Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Vanessa Waites

She took a long, slurping pull on the straw of her massive lemonade.

“God I love the South,” she said with a satisfied sigh. “You people fry everything you eat, and dump sugar in everything you drink.”

The head vet of the Memphis Zoo gave the representative from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums a perplexed look. “Thank you, I think…but I’m still not quite sure as to the point of this visit.”

“I’m here about babies, specifically elephant babies.” She took another pull on the straw.

The head vet’s expression shifted immediately to a scowl. “Asali’s accident was just that – an accident. It’s all in the official report. I’ve got better things to do.” He stood up to go, furious.

The woman across from him continued to drink her lemonade, unfazed by his outburst. “You done now? Got that out of your system? I’m not here about that, well not specifically.”

The vet didn’t sit, but he didn’t leave, either.

“People like babies,” She began. “Especially freakish pink elephant babies for some reason. We know Asali’s fertile and we’d like to knock her up.

“You guys had a crap run. I’m here to give you a second shot.”

Memphis Zoo
When the elephant Asali accidentally killed her calf in 2009, just days after it was born, a pall fell over the city. Hopefully, happiness will replace that lingering memory of that accident when Asali’s herdmate Gina gives birth to her first calf in mid-2012.


He poked at the last ember of the fire with a stick. The waning heat from the coals tightened the skin across his face and dried the tears that rolled down his face.

Behind him, he heard his father struggling with the body, rolling it in a sheet they’d pulled from the carpet bagger’s things after they’d killed him.

“Paw,” he began ask a question, the couldn’t quite figure out what he wanted it to be.

“Yeah, boy?” His father answered curtly, as he cinched the legs together with a length of rough spun rope.

“Why’d we have to kill that man, again?”

“Like I tol’ you before: so them Yankee bastards don’t think they can just come down here and turn us into slaves.”

“Won’t people find the body?

Shaking his head, his father stood up and examined his handiwork.

“The river’s good for more than just shippin’ cotton and lookin’ at while you drink.”

His father gave the wrapped corpse a sharp kick, and it slid down the muddy bank into the black waters of the Mississippi.

“Any luck, the current’ll drag it straight to Memphis. Ain’t no way they’ll mistake that, huh, boy?”

“I suppose not, sir.”

Memphis Note
The Mississippi has probably had more bodies dropped in it than all the graves both in and around Memphis. Its strong currents and a few heavy stones were you needed to destroy any evidence of a murder. A fact that was utilized far too often by the bandits that operated during and after the Civil War.

Katrina Coleman

The place was lit by gaslight, little orange flames dancing inside of curved glass cylinders. Dark woods and soft, wine-red carpets covered everything in sight. Smoke thickened the air, but it was aromatic, like from a fine pipe tobacco.

He couldn’t quite remember how he’d gotten here. He remembered driving somewhere…then this. Maybe this was where he was going?

“Invitation, sir?” Said the pretty girl in the vintage cocktail waitress outfit.

He blinked at her, then patted his hands around the oversized brown coat he wore all the time. There was a small, stiff card in his side pocket. He couldn’t remember how it got there as he pulled it out and handed it to her.

She took it with a smile and a slight bow, then pointed him toward the stage.

“Tough crowd tonight, Mister Prince Mongo’s Brother, sir. Make ‘em laugh.”

“I’ve debated mayors, girlie” he scoffed back as he took the steps to the stage. “These jokers won’t know what hit them.”

He opened with his biggest, most offensive joke to grab their attention.

No conversations stopped, no one even looked up.

No one was paying attention to him.

This was the worst thing ever.

Memphis Note
Prince Mongo’s Brother is the stage name of a current Memphis “character” that is following the path that the legendary Prince Mongo has already worn down. He fancies himself a stand up comedian, but his acts are little more than tirades, many of them often racist. He’s run for mayor, even participated debates, and managed to get himself banned from nearly every open mic comedy night in the city. Which was actually harder than getting on the same stage as the individuals that run our city.

Jamie Elkington

The fog pressed in on them, turning the open channel of the river into a claustrophobic nightmare.

The crew of the steamboat Mermaid were gathered on deck, peering out into the mist, straining eyes and ears for any sign of the shore.

“Lord, sir, I ain’t never seen it this thick before.” Said the boatswain, crouching to his captain’s side.

“Hush up.” The captain ordered. “Keep sharp, mister. We’ll make it through.”

The sloshing of the paddlewheel in the black water carried on until one of the crewmen yelled out, “There! In the water!”

Before them, eerie orange light sprouted from the water. Something was afire on the river.

“A wreck!” Came a voice in the darkness.

“Pikes to front! Clear a path!” Shouted the captain. A half dozen men scrambled forward, hoisting large pikes to guard front of the ship from flotsam.

A piece of smoldering wreckage floated past their port side. It was a broken piece of a boat hull, and there was something stenciled on the side.

As it drew closer, tongues of flame illuminated the lettering.

Mermaid, it read.

“Sir,” said the boatswain, a tremble in his voice. “I…I don’t think we made it through.”

Memphis Note
Memphis was one of the most important ports on the Mississippi River, and its harbor was always full of boats. But, travel on the river wasn’t safe. The average lifespan of a riverboat was five years, and they were lucky to make it that long. It is estimated that there are hundreds of lost wrecks between Memphis and Saint Louis. I imagine if ghost walked on water, that stretch of the river would be amongst the most haunted in the world.

Laurel Amatangelo

He walked through the grounds of Elmwood Cemetery, alone.

He did this often, visiting friends and family, but mostly his wife. Outliving them all had never been his intent. Yet, as his wife had often said, he never did know when to quit.

In his hand he carried a brown bag, his lunch. When it was nice out like this, he liked to eat with her. Like the picnics they used to take.

After sweeping the leaves off her grave, he sat down on the concrete bench nearby and started into his lunch.

“Love, for all Eternity” read the inscription on their shared head stone, and he still meant as much as ever.

He ate his lunch and talked with her, after which he felt himself getting so very tired.

Maybe he just rested his eyes for a moment he’d feel better.

When he opened his eyes, his wife was there, holding out her hand. She looked just as beautiful as the day they were married.

He took her hand and stood up, all the weight of age leaving his body.

“I’d hoped when I went it would be like this.”

“Like what?” She said with a sweet smile.


Memphis Note
Elmwood Cemetery is the city’s oldest functioning cemetery, as well as the most historic. It has a mass grave of yellow fever victims, former mayors, even outlaws and madames. But, it is also one of the most beautiful places in the city, with monuments dating back almost two centuries.