Ellis and the Family Jewels


In early France, in the poorest province of that Gaulish state, there managed to survive a nondescript village known locally as “Lomm.” Other than locally, it was not known at all.

Populated by a motley gaggle of serfs, thieves and other peasant types, Lomm was completely undistinguished save for one thing:  the village was in possession, however questionably, of a small but authentic collection of precious jewels. By longstanding precedent arrived at way before the reach of any current resident’s memory, the jewels were collectively owned by the entire village.

According to local legend, since real knowledge seldom survived beyond two generations, the jewels had originally been obtained by one of the village founders when he went on the third crusade to Arabia. He had obtained them not by gallantry, or even the usual thievery, but by an ill-conceived barter arrangement which left an unknown Arab merchant in a decidedly improved financial condition.

Although owned by the village, it is not quite accurate to say that the jewels were actually held by any of the villagers. More specifically, they were held in trust (possessed, if you insist), by the current ruling family in the village on behalf of the whole village. Everyone in Lomm was of course related to everyone else—quite inbred in fact—so there was little reason to object when, at any given time, one cahuna or another would emerge and hold on to such power as there was to hold onto (plus the jewels) for a generation or so. It worked out.

At the time of the incident, the jewels were held, in said trust, by the ruling male head of the ruling family: Big Daddy Lomm.

The incident, of course, was the theft of the jewels. It was noteworthy only in its ballsiness, since prior to that time, the most consequential items in the almost constant thievery ran to food, horses, and the occasional daughter.

Anyway, the jewels got stolen from Big Daddy Lomm’s hidey hole, and for some time there was hell to pay. For the first few days he raged and rampaged and accused every relative in Lomm. Then for several more days he raged defensively trying to convincingly justify his own position after somebody remembered that everybody presumably owned the jewels. One thing leading to another, Big Daddy was eventually run through by somebody’s rapier amidst growing disgruntlement and rampant mutual suspicion by just about every resident of Lomm. He was buried with ceremony.

Two camps emerged from the chaos. They battled each other intermittently for a while, then there was decisively terminated the centuries-long doldrum unanimity of Lomm:  one group split away and resettled itself two miles down the road.

Those remaining at the old site promptly dubbed the new village “Night-Lomm,” thereby insinuating knavery and evil forces behind the new settlement. History does not record what verbal retaliations were returned upon the original village of Lomm, but, in time, travelers and others did the inevitably logical thing:  since the one was called Night-Lomm, the other became known as Day-Lomm. Given the French penchant for dropping syllables and screwing up nouns, normal linguistic evolution eventually turned Day-Lomm into De’Lomm. Thus it remains today.

Some famous people are descended from De’Lomm. There’s Carol Lom-bard, a singer of course. And Alan Lom-ax, a woodcutter. To name a few. Mothers in both villages took to celebrating their vibrant Lomm’ness through the names they assigned to their babies, such as Philommene, Barthalommew, Salomme, Solommon and suchlike.

But this digresses. There is a mystery here.  What became of the jewels? And there is an answer, though it requires a tad of explanation.



With the natural passage of time and memories, the very existence of the jewels became quite forgotten along with most other knowledge more than two generations old. Old animosities and suspicions were long buried and gone. Thus things stood for two and one half fairly quiet centuries in this remote backwater of the otherwise civilized Gallic world. A degree of creeping urban sprawl eventually caused the two Lomms to re-conjoin and the whole now became known, for unknown reasons, as De’Lomm. Before long nobody remembered Night-Lomm.

A tad still further down that very same road, a bit beyond where the far side of that former old Night-Lomm had lain, was yet another village, equally nondescript. Nestled in the sharp bend of a river, this location was locally known as the “ell” because of the acute angle of the river’s bend. This village was known as “Ell-is” for reasons no one remembers. Due solely to tradition, not a few girl children of this village, if they didn’t die, were named “Ellis,” it being thought for some reason that this sound had an appealing ring to it.

Years passed, small villages grew to become larger villages. Only a scant mile now separated the east boundary of De’Lomm from the west boundary of Ell-is. And, true to tradition, this latter place was now called home by a dozen or so females of various ages, all named Ellis.

Our story concerns one of these. The Ellis of interest was a buxom lass, formerly a milk maid, strong of fist and wide of hip, now moved upward to barmaid. She jerked ale at the Ell-is Tavern.

She fell in love with, and married, one of her most regular customers, a hale youth from up the road at De’Lomm whose name, believe it or not, was Jewels. His mother had wanted a girl.

Of uncertain ambition, Jewels had early on concluded that it was difficult to earn a living without working. Consequently, he picked up spare change shoveling horse manure in the stable behind the tavern whilst Ellis delivered mugs of ale, pressed herself against customers and made handsome tips inside the tavern proper. Things worked out, and they properly celebrated their first anniversary.

Jewels constant companion was a skinny hound he called Boner. Boner was seen to accompany Jewels at all times and in all places. Even in the house. The supervisor of Jewels’ shit shoveling was a dyspeptic Frenchman named Pierre who owned the Ell-is Tavern. Pierre also owned a broken down aged mule he called Francois.

Once a month it was Pierre’s custom to load six large barrels of ale aboard an old wagon of uncertain strength, hitch Francois up front, and proceed on this rig withal to a customer tavern three clicks up the road at De’Lomm. Actually, what Pierre did was, he made Jewels take a break from shit shoveling long enough to hoist the heavy barrels up onto the wagon, as Pierre did well merely to haul his own bulk aboard and issue directions to Francois.

In addition to these things, Ellis had two things left over from her milkmaid days:  one aging milk cow and one nanny goat. These friends she kept pastured in a small field beside the road halfway between Ell-is and De’Lomm. The astute reader will have noticed the plot thickening.

It was that time of month. Ellis was serving suds, Jewels was at his usual behind the horses, and Pierre was hitching up Francois to the wagon of uncertain strength.

Our tale might have ended right here had not Pierre and Francois made simultaneous missteps. As it happened, Francois stepped on Pierre’s foot, right thoroughly crushing five small but quite necessary bones.

Out of the ensuing excitement it emerged that Jewels would take Pierre’s place, for this run only, and drive Francois to deliver the ale. Ellis was assigned to ride shotgun and ensure that Jewels made it to the right place. And back. Boner, naturally, would ride between them. What could go wrong?

They rode forth.



They were approximately right beside the pasture when it happened. The uncertain strength of the wagon became certain when a particular one of its aged bed boards broke under the enormous weight of the six ale kegs. This unexpected shift of stress points immediately caused four adjacent boards to also break, leaving a sizeable hole in the center of the wagon bed. One of the barrels thereupon fell partially through the hole, striking and fatally damaging the wagon’s front axle.

This misfortune caused the whole rig to lurch sharply, scaring hell out of Francois, who bolted. As Francois went forward, Ellis went backward and, likewise with the fallen barrel, became wedged in the new hole in the wagon’s bed, one of her legs in the wagon, the other leg through the hole, foot dragging the ground. She squalled like a Cossack, causing Francois to redouble his efforts at flight. Jewels hauled back on the reins in futile attempt to dissuade Francois, and added his own bellowing to the rising bedlam.

One end of the broken axle dug into the roadbed, causing everything to vector sharply to the left, with the unintended result that Francois, wagon and all plowed through the fence and into the pasture. The sight of this suddenly oncoming noisy apparition scared hell out of Ellis’s cow and nanny goat who stampeded mutually in opposite directions.

In her lumbering flight, the cow repeatedly kicked her own wide-swinging bag, which scared and hastened her all the more in her headlong intention to escape the fearful wagon. The nanny goat, for some reason, evolved quickly through fright to an angry determination to defend her territory, turned right about and charged the oncoming wagon.

With a mighty “B-a-a-a-a” she cleared Francois’ head, cleared Jewels and Boner, and landed in a knobbly heap on the available portions of Ellis. Thereupon she too got stuck in the wagon’s new hole, head down through the hole, her buttocks firmly wedged between Ellis’s ample breastworks, her hind legs—as best she could—kicking desperately. Ellis’s protestations grew to volumes easily heard from afar.

By now the rig had turned full circuit around the pasture and emerged back onto the road. Francois, his terror undiminished but following years of habit and sheer inertia, kept the entangled commotion headed up the road at considerable speed, straight into De’Lomm. To a casual observer standing by the roadside at the outskirts to De’Lomm, this then was the approaching scene:

A terrified bawling milk cow, running flat out, kicking her own bag with every step as it swung wildly from side to side. A bony terrified mule, braying copiously, foaming at the mouth, running at full tilt whilst pulling a very old ale wagon which canted frighteningly to starboard. On the driver’s seat a terrified Jewels yelling “Whoa” to the winds. Draped around Jewels’ neck and hanging on for dear life, a skinny hound dog, yelping and quite obviously urinating continuously on his master’s neck. In the wagon, five large heavy ale barrels bouncing about and a sixth showing both above and below the wagon’s bed;  plus a buxom female and a nanny goat, both also seen from above and below, adding their stoutest protestations to the general cacophony. The head of the goat is down, the arse is up.

Small wonder that villagers were seen to 1) gawk briefly in wonderment, and 2) turn and flee in any direction that was not the same as that of the wagon.

It should be mentioned that De’Lomm was, even then, a typical French village. Its transportation net consisted of one main street which ran straight through the center of the town. There were no side streets. The buildings along the main street were actually one continuous building, unbroken for the length of the town—except precisely in the center of De’Lomm.

There, for reasons no one remembered or cared about, a slight widening occurred. In the center of the widening a statue had been erected in the form of that august and revered founding father no one remembered or knew anything about:  Big Daddy Lomm.

The headlong passage of our impending catastrophe, preceded by a goodly portion of fleeing round-eyed citizenry, now approached this center of town, the general effect being like unto that of a funnel. A dozen or so De’Lommers and the cow made it past the statue. Nothing else did.

It happened.

Francois grazed the left edge of Big Daddy’s statue and veered off, trampling the mayor’s wife. The wagon encountered the structure head on, breaking loose the foundation below street level and catapulting Jewels onto Big Daddy’s raised right arm. The rearmost ale barrel cleared everything, rose like a pole vaulter and decapitated the statue.

Precious jewels fell like rain. That is to say, mineral gemstones fell from where they had been well concealed these past two and a half centuries inside the hollow head of the statue, while Jewels the mortal husband of Ellis dropped like a rock. He landed, dazed, at the base of the statue, surrounded by glittering wealth. Boner bit him, tucked tail and ran.

The final collapse of the ale wagon released the wedged barrel, which fell on through and rolled away crushing citizens as it went. This released the nanny goat who quite thoroughly kicked Ellis in the tit, leaped down and left town for good, never to be seen again. This final indignity also released Ellis herself who, one might say, had blood in her eye.

She could have killed anyone—god knows there were candidates scattered like chaff all over the center of town. But the special release she needed focused on the one of these that her instinct held responsible:  Jewels.

If you’ve kept count, you know that four barrels remain on the wrecked wagon. Ellis noticed them. She might merely have wrung Jewels’ wet neck with her bare hands, but no. She was a clever girl, of occasional bizarre turn of mind. What she did was, she strode calmly to the front of the wagon, pulled out the stake against which the four barrels were straining, and stepped back with satisfaction.

A full ale barrel weighs four hundred and sixty pounds, liquid measure. They did their gruesome work.

To this very day, should you perchance pass through a small nondescript French town known locally as De’Lomm, you will find in the center of that town a slight widening of the street. In the center of this widening there is a poorly done concrete statue of Ipah, the Egyptian god of chaos.

In the street itself, around the base of Ipah’s statue, there is still yet to this day discernable a faint reddish smear which seems to contain a certain glitter. This has remained true, no matter how many times they repave the street.

And that, my friends, is the true and factual story of how Ellis crushed the family Jewels.


Fondly dedicated to my dear pal

Jules Delambre, and to his loving wife Alice

ca 1978