Short stories in English to improve vocabulary by reading (intermediate students)

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The Sun, the Moon, and the Bat

According to a story from Africa, a long time ago the sun and the bat were good friends. They were seen together all the time. They shared their dreams as well as their problems.
One day, the moon and the sun began talking about who was stronger. The moon said she was stronger. The sun did not agree with her. They argued, "I am stronger," "No, I am stronger," "No, I am," and so on. Finally, they decided to have a contest.
After a couple of days, they planned to meet at the lake to see who could throw a rock the farthest across the lake. A lot of animals came from all over the world to the lake to watch the contest. They came early because they knew that the contest could start at any time
The moon arrived at the lake first. She wanted to win, so she practiced before the sun arrived. She picked up rocks one at a time and threw them. Each time, the rocks went farther and farther. By the time the sun finally arrived at the lake, the moon was sure she could win.
The moon chose a rock and threw it. It landed near the other side of the lake. The sun chose a bigger rock and threw it. Near the middle of the lake, the sun's rock began to fall toward the water, but all of a sudden it began to go up again! The sun's rock went all the way to the other side of the lake. It seemed that the sun had won the contest after all. However, nobody knew that the bat was carrying the rock!
When the bat was sure that no one could see him, he stopped to rest between a pair of banana trees. His wings were tired. It was difficult carrying the heavy rock, but he was happy to help the sun. "That's what friends are for," thought the bat.
Many years later, the bat's mother died. Above all, the bat wanted his mother to have a nice grave. The bat worked all day, but he was not finished by the time the sun began to go down. The bat asked for a favor from the sun. "Can you stay up until I finish my mother's grave?" The sun refused. Again and again, the bat begged, but the sun said it was time for him to go down. The bat was very angry. The sun did not help him even though he had helped the sun.
When the moon came up, she saw the bat still working hard on his mother's grave. The moon gave the bat enough light to finish his work. As a result, the bat and the moon became good friends. That's why today you will never see the bat near the sun. He is always with his friend, the moon.

From: Everyday Expressions with stories (Macmillan)

VOCABULARY

a couple of = two or a few things that are similar or the same, or two or a few people who are in some way connected
He arrived a couple of days ago.
Bobby has a couple of pens in his pocket.

a long time ago = once upon a time; many years ago; ages ago; long ago
A long time ago, there were no airplanes. 
My grandfather was a pilot a long time ago.

a lot of = a large amount or number of something; lots of; plenty of
The millionaire has a lot of money.
A lot of students were absent because of the flu.

a pair of = two things of the same kind used together
She wants to buy a pair of beautiful gloves.
I need a pair of socks.

above all = most importantly; most of all
"Above all, you should obey your parents," said my grandfather.
Above all, a soldier must be brave.

according to = as shown or said by
According to this book, elephants are endangered.
According to my mother, television is bad for you.

after all = in spite of  what was expected; nevertheless; in the end
He went with them after all.
The small country won the battle after all.

again and again = often; repeatedly; over and over again
While babies learn to walk, they fall again and again.
The child wanted to hear the same story again and again.

agree with = have the same opinion as; share one's view
The teacher agreed with the students.
Sharon agreed with her friend.

all of a sudden = suddenly; unexpectedly; without warning
All of a sudden, the dog began to bark loudly.
All of a sudden, the earth began to shake.

all over the world = throughout the world; worldwide; everywhere
English is spoken all over the world.
Mozart is famous all over the world.

all the time = constantly; always
My sister practices the violin all the time.
Mark chews gum all the time.

all the way = the whole distance; the whole way
The car broke down and we had to walk all the way home.
Sue was late. She ran all the way to school.

and so on = and so forth; and the like
Potatoes, onions, carrots and so on are vegetables.
There are many countries in Africa: Zambia, Kenya, Togo, and so on.

arrive at/in = get to; come to; reach
They arrived at the restaurant.
The train arrived at the station.

as a result = so; consequently 
She studied hard. As a result, she got an A on the test.
Many roads were flooded, and, as a result, there were some delays.

as well as = in addition; and also
I play tennis on weekdays as well as on Saturdays.
There were adults as well as children in the park.

ask for = request; wish for; demand
For his birthday, Don asked for a new toy truck.
The chef asked for a spoon.

at a time = at one time; at once; at the same time
The children went down the slide two at a time.
The elevator holds five people at a time.

at any time = at any moment; any time
The library is open 24 hours a day. I can study there at any time.
People can call the police at any time.

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