Bobbie & Billie Joe - IP Response
The Tallahatchie Bridge pinged in the cool evening air. Standing by his pappy’s old truck, Billie Joe could hear the engine pinging in metallic sympathy. Below his feet, the Tallahatchie River hissed and spat around the concrete bridge pylons. In the distance, he could hear night birds calling and frogs and such.
Details were crowding in on him. He and Bobbie had been out to Carroll county to the pictures. Bobbie weren’t supposed to be with him. Her pappy would be fit to be tied if knew. He didn’t remember much of the picture show but still had the taste of Bobbie’s lips on his. On the way home, Bobbie begged him to speed up. Oh, she loved going fast, Bobbie did. Billie couldn’t refuse her.
They’d been driving along at a fair clip, Bobbie with her head out the window and Billie laughing along at her crazy fool stunt. He didn’t see the person walking along the bridge until it was too late.
The impact barely harmed the old truck but the body bounced high and came down hard. Billie sat in the truck, head in hands, barely able to look at the mess until Bobbie cajoled him to step out. “Oh, lawdy, Bobbie, I dint mean to hit ‘em. I dint mean to… What’re we gonna do?”
Bobbie stepped into the headlights of the car. “Well, we caint leave it like that, that’s fer sure.”
“I caint look at it, Bobbie, I just caint.”
“Billie Joe MacAllister, you come right over here this instant.”
“I caint Bobbie, I’m gonna be sick if’n I do.” Billie gagged and turned away from the scene.
“Get somethin’ to cover it up wiv then.” Bobbie sounded exasperated.
Billie walked back to the tray of the truck and pulled out an old canvas tarpaulin. It smelt of grease and hay and dog, all at once. Billie Joe’s senses were so alive; he could just about taste the air.
He hauled the tarp back into the lights of the truck. Bobbie had crouched down next to the body. She looked up at him. “He’s not breathin’, Billie.”
He dropped the tarp and fell to his knees, hands held out pleadingly. “Oh, Bobbie, what’re we gonna do? We gonna be in so much trouble. I caint go away. It would break Momma’s heart if’n I do. We caint go to the law neither. Your daddy would kill me if’n he knew we was goin’ round t’gether.”
“Don’t worry yer self ‘bout that, now, Billie. We have t’get rid of it. There’s nothing to it; we have ta.” Bobbie held her hands out to Billie. He looked up at her before reaching out for her hands. They felt clammy, like they did after they’d been going at it at the pictures. She pulled him to his feet.
“How can you even stand to look at it, Bobbie? The very thought makes me sick down to my stomach.” She looked at him then back at the body before letting go of his hands.
“I’m thinkin’ of it like it’s a piece of beef, Billie, that’s all, just a piece of beef.” Bobbie leant down and picked up an end of the tarp. She dragged it out, unfolding it as she went. She pulled the leading edge over the body and covered it. “There you go, Billie, you caint see it now. Let’s wrap it up.”
Billie moved tentatively to the body while Bobbie hunkered down and tucked the edge under one side. She reached over the body and tried to get a hand hold on the lump through the canvas. She looked up at Billie’s stricken face. “Well, c’mon then, Billie, give me hand. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can forget about it.”
Billie dropped down next to the girl. Together, they grappled at the body, pulling and straining against the dead weight until it was wrapped tight in tarpaulin. They both stood, looking down at the package. Bobbie touched Billie’s arm to get his attention. “Well, there’s only one thing for it now. We’re gonna haul it into the river. No one will find it there.”
As these words passed from her lips, distant lights blinked over the horizon, heading their way. Bobbie raced around to the driver’s side of the truck and turned the headlights off. “Quick Billie, let’s get it over before that yonder car comes past.” She moved back to the body and attempted to lift it by the feet. “Oof, he’s a mite heavy. C’mon Billie, wake up!”
Billie shook his head, trying to clear out the mess of emotions. He bent and tried to lift the body by the shoulders. It was very heavy and awkward to handle. But between them, they just managed to drag it to the railing. He crouched down and lifted the heavy end up to rest on the rail. As he did, headlights cut across his face. Bobbie, in the meantime, had ducked behind the truck. The passing car swerved around them and continued across the bridge.
“Did he see ya, Billie? I hope he dint.” Bobbie sounded more anxious now than she had all evening.
“Don’t think so, but I couldn’a tell anyways. I dint even see who it was.” Bobbie joined Billie at the rail and together, they lifted and slid the body up and over it. They turned back to the truck before the body even hit the water below.
The next morning, Billie Joe woke early, startled from sleep by a wicked dream. In it, an awful dead thing, wrapped in remnants of the canvas, was banging at his window frame, asking Billie to come swimming. He lay in bed for a time, trying to sort the mess of last night out in his head.
His momma pounded on the door after a spell. “Billie, you an’ yer brother better get up at it, you hear.” Billie mumbled a response, sat up and looked across the room to his older brother’s bed. It was empty and still made up from the day before.
Billie yawned and reached under his bed to grab his boots. He only had the one pair, while Clay, being older and all, had both work boots and stepping out boots. Clay’s work boots stuck out from under this bed but his shiny stepping out ones weren’t there.
A recollection sprang into Billie’s mind, something from the night before. He remembered Bobbie’s hands hauling at the body. They were wrapped around its boots. The same boots missing from under his brother’s bed. Billie’s eyes grew huge in his head with realisation.