Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Pat Guarino

The fire had sprung up in the store room.

The porters liked to steal away and smoke hand-rolled cigarettes amongst the boxes of dried goods. They’d been chastised for this several times, but obviously it didn’t take.

Frankly, the Lady hoped they all went down with the ship for this inconvenience.

After all, they’d only gotten through two courses at dinner.

Her Lover pulled her through the panicking crowds as she examined her teeth in a pocket mirror.

“Not so hard!” She squealed at the Spanish man she’d chosen for the season. “Why are you acting in such a manner? Surely there must be a lifeboat for the first class passengers. Find a porter and as him, would you?”

Her tall, dark Lover pushed her back against the wall so a family could pass them. “Madame, this is a shallow-bottom riverboat, lifeboats would tip her over. But, no worries, the shore is not far, the swim will be -”

“SWIM!” The Lady let out an ear piercing shriek. “Surely you do not expect a woman of my station to do something as base in her finest evening gown!”

“No,” he smirked. “I expect you to strip out of it.”

Memphis Note
Part of the reason riverboat disasters were so dangerous was that there were no lifeboats and very few things that could be considered life preservers. Everyone went into the water and hoped they could make it to shore. But the Mississippi River isn’t the sort of river you want to swim in. Strong current and undertows made the river almost as dangerous as the burning boat.

Greg Brady

My father and I were never close.

I was the last of his seven children. Two of which I never knew. A car accident had taken them from him.

By the time I came along, he was too old and I was too young.

To me, my father was the stern-faced man with heavily starched shirt that came home every night after dark, downed a double negroni then ate dinner alone in his study. His children having been fed some hours before.

Water was our only connection. A former Navy man, he made sure all of us were sure and strong swimmers. Growing up, any body of water I thought I could swim, he let me.

Any save the Mississippi.

To which my constant protest was of course I was strong enough to swim across it.

Then, early one morning, while everyone was still asleep, my father roused me and we drove north into Shelby Forest. Turning off of the main road, we came to a stop at a sandy beach with glass slick water.

He pointed out across the water. “Race you to the sand bar.”

And then, as the sun rose, we swam the Mississippi River. Together.

Memphis Note
Hidden under the lush green of Shelby Farms is a stretch of the Mississippi River where the water shallows and the current slows. Sand bars and long beaches appear, and for a fleeting moment, you would never suspect that these waters belong to one of the most powerful natural forces in the world.