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Latkes and Blunts (Or, Abbi and Ilana's Hotboxed Hanukkah)

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“So, I gotta say, Ilana, when you said, ‘Let’s go holiday shopping,’ I was hoping you meant, like, Marshall’s or Century 21.”

Ilana turns to Abbi, looking pained. The floppy brown rubber dick clutched in her hand sways to and fro, bathed in the soft track lighting of the Lower East Side sex shop, today’s holiday shopping destination of choice.

“Ex-squeeze me if I can’t find the perfect gifts for everyone on my list at Bed, Bath & Beyond, dude,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“I mean, you probably could,” Abbi says, taking the bait. “They have a lot of stuff in stock at BB&B. Like, things you didn’t even know you needed. Every year I get my grandma one of those As Seen on TV things, and she loves it.”

“My aunt Linda is a woman of discerning taste, okay?”

“You’re getting that for your aunt?” Abbi asks, pointing to the dildo. Ilana blinks and lifts it up by its squishy ball sack.

“What? Oh, no, dude. She wants, like, some dumbass Fifty Shades of Grey beginner’s kit. It’s like, thirty fucking dollars, so I’m just gonna cut the ends off my old jump rope and put it in a black box. She’ll never know the difference.”

“That’s really creative of you.” Abbi picks up an oblong silver thingamabob and shakes it next to her ear, laughing. “Dude, what is this thing even supposed to do?”

“Oh, that’s one of our most discreet vibrators,” a perky, hipster salesgirl says, sidling up to Abbi. She’s wearing enormous, bright red cat-eye glasses, and yet her severe bangs fall so low over her eyes, Abbi wonders how she can even see. “It doubles as a sexual aid for vaginal and anal play.”

Abbi chuckles awkwardly, putting it down. “Oh, I’m not really an…anal play sort of gal, um…” She glances at the salesgirl’s nametag. “…Gazelle.”

“Hey, Gazelle,” Ilana says, stepping in front of Abbi. She holds up the dildo with a cheesy grin. “Can you tell me how much this sweet little dude is?”

“Sure, that’s sixty dollars.”

Sixty dollars?” Ilana repeats, bug-eyed. “I’m pretty sure a real one wouldn’t even cost that much. I mean, I know it wouldn’t. Guys on the street are offering theirs to me all the time. For free!”

Gazelle takes the dildo gingerly from Ilana and puts it back on the shelf. “Well, if you’re looking for something cheaper…”

Ilana scoffs and digs her phone out of her bag. “It’s cool, I’ll just text Lincoln. He’s basically the same shade of brown. Well, a little lighter at the tip, but the difference is pretty negligible.”

“Great,” Gazelle says. She gives them a wide, fake smile before she walks away.

“Rude much?” Ilana quips, already texting.

“Thinks she’s so great with her perfect bangs,” Abbi scoffs. “I have bangs, too, you know. It’s not hard.”

“Oh, and by the way: What was with all that ‘Not an anal play gal’ stuff, Abbs? You and I both know fully well that anal’s on the menu. In fact, I’m pretty sure it shows up on the prix fixe, you dirty, dirty girl.”

“I’m not going to share my bedroom activities with someone named after a fucking deer, Ilana.”

“I think it’s in the antelope family,” Ilana says, weighing a two-headed dildo in her hands.

“Whatever. It’s a dumb name.”

“Oh, it’s a fucking ridiculous name.” Ilana sniffs the dildo, wrinkles her nose, and then sets it down again. It rolls off its display as she walks away, and then falls on the floor with a clatter.

A few minutes later, they vacate the rich-people sex shop for the more comfortable and familiar surroundings of a side alley, where they pass a joint back and forth.

“So, what are you doing for Christmas, dude? You gonna hang out with me in the NYC? Jaime’s going to Guatemala to visit his abuela and I have way too much weed to smoke alone.” Ilana pauses and shakes her head, giggling. “Well, I mean, that’s a lie. But it’s more fun to smoke it with you.”

“That’s sweet, Ilana,” Abbi says. She takes a hit and waits to exhale before responding. “I’m going home for a few days around Christmas but then I’ll be back.”

“Seriously, dude? What could be more interesting down in Illadelphia than watching the O Network on demand while we get high as fucking kites?”

Abbi shrugs. “My dad said he would give me money.”

“Oh, fair,” Ilana says, taking the joint back for a hit.

“I’ll be here for Hanukkah, though.”

“Hanukkah? What are we going to do, sit around and drink Manischevitz and spin dreidels?” Ilana pauses as a light bulb goes off in her head. “Holy shit! We should totally do that!”

“We should?”

“Yeah, we’ll turn your place into a casino. Stay up all night rollin’ dem fat diiiice.”

“Rolling…dreidels, you mean.”

Ilana sighs. “Abbi, the dreidels are like dice, just chubbier. Catch up, please.”

“I dunno,” Abbi says, shrugging. “I guess we could have a party at my place, if I can get Bevers to peel his rancid ass off my couch.”

“Dude, just tell him that someone left a roast beef sandwich in Grand Central Station,” Ilana says, as her phone pings in her pocket. “Oh, shiiiiit,” she says, looking at the text. “Gotta bail. That sweet brown D is calling my name.” She stubs out the joint carefully on the wall and turns around in order to, as Abbi has learned all too well, stow it away safely.

“Please tell me he didn’t send you a photo,” Abbi says, wrinkling her nose.

“No, I only keep photos of strangers’ dicks. I don’t have enough space on my phone for the ones I know intimately. Priorities, y’know?”

“Yeah, no, I get it. You have a lot of dick pics.”

“Yeah, like a lot.” Ilana turns, looking contemplative. “I should start a museum, dude.”

“Do you want some hand sanitizer or something?”

“Nah, I’m good.”

*

“Hey, Lincoln.”

“Yeah, Ilana?”

Ilana pauses the rerun of Friends and turns against the couch cushion to fully face Lincoln. She grabs a handful of Fritos from the open bag on his lap and shoves them into her mouth, chewing as she talks.

“So I have a serious question for you.”

“Aw, man. Now we’ll never find out if Ross, Chandler, and Rachel get the sofa up the stairs.”

“Do you think we could borrow some nitrous oxide for Abbi’s Hanukkah party?”

Lincoln squints. “That is not what I expected you to ask. Honestly, I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that.”

“I’m just trying to make sure it’s a good time, y’know? Abbi is such a good hostess, but let’s face it: A party without nitrous is like a work day without Ambien.”

“Abbi, I’m a dental professional. I can’t just be giving away nitrous to young ladies for their religious gatherings.”

Ilana rolls her eyes. “I mean, we’re not going to pray. Though, I dunno, that could be cool. If we’re all in a circle and high on nitrous? Like a clothed orgy.” She grabs another fistful of Fritos. “Huh. I think I totally get prayer circles now.”

“I didn’t even know Abbi was Jewish.”

“Duh, of course she is. You don’t see too many Christian girls walking around town with asses like that.”

Lincoln gives her an enigmatic smile. “So what are we going to do at this party?”

“I dunno. Hanukkah things? We’re just gonna like, get high and celebrate our heritage. Like how you and your fam would do it on Kwanzaa.”

“Ilana, I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa.”

“What? No way!”

“My parents love Jesus. They loooove Jesus. I’m not even sure I know what Kwanzaa is.”

Ilana shrugs. “Let’s Google it.”

Five minutes later, they’re watching Lincoln’s laptop screen with rapt attention as Sandra Lee creates a giant monstrosity of a “traditional” Kwanzaa cake.

“I don’t trust this lady,” Lincoln says. He points at the screen accusingly. “She threw corn nuts on that cake and called them acorns. That’s just disingenuous.”

“Oh, my god,” Ilana says, her chin propped in her hands. “This is, like, the most erotic video of a woman in a turtleneck pouring pie filling into a hole that I’ve ever seen. I’ve gotta admit: I’m a little turned on.”

“Who am I kidding? That cake looks delicious,” Lincoln says mournfully.

Ilana turns to him and grins. “Wanna bake one and then shove our faces into it? It’ll be a provocative cultural experience.”

“Sold!” Lincoln says, all but leaping off the couch. “C’mon, let’s go buy some frosting and corn nuts.”

“You’re also out of Fritos,” Ilana calls, shoving the half-full bag of chips into her purse. “Just saying.”

*

“Abbi, is it true that you’re having a party this weekend?”

Abbi looks up from her crouch in front of a toilet stall in the Soulstice women’s bathroom. She spies Trey looming over her, looking put out, as usual.

“Um…yeah.” She squints and attempts to scratch her nose with a gloved finger that isn’t doused in Scrubbing Bubbles residue. “I…didn’t think you would have wanted to come, Trey.”

Trey folds his arms over his chest and looks away, pouting. “Well, an invitation would have been nice. I do have feelings, you know. Not to mention very fond memories of us doing parkour together.”

“Well, the thing is, it’s a Hanukkah party? So it’s kind of a religious thing.” She shrugs and pretends to cringe. “I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

Trey’s jaw drops. “OMG, Abbi. I didn’t know you were religious. I’m always scheduling you on Saturdays and you never say anything.”

“Well, I mean, I would love to have Saturdays off, actually. I just, you know, never wanted to make a big deal out of it. Try to be fair to the other employees, you know?”

“Oh, that’s great, because I hate changing the schedule. Everyone else gets so mad at me when I book them on weekends.” He pauses and tilts his head. “You’re the best, Abbs. By the way, you’ve got a pube on your cheek.”

Abbi blinks and wipes her cheek with the back of her hand as Trey leaves the bathroom. The stray pube in question is blond and curly.

“Not even one of mine,” she mutters to herself. “Totally not horrifying at all.”

When Abbi gets home from Soulstice that night, she runs into Jeremy in the hall.

“Abbi, hey,” he says.

“Greetings, good sir,” Abbi drawls, grinning and pushing back her hair. “Um, wow. That felt like it was going to sound a lot less awkward, in my head.”

He smiles knowingly and adjusts the package in his arms. “Long day, huh?”

“Yeah, just, y’know. Working hard. Gotta make that money.” She points to the package. “Were you out, um, antiquing again today?”

“Actually, this is a plank of reclaimed lumber that’s been adrift in the Atlantic Ocean for over two hundred years. I’m going to make a belt buckle out of it. Either that or a doorstop.”

“Oh, wow. How do you know it was there for two hundred years?”

Jeremy shrugs. “I’m pretty good friends with this guy at the lumberyard. He wouldn’t lie about something like that.”

“Right, right.” Abbi nods and exhales, smiling. “Hey, by the way, I’m having a Hanukkah party this weekend, if you wanna come.”

“Sure, I’d love to. What should I bring?”

“Well, you’re such a good cook, so it doesn’t matter, really. I’m sure whatever you bring will be great.”

“I’m trying to think of what part of my heritage is closest to Judaism.” Jeremy furrows his brow in thought and counts off on his fingers. “One-eighth Native American, one-eighth Latino, one-eighth…Greek? Probably Greek. I can make lamb kebabs. Or baba ghanoush?”

Abbi smiles, trying not to look confused. “Um…sure, that’d be great, yeah. Though I think baba ghanoush is more like Middle Eastern food?”

Jeremy laughs and shakes his head. “Abbi, no offense, but I’m the Greek person here, right? I think I would know.”

“No, yeah! You’re the expert,” she says, laughing faintly. “You’ve got the mad expertise.”

“Hey, Jer!” Bevers suddenly exclaims, emerging from Abbi’s—Abbi’s—apartment. “I thought I heard you out here, buddy! You coming to our party this weekend?”

“Bevers,” Abbi says, through gritted teeth. “I thought you said you couldn’t come to my party, because you were spending the holidays with Melody’s family. You know, because normal people who have significant others tend to spend the holidays with those significant others.”

“Nah, they always lavish me with gifts and it makes me really uncomfortable. Like, last year they gave me this Rolex?” he says, holding up his wrist. “And a new iPad Air? It’s like, I know I’m grade-A husband material, but give a guy some breathing room, right?”

“Sounds like a tough scene,” Jeremy says. Next to him, Abbi digs her fingernails into her palms to keep from screaming.

“So can you come?” Bevers asks, his tail practically wagging. “It would be suuuuper-duper awesome if you brought some of that amazing rotisserie chicken you made me last time.”

“You made him a chicken?” Abbi asks incredulously.

Bevers grins. “We had a man date. It was pretty sweet.”

“Well, I was going to make something else, but sure, I could make a chicken.”

“Great!” Bevers says. He puts an arm around Abbi’s shoulders, making her tense up. “Actually, bring two, maybe? Abba-dabs here is always poaching my food from the fridge, aren’t you, Abba-dabs? Just can’t get enough in that rumbly tummy of hers!”

“Ha, yeah, that’s me. So rude, how I eat other people’s labeled food, like…every single day.”

Bevers pats her arm. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m not a perfect roommate either.”

“You’re not even really my—”

“Well, I’d better get cooking, then.” Jeremy smiles and unlocks his front door, heading into his apartment. “Thanks again for the invite, Bevers.”

“No prob!” Bevers calls as Abby wrenches herself free from his grip. Bevers smiles at her, completely oblivious. “God, I love that chicken. Gives me the toots something fierce, but it’s so worth it.”

“Murder you in your sleep,” Abbi hisses, fleeing into the apartment.

*

Abbi asks Ilana to show up early to the party, fully expecting her to arrive a half-hour late. What she doesn’t expect is to open the door and find Ilana standing there, holding up two giant bottles of booze.

“Yeeeeeeeah, biiiiiiiitch,” Ilana sings in falsetto.

“Ilana, where are the latkes I asked you to bring?”

She lowers the bottles and blinks. “Oh, shit. Latkes? I thought you said vodka.”

“Some vodkas are made from potatoes,” Lincoln chimes in, standing behind Ilana. “So it’s kind of the same!”

“Yeah, no, it’s really not,” Abbi says, stepping aside so they can come inside. “This sucks. We can’t have a Hanukkah party without latkes. That’s like, the only thing that people eat on Hanukkah.”

“Eight days of fried potatoes sounds amazing,” Lincoln says.

“Oh, what about those jelly doughnut things?” Ilana asks. “Lincoln and I could do a quick Dunkin run.”

“Potatoes and doughnuts? Jewish people are geniuses!”

Abbi takes the bottles from Ilana and puts them in the freezer. “Okay, yeah. Lincoln, could you get us some jelly munchkins or something? It’ll be the next best thing.”

“Sure thing, Abbi,” Lincoln says, heading out the door. Ilana waves to him as he goes.

“Dude,” she says, turning back to Abbi. “I know you’re pissed at me now, but you’re gonna be thanking me later when we’re all getting turnt as haaale.”

“I wanted this to be a classy party, Ilana. Really low-key. We’re gonna drink mulled wine, light the menorah…”

Just then, Bevers emerges from Melody’s bedroom, wearing a too-tight yellow T-shirt with Hebrew lettering and shiny red tights. Ilana bursts into manic laughter while Abbi gapes in horror.

“Hey, ladies! Do you like my costume? I’m a dreidel!” He starts spinning in place. “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made me out of clay! And when I’m wet and ready, then dreidel I shall play!”

“How did you manage to make that song gross?!” Abbi exclaims.

“Dude, where did you even get that thing?” Ilana asks.

“I made it, duh!”

Abbi purses her lips. “You don’t know how to unclog a toilet, but you made that nightmare in two days. Good to know.”

“I used to design and sew all of our theater costumes at Camp Miniwakega. The best was our boys-only production of Guys and Dolls. I was a show-stealing Nathan Detroit!”

“I’ve never wanted to punch him in the nuts more,” Ilana whispers to Abbi.

There’s a rapping at the door and then Jeremy opens it slightly, peeking inside the apartment. “Knock knock. Am I too early?”

“Jeremy, hi!” Abbi says, rushing over to the door. “No, not at all, you’re totally right on—”

“Jer Bear, it’s about time!” Bevers almost knocks Abbi to the floor in his effort to get to the door first, and to lay claim to the rotisserie chicken in Jeremy’s hands. Bevers inhales the scent of the food deeply and sighs. “Oh, chicken, how I missed you.”

“Yeah, sorry, the second one’s still cooking. My oven’s not big enough to fit two birds at once. Maybe one day, when I build my own cabin.”

“That chicken looks amazing,” Abbi says.

“It’s so good,” Bevers says, already chowing down on a drumstick.

“It’s my special family recipe,” Jeremy says. “Twenty-one seasoning salute.”

Ilana scoffs. “Yeah, okay, dude. Like there are actually twenty-one types of seasoning.”

*

“So you’re completely out of jelly-filled munchkins?” Lincoln asks the Dunkin Donuts cashier, squinting.

“We’re out of munchkins, period,” the man says in a flat monotone. “But we have a bunch of bran muffins.”

Lincoln shrugs. “That’s probably just as good. Oh, and throw in some of those hash browns, too. Jewish people love to eat hash browns. When Hanukkah comes, they eat them for eight days in a row. Did you know that? It’s crazy, right?”

The man stares. “So…eight orders of hash browns?”

“Better make it ten.”

*

An hour later, there are two big platters of bran muffins and little potato disks, sitting on the kitchen table. The majority of the guests are in the apartment, milling around and chatting. Some are sitting around the coffee table in the living room, gambling with dreidels, as Ilana originally predicted. Abbi turns the volume up on her iPod speaker and sniffs the air, then goes to find Ilana, who’s standing near the window with Lincoln.

“Hey, great party, Abbi,” Lincoln says as she walks over. “I won twenty bucks before, playing dreidel, and I’m not even sure how.”

“That’s dope, Lincoln,” Abbi says, smiling. She takes Ilana by the arm and pulls her to the side. “Hey, can I talk to you for a second?”

Ilana leers. “Girl, in that dress? You can tell me anything you want.”

“Okay, great. Did you bring any weed with you?”

“Oh, yeah. Like, a ton.”

Abbi grins. “Awesome. ‘Cause I’ve been smelling it in the room for a while and now I really want to get high.”

“Oh, you will.” She motions toward the window. “Lincoln and I lit some in the menorah.”

“You…what?” Abbi says. She goes over to check on the menorah and, sure enough, each of the candles has been replaced with a tightly nestled single serving of pot—nine of them, all burning and letting off streams of smoke. “Oh, my god.”

“Isn’t it great? Now we’ll all get high together! As a family.”

“You hotboxed my Hanukkah party?”

Ilana shrugs and relights each of the “candles,” which burn off new clouds of smoke. “I mean, I wasn’t sure I would have enough weed to do it, but it turns out I had just enough! It’s kind of a Hanukkah miracle. Just like the story!”

“Yeah, just like that.”

With all the windows closed due to the cold weather, the living room and kitchen quickly begin to fill with smoke. It’s not too long before things start to get a little crazy—then a lot crazy. People crowd into the kitchen, shoving at each other in their attempt to get to the food, as a collective case of the munchies sets in.

“Oh, my god,” Abbi says, clutching a bran muffin in both of her hands. “This muffin is amazing.”

“Dude, we are going to poop so well tomorrow,” Ilana says.

“The hash browns are gone!” Bevers cries, sitting on the floor with his legs spread, the empty platter between them. “They’re all gone!”

“I found some cheese!” someone yells by the fridge.

“That’s my cheese!” Abbi yells back. “I was saving it for an omelet!”

Ilana gasps. “Dude, I would literally kill for an omelet. Please make us some omelets right now.”

“I can’t make omelets for all these people! I don’t have the eggs, Ilana. Where would I get the eggs?

“MORE HASH BROWNS!” Bevers shrieks, wrapping his arms around Lincoln’s leg.

Just then, Jeremy walks through the front door, carrying the second rotisserie chicken. “Okay, chicken’s out of the oven and piping—”

“GIMME THAT CHICKEN!”

“Bevers, NO!” Abbi shouts.

Jeremy pales, then braces for impact.

*

Most of the commemorative party photos that go up on Instagram the next day are shots of Bevers sitting on Jeremy’s chest, greasy-faced and ravenously eating chicken with his bare hands. Abbi and Ilana sit on the couch in Abbi’s apartment in their pajamas and laugh as they look at their phones, eating cold, leftover pizza from the dozen or so pies they were forced to order last night, in the face of mass starvation and chaos.

“It’s too bad no one got a shot of Jeremy’s face right before Bevers tackled him,” Ilana says, scrolling through her feed. “It was pretty priceless.”

Abbi smirks. “Well, he’s probably never going to set foot in my apartment again, but at least he won’t be going out on any more ‘man dates’ with Bevers.”

“It’s pretty special that every time he’s been here for a party, he’s been wrestled to the ground by a Bevers family member.”

“It’s really unique and unfortunate, at the same time.”

“Well, kudos on an extremely memorable party, dude. That night is going to go down in the annals of history. It’s like: the Gettysburg Address, the moon landing, and that party. Major highlights of human history.”

“It was less of a classy gathering of friends and more like Lord of the Flies, but yeah.” Abbi lifts her slice in the air. “Couldn’t have done it without you.”

“No problem, dude,” Ilana says, beaming. “You know, I’d kiss you but I haven’t brushed my teeth and I probably still have bran muffin breath.”

Abbi shakes her head. “Yeah, no, that’s fine.”

“God, these photos,” Ilana says, scrolling again. “I think we have to find you someone new to crush on. I can’t, in good conscience, allow you to have sex with someone who’s had Bevers’ spandexed ass that close to his face.”

“Was it on your bucket list to hotbox a Hanukkah party?”

“No, but I think I smell a new holiday tradition.”

“Well, next year, I think it should just be you and me. We’ll watch Love Actually—”

“What? No. Fight Club. Ooh, or Taken!”

“Fine, Fight Club, and we’ll get like, a jug of kosher wine and a jumbo carton of those Dunkin hash browns. “

“Oh, god. How good were those things?”

So good. I’m pretty sure I saw Bevers shove some down his tights to save for later.” Abbi squints. “Okay, now I need to bleach my brain and go to my happy place.”

Ilana nods. “Pug farm?”

“Yeah. Hey, why Taken?”

“I just have this penchant for watching Liam Neeson try to forget how sad he is in real life by acting in terrible movies. It’s like, emotional torture porn.”

“You’re a special person who has special needs.” Abbi takes a bite of her pizza. “Remember when he fought wolves?”

“YEAH. Oh, my god. We should watch that right now.”

“Yeah, let’s do it!”

“Should I break out the vodka?”

“Ilana, it’s only 12:30.” She thinks about it for a moment. “Okay, yeah.”

“Yeah! Get it! Gonna get turnt!”

They high-five.

“It is super sad about Liam Neeson, though,” Ilana says.

Abbi nods. “It’s really sad. He’s kinda like our national figure of grief.”

“He’s like, our grief dad.”

“Yeah.”

“I really want to watch him cry and punch a wolf in the face.”

“I hope it’s on Netflix,” Abbi says, opening her laptop.