Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yosemite National Park


This is Phoebe Zimmermann.


Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

And this is Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today, we tell about one of the most famous national parks in the United States. You can find it high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of the western state of California. It is one of the most beautiful places in the country. Its name is Yosemite.



Yosemite National Park is a place of extremes. It has high mountains. It has valleys formed by ancient ice that cut deep into the Earth millions of years ago. Water from high in the mountains falls in many places to the green valley far below. There are thirteen beautiful waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. One of these waterfalls, Yosemite Falls, is the fifth highest on Earth.

Up in the mountains are clear lakes, quick-moving small rivers, and huge formations of rock. One huge rock is called Half Dome. It rises more than two thousand seven hundred meters into the air.

Yosemite has a beautiful slow-moving river and large grassy areas where you can see wild animals. More than sixty kinds of animals live in the park. Deer are very common. You can see them almost everywhere. They have little fear of humans. You might even see a large black bear. You can also see two hundred different kinds of birds.

Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National ParkIn a place called the Mariposa Grove, visitors can see some of the largest, tallest and oldest living things on Earth. These are the giant Sequoia Trees. One of these trees is called Grizzly Giant. It is more than one thousand eight hundred years old. One tree is almost ninety meters tall. Another is more than ten meters around. The huge old trees can make you feel very, very small.



The story of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the area that is Yosemite National Park begins about five hundred million years ago. The area then was at the bottom of an ancient sea.

Scientists believe strong earthquakes forced the bottom of the sea to rise above the water. After millions of years, it was pushed up into the air to form land and mountains. At the same time, hot liquid rock from deep in the Earth pushed to the surface. This liquid rock slowly cooled. This cooling liquid formed a very hard rock known as granite.

Many centuries of rain caused huge rivers to move violently through this area. Over time, these rivers cut deep into the new mountains. During the great Ice Age, millions of tons of ice cut and shaped the cooled granite to form giant rocks. Millions of years later these would become the giant rocks called Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite Park.


Humans have lived in the area of Yosemite for more than four thousand years. The first people who lived there were hunters. Most were members of a tribe of Native Americans called the Miwok. They lived in Yosemite Valley near the river.

During the extremely cold winters, these people would move to lower, warmer areas. They would return when the winter months had passed.

The first white Americans may have been hunters looking for fur animals. A famous American hunter and explorer named Joseph Walker passed through the area in the eighteen thirties. He reported about the huge rock formations and said there was no way to reach the valley below.

Yosemite Valley

Citizens who had formed a military group were the first real modern explorers of the valley. They were at war with the local Indians and came into the valley. The white soldiers called the Indians Yosemites. The valley was named for the Indian tribe. Soon, reports of its great natural beauty were sent all the way back to Washington, D.C.

In eighteen sixty-four, a United States senator called for legislation to give the Yosemite Valley to the state of California as a public park. The legislation said the valley should be preserved and protected. President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill after Congress approved it.

This event was extremely important in the history of the United States. It was the first time that a government had approved a law to preserve and protect land because of its great beauty. The land was to be kept for the public to enjoy. Yosemite became the first state park. It was the first real park in the world. In eighteen ninety, it became a national park. The National Park Service is responsible for the park today. It is preserved and protected for all people to enjoy.



No major roads lead to Yosemite National Park. Visitors must leave the highways and drive their cars over smaller roads. Yosemite is about three hundred twenty kilometers east of San Francisco.

It is deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The roads leading to the park pass over lower parts of the huge mountains. Then the road goes lower and lower into the area of the park called Yosemite Valley.

Visitors can stay in different kinds of places in Yosemite Park. Several beautiful old hotels have been built on the property. Some are very costly. Others cost less. Many people bring temporary cloth homes called tents. It costs only a few dollars a day to place a tent in the approved areas.

Visitors can walk through many areas in the beautiful valley and the mountains. These walking paths are called trails. The National Park Service has improved more than one thousand one hundred kilometers of trails. It is fun to explore these trails. Some take only a few minutes to walk. Others can take several days to complete.

El Capitan

People come from all over the world to climb one of the huge rock formations at Yosemite. The most famous of these is called El Capitan. People who climb it call it "El Cap." Climbing El Cap is only for experts. This activity is called "hard rock climbing." It is extremely difficult and can be very dangerous.

A climber must have expert skill and great strength. The climb is straight up the face of a rock wall. Experts say it can take about three days to climb to the top of El Cap. The climbing is very slow.

Climbers must look for cracks in the rock. They place their hands and feet in the cracks and then work their way up. They also use ropes and special equipment. From the bottom of the valley to the top of El Cap is about one thousand one hundred meters.



In the summer months, Yosemite Park is filled with visitors. Large buses bring people from San Francisco to spend the day.

They leave San Francisco very early in the morning and arrive back late at night. They drive from one place to another to see Yosemite. Other visitors come by car.

Some even come by bicycle. Some visit for just a few hours. Others take several days or weeks to enjoy the park. Many visitors come to Yosemite again and again. About four million people visit the park every year.


In the winter, heavy snow falls in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite. The snow usually begins to fall in the month of November. Heavy snow forces some of the roads into Yosemite to close during the winter months. The National Park Service works hard to keep most of the roads open.

Drivers must use special care because of ice and snow on the roads. They enjoy a special beauty never seen by the summer visitors. Many winter visitors come to Yosemite to spend their time skiing at Badger Pass. Badger ski area is the oldest in California. It has a ski school for those who want to learn the exciting sport.

Many visitors come to enjoy the park with its heavy coat of winter snow. In some areas the snow is many meters deep. Some of the tall mountains keep their snow until the last hot days of summer.


Whenever visitors come to Yosemite, they experience great natural beauty. A visit to the park provides lasting memories of what nature has produced. Most people who come to Yosemite usually bring a camera. They take many of pictures of the huge rocks, the beautiful Yosemite Valley, the waterfalls and the giant trees.

But you do not really need a photograph to remember its great natural beauty. Yosemite will leave its image in your memory forever.



This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. Our studio engineer was David Bodington. This is Steve Ember.


And this is Phoebe Zimmermann. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program in VOA Special English.

1. Yosemite has many animals, but probably not __________ .
a. deer
b. black bears
c. sharks
d. many species of bird

2. The Grizzly Giant is a __________
a. ferocious animal
b. a popular hotel
c. a cartoon character
d. a huge sequoia tree

3. Yosemite became the first state park __________
a. in 1890
b. three million years ago
c. in 1864
d. after Abraham Lincoln died.

4. Yosemite can be found in __________
a. Northern Mexico
b. The Rocky Mountains
c. Washington State
d. The High Sierras

5. The Miwok __________
a. live in Yosemite today
b. lived in Yosemite year round
c. left Yosemite in the winter
d. were conquered by the Yosemites.

6. Yosemite used to be __________
a. on the East Coast
b. on the bottom of a sea
c. further north
d. near Los Angeles

7. If you live in San Francisco, it's possible to see Yosemite and return to San Francisco in __________
a. one week
b. one day
c. three days
d. three weeks.

8. The valleys in Yosemite were formed by __________
a. trucks with shovels
b. earthquakes
c. an ancient sea.
d. ice

9. Another name for this selection could be __________ .
a. "The History of Yosemite"
b. "National Parks"
c. "Climbing Half Dome"
d. "Ancient Glaciers"

10. This story is mainly about __________
a. the animals that dwell in Yosemite.
b. the highest trees in the world.
c. a park enjoyed by millions.
d. a remote jungle in California.

Half Dome Trek:

View Larger Map

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Lucille Ball, The Funniest Woman on Television" from Voice of America


This is Mary Tillotson.


And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about the much-loved performer Lucille Ball. Her famous television series, “I Love Lucy,” was first broadcast in nineteen fifty-one.



The “I Love Lucy” show was a huge success. It was the most popular television show of the nineteen fifties. The kind of television program Miz Ball helped develop is called a situation comedy. Some television experts give her credit for inventing this kind of series. Today, some of the most popular television programs in America are situation comedies.


Lucy and Desiderio Arnaz/Ricky Ricardo
One reason for the great popularity of “I Love Lucy” may have been its real-life connection with Miz Ball’s family. On the show, she was Lucy, the wife of Ricky Ricardo, a Cuban musician. Ricky was played by band leader Desi Arnaz, who was Lucille Ball’s husband in real life. The show combined issues common to the life of married people living in the city with musical performances and comic theater.

Often, a show would include a part with Mister Arnaz acting seriously while Miz Ball added a funny element. In the following piece, Mister Arnaz tries to sing normally and Miz Ball adds the comedy:

(MUSIC: "By the Waters of the Minnetonka")


Also on the “I Love Lucy” show were Vivian Vance and William Frawley. Miz Vance played Ethel Mertz and Mister Frawley played Ethel’s husband, Fred Mertz. On the show, the Mertzes were friends of the Ricardos and owned the building in which they all lived.

Fred Mertz loved baseball, which was America’s most popular sport at the time. “I Love Lucy” often showed Fred Mertz intensely watching baseball or some other sport like boxing while Ethel added her own funny comments.

Fred and Ethel Mertz
(SOUND: “Seeing a baseball game is fun”)


A well-known story about the “I Love Lucy Show” concerns the birth of the Arnaz’s son, Desi Junior. Officials of the broadcasting company wondered what to do when Miz Ball became pregnant in nineteen fifty-two. Miz Ball explains that her husband, Desi, came up with a solution:

(SOUND: “Why don’t we have it on the show?”)


Miz Ball’s pregnancy was made part of the show. In fact, critics say the show in which Lucy Ricardo tells Ricky that she is pregnant is one of the best. In it, Lucy goes to the entertainment place where Ricky’s band is playing to tell him that they are going to have a baby. Ricky suddenly understands that he is going to be a father after Lucy secretly requests the song, “We’re Having a Baby:”

(MUSIC: “We’re Having a Baby”)


Miz Ball gave birth to her second child on the same day that Lucy Ricardo gave birth. In fact, Desi Junior’s birth date was planned to happen on the same day as the broadcast.

Desi Arnaz Junior
The show in which Lucy gave birth was one of the most popular television programs ever broadcast in America. In fact, the story is that Desi Junior’s birth replaced reports about Dwight Eisenhower’s first presidential ceremony on the front pages of America’s newspapers.



The success of the “I Love Lucy” show did not come early in Lucille Ball’s life, or easily. Instead, it was the result of years of hard work.

Miz Ball was born near Jamestown, New York, in nineteen eleven. She tried to get into show business at an early age. Early on, she went to the same acting school as the famous actress Bette Davis. However, she left when she was told that she did not have enough acting ability.

In the early nineteen thirties, she moved to Hollywood. She appeared in a number of movies, but was not well known.


In nineteen forty, she met the leader of a musical group who had been born in Cuba. His full name was Desiderio Alberto Arnaz de Acha the Third. They worked together in a movie and married soon after they met. For the next ten years, she appeared in movies and on radio. He traveled a lot with his band.

In nineteen fifty, the broadcasting company, CBS, decided to make a television program based on the radio show, “My Favorite Husband.” Lucille Ball was the star of the radio show. She wanted Mister Arnaz to play the part of her husband on the television show. CBS rejected the idea. But she refused to give up. She and Desi traveled around the country performing in a show together to prove that they would do well on television. Their show was a success. CBS offered them both jobs.


Miz Ball had another demand. She wanted her show to be a production of the best quality. Early television pictures were not of good quality. Miz Ball wanted her program to be filmed, which would improve the picture, and then broadcast later. Yet she wanted people to watch the program as it was being filmed so the sound of their reactions could be captured.

Miz Ball also wanted to film the shows in Hollywood. CBS did not want the extra costs. So, Miz Ball and Mister Arnaz agreed to work for less pay. In exchange, CBS let them own the program. That agreement made them owners of what would become one of the most successful programs on television.


Lucy, spaced out
During the fifties, Miz Ball won almost every honor there was for television actors including several Emmy Awards. Yet, even the most popular performers could not escape the political realities of the time. Conservative lawmakers accused Lucille Ball of being a communist. The Federal Bureau of Investigation kept a secret record of information about her, just as it did about many Hollywood actors at that time.


Mister Arnaz supervised their company, Desilu Productions. The company produced sixteen different television programs and ran three production centers, called studios.

In nineteen sixty, Lucille Ball and Mister Arnaz legally ended their marriage. Mister Arnaz sold his part of the company to his ex-wife. Miz Ball became the first woman to head a major production company. It was one of the biggest in Hollywood.

Miz Ball also was the star of several other shows of her own. “The Lucy Show” was broadcast from nineteen sixty-two to nineteen sixty-eight. “Here’s Lucy” followed until nineteen seventy-four. Miz Ball later sold her production company to Paramount Studios.

Desiderio Senior and Junior
“I Love Lucy” showed Miz Ball at her best. Mister Arnaz added something that was unusual for American television at the time. Many of the songs on the show were in Spanish. One song, “Babalu,” is popularly connected with “I Love Lucy”. Its words are Spanish and its sound is Latin American. It is this mixture along with the excellent performances that made the show special:

(MUSIC: “Babalu”)


Miz Ball died in nineteen eighty-nine after a heart operation. Yet, she still makes people laugh. Her programs are rebroadcast on television and there are hundreds of Internet sites about her. After all these years, everyone still loves Lucy.

(MUSIC: “I Love Lucy”)


This Special English program was written by Mario Ritter and produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Mary Tillotson.


And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.


1. When Lucille Ball was pregnant with Desi Junior, ____________________ .
a: her pregnancy and the birth of Desi Junior were made part of the TV show
b: she left the TV show for several months
c: she and Desi Arnaz traveled to Cuba where there is better maternity care
d: she changed the name of her TV comedy show.

2. CBS didn't want to spend extra money to make a high quality production, so ________________________ .
a: Lucille Ball left the show
b: Lucille and Desi Arnaz agreed to work for less pay
c: Desi Arnaz moved to New York
d: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz bought CBS

3. In 1940, Desiderio Arnaz was ________________________________ .
a: a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
b: the leader of musical group
c: a rising star in Hollywood films
d: a member of Fidel Castro's rebel army

4. Some television experts give Lucille Ball credit for inventing _________________ .
a: the slapstick comedy
b: the stand up comedy routine
c: the situation comedy
d: the musical comedy

5. Desi Arnaz was cast in the role of Lucy's husband because __________________ .
a: the original actor, Fred Astaire, didn't like the part
b: Lucille Ball insisted on it and worked hard to make it happen
c: nobody else wanted the role
d: CBS already had a contract with the musician

6. The "I Love Lucy" show survives today, not only because it is a great comic TV show, but also because ________________________ .
a: it was made into a DVD
b: it was videotaped
c: Lucille Ball rehearsed the show many times before it was broadcast
d: Lucille Ball made certain it was filmed

7. During the 1950s, Lucille Ball _________________________ .
a: was replaced because she was a communist
b: received many honors given to television actors
c: divorced Mister Arnaz
d: sold "I Love Lucy" to Paramount Studios

8. In Hollywood in the 1930s, Lucille Ball appeared in several movies, _______________ .
a: but was not well known
b: and became a famous star
c: and became a movie director
d: and met Desiderio Alberto Arnaz de Acha the Third

9. Desiderio Arnaz and Lucille Ball were also producers. Their company, __________________ , produced sixteen different television programs.
a: Desilu Productions
b: Paramount Studios
c: CBS TV Production
d: LucyDes Studios

10. When Lucy Ball first attended acting school, ______________________ .
a: her brilliant talent impressed her teachers
b: she was told that she was just like the famous actress, Bette Davis
c: she was told that she didn't have enough acting ability
d: she left when she couldn't afford to continue with the classes

Lucy and Ethel at the Chocolate Factory:

Natural Wonders of The World


This is Faith Lapidus.


And this is Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we bring you the second of three programs about beautiful and unusual places in our world. Last week, we told about structures built hundreds or thousands of years ago. Today we tell about some of the great natural Wonders of the World. We do not have time to visit all these places, but here are a few from several different countries.



We begin our program today high in the southeastern mountains of Venezuela. Water falls from a mountain called Auyan-tepui or Devil Mountain. The water falls from a height of nine hundred seventy-nine meters. It ends in an area called Devil’s Canyon. The water begins to fall in a tightly controlled stream. However it ends in a beautiful white cloud of water spray.

This waterfall is the highest in the world. The local native people called it the Churun Meru. It is now called Angel Falls. An American pilot named Jimmy Angel saw the beautiful waterfall for the first time in the nineteen thirties. He was flying alone in a small airplane looking for gold when he saw water falling from a great height. Some time later several friends said the waterfall should be named after Jimmy Angel.


A small airplane is still the best way to enjoy this beautiful sight. You can also visit the area under the falls after a three-and-a-half-hour boat ride and a one-hour walk through the jungle. And you can see Jimmy Angel’s little airplane if you visit Venezuela. It is considered a national treasure.



From a waterfall in Venezuela, we travel to another mountain. This one is in Japan. It is one of the most photographed mountains in the world. It is Mount Fuji on the island of Honshu. The Japanese call it Fujisan and they say it with love and honor.

Mount Fuji is a sleeping volcano about three thousand seven hundred meters high. It is the tallest mountain in Japan. Since ancient times, the Japanese people have considered it a holy mountain. It has also been the favorite subject of thousands of artists. Its picture has even appeared on Japanese money.


Mount Fuji is an almost perfectly shaped volcano. A crown of white snow covers the top of the mountain most of the year. Mount Fuji seems to rise sharply out of the ground into the shape most recognized as a volcano.

A large area is missing from the side of the mountain. This is a result of its most recent explosion in seventeen-oh-seven. But the missing part of the mountain does nothing to decrease its beauty.

Mount Fuji is much easier to enjoy than Angel Falls in Venezuela. On a clear day people can see it from both the major cities of Tokyo and Yokohama. The easiest way to see the famous mountain is on a train from Tokyo to Osaka. Or you could climb the mountain to get an even better look. Thousands of people climb Fujisan each summer.



Next, we travel to the desert of the southwestern United States. In fifteen forty, Spanish explorer Garcia Lopez de Cardenas was searching this desert area for gold. The desert area is almost flat, like a table.

His exploration team had been traveling north from Mexico for several weeks. Suddenly one morning he and his group came to an area that stopped their exploration. They could not continue. In front of them was a huge hole cut in the ground.

Most of this canyon was more than one thousand two hundred meters deep. It was more than three hundred kilometers long. This huge deep canyon extended as far as the explorers could see. It was very beautiful. The sunlight made deep shadows and seemed to change the shape of things every minute. The colors also changed with the movement of the sun and clouds. Often, some areas of the deep canyon appeared bright red. Other times they were a deep brown or purple.

The exploration team tried for three days to reach the river far down in the canyon. They failed. They could also see no way to move around the huge canyon. A lack of supplies forced Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas to return to Mexico.


That beautiful deep canyon is the Grand Canyon. It is a National Park that includes an area of almost five hundred thousand hectares. It is one of the most studied natural areas in the world. The high canyon walls are a record of the past written in rock. Explorers have found fossils of ancient creatures near the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

People can see many kinds of animals in or near the great canyon. These include large deer. They do not fear the people who come to visit the Grand Canyon. The canyon, its animals, plants and rocks are protected in this special place.


The Colorado River is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The river took several million years to cut the deep canyon into the face of the Earth. It is still doing this today.

Visitors today do not have a problem reaching the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the great Colorado River. Many people take long exciting trips in rubber boats on the river.

Millions of people from around the world visit the Grand Canyon National Park each year. Many stay for less than a day. However, people leave with the memory of this beautiful natural wonder that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.



Next we travel across the Pacific Ocean. Our next natural Wonder of the World is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It extends more than two thousand kilometers along Australia’s northeast coast. It is the largest group of coral reefs in the world.

A reef is a limestone formation that is usually under water or just above it. The coral that forms the reef is made of the hardened remains of dead sea animals called polyps. Thousands of millions of living coral polyps and plants are attached to the reef. The coral is many different colors. The water near the reef is usually clear and visitors can see far down into the ocean.

This natural formation supports many different kinds of fish, sea turtles, crabs, giant clams, birds and other wild life.

Millions of visitors from around the world come every year to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef. Many people visit in boats that have glass bottoms so they can see the fish and the colorful coral. Others swim among the fish using underwater breathing equipment.

Swimming along the reef is fun. But it can also be dangerous. The huge great white shark is one of the creatures that swims near the reef.


Scientists believe the Great Barrier Reef is about thirty million years old. However, in recent years, people have caused problems for the reef. Some took coral from the reef. And boats dumped garbage or human waste.

Now the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, an agency of the Australian government. Visitors are told it is against the law to collect any of the limestone or coral or to damage the reef in any way.

Laws prevent oil companies from drilling for oil anywhere near the reef. The Australian government has also worked to make sure nothing is placed in the ocean that would harm the great reef. Scientists are working to make sure that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef remains healthy and a true Wonder of the World for years to come.


We would have liked to have enough time to tell about other great wonders of the world -- Victoria Falls, for example. This huge waterfall in southern Africa is on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Another great waterfall brings visitors to the border area between the United States and Canada. They come to see the famous Niagara Falls.

We also wanted to tell about the huge volcano that exploded near the Island of Krakatoa in Indonesia. And the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest in Nepal, should be on any list of natural Wonders of the World.

It is easy to visit most of these great natural wonders if you have a computer. If your computer can link with the Internet system you too can enjoy these beautiful sights. Have fun exploring.



This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Jill Moss. This is Faith Lapidus.


And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week when we bring you the third part of our Wonders of the World series on EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

1. The Great Barrier Reef is made of __________
a. the remains of polyps.
b. the remains of clams and crabs.
c. the trash from visitors.
d. the abandoned rigging of oil companies.

2. The tallest mountain in the world is __________
a. Mount Fuji.
b. Mount Everest.
c. Krakatoa.
d. Mount Whitney.

3. Angel Falls is located in __________
a. Mexico.
b. Nicaragua.
c. Venezuela.
d. Peru.

4. Mount Fuji __________
a. can be seen from Tokyo.
b. has never erupted.
c. cannot be climbed.
d. is the tallest mountain in China.

5. Garcia Lopez de Cardenas __________
a. was a Mexican explorer.
b. was searching for gold in California.
c. was unable to descend the Grand Canyon.
d. had plenty of supplies.

6. Angel Falls was named after __________
a. an explorer.
b. a president.
c. a pilot.
d. a native.

7. Victoria Falls is located in __________
a. England.
b. Colorado.
c. Venezuela.
d. Africa.

8. Which of the following is not a natural wonder of the world? __________
a. The Great Barrier Reef.
b. Mount Fuji.
c. San Francisco Bay.
d. Victoria Falls.

9. Another name for this selection could be __________ .
a. "Famous Architecture"
b. "Famous Natural Places"
c. "Notable Waterfalls"
d. "Ocean Wonders"

10. This selection is mainly about __________
a. inaccessible places.
b. jungles of the world.
c. magnificent natural attractions.
d. Niagra Falls.

Victoria Falls Meditation:

Krakatoa Eruption in Clay Animation:

Part One in the "Wonders of the World" Series: Ancient Wonders of the World.

Part Three in the "Wonders of the World" Series: Modern Wonders of the World.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin, from Voice of America

Now, the VOA Special English program, AMERICAN STORIES.


Our story today is called "A Pair of Silk Stockings." It was written by Kate Chopin. Here is Barbara Klein with the story.



Little Missus Sommers one day found herself the unexpected owner of fifteen dollars. It seemed to her a very large amount of money. The way it filled up her worn money holder gave her a feeling of importance that she had not enjoyed for years.

The question of investment was one she considered carefully. For a day or two she walked around in a dreamy state as she thought about her choices. She did not wish to act quickly and do anything she might regret. During the quiet hours of the night she lay awake considering ideas.

A dollar or two could be added to the price she usually paid for her daughter Janie's shoes. This would guarantee they would last a great deal longer than usual. She would buy cloth for new shirts for the boys. Her daughter Mag should have another dress. And still there would be enough left for new stockings — two pairs per child. What time that would save her in always repairing old stockings! The idea of her little family looking fresh and new for once in their lives made her restless with excitement.

The neighbors sometimes talked of the "better days" that little Missus Sommers had known before she had ever thought of being Missus Sommers. She herself never looked back to her younger days. She had no time to think about the past. The needs of the present took all her energy.


Missus Sommers knew the value of finding things for sale at reduced prices. She could stand for hours making her way little by little toward the desired object that was selling below cost. She could push her way if need be.

But that day she was tired and a little bit weak. She had eaten a light meal—no! She thought about her day. Between getting the children fed and the house cleaned, and preparing herself to go shopping, she had forgotten to eat at all!

When she arrived at the large department store, she sat in front of an empty counter. She was trying to gather strength and courage to push through a mass of busy shoppers. She rested her hand upon the counter.

She wore no gloves. She slowly grew aware that her hand had felt something very pleasant to touch. She looked down to see that her hand lay upon a pile of silk stockings. A sign nearby announced that they had been reduced in price. A young girl who stood behind the counter asked her if she wished to examine the silky leg coverings.

She smiled as if she had been asked to inspect diamond jewelry with the aim of purchasing it. But she went on feeling the soft, costly items. Now she used both hands, holding the stockings up to see the light shine through them.

Two red marks suddenly showed on her pale face. She looked up at the shop girl.

"Do you think there are any size eights-and-a-half among these?"

There were a great number of stockings in her size. Missus Sommers chose a black pair and looked at them closely.

"A dollar and ninety-eight cents," she said aloud. "Well, I will buy this pair."

She handed the girl a five dollar bill and waited for her change and the wrapped box with the stockings. What a very small box it was! It seemed lost in her worn old shopping bag.

Missus Sommers then took the elevator which carried her to an upper floor into the ladies' rest area. In an empty corner, she replaced her cotton stockings for the new silk ones.

For the first time she seemed to be taking a rest from the tiring act of thought. She had let herself be controlled by some machine-like force that directed her actions and freed her of responsibility.

How good was the touch of the silk on her skin! She felt like lying back in the soft chair and enjoying the richness of it. She did for a little while. Then she put her shoes back on and put her old stockings into her bag. Next, she went to the shoe department, sat down and waited to be fitted.

The young shoe salesman was unable to guess about her background. He could not resolve her worn, old shoes with her beautiful, new stockings. She tried on a pair of new boots.

She held back her skirts and turned her feet one way and her head another way as she looked down at the shiny, pointed boots. Her foot and ankle looked very lovely. She could not believe that they were a part of herself. She told the young salesman that she wanted an excellent and stylish fit. She said she did not mind paying extra as long as she got what she desired.

After buying the new boots, she went to the glove department. It was a long time since Missus Sommers had been fitted with gloves. When she had bought a pair they were always "bargains," so cheap that it would have been unreasonable to have expected them to be fitted to her hand.

Now she rested her arm on the counter where gloves were for sale. A young shop girl drew a soft, leather glove over Missus Sommers's hand. She smoothed it down over the wrist and buttoned it neatly. Both women lost themselves for a second or two as they quietly praised the little gloved hand.


There were other places where money might be spent. A store down the street sold books and magazines. Missus Sommers bought two costly magazines that she used to read back when she had been able to enjoy other pleasant things.

She lifted her skirts as she crossed the street. Her new stockings and boots and gloves had worked wonders for her appearance. They had given her a feeling of satisfaction, a sense of belonging to the well-dressed crowds.

She was very hungry. Another time she would have ignored the desire for food until reaching her own home. But the force that was guiding her would not permit her to act on such a thought.

There was a restaurant at the corner. She had never entered its doors. She had sometimes looked through the windows. She had noted the white table cloths, shining glasses and waiters serving wealthy people.

When she entered, her appearance created no surprise or concern, as she had half feared it might.

She seated herself at a small table. A waiter came at once to take her order. She ordered six oysters, a chop, something sweet, a glass of wine and a cup of coffee. While waiting to be served she removed her gloves very slowly and set them beside her. Then she picked up her magazine and looked through it.

It was all very agreeable. The table cloths were even more clean and white than they had seemed through the window. And the crystal drinking glasses shined even more brightly. There were ladies and gentlemen, who did not notice her, lunching at the small tables like her own.

A pleasing piece of music could be heard, and a gentle wind was blowing through the window. She tasted a bite, and she read a word or two and she slowly drank the wine. She moved her toes around in the silk stockings. The price of it all made no difference.

When she was finished, she counted the money out to the waiter and left an extra coin on his tray. He bowed to her as if she were a princess of royal blood.


There was still money in her purse, and her next gift to herself presented itself as a theater advertisement. When she entered the theater, the play had already begun. She sat between richly dressed women who were there to spend the day eating sweets and showing off their costly clothing. There were many others who were there only to watch the play.

It is safe to say there was no one there who had the same respect that Missus Sommers did for her surroundings. She gathered in everything —stage and players and people -- in one wide sensation. She laughed and cried at the play. She even talked a little with the women. One woman wiped her eyes with a small square of lace and passed Missus Sommers her box of candy.

The play was over, the music stopped, the crowd flowed outside. It was like a dream ended. Missus Sommers went to wait for the cable car.

A man with sharp eyes sat opposite her. It was hard for him to fully understand what he saw in her expression. In truth, he saw nothing -- unless he was a magician. Then he would sense her heartbreaking wish that the cable car would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever.



You have heard the story "A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin. Your storyteller was Barbara Klein. This story was adapted and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Jim Tedder. Listen again next week for another American Story in VOA Special English.