Margaret Atwood Short Stories

The short stories on this page are divided by the collection name. For now, it includes:

  • Bluebeard’s Egg
  • Murder in the Dark
  • Wilderness Tips
  • Good Bones
  • Good Bones and Simple Murders (compilation of Good Bones & Murder in the Dark)
  • Dancing Girls
  • The Tent

Margaret Atwood Short Stories

Bluebeard’s Egg

“Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother”

The narrator relates episodes from her mother’s life starting back when she was a little girl. Her father was a country doctor and traveled by horse and buggy. She could hear the groans and screams of injured people who came to their house. Her father also invested his sister’s savings in a muskrat farm, but they were all accidentally poisoned. There were many other notable events in her life.

This story can be read in the preview of Bluebeard’s Egg(14% in)

“Spring Song of the Frogs”

Will is on a dinner date with Robyn, who’s groomed in the current style but seems a bit self-conscious about her look. Will isn’t sure if the waitress who serves them is a man or woman at first. Will has bread but Robyn doesn’t. Robyn looks at her reflection in the glass behind Will, which makes him lose interest in the date. The narrative continues with a visit to Will’s niece in the hospital, and a dinner date with Diane at home.

“The Sin Eater”

The narrator talks about her therapist, Joseph. He told her about a Wales tradition where a person known as a Sin Eater would be called to eat a meal over a dead body. This would transfer the dead person’s sins to the eater, thus clearing the person’s way to heaven. When Joseph has an accident, the narrator finds out about his life from his ex-wives and other patients.

Murder in the Dark

The first section of this collection is made up of very short stories. The following 4 can be read in the Amazon Kindle preview.

“Autobiography”

The narrator relates the first thing she remembers—where the lake meets the sky. On the right were a river, a dam, a covered bridge, some houses, a white church and a small rock island.

“Making Poison”

The narrator remembers making poison with her brother when she was five. In a paint can, they put all the poisonous things they could think of and acquire. They stored it under a neighbor’s house.

“The Boys’ Own Annual, 1911”

The narrator finds an old periodical in her grandfather’s attic. The issue containing the final instalment of an adventure story is missing. It never came.

“Before the War”

Before the war things were different. You could fish and shoot bears. Logging is different now too, with trucks and bulldozers.


“Murder in the Dark”

The narrator remembers the two times she played the game Murder in the Dark. The first was in Grade 5 with three other kids, but one of their parents’ came home and broke it up. The second was with adults which wasn’t as fun. She explains the game.

This story can be read in the preview of Good Bones and Simple Murders(45% in Kindle preview)

“Bad News”

A bird on a rooftop is bored with the peacefulness of the scene. It wants a significant event—something dangerous or damaging that will be of interest.

This story can also be read in the preview of Good Bones and Simple Murders(58% in Kindle preview)

“Unpopular Gals”

Three women you might recognize tell their side of the story. They know from painful experience that life isn’t fair, and they feel they’ve been misrepresented.

This story can also be read in the preview of Good Bones and Simple Murders(65% in Kindle preview)

“The Little Red Hen Tells All”

The famous Little Red Hen let’s us in on the full story of when she put in all the work to bake bread while the other animals lazed around. Things didn’t turn out the way we were told.

This story can also be read in the preview of Good Bones and Simple Murders(85% in Kindle preview)

“Bread”

The narrator asks us to imagine a piece of bread—right now in the kitchen, during a famine and in a prison. (Summary & Analysis)

“Simmering”

At first the men only cooked in the backyard, on the grill. They only prepared the things that had been killed, while the women took care of the rest. Eventually, the women went off to work and the men took over the kitchens. The men’s enthusiasm continues to grow. They quit their jobs and dedicate themselves to culinary pursuits.

“Women’s Novels”

The narrator compares and contrasts the type of novels favored by men and women.

“The Page”

The narrator expounds on the blank page—its lack of dimension and directions, how to enter it, and what is beneath it.

Wilderness Tips

“True Trash”

Donny is looking through binoculars at a group of waitresses basking in the sun in bathing suits. They’re lying in the sun reading True Romance magazine. The other boys anxiously await their turns. They especially like looking at Ronette, the “bad” girl of the group. The other girls laugh through the descriptions in the stories, but not Ronette. Joanne is a “good” girl. The boys are at a summer camp.

A lot of this story can be read in the preview of Wilderness Tips(22% into Kindle preview)

“Uncles”

The protagonist’s father died when she was young. Her family was supported by her uncles. She becomes a journalist and is eventually very successful.

“Hairball”

Kat goes to the hospital to have a large ovarian cyst removed. There’s no way to know if it’s malignant until the doctor “goes in”. After the operation she makes an unusual request. We learn some of Kat’s personal history, including her job at a fashion magazine, her relationship with Gerald, and the many versions of her name.

Read “Hairball” 

Good Bones

“There Was Once”

A storyteller is constantly interrupted while trying to relate a traditional fairy tale. The listener objects to the clichés and politically incorrect language.

Read here (Scroll down slightly to second story)

Dancing Girls

“The Resplendent Quetzal”

Sarah and Edward are on a guided tour in Mexico. She sits by a sacrificial well. The guide moves everyone along but Sarah stays. She’s not interested in seeing everything. They’re here because Edward’s latest obsession is pre-Columbian ruins. Edward is even farther behind the group. He’s bird-watching, which is one of his long-time interests. They’re not close anymore.

“Happy Endings”

John and Mary meet. What happens next varies greatly. The “A” story has a happy ending. Story versions “B” through “F” go differently. We learn a lesson about plots and how stories end.

Read “Happy Endings”

“When it Happens”

Mrs. Burridge, a fifty-one-year old woman on a farm, makes green tomato pickles. Her husband, Frank, thinks she makes too much, even though he ate all of them last year. Prices are going up. She’s expecting some kind of societal breakdown. She doesn’t believe her husband will be able to protect her when it happens. She tries to plan for it.

The Tent

“Life Stories”

The narrator talks about the hunger for life stories and unflattering photos of famous people. She’s editing her own life story now.

This story can be read in the preview of The Tent(50% in: Go into Paperback preview first, then select Kindle)

“Clothing Dreams”

A woman has been having a recurring dream about clothes for fifty years. She’s unsure of her identity and why she’s looking through the clothes.

This story can be read in the preview of The Tent(62% in: Go into Paperback preview first, then select Kindle)


“Freeforall”

In the near future, STD’s are widespread and ravaging the population. The uninfected are kept separate. Their lives are rigidly controlled by the state. The infected are left to suffer and die.

“Oursonette”

There’s a celebration—confetti and streamers are fluttering in the sky. It makes Al think of how much trouble they had getting paper for Oursonette, their war-themed comic book. The streets are full of people. There’s singing, music playing, noise making, kissing and hugging, and flags flying. He’s wondering what will become of Oursonette now that the war is over.