Dictionary Stories

Very short stories composed entirely of example sentences from the dictionary.

News — Introducing: Dictionary Stories

Say hello to Dictionary Stories: Short Stories and Other Findings, coming April 2018 from Harper Perennial and available to pre-order right this second Read more

Chin Up

As late afternoon merged imperceptibly into early evening, a warm September evening, I went for a long walk. A peaceful riverside amble before dark, where the blackwood, the box, and the bastard oak grew. Needed a change of scene.

The murmur of bees in the rhododendrons. 

The birds tweeting in the branches.

Planes passed overhead. 

A car horn.

A flourish of trumpet. 

The scratch of a match lighting a cigarette. (I have many vices but smoking is the big one. I blame you for that.)

There were echoes and scents that awoke some memory in me—we went for a swim in the river, but the water was a touch too chilly for us. The weather was terrible, do you remember? It was raining hard. We took a bus back to the city center, wet clothes dripping onto the floor. 

Where are you living now? Are you all right? Are you keeping company with anyone special these days? Have you lost your taste for fancy restaurants?

Your problems seem larger than life at that time of night. With a suspicion of a smile, I strolled around, muttering to myself, you’ll be okay, kiddo

In the Beginning

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, artisanal cheeses, the bleakness of winter, morse code, deviled eggs, erogenous zones, the feeling of fullness you acquire from eating brown rice, gendered occupations, healthy competition, copyright infringement, cherries jubilee, kicky high-heeled boots, lite beer, misshapen fruit, nonsense poetry, oral hygiene, postmodernist theory, quaint country cottages, roller hockey, scented soap, acid trips, unbridled lust, vegetative spores, whitewater rafting, xenophobia, young love, and zippy new sedans. Then he dried up and Phil couldn’t get another word out of him. 

Madame Eva

“You'll never amount to anything.” Her voice was flat and emotionless.

They sat looking at each other without speaking. He slapped down a fiver. She considered him coolly for a moment. Madame Eva bent once more over the crystal ball. Her eyes dilated in the dark. She sat back and exhaled deeply. 

“You'll get used to it.”

My True Love Gave to Me

Twelve labours of Hercules,
Eleven gallons of diesel,
Ten head of cattle,
Nine breeding pairs of birds, 
Eight Mbytes of memory,
Seventh-Day Baptists,
Six months of unclouded happiness,
Five venturous young men,
Four slices of bread,
Three spoons of sugar,
Two fundamentally different concepts of democracy,
And a sin in the eyes of God.


The whole world seemed to be sleeping, apart from Barbara. She found herself in bed in a strange place—a research station in the rain forest, a bird sanctuaryabandoning herself to moony fantasies: A research biologist with impeccable credentials was fingered for team leader, and she had been deputed to look after him while Clarissa was away. He had charm, good looks, and an amusing insouciance; she had a thing about men who wore glasses, men of culture, men with passions unruled. She had had plenty of flirtations—now she had fallen in love. Color bloomed in her cheeks. He leaned forward to take her hand. She looked down, terrified that he would read fear on her face—

A sudden sound in the doorway startled her. A shiver shook her slim frame. She lodged this idea in the back of her mind for future reference.

What He Is

He’s a deeply sick man from whom society needs to be protected. He’s an egotistical, mean-spirited, abusive man. He’s a lying, cheating, snake in the grass. He’s a treacherous brain-damaged old vulture. He’s emerged as a racist and an anti-feminist. He’s a shameless publicity seeker. He’s arrogant and opinionated. He’s all talk. He’s a bumbling fool. He’s a real character. He’s a bit of a womanizer. He’s by no means the only senior politician who has mislaid his moral compass. He’s being unfairly ganged up on. He’s as devious as a politician needs to be. He’s a good guy at heart. He’s a very strong leader, very presidential in his performance. He’s very much a man of the people. After a while, you get used to it.

Floor Exercise

1. Sit on the floor, and spread your legs.
2. Keeping your mouth closed, breathe in through your nostrils. Try to keep calm.
3. Lie down and bring your knees up toward your chest.
4. Lying flat on your back, twist your body onto one side. Keep still.
5. Keep your knees slightly bent, and keep your head up. Keep still.
6. Just stop talking and listen to me.
7. Stand up straight with both arms at your sides.
8. Stop crying and pull yourself together. 
9. Repeat this exercise five times a week.
10. Why don’t you go upstairs and lie down? 

News — A New Site! A New Look! A New Hope!

Dictionary Stories has that distinctive New Website Smell, and much more besides. Find out more about what you’re looking at.  Read more

Underlined words are those responsible for each example sentence.