“It’s poison! I tell you, it’s poison!” a young George Bailey yelled through tears to Mr. Gower, the drunk druggist in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Yelling the truth was all George could do to stop Mr. Gower from slapping him across the head for not delivering medicine to a customer whose son was suffering from diphtheria.
Wilted with grief after reading a telegram that his own son had died “very suddenly” of the flu, Mr. Gower mistakenly put poison, instead of medicine, in the pillbox.
“You put something bad in those capsules!” George said, with blood streaming from his left ear and his hands on-guard against his boss’s attack. “It’s poison! I tell you, it’s poison!”
Stunned, Mr. Gower staggered to test whether the boy was telling the truth. To his credit, the disheveled old druggist had the good sense to confirm that he was. Extremely distraught over losing his son, he was just a pill away from killing his customer’s son. He was shocked into such sobriety that he rushed George with hugs, deep remorse, and heart-wrenching gratitude.
Killing a sick child with poison, even accidently, was a crime as the alternative version of reality in