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”.


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.

Laurel Amatangelo

The baby’s crying stirred them from sleep. He touched his girlfriend on the shoulder and said he’d take care of it. Gently scooping up his infant daughter from the crib, he slipped out into the hallway of their modest apartment, padding on bare feet toward the kitchenette.

There he grabbed a bottle from the fridge, dropped it into a pot filled with water and set it on the stove, flipping the burner on. The baby had quieted down some, but was still whimpering hungrily in his ear.

He walked around the counter, to the make-shift mixer and recording station he’d set-up. Slipping the headphones on, he slapped the space bar and the small monitor glowed to life. On the screen a playhead scrubbed across the beats he’d written earlier. With one hand he tapped his thumb softly on his daughter’s back, keeping time, while adjusting the frequency of a sample with the other.

Volunteering to feed the baby got him a few more minutes every night to work on his music. He wanted to be a rapper, be up on stage. But he wasn’t some punk kid. He was a man and his ladies, his responsibilities, came first.

Memphis Note
This story is based on a rapper I met earlier this year. He has two kids with a girlfriend he loves and a full time job. But, every second he’s not working or with them, he’s grinding on his rap career. Thirteen years he’s been working on it, hoping for that one break. I hope he gets it, because he deserves it. On raw talent and dedication, he’s got everyone beat.

Rikki Boyce

She ran her finger against the wall, a thin film of grease and dust gathered on her finger. She sighed. “Dad…”

He chuckled and shrugged his wide shoulders. “Don’t worry, that’s not what they cook with. Least, I don’t think it is.”

His daughter shook her head and stuck out her tongue. “Yech.”

A middle aged waitress with teased out hair sauntered over and asked them for their order.

“Give us a minute, darlin’. Little missy here is still looking over menu. Oh, bring us some of those fabulous dill pickles. The fried ones. Just to get us warmed up!”

“Really, Dad? Do you know how much fat is in those? How many calories?”

“Oh, pshaw. Those are merely inconvenient facts.” He smacked his lips. “This is what I love about Southern cooking. They take something as beautifully simple as a dill pickle, then they do something obscene with with it. They deep fry it.”

“It’s disgusting.”

“Only in its brilliance.”

“Dad, you’re gonna kill yourself eating like this.”

“Kiddo, I’m old, you’re grown. Ain’t no ladies gonna come sniffin’ around these parts any more. You can have your yoga and wheatgrass shakes. I’ll keep food a bit more hedonistic.”

Memphis Note
Southern cooking. A delicious waist expanding, artery hardening cuisine that Memphis sits directly in the middle of. I know we get a lot of flack for being the fattest city in the nation, but, c’mon, if you lived a place with food like this, your figure would be a distant concern.

Mike Whitten

With the bottom of his shoe, he smoothes out a spot in the dead center of the crossroads. Then, the man looks up at the sun, watching it gliding effortlessly toward the horizon.

Twilight. The best time to make a deal with the Devil.

Taking his pocket knife to the meat of his hand, he lets the blood drip down into the smoothed dirt, whispering sacrilegious words best left unrepeated.

The wind kicks up, the smell of sulfur and wet leather crawl up his nose and the last light retreats before the darkness.

Two smoldering ember eyes appear before him, their owner obscured in shadow.

“Come to make a deal?” a voice from the dark growls.

“Give me my daughter back,” says the man, unafraid.

“That’s no deal, mortal man. That’s a demand.” The voice responds. “And I don’t do demands.”

“Give me my daughter back, and you can have anything. Anything!”

A slow chuckle vibrates through the air. “Are you sure about that?

The man nods. “Anything.”

“Your terms are…acceptable.”

“Terms? What terms? What are you taking?”

And before the man’s lifeless body can hit the ground, a newborn baby cries into the night with her first breath.

Memphis Note
Never make a deal with the Devil. Especially not at a crossroads in the Delta. Things never turn out well. Just ask Robert Johnson.