Memphis Fast Fiction Home
31.08.2011
tether
Shawn Wolowicz

Deep inside the iron bowels of the USS Carondelet, Thomas thought about all the things he missed from before the war. His mother’s cooking, running with his dog, the sense of satisfaction at the end of a day’s work.

A shell exploded against the metal hull of the gunboat, sending a deafening shockwave roaring through the confined space. Flecks of red-hot metal cut through a porthole. A man screamed as they slashed across his cheek.

It had been months since they’d cast off their tether at Carondelet, Missouri to join the war. Since then, he’d lost track of time in the steam clouds that rolled out from the Carondelet’s massive boilers. They were his charge. So long as he kept them pumping, the ship kept moving and everyone stayed alive another day.

Most of all, though, he missed her. Her long, straw colored hair, the way the wind and sun could pass so beautifully through it. And how her fingers were always cold, even on the hottest of days. They felt so amazing when she touched them against his neck and brow.

Here, in the midst of the steam and metal and death, he longed to feel them again.

Memphis Note
The USS
Carondelet was one of four City class ironclad gunboats that participated in the first Battle of Memphis. They’d been working their way down from the north, eliminating or passing by key Confederate forts for several months. At Memphis, they were challenged by half again as many Confederate ram boats. However, the battle was entirely one-sided in favor of the Union. All of the Confederate boats were destroyed, with only minor casualties on the Union side, effectively breaking the hold the Confederacy had on the Mississippi River.

30.08.2011
mitigate
Ben Powers

Two devils sit on a park bench, enjoying a beautiful day. The older of the pair points at child walking past, eagerly licking a towering ice cream cone. Then the younger one snaps his fingers and the child falls, face first, into the desert. They explode into laughter.

Composing himself, the younger devil turns to his mentor. “It’s been an honor learning from you, sir. ”

“You took to the suffering arts like a natural.” The older replies, nodding with approval.

“I have one question, if I might be so bold.” Timidly asks the younger one.

“Oh? What might that be?”

“What act of misery are you most proud of?”

“Malfunction Junction.” The old devil says without hesitation. “An interstate interchange in Memphis, Tennessee. I manipulated the minds of a half dozen civil engineers over the course of a decade. Every attempt they made to solve the problem, to mitigate what I’d done, just made even worse.”

“Really, sir? You’re a legend in our line of work, and you’re proudest of a traffic jam?”

“Wasn’t my grandest project. But, nothing beats the suffering a human experiences tying to merge from five lanes to two in the middle of rush hour traffic.”

Memphis Note
Malfunction Junction is the local name for the intersection of two major interstates in south Memphis. On the surface, it looks like a simple cloverleaf interchange, but evil lurks in those sweeping curves. Trucks get stuck under the overpass. Cars burst into flames for no reason. And if there’s going to be wreck, it’s going to be on the on/off ramp, blocking everything up.

29.08.2011
negroni
Greg Brady

My father and I were never close.

I was the last of his seven children. Two of which I never knew. A car accident had taken them from him.

By the time I came along, he was too old and I was too young.

To me, my father was the stern-faced man with heavily starched shirt that came home every night after dark, downed a double negroni then ate dinner alone in his study. His children having been fed some hours before.

Water was our only connection. A former Navy man, he made sure all of us were sure and strong swimmers. Growing up, any body of water I thought I could swim, he let me.

Any save the Mississippi.

To which my constant protest was of course I was strong enough to swim across it.

Then, early one morning, while everyone was still asleep, my father roused me and we drove north into Shelby Forest. Turning off of the main road, we came to a stop at a sandy beach with glass slick water.

He pointed out across the water. “Race you to the sand bar.”

And then, as the sun rose, we swam the Mississippi River. Together.

Memphis Note
Hidden under the lush green of Shelby Farms is a stretch of the Mississippi River where the water shallows and the current slows. Sand bars and long beaches appear, and for a fleeting moment, you would never suspect that these waters belong to one of the most powerful natural forces in the world.

28.08.2011
arabesque
Amy Pace

The house was tiny, unremarkable, in a neighborhood that a woman of her worth would not normally be seen in. Children chased after her car as she pulled up, their mothers watching suspiciously from the porches of the other shotgun houses.

She steeled her nerves before walking up to the front door of the house and knocking.

The door opened, just a crack. “Yes?” A pair of dark eyes peered over a chain latch.

“I…I”m here for tea.” That was the code she was told to give. The door closed in her face, the chain rattled, then swung open again to let her in.

Inside, intricate arabesque patterning covered the walls of the room, twisting and turning into itself. When she blinked, she swore the pattern moved, like it was alive.

“Hello.” Said a girl standing before her, barely on the cusp of womanhood, yet with a child hanging off her hip. “Twenty dollars. Now”

She put the cash into the girl’s hand, who promptly shoved it down her shirt.

“Ghede Loa rides Mama.” The girls said opening the door to another room. “Drugs in tea bring her back. You have ‘til then to speak wit’ your dead.”

Memphis Note
In the same way it was at the crossroads of white and black culture to create rock and roll, Memphis is also at the crossroads of African and European religions. Voodoo and belief in the supernatural permeates the region, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of small churches with their own specific takes on spirituality and ritual.

27.08.2011
dripping
Shawn Wolowicz

He slips into the drainage culvert and sprints down the darkened tunnel, careful not to be seen. The claws on his feet clicking against the wet concrete, slobber dripping from his chops. Above, the sun is falling out of the sky, and night is rising. It is time to feed.

Several seasons have passed since he found himself, quite by accident, in the heart of the city. For a while, he’d tried to find his way out of the maze of streets, bridges and ditches. But, after a while he gave up and accepted this as his new range.

Here the humans leave delicious, fatty food out of their pets. And when he can’t find that, the fat pets themselves are always easy prey. Easier at least than the squirrels and rabbits he’d chased as a pup.

Occasionally, he’d catch a familiar scent on a tree or patch of grass. Another of his kind, but the markings were always old, muted, decayed. His life here was good, but lonely.

Busting out of the tunnel into a residential neighborhood, he lets loose a howl. Night has fallen completely, and he will be nearly invisible.

The Midtown coyote is on the prowl.

Memphis Note
The elusive Midtown coyote was the subject of much speculation during the later part of the 2000s. Did it really exist? Or was it simply the hallucination of a Central Gardens lawyer spiked off a few too many cosmos? As the years went by, the pet body count kept rising until the coyote was finally caught in a Midtown backyard the day before New Years Eve in 2010.