Memphis Fast Fiction Home
30.12.2011
night
Shawn Wolowicz

There is no home like the house on Willett I grew up in.

This might be an obvious statement, but it really was special.

You see, my house had monsters. And every night as I went to bed, we would go to war.

Shrieking banshees and clawing imps lived in the walls, tormenting me with their constant howling and scratching.

A werewolf made his nest in our attic, dragging his claws and dripping his slobber on the boards above my head.

Frankenstein’s monster lived in our basement, howling and rattling his chains every time he got too cold in the winter.

For years, I slept under my blankets, a flashlight my only protection against the things that went bump in the night.

But then I got older, and I started to help my father around the house.

I helped him fix the drafty mouse holes in our walls, to patch leaking, rattling pipes in our attic, to replace the antiquated furnace in the basement.

As I worked with my father, the monsters started to disappear, one at a time.

Then, one night, they weren’t there at all.

In that house on Willett, my father had taught me to slay monsters.

Memphis Note
Every house in Midtown Memphis has its own set of monsters. They are the unique noises old homes make that you can never quite decide if they are your pipes expanding…or something horrible living in your walls. I find children that survive these monsters to be of a heartier, more assured stock than those that grew up in monster-free homes.

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”.

24.12.2011
conundrum
Valibus

I later found out that there were only five Japanese in Memphis when America entered the war.

As a girl, I thought my family were the only ones, unique in our little world.

At our family bakery, my parents employed a black woman named Martha.

I often wondered if I was experiencing a silver of how she lived in the days after Pearl Harbor, as everyone’s eyes turned to watch me and whispers were always at my back.

I never got the chance to ask about the conundrum, though. She quit the morning the two uniformed policemen were posted to guard our store.

A few weeks later those men were replaced by Federal agents, then one day those agents arrived with guns and a car and told us to pack our things and go with them.

My father didn’t speak English, so my mother was the one that asked them about the bakery. Who would look after it, how would we pay our bills?

They didn’t say anything as they put us in the car.

It was nearly three years before we saw our bakery again.

But, by then, the bakery wasn’t ours any more.

My mother never baked again.

Memphis Note
When Pearl Harbor happened, there were only five people of Japanese descent in Memphis. A family of three, and two men. The family ran a bakery on Madison that was closed when they were all forced to move into internment camps. I don’t know if it ever reopened.

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.

16.12.2011
lemonade
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.