Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Cameron Harper

That a was the sixth time in the last hour the negro waiter had walked past them with a tray of beer mugs on his shoulder.

Three times he’d walked past them to the polling station, mugs filled to the brim. Three times he’d walked back to the saloon he’d come from, mugs drained to the bottom.

“Should we do something about that?” Thompson said, pointing his nightstick at the waiter as he turned into the saloon.

Shrugging, Leopold pointed out that this might be the last time for anyone gets a decent drink in the whole state.

They’d been pulled from their regular beats to keep an eye on the polling station during the state’s prohibition vote. With the exception of rattling beer mugs, it had been completely uneventful.

“I’m tellin’ you, we really should do something about that,” Thompson nagged.

“Fine, fine, fine.” Leopold said, pulling a handkerchief from his breast pocket. “Waiter! Over here!”

The waiter stopped, looked anxiously at the two white patrolmen and walked over, slowly.

“There a problem, mister?”

“Your fermentation is showing,” Leopold said with a smile, draping the handkerchief over the mugs. “Bring two more for us next time you fill up.”

Memphis Note
One of the few things Tennessee has ever been ahead of the curve on was the prohibition of alcohol. The state dried out close to a decade before the rest of the country. Or, at least it was supposed to. But thanks to the loose politics of Boss Crump and select enforcement of state laws, Memphis stayed wet much longer than the rest of the state.

Alpha Newberry

We sat across the street, watching red and orange tongues of flame lick away at the last standing wall of our former domicile. The other three having been unexpectedly, and unceremoniously blown across the county by a faulty moonshine still we shared our living space with.

“You know, cuz,” I began in a calm, even tone. “When I told momma that you were moving west, and of your proposal that you and I should unite to ply your family’s moonshine craft here in delta, she did not react positively.”

My cousin looked at me, blinking and furrowing his dirty brow.

“In fact, she did nothing but beseech me, for days on end, not to enter into such a dangerous endeavor with you.”

“WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” He shouted, mere inches from my head.

I sighed, drooped my head a bit, and continued. “But, no, I had to go along with you and your promises of easy money for illegal spirits.

My cousin jabbed me in the shoulder. “WHERE’S THAT RINGING COMING FROM?”

I mouthed, but did not say, a profanity at him.

“I THINK MY HEARING’S GONE!” He declared, as the last wall of the building came crashing down.

Memphis Note
Tennessee has a long and colorful history with moonshiners. But, that history is mainly confined to the east of the state. Memphis and the rest of West Tennessee has never been known for its production of illegal alcohol. Instead, Memphis was a bootlegger’s home. The rest of the state made it, and we moved it.

Ben Powers

Clyde’s palms were sweaty as he wrung the steering wheel. This was all taking too long, he was going to get noticed.

The bootlegger had taken his money, told him to drive around the block and wait at the corner for some one to bring him his package.

Clyde had a sinking feeling in his stomach. Something was going to go wrong, he knew it. He’d get arrested and he’d have to deal with his shrew of a wife lecturing him on the dangers of booze then denounce him as an alcoholic to her horrible family.

All of a sudden there was a sharp knock on his driver’s side window. Clyde nearly pissed himself when he looked up and saw a uniformed beat cop frowning down at him.

He rolled down the window, trying to remain calm.


“Can’t park here.” The cop growled at him. “You’re in the cross-walk.”

“I hadn’t even noticed!” Clyde stammered back, in a panic. “I’ll move it right away!”

“One thing.” The cop tossed a brown paper bundle into the car. It landed in Clyde’s lap and he recognized the familiar weight of a bottle. 

“Next time park somewhere legal, you moron.”

Memphis Note
In Memphis, as the police pressure on bootleggers continued to build throughout Prohibition, the criminals had to get more cautious about how they distributed their contraband. No longer could you set up shop in the back of a business or restaurant, it would be too easy to raid. Instead, they sectioned off, taking money at one point, then directing customers to a pick up spot a short distance away. The seller was never in direct contact with the product, and thus protected from arrest. A practice still in use by modern drug dealers.

Catherine Hutchison

“Would you believe when I started, everyone was all in favor of it?”

Around him, movers were diligently packing up his office.

“If I backed temperance, I’d get the holy rollers playin’ all nice and the hillbilly Republicans back east, too. Just had to get the negroes to vote how I wanted, and make sure the prohibition thing slipped through like greased spit. It was absolutely symbiotic.”

He pulled out his pocket square, and cleaned his round black-rimmed glasses.

“What none of them understood is that people are like horses. They buck under too hard a hand. And keepin’ a man from taking a drink after a long day’s work, well, that’s too hard a hand. Where I saw wrong, I acted. And where I saw a hard hand, I turned a blind eye.”

Satisfied, he put his glasses back on.

“And they’ve come at me because of it. Written a law because of it. The Ouster Law. Those scheming bastards in Nashville aim to prove I’ve intentionally refused to enforce their idiocy.”

He gave the office one last look and turned on his heel, grinning.

“Let them have the mayor’s office. The city still belongs to Boss Crump.”

Memphis Note
Boss Crump was the driving political force in Memphis for almost 50 years, but he only served three two year terms as mayor. This is because while he initially backed Prohibition to get elected, he failed to enforce it, which infuriated his former allies in the capital. Their response? Drafting the Ouster Law, which let them remove any elected official from office for failing to execute their duties. Crump left office before they could charge him.