* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where if you're anything like us (God help you), you would much rather stay in a hotel than with a relative during this joyous holiday season. And now, thanks to our very own Amy Vansant, there is a hotel for you even if you are anything like us. Merry merry, scary scary.

A Hotel Choice For Every Lifestyle

By: Amy Vansant

I’d like to stay in a new Penultimate Southeastern brand hotel. Should I choose the Penultimate Southeastern “Classic” or the Penultimate Southeastern “Premium” location?

We’re glad you asked! Both hotels are of the highest quality and feature all the comforts a busy traveler expects, including free parking, convenient airport proximity and complimentary towels. Your choice depends on nothing more than your lifestyle preferences!

The Penultimate Southeastern Classic is $7.99 per night and the Premium is $130. Why the price difference?

The differences between the hotels are minor. The beds in our Penultimate Southeastern Premium Hotels are slightly more comfortable and feature 600 thread-count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets. You can rest easy knowing each of your bed’s four legs will remain on the floor for the duration of your stay. And at either property, you can enjoy morning coffee at our adjoining cafes!

Wouldn’t my bed legs stay on the floor no matter where I stayed?

We certainly can’t vouch for the bed stability of other hotel chains. But we can promise that both the Penultimate Southeastern Classic and Penultimate Southeastern Premium properties feature complimentary robes, scented shampoos and eco-friendly disposable shower caps! Forgot your toothbrush? No problem! Just stop by the front desk and one will be provided to you at no cost. As a bonus, the Penultimate Southeastern Premium Hotel is also built on ground approved and blessed by Indian shamans, making it 100% guaranteed poltergeist-free.

Wait, are you saying the Penultimate Southeastern Classic has poltergeists?

No, of course not! We’re only saying that we can’t guarantee that it does not have poltergeists. What we CAN guarantee is that both our family-friendly properties have 100% free cable! Watch your favorite shows and access hundreds of on-demand movies! Just stay the recommended distance away from the television screens and there is almost no chance you’ll be sucked into an inter-dimensional vortex.

What’s an inter-dimensional vortex?

It is very much like, but not completely identical to the inter-dimensional wormholes possibly located in certain closets at the Penultimate Southeastern Classic property. But you’ll be too busy enjoying our 100% free Wi-Fi access to pay any attention to the ankle-biting clowns that may or may not live underneath your firm, clean bed, lovingly turned down nightly by our stunningly fast team of room technicians.

Are they fast because they’re efficient, or because they’re terrified of the ankle-biting clowns?

I’m sorry, Sir, I think your cell phone dropped there for a moment and I didn’t catch that.

I’m on a landline.

Did we mention that both our properties feature room massage and spa services upon request? Whether you like Swedish or warm stone massage, we can take the stress out of your busy day! I should note that this service is temporarily unavailable in our Classic property until we’re able to retrieve the masseuse.

Retrieve the masseuse?

Did I say retrieve? I meant “find.”

Did she quit?

Something like that.

I think I’d prefer to stay in the Penultimate Southeastern Premium Hotel.

We thought you would.

Are you aware that “Penultimate” actually means “second-to-last”?

No, it doesn’t. It means “best.”

No…it means “second-to-last.”

But it has the word “ultimate” in it. That’s impossible.

Well, inflammable means flammable.

* * * * * * *


Hold your horses. I’m Googling it.

Oh. Sorry.


Told you.

Well, you don’t have to be all superior about it. Do you have ANY idea how many logo towels we had printed? Not to mention napkins, little plastic cups, matchbooks…

Honestly, I think you have bigger troubles than the name.

Sigh. You have no idea. This whole thing has been a nightmare. If it isn’t the vortex it’s the wormhole, if it isn’t the wormhole, it’s the clowns…

At least the Penultimate Southeastern Premium Hotel is guaranteed to be 100% poltergeist free.

We might have fudged that stat a little.

It isn’t 100% poltergeist free?

More like 30%.


There are actually about 45% more clowns. But their arms seem shorter, so if you take a sort of running leap off the bed —

Could you, ah, maybe give me the number for the Marriott?

Yep. Have it right here.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, God's gift to literary humor. This week God's gift to our site, webmaster Amy Vansant, has a piece that will save your soul if anything can.

My Life As A Religious Miracle Marketer

By: Amy Vansant

A simple slice of toast launched my career as a professional Miracle Marketer.

I was peering, bemused, at what appeared to be the toasted visage of my Uncle Frank on a piece of rye, when my wife popped her head over my shoulder and said, “I see it. Like the Shroud of Turin, right?”

That’s when it hit me. I grabbed my coat and drove like a hellcat to my friend Ben’s downtown deli. I raised my toasted rye, triumphantly, for him to inspect.

“Can you see it?” I asked.

He squinted and leaned across the counter for a better look.

“It kind of looks like Donald O’Connor,” he mumbled.

With Ben’s permission, I set up the toast on his deli counter for all to see.  A last burst of divine inspiration had me instructing Ben to tell his customers the toast had come from his kitchen.

Ben sold over 500 corned beef on rye sandwiches that weekend.

From the 1999 Arthur Treacher’s “Loads of Fishes” event, to the “Weeping Michael Jordan” phenomenon at the United Center in Chicago, I have created Miracle Business Promotions since that humble piece of toast launched my career.

Selecting the appropriate subject for a Miracle Marketing campaign is of the utmost importance. You can’t just ask people to fill out a card that says “How was my service? Have you spoken to Jesus lately?”  The miracle should be immediately recognizable to customers. The sudden appearance of stigmata could be traumatic to a non-Christian. Apollo crossing the sky in a sun chariot these days would have little to no value. I need to go deep undercover, often posing as an employee in order to subtly poll my client’s customers.

For example:

Me: Would you like cream with your coffee, sir?
Customer: Yes, please.
Me: Sugar?
Customer: No.
Me: Hey, you catch the 700 Club last night?
Customer: What? No…
Me: Me either. *cough* Praise Allah. *cough*
Customer: What’s that?
Me: Hey, by the way, we have a special on bagels and lox today.
Customer: Really? That sounds good.
Me: Ah ha!
Customer: Ah ha what?
Me: Nothing, sir. I’ll be right back with your breakfast!

Next, it is time to pick the milieu. Burnt toast images are overdone at best (pun intended!).  I try to incorporate my client’s business into the Miracle. For instance, if they own a barbershop, I might have an image appear in hair clippings on the floor (Oklahoma City Hair Cuttery, 1996, “Samson Event”).

Miracles also can’t be too fleeting. We had to be very careful not to walk too quickly past the Samson image, or the hair clippings started to shift like the desert sands.  Someone trots by in a long skirt, and the next thing you know, Samson looks like Sammy Davis Jr.

But you also can’t be too obvious about the preservation of your miracle. If your spilled birdseed “happens” to form the image of St. Francis, you don’t want people discovering the seeds have actually been painstakingly glued to the floor. (Wild Bird Center, Maryland, 1997.)

Location is important. Everyone likes a good pilgrimage. But if your business is in the middle of the Utah desert, people are going to think twice before they pack up the kids to visit The John Smith Cactus. Frankly, the Utah desert was probably a bad place to set up that Coffee Beanery franchise in the first place, so I’m not going to take all the responsibility for that flop.

For the most part, I’ve learned to keep things simple.  Adding “tears of blood” to a statue or creating a Buddha that actually shakes with laughter will quickly rouse the scientists with all their “tests” and “facts,” and may shut down an event prematurely.

Done right, Miracle Marketing can increase business for a client 1000-fold in the short term, and a good 20% long-term.  On the other hand, depending on his or her beliefs, it may also damn them for eternity. For that reason, I have some pretty ironclad contracts.

Rewards in this world or the next: that is up to my client to decide. I’m just the man with the vision.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it is our pleasure to sneeze all over you and infect you with our disease. Now make like our webmaster Amy Vansant and write about it!

The Flu Diaries

By: Amy Vansant


Brother-in-law invites us over to watch football. Upon arriving, he admits the kids have been swapping the flu, but kept it a secret for fear my hypochondriac husband wouldn’t visit. What a scamp! My laughter drowns ominous foreshadowing music playing in the background.

I spend hours singing with niece, a.k.a. “Patient Zero.” Forty-thousand viruses swarming video game microphone sing backup in screechy virus voices, but go unheard thanks to my stirring rendition of “Life is a Highway.”


We drive home. Viruses begin digging trenches, preparing for the upcoming battle. My white blood cells play poker with platelets, nary a care in the world.


The viruses share battle plans through their hive-mind. “We are the Borg,” they say. “Existence as you know it is over.” My white blood cells shrug. They never watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. They assume someone is mumbling about 1978 professional men’s tennis and, inspired, trot off for a quick match.


Wake up with sore throat, which I blame on window left open all night. White blood cells think “open window” theory seems reasonable and return to throwing clay in pottery class. One of the white blood cells puts on “Unchained Melody” from the Ghost soundtrack and they all have a good laugh.


Head is threatening to explode with congestion. White blood cells scramble for their uniforms and weapons, only to find viruses have stolen and hidden them while white blood cells were skinny-dipping.

Viruses burst into uncontrollable giggles.


Spend day on sofa. Start watching old Bones episodes on Netflix. Realize after two episodes that every show is exactly the same. Proceed to watch seasons 2005-2009.

Viruses and white blood cells now engaged in full-scale war. White blood cells scream for antibiotic backup, only to be answered by theme from Bones.


Spend day on sofa. Barely have enough energy to cross nieces’ names off Christmas list.

Somewhere near lungs a white blood cell shows a picture of his family to a fellow soldier and is immediately mowed down by viruses.


Spend day on sofa. Dog has not been walked for a week and helpfully presses body against door in case I’ve forgotten how to find my way out of the house.

In classic evil despot style, viruses have engaged on too many fronts. White blood cells begin to turn the tables. Tiny bits of Italian and French DNA stop rooting for viruses and begin cheering on white blood cells.


Cough all night. Awake to find tired husband hovering over me with hands wrapped around my throat. Insists he was trying to apply Vick’s VapoRub.

White blood cells start looting virus strongholds for collectibles to impress their girlfriends.


Husband and dog have gone missing. Find rambling note that implies they’re fulfilling life-long dream of completing Australian “walkabout.” Find them sleeping in garage.

White blood cells return from battle to find unappreciative red blood cells have been high whole time they were gone and have stolen their girlfriends.


Coughing subsides. Nieces call about upcoming birthday party. Pretend they’ve accidentally called Chinese takeout and hang up.