Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Matt Farr

Louie had anchored himself in a small cove off the Mississippi. He didn’t want to set foot ashore, afraid the Chickasaw might not take too kindly to his trespass.

Then, from all around him, came a great racket, like a strong wind was tearing through the wood around him, only, the air was still.

All of the fowl hiding in the trees and bramble suddenly took to wing, screeching and cawing at each other.

It was one of the most downright peculiar things Louie’d ever seen.

However, the water beneath his boat suddenly flowing in the opposite direction quickly outstripped it.

But when the sandy shore started to shake like frying grease, he knew he’d never see its like again.

And thanks to the falling tree that crushed his boat, he nearly didn’t.

As he hit the frigid water, he remembered the only sound advice his father had ever given him. “Swim with broad strokes, boy.”

Broad strokes, he reminded himself as he swam toward the beach.

Ashore and thankful to be alive, he hoped that Chickasaw would understand his predicament and not kill him on the spot.

Escaping one death into another would just be too much to take.

Memphis Note
The New Madrid earthquake of 1811 was probably the most powerful earthquake to happen in the continental United States in recorded history. It was actually series of four 7.0 and higher quakes that reshaped the Mississippi coastline from New Madrid all the way down to the bluffs of what would become Memphis.

Josh Roberts

“A multitude of factors.”

That’s the wording they always use. A crafted phrase that says it’s not my fault I’m homeless, but it’s not your fault either. In fact, it’s no one’s fault. Everything just lined up by accident to make you destitute.

They don’t realize how depressing that is to hear.

A man came by the camp today. Said he was from the mission up on Union. Most of us just ignored him. We’ve all heard the promises before.

Didn’t stop him from talkin’ at us, though.

One thing did get my attention. He never used the phrase. Instead he just talked about the river. ‘Bout how it’s never the same, and how you can never step into the same bit of it twice. Then he said that if we were ready to step in a new river to come see him.

Took me a while to realize what he was going on about. Took me longer to make up my mind about it.

I think I’m done standing in this churning, muddy, drag-you-down-with-me river. Maybe I’ll go see that man at the mission. Find out if the water in his river is any cleaner.

Memphis Note
The Union Mission has been give hope to those in need of it for over sixty years. Founded by the partnering of a man who was himself saved by a mission in West Virginia and a local businessman who saw the need for a mission here in Memphis, it has become a model of outreach done properly.

Scott Brown

Look, let me get this out of the way right at the start of this: I’m a bull shark. What’d you expect from me?

What was I supposed to do when you started dumping all those delicious, oily, greasy morsels of who knows what into the water shed?

That’s the stuff I like, for pete’s sake. Not just the stuff I like, but the stuff I am absolutely delighted to find a mere morsel of after days of searching.

Seriously, how could you not expect me to swim up that giant mouth of taste heaven looking for where all those flavors and smells were coming from? I’ve eaten the fenders off of old Edsels out of sheer boredom. This was like mana from proverbial heaven.

But, I guess would be something more like tuna from heaven for us.

Alls I’m saying is that when I come up in the middle of a bunch of you hairless monkey things riding plastic dolphins things in the middle of a muddy river, it’s not my fault when I take a bite out of the nearest thing to find out what it is.

I’m a shark, after all.

I am not a clever animal.

Memphis Note
Every year, a few bored bull sharks somehow wander their way up the Mississippi River. Most times, no one ever knows they are there. But, sometimes they get desperate and strike out at humans. There have been reports of attack as far north Saint Louis. Now, imagine what a bull shark would think if it happened to pass by Memphis in the middle the annual canoe and kayak race at Mud Island. You could hardly blame it for wanting to find out if any of those things were edible, could you?

Caroline Mitchell

From the top deck of the steamship, he could see the lights of Memphis slipping past in the night. Foot steps sounded on planks behind him and he turned to see his hobbled father coming toward him.

“Are the celebrations not to your liking?”

“Seems a poor time to be whimsical. We’re a plague ship trapped on a river, traveling upstream, hoping against hope that the fever gives out before the rations do.”

Less than a month before, they’d departed New Orleans bound for Cairo, Illinois. A few of the crew had taken ill, then seemingly over night, half the passengers developed a fever. No port would take them, fearing yellow fever, and they were left to drift in the muddy waters of the Mississippi.

“An engagement is always a time for whimsy and happiness, boy.” His father lightly scolded. “And if we’re going to die of fever, why not with a smile? Besides, they made cake.” His father patted him on the shoulder, and headed back to the party.

He lingered a while longer on the upper deck, watching the lights of the city disappear in the black. Then he hurried down, hoping there was still some cake left.

Memphis Note
This is a different take on what actually happened to the barge tug
John D. Porter during the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. Instead of a steamship full of people, a barge was refused entry into any port until yellow fever had burned its way through the small crew, killing three of them. For two months, they wandered the Mississippi, kept alive by a pair of doctors that came to their aid with supplies and medical care.

Jamie Elkington

They stood on the walkway up near the trolley tracks, watching the muddy river waters lapping away at Riverside Drive and the foot of Beale Street. A few dozen people were gathered down at the flood water’s edge, some wading in, a few being brave or stupid enough to go for a swim.

“Ever played that old computer game Oregon Trail?” He asked me.

She nodded back. “You have died of dysentery.”

“Hah, exactly. Think any of them have any idea what’s in that water?”

“Doubtful. But think about how great of a snake oil diet tonic it would be. Drink a pint of the stuff, and watch fifteen pounds come right out your butt.”

“Completely natural, too!”

“Of course! That means I can skip FDA approval for it, right? Just go straight to market with my dangerous and untested weight loss product!”

“You’d have to dress up like Mongo. You know, to really sell the whole package. Become some kind of urban witch doctor.”

And with that, they broke into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

She recovered first.

“No, but seriously, some one should probably tell those people not to swim in that crap. They could get really sick.”

Memphis Note
During the flood that happened earlier this year, when the muddy waters of the Mississippi rose up and covered parks of Tom Lee park and Riverside Drive, you could see people going for a swim in the fetid water. And, as we watched this, the sane and reasonable among us all asked the same question – just how stupid do you have to be to do something like that?