Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Patrick Woods

I’ll admit, I probably wouldn’t have been stomping down this stretch of Madison after dark if she hadn’t said yes when I asked her out.

She’d immediately told me what we were doing and where to meet her: a punk show at an empty warehouse.

“Listen for the loud noises, I’ll be there.” she’d said.

Part of me knew it was a dare to see if I’d show up. Part of me thought she wouldn’t show up.

But there she was, waiting outside the door, smoking a clove.

She was beautiful, wild, dangerous. Like trying to catch fire in your hand. I knew I was in over my head, but I didn’t give a damn.

Immediately, she grabbed my hand and hauled me into the deafening concrete cavern.

The spasmodic din coming from the band was physically painful. Guitars slashed my ears, drums beat my chest.

“God!” I shouted, ears ringing between songs. “This is just noise!”

“It sounds like noise now, but once it cuts down and the silence takes hold, you’ll feel the emptiness left in its wake like a wound in your side.”

Then she kissed me and bit my lip. I tasted blood.

“Just like me.”

Memphis Note
After the Antenna closed, the Memphis alternative and punk scene found itself homeless. Several make-shift, pseudo-legal, rent-probably-not-paid, spaces popped up to take its place. They were little more than four walls with enough power to run a PA system – some didn’t even have toilets – but that’s all they needed to be to gather a crowd.

Pat Guarino

It was hard to tell which the Cat’s Meow was more: a swinger’s club or a dive bar.

It was one of those chicken or egg type questions. Or, as the proprietor liked to put it, 
“Silly questions people ask themselves when they should be screwin’ instead.”

The Cat’s Meow occupied a decent sized house, set back from the road a bit and remodeled into a restaurant. The parking lot was the paved over yard, and was mostly empty except on weekends.

Like any dive bar, there were regulars, and something of them could be pretty eccentric, even for a sex club. One of them had a fastidious cleaning fetish and go attack the bathrooms, which worked out well for everyone.

The only really odd regular was Bob. That’s what they called him at least, no one ever got his name. He’d show up a few times a week, order a pitcher of beer, and sit in the corner avoiding eye contact with everyone.

Some one once suggested that Bob might not’ve been entirely aware of the sort of place the Cat’s Meow was, and thought everyone else was off their rocker.

But that couldn’t possible have been true.


Memphis Note
The Cat’s Meow was one of those places that flew under the radar of everyone that wasn’t looking for a place like that. It was out of the way, quiet, and unassuming. Problem was, Memphis cops were stopping in to “keep an eye on the place” and the Commercial Appeal got wind of it. They ran an expose, the city and the department were embarrassed, and the owner of the property evicted the Cat’s Meow. The building is a rib shack now. Keep that in mind if you ever stop in to eat there.

Mark Dinstuhl

Her eyes flashed fiery defiance.


“Miss,” the uniformed police officer began, leaning heavily on the table, trying to be as imposing as possible. “I don’t think you realize the sort of trouble you’re in here.”

She smiled up at him, like a feral cat that’s learned to slip a trap. “And I don’t think you realize just how wrong you are.”

There were four of them in the room: the woman, the leaning officer, a younger patrolman guarding the door, and a well-dressed but very anxious man.

“You stole from this goodly gentleman. You’re a woman of vacant morals. Precisely what part do I have wrong?”

Her smile widened.

“Well, yes, I did steal from him. And, yes, I am a whore. But you’ve got this futile idea that he’s going to do anything about it.”

She turned away from the officer and addressed the well-dressed man directly.

“I stole your watch and your wallet. I looked inside both. I know where you work, which church you attend. I’ve seen your chubby little wife. And if you prosecute me for taking a bit more, they’ll all know about me, too.”

The woman was released within the hour.

Memphis Note
There’s a line from WC Handy’s Beale Street Blues that goes “If Beale Street could talk, married men would have to take their beds and walk.” The lady in the story above just realized how she could swing that to her favor. Story’s based on a real case, too. She got of scott-free.

Ian Sterling

“Sir! Could I interest you in the finest musculature diagrams, strait from the colleges of Paris?”

He drew out the last syllable as long as possible for maximum effect. The fat businessman passed without a sideways glance.

Shrugging, he turned back to the teenaged boy squatting on the steamer trunk filled to bursting with material of a most lascivious nature.

“There are three secrets to this, my young collaborator. First is to appear to the gendarme as simple merchants, hawking our wares at fair market prices. But, in the same breath you drop in key words to make sure the clientele don’t miss out on a worthwhile opportunity.

He swung his arm out. “Second, pick a place with steady foot traffic, like this idyllic park, from which to work. Makes even bad days bearable.”

Up the street, a group of men were walking toward the pair.

“Ah! Watch and learn!” He said, bounding out to meet them.

“Gentlemen! Might I interest you in select medical texts taken from a Sultan’s private harem? They are guaranteed to be both educational and inspirational!”

Not one stopped.

“Finally, never get discouraged,” he said to the boy, “Because, in the end, sex always sells.”

Memphis Note
Pornography has never not been around. But, it wasn’t always so readily available, or entirely legal. Memphis’s history is filled with stories about eager and often prosecutions of smut dealers. In days past, sexually explicit material was forced to masquerade as medical or educational in nature. The city had no problem legalizing prostitution, but a picture of a lady with exposed breasts could get you locked in a chain gang for a month or more.

Joe Leibovich

Her ears perked up when she heard the car door slam. Before the keys could start turning in her lock, she was flinging clothes at the man sleeping beside her.

“What’s the matter?” He asked, roused by her clothing barrage, his Hindi accent thickened with grogginess.

“I am in the autumn of my life, I do not need to be dealing with things like this!” She scoured the floor, searching for her unmentionables.

From downstairs, a voice called out, “Mom? You home?”

They shot each other looks. His one of restrained humor, hers of abject panic.

“How long does it take you to wrap this thing ‘round your head?” She clenched his turban in her fist.

He shrugged lazily, “I don’t know, how long does it take you to get your hair done?”

“Don’t you test me, Patel. You may be the man partaking of my sweet pleasures, but don’t think I’m afraid of unleashing a stereotypical big mamma switch whoopin’ on your tan ass.”

“I love it when you talk dirty.”

“Keep it up! I’ll make you climb out the window using that thing as rope!”

“Just so long as I can use it to get back in later.”

Memphis Note
One of the best Indian grocery stores in Memphis is a predominantly African American neighborhood. But, you don’t open up a cuisine-specific food store without clientele looking to buy it. Which means that there is some blending between those two cultures, and I can only imagine what shape those blendings might take.