These short stories usually involve a deliberate attempt to deceive, trick, lie to or mislead someone, or the keeping of a secret.
See also Betrayal
See also Affairs
The She-Wolf | Saki
A man at a dinner party says he has supernatural powers, so some of the guests decide to play a trick on him.
The Pelican | Edith Wharton
A woman gives lectures to support herself and child. Her lectures are of dubious quality, and her audience is more interested in them as social events.
Taste | Roald Dahl
At their dinners, a wine connoisseur and his host make small bets on whether the expert can identify the wine being served. At one dinner, the betting escalates as both men feel they can’t lose.
My Lady Love, My Dove | Roald Dahl
A wealthy couple has guests for the weekend to play bridge. The wife has the idea that they should bug their guests’ room.
Parson’s Pleasure | Roald Dahl
An antiques dealer works a con to buy valuable items from unsuspecting country dwellers. On one trip, he makes the find of his life and tries to get it for next to nothing.
“Parson’s Pleasure” (Pg 29)
The Open Window | Saki
A man is visiting the country for some relaxation. While waiting to be introduced to all the members of the household, a young girl tells him the story of their tragic family history.
The Umbrella Man | Roald Dahl
While waiting for a taxi, a mother and daughter are approached by an older man who wants to sell them an expensive umbrella, cheaply. He explains that he’s forgotten his wallet and just needs cab fare to get home.
Checkmate | Jeffrey Archer
A beautiful woman shows up at a chess tournament, sparking a lot of interest among the competitors.
Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat | Roald Dahl
Mrs. Bixby is given an expensive mink coat by her lover, but she doesn’t know how she can explain it to her husband. She comes up with a plan to keep it.
Two Gallants | James Joyce
Two men, Lenehan and Corley, walk around Dublin as Corley talks about a maid he is seeing. She takes small items for him from her employer. The men have a plan to get her to steal some money for them.
The District Doctor | Ivan Turgenev
A doctor makes an urgent house call where a beautiful young woman is in a bad condition. He tries to reassure her family even though a recovery is unlikely.
Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger | Saki
Mrs. Packletide wants to shoot a tiger to outshine a rival. She plots to do it in an easy way, but something goes awry.
The Hounds of Fate | Saki
A weary man approaches a house looking for some relief, but he’s greeted like he’s the returning owner.
I’m a Fool | Sherwood Anderson
A nineteen-year-old horse groomer buys some fancy cigars and sits in the grandstand at the races. He meets a young woman and they spend some time together.
Everything is Green | David Foster Wallace
A man and woman, possibly married, are having a disagreement. He thinks she has done something and she denies it.
Glove Purchase in Gibraltar | Mark Twain
The narrator recounts his glove purchase from the previous night. An attractive saleslady shows him gloves that are nothing like what he wants, but her compliments make it hard for him to refuse them.
Child’s Play | Alice Munro
Marlene, the adult narrator, tells the story of her time at camp with her friend Charlene when they were about ten-years-old. While sharing information with each other, Marlene tells her about Verna, a girl two or three years older who moved in next to her. Verna was different; she was in a special class at school. Marlene didn’t like her. Some unstated tragedy had occurred in her childhood.
The Rats in the Walls | H. P. Lovecraft
The narrator restores his ancestral home, Exham Priory, in England. He recounts some of his family history, including an ancestor who was supposedly cursed by God, and tales of murder and infestation by bats and rats. After moving in he hears sounds in the walls.
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County | Mark Twain
Simon Wheeler tells the story of Jim Smiley, a man who would make bets on anything. He had a tenacious dog which had an unusual way of winning fights. He once trained a frog to be an exceptional jumper so he could win bets on it.
The Cask of Amontillado | Edgar Allan Poe
The narrator, Montresor, tells the story of how he sought revenge against a man who insulted him. Montresor lures the man into his cellar with the promise of tasting a rare vintage of Amontillado.
The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg | Mark Twain
Hadleyburg is an honest and upright town. A mysterious stranger is holding a grudge against a few citizens, but rather that seeking revenge against the individuals he wants to corrupt the whole town. He launches his scheme by dropping off a sack of gold coins at the Richards’ home. A note explains that the coins will be awarded to whoever can repeat the wise advice that was given to the stranger years ago.
A Temporary Matter | Jhumpa Lahiri
Shoba had a miscarriage six months ago, three weeks before she was due. She and her husband Shukumar get a notice from the electric company saying their power will be off for an hour for five consecutive evenings. While eating in candlelight, they decide to play a game where they will reveal something previously kept secret from each other.
Spotted Horses | William Faulkner
Flem Snopes and a Texan bring some ponies into town to sell. The Texan puts on an auction but it starts slowly. He is a seasoned manipulator, so he finds a way to get things going.
Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet | O. Henry
Jeff Peters relates a scheme he was involved in while posing as a medicine man. After being shut down by the constable, he meets Andy, a man with a similar trade. They want to go in on something together. Jeff gets an emergency summons from the mayor; he is sick and the local doctor is out of town.
The Loophole | Jeffrey Archer
Philip and Michael are having lunch at the Haslemere Golf Club when their conversation becomes heated. Michael is unemployed, having lost his most recent job amid some scandal. Michael defends himself while Philip points out some of his suspicious behavior. Their argument gets the attention of the club president.
The Balek Scales | Heinrich Boll
The narrator tells the story of his grandfather who lived in a village that was controlled by the Balek family. The people would bring their flax, mushrooms and herbs to Frau Balek, who would weigh everything on the only scale in the village, and pay them.