The Last Night of the World
布莱伯利最有名的是他的《华氏451度》（Fahrenheit 451），这本书是有关焚书的反乌托邦（dystopian）故事。但书迷们对他的短篇小说应该也很熟悉，比如《纹身人》（The Illustrated Man）和《火星纪事》（The Martian Chronicles）。
“The Last Night of the World” is a tender, simple story. The first line alone is universally intriguing: “What would you do if you knew this was the last night of the world?”
"Do you know, I won't miss anything but you and the girls. I never liked cities or autos or factories or my work or anything except you three. I won't miss a thing except my family and perhaps the change in the weather and a glass of cool water when the weather's hot, or the luxury of sleeping. Just little things, really."
They sat and read the papers and talked and listened to some radio music and then sat together by the fireplace looking at the charcoal embers as the clock struck ten-thirty and eleven and eleven-thirty. They thought of all the other people in the world who had spent their evening, each in their own special way.
Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, shows off her token snark in this very short story, which takes the reader through all of the different ways in which a fictional couple, John and Mary, could possibly end up. Hint: It’s not so happy.
You'll have to face it, the endings are the same however you slice it. Don't be deluded by any other endings, they're all fake, either deliberately fake, with malicious intent to deceive, or just motivated by excessive optimism if not by downright sentimentality.
The only authentic ending is the one provided here:
John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.
The entire story is a dramatic monologue, and shows off Barthelme's token humor and excellent experiments with form.
They asked me, where did they go? The trees, the salamander, the tropical fish, Edgar, the poppas and mommas, Matthew and Tony, where did they go? And I said, I don't know, I don't know. And they said, who knows? and I said, nobody knows. And they said, is death that which gives meaning to life? And I said no, life is that which gives meaning to life.
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
Hemingway’s writing can be minimalistic, a quality that lends itself well to short stories. In fact, Washington Post's books editor, Ron Charles, has said that Hemingway’s short stories are better than his novels.
You’ve probably read, or at least heard about, “Hills Like White Elephants,” a cryptic conversation between a man and a woman. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is another classic, in which two waiters prepare for the end of the evening.
The two waiters inside the café knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying, so they kept watch on him.
"Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said.
"He was in despair."
"How do you know it was nothing?"
"He has plenty of money."
契诃夫被称为“现代短篇小说之父”（“father of the modern short story”），他的作品特点是以人物为核心。
In “The Looking-Glass,” a woman feverishly attempts to seek help for her husband, sick with typhus, but is met with a surprise. This particular story nods to the author’s day job as a physician.
Then she saw against the grey background how her husband every spring was in straits for money to pay the interest for the mortgage to the bank. He could not sleep, she could not sleep, and both racked their brains till their heads ached, thinking how to avoid being visited by the clerk of the Court.
She saw her children: the everlasting apprehension of colds, scarlet fever, diphtheria, bad marks at school, separation. Out of a brood of five or six one was sure to die.
Symbols and Signs
by Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov's prose is no doubt poetic, and his language enjoyably playful. Whether you've already read Lolita or Pale Fire, or are hesitating to pick them up, this short story about a delusional boy, his family, and his peers' attempt to buy him a birthday present, is sure to entertain you.
The last time the boy had tried to do it, his method had been, in the doctor's words, a masterpiece of inventiveness; he would have succeeded had not an envious fellow-patient thought he was learning to fly and stopped him just in time. What he had really wanted to do was to tear a hole in his world and escape.
All this, and much more, she had accepted, for, after all, living does mean accepting the loss of one joy after another, not even joys in her case, mere possibilities of improvement.