Dictionary Stories

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


The engines stopped, and the craft coasted along. Gulls and cormorants bobbed on the waves. A reverent silence. A memorial to the lost crewmen.

Normally the boat is crewed by 5 people. Team members are more effective than individuals working alone. I had to do it, I had no choice.

This Mixtape is Terrible

1. A maudlin ballad.
2. A choral work.
3. A lovely little music-hall ditty.
4. A whistling noise.
5. A houseful of barking dogs and screaming children.
6. The Song of Hiawatha.
7. Inaudible pulses of high-frequency sound.
8. Taxi drivers honking their horns.
9. Mozart’s symphonies in arrangements for cello and piano.
10. Four-part harmony in the barbershop style
11. A moment of silence presided over by a local minister.
12. The sound of the Beatles.

Another Animated Description of Mr. Maps

The police have arrested a suspect: A man of short stature, he was born and raised in San Francisco. He is an only child, an avid reader of science fiction, a man of unusual talent. He does not lack perception or native wit. He fancies himself an amateur psychologist, a talented young musician, an art collector, a lab technician skilled in electronics. He is a great lover of cats, a celebrated patron of the arts. He was named to head a joint UN–OAS diplomatic effort. He smokes forty cigarettes a day. He has piercing blue eyes, a mass of curly hair. He’s a pretentious son of a gun, but he’s got a heart of gold.

The jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir or Madam,

We can take the easy road, the downhill road, or we can put America on the path to greatness again. I am a political animal. I’ve still got belief in myself - Christian beliefs, a belief in Democratic politics. In summary, there is no clear case for one tax system compared to another. We must be seen to keep the spirit of the law as well as the letter. Glaciers are unique and interesting natural phenomena. This fern makes a good houseplant. What was your name again?

Take care,
Lots of love,

How to Play

The game is structured so that there are five ways to win. The best play is to lead with the 3 of clubs. That move will put your king in check. If Black moves his bishop, he loses a pawn, two red aces and a stiff club. If a batter hits a bunt foul with two strikes, he is out. Shuffle the deck, add the numbers together and take away five. Aim for the middle of the target. Each correct answer scores ten points. The magician may cast a spell on himself. There are hundreds of prizes to be won. May the Lord have mercy on your soul.


Before dinner the Reverend Newman said grace: “Heavenly Father. What kind of a heel do you think I am? How dare you talk to me like that! Don’t give me any of your back talk, smart-ass. It’s been an absolute bastard of a week. I sinned and brought shame down on us. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no big deal. You don’t know dick about this—you haven’t a clue! I suppose you believe that rubbish about vampires. The allegations were false, do you understand me? Baseless allegations. I believe in ghosts. Too bad, but that’s the way it is. Why don’t you leave me alone? Go on, get lost! I’ll get mine, you get yours, we’ll all get wealthy. Amen to that!”

Seven Sisters

It was still night when we hit the outskirts of Chicago. The woods were still and silent. The power lines had been brought down by falling trees. Derelict houses were abandoned. We camped out for the night in a mission schoolroom.

Sophie got Beth to make a fire. Lucy saw to it that everyone got enough to eat. Bella sang to the baby. Virginia had a sick feeling in her stomach. Ruth did her best to reassure her.

We all scared real easy in those days. We were everything to each other.

I’ll have that coffee now, if the offer still holds.

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

A retired teacher. A topiary gardener. An army officer of fairly high rank. A brilliant young mathematician. A highly esteemed scholar. President Kennedy. One of the great stars in the American golfing firmamentDetective Sergeant Fox. The Honorable Richard Morris Esquire, chief justice of the supreme court of our state. When you put these men together, you’re bound to get fireworks. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to interview every applicant.

Poor John

We met at an office party. He looked vaguely familiar - his impassive, fierce stare reminded me of an owl. A man of refreshing candor. The easy gait of an athlete. He knew Latin and Greek; I had only a little French.

The smell of a black-currant bush has ever since recalled to me that evening. The sleeve of his coat. A piece of cake. A firework display. The plays of Shakespeare. The paintings of Rembrandt. A rich, hoppy beer. Poor John always enjoyed a drink. Anyway, he died last year.

To make a long story short, I married Stephen. The movie broke box-office records.


He perched on the edge of the bed, a study in confusion and misery, a study of a man devoured by awareness of his own mediocrity. The place was dreadfully untidy. Tattered notebooks filled with illegible hieroglyphics, the evolution of animal life, the mysteries of analytical psychology, victorian architecture… The street lamps shed a faint light into the room. It was beginning to rain.

Ruth listened to the rhythm of his breathing. She sat very still, her eyes closed. She heard the click of the door. He was thrown backward by the force of the explosion.

Her hunting days were done.


Blend onions, sugar, and oil to a paste. Boil the potatoes until well done. Grill the trout for about five minutes. Trim any excess fat off the meat. Carefully peel away the wax paper. Sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the fat. Broil until the nuts have toasted. Cook the carrots in boiling salted water. Use the icing to model a house. Scatter the coconut over the icing. A few grains of corn. A ripe brie. Gallons of fake blood. Take an aspirin and lie down. Put the sausage on top of the polenta; then dig in.


The midnight hours. The rain had not stopped for days. A stranger slowly approached from the shadows. The walls threw back the echoes of his footsteps. His voice was low and shaky with emotion. A day’s growth of unshaven stubble on his chin. He took an envelope from his inside pocket. Her alabaster cheeks flushed with warmth, high cheekbones powdered with freckles. “We should talk somewhere less public.” She grabbed him by the shirt collar. “We’re going to settle this here and now.” He drew a deep, shuddering breath. Chest pains. A trickle of blood. She was smiling. “I got all dolled up for a party.”

Underlined words are those responsible for each example sentence.