Short Stories About Memories or Amnesia

These stories have characters who are reminiscing about significant moments in their lives.

They might deal with memory’s uncertainty or power, or have characters trying to come to terms with their pasts. There could be cases of amnesia.

Some stories might simply have characters whose memories drive them to act in the present.

The Hartleys | John Cheever

Mr. and Mrs. Hartley arrive at the Pemaquoddy Inn with their young daughter, Anne. They were there eight years ago, and had a good time. Skiing is the main pastime at the inn. It even has a hill with a primitive ski tow as a back-up, for when conditions aren’t good on the mountain. Anne only wants to ski with her father, and doesn’t participate in the regular lessons.

This is the fifth story in the preview of The Stories of John Cheever.

Memories of Youghal | William Trevor

Miss Ticher, an elderly woman, is relaxing on a hotel terrace when she’s joined by an untidy man, Quillan. He’s a private detective who’s watching a couple in the hotel. He starts telling Miss Ticher his history, which included the death of his parents when he was only five months old and his difficult upbringing. He has a lot of unhappy memories. Miss Grimshaw, returning from her walk, is annoyed to find a strange man talking to her friend.

This story can be read in the preview of The Collected Stories(40% into Kindle preview)

“Conspiracy on Callisto” by Frederik Pohl

Duane and Stevens are in a ship’s corridor ready to draw their guns. Duane found out his payout from this job won’t be what he was expecting. Stevens has a private arrangement with their employer, Andrias, and won’t give up any of his share. An alarm bell sounds throughout the ship, indicating a change of course in one minute. Everyone needs to get to their cabins and strap in.

This story can be read in the preview of The 15th Science Fiction MEGAPACK. (4% into preview)

“Inertia” by Veronica Roth

Claire’s former best friend, Matt, has been in a car accident. He doesn’t have long left. He’s requested her for a last visitation, a procedure that will allow them to reexperience shared memories. She’s surprised because they haven’t spoken in six months.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of The End and Other Beginnings: Stories from the Future(20% into preview)

Snow | John Crowley

Georgie’s rich first husband buys a tiny surveillance device for her called a Wasp. It records her and downloads it to a system called The Park. After his death, Georgie is used to the Wasp and continues to allow it. When she dies her second husband accesses her memories from The Park.

Read “Snow”

The Jjilting of Granny Weatherall | Katherine Anne Porter

Granny Weatherall is on her deathbed. She thinks about some old love letters she would like to destroy, and her mind returns to the time she was left at the altar by George.

Read “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall”

A Christmas Memory | Truman Capote

A young boy, “Buddy”, lives with various relatives including his elderly, distant cousin who is his best friend. The family is poor, but “Buddy” and his cousin save their pennies each year for some special holiday food and to buy a present for each other.

Read “A Christmas Memory”

The Light of the World | Ernest Hemingway

Two young men are passing through town. They stop at a bar for a drink and then encounter a motley group at a train station. Two of the women there, prostitutes, argue about a boxer they once knew.

Read “The Light of the World” (PDF Pg 234)

Midair | Frank Conroy

Sean Kennedy is six-years-old when his absent father shows up to take him home from school. No one has a key so they climb in thru the fire escape. His father is manic. Eventually, some staff arrive from an asylum to get Mr. Kennedy. The narrative jumps ahead to future incidents in Sean’s life.

Pilon | Sandra Cisneros

The narrator remembers a feeling from her childhood when she was unselfconscious about her body and appearance.

Read “Pilon”

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed | John Irving

The narrator became a writer because of his grandmother’s kindness and a retarded garbage collector from his neighborhood when he was young. The man was Piggy Sneed. He lived with his pigs and acted like them too. The children took pleasure in teasing and scaring him.

Read “Trying to Save Piggy Sneed”

Train to Harbin | Asako Serizawa

The narrator tells of a time forty years prior in 1939 when Japan and China were at war. He was a doctor, recruited by his country for some patriotic service. His group’s goal was to preserve lives. He hasn’t fully come to terms with his past. The fact that it was wartime doesn’t settle things in his mind.

Read “Train to Harbin”

A Memory | Eudora Welty

The narrator recounts a day from her youth when she rested at a lake after a swim. She’s thinking of a boy she secretly loves, remembering interactions they’ve had. A family arrives at the lake, intruding on her reverie.

Read “A Memory”  (Pg 146)

Remembering Orchards | Barry Lopez

The narrator lived with his stepfather from twelve to seventeen, and they weren’t close. He was a highly skilled orchardist and farmer, who brought serenity to the home. The narrator talks about his stepfather and his assistant, Ramon. He appreciates his stepfather now, and knows what he’s lost.

Read “Remembering Orchards”

The Altar of the Dead | Henry James

George Stransom, fifty-five, commemorates the death of his fiancé at his private church altar. He eventually does the same for all his departed friends. Memories of the dead dominate his thoughts. He makes the acquaintance of a woman whom he has seen at his altar.

Read “The Altar of the Dead”

The Chef | Andy Weir

Doris wakes up in a hospital. Her doctor tries to find out what she can remember. She knows there was an explosion, and that she had been visiting her father, but is hazy on the other details. She can remember that she’s a professional chef, and she tells the doctor about her work.

Read “The Chef”

Arabesque—The Mouse | A. E. Coppard

Filip, now middle-aged, sits in his room reading a Russian novel. A mouse catches his eye as it appears from a hole and then promptly disappears again. He’s reminded of a childhood memory of his mother, which has had a lasting effect on him.

Read “Arabesque—The Mouse” (Ctrl + F “arabesque”)

Lafayette, Farewell | Ray Bradbury

Bill Westerleigh taps at the narrators door. He has tears on his cheeks and asks if this is his house. This has happened many times as Bill, eighty-nine-years-old, gets lost often. They drink and talk. Bill thinks a lot of his time as a pilot in the war. He’s haunted by his memories.

Read Lafayette, Farewell (scroll down over halfway)

“Faithless”  | Joyce Carol Oates

The last time Cornelia and Constance Nissenbaum saw their mother was the day before she disappeared forever. She was late coming down to breakfast. They could feel something was wrong. It was time to leave for school, but they couldn’t go. They started searching. They found her lying on her bed, disheveled and breathing heavily. Their recollection and interpretation of the morning’s events would vary.

Read “Faithless” (PDF Pg. 141)