5X5:The Interior Ministry

More short plays from talented local playwrights responding to Pangs of the Messiah.

THE INTERIOR MINISTRY

By Ron Kampeas

The Interior Ministry. A woman, a bureaucrat, at her desk with a computer. She pushes a button and looks back at a wall mounted electronic counter.

BUREAUCRAT

78.

A man approaches.

78?

He looks at his number.

Nu?

He sits down.

CITIZEN
Shalom.

BUREAUCRAT

Shalom.

Pause

Nu?

CITIZEN

I…

BUREAUCRAT

Sir, there are people waiting.

CITIZEN

Hold on.

He pulls out a blue identity card and hands it to her.

BUREAUCRAT
Examining the card.

Shmuel Ben Horin.

CITIZEN

Yes!

BUREAUCRAT

And…?

CITIZEN
Pointing at the card

Shmuel Ben-Horin!

BUREAUCRAT

There’s a mistake?

CITIZEN

Yes!

BUREAUCRAT

Your birthdate? Your father’s name?

CITIZEN

No! That’s the thing!

BUREAUCRAT

Nu, what’s wrong?

CITIZEN

It’s not me!

BUREAUCRAT

What’s not?

CITIZEN

I’m not!

I’m not Shmuel Ben-Horin!

I don’t know who he is. He has my birthday, my father’s name. But I’m Steve Harrison, from Tenafly.
Steve Harrison.
From Tenafly.

BUREAUCRAT

You want to change your name back-

CITIZEN

No, I never was Shmuel Ben-Horin! Look at the address.

BUREAUCRAT

Rehov HaMa’apilim, Ofra-

CITIZEN

Ofra! That’s it!
(whispers)
In the West Bank!

BUREAUCRAT

You want to change your address?

CITIZEN

Listen to me. Yesterday morning, 7 am, I’m sitting in the pickup outside this little white house in Ofra, I stick the key into the ignition, the radio has the newsmagazine on, I’ve got my left foot on the clutch, my right foot on the gas, I shift into reverse.

I shift into reverse.

BUREAUCRAT

And you went backwards?

CITIZEN

I don’t know from clutches and manual.
I’ve only ever driven automatic.
In Tenafly.
It dawns on me: I can remember hard boiled eggs and tomato for breakfast. I can remember shacharit prayers. I can remember kissing a little boy, around five years old, maybe five minutes earlier.
Before this, I can’t remember anything.
Except being Steve Harrison from Tenafly.
Then out comes (he points at ID card) her. Elisheva.
She runs out of the little white house in Ofra and says, “You forgot this.”
She hands me a gun in a holster.

BUREAUCRAT

I see.
Have you spoken to anyone?

CITIZEN

Look, I know this sounds crazy. And I know that if I know it sounds crazy, I’m probably not crazy.
I also know that should make sense to you.
Because you’re a bureaucrat.

BUREAUCRAT

Ok. Go on.

CITIZEN

I put the gun in the glove compartment.
After Elisheva goes, I notice things.
I’m wearing beige slacks.
And look what I found (reaches into pocket, pulls out a kippah.)
On. My. Head.
I follow the cars out of Ofra. Somehow, I know where I’m going. Shmuel Ben Horin is a tax accountant in Jerusalem.
All day long I stare at statements. I can’t make heads or tails of them.
I went home early.
Elisheva, my wife, is a lawyer.
I have five kids. Look – five names here.
They terrify me.
They’re very smart. They argue. Politics, things I don’t understand. Hilltops, outposts, being an Israeli, being Jewish.
My oldest – Shmuel’s oldest – is in the army. He walks around with an M-16 like it’s glued to him.
We go to bed. Elisheva wants to know if I’m okay, I’m not talking.
I make an excuse and I pretend go to sleep.
Hours later, after listening to dogs howl and people outside talking and cars and ambulances, I go to sleep.
And then I wake up.
I’m still here.

BUREAUCRAT

What do you want me to do?

CITIZEN

I’m Steve Harrison from Tenafly. I produce educational DVDs. Math, reading skills.
I have a wife and two children.

BUREAUCRAT

What do you want me to do?

CITIZEN

Steve Harrison of Tenafly, New Jersey has a blog. He’s a – I’m a Jets fan. Football. Look it up. Jetsobsessed-dot- com.

BUREAUCRAT

Is that you?

CITIZEN

Yes, look at me. It’s me, with a better haircut and I’m not wearing … beige.

BUREAUCRAT

If you want, I can trace the IP address-

CITIZEN

No! I don’t want to find out.
I mean, I do.
Look, a long time ago, I spent a year here. I mean, Steve Harrison spent a year here at Tel Aviv University. Junior year abroad.
One night I left a pub with an Israeli girl, and we walked down Hayarkon and then on the Tayelet.
It was warm. We had an argument, but a stupid argument, where we weren’t really arguing. You start every sentence “Yes but,” and it doesn’t matter what follows. We were a little drunk.
I kissed her and she kissed me back, somewhere on the beach.
And then…
What happened?

BUREAUCRAT

You want to know what happened after the kiss?

CITIZEN

Yes. Yes, I knew you’d understand as soon as you called my number. “Seventy-eight,” you said, and I knew I was on the right track.

BUREAUCRAT

We have very powerful computers, but I don’t know…

CITIZEN

I need to know why Steve Harrison became an accountant, why he became Shmuel Ben-Horin, why he moved to Ofra, why he keeps having children, why he married Elisheva, the lawyer, who happens to smell very pleasant, by the way.

BUREAUCRAT

He made choices.

CITIZEN

Yes, but why do I have to live with them?