Memphis Fast Fiction Home
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.

Matt Farr

Physically, there was nothing to her. No tits, no ass, no hips, nothing for men to notice, just a tiny skeleton with some over-tanned skin pulled tight across it.

Which pissed them off even more every time they lost to her.

In competition circles, they called her “Slow Roasted Sally”, partly because that’s the only way she cooked meat, and partly because her refusal to ever wear any kind of sunblock had left her with permanently florid skin.

“If I don’t rub sauce all over my ribs while they cook, then why the hell would I do it to me?” Was her regular retort to that question.

Sally was a force to be reckoned with in barbecue cooking competitions. She had a room full of trophies taller than she was, and a smoker that was custom built to her – closely guarded – specifications.

She cooked dry and slow, traditional Memphis-style. Which sometimes didn’t always impress the judges in those other “heathen” places.

“Cooking styles and local preferences and all the rest of that is just bunk. Good barbecue is just good barbecue.”

Then she’d always be quick to add, “Ain’t my fault if mine’s just better than everyone else’s.”

Memphis Note
Barbecue competitions are a lot like gang wars – certain groups from certain places are just never going to get along. Which is why there are a half dozen competitions claiming to offer the true “World Champion” title, because there’s no way that Texas brisket judges would ever admit that Memphis dry-rub ribs are better, or that a North Carolina judge could ever cop to liking a sweet Kansas sauce instead of his local mustard sauces. Barbecue is a crazy thing, man.

Elizabeth Simpson

He sat on a mattress on the floor of his unfurnished, single room apartment. Before him were two slips of paper.

One was a bill from Memphis Light Gas and Water letting him know how delinquent he was with his payments, and notifying him that his service was going to be terminated the following Monday.

On Tuesday it was supposed to drop below freezing.

The other piece of paper was a shopping list. Food, toilet paper, a new toothbrush to replace the one that had lost nearly all of its bristles.

He didn’t have enough money to pay for the things on both slips of paper.

Inside his head, this felt like some kind of sick joke. Like a question from one of his philosophy finals come to life, where he had to defend his choice with the writings a dead French guy.

If things had gone according to plan, if that job he was planning on had come through, or if his old one had held on a bit longer, he would’ve been out of debt by 2021. Instead, he lost his house in 2010.

To be cold or to be hungry. Those were his choices.

Cold or hungry.

Memphis Note
Memphis is one of the poorest cities in the nation, with more than a quarter of the population saying they’ve had to choose between utility bills and buying food. And sadly, there’s not some silver lining to this cloud, things are stagnant and it is up to us to make a difference in our city.

Alpha Newberry

Before we ever came up with the concept of time, or the words we could use to express such a notion, before even creation had conceived of us, there was an ocean.

And in that ocean was a fish. We’ll call him Philip. Because Teleostei Thryptodus is a terrible mouthful, and “bony fish” isn’t flattering at all.

In those days life was simple, and creatures like Philip were only concerned with mating, eating, and not being eaten.

Three things that were normally ranked in that order.

Except in situations like this one where Philip was being chased by a rather hungry fellow we’ll refer to as Karl. Again, because Mosasauridae Eidolosaurus is frankly impossible to pronounce and “toothy horror beast” is colored entirely by Philip’s perception of Karl – and mainly his mouth.

Karl had been after Philip for the past bit, neither really knew how long because the whole concept of time hadn’t been invented yet, and Philip was growing rather cross about it.

This lead Philip to a rather miraculous epochal and cognitive jump, where he spontaneously invented words so he could express his displeasure to Karl.

Which is a pity, because that’s exactly the moment Karl ate him.

Memphis Note
How are prehistoric fish related to Memphis? Because both of those animals existed in the shallow sea that covered the Memphis area back in the Late Cretaceous period. Sure, Philip and Karl didn’t specifically exist, but those just like them did.

Matt Farr

“Wait, what? What do you mean you’ve never been to Saigon Le before?”

I shrugged, meekly asserting that I’d never been a huge fan of Asian food.

All four of them stared back at me, faces blank, as if I’d just admitted I wasn’t too keen on that whole “breathing” thing.

And then, all at once, they exploded in a cacophony of reproaches.

“I, like, lived off the lemongrass tofu for a whole semester. They’d just have it waiting for me every day after class.”

“Don’t you know that’s borderline racist? ‘Asian food?’ That’s like saying you don’t like European food. Asia’s a continent, not a country.”

“Your zip code is 38104, right? You realize that there are requirements for being allowed to live in Midtown, right?”

“Blasphemy. Pure, and simple. Why don’t you just go ahead and admit you don’t like Elvis, you commie.”

I wasn’t entirely sure of the bearing of my supposed political ideology or musical taste might have on the fact that I just didn’t care for the stuff.

But, this did make me sure of one thing: Memphis hipsters will argue about hole-in-the-wall Asian places just like rednecks will argue about barbecue.

Memphis Note
Saigon Le is spoken of in reverent, hushed tones. It is the sort of place where the harsh, almost militant service is forgiven for the delectable dishes that come out of the kitchen. If you live in Midtown Memphis, and haven’t been, I advise you to rectify that – immediately.