Memphis Fast Fiction Home

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.


Under the yellow glow of the street lights, some of the shades of green people wore started to look more like brown. I mentioned this to my friend, who laughed back, “It aint’ the lights – they’ve got beer sweats.”

Sure enough, as one of them stumbled past us, I got a nose full of cheap bear and body odor.

The air was cool and crisp this Saint Patrick’s Day, and a few of the revelers had obviously over dressed. Their bundles of scarves and heavy jackets now becoming unbearable as the free-flowing alcohol raised their body temperature and the crowd packed in around them.

“You know, at certain points of my life – points I’m not proud of, mind you – I often wonder what forty thousand beer-drunk people would smell like.” I announce, unprompted. “And I can say, without any reservation, if that detestable odor was a preview of what’s to come – we’d best leave now.”

My friend held up his wristband and pointed to his cup full of green beer. “But, I’ve still got this, and they’ve still got more of this.”

I laughed and shook my head, “Then I highly recommend you drink until you cannot smell.”

Memphis Note
In the 1970s, the Saint Patrick’s Day parties at Overton Square were massive events. Tens of thousands of people would swarm onto Madison, blocking traffic for nearly a dozen blocks. But, as times changed and Overton Square became less popular, the party died out. Hopefully with the revival of the Square on the horizon, Saint Patrick’s Day will be a big event again.

Pat Guarino

It was hard to tell which the Cat’s Meow was more: a swinger’s club or a dive bar.

It was one of those chicken or egg type questions. Or, as the proprietor liked to put it, 
“Silly questions people ask themselves when they should be screwin’ instead.”

The Cat’s Meow occupied a decent sized house, set back from the road a bit and remodeled into a restaurant. The parking lot was the paved over yard, and was mostly empty except on weekends.

Like any dive bar, there were regulars, and something of them could be pretty eccentric, even for a sex club. One of them had a fastidious cleaning fetish and go attack the bathrooms, which worked out well for everyone.

The only really odd regular was Bob. That’s what they called him at least, no one ever got his name. He’d show up a few times a week, order a pitcher of beer, and sit in the corner avoiding eye contact with everyone.

Some one once suggested that Bob might not’ve been entirely aware of the sort of place the Cat’s Meow was, and thought everyone else was off their rocker.

But that couldn’t possible have been true.


Memphis Note
The Cat’s Meow was one of those places that flew under the radar of everyone that wasn’t looking for a place like that. It was out of the way, quiet, and unassuming. Problem was, Memphis cops were stopping in to “keep an eye on the place” and the Commercial Appeal got wind of it. They ran an expose, the city and the department were embarrassed, and the owner of the property evicted the Cat’s Meow. The building is a rib shack now. Keep that in mind if you ever stop in to eat there.

Cameron Harper

That a was the sixth time in the last hour the negro waiter had walked past them with a tray of beer mugs on his shoulder.

Three times he’d walked past them to the polling station, mugs filled to the brim. Three times he’d walked back to the saloon he’d come from, mugs drained to the bottom.

“Should we do something about that?” Thompson said, pointing his nightstick at the waiter as he turned into the saloon.

Shrugging, Leopold pointed out that this might be the last time for anyone gets a decent drink in the whole state.

They’d been pulled from their regular beats to keep an eye on the polling station during the state’s prohibition vote. With the exception of rattling beer mugs, it had been completely uneventful.

“I’m tellin’ you, we really should do something about that,” Thompson nagged.

“Fine, fine, fine.” Leopold said, pulling a handkerchief from his breast pocket. “Waiter! Over here!”

The waiter stopped, looked anxiously at the two white patrolmen and walked over, slowly.

“There a problem, mister?”

“Your fermentation is showing,” Leopold said with a smile, draping the handkerchief over the mugs. “Bring two more for us next time you fill up.”

Memphis Note
One of the few things Tennessee has ever been ahead of the curve on was the prohibition of alcohol. The state dried out close to a decade before the rest of the country. Or, at least it was supposed to. But thanks to the loose politics of Boss Crump and select enforcement of state laws, Memphis stayed wet much longer than the rest of the state.

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.