The Return

the returnIt is month again so today we have a short horror story by Argentinean writer Fernando Sorrentino. At first it reads like a “campfire” horror story about a dead beggar who returns to take revenge on a mean man who accidentally killed him. However, the has cleverly created the character of the narrator so that if readers look a little harder they might question if this is what really happened. After you have read the story, you might like to read our comments below.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Intermediate level 1800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There is also a word that is in our Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. We are told that the narrator got up very early one day to watch Don Cesareo’s wake through the window. Although the usual meaning of the word is to stop sleeping, Don Cesareo won’t be doing this because he is dead. When used as a , a wake is an event where family and friends gather to remember someone shortly after they have died.

General Comments on the Story

A danger in reading a story written in the is that you only see things from the narrator’s point of view. In “The Return”, the author has provided readers with some s which show that the narrator may have had some issues and possibly even problems that may not make him a believable witness. Some examples are:

  • He seems to spend a lot of time looking out the window of his apartment. He writes that after Don Cesareo’s death, “The next day, I got up very early and immediately ed myself in the window.” We hear nothing of friends or other activities. Is the window his major point of contact with the outside world?
  • At the beginning of the story, he talks about loving Adriana Bernasconi and looking out the window for her “more out of a habit of the heart than because I expected to see her at such an early hour”. We hear nothing of him courting her, and find that just four years later she has married another man and is heavily to him. Of this he says, “Who knows whether he loved or deserved her as much as I did?”. The narrator believed that he loved and deserved her… but did he do anything about it? Of the Bernasconi family he says, “they were lovely people who used to do nice, kind things”; of Mrs Bernasconi he says “she had always looked favorably on me”. Could he have mistaken kindness shown by the family to a neighbor who lived alone and did not seem to have any friends for something more?
  • He gives a number of reasons for not wanting to report Don Cesareo’s accidental killing of the beggar to the police, almost as if he liked the old man. Yet earlier he says that Don Cesareo “was a mean old man with an unpleasant personality”. Could it be that he simply didn’t want the attention? After this we learn that he “experienced a strange ” every time he saw Don Cesareo and “never dared speak to him again”. There is no comment about any kind of relationship between the two in the reasons given for not going to the police. Could it also be that he had never dared to speak to him before?
  • Finally, when commenting on the boy Gustavo throwing stones at cans on the roof-top sitting area, he says that this was “a rather game for someone his age”, and that “had he been my son, he would doubtlessly have found a less way to himself”. In the story, Gustavo was ten years old at the time. What ten year old boy would not enjoy throwing stones at cans? Could this suggest that the narrator was not allowed to live a normal childhood, which lead to him having social problems later in life?

What does all this mean to the story? Could the narrator have imagined his second and third sightings of the beggar? And what about Gustavo’s disappearance? If the spirit of the beggar had left him, surely the body would have been left behind? Could it simply be that Gustavo knew that he had caused Don Cesareo’s death and ran away from home out of fear?

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halloween(n: Halloween pl Halloweens) A festival celebrated on October 31 each year in the United States, Canada, and the Britain where children go to houses dressed up as ghosts, witches, monsters, etc. and ask for candy. 7000

(adj: typical) Normal for a person, thing, or group; average or usual. (ตามแบบฉบับ) 2000

author(n: author pl authors) The person who has written something; someone who writes books or stories, especially a person who has written many books or stories. I enjoyed the book, but I can't remember the name of its author. 3000

beggar(n: beggar pl beggars) A person (often homeless or disabled) who lives by asking others to give them money, food, etc. 2000

bounce(v: bounce, bounces, bounced, bouncing) 1. To move in one direction, hit a surface (such as a wall or the floor), and then quickly move in a different and usually opposite direction. 2. To move with a lot of energy and excitement. 3. To move or jump up and down. 3000

congratulate(v: congratulate, congratulates, congratulated, congratulating) To tell (someone) that you are happy because of his or her success or a happy event. 3000

conscience(n: conscience pl consciences) The part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong. 4000

(n: crack pl cracks) 1. A split or break in something that creates lines in its surface but does not separate it into pieces. (รอยแตก) 2. A sudden loud, sharp sound, such as when ice breaks or lightning strikes. (เสียงแตกเปรี้ยง)
(v: crack, cracks, cracked, cracking) 1. To make or cause a crack in something. The mirror cracked when she dropped it. (แตกร้าว) 2. To hit or press (something) so hard that it breaks apart or opens suddenly. He cracked open the eggs. (กะเทาะออก) 3. [of a voice] To change sharply in tone or pitch, especially because of strong emotion. Her voice cracked as she told them about the accident. 2000

cracked cup cracking eggs

dare(v: dare, dares, dared, daring) To not be too afraid or shy to do something. (2000)
I dare you to. Used to ask someone to do something you think they may be afraid to do.
Don't you dare! Used to forcefully tell someone not to do something.
How dare you! Used to show someone that you are angry about what they have done or said.

(v: deserve, deserves, deserved, deserving) To have earned something as a right by one's actions or achievements. 3000

despite(prep: despite) Without being prevented by; in spite of something. Used to say that something happens or is true even though there is something that might have prevented it from happening or being true. 2000

destination(n: destination pl destinations) The place to which someone or something is going. 5000

gradual(adj: gradual) Moving or changing in small amounts; happening in a slow way over a long period of time. 2000

miracle(n: miracle pl miracles) An unusual or wonderful event that cannot be explained and is believed to be caused by the power of God. 3000

overcoat(n: overcoat pl overcoats) A long coat worn over other clothes to keep a person warm during very cold weather. 7000

pregnant(adj: pregnant) [of a woman or female animal] Having a baby or babies developing inside the body. 2000

rags(n: rag pl rags) Old, worn or torn clothes. 3000

rainbow(n: rainbow pl rainbows) A curved line of different colors that sometimes appears in the sky when the sun shines through rain. 5000

revenge(n: revenge, noncount) The act of doing something to hurt someone because that person did something that hurt you. 5000

sidewalk(n: sidewalk pl sidewalks) Used in the U.S. and Canada to describe a path along the side of a street for people to walk on. Usually called pavement in the U.K. and footpath in Australia. 5000

slip(v: slip, slips, slipped, slipping) To slide accidentally and lose one's balance or footing. (ลื่นไถล) 2000

steal(v: steal, steals, stole, stolen, stealing) To take (something) from the owner in a way that is wrong or against the law. (ขโมย) 3000

straw(n: straw, noncount) The dry stems of wheat and other grain plants having many uses, eg as bedding for animals, making mats and other goods etc. (ฟางข้าว) 3000

stubborn(adj: stubborn) Refusing to change your ideas or to stop doing something; unwilling to listen to advice; inflexible. (ดื้อรั้น) 6000

witness(n: witness pl witnesses) A person who has seen or was present at a crime, event, etc. (พยาน) 2. A person who makes a statement in a court about what he or she knows or has seen. (พยาน) 3. A person who is present at an event and signs a document to say that it happened. (ผู้ลงชื่อเป็นพยาน) 2000

wake(v: wake, wakes, woke, woken, waking) To stop sleeping; to become awake after sleeping. (ตื่นนอน)
(n: wake pl wakes) A time shortly after a person dies when people gather to remember them, often associated with festivity. If held before the funeral, it will often involve a viewing of the body. 2000

(n: noun pl nouns) A word or group of words that is used as the name of something, such as a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, or action.

(n: First Person, singular) In literature, a writing style where a story is told by one character at a time, using 'I' and 'we' as subject pronouns and 'me' and 'us' as object pronouns when speaking for and about themselves. The reader sees the story through the character's eyes and shares his or her opinions, thoughts, and feelings. When reading such stories, it is important to remember that we only see other characters through the narrator's eyes, and that nobody is 100% correct in everything they think or see. The reader sometimes needs to question and look beyond what the narrator says in order to fully understand the story.

clue(n: clue pl clues) Something that helps a person find something, understand something, or solve a mystery or puzzle. 2000

(n: personality pl personalities) The set of emotional qualities, ways of behaving, etc., that makes a person different from other people; their character. 3000

(adj: psychological) Of or relating to the mind or the study of the mind; related to the science of psychology.
(n: psychologist pl psychologists) A scientist who studies psychology or treats problems to do with the mind and behavior. 2000

(v: install, installs, installed, installing) To cause (a thing, oneself or another person) to be or stay in a particular place or position. 3000

pregnant(adj: pregnant) [of a woman or female animal] Having a baby or babies developing inside the body. 2000

(n: sensation pl sensations) A particular feeling or effect that your body experiences. 5000

(adv: immature) Acting in a childish way; behaving like someone much younger. 3000

(adj: insipid) 1. Not interesting or exciting; dull or boring. 2. (of food) Lacking strong taste or flavor; bland. 12000

amuse(v: amuse, amuses, amused, amusing) 1. To make someone laugh or smile. 2. To entertain or give fun or pleasure to someone.
(adj: amusing) Funny; providing enjoyment; pleasantly entertaining. An amusing story. 3000

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