Recap: Yehudis is trying to adjust to her new school. She’s still bothered by the lack of any baby pictures of her. In school, she makes a mistake when the teacher gives a math challenge problem and she answers it. This makes an enemy of Chevi, the class math genius, who is friends with the one girl Yehudis was trying to be friends with. Her father brought home the Marietta journal, as the librarian said they could borrow it, and she starts reading again to distract herself.
Dovid reached for the stick and I raced towards him just as the stick hissed and uncoiled. Its copperhead lunged at Dovid’s arm and Dovid shrieked in pain. “Ow! It’s a needle! Take away the needle in my arm.”
I grabbed a rock and threw it at the snake. Then I stomped on it till it was dead. Dovid was lying on the ground, holding his arm and crying. I lifted him and carried him back to the house. My heart was pounding. It was a copperhead. They have venom. I prayed, “Please, Hashem, don’t let it be a wet bite. Please let it be a dry one.”
Miriam was just back from the post office. “What happened?”
Dovid was screaming.
I was shaking. “Snake bite,” I said. “He reached for a stick outside and it was a Copperhead.”
“A Copperhead.” She was holding Dovid in her arms. “Let me see the bite, sweetie,” she said.
She placed him gently on a chair and examined his arm. “Yishai, its swollen. We have to get him to the doctor.”
“Where is the doctor? I’ll take him.”
“Can you carry him, Yishai? It’s not that far from here.”
We walked a half mile into town. I was holding Dovid against my chest. He’d stopped screaming. He leaned his head on my shoulder. I felt heat from his head. I stopped and put my hand on his forehead. “He has fever,” I whispered.
“Let’s walk faster,” Miriam said.
Finally we reached the doctor’s office. It was a modest stone house with a large front door and a plaque that said “Dr. Berns.” A lady ushered us in.
Miriam told her what was wrong.
“I’ll get Dr. Berns right away. Come to the examining room.”
Dr. Berns called to the lady who let us in. “Please go get Holata, the woman who works at the apothecary. Tell her to bring her snake kit. Hurry.”
Dovid was whimpering and writhing in pain.
“Lay him on the examining table,” Dr. Berns said calmly.
Miriam kept trying to soothe him, saying he was going to be all right. I prayed she was right.
“Who is this Holata?” Miriam asked.
“She’s a Shawnee Indian woman. She carries a snake kit with anti-venom. It works quickly and it’s the best antidote I know of. There isn’t time to send to the city for the antidote medicine they have there. We need to use something right away to keep the poison from going to his heart.”
Miriam gasped. I went into the waiting room to say T’hilim. My whole body was shaking. If only we hadn’t been playing catch where there was a snake. If only… “I stopped myself. That was a lack of bitachon to say that. Hashem is in charge. He sent the snake and I had no right to second-guess Hashem. I just begged for Dovid’s life and promised to do more learning for a z’chus for a r’fuah.
The Shawnee lady came in, carrying a black doctor’s case. She was a small woman with two long, thick braids and dark eyes. She strode into the examining room. I didn’t want to watch but I heard her saying, “He must drink this tea. It has tobacco in it.”
“That sounds bad for a child,” Miriam said.
The woman didn’t answer but I heard Dr. Berns say, “Come on son. Drink up.”
I heard Dovid throwing up. Then she gave him more tea with the same result.
“Stop, you’re torturing him,” Miriam said.
Dr. Berns said, “Mrs. Chapman, please. We have to do this. Do you want to wait out in the waiting room with your nephew?”
“No, I will stay here with Dovid.”
After the third cup, there was no sound of throwing up.
“Poison out,” the Shawnee lady said. “Must rest him seven moons seven suns. He recover.”
“Thank you, Holata,” Dr. Berns said.
“Thank you,” Miriam said.
Holata bowed her head toward me as she left.”
I rushed over to her. “Niyaawee.”
She stared at me and the hint of a smile curled her lips. “You speak Shawnee?”
“A little. I want to thank you. You saved my nephew’s life. “
She smiled a wide smile and nodded. “You friend. You are welcome.” She headed out the door.
Dovid slept on my shoulder as I carried him back.
I can’t believe we used an Indian remedy,” Miriam said. “But as long as it works…”
“He seems to be out of pain.”
“It’s still so swollen. Dr. Berns tied that handkerchief around it. He has to stay in bed for a week. How will I keep him happy in bed for a week?”
“I’ll stay longer,” I offered.
“Thank you, Yishai. That would be so helpful.”
We sent a letter to my parents about what happened and to let them know I’d be staying longer.
At the end of the week, it was time for me to return home. I asked my brother one more time. “Please reconsider and come home to Pittsburgh.”
“Yishai, I have this golden opportunity. Let me see where it leads and then, once we are well established, Miriam and I will consider moving. Thanks for visiting and taking care of Dovid.”
We hugged. Dovid clung to me. “Don’t go!” He was crying.
“We’ll get together again soon, I promise, bli neder, little man.”
I hugged him close and then it was time to head to the boat.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines. Fiction serial Jewish Press Falling Star (2019).