“I think you should wear white this winter,” Amir says to Tziporah. He rummages through the box of dress-up clothes and dons a homburg and a brown clip-on tie that matches his hair.
Tziporah is decked out in an orange paisley number with spaghetti straps, over which she’s draped a long, trailing, and somewhat ratty purple boa. “I think I am beautifulest this way,” she says, walking over to the child-high mirror on our living room wall and primping her curls.
Amir frowns and turns to me. “Haim, don’t you think she should wear white?”
Ilana has a doctor’s appointment, so I’ve come up from my basement office for half an hour to take charge of the mishpahton, the small pre-school for three-year-olds that Ilana runs in our living room.
“It’ll be easy,” she says at the door before she leaves. “Just give them a game, or read them a story.”
“I have something in mind,” I say.
Ilana takes her hand off the door handle and turns back to me. “Just let them play.”
“But I want to do something interesting,” I say. “I’ve been thinking about it all morning.”
“Every time you do something interesting with them it ends in trauma,” she reminds me. “I remember last time. I got a call from Amir’s mother. She wanted to know why he grabbed a little girl in the playground and announced that he was going to ravish her.”
“I showed them Don Giovanni on YouTube,” I said. “Great music.”
“But the rape scene?” she counters. “And then there was the time Tziporah’s father asked why she was waking up at night screaming ‘Big Bang! Big Bang!’”
“She asked me to tell a story about a long time ago,” I said defensively.
“For a three-year-old,” Ilana says, “a long time ago is last week, not the beginning of the universe.”
“Thanks to me,” I boast, “these kids will get to first grade and know more than their teachers.”
She looks at her watch. “I’m going to be late. Just play with them.” The door closes behind her.
That’s when I turn to the five kids and said, “Hey, everybody, we’re going to have elections! Who wants to be prime minister?”
The kids look at each other in shock.
But let me get back to Amir’s question, since he’s repeating it: “Haim, don’t you think Tziporah should wear white?”
“People like white,” I agree. “It makes you look clean and new.”
Tziporah tears herself away from the mirror. “I think people will vote for me more if I am a princess.”
“No,” Amir. “If you want to help me become prime monster, you have to wear white and think very clear thoughts, right, Haim?”
“Clear thoughts are very important,” I say gravely. “To solve all our country’s problems we need to think very clearly.”
Tziporah digs a spangly crown out of the box and places it carefully on her head. “Maybe I will get a love letter this way.”
“We’re not playing a love game,” Amir sputters. “We’re having an election!”
In the meantime, Merav is standing by the window, making a speech. Her audience is Amram, who is playing with a large yellow truck.
“You’ll vote for me,” she advises, “and I’ll vote for you, and together we’ll be a … a.… Haim, what’s it called?”
“A majority?” I suggest.
“Yes, a ma-ogre-ty. If I vote for you and you vote for me, we’ll have a ma-ogre-ty.”
“Will they?” Amir asks with concern. “Even if I vote for me?”
“There are five of you,” I point out. “A majority means you have the most, more than the other party. So if Merav and Amram have two votes, and you and Tziporah have two votes, then you both have two votes and you’re tied.”
“So how do we get a ma-ogre-ty?” Merav asks.
“You need another vote,” I say. “Whoever has three votes has a majority.”
Everyone looks at Elazar, who is busy at the table with a box of crayons.
“If you wear white,” Amir says to Tziporah, “and maybe if you say a prayer, it’ll be good.”
Merav makes a beeline for Elazar and looks over his shoulder. “What are you drawing, Elazar?” she asks.
“It’s a poster,” Elazar says. “For my party.”
“Yeah! A party!” Amram sends the truck careening toward our couch and runs over. “Is there cake?”
Amir is worried. “Look, they’re going to get Elazar. Put on a white dress and we’ll go talk to him.”
“Oh, okay,” Tziporah sighs, stripping down to her underwear. She rummages through the box and suddenly lets out an “Oh!” as she pulls out a white wedding gown.
“I’m going to wear white this winter,” she announces, “and I’m going to go out and have fun!”
“But we’re having an election!” Amir objects.
“Can’t elections be fun?” she pouts.
“Elections are very serious,” Amir says in teacher mode. “They decide who will be in charge of the country.”
“I’m going to have a wedding!” Tziporah cheers. “I’ll be a bride!”
In the meantime, Elazar is explaining his poster to Merav and Amram.
“See, this big blue thing is the name of my party.”
“What’s it say?” Amram asks.
“It says, ‘The Party.’”
Merav points. “And that big red spot?”
“It’s a red dot,” says Elazar. “If you have the name of a party, you have to have a big red dot after it. Otherwise no one will know it’s a party.”
“So it’s the Party Party?” Merav asks doubtfully. Then she hold out her right hand, grabs Elazar’s, and shakes it vigorously. “Will you vote for me? Will the Party Party be for me? I’ll vote for you, and you’ll vote for me, and together we’ll have a ma-ogre-ty.”
“But if I vote for you and you vote for me,” Elazar points out, “who will be prime monster of the mishpahton?”
“I will,” says Merav.
“But I want to be prime monster.”
Merav comes over to me for a consultation and then returns to Elazar.
“Haim says that if you vote for me I can make you foreign monster, or finance monster, or monster of the interior.”
“I don’t like those monsters,” Elazar says. “I will vote for myself.”
Amir breathes a sigh of relief and runs over to me. “So Merav doesn’t have a ma-ogre-ty, right?”
“Looks that way,” I say. “But you need to get Elazar to vote for you.”
“But he doesn’t want to be any kind of monster,” Amir pouts.
I whisper something in his ear. Amir brightens, goes and gets the big yellow truck, and presents it to Amram.
“Here’s your truck,” he says. “Would you like me to build a road for it?”
“Sure!” says Amram.
“Also, I have a secret,” Amir says.
“Merav,” he stage whispers, “has a skeleton in her closet.”
Amram screams. Merav runs over and pushes Amir.
“I do not!” she says.
“How do you know?”
“I saw it!”
“You never opened my closet!”
Amir screams. “Haim told me you have one.”
“Hey,” I admonish. “Let’s calm down.”
“I am going to go just crazy this winter,” Tziporah says, twirling around in her bridal gown. “And after that I will calm down.”
Amir is ready to give up. He comes up to me in a tearful rage. “I’ll never win this election! It’s not fair!”
“Looks to me like you’ll need a miracle,” I admit.
“Even if Tziporah’s wearing white?” he says, gazing at her mournfully.
In the meantime, Elazar is waving his poster and calling for attention.
“Listen, everybody! I want to say something!”
Amram is racing his truck, Merav is punching Amir, Amir is screaming, and Tziporah is off in her own world, in the middle of a wedding or a palace ball—it is hard to tell which.
“I have decided to vote for …”
“I mean, the Party Party has decided to … to …” he looks at me.
“Endork!” he says happily. “The Party Party has decided to endork …”
He looks around.
Amir says: “You mean I’ll vote for you and you’ll vote for me and together we’ll be a …?”
Merav interrupts. “You mean I’ll vote for you and you’ll vote for me?”
“I am voting for everyone and we’ll all be a ma-ogre-ty!”
Everyone cheers. “We’re a ma-ogre-ty!”
The door swings open.
“Well,” says Ilana, “everyone here looks very happy.”
“We had an election and we all won!” Amram tells her.
“That’s nice.” She looks at me quizzically. “That’s all?”
“Just a little civics lesson,” I say proudly.
That seemed to satisfy Ilana until the next morning. By 9 a.m. none of the kids had shown up. At 9:30 she orders me up from my office.
“The parents have been calling non-stop,” she says. “None of the kids slept a wink last night. Nightmares, vomiting, fevers. Monsters, ogres, and endorks, whatever those are. They seemed so happy when I came back. Now it sounds like you gave them a horror show?”
“Oh, you know how it is with politics. The campaign is fun. Then, after the election, it gets scary.”
“Next time I have to go to the doctor,” Ilana sighs, “I think I’ll call in a babysitter.”
Note: This piece was published in The Jerusalem Report under a slightly different title, “Babes and the Prime Monster.”
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