* Welcome to The Big Jewel, home of the finest in alien health care. No, not that kind of alien, the other kind!

Hello! I’m The Patient!

By: R.D. Ronstad

Hello! I’m The Patient. I’m an alien in your country, and on your planet. Kidnapped from my home planet, Chortowdo, over 1,000 years ago by a sentient Mini-Cooper and transported to Earth, I have lived in the Mini-Cooper and at the same location ever since. You will find us in a Walmart parking lot just north of Chicago.*

Why do I call myself The Patient? Two days after I was born, some Dood (Chortowdoian soothsayer) appeared to me and told me I would leave my planet soon, and that once that happened, I should never reveal my true name to anyone, or “some crazy shit” would happen to the universe.** He never explained what he meant by “crazy shit,” or what I had to do with it or the universe, but I have heeded his warning because our seers have much higher batting averages than yours. And, he was right about the leaving part. At any rate, the first thing I noticed as the Cooper landed in the parking lot was a sign outside a dentist’s office next to the Walmart that said: “New Patients Welcome!”*** The rest is self-explanatory.

Let me tell you a few things about myself. Chortowdoians are very similar to humans. In fact, we have the exact same anatomy as humans, with just two exceptions. First, we have two navels — one in our bellies and one directly across from it in our backs. (No! We cannot be strung together like beads!) Second, we have one toe. Not one toe on each foot — just one toe between them, and no telling on which foot. Except at the beach or pool of course.

Chortowdoians can regenerate, and do, usually, fairly often — not just when we’re dead or almost dead or really embarrassed. Our regenerations are random though. There could be as little as two days between them (rare) or as long as twenty years (rare). They are not accompanied by flashing lights or musical crescendos, and are easy to miss. We just phase out and in — like a TV being switched off and on — at the drop of a fez****, no fanfare. It can be easily missed if you blink. So if you ever meet a Chortowdoian and hope by some extreme long shot to witness a regeneration, remember the most important thing — whatever you do, don’t blink! The origins and survival benefits of regeneration for our race have been debated among us for eons, with no consensus reached. One thing is certain though — it keeps us on our toe.

Disappointingly, the Cooper is smaller on the inside than on the outside, so living in it has been somewhat of a trial. Still, it’s not a bad life overall. I can sleep fairly comfortably as long as I levitate (sorry, forgot to mention that ability earlier) and sleep diagonally. And the Cooper does take care of me, after a fashion. It provides shelter. And food. Every morning I wake up and find water and a selection of healthy food on the dashboard. I don’t know where the Cooper gets them, though. I’ve tried to check under the hood to see if there’s a replicator (Star Trek got that right) under it, but could never get it open. I suppose it’s possible that while I’m sleeping the Cooper shops the isles at Walmart disguised as one of those car carts Earth shoppers push their kids around in.

Personal hygiene is not a problem. Chortowdoians are self-cleaning — not like your cats, more like your ovens. I do regularly need to go numbers one and two (some races have a number three), but that’s no problem since I can use the toilet at Walmart, and when Walmart’s closed, the john at the gas station across the street. They won’t give me the key since I never buy any gas or Twinkies, but I found a sonic corkscrew in the Cooper’s glove compartment that does the job just fine.

As far as getting bored, it’s just not possible for Chortowdoians — we don’t even have a word for it. There’s a story on Chortowdo, probably apocryphal, about a Chortowdoian who waited patiently for 2,000 years for his girlfriend to exit the bathroom, and when she did, they both simply took it in stride.

So life in the Mini-Cooper has not been a bad life all-in-all. Apparently my stay has made some Earth people uneasy, though. During my first 200 or so years here, various Walmart customers would stop by the Cooper and check on me. They had passed the Cooper a number of times during their periodic trips to Walmart and had realized I was living in it, so they became concerned about my welfare. A number of them eventually invited me to become their companion in their homes and on their adventures. I accepted quite a few of these offers, but eventually discovered, without fail, that their homes and adventures were also smaller on the inside. Since then I’ve stuck to the Mini-Cooper.

As you may have guessed, visitors to Earth from other planets (most space aliens look sort of human) spend a lot of time shopping at Walmart. In fact, Walmart is the only reason space aliens come to Earth. (They love those rollbacks!) As a rule though, aliens give Earth a wide berth. Why? Well, there’s no delicate way to put this: they think Earthlings are batshit crazy! And not without reason, I might add.

Occasionally alien shoppers too will stop by the Cooper to chat. But whenever I ask them to take me home with them, I get one of two answers: 1. Since earth is such a long haul from Chortowdo, we’ve filled our ship (every alien race has cloaking technology these days, so don’t bother looking) to the brim with purchases for ourselves and all our relatives. There’s no room. 2. We know who you are and we don’t want to risk contributing to some universe-wide catastrophe.

None of the aliens hang around too long because of their aversion to Earth culture. None of them except “the gang” that is. The gang is a group of three aliens, all of whom do not at all look like humans and are castoffs from their separate planets, They’ve been hanging around the Cooper for the last seventy-five years and have even made me an “honorary member.” I don’t know why they call themselves “the gang” though. I’ve never seen them doing anything gang-like, unless hanging around a parking lot all day every day would qualify. I won’t get much into their respective planets or races, since that would get digressive (more footnotes!). I will however describe their appearance. The gang consists of a white stripe, a small potato, and a handicapped parking sign. It’s their appearance that has enabled them to hang around the parking lot so long and not be noticed. (The handicapped parking sign does not look like that in its natural state. That would be silly! No, it’s a member of a fish-like race and is a shapeshifter.)

The white stripe calls himself Monsieur Shasta. I believe he took this name from a crushed soda can that was lying next to the white stripe in the parking lot the day they arrived. The fish/shapeshifter calls herself Phinnie. The potato (a Spudaran) is actually a potato-sized alien that looks so much like a potato he can (and does) lay on the ground next to the Cooper’s right front tire to avoid detection. People just assume he’s fallen out of somebody’s shopping bag. His name is Lax, appropriate since all he does is lie around all day chanting what he calls his war cry: “Ka-tah-DIN! Ka-tah-DIN! Ka-tah-DIN!” Why Monsieur Shasta and Phinnie want him in the gang I have no idea. Maybe they’re just lousy recruiters.

I appreciate the company of the gang, but I’m still hoping the Cooper will soon return me to Chortowdo, or at least tell me what I’m doing here. And there have been a couple of encouraging developments lately. Over the last couple of years, mysterious writings have been appearing on the windshield of the Cooper, looking like the writings you see on the windshields of used cars for sale. It’s always the same message: “Silence Will Fall!” What exactly does that mean?. Silence will envelope everything? Silence will itself be enveloped? Shut somebody named Will Fall up? I have no idea, but at least it’s a sign something may be happening. The other development took place a couple of times when I went into the glove box for the corkscrew. At the back of the box I saw someone looking at me like you might see someone looking at you through a mail slot, with one of their eyes covered by an eyepatch. The first time, a male voice said, “No, I think he’s awake.” The second time it said, “It’s fine. Your doing fine. Just stay calm.”

So, why…..am I telling you all this?………………………………………………………………………..No, really…………………………………………………..why…………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………………………………..Hello! I’m the Patient.

*You say there were no Walmarts, or even a Chicago, on Earth a thousand years ago? Well, I don’t mean to sound condescending, but you Earthlings have an immature understanding of time.Time is loopy-goopy-hang-on-Sloopy. If that doesn’t make sense to you, I’m sorry, it’s the best I can do given your limitations. As for Mini-Coopers, they appeared on our planet at about the time Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon on yours.

**Chortowdoians are fully literate at birth.

***How did I read the sign? The only reading material in the Cooper during our long journey to Earth was a book called Learn English in 5-9 Easy Steps.

****The fez is the traditional headgear on Chortowdo for both men and women.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where every week is a reenactment of our love for you, the reader. This week it's deja vu all over again, thanks to R.D. Ronstad.

The Reenactor

By: R.D. Ronstad

I am a reenactor. Not a Revolutionary War or Civil War or World War I or II reenactor. Not a Colonial America or American frontier reenactor. Not a medieval times or ancient Greece or Roman times reenactor. Just a reenactor — not limiting myself to any time, any place, or any person. Everything that happens is history, right? (Remember the butterfly effect?) It’s sheer arrogance to say only a miniscule number of events and times and people are historical reenactment-worthy.

Taking this approach, I must admit, does lead to some difficulties. For example, when I follow some guy off a bus, am I just another guy getting off a bus, or am I reenacting the guy in front of me getting off a bus? I’m never quite sure myself. Also, by reenacting things that normally don’t get reenacted, could I be messing with the timeline? Doubtful, but who knows? I consider these types of questions only minor annoyances though. I refuse to let them bog me down. The real problem is dealing with people who willfully or in their ignorance fail to recognize my reenactor status.

* * * * * * *

Take what happened during the last baseball season when one fall day I traveled from my home in Chicago to Appleton, WI hoping to reenact a home run (his first of the season) hit by a nondescript Wisconsin Timber Rattlers player the day before. (The Rattlers were having a rough year and I figured they and their fans could use the pick-me-up.) I took carefully considered precautions to avoid trouble. I would not interrupt play, but would perform my reenactment at the sixth inning, while the grounds crew did their stamping and raking and dragging. I wore a Rattlers jersey with the nondescript player’s number on it but with REENACTOR stitched on it* where the players name would normally go. I brought along a yellow plastic wiffle-ball bat of my nephew’s instead of a wooden bat (so no one would feel threatened as I trotted towards home plate carrying it), which I stuffed in my sweatpants so no one, including security, would ask questions. (I wanted my reenactment to be a surprise for everyone.). And when the moment came and I hopped the fence and headed toward the plate while removing the wiffle-ball bat from my pants, I kept shouting: “Living history! Living history! Living history!” so that anyone within earshot would know my intentions were commendable.

Well, just as I was digging in at home plate, I noticed a couple of angry-faced security guys racing toward me from the third base dugout area. I didn’t even have time to raise the bat over my shoulders. So I dropped it immediately and hightailed it toward first base (which further distorted the reenactment, because no real baseball player hightails it after hitting a home run), at which time I noticed two more security guys starting to take off after me from the first base dugout. I did manage to round first base, all the while continuing to shout over my shoulder: “Living history! Living history! Living history!” But all for naught. Apparently the first base security guys had no qualms about tackling living history.

* * * * * * *

Then a couple of weeks after that, one afternoon after watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the third or fourth time that day, I decided to walk through my neighborhood reenacting the medieval practice of pushing a cart around collecting dead bodies during a plague epidemic.

I figured my neighbors would play along, because most of them by then would have been clued in to my reenactor status, since I had already made numerous reenactment forays into local business establishments (coffee houses, bars, bakeries, laundromats, etc.) and public buildings (library, senior center), and in addition, there had been scurrilous local media accounts** of the unfortunate incident at the Rattlers game.

So I dragged a wheelbarrow out of my tool shed to substitute for a dead-body cart (good enough, since I didn’t anticipate collecting any actual dead bodies), outfitted myself with a drab sweatsuit I picked up on the cheap at Goodwill and then promptly shredded, fashioned a buff-colored kerchief into limp headgear, smeared dirt on my clothes and all my visible body parts, and started off around the neighborhood chanting: “Bring out your dead!” “Bring out your dead!” “Bring out your dead!”

Everything went as planned for about a half hour. People played along, as I had anticipated. No rude remarks. Some sly smiles. Even some faux weeping and moaning. And a number of “dead bodies” were deposited into my wheelbarrow in the form of cracked portable radios, smashed remote controls, and waterlogged cell phones.

Then I came upon the McJerk*** residence. As I walked wearily and morosely past the McJerks, chanting my dead-body chant, they hauled out their perpetually drunken uncle, whose animate status, I must admit, has always been in question, and insisted I haul him away on my “cart” with all the electronic corpses. I didn’t want to point out the obvious, which I’m sure they knew anyway — that I was, in fact, not a dead-body collector, but a dead-body collector reenactor. I didn’t want to break character. Instead, I got into a heated dispute with them as to whether Uncle McJerk was, in fact, dead (yes, just like in the Python movie!). Well, I don’t want to go into all the sordid details, but I just want to point this out for the record: No matter what the McJerks might claim in the upcoming court proceedings, I DID NOT at any time — I repeat, DID NOT — hit any McJerk on the head with my cudgel****.

* * * * * * *

As I mentioned, I frequently do my reenacting at neighborhood establishments. This is, in fact, my favored form of reenacting — on the spot, “you are there,” spontaneous reenacting in honor of “ordinary” people.

This might involve stealthily following some random subject at the supermarket, mentally noting down all his/her movements and selections, and repeating them as precisely as possible once they’ve left the premises. (Resulting, unfortunately, in frequent unnecessary purchases, since half the items I check out — dog food, baby diapers, radishes, Cap’n Crunch’s OOPS! and so forth — I have no use for.) Or listening attentively to cell phone conversations at my local Starbucks and repeating the half of the conversation I heard into my phone word-for-word (short conversations only, obviously) once the person has left. (Sometimes, although this, strictly speaking, does not qualify as reenactment, I even make up imagined responses on the other end, which can be quite entertaining.) Or, at the library, repeating questions to the reference librarian I just heard someone else ask. (Once, a librarian repeated the question word for word back to me. I high-fived him — twice!)

During these pursuits, I usually meet with little resistance, outside of the occasional quizzical look or icy glare. Partly because I always remain as unobtrusive as possible, and partly, I think, because I always take care to wear my REENACTOR baseball cap and t-shirt — hand-embroidered by yours truly.

But something untoward did happen once on a visit to my favorite watering hole–The Shot and A Tear Lounge. I was sitting at the bar, wearing my REENACTOR gear, having just finished my first attempt at street reenacting, which went quite smoothly, if I do say so myself, except for a minor flare-up with the driver of a beat-up Buick LeSabre. Anyway, I had just finished my second rum and coke when I got it in my head to attempt a reenactment of Ricardo the regular bartender’s bottle-flipping routine.

So, when Ricardo was safely down at the far end, I hopped the bar, grabbed a bottle of Seagram’s in my left hand, and proceeded to flip it over my right shoulder from behind my back. Unfortunately, as I tried to grasp the spinning, airborne bottle with my right hand, I closed my fingers too quickly and knocked the Seagram’s into a row of liquor bottles lining the shelf in front of a large mirror facing the bar, shattering several of them (but, thankfully, not the mirror) in the process.

As he hustled me out of the bar and into the street, I kept protesting to Gerald the bouncer that I had not had “way too much,” as he claimed, but that I was simply a reenactor doing what reenactor’s do. And when I finally stood up and regained some dignity after being deposited like a sack of unwanted diapers on the sidewalk, I looked Gerald in the eye, pointed at the lettering on my t-shirt, and said: “Can’t you tell the difference between a reenactor and someone who has had ‘way too much’?” “No!” said Gerald. “And if you ever show up around here again, I’m gonna reenact the bombing of Dresden all over your face!”

* * * * * * *

You might think that two impending court cases (the Rattlers have me up for criminal trespass) and a lifetime ban from The Shot and A Tear would dissuade me from carrying on with my reenacting activities. But you would be wrong. History is constantly happening — every day, every minute, everywhere. And wherever history is, it is calling out to be reenacted. I will be there to answer that call. Even in jail, if it comes to that. Because that’s what I am. The reenactor.

*$15.95 ($5 overnight shipping) at notripoffs.com

**The media proved to be totally unsympathetic to my cause also. But what can you expect from a crowd of ink-stained troglodytes?

***Not their real name. Not Scots, either

****Meat tenderizing mallet










* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the home of fake news about fake news about fake news. Not to get too meta on you, but check out this example from first-time contributor R. D. Ronstad. On another note, please check out our blog roll on the right-hand side of this page for some new material from Big Jewel copy editor David Jaggard, recorded especially for YouTube. For a preview, you can also check out the link below to his newest comic song, "The Pragmatist's Lament."

I Am Interviewed By The New York Times Book Review For Their By The Book Page

By: R. D. Ronstad

What books are on your night stand now?

I don’t have any books on my night stand. There’s no room, because that’s where I keep my 8×10 framed glossy of Adlai Stevenson. I’m not a big fan or anything. It just helps me nod off. There is an entire Great Books collection in a bookcase behind him in the picture, I think, if that counts. You may be interested to know that I’m contemplating writing a book about my night stand, which I’m quite proud of — the night stand, that is. It would be in the vein of Henry Petroski’s books about such things as pencils and toothpicks, or that book I once saw about the making of a Steinway concert grand. I already have the perfect title: One Night Stand. Actually, I have a lot of good titles in mind, but no books yet.


You’re having a literary dinner party. What three writers are invited?

Amanda McKittrick Ros, William Topaz McGonagall, and Roger Bloomfield, who won first prize in our school’s sixth grade fire safety essay contest even though he didn’t deserve it. I’d invite them because that would make me the smart one in the room. I might have to keep Suzanne Somers warmed up in the bullpen though, just in case — and, yes, I do have a bullpen, out behind the greenhouse. It was there when I bought the place. Weird, huh? Anyway, if this dinner party ever did come to pass, I can guarantee you one thing — Roger Bloomfield is going down!


If you could require the President to read one book, what would it be?

Essential CPR and First Aid. Not only because it’s important for everyone to be informed about CPR and first aid, but also because, if he’s lucky, it could earn him hundreds of thousands of votes somewhere down the line, if you catch my drift.


What books might we be surprised to find in your library?

A book on DIY plumbing in the Malayalam language. I have no idea how it got there, so it still surprises even me.


What kind of reader were you as a child? What were your favorite childhood books?

Oh, I was a voracious reader as a child! I couldn’t ever read without stuffing my face at the same time–licorice, Milk Duds, Jujubes, anything. I was a big Stephen King fan, but my parents wouldn’t let me read The Stand because they were afraid they’d end up having to push me about in a wheelbarrow. My favorite childhood books were a series of baseball books by Duane Decker about a perennial championship baseball team called the Blue Sox. I started reading them hoping there was going to be a lot of dirty talk. But I guess he chose to name them the Blue Sox because Red, White and Black were already taken, and Green Sox sounds like a Rookie League team.


What is the worst book you ever read?

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Anyone who knows anything knows that ducks are more suited to lead a rebellion than pigs, sheep are more pranksters than rebels, and cats, while they may be schemers, are notoriously inept ones. How could an indisputably intelligent man like Orwell have gotten so many things wrong?


What book are you embarrassed not to have read? 

In college, I didn’t read The Education of Henry Adams for my American Literature class because I didn’t think we were going to be tested on it. As you can imagine, I was mightily embarrassed, to say the least, when I found out I was wrong. And still am, sort of.


Last book that made you cry?

War and Peace. About a year ago, I accidentally knocked it off my desk and it landed on my big toe while I was in my stocking feet. I cried like a baby.


Last book that made you laugh?

Also War and Peace, when the same thing happened to my brother. Which just goes to show that Mel Brooks was right about the difference between comedy and tragedy, apparently. My brother thinks I knocked it off my desk on purpose that time, but he’s dead wrong. At any rate, I’m not using War and Peace as a paperweight anymore.