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Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was born in Wales. His books are mostly fantasy, and full of imagination. They are always a little cruel, but never without humour - a thrilling mixture of the grotesque and comic. He didn't only write books for grown-ups, but also for children. However, his stories are so sarcastic and humorous, that also adults appreciate reading them.

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When Mr. Botibol woke the next morning he lay quite still for several minutes with his eyes shut, listening for the sound of the wind, waiting for the roll of the ship.

There was no sound of any wind and the ship was not rolling. He jumped up and looked out of the window. The sea – oh, God! – the sea was as smooth as  glass, and the great ship was moving through it fast, obviously regaining the time lost during the night. Mr. Botibol turned away and sat slowly down on the edge of his bed. He had no hope now. One of the higher numbers was certain to win after this.
“Oh, my God,” he said out loud. “What shall I do?”

What, for example, would Ethel say? It was simply not possible to tell her that he had spent almost all of their two years’ savings on a ticket in a ship’s competition. Nor was it possible to keep the matter secret. To do that he would have to tell her to stop writing cheques. And what about the monthly payments on the television set? Already he could see the anger in the woman’s eyes, the blue becoming grey and the eyes themselves narrowing, as they always did when there was anger in them.
“Oh, my God. What shall I do?”
It was no use pretending that he had the slightest chance now – not unless the ship started to go backwards.

It was at this moment that an idea came to him, and he jumped up from his bed, extremely excited, ran over to the window and looked out again. Well, he thought, why not? Why ever not? The sea was calm and he would have no difficulty in swimming until they picked him up. He had a feeling that someone had done something like this before, but that did not prevent him from doing it again. The ship would have to stop and lower a boat, and the boat would have to go back perhaps a kilometre to get him, and then it would have to return to the ship. That would take about an hour. An hour was about forty-eight kilometres. The delay would reduce the day’s run by about forty-eight kilometres. That would do it. ‘Low field’ would be sure to win then – just so long as he made certain that someone saw him falling over the side; but that would be simple to arrange. And he had better wear light clothes, something easy to swim in. Sports clothes that was it. He would dress as if he were going to play deck tennis – just a shirt and a pair of shorts and tennis shoes. What was the time? 9.15. The sooner the better, then. He would have to do it soon, because the time limit was midday.

Mr. Botibol was both frightened and excited when he stepped out onto the sundeck in his sports clothes. He looked around nervously. There was only one other person in sight, a woman who was old and fat. She was leaning over the rail looking at the sea. She was wearing a heavy coat, and the collar was turned up, so Mr. Botibol couldn’t see her face.

He stood still, examining her carefully from a distance. Yes, he told himself, she would probably do. She would probably call for help just a quickly as anyone else. But wait one minute, take your time, William Botibol, take your time. Remember what you told yourself in your room a few minutes ago when you were changing.

The thought of jumping off a ship into the ocean hundreds of kilometres from the nearest land had made Mr. Botibol – always a careful man – unusually so. He was not yet satisfied that this woman in front of him was sure to call for help when he made his jump. In his opinion there were two possible reasons why she might not. First, she might have bad hearing and bad eyesight. It was not very likely, but on the other hand it might be so, and why take a chance? All he had to do was to check it by talking to her for a moment. Second, the woman might be the owner of one of the high numbers in the competition; if so, she would have a very good financial reason for not wishing to stop the ship. Mr. Botibol remembered that people had killed for far less than six thousand dollars. It was happening every day in the newspaper. So why take a chance on that either? He must check it first, and be sure of his facts. He must find out about it by a little polite conversation. Then, if the woman appeared to be a pleasant, kind human being, the thing was easy and he could jump off the ship without worrying.

Mr. Botibol walked towards the woman and took up a position beside her, leaning on the rail. “Hello,” he said pleasantly.
She turned and smiled at him, a surprisingly lovely smile, almost a beautiful smile, although the face itself was very plain. “Hello,” she answered him.
And that, Mr. Botibol told himself, answers the first question. Her hearing and eyesight are good. “Tell me,” he said, “what did you think of the auction last night?”

“Auction?” she asked. “Auction? What auction?”

“You know, that silly thing they have after dinner. They sell numbers that might be equal to the ship’s daily run. I just wondered what you thought about it.”
She shook her head, and again she smiled, a sweet and pleasant smile. “I’m very lazy,” she said. “I always go to bed early. I have my dinner in bed. It’s so restful to have dinner in bed.”
Mr. Botibol smiled back at her and began to walk away. “I must go and get my exercise now,” he said. “I never miss my exercise in the morning. It was nice seeing you. Very nice seeing you …”
He took a few more steps and the woman let him go without looking around.

Everything was now in order. The sea was calm, he was lightly dressed for swimming, there were almost certainly no man-eating fish in this part of the Atlantic, and there was this pleasant, kind old woman to call for help. It was now only a question of whether the ship would be delayed for long enough to help him win. Almost certainly it would.

Mr. Botibol moved slowly to a position at the rail about eighteen metres away from the woman. She wasn’t looking at him now. All the better. He didn’t want her to watch him as he jumped off. So long as no one was watching, he would be able to say afterwards that he had slipped and fallen by accident. He looked over the side of the ship. It was a long, long drop. He might easily hurt himself badly if he hit the water flat. He must jump straight and enter the water feet first. It seemed cold and deep and grey and it made him shake with fear just to look at it. But it was now or never. Be a man, William Botibol, be a man. All right then … now…

He climbed up onto the wide wooden rail and stood there balancing for three terrible seconds, then he jumped up and out as far as he could go, and at the same time he shouted “help!”

“Help! Help!” he shouted as he fell. Then he hit the water and went under.

When the first shout for help sounded, the woman who was leaning on the rail gave a little jump of surprise. She looked around quickly and saw – sailing past her through the air – this small man dressed in white shorts and tennis shoes, shouting as he went. For a moment she looked as if she were not quite sure what she ought to do: throw a lifebelt, run away and find help, or simply turn and shout. She stepped back from the rail and swung round, and for this sort moment she remained still, tense and undecided, Then almost immediately she seemed to relax, and she leaned forward far over the rail, looking at the water. Soon a small round black head appeared in the water, an arm raised above it, waving, once, twice, and a small faraway voice was heard calling something that was difficult to understand. The woman leaned still further over the rail, trying to keep the little black spot in sight, but soon, so very soon, it was such a long way away that she couldn’t even be sure that it was there at all.

After a time, another woman came out on deck. This one was thin and bony and wore glasses. She saw the first woman and walked over to her.
“So there you are”, she said.
The fat woman turned and looked at her, but said nothing.
“I’ve been searching for you,” the bony one continued. “Searching all over the ship.”
“It’s very strange,” the fat woman said. “A man jumped off the deck just now, with his clothes on.”

“Oh, yes.
He said he wanted to get some exercise, and he jumped in and didn’t even take his clothes off.”
“You’d better come down now,” the bony woman said. Her mouth had suddenly become firm, her whole face sharp, and she spoke less kind than before. “And don’t you ever go wandering about on deck alone like this again. You know you’re meant to wait for me.”
“Yes, Maggie,” the fat woman answered, and again she smiled, a kind, trusting smile, and took the hand of the other one and allowed herself to be led away across the deck.
Such a nice man,” she said. ”He waved to me.”

Source: Pearson Education


as smooth as  glass:  as flat and level as glass(tan liso como el vidrio)
recovering (recuperando el tiempo perdido)
measuring only a small distance from one side to the other (estrechando los párpados)
it was no use pretending that he had the slightest chance now:
Now, he couldn’t have the slightest chance to win the competition (ahora no tenía la más ligera posibilidad de ganar la competición)
why ever not?
(¿y por qué diablos no?)
that did not prevent him from doing it  again:
prevent somebody from doing something (eso no le impediría  a él hacerlo otra vez)
so long
as: having the condition that (mientras que)
simple to arrange:
easy to plan (fácil de arreglar) the sooner the better (cuanto antes, mejor)
in sight:
in the area you can see (a la vista)
was leaning:
was bent over (estaba inclinada)
the collar was turned up
(el cuello del abrigo estaba subido)
she would probably do (probablemente fuera ella la persona indicada)
unusually so:
in a way that is different from usual (extraordinariamente ordenado)
why take a chance?: why take such a risk? (Por qué arriesgarse?)

far less: very much less (mucho menos)
he must check it: he had to be sure (tenía que asegurarse)
: unattractive, used especially to describe a woman (poco agraciada)
she shook her head:
she moved her head from side to side as a way of saying no (negó con la cabeza)
.relaxing (relajante)
no man-eating fish
(ningún pez carnívoro)
would be delayed for long enough
(se retrasaria lo suficiente)
fall (caída)
hit the water flat
(golpeaba el agua de plano) straight: in a upright position (verticalmente)
shake with fear (temblar de miedo)
sailing past her through the air
: moving quickly through the air (pasando rápidamente en el aire)
a life preserver in the form of a ring of buoyant material (salvavidas)
swung round
: changed direction with a swinging motion (also swang round) (se dio vuelta  balanceándose)
the movement you make when you wave your hand (saludando)
distant (lejana)
bony: very thin (huesuda, esquelética)
such a nice man: what a pleasant man (qué hombre agradable)
he waved to me: he said "hello" to me with his hand (me saludó con su mano)

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