Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Every Wednesday, Bone posts a “Three Word Wednesday" writing exercise. He provides three words and encourages his pupils to write something including each word. Today’s words are “gray, fathom and Memphis.” My writing is obviously fiction. I’ve never written a ghost story before, but figured that would be a good way to avoid falling into the trap of scribbling about unrequited love in the wild. I've also never been to Memphis--except a couple times driving through on I-40 and a couple of times on the train. Let me know what you think…

The thought of it is more than I can now fathom. I saw him wandering around Beale Street in Memphis. He was immaculate. He wore a double-breasted pin strip suit with a fancy felt hat and with each step his shinny black shoes clicked against the sidewalk. Hanging by the neck, from his right hand, was an old six-string. Between his lips a stub of a cigarette hung. It’d burned brightly when he inhaled, then drop as he blew smoke out. Leaning against a porch post, I watch him stroll by and wondered what he was up to.

“He ain’t up to no good,” someone mumble in an alley. I couldn’t see the man, but he must have been watching me and anticipating my question.

“You know who that is,” I asked, squinting, trying to see to whom I was talking.

“Yeah, I do,” the man said. “Robert Johnson, he comes here every August, about the time of his death. Some say he sold his soul and now looks to steal another in the hopes to redeem his back.”

Keeping my distance, I follow the lone musician toward the river. He never stopped. At the tracks, he jumped into an empty Illinois Central box car and sat in the doorway, his feet hanging out. Strummin’ the guitar, he began to sing. “I’ve got to keep movin’, I’ve got to keep movin’, blues fallin’ down like hail.” About that time a whistle blewe and the car jerked and pulled forward, slowly gaining speed as it headed down toward the Delta. I watched till the train disappeared in the gray river fog. Then I headed back up toward town, drawn by the music pouring out of the clubs and the thought of a cold beer.


  1. Sahe, that's REALLY good! I could see him.

  2. Sage: You did great! That's what I think! :)

  3. very nice.. i would like to know if what the man in the alley said was true... and if so.. if i got on the train would i have sold my soul????

  4. Very nice! Makes me want to pull my cds and listen to some Robert Johnson.

  5. Yeah, excellent writing exercise. Very cool to write about legendary blues man Robert Johnson.

    I want to listen to some Robert Johnson and some Delta Blues now too.

  6. Nice piece. I reckon though the music would have been too much for me. I'd have got on the train.

  7. I could see him too but it made me wonder...if he rides trains, how does he keep his shoes so shiny? I believe your second favorite topic after unrequited love in the wild is alcoholic beverages. :-)

  8. Kenju & Michael, Thanks!

    Paisley, I played around with making the guy in the alley the devil, but didn't get it to work and ran out of time.

    Herb & V, when I started thinking about the three words, I put on a RJ CD

    Paul, get on the train and it might require your soul...

    Murf, always the realist, but he's a ghost and therefore can keep his shoes shinny even when walking in the gravel ballast used for the tracks.

  9. YOU, Mr. Low Cut, calling ME a realist? That's funny. :-) But I do have a love for minor details.

  10. Duh, I is an idiot. For some reason at the beginning I pictured Tom Waits--you did kind of describe him

    But of course a proper Southern ghost story of the last century must feature Robert Johnson

    It was excellent Sage

  11. I'm always up for a good ghost story and a cold beer. Enjoyed the story, I'll have the beer later.

  12. An enjoyable read, Sage. I love the music in Memphis.

    Good thing you didn't get on that train.

  13. I've never thought of a ghost story... I liked it. A good friend of mine is from a small town in Georgia, and while walkng through the streets of Savannah with him, we passed one of those "ghost tour" signs and I asked him if he believed in ghosts. The look he gave me rivaled one I would have given someone had they asked if we drank milk in Wisconsin :)

  14. That is a really neat idea, the three words. And you did well with it. I´m here from Michele´s blog, by the way!

  15. Naw right, technically the rr tracks aren't west of Beale (Beale runs east/west) or towards the river but east and south near the MS/TN stateline. BUT, RJ is a ghost and so too can the tracks and the train. Also, Beale is a working man's street full of businesses such as bars, barber shops, and fire/police stations. Has been for a hundred years, so you leaning against a porch post, highly unlikely. BUT, easliy fixed with a lamp post. River fog doesn't work either. Memphis sits on a bluff overlooking the river, thus too high for ground fog. The train crosses the river on a rather high tressel avoiding fog, too.

    I know, "shut the $3!% up" it's fiction. I already said I've "never been to Memphis!"

    Sorry, I'll stop being anoying now and tell you I like the Gothic power--very chic in a Southern tale.

    I like the cig part and am captivated by the man in the alley. What's he doing there admiring you admiring RJ? What is his story?

  16. Maggie, thanks for the insights. As for the direction of the tracks and the way Beale street runs, I am correct. If you westerly walk down Beale Street toward the river, you'll first come to the tracks that parallel the river heading north/south.

    As for the bluff, I didn't take that into consideration, but do remember fog after Memphis early in the morning when riding southbound on the City of New Orleans.

    the man in the alley was suppose to be the devil, but I just didn't have time or the insight at the time to flush his character out.