Memphis Fast Fiction Home

For years he’d prayed to have these urges expunged from him, for God to fix what must’ve been a mistake.

Then, after the first time he acted on them, the prayers shifted. Now he prayed that he wouldn’t get caught, that the boys wouldn’t tell anyone what he’d done.

God heard those prayers more than He heard his original ones.

But, the priesthood had ways of handling priests with problems and proclivities like his. When he was discovered, he was quietly shuffled away. Lost, like a slip of paper into the belly of a bureaucratic beast.

He found himself in Memphis when it was all over, preaching to a congregation that was a mix of blacks and hispanics. They also had him in counseling, a rehearsed and awkward affair where everyone’s best was done to talk around what had happened.

And for a while, his prayers went back to what they used to be. To be free of these ear-piercing urges.

But after a while, they assigned him to help with the youth outreach program. Everyday became a struggle, one that he could feel himself losing.

He knew it would not be long before his prayers would change again.

Memphis Note
When the Catholic sex abuse scandal swept across the church, Memphis was not spared. A Dominican priest (his order, not nationality) was charged with sexually assaulting a 14 year old boy in the suburbs of the city. His was moved to Saint Louis after the assault, and this was not his first reassignment for his sexual conduct. The diocese of Memphis settled the civil case for $2 million dollars.

Amanda Yarbro-Dill

“I don’t know what to say, Mister Church.”

The reverend, normally a verbally adroit man, was utterly unable to express what the paperwork spread across the table before him meant.

“I think ‘Yes’ or ‘Thank you’ is a generally accepted place to start, and please, call me Robert.” Robert Church was gathering up his copies of the documents, a smile on his face.

“This is just such a shock, sir. We’re a church. We’re not used to receiving charity. We’re used to giving it.”

“Who ever said this was charity? You’ll pay that loan back.”

The reverend flipped a few sheets of paper over and pointed to an empty section in the middle of the page.

“You left the interest rate blank, and the repayment period. I don’t know of any bank that does something like that.”

“We’re not any bank.” Church put his had on and extended his hand to the reverend. “The Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company was founded to help the black community in financial ways we couldn’t before, and keeping the Beale Street Baptist Church out of foreclosure seems right up our alley.”

The reverend gladly shook his hand. “I’ll see you on Sunday, Robert.”

Memphis Note
Robert Church was one of the most benevolent people to ever live in Memphis, and probably the first black millionaire in the South. Most of his giving was focused on bolstering the culture of the black community in Memphis. He also helped to found the first black-owned bank in Memphis since Reconstruction. If you ever need a role model, just look to him.

Laurel Amatangelo

“Barbecue,” he nodded.

“You’ve said that three times already, you need to pick something else to miss.” She gently scolds him, while dropping a bundle of clothes into a box with “To Donate” written on the side in black marker.

“Well that’s because I’ll miss it three times more than anything else. Just think, if you weren’t coming, I’d be saying your name over and over again.” He scoops her into his arms and kisses her.

“Uh huh.” Shrugs him off, but not immediately. They’ve still got a lot to do before the move. “Have you boxed up your office yet?”

“Yep! Built a fort out of the boxes for the cats to hide in.” A grey streak whips past his legs; their fat cat sprinting for cover. “They’re going to have a hard time adjusting.”

“Them? Ha. We’re going to have a hard time adjusting. New country, new language.” She pokes at his belly, “No barbecue.”

“I can fix that, you know. Open up an authentic Memphis barbecue stand, spread the glory of the dry rub across the world.”

“Darling, they don’t eat pork there.”

He blinks for a moment, stunned. “Is it too late to change our minds?”

Memphis Note
Here’s an idea: instead of going half way across the world to try to convince someone to join your religion, why not try to get them hooked on really good food instead? Focus on marinades, seasonings and proper roasting temperatures instead of morality and question about what happens after you die. Memphis could become the place of pilgrimage for all the gastrically enlightened. Or maybe it already is that with Barbecue Fest.

Amy Pace

The house was tiny, unremarkable, in a neighborhood that a woman of her worth would not normally be seen in. Children chased after her car as she pulled up, their mothers watching suspiciously from the porches of the other shotgun houses.

She steeled her nerves before walking up to the front door of the house and knocking.

The door opened, just a crack. “Yes?” A pair of dark eyes peered over a chain latch.

“I…I”m here for tea.” That was the code she was told to give. The door closed in her face, the chain rattled, then swung open again to let her in.

Inside, intricate arabesque patterning covered the walls of the room, twisting and turning into itself. When she blinked, she swore the pattern moved, like it was alive.

“Hello.” Said a girl standing before her, barely on the cusp of womanhood, yet with a child hanging off her hip. “Twenty dollars. Now”

She put the cash into the girl’s hand, who promptly shoved it down her shirt.

“Ghede Loa rides Mama.” The girls said opening the door to another room. “Drugs in tea bring her back. You have ‘til then to speak wit’ your dead.”

Memphis Note
In the same way it was at the crossroads of white and black culture to create rock and roll, Memphis is also at the crossroads of African and European religions. Voodoo and belief in the supernatural permeates the region, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of small churches with their own specific takes on spirituality and ritual.

Scott Brown

“Father? Is everything alright?” The young nun said as stepped into the rectory, the lantern in her hand flicking ghostly shadows against the walls. “I heard screaming.”

She gasped as he eyes adjusted to the dark. Sprawled across the floor was an unconscious man and dirty satchel with documents spilling out of it. There was blood. So much blood.

“He fainted as I was pulling the bullet out.” Said the priest, slumped against the wall. His voice quivered as he spoke, and even in the low light, his skin stood out as ashen.

“I think he’s a soldier. A spy, guessing from what’s in his pack.” The priest was talking very fast, stammering. “One of ours. One of theirs, I mean. Oh, mercy, what does it matter.”

He looked up at the nun, tears welling in his eye, the wounded soldier’s blood streaked across his face.

“The gospel says to give comfort to all men, but they will surely kill this man, and us with him as collaborators. What are we to do?”

“For him? All we can.” She knelt beside him, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. “And let the rest fall to the hands of the Lord.”

Memphis Note
During the Union occupation of Memphis, the religious establishment faced a sharp watch from the occupying forces. There were concerns that religious leaders would try to foment discontent and funnel to aid the Confederate guerillas in the area.