Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Kip Gordon

“The problem with science is that we refuse to acknowledge the superior craftsmanship of God. We think we can replace it. In fact, the best option is to simply modify the creator’s work for our own needs.”

Opening big was her plan. Fluster the conference with religious words. Pave way for what was coming.

“In pathology, we’re fighting vectors, not disease. If you kill the delivery agent, you kill the disease. Want to beat dysentery? Make people to boil water. Want to stop Lyme disease? Kill all the ticks. But why kill what you can use?”

Next, leave them in a state of aporia, confused about where she’s going.

“We took the most common types of mosquitos on the planet. We gave them something we call “Hope”. It’s a gene sequence that replaces some of their trash genetic code, makes them produce a cure-all for nearly every common childhood disease. Then we let engineered females loose in the most historically mosquito devastated city in America. All they have to do is find a mate and the people of Memphis will never have to pay for a childhood inoculation again.

We didn’t replace God, we just did him one better.”

Memphis Note
The three most virulent species of mosquitos in the world lovingly call Memphis home. The long, humid summers and stagnant swamps and ponds make this city something akin to heaven for them. It’s nearly brought us to absolute ruin between the yellow fever, malaria and West Nile virus. Now, just imagine if you could use that vector to spread the cure instead of the disease.

Patricia Parker

In the empty dark beyond his window, nothing moved.

He tapped foot against the floorboards, impatiently awaiting his unwelcome guest. The hungering ache of addiction growing worse with each passing moment.

She came in through the back, the smell of cheap perfume and pipe tobacco announcing her presence.

“Have it?” She asked.

“On the table.” He said, nodding to a black medical bag. “Instruments. Some medicine. Everything on the list.”

She opened the bag and poked through its contents. Satisfied, she pulled a small bundle from her bodice and held up it. “Then I guess this belongs to you.”

Immediately his eyes lit up. “Damn my sickness for forcing me to associate with amoral wretches like you and yours.”

“There’s no moral failing that leads those girls to me. Or any catharsis once their child is gone. There’s guilt. Enough guilt to last a lifetime.”

“You’re taking innocent lives.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Seems like I might be saving a fair number, too, judging by the way your hands shake without a bit of my ‘medicine’. I don’t judge you. Don’t you judge them.”

She dropped the drugs on the ground, then turned to leave. “See you next week, doctor.”

Memphis Note
In the years before abortion was decriminalized, women were forced to rely on illegal procedures performed by those who were not doctors. In Memphis, this role often fell to the elders in the sex-worker community. I’ve found several stories in old news papers recounting the arrest and prosecution of these women, and many more decrying them as a plague on the morality of Memphis.

Lori Brunson

“Hello, Mister…Carlton, isn’t it?” The doctor in the white coat extended his arthritic hand and a warm smile.

Thomas Carlton stood up from the overstuffed sofa, nodded and shook the proffered hand. “Yes sir, that’s right. Thomas Carlton.”

His smile never wavering, the doctor sat down behind his simple writing desk. “Why don’t you tell me what the problem is?”

“It’s my wife, sir. She’s so deep down in the bottle that I don’t think she’ll ever find her way out of it. And I hate to be this way, but I don’t think I can take any more of it.” Thomas could feel a tightness in his throat. He had to fight to keep going. “I don’t know how many calls I can get from strangers at all-night diners where she’s passed out in the bathroom.”

“You’ve come to the right place, son. The James Sanatorium has an absolutely impeccable reputation for curing all manner of addictions and nervous diseases.”

The smile held, it was starting to make Thomas uneasy.

“You’re not going to hurt her are you?” He asked, shifting nervously.

“She’s already hurt herself. All that’s left is healing.” The doctor said, his rictus beaming.

Memphis Note
The James Sanatorium originally occupied the old Raleigh Springs Hotel, a beautiful red and white painted building that looked like something transplanted from the Alps. The sanatorium had one of the best reputations of any medical facility in the South for curing people of their addictions. If some one was unable to travel to the sanatorium, the institution had its own line of mail order medicines and cure-alls. The old hotel burned down in 1912, and the sanatorium moved closer to downtown Memphis. I can’t find a record of when it finally closed or what happened to the second building, now replaced by boarded over homes.

Jonathan McCarver

Near as anyone could tell, she lived on her porch. Hot or cold, stormy or dry, she was there, every day and night. On the rare occasions she did take a powder, she was back in just a moment. Just blink and she’d be back in her chair, watchin’.

It wasn’t out of some unhinged love of a fresh breeze that she spent those hours on her porch. No, she watched the only way into her house. She’d blocked off the rear exit with a bookcase long ago. This way she ensured constant vigilance of any of her lost souls that might slip away when their craving got too great.

Ask her why she’d turned her house into something akin to an asylum, and she’d always answer the same way.

“Them that’s sellin’ it, they’re sayin’ things about those that’s takin’ it. Sayin’ they’re criminals, sayin’ they’re rapists, sayin’ they’re murderers. I lost my boy to drugs for a time, and he ain’t never been none of those things.”

Then, she’d pause for a moment before continuing.

“So I figure, if God brought him back to me, least I can do is bring the rest o’ them back to God.”

Memphis Note
When cocaine exploded in Memphis around the start of the 20th century, nearly every fear of the drug was linked to racist fears. Local governmental reports said 80% of the black population was using the drug, that it had supplanted all other economic forces, that it was the cause of every rape of a white woman in the city, and that it would eventually lead to a race rebellion. None of these things were true, and all of them were built on fear of a drug that only white pharmacists were capable of supplying.

Stephenie Booher

As their dinner was being cleared away, Doctor Lemuel Diggs watched his host. Across the table, Danny Thomas rolled a cigar between his fingers, lighting it with a wooden match.

“Now are you going to tell me about this secret of yours?” The doctor inquired.

“Back in Detroit, when things got tough, I told Saint Jude if he’d show me the way, I’d build him a shrine.” The smoke haloed Danny’s head as he spoke “Well, I’ve obviously found the way, so it’s time to make good on my end.”

“I’m not an architect, Danny. I can’t build you a church.”

Danny held up a hand, he hadn’t finished yet.

“I remember when my brother got sick. The sleepless nights my mother spent praying over him, her hope chipping away with each passing hour. No parent should have to go through that.”

He put his cigar down, and looked the doctor in the eyes.

“What I want from you is to help me build a place to give parents back their hope. I want them to know there is somewhere to call when they need help. I don’t want to build a church, Lem, I want to build a hospital.”

Memphis Note
Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital is one of Memphis’s crown jewels. Opened in 1962, the hospital has been at the forefront of children’s medicine since its inception. Founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, Doctor Lemuel Diggs and Michael F. Tamer, the hospital was Thomas’s answer to an oath he made to Saint Jude years before. During a hard part of his life Thomas had promised that if Saint Jude, the patron saint of the hopeless, helped him to find his way, Thomas would build him a shrine in return. Saint Jude Hospital was that shrine.