Memphis Fast Fiction Home
29.12.2011
catastrophe
Laurel

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”.

21.12.2011
ecstatic
Ashley Roach

Tyler Glover stood inside his own wound.

The walls of what used be his restaurant were blackened with ash. Smears from the fire department’s hoses looked like a nine year old’s ecstatic finger paintings.

The building and everything in it was a total loss.

“Oh god, Virginia, this was everything I had. This was my life.” He said, falling to his knees in the middle of the debris.

“Well, that doesn’t exactly speak to your opinion of your wife of only forty-eight years.” His wife joked gently.

“Virginia…”

“It’s just walls and things. We’re the heart and soul of this place. The rest all be fixed as good as new.”

“That takes money. Money we don’t have. Hell, money we’ve never had.”

“Ty, we’ll find the money. You’re the Mayor of Orange Mound, the biggest damn cheerleader this community’s ever had. And this building’s place as been here long as anyone can remember.”

She pulled her husband to his feet.

“People will remember that. They’ll remember you. And then everything will be just fine. You’ll see.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Cause if they don’t, I’ll knock their heads in. Now, c’mon. Let’s get this place cleaned up.”

Memphis Note
Tyler Glover is affectionately known as the mayor of Orange Mound, a title bestowed upon him by a previous mayor of Memphis. His restaurant, Tyler’s Place, was know as the City Hall of Orange Mound. In 1998, after an electrical fire, the future of the restaurant was uncertain. Thankfully, several community organizations banded together to get Glover the money he needed to keep his doors open.

02.12.2011
mirror
Pat Guarino

The fire had sprung up in the store room.

The porters liked to steal away and smoke hand-rolled cigarettes amongst the boxes of dried goods. They’d been chastised for this several times, but obviously it didn’t take.

Frankly, the Lady hoped they all went down with the ship for this inconvenience.

After all, they’d only gotten through two courses at dinner.

Her Lover pulled her through the panicking crowds as she examined her teeth in a pocket mirror.

“Not so hard!” She squealed at the Spanish man she’d chosen for the season. “Why are you acting in such a manner? Surely there must be a lifeboat for the first class passengers. Find a porter and as him, would you?”

Her tall, dark Lover pushed her back against the wall so a family could pass them. “Madame, this is a shallow-bottom riverboat, lifeboats would tip her over. But, no worries, the shore is not far, the swim will be -”

“SWIM!” The Lady let out an ear piercing shriek. “Surely you do not expect a woman of my station to do something as base in her finest evening gown!”

“No,” he smirked. “I expect you to strip out of it.”

Memphis Note
Part of the reason riverboat disasters were so dangerous was that there were no lifeboats and very few things that could be considered life preservers. Everyone went into the water and hoped they could make it to shore. But the Mississippi River isn’t the sort of river you want to swim in. Strong current and undertows made the river almost as dangerous as the burning boat.

27.11.2011
passenger
Michael Whitten

The air is still; dead.

This was not always the way of things.

Before, when we would take to the skies, we would black out the sun with the beating of our wings.

That was before you men came. With your guns and your endless sport of extinction.

I think I am the last of my kind to nest in Pigeon Roost Road. The winding trail through bramble and tree and swamp and field was our favorite place in the world. It was safe, food was plentiful, and we called it home.

You gave this place its name because of us. We, the humble passenger pigeon, that never once wronged any one of you. We cleared your skies of the insects that ate your fields and sucked your blood, but you saw fit to hunt us for entertainment and feed us to your poor and enslaved.

There are not words to describe the horrors your kind levied upon mine. Tens of thousands dead in an hour, in every hour of a day. Calling out, hearing nothing but cries of pain in reply.

Now when I call out, no one calls back. And I can hear our end in the silence.

Memphis Note
The passenger pigeon is up there with the buffalo and the grey wolf as horrific examples of America’s effect on the natural world. The passenger pigeon used to be the most numerous bird in North America, with flocks numbering into the billions. But, those great flocks made them easy targets for hunters, and the pigeons couldn’t survive without them. Just south of Memphis, near what is now Highway 78, was Pigeon Roost Road, one of the great sheltering spots for the birds. There haven’t been any passenger pigeons there in over a hundred years.

25.11.2011
cove
Matt Farr

Louie had anchored himself in a small cove off the Mississippi. He didn’t want to set foot ashore, afraid the Chickasaw might not take too kindly to his trespass.

Then, from all around him, came a great racket, like a strong wind was tearing through the wood around him, only, the air was still.

All of the fowl hiding in the trees and bramble suddenly took to wing, screeching and cawing at each other.

It was one of the most downright peculiar things Louie’d ever seen.

However, the water beneath his boat suddenly flowing in the opposite direction quickly outstripped it.

But when the sandy shore started to shake like frying grease, he knew he’d never see its like again.

And thanks to the falling tree that crushed his boat, he nearly didn’t.

As he hit the frigid water, he remembered the only sound advice his father had ever given him. “Swim with broad strokes, boy.”

Broad strokes, he reminded himself as he swam toward the beach.

Ashore and thankful to be alive, he hoped that Chickasaw would understand his predicament and not kill him on the spot.

Escaping one death into another would just be too much to take.

Memphis Note
The New Madrid earthquake of 1811 was probably the most powerful earthquake to happen in the continental United States in recorded history. It was actually series of four 7.0 and higher quakes that reshaped the Mississippi coastline from New Madrid all the way down to the bluffs of what would become Memphis.