Dictionary Stories

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

All stories based on ‘Collins COBUILD Primary Learner’s Dictionary’—

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

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? 

Pasadena, 11pm

We met by accident at a party in Los Angeles. The music was so loud that I had to strain to hear what she was saying. She was a tall, dark woman, with an unusual face—a work of art. She wore pink lipstick. She wore a cream silk shirt. She wore a blue skirt with white stripes. I was sure I’d seen her before.

We went down some steps into the garden, and she put some dry sticks on the fire. There was something strange about the way she spoke. She told me her husband was dead, that she was from a traditional Jewish family. She gazed into the fire. The colour suddenly faded from her cheeks.

“Have you ever fired a gun before?”

I stared at her blankly.

“How happy are you with regard to your work?” 

Her bracelets jingled on her thin wrist. We looked at each other in silence. She gave a little smile.

“You really are serious about this, aren’t you?”

She threw a bucket of water on the fire.

“You can reach me at this phone number.”

Harry Potter and the Once-In-A-Lifetime Business Opportunity in Southern California

I was doing the ironing when he called—the actor Daniel Radcliffe who plays the hero in the Harry Potter films. He asked me to go to California with him. He plans to plant fruit trees. It was a very difficult decision to make, but my job was making me miserable, and citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C.

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.”

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.

First Words

The valley was enclosed by rugged peaks, security fencing and annihilative firepower—a state secret. Nothing for miles around. They sat opposite one another they sat in the shade of a tree.

Repeat the words after me: A fish is an animal.”

“A fish is an animal.”

“A cow is an animal.”

“A cow is an animal.”

“We go to the zoo to see the animals.”

“We go to the zoo to see the animals.” She nodded in affirmation.

Very good.”

Very good.” She looked up with an absent smile and burst out laughing. Its mouth snapped into a tight, straight line and there was a fraught silence. Her body tensed up.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to insult you!” She leaned forward to take its hand and a cross-current of electricity seemed to flow between them. She felt guilty now, and a little uneasy. She looked at it warily, this naive, simple creature, with its straightforward and friendly eyes so eager to believe appearances—a shimmering evanescent bubble of cycloid scales and yellow fur agleam in the sun. Circuitry that Karen could not begin to comprehend. Since Parker’s research did not pan out too well, now she was the linchpin of the experiment. Her voice wobbled dangerously, but she brought it under control.

“I’m really sorry if I hurt your feelings.”

To her astonishmentit smiled and emitted a sound like laughter. She felt an inward sense of relief.

“I want an apple.”

“When you ask for something you should say, ‘Please.’”

Please give me an apple.” It rolled the word around its mouth. She smiled distantly.

“Ill think about it, amigo.”

Underlined words are those responsible for each example sentence.