Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Rachel Smith

The fact that his room had neither gas lamp or fireplace helped as he suffered through the penance of withdrawal. The spartan room’s bed, dresser desk and wash basin were either masked in pitch blackness, lingering in twilit shadow, or bright with daylight.

The light of day pained his eyes and skin, so he stayed abed. In the dark of night, he sweated, fending off fever dreams. During the spaces between, he washed his addiction-wracked body and said his prayers, earnestly now, not like he used to.

After three days of this, he felt the demons vacate and his humanity return. He dressed, unlatched the door, nodded to his body man who’d been outside his room the entire time, and headed down into the lobby of The Peabody hotel to seek out sustenance.

Now that his head was clear, a mortal choice awaited his answer:

To remand himself to the pursuing marshals, or flee and await God’s justice after this life.

The hotel stood dead between of the horror that had happened out west, and his father’s estate in the east. Memphis was his limbo now, trapped between heaven and hell, and he was unsure which way to turn.

Memphis Note
When originally built, The Peabody hotel cost between three and four dollars per night, including meals. If you wanted a room with a gas light or a fireplace, you had to pay extra. And still, it was considered one of the finest hotels for hundreds of miles.

Jonathan McCarver

The weather outside the post office was grim and utterly devoid of recognition that Valentine’s Day was fast approaching.

Each day more and more enlisted men stopped in hoping to find something waiting for them. Anything from a sweetheart, a long lost love, a family member, a stranger, it didn’t matter; they just wanted to know someone out there cared about them.

Unfortunately, the bag of mail was more often than not devoid of perfumed letters, and many more soldiers went back out in the mire with the hearts depressed rather than uplifted.

It was the postmaster who resolved to change this sorry state of affairs. To him, it just wasn’t right to let these men suffer so on Saint Valentine’s Day. Better to have them dodging a hail of Cupid’s arrows than Confederate bullets, he told his subordinates.

So, under the cloak of darkness, the men of the post office went to work. The postmaster supplied the perfume, stolen from his wife, while everyone else did their best to mask their penmanship as not overtly masculine.

Sure enough, come the morning of Valentine’s Day, there was a letter waiting for every Union man.

Absent a return address, of course.

Memphis Note
The Union troops who were stationed in Memphis during the Civil War swarmed the post office every year at Valentine’s Day, with the postmaster giving out any undeliverable Valentines to anyone who wanted them, trying to keep the troops happy. I think the solution presented in this story is a better one, don’t you?

Beth Spencer-Taylor

The keys on her phone clicked furiously under her fingers. She let the predictive text do most of the work. They’d get the point of the message, she was sure. Hitting send, she snapped the phone shut and slid down the bathroom wall, ruined.

It just sat on the edge of the basin, taunting her with that perfect blue line.

This didn’t make sense. She’d never let him, you know, inside of her. Sure, maybe things went on for a bit before they put a condom on, but never far enough for stuff to happen…right?

God. What the hell was she going to do? She wasn’t some poor girl out in Frayser. Her parents had money, she was going to go to college, she was going to have a future. But now that stupid blue line had been drawn across her life.

It was a line of demarcation, dividing what was before, and what comes after.

On the floor, her phone started to buzz like a beehive, filling up with messages, and her waiting for the sting. She couldn’t bare to open it. If she did, then all of this would be real, and she would really be pregnant.

Memphis Note
In early 2011, the national press caught wind of the rising pregnancy rate at Frayser High School. They called it an epidemic and a failure of the Memphis School System and Memphis as a whole. I couldn’t help but wonder what a privileged girl finding out that she’s pregnant would think about those 90 girls who were pregnant at the same time. Would she think that she’s better than them? Would she empathize with them? Or would she just be a normal, selfish teenager and not think about anything but herself?

Kurt Carlsen

The sawbones had finished with her and waved the two lawmen in.

She was laid up in bed, a thick wrap of fresh gauze around her head, holding a mass of bandages against where the bullet had grazed her skull. Sawbones had said if it had been any closer, she’d be blind. Or dead.

The two men gave her a curt nod and started right in with their questions.

“Ma’am. Would you care to state your name for the record?” began the taller of the pair.

“I’m Big Mary.”

“That your given name?” asked the shorter one.

“No, it ain’t,” she snorted. “But, that’s what folks know me as.”

“What happened here earlier this evening? Looks like someone took a shot at you.”

“Oh, nothin’ much.” She gave a grin, even though it hurt her to do so. “Just one man comin’ home to find another man takin’ advantage of a privilege he thought was his alone.”

“And what might that privilege be?”

“Me.” She widened her grin as far as the pain would allow.

The lawmen gave each other awkward looks.

“And these men, what were their names?”

“John.” And then, before they could ask, “Yes, they’re both Johns.”

Memphis Note
This story of a fictionalized account of what actually happened in February of 1862. According to the reporting paper, Big Mary was a woman of the worst sort of reputation. Me? I don’t know, I think she’s pretty much the epitome of everything Memphis.

Caroline Mitchell

“I’m astounded we’re sending a box of these lovely things so far away.”

The cigar box made a soft thump as he dropped it back in with rest of the gifts.

“Those people live on entirely the wrong side of the world to know what a good cigar is.”

Turning around, I saw the former mayor’s thick eyebrows pushed together in consternation, facing down at the cigars.

“All the more reason for them to have them, I think,” I said, clicking my tongue.

Walter didn’t look up at me, he didn’t look at anything.

“You’ve never had to fight, have you, Herstein?”

The question from the former mayor was uncharacteristically blunt.

“No. I was in college during the Great War, and then beyond draft age by the Second.”

“The people in Enshede, they were between Germany and the rest of Europe.”

He paused, contemplating.

“We told everyone that aiding them would bring back one of our largest cotton buyers. But that’s not why I did it. I did it because I remember exactly the sort of hell war is.”

“I know, Walter.” I offered him a hand up from the couch. “Now, come on, they want to give us medals.”

Memphis Note
After World War II, Memphis “adopted” the Dutch city of Enschede, previously one of Europe’s textile centers, and the purchaser of millions of dollars of cotton per year. Enschede was bombed over 30 times during World War 2, destroying much of the city. Four Memphis men, all Rotarians, were awarded the Knight of Orange Nassau from the Dutch government in honor of what they had done for Enschede.