* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we pride ourselves on being kid friendly. Maybe a little too kid friendly, according to today's nonsense from Eric Feurer.

One Ticket To The Children’s Movie, As I Am A Human Child And NOT Two Trench Coats In A Kid

By: Eric Feurer

Hello! One ticket to the children’s movie please. I am allowed to watch a children’s movie as I am a small human child, and not two trench coats inside a kid.

Two trench coats in a kid, how silly! How would that even work? This makes me laugh, a most human emotion. HAH. HAHAH. HAH. I am laughing.

I suppose it could work with one clever trench coat moving the mouth and limbs, while the other fills and compresses the child’s lungs…but I digress, as I am a silly whimsy boy with several imaginations! One ticket to Paddington Bear 2. I hear the raincoat is VERY talented.

Ah, nice day to be young and made of skin, don’t you think? My name? Burlington. Burlington C. Factory. My parents do money and make taxes, and I enjoy base bowling and having thumbs. Here’s proof! Watch as I whip. NOW watch as I nae nae. I have whipped and I have nae nae’d. And you have watched.

I love dancing with my friends Macys and Lord Taylor. After all, we’re scrappy tweens with hobbies and bones, and NOT two trench coats inside of a kid.

You’re right, Keeper of the Tickets, that IS insane! What an idea! Where would two sexy genius trench coats even find a child’s body!? A closed casket funeral yesterday morning? And how would they deal with the smell? They would have to be smart enough to replace most of the boy’s organs with dryer sheets! Anyway, one ticket to Paddington Bear 2, a film doing wonders for jacket representation.

Also quick question: are the seats assigned or do I drape my body over whichever one I prefer?


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we subscribe to the theory that everyone has a double somewhere on earth (in my case, it's Ryan Reynolds). Another theory has it that meeting your double can be disturbing. Just ask our good friend Kathryn Higgins, who was moved to verse by the incident.

Blonde Suburban Doppelganger

By: Kathryn Higgins

When to the silver SUV I schlepped

pushing a cart that veered to the left,

I reached for keys which I usually kept

hooked to my bag to foil theft.


I pushed the button; heard the chirp

although a distance it seemed to cross;

called to my son, the little twerp

and began unloading milk and sauce.


“Mom,” said Matthew, with concern,

a luxury for which I had no time.

“Get in the car” I snapped in turn

and to my door I bent to climb.


I went to put key in ignition

when all at once I felt a chill

a horrible lack of recognition

of seat, of cup, of car, of nil!


“Where’s my stuff?” I asked my boy

who’d climbed uncertainly in the back,

“I do not appreciate this decoy

my dirty towel, my bills? My snack?”


“Mom,” he tried again; I turned

to see what new crime he contemplated

but when I saw the back I learned

and from fault he was then exculpated.


This gleaming shiny silvery jeep

with tidy mug and Burberry scarf

did not match at all my heap

festooned with garbage and flecked with barf.


Christened by my kids and me

with dirt and gum and single socks

my car just simply could not be

this one that held designer frocks.


“Hush!” I said now that I knew

we were in the wrong SUV —

(would this one’s owner take mine in lieu

knowing what I did of me?)


My senses were on combat high

as I reviewed our situation:

how we got in there and why —

I prepared for our evacuation.


Then I saw my old jalopy

facing hers, as if a mirror

had found a twin just not as sloppy

cleaner, neater, richer, dearer.


I’ll take Her car, I paused to think,

and trade in for a better life —

I’ll bag my husband and my shrink

and be a better sort of wife.


Yes, I’ll take it and I’ll flee

away from my suburban jailors:

husband, housework, children three,

laundry, cooking, coupon-mailers.


I flipped the visor mirror and saw

the doppelganger wanna-be

a disheveled blonde with frowning maw

an evil, tired side of me.


I slumped back in her leather seat

noticed her Gucci sunglasses there

imagined her country club so neat —

God, we’d feel like asses there.


Swaddled in her premium automobile

I was o’ertaken by pleasant daydreams of

Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels,

lunches at the Golden Dove.


Benefits aboard a yacht

decked out in Dolce and Gabbana —

“Some little nothing I just bought,”

Sipping Cristal with Ivanna.


In this reverie I sat

in a sort of mental attack

when “Mom” I heard again from Matt

who’d been so quiet in the back.


I turned to see my little son

who looked at me with eyes so wide,

my innocent and trusting one

not knowing I was Mr. Hyde.


I realized then that no matter how pampered

filled with serenity and joy

my doppelganger’s life was hampered

by lack of my kids — girls and boy.


If she had kids and so she did

according to her decorations

despite their brilliance mine outbid

them in winning my affections.


I could not make the trade; I sighed

“Let’s Go!” I said to my little Pea

when coming out of the store I spied

a thinner replica of me.


“Get Out!” I hissed and grabbed the food

and toilet paper by the load

I snatched the cart and Matt I shooed

out of the car and down the road.


Again my key; my car chirped back

I hustled my little boy inside —

he found his book, his toy, his snack

and there he waited while I spied.


My double came and claimed her car

no inkling did she have of me

despite the door I left ajar

and my lost can of Pepsi Free.


Tossing her designer purse

she mounted her shiny silvery throne

I ducked and hissed a little curse

as my steering wheel hit my bone.


She drove off talking on her phone

about exciting things no doubt.

I said to Matthew “Let’s go home”

and “Behave or you’ll get a timeout.”


Filled with a newfound thankfulness I drove

home to my modest little dwelling

and with new eagerness I strove

to find my children without yelling.


“Come and give your mom a hug!”

I said to urchins one two three.

“Wait — what have you done to the rug?”

And so ended our brief jubilee.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are great supporters of the idea of romantic fidelity. Except when we're not. And we're not today, because we have four excerpts from a book of unfaithful flash fiction by Edward O'Dwyer. The book is not yet available, but it is a sequel of sorts to another book called "Cheat Sheets," which can be ordered at the link below.

Four Flashes Of Infidelity

By: Edward O'Dwyer


My fiancée told me from the get-go that she wasn’t going to be faithful.

“It isn’t out of lack of respect or love, though” she said. “I’ve just always believed that when a good opportunity knocks, it’s a crime not take advantage of it. I think there’s no exception to that, but don’t worry — while they will just be meaningless flings, you’ll always be my husband and one true love. How does that sound?”

I had to admit, after the initial shock, I was warming more to the notion. After all, more good marriages have probably been broken by monogamy.

The only bit of a snag was we went on our honeymoon for a month in the Caribbean and the men there and my wife hit it off famously. I spent most of my nights on the couch with earphones in and reggae music playing very loudly. I had a few moments of doubt on some of those nights, I have to admit.

She must have sensed it as well because, in fairness, before my worries could get out of hand, she promised me that, first thing when we got home, we would consummate our tying the knot.



I’m an avid reader, having grown up in a home full of books. Ever since I was a little girl I have been devouring them, with dreams of one day writing one of my own.

My ex-boyfriend, when we were together, used to joke around about me preferring books to people. It was true, of course, but I always ignored him, kept reading.

When he confessed to sleeping with other women, he said I’d made it too easy. He said it could have gone on forever, and that I’d never have caught him, even if it was going on and I was in the room, because if I was my head would probably be stuck far too intently in a book anyway.

All I had in my hand at the time he came clean was a paperback edition, and so I smacked him with it repeatedly as best I could, letting out my anger. It wasn’t very effective. I was fairly sure he wouldn’t even have a mark to show for it.

If I’d spent the extra few quid I’d have had the hardcopy of it in my hand and would surely have done a bit more damage, but that’s hindsight for you. I always buy the hardback now, of course, just in case there’s a next time.



There’s a rumor going around the town that my wife has been having an affair. It’s terrible, of course, because she’d never do such a thing. Her devotion to her vows is unquestionable. I wouldn’t believe it for a second.

I started the rumor myself, which is another reason why I place no stock at all in it. It’s out there now, doing the rounds, doing what I need it to do.

The way I’ve worked it out, the rumor will still need denying, and her innocence will still need affirming. Naturally, I’ll tell her I never doubted it for a second, and I’ll take her reassuringly in my arms. She’ll be thrilled that I trusted her so.

When sooner or later the rumor reaches her that I’m having an affair, which it surely will eventually, since it is true, she’ll have no choice but to reciprocate. When I plead innocence, she’ll just have to trust me. It’s only good manners after I’ll have trusted her.



My wife walked in on me with my girlfriend. She was holding a gun, and I could tell by the look on her face she was not in any humor to listen to excuses.

“Relax,” she said, “I’m not here to kill you,” and we both breathed a massive sigh of relief. “However, the way I see it, one of us must die, so I’m insisting we play a game of Russian roulette. I’ll even get things started.” She inserted the single bullet, spun the barrel, held the gun to her temple, then pulled the trigger and, on this occasion, it clicked harmlessly.

“Whatever happens, I hope you will live,” she told me, handing me the gun. “Whichever of us is left to carry on with you, I hope you’ll be very happy. That’s all I ever wanted, your happiness.” I noticed a fat, swelling tear dribbling from her eye as I pulled the trigger, and then passed the weapon on to my girlfriend.

I must have blinked, and in that time the gun had gun off. There was blood sprayed all over the wall, and then I saw my wife’s body slumped on the floor, motionless. My girlfriend was grinning. It was the same grin that gives her away when she cheats at Monopoly, that really irresistible grin that always makes me want her maddeningly.

Unfortunately, she had to go to prison for murder, but as she keeps saying, it won’t be for forever, and before too long we’ll be together again. “It was your wife’s dying wish that I make you very happy,” she tells me when I visit her, “and I still have every intention to honor that.”


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to say that there is no Michael Fowler but Michael Fowler, and thou shalt have no other Michael Fowlers before him. If you wish to obey his divine will, click on the link below to purchase his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

My Vision

By: Michael Fowler

Inquisitive people sometimes ask me what my vision is. I might be flattered by the question, but I attach no meaning to it. Those who ask it no doubt sense something in me. A deep insight into human affairs and profound humanitarianism might be one way to describe it. The grace of a perfect physical specimen with chiseled features and lightning fast hands might be another. Simply put, I give the impression to some that I have a way with me. But the truth is, those who detect any such qualities in me are deceived. There’s less to me than meets the eye, and of visions I have none.

Still, people stop me and say, sirrah, you have lived many years. Yes, they can tell at a glance I’m pushing 25, since there’s something mature in my wariness. What follows is that since I have lived so many years I must be learned as a judge. That is a requirement for one so advanced in years as I. But who says it is? Why can’t I have learned nothing, felt nothing, reflected on nothing, and remained as senseless as the day I was born? Well, I believe I can, and have, but a few others will simply not believe it.

The typical interlocutor wants me to be specific about my vision. I should lay out, for his or her inspection, my personal philosophy and political persuasion. But I am careful to reveal none of these, for one simple reason: of philosophy and political awareness I have none. Of age-old wisdom and of world-historical truths I know a perfect nullity, nor have I heard of any. If I ever did hear of any such thing, I have long ago forgotten what it was all about.

To hear of my innocence only enrages my inquisitor, who now pleads with me to speak freely and off the cuff, as if I have a great secret to impart. And while I should speak openly and with perfect candor to him, I must at the same time be specific and employ sharp, incisively worded descriptions of my inner state.

But of sharp, incisive descriptions I have not a one, and I will tell you about my inner state: it is the hollow interior of a gas-filled balloon. I tell my tormentor, if it is clever phrases and penetrating insights that you want, go and read a novel issued by a small university press. The public library contains many such. There you’ll find golden phrases and clever coinages and hidden meanings aplenty, enough to gag a shark.

Now my witness is beside himself with disbelief. He objects that I cannot have lived through my life without at least once reflecting on its nature and its meaning, and on my proper place in society. He takes it for granted that, at the very least, I have had a fine meal or two and made love to a beautiful or in any case a healthy woman. And these deeds do not go unremarked. He insists that despite the obvious fact that I am man of from zero to three words, I must have something to say about these far from humdrum experiences.

I reply, in a lifeless tone, that of reminiscence and deep reflection I do not partake. In comparisons and metaphors I place no trust, nor do I dally with them. With allusions and tropes and participles and other odd verb forms I have no truck.

What happens is this: when I am involved in even the most volcanic incident, I tell myself what is happening in plain English and note its importance to me, and then let it go.

Let’s say I attempt to beat a man senseless after a few drinks in a bar, and what with his overbite my ear ends up in his breast pocket. I tell myself, there is a sharp pain where my ear used to be, and a tremendous loss of blood, but enough already, the situation is adequately felt and described.

I might, while reciting those words, move my head up and down as I speak to myself. But that’s it. That fully describes my interior life at that moment. The only other thing that might occur to me is to scream at passers-by to for god’s sake call an ambulance.

I work folding men’s trousers in a warehouse eight hours a day, and my boss there once tasked me to describe my point of view. He perhaps mistook me for Jean Paul Sartre or John Maynard Keynes, although I carry with me no books.

He pressed me obdurately about it, you wouldn’t believe. We were having lunch together and sections of his sandwich began falling out of his mouth — horrible, half-masticated vegetables and crusts. I said, bro, life in my opinion is like folding trousers. Some trousers are cotton, some are khaki…but here words failed me. I knew there were other kinds of trousers, corduroy and woolen for instance, and some have buttons and others zippers, but I couldn’t go on, and I told the boss I had finished.

It’s strange, said my boss. The plan you presented to me yesterday, for restricting overtime and shortening the work week with no decrease in productivity, is what I’d call a vision.

I don’t know, I replied tonelessly. That’s going a bit far.

You know, the boss told me then, your coworker Sal has a vision.

Sal, a vision? I said. How can that be? I have folded trousers with Sal for two and a half years, and did not know this. What is his vision? I asked.

It’s the same plan as yours for cutting down hours, came the answer, but Sal combines that with a modern system of inventory. Also, he says that one day soon he will be the boss of you.

That night after work Sal’s body was found folded up like a pair of trousers in a city trash receptacle, quite separated from his vision, which was nowhere to be found. A vision can be a dangerous thing, and I have naught to do with them.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where every day is We Love Michael Fowler Day. Do you love him too? Prove it by clicking on the link below to buy his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

Good And Teed Off

By: Michael Fowler

One of the mysteries of the human mind is why we become angrier as we age, frequently going from high-spirited youth to mellow middle age to peed-off senior in an arc of only five or six decades.

You’d think oldsters would be happy. They bought everything they wanted or needed ages ago. The house is paid for, or cashed in for a long-desired smelly condo or rusty RV. Their kids are gone or in any case don’t call them, their parents are dead, their friends are dead, even their pets are dead — what’s not to enjoy? With so many of life’s problems solved and nuisances done away with, why aren’t these oldsters radiating happiness like wrinkled little nuclear reactors?

I think I know the answer. The conundrum that ticks off most bags and geezers is that they’re not dead yet.

That they still have to go through death aggravates them. They’ve already gone through everything life can throw at them — marriage, divorce, rising gas prices, overpriced cruises, quantitative easing, preemptive war, purchasing an unnecessary home security system, loss of hair and bone mass and memory, a traitor in the White House again — and still it isn’t over. They still have to die, and they can’t get over that.

I’ve seen this ravaging of the brain first hand. When I was a child, I had a lovely shriveled grandfather of about 70 who seemed to adore his retirement outside the mines. Aside from of a nagging, chronic cough and an addiction to coal dust, his life appeared idyllic. He had a large vegetable garden, and whenever I visited he’d take me out in the yard to show me where a mole was digging underneath and eating his produce’s roots.

“See his hole?” he’d say as he pointed out the animal’s tiny tunnel. The two of us were delighted in nature’s way. After thirty minutes of finding the hole here and there in the garden and Grandpa saying “see his hole?” each time (obsessive compulsion was part of his pleasure), we’d go inside where he’d sit before his potbelly stove chewing tobacco and spitting most of it into a tin can, and the rest down the front of his wooly vest. I’d sit beside him on a slack sofa that smelled of Mail Pouch and read a Classics Comic from the 1950s. Sometimes, when he moved his head the right way, I’d stare with affection deep inside his hairy nose.

Maybe grandma would sit beside us, and what a friendly old woman she was. She liked nothing better than to send me down to her dank, cobwebby root cellar for a jar of pickle relish, then throw a fit and whip me when I returned with beets instead, as I usually did since I couldn’t tell the difference in the dark.

Caught up in her game, if that’s what it was, she would grow red in the face and order me outside to fetch a “hickory-t,” a hickory branch off the tree in the front yard that she would lash me with for punishment, though I never received a single blow due to her poor aim and hysterical laughter.

What a cheerful, carefree couple! What fun we had when I visited them, though I’m glad Granny never got me with that “hickory-t.” I was a delicate child, and a whipping with such an unsanitary implement might have given me eczema.

Press ahead ten years. I’m a teen now, and my grandfather throws his mail-order teeth on the dinner table and growls at everyone, drooling. He smells more and more like a spittoon and won’t bathe. Has the mole’s hole, still visible in the garden, caused his mind to snap?

And Grandma is so irritated by having to cook for her grandchildren, even though she jarred all the greasy beans and acidic jam she could ever need 50 years ago and the glass containers line her root cellar, she can’t stop grousing. Every time she catches sight of me, a tender youth showcasing dental braces and his first pimples, she brands me a draft resister and a socialist agitator. Whoa, Grandma and Grandpa! What the hell happened to your easy demeanor?

The worst part is, both my grandparents received Medicare and excellent medical treatment, and at age 80 had ten or more years of constant anger to look forward to before they could finally croak and relocate to the family gravesite down by the creek. My grandfather’s mood in his last decade varied from rage to sullenness, and not once did he crack a smile to reveal his crooked Sears & Roebuck teeth. My grandmother got to the point where she could scarcely bear another day of perfect health and uninterrupted leisure and died a joyless, broken woman at 96.

And it isn’t just my grandparents. My wife recently put her mother in a retirement center (read: pre-graveyard) so that Myrtle could receive the around-the-clock watering and pruning that she requires. There she sits on the second of four floors of similar bags and geezers who are either boiling over with rage or comatose on medications. There’s no in-between state.

On an early visit I tried to embrace the old babe in a heartfelt hug, and she raked the lengths of my uncovered forearms with untrimmed, yellow fingernails (how did they grow so long in a week?), requiring me to apply antiseptic. And that was on a good day, when she was relatively calm and not fastened to the sides of her bed in a straitjacket.

Ah, peaceful old age. And don’t think for a moment the oldsters enjoy all those medications they’re forced to take. It’s only young people who like drugs. In fact, they love them. But your typical home resident is just doddering out on them. Nor is their zest for life enlivened by any activity no matter how festive. From a Sunday enema to balloon volleyball, it’s all a drag. More than a drag, it infuriates them.

I think I know how this transformation takes place. At around age 75, the riddle of death takes hold of a person’s mind. The sheer insolubility of the enigma affects you like sticking your hand in a running blender, realizing you’ve lost all your fingertips, but for a split second there’s no pain, only dumb wonder.

That split second is the time you have to figure out death. It grows into years without any increase in your understanding and with the same sense of dread. You keep waiting for the answer like you wait for the pain in your fingers.

As the moment expands, it dawns on you that there is no answer, not a hint, not ever, for you or anyone. At last you’re going to have to pay for those lost fingertips. The pain is coming, and there’s nothing you can do.

That’s when you get good and teed off, and you stay that way for a decade or so.

Then it hits you.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe working out is what you do when your love life doesn't work out.

Thanks For Joining Aloha Fitness

By: Eric Farwell

Hey, thanks again for joining Aloha Fitness, the first and only gym designed to help people get in shape post-breakup. We’ve already been over to the Instagram Photo Center, which is open twenty-four-seven, links to your account, and can take as many as 100 rapid-fire shots of your newly rockin’ bod so that your ex can see what they missed out on. I showed you the Cuddle Training Corner, where you can be consoled by professionals with dual certificates in advanced cuddling and diet science. Now, I’d like to show you our pride and joy, The Aloha Equalizer.

Our fitness and research team meticulously studied the regimen of the Royal Canadian Air Force to understand how they get so swole every year. Eventually, our lead scientist, Sarah, figured out how to combine every exercise the brave men and women of the RCAF do into one machine for maximum shred potential.

You’ll notice there are two dozen pulleys and leg presses, a needle wall, and a little spigot that gently shoots out a steady amount of fire. Anyone can take a shot at this, but there’s only one way to use it in a way that tones your body and doesn’t rip out your spinal column.

If you had signed up for our premium package, I’d be happy to show you that exact, very precise way right now, but since you opted not to pay $500 a month for the option to have a weekly massage in our Break-Up Spa, bi-weekly life coach consultations and daily fitness classes held between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m., you’ll just have to trust your instincts.

You’ll notice that the Equalizer has a series of multicolored lights running top to bottom, which we thought would lend a sense of fun pizzazz to a machine that otherwise pushes you to your breaking point every time you use it. If you can ever figure out how to use it, you’ll notice that the lights get higher the more calories you burn.

At Aloha Fitness, we like machines with extra stuff that indicate you’re crushing it. On the AbFucker 9, confetti shoots out every time a muscle gets stronger. Likewise, the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Officially Sponsored Leg Day Quad Press plays the song from the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars. The better you do, the less it plays.

As our magenta walls say, our motto is “Loyalty. Respect. Loyalty.” Like all good mottos, it consists of three easy words chosen at random, but it’s meaningless unless we live up to it. So, for every 500 calories you burn, on any of our machines or in any class, you get a ticket that can be redeemed in our Ripped Rewards area. Most of the selections are standard gym prize counter fare, like stuffed dumbbells and googley eyes, but if you can get 20, 100 or 500 tickets, you’ll see why Aloha Fitness has become the preferred regional gym chain for more than 10,000 people in the tri-state area.

If you get 20 tickets, we’ll interview you about what you look for in a partner, and then quietly set up a first date with someone, which will go neither badly nor great. Since you’ve been killing it at our gym, we’ll even pay for half your meal, because you deserve it. To clarify, we’ll pay for half of what you, as an individual, are eating. So, we’ll cover half of half of the whole meal. Again, you deserve it.

For 100 tickets, we’ll arrange for a teacup pig, puggle or Labrador puppy to be dropped off at your house or apartment. From there, it’s up to you to meet someone at a dog park or teacup pig-friendly bar. You’ll get a full week with the animal, so hopefully you’ll meet someone who likes you for you, not just because you have a cute pet. Also, please be aware that if you get the pig, you may get some stalkers. The pig is very adorable, and therefore has some adorable restraining orders against certain people. If you get stalked, you have to handle it. Aloha Fitness only handles the pig.

For 500 tickets, we’ll arrange for you to meet with Bryce and Courtney in our Muscle Mates Love Center. Bryce is just the guy we get our weed from, but Courtney is a certified dating coach and professional matchmaker. If you get invited into the Muscle Mates Love Center — and I can’t stress this enough — Courtney will set you up with your soulmate. If you get to this level, not only will we pay half of half the bill on your first date, but we’ll even pay a fifth of a fifth of your wedding expenses, should you stay with us up to and through that time. If you’re still with us when you have a baby, and are willing to name your baby Aloha Fitness, or at least have it tattooed on your baby’s face, we’ll give you a free month for you, your baby or your partner, provided they’re still a member.

For 1,000 tickets, we’ll rename a room of the gym in your honor for twenty-four hours. During that time, you’ll be provided with a key to that room, and will be free to use it as you see fit. Most people tend to use it either as a reveal room, where they invite an ex or two to the gym in order to show off their new bod and get closure, or as a space for an ice cream social. If you go the reveal-and-confront route, we’ll cover any legal fees you may incur. However, if you want to use the room to hold dairy, which Aloha Fitness frowns on, then you’ll need to pay for everything yourself.

Most gyms wouldn’t risk legal trouble by getting involved in the love lives of their members, but that’s what we like to call the Aloha Difference. Yes, you might sue us if we set you up with someone who becomes a casual stalker, or if a pre-school won’t accept a baby named Aloha Fitness, or if your soulmate falls for Bryce, which has happened more than we care to admit. However, we also understand that after using the Aloha Equalizer and spending some time in the Cuddle Training Corner, you’ll find that you’re ready to love harder and more confidently than you ever loved before. Now, go out there and start working out, because the Ripped Rewards area closes at 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where every day is New Year's Eve, at least when Michael Fowler is writing about it. If you feel sorry for the old guy, don't put a penny in his hat, buy his book. Follow the link below to purchase his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

New Year’s Eve At Bob Evans

By: Michael Fowler

This year my wife and I went to Bob Evans restaurant to ring in the new year, or to come as close to ringing it in as we care to get. We chose Bob Evans not only because it serves our favorite kind of down-home comfort food with breakfast at any hour, but has no alcohol, an elderly, quiet clientele, no TVs mounted on the walls, and no celebratory atmosphere at all. It doesn’t stay open late, requires no reservation, and is hardly ever crowded. At five p.m. on New Year’s Eve the place was almost deserted. We found a parking spot right by the front door and followed a young man and his wheelchair-bound father right on in to the sober greeter.

We once stayed out past ten on New Year’s Eve and tasted alcohol too. The experience threw off our sleep cycles and circadian rhythms to the equivalent of twelve hours of jet lag. My wife, who suffers from moist palms and anxiety, swears it also gave her a calcium deficiency, and I’ll never forget the ringing in my ears that lasted until mid-February from that drum kit across the floor. Add to that being jostled by perspiring, red-faced celebrants, and we vowed never to repeat the experience, and never have. We haven’t even felt the temptation. We’re not kids anymore after all, with both of us pushing 38. Some things are better left to the hardened, besotted, carefree young.

With seven hours to go before the big calendar change and that gaudy ball dropped off the tower in that frozen, overcrowded city synonymous with filth and high blood pressure, my excitement started to build; that of my wife too, I assume. I decided to start off with a piece of pumpkin bread from the famous Bob Evans bakery, while my wife, scarcely able to restrain her enthusiasm, went with banana bread. Both are delicious, and our waitress, whom we have known for months and is a business student at a nearby college, smiled in understanding.

She was cheerful despite having to work the holiday. But then, she’d be out the door by closing time at nine, when the night was still young, and who knew what shenanigans this twenty-something had in mind? We didn’t ask, and she didn’t tell, likely because she thought we would disapprove. For her discretion alone I knew I’d be leaving a sizable tip, somewhere between ten and fifteen percent of our unusual $20 tab. But then, if we shared a piece of cheesecake at the end, in honor of the special night, the gratuity might set me back as much as $3.75, a daunting thought. I hoped my wife had brought along a discount coupon, but at her age she’s forgetful about such niceties. If you’re thinking dementia, so am I.

I sat trying to decide between an evening breakfast of a small egg-white omelet with a tiny bowl of fruit and the gargantuan roast turkey dinner with six sides, a sumptuous meal I hadn’t ingested since Christmas a week ago, and my wife faced her usual dilemma of how many pancakes she felt up to. We both looked up as a pair of immortals took a booth near ours. My wife and I smiled at each other, since this duo certainly didn’t look liable to put the kibosh on our evening with any untoward jubilant behavior or celebratory noisemaking, unless gramps had some noisemakers in his pockets or granny began belting out “Auld Lang Syne.”

In fact, they ignored us completely and looked about ready to fall asleep before they ordered. The first thing gramps did, after the waitress arrived, was spill ice water all down his Rick Santorum vest. I listened in amusement as he finally ordered the pot roast, and she a Cobb salad, both with hot tea. I was amused because my wife and I had ordered the identical meals for ourselves not two weeks ago, almost identical, except I got steamed broccoli and this old bird wanted green beans. Wasn’t that amusing? I thought so, and it seemed to be getting the new year off to a good start, though technically the new year didn’t start for another, what was it now, still more than six hours. I couldn’t wait to get home and sleep through them, burping turkey.

All was thrown into jeopardy, however, when a family of five came in, including three children. I saw the tension in my wife right away, her fixed stare and then the involuntary tightening of her pale, thin but very damp hands around her utensils. I myself was not immune, and feared some childish disturbance from the three-year-old or infantile outburst from the baby that would turn the peaceful eatery into Times Square. My wife and I had not been blessed with children, and had never desired any. We had her cat when we were first married, but by agreement had it put down because it mewed, sometimes at night. What a pest that creature had been. It had also required food and grooming, can you believe.

Twenty minutes later my wife and I were beaming and content. Our meal hadn’t been disturbed, and the children of that other couple had been of the seen but not heard variety, increasingly a rarity in today’s society where a single howling brat often disrupts the serenity of an entire Walmart store. Nor, at this early hour, had there appeared a single patron in a party hat or trumpeting on a paper horn. I decided on a full 15 percent tip, and I drove us home sated with gravy and maple syrup.

All was well until we reached our neighborhood. Cars now lined the street near those homes that were party zones, making navigation difficult. Once at this time of year, when we were new to the neighborhood, my wife and I unwisely accepted an invitation from the people next door. We had already become bitter enemies back on Arbor Day, when their child planted a tree near the fence that separates our properties. It was the merest sapling, yes, but a ticking time bomb that after twenty or thirty years would grow to hang over our property and one day probably fall, killing us. We weren’t about to forget this pending threat to our safety over some silly holiday, and after graciously eating one or two of their slimy and rancid hors d’oeuvres, we departed very early, even for us, and were in bed by eight.

My wife couldn’t help throwing a glance at their place as we mounted our front steps, and I felt her body grow tense and clammy from her hands to, well, everything. I knew what she was thinking. It wasn’t the tree, which may have died in a stunted state during the last frost, but she knew that at midnight they’d be setting off fireworks and ruining our sleep, as they did last year. Right on the stroke of midnight had come this noise, not terribly explosive but like a bag of popcorn in a microwave in a distant room down a long hall, that woke us up and left us trembling with rage in bed.

She had denied my request for intimacy then, and continued to do so for the entire year. This year, I saw, would be just as chilly. All because of that popping sound. Darn noisy neighbors.

But there’s one thing my wife and I agree on any time of year: that fresh bakery bread at Bob Evans is delicious.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we support everyone's need for emotional support animals -- from a safe distance. Just don't ever seat us next to Rob Gregory on a plane!

Nobody Panic, But My Emotional Support Snakes Seem To Be Loose On This Plane

By: Rob Gregory

Okay, nobody panic. I’m sure it’s nothing, but every one of my emotional support snakes seems to have escaped their enclosure, and they’re now loose somewhere on this plane. Now I’m only telling you this so that nobody freaks out in the unlikely event anyone happens upon one of them.

First and foremost, the snakes are completely harmless. Unless they bite you. If that happens, you’d better administer anti-venom sooner rather than later, as every species aboard is lethal. I did pack my own supply, but the whole three ounce liquid rule really limited me. TSA, am I right?

I suppose though, if it’s absolutely necessary, I’m willing to part with some. That said, the snakes will only attack if they feel threatened by you. Or sometimes if they just feel like it. They are, after all, cantankerous creatures — but can’t we all be sometimes? And remember, except for the ones aboard that hunt you, snakes are more afraid of us than we are of them.

As for where they might be, well, your guess is as good as mine. They’re sneaky rascals. They usually prefer to be higher up, so I could easily see them in overhead compartments, but I wouldn’t rule out the floor or them nestling comfortably in between seat cushions. Oh — along those lines, please restrain your children from touching them. While they might appear to be “cute” or “neat” animals to pet, they are at work performing their jobs. That and, if given the chance, they can and will consume children.

If anyone has any emotional support mice they wouldn’t mind parting with, I’m sure that’ll help lure one, maybe two of them out. Also, if we have any trained snake handlers, now would definitely be the time to come forward, since I don’t really like handling them myself. And if you have snake tongs to wrangle them, great, but we could probably make do with a golf club under the circumstances. King Cobra perhaps? Sorry, had to.

Now, I bet some of you heard me say emotional support snakes, and you’re probably thinking “I didn’t even know poisonous snakes could be therapy pets!” Well, they sure can — notwithstanding the outright and explicit rejection from the Nation Service Animal Registry and every other animal governing board. These little guys, and not-so-little guys, have given me more affection than I could ever ask for.

That said, I was kind of hoping, in this day and age, that bringing therapy snakes on a flight would be a non-issue. Sadly, however, I can tell from the look on some of your faces that we still have a ways to go. I think we can all, however, collectively be upset with the TSA here — clearly they’re prejudiced against therapy pets in general, and specifically in this case against venomous snakes.

Despite the fact that I didn’t alert TSA to their presence and am technically on a no-fly list, can we all agree their accommodations were woefully inadequate? I mean, I practically had to sneak them aboard. And I know that my asking you to help wrangle poisonous therapy snakes is a bit of an inconvenience, but sometimes we’re asked to go above and beyond the call of duty. It’s really no different than sitting in an emergency exit row, if you ask me.

Also, if we could nip this in the bud before the flight attendants come around I’d be very appreciative. If stowing animals aboard a flight goes awry again, it’s probably my last strike with the airline. That, and I could really go for a ginger ale right now, and that’s not happening if we have a snake mess on our hands. Well, back to my episode of The Big Bang Theory. Let me know how everything goes!


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our good friend David Martin proves that he hates phishers almost as much as he hates Phish. After you've finished his latest and greatest, click on the link below to check out his humor blog.

Dear iram267

By: David Martin

Dear iram267@bell.net masking as Bell Mail,

I hesitate to reply to your latest e-mail given your obvious predilection for phishing. However, since you seem completely dedicated to corresponding with me, I thought it only fair that I critique your latest work.

I have mixed feelings about replying. On the one hand, any improvement in your e-mails may increase the chances that some poor soul will fall for your ploy. On the other hand, I simply can no longer tolerate the surfeit of grammatical, spelling and syntactical errors, not to mention your complete and total ignorance of my e-mail account.

I recommend that you give top priority to any spelling errors. These are dead giveaways that you are not my legitimate Internet service provider. For example, “you e-mail” should presumably read “your e-mail,” and when you use “you will disconnect,” I assume you mean “you will be disconnected.”

I don’t want to be too picky, but when you say I will “loose access” to my account, I think you want to say “lose access,” unless you are commenting on my admittedly tenuous Internet connection.

I sympathize with you, as “it apparent” that English “not be” your first or even second language. However, I suspect that you are doing fairly well financially with this latest endeavor and therefore can afford to hire an English-speaking editor. That simple measure alone will likely increase your success rate tenfold (that means ten times as much).

Sadly, English grammar also does not appear to be one of your strong suits. “As part of our effort to improve your experience across our consumer services” is not a complete sentence. Moreover, while “Protecting your account is a matter taking seriously” expresses a lovely sentiment, grammatically it is just plain wrong.

I don’t profess to have more than minimal computer skills, but even I was mystified by your statement that my “Mail Box” is “running at 99.8 gigabytes.” That seems like an awfully huge storage number particularly given that my daily data usage barely registers in the realm of megabytes.

Far be it from me to advise expert phishers like you as to what is a more credible storage target, but you might want to consider investing in a random number generator to come up with a variety of numbers. That way you would have at least an outside chance of fooling someone even less tech-savvy than me.

I appreciate the fact that you have not carried through with your threats of cancelled service notwithstanding that I have yet to click on any link you have provided me. That demonstrates a measure of sympathy and respect that sadly I have not received from the alphabetically-challenged neusyetraiaoack@wuaylaiouayn.ru masking as PayPal Canada, who has repeatedly suspended my PayPal account. The latest suspension was because “an error was detected in your informations.” Although I was “currently made disabled of” all aspects of my registration, it seems that the matter was quickly rectified since I had no problem accessing my PayPal account later that same day.

I hope you will heed my advice. Although it would be preferable if you gave up phishing entirely for a healthier hobby like pistol shooting or self-tattooing, it would give me some small comfort to know that you will be fleecing my compatriots by maintaining the highest standards of English language usage.

By the way, if you have found my advice to be at all helpful, you might want to click on the link below to access my website “Dave’s tips for non-English-speaking phishers.” I assure you that it will be, as you might say, “worth you wile.”

Your cyberbuddy,

Dave Martin

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are only too happy to escape from the grubbiness of politics. Except that, as Jon Sindell has found, there is no escape.

The Gardening Hiring Committee I Faced Were All Retired Senate Judiciary Committee Members

By: Jon Sindell

I’d lost the bid to install the Chelsea Center Elementary School butterfly garden, so with sunhat in hand I faced the Gardening Hiring Committee of the Senatorial Gardens Retirement Villa for the associate gardener job.

The meeting was chaired by old Senator Gaseous. He raised his gavel, dropped it, and called a five-minute recess to retrieve it. He called the meeting to order, but was immediately interrupted by Senator Jaundiste.

“I object to the Chairperson’s patriarchal assertion of authority,” she wheezed.

“You are out of order,” the Chair wheezed back, peering mole-like down the conference table with an educated guess as to who had spoken. Senator Gaseous had already promised the Senatorial Gardens Federalist Tea Time Book Club that he would vote for me, and read aloud from a prepared statement. “Mr. Raichu, you are a gardener of unimpeachable reputation. We have before us website testimonials from dozens of satisfied customers who have lauded you for your green thumb, your artistic eye, and your professionalism. To quote from three: ‘The passion flowers are so pretty!’…’He finished on time.’…’He brought donuts once!’ These testimonials speak volumes, Mr. Raichu.”

“Thank you, Senator.”

“It is I who should thank you. Senatorial Gardens would be honored to employ a gardener of your outstanding qualifications — qualifications which should be obvious to any non-senile member of this committee. In that regard, I yield the floor to Senator DeMagog.”

“Mr. Raichu,” said the acerbic ex-senator, knitting his brow like my high school principal when I was caught taking geranium cuttings from the botany lab, “allow me to read a statement attributed to you in the Best Buds Garden Center customer newsletter of July 15, 2018, and I quote: ‘Invasive plants are a real problem in this neighborhood.'” The senator removed his glasses with the triumphant air of a prosecutor poised to destroy a witness. “Is it fair to say that you consider native plants more desirable than the hardy species that you so derisively dismiss as ‘invasive?'”

I turned to my partner, Gina, for a whispered conference.

“I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of my views, Senator. I was talking about the harm invasive plants cause to — ”

“I’ve heard enough!” gasped the senator, his nurse immediately cupping an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. “I’m voting no on this monster!”

“Hardly a surprise,” interposed Senator Longtuthe with a bitter laugh, “considering that the Senatorial Gardens newsletter quoted you just yesterday as saying ‘Appointing an avowed social conservative to this post would endanger the values our community holds dear.'”

“Senator,” I interjected, “that’s ‘soil conservationist,’ not ‘social conservative.'” With a smile I thought winning, I added, “I live for good soil.”

“The witness is out of order!” screamed Senator Selfreiteous.

I checked my phone. A load of fairy-tale lavender had arrived at Home Depot. Sweet.

“The Chair recognizes Senator Bloviateur.”

Senator Bloviateur plumped a 400-page tome in front of me. “Be so kind, Mr. Raichu, as to open the Bylaws Of The Senatorial Gardens Retirement Villa to page 214 and read into the record Section 87(A)(2)(c)(iv).”

“‘In selecting landscape designs,'” I read, “‘careful consideration shall be given to the ability of new landscape elements to harmonize with existing physical structures.'”

The senator removed his glasses — they all had that riff — and leaned forward as if to kill a newly trapped gopher. “And what is your interpretation of the word ‘harmonize,’ Mr. Raichu? Do you give it a strict construction, or are you a good person?”

I’d been warned this was coming. “I suppose it refers to the idea that plants should look good with the buildings. The colors and shapes and sizes and so on.”

The senator harrumphed with self-satisfaction. “I see. And if residents were to propose a planting scheme that you, in your wisdom, considered inharmonious in terms of ‘the colors and shapes and sizes’ of the plants, would you be willing to install such a scheme?”

I looked helplessly at Gina. “I’d rather not comment on hypothetical planting schemes, Senator.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t,” the senator sneered. “But the people of this villa have a right to know how marginalized plants would fare if you were appointed associate gardener.”

“Senator, I’m really trying to understand, but by ‘marginalized plants,’ do you mean border gardens?”

“Enough! You are making a mockery of these proceedings! And I cannot, in good conscience, risk appointing a man like you as assistant gardener. My vote is no. A thousand times, no!”

I peeked at my phone. Tomato starts were on sale at Lowe’s.

Senator Gaseous tapped the gavel with all the strength of Montgomery Burns. “It’s obvious that there’s nothing more to do here,” he wheezed. “We all announced our decisions before the hearing anyway, so let’s just vote, and maybe we can make last call for dinner at four.”

I passed by one vote. But when Senator Gaseous offered congratulations, I replied, “Thank you all for the honor, but I’ve just received a text offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the head of leafblowing operations for We Blow, Inc. So as we gardeners say, I’m just gonna make like a tree and leaf.”

“A joke that corny shows contempt for this body!” shrieked Senator Selfreiteous.

And with both of her points, I had to agree.