Memphis Fast Fiction Selections
Moses never had a last name, but that never bothered him.
Not much ever bothered Moses, to be honest. His master said it was on account of him being simple. But, then again, his master fled the city instead of getting sent off to fight, and Moses didn’t put much stake in the word of a coward.
That Italian organ player man had bothered Mosses, though. He stank of liquor and wouldn’t leave him alone.
That was when all this trouble started.
“Pormorcameran,” Moses whispered to himself, looking up at the gallows. It was a word he’d made up as a boy. It rolled around in his mouth like a candy every time he said it, and he liked that. It was a comfort they couldn’t take away from him.
He repeated it again as he watched them slip the noose round that other man’s neck. Isaac, he’d called himself. Moses had been locked up with him since hitting that organ player man harder than he meant to, accidentally sending him onto salvation.
Moses says his word again as Isaac takes a short, sharp drop.
Then, the men in uniforms turn toward him.
“Pormorcameran,” Moses says, for the final time.
Isaac and Moses were the first men legally executed by the government of the city of Memphis, both for the crime of murder. But, in the records, they make note that Moses was not mentally sound, but knew enough of his Bible to be considered fit to execute. They were both black.
The windows were open and a warm spring breeze whistled through, flapping the light curtains. Shadows danced across the sparseness of the single bedroom apartment.
He sat on the floor, holding the Remington rifle in his arms, hugging it to his chest.
Galt was there, too, keeping watch out the bathroom window. He was always with him, it seemed. He’d been with him since Mexico, maybe even since Germany. He couldn’t remember clearly anymore.
It had been Galt’s idea to do this. To leave California, head east and kill the King.
He sneezed, pain flaring up his nose.
The nose job had been Galt’s idea, too. Said it would make it so people wouldn’t be able to recognize him. Most people didn’t even recognize him in the first place, but, as with everything, Galt insisted.
He wondered if Galt had said something to the surgeon while he was under, because their noses looked awfully similar now. That was the sort of thing Galt would do to him, too. And he hated him for it.
At the window, Galt hisses.
Wearily, James Earl Ray stands up, rifle in hand, and moves to the window.
Time to kill the King, Galt whispers.
James Earl Ray assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr on April 4th, 1968. Ray had been stalking him since mid-March, when he’d left California after getting a nose job. He was using his alias, Eric Starvo Galt, while he traveled. The alias was something he’d started using in Mexico, when he’d attempted to become a porn director. Until his death, Ray maintained that he was part of a larger conspiracy to kill MLK. And maybe he was. After all, a conspiracy just requires two people. Ray and Galt were two people, that just happened to share one body.
She spat on the grave. And then the rain started, as it is wont to do when a spurred lover stands alone over her dead partner’s grave.
In her hands, a glossy photograph flaps in the wind.
The photograph is of them. It is in blinding color, over-saturated, perfectly composed for that half second of life between shutter opening and closing.
They are standing at one of his openings. Before one of his photographs. Her arm is around him, but his is not around her.
No one ever knew they were together. He told her that he kept too many public lovers; she told him that it didn’t matter. But, regardless of what either of them said, it always did.
She puts the photograph back into her purse, and swings the camera draped around her shoulder into her hands. Holding a hand over the lens to mask it against the falling rain, she presses the shutter button.
“You were always a bastard. But you’ll always be my bastard.”
The shutter clicks. It’s a picture of his headstone. A perfect capture of the austere grey of the day.
She’s shooting black and white, in opposition to their color.
William Eggleston was born and lived in Memphis, Tennessee. More than any other photographer, he is credited with bringing color photography into the norm of both art and commercial consumption. He currently lives in Memphis, in declining health, and complicated circumstances.
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