LA WEB DE READING COMPREHENSION PREFERIDA POR LOS HISPANOHABLANTES

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PAUL'S CASE

Willa Cather

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Paul hated school. He did not do his homework. He did not like his teachers. Paul's father did not know what to do with him. His teachers did not know either. One afternoon, all his teachers at Pittsburgh high school met together with him to discuss his case. Paul was late. When he entered the room his teachers sat waiting for him.
He was tall for his age and very thin. His clothes were too small for him, but they were clean. He had a bright red flower in the button hole of his black jacket. One of the teachers asked paul why he had come to the meeting. Paul said politely that he wanted to do better in school. This was a lie. Paul often lied. His teachers began to speak. They had many complaints. One said Paul talked to the other students instead of paying attention to the lessons. Another said Paul always sat in class with his hands covering his eyes. A third teacher said Paul looked out the window instead of looking at her. His teachers attacked him without mercy.
Paul's eyesbrows moved up and down as his teachers spoke. His smile never left his face, but his fingers shook as he touched the flower on his coat. At last the meeting was over. Paul's smile got even wider. He bowed gracefully and left the room.
His teachers were angry and confused. The art teacher spoke for all of them when he said there was something about paul that he didn't understand. "I don't think he really means to be bad," he said. "There's just something wrong with that boy."  Then the art teacher remembered one warm afternoon when Paul had fallen asleep in his class. Paul's face was white with thin blue veins under the skin. The boy's face looked tired and lined, like an old man's. His eyebrows moved up and down, even in his sleep.
After he left the meeting, Paul ran down the hill from the school whistling. He was late for his job at the concert hall. Paul was an usher there. He showed people to their seats. He carried messages for them. He brought them their programs with a polite bow. Everyone thought he was a charming boy and the best usher at the hall.
When Paul reached the concert hall that evening, he went immediately to the dressing room. About six boys were already there. Paul began changing his clothes with excited hands. He loved his green uniform with the gold pockets and design.
Paul rushed into the concert hall as soon as he had changed clothes. He ran up and down the hall, helping people. He became more and more excited. His face became pink and his eyes seemed larger and very bright. He looked almost handsome. At last everyone was seated. The orchestra began to play and Paul sat down with a sign of relief.
The music seemed to free something in Paul's spirit. Then a woman came out and began to sing. She had a rich, strong soprano voice. Paul felt truly happy for the first time that day.
At the end of the concert Paul went back to the dressing room. After he had changed his clothes again he went outside the concert hall. He decided to wait for the singer to come out. While he waited he looked across the street to the large hotel called "The Schenley."  All the important people stayed at The Schenley when they visited Pittsburgh. Paul had never been inside it, but he used to stand near the hotel's wide glass doors. He liked to watch the people enter and leave. He believed if he could only enter this kind of a hotel, he would be able to leave school, his teachers, and his ordinary, gray life behind him... forever.
At last the singer came out of the concert hall. Paul followed her as she walked to the hotel. He was part of a large crowd of admirers who had waited to see her. When they all reached the hotel, she turned and waved. Then the doors opened and she disappeared inside. Paul stared into the hotel as the doors slowly closed. He could feel the warm, sweet air inside. And for a moment, he felt part of a golden world of sparkling lights and marble floors. He thought about the mysterious dishes of food being served in the hotel's dining room. He thought about green bottles of wine growing cold in silver buckets of ice.
He turned away from the hotel and walked home. He thought of his room with its horrible yellow wallpaper, the old bed with its ugly red cover. He shook his head.
Soon he was walking down the street where he lived. All the houses on Cordelia Street were exactly alike. Middle class businessmen had bought them for their families. All their children went to school and to church. They loved arithmetic. As Paul walked toward his house he felt as if he were drowning in ugliness. He longed for cool colors and soft lights and fresh flowers. He didn't want to see his ugly bedroom or the cold bathroom with its cracked mirror and gray floor.
Paul went around to the back of his father's house. He found an open window and climbed into the kitchen. Then he went downstairs to the basement. He was afraid of rats. But he did not want to face his own bedroom. Paul couldn't sleep. He sat on the floor and stared into the darkness until morning came.
The following Sunday Paul had to go to church with his family. Afterwards, everyone came home and ate a big dinner. Then all the people who lived on Cordelia Street came outside to visit each other.
After supper Paul asked his father if he could visit a friend to get some help with his arithmetic. Paul left the house with his school books under his arm. But he didn't go to his friend's house. Instead he went to see Charley Edwards. Charley was a young actor. Paul liked to spend as much time as he could at the theater where Charley Edwards and his group acted in their plays.
It was only at the theater and the concert hall that Paul felt really alive. The moment he smelled the air of these places he felt like a prisoner suddenly set free. As soon as he heard the concert hall orchestra play he forgot all the ugly, unpleasant events in his own life.
Paul had discovered that any kind of music awakened his imagination.
Paul didn't want to become a musician, however. He didn't want to become an actor, either. He only wanted to be near people who were actors and musicians. He wanted to see the kind of life these artists led.
Paul found a schoolroom even worse after a night at the theater or the concert hall. He hated the school's bare floors and cracked walls. He turned away from his dull teachers in their plain clothes. He tried to show them how little he thought of them and the studies they taught.
He would bring photographs of all the actors he knew to school. He would tell the other students that he spent his evenings with these people at elegant restaurants. Then he would announce that he was going away to Europe or to California, or to Egypt for a while. The next day he would come to school smiling nervously. His sister was ill, he would say. But he was still planning to make his trip next spring.
Paul's problems at school became worse. Even after the meeting with his teachers, things did not get better. He told them he had no time to study grammar and arithmetic. He told them he had to help the actors in the theater. They were old friends of his.
Finally, his teachers went to Paul's father. He took Paul out of school and made him get a job. He told the manager at the concert hall that Paul could not work there anymore. His father warned the doorman at the theater not to let Paul into the place. And Charley Edwards promised Paul's father not to see Paul again.
All the actors at the theater laughed when they heard about the stories Paul had been telling. The women thought it was funny that Paul had told people he took them out to nice restaurants and sent them flowers. They agreed with the teachers and with his father that Paul's was a bad case.
Paul was a student with a lot of problems. He hated school. He didn't like living with his family on Cordelia Street in the industrial city of Pittsburgh.
Paul wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things. He loved his part-time job as an usher at the concert hall. He helped people find their seats before the concert. Then he could listen to the music and dream of exciting places.
Paul also spent a lot of time at the local theater. He knew many of the actors who worked there. He used to do little jobs for them. And they would let him see plays for free.
Paul had little time left for his studies. So he was always in trouble with his teachers. Finally, Paul's teachers complained again to his father. His father took him out of school and made him take a job in a large company. He would not let Paul go near the concert hall or the theater.
Paul did not like his job as a messenger boy. He began to plan his escape.
A few weeks later, Paul's boss, Mr. Denny, gave Paul a large amount of money to take to the bank. He told Paul to hurry because it was Friday afternoon. He said the bank would close soon and would not open again until Monday. At the bank, Paul took the money out of his pocket. It was five thousand dollars. Paul put the money back in his coat pocket. And he walked out of the bank.
He went to the train station and bought a one way ticket for New York City. That afternoon Paul left Pittsburgh forever.
The train traveled slowly through a January snowstorm. The slow movement made Paul fall asleep. The train whistle blew just as the sun was coming up. Paul awoke, feeling dirty and uncomfortable. He quickly touched his coat pocket. The money was still there. It was not a dream. He really was on his way to New York City with five thousand dollars in his pocket.
Finally the train pulled into Central Station. Paul walked quickly out of the station and went immediately to an expensive clothing store for men.
The salesman was very polite when he saw Paul's money. Paul bought two suits, several white silk shirts, some silk ties of different colors. Then he bought a black tuxedo suit for the theater, a warm winter coat, a red bathrobe, and the finest silk underclothes. He told the salesman he wanted to wear one of the new suits and the coat immediately. The salesman bowed and smiled.
Paul then took a taxi to another shop where he bought several pairs of leather shoes and boots. Next, he went to the famous jewelry store, Tiffany's, and bought a tie pin and some brushes with silver handles. His last stop was a luggage store where he had all his new clothes put into several expensive suitcases.
It was a little before one o'clock in the afternoon when Paul arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The doormen opened the hotel's glass doors for Paul and the boy entered. The thick carpet under his feet had the colors of a thousand jewels. The lights sparkled from crystal chandeliers.
Paul told the hotel clerk he was from Washington, D.C. He said his mother and father were arriving in a few days from Europe. He explained he was going to wait for them at the hotel.
In his dreams Paul had planned this trip to New York a hundred times. He knew all about the Waldorf-Astoria, one of New York's most expensive hotel's. As soon as he entered his rooms, he saw that everything was perfect--except for one thing. He rang the bell and asked for fresh flowers to be sent quickly to his rooms.
When the flowers came, Paul put them in water and then he took a long, hot bath. He came out the bathroom, wearing the red silk bathrobe. Outside his windows, the snow was falling so fast that he could not see across the street. But inside, the air was warm and sweet. He lay down on the sofa in his sitting room.
It had all been so very simple, he thought. When they had shut him out of the theater and the concert hall, Paul knew he had to leave. But he was surprised that he had not been afraid to go. He could not remember a time when he had not been afraid of something. Even when he was a little boy. But now he felt free. He wasn't afraid anymore. He watched the snow until he fell asleep.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon when Paul woke up. He spent nearly an hour getting dressed. He looked at himself often in the mirror. His dark blue suit fit him so well that he did not seem too thin. The white silk shirt and the blue and lilac tie felt cool and smooth under his fingers. He was exactly the kind of boy he had always wanted to be.
Paul put on his new winter coat and went downstairs. He got into a taxi and told the driver to take him for a ride along Fifth Avenue. Paul stared at the expensive stores.
As the taxi stopped for a red light Paul noticed a flower shop. Through the window, he could see all kinds of flowers. Paul thought the violets, roses, and lilies-of-the valley looked even more lovely because they were blooming in the middle of winter.
Paul began to feel hungry so he asked the taxi driver to take him back to the hotel. As he entered the dining room, the music of the hotel orchestra floated up to greet him. He sat at a table near a window. The fresh flowers, the white tablecloth, and the colored wine glasses pleased Paul's eyes. The soft music, the low voices of the people around him and the soft popping of champagne corks whispered into Paul's ears.
This is what everyone wants, he thought. He could not believed he had ever lived in Pittsburgh on Cordelia Street!  That belonged to another time and place. Paul lifted the crystal glass of champagne and drank the cold, prescious, bubbling wine. He belonged here.
Later that evening, Paul put on his black tuxedo and went to the opera. He felt perfectly at ease. He had only to look at his tuxedo to know he belonged with all the other beautiful people in the opera house. He didn't talk to anyone. But his eyes recorded everything.
Paul's golden days went by without a shadow. He made each one as perfect as he could. On the eighth day after his arrival in New York, he found a report in the newspaper about his crime. It said that his father had paid the company the five thousand dollars that Paul had stolen. It said Paul had been seen in a New York hotel. And it said Paul's father was in New York. He was looking for Paul to bring him back to Pittsburgh.
Paul's knees became weak. He sat down in a chair and put his head in his hands. The dream was ended. He had to go back to Cordelia Street. Back to the yellow-papered bedroom, the smell of cooked cabbage, the daily ride to work on the crowded street cars.
Paul poured himself a glass of champagne and drank it quickly. He poured another glass and drank that one, too.
Paul had a taxi take him out of the city and into the country. The taxi left him near some railroad tracks. Paul suddenly remembered all the flowers he had seen in a shop window his first night in New York. He realized that by now every one of those flowers was dead. They had had only one splendid moment to challenge winter.
A train whistle broke into Paul's thoughts. He watched as the train grew bigger and bigger. As it came closer, Paul's body shook. His lips wore a frightened smile. Paul looked nervously around as if someone might be watching him.
When the right moment came, Paul jumped. And as he jumped, he realized his great mistake. The blue of the ocean and the yellow of the desert flashed through his brain. He had not seen them yet! There was so much he had not seen!
Paul felt something hit his chest. He felt his body fly through the air far and fast. Then everything turned black and Paul dropped back into the great design of things.

MULTIPLE-CHOICE ACTIVITY

ANSWERS

After listening try to answer these questions very briefly.

 

1.

What about Paul's appearance sets him apart? What physical characteristic is he embarrassed about?

 

2.

What did the drawing teacher remember about Paul that made him feel that Paul's teachers didn't understand him?

 

3.

What effect does the picture gallery at the concert hall have on Paul?

 

4.

What effect does the symphony have?

 

5.

How does he feel after the concert, and why does he feel that way?

 

6.

Why does Paul's neighborhood repel him?

 

7.

What part of the Sunday-afternoon stories does Paul enjoy?

 

8.

How does Paul spend the stolen money?

 

 

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