Memphis Fast Fiction Home
31.12.2011
silt
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.

14.12.2011
ember
Rikki

He poked at the last ember of the fire with a stick. The waning heat from the coals tightened the skin across his face and dried the tears that rolled down his face.

Behind him, he heard his father struggling with the body, rolling it in a sheet they’d pulled from the carpet bagger’s things after they’d killed him.

“Paw,” he began ask a question, the couldn’t quite figure out what he wanted it to be.

“Yeah, boy?” His father answered curtly, as he cinched the legs together with a length of rough spun rope.

“Why’d we have to kill that man, again?”

“Like I tol’ you before: so them Yankee bastards don’t think they can just come down here and turn us into slaves.”

“Won’t people find the body?

Shaking his head, his father stood up and examined his handiwork.

“The river’s good for more than just shippin’ cotton and lookin’ at while you drink.”

His father gave the wrapped corpse a sharp kick, and it slid down the muddy bank into the black waters of the Mississippi.

“Any luck, the current’ll drag it straight to Memphis. Ain’t no way they’ll mistake that, huh, boy?”

“I suppose not, sir.”

Memphis Note
The Mississippi has probably had more bodies dropped in it than all the graves both in and around Memphis. Its strong currents and a few heavy stones were you needed to destroy any evidence of a murder. A fact that was utilized far too often by the bandits that operated during and after the Civil War.

05.11.2011
coitus
Matt Farr

The water had not risen high enough.

The river lapped at the shore, tantalizingly close to the hull of the Memphis Queen III. Those last few feet might as well be a million miles. If they cut her loose now, she’d rip her hull apart sliding into the river and never make it out of the harbor.

“I’m blaming the King for this, too,” my father growled as he watched the three tugboats attaching mooring lines to the hundred foot riverboat he’d built from nothing in our backyard.

Elvis had died the night before, and my father was taking his untimely passing as cause for all of today’s problems.

Out in the bay, the tug boats turned on their high-pressure water hoses. They were going to try to turn the space between the boat and the river into mud, and slide the riverboat down.

After a few minutes of deluge, My father raised the signal flag, waited for the crews to acknowledge then dropped his arm.

The tugs gunned their engines, the lines went taut, and nothing happened.

Then, like lovers separating post coitus, the riverboat slipped down the soaked ground and out in to the river, finally home.

Memphis Note
The Memphis Queen III is a paddleboat, modeled to look like the boats of the 1800s, hand built by Captain Tom Meanly in his backyard in south Memphis. It is a sister ship to the Memphis Queen II, a slightly smaller, but still notable boat, as it was the first all-steel vessel on the Mississippi. The Memphis Queen III is available for rental, and runs daily sight-seeing tours along the river.

30.10.2011
mermaid
Jamie Elkington

The fog pressed in on them, turning the open channel of the river into a claustrophobic nightmare.

The crew of the steamboat Mermaid were gathered on deck, peering out into the mist, straining eyes and ears for any sign of the shore.

“Lord, sir, I ain’t never seen it this thick before.” Said the boatswain, crouching to his captain’s side.

“Hush up.” The captain ordered. “Keep sharp, mister. We’ll make it through.”

The sloshing of the paddlewheel in the black water carried on until one of the crewmen yelled out, “There! In the water!”

Before them, eerie orange light sprouted from the water. Something was afire on the river.

“A wreck!” Came a voice in the darkness.

“Pikes to front! Clear a path!” Shouted the captain. A half dozen men scrambled forward, hoisting large pikes to guard front of the ship from flotsam.

A piece of smoldering wreckage floated past their port side. It was a broken piece of a boat hull, and there was something stenciled on the side.

As it drew closer, tongues of flame illuminated the lettering.

Mermaid, it read.

“Sir,” said the boatswain, a tremble in his voice. “I…I don’t think we made it through.”

Memphis Note
Memphis was one of the most important ports on the Mississippi River, and its harbor was always full of boats. But, travel on the river wasn’t safe. The average lifespan of a riverboat was five years, and they were lucky to make it that long. It is estimated that there are hundreds of lost wrecks between Memphis and Saint Louis. I imagine if ghost walked on water, that stretch of the river would be amongst the most haunted in the world.

16.10.2011
antediluvian
Shane Adams

The far bank of the Mississippi River had vanished. Arkansas was lost underneath an expanse of muddy water. No one living could remember anything like this.

A small group of men stood on the crest of the bluff, watching in awe at the river’s power.

“Won’t help the economy any.” The councilman said with a sigh. “No one travels with things like this going on. Hotel are empty, restaurants still. Lord, even Beale Street’s gone quiet.”

“Gonna make shipping hard. Trees, wrecks, all matter of flotsam will’ve gotten moved around. Riverboat piloting’ll be a challenge ‘til they learn the new water.” The wharf master shook his head grimly.

“It is like in the Bible, we’ll have to demarcate between diluvian and antediluvian once the waters subside.” Remarked the preacher.

“If they ever subside,” snarled a cotton man, who’d assuredly lost a fortune in flooded fields.

“We missed the worst of it, utter devastation to the north and to the south. Whole negro communities have been displaced in Mississippi, levees bursting down in Louisiana.” The mayor tapped his foot on the wet grass. “I’ll always be grateful to these mounds of dirt for keeping that monster of a river at bay.”

Memphis Note
The Great Flood of 1927 is arguably the worst flood in United States history, with nearly a million people being affected by the rising waters of the Mississippi. Thankfully, Memphis was left remarkably intact because the bluffs held back much of the flood waters, much in the same way we managed to escape this flooding this last spring.