* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we have just been sentenced to perform 500 hours of community service. We'll start by reading Lenore Zion's new book, My Dead Pets Are Interesting, published by the fine folks at The Nervous Breakdown and available from Amazon (see the link under our Blogroll at the right-hand side of this page). Zion is crazy as a bedbug and much more adorable. Her humor seems to emerge straight from her id, unmediated by conscience or convention. Very often when reading one of her pieces you find yourself thinking, "Shouldn't she be saying that with her inside voice?" Then you realize her mind works pretty much the way yours does, only she is brave and honest enough to write it down and publish it. The result may sometimes seem like a form of automatic writing but is in fact very carefully crafted. Zion knows exactly what she is doing. We are delighted to present her first piece for The Big Jewel, a previously unpublished excerpt from her book.

Community Service

By: Lenore Zion

You have been feeling insecure lately, concerning yourself with your community involvement. You catch yourself wondering whether you’re contributing enough, doing your part, making the world a better place for people. Not that you particularly care about making the world better for people, but you know others would judge you harshly if you were to admit that you don’t mind taking a passive role in the popular social battles, sitting back while others labor at promoting good environmental practices or whatnot, sometimes even allowing your laziness to reign supreme when you have garbage in your hand and no acceptable receptacle in which to deposit the garbage. “Litterbug!” a man yells at you, and no one you know personally is present, so you give him the finger, as your finger is completely free to express your reciprocal distaste for this man because you are no longer clinging to trash as he would have you do.

But, as mentioned, you’re feeling insecure about this. So what you do, is you decide it’s time to volunteer. Volunteering is what good people spend their time doing, because good people are the only variety of people who don’t mind coming in close physical contact with those yucky individuals who require free services. Bad people, like you are at heart, find it generally repulsive to ladle watered down soup with floating chunks of potato into Styrofoam bowls for people boasting two months worth of squalor on their skin. But you are trying to be a good person, so you sign up to do exactly that, because the first step to being a good person is behaving in the manner good people do. A man swats at flies, both real and imaginary, and you hand him his bowl of tasteless soup and by unfortunate accident, his rotting finger brushes up against your finger, which is encased in a sterile rubber glove, but nevertheless you become convinced that the parasites that call this man home have been transferred to you, so you go to the filthy bathroom and vomit into the toilet in an attempt to rid yourself of the experience. It doesn’t work, of course — at this point you are infested — and there’s nothing you can do but go back to your good person station and contract more rare illnesses from the hungry people who lost all their money in the stock market crash and reacted with crippling psychosis.

When you get home, you scrub fifteen layers of skin from your body in the shower and decide that there simply must be a less objectionable route to becoming a good person. Eventually, after hours of watching the flesh you scrubbed off in the shower heal, you experience an epiphany: old people need help, too. Old people live in sad buildings with ambient television noise and they are simply dying for a young sprite to arrive in said building with a checkers board, ready to listen to a few hours of rambling, incoherent stories of the old days when stuff was just a dollar or a nickel or some small combination of coins. So, you resign from your post at the soup kitchen and add your name to the list of people willing to perform the services that the older generation requires. This decision, you realize, affords you the incidental benefit of telling your peers that you have volunteered at both a soup kitchen and a nursing home — you are not a one trick pony when it comes to social services. You are an auxiliary for all those in need. Because you are a good person.

And so, on your first day, you gather together your checkers board and a deck of cards and some dominos, and you head to a nursing home with the name Sunny Isles, or Sunshine Terrace or some such name with the word “sun,” because nursing home titles must always include mention of the sun so as to avoid the other thing, the night, which reminds old people of their rapidly approaching deaths. The name Sunshine Villas allows nursing home residents to pretend they are at a resort in Mexico, like their granddaughters, who can be seen flashing their breasts to a twenty-nine-year-old cameraman in Cancun. One slight change — Sunset Villas — instead forces old people to envision a death, the fizzling out of an unimportant light, the sorts of deaths that make these old people wish they had exposed their breasts to cameramen in Mexico, because then they would have at least done something. But they did not, and one day soon they will just die, but not before you force them to play a few games of checkers with you.

At first you let the man win. He’s old, how many thrills does he have left? So, even though he doesn’t appear to know the rules of the game, you allow him to double-jump your checkers pieces in a way inconsistent with those jumping directives outlined in the checkers manual. But then, when he cheats his way to a win, instead of demonstrating the graciousness one might expect from an older gentleman, he gloats. “You little thing, you don’t know nothing,” he spits at you. On the next game, you take that bastard. You collect every last one of his checkers pieces and when you win, you collect all of your belongings and prepare to switch to another old person, one deserving of your attention. “You shouldn’t gloat,” you tell him as you pack up. “Now no one will play checkers with you.” He shrugs as though he doesn’t care, and somehow, though you are leaving him, you are the one who feels rejected. You shake it off. It is okay; you will find a new old person.

Your next old person doesn’t have the manual dexterity to play checkers or a game of cards or dominos. He probably had a stroke, because he doesn’t speak, either, which means no back talk. He smiles, and so you sit down with him. This isn’t what you expected — his not being able to speak also means he cannot tell you about the old days when he had to carry his school books with a belt. But certainly this man is lonely, still, even though he cannot speak, so you begin to speak to him. You tell him your stories, like the time you got arrested for selling nitrous to another kid in middle school. “I was in so much trouble,” you tell him, but he seems sleepy. Before you know it, you’re treating the stroke victim as though he were your mute therapist — you’re telling him everything, just everything. You tell him about who you irrationally hate, you tell him about the time you slept with your boyfriend’s best friend, you tell him about how you’re pretty sure you’ve been lying about the event you report as being your biggest childhood trauma, but, you tell him, if you are lying, you’ve been doing it for so long that you believe it yourself. You cry, because admitting this is emotional for you — you’ve never told anyone! At this point, something gets into you, you don’t know what, but you just stand up and show him your breasts, like his granddaughter in Cancun, and you keep your shirt held up for over a minute, really allowing him to take a good look. And when you make yourself decent again, you can see he’s happy. You’ve done some real community service.

The second time you visit the nursing home, you leave the checkers at home. Instead, you take a hat with you, and a bowtie, because you know that old men have fond memories of dressing formally, and you suspect your old person might like to wear a hat and a bowtie, because wearing such accessories might bring to his mind memories of the years in his life when he wasn’t actively dying. Unfortunately, you cannot locate a bowtie designed to be taken seriously, so you settle on the oversized polka-dot bowtie you wore to a costume party years ago. Your impression is, the seriousness of the bowtie is irrelevant; your old person just wants to wear one. You arrive, and your old person is using the toilet, meaning, an orderly has lifted your old man’s wrinkled body out of the wheelchair in which he was planted and then placed him on the toilet. Your old man has skin like a leopard, purple spots freckling his thighs and chest. The orderly stands, facing your old man, holding him in place because he might otherwise tip over. “Good job, Bill,” the orderly says. “Come on, Bill, keep it up.” Your old man swivels his head toward you and you briefly make eye contact. He closes his eyes and keeps them shut. You take this moment to contemplate suicide.

You wait outside for your old person to finish because, frankly, it’s rude to observe as another person uses the restroom, and also because witnessing the bathroom process in a nursing home has caused you to want to blind yourself so you might never again witness something quite so bleak. Sitting on a bench outside is another older gentleman, and he has no nose. There is a hole where normally there would not be, right in the center of his face, giving him the appearance of a two-month-old corpse. He’s smoking a cigarette, and you decide that his smoking has caused his nose to disappear — perhaps it became cancerous and just fell off one morning. Or would that be leprosy? You’ve never seen a man with no nose before, and you try very hard not to stare. “Hello,” you say to him, making a point of looking in his eyes so he might think you are such a good person and volunteer that you didn’t even notice that he’s missing his nose. He nods at you in acknowledgment of your greeting. This is followed by an extended period of awkward silence.

When you return, your old person has been placed back in his wheelchair, and oh boy, you realize, your old person looks depressed. This doesn’t reflect well on your volunteer work at the nursing home — the recipient of your attention must appear to be benefiting in some way, otherwise there is significant reason to call into question the quality of your volunteer work, and there is a list, you know, a list of people who are desperate to switch volunteer positions from the soup kitchen to the nursing home. You must defend your placement at the nursing home, lest you find yourself back at the soup kitchen, toiling away at becoming a good person while being invaded by imaginary parasitic worms every couple of hours. Immediately, you approach your old person and begin to dress him up. You place the hat on his head, and you tie the oversized polka-dot bowtie around his neck. Adorable, you think. He smiles at you, and that’s how you know you’ve done a good job — for your old person, a smile generally indicates an improvement in mood. You relax, and begin to talk — this is what you’ve been looking forward to since the last visit ended. He’s a good listener, due to the fact that he cannot speak or move on his own. You tell him about the man you last dated, and what a total jerk he was. Your old man agrees, naturally. You show him your breasts again, and then take the hat off his head and the bowtie from his neck and tell him you’ll see him again in a few days.

That night, you think about your old man, how adorable he was in the hat and bowtie, but you also think about the man with no nose. He could use a volunteer, you think. But you are devoted to an old person already and cannot just jump from one old person to the next just because one happens to be missing his nose. You determine that you will bring the noseless man a gift, so he might feel attended to. On your way to the nursing home the next time, you stop and buy a rose, which you present to the leper who is reliably smoking a cigarette on his bench. “I’ve been thinking about you, and I hope you have a lovely day,” you tell him. He hesitantly reaches up and accepts the rose, and you think he is much like a child, really — just shy and in need of affection, which you have delivered, thus cementing your place in the long line of good people who volunteered at this nursing home before you.

Inside, you dress up your old man in his favorite outfit again and tell him about your father, how he is such a strong man but you don’t always know how to relate to him. This time, you only show him your breasts for a moment because time gets away from you while you are telling him about your father, and now you are in a hurry — you’ve got dinner plans.

You make sure to show your old man your breasts for an extra long time when you return two days later, and you bring him a nice tweed vest to wear in addition to his hat and bowtie, and also a corncob pipe to hold onto. You bring the noseless man another red rose, and hand it to him on his smoking bench. You continue to put your old man in outfits, even, at one point, locating a monocle for him (though it is difficult to keep it held against his eye, so you give up after a few attempts), and you continue to tell him all of your secrets and show him your breasts, and you continue to bring roses for the smoking leper outside — you do these things for months. You’ve really begun to settle into a good person routine. You’re feeling happier, less guilty about your tendency to litter, and you’ve not been infiltrated by a single parasite — or any other pestilent wormy thing — in the entire time you’ve been volunteering at the nursing home. This, you’d say, is a major success in community service.

And you think that, proudly, for a few more months, until one day, as you hand the noseless man his rose, you catch a look from one of the orderlies through the automatic glass door. It is, without a doubt, a look of bewilderment and disapproval. You realize at that moment just how cruel it might seem to give a fragrant flower to a man with no nose, week after week. In experiencing this realization, you also consider the possibility that you’ve been laboring under the misapprehension that your man is enjoying your visits, when, in reality, the manner in which you treat him is similar to the way a young girl plays with her favorite doll. You are dressing him up in costumes, for God’s sake, and he cannot move to get away from you or speak to tell you to stop. Even worse, while you have been assuming your old man was delighted at the sight of your breasts, he may actually have felt molested by you. You never wanted to molest anyone; this was not your intention. You just wanted to be a good person. This is what you wanted, but the inherent badness inside of you would not allow it.

You stop volunteering at the nursing home and return to the soup kitchen in order to punish yourself for your unintentional sins. And punish yourself, you do, until you reach a breaking point and can no longer tolerate those individuals whose gums are a horrendous shade of green and whose conversational skills are so irritatingly lacking. You miss your old man — you don’t want to tell the people at the soup kitchen anything. And so, you work up the nerve to visit your old man, not in the volunteer capacity, but just as an old friend. When you finally do this, you arrive without a bowtie or a hat, without a single prop, because you want your old man to know he is not a joke to you, that you are no longer operating under the assumption that he might like being treated as a giant doll.

When you arrive at the nursing home ready to make up for your bad behavior, your old person is dead. The noseless man is outside smoking, and he doesn’t make eye contact with you. You exit the building, entirely woebegone, and take a seat next to the noseless man. “I’m sorry I brought you flowers,” you say to him, and he asks you in a labored long-term smoker’s voice why you’re sorry. You hesitate. “You have no nose,” you say. He looks you directly in the eye and curls up his lip. “I can still smell, bitch,” he says, and he walks inside, leaving you alone on the bench. You decide to never volunteer again.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are all about the iambic pentameter. Especially when it is used in the service of the world's greatest Renaissance rapper, Sir Mix-A-Lot, as reimagined by our own Justin Warner. Be forewarned, his sense of propriety is much closer to Elizabethan than Victorian.

From The Complete Sonnets Of Sir Mix-A-Lot

By: Justin Warner

I revel in big butts, I cannot lie;
‘Tis womankind’s equiv’lent of well-hung.
My Moorish brethren, thou canst not deny
That round cheeks in thy visage get thee sprung.

O, Rump-o’-smooth-skin, fain get in my Benz,
For weary am I now of meager tail.
Come frolic in the highlands’ heathered glens
Whilst Mix-a-Lot harpoons thee like a whale.

Nay, proffer not a buttock frail or flat,
Nor plastic bosoms forged by engineers.
My anaconda fancies none of that,
But yearns to nestle ‘twixt two juicy spheres.

Sidebends or situps, do ’til out you conk,
But pray, lose not thy sweet badonkadonk.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we confess to being just as surprised as the next fellow that the science of teleportation goes all the way back to the 19th century. In this case the next fellow is our good friend Tim Cushing.

Correspondence From A Teleportation Pioneer

By: Tim Cushing

April 8th, 1897

Dear M.,

I’m afraid I shan’t be attending the 75th Annual Threshing Bee due to the lack of a reliable matter transporter in my area, and I find the prospect of a nine-day trip for three hours of threshing unappealing.

However, I am looking to rectify the matter transporter situation within the next fortnight.

Until then,


April 17th, 1897

Dear M.,

Perhaps a fortnight was a tad optimistic. As seems to be the case with most mail-order kits, the construction of a teleporter seems to require a second person. To this end, I have been auditioning a veritable slew of assistants.

So far, the applicants have either been petty and backstabbing or alarmingly reverential. While my years with the railroad have made me immune to backstabbing (and given me plenty of handwritten “STAB ME” signs), the tendency of the “alarmingly reverential” hopefuls to display their devotion through insect eating or drunken late night telegrams is very unsettling.



May 7th, 1897

Dear M.,

Sacre bleu! My alarmingly reverential assistant has absconded with the blueprint for the matter transporter! While the cocktail napkin and writing implement are replaceable, I am concerned that he may attempt to construct “Plan B,” which I had scrawled on the reverse side after a half-dozen absinthe spritzers.

While a majority of “Plan B” consists of stick figures in compromising positions, it also includes a rudimentary “doomsday device.” I had intended to use this “doomsday device” as a vindictive statement to the many critics of my still disassembled teleporter. Not only that, but my cursed French seems to be returning. I had suppressed it early in life (along with my left-handedness) through a combination of prayer and buckwheat. This does not bode well, especially with mon lycée regroupement juste autour du coin.

Au revoir,


May 16th, 1897


Good news!. My assistant returned around 5 am this morning with the blueprints and a toothy grin full of repentance and insect limbs. I was so grateful for the return of the prints that I completely forgot to have him drawn and quartered.

In addition, I received my long-delayed cruciform device. This integral piece was smuggled out of the Vatican by a well-paid courier who cleverly marked the package “1-1/4-inch Lag Bolts” so as not to draw the attention of customs. Unfortunately, I am still missing the ten (10) 1-1/4″ lag bolts I need. The postal service has told me to expect delays due to a shortage of lag bolts for their own hopper cars. I informed them that this sounded like classic postal service blundering and swiftly mailed an irate letter to my congressman. Hopefully, this will reach him before his term comes to a close (a mere 18 months away).

Hoping this letter finds you well,


June 1st, 1897

Dear M.,

Another setback. I am still missing my crucial lag bolts. I also fear I’ve inadvertently made the situation worse with a stream of profanities directed at our Postmaster General. Informing him that the lag bolts are the only thing stopping me from assembling my transporter and rendering his livelihood unnecessary has brought my mail service to a near halt.

Hoping this letter finds you,


June 20th, 1897

Dear M.,

Success! The lag bolts have arrived!

My assistant and I performed a test run late last night, sending two houseflies through the transporter and delivering them intact 40 feet away in the master bedroom. There seemed to be no physical damage, but upon “arrival,” they flew aimlessly to the nearest window and spent the next several hours motionlessly staring into the darkness.

They are still very much alive, but seem to missing, if not a “soul,” then their very essence of “fly-ness.” Can the ethereal be transported, seeing as it is not “matter?” A troubling question but one which should be answered by my assistant’s teleportation tomorrow evening.



June 21st, 1897


A partial success! My assistant made the 40-foot “jump” with no damage to his physical being. Unfortunately, his naively feisty spirit failed to make the trip. Upon emergence, he stared warily at me for a moment before heading to the windowsill to solemnly devour the two motionless flies and stare into the gathering gloom. A worrying development, to be sure.

However, I must try and get some sleep. Should my assistant suddenly return to his boisterous ways, I can expect to be awakened hourly with hisses of “Master!” and enthusiastic bug eating.



22 juin 1897

Dear M.,

My assistant is no longer. This afternoon (I overslept) found me greeted by an eerie silence and a badly-worded note stating that he was “off to Europe” indefinitely in an attempt to “find himself.”

I am left to test the transportation device myself. A baffling teletyped error message has appeared, indicating that I must “remove my clothes” before attempting teleportation as the device can apparently only transport “all-organic matter.” Even more baffling is the fact that the device has previously transported one (1) mostly-clothed assistant to the master bedroom and a portion of my laundry to parts unknown (following said assistant’s confusion as to the location of the hamper).

I will run a brief “clothing only” test later today. Should some apparel appear unexpectedly on your threshing floor, please inform me immediately. My name will be written on the waistband of the pants.

Sartorially challenged,


July 5th, 1897

Dear M.,

As I have unsurprisingly received no response concerning my clothing experiment (the postal service is currently engaged in a localized strike, affecting only my mail delivery), I will be attempting to teleport myself to your threshing floor. To increase my chances of a successful teleportation, I will be “traveling” sans clothing.

Don’t be alarmed if I seem “out of sorts” (and “naked”) when I appear. I’m hoping this will be temporary and, once clothed and refreshed, I should be in attendance for the 75th Annual Square Dance and Bachelor Auction. I would imagine the womenfolk in your area might bid a tremendous amount for an underclothed scientist with access to various affronts to God, not to mention la chance de profiter des rapports sexuels très ambidextre.

Until my emergence,


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we promise to never, ever call attention to your disabilities. Speaking of which, we meant to ask: are you color blind? And when people point it out, do you see red? Then you need to read this week's piece by David Holub.

Fifteen Don’ts When Trying To Bring Awareness To Your Color Blindness

By: David Holub

1. Do not make your color blind awareness ribbon blue, because it is likely not blue at all, but purple, which is quite effective if you’re trying to raise money for lupus.

2. When going door-to-door and someone gives you lupus money, do not scoff and say, “Yeah, like that’s a problem,” because it is likely their uncle has lupus and they’re not at a point where they can joke about it.

3. Though you might avoid color-related ribbon gaffs and the idea seems perfect (like a big welcoming, color-inclusive tent), do not wear a rainbow ribbon or fly rainbow flags, as rainbows have been co-opted by (a) six-year-old girls, (b) the Hawaiians and (c) the homosexuals.

4. Do not then get frustrated with colors in general and opt for a see-through ribbon. No one will notice.

5. Do not give up on the term “color blind” for the more politically correct “color deficient,” as this makes you sound somewhat retarded.

6. Do not switch gears entirely and make a T-shirt that has a picture of a dog and then underneath says, “We see the same colors.” Not only is the analysis confusing but it offends both dogs and the color blind.

7. Do not come up with a new campaign altogether called “Guide Dogs for the (Color) Blind.” This immediately puts the blind on the defensive.

8. If you do go ahead with the guide dog idea, do not dye your dog’s fur orange, no matter what you are trying to bring awareness to. Your hands and the dog’s coat will itch like hell.

9. Do not take this orange dog into area malls claiming it is a necessary service animal.

10. When getting escorted from a store, do not mutter anything about civil rights or entitlements or anything constitutiony. The mouthy girl working at Banana Republic will be a civics major and point out a number of things, the most obvious being that your head is firmly planted up your high school-educated ass.

11. While walking your orange service dog, do not wear dark sunglasses. Do not tilt your head slightly upward. These will be seen as a further attempt to stereotypically and mockingly ape the sightless.

12. Just forget about dogs altogether, okay?

13. Do not underestimate the blind. Though they claim they can’t see much of anything, that doesn’t stop them from seeing your ass and then kicking it.

14. Do not be embarrassed to seek medical attention, regardless of who bloodied your face and whether or not there was anything “blind” about the cane they used to do it.

15. Do not wonder why they call it a black eye. Because even the blindest of the color blind among us know it’s more of a purple, and that it hurts just the same.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our idea of a good time is watching a bunch of old people wail on each other. Fortunately, our good friend Gregory Mazurek is here to indulge our strange tastes.

Geriatric Ultimate Fighting

By: Gregory Mazurek

Dear Residents:

In providing quality programming activities at Richmond Rivers Nursing Home, we are pleased to announce that Thursday nights will be changed from bingo to Richmond Rivers Ultimate Fighting (RRUF) sponsored by the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The UFC contacted me on Tuesday after reading in our community bulletin about Ethel Hendleman’s snappy comment that Lorraine Ginford was a “blind bat” for stamping uncalled numbers on her bingo sheet. After consulting with both Ethel and Lorraine, we agreed to allow them to settle their differences over a cage match.

Before you go back to your rooms after breakfast in Sunrise Dining Hall, you’ll be wheeled to the Comfort & Care Room where you’ll find sign-up sheets, liability release forms, and anabolic steroids. If you prefer, you can ask your nurse to include these injections in your morning routine, which will be slightly modified to account for your new exercise regime, tentatively called RUFF Hell Week.

In keeping with the guidelines set forth for RRUF, all participants will undergo a physical training program that would have tested your body’s limit sixty years ago. Today, well, that’s why we have you signing the liability release forms. It’s essential that everyone participates in order to get a chance at Netflix streaming our trademark-pending RRUF Thursday Night Xtreme Madness!

When you get back to your rooms, you won’t have much time to spend watching television, reading, or greeting your grandchildren because you will need to review the rulebook placed next to your emergency call button. Like bingo, you’ll enjoy RRUF because you’ll be playing with your friends, meeting new people, and spending time in the Sunset Recreation Room. Unlike bingo, you’ll be allowed, encouraged, and possibly compensated to kick, grab, punch, tackle, jab, and taunt. Like Tuesday Theme Nights, you’ll be allowed to wear costumes but you still will not be allowed to bite anyone. We cannot stress this enough.

For those who do not make it through the RRUF Hell Week training program, you will still have the opportunity to watch and cheer your fellow residents from outside the steel reinforced caged octagon currently being constructed by the Handy Guys community club.

This coming Saturday, we’ll have our first practice round in which 81-year-old Fletcher Thompson will bring his domino-steady hands to battle against 91-year-old Stewart Carrington and his bad knee.

“I’m going to send Stewart back to physical therapy,” Fletcher said in a statement yesterday.

Afterwards, 87-year-old Rebecca Sandrom will arrive straight from St. Steven’s Hospital to wage war against 89-year-old Lucy Jackson, who says she’s “been waiting since last month’s movie night for an opportunity at revenge.”

“My bad back won’t stop me from busting her knee again,” Rebecca stated at last night’s weigh-in.

Following this, a steel ceiling will be lowered upon the octagon for our main event. Lorraine and her 101 lbs. of geriatric steel will engage Ethel and her 103 lbs. of re-constructive knee surgery in what some residents are already calling “a legal nightmare.”

We hope you’re as excited as we are about this new program. A lot of the pent-up frustrations that have come to surface during recent bingo nights can now be released during what will hopefully be a cornerstone fundraising generator for the home.

Best of luck and remember to bend with your knees.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel. We are not the greatest intellects in all of human history, but we make fun of the greatest intellects in all of human history. Does that count? We didn't think so. Nonetheless, we hope you enjoy Bryan Berrey's take on the godfather of Scholasticism.

Thomas Aquinas’s Childhood Journal (Excerpts)

By: Bryan Berrey

(Age 4)

Article XXXI: Whether I stole Laurie’s apple juice during nap time?

Objection I: It would seem that I stole Laurie’s apple juice during nap time. For it was said: “Thomas, go sit in the corner. And say you’re sorry to Laurie for drinking her juice” (Miss Ellen).

Objection II: Further, once in the corner, I wedgied Billy and made him eat glue.

On the contrary, it is written: “Share everything” (that poster on the wall, right above the carpet where Billy puked up the glue).

I answer that we all have to share like it says on the poster. Firstly, because Holy Writ says so: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Also, everyone has to share because sometimes they have lots of something (juice, for example) that they never even drink and that someone else (me, for example) wants. When I play with my blocks, Miss Ellen makes me share with that Greek Orthodox kid, even though they’re my blocks and he picks his nose and smells and is dumb. Hence, I should get to have juice when I’m thirsty. For the best part about school is the juice (except on Fridays when we get chocolate milk).

Reply to Objection I: If I have to share my blocks with a smelly nose-picker, then Laurie has to share her juice. I was only sharing her juice, just like the poster says. For the poster says to share everything, and “everything” includes juice. Hence, Miss Ellen shouldn’t have made me sit in the corner.

Reply to Objection II: He started it.

(Age 9)

Article MCDIII: Whether we should let Laurie play in the treehouse with us?

Objection I: It would seem that we should let Laurie play in the treehouse with us. For it was said: “You boys better let that nice Laurie girl play with you. She’s as sweet as can be, and she never hurt anybody” (my mom).

Objection II: Further, the treehouse would be more fun if there was a girl. For according to Holy Writ (Genesis 2:18–22), “…the LORD God said it is not good that the man should be alone…and made He a woman.”

On the contrary, it is written: “No Girls Allowed” (the sign on the treehouse).

I answer that the law of the treehouse (by vote) is that no girls are allowed. Thus, girls can’t play in the treehouse, for as the Apostle shows (Romans 2:14-15), human law derives from eternal law, as dictated by practical reason. Laurie also refused to take the treehouse oath, whereby all new members must count backwards from ten while smelling the bag of old eggs (and a dead squirrel, now that we found one), then solemnly promise to uphold the rules (and seal the oath with a spit shake). Therefore, Laurie can’t be in our club, since according to the Apostle (Hebrews 6:16), oaths are used for the purpose of confirmation. Further, girls are lame.

Reply to Objection I: Laurie wasn’t so innocent last summer when she may or may not have put itching powder in Dave’s shirt. For it was said: “Wait — awww, geez! I think Laurie put itching powder in this shirt” (Dave).

Reply to Objection II: It is said: “Can’t live with ’em…Can’t shoot ’em” (that bearded guy who sits outside the Happy Goat Tavern and mumbles to himself about that farm Ms. Vergano lives on, who all the grownups call Ten Sheep Johnny even though he only owns five sheep).

(Age 15)

Article MMMCLXIX: Whether Vanessa will go to the dance with me if I ask her?

Objection I: It would seem that Vanessa won’t go to the dance with me if I ask her. For Antonio from the soccer team already gave her his class ring, and supposedly she’s totally into him, according to her friends (Cristina and Rosa). Hence, I shouldn’t even bother asking.

Objection II: Further, it seems that I should really ask Laurie anyway, insofar as I’ve known her since forever, and it is written: “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter” (Sirach 6:14). Further, anytime I get a cold, she always brings me my homework or whatever, and she even made soup that one week I had the bad diarrhea. Further, unlike Vanessa, she’d definitely say yes.

On the contrary, it is written: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye might obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

I answer that things were totally starting to happen with me and Vanessa before Antonio even moved here from Florence. One time she asked if she could borrow my notes from philosophy, and I was like “Why?” and she was like, “Are you kidding? You’re like the smartest kid in that class.” Further, there were a bunch of times we’d see each other in the hall, and she’d smile and wave before I even said anything. Further, when I had Dave find out if she liked me — like, like-liked me – she said I was cute, when she could have just been like whatever. Further, one time, Dave told me that Cristina told him that Vanessa is into musicians, and she doesn’t even know yet that I play the lyre, and I can play almost every Summa 41 song (the old ones at least, before they sold out). Hence, I have as good of a chance with Vanessa as anybody.

Reply to Objection I: Cristina and Rosa don’t know anything. Antonio is a douchebag, and just because he plays sports that doesn’t mean girls will automatically throw themselves at him. Vanessa may be going through a phase right now, but she thinks I’m smart and funny, plus I’m sensitive and I listen. That must count for something.

Reply to Objection II: Meh.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where religious conspiracy novels are more than mere entertainment, they're a way of life. Our good friend Mel Stefaniuk has studied the sterling example of Dan Brown and reached the only possible conclusion.

As Your Life Coach, I Strongly Suggest You Give Up On Your Dreams And Write A Religious Conspiracy Novel

By: Mel Stefaniuk

Oh boy. You’re interested in becoming a musician, huh? All right. I think you’d better sit down, we need to have a little chat.

I’m sure it seems cool to be a musician. You get to write songs about motorcycles and jukeboxes, call beers “brewskis” and have sex with a lot of women. It’s the ultimate life of no regrets. I mean, look at those debauched rock stars we see living the high life: Mick Jagger doing the “Harlem Shuffle,” Jimmy Buffet appearing barefoot on album covers, or even Kid Rock wearing those outlandish fedoras. Who wouldn’t want to live the life these freewheeling superstars have?

Well, it’s pointless to try. It’s just not a practical career choice in this modern world full of illegal downloading, music-less MTV and a Rolling Stone magazine no longer being edited by Joe Levy. Imagine if Bruce Willis released his album The Return of Bruno in this day & age…it’d be a flop! And if Bruno’s return couldn’t even get people to buy music, what chance do you think you’d have?

That’s why I’m going to tell you what I tell all my clients foolishly trying to do what they’re passionate about: you’ve got to write a religious conspiracy novel.

It’s not hard. Look at the shelf behind me — see those books? Yeah. I wrote all of them. The Magdalene Continuum, Apostle Protocol, A Conspiracy of Arks and Citizen Christ were all big hits, each one featuring a new religious conspiracy for veteran linguistics expert Donald Crane to solve.

Are they good? Not particularly. Did I make enough money off of them to buy a pontoon boat and start my own fledgling life coaching business? Yes. Religious conspiracy novels made my dreams come true and they can make yours come true too.

Don’t think you can’t do it. Anyone can create a religious conspiracy novel. Have you been to a bookstore recently? As soon as you open the front door you’re crushed under an avalanche of novels that have pictures of angel statues crying blood on the front cover. Look, here are the covers to all my books: each one just has a different species of snake wrapped around a cross!

Coming up with a cover image that blends religious iconography with an inanimate bleeding object or a mysterious animal is the toughest part of the job and even that’s not difficult. I can think of some stuff right off the top of my head: what about a close-up of a lion’s eye with the reflection of the Vatican in it, or maybe a cherub bleeding onto an ancient parchment and his blood is forming the image of a monk assassin holding a gun. Wait, that one’s pretty good, I call dibs on it.

You don’t have any writing experience? It doesn’t matter. Ninety percent of any religious conspiracy novel consists of fifty percent banal investigations of tombs/crypts/churches and fifty percent ridiculously implausible revelations. Here, let me read you an excerpt from Citizen Christ:

* * * * * * *

Donald slowly crept along the edge of the room, lightly tapping his gloved knuckle against the ancient wooden walls. Donk. Donk. Donk. Thonk. A grin grew across his face as he knocked against that part of the wall again. Thonk. He silently motioned for the priest to bring him a high-powered pneumatic drill, which he then proceeded to use to quickly and violently punch a massive hole into the church’s wall.

“Looks like this holy place just got a lot more holey,” Donald joked to the priest as he pointed to the hole in the wall to explain the joke.

After he finished laughing, Donald grabbed a lit torch that happened to be sitting on a pew and carefully made his way through the hole. A cold chill filled the room on the other side and the distinct smell of religious history wafted through the air. He swung the torch to the far corner of the room and there in the darkness, he could make out the shape of an old wooden bed. The same wooden bed that was mentioned in the missing pages of the Bible he had found in the diamond mines under Jerusalem. Dried blood coated the bed, soaked so deep into the wood that it would never be wiped off. Jesus’ blood. This was it. This is where they held him captive while his twin brother was being crucified.

* * * * * * *

You know what Dan Brown did before he started writing religious conspiracy novels? He was a musician. That’s right, like you, Dan unsuccessfully tried to follow his terribly misguided dreams. He released three albums in the early nineties, writing should-have-been-hits such as “976-LOVE,” a synth-and-sax-filled pop ode to telephone sex. You know where that song debuted on the Billboard charts? Negative four. It actually went into the negatives because four people paid to not have to buy it.

Sure, the fact that he was awful at it might be the reason he failed as a musician, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Dan didn’t find success until he wrote a religious conspiracy novel. Do you really want to toil away unsuccessfully at something you’re passionate about or would you rather just skip to the part where you make gazillions of dollars writing fluff disguised as spiritual gobbledygook?

It’s time to give up on your implausible ambitions and time to put on a turtleneck sweater and sport coat. You’ve got a lot of awkward back cover photos to pose for.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your New Yorker away from the New Yorker. This week please say a big friendly hello to Michael Wolman. This is his first piece for us.

Standup Comedy For New Yorker Subscribers

By: Michael Wolman

Bonsoir! It’s great to be back in New York. I love it here. It’s always nice to be in a place where people don’t think Wittgenstein is a type of beer mug.

Not that I have anything against Middle America, mind you. Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio…Great places to live. But just to give you an example, last week I was in Omaha, and M was playing. You know, the Fritz Lang classic…And the woman next to me, she says, “Oh, I love Judi Dench!” She thought it was the newest James Bond flick! Yeah, right. And Z starred Antonio Banderas. Corncob…

Speaking of movies, how about that Anthony Lane? What a great critic. Brilliant. I love it when they give him an absolute cream puff and then let him just go to town on it. I mean, the dude has reviewed The Da Vinci Code and Sex and the City. Seriously? Sex and the City? For A-Train Lane? That would have been like assigning Valley of the Dolls to Frank Kermode. Come on, Remnick, challenge the guy!

But seriously. Like I say, it’s great to be back in New York. I visited MOMA today to check out the new Murakami exhibit. Anyone see that yet? It’s great. Very Oldenburg-meets-Miyazaki…My problem with Murakami is that whenever my friends discuss him at parties, it takes me a moment to divine whether they’re talking about Haruki Murakami or Takashi Murakami. Don’t you hate that? I hate that. I’ll overhear something about “fantastical post-modernism,” and then I’ll go over and join the discussion, and I’ll make a total ass of myself by explaining how I found Kafka on the Shore too accessible — only to discover they were discussing Takashi, not Haruki! So humiliating.

It’s easy to embarrass yourself these days…. Like, have you noticed how many people mispronounce “Roethke?” Last month I was in Cincinnati — might as well be the South, by the way — and my wife’s cousin is discussing mid-century prosody, and she mentions Roethke and pronounces it “Roath-key.” Can you believe that? Not even close. So I correct her, right? And she calls me an elitist!…Right. I’m an “elitist” for actually knowing the pronunciation of a Pulitzer winner’s name. The same thing happens to me in Texas when I correct people on “Nabokov” or “Barthelme.” They should be embarrassed, not me.

Anyway, those are the kinds of things that never happen in New York, am I right? People here know the things people should know. Even on the subway, which I love…One thing I’ve noticed on the trains is the difference between black people and white people. See, black people read books like Beloved and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, while white folks prefer books like Darkness at Noon and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Ever notice that? Seriously, you know why Ellison called it Invisible Man? I’ll tell you why: ’cause all the white kids who are forced to read it in school have never looked at a single word of the text. It might as well be invisible to them! They’re too busy reading Proust, I suppose. At least, my kids are.

Anyway, that’s all the time I have tonight. You folks have been great. Merci! Merci beaucoup. Vous pouvez me retrouver ici, toute la semaine.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the milk of human kindness is only 1%, or sometimes skim. It has been quite a while since we heard from Mark Peters (check out his "Words of Wisdom" from Novermber 26, 2008, in our Archives). But now he's back, and this time it's personal.

Compassion And Empathy

By: Mark Peters

People are frustrating. Bad waiters, crazy drivers, and ruthless dictators who frighteningly resemble Bob Dylan are everywhere. Some neighbors don’t even return a “Hi” or a salad bowl. No wonder so many people spend their days alternating between road rage and ‘roid rage and beyond.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of drowning in a vat of anger and frustration, every single day, wouldn’t you rather soak in a hot tub of compassion for your fellow beings, forever? I know I would, and that’s just what I do.

Here’s my secret: Anytime I get annoyed, offended, outraged, miffed, or consumed by white-hot vengeance — because of anyone at all — I imagine they just killed a guy. That one mental leap prevents a lifetime of stumbles.

Let’s take the world of dating. A first date is stressful and full of questions like “Do I look OK?” and “Holy crap, is that hair coming out of his ear really four inches long?” Instead of wasting your time on questions no one can answer, you should focus on an answer you can embrace: this potential soulmate isn’t just a young professional who enjoys road trips and live music, but a young murderer who enjoys killing guys, then destroying the bodies with sulfuric acid while cackling. That thought alone can turn a dismal date around.

You can use this method with your dearest family members too. Do you have “daddy issues,” like every single person who has ever lived? Maybe you can’t understand why your father never calls, or drinks like a fish, or thinks he can command fish when he puts on his Aquaman costume. While you’re trying to get the old rascal to leave the aquarium peacefully, consider this: what if your dad has not only been drinking daily since he was 12, but killing guys daily for the same period? This puts your father in a whole new light, allowing you to be more patient and understanding.

Can you imagine committing homicide — and getting away with it — when you were twelve? Then getting addicted to snuffing out life, continuing to kill and kill and kill, all the way through your teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties, never missing a beat, cruising your way to the status of greatest serial killer of all time, not just in terms of numbers but because of your incredible secrecy and effectiveness? No wonder your dad drinks. He has a lot on his plate.

My philosophy of maybe-they-killed-a-guy-ism applies to more than relationships and family — it helps us understand the complicated world of politics. Like a lot of folks, I’m frustrated with the President. But what if Obama has more on his mind than budgets and terrorism and jobs and polls and kinetic military actions? What if he started killing guys with his bare hands and teeth, just for kicks, and the secret service has been covering it up? What if he’s out-killing our forces in Afghanistan singlehandedly? That could distract a fella.

It’s about empathy — putting yourself in the other person’s blood-stained shoes. I mean, after I kill a guy I’m very preoccupied. I worry about how much DNA evidence I left behind, and if anyone will check the Winnebago. I wonder if a hand grenade would’ve been more effective. I wonder if a stern warning would’ve been more prudent. I’m a mess.

But if I constantly dwell on the guys I’ve garroted, shot, drowned, stabbed with bayonets, dropped off buildings, starved in my dungeon, and smooshed with a zamboni, then I’m guilty of something worse than being a merciless psychokiller: I’m being a self-centered boob. Who wants to be that? I’d rather open my mind than harden my heart.

Wouldn’t you?

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are the first to admit we should not ever help staff a suicide hot line. Our first reaction to any caller would no doubt be to yell "Go for it!" And when you read this week's piece from first-time contributor Christopher Haygood, that is what you will be tempted to yell at Mr. Edgar Lamont.

The Suicidal Tendencies Of Edgar J. Lamont

By: Christopher Haygood

Date: Saturday, May 3
To: Susan Lamont; Steven Lamont; Greg Dreyfuss; Ted Thompson;…
Subject: My Demise

Dearest family and friends,

Things have become unbearable. Every night is a hell worse than the last, and every day is a sandstorm of apathy and deflation. Food no longer tastes good; air no longer smells sweet; laughter no longer sounds like an ode to life. It is with a heavy heart that I write this: I have decided to leave this world. By the time you finish this sentence I shall have drowned myself in the bathtub.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me over the years. This is my choice, and nothing could have been done for me. Goodbye. If there is another life, I hope to see you all in it.

Don’t Blame Yourselves,

Edgar Lamont

* * * * * * *

Date: Saturday, May 10
To: Susan Lamont; Steven Lamont; Greg Dreyfuss; Ted Thompson;…
Subject: The End

Dear family and friends,

Things are worse than ever. I don’t remember even my fondest childhood memories, and all worldly pleasures are fleeting, like the clouds drifting across the night sky. Sometimes I look to those clouds and wonder what it would be like to live up there…freely…without pain. By the time you finish reading this, I too will lead a pain-free existence, having hanged myself from the rafters of my neighbor’s barn.

I will never forget you all. Until I die, of course, but that goes without saying.

It Had To Be Like This,

Ed Lamont

* * * * * * *

Date: Saturday, May 17
To: Susan Lamont; Steven Lamont; Greg Dreyfuss; Ted Thompson;…
Subject: Final Sunset

Dear all,

I mean it this time. Honestly, I thought I was doing better, but I got such a lackluster response to the last note that I thought I might as well end it already. No sense in living if my only acquaintances aren’t going to make me feel good about it. Sigh. I guess the universe truly is a bleak and desolate place.

By the time you finish this I will have done myself in like the warriors of ancient Japan, through the glorious art of seppuku, or, for the unworldly among you (Steve), stabbing myself in the friggin’ stomach.

I wonder: What could life have been, were my existence not so wretched?

Life Sucks,


P.S. I don’t believe I need to remind you that you are all in my will, and I can take you out at any time.

* * * * * * *

Date: Sunday, May 18
To: Susan Lamont; Steven Lamont; Greg Dreyfuss; Ted Thompson;…
Subject: (none)

Dear people who are supposed to be there for me but aren’t,

Susan: I am going to do it, and whenever you say I’m not, oh, it just brings me that much closer. And what do you mean it “doesn’t matter” if I take you out of my will because I “don’t have anything anyway”? If a collection of over 200 multi-brand Frisbees — some of them quite rare — is nothing, then sure, I guess I have nothing. You know what? You’re out of the will.

Greg: I am not being a drama queen. And you’re the one who is immature. Who disregards a friend in need? You are no friend, indeed. And you’re out of the will.

Dr. Thompson: You’ve been my psychiatrist for three years, I just thought you’d want to know if a patient were going to end his own life. Fine, you’re off the list. I hope you don’t mind having a guilty conscience! And although you weren’t in the will, I’m putting you in, just so I can take you out. Feel the burn, Dr. Douche.

Steve: I called you unworldly because you are. You’re also smelly and fat, and your band sucks so much I think it might have caused my hopeless depression. You’re like the worst brother ever, seriously. Out of the will.

Time to go shoot myself, like Hemingway. Oh, the plight of the artist…Not that you Philistines would know.

Burn in Hell,


* * * * * * *

Date: Friday, May 23
To: Susan Lamont; Steven Lamont; Greg Dreyfuss;…
Subject: Guess what?

Hey morons,

For your cold-hearted responses, I’m not going to kill myself — I’m going to live to old age just to spite you! And I’m gonna live each day to the fullest! How’s that? I bet you’re feeling pretty sorry now! Ha ha!

By the time you’ve finished reading this letter, I will be out fulfilling all the dreams I’ve had since childhood (remember when I said I forgot all my childhood memories? I lied!). Oh, the places I’ll go, the food I’ll eat, the fun I’ll have — it’s a rebirth! And all because you wicked bastards tried to convince me that suicide was the answer! Sorry to foil your plans, “family” and “friends”: I’m alive!

And it feels great!

Very Sincerely,

Edgar J. Lamont

* * * * * * *

Date: Saturday, May 24
To: Steven Lamont; Greg Dreyfuss; Ted Thompson;…
Subject: *Important*

To the friends and family of Edgar Lamont,

The worst has happened: Our dear Ed has passed away.

Certain details are sketchy, but it has been concluded that, immediately after sending his final email, Edgar charged out of the house with what his neighbors described as “an off-putting look of childish joy,” at which time he tripped over a garden hose and impaled himself on a very sharp rake. He was twenty-six.

We will all miss poor Ed, but if there is one thought that can help us find solace in his absence, it’s that he died doing what he loved: dying.


Susan Lamont

P.S. Although Edgar repeatedly referenced a will in his many suicide notes, it couldn’t be located even after an extensive search of his home, leading us to believe that he never had one in the first place. Therefore, his monetary savings ($115.89), magazines, and collection of 200 multi-brand Frisbees will be parceled and distributed equally amongst everyone on this “Weekly Suicide Update” mailing list. The funeral is next Saturday, and God bless.