Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Zachary Whitten

The devil and I looked out across the Mississippi River.

He’d been after me for weeks, hounding me.

“There’s a whole country across that crap-brown river.” He said, a forked tongue darting in and out of his red lips. “A thousand places that are better than this, calling out to you. Just pick any one, and I’ll give you more than you ever imagined.”

“I’ll be honest, sir.” I was polite, my father taught me to be polite to anyone – even the assholes. “Anything more than what I can get here is more than I need. I wouldn’t know what to do with if it I had it.”

“But if you stay here, you might not amount to anything! Everything you worked for might be forgotten the second you die. You’ll be as inconsequential as a single fleck of silt in all of the Mississippi.”

This was new, and I considered it for a moment before answering him.

“I think you forget, sir, that silt built up the bluffs you’re standing on. And if that’s all I end up, I could ask for anything more. Because then I’ll know that I’ll always be a part of something I love.”

Memphis Note
This is the last story of this project. Number Three Hundred and Sixty Five. It is actually the first prompt submitted, too. I submitted it on November 15th, 2010, they day I put the earliest version of the website up. It was always my intent to write a story back to myself at the end of this, sort of to see where my head was at the end of this madness. Maybe to see if I’d have fallen out of love with this city once I’d found out how really broken it is. But, no. I think I love it more than I did before.


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.

Annabeth Novitzki

The good lieutenant escorted her home from the dance, he and the belle weathering scornful looks from the old families and pro-secession youth.

He opened the white picket gate that encircled her home, and let her through. As she passed, her elbow grazed his side and he winced.

“My good sir, are you alright?” She asked, a concerned look on her face.

“It’s nothing. Merely bruises from a few locals that had too much to drink, and wouldn’t bow to proper authority. I assure you, they came out far worse than we did.”

“So brave.” She pressed her linen handkerchief into his his palm. It was soft and warm, and he imagined it smelled of her. “Here, this shall protect you from such danger in the future.”

“My lady, I doubt that even such a wonderful gift as this would be enough to protect me from a rain malicious blows.”

She smiled, a demure but knowing smile, and then whispered in his ear. “But then, it shall be my responsibility to kiss each bruise to make it better.”

And that is how she left him for the first, but not the last, time – stunned and reeling on her sidewalk.

Memphis Note
The Union occupation of Memphis went on for most of the Civil War, and in that time, the two sides had to more or less learn to live with each other. Resentment still festered against the Union, and fights between drunken groups of men were not uncommon – which was the primary reason alcohol sales were banned. But, even with that tension, some Romeo and Juliet connections had to have been made.

Shawn Wolowicz

Deep inside the iron bowels of the USS Carondelet, Thomas thought about all the things he missed from before the war. His mother’s cooking, running with his dog, the sense of satisfaction at the end of a day’s work.

A shell exploded against the metal hull of the gunboat, sending a deafening shockwave roaring through the confined space. Flecks of red-hot metal cut through a porthole. A man screamed as they slashed across his cheek.

It had been months since they’d cast off their tether at Carondelet, Missouri to join the war. Since then, he’d lost track of time in the steam clouds that rolled out from the Carondelet’s massive boilers. They were his charge. So long as he kept them pumping, the ship kept moving and everyone stayed alive another day.

Most of all, though, he missed her. Her long, straw colored hair, the way the wind and sun could pass so beautifully through it. And how her fingers were always cold, even on the hottest of days. They felt so amazing when she touched them against his neck and brow.

Here, in the midst of the steam and metal and death, he longed to feel them again.

Memphis Note
Carondelet was one of four City class ironclad gunboats that participated in the first Battle of Memphis. They’d been working their way down from the north, eliminating or passing by key Confederate forts for several months. At Memphis, they were challenged by half again as many Confederate ram boats. However, the battle was entirely one-sided in favor of the Union. All of the Confederate boats were destroyed, with only minor casualties on the Union side, effectively breaking the hold the Confederacy had on the Mississippi River.

Kara Prior

He tossed out the blanket while she sorted through the picnic basket. They were late and had missed nearly all of the Sunset Symphony. Up on stage, James Hyter was belting out the final lyrics of ‘Ol Man River’.

“I don’t ask you to do to much do I?” He asked, fussing over a rough spot in the blanket to avoid looking at her.

She stopped what she was doing and looked up at him with a smirk. “You’ll have to give me more than that.”

“It’s just, I don’t know, I don’t want you to feel like I’m stuck to you. Like a movie theatre floor or a piece of gum you stepped on. You don’t have to say yes if you don’t want to hang out.”

She took his cheek gently in her hand, turning his face toward her. Her palm felt exquisitely cool on his skin.

“I like hanging out with you.” She leaned close to him. “I like you, silly boy.”

Over head, a firework screamed into the sky, exploding in a bulbous shower of purple sparks, the boom echoing for miles.

Down on Earth, they were too distracted by fireworks of their own to notice.

Memphis Note
Sunset Symphony is the wrap-up event to the annual Memphis in May celebration that includes the Beale Street Music Festival and BBQ Festival. For most of my life, the event was closed by James Hyter singing the “Ol Man River’ and one of the best fireworks displays in the South. Sadly, Jame Hyter passed away in 2009.