Dictionary Stories

Very short stories composed of example sentences from various dictionaries.

Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy

The double life of a freelance secret agent? My nerves are shot. This is all getting too deep for me. At about ten at night, I got a call. A cold, dead voice. He told me my telephones were tapped and I was being watched—they see me as a traitor, a sellout to the enemy.

     I never thought Stash would rat on me. Times have changed. He had seen which way the wind was blowing. How cold and calculating he was. Little did he know what wheels he was putting into motion.

     Trusting to the cover of night, I ventured out. I went to see Caroline, but nobody was at home. The garden was overgrown and deserted. Mary vanished without a trace. Lizzie seemed to vanish into thin air, as if her presence were merely notional. I should never have trusted her.

     My own friends sold me down the river. A cabal of dissidents. A pack of wolves baying at the moon. It looked like curtains for me.

Base Camp

“Can I ask you something?”
“Yes, of course.”
Why is she here?”
“Susan and I do everything together. She’s a wise woman.”
“She’s an 83-year-old pensioner who still enjoys cycling.”
“She’s a bit deaf, but her mind is still sharp.”
“She is now totally deaf.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t follow.”
“You really are serious about this, aren’t you?”
“She’s a calm, patient woman.”
“Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.”
“As you get older it’s important to keep active.”
For a few seconds, nobody spoke. A strong wind was blowing from the north.
“Well, shall we go?”

Personal Assistant

I am writing in reference to your advertisement for a personal assistant. I can type your essays for you. I’m a fast reader. Do you take sugar in your coffee? I worked as a teacher for 40 years. I set my alarm clock for seven o’clock every morning. I do yoga twice a week. I like most types of music. I’ve been singing professionally for 10 years. I like singing hymns. I am a Roman Catholic priest. It is impossible for me to get another job at my age. If I get this job, I’ll be able to buy a new car. You can reach me at this phone number. Please make your decision as soon as possible. I will always love you, whatever happens.

1 New Message

Please leave a message after the beep.

“Listen to me, I haven’t got much time; my flight leaves in less than an hour. You are in a very dangerous situation. Do as I say or else I won’t help you. 

A non-stop flight from London takes you straight to Antigua. There’ll be a car waiting for you, a car with foreign number plates. Every church here was named after a saint. It’s a high road along a mountain ridge. There is a footbridge that spans the little stream. The house has a large backyard. Dial the number, followed by the hash sign. Are you paying attention to what I’m saying? Lie down on your bed and make yourself comfortable

Don’t do anything that might cause suspicion. Try learning some relaxation techniques. Put on some nice soothing music. Get regular exercise. Do you understand what I’m telling you, Sean? In this game, there are no rules. Detectives are still searching for the four men. They’ll be back in three days. Be quiet and go to sleep. I’ll call you soon.”


I’ve got a sick cousin over Fayetteville way. Her sight’s none too good. I rang her this morning; she said she missed me something fierce.

Her boyfriend left her for another woman. I heard tell that he went out west. She grew her hair long, decided to change her name, moved into that barn of a house. After the accident she didn’t feel up to driving. She took to her room and was not at home to friends.

It was easier in the old days. We had a good time, animals in close confinement. We used to go hunting. We done a lot of rodeoin’. We were always within sound of the train whistles, the lowing of cattle, the distant bark of some farm dog, the spit and hiss of a cornered cat, tunes in waltz time… Childhood seemed to last forever. I will never ever forget it.

I’d better give her a ring tomorrow.

Young Monarchs

She parted the ferns and looked between them. She had completely forgotten how tired and hungry she was. Her robe, beaver wool, trailed along the ground. Running away was not in keeping with her character. She signaled Charlotte to be silent—she trailed behind, whimpering at intervals.

The whole town was heavily fortified: A fast-moving river, a dark, impenetrable forest, a wall of silence. The gates were guarded by uniformed soldiers. A line of watchfires stretched away into the night. The eastern boundary of the wilderness.

They arranged to meet at eleven o’clock. There was still no sign of her. The wind had shifted to the east. There must be something wrong.

The distress call had given the ship’s position: The fishermen were steering a direct course for Kodiak. He held onto the back of a chair. His old fears came flooding back. He was not a strong swimmer. 

Instructions for Assembly

1. Take a square of sandpaper, rough side out.
2. Sand the rusty areas until you expose bare metal.
3. You can’t hold yourself responsible for what happened.
4. Smooth over with a cloth, applying even pressure.
5. Drill holes through the tiles for the masonry pins.
6. The inquiry blamed the engineer for the accident.
7. Screw the hinge to your new door.
8. Ensure that the baseboard is straight and plumb.
9. It was his fault she had died.
10. Nail the edge framing to the wall.

What Frank Did

How can he sleep soundly at night? A lot of people in the media have asked me that question. The truthful answer is that I don’t know. It would be unwise of me to comment. Frank was free to do whatever he wanted. He saw his family once every two weeks. He ate little and drank less. They said he stole a small boy’s bicycle. When I arrived, one of the vehicles was still burning. The church was in ruins. Army officers said the situation was under control. The Bible says that we have all sinned. People should wait and judge the film when they see it for themselves.


She drove along the winding lane, the baby deer nestled in her arms. She was wearing a dark suit, a laboratory coat, an ID card. Her eyes were swollen with crying. The cut was bleeding steadily. It was beginning to snow.

She joined the department last year, a tenured faculty member. Her mind sheered away from images she didn’t want to dwell on. Field observations. A yellow-beaked alpine chough. A stagnant ditch. A hairline crack down the middle of the glass. A pool of blood.

Sleep still eluded her.

The dismal weather made the late afternoon seem like evening. The rising wind bent the long grass. A beam of light flashed in front of her. Smoke appeared on the horizon. She suddenly went cold with a dreadful certainty. A sob escaped her lips. She tried to compose herself. She wouldn’t put it past him to lay a trap for her.

Noir II: Femme(ish) Fatale

Sunset Boulevard, drenched in a harsh white neon light. My feet were sore and my head ached. I shouldered my way to the bar. Ernie was making out with Bernice. I caught Rhoda’s eye and gave her a friendly wave. She’s got class—she looks like a princess. I always was a sucker for a good fairy tale.

I was to meet him at 6:30. When we first met, he was a pistol, full of ideals and a natural leader. He was the hot young piano prospect in jazz. Later, at the club, he got tight on brandy, a shot rang out—he claims he was framed. As soon as he got put under pressure, he sang like a canary. Somehow I managed to get the job done: He was paroled after serving nine months of a two-year sentence.

He arrived late. He winked at Nicole as he passed. High-heeled shoes, a platinum wig. The dress didn’t suit him. 

“I might have known it was you.”

“I’m quite a good actress, I suppose. Here’s the money I promised you.”

Say, did you notice any blood?”

“What an unfeeling little brute you are.”


Rachel shouted, beside herself with fury, the fury of a gathering storm. She felt the ground give way beneath her, an unexpected clenching sensation in the region of her heart. Her skin was deadly pale.


Underlined words are those responsible for each example sentence.