Memphis Fast Fiction Home

He was hungover, blindingly so, and making his regular promises to never drink again.

“Professor, are you alright?” A blonde student in the front row called out, snapping him back to reality. A wave of vertigo hit as he looked out into the assembled faces of his Journalism 101 class.

“Why are you here?” he growled to the class.

“Professor?” The girl asked, confused.

“Simple question, goldilocks. Why. Are. You Here? Because I’ll tell you right now, most of you, if you’re lucky, will end up in PR or marketing or something marginally related to your degree. But the unlucky few of you will get a real journalism job with crap pay and worse hours and constant cutbacks at the only paper left in town.

“Sure, it’s got two Pulitzers. One from fighting the KKK almost a hundred years ago when it still gave a damn, and another one for the scribblings of a conservative jackass cartoonist. But now its filled with wire stories and shrinking column inches.

“Really, you’d be better off opening up an independent paper in your parent’s garage.”

He blinked in a moment of clarity.

“And now I know what your final project’s going to be.”

Memphis Note
As the market for printed news shrinks year after year, the Commercial Appeal, the historic local daily, is taking it from all sides. Journalists are getting fired, pages are getting cut, and more and more stories are coming from the newswire. What used to be a guiding voice in the culture of Western Tennessee is slowly but surely becoming obsolete.

Wayne Kee

In one hand, he held today’s Commercial Appeal, with his face resplendent and eyes blood shot on the front page.

In the other, a pink slip from the job he’d just been fired from.

“Dude.” Was all he could bring himself to say.


Just the other day, he was having the time of his life. Hanging out in the park, playing the didg’, making eyes at that pretty girl with the dreads and wooden plugs, smoking some of the kind bud. You know, just celebrating 4-20 with all God’s natural gifts.

But this? This was a total bummer.

How was he supposed to know that lanky guy with the camera wasn’t just some chill bro out to enjoy the festivities, like the rest of them? The cops weren’t narcing on them, so why did this guy have to?

Man, was that guy a buzzkill.

Ok, yeah, he probably shouldn’t have called into work saying he had the stomach flu, but that’s besides the point. It was four-freakin’-twenty, that’s like a national holiday in some places, right?

He just needed to relax. Don’t regret things you can’t control, right?

Wait, was that how it went?

“Whatever, dude.”

Memphis Note
In what I’m sure an aggressive act of schadenfreude, every April 21st, the Commercial Appeal publishes a picture of the group of stoners that gathered the previous day at Overton Park to celebrate the unofficial holiday of marijuana. And invariably, some one loses their job because their boss sees them in the paper. Which is admittedly, bad, but also just a little bit funny.

Caroline Mitchell

Dear readers, I come before you this day to humbly tell of you a great travesty that has been done, however inadvertently, by the citizens of this fair metropolis.

This past Saturday, I watched the warriors of the Blue and Gray end their year bloodied, bruised, but unbeaten and unbowed, having outscored their foes by nearly six to one over the course of the season. They truly lived up to Coach Lester Barnard’s motto of “Every Man a Tiger”.

And why shouldn’t they? On campus, at games and in student publications they are already known as the Tigers. It is a secret cant for students and alumni, used to glorify their gridiron champions. But, one doesn’t extend beyond the walls of academia. The newspapers of the city refuse to call them anything but the Blue and Gray, and thusly the citizens don’t know any better.

I think it is time for that to change.

I say, if they act like tigers, if they fight like tigers, who are we to tell them that they are not, in fact, Tigers?

Memphis, we should let them be what they already are.

Farewell to the Blue and Gray Warriors. Long live the Tigers.

Memphis Note
The University of Memphis (going to call it that for clarity’s sake) sports team was originally called the Blue and Gray Warriors. Somewhere along the line the students started saying that they fought like tigers, so they became commonly know as “the Tigers” by those that attended the school. But, the local media in town refused to refer to the team as anything but the Blue and Gray, even during Coach Barnard’s time. The team name wasn’t officially changed until 1939.

Jonathan McCarver

“You ever think about Frankenstein? Like really think about it? All the things it could be a metaphor for?”

They’d just gotten out of another late night emergency meeting of the school board. Merger Day was looming, so all the meetings were emergencies these days. There had been a unanimous decisions amongst the paper’s reporters that beer was a must before filing their stories.

That was five hours ago.

“Not normally while drinking to excess at a bar, no.” Quipped his companion, the last of the group still at the bar.

“Frankenstein had to deal with crappy parts. Bodies of criminals and the insane. It wasn’t his fault that the creature turned in a fell monster. Maybe the school board merger’s the same way. Maybe it’s not their fault if it’s a monster.”

“Look man, I’m half tanked, and I know that’s not the whole deal. Frankenstein wasn’t the monster of the story. The monster was good ole’ Doc Franky and his refusal to show even the slightest bit of compassion to the creature he brought into this world.”

He scooped up the empty pitcher from the table.

“And that little nugget means I’m sober enough for another round, thankyouverymuch.”

Memphis Note
The utter disaster that was the referendum on the merger of the Shelby County and Memphis City School Systems didn’t so much actually accomplish anything. Well, that’s no fair. It accomplished a time in the future that the two will merge. A deadline that I am completely sure will be ignored until a month before, when we’ll all go through this collective insanity over again.

Scott Brown

Cal Alley wiggled the handle of the nib pen in his teeth like it was a cigarette holder. It helped him think, though that kind of thinking often led to him walking down to the newsroom and bumming a smoke. He really meant to keep his promise to his wife to quit, but what else was he supposed to do to pass the time until inspiration struck?

Flippantly, Cal had once told a reporter that it took him ten hours and twenty minutes to finish a strip. Ten hours to think of the right joke, twenty minutes to draw it. Most days he wished he hadn’t been so exact.

Ok, I need a break, he thought, getting up from a desk to find a smoke.

As he walked down the hall, hands frustratedly stuffed into his cardigan pockets, a lanky twenty-something rockabilly hippie mash-up disaster sauntered past him. His perfectly quaffed pompadour bounced as he walked, love beads jangling atop his parka.

Cal’s mind immediately snapped to. He saw the guy as a chicken, feathers and all, dressed like a hippie, sign in hand, protesting the war.

Suddenly this was a day when it wouldn’t take ten hours.

Memphis Note
Cal Alley was a second generation newspaper cartoonist. His father had won a Pulitzer for his creation of the strip Hambone, which his son worked on after graduating from art school. Cal made a name for himself taking over his father’s position as the Commercial Appeal’s editorial cartoonist then creating the strip “The Ryatts” which ran almost thirty years after his sudden death of cancer in 1970.