11. The Church Street Man

There have probably always been a lot of ghosts downtown, since it’s the oldest part of town, but until folks started moving back down there in great numbers, you only ever heard about the ghosts haunting the honky-tonks.

The gentleman in tonight’s story might always have been running down Church, a look of exhileration and terror on his face. The bride, in her great white dress may always have been waiting on the steps of First Presbyterian, every late night, for decades.

But until that moment when Berta Morris decided she didn’t really want this cab driver to know where she lived, until she decided, at two in the morning, to get out of the cab at 6th and Church and just walk herself the rest of the way, no one, as far as I know, had seen the couple.

She said, at first, it seemed normal enough. It was foggy, yes, but the whole spring had been so wet and patches of fog had ways of just swirling up out of manholes or rolling down the street, like just one more city fixture. It was so ubiquitous it had long since stopped being spooky.

And she didn’t even think anything of it as she heard the footsteps behind her, someone obviously running up the street.

It wasn’t until she saw the woman on the steps of First Presbyterian that she started to get chills. It was if the woman stepped into existence right in front of her, just one foot into the real world, followed by the other, like a person stepping through a set of curtains at the break.

And then, Berta heard the man shouting, “Jenny, Jenny, wait! Don’t do this.”

And Jenny smiled as she turned towards the sound of the footsteps.

“I could hear him, the whole time,” Berta said, “but it was only as he got almost to her that I could see him.  And the first thing she said to him was ‘You came back.’ I thought, at first, I was watching the past. Like something had happened a long time ago, and I was just looking through some kind of window onto it. But then, he turned and looked at me, a huge goofy grin on his face, and he said, ‘Ma’am…’ Okay, listen, I’m not sure what he said. I thought he said, ‘Ma’am, this was the best day of my life.'”


My parents are gone. The Butcher is off butching or whatever. And I feel like I’m alone for the first time in days. And I am loving it a little bit. It’s hard to admit you prefer to spend time by yourself, probably especially if you have a family, but dang, do I really need my alone time.

I do think the Southern Festival of Books went really well. I had to pick my books up on Sunday (or risk them being shipped back to the printer, which would have been a bit of a mess) and there were only four of the twenty I had brought on Friday left.  I think my sales were aided by a great cover and being right by Lydia Peele in the pile.

I also learned some important things about reading out loud in front of a crowd. One, I love it. Two, I wished I’d made more eye-contact. I really wanted to see how people were reacting, what they liked and what they didn’t. Three, I should have used the seat provided to sit in. Instead, I used it as a water bottle holder, which brings me to four: I should have sipped my water as I read, instead of gulping it at the end.

And the visit with my parents was really nice.

And I just heard from a Memphis person on Twitter that the review of the book ran in the physical paper.

I think it not being in bookstores is hurting it, sadly. So, just as we’re discussing self-publishing v. having a publisher, I do think it’s hurt by not being in bookstores.

But what can you do? Live and learn, right?