The stories in this section will contain miscommunication, characters that leave important things unsaid, people with different styles of communication, and characters who have various other communication problems.
These stories might interest an avid reader, or might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.
The Cactus | O. Henry
A man returns home after attending the wedding of his ex. He thinks about their courtship, and how much she adored him; he wonders why things went wrong.
Hills Like White Elephants | Ernest Hemingway
At a train station, a man and woman have a casual conversation which transitions into something serious. It’s not explicitly stated what they’re talking about.
The Reticence of Lady Anne | Saki
Egbert tries to smooth things over with his wife. They had argued, so he tries to get her talking again, but she’s uncooperative.
Who Said We All Have to Talk Alike | Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel
Neffie is a fifty-one-year old widow living in a small Southern town. She takes a job in California, watching two little girls while their mother works. Her Ozark dialect proves to be a problem.
By Courier | O. Henry
A man and woman who aren’t on speaking terms use a young boy to run messages to each other in a park.
Got a Letter from Jimmy | Shirley Jackson
A man gets a letter from Jimmy – someone that he had previously fallen out with – and tells his wife he’s going to send it back unopened. She wants to know what the letter says.
The Malefactor | Anton Chekhov
Denis Grigoriev is brought before a magistrate after being spotted stealing nuts from the rails by the railroad watchmen. Grigoriev is questioned about his crime, and he explains himself.
The Man in the Brown Coat | Sherwood Anderson
A historian writes while his wife works around the house and goes about her daily routine. The man is much more comfortable with books and writing than he is with his wife.
Brazzaville Teen-ager | Bruce Jay Friedman
Gunther’s father is uncommunicative. He believes that his father would open up if he was in a bad situation, but when he gets a potentially fatal disease, Gunther finds that his father remains stoic. Gunther gets the irrational idea that performing an embarrassing, self-esteem damaging act will save his father.
A Horse and Two Goats | R. K. Narayan
Muni lives in poverty in a tiny village in India. While Muni is out grazing his two remaining goats, a well-off American stops his car and approaches. Neither speaks the other’s language, but they try to converse.
That in Aleppo Once… | Vladimir Nabokov
The narrator writes a letter to his Russian friend working as a novelist in America. He chronicles his failed marriage, including a separation that occurs during a train trip and his jealousy.
The Woman Who Came at Six O’Clock | Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A prostitute goes to a diner every day at 6 PM. One day when she gets there, she tells the owner, Jose, that she didn’t arrive at her usual time. She claims that it’s quarter to 6, although the clock says it’s 6 PM. She and Jose talk about what time it is and she mentions some hypothetical situations that might arise in her line of work. It’s not directly stated what her purpose is.
If You Eat, You Never Die | Tony Romano
Lucia gets a visit from her son Jim’s wrestling coach. Coach is stressing the importance of Jim making weight for his matches, while Lucia sees Jim as underweight as it is. Coach tries to get Lucia to see things his way.
Amy Foster | Joseph Conrad
A country doctor tells the narrator the story of a passive and dull woman, Amy Foster. She fell in love with a man from Europe who was shipwrecked off the coast of her town. The doctor tells the history of this man, including the isolation he endured due to the language barrier and how he was viewed as dangerous and insane.
Call Me | Judy McCrosky
Shawna and George communicate mostly through their answering machines. When they meet in person it is in dark and loud environments.
Why I Live at the P.O. | Eudora Welty
The narrator’s sister, Stella-Rondo, comes home with her husband and two-year-old daughter for a visit. The family’s communication is dysfunctional, with much petty arguing.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love | Raymond Carver
Two married couples sit in the McGinnis’s apartment, drinking and talking about real love. They use their own, and second-hand experiences, to try to define it.
Here We Are | Dorothy Parker
A newly-married couple is riding a train. They talk about their wedding and what they’re going to do. Everything that comes up leads them into a petty disagreement.
Some Like Them Cold | Ring Lardner
After a chance meeting with Mabelle at a Chicago train station, Charles, now pursuing a songwriting career in New York, writes to Mabelle. They correspond, presenting themselves as people of good character, ideal choices for marriage, and generally flirting.
The Appalachian Trail | Bruce Eason
A woman tells a man that she plans on walking the Appalachian Trail. He isn’t enthusiastic about it, and tries to persuade her to give up the idea.
The Burlington Northern, Southbound | Bruce Holland Rogers
A man writes a poem for a woman he is unable to talk to. He compares her to a train.
Wrong Channel | Roberto Fernandez
Barbarita goes to the doctor so she can get her green card approved. Her friend Mima comes with her to translate. It doesn’t go smoothly.
Blackberries | Ellen Hunnicutt
A man returns to his campsite with freshly-picked blackberries. His wife starts talking about being out of milk, and a theater tour in New York. He talks about frying up some cattails and other things they can do where they are.
A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease | Jonathan Safran Foer
The narrator explains the meaning of many different unusual punctuation marks that are used in communication, mostly with family.
Rope | Katherine Anne Porter
A married couple have just moved to the country. The husband comes back from the store with some rope but he has forgotten the coffee, which his wife wanted. The rope sets off a discussion and argument about many things.
I will try to add more stories about communication that could be helpful for teaching reading and reading comprehension to middle or high school students. Eventually, I hope these pages will become a teaching resource.