| Jr. Serial |

Home Ground: Chapter 16 

It had been an awkward night, an awkward morning, Raizy and I tap dancing around each other, being perfectly polite and perfectly cold


“MYsister said they’re doing a modern-day one this year.”

“But I heard the teachers talking about it, and they were saying something about a KGB dance, so it’s for sure one of these stories in Russia.”

“Leah Steinberg told me they haven’t even decided the script yet.”

“What do you mean, they haven’t decided? They’re doing auditions tomorrow?”

The arguments swirl around me. Production, production, production, or as they call it, “The show.” It’s as if they have nothing else to talk about.

“They’re probably confirming the script today,” Miri says.

“Yeah, I hope they don’t do a historical one. It’s sooo cliché,” Tehillah adds, rolling her eyes.

“What do you mean? Historical is way more interesting, all those costumes and everything. If we do a modern-day one they literally just tell everyone to come in their own regular clothing,” Shevi says.

“And if it’s historical then everyone’s dressed as these old-fashioned babushkas or, like, Inquisition agents,” Tehillah retorts.

“What about those princess stories with everyone in gowns? That’s, like, you feel really part of the scene.”

And they’re off again.


I sit at my desk, feeling super uncomfortable. In all the stress last night, I’d forgotten my uniform sweater at Bubby’s house, so I’m wearing one of Raizy’s, and it feels weird and off even though we wear the same size.

It had been an awkward night, an awkward morning, Raizy and I tap dancing around each other, being perfectly polite and perfectly cold. And when we entered the classroom, it was like we’d reverted back in time to 24 hours earlier, when the two of us weren’t saying a word to each other.

Now, she’s sitting on a spare desk at the back of the room, talking earnestly to her best friend Suri. About Bubby? About me?

“So what will you try out for?” a voice asks, close to my right shoulder. I turn to see Tammy — of course — pulling over a chair. Oh, yay, DMC time.

“Truth is, we’re supposed to try out for everything, but you know how it goes,” she says, winking (I didn’t actually know that people legit winked, like in real life. Cool, I guess). “So you’re going to play, dance, choir? You seem like the talented type.”

Okay, what is up with her? She’s just too, like, weirdly nice. Am I her pity project? Tell me I’m not her pity project, please. I don’t need anyone’s chesed.

“Actually, I sing like a frog,” I tell her blandly.

“Okay, so dancing, acting, c’mon,” she persists.

Yeah, I could act, I think, but I don’t say it. I mean, how would I know for sure? I’ve never actually been in any kind of drama before, unless you count the Purim skits my siblings and I put on for the guests at my parents’ huge Purim Seudos. I always directed those, and everyone seemed to love them, but did that mean I was a good actress, or just that I have a sense of humor and am good at bossing my siblings around?

“I actually have no idea. Never been in a school production.”

“Oh. Well, you should try out for play! I want to be in play, Year 10 is the best year.”

“Why?” I ask. I’m not sure why I’m drawing out the conversation, maybe it’s something to do with Raizy and the fact that suddenly I want to be seen talking to someone, not sitting on my own. Even though I’m absolutely fine on my own, I remind myself.

“Year 11 head the productions and stuff, they’re not actually in the show,” Tammy’s explaining. “So all the main parts are given to girls in Year 10. Or younger if they’re reaaally good, or sometimes if they need a younger girl, like to play a little kid… I had a part in Year 9.” She smiles reminiscently. “It was cute, I was this little boy with a ton of freckles who was always saying, ‘Me too!’ at the wrong time.”

“Sounds cute,” I say blandly.

“Anyway, tomorrow’s auditions, so we don’t have long to find out who’s gonna be what.” She flashes me a mega grin. I notice, once again, the raspberry-pink elastics. So Tammy’s type.

“Tryouts are when? After school?” I ask. May as well get the info I need out of this conversation.

“No, after lunch. We get the afternoon off.” She makes a face. “Shame we’re not missing English, right? That awful assignment is due in.”

The English assignment? Oh, yikes. I must’ve forgotten with all the craziness last night. I mean, I have a good idea of what to write, but this isn’t a test I can just rely on my memory to get me by. I should probably, like, actually write it up sometime.

“Ugh, I haven’t even started,” I moan, sounding just like my classmates. Is something rubbing off on me?

Tammy looks pleased. “Hey, we could get together to work on it if you want.”

Seriously, the girl doesn’t give up. Getting together to work on assignments that we need to do alone?

“I think we’re meant to do it on our own,” I say.

“Oh, not to write the same thing, obviously,” Tammy says with a laugh. “It’s just waaaay more fun to do homework in company. You can come to my place and we’ll get some nosh and stuff and take breaks… oh, and motivate each other to actually get the thing done.”

Okay, so really not, but I keep rebuffing Tammy, and I feel bad.

“Nice idea,” I say vaguely, hoping that will suffice. Actually, where am I going to work on the assignment? My notebook is in… Bubby’s house? Probably. Or my bag. Will Zeidy be home? Will Bubby? I have a key, but I want to know what to expect.

Maybe I have to tell Raizy where I’m going after school. Is Aunt Chana the type to call the police if I’m not on time?

Tammy’s bubbling over, something about her house and just around the corner and what time her family eats supper together.

“Okay, we’ll talk,” I say, flashing a smile. Hopefully she’ll forget this whole plan before the end of the day.

She bounces off. Wow, I made her so excited just by saying we might study together?

Doesn’t the girl have friends?

Idly, I watch as Tammy melts into a crowd of classmates. I hear her chime into a conversation about Zeesy and Esti, the Year 11 dance heads, and I shrug. She does have friends, she’s one of the friends-with-all types.

So what does she want from me?


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 959)

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