* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always looking for exotic employees to match our exotic business. Let Andy Millman be your big game warden.

Phil’s Wild And Exotic Animal Park Is Now Hiring

By: Andy Millman

Have you ever considered working with animals? Maybe you liked playing with puppies or cuddling kitties as a child. Perhaps you’ve let a squirrel race up your pant leg or fed a gopher a marshmallow you held between your teeth. If so, this could be the job for you.

We’re looking for a real animal lover to work hand-in-hand with one of Phil’s most popular attractions, Ollie the gorilla. Maybe you’ve heard some scuttlebutt regarding Ollie’s last companion, Jacques Cameroon, and the way his career ended at Phil’s (he died). Don’t let that deter you from pursuing your dream. Monsieur Cameroon knew (or should have known) that Ollie doesn’t appreciate being disturbed between four and five in the afternoon, when he watches Family Feud. On September 8, 2014 (the day of “the incident”) Ollie was enjoying the show and his afternoon cigar when the families were asked the following question: “Name a food you might find in the jungle.”

When Larry Barnes, eldest brother of the Barnes family, pounded the buzzer and yelled, “Apples,” Ollie became understandably irate. Even most idiots know that apples do not grow in a jungle. Why Mr. Barnes did not respond with “bananas” or “coconuts,” or even “small snakes,” is anyone’s guess. If he had, however, Ollie likely would not have become agitated and put out a perfectly good cigar on Monsieur Cameroon’s forehead.

You might suggest (perhaps you went to law school) that Mr. Barnes bears some responsibility for these events. We are impressed with your thinking. We are considering filing some sort of papers against Mr. Barnes (maybe you can help us), but first we need to tend to suits from Monsieur Cameroon’s family, as well as from several patrons claiming they were “traumatized” by their afternoon at Phil’s. Ollie is hoping that Judge Judy will be assigned the case. Our lawyers (once we find some) will prove that: (A) Monsieur Cameroon should not have been in the cage during Family Feud hour, and (B) Nobody was making those “eyewitnesses” watch Ollie rip Monsieur Cameroon’s arm off his body and beat him over the head with it.

Now then, back to our current opening. The preferred candidate should be female, with hairy arms and back, and be of childbearing age. A passing resemblance to Dr. Phil is an added plus. The woman should be a pleasant conversationalist with excellent hooting skills and a large to extra-large birth canal. Ollie desires a nest-builder, especially since his last one was destroyed by the fire hose used to stop him from jumping up and down on Monsieur Cameroon. The cooking is basic, though you should be able to heat up a pizza and smash palm nuts with rocks. The other required housekeeping skills are minimal. Ollie is fairly neat and normally flings most of his feces out of the cage.

As you know, gorillas are social animals — often considered “the life of the party” — so you should be friendly and get on well with large primates. Let’s face it: even the humans didn’t care much for Monsieur Cameroon. He was probably not a “good hire.” That doesn’t mean we condoned Ollie beating his head against the bars to the rhythm of The Brady Bunch theme, but to say that we can understand it. And don’t get us started on what the other animals thought of him. If you’re really interested, stop by for a chat with Gretta the Zebra about the time Monsieur Cameroon took her to the movies. It is a most unpleasant story.

On second thought, it’s probably best for you to put Monsieur Cameroon out of your mind. Rest assured, with the right companion (a hairy hooter who looks like Dr. Phil), Ollie will be as gentle as a baby beaver. He is just a little lonely (especially now that Monsieur Cameroon is gone). Ollie wants what you and I do — someone to share our life with, someone to curl up with and watch Murder She Wrote, someone to push our tire swing and pick bugs off our back.

Could you be Ollie’s special someone? Find out by sending a letter of application directly to him. Use large print and simple one or two-syllable words. Draw some pictures. Tell him if you also enjoy Family Feud and other daytime television shows — except for Wheel of Fortune. Do not even mention Wheel of Fortune. As a matter of fact, it would be best not to apply if your name happens to be Pat or Vanna. You should enclose a picture, but nothing too provocative because Ollie gets “worked up” easily (you’ll have no worries in that department!). A simple photo of your everyday life, such as hanging off a tree limb or fishing ants out of a nest with a stick, should suffice. You may also smear some of your musk on the application packet.

All applications that Ollie doesn’t tear apart, eat or set on fire will be kept on file for six months. Don’t despair if you are not called right away. Ollie’s fingers are a little big for the buttons and he often dials incorrectly. If you are not selected for this position, you may still qualify to work with Alex the Angry Alligator. You must have quick reflexes and not smell like chicken. You can pick up an application for that position at Alex’s cage at any time, except on Wednesday nights, when he watches Top Chef.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your most trusted legal adviser when you're making those final arrangements. Then again, if your name is Abraham J. Finklestone, you probably have some ideas of your own.

The Last Will And Testament Of Abraham J. Finklestone

By: Andy Millman

I, Abraham J. Finklestone of Niles, Illinois, do hereby declare this to be the last of my fifty-two wills, unless Dr. Gottlebaum finally believes that I am sick and decides to do something about it and I live long enough to write another. If he does not, and I perish, please inform him that I took some satisfaction upon my demise knowing that I was right and he was wrong. And let him know that I’m of “sound mind,” despite what he may say to the contrary.

Article I
Now then. I wish to be referred to only by my full and proper name: Abraham J. Finklestone. Do not let anyone sneak any of the following into my obituary or onto my tombstone: “AJ,” “Abe,” “Lincoln,” “Stinkin’ Lincoln,” “A-Bag,” “A-Hole,” “Fink,” “Finkletoes,” “Finklebone,” “Finklebonehead,” “Fred Finklestone,” or “Flunklestone.”

Article II
My memorial service will be held at the Niles Community Center, where I attend group therapy and weekly bingo games. I have been very hot lately, so please investigate the possibility that I was poisoned by one of the other players. Last Thursday’s brownies, made by the very competitive Beatrice R. Watkins, were particularly suspicious. (I barely made it home without having a “brown-out.”)

Article III
Volunteer bingo caller Stammerin’ Stan Babber will lead the service and run a simultaneous bingo game. Please be patient, because if he’s having a bad day a single game can run over two hours. Upon reaching a legal bingo, which shall be defined as a straight line in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal direction, the service shall conclude. The winner will collect the prize (bobblehead Spiro Agnew), place the winning card in my casket and close the lid. Stammerin’ Stan will declare, as best he can, “That’s a winning bingo,” and then we’ll have some lunch.

Article IV
Schmecky Chen, the Jewish-Chinese entertainer and owner of Schmeckens, the Jewish-Chinese restaurant, will provide the catering. The menu will include: Mao-Tzo Ball Soup, Potato Chancakes, General Sol’s Chicken, Kung Pao Kugel, and Bubby Buddha’s Babka. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. After lunch Schmecky will perform his routine about Confucius having trouble renting a car because he has no identification. (“But I’m Confucius,” he says, and the guy behind the counter says, “I don’t know what’s so confusing, pal. You need a driver’s license.” I love it!)

Schmecky is not just a jokester. He sings like Jerry Lewis, if Jerry Lewis grew up in Shanghai. I’ve asked him to sing “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Mamma’s Little Baby Loves Shortnin’ Bread,” “Ride Like the Wind” and “Roll Out the Barrel.” During the last verse of “Roll Out the Barrel,” the pallbearers will roll out a barrel containing Kid Dynamite, two-time Midwest championship midget wrestler (1969 and 1970, 80-85 pound weight class). Mr. Dynamite was severely injured by an “Atomic Drop” applied by Junior Mint in 1971 and will need some assistance getting in and out of the barrel. (To make it easier, the pallbearers may just want to tip the barrel upside down.)

Article V
After being dumped out of the barrel, Mr. Dynamite will referee a wrestling match between my two ex-wives. The match shall last three rounds, or until one ex-wife is pinned, surrenders or is about to be Atomic Dropped. (Kid Dynamite suffers from nuclear flashbacks and will immediately suspend the match at the first threat of a “mushroom cloud.”) If there is no winner after three rounds, Schmecky will lead the ladies in a game of “Eeny Meeny Miny Mao.” The winner shall receive my vice president bobblehead collection (complete from 1960, minus Spiro Agnew) while the loser gets my Kid Dynamite bobblehead collection (pre-“Atomic Drop,” each figure life-size).

Article VI
After the service, lunch and wrestling, chauffeur me in a black hearse to Green Pastures Memorial Cemetery, located in the heart of Des Plaines, Illinois, right off the 294 tollway. I’ve reserved a corner lot overlooking the Burger Belly rest stop. Their manager, Fernando, assured me that my plot is within their delivery area. The chauffeur should transport me to my new home in the manner in which I drive myself: twenty miles per hour and hazard lights flashing. Please drive through the McDonald’s and order me a “coffee to go.” Make sure it’s decaf, as I want no difficulty sleeping.

Article VII
I wish to be buried in a new (make sure it is unused!) maroon coffin with gray interior, just like my Buick LeSabre. Do not spend additional money on undercoating or rustproofing. Please place the latest copy of Time magazine inside the coffin, along with a flashlight, a bag of Twizzlers and a roll of toilet paper.

Article VIII
Each attendant shall throw three scoops of dirt on my grave. Be careful not to get any in the air pipe. Somebody should periodically shout down the pipe (possibly Stammerin’ Stan) to let me know how it’s going up there.

Article IX
Once the dirt and I are down, Schmecky will sing “(I Did It) Mai Wei.” This is a real show-stopper, especially the part where he croons, “Complaints, I’ve had a slew/If you have time, let me just mention,” and then the music dies down and he “kvetches” about various aches and pains and people who have “screwed him over,” including his brother-in-law and the Red Army. As the mourners leave, they should remember to toss some change in Schmecky’s chef hat as a gratuity, and a few quarters down the air pipe in case I need to make a telephone call.

Article X
That’s about it. If you want to pay tribute to my memory, there are several things you can do. You can wrestle Kid Dynamite on my behalf, but no “Atomic Drops,” please. You can build a bobblehead Abraham J. Finklestone. Don’t make the head too wobbly, though, because I don’t want to get a crick in my neck. And you can always stop by and bring me some lunch. I’ll probably grow tired of Burger Belly after a while.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it seems we are always welcoming a new crop of substitute teachers. No one is more suited to this task than our good friend Andy Millman.

Welcome To The Substitute Teaching Staff At Henry Flanger Elementary

By: Andy Millman

Congratulations on being selected as one of Henry Flanger Elementary School’s substitute teachers. Only eleven out of every twelve applicants were hired, so a hearty “Well done!” to you.

There are some interesting tidbits regarding our school that we thought you might like to know. Did you know that there was a real Henry Flanger? Some people see the drawing on the side of our building and believe he’s the product of a public relations company, like Tony the Tiger or Geronimo. No, Henry was real and he taught here. And his eyebrows were that bushy and his glasses were that thick! (Tragically, they both contributed to his untimely death when he mistook the Bunsen burner for a reading lamp and his forehead was set ablaze like a pile of kindling.) We named the school in his honor, and as part of the lawsuit settlement, and proudly wear “The Flaming Flangers” across all our school jerseys.

Despite what you might hear, Henry Flanger Elementary is not haunted. Some of the children will tell you that they hear screaming and that it’s the ghost of Henry Flanger “trapped in the flame of hell’s Bunsen burner.” Young imaginations are precious. The screaming they hear is likely coming from the teachers’ lounge, so don’t be concerned. But don’t come in if you hear it too.

You may also hear that our school was once a penitentiary. This is not true either. Many of our former students have served time from time to time, but only two have been charged with murder, and one of those was found not guilty by reason of insanity. That’s Mr. Bibcock, our art teacher. He’s not insane anymore, but please don’t bring up his late mother or any of the 460 and counting sculptures he’s carved in her memory. You can see some of them, along with a miniature igloo he made out of her teeth, in our display case by the receptionist’s desk.

As part of your benefits package, you’re entitled to free lunches in our cafeteria. We’re sure you’ll enjoy Mrs. Claussen’s home cooking. Try one of her famous corndogs, but go easy – people have choked. To be fair to Mrs. Claussen, three of those people were unaware that the stick is inedible.

You also receive health benefits. The school nurse, Ms. Jenkins, is available if you’re under the weather or have been assaulted. Please do not ask her to check your prostate, even if it’s under the weather or has been assaulted. If you are a woman, please do not ask her to check whatever your version of the prostate is.

You may notice our drinking water has an amber shade and a varnish-like aroma. Don’t be alarmed. Our former science teacher, the late Mr. Solowitz, determined it was “nutrient-rich” and drank eight glasses of it every day before having to swap out his entire digestive tract. If your immune system is weak, inefficient or just plain lazy, you may want to be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms: Howling Bowels, Shotgun Belching or Chattering Anus, which is similar to but slightly different from Stuttering Sphincter.

You will be issued a key to the substitute teacher bathroom, located in the basement, past the furnace, boiler, and our custodian Mr. Canhaus (please don’t wake him between 10:00 and 2:00). There you will find past issues of Highlights magazine to make your time more pleasant, along with a red marker and tests that need grading.

Because children are sensitive and parents like to complain, we no longer issue numeric scores on tests. Instead, please provide feedback by drawing one of the following figures: a happy face, a really happy face, a stoic face or a really stoic face. Please don’t draw any of these figures: a head filled with rocks, a head made of solid bone, a head with a sleeping elf where the brain should be or a head with no ears (one of our students has no ears).

Because of student allergies, never serve any snacks except for plain rice cakes. If rice cakes are unavailable, plain Styrofoam is acceptable (no cinnamon or apple flavored, please).

You may be asked to assist in gym class. Coach Saunders recently had both hips replaced and the children have figured out how to dislocate them. We advise wearing an athletic supporter and/or reinforced cup, even if you’re a woman. Many of the children have bad aim. And some have very good aim, which is why you should wear the supporter.

Because of sore losers, we don’t keep score of anything. Any child who keeps score during a game should be issued five demerits. If they keep score of their demerits, give them five more.

Outdoor recess is held in the field behind the school, right next to the junkyard. The children are allowed to play with the junk, but anything they take they have to pay for, including hubcaps.

You can pick up your substitute teaching uniform at the garage. Ask for Skeeter. Give him your size but don’t let him take your measurements. Despite what he’ll tell you, he is not “the school tailor.” He is an exterminator.

Your uniform may or may not have an unpleasant odor. If foul smells bother you (think three-quarter digested corn dogs), wash the uniform (especially the pants) in a solution of bleach mixed with more bleach. We also recommend setting your dryer to one click short of combustion. This will help with the ticks.

The bus will pick you up at 8:00 am. If you smell alcohol on our driver’s breath, please take the wheel. If he doesn’t smell of booze, don’t criticize his driving. He has anger control issues (that’s why he drinks).

Lastly, please sign the release of liability form. We like to handle complaints in-house and not spend our time making lawyers rich. If you are a complainer, you can contact your representative, Mr. Canhaus, at any time (except between 10:00 and 2:00).

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are all about saving the children. Or, at least, we are pretty much about saving the children. All right, all right, we admit it: we don't give a damn about the children. And neither does Andy Millman.

Please Hire Me At Save-A-Child

By: Andy Millman

May 8, 2013

Human Resources
The Save-A-Child Foundation
2010 Sawgrass Road
Northbrook, IL 60062

Dear Save-A-Child,

I wish to throw my name in the hat (or is it “hat in the ring?”) for a position at Save-A-Child. I think I would be great. I once found a bunny rabbit in my yard who seemed to be under the weather. I took him in and made him a nest out of shredded newspaper and a shoebox. It was very cushy. Everything but the Sports section was in there. I nursed him back to health with carrots, Cheetos and episodes of “Maude” (I own the box set). Two weeks later he was dead, but that wasn’t my fault (you can blame my cat for that one!).

Before we begin, I have some questions.

First: How old is the child and why does it need saving? Do you have a picture of it you could send me? I hope it’s a boy because, having been one myself (many years ago), I might be better able to relate to it. I do have a sister (she’s a real pain in my ass).

Second: Does my pay come from you or the child? Is it a ransom type of situation? The state of Illinois forbids me to buy, own or possess any firearms. I’d prefer to not say why. Let’s just say I got a raw deal and somebody’s going to pay.

Third: Once this child is saved (fingers crossed) will there be another one to save (fingers crossed)? If not, would I be entitled to unemployment?

Fourth: Do you own or can you rent a golf cart? I would like one to transport me around your building. Anywhere else I can walk around just fine. It’s just your building looks big from the outside. That’s me in the green Ford outside your window.

Fifth: Do you have an employee cafeteria? Is it all-you-can-eat? Are children permitted in the cafeteria? (I hope not.)

Sixth: How many breaks am I permitted during a normal four-hour work day?

Seventh: What is the bathroom situation?

And finally: How do you determine if a kid really needs saving or is just faking it?

I don’t have a resume to enclose because I’m on guard for people stealing my identity. Even the name and address at the bottom of this letter are not my own. You’ll see I’m very clever that way. Each time we meet I will ask you to address me by a different name. I have hundreds of them (some belong to real people!)

I interview only via standard, good old USA post. One question at a time, please. I will pick up the letters at the address below, just as long as the real Seymour Hybach doesn’t catch me. Use a red envelope. I will take at least one week thinking about your question, considering my response, and catching up on sleep. Then I will send you my reply. I anticipate the interview taking between six months and two and a half years. Hopefully the child can wait.

Looking forward to hearing from you. Together we will save that child!

Yours in service,

Seymour (Sy) Hybach (Hybach)

1415 Lamon Ave.
Wilmette, IL 60091