Memphis Fast Fiction Home
31.12.2011
silt
Zachary Whitten

The devil and I looked out across the Mississippi River.

He’d been after me for weeks, hounding me.

“There’s a whole country across that crap-brown river.” He said, a forked tongue darting in and out of his red lips. “A thousand places that are better than this, calling out to you. Just pick any one, and I’ll give you more than you ever imagined.”

“I’ll be honest, sir.” I was polite, my father taught me to be polite to anyone – even the assholes. “Anything more than what I can get here is more than I need. I wouldn’t know what to do with if it I had it.”

“But if you stay here, you might not amount to anything! Everything you worked for might be forgotten the second you die. You’ll be as inconsequential as a single fleck of silt in all of the Mississippi.”

This was new, and I considered it for a moment before answering him.

“I think you forget, sir, that silt built up the bluffs you’re standing on. And if that’s all I end up, I could ask for anything more. Because then I’ll know that I’ll always be a part of something I love.”

Memphis Note
This is the last story of this project. Number Three Hundred and Sixty Five. It is actually the first prompt submitted, too. I submitted it on November 15th, 2010, they day I put the earliest version of the website up. It was always my intent to write a story back to myself at the end of this, sort of to see where my head was at the end of this madness. Maybe to see if I’d have fallen out of love with this city once I’d found out how really broken it is. But, no. I think I love it more than I did before.

30.12.2011
night
Shawn Wolowicz

There is no home like the house on Willett I grew up in.

This might be an obvious statement, but it really was special.

You see, my house had monsters. And every night as I went to bed, we would go to war.

Shrieking banshees and clawing imps lived in the walls, tormenting me with their constant howling and scratching.

A werewolf made his nest in our attic, dragging his claws and dripping his slobber on the boards above my head.

Frankenstein’s monster lived in our basement, howling and rattling his chains every time he got too cold in the winter.

For years, I slept under my blankets, a flashlight my only protection against the things that went bump in the night.

But then I got older, and I started to help my father around the house.

I helped him fix the drafty mouse holes in our walls, to patch leaking, rattling pipes in our attic, to replace the antiquated furnace in the basement.

As I worked with my father, the monsters started to disappear, one at a time.

Then, one night, they weren’t there at all.

In that house on Willett, my father had taught me to slay monsters.

Memphis Note
Every house in Midtown Memphis has its own set of monsters. They are the unique noises old homes make that you can never quite decide if they are your pipes expanding…or something horrible living in your walls. I find children that survive these monsters to be of a heartier, more assured stock than those that grew up in monster-free homes.

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”.

28.12.2011
garage
Jen

He was hungover, blindingly so, and making his regular promises to never drink again.

“Professor, are you alright?” A blonde student in the front row called out, snapping him back to reality. A wave of vertigo hit as he looked out into the assembled faces of his Journalism 101 class.

“Why are you here?” he growled to the class.

“Professor?” The girl asked, confused.

“Simple question, goldilocks. Why. Are. You Here? Because I’ll tell you right now, most of you, if you’re lucky, will end up in PR or marketing or something marginally related to your degree. But the unlucky few of you will get a real journalism job with crap pay and worse hours and constant cutbacks at the only paper left in town.

“Sure, it’s got two Pulitzers. One from fighting the KKK almost a hundred years ago when it still gave a damn, and another one for the scribblings of a conservative jackass cartoonist. But now its filled with wire stories and shrinking column inches.

“Really, you’d be better off opening up an independent paper in your parent’s garage.”

He blinked in a moment of clarity.

“And now I know what your final project’s going to be.”

Memphis Note
As the market for printed news shrinks year after year, the Commercial Appeal, the historic local daily, is taking it from all sides. Journalists are getting fired, pages are getting cut, and more and more stories are coming from the newswire. What used to be a guiding voice in the culture of Western Tennessee is slowly but surely becoming obsolete.

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.