I am known as rotten, grumpy and a crazy chaffer, but all I ever wanted was a good life for my son. My son, Joseph, is 13 years old today; his birthday is February 13, 2022. Joseph isn’t normal, not by a long stretch. When we went into town to sell that week’s onions, out of the corner of my eye I would see him sneak a few to the homeless, wrapped up in blankets around the corner. I would pretend I didn’t see it, because it seemed to make him happy, and when he is happy, I am happy. A few times he made it so obvious that I had to punish him, or it would look like I wasn’t raising him right. We would fish together on Thursdays, and go on four-wheeler rides on Sundays. Life wasn’t too bad for us, however, Joseph always acted so distant and unhappy that it was as if he would rather be anywhere other than with me. That takes us back to last July, the day of the life changing accident.
I am sitting in my summer chair with my summer hat over my sunburned face. I watch fireworks explode over a summer sale sign offering Ford F-600’s on the screen of our worn out television of 7 years. I get up out of my La-Z-Boy Model 56 (now with built in toilets), and go inside to grab a glass of Salmonberry Juice that we got after the funeral from our Oregonian relatives. It wasn’t 7 o’clock in the morning yet, and it was already light out. I walk out onto our porch to admire our farm. All 52 acres sprouting Vidalia onions. I look to the left at the disturbed patch of soil. It is about 2 feet wide. Next to it stands a shovel and a polished rock with words engraved in it. I haven’t touched it all week since I buried the urn. The rock says,
In loving memory of Mary Monique Mercy
Died on July 4, 2034
Aged 38 Years
Here lies a soldier who served her country well.
Soldier, Teacher and Loved One
“Goodnight ~ God Bless”
I am only mildly aware of Joseph squeezing between me and the door frame as he rushes to the dirt road leading to town.
“Come on, Pops,” he calls, “the day is still young, and you’re not getting any younger.” He loves to tease me because of my age; after all, I am the oldest dad in his class. I give lazy chase with the headstone still on my mind. Joseph disappears into the onions for a second, and soon I am being pelted with onions. Rumba, our black Labrador, tears out of the house to catch all of the onions. He eats so many it’s a miracle he isn’t the size of an elephant seal. I catch one and throw it back, and I hear an “OW!” I walk to where the voice came from to find Joseph laying on the ground with a dazed look on his face.
“Are you alright?” I ask him.
“HA! Gotcha!” he yells popping up, throwing a few onions in my direction.
“Hey, we need to sell those!” I yell, in hot pursuit. He turns around maybe 20 yards in front of me and sticks his tongue out at me walking backwards. I see a puff of black smoke over the hill to his right.
“Joseph! Turn around, NOW!” I yell. He whips around to see a big, autonomous tractor is staring him down. He sprints to the side avoiding the blades, but the body of the tractor hits him squarely in the shoulder. I sprint to where he lay in the onions. I pull him up, but he just falls back down. He is hardly breathing. I dash to the house within a half of a minute, and call 9-1-1. Five minutes later an ambulance steers through the field heading directly towards us. For once I don’t care about the onions being crushed under the truck. Paramedics stream out of the van, and head straight for Joseph. They strap him to a gurney, and I feel one pull me into the truck by my arm. I am hardly aware of my surroundings as we ride to the hospital. I hear, “Check his heart rate.”, and “Get him some oxygen.” But most of all I hear the siren, wailing like thousands of toddlers hearing lightning for the first time.
“You all right, chap?” one of the men asks, sitting down next to me. “You’re a little pale in the face.” he comments. “Your son will be alright, I haven’t lost a patient all day.”
“Sir, SIR, does your son have any known allergies?” yells the ambulance driver.
“No.” I manage. The ambulance skitters to a halt, and the doors are thrown open as twice as many people meet us outside. Joseph is lowered to the ground and rolled away; I must run to keep up.
“What happened?” one nurse asks, as we run through the halls. “He was hit by an unmanned tractor.”
“What type of insurance do you have?” she asks.
“Aetna.” I manage. I dig my insurance card out of my pocket and hand it to her. “It’s all there”. I count the number of dark tiles on the floor. 42… 54…76… We run by rooms with some disturbing scenes; a hockey player with blood all over his face, a window washer with his arm bent at an unnatural angle, a man wearing a suit and tie in what looks like an x-ray machine. A doctor catches up with us and leads us to a midsized room with a bed, a bunch of machines, and 3 chairs. They went to work putting Joseph into a hospital gown, attaching wires all over his body. I sit down in the chair closest to the bed. After five minutes or so, I am joined by the doctor who led us here.
“It appears as if your son has entered a coma.” the doctor says, getting right to the point. “Now in order to determine how serious your son’s injuries are, we will have to take an x-ray and take a sample of his bone marrow.” The doctor says, “We will get to work as soon as possible… if that’s okay with you…” he adds.
“Do what is necessary.” I mutter.
I wake in the same place, in the same chair; everything seems the same except the bed is gone, and so is Joseph. I sit up, but the only other person in the room is that same doctor. “Sir, we have good news and we have bad news. The good news is that your son only received a broken collarbone and a dislocated hip. The bad news is that our bone marrow tests were inconclusive, though we may have found a fatal infection in his blood. We are still not sure, but this may be more serious than we thought.” the doctors says. I pass out.
I wake with the thought of having French onion soup for breakfast. I open my eyes, and find several machines beeping around me. At first I think something has happened to me, but then it all comes back; the tractor hit Joseph. I find the doctor one room over. “You were kidding about that blood thing yesterday, right?” I say, trying to assure myself that everything would be alright.
“I’m sorry sir, but we know now, Joseph has Aplastic Anemia. Haven’t you noticed him coughing more than normal?”
“No, he’s been coughing just as much as ever. We live on a dusty, old farm for God’s sake!” I exclaim.
“Sir, I assure you he has Aplastic Anemia, and please don’t say ‘for God’s sake’ in my presence, I am an Atheist.”
“Well, what are you going to do about the Aplac Aneia thing?!” I demand.
“Sir, first of all it is Ay-plast-ic Uh-nem-ia, and second of all, it is only curable by the chemical, Thysanoptera, or would you like me to sound that out too?”
“No, that will not be necessary. So, what is Thinopra?” I ask.
“Thy-sa-nop-tera is the only known cure for Aplastic Anemia. It is found in onions, but finding an onion that containsit is one in a million.”
“Can’t you just order some, and have it delivered by a drone?”
“Don’t you think that if that was possible we would already have some in stock? We haven’t found onions with Thysanoptera since the turn of the century.”
“Why I’m an onion farmer!” I cry. “What should I look for?”
“They look like normal onions, to find one you would have to build a Thysanoptera detector,” he says.
I think back to Mary… Oh, Mary… she would know what to do. I run all five miles back to the farm with two things on my mind, Thysanoptera and a machine.
When I get home, I walk straight to the shed that contains my old equipment. I imagine that it is a funny sight; all you can see is my rear end sticking out and me throwing things over my shoulder. I find what I am looking for and run inside. I grab my metal detector and the iPhone 15 that I keep for emergencies only. I plug my iPhone and the metal detector into the computer, and attempt to recalibrate the metal detector to find Thysanoptera. I pull up the chemical formula on the internet, and enter it into the metal detector. That should do the trick. I bring it outside, and flip the switch to the on position. At first nothing happens, but then the lights blink to life and the needle goes crazy. I turn it off to avoid overheating. It appears as though all the onions contain Thysanoptera! I grab at least 3 bushels and race to my four-wheeler. My truck is in the repair shop.
When I enter the hospital everyone seems a lot sadder. “Where is Doctor Boyd?” I ask the nurse.
“In Mr. Mercy’s room.” she tells me.
“I did it Doc!” I exclaim, “I found Thysanoptera.”
“Impossible,” he says in disbelief.
“Yes, I found it and I know why you can’t find it.” I say in a tone much more confident that I feel. The doctor pulls me into a room filled with microscopes, and he sets an onion on the dish. After a minute or two he stands up, wipes off his glasses and takes one last look in the microscope.
“Impossible,” he mutters, “How did you get this?” he asks.
“I grew it,” I respond.
“Yeah, but how?”
“You see, these are some of the only non-hydroponic onions in the world, so that means that the cure is in the soil.” I say. “What are you waiting for? Cure Joseph!”
Now life is the same, I could make a fortune selling my “special onions”, but I just want to see my son happy, and although he walks with a limp now, he says that he’s happy, so that means that I am too.