Gladys Lewis heard a heavy knock on her door. Every Monday it was the same thing. She stormed over to the wooden door and flung it open. “I’ve been telling you to since 1907 to leave me alone!”
The portly man, the town pastor, looked at her calmly. “Mrs. Lewis, we’re concerned about you. It isn’t healthy to stay all cooped in here. This isn’t the way to grieve,” the preacher frowned, concerned. Gladys didn’t appreciate his thought and slammed the door.
“I’m at the church if you ever need to want my counsel. We’d love to have you there,” Gladys heard from behind the door. In response, she launched a metal bowl at the door as hard as she could.
“I don’t trust the church, or anybody!” she shouted, stomping away into the nearby parlor. She collapsed onto a wooden chair, sighing. A year and a half ago, her husband Harold had gone from their small town in the island of Nantucket. He would leave the island a year or two at a time to work on a whaling boat. She was upset he was gone. What neither of them knew when he left was that she was not the only one he was leaving behind. Gladys realized her husband wouldn’t be there for the birth of their first child.
When she knew the child was coming, she hastened herself to the town physician, a middle-aged man, Dr. Johnson. She was panicked, but the doctor assured her everything would be fine. But in the end, no crying of an infant was heard.
“What do you mean there was nothing you could do?” she yelled, tears spilling from her eyes.
“I’m so sorry-” the doctor was interrupted before he could finish.
“What do you mean you’re sorry? Sorry doesn’t make my child alive!” Gladys hissed, running out of the building.
She never returned to the village. Gladys grew her own fruits and vegetables, and she raised her own animals. She looked out the glass window to see her garden. Despite the fact it was warm and sunny, it didn’t match her mood. Often she didn’t feel like going on. She absentmindedly walked outside to her garden and began picking some blueberries. She tossed a handful into her mouth when she noticed they tasted odd. She inspected the bush to see that a deadly nightshade plant had grown right beside it. It wasn’t blueberries she had eaten.
Gladys panicked and shoved her finger down her throat to expel the poison. She couldn’t get anything to come up. Her husband would be coming back in a few days. Gladys wasn’t ready to die. Perhaps they could have another baby. She gave up trying to vomit and ran. Her legs stretched as she bolted to the only civilization nearby. If Gladys was lucky she could catch a boat to Martha’s Vineyard, a nearby island with a hospital on it, before she was dead.
She arrived at the dock sweating and panting, half from the exhaustion of running and half from the poison kicking in. She looked desperately for a boat of any kind. But only a few empty fishing boats were there. She shouted to an old man, “When will the next boat for Martha’s Vineyard come?”
“Tomorrow morning, I reckon. Why?” the man asked, although instead of an answer all Gladys did was run. She wouldn’t be alive by tomorrow morning. But, what could she do? There was only one doctor on her island. Him. She did not trust Dr. Johnson. She thought of her dead baby. She was feeling even more lightheaded. Begrudgingly, she stumbled to the Doctor Johnson’s office, where she found the doctor tending to a child.
The doctor immediately turned to the wobbling Gladys, “What happened?”
Gladys’ words were slurred but the doctor was able to understand “Nightshade.”
Quickly, he got up and searched through a closet. He brought out a clear glass bottle with a liquid inside.
“You must take this,” he sat her down in a chair and held the liquid out for her to take. Gladys was hesitant.
“How can I trust you?”
“I’m extremely sorry about your loss, Mrs. Lewis, and I’m incredibly sorry that I couldn’t save your child. But please, don’t let yourself die.”
Gladys reached for the bottle and gulped. Soon, she started to feel better. As the pain went away, Gladys started to feel more like herself.
“Thank you.” She quietly said to the doctor.
“Of course,” He smiled. “I have a kettle on, would you like to stay for tea?”
Gladys hesitated and said nothing for a moment. Then smiled, “Tea sounds alright to me. Thank you, doctor.”