Shirley Jackson Short Stories

Shirley Jackson wrote many short stories, the best known of which, “The Lottery”, is undoubtedly one of the most famous short stories ever.

Her stories are often mystery, horror or gothic with a steady, rising tension.

“The Lottery”

On a summer morning, citizens of a small village are anticipating their annual lottery, a local tradition that is believed to bring a good harvest. The children gather first, making their usual preparations. The women and men arrive and make sure their whole family is present. Mr. Summers arrives with the black wooden box.

This story can be read in the preview of Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories(10% in)

“Paranoia”

Mr. Beresford is headed home after a day’s work. He’s pleased with himself for remembering his wife’s birthday. He has candy for her and plans to take her out for supper. While trying to hail a cab, a man in a light hat unsettles him. Changing his mind, he tries to board a bus, but the man in the light hat shows up again.

This story can be read in the preview of Let Me Tell You(55% in)

“The Possibility of Evil”

Miss Strangeworth, an elderly woman, lives on Pleasant Street in a house her grandfather built. She is known for the beautiful roses she grows. She’s on friendly terms with many people in town, and she observes what is happening.

This story can be read in the preview of Dark Tales(33% in)

“The Intoxicated”

At a dinner party, an intoxicated man steps into the host’s kitchen where the host’s seventeen-year-old daughter engages him in a conversation about a post-apocalyptic world.

This story can be read in the preview of The Lottery and Other Stories.

“Colloquy”

Mrs. Arnold goes to a doctor and asks how to tell if someone is crazy. She then relates a story of her husband getting upset when he couldn’t get his daily paper.

This story can be read in the preview of The Magic of Shirley Jackson(28% into preview)

“The Daemon Lover”

A woman hasn’t slept well since her fiancé, Jamie, left at one-thirty in the morning. She gets up at seven and takes a long time drinking her coffee. She starts a letter to her sister about her wedding later that day but tears it up. She thinks a lot about what to wear, and prepares her place for Jamie’s return.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Magic of Shirley Jackson. (7% in)

“My Life with R. H. Macy”

A woman details her experiences after being hired at Macy’s. She receives some training, sees the sales floor, is given things to memorize, learns the procedure for taking orders and more.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Magic of Shirley Jackson. (25% in)

“Pillar of Salt”

A couple, Margaret and Brad, are on their way to New York for a visit. They’ll be using an friend’s empty apartment, and everything has lined up right for this vacation. For a few days everything goes well, but then Margaret starts experiencing some unusual things.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Magic of Shirley Jackson. (31% in)

“The Renegade”

Mrs. Walpole gets her children breakfast and urges them to finish up. The kids rush out and make their bus. As Mr. Walpole eats breakfast, they get a phone call. A neighbor inquires about their dog and claims it ate their chickens.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Magic of Shirley Jackson. (48% in)

“Flower Garden”

The extended Winning family lives in an old Vermont manor house. The daughter-in-law had hopes of moving into an old cottage nearby with her husband and children. It’s been empty a long time, and now she would like to see it lived in. There’s some talk around town that it’s being fixed up and someone is coming. One day, after a trip to the grocery store, Mrs. Winning drops by.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Magic of Shirley Jackson. (63% in)

“Charles”

Laurie starts kindergarten and comes home every day with stories of a classmate, Charles, who’s constantly getting in trouble for being “fresh”. Laurie’s parents wonder about Charles’ parents and worry that he’s a bad influence on their son. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

“The Bus”

Miss Harper is headed home on a wet, nasty night. She’s upset about having to ride a dirty little bus. She plans on writing a letter of complaint to the bus company. Settling into her seat, she hopes to get some rest on the bus ride home. Her thoughts are on a hot bath and a cup of tea.

“The Summer People”

The Allisons, a couple from New York, are spending the summer at their cottage. They’ve spent seventeen summers there away from the conveniences of the city. They always leave around Labor Day, as do all the vacationers. This year they decide to extend their stay.

“One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts”

Mr. Johnson leaves his home on a bright morning feeling everything is wonderful. He walks around the city handing out candy, peanuts, helping people wherever he can and just generally spreading good cheer.

“Got a Letter from Jimmy”

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.

“Janice”

Janice tells the narrator that her mother said she’s not going back to school—she can’t afford it—and of her extreme reaction to this news.

“A Fine Old Firm”

Mrs. Concord and her daughter are visited by Mrs. Friedman. They both have sons in the army who have written about the same event, though they have presented it differently. The women talk about the job prospects of Mrs. Concord’s son.

“Like Mother Used to Make”

David remembers to stop into the grocery store on the way home for butter and buns. He returns to his third floor apartment; Marcia’s suite is on the same floor. He sets the table and starts cooking the meal. Marcia is coming over for supper. David is pleased with his home. He has it furnished and arranged the way he likes, and it’s the most comfortable place he’s ever had.

“Trial by Combat”

Emily Johnson, who lives in a boarding house, notices a few small items have gone missing from her room. One day she catches someone leaving her place. She plans to confront the tenant.

Read “Trial by Combat”

“The Witch”

A young boy on a train tells a stranger that he saw a witch. The man humors the boy and then tells him a story about his own little sister, which upsets the boy’s mother.

Read here