* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to think we hold you hostage in a pleasant way once a week. Say hello to Eric Hawthorn, whose first piece for this page reads like a Coen Brothers script. And we mean that as a compliment.

Ransom

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WE HAVE YOUR SON. IF YOU WANT HIM ALIVE PLACE $1,000,000 IN UNMARKED NONSEQUENTIAL BILLS IN A DUFFEL BAG AT THE HARBOR AT MIDNIGHT.

OR ELSE…

* * * * * * *

WE STILL HAVE YOUR SON.

WE ASSUME YOU MISPLACED OUR FIRST NOTE AND THEREFORE COULD NOT FOLLOW OUR DIRECTIONS. YOU HAVE ONE MORE CHANCE. NO DOUBT THE LOVE YOU FELT FOR YOUR SON AS A CHILD ENDURES TODAY. IF YOU WANT TO SEE HIM AGAIN YOU WILL PROMPTLY COMPLY.

$1,000,000. HARBOR. MIDNIGHT.

* * * * * * *

WE WILL ACCEPT HALF A MILLION.

YOUR SON IS TROUBLED. WON’T STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT HIS CHILDHOOD: NO NINTENDO, NO DOG, FEW FRIENDS. FORCED TO SHARE A BEDROOM WITH HIS YOUNGER BROTHER, WHO WHIMPERS IN HIS SLEEP. YOUR SON MAY BENEFIT FROM THERAPY.

$500,000. DUFFEL BAG. HARBOR. MIDNIGHT.

THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE!!!

* * * * * * *

You are bad parents. No wonder your son has wasted the best years of his life drinking Robitussin by the bottle and watching bad television, which he quotes to us incessantly. We can only take so many Adult Swim references in one day. We are prepared to kill him.

$100,000. Duffel bag. Harbor. Midnight. Continue reading

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Little is known about the fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Picasso.

MICHELANGELO: Totally rad — this toxic waste has made us into, like, super-turtles!!

PICASSO: Bros, I don’t feel so great after all that toxic waste.

LEONARDO: I’m stronger than ever and I can easily wield this Japanese sword I just found. How about you, Picasso? What’s your special new power?

PICASSO: I’m nauseous, and all my hair is falling out.

DONATELLO: In Japanese, “hair falling out” is “hea-shikkyaku-auto.” My awesome new power is knowing Japanese.

LEONARDO: Doitashi mashitay. Ha ji may ma shitay!

DONATELLO: Good one. Japanese is easy.

RAPHAEL: And I feel super light and agile. Cowabunga!

PICASSO: I also feel totally light, bro. But I think it’s totally less due to a new power and more due to a lack of red blood cells, white blood cells, and hair.

DONATELLO: And it’s totally cool that we all have our own colors now!

LEONARDO: Yeah. Like, Raphael is red, Donatello is purple, Picasso is albino and bleeding uncontrollably, and Michelangelo is orange.

RAPHAEL: How about weapons, dudes? I just have this feeling that I am going to kick tail with Ninja daggers.

PICASSO: Does having too many chromosomes count as a weapon? I have five too many chromosomes.

MICHELANGELO: The bo staff counts. I am good at the bo staff.

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45-Year-Old Nancy Drew Reflects

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(The front door opens.)

Nancy: (flicking off Oprah) How was your day, honey?

Allen: (kicking off shoes) Long. My boss was terrible. I’m completely exhausted. How was your day?

Nancy: You know what, it was really good. This morning I got started on the dusting and ironing. After the kids left for school, though, I was rummaging through the attic and I found some of my old case files. My case files, Allen! Remember when I used to sleuth as a girl?!

Allen: Hey, here’s a case you can start on: The Mystery of the Late Dinner. Here’s a clue: it’s late because you haven’t started cooking it yet.

Nancy: Allen, I’m seriously thinking of getting back into the detective business. I used to be really good at it. Plus, the children are almost grown, and I feel like it could be really good for me.

Allen: This is just the hysterectomy talking.

Nancy: I’ve even thought of a title for my first case. I’ll call it Nancy Drew and The Mysterious Ennui.

Allen: Your name is Nancy Sampson now.

Nancy: Allen, you have no idea how moving it was. I was so young, so beautiful. This morning I just sat alone in the attic for hours, weeping quietly to myself.

Allen: Oh, that’s right, dear, go ahead and cry over your silly, girlish detective games.

Nancy: I solved over 200 cases…several involving dangerous felons! There was The Hidden Staircase, The Secret of the Old Clock, and my lesser known case, The Secret of the New Clock.

Allen: And now you can’t even manage to feed your husband? Well, guess what? I’m a detective too. At work today I just solved Women Who Reenter the Workplace and the Case of the Invisible Ceiling. Turns out it was glass. So that’s why it was invisible. It was a glass ceiling.

Nancy: Don’t you want me to have hobbies, Allen?

Allen: Of course. I just, you know, thought the bimonthly Jazzercise was enough.

Nancy: Look, I’ve even found the outfit I used to wear! After a few cycles in the washing machine, it’ll be as good as new!

Allen: Speaking of washing machines, where’s my dinner?

Nancy: I just hope it still fits. I haven’t quite solved The Mystery of the Non-Disappearing Baby Weight Paired with the Compulsive Closet Eating…

Allen: You’re telling me.

Nancy: Sleuthing would probably be good exercise, though.

Allen: Come on, you don’t need any more exercise. You and Type II Diabetes are meant to be together!

Nancy: All right, all right, you win. I guess those floors aren’t going to Swiffer themselves. I’ll just put my case files back in the attic.

Allen: What, aren’t you going to work on The Case of the Hungry Allen? Here’s a clue! He’s hungry because he just got back from work.

Nancy: (sighs) Of course, dear.

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Thank You!

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Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

I hope you both are well! I’m just writing to thank you for the $15 Gap gift certificate you sent me for graduation. I mean, I know I gave you that really long wish list a few months ago, but it was very bold of you to veer from the obvious path. Very imaginative. I was clearly joking when I wrote on the list that any gift worth less than $100 would be a waste of both your time and your money. The gift card is really very considerate, don’t get me wrong. It’s quite thought-provoking. I had no idea they could fit such a tiny amount of money into such a big card!! It’s astounding, really. After school starts, I’ll bring it in and we can examine it, since it’s obviously a scientific miracle!! Just kidding, guys. Thanks a lot.

My graduation was very nice. Our family had a small party to celebrate. Mom and I cooked a beautiful dinner, and Dad gave a huge toast. Almost as huge as the dissatisfaction I feel from my gift card!! I’m just being sarcastic, of course. I love the gift card, thanks so much. I’m getting really good at cooking, by the way. Mom says I get my culinary creativity from her side of the family. I’ve never doubted your creativity, Grandma and Grandpa. Most grandparents, when attempting to psychologically destroy their granddaughter, would take more traditional routes, such as wrecking a beloved stuffed animal or burning their granddaughter with cigarettes. You two, however, are much too clever for those methods. You decided to inflict irreversible emotional damage by giving me a $15 gift card for my high school graduation, and I commend you on your originality. Bravo.

With college approaching, I’ve started thinking a lot about summer jobs. Fortunately, I have a great nest egg to fall back on: a $15 gift card to the Gap! Seriously, though, thank you. It’s the thought that counts. Just keep that in mind in the future, when you both suffer massive strokes and I replace your medications with Jujubes because I think I’m showing you how much I love you!! It’s the thought that will count then, too, right?! I guess graduation doesn’t really merit a larger gift. I’d understand receiving $100 if the event was a big deal like, say, the first Thursday of the month or Garbage Day or something, but it was just my high school graduation. You know, the kind that only occurs once in a lifetime. So no biggie. Really, thanks! I totally appreciate it!

Summer vacation has been wonderful so far. I’ve been able to take a break from schoolwork and spend time doing things I enjoy, like shopping with my friends. Speaking of shopping, it must have taken you forever to pick out my gift card! I visited the Gap the other day so that I could spend your gift. I was obviously unable to purchase the $58 boot-cut jeans that I had wanted so badly, but I did buy a cheap headband. It goes great with both my tears of anguished disappointment and my capris! I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but I think your gift may have permanently altered my view of the world. If I can’t count on my very own Grandma and Grandpa to get me a simple gift off a very legible wish list, then what can I count on? But, hey, don’t feel bad or anything. God is dead. Whatever! Anyway, I’m very forgiving. I realize that wish lists are hard to remember when you’re 92 years old and can’t eat solid foods or cut your own corn off the cob and your favorite snack is Benefiber and your skin feels like Doc Martens and you smell like formaldehyde and poop and you’ve already outlived your life expectancy and could die at any moment. I’m sure you have much better things to worry about, like what time the Lawrence Welk reruns are on and why Mom never calls (here’s a hint: it’s because you suck!!). So don’t worry! I completely understand!!

By the way: my friend Jessica got the same gift card from her father. Who works the night shift at Taco Bell, and beats her. A lot.

Thanks again!

Jenny

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