Margaret Atwood Short Stories

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

  • Bluebeard’s Egg
  • Dancing Girls
  • Murder in the Dark
  • Wilderness Tips
  • Good Bones

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)

“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.

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.

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.

“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.

“Bread”

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

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)


“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.