Memphis Fast Fiction Home
03.08.2011
wristwatch
Alpha Newberry

The drills for the wells were arrayed out across the grounds, constant everywhere he looked. If expectations were to be met, then they’d need everyone of them pumping out water every second of the day.

From the deck of his make-shift office, watching the workers swarming like ants over the skeletons of half-built buildings, he had his doubts; about the wells, about the expectations, about it all.

He tossed the dregs of his cold coffee to the dirt, left the tin cup on the wooden railing, and hobbled down the stairs to start his rounds. Checking his wristwatch, he grunted. Pain still shot up his arm every time he twisted his wrist around like that. His wife had tried to get him to change his watch to a different wrist, wear it differently, or even take up his father’s pocket watch.

But he couldn’t do it. That’s how men wore their watches in the trenches of the Great War. That’s how his compatriots had worn them when they’d died, and the pain was necessary reminder of why this new powder foundry was so important.

From here, the fury of war would be born, a war end all war.

Memphis Note
During World War II, one of the largest explosive powder manufacturing points in America existed just north of Memphis, outside of Millington. The factory required more water per day than the whole of Memphis consumed, and employed over five thousand people in a hundred buildings. It was one of the forges from which the American war effort sprung to life for World War II.

30.06.2011
bifurcated
Scott Brown

The general looked down from his open office window at the Irving Block prison in disgust.

An enlisted man was embarrassingly drunk in the yard below. Through a series of overly loud protestations, he was attempting to convince his commanding officer otherwise. These being what had drawn the general to the window in the first place.

“What an absolute disgrace,” He grumbled back to his staff. “Everyday the whole of my troop is bifurcated between the sober and the drunk. I’m left at half force at any given moment.”

He shut the window and turned back to the half dozen officers gathered in his office.

“These are the fighting men sent here to ensure the future of the union, and they’re more of a threat to this city than any rebel raid or negro riot. Something must be done.”

The officers looked at each other, knowing anyone might get stuck with the responsibility if they opened their mouth.

“At my father’s factory, he forbade any man under his employ to drink.” Said a young, unaware officer. “To keep productivity up.”

“Then that’s just what you’ll do.”

“Sir?” Responded the officer, suddenly aware of his blunder.

“You’ll keep them from drinking.”

Memphis Note
After the Union occupation of Memphis during the Civil War, there wasn’t a whole lot for the troops to do. The city was concerned with keeping up trade and normal life, plus most of the Confederate loyalists had fled before the occupation. So, the soldiers found another way to occupy themselves. They drank. Oh, God, did they drink. They drank so much that beer was banned, and then the sale of any spirits. For most of the occupation, Memphis was a dry town. Which, interestingly enough, this was remarked to be one of the safest periods in Memphis history.

02.06.2011
slag
Ben Christian

They’d left him to die.

Just like he’d asked. None of them were showing signs of the fever, but if they’d stayed…then…he couldn’t have that on his conscious. Not his girls, not because of him.

That was four days, maybe a week ago. He’d lost all concept of time. Sleep and waking were blurred into one long fever dream.

In one dream he was a boy again, back on his parent’s farm, running through the tall green glass, the sun beating down on him. Then he fell, the sun burning him as he tumbled.

When he awoke, the fire still burned in his head, threatening to turn his brain to slag. The bed was wet. He could not tell if it was from his sweat or his urine.

His eyes closed and he was back in the war, the heat sweltering, the humidity choking, all around him the roar of cannon and rifle, and the screams of dying men.

I did not die that horror, he thought to himself as he marched forward into the fray. Nor will I die in this one.

The next time he stirred, his fever was broken.

He would see his family again.

Memphis Note
The last time the Yellow Fever came to Memphis was the worst. Within a week, half the city’s population had fled, hoping to get away from the sickness. Family members who were ill were left behind, some with a caregiver, some not. But the fever only kills half of the people it infects, meaning some of those left to die would survive the epidemic.

27.05.2011
vibration
Brandon Dill

Hernando de Soto hated it here. It wasn’t the heat, the humidity, or even the incessant buzzing of the mosquitoes in his ears.

It was the embarrassment this place ceaselessly heaped upon him.

Against the Incas far to the south, he’d acquitted himself like a proper conquistador, earning the glory to launch this expedition into the northern continent.

But these wilds were nothing like the south. The vicious natives attacked his host at every turn, tearing into its sides, stripping away more with each successive raid.

After that last battle, that holocaust, had taken over a third of his men and left sixty score natives dead at their feet, he feared returning to his ships on the coast without the gold he’d set out to find.

Now the greatest embarrassment of all stretched out before him. A churning river more a mile wide, mocking de Soto with every eddy and piece of flotsam that floated past.

Each day, as his men worked to build rafts for the crossing, all he could do was watch the sun climb and fall, turning the sky purple before disappearing below.

Then wait for the vibration of the hostile drums that would last the night.

Memphis Note
The place where Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River was the fourth bluff, where Memphis would later be founded. Sadly, de Soto never found his gold. He died of a fever on the opposite side of the Mississippi a just over a year after crossing, never making it out of Arkansas.

shanked
Lindsey Turner

It had been storming hard for days. The inside of the stockade was the only part of Fort Assumption that wasn’t soaking wet, and to say it was dry would be a gross over exaggeration.

Through the door burst a group of green troops, freshly sent up from New Orleans to join in the war against the Chickasaw. The veterans inside barely even acknowledged their presence.

But, much to everyone’s surprise, a young rifleman walked up to a group of veterans playing cards in the corner and opened his mouth.

“What are you playing?” He asked the men.

“It’s like other card games, but with house rules.” Answered the man dealing out cards to the table.

“Could you teach me if I wanted to play?”

“You’ll pick it up, don’t worry.”

“Well, if it’s your game, how do I know you’re not going to cheat me?”

“Do you see the money on the table?”

“Yes…”

“This money is ours. Do you see anyone rolling on the ground in unbearable agony crying out for their mother, a knife shanked into their ribs?”

“No…”

“Then we are not cheating. Now ante up or go the hell away.”

And sure enough, he did.

Memphis Note
Fort Assumption was the main French outpost on the bluffs of the Mississippi, it was used for exploration and to wage war against the Indians. But, it was not what you’d expect of a military outpost. It had a reputation for being the most drunken, debauched outposts on the French frontier. Which makes since, when you realize that it was the place Memphis was founded on.