(I wrote this silly little story for a friend who was bemoaning the overabundance of Christmas stuff, and the lack of Chanukah festoonery at work. I didn't feel like making the giant menorah with blinking battery-operated lights as she suggested, so I just wrote this instead.)
Erzsebet and the Dizzy Dreidel
by Tommy Kovac
Erzsebet was a good little Jewish girl, but she had dreidel problems. Her dreidel complained, like, ALL the time. As soon as she would start to play the dreidel game, and give the dreidel a whirl, it would moan, “Oy! I’m dizzy! I feel nauseous! It’s terrible!” So poor Erzsebet would have to gently stop the dreidel and lay it aside where it could recover.
You can imagine how difficult this made the eight nights of Chanukah. Talk about a buzz kill.
When her cousins came over to celebrate and play the dreidel game, Erzsebet gulped nervously. She thought maybe it could work if she spun her dreidel slowly and carefully. She oh-so-gently gave it a mild twirl.
“Ach! My head! I can’t tell up from down, left from right! You hate me so much you want to torture me like this?”
Erzsebet grabbed the dreidel and placed it on its side as her cousins laughed, clutching their stomachs with mirth. One of the boys scooped up the gelt, and Erzsebet did not even complain. I deserve to lose, for having such a difficult dreidel, she thought.
“Erzsebet,” moaned the dreidel woozily from where she cupped it in her hand. “Can I help it if I have vertigo, or maybe an inner ear infection? I consulted a medical encyclopedia, and I think I might have several different syndromes…”
The girl soothed the dreidel, and left her cousins to their pile of ill-gotten goods. She wandered into the kitchen where her mother was fixing potato latkes, and leaned against her side. The woman draped one arm around the girl, and squeezed her shoulder comfortingly.
“That dreidel,” her mother said with pursed lips and a raised eyebrow. “More trouble than it’s worth.”
Erzsebet took the dreidel into her room and closed the door.
“Dreidel, what if you close your eyes when I spin you? If you can’t see everything twirling around, maybe you won’t feel dizzy!”
“You want I should try that? After what I’ve already endured?”
The girl nodded her head solemnly, pleading with her big brown eyes.
“Not the big eyes! I can’t take the big eyes. Go ahead. Spin me and I’ll try it.”
So Erzsebet positioned the dreidel on its point, saying, “Okay, on the count of three, close your eyes!”
“One… Two… THREE!” and she gently, steadily gave it a twirl.
The dreidel howled even more than before, wobbling and gabbling about the nausea and the horrible vertigo.
“I need this like I need a hole in my head!” cried the dreidel, finally flopping onto its side.
Erzsebet froze, a sly grin creeping over her face.
“Dreidel, I think I have an idea!”
She snapped the handle off the top of the little dreidel.
“Did that hurt?”
The dreidel shrugged. “Eh. I’ve felt worse.”
The girl then took the dreidel out to her father’s workshop, where he helped her drill a medium-sized hole right into the top of the dreidel.
As the operation was performed, Erzsebet chewed her bottom lip worriedly.
“Dreidel, does THAT hurt?”
“NNNNYEAAAAAUUGH!!!” howled the dreidel. Then it stopped suddenly. Erzsebet’s father eased the drill out of the dreidel’s head, to reveal a nice clean hole. The dreidel said, “Hold on, now… That isn’t half bad. I feel… enlightened!”
Then it sniffed. “But drafty. It’s a little drafty now, on top.”
Next, the girl and her father sanded down the point of the dreidel, so that it would sit flat without tipping.
The dreidel frowned. “I’m used to always tipping to one side or another. This feels odd, not tipping. I suppose I just have to get used to it.”
Erzsebet and her father took the dreidel inside, to the menorah in the front window. They placed a candle in the hole on top of the dreidel, and lit the wick.
“Ahhh!” grinned the dreidel. “So I’m the shamash, now, am I?”
“Do you like that better?” Erzsebet asked, reverently moving the dreidel-turned-shamash from candle to candle, using its flame to light the other wicks.
“Well, it’s certainly better than all that spinning and nausea… But the wax is dribbling onto my head. You couldn’t find dripless candles? Would it kill you to find some dripless candles so I don’t have this gunk all over my head?”
“Oh, silly dreidel!” said Erzsebet, laughing. “You’re only happy when you have something to complain about! Now, hush while I do the blessing…”