Murder on Choctaw Ridge

Last night, as I was getting ready to leave for rehearsal, Vince was sitting on the couch eating a big plate of poached haddock and brown rice.

VINCE: I found out something really important.

ME: What’s that?

Bobbie Gentry's haunting ballad, Ode to Billie Joe, peaked at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Bobbie Gentry’s haunting ballad, Ode to Billie Joe, peaked at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

VINCE: The truth about Billie Joe McAllister and The Tallatchee Bridge.

ME: Really.

VINCE: Mm-hm.

ME: What’s that.

VINCE: He didn’t jump.

ME: No?

VINCE: He was pushed.

ME: …

VINCE: Think about it.

ME: I am.

VINCE: Why would the narrative voice be filled with so much guilt in the second half of the song, if not to cover a crime for which she’s nearly caught?

ME: But… she’s got an alibi. She was down in the field balin’ hay. Or her brother was balin’ hay and she was chopping cotton or something.

VINCE: But Billie Joe McAllister didn’t just jump off the bridge. Not that morning.

ME: When did he jump?

VINCE: The song doesn’t say. But he had to have jumped the day before, otherwise how would the mother know and bring it up so casually at the lunch table?

ME: Okay, but an admission of guilt doesn’t mean anything, what’s the motive?

VINCE: Well, that’s the big mystery, isn’t it?

ME: Where did you get this information?

VINCE: I just thought of it, right now.

Now that I think about it, and after double-checking with lyricsmode.com:

Billie Joe McAllister couldn’t have been pushed by the narrator, because the mom reports “Today Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge,” and the narrator has an alibi and a witness.

But you know who doesn’t have an alibi? The mom. I think she pushed him.
Oh, sure, apparently, she was cooking, but none of the food she served is stuff that requires close supervision: the black-eyed peas could have been on a low simmer and the biscuits could have been in the oven for a long time on low heat, as could the apple pie. And there’s no proof that the food was served hot, she could have cooked it the day before. Also, the father mentions that they have forty acres; a family living on a farm or ranch that large wouldn’t have found out about a suicide investigation that quickly without first hand knowledge.
And, Mama does have a motive, because she’s trying to set the narrator up with the preacher.
And she shows absolutely no remorse. Clearly, Mama is the cold-blooded killer.

Law & Order: Sixties Popsong Unit. DUNH-DUNH.

Evidence also available at lyricsmode.com. 

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About manifenestration

Lindsay is a playwright, arts advocate, and a candidate in Temple University's MFA program in Playwriting. She lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA, with her husband, three cats and two dogs. Someday, she hopes to not have to vacuum.

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