FOTW Editor's Note: Fly on the Wall has asked for readers to submit Memphis Murder Owl (AKA High Point Owl) fan fiction. If you would like to participate please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and type "owl fiction" in the subject field. I'll republish the best of the best on Halloween and give away some MALCO movie passes. To borrow a line from The Shining, "Come play with us!"
It was Wednesday morning and Pooh thought he would visit his friend Owl and wish him a Happy Wednesday.
Meanwhile, please enjoy Midnight and I'm Not Famous Yet by Mississippi-based mystery author and frequent Flyer commenter Jeff Crook.
Now, Owl lived in the Highpoint. He had moved there after his tree was blown down on that very blustery Tuesday known to Memphians as Hurricane Elvis. His had been a fine old oak tree in the heart of East Memphis, just off Park near Memphis Pizza Cafe and the new Gus' Fried Chicken. Of course, Gus' hadn't been built yet, but Howard's Donuts and Bogies were all just a quick flight from Owl's tree. It was the best place to live in all of Memphis, until it blew over.
Owl had never been the same. At first, he tried to make the best of it. He thought he'd move somewhere trendy but just enough danger to make life interesting, with some nice shops, a decent restaurant or two, and a dive bar where he could go on trivia night and the odd Saturday afternoon, but still far enough away from the Hundred Acre Wood in Overton Park to discourage too-frequent visits from his frenemy, Pooh.
You see, Owl blamed Pooh for the loss of his home in East Memphis. He had loved living in East Memphis. It was like a Miller Lite version of Midtown, with just enough of the cultural amenities to make life interesting without having to smell all the hipsters. Owl hated hipsters. They never seemed to have jobs and always went around visiting their friends to wish them a Happy Wednesday and eat all their organic unfiltered local honey that you got from this guy Owl knew who kept bees in his backyard just of Graham.
Pooh had come to visit Owl that morning when Hurricane Elvis blew into town. In fact, Pooh woke him up at seven in the morning banging on his door and madly ringing his bell. Pooh had been out all night drinking mead that he had brewed in his bathtub, because he never took baths. Baths washed all the essential oils from his fur and made his skin dry out. So that morning, Pooh had been out wondering the streets in a honey-colored haze, and thinking of things in general when the weather turned bad and he found himself banging on Owl's door begging to be let in. Owl had been inclined to ignore him and go back to sleep, but then he noticed that the weather was getting rather awful. His lamps kept flickering. If the power went out, he wouldn't be able to make coffee and then he'd have to fly over to High Point Perk for a cup and there was no way he could slip out the door with Pooh hanging on the bell.
- The Memphis Murder Owl, an artist's depiction.
His tree had begun to sway most alarmingly when he stumbled out of bed, wrapped only in a bedrobe he'd bought from a thrift store nobody knew about. He opened the door and in sailed Pooh, shouting, "Happy Wednesday Owl!" as he flew by.
"Foolish bear," Owl said. "It's not Wednesday, it's Tues..." but he never completed this thought as another thought drove it completely out. "Bears can't fly, Pooh!" he shouted, but Pooh was already banging around the kitchen, breaking all of Owl's favorite coffee mugs, and probably eating all the honey. Owl was distraught. Owl was the only one of his friends and acquaintances who could fly, and if Pooh had learned to fly, well, that would take away the very thing that made Owl unique. Flying was Owl's niche. When you needed to send for Christopher Robin out in Germantown, you went to Owl and you said, "Owl, could you fly out to Germantown and alert Christopher Robin that your house is blowing down?"
Oh sure, one could argue that adrenaline junkie Piglet could fly, but only when attached to a kite. Owl was the only one who could fly whenever he wished. But if Pooh could now fly, then that would ruin everything. "Pooh!" Owl shouted angrily. "I can't believe you would betray me like this! We're supposed to be friends!" Supposed to be. Owl never much cared for Pooh, but at the moment, the point he was trying to make was more important than the true nature of their relationship.
Pooh flew into Owl's living room, along with half the kitchen and some of the bathroom, including all of Owl's best towels. He'd bought them at an estate sale. "I'm not flying, Owl," Pooh protested as he circled the coffee table that Owl had made from an old door from a house off North Parkway. "It's more like falling," Pooh said. "Only sideways."
"One doesn't fall sideways," Owl argued. "And you, Pooh, are most certainly flying. I know flying, and you, sir, are flying. And all around my living room, too! Be careful with those figurines. They're rather expensive."
"Sorry," said Pooh. "I thought I was falling, on account of your house is blowing down, Owl." It was, Owl hated to admit. It truly was falling. In fact, it was falling on top of the house of the nice old lady in whose yard his tree stood, or had stood, but now lay. He could hear the old lady screaming beneath them as the tree came to rest on her bedroom. Soon, Owl's house was full of the old lady's cats, who came climbing up through the holes in the wainscotting to see what all the fuss was about.
"Perhaps," said Pooh from beneath the piano, "Owl, could you fly out to Germantown and fetch Christopher Robin?"
So Owl had been forced to move out of his beautiful home. To be honest, he chose the Highpoint because that had been the name of his favorite coffee shop in East Memphis. He had known nothing about the place when he signed his name to it. One house was as good as another, as his realtor E. Yore was fond of saying. But once he moved in, all his friends and acquaintances had congratulated him on his coup. In fact, they had been pea green with jealousy. Oh sure, they pretended to be happy for him, but in truth none of them had the courage, much less the style, to move to the Highpoint. They hadn't even thought of moving there before. He was the first. E. Yore had found a tree that had belonged to one of Memphis' most notorious gangster politicians, Trespassers Owl, a distant relative of Owl's. In fact, his name was still above the door and the place was listed on a National Historic Registry of something somewhere. Perhaps the most marvelous thing was the city hadn't torn it down yet to build a Walgreens.
Owl had expected all his friends and acquaintances would soon find houses of their own in the Highpoint. It was, in his opinion, the best part of town. But for some reason, they hadn't. He was alone there, but he preferred his own company, so it didn't bother him. Who needed them, anyway? Pooh still lived in Overton Park and Piglet had moved to Cooper Young. Rabbit lived downtown to be nearer the casinos, and E.Yore had relocated to Arlington after Bartlett had just gotten too dangerous to raise donkeys. Tigger never lived in the same apartment more than a month. He was always finding new roommates on Backpage and asking to borrow your truck so he could move. Owl had sold his truck because now that he lived in Highpoint, he could fly or ride his bicycle wherever he needed to go.
No one ever visited anymore, not even to wish him a Happy Wednesday, so you can imagine his surprise when his bell rung and there stood Pooh, freshly bathed, wishing him a Happy Wednesday and many happy returns of the day. Owl squinted at Pooh blearily (he'd been up late drinking sherry). "Pooh," Owl said. "Did you shave?"
"Can't stay, Owl," Pooh said. "Off to work."
"You got a job, Pooh?" Owl asked.
"Executive Manager of Accounts," Pooh said, waving goodbye. Owl watched in horror as Pooh — slacker Pooh, eternal hipster Pooh, a bear perennially without prospects and very little brain — scuttled off in his beautiful pea green Kia Soul to his new job making more in a month than Owl, with all his prodigious mental capabilities, had made in a year at the bookstore.
Oh, the bookstore. Don't get Owl started about the used bookstore he'd opened near the university. He'd always wanted to own a bookstore, and when he found that little nook on the Highland strip and filled it with all his favorite titles of books you've never read, lots of comfortable chairs and couches tucked away here and there, and fine local art created by all the new friends he made when he opened his bookstore, he had never been happier. He even had a little coffee shop in the back serving only the best abominably-expensive roasts. It was perfect for Owl, and it had been a complete disaster.
Owl blamed the hipsters. See, the thing about hipsters, as every business owner soon learns, is that they don't have real jobs, so they don't have real money. They would fill up his shop before eight o'clock and hang around all day nursing the same cup of coffee, heating it up periodically in the microwave, and reading all the titles no one else had read without ever buying a single book. They spent most of their time talking, and not even talking about books, or using his free wi-fi for their so-called "smart" phones to surf the web, and not even Charlotte's Web.
The bookstore had closed in a year. Oh sure, at the very end they had tried to save it. A hundred blog posts and a thousand Facebook pleadings to save Owlery Books and Coffee. "Please stop by and buy a book from Owl!" they wept in virtual tears, "He's a great guy who needs your help," these selfsame hipsters who never bought a book except from Amazon. If every person who had plaintively begged their friends to buy a book had just bought a book themselves, he'd be a millionaire by now.
Instead, Owl was deeply unhappy. Alone in his tree in Highpoint, he saw his beloved neighborhood now filling up with hipsters. Many of them were the same hipsters who had been too jobless and poor to keep his bookstore afloat, and now here they were, like Pooh, landing jobs for which they weren't entitled by any measure of justice, driving new cars of unusual and attractive colors, marrying cute people and moving into unique houses to which they could apply their own quirky styles, and raising children that they named Thelonius and Scout.
Owl hated his hipster neighbors. He hated them all. To him, they were lower than the pellets of bone, claws, and fur that he vomited up after every meal. Was it any wonder, Pooh wondered aloud in his corner office overlooking the river, that Owl should begin swooping down on them and snatching their little hipster hats and their hipster iPod headphones off their ungrateful privileged hipster heads? Pooh shook his head and went back to trusting his gut. It had got him this far.
"And why should he not?" Owl cried to the empty, unforgiving night, quoting from his favorite author that you've never read. "Why should he not draw their blood? If they have the stuff in them. Which I doubt."
*title borrowed from Barry Hannah.