An unnamed man meets his bombastic, enormous, extremely Russian Jewish father-in-law at the Chicago airport—his wife has charged him with bringing the man a present for his seventy-fifth birthday. On the way to Mr. Bronnish's house, they discuss everything from the necessity of hats to the Mahatma Gandhi's suitability as a role model. The elderly man is a singular force. When the two men reach the house, they find that an escaped bird has left Mrs. Bronnish, the man's mother-in-law, in a frenzy. Bronnish immediately finds the bird in the bathroom, and they sit down for some wine. Jokes and merry-making abound. Finally, Mr. Bronnish opens his present. But as soon as he realizes what's inside, he shreds it and tosses the scraps in the backyard. His son-in-law, who loves the painter Chagall and picked the print as a gift honoring his sense of family and inheritance, is speechless. "To hell the rabbis!" the irate Mr. Bronnish shouts. No rabbis allowed in the house, he says. He was once marked out to be a rabbi himself in Russia. When he was eleven, he attended a special school for that purpose, and he wanted nothing more than to blow one of the rabbi's shophars (bugles made of ram horns). He did, and everyone in the school was beaten as a result. Doing the same thing again with a funnel bought him another beating, so he left the school forever, shouting, "To hell the rabbis!" as he went. As Mrs. Bronnish titters in the background and her husband goes on about rabbis, the conversation moves to superstition and mystery. Mr. Bronnish begins to sing, and his son-in-law cannot help but see the same deep fire in his eyes that must have driven that boy so many years ago to spite the rabbis with a sacred horn.