Super Short English Stories

The Blind Men and the Elephant by James Baldwin

Intermediate (B1)415 words

One morning an elephant was driven down the road where six blind men stood. The first one put his hand on the elephant’s side. “Well, well!” he said, “now I know all about this beast...”

There are many versions of this classic fable, but this one by the famous American writer James Baldwin is both the shortest and the simplest. English learners of all ages and skill levels can appreciate it — and also practice their listening skills with this audio recording from LibriVox.

A Very Short Story by Ernest Hemingway

Intermediate (B1)636 words

She was sorry, and she knew he would probably not be able to understand, but might some day forgive her. She loved him as always, but she realized now it was only a boy and girl love...

Based on his real-life experiences during the First World War, this simple story offers a taste of the ‘terse’ writing style of Ernest Hemingway (arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century). While the moral of this story may resonate with adult readers, it’s not so interesting (or appropriate) for children.

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

Intermediate (B1)687 words

This is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all...

The Man in the Brown Coat by Sherwood Anderson

Intermediate (B1)994 words

Little things are growing big in my mind. The window before my desk makes a little framed place like a picture. Every day I sit staring. I wait with an odd sensation of something impending...

The Last Night of the World by Ray Bradbury

Intermediate (B1)1,434 words

“I always thought I would be frightened to death, but I’m not. You don’t get too excited when you feel things are logical. This is logical. Nothing else but this could have happened from the way we’ve lived...”

Sticks by George Saunders

Intermediate (B2)392 words

On the Fourth of July the pole was Uncle Sam, on Veteran’s Day a soldier, on Halloween a ghost. The first time I brought a date over she said, What’s with your dad and that pole? and I sat there blinking...

There Was Once by Margaret Atwood

Intermediate (B2)613 words

“There was once a poor girl, as beautiful as she was good—”
“Stop right there. Poor is relative. And I think we can cut the ‘beautiful’, don’t you? Can’t you make her, well, more average?”

Compare with 'Girl' and Bradbury's story.

A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf

Intermediate (B2)679 words

Wandering through the house, opening the windows, whispering not to wake us, the ghostly couple seek their joy. “Here we slept,” she says. And he adds, “Kisses without number.” The doors go shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart...

Hearts and Hands by O. Henry

Intermediate (B2)873 words

In one coach there sat a pretty young woman dressed in elegant taste and surrounded by the luxurious comforts of an experienced traveler. Among the newcomers were two young men, handcuffed together...

The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

Intermediate (B2)1,016 words

She was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long...

Photo by Reza Shayestehpour