Usually, mornings on Everything’s A Tree are loud: over breakfast Ezra usually tells a story about another animal he’s met with a specific title or skill (of course there was the stoat king and the math horse, but also lesser-known friends of his, like the mink queen, or the astronomy jellyfish) and the conversations spiral from there. However, today Ezra hasn’t shown up, and instead of his stories, they’re stuck with Jasper monologuing to himself.
Lola is about to dig into Yanov’s new jerky (made from a secret new variety of meat that he firmly refused to specify, but compared to a lengthy variety of pork) when Ezra finally strolls into the dining room. He whistles loudly, occasionally singing a few words before returning to whistling. More pressingly, he’s carrying two giant barrels of what looks very much like wine.
Lola and Mort exchange a look. “Geez, Ezra,” she says, “what’s the occasion?”
“Is it... your birthday?” Mort guesses.
“No, I’m pretty sure he’s a Capricorn,” Cammy pipes up, closing the book she was reading.
“A chameleon?” Yanov says between mouthfuls of soup.
“It’s Purim!” Ezra finally says over the crosstalk. There is complete and total silence. “You know, the best holiday ever? ” More silence. “ Better than Giftsmas? ”
There's yet more silence. Cammy finally breaks it, closing the book she was reading and saying “So what is it, exactly?”
“I got two words for you: getting shitfaced... as a religious duty. ” He grins like he just punched someone's head clean off.
“...That’s not two words.” Yanov mutters.
Cammy looks excited. “Oh, I’ve never had an alcohol before!”
“That’s probably for the best, to be honest,” Mort says.
Jasper, slighted that he is no longer the center of attention, raises an eyebrow. “So, let me get this straight: it’s your cultural obligation to get... wasted?”
“It’s a very solemn duty,” Ezra says, nodding without even a hint of sarcasm.
“So, you just get drunk?” Lola takes another bite out of the ambiguous jerky.
“Nah, that’s just my favorite part. Well, second favorite.”
“And your favorite?”
“Telling the story of the holiday! Usually, Ruth would tell it to me, since she couldn’t really walk to temple, but I figure this year I can tell it to you all. Without the 3-hour foot massage, obviously. ...I mean, unless one of you w-”
“Nope!” Everyone yells.
“Well, I have more where these came from,” he slaps one of the kegs. “I’ll see you all then!”
He leaves before anyone can object, or ask exactly when they are supposed to show up. But hell, it's not like they’re trying to save the world or anything.
By the time Jasper shows up, everyone else is already there. Ezra has arranged some trunks in a vaguely couch-like fashion, though Lola and Cammy called dibs on sitting on his bed. Yanov seems slightly bored in a corner, and judging by the Frankie outside the door, he had been planning to get some tinkering done before Ezra refused to let the ham faces anywhere near the festivities.
Cammy sees Jasper and raises one of her paws. “Hey Ezra, there’s no whipping for this holiday, right? Cuz I’m not entirely sure I want to see Jasper sort of, swell up and do an impromptu cosplay Frankie, like, ever again.”
“Okay, look, I only swelled up a little bit!"
"Hey, the Frankies don't look that bad!"
“No, no, that’s just Giftsmas.” Ezra slams an entire barrel of wine, which takes a few minutes. In a very formal voice, he continues. “Thanks everyone for joining me here today. Are there any questions?”
“I have one, actually,” Jasper snorts, also raising his hand. “Why are you telling the story? It hardly seems fair, I mean, I’m a bard! I'm a professional storyteller!
Lola gives him a look. “Jasper, do you even know the story of Purim?”
There is once again a painfully long silence.
“...Well, not... I mean, in a sense? ...Fine, Ezra, tell the story.”
Ezra cracks his knuckles. “So, once upon a time, there was a real asshole of a Goblin king who wanted a new wife. He held competitions to find the hottest girlfriend possible, because men are, y’know, the worst, and he finally found Esther, the most beautiful girl ever. She was Jewish, obviously, I mean... come on,” he chuckles.
Lola looks at the tattoo of Ruth on his arm, and shrugs. “That tracks.”
“She didn’t tell anyone she was Jewish though. Which is good, ‘cus while this was happening, this other Goblin Haman...” He pauses for a moment. “Oh, uh, you’re supposed to yell really loudly when you hear his name.”
“...B-boo!” Mort attempts.
“Perfect. Anyway, he was the counselor to the king, and also had the dumbest fuckin’ hat. That’s very important. He made a law that everyone has to bow to him when he walks by. Only, y’see, Jewish people don’t really bow to people, ‘cuz we’re not really huge on the whole idol worship thing.”
“But aren’t there 14 gods?” Cammy says.
“Do paragons count as idols?” Lola adds at the same time.
Ezra ignores both. “So Haman–” There’s a bit of a delay, but Lola and Mort do remember to boo. Yanov managed to rig together a grogger out of the random pieces of metal and wood and gives it a whirl. “–saw this dude Mordecai, who was Esther's uncle, refuse to bow to him, and he was really pissed, so he decided ‘Hey, cool idea: this Jewish guy hurt my feelings, so I’m gonna kill all Jewish people!’ Y’know, real original. Definitely not an idea other people have already had. Not to worry, though: Esther is also super smart, and using alcohol and sex she gets the king to promise to protect her against anyone who wants to hurt her. The king agrees because he is very drunk and horny due to the aforementioned combination of both alcohol and sex.”
Lola attempts to cover Cammy's ears, who bats her away without looking away from Ezra.
“Then, the next day, she’s like hey, speaking of people planning to hurt me: Haman (UGH!) is totally doing that. Haman (Gross!) is like, ‘What? Nuh-uh!’ But she brings up his ultra original murdering-the-Jews plan and reveals guess what, sucker, she’s been Jewish the whole damn time. So, the king kills Haman (boo, he’s the worst) and we celebrate by getting so drunk we can’t tell the difference between good and evil, and wearing fun costumes, and eating little cookies to mock his dumb hat.” He pauses. “I’m really only doing that first part, but hey, Jasper dressed up! Look at his dumb fuckin' hat. Way to go, Jasper.”
“These are my normal clothes!” Jasper protests, but Ezra ignores his existence in favor of shotgunning an entire barrel of wine.
"That was a very good story, Ezra. Thank you.” Mort eyes the wine mournfully, then looks down at his bones and sighs.
"Thanks, guys. I haven’t really celebrated since Ruth died.” He sniffles slightly. “Y'know, I'm really happy Haman got killed instead of, like, all the Jews, cuz if he didn't then maybe Mordechai would've died and then maybe years later Ruth wouldn't have gotten born, and I wouldn't have gotten made, and then, y'know… I wouldn't have met you guys."
"Aww, Ezra,” Lola coos.
Mort smiles. “I’m... also glad hundreds of people didn’t die, Ezra.”
“Um, who’s Ruth?” Cammy asks.
Instead of an answer, Ezra scoops Cammy, Mort, and Lola up in a huge bear hug.
"Ow! Mort, your elbow is in my side!"
"That’s not me, that’s Cammy's tails!”
“Everyone shut up and enjoy the hug,” Ezra grumbles.
Mort gives him an awkward pat on his head, and eventually the squirming dies down and they all relax into the group hug.
Jasper clears his throat. “So, should we leave?” He turns to Yanov, only to see an empty chair. “Right. I’ll just... go then? Yeah, I’ll just leave. Okay.”
Ezra sets his friends down on his bed. “Not so fast, Jasper.”
A nervous laugh. “Look, Ezra, I-”
Ezra gives Jasper a hug. A very brief one, but still a hug. “Chag Sameach, Jasper,” he says, patting him hard enough on the back that Jasper winces.
“I- uh, thank you?” The moment Ezra lets go Jasper turns tail and runs out of the room.
“...Damn, he’s really drunk, huh?” Lola whispers.
“Very, yes,” Mort whispers back.
“Any takers for that foot massage?”