Last night I saw a lady
feeding a possum
off Fortification Street.
I most certainly did.
She was all lit up in neon
from the Shell sign, the one
where that guy got shot.
It was almost certainly a possum.
Maybe it’s a ferret, you’re
saying, I hear you but I was there
I’m the one almost wrecked his
car slowing down to see.
Once I found the gently rusting carcass
of a ‘66 Pontiac behind some old
storage units. Listen now:
I’m sure it was a possum.
I wanted to roll down the window
and holler out hey! Possums aren’t
pets! Or a good slogan like that.
Maybe there’s even a law on it.
Turns out there’s no possum laws
as far as I can tell. And any time
the Supreme Court talks about
possums, it’s when something went bad wrong.
The state offered evidence proving that the deceased, Roberta McBride, came to her death as the result of shotgun wounds in the side of her face.
Well, a possum didn’t shoot
Roberta McBride in 1933
it was Eddie Smith, her boyfriend.
It’s always the Eddies.
As a witness in his own behalf, the appellant admitted that he killed the deceased with a shotgun, but claimed that he killed her in self-defense.
Okay Eddie, you are in
quite a bit of trouble now, why
don’t you try and hep yoself
out. Splain Eddie, splain.
He testified that during periods of time that the husband of the deceased, Roberta McBride, was away from home, he became intimate with her.
Yes, that’s generally how it works
in my experience. I mean, not my
personal experience, you know.
“Git to the possums,” you say.
[T]hat finally having become fearful of the wrath of the husband, he sought to sever these illicit relations, but Roberta objected and upbraided him on account of his attentions to another woman.
Eddie. Eddie Eddie
Eddie. You are just lying now,
Eddie. You are just a plain old
liar, Eddie Smith.
[T]that when he quit his work about 5:30 o’clock on the day before the killing, he borrowed a shotgun for the purpose of going ‘possum hunting that night, without dogs; that he purchased shells for the gun, and started on the hunt about 6 or half past 6 o’clock.
Son you in Leflore County now.
We know you ain’t gone huntin’ for
no possums without no dogs. What were you
doing, Eddie. What were you doing.
He further testified that when he started hunting, he met Roberta, and thereupon abandoned his hunt and remained with her until 9 o’clock, when he kissed her good night, and she went to her home, and he to his; that about 2 o’clock a.m. she knocked on his door and he let her in.
Oh Eddie, don’t open that door.
Lying about going possum hunting is
one thing, but if you open that door
it’s all gonna fall apart.
Roberta had a pistol which she laid on a shelf in his room; that she continuously quarreled with him from that time until 5 o’clock, when it was time for him to go to work; that he then got up and dressed, and they left the house together, he carrying the shotgun which he had borrowed, and Roberta carrying the pistol which she had brought to his room.
Greewood LeFlore. The
great green woods of Le Fleur. Son of
Rebecca and Louis, our Flowers.
Beloved itibapishi toba.
They proceeded toward Roberta’s home, she continued to quarrel with him about the other woman, and finally said: “Stop, I ain’t joking about what I told you, if I catch you over there. If you don’t believe it, I will do it to you now.”
Eddie, just bear with me, but
I am a time traveler. A ghost.
Boy, even if you are telling the truth, you
need to get out of there right now.
And thereupon she snapped the pistol at him
Son I am saying you need to git on right now
and he turned and shot her, believing that it was necessary to do so to save his own life.
Oh Greenwood don’t do it.
Chief don’t go to Dancing Rabbit.
Don’t talk to that Sharp old Knife.
Chief stay out of Noxubee.
A witness for the state testified that about 6 o’clock of the evening before the killing, Eddie came to his home and sought to borrow or buy about two shotgun shells; that he asked the appellant if he was going hunting, and he laughed and replied: “No, not exactly.”
Eddie, this is the ghost again.
Dang it Eddie, I am just a phantom, a
stranger, but don’t laugh about it.
It was a hundred years since the river people
walked out of Mississippi.
The Chief stayed. He stood on the floor of the House,
spoke Choctaw, eschewed Latin.
In the circuit court of Leflore county,
the appellant was convicted of murder,
and was sentenced to the state penitentiary for life.
You shouldn’t have laughed, Eddie.
Last night I dreamed I saw a
lady feeding a possum
off Fortification Street.
The side of her face was all torn up.
O! Roberta I am just a ghost.
I’m a sorry one, clanking my chains,
worrying about where this long walk
is going to take us.
He died at Parchman Farm, Roberta.
He was pulling up a bunch of onions in
1966. I watched him hunch over and
slump to his knees. Bad heart.
But you already knew that, didn’t
you, Roberta. Sixteen gauge
in the face. It was you got hunt
that night, you know about bad hearts.
O! I am just a lonely ghost,
I live in a box of haints. Good-by
to the river people, good-by
to Roberta, bonnes gens, bon ville.
SOURCES: Polaroid 600 film (1996); Smith v. State, 167 Miss. 85, 147 So. 482 (Miss. 1933), authored by Justice Cook; that old Bonneville that used to be back out of the storage place J.S. Losset had off High; a splash of the former Roberta Joan Anderson, of Saskatchewan, as always, and of course.