The Wine Glass

Ashley Cox

Everyone in Stansburry thought little Alfie Harris was a pathological liar, and his mother cried because she thought he was going straight to hell for it. Of course it had never been confirmed that the boy was a pathological liar, but everyone who lived on Abbey Road knew differently. No one ever noticed anything strange about the boy before, but after his father, the good Judge Harris, held his party, everyone agreed the boy was definitely wrong in the head.
The good Judge Harris, however, refused to let just anyone look at his son; oh no, only an expert, someone well respected, could look into the boy. And Stansburry agreed with him. Of course the judge would get only the best for his son, just as long as Father Marlin, the passionate Catholic priest, secured the boy’s soul, the judge could be as picky as he liked.
This is why Alexander and Elizabeth Harris made sure everyone knew they were going to Doc Martin for advice. Doc Martin specialized in odd behavior. It was unfortunate, however, that he would not take the hint and offer to help his old friends the Harrises. Not that he didn’t have plenty of opportunity to study Alfie Harris – he simply kept his observations to himself. For example, Doc left his pale brick house promptly at 7:25 every morning for his daily exercise. Sometimes he toted an umbrella for the rain or perhaps a hat against the snow, but he always traveled north. Alfie and his older brother Chris, who were always late for school, rushed around him in their mad dash to beat the harsh ringing bells of the Christian school they reluctantly attended. And every morning Doc would salute and quietly suggest they avoid good behavior whenever possible.
            Doc Martin comforted the good folks of Stansburry. He was predictable. He always wore his dark, shoulder-cut hair away from his face, and his wide eyes were always amused and amiable, though he never wore glasses, which everyone agreed was odd. Alfie Harris had questioned him on this very topic, a servant reported to the town as she let the dogs out for a bit of air. “Sir,” the boy had asked, “why is it that a doctor of your age doesn’t wear glasses?” Doc Martin, or Doc, as he was affectionately called, winked to the eleven year old boy and said he wasn’t a doctor of bodies but a doctor of souls.
I don’t see how that matters, sir,” Alfie said, standing up straighter. “You are a doctor either   way, aren’t you? Aren’t you afraid you’ll miss something because you don’t see it?”
Doc, it was reported, had paused and held still a long moment before he nodded in agreement. “Alfie, when I can’t see straight anymore, I won’t be a doctor anymore.” They shared a solemn nod and parted.
After this conversation whirled through the town, everyone regarded the Doc with greater ease, for there had been quiet an uproar after Doc Martin moved in. The most devout women of the Catholic Church had protested loudly that Stansburry didn’t need a doctor of crazy people moving in. Indeed, if not for Judge Harris, who’d kindly taken the doctor in, Doctor Hezekiah Martin would have been homeless and destitute.
            But Judge Martin had taken care of him, offering him the guest house on his property where he could stay, and slowly Judge Harris and his wife had introduced him properly into society. “And it’s a good thing, too,” Annabella, the middle age widower who lived in the shadow of the church, said to her neighbor. “Why, who knows what the boy would grow into if our Doc didn’t know how to fix him? We might have had a sharp rise in crime.”
            It was very convenient that Doc Martin was in Stansburry. In the nearly three years he’d been living off the good Judge Harris’s hospitality, he’d had nearly fifteen patients. Fifteen! Stansburry residents had been shocked by their own mental instability, and church attendance has risen as a result. Judge Harris’s business went just as well, as he sorted through the insanity pleas that were becoming increasingly common. Just before the town’s annual Christmas play, a celebration party for Judge Harris and his promotion (put on of course by the good Judge Harris) was appreciated by all those fortunate enough to attend. Judge Harris was now taking cases all over the countryside, and everyone was so proud.
However, that party was a disaster, as old man Finchley reported politely. Oh, it had started out just fine until little Alfie Harris told what Doc had said about glasses to the party guest gathered all around. Everyone tittered in their heels and ties, and patted Judge Harris' arm. “What a clever boy,” Stansburry smiled. “He knows clever things, even though he’s still so young.”
Judge Harris smiled and looked around the room. “Like father, like son?” His young female secretary had laughed and put a small hand on his arm. “He’s as clever as his father,” the secretary said, and Judge Harris smiled wider.
Alfie seemed to turn very pale after that. Everyone agreed on that point. “He was listening to his shoulder angel and devil and then he bit his lip and we could all tell the shoulder devil had made a better argument,” Annabella told Matilda, who’d been too sick to attend. “And he straightened and declared, ‘I have learned another clever thing.’ ”
Let’s hear it, son,” Judge Harris said, bumping gently against the secretary and winking. Alfie held up a hand for silence and everyone gathered in amused quiet. Alfie pulled a chair from beneath the large mirror and wobbled as he stood. He clasped his hands together and, in a very serious cadence, proceeded to explain how his father left every night to meet his lover down the street, and that tonight his mother was going to send the government after him, to dispose of the bodies.
Doc Martin, and indeed all of Stansburry, noted that neither Alfie nor his brother Chris attended parties after that. Doc also noted that every other afternoon, Mrs. Harris dutifully walked Alfie northeast towards the stifling old church. Two days after the party, Judge Harris took his garden gloves and came to stand near the old garden that Doc had resurrected in the three years he’d lived on Judge Harris’s grace. Doc often went there at night, his servants reported, because he said it made him think better.
Judge Harris sat in the dirt next to Doc Martin in silence for several long moments until Doc Martin seemed to feel uncomfortable. Judge Harris wore a heavy frown. “My clients are beginning to question if I’m trustworthy,” he whispered. He slowly pulled a long glove over his left hand. “They say that my son told that story too solemnly for it to be a joke.” Doc Martin did not react and so Judge Harris continued. “Everyone is asking why a son of mine would tell such a story.” He continued giving a meaningful look at the Doctor.
Doc Martin rubbed the plump pepper between his fingers. Judge Harris gave a long sigh. “I need you, Doc.” Judge Harris continued putting on his right glove at last. “I need you to explain to people that my son has problems with lying. I’m trying to do a good thing. You know that, Alexandra would die of a broken heart. You know her flair for drama. Just look the boy over, won’t you? You are the Doctor after all. People would trust your judgment and word.”
Doc Martin gave a half smile. “You know children, Judge Harris. They say what they want. People rarely believe them. I’m sure it will blow over.” Then Doc Martin apologized saying he had an appointment and rushed back to the house. Judge Harris sat near the garden a long time after slowly putting on, and then pulling off his stained gloves.
But Doc had not been in Stansburry long enough to know the people. Everyone was insistent that the Harris’s get help for their son. Nearly three weeks after the failed dinner celebration the Harris family returned to their property to find Doc Martin out on the lawn, with one of his patients. Since he stayed in their guest house Mrs. Harris always knew who his next patient was and she often guessed as to their malady. The patient today wore a pale pink dress and fashionable heels. She was dazzled by jewelry though she held her arms close, eyeing the Harris family with distrust. Judge Harris nodded to his family and quietly slipped inside to compose himself. Mrs. Harris walked with the servants to inspect the flower gardens while Alfie and Chris chased each other around the fountain. It did not take long for them to begin talking to the doctor and the woman. To Chris’s surprise Alfie suddenly bowed before the woman and said “My lady I am honored to be in your presence this evening.”
Chris snorted and tugged at his brother’s shirt. “She’s not royalty Alfie. Grow up and stop lying like Father told you.”
She is royalty.” Alfie said baring his teeth. “She’s standing up straight and dignified and wearing long white gloves and heels. And didn’t you hear her speak a moment ago?”
Chris rolled his eyes and nodded to the lady. “My brother is a pathological liar.” He apologized. “Forgive him.” Doc Martin shifted slightly on his heels as he eyed Alfie closely.
It took until the next Monday morning for the issue to become resolved. Mrs. Harris walked her sons to the corner, Old Man Finchley had witnessed it and said Alfie had run to the doctor and demanded to know who the queen had been and when she’d left. Doc Martin paused and Chris explained, “He thinks that woman was a princess.” He mocked. “He won’t let it go.”
Mrs. Harris gave a teary sigh, “Alfie, we all saw her and she was just like you or me.” She looked to Doc Martin, “My husband says that as a psychologist you understand these things. How do we get him to stop lying?”
Doc Martin rocked back and forth a moment, and asked, “Why do you think she’s a Princess?”
Alfie raised an eyebrow. “I saw her crown in her purse.” he whispered.
Oh Alfie,” his mother groaned. “Please, please, don’t involve others in your lies; you’ll condemn the poor woman as well.” Mrs. Harris sighed. “Please Doc, he’ll end up in prison or something, if he doesn’t stop now. Please reconsider and take him on as a patient.”
Doc Martin let out a long breath and looked between the Harris house and little Alfie and shook his head. “I’m afraid that isn’t possible.”
Mrs. Harris pursed her lips. “Even after all we’ve done for you?”
Doc Martin didn’t quite meet her eyes as he replied, “I’m afraid I just can’t.”
Mrs. Harris shook her head. “Well the least you can do is take him on Wednesday to Father Marlin. I simply must attend the ladies meeting that afternoon.” And she flounced back into the house.
Doc Martin grunted and looked at Alfie. “She was a queen, not a princess.” He said after a long moment. “She is very sad.”
Doc Martin, we’re not supposed to encourage him.” Chris said frowning.
Doc Martin gave a half smile, “I’m not. Alexandra Dovoneir has multiple personalities, and on Friday night she was a queen just as Alfie noticed.”
Chris was silent for several seconds gaping at his brother, but Alfie had started to walk away. “Of course.” The boy had muttered. “Of course she was a queen. Queens are married and she at least still has a wedding ring on.”

The esteemed Father Marlin was not pleased to have an extra visitor that afternoon, he told the deacon afterwards. Doc Martin had sat in a side chair and squirmed as he listened to Alfie discuss the Queen he’d met over the weekend. Father Marlin’s frown seemed to touch the depths of hell when he finally spoke. “My son, I thought you understood that telling stories will destroy your soul.”
Alfie raised an angry eyebrow. “It wasn’t a story. She is Doc Martin’s patient isn’t she?”
Father Marlin dared Doc Martin to agree with a sharp sneer. Doc Martin squirmed a little but he nodded to Alfie. “She is a patient of mine who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder.”
Father Marlin was not pleased with these facts. He turned back to Alfie. “She was not a princess.” He snapped.
That’s what I’ve been saying.” Alfie groaned. “She’s a queen and I didn’t…”
Did you learn nothing from your exercises?” Father Marlin pounded on his desk rattling the crystal statuette violently. “Your Mother, my poor second cousin, wants your soul saved, and to do that, you must not tell stories about what you see.”
“No thank you.” Alfie said politely.
Father Marlin turned red in the face. He lifted his hand then looked at Doc Martin before he slowly sank back down in his red leather chair. It creaked under his weight as he put his fingers together beneath his chin.
            “Doc Martin may I speak with you in private?” Father Marlin asked, sending Alfie from the room. Father Marlin leaned over his desk, “You need to pick a side Doc. You are either with us or against us.” Doc Martin shut his mouth and said nothing. Father Marlin growled deeply in his throat and sent the doctor away.

Everyone in Stansburry waited eagerly each morning for the Harris servants to come to the market. Things were growing tenser around the Harris house. Doc for some reason would not diagnosis the boy as Father Marlin had. Though the town did have some forgiveness for him, he had just gotten another patient of course, all the way from Duncun, nearly two hundred miles away. And perhaps the ordeal might have mostly blown away if it hadn’t been for the paper.
Published as an add, the advertisement informed the town that Judge Harris was robbing them out of house and home, and that his affair would bring them to ruins. It was signed, ‘Your young friend Alfie Harris.’ Doc Martin’s housekeeper said that when Doc saw the ad, he set the paper down, because he could no longer eat. Surely now, the town agreed, Doc Martin would have to help the boy.
The expected letter came three hours later, informing Doc Martin his presence was requested for dinner that night at the Harris home next door. At the requested time Doc Martin dressed in his best Sunday suit and sat down to dinner with Judge and Mrs. Harris. They talked of boring things like the government or the weather, and then unprovoked Judge Harris gripped the table. “My career will be ruined old friend, if you do not examine the boy and tell everyone he is a pathological liar. These stories… these lies…will destroy us.” Each of the servants attested later that he was begging for help.
Mrs. Harris looked at him with tears in her eyes. “Everyone thinks my husband is playing me and everyone else for fools, to his own advantage. And then as if that’s not enough, Alfie tells these wild tales of queens and dark figures who creep into the spare bedroom at night. Please Doc, you have to stop his lies. You have to help him.”
Doc swallowed the wine slowly, his face growing red. Judge Harris gripped the table and leaned dangerously forward. “Just make a statement. That’s all we ask, and then have the boy over for tea, or anything. Just support us. Support me.” Judge Harris’s voice could barely be heard. Doc Martin gulped before he finally shook his words out. “I don’t believe anything is wrong with the boy, I’ve been watching him a long time now. I think he’s just as sane as you or I.”
Mrs. Harris covered her mouth and began to wipe her eyes. “Do you really mean that?” She begged. “Truly there’s nothing wrong?”
Doc Martin shut his mouth seeming to consider his next words carefully. Judge Harris frowned deeply and his face hardened. He then slammed his gavel of a hand to the table. “You’ve heard the boy my darling!” He said now arguing to his wife. “The child lies all the time. He shares his lies at school and to his teacher. You yourself talked to the headmaster on the phone. And now he’s going out of his way to spread his lies in the paper. This must stop!” He turned to Doc Martin his eyes searching angrily. “You must agree to this Doc Martin, I have helped you, now you must help me or you do not have a home here.”
Doc Martin held very still. Just beyond the kitchen looking through the glass doors was a very pale Alfie. He cupped his hands together in front of him and shook them slightly. Doc blinked then held up his wine glass to look at the distorted figure of Judge Harris through it. “I’m sorry.” He said softly. Then he turned to Mrs. Harris. Doc Martin stood and quietly handed her the wine glass. “You’d better take this my dear.” He said quietly. “I wouldn’t want you to miss something just because you can’t see it.”
But Mrs. Harris held very still looking at Doc Martin. “I don’t understand.” She said. “Everything is fine, isn’t it?” She looked to her husband.
A complete and utter silence engulfed the room before Mr. Harris lungs made the dust from the chandelier tremble. “How dare you? How dare you insult me to suggest those rumors are true! How dare you suggest that I would ever ruin my business partners or my marriage!”

Doc Martin ignored him however and walked to the door. Just before he left, he pulled out a pair of spectacles and put them on, as all of Stansburry watched him leave the town.