Greek-American Stories: The Sure Cure

George informed the others seated round the table in Dixon’s that Areti had phoned his wife to tell her about Yiannis’ latest problem. “She doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s lost sleep and woke up yesterday, grumpy and worried.” John asked, ‘Exactly what’s the problem?” “He’s got the hiccups. Two days, now. They won’t let up. He can hardly eat, she says.” Dimos asked, “Does that mean he won’t be here today? Maybe we can help him.” Just at that moment, Yiannis was seen entering Dixon’s but skipping the coffee counter. He approached, greeted them and sat down looking grim. “Hi, (Hic) guys! Gotta (Hic) problem,” he told them, pushing away the donut dish. “Can’t swallow or eat (Hic) anything. I need (Hic) help.” Kipreos, very concerned, said, “Look! I’ve got a paper bag here in my pocket. Blow into it and breathe out – hard! It worked for me, once.” He handed the small paper bag to Yiannis and, curious and desperate, did as suggested. They all watched and waited. “(Hic) I don’t think it (Hic) worked. (Hic) But, never mind.” John handed him a glass of water, suggesting he gulp down four huge swallows fast. “It’ll cut through the air bubble trapped in the air passage causing the hiccups,” John counseled, seriously.

Four gulps later, they watched and waited for results.  “(Hic).” Dimos rose from his seat and stood behind Yiannis, quietly with the paper bag. He blew into it and gave it a resounding punch causing a bullet- like bang, startling and annoying patrons nearby. Then, he clapped his hands hard, making another bullet-like sound, hoping to scare the annoying hiccups away. Yiannis looked up and said, “What (Hic) did you do that (Hic) for?” Disappointed, Dimos said nothing. He sat back down. George, looking somber, said, “Maybe, we should take you to the hospital. You could stop eating altogether and stop breathing soon. Then, you’d go into a coma and, we’ll be visiting you at Apostoli’s funeral parlor.” Yiannis’ head came up like a shot. “You (Hic) think it could get that (Hic) serious?” George assured him that it could happen at any moment. “That’s how a guy at work died. Nice fellow, too. Very sad! He was only thirty – left two kids and a nice wife.” Yiannis looked around at the others for confirmation. But, none could validate or refute the testimony. George continued. “I say we shouldn’t lose any more time. You have all the symptoms of poor Jimmy, the guy who died. I’ll call a taxi. Wadda y’ say, guys? Do we all go and save his life? It may not be too late.” Yiannis fell into deep thought. Could George be telling the truth? Is it that serious? He said, “I don’t know.” He looked toward Dimos whom he considered the most knowledgeable. He’d take his advice whatever he suggested. But, Dimos shook his head. “I don’t know what to tell you, Yiannis. What if we didn’t go and George is right?” Yiannis fell silent, again, thinking over the facts. He could just be pulling his (Hic) leg, like he often does. “I don’t (hic) know!” Yiannis repeated. The others, sitting back, awaited an outcome, any outcome while Yiannis breathed and waited and hiccupped. Then, growing anxious and confused, announced he was going for a walk to think it over. “I won’t go (hic) far. Just around the block. I’ll come back and tell you what I decide. O.K.?” John said, “Shouldn’t we phone Areti and tell her what we’re going to do?” Yiannis paused. “I don’t know.”  George, rubbing his chin, turned serious, “If we go to the hospital, I’ll have to warn her to bring some cash, about two hundred dollars. I think that’ll cover it, maybe.” Turning to the others, he asked, “Think that’ll be enough?” They all shrugged, excepting Dimos who said, “Maybe! If things go worse, like for that worker, Jimmy…” Yiannis paled, suddenly. He sat back, thinking hard, fiddling with a paper napkin, thumbing his fingers on the table’s edge. He sat, deep in thought, silent for a long while.  Finally, taking a breath, getting to his feet, he stretched and told them he’d go for that walk, now. Slowly buttoning his jacket, he walked towards the exit. When he was out of sight, Dimos asked George, “How do you know it’ll cost two hundred dollars?” George, grinning, said, “I don’t know. But, have you noticed? He hasn’t hiccupped since I mentioned it.”


A number of friends and colleagues who are intensely interested in Middle Eastern matters took issue with my National Herald article (‘Middle East History’, May 18, 2024), arguing that Israel is a colonial enterprise that has failed to integrate into the Middle East, like the Crusader states of yore.

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