Stinky Yurho had the worst sore throat he thought he had ever had. He was sick. The injustice of being sick upset him. You know the feeling. Just not fair.
His throat was killing him. That morning, at breakfast with his also-bachelor brothers Pinball, Coffee, and Belkula, he had to pass on Pinball’s pancakes, which had a lot of body. (Uncured concrete compared favorably.) They had so much body he was afraid he’d choke to death trying to get them down his swollen throat.
The Yurho brothers had been bachelors their entire lives. Survival meant eating what was put on the table. Undue comments as to the quality of the cooking meant that the critic shortly found himself at the stove, and no one wanted to cook. Pinball put up with cooking because it gave him license to go to town on Saturday night to throw money at the machine at Smut’s Bar and Butchershoppe Emporium. In turn, the others put up with Pinball’s cooking because while Pinball was setting world records on the pinballs there, they got drunk. In short, the Yurho brothers had found a balance to their lives.
Pinball, who noticed that Stinky wasn’t putting away his usual number of cement Frisbies, asked: “Stinky? Something wrong with the pancakes?”
Secretly, he hoped Stinky would say yes. He’d done just about everything possible to make them inedible. He was tired of cooking. Today’s were specially bad, so thick he had to mash the batter down with a scoop shovel.
“No,” Stinky croaked, “My throat’s sorer than it’s ever been. Can’t swallow.”
“Sore throat, huh?” mused Coffee out loud, sensing an opportunity to torture the oldest—and bossiest—brother. “Ain’t that what done Ma in? A sore throat?” There. Let him stew on that.
Pinball dropped another batch of pancakes on the serving plate. The plate broke. No one said anything for a minute, until Stinky said: “Looks like your best batch ever, Pinball. Darn this throat.” To himself, he thought if he was going to die of something, better it be this throat than a twisted gut, like the cows got if they ate rocks or cement or something.
Belkula, the youngest, said, “Maybe it’s time to treat that throat with something.” Otherwise, they’d all maybe catch it.
Stinky had been afraid of something like this. Maybe dying on a pancake was preferable.
So they all got to talking about the best remedies. Pinball suggested tying a wool sock around his neck, adding, “You could put on one of those you ain’t washed this year.” That would kill just about anything.
“Tried it the last three nights,” Stinky croaked.
“How about the horse liniment?” Belkula said. “Remember that horse a couple years ago? Had that huge goiter on his neck? Shrunk that sucker down to nothing.”
Coffee said, “That horse died, didn’t it?”
“Yeah. It was gruesome,” admitted a somewhat gleeful Belkula. “Goiter went away, though.” That went well, Belkula thought to himself. Got Stinky squirming, sure enough.
More remedies were bandied about, along with who died of throat cancer over that past forty years. Lots of throat cancer. Wasn’t often they got a shot at Stinky.
Pinball got out a sauce pan, put water in it, started it boiling. “This’ll fix you,” he told Stinky, as he spooned in the last half of a jar of Vicks that likely was forty years past its expiration date. He threw in some turpentine, like ma did. He made Stinky put a towel over his head and bend over the steaming pot. While he kind of held Stinky’s head down, he looked at the other brothers and winked. Said: “Remember grandma? This was her favorite treatment. Remember how she always “doped up” before bed?”
Grandma had lived to a hundred and four. Unfortunately, she did it without her mind, which everyone surmised the Vicks had killed years earlier.
The others watched the scene at the cook stove in some awe. The menthol smell hung thick in the kitchen. Coffee wanted a cigarette, but was afraid to strike a match. From under the towel, Stinky was making sounds like a truck tire going flat. Finally, Stinky stood up, staggered back to the table, and sat heavily down. One eye was stuck shut; the other was bright red.
Suddenly Stinky sat bolt upright at the table. His shut eye popped open. He looked at the others and said: “I’m cured! It’s a miracle!” He immediately tucked into one of Pinball’s concrete pancakes. He had suddenly remembered that it wasn’t that dad’s tonsil-tickling kerosene treatment had been all that medically effective, it was that no one ever admitted to being sick again after it. Next thing you knew, these idiot brothers of his would start remembering horse-manure chest plasters and leeches.
Out loud to his brothers, he said: “You know. Those old remedies really are the best.”
And try as they might, they couldn’t get Stinky to admit to a sore throat again.