Among my mother’s effects that I found after her death was a datebook for the year 1944: her diary. An erratic diary keeper myself, I noted the neatness of her initial entry—even lines, full loops in cursive letters, thoughtful punctuation—a common enough trait at the start of a writerly journey, all optimism and hope and clarity, before the messiness of life intrudes.
When I was a kid in 1970s Memphis, limousines were a rare sight, though two would occasionally appear in traffic. From the backseat of our family station wagon, we’d scream for Mother to pull up closer. We’d know whose it was by the license plate. Elvis Presley’s was not customized. Isaac Hayes’s read MOSES, referring to his nickname, Black Moses. He was leading people to the Promised Land.
A story from our Fall 2015 issue.
I knew that Stick was in hell. I had been Preston’s victim the previous summer. I knew Preston’s methods, the steady progression of his terrorism, the sneak attacks when you were returning from the canteen, the Indian wrestling that ended in chokeholds, bruises, and tears. His sudden appearances from nowhere just when you thought you were safe.
Willie Mae Thornton was one of the crucial donors in the transfusion of black Southern blues into two separate veins of white rock & roll in America. Born in southern Alabama in 1926, she was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame the same year she died, in 1984. Although she could not read music, she was a respected colleague of Robert “Junior” Parker, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Clifton Chenier, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, B. B. King, Gatemouth Brown, Bobby “Blue” Bland, James Cotton—everybody who was anybluesbody. But Big Mama’s name comes up today mostly in discussions of two songs that tethered her to white rock & roll history.
A short story from the Summer 2017 issue.
It was said about the blind woman who ran the concession stand in the lobby of the county courthouse that she could tell by touch the difference between a one- and a five-dollar bill. Judges, lawyers, felons, and their long-suffering kin spoke of her so-called sixth sense. She was aware of the rumor, which she attributed to ignorance.
A story by Nick Fuller Googins from our Summer 2015 issue.
Their first months of ecstatic infatuation, Girl and Boy were the type of people to scorn that most standard of cocktail-party questions: what-do-you-do? Rather than answer directly, they’d discuss their curiosities and visions.
Every decent boy needs a chaotic idol, an angel of entropy. Every Tom Sawyer needs his Huck Finn. Mine was Charlie Cousins, a beaten-up-looking kid with freckles and a self-inflicted buzz cut. He was not in our bicycle gang and wouldn’t have been welcome in our tree fort back in the bamboo. He would have laughed at us anyway, with our training wheels and curfews.
The dogs got tied up to the chain fence blockin us kids from fallin out our backyards into the Tennessee River or the interstate. The dogs had one trough, but not all of ’em could reach it the same ’cause the choke chains was one size only and the dogs spread ’long the whole fence, so the ones in the middle or nearest the trough got mean quick.
A story from Winter 2013, the Tennessee Music Issue.
She is a music student, slender, youthful, with the concentrated face of an alto in the chorus or a back-row violinist, frowning at her strings. Tonight, wearing black (de rigueur for her profession), she sits in a chair to the left of and slightly behind the pianist. She is invisible.