Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Laurel Amatangelo

I’d been dodging the guy’s calls for the better part of a month, trying to decide if I wanted to talk to him – hell, if I even had anything to talk about – when he cornered me where I waited tables.

He sat down in my section and introduced himself. “I’m writing a book about all the almost-were Memphis bands.” He said, without irony in his voice. “You fronted one of the biggest bands local of the 90s. I was hoping to ask you some questions.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for starters, what was your goal as a band? What did you want?”

What did we want, I thought. Hell, we wanted what any kid that’s ever picked up a guitar or shouted into a mic wanted. We wanted to be heard, to matter, to be part of that immortal mythology of rock and roll.

But this guy wasn’t going to understand that if he didn’t already know it.

“I don’t know, guess we thought it’d be cool. Piss some people off. Get lucky, maybe.”

He looked up at me with disappointment, wanting more than I was going to give him.

Turns out I didn’t have anything to say after all.

Memphis Note
With one of the highest per capita rates of working musicians in the country, you can be assured that any bar or restaurant with a decent cool cachet is going to have at least one upcoming or almost-was musician on staff.

Bill Boyce

He was headed back to work. Finally. The roads to the depot had been cut off by the heavy spring rains, and he’d spent nearly a week off from his job as the physical plant supervisor. Which was nothing more than fancy company talk for head janitor.

As he rounded the bend toward the front gate, something odd appeared in the corner of his eye. He looked over, and wondered if his drug days had come back to haunt him. Because, sure a hell, there was a huge old steamboat beached on the banks of the river, half-covered in mud and garbage.

His first thought was that maybe one of the Mud Island riverboats had cut loose during the storm, but from the road he could tell this was much, much older.

After parking his car, he walked out a bit, until the mud got to be too much. He looked up at it and whistled. It was gigantic.

Then, he looked over, and swore.

On a sign post, just past the wrecked hulk, was his company’s KEEP OUT sign.

The damn thing had washed up just inside their property line, which made it his mess to clean up.

Memphis Note
Somewhere on the banks of the Mississippi, just south of downtown, there is the wreck of a steamboat. It’s just within view of a maintenance access road, about a hundred yards past a razor wire fence. Depending on the river level, it might not even be visible at all. But, it’s there all the same. A piece of history, breaking down in the tide.

Gwen Murray

The road dead-ended at his job, a chemical company set on the banks of Lake McKellar. Which really wasn’t a lake at all, it was an inlet from the river. Robert didn’t find that out until his tenth anniversary at the company.

This made him feel silly. As did the small fern they gave him.

He kept it in his security stall, out on the south access road. It grew furiously out in the yellow sun. So much so, that after its first year he had to repot it. It grew even more after that.

Then one day something happened up at the plant. A sloppy tech accidentally left a gasket open. Gas leaked out over the southern end of the compound, Robert’s end of the compound.

He spent a week in the hospital recovering. He found himself inquiring after his fern, asking if anyone was watering it.

On his first day back, he went straight to his security booth. His fern was still there, but no longer alive. The fronds were curled, brown and crumbled to dust under his fingers.

After he quit, when asked to give a reason, Robert simply wrote. “Got to big for my pot.”

Memphis Note
Lake McKellar is where barges swing in out of the main traffic of the Mississippi River. Here they either fill up or drop off. The surrounding area looks like the climax of an action movie. Miles of piping, electrified fences, and metal towers belching flame into the sky.