Memphis Fast Fiction Home
29.12.2011
catastrophe
Laurel

For long, painful seconds, she was unsure if she was alive or dead.

But the ache of her limbs, the coughing in her lungs, and the pitiful cries of her child assured her that she was.

“Mary? Are you alright?” She called out.

“I think my dress is ruined,” her daughter whined back.

“Clarence?” She shouted next.

“I’m here, Mrs. Gallagher.” Their negro servant answered back. “Lord, what a mess.”

“Did the building fall down?” Her daughter asked as Mrs. Gallagher lit a match and put the fire to a candle on the table.

Candlelight and shadows spread around them, illuminating the giant hole in the ceiling they’d fallen through when the floor gave out.

“Looks like the whole thing caved in.” Declared Clarence peering into the ruined floors above.

Mrs. Gallagher looked down at her feet, and gave thanks for the bags of loose cotton that had broken their fall.

“This is a catastrophe.” Her daughter announced.

“Very good vocabulary usage, dear.”

“Mrs. Gallagher?” She could hear the apprehension in Clarence’s voice. “What are we going to do?”

“Well, we’re in the basement storeroom. There’s loading stairs in the rear of the building. God will provide for the rest.”

Memphis Note
In 1864 a multipurpose Memphis government building on Adams street collapsed, killing six and trapping several more in the rubble. Amongst those trapped were Mrs. Gallagher, her daughter and their servant. Keeping her wits, Mrs. Gallagher was able to safely rescue her family by exiting from a loading bay in the back of the building. A feet the New York Times would report as “miraculous”.

27.12.2011
whimper
Laurel

“Mister Shade! Mister Shade, sir!” The kid called out as Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band walked toward Beale to play a gig.

After two blocks, Shade had finally had enough.

“What the hell, boy? What do you want?” Shade barked out at what he could now see to be not a teenager, but a slight man in his early twenties.

“To play with you, sir, in your jug band.” He replied, sending the other three members of the of the band into a fit of hysterical laughter.

Shade shook his head and sighed. “Alright, then. What’d you play, kid?”

“Kazoo.” The kid said, without batting an eye.

“A ka-what? What the hell is that?” Shade asked with a confused look on his face.

To which the kid responded by pulling out a round thing a bit longer than a man’s finger. Then, without prompting, proceeded to buzz the entirety of “Beale Street Blues” through it.

Which caused them to laugh harder.

“That sounds like a fly with a terrible bit of gas.” Shade frowned.

The kid let out a bit of a whimper.

“But then, the jug sounds like a farting hippo. Let’s give you a shot.”

Memphis Note
In the 1920s, while the rest of the country was enamored with jazz, Memphis had a thing for jug bands, and none were bigger than Will Shade’s rotating group of musicians named the Memphis Jug Band. With a line up that changed daily, the Jug Band was known to busk in Church Park by day, then play high society parties at night. Before the jug band fad dissipated with the onset of the Great Depression, the Memphis Jug Band had recorded near a hundred songs and is considered the best example of the genre – even with the kazoo.

26.12.2011
electric
Sherry Whitten

Matthew stared anxiously at the small cathode ray tube television screen.

“I sort of feel like some one should say something, you know.” He blurted out.

“Like what?” Asked Richard, the engineer he was working with.

“I don’t know, something profound. Monumental.” Matthew walked over to the breaker switch that would turn on the broadcast transmitter and ran his fingers across it. “We’re about to turn on the first television broadcast in the history of the city. It’s not something you get to do twice. Once we do this, that’s, you know…it.”

“It’s just the damn test pattern, Matt.” Laughed Richard. “No one’s even going to know its there. Nobody in town owns a TV.”

Matthew nodded. “Guess you’re right. People of Memphis, meet WMC-TV.”

He flipped the switch, there was an electric hiss in the room, and the screen on the other side of the room glowed to life with the silver indian head test pattern.

Suddenly, there was a small pop, then several much louder ones as every fuse in the building blew out.

“Hey, look at it this way,” Richard called out in the dark, “guess you will get to do the first broadcast twice.”

Memphis Note
On December 11th, 1948, WMC-TV became the first television station to broadcast from Memphis. Until 1953 when a competing station opened, WMC was able to broadcast shows from all four of the national networks. And, no, I don’t think they blew out all of their fuses when they first flipped the switch. Too bad.

25.12.2011
extradition
Alpha Newberry

It was late, the office was empty. The rest of the boys were out celebrating a job well done, I was on my way to join them but I could still hear the sound of a type writer from down the hall.

It was coming from Jack’s office. We’d been transferred to this branch of the FBI together, worked a lot of the same cases, our jackets were pretty similar.

His love of paperwork was something we did not share, however.

“Can’t you leave that ‘til the morning?” I asked.

“We blew through most this year’s budget on just this operation. All those fingerprints…Hell, I’m just glad the Brits didn’t put up any kind of any extradition fight and that the crazy bastard didn’t decide to go to some place that looks less favorably on capital punishment. That could’ve been a real legal scrape, let me tell you.”

“Jack.”

“Yeah?”

“We got James Earl Ray, got him cold. We did our job. Come get a drink and let the guys in Washington worry about paying for it.”

I flipped the light off to his office, leaving him in the dark.

He joined us at the bar not much later.

Memphis Note
The manhunt for James Earl Ray was, at that point, the largest and most expensive investigation the FBI had ever run. Tens of thousands of fingerprints were examined, hundreds of thousands of passport were scrutinized and over three thousand agents were involved. For the Memphis branch, the hunt for Ray has never been topped.

24.12.2011
conundrum
Valibus

I later found out that there were only five Japanese in Memphis when America entered the war.

As a girl, I thought my family were the only ones, unique in our little world.

At our family bakery, my parents employed a black woman named Martha.

I often wondered if I was experiencing a silver of how she lived in the days after Pearl Harbor, as everyone’s eyes turned to watch me and whispers were always at my back.

I never got the chance to ask about the conundrum, though. She quit the morning the two uniformed policemen were posted to guard our store.

A few weeks later those men were replaced by Federal agents, then one day those agents arrived with guns and a car and told us to pack our things and go with them.

My father didn’t speak English, so my mother was the one that asked them about the bakery. Who would look after it, how would we pay our bills?

They didn’t say anything as they put us in the car.

It was nearly three years before we saw our bakery again.

But, by then, the bakery wasn’t ours any more.

My mother never baked again.

Memphis Note
When Pearl Harbor happened, there were only five people of Japanese descent in Memphis. A family of three, and two men. The family ran a bakery on Madison that was closed when they were all forced to move into internment camps. I don’t know if it ever reopened.