Tall Tales & Yarns: Short Stories

In a tall tale or a yarn one, or all, the elements of the story—setting, characters, or plot—are greatly exaggerated. See also:

Tall Tale Stories

Descent | Alexander McCall Smith

Molly is going on a parachute jump. She thinks she might meet someone. Her friend doubts this will happen, but the instructor, nicknamed Drop-Dead Gorgeous, is very handsome.

“Descent” is the first story in the Amazon preview of Tiny Tales: Stories of Romance, Ambition, Kindness and Happiness.

A Strange Story | O. Henry

When the little Smother’s girl gets sick her father goes out for medicine. He doesn’t come back. (Summary)

Read “A Strange Story”

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County | Mark Twain

Simon Wheeler tells the story of Jim Smiley, a man who would make bets on anything. He had a tenacious dog which had an unusual way of winning fights. He once trained a frog to be an exceptional jumper so he could win bets on it.

This is the first story in the preview of Book of Mark Twain’s Short Stories.

“The Evan Price Signature Model” by Junior Burke

A former musician, Andy, opens a guitar store, The Fret Gallery. He has accumulated twenty-two guitars over the years, but he has no intention of selling them. He hangs them up, but brings in new stock to sell. One day, an old acquaintance comes in with a newly discovered Gibson guitar from the family’s motor lodge. Andy’s never seen one like it, so he looks into it.

This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Collectibles(31% into preview)

“A Newspaper Story” by O. Henry

The movement of a daily newspaper is tracked, along with the uses it’s put to. (Summary)

Read “A Newspaper Story”

“The Half-Skinned Steer” by Annie Proulx

Mero Corn is informed that his brother, Rollo, has been clawed to death by an emu. Mero, a retiree, decides that he will drive from Massachusetts to Wyoming for the funeral. On the way, he thinks about his father’s girlfriend, who, years ago, had told him a disturbing story about a luckless rancher and a half-skinned steer.

Jim Baker’s Blue-Jay Yarn | Mark Twain

The narrator knows a man, Jim Baker, who understands animal talk. Apparently, animal speech varies just as human speech does, by education, vocabulary level and excitability. He relates a story of a determined blue jay.

Read here

The Blood Bay | Annie Proulx

Three cowboys ride in the bitter cold and stay in an acquaintance’s shack with him and his horses for a night. A misunderstanding alarms the home owner.

Read here (First story)

The Leap | Louise Erdrich

The narrator’s mother, Anna, is the surviving member of a blindfolded trapeze act. Anna is blind now but still moves with certainty. The narrator relates some of her mother’s life, including a time when her home caught on fire.

Dinner Time | Russell Edson

An old man waits for his wife to serve dinner. She makes a lot of noise and has a hard time with it, while he becomes impatient and starts punching himself. Their behavior escalates into absurdity as they get more annoyed.

Read “Dinner Time”

Gogol’s Wife | Tomasso Landolfi

The narrator, a biographer, knows everything about Gogol and knew him personally. He is reluctant to reveal something about Gogol—something that could offend or confuse many people. As a biographer he feels obligated to say what he knows about Gogol’s wife.

Read “Gogol’s Wife”

Wit Inspirations of the “Two-Year-Olds” | Mark Twain

The narrator complains about smart-mouthed kids. He knows he wouldn’t have gotten away with any talk like that. He relates an incident when he said something “smart” when his parents were choosing his name.

Read “Wit Inspirations of the ‘Two-Year-Olds'”

The Luck of Roaring Camp | Bret Harte

The residents of Roaring Camp, a mining settlement, are brought together by the birth of a baby. His mother, Cherokee Sal, was a sinful woman, who died in childbirth. They accept the child generously, giving it gifts and voting to raise it as a town. They name the baby Tommy Luck, because they think he’s turned the camp’s luck around.

Read “The Luck of Roaring Camp”

Man with a Club | Richard Matheson

The narrator tells the story of what happened to him last night. He was out with his girlfriend, Dot, going to a show. On the way, he sees a crowd gathered across the street. He insists on checking it out. There’s an ape-like man on the street, holding a big club.