Memphis Fast Fiction Home
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.

20.12.2011
golden
Laurel

The ride to the airport had been the quietest one that she could ever remember. She tried turning on the radio only to have her husband flip it back off.

In the back, her daughter twisted her long, golden hair around her finger, and looked anywhere but at her father.

They were on the way to pick up her college boyfriend, he was coming to join them for the holidays.

It was only last night that she told them that he was black.

And it hadn’t gone over well with her husband. He’d said something inappropriate and narrow-minded, and their daughter had responded in kind.

“Don’t you call me racist!” He shouted at their daughter.

“Then don’t give me a reason to call you one.” She’d fired back, before storming into her room and slamming the door.

They hadn’t spoken since, and time was fast running out.

Her husband looked in the rear view mirror and cleared his throat. “Does he love you? Treat you right?”

“Dad, you raised me right.” She said, finally looking at him. “I wouldn’t be with him if he didn’t.”

That made him pause, then nod.

“Good. But he’s still sleeping on the couch.”

Memphis Note
It’s always a tricky thing living in a city like Memphis, a city where racial tension is felt by all, but buried just far enough under the surface so no one talks about it. And it can often surprise you when they’ll flare up. An educated man saying something stupid, a rich man being petty, a disapproving silence instead of a welcoming hello. Really, the only thing you can do is just make up for the idiots by being even more accepting of your fellow man.

15.11.2011
erstwhile
Patrick Woods

The bike belonged to my erstwhile roommate. He’d left it at the house a constantly rotating group of us shared just south of the University of Memphis.

I was peddling it harder than I ever had before.

In my head, I was trying to reassure myself that alarm clock had broken, that it couldn’t have possibly been me forgetting to set it.

I was too responsible for that.

I wasn’t believing me, either.

I cut over the train tracks at Southern and made my way straight for the heart of campus. I had mere seconds to get the English building and take my final.

I’d already made up my mind to dump the bike at the front door. I wasn’t going to waste my precious time locking it up.

That’s when I saw it, a fuzzy grey squirrel, sitting in the middle of the walkway, flipping its tail irreverently, directly in my path.

I was going to fast to stop. Its little beady black eyes dared me to keep coming.

I was playing chicken with a squirrel.

At the last second, I ditched into the bushes and felt something snap in my arm.

They give exemptions for medical emergencies, right?

Memphis Note
The University of Memphis campus is ruled by squirrels. They are everywhere, they are fearless, and they – not you – demand the right-of-way. The exact scenario of a squirrel refusing to move from the path of an oncoming bike happened to me many years ago. I ended up running into a bench, not the bushes.

25.08.2011
gnat
Caroline Mitchell

“My dad says that’s the beginnin’ of the end. That a half century of higher education at Memphis State will come crashin’ down because of them.” Betty said out of nowhere.

We were sitting on a bench between classes and I was too busy cramming for a French test to understand what she was referring to.

But then I saw them and I understood what had prompted the outburst.

Eight well dressed negroes around our age cut a path through the quad, flanked by plainclothes members of the Memphis police. Conversations fell to silence as they passed, everyone stared. They were the Memphis State Eight, the first black students ever admitted to the university.

“He says that race mixing is going to force the faculty to dumb down the curriculum ‘til everybody comin’ out of here is no smarter than a gnat.”

“I’ve got a class with them.” I said sharply. “They’re smarter than most of the whites in the class, me included. From what I can tell, they just want to be like any other student.”

She humphed and looked away.

“Also, Betty? Your dad’s a racist idiot.” I gathered my books and stood up. “Don’t be one, too.”

Memphis Note
The Memphis State Eight were admitted in 1959, five years after Brown vs Board of Education struck down segregation. Fearing an incident, the university forbid them to go anywhere on campus but their classes. They weren’t even allowed to eat in the cafeteria. But, every year after more and more black students were admitted, until no one even noticed the original eight any more.

04.05.2011
regret
Ben Christian

The hatchback of his beat up Volvo station wagon was open wide, yawning like a lazy lion. Warm summer wind whistled past, and bursts of heat lightening made the clouds over head flash, with rain sure to follow later. The back seat was pressed down, she was in his arms, and they were in a light blanket watching the credits roll upward on the drive-in movie screen.

This would end soon, they both knew it. She was heading to one coast, him to another. They’d both gotten into the colleges of their dreams, and now the whole rest of their lives were conspiring to pull them apart. But that’s how high school went.

They were lucky enough in that there was no regret, nothing unspoken, no hidden animosities. She was his best friend, and he was hers. They were partners through the biggest years of each other’s lives. Really, there wasn’t much more you could ask than that.

The credits for one movie finished and the screen went white, a blinding terminus.

But then, it went dark again, as the next movie began.

This would end soon, but not tonight. He pulled her closer to him in the meantime.

Memphis Note
The Summer Avenue drive-in is the only one in the city. Horrible and crappy and dirty, just like a drive-in should be. Because when you go to the drive-in, you don’t go for a great picture or stunning sound, you go to be with people. The movie is just an excuse to gather, the people are the reason you go.