Memphis Fast Fiction Home

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”.

Sherry Whitten

Carlos spit on the blacktop. The saliva sizzled.

“Whoooweee,” whistled his friend Hector. They were both languishing against an ancient oak, avoiding the sweltering heat in the shade of its expanse, watching their construction foreman and a pasty man in a suit argue. Hector took off his hard hat and wiped the sweat from his brow. “I swear it never got this hot back home, Carlos.”

“Probably because it didn’t. Least not with this kind of humidity.” He trailed off at the end, as the foreman looked like he was about to hit the man in the suit. “I think it happening again.”

“Aw, what? No!” Hector looked up and scuffed the dirt with the heel of his boot. The two arguing men walked to separate cars and drove off. “Not again.”

That was the third time in the last two months they’d had a job shut down on them. The American economy was falling apart, nothing was being built any more.

“I’m getting sick of this, man. We spend a week on a job, and it ends up costing us money.”

“That’s because you drink expensive tequila,” Carlos laughed.

Hector frowned at him. “Man’s got to have some standards.”

Memphis Note
On the whole, Memphis officials have been unwilling to actively pursue undocumented immigrants in the area. Which lead to a booming hispanic population over the last twenty years. Unfortunately, as the housing boom ended and the bubble burst, most of the jobs the immigrants relied upon disappeared, and so did a large number of them, leaving a void that is only now beginning to refill.

Shawn Wolowicz

The crookbacked old man eyed me as he undid the lock on the doors. I pushed my way past him, eager to have this done.

“I dun’ know why you need to see the inside of the Senate if you’re just gonna tear her down, sir.” His voice was like whiskey flowing over rocks.

“Just a perfunctory inspection, for the lawyers.”

The inside of the building was more decayed than the old man. Frescos, once brilliant in color had become dull and grey, peeling like the shingles on the back of his neck. The furniture was gone, the opulent carpet stained with boot tracks and vagrant piss.

“Could just as well build her up to new.” He mumbled, intentionally loud enough for me to hear.

I turned toward him. He stiffened.

“I don’t disagree. The Senate was truly a marvel to the fickle mistress that is chance. It flourished under her favor, and fell to ruin when it departed. ” I smiled at him.

“Unfortunately, that’s not our decision to make. Do you know what progress is? It’s a beast with no eyes that can only be sated by devouring old, forgotten things. And progress has chosen to eat the Senate.”

Memphis Note
The Senate was a hotel and gambling establishment at the corner of Jefferson and Main. It, like many of Memphis’s gambling halls, flourished after the Civil War as soldiers came home flush with cash. It stood out from the other halls of the time because of quality of its facilities and its service. The walls and ceiling were frescoed, every room furnished in the finest way, and the restaurant and saloon were both known for serving the finest food and spirits. It was also the only casino in Memphis that never had a fatality on its premises. Sadly, the Senate was shuttered in the early 1880s because of so kind of legal dispute and sold at public auction for barely $50,00. It was ultimately torn down in 1886 to make way for a massive Lowenstein and Brothers store.

Candy Watkins

Above, the sky was a perfect, still blue. Below, the brown water churned endlessly.

Suspended several hundred feet in the air, with a live acetylene torch in his hand, these are the sort of things that Clarence can be forgiven for failing to appreciate. He was more focused on getting his welds just right, and ignoring the incessant babbling of his invidious crew mate, Philip.

“Wonder if those boys workin’ on the Arkansas side of this thing are nice.”

Clarence dismissed the statement at first, but it started echoing around his head. He flipped his mask back and looked over.

“Do what now?” Clarence asked.

“We’re buildin’ the bridge toward each other. Them toward us, us toward them. Like the railroads did.”


“So, at some point we’ll meet up, and I wonder if they’re nice.”

Clarence’s response was a blank stare, then, “I’m sure I have no idea, Philip.”

With that, he slapped his mask down and went back to work, but not before Philip got one more thought out.

“When we’re done, they say this’ll be the biggest letter in the world.”

And Clarence knew it was only a matter of time until he stupidly asked Philip about that, too.

Memphis Note
Upon its completion in 1972, the Hernando de Soto bridge was confirmed as the largest free-standing letter in the world. It boggles my mind to think about how much that bridge changed the nature of downtown and West Memphis. There was nothing along that run in Arkansas until the bridge was there.

Juan Collado

We laughed when he started all of this. Said it was his SEAR Training. Like Army SERE – Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape – Training, he said. But modified to SEAR since he was going to break into the abandoned Sears Crosstown Building and thought he was being terribly clever.

We stopped laughing when we realized he was actually serious.

He spent all his time training in the yard. Sometimes he would say up all night, refusing to sleep. Have to be able to handle the dementia that comes from sleep deprivation, he’d say. Hobos sleep in there, we’d say in response. Then he’d swear at us and go back to his calisthenics.

We asked him why he wanted to do this, he told us he wanted to feel what the ancient explorers felt. When asked if he thought ancient explorers ever had to deal with standing urine, he threw his rucksack at us.

We only knew he went through with it when the cops brought him home. They’d arrested him trying to get in. A Vietnamese lady had seen him walking up Cleveland with his gear and called the cops, thinking he was a terrorist.

That’s when we started laughing again.

Memphis Note
The Sears Crosstown Building is the dominant feature of Midtown Memphis’s skyline. And one of the largest brick buildings in the nation. It is absolutely beautiful. Which makes the fact that it is abandoned a real shame.