Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Zack Parks

The devil liked it at the P&H Cafe. It had just the right mix of desperation, desire and crushing defeat that made his job so much easier.

It didn’t hurt that the stuffed burgers were hedonistically sinful, either

He looked around the smokey room, running his tongue over his teeth. It was early yet, so the pickings were still rather slim.

A group of comics were off in a corner, bumming cigarettes from each other and arguing over who’s turn it was to refill the pitcher. Dangle fame in front of them, and they’d turn on each other in a second.

In the booth behind them, a young filmmaker poked a timidly at his laptop, trying to catch the same bolt of lightning that Craig Brewer bottled here. And for a price, the devil could give it to him.

As the night wore on, more would flow in. More souls with more temptations.

The Poor and the Hungry, indeed.

What an absolutely perfect name for these people and this place.

If the devil ever dared to imagine his version of heaven, it would probably be a lot like this.

He ordered one of those stuffed burgers and settled in.

Memphis Note
The P&H has been the womb of and dashing rocks for many great artistic dreams in Memphis. The cheap beer, greasy food, and morally lax atmosphere has drawn in local creatives for years, and shows no sign of ceasing.

Alpha Newberry

The portrait photograph over the fireplace glowered down at her, and she chased a handful of pills with a swallow of scotch.

“Shut up, old man.”

The picture did nothing, unmoved by her protestations.

“I told you to shut up!” She screamed at it, hurling her glass and the unflinching visage of her father. It shattered against the plexiglass covering the photograph. This was not her first such outburst.

Collapsing to the floor, she started to whimper.

“I did what you wanted, I got revenge on them for what they did to Joe. I got his seat. You said that was enough!” She doubled over, howling, scraping her nails along the wooden floor, leaving rough claw marks in the wood.

The portrait above the fireplace remained silent.

“Twenty votes was enough!” Growling, angry, she thrust her head up, fire burned in her eyes. “I’m a state senator now! You can’t talk to me like that. I won’t be bullied by you anymore!”

She furrowed her brown and cocked her head to the side, like she was having trouble hearing something. “What? What did you say? You’re getting quiet. Why can’t you speak up?”

The antipsychotics were starting to kick in.

Memphis Note
This may or may not have been inspired by our local state senator from a rather large family that is heavily involved in Memphis politics and her rather public separations from reality and love of a good drink. May or may not be, mind you.

Laurel Amatangelo

The evenings were finally holding on to the day’s warmth.

If you could eat something cold at night with out getting the chills, it was time to open up for the season. And each summer she was blessed enough to have people lining up around the block waiting for the order window to slide open.

She’d poured everything she had into her Sno Cream Castle back in the 60s, and hadn’t stopped pouring for as close to thirty years as didn’t matter. Each year building into the next, slowly, but steadily, until there were people calling her a Memphis institution.

At some point along the way a customer had the fool idea to ask for all the flavors she had on one snow cone. When the next person in line ordered the same thing, she figured that it probably needed a name. The Rainbow Sno-Cone had a been a staple of her menu since then.

Initially, it seemed abhorrent to her why anyone would want something like that at. All those flavors just melted together in the ice, becoming a sugary mess. But, then she realized that was it. It was every sweet taste of summer, all at once.

Memphis Note
The Sno Cream Castle opened in 1964 at the corner of Willow and Getwell in East Memphis. Initially it just served ice cream and snow cones, but the flavors were unique enough to draw people in summer after summer. They added a fryer and stove at some point, expanding into hot foods. The Castle was owned and run by Edith Humber, and sadly the business passed into memory with her in 1997. Memphis was lessened by the loss of both.

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.

Laurel Amatangelo

As the restraint came down over his head, Elvis tried to guess at the number of times he’d ridden Zippin Pippin. It had to be in the tens of thousands, but he was still enthused to go again every time it came to a stop.

The car crested the top of the ramp. Elvis could see sun starting to peak up over the horizon.

Down below, everyone one was long gone.

He’d rented out the park for the party and spent nearly all his time on the Pippin, ignoring everyone. The parties were just an excuse to stay up all night, he hadn’t been able to sleep properly in years.

The pills he took to wake up kept him up longer than he wanted to. If he took the pills they gave him to sleep, he’d need even more pills to wake up the next morning.

It was an endless roller coaster, just like the one he was on now. Every up lead to a gut-wrenching down. Every down lead to a neck-snapping up. And, just like the Zippin Pippin, it was one that he just couldn’t make himself walk away from, no matter how hard he tried.

Memphis Note
The Zippin Pippin was an all-wooden roller coaster built in Memphis in 1912. It was moved to what would become the Fairgrounds in the 20s, and then became one of the central attractions when Libertyland was built. It was Elvis’s favorite roller coaster, and he would sometimes rent out the whole park to ride it uninterrupted. Just a week before his death, he rented the park for a party and rode the Pippin from 1am to 7am.