Memphis Fast Fiction Home
08.08.2011
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Katrina Coleman

They slept together on a mattress in the corner of the room. It was just the three of them now. Her boy, her daughter and her. Their father been strung up by a lynch mob during the riots last spring.

She’d taken a job cleaning at a German’s confectionary after that. He’d been good enough to rent them a room in the tenement above the bakery. Things were still hard, but seemed to be going right.

Asleep in her arms, her little girl coughed.

“Close the window, Mama. Someone burned something,” her girl whined.

“Window’s closed, stupid.” Answered her boy.

“Hush, the both a’ ya.” She said, barely waking. “Go back to sleep.”

Another sleepy cough, and she said quick prayer that her girl wasn’t getting sick. They couldn’t afford medicine.

Her boy coughed next.

Then the smell reached her. Sickly sweet, acrid and choking. Like bags of sugar melting down over a coal fire.

For a moment she wondered what anyone could be baking at this hour.

But there was something in the air, in that smell, that was making her so very sleepy.

She pressed her face into her daughter’s hair then fell asleep, for the last time.

Memphis Note
The deadliest fire in Memphis history is the Specht Fire that happened in December of 1866. Fourteen people died when a confectionary business with apartments above it caught fire in the early hours of the morning. Among the victims was a mother and her two children. They suffocated in their sleep.

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