Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Sherry Whitten

Kemmons was still sitting at the kitchen table when Dorothy Lee came down the next morning. He hadn’t come to bed the night before. The notebook, laid out before him, was blank when she’d gone to bed. It was covered in words and sketches now.

“Oh, lord, you’ve gone and had one of your ideas, haven’t you?”

Her husband was legendary for obsessing over things, it part of what drew her to him.

“It’s just after that trip,” he started, without a hint of exhaustion in his voice. “Those places we had to stay in, none of them, not a stinking one, were fit for a family.”

She grabbed a mug from the cabinet and put the kettle on to boil, listening to him talk.

“I think I should do something about that. Build a place for families, with clean rooms, and a bible in ever nightstand.”

“Sounds reasonable. But how will people know your place is different?”

He paused for a moment, thinking, chewing the end of his pencil.

“A sign.” He answered, with a smile. “Big, with lots of lights. And an arrow, pointing the way.”

“The way to what?”

“A good place for a good night’s sleep.”

Memphis Note
Kemmons Wilson founded Holiday Inn after a horrible road trip with his family to Washington, D.C. He was disgusted with the quality of motels he found along the way, and decided that he should open a chain of consistent, clean, and family-friendly motels. He opened the first one on Summer Avenue in 1952. His idea caught like wildfire, and went on to become one of the largest hotel chains in the world.

Matt Farr

Tossing a pair of dead forties into the trash can, she does a visual sweep of the crowd, checking for anything or anyone that needs immediate attention.

She’s not looking for empty drinks – in her place, people can come up to the bar to get their own damn drinks – but rather, looking to see if anyone’s had a few too many.

Satisfied that she’s not about to have to break up a fist fight or mop puke off the dance floor, she heads into the back to check the night’s take so far.

And like most nights, it isn’t as good as it need to be.

She looks up at the certificate a local magazine had given Wild Bill’s for being a legendary institution of Memphis nightlife and sighs.

Being a local legend doesn’t pay your bills, doesn’t keep the lights on.

Hipster kids from Rhodes tossing out bad puns like “soulidified” that drink their weight in cheap beer keep the lights on.

Regulars that know there way around the place better than she does keep the lights on.

But with economy like it is, there are less and less of both.

At least the band plays no matter what.

Memphis Note
Wild Bill’s claims to be the last true juke joint in the Delta. I find it hard to argue with that assertion. Serving naught but 40s, wings and set-ups, and with the best house band in town, Bill’s is the sort of place you’d expect to find in a movie. But, like most hole-in the wall places, the margins are slim and any big disaster could push them over the edge. They nearly closed down a while back after a storm did some major damage to the bar. The doors are still open, though. And the band is still playing.

Matt Farr

The water had not risen high enough.

The river lapped at the shore, tantalizingly close to the hull of the Memphis Queen III. Those last few feet might as well be a million miles. If they cut her loose now, she’d rip her hull apart sliding into the river and never make it out of the harbor.

“I’m blaming the King for this, too,” my father growled as he watched the three tugboats attaching mooring lines to the hundred foot riverboat he’d built from nothing in our backyard.

Elvis had died the night before, and my father was taking his untimely passing as cause for all of today’s problems.

Out in the bay, the tug boats turned on their high-pressure water hoses. They were going to try to turn the space between the boat and the river into mud, and slide the riverboat down.

After a few minutes of deluge, My father raised the signal flag, waited for the crews to acknowledge then dropped his arm.

The tugs gunned their engines, the lines went taut, and nothing happened.

Then, like lovers separating post coitus, the riverboat slipped down the soaked ground and out in to the river, finally home.

Memphis Note
The Memphis Queen III is a paddleboat, modeled to look like the boats of the 1800s, hand built by Captain Tom Meanly in his backyard in south Memphis. It is a sister ship to the Memphis Queen II, a slightly smaller, but still notable boat, as it was the first all-steel vessel on the Mississippi. The Memphis Queen III is available for rental, and runs daily sight-seeing tours along the river.

Shawn Wolowicz

“I don’t even want to know what we just slogged through.”

“Probably just rain water and leaves. No reason for raw sewage to gather in a place like that.” Mitch said, sweeping his light around the decaying cavernous interior of the Sears Crosstown building.

David frowned. “Just saying the words ‘raw sewage’ doesn’t instill a lot of confidence.”

Ignoring him, Mitch started to empty out the contents of his satchel onto the ground.

“I wonder if this was how Jonah felt inside of his whale. From his perspective, I imagine the ribs were indistinguishable from a vaulted ceiling”

He lit a candles and placed them in a circle around he and David, who was pulling out an ancient tome.

“Sears built ten buildings just like this, spread out across the nation to feed their catalog business. The developer’s trying to sell the building, but the old girl’s been silent too long. The life’s gone out of her. He thinks she needs a bit of a jump start.”

David opened the book to a certain passage and handed it to Mitch.

“They call it necromancy when you do it with people. Wonder what it’s called when you do it with buildings.”

Memphis Note
The Sears Crosstown building was one of ten retail and shipping centers built by Sears to power their catalog business. It was used up into the 1990s, when it was officially closed by Sears and sold to a private owner. Since then, several attempts have been made to resurrect the building as retail or living space, but nothing has taken hold so far.

Scott Brown

James slammed the sweaty bottle of champagne down in the middle of the coffee table.

“No one touch that.” He said, pointing to the bottle and tossing his motorcycle helmet onto an empty chair. “If the vote comes back, we’ll share it. If not, I’m chugging all of it myself then driving off the de Soto bridge.”

“Sounds like a crappy way to spend Thanksgiving.” Joked George, ashing his cigarette.

“Yeah, well, winning might be an even bigger pain in the ass.”

“Hey, shut it!” Shouted Charles from the couch. “The news is coming on.”

The men, potential business partners, crowded around a small transistor radio. Waiting, hoping, praying, that fate would smile down upon them.

“Good evening.” The voice from the radio crackled and hissed. “With the last of the precincts reporting in, we are predicting that the measure has passed. Starting at the first of the year, the residents of Tennessee will once again be able to order liquor by the drink.”

A deafening whoop of joy went up from the five of them. They were in business.

“Now you jackals can open it,” laughed James. “And some one, for the love of God, start writing some checks!”

Memphis Note
Before November of 1969, restaurants in Tennessee were unable to serve you alcoholic beverages with your food. Which put a damper on the profitability of nightlife across the whole state. But, with repeal of the measure on the horizon, five friends were plotting something…big. They’d lined up the investors, had the restaurant license ready to go, and all they needed was for the vote to go in their favor. If it did, then they could open up TGI Fridays and get the party going in Overton Square.