Lady in the Water

My hometown paper posted this story today about a woman seen by the river who later vanished, leaving all of her clothing behind. It reminded me of the Richard Marx song Hazard with its haunting chorus of “I swear I left her by the river; I swear I left her safe and sound.” The article summarizes the situation as follows:

“The person, thought to be age 16 to 20, was last seen by a cyclist about 2:15 p.m. on a bench near the Two Cent Bridge on the Winslow side of the river, according to Officer Brandon Lund, of the Winslow Police Department. When the cyclist returned 20 minutes later, he found the woman’s clothing folded up neatly on a bench, along with boots she was wearing; but the woman was gone,”

The article includes a photo of the clothing worn by the young woman in question.

There are many directions to take in a fictionalized version of this story: What do the kind of clothing found say about her? Did she fake her death? Did she just change into a uniform for a shift at a hospital? Would she be too embarrassed or scared to speak up if she is still alive? Was she killed? Was she abducted? Were aliens, mystery beasts, or “white Bigfoot” involved? Or would this story follow the story line of the Hazard video and include suspicions resting on a local youth, an innocent bystander who is the subject of prejudice and shunning by the town?

Post-Script: The following day, the paper published this follow-up, which explains the mystery (at least partially). To whit, a young transient woman wearing two layers of clothing, on what was a not particularly cold day, removed the second layer and left it on the bench in the hope that someone would find it useful.

Another plot-rich musical echo of this story came to me this morning: Ode to Billie Joe. While there was a movie that “explains” why Billie Joe jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, there is still plenty of speculation, not only about why he jumped but about what Billie Joe and the narrator threw off the bridge beforehand. The songwriter apparently insisted those details are not as important as her portrait of the way the family coldly discusses the suicide in front of the boy’s girlfriend.

Two More: Loreena McKinnet recorded two songs based on traditional material that involve women going into the river, The Lady of Shallot (wherein the lady of the title launches herself in a boat and dies of a broken heart) and Bonny Swans (wherein a treacherous sibling drowns her sister who is transformed into a magical harp that sings of the crime). The referenced videos present shortened versions of these lengthy songs for live performance.

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