Memphis Fast Fiction Home
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.


“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.

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.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico

“It’s moments like this that make you, well, question the nature of things, question yourself even.”

Roar of the fire meant that Jack had to shout his words, which inherently took away from the gravity of the statement he was trying to make.

“Whaddya mean?” Shouted Leopold from across the back of the fire engine as they
wrestled with a length of hose.

“The secesh boys set fire to the calaboose the Yankees put the drunks in.”

They pulled the hose of the fire engine and started running it toward the burning brick building.

“Yes. Yes, I am very aware of this.” Leopold held his hand up to shield his face from the heat.

“But, they had to ride past the garrison, through the heart of town to burn down an unimportant building across from the police station. It seems like such a petty statement to make, considering the great risk to life and limb.” A piece of smoldering twine floated past his eyes. “So insignificant in the grand scheme of things.”

“Or, it just meant they’re like the rest of us.”

“How’s that?”

Leopold open the hose nozzle.

“Mad as hell you can’t get a drink in this town.”

Memphis Note
After a few too many incidents of drunken debauchery, the Union officials occupying Memphis banned the sale of liquor. A short while later, the guerilla fighters loyal to the Confederacy burned down the calaboose – a small, square brick and stone building used as a non-military jail. I’m sure the two things were completely unrelated.

The Smell of Success

The mortar exploded into a monstrously satisfying boom and shower of neon sparks in the sky above them. Off in the distance, a car alarm set off by the shockwave howled in protest.

“Heck yeah!” Clifford shouted as he dug another beer from the rapidly emptying cooler. “Didn’t I tell you guys, cop don’t care nothin’ ‘bout any of this.”

Clifford and his friends were set up in an unfinished part of the subdivision, and had been shooting off fireworks since dusk. Which was a few hours ago, judging by the rate the cooler was emptying.

He’d blown a weeks pay on fireworks down in Mississippi, but it had been completely worth it. Tonight was about perfect for Clifford.

Then he sniffed the air. Something was…burning. And not firework burning, but burning burning. He stuck his head up and looked around like a prairie dog.

Across the street behind them, a half-built model house was wreathed in flames.

There were scorch marks dotting the ground, leading away from his friends, toward the house. Some of the fireworks must’ve gone wrong in wind, he figured.

The flames roared higher and Clifford’s mouth went dry.

“Grab the beer and run!”

Memphis Note
Inside of the Memphis city limits, it is illegal to shoot off any kind of firework more dangerous than sparkler – and I think those might even be verboten. But, that doesn’t stop thousands of Memphis from trekking across to Mississippi or Arkansas, stopping at a gas station to stock up on beer and high explosives, then heading back home to show everyone how the 4th of July is done right.

Katrina Coleman

They slept together on a mattress in the corner of the room. It was just the three of them now. Her boy, her daughter and her. Their father been strung up by a lynch mob during the riots last spring.

She’d taken a job cleaning at a German’s confectionary after that. He’d been good enough to rent them a room in the tenement above the bakery. Things were still hard, but seemed to be going right.

Asleep in her arms, her little girl coughed.

“Close the window, Mama. Someone burned something,” her girl whined.

“Window’s closed, stupid.” Answered her boy.

“Hush, the both a’ ya.” She said, barely waking. “Go back to sleep.”

Another sleepy cough, and she said quick prayer that her girl wasn’t getting sick. They couldn’t afford medicine.

Her boy coughed next.

Then the smell reached her. Sickly sweet, acrid and choking. Like bags of sugar melting down over a coal fire.

For a moment she wondered what anyone could be baking at this hour.

But there was something in the air, in that smell, that was making her so very sleepy.

She pressed her face into her daughter’s hair then fell asleep, for the last time.

Memphis Note
The deadliest fire in Memphis history is the Specht Fire that happened in December of 1866. Fourteen people died when a confectionary business with apartments above it caught fire in the early hours of the morning. Among the victims was a mother and her two children. They suffocated in their sleep.