By Mordechai Schmutter

(We open in a backyard on the corner of a block—which is a “backyard” only in that it’s off the back door of the house, adjacent to what those who live in the house call the “back porch.” For all practical purposes, it’s just another side yard. The yard is definitely the site of an ongoing backyard side yard outdoor minyan, with folding chairs standing neatly against the house, some canopies on poles, and extension cords everywhere. In the middle of the yard is a lone folding chair, upon which sits Hoshea, in his Shabbos suit and hat and coat and scarf and gloves and mask and that thing that’s like a mask but goes behind the head to keep the ears warm, sleeping. Mr. S walks out of the house, his tie hanging loosely around his neck, his jacket slung over his arm, and heads straight for Hoshea. He stands a socially respectful distance away, and pokes him awake with a stick.)

MR. S: “Hoshea, wake up! What are you doing in my yard?”

HOSHEA (startled): “Oh! Did, I miss Kabbalas Shabbos?”

MR. S: “No, it’s not even licht-bentching yet. How long have you been here?”

HOSHEA (looks at his watch): “I don’t know; maybe an hour.”

MR. S: “You came early to sleep on a folding chair?”

HOSHEA: “No, I came for davening. I must have fallen asleep waiting for everyone to show up. Shabbos starts at 6:45, right?”

MR. S: “No, 5:45. We haven’t changed the clocks yet.”

HOSHEA: “Oh, sorry … I changed my clocks.”

MR. S: “Why?”

HOSHEA: “I didn’t want to have to start the Purim seudah by 12. I changed the clocks so I could start it by one o’clock, my time.”

MR. S: “Smart.”

HOSHEA: “And then I drank a lot and forgot how Shabbos works.”

MR. S: “Oh.”

HOSHEA: “So I showed up here at 5:45 my time, which I now realize was 4:45 your time.”

MR. S: “Shouldn’t you have just shown up at 6:45 your time, which is 5:45 our time?”

HOSHEA: “Our time?”

MR. S: “My time? I don’t…”

HOSHEA: “I literally do not have the head for this right now.”

MR. S: “Are you still drunk?”

HOSHEA: “I don’t think so. I just had an hour’s sleep. But my head is pounding. Do you have Advil?”

DOOR: KNOCK, KNOCK

HOSHEA (clutching his head in agony): “Ow!”

MR. S (walking toward the house): “Nine months of davening in the backyard and people still knock on the front door.” (Gesturing at the table on the back porch as he heads around the house.) “Look in those mishloach manos over there. Everyone gave us something with a theme this year; you just have to figure out which theme has Advil in it.”

HOSHEA: “You keep your mishloach manos on the back porch?”

MR. S: “My wife’s not letting any of it into the house.”

HOSHEA: “You must have 90 mishloach manos here!”

MR. S: “45. You’re seeing double.”

DOOR: KNOCK, KNOCK

HOSHEA (clutching his head): “Ow!”

MR. S (looking around the corner of the house at the front door): “Ami! Glad you could make it. You didn’t happen to see my kids on your way over, did you?”

AMI: “Actually, I didn’t see much of anything. I can’t seem to find my glasses anywhere. I got here entirely by memory.”

MR. S: “That’s impressive.”

AMI: “Yeah. There’s a new pothole on the corner, by the way. So where is everybody?”

MR. S: “Right now, it’s just you, me, and Hoshea.” (He walks Ami into the backyard.) “Watch out for the extension cords.”

HOSHEA (looking through bags, not looking up): “There are hundreds of cords!”

MR. S: “He’s seeing double.”

HOSHEA (looking through the mishloach manos): “Gefilte fish, grape juice, roll. Gefilte fish, grape juice, roll. You know, about 30 people gave you the “Tomchei Shabbos” theme.”

MR. S: “Yeah, everyone thinks they thought of it.”

HOSHEA: “You’re going to have a cat problem.”

MR. S (notices a teenager walking in dressed as the top half of a horse—mainly a horse head and two front legs. But the back half of the horse is conspicuously missing, and what is left of the torso is hanging limply behind him.): “Baruch, you made it home! Where’s your brother?”

BARUCH: “My…” (He takes off his horse head and turns around.) “Oh! I thought it felt a little drafty back there! Although that does explain everyone’s comments…”

MR. S: “How could you lose your brother?”

BARUCH: “I don’t know! I was going around collecting, and everyone was like, “Where’s your brother, where’s your brother?” I didn’t know which brother they were talking about. I hope he gets home before shkiyah, though. He has all the money.”

AMI: “I can barely see; is he dressed as the front of a horse?”

MR. S: “Yeah, they’re practicing for next year. The whole yeshiva is going to dress up as a centipede.”

AMI: “Is that a good idea?”

BARUCH: “I’m gonna get changed.” (He gallops into the house.)

HOSHEA (still looking through the manos): “Is there even any food in this one?”

AMI (squinting at the table): “How come the one I gave you isn’t here?”

MR. S: “OK, you’re not looking through these. Hoshea is!”

HOSHEA (looking through a basket): “Wait, why are you offended that the package you put work into isn’t sitting on the back porch in the cold?”

MR. S (to Ami): “How about you just look out on the street to see if anyone else is coming?”

AMI: “Sure, send the guy without glasses.” (He points at the neighbor’s yard.) “What about him?”

MR. S (checking): “That’s a snowman.”

AMI: “Oh, wait; someone’s coming.”

(Another teenager walks into the backyard wearing a robe and shower slippers, with a towel around his neck.)

MR S: “Oh, Heshy; you’re here! And you actually showered before hadlakah this week!”

HESHY: “No, this is my costume. I’m a guy who’s trying to get ready for Shabbos and deliver mishloach manos at the same time. I’m fully dressed underneath. My pant legs are rolled up.”

(No one says anything for a moment.)

HESHY: “What? There aren’t many costume choices in the dorm! That’s why we’re all renting the centipede costume next year.”

AMI: “Yeah, about that … What happens when you all have to cross the street?”

MR. S: “Later. Get in the shower!”

HESHY: “OK. My calves are frozen.” (He heads up the porch stairs before turning.) “Has anyone seen my Shabbos suit anywhere?”

MR. S: “Wear your other suit.”

(Nachi Losecha walks into the backyard, his face hidden by a huge mishloach manos.)

NACHI: “Freilichen Purim!” (to Mr. S) “Is it too late to give you this?”

AMI: “Hey, didn’t I give you that one?”

NACHI: “Um, no. This one is different.”

AMI: “OK. Is my card still in it?”

NACHI (lowering the basket and looking inside): “I … don’t think so.”

AMI: “Wait. Are you wearing clown makeup?” (Indeed, Nachi’s face is painted white, with black eyebrows, etc.)

NACHI: “I’m a mime! Why does everyone think I’m a clown?”

AMI: “Maybe because you look like a clown!”

NACHI: “I’m a mime! And I used permanent marker by accident. I can’t get it off!”

MR. S: “You know, they did a study on clowns recently. It turns out that children are actually creeped out by them.”

NACHI: “I’m not a clown!”

(Uri M. stumbles into the yard, tripping on extension cords, leans against the wall, and looks up at Nachi.)

URI M.: “Hey! Who invited this clown?”

MR. S: “Are you drunk? Don’t stand on the patio.”

NACHI: “He’s not drunk. He pretends to be drunk every year.”

(Uri falls over.)

Mr. S (to Nachi): “Mishloach manos goes on the table.”

HOSHEA (still looking through the packages): “Someone gave you toilet paper.”

NACHI (putting his package on the table): “I don’t know how I’m going to go into work like this on Monday. I’m a grief counselor.”

AMI: “How many people do we have for the minyan so far?”

MR. S: “If we can count this guy (he uses his foot to point to Uri, who is snoring on a snowbank), then seven. And I’m still missing one of my kids.”

AMI (pointing upwards): “How about the guy hanging from your upstairs window?”

MR. S (looks up): “That’s not a guy. That’s Haman.”

AMI: “He’s wearing a suit.”

HESHY (from upstairs): “My suit!”

NACHI (in background, to Hoshea): “I don’t understand. If you changed your clock, wouldn’t that make you an hour late?”

HOSHEA: “Mimes don’t talk, Nachi.”

(Another teenager, Nassi, comes racing into the yard, holding the back half of the horse costume up around his neck.)

NASSI: “Did I make it?”

MR. S: “Just barely. What happened?”

NASSI: “I couldn’t see where I was going.”

AMI: “That didn’t stop me. And there’s a pothole on the corner.”

NASSI: “I know. There’s also a bum on the side of the road.” (He looks at Nachi, who is setting up folding chairs.) “You’re looking a little pasty. Why don’t you sit down?”

NACHI: “It’s getting late. I hope we have a minyan.”

AMI: “This is ridiculous. There’s a shul right next door!”

MR. S: “No, this is specifically the minyan for people who are careful about corona.”

HOSHEA: “We’d rather catch pneumonia.”

NACHI: “I don’t want to walk into shul like this. I look like a clown.”

URI (from down on the ground, pointing but not opening his eyes): “AHA!”

NACHI: “I meant that the fact that I have makeup on that is not clown makeup makes me look like an actual clown in the sense that I am coming into shul in makeup.”

HOSHEA: “What?”

NACHI (to Hoshea): “Your wife kicked you out of the house, didn’t she?”

HOSHEA: “She said she couldn’t make Shabbos with me bouncing off the walls.”

HESHY (from upstairs): “Has anyone seen the scissors?”

MR. S: “Maybe we can get someone from the shul.”

AMI: “Wait, there’s someone out there.” (calling) “A TZENTER!”

HOSHEA: “Ow!”

NACHI: “We only have eight.”

AMI: “No one comes if you tell them they’re the ninth. Especially with a shul right next door. A TZENTER!”

HOSHEA: “Ow!”

NASSI: “That’s the bum I saw!”

(The bum comes up to them.)

BUM: “Hi. You don’t know me, but can I use your phone?”

Mr. S: “Um … Sorry, we don’t … have a phone.”

AMI: “Are you Jewish? Would you mind sticking around for prayers? We can give you food baskets.”

NACHI: “You can’t offer him food that’s not yours.”

AMI: “That’s OK; I’ll just offer him the food that I gave you that you just gave Mr. S.”

MR. S (to Nachi): “That’s true. He gave me the same basket earlier. I think I re-gifted it to you. You weren’t home.”

NACHI: “It’s not the same! It’s just the same packaging. Look, did the one you gave me have…” (He starts rummaging through the basket, and comes up with something.) “Glasses?”

AMI: “My glasses!”

BUM (still in the doorway): “Listen, I’m Jewish. This is just a Purim costume! But I look so believable that no one gave me money all day, and now I can’t even get a cab to pick me up. I have to call my wife.”

MR. S: “Can you stay for a minyan?”

BUM: “No; I have to keep moving. My wife’s going to worry. She’ll think I got mugged.”

NACHI: “You look like you got mugged.”

BUM (to Nachi): “Well, you look like you had a challah-baking accident. Plus, I don’t have a suit.”

(As he says that, Haman falls from his perch and crashes to the ground behind him, suit and all.)

BUM: (startled) “Aah!”

HOSHEA: “Ow!”

MR. S: “You can wear that suit.”

AMI (to Hoshea): “Are you OK?”

HOSHEA: “I have a hangover.”

AMI: “Why didn’t you say so? My mishloach manos has a Shushan Purim theme: Tums, ginger ale, Advil, and a bail bond.” (He reaches into his basket and hands some pills to Hoshea, who eagerly swallows them.)

BUM (picking up the Haman): “I guess this means I’m staying. Where do you keep your phone?”

MR. S: “Side door.”

BUM (walking toward the side door of the house): “I’m Oded, by the way.”

MR. S: “Of course you are.”

(Oded opens the door and walks into a darkened room.)

ODED: “Aah!”

HOSHEA (clutching his head): “Ow!” (Everyone looks at him.) “What? It doesn’t kick in right away!”

MR. S: “What happened?”

ODED: “There’s a bunny sleeping in here.”

MR. S: “A bunny?” (A figure gets up, and it turns out it’s a guy in a bunny costume.) “Oh, a bunch of those guys came in this morning; I thought they all left.”

(The bunny walks backward across the yard and straight into the support pole of a canopy.)

URI (getting up off the floor): “Is he wearing his costume backwards?”

NACHI: “I thought you were unconscious.”

URI: “Nah, I was faking. But we have a minyan now, so let’s get started.”

HESHY (comes back outside in his robe and looks around): “Where’s my suit?”

(Everyone comes into the backyard, opens their Siddurim, and they all stand facing the same direction, except for the bunny, who appears to be standing backwards.)

AMI (squinting into his Siddur): “Wait. These aren’t my glasses.” 

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com. Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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