* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it's always Michael Fowler's world. The rest of us just get to live in it. This time Mr. Fowler brags, justifiably, about his abilities as an elderly rageaholic. When you've finished his sordid tale, do click on the link below to buy his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

My Best Senior Brawls


Thanks to the updated self-checkout stations at my local market, I can bypass age verification when I buy alcohol just by scanning my hairline. That way I save a lot of time making my daily purchase of red wine (two bottles), tuna salad, tomato soup (one can), calcium supplements and fungal toenail medication (one tube). The minutes I saved the other day I spent standing in line for my shingles shot. The clinic is right there at the market too, and so is everything else I need except tattoo removal and knee replacement.

I picked up my paid-for bag of groceries and, while waiting for the nurse to call my number, took a seat by the restroom. I figured I’d have a twenty-minute wait, and in that time I’d need to urinate maybe seven times, so it paid to be close. I made a mental note that on my next visit I should get my shot before I bought my groceries, so I didn’t have to wait with the bag, but this time I had to slide it under my chair and hope my tuna salad didn’t spoil.

All went according to plan until I returned from my first trip to the men’s room. Have I mentioned that I have difficulty using the bathroom at home? Sometimes I forget what I’m talking about or if I’ve put on my clothes. And I’m liable to return home to find I’ve left all the stove burners on and the garbage disposal running.

I haven’t used my own bathroom since 2010, and I’m not talking about constipation. I get a dandy of a bowel movement every six months like clockwork, and it cleanses me thoroughly. What I’m saying is that my wife went to the bathroom back in 2010, right in the middle of Dancing with the Stars, and hasn’t come out.

I know she’s still in there because I hear the fan on and I can see the light under the door. I’m tempted to knock to see if she’s all right or needs something, maybe toilet tissue, but after 45 years of sleeping together in a 6′ by 8′ bedroom I hate to intrude. Meanwhile there’s a large shrub in the backyard that gives me plenty of privacy when nature calls.

When I came out of the men’s room that first time, there was an elderly gent in my seat. He wore a knit cap with a lot of Alpine scenery stitched on it, showing questionable taste in summertime. Since all the other chairs were occupied, I told him I had got there first, and would he please move. Well, he acted like he didn’t hear me. But I knew he did, since I could see huge hearing aids below the cap jammed in his ear-holes like wads of old discolored gum.

With those monsters he could likely hear birds twittering six miles off. Seeing his pigheadedness, I indicated my sack of goodies under the chair. Now he acted like he didn’t see me, or my plastic bag either. But I knew he did, because he hadn’t found his way to the clinic and located my empty seat by his sense of smell, had he? He was just being an entitled jerk.

Now all my life I have been a pacifist. I never harmed a person or an animal unless I thought I could get away with it, and sometimes I was kind to inanimate objects just for practice.

But when I became a senior all that changed. My personality switched without warning from mild-mannered conciliator to seething malcontent in a split second. I could bring on this change in myself at will and I often did, leading to a number of brutal physical confrontations. Fifty-four times I’d seen combat since turning seventy, and my record defied belief. I’d lost all but twice, making me as good as undefeated, if you look at it that way.

So once I understood that gramps was not moving from my chair, I swelled with murderous rage. I nudged him with my arm, and when that failed to dislodge him I began using my aluminum walker to batter him a bit. Well, you would have thought I had insulted him or brought up the way he ogled minors. He swiftly removed a collapsible white-tipped cane from his jacket pocket, extended it, and began jousting with me, knocking over the display of fish oil caps behind me.

I began charging him bull-style with my trusty walker until I slipped and fell, and he added to the pandemonium by swinging his cane in my direction even after he toppled off my chair. Though I sensed both of us bordered on unconsciousness at this point, I managed to administer a rejuvenating insulin shot to myself, while my opponent took the opportunity to suck a few life-giving breaths from his portable oxygen tank.

Refreshed, we joined battle anew, and rolled as one into the anti-itch aisle. There his seeing-eye dog pulled me off him just as I was sawing into his jugular with my disability badge, and we lay collapsed side by side on the floor, drooling saliva and gasping like spent marathoners. It was one for the books, all right, and I couldn’t wait to get to my writing desk and jot it all down.

When store security got done talking to me, I lit out for home. I was still at risk for shingles, having neglected to get my shot, but I no longer cared. Let shingles descend upon me, I thought: I have words to set down. Madly I stamped over the lot in search of my car, my sack of stuff tied around the handle of my walker. It would kill my wife if I had lost the car, but then what wouldn’t kill her?

I encountered my next challenger, an ice cream vendor, out by the bus stop. The little salesman had parked his truck at the curb, turned off his racket, and sat inside, napping. His tiny physique, miniature white suit with yellow custard stains and pinch of white hair assaulted my senses. He resembled a child manikin or a voice-thrower’s effigy. His mouth, puckering like a goldfish’s as he slept, silently assailed me with the vilest epithets he or I could think of.

Of all the impudence, I thought. As if I could be intimidated by this doll-like, barely breathing popsicle pusher the size of a third-grader. Oh, I was itching for a fight. Two in one day would make for a thrilling new chapter in my memoir, titled Thunder in My Fists. I lurched into the truck…(To be continued.)


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the world's foremost repository of radio history. Say hello to your Hindenberg announcer for the day, Dan Fiorella!

Great Moments In Radio History


It’s in your car. It wakes you in the morning. It’s on at the deli. It’s radio, one of the 19th century’s quaintest inventions! It’s still here, and it still works. Let’s see if KevinHart.com can make that claim down the road.

And you know why radio is still here? (No, not just to entertain the blind.) It’s built on a solid foundation of exceptional history.

It was in 1896 that Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi developed and tested the first radio device. He transmitted signals out over a mile from his home. It was an immediate success, as people contacted him…

Caller: Hello, Mr. Marconi? Yes, hi, I was listening to your transmission, but I’m a first time caller. I agree with your broadcast, all right, but what about the children?

Before long, amateur broadcasters had sprung up like so many walk-in medical clinics around the USA. The major drawback was that only broadcasters existed — there were no broadcastees. No one was listening. Needless to say, radio in the 1910s was thought of as a geeky, clique thing. The term “radio nerd” first appears around this time.

In 1920 the Westinghouse Company established KDKA, the first radio station, in Pittsburgh. It was here that we saw the birth of “stunt” programming, when the station sent announcer Wendell Fedlock up in a hot air balloon to broadcast live from the annual county fair. It did not go well.

The Fedlock Tragedy, as it came to be known, was a minor setback for the medium. By 1922 there were 60,000 radio owners in the United States and they’d pretty much listen to anything. Hit shows of the 1920s included “The Stereotype Hour,” with its catchphrase, “How about I make-a you some-a nice spa-ghet?”, “Mel Talks About His Day,” hosted by a guy named Mel who talked about his day, and “Breakfast with the Pets,” which involved animals wearing microphones at feeding time. Each of these shows stayed on the air for a surprisingly long time.

By 1934 there were 600 radio stations broadcasting to 20 million homes. And those homes were getting particular. Now any show featuring dancing or charades was quickly canceled. On the other hand, Edgar Bergen, with his puppet Charlie McCarthy, became a superstar in 1937 as the first radio ventriloquist. Other novelty acts attempted radio series as well, with limited success. They included The Amazing Atwell, radio magician; The Flying Pimento Brothers, radio acrobats; and Adam Davis, radio plate spinner.

By December of 1941, people were getting jaded about radio. They dismissed the reports of the bombing of Pearl Harbor as another “Orson Welles trick.” Who could forget FDR’s riveting speech afterward as he declared, “December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy! No, really. I’m not kidding. It really happened. Stop snickering! Eleanor!!!!”

It was radio that brought us the news of World War II. Edward R. Murrow began broadcasting reports live from war-torn London. I mean, he told us he was in London. How would we know where he really was? It’s not like we could see him or anything. And those bomb explosions could have been the sound effects man making the noises with his mouth, you know? In retrospect, I realize now that Orson Welles really ruined radio for everyone.

During the war, radio became the home for the great comedians of the day. George Burns, Bob Hope, Abbott & Costello and Red Skelton all hosted popular programs, all competitive and all trying to top and outdo one another. In 1946, Jack Benny set the record for radio’s longest comedic pause in this classic episode:

Mary Livingston: Oh, Jack, you sold those nuclear secrets to the Russians for one million dollars! How could you?

(Pause. Long pause. Audience laughter builds and builds.)

Mary Livingston: Jack? Jack? Are you okay? Jack!

As it turned out, it wasn’t a pause at all. He had passed out from a high fever. That’s the way it was back then. The show always went on, despite illness and buzz bombs. Of course the Golden Age of Radio Comedy came to a crashing halt when “The Marcel Marceau Hour” premiered and was canceled two weeks later, right during the bit where he gets trapped in a box.

During the 1950s, radio became over-shadowed by television. As its stars and series moved to the new medium, radio shifted from comedy and drama to music. It became the incubator for rock & roll and a Mecca for teenagers. Kids would cruise in their cars with the radio on, listening to disc jockeys like Alan Freed or Wolfman Jack, playing “stacks of wax” and “pimple cream commercials.” Sometimes these were indistinguishable.

Back then, DJs would play music loudly, howl, honk horns and accept payola. The music lived on into the sixties, as the counter culture made its home on the FM dial, listening to the likes of Hendrix, the Airplane and Janis, sometimes with the radio on.

But again the times would change, and radio would reshape itself once more. In 1974 the FCC ruled that all morning radio DJs must be “wacky.” This, of course, brought the phrases “caa-caa” and “poo-poo” into the radio lexicon. Soon after came the rise of talk radio, a place with enough voices and opinions to drown out the voices and opinions in your head.

Today we live in a world with a thousand radio stations and podcasts that are just a click away. In an instant we can hear shows like “The Stereotype Hour,” “Mel Talks About His Day” and “Breakfast with the Pets.”

This is radio. It lingers on, and with it a tradition that broadcasters attempt to uphold and continue, from hot air balloons to lazy ventriloquists, to dining with pets and loud mimes. On behalf of them all, thank you for listening.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we sometimes feel the Middle Ages get a bad rap. Our good friend Dan Fiorella agrees. Heed the wisdom of his ancient nostrums!

Other Medieval Solutions To Modern Day Problems


We live in an era in which the government is trying to hawk “medieval inventions” like the wheel and walls as solutions to our modern-day problems, like illegal immigration and climate change. But I think we’re only scratching the surface here. There are practically dozens of medieval solutions that can be applied to today’s problems. Our staff at the monastery has been hard at work researching this and has come up with a couple of winners:

Sure, under “ObamaCare” you weren’t allowed to apply leeches to yourself to cure blood disease or imbalance of humors. We should seriously look into this. Do you know how many imbalanced people are out there?

Can you imagine how the economy would take off if we could take something like, say, clean, beautiful coal and turn it into gold? We need to get on this right now.

The rack
Face it: jails aren’t rehabilitating anyone, but what if we utilized a system of punishment that could make criminals taller? Wouldn’t that help them get jobs as professional basketball players?

Those stupid little cans of spray wouldn’t last two seconds against these spiked metal balls on a chain! People would enjoy self defense! That would be off the hook! Also, hooks.

The plague
Everyone keeps complaining about overpopulation and preserving our planet’s resources. The plague did the job once before — I bet it could do it again!

They’re like an ingrown wall, only filled with water. Maybe we should have made a stronger case for these.

The Crusades
Talk about getting the populace up and invoked! This would be a great way to motivate people and make them proactive. Also, it would help with overpopulation as well.

Too many buildings today are hermetically sealed against the elements to save energy. We need more chimneys or Santa won’t be able to give us all the toys and underwear we deserve!

The wheelbarrow
This was an amazing invention that combined the wheel and the barrow. You give them to immigrants, they load them up with all their possessions, and then they can’t get over the wall because the wheelbarrows are too heavy!

Don’t you wish you could time everything like a three-minute egg? That’s what hourglasses do! And we wouldn’t have to change them for Daylight Saving Time — we’d just have to lay them on their sides for an hour twice a year!

The printing press
No more hacking into our websites! We would have hardcopies of all our data and would only have to worry about water and fire.

Roman numerals
Show all those ISIS people and Taliban-ers that we don’t need their stinkin’ Arab numbers! And these are Roman numbers, so you know they’re good — they’re like the Latin of numbers.

I love soaps. Whenever I was home sick, I’d watch them with my mom. I had no idea soaps went back to medieval times! Oh — maybe that’s where they got the idea for those theme restaurant shows!

How cool would it be for our police to dress like old-fashioned robots? And how well protected would they be? If you’re against armor, you’re against America!

They cause bone spurs and that can come in very handy.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which has never tried your patience with intrusive animated pop-up ads. Little motionless ads to the right of our articles, just above our blogroll, featuring books by some of our contributors, sure, we're not above forcing those on you. But nothing so annoying that you'd need to use AdBlock. So let this week's bit by Jordan Stein be a total fantasy, a cautionary tale for all of us. We're just about the last humor site in the world that doesn't force march you through a bunch of irrelevant crap before you get to our delightfully curated crap. Hallelujah!

A Plea Not To Use AdBlock


Hi there, loyal website visitor. We know you come to our site for journalism, not advertisements, but unfortunately, in this day and age, ads are how websites like ours make money. That’s why we’re begging you to please, please turn off AdBlock.

We know ads suck. Believe us, if it were possible we would create a big mousetrap and use a huge pile of money as bait to capture all the ads in the world. Then we would drop a giant cage on top of that mousetrap and throw the whole thing down a well. That’s how much we despise ads. With that being said, they’re a necessary evil and our site is filled with them.

Listen, we’re so desperate to have you shut off Adblock, we’ll do anything. We’ll ship you a cake. You could be anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter at all. All you need to do is click that little red stop sign in the corner of your browser and we’ll get that cake to you. It’ll probably be chocolate because there’s a shop by our office that makes killer chocolate cakes, but if that’s not your thing, we’ll send a different one. And we’re going to be shipping it Priority, none of this ground shipping garbage.

If you’re still reading this, apparently that thoughtful cake gesture wasn’t good enough for you. All right, we were hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but we know where Atlantis is and if you pause Adblock we’ll tell you how to get there. It’s a beautiful city and the restaurants are wonderful. You would think they only have seafood, but there’s a fantastic barbecue place as well.

Remember, you don’t need to permanently get rid of AdBlock, just disable it while on our site. It doesn’t have to be for that long. A few minutes maybe or even a couple of seconds. Please just look at an ad for any amount of time and we will literally write, produce, and perform an original song about you.

Ads are lame, but do you know what else is lame? Getting stuck in traffic. If you happen to be the one person in the world willing to look at the ads on our site, we’ll create lanes on every major highway for your use only. We’re not joking. We’ve run this by world leaders, it was tough, but we got the political support for it. Your lanes will go right next to the carpool lanes.

The old saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies to our company as well. We have a lot of expenses and if you want to continue reading our free articles, just let us show you ads. Plus, we’ll clean your roof, give you a massage, and stop climate change.

You know what? We were trying to be nice, but it’s clearly getting us nowhere. The cold, hard truth is that ads exist for a reason and by blocking them, you ungrateful readers are contributing to the decline of free, universally accessible content. Readers like you smugly scrolling through this message without the decency to just help us out are an embarrassment. If we never get another view again, we won’t care because we would rather go bankrupt than let you sickos mooch off us any longer.

We might’ve gone a little far. We’re so sorry. You readers are the reason we got into this business in the first place.

To make it up to you, we’ll bring your childhood dog back to life. We had to build a makeshift lab in what used to be our break room, but it worked. You could have that little guy in your hands right now if you would just let us show you a few ads for Pepsi. C’mon, you don’t even have to click the ads and we will literally bring back the only living thing that has ever loved you unconditionally.

You’re playing hard ball, huh? We have tomorrow’s winning Mega Millions numbers. Sure, we could just play them ourselves and never have to worry about generating ad revenue again, but it’s not even about the money at this point.

No? Fine, you win. You’re just lucky we don’t put up a paywall. Those are impenetrable.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are taking a break from current events to reflect on a heavenly encounter between two talking animals from history. We know what you're thinking: do animals really go to heaven? Well, you're wrong. The better question is, can animals really talk? And you're wrong about that too. So please, stop with the silly questions and just enjoy this silly piece by Christian Harrington, his first for us.

When Secretariat Met A War Elephant In Heaven


Secretariat: Hey, I’m Secretariat. I won the Triple —

War Elephant: Hi, yeah, I know who you are.

Secretariat: I’m not surprised. People consider me one of the greatest athletes of all time.

War Elephant: Well, one of the greatest horse athletes.

Secretariat: No, actually, in 1999 ESPN ranked me the 35th greatest athlete of the century.

War Elephant: I died in like 216 BC so that means very little —

Secretariat: The list included humans is the thing. I was the only animal in the top 50.

War Elephant: I’ve met Babe Ruth. Was he on the list?

Secretariat: Yes, I believe he was second.

War Elephant: So…much higher on the list than you —

Secretariat: Well, it skewed human. Anyhow, what did you do down there? Work part-time at a circus? Spend all day blowing water through your trunk at baby elephants?

War Elephant: I served in the Carthaginian army.

Secretariat: No kidding? The army have an elephant polo team?

War Elephant: No, I fought as a war elephant alongside Hannibal, my general and my friend.

Secretariat: Very cool. That reminds me, I won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths! It’s still a record —

War Elephant: Hannibal led us across the Alps to surprise the Romans from the north. The Alps are a mountain range in Europe —

Secretariat: I know what the Alps are.

War Elephant: There were about 40 elephants to start. We pushed through brutal conditions. We never complained. We fought as long as our 40-pound hearts would allow.

Secretariat: I bet you were the first to —

War Elephant: I was the last to die.

Brief silence

Secretariat: I won 16 of my 21 races.

War Elephant: Crossing the Alps took more than two weeks. It was freezing. Meals were few and far between —

Secretariat: Have you ever heard of the Man o’War Stakes?

War Elephant: No.

Secretariat: Yeah, I’m getting the sense you don’t have a good grasp on horse racing history.

War Elephant: You can imagine the difficulty of an Alps ascent when you weigh 12,000 pounds.

Secretariat: Eh, horse racing tracks are pretty flat. Very muddy, though.

War Elephant: I died in mud. Mud the color of Carthaginian blood.

Long silence

Secretariat: I’m gonna go hit the head.


* 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


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


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



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


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.



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Good And Teed Off


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.