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Read the first part of the story. Pay attention to the major character’s behaviour. What impression does the kid evoke ?

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  4. Finish reading the first half of the story. Prepare to explain what exactly is happening to the teacher.
  5. Finish reading the story. Decide how you find the ending — unexpected or quite predictable.
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Arnold drew his overalls and ravelling grey sweater over his naked body. In the other narrow bed his brother Eugene went on sleeping, undisturbed by the alarm clock’s rusty ring. Arnold, watching his brother sleeping, felt a peculiar dismay ; he was nine, six years younger than Eugie, and in their waking hours it was he who was subordinate. To dispel emphatically his uneasy advantage over his sleeping brother, he threw himself on the hump of Eugie’s body. “Get up ! Get up !” he cried. Arnold felt his brother twist away and saw the blankets lifted in a great wing, and, all in an instant he was lying on his back under the covers with only his face showing, like a baby, and Eugie was sprawled on top of him.

“Whassa matter with you ?” asked Eugie in sleepy anger, his face hanging close.

“Get up,” Arnold repeated. “You said you’d pick peas with me.”

Stupidly, Eugie gazed around the room as if to see if morning had come into it yet. Arnold began to laugh derisively, making soft, snorting noises, and was thrown off the bed. He got up from the floor and went down the stairs, the laughter continuing, like hic­cups, against his will. But when he opened the staircase door and entered the parlour, he hunched up his shoulders and was quiet because his parents slept in the bedroom downstairs.

Arnold lifted his 22-caliber rifle from the rack on the kitchen wall. It was an old lever-action Winchester that his father had given him because nobody else used it any more. On their way down to the garden he and Eugie would go by the lake, and if there were any ducks on it he’d take a shot at them. Standing on the stool before the cupboard, he searched on the top shelf in the confusion of medi­cines and ointments for man and beast and found a small yellow box of 22 cartridges. Then he sat down on the stool and began to load his gun.

It was cold in the kitchen so early, but later in the day, when his mother canned the peas, the heat from the wood stove would be almost unbearable. Yesterday she had finished preserving the huckleberries that the family had picked along the mountain, and before that she had canned all the cherries his father had brought from the warehouse in Corinth. Sometimes, on these summer days, Arnold would deliberately come out from the shade where he was playing and make himself as uncomfortable as his mother was in the kitchen by standing in the sun until the sweat ran down his body.

Eugie came clomping down the stairs and into the kitchen, his head drooping with sleepiness. From his perch on the stool Arnold watched Eugie slip on his green knit cap. Eugie didn’t really need a cap ; he hadn’t had a haircut in a long time and his brown curls grew thick and matted, close around his ears and down his neck, tapering there to a small whorl. Eugie passed his left hand through his hair before he set his cap down with his right. The very way he slipped his cap on was an announcement of his status ; almost everything he did was a reminder that he was eldest - first he, then Nora, then Arnold — and called attention to how tall he was (almost as tall as his father), how long his legs were, how small he was in the hips, and what a neat dip above his buttocks his thick-soled logger’s boots gave him. Arnold never tired of watching Eugie offer silent praise unto himself. He wondered, as he sat enthralled, if when he got to be Eugie’s age he would still be undersized and his hair still straight. Eugie eyed the gun. “Don’t you know this ain’t duck-season ?” he asked gruffly, as if he were the sheriff.

“No, I don’t know,” Arnold said with a snigger.

 

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