The Asthma Killer, Part Four (of 4)

With the healing effects of the caramelized onion coursing through their bodies, the room started to glow and light shot from the tips of their fingers as their bodies were lifted magically into the air and spun. Once set back down again, they each stated in turn, “I’m cured.”

Except of course for Pete who said, “Whoa. I can’t breathe.”

Okay, so that didn’t happen.

What did happen was precisely nothing. Aside from the horrible tastes in their mouths and the stink produced by their exhaling, neither my wife Erin, nor our friends Danny and Pete them reported any difference that night whatsoever.

As soon as it was over, we ate the dessert and pointed and laughed at them. Just as we had planned.


Today the effects of that night can be easily observed by a quick survey of the participants.

DANNY: It’s been several years since we’ve talked to Danny. He reported no asthma-related symptoms for 3 weeks after that night, but soon enough he did experience a shortness of breath and an attack or two. As far as I know he suffers from asthma to this day.

PETE: He never did get asthma, but he did receive our admiration. He married a few years later and travels the world with his wife as often as possible, breathing all kinds of air with no trouble whatsoever.

ERIN: After dealing with asthma and asthma attacks all of her life, since that night Erin has not had even a hint of lung power loss. She never used her inhaler again and has never been to a doctor or to the hospital for any asthma-related reason. Her last attack was shortly before ingesting the sugar onion and there were a string of severe attacks before that, but none since. No one is more surprised than she, and it’s not something she really likes to talk about because the only explanation we have sounds so ridiculous. However, she is my wife and I have been able to personally observe her and I can confirm that it is true.

Make of it what you will.



The Asthma Killer, Part Three (of 4)

It was decided that we would all meet in a couple of weeks to try the cure. We knew it was going to be tough on Danny and Erin to do this disgusting thing, and we all wanted to be there to support them and take pictures and point and laugh.

There was one of our number who took pity on them, however. He alone saw the test they were about to endure and knew the opportunities it presented. Only he had the clarity of vision to understand the very specific nature of the party we were planning and what it could mean for him personally.

Pete knew it could be another notch in his belt of “Strange things I have ingested in my life.”

Pete and I became friends during High School and prior to getting married, Pete was my roommate in college. It was during the time we were living together that he ate what was hands-down the most disgusting of all the things he’d ever eaten.

It was my first attempt at spaghetti and it had been in the fridge for eight months. Time enough to become sentient. A living, breathing, moldy civilization had formed beneath the plastic wrap and the beginnings of a revolutionary plot to seize our apartment was being organized from within. If we’d had the proper equipment, I’m sure communication would have possible and some sort of peaceful agreement reached. Instead, Pete opted to simply destroy the entire spaghetti world by stabbing it with a fork and ingesting the purple, hairy mass. I nearly threw up just watching him do it. Pete’s reaction? “Not bad.”

So Pete surprised no one at Game Night when he volunteered:

Pete: I’ll do it too.

Me: But you don’t even have asthma.

Pete: So? I wanna try it.

Me: That’s gross.

His working theory was that if onions and sugar cured asthma in those who had it, maybe the combination would GIVE asthma to those who didn’t.  (I don’t think I should have to remind you that there is no science in this story.)  In any case, Pete was willing to find out.

The following week, everyone gathered once again at our apartment. Michelle and Ryan, Aaron and Amy—about a dozen people showed up to watch the spectacle.

Danny, Erin and Pete had each selected their onion. Pete’s was the biggest, followed by Erin’s. Danny’s was the smallest. We wondered if the size differentials would affect the results and figured it was worth testing it out. Pete’s thinking on choosing the biggest may have been a little different. The more disgusting the better.

Before we could do anything, we had to decide how exactly to prepare the onion with only Danny’s vague recollections of Paco Jose’s story to go by. Do they eat the half with the baked, caramelized sugar AND the spare half? Or just the half with the sugar?

We decided that eating a half onion with the carved bowl of sugar in the middle would be enough. We wrapped foil around it to insure stability while it was in the oven. Once the onions were done cooking, we brought them out to the coffee table in the living room and everyone gathered around the test subjects as they readied themselves for consumption.

Danny’s wife Danielle had prepared an elaborate, seven-layered dessert just for the occasion. A concoction of chocolate, whipped cream and graham cracker crumbs, it was to be the delicious reward for out test subjects for getting through the ordeal.

“GO! GO! GO! GO!” we chanted as the three of them chowed down and ate and ate. They cried, they winced, they smelled awful. To their credit, they each got through it.

To be concluded with the results…

The Asthma Killer, Part Two (of 4)

When Paco Jose was a small boy, all of the members his family were stricken with the dreaded disease asthma. His neighbors too, and their neighbors also.  They were El Pueblo Que no Podía Respirar—The Village That Couldn’t Breathe.

Their little children were taught not to run far or very hard and the women could only manage to wash a few articles of clothing a day for fear of over-exerting themselves. The fields and crops were not producing their promised yield because the men couldn’t stand to get tend the farming in the cold morning air.  Starvation was setting in.

Then, one day, when Paco Jose was about 11-years of age, a mysterious woman with rosy, vibrant cheeks and hair like white straw came to town. She never gave her name, though many would later claim she was an angel sent from God. It was she that taught them the cure for asthma and promised them that if they followed her very simple instructions, every man, woman and child would recover and they would be El Pueblo Que Acostumbrado para no Podía Respirar—The Village that Usedta Could Not Breath.

Danny:  What did she tell you to do?

Paco Jose: Something very simple.  At first, it was so simple we did not believe her. We scoffed at her and mocked her wild hair. Her instructions did not make any sense. Then, a wise elder in our village stepped forward and said we could either take our maximum of a dozen steps a day and die in our pride or, if she was right, we could live in humility. So, we did it.

D:  What? What was it?

PJ: Simple. Take an onion, cut it in half and bore out the middle.  Pour sugar into the hole you’ve dug and cook the onion with the sugar inside until the sugar turns golden brown. Then, you eat it. All of it.

D: That’s kind of gross.

PJ: Very. I sweat onion for a week but—(breathes deeply)—I’m cured.

D: Amazing.

PJ: The whole village was cured. Our farms were restored to their proper vitality and we were able to produce so much crop with our newfound strength that I was later able to go to college to learn English and work in the United States.

D: So why are you on a Ranch?

PJ: I love cows. Always have.

When Danny finished telling his story, all of us at Game Night were laughing. It sounded preposterous, but Danny assured us that Paco Jose was deadly serious. And that’s when we got an idea.

Why not give it a shot?

To be continued…

The Asthma Killer, Part One (of 4)

There will be no science in this story. If you are a scientist, go back to your beaker and your ‘facts’ and your proofs. There will be no proof here, there will be no explanation of what I am about to tell you. This is how it went down and the result is true. There were witnesses. There can be no denying it.

It was early on in my marriage. A group of friends had formed up around us and we met every Sunday Evening at our small apartment to play board games and conform to other stereotypes of people who do not drink alcohol. I acknowledge there were charades. Among this group was Danny and Danielle (no, I’m not making up those names), friends of my wife Erin since High School.

One night we all got to talking about asthma, as young twentysomethings are likely do at parties (again, no alcohol). Erin and Danny both suffered from the gasping malady and were sick of it. For Erin, it was a serious issue.  Her attacks were terrible, sometimes requiring an emergency visit to the hospital. Some people grow out of asthma, most have to live with it their entire lives, desperately grabbing for air and always claiming their favorite Goonie isn’t necessarily Mikey.

Asthma medication is expensive stuff. We are inundated with ads touting ‘better relief’ and ‘deeper breathing’ through chemistry. There is no cure for asthma.

Or is there?

Danny: I met this guy once…

Every great story starts with “I met this guy once…”

Danny: I met this Mexican guy once and he told me how to get rid of asthma.  He swears it works. His whole family had asthma and then they did this and everyone was fine. They’re still fine.

Me: It worked, huh?

Danny: That’s what he said.

Danny told us the story of how he met this man and what he told him. You weren’t there when Danny told the story, so for all you know it went like this:

Danny was working as a ranch hand in the lower Arizona Desert, near the small border town of Nogales. By day he herded cattle and did other ranchy-type things and by night he partied with the senoritas and ate fish tacos, in that order (you don’t want fish breath when trying to get some lovin’ from the chicas). Danny wore a sombrero and tortillas replaced dairy as one of his five basic food groups.  He even grew a sweet ‘stache.

One day, about three months into his tenure at El Rancho Menudo (possibly not the actual name of the ranch), he had an interesting conversation with the long-time ranch hand, Paco Jose. Danny was minding his own business, taking a break and watching the herded cattle shuffle into the pen. It was a cold morning and his asthma was acting up as his breath drew short. He hacked out a cough that sent his phlegm traveling upward to the top of his sombrero, creating a nice little moat around the inside brim. The physics of this cannot be explained, nor can you prove that it did not happen. As I said, there is no science in this story.

Paco Jose took note of Danny’s distressed state and sidled up alongside him.

Paco Jose: Whatsamatter, Gringo?

Danny: Oh, nothing. (Sniff) It’s just my asthma acting up.

PJ: Asthma, huh?  Heckuva thing, asthma.

D: Yeah…

PJ: Asthma steals a man’s breath, takes his life from him and dares him to wrestle it back. I’ve seen a lot of scary things in my day. Things that would kill a woman from fright should she dare to look upon it. Things that would make the toughest of men weep mightily and cry out for the safety of their mother’s bosom. But I ain’t never seen nothin’ that compares to the look of sheer horror that enters a man’s eyes when the asthma takes over and he’s brought to the brink. The shortness of breath, the gasp. The vain clutching of the throat.  No one should have to live with that. No one.

D: Yeah… but what can you do?

PJ: Danny, did I ever tell you that I used to have asthma?

D: Paco Jose, this is the first time you’ve ever talked to me.  I wasn’t even sure you knew english.

PJ: That right?  I have a B.A. in English.

D: Really?

PJ: Anyways, my point is that I used to have asthma.

D:  Used to? You grew out of it?

PJ: No.

D: Then how–?

PJ:  Danny, would you like to get rid of your asthma?  For good?

D: Sure.

PJ: Then clean out your ears and settle the bronco. You’re about to get some knowledge.

To be continued…