“Narrow Valley”, by R A Lafferty, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1966, is brilliantly funny and one of the best short stories I have ever read. An excellent one to start with. I read it in the nice collection The Legend Book of Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois and published in 1991. I will be working through all of the stories in this book eventually.
Running to about 5500 words, this is an absurd story about a piece of land given to a Pawnee man that appears very narrow by outsiders, but is actually a beautiful valley a half mile on each side. Lafferty has great fun with the idea, and when one of the strangest families in short fiction tries to claim the land, all sorts of weird antics take place.
Lafferty’s descriptions of throwing a rock across the apparently eight feet wide strip of land to the other side are very clever and well “observed”.
Thoroughly enjoyed this one. I have learned that you can be as absurd as you like and get away with it in a short story if you are as accomplished at it as R. A. Lafferty.