"Oh, alright." He said.
His father asked if he had learned anything. Laurie looked at his father coldly. He said he had learned nothing.
"The teacher punished a boy, though." Laurie said with his mouth full of bread and butter.
"What did he do?" I asked, "Who was it?"
Laurie thought for a minute. "It was Charles," he said, "Charles was bad. The teacher hit him and made him stand in a corner. He was very bad."
"What did he do?" I asked again. But Laurie slid off his chair, took a cookie and left while his father was still saying "See here, young man."

The next day, Laurie said at lunch, "Well, Charles was bad again today. Today Charles hit the teacher."
"Good heavens," I said, "I suppose he got punished again."
"He sure did," Laurie said.
"Why did Charles hit the teacher?" I asked.
"Because she tried to make him use red pens. Charles wanted to use green pens, so he hit her. Then she hit him on the bottom and said nobody should play with him. But everybody did."

The third day, Wednesday, Charles hit a little girl on the head with a piece of wood. The teacher made him remain inside all during playtime. Thursday, Charles had to stay in a corner during story time because he kept beating his feet on the floor. Friday, Charles was punished again because he threw a piece of chalk from the blackboard.

I said to my husband that perhaps school was not so good for Laurie after all. He could be a rough boy and this Charles sounded like such a bad influence.
"It'll be alright," my husband said, "there are sure to be people like Charles in the world. Laurie might as well meet them now as later."

The second week, Laurie came home full of news. "Charles," he shouted as he came up the hill. I was waiting on the front steps. "Charles!" Laurie shouted all the way up the hill. "Charles was bad again." "Come right in," I said as soon as he came close enough,"lunch is waiting."

"Hello, poppa you'll mock," he said to his father as he came through the door.
"You know what Charles did? Charles shouted so loudly in school that they sent a boy from another class to tell the teacher to make Charles keep quiet. And so Charles had to stay after school. All of children stayed to watch him."
"What did he do then?" I asked.
"He just sat there," Laurie said, climbing into his chair at the table.
"What does Charles look like?" my husband asked Laurie, "What is his other name?"
"He is bigger than me," Laurie said, "and he does not have any rubber shoes to wear when it rains, and he does not wear a jacket."

Monday night was the first Parent-Teacher's meeting. I wanted to go. I wanted very much to meet Charles' mother. But I had to stay home because the baby was sick.
On Tuesday, Laurie said suddenly, "Our teacher had a friend come to see her in school today."
"Charles' mother?" My husband and I asked at the same time.
"Nah," he said, "there was a man who made us do exercises. We had to touch our toes like this." Laurie showed us how. "Charles did not do the exercises."
"Didn't Charles wanted to do the exercises?" I said.
"Nah," Laurie said, "Charles was so bad to the teacher's friend that he would not let Charles do the exercises."
"Bad again?" I said.
"He kicked the teacher's friend." Laurie said, "The teacher's friend told Charles to touch his toes like I just did and Charles kicked him."
"What are they going to do about Charles do you suppose?" Laurie's father asked him.
Laurie could not say, "throw him out of school I guess." He answered.

Nothing special happened on Wednesday and Thursday. Charles shouted during story hour and he hit a boy in the stomach, and made him cry. On Friday, Charles stayed after school again, so did all the other children. With the third week of school, the word "Charles" had become part of our family. The baby was being a Charles when he filled his wagon full of mud and pulled it through the house. Even my husband when he accidentally pushed an ashtray off the table, said, "hum, looks like Charles."

During the third and fourth weeks, it looked as if Charles had reformed. Laurie reported unhappily that Charles was so good today that the teacher gave him an apple.
"What?" I said, and my husband added carefully, "You mean Charles?"
"Charles," Laurie said, "he passed out the pens to the other children. Then he collected the books. The teacher said he was her helper."
"What happened?" I said, "I could not believe it."
"He was her helper, that's all." Laurie said.
"Can this be true about Charles?" I asked my husband that night, "Can something like this happen?"
"Wait and see," My husband said, "when you have a Charles to deal with this may mean he is only plotting."
He seemed to be wrong. For over a week, Charles was the teacher's helper. Each day he passed things out and he picked things up. No one had to stay after school.

"The Parent-Teacher's meeting is being held again next week." I told my husband one evening, "I am going to find Charles' mother there."
"Ask what happened to Charles. I would like to know. I would like to know myself."
On Friday of that week, things were back to normal.
"You know what Charles did today?" Laurie said in a voice full of the excitement and wonder. "He told a little girl to say a bad word and she said it and the teacher washed out her mouth with soap. Charles laughed."
"What word?" his father asked unwisely.
Laurie said, "I'll have to whisper to you. It's very bad." He got down off his chair and went around to his father. His father bent his head down and Laurie whispered joyfully. His father's eyes widened, "Did Charles tell the little girl to say that?"
"She said it two times," Laurie said, "Charles told her to say it two times."

Monday morning, Charles said the bad word three or four times. He got his mouth washed out with soap each time. That evening, my husband came to the door with me as I started out for the Parent-Teacher's meeting.
"Invite Charles' mother over for a cup of tea after the meeting," he said, "I wanna get a look at her."
"If only she is there," I said with a prayer.
"She'll be there," my husband said, "I do not see how they get hold that Parent-Teacher's meeting without her."

At the meeting, I sat looking at all the women's faces. I tried to discover which one hid the secret of Charles. None of them seemed tired enough to be Charles' mother. No one stood up, made excuses for the way her son had been acting. No one talked about Charles. After the meeting, I found Laurie's teacher.
"I have wanted to meet you," I said, "I am Laurie's mother."
"Oh! We are … we are so interested in Laurie." She said, "We had a little trouble with him the first week or so, but now he is a fine little helper, most of the time anyway."
"Laurie usually learns to obey and to cooperate very quickly," I said, "I suppose this time it was Charles' influence."
"Charles?" the teacher asked.
"Yes," I said, laughing, "You must have your hands full in that class with Charles."
"Charles?" she said, "We do not have any Charles in the class."

You have just heard the American story "Charles". It was written by Shirley Jackson. Your narrator was Kay Gallant. The Voice of America invites you to listen again next week at this time for another American story told in Special English. This is Susan Clark.
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