* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe in the right to eat, or not to eat, anything one chooses. Including poison bagels. We also believe in the right to write, or not to write, about such rights, as well as the right to read, or not to read, such writing. Hopefully that clears everything up. But we doubt it.

The Poison Bagels

By: Brian Boone

Good morning.

No matter what bagel you’re in the mood for, I think you’ll find something that sounds good.

Oh, well, they’re all delicious.

If you’re wanting something savory, I recommend the pesto-parmesan.

If you’re craving something sweet, the raspberry is quite nice.

The whole wheat is surprisingly tasty. The poppy seed is my personal favorite.

Can’t go wrong with the classic white.

I would, however, suggest that you avoid the poison bagels.

Yes. They’re poison. They are poison bagels.

Those ones, right there.

Please do not eat the poison bagels.

I know, I know. And you are more than welcome to order them, if you like.

This is America.

But please do not order the poison bagels.

The poison bagels are poisonous.

Yes, but I know what you’re going to ask me.

Because a lot of people ask that question.

Very well.

I do not know why we sell them.

Nobody orders them.

Almost nobody orders them.

In fact, I have only ever seen one person buy the poison bagels.

Hmm? Oh, yes, he died.

Well, the toxicology report said “ingestion of poison,” but that could have been a lot of things. His wife could have poisoned him, for example.

Yes, he died from eating the poison bagels.

They’re poison bagels.

They do bear a resemblance to the “everything” bagels.

But those are not various seeds and spices on top of the poison bagels. It’s just a bunch of different kinds of poison.

You see, I’m not exaggerating. They aren’t “poisonous” in that they’re high in gluten, or made from nutritionally vacant white flour.

I’m serious.

They are poisonous. They are literally poisonous. Poison bagels.


And there’s poison baked into the dough, so you can’t just “pick off the poison.”

Why would you even do that?

It would be much easier, and a lot safer, just to order a different variety of bagel.

We have more than 20 other kinds of bagels available, and absolutely none of them are poisonous.

All they said to me, in regards to the poison bagels, was to explicitly discourage anyone from trying to buy them.

And to make sure that a fresh batch is available each morning.

My guess is that it’s the result of some kind of gentlemen’s bet from a long time ago.

And profit margins in the bakery business are razor-thin. So we can’t just throw them out.

That would be a real waste.

So there they are.

But please: Do not buy a poison bagel.

We have many other kinds of bagels.

Oh, yes. We do have free WiFi. But we can only give you the password if you buy one of a select few menu items.

One of those select menu items is poison bagels.

It’s the only select menu item.

Otherwise it’s 99 cents an hour.

Right away, sir.

Yes. It’s “PO1S0N.”

Would you like a cup of coffee with that?

No, ha-ha! The coffee is not poisonous. That’s funny!

It may, however, be a hint venomous.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are puzzling over what to make of this piece by first-time contributor Gardner Mounce. We are also wondering what to make of the name Gardner Mounce, but that's another story. Enjoy!

The Reigning Jigsaw Puzzle Champion Of The World Apologizes

By: Gardner Mounce

Dear Residents of Providence, Rhode Island,

My name is Matt “Jigsaw” Sawyer, reigning jigsaw puzzle champion of the world. I take full responsibility for what happened over the weekend in Providence. I now clearly see my mistake. I do not expect for you to forgive me so easily, but please allow me to explain myself.

First, let me just say that I am no stranger to solving jigsaw puzzles in extreme conditions. In 2000, I solved “Kittens in a Basket” while on a roller coaster. In 2002, I solved “Colorful Tulip Field, Keukenhow Park, Netherlands” while at the bottom of the Atlantic. In 2005, I solved “Uh oh! Puppy Trouble!” while solving “Neuschwanstein Castle” while in zero gravity. And in 2007, I trained a robotic arm to complete “Apple Harvest!” so that I could get back to completing the double-sided “Apples For Sale!/ Mmm! Apples!” So at least when a person decided to complete a life-scale jigsaw puzzle of Providence on top of Providence, it’s obvious that person was a professional.

Second, my intention was not to start any sort of puzzle-enthusiast crime wave. Have I started puzzle movements in the past? Sure I have. I spearheaded the Edgeless Movement back in ‘98 when I discarded all the edge pieces during the world championship in Toronto. I knew that if I was going to stand out among the giants of puzzle history I’d have to rock the boat a bit. And at the 2010 Berlin Open, I accidentally pioneered the Kein Foto Movement. You see, when I dumped the pieces out of the box during the final round they all just happened to be upside down. I mistakenly thought there was no picture, that they were blank — which I just figured was a German thing. But believe me, I had no intention of inspiring puzzle enthusiasts to print busy urban intersections from Google Earth at life scale and then paste them onto puzzle pieces. I also had no intention of inspiring them to then painstakingly match those pieces onto the actual corresponding urban intersections in midday traffic. It was not at all my intention to inspire this to happen all over the world, in the busiest of intersections, during the holiday season.

I won’t deny that puzzling is my life. I solved my first puzzle when I was too young to even remember it. I’m told that when I was 10 months old I pulled some boxes off a shelf, that I was crushed by a 36-piecer, and that I had to solve my way out from under the bastard piece by piece. You see, I have moved through life by solving puzzles, but every puzzle I have ever solved has now been disassembled and boxed up or digested by sharks. Last weekend it struck me how ephemeral puzzling, as a lifestyle, is (which I realized was a mental puzzle in and of itself — puzzle humor!). I realized that I needed to do something permanent in order to leave my mark. With that said, I now see how actually supergluing puzzle pieces onto real objects was a bad move. For instance, the homeless man I glued his own face to. I’m told that he should only suffer minor permanent damage from the adhesive, but hey, that guy has been sitting there since Google Earth photographed that street corner in 2009! Providence is a major city. You can’t sit on the same street corner for four years and not expect someone to glue something to your face.

Once again, I take responsibility not only for my actions, but for the actions of those I inspired. For example, I apologize to the sleeping Alabama schoolchild who was mis-solved as another similar-looking schoolchild, and to her parents who were subsequently confused but later ecstatic when TLC agreed to make a show out of it. I apologize for all of the puzzlers abroad who defaced cherished monuments. As an aside, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem was not solved! Everyone who took a piece of the wall took a real piece of it!

I take responsibility for the bad outcomes, but for the good outcomes, too. Archaeologists in Niger would have lost the crumbling cranium of the recently unearthed Ardipithecus africanus — an early hominid many are claiming as the missing link — if puzzlers wouldn’t have come by at that moment and solved it into place. And as North and South Korean puzzlers put together all the pieces of their shared border on top of their already existing shared border, they stood in silence as an innocent child put the last puzzle piece in place, thus symbolizing their shared humanity and how they’re all just solving the puzzle of life together. Even Congress decided to solve their own puzzle as a gesture of solidarity but promptly fell into arguing over whether they should solve the budget crisis or “Aww! Penguins!” — I never claimed to be a miracle worker.

I realize that this letter in no way redresses the full extent of the damage done, but I stand by all of the consequences of my actions, good and bad, because I am, and always will be, a proud puzzler.

Yours truly,

Matt “Jigsaw” Sawyer

P.S. Tune in to TLC this Tuesday at 9 p.m. for “Picking up the Pieces: The Alabama Girl Who is a Puzzle of Her Cousin,” because I make an appearance!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our love for comedy and our love for Hemingway both know no bounds. Hmm, if only there were a clever way to combine the two. Oh, well. No use dreaming!

Ernest Hemingway Reviews The Oddball Comedy Tour

By: Dan Morey

There was much talk of Chappelle in Chicago and none of it was good. I drank a bottle of whiskey at the Green Door and went down to Tinley Park to cover his show.

Tinley Park is not Oak Park, but it is close enough. Whenever I’m near Oak Park I think about Mother. I think about the girl-clothes she made me wear and the cello lessons. These are things I do not like to remember. The little dresses and the many hours of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

I found Juan in the bar at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater and asked him if what they were saying about Chappelle’s Hartford performance was true.

“I will tell you,” said Juan. “But first we drink.”

I told the bartender to bring us Chinchón and the bartender said, “We have a special on Lemon Gingertinis today. Two for one.”

Juan grabbed the bartender’s arm and twisted it until he cried out for his uncle.

“Bring us Chinchón,” said Juan.

The bartender poured two glasses of Chinchón and left the bottle. I mixed a small amount of water into my Chinchón and watched it turn milky in the glass. The Chinchón was good, as it had been in Madrid when Juan and I fought the Guardia Civil officers for the last piece of flan.

“Doesn’t your madre reside in these parts?” said Juan.

“Do not speak of my mother,” I said. “If you speak of my mother we will have to fight and I do not wish to fight before I see Chappelle.”

We drank long and well and when we could drink no more I asked Juan again about Hartford.

“Everything is as they say,” said Juan.

“It was bad then.”

“It was an obscenity.”

“Will he quit?” I said.

“He should,” said Juan. “But he does not.”

There are two dangers when a great comedian returns from exile or retirement. The first danger is that he will no longer possess the grace and purity of his youth. Without the grace and purity of his youth the comedian will resort to unworthy tricks and become a mere teller of jokes. The people will remember his greatness but they will only see the shadow of this greatness and soon they will forget about the greatness altogether. The second danger is that the comedian will think only of his past glories and take unmanageable risks in order to recapture them. This second danger is the most dangerous because the comedian can never truly regain the agility of his youth and if he attempts to perform as he did in his younger days, his comeback will end in tragedy.

Juan got another bottle of Chinchón from the bartender and we took it into the amphitheater. Hannibal Buress was on stage. The people do not yet know of Buress, but amongst aficionados he is spoken of with great respect. He lacks the natural artistry of Chappelle, but he killed swiftly and precisely, and with hard work and sweat he will soon challenge the top comedians. Because Buress is a native Chicagoan, it is very likely his mother was in attendance, which makes his performance all the more impressive. Mothers can be very critical. I certainly do not like it when Mother reads my work. When The Sun Also Rises came out, she scanned the first chapter and said, “It’s okay for the beach, but you’re no Sherwood Anderson.” Buress should be highly commended for his grace under maternal pressure.

Flight of the Conchords, from New Zealand, went on next. They fought bravely and well, but the crowd was against them from the start. Everyone had come to see Chappelle and they had no patience for stylized foreign comedy. Halfway into the set, the Conchords became distracted and suffered a very a brutal cogida.

Now the only thing to do was to wait for Chappelle. Juan told a rough joke about the putas we had known in Madrid and handed me the bottle of Chinchón.

“Drink,” he said. “For today we witness history.”

I drank, but not enough to ruin the beautiful tension. There would soon be a great victory or a great tragedy and we did not know which it would be.

“This reminds me of the Robin Williams comeback,” said an old peasant in the next row.

Juan broke the Chinchón bottle over the peasant’s shoulder and kicked him to the ground.

Idiota!” said Juan. “This is nothing like the Robin Williams. Did the Robin Williams leave 50 million dollars en la mesa, suffer the nervous breakdown, and disappear for ocho anos?”

“No, but he did become an alcoholic,” said the peasant.

“I obscenity in the milk of your mother,” said Juan. “Now get out of here before I cut off your cojones and feed them to your daughters.”

When Chappelle entered the amphitheater the people shouted their approval. After all that had happened in Hartford he had come and he was willing to fight. He looked bigger than I remembered him but it was not the bigness that comes from wealth or fame or overeating. It was the bigness of a fighter who has put on muscle to make up for age and diminished speed. He looked directly into the crowd, raised the microphone to his mouth, and said, “Man, muck Hartford. If North Korea ever drops a nuclear mucking bomb I hope it lands on mothermucking Hartford.”

Olé!” said Juan. “He has still got it!”

With one true sentence Chappelle dominated Hartford and destroyed it and everyone agreed that Hartford died a very good death.

Chappelle’s new material stared down the hard truths of life and did not flinch. He has overcome great adversity. Chappelle’s mother was a professor and a Unitarian minister and probably very overbearing and this must have caused serious psychological damage in the young comedian. But none of that mattered in Chicago. Chappelle killed that night as he has always killed, with the skill and easy courage of a champion.

And he even did Lil’ Wayne.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to begin the New Year with rousing speeches from fictional anthropomorphic characters. Speechwriter Jess Chace kneads a convincing narrative in her first piece for us. She also had a clever piece at McSweeney's recently, "Classes from Princeton's 2013-2014 Course Catalog." We've put the link below.

The Muffin Man’s Final Speech

By: Jess Chace

I’m sorry to disturb you — I don’t mean to be a bother. I realize that at this hour of the day, some of you are not even fully awake yet, and may God help you if mine is the first face you should see. But considering you have been standing here for how long now — two hours? three? — it has become clear to me that you might crave something other than a deep-fried delicacy, which you could get for a dollar right around the corner there in under a minute. I am not here to judge you. In fact, I’d like to help you, if you’d permit me these few small words.

We all know New York’s culinary landscape is storied and fecund. For years, it has brimmed with a surfeit of toothsome morsels: cupcakes and cookies, macaroons and macarons. We are the sons and daughters of a free market spurred by competition, and that is what has made our lives rich and full. Another baker’s success does not detract from my own, nor do I wish to profit from another man’s plight.

But for too many months now, Dominique Ansel has inveigled us into suffering long lines and extortionate prices. In filling our stomachs with cronuts, we have been lulled into a doughy haze of unfeeling and unthinking. We eat, but we are not full. We pay, but we are not protected.

And it is in so doing that we are made complicit in these interlocking systems of oppression. When we pay his prices, we affirm their validity. When we accept his two-cronut limit per person, we fuel his monopoly. Our greed for social currency has divested us from the things that truly enrich us, and we have let our minds shrink from reason and our hearts sink with hydrogenated fat.

But I say, do not let yourselves be browbeaten and Bloomberged into one’s man prescriptive for how to live your lives — telling you when to wait and what to pay and how to eat! You are not lemmings! You are not puppets! You are consumers! You are a free people with the love of American capitalism in your hearts. Purchasing power shall be dictated not by one man with an invisible hand or even a few select men with conspicuous hands, but a whole economy of men — by you, the people!

Your wallets are the source of our nation’s strength — use them for good! Cast not your vote for tyranny! Vote for liberty! And in the name of confectionery, let us all unite!