The story opens with a description of the view of the river Ebro, and the white hills (mountains) beyond it, from a train station in Spain. An American man and a woman are having some beers outside the station bar as they wait for the train to Barcelona.
As the couple drinks, the woman tells that man that the hills in the distance remind her of "white elephants." This sparks a little argument between them, which the woman sidesteps by pointing out that something has been painted on the beaded curtain that hangs over the doorway of the bar. The painting advertises a liquor called Anis del Toro, which they decide to try.
Their conversation remains tense, and soon the man begins trying to convince the woman, Jig, to have an abortion, but only, he says, if she wants to. She wants to know if this will solve their problems, and get their relationship back on track. He tells her that their relationship is on track, but that he is distracted because of his "worry" over the pregnancy. She agrees to have the abortion, but says she is only agreeing because she no longer cares about herself. The man says she shouldn’t do it for that reason.
She expresses despair over the situation and a feeling that all is now lost. The man tries to reassure her that this is not the case, and finally tells her (without actually saying it) that he is willing to marry her instead, but makes it clear he would prefer that she have the abortion. She becomes anxious and asks him to stop talking. He responds by saying he doesn’t want her to have the abortion if she doesn’t want it. Jig threatens to scream.
The woman who has been serving their drinks tells them that the train will soon arrive, and the man gets up and takes their luggage over to the train stop. Then he goes into the bar and has another Anis del Toro. When he gets back to Jig, sitting at the table outside, she gives him a smile. He asks her if she "feel[s]" better," and she responds by insinuating she never felt bad in the first place. And that’s the end of the story.