A Storyby Joyce Carol Oates
Superstitious Bellefleurs spoke of Nightshade as a troll (as if anyone had the slightest notion of what a troll was!) but it is more reasonable to assume, as Leah, Hiram, Jasper, Ewan, and the other “reasonable” Bellefleurs did, that he was a dwarf. Not altogether an ordinary dwarf of the kind one might find elsewhere—for surely Nightshade, hunchbacked as he was, and with his wide, thin, near-lipless mouth that stretched fully across his face—was unusual. For one thing he was distressingly ugly. If you wanted to like him, or simply to “take pity” on him, his oversized but wizened face with its chip-like colorless eyes, and the queer indentation on his forehead (as if, it was observed, someone struck him long ago with the blunt edge of an ax), and that maddening unslackening, joyless wide smile, were so repulsive, you turned away in alarm, your pulses racing; and the things Nightshade carried about in his numerous leather pouches and boxes (they were rumored to be bits of dried animals but were probably only medicinal herbs, like boneset, heal-all, henbit, dogbane, and, indeed, nightshade) gave off a sickish odor that intensified in humid weather.