* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which which has always been a friend to nature, though nature seldom seems to return the favor. When you are done with Michael Fowler's latest and greatest, do check out the link below to purchase his most recent humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

One Touch Of Nature

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

I didn’t mean to do it. Nature and I have long had an understanding that, although in some technical and biological way I am part of Her, I nonetheless prefer to remain indoors and the hell out of Her way. All that ended recently when my car skidded off the road in a rainstorm (and really, what is the idea of all that water falling out of the sky so suddenly, hmm, Ms. Nature?) and I had to exit my sidetracked vehicle near some thick population of plant things — bushes and vines and what have you.

The downpour had stopped, fortunately, and airborne aqua, containing who knows what world-altering ingredients, did not spatter my skin and clothing. Instead, water only seeped into my shoes, which I have since burned. But as I climbed from the damp ditch where I had come to rest upon spotting the tow truck come to my rescue, I felt a leaf graze my wrist. A leaf! Yes, one of those greenish, slimy and unclean natural protuberances of raw planthood that spends its entire life outdoors. I was aghast.

My relationship to herbaceous vegetation, in case you haven’t gathered by now, is one of revulsion. As an adult I allow myself to make contact with shrub- or root-like entities only to eat buttered lima beans, and that’s rarely, and the hideous beans have got to be cooked and seasoned just right. I won’t dwell on the horrible viscosity of peas or the unbearable density of carrots. Of salads I say, Why? You might as well pour some vinegar and oil on your yard and graze there like a goat. Yum, that’s tasty clover!

I felt the brief contact of that leaf against my wrist as if some cold-blooded alien creature had swiped me with its outstretched tongue or curled-up hand as thin as a blade of grass. I was aware of the plant’s ill intent and wondered about the consequences. For hours after the accident, as I waited in a garage for my car’s tires to be realigned and listened to my insurance agent explain over the phone the difficulty of suing the owner of the puddle I hydroplaned over, I kept examining the contact spot on my wrist, expecting a red welt to rise up and begin oozing terrible toxins.

All right, so the sticky, moist leaf most likely wasn’t an alien, but who knew what brand of poison ivy or oak or sumac it was? I recalled from childhood the terrifying expectation I felt each summer that my limbs and throat would swell up to huge proportions due to plant life, which fortunately they never did, and the streaming half-closed eyes that I also dreaded but luckily never experienced. These feelings closed in on me again, and I knew that even if the leaf bore no deadly toxin, still it might have coated me with piney resin or scraped my tender flesh with scabrous vegetable follicles. I might stop breathing and my throat and lungs fill with suffocating fluid at a moment’s notice, if I were susceptible.

And I was always susceptible, or so I believed. As a child I was keenly aware of the deadly misnomers “fresh air” and “healthy exercise.” Growing up I always preferred the safety of my home with its indoor toys and TV to the dirt-lined playing fields and filthy streets. Evil flowers in bloom and dangerous budding trees terrified me. Shuddering, I recalled visiting a petting zoo with my elementary school class and becoming exposed to the pathogens of a live chicken. Worse was the day my high school senior class took a communal walk in a park and I trampled a mushroom. I was so upset I almost didn’t graduate.

At home with my rescued and repaired car in the drive, I took a good long hot shower, and then another, to thoroughly cleanse the leaf contact area. True, no skin eruption presented itself, but to be sure I also daubed the affected epidermis with soothing unguents, including a good soaking in both hydrocortisone and anti-fungal creams. Doctors have told me that these creams can be counterproductive when used together, since fungus loves nothing better than hydrocortisone, but I was desperate. I thought of driving to the ER too, or at least making an appointment with my physician, but the absence of an immediate tumor or even irritation on my wrist calmed me to the point of adopting a wait-and-see approach.

That may be my fatal mistake, like waiting to see if the mosquito squatting on my wrist, no doubt bursting with West Nile virus, will bite me or not. Or walking through my tree-lined back yard during tick season, and not running right back inside to examine every inch of my flesh under a flashlight.

That’s the awful thing about Nature: you don’t just touch Her. She touches you.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the most unabashedly literary of all the half dozen or so literary humor sites. Take that, internet! Listen in as our good friend Jon Sindell introduces some familiar faces at a reading that must be taking place somewhere in the Great Beyond.

Author Bios From An Extraordinary American Lit Reading

By:
jsind@sbcglobal.net
jonsindell.com

Good evening, literature lovers. It is my honor to introduce the famed authors who will read their work tonight in an evening unique in the annals of annals.

Our first reader, WALT WHITMAN, is the poet of the body and the soul, and what is in them is as much in him: the stevedore with his hearty “Heave ‘e’ yo!”…the wagoner with his bulging biceps…the spinster in her chamber, penning poems by the oil lamp’s glow; as well as the whale that rendered the oil; and the harpoonist with his mighty thighs; and the krill swirling in the leviathan’s gut; and also the gut. The krill, the oil, the gut, the harpoonist, all spill out of me — wait, how did I get here? That’s him, not me! He, Walt Whitman, is the poet of the body and soul! Of each several body and each several soul! Sing glory hallelujah, world without end!

EDGAR ALLAN POE, our second reader, must not be thought mad, though his pen drips with fantastic terrors never seen before, severally induced by the Fiend Intemperance, the spirit of Perverseness, and the demon that preys on the melancholic soul. Edgar loathes neither black cats nor ravens, but, frankly, that egomaniac Whitman gives him the fantods.

emily dickinson is at Home tonight, yet far from Home — and has “consented” — better, in Truth, to say “relented” — to her Poetry being read by a bolder Spirit here in her stead, one whose Constitution can abide the Presence of the Abominable Poe.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN has written innumerable spoken-word pieces that charitable commentators have hiked up as “orations.” One of these was a flash hybrid piece that Abe read at a Pennsylvania battlefield to honor the Union war dead. Though Abe is amused by the legend that he penned the piece on the back of an envelope, he thinks postcard prose could well be a thing. A melancholy optimist, Abe seeks through his writing — against the odds, it seems — to arouse the better angels of our nature.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS is the author of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. That’s slave, people! He hasn’t the time to write dandified bios!

HARPER LEE wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. She also, it would seem, wrote Go Set a Watchman, or a draft that she left in a drawer somewhere with some dried-up Jujubes and a spelling medal. Where’s my water! I can’t swallow this horse pill! Who are you? Sign what? What sequel? What mockingbird? If you see a mockingbird, shut the damn window! Atticus who? What Scout? I’m not in the Scouts! Oh, why can’t everyone leave me alone!

That summer RAYMOND CARVER rented a little house on the north coast with a drinking buddy named Gus. Ray, Gus said. You should write now. Right now? said Ray. Well, Gus said, I mean, write. Write now, or write later. Ray said, Write what? The window was cracked and a breeze came in. It tasted like salt. I don’t know what, said Gus, and waved his hand like he was shooing a fly. Gus had a box of old dry Hydrox cookies from the Safeway. Eat one, he said. Alright, said Ray. It’s a small, good thing.

Where J.D. SALINGER lives or what he does besides writing are none of your damn business.

ARTHUR MILLER married Marilyn Monroe. Have you seen a picture of Miller? Have you seen her? In scaling such prodigious matrimonial heights, the scrawny bespectacled playwright foreshadowed the dreck film Revenge of the Nerds by thirty years. MILLER also wrote The Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, which won major awards, he supposes — but good god, Marilyn!

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD distilled the incomparable milk of wonder into words in The Great Gatsby. He drinks incomparable-milk-of-wonder laced with bootleg bourbon nightly.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY writes lean, supple prose and drinks whiskey straight, unlike that Ivy League pantywaist Fitzgerald.

NORMAN MAILER wrote The Armies of the Night and The Naked and the Dead. He’ll knock Hemingway’s block off if the drunken bastard drops his left.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where shattering dreams is our specialty. For those who wish to believe in superheroes, Eric Feurer is here to disillusion you. We like Eric so much that this is his second piece in a row for us. Enjoy!

Sorry Kids, I’m Not The Batman, I’m Just A Bat Man

By:
ericfeurer@me.com
www.ericfeurer.com

Ah, jeez, I could hear you kids jibber-jabbering since you got in this cave — you’re looking for Batman. Well, bad news buckos, you found a bat man. Not the Batman. That’s right, you found ol’ dirty Ralph. I am half man, half bat, all disgusting. This is not the Bat Cave, it is a bat cave (and my home), so please leave.

The Batman is an imaginary hero with a cool suit and gadgets to help him fight crime. I am a real mistake of god, with no sweat glands. I am a freak — good day to you, children! Let me echolocate you the way out.

SKREEEEEEEE

SKREEEEEEEE

SKRE–

It’s that way. Check yourself for ticks — I’m absolutely covered in ’em. Kids come in here all the time because someone told them Batman lives here. It is a cruel joke of which I am the butt.

Listen, the only [sneezes]…Excuse me, I’m allergic to myself. Listen, the only similarity between his story and mine is that we are both orphans. His parents were murdered, and one of mine definitely fucked a bat. And that doesn’t make me a vampire — vampires eat blood and need to be invited into your home. I eat cicadas and have never been invited anywhere ever.

In fact, let me take you through my day, and let me know if this sounds like hero material: 7:00 pm — wake up. 7:05 — scream “Why?” at my reflection in a pool of stagnant mosquito water. 8:00 pm — produce nutrient-rich guano, which sounds nice, but is just fancy talk for taking a big shit. Then I eat bugs, hate myself, work on my novel, wash-rinse-repeat. [Sneezes] I cannot believe I’m allergic to bat dander — why do I exist!?

If I can be honest with you kids for a second, Batman has many enemies. The Joker, Riddler, Two-Face. I also fight a two-face: the two faces of manic depression. The silent killer…

Did someone just take a goddamn picture of me?!

SKREEEEEEEE

You sonuvabitch…

SKREEEEEEEE

Get over here — where are you…

SKREEEEEEEE

I’m gonna echolocate my foot right up your ass!

Christ, what’s the point? What if I was the Batman? What if my penis wasn’t corkscrew shaped? What if I had friends, and a butler, and my penis wasn’t corkscrew shaped? Sometimes I imagine my very own Bat Signal high in the sky. A beacon of…

[Sneezes]

Fuck me — never mind, I’m a living nightmare. GO AWAY!

And tell the other kids to stop leaving fan mail for the Batman at the mouth of my cave! “Dear Batman, you are the coolest.” “Dear Batman, thank you for keeping us safe.” “Dear Batman, gross!” Actually this last one is probably for me. Go on, get out of here!

SKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

That’s not echolocation — I’m crying.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we often have reason to wonder about the sanity of our contributors, Eric Feurer being just the latest case in point.

I Am No Longer Your Husband, I Am The Cocoon And I Will Never Leave This Bed

By:
ericfeurer@me.com
www.ericfeurer.com

Foolish human, trying to remove me from my bed! Your puny attempts to rouse me from my slumber are worthless! Monday through Friday Roger Smith gets up and goes to work, Saturday is for chores and errands, but Sunday? Sunday there is no Roger Smith. There is only The Cocoon.

Look at you pulling at my blankie. You are so stupid and weak. My body is like an iceberg: there is so much more of me under this blanket, you cannot possibly get me to move! You will never find where the sheets end and the man begins, and in time even I will forget.

Even now your incessant tugging is lulling me into a dream…I’m on a cruise ship made of pillows. The captain is a particularly fluffy sheep. He lets me drive the boat. I sink it. Whoopsie. As we descend into the goose feather ocean, he asks me why? Why? I just laugh, and it turns into a cute yawn —

Ah, stop it, Honey, PLEASE! Five more minutes! No, no, no, no —

Yes, yes, YES! Hahaha! Look at you yanking off my top blanket husk, like that will do anything. You ignorant moron! I have many, many layers, like a very tired onion.

This is not the man you married! Monday through Friday I am Roger Smith, 34, businessman. Saturday I love golfing and embarrassing my children when we go out to eat. But Sunday, when I am in this bed, I am The Cocoon, and I do not recognize the face of my wife. I have no child. Think of me like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Tired.

I have many defense mechanisms. My breath smells like a horse gave birth in my mouth, and I can make it attack you like a mean dog. My feet are so cold, you will think for just a second, “What if he’s dead?” And that’s when I will lash out with the speed of 1,000 exhausted sloths!

Ah, clever girl. You moved my alarm clock to the other side of the room so I would have to get up and turn it off. Well guess what? That unrelenting high-pitched beeping? It’s now my favorite song. Sometimes I play it to help me fall asleep. In fact I’m beginning to feel drowsy…

I’m the conductor of the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra, but every instrument is a fat man snoring. The audience is throwing bouquets of ZzzQuill onto the stage. I take a bow, and lie down, and —

Ah, stop! Honey, I’m up, I’m up, I’M UP —

Haha, I’m not even close to being up! It would take an act of god himself to pull The Cocoon out of this bed. Give up! I will make you promises and immediately break them. Roger doesn’t want to hurt you, but The Cocoon doesn’t give a shit. I will say some of the meanest, nastiest, most unforgivable things in order to stay in my downy lair, and I won’t remember them when I wake up, so you can’t even be mad at me! Think of me as the little Exorcist girl but an adult and totally zonked out.

They say a restful night of sleep is eight hours. I say quadruple it! I want Rip Van Winkle’s nap to look like a goddamn blink. I’m 165 pounds but my sleep weight is seven tons! To rouse me would be to wake a mountain! A mountain that is tuckered-out, yes!

Oh, I’m dreaming again! I am California King. I am wearing a crown made of the gunk in the corners of your eyes. I have just declared war on the sun… we will attack it at night… it will never expect it…

 

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