Someone is mad at me on the internet. Someone is always mad on the internet, but usually they aren’t mad at me. People looking to buy a haunted stuffed animal love haunted stuffed animals, and they love me for selling them cheap.

I get the animals from the thrift store. I’m basically rescuing them. I am the ASPCA for teddy bears with missing eyes. I take them home, and I take pretty photos and write them bios that show off their great personalities, and I put them on my blog, Leo’s Haunted Friends, and people send me money to pay for clothes and school stuff.

But here I have a message with a subject line that says, GIVE HIM BACK!!!!

People have yelled at me before for random shit, like an animal that got lost in the mail, which isn’t my fault at all. But give an animal back? After somebody threw it away? Why? I am a positive contributor to society. Nobody gets to yell at me in all caps.

The message says:

The frog you are selling on your blog is MINE and he is NOT HAUNTED and his name is MOSHE not BILLY HOPPER. I got him at my baby naming. I need him back because in June I am having a ceremony at my synagogue to change my name and he would be heartbroken if he missed it. I have not even had the chance to come out to him yet! I cannot die with my frog thinking wrong thoughts about me. You HAVE to give him back because I didn’t sell him or give him away—I LOST HIM when he FELL OUT OF MY BAG at a SOCCER GAME. He is not a ghost. He is a stuffed animal and you are a liar.

Also I assume you’re local since you have MY FROG, so you can give him to me directly. I don’t recognize your photo, but if you’re anybody from Hebrew school I hate you even more than I hated you for lying and saying Moshe is haunted, since I assume you stole him on purpose (disregard if you’re not from Hebrew school but I did look at your blog and the things you post seem Jewish-ish?).

You made the whole story up so you’re basically a scammer. I KNOW YOU MADE IT UP BECAUSE!!! THAT’S MY FROG!!! AND HE’S NOT HAUNTED!!!

If you wanna meet at Starbucks or something here’s my number.


Sivan Groysman

I sit with this message for a very long time. I don’t quite understand what Sivan Groysman wants from me or how come I have never met this person who has such an excessively Jewish name. I mean, my family doesn’t go to temple. Instead, my parents sent me to secular Jewish school until I was thirteen, where we made models of the shtetl out of graham crackers and instead of having bar and bat mitzvahs we had a ceremony where we affirmed our commitment to secular Jewish values by reading social justice essays in front of everybody’s parents. But I am friends on Instagram with people all the way from other no-temple Jews to no-phone-on-Saturday Jews, and none of them, or our mutual friends, is named Sivan Groysman. Neither is anybody who shows up on Google, but maybe Sivan is really old-fashioned and doesn’t use their real name on the internet, or they haven’t switched over to “Sivan” officially, or something.

And by the way, changing a name? Changing a name with a special synagogue ceremony? That’s a big deal, and maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I only know of one reason why someone would mention “coming out” and then changing their name. I’m pretty sure it’s not to fool the Angel of Death like our ancestors used to do in the shtetl or whatever.

Is it possible that Sivan Groysman is not only Jewish enough for two people, they’re also trans, like me? Is it possible that there is another transgender Jewish human being who lives close enough that their lost frog landed in my thrift store, and I bought it, and now that other transgender Jewish human being is angry at me, an innocent party, because I made up some stuff about a ghost merely because I wanted that lost frog to find a good and loving home?

Surely not. It has to be wishful thinking. I’m reading too much into it. Sivan is just a very weird person who cares way too much about a stuffed animal but not quite enough to write me a polite message. They think I want to meet them at Starbucks so they can call me a liar to my face?

No, thanks. Not even if they buy me a drink. Not even if they are trans. No way.

I write back:

5.5.19 11:32 PM

Hello, Sivan,

How do I know you aren’t lying about how it’s your frog? How would you even know? No offense, but he is mass-produced.


Leo Katz

P.S. Is Sivan the name you are changing to? Does Sivan have a gender? I suck at Hebrew.

5.6.19 7:43 AM

Leo, IF THAT IS YOUR NAME, which if so: how did you manage to be named LION CATS, or if you prefer, High Priest King of Beasts? I almost hate you less cause your name is so badass.

Yes, Sivan is my new name. Months and other abstract concepts are the gender-neutral-est options for Hebrew names, I think. BTW if you were wondering I’m cool with any pronoun except she or he or hi or hu. In fact Hebrew is SO gendered, let’s just forget about it. Based on what I have gleaned from your blog you probably wouldn’t like it.

Back to business. Moshe is my frog and I will prove it. Observe the scar on his left eyeball. He got that scar from falling off my bed and landing on a hardwood floor in a tragic accident many years ago. Observe also that I have repaired his armpit on the right-hand side with dark green stitching. He is my frog and I am not a liar.



* * *

They’re not lying. The frog has a scar on its plastic eyeball, clouding the pupil. Stuffed animal cataracts. And under the arm on the right, someone’s clumsy stitches. I can’t believe it.

5.16.19 6:13 PM


Obviously my name is Lion Cats because I chose to be named Lion and I was already named Cats. I like how Sivan sounds as a name, by the way. I like May and June because it’s warm and there are flowers everywhere. Also I looked up what happens in Sivan, and I guess it’s Shavuot? I like cheesecake. (Cheesecake is the only thing I know about Shavuot. Do not shoot me for this, my school was not big on the Torah and I only know there is a Shavuot because my cousin Rachel’s family is obsessed with dairy products.)


I spend the rest of the day worrying that “your name reminds me of being warm and seeing flowers” was too sincere a thing to say and it will ruin the funny nemesis thing we had going. Then Sivan emails me back.

5.16.19 8:00 PM


I will not shoot you for not knowing anything about Shavuot but I will shoot you if you try to feed me cheesecake because it upsets my stomach. My synagogue IS kind of big on the Torah and FYI that means for Shavuot we pull an all-nighter to get really pumped about the Torah and eat SO much ice cream. You should try it sometime!

Unlike me my frog likes cheesecakes. Please give him some so he does not starve in your care.


P.S. Did you notice that since Leo is the zodiac sign for August, we’re both summer people? This cannot be a coincidence.

We’re both summer people. That’s cute.

It’s so cute it makes me nervous.

I don’t know how to respond, so I ignore it.

* * *

The story I have on my blog says that Sivan’s frog is haunted by the ghost of a little child who got lost and was never found again. He’s looking for his family, but he’ll settle down with anyone who loves him. Of course I made it up, like Sivan says, but I wonder—maybe this frog does want to find his family again. Maybe I should be flattered that he chose me to help him.

Moshe the frog is sitting on top of my dresser with the rest of the stuffed animals who are waiting to be sold. He’s flopped over on one side, but he’s staring at me out of his one unscarred eyeball. I almost think he knows what’s going on.

Not that I’m going to share that thought with Sivan Rude Online Groysman.

* * *

5.6.19 10:24 PM


Ok. So maybe it is your frog. I did feed him a cheesecake, and he seemed to enjoy it. But I paid two dollars for him, so he belongs to me now. Also you didn’t even know that he was haunted. SMH.


5.7.19 6:13 PM



Meet me at Starbucks and I will give you two dollars and also explain all of the reasons why you are wrong. This is a public service I will offer you free of charge.



P.S. I assume since your name is Lion Cats that you are a fan of cats? I have a cat.

* * *

On my Saturday morning trip to the thrift store, I pass by a Starbucks. I’m looking for more stuffed animals to sell, even though the pile of them on my dresser has started to creep me out a little. I wonder if this is the Starbucks where Sivan would like to meet me. Maybe one of the kids inside is Sivan. Probably not, though. I expect someone who pulls all-nighters to get pumped about the Torah has religious things to do on Saturday mornings.

The thrift store doesn’t have anything for me today. No sad teddy bears or innocent lambs or Disney characters. There are some human dolls, but I don’t do human dolls. Human dolls are too creepy already, even without pretending they are haunted. All the stuffed animals this week are too well cared for. I don’t buy ones that you can’t feel sorry for.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the animals. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s just that nothing is as fun as my internet fight with Sivan and I’d rather be writing an email to them than yet another ghost story.

5.11.19 2:30 PM

Hi, Sivan,

I am a certified stuffed animal rescuer, and I did rescue Moshe the frog, and I also gave him a bath and took some very nice portraits of him next to a duck pond, which I know you have looked at closely because you recognized the scar on his eyeball. Please also recognize my artistry.



P.S. I do love cats, which is why one cat name was not enough. OBVIOUSLY!

5.11.19 9:05 PM


I do recognize your artistry and I appreciate that you took Moshe to the pond and also gave him a bath. Also the story you made up about the ghost is pretty good even if it is a bunch of lies. Are you happy now? If so I will show you how cute my cat is.


5.11.19 9:13 PM


How do you even know the story is a lie? Are you psychic????


5.11.19 9:18 PM


I don’t have to be psychic to know that you are trying to DISTRACT me.

Perhaps this will distract you. It is a picture of my cat. She is real and has four legs and fur and her name is Gray Malka. There are reasons for this which I will tell you if you’re nice. I still want my frog back.



5.12.19 10:23 PM


Lion cuts are unflattering on any cat. As an actual lion, I am an authority on this subject. Please relinquish your cat to a more respectful home immediately. Her name is pretty good though. I’m assuming it’s a pun? Because malka is queen (I know this because of my dad, do not assume I know any more Yiddish than that), and a lady cat is also a queen? The gray part is pretty obvious.

You can have your frog back anytime for the low price of ten United States dollars, as listed on my site. If you tell me your address, I will even drop him off for no additional charge. Here is a photograph of him crying because you don’t love him enough to pay ten dollars.



5.12.19 5:05 PM

Dear actual lion and internet scam artist,

My cat is very happy here, but she is so silly that she does not know how to groom herself. If you can teach an extremely foolish cat to groom herself I will concede that you are the authority. I will also allow you to meet and pet her in exchange for my frog. The reason I am unwilling to pay you ten dollars is that Moshe is MINE and you are UNTRUSTWORTHY. As such I refuse to give you my home address at this time. I think it is very creepy of you to ask for such a thing. I invited you to a public place for mutual assurance that neither of us is an ax murderer and you continually refuse. Where are your parents, Leo? Have they taught you nothing?

Thanks for updating me on the hostage situation with proof that he is alive. I appreciate the effort. Where did he get the little T-shirt?


P.S. Gray Malka is actually a TRIPLE pun because in medieval times or whatever, a graymalkin was a witch’s cat. It’s in MACBETH.

P.P.S. Malka is actually Hebrew? I assume nothing.

* * *

Moshe got his T-shirt from the same place I get my T-shirts, i.e. the same place I get everything, i.e. the thrift store. I give all of the animals clothes or hair ribbons to make them look more cared for and also more pathetic. This is also my strategy for dressing myself, but no one needs to know that, because I never put photos of myself on the internet.

I was hoping that if I updated the portraits so the animals were dressed up, people would want to buy them. I assume this is also why one gets dressed up for job interviews. I think it’s even working, because somebody bought a lamb from me this morning. The lamb is wearing a dress. I made the story for that one really Jesus-y, because Sivan is right—I am a scam artist. But I am a scam artist who needs new shoes.

I have set the status of Moshe the frog to Sold, even though he isn’t. I don’t want anyone to buy him before I fix this thing with Sivan.

5.16.19 7:45 AM

Dear Leo,

To WHOM have you sold Moshe Ribbetnu??? EXPLAIN.

Yours enraged,


God, they’re so dramatic. I can’t believe the frog’s full name is Moshe Ribbetnu. That’s so cute it should be illegal.

5.16.19 5:03 PM

Dear Sivan,

This is a hostage situation. I require one hundred dollars tied to Gray Malka and placed on my doorstep on Wednesday at midnight. Do not call the police.

Otherwise you can just Venmo the ten bucks, cheapskate.

Yours from the moral high ground,


5.16.19 5:09 PM


It is you who are the cheapskate, and we both know this. Please do not ask me for money. You are giving a bad name to our people.


5.16.19 5:11 PM


NO, U!!!


Leo Katz (a Jewish merchant of excellent reputation)

5.16.19 8:14 PM


From now on I will only accept insults if they are delivered directly to my face. Please keep this in mind. If you have really sold my frog to a third party, I demand 1) reparations and 2) a duel. Pistols at dawn unless you are a COWARD.


5.16.19 10:16 PM


Don’t you mean pistols at STARBUCKS?


* * *

I have to wait until the next day for Sivan to respond. I think they must go to sleep at a reasonable hour on school nights, and it’s infuriating. I keep checking my phone every five seconds, but they must not use theirs in class or something, because it takes forever for them to get back to me.

5.17.19 3:19 PM


If you mean the Starbucks next to the public library downtown then yes. After school next Thursday? I get out at 3.


I think I might faint from relief that they interpreted my invitation correctly. It takes forever to compose my response, and by the time I send it they’re probably not even online, because it’s Friday, and judging by their silence when I emailed last Saturday, they’re probably a no-phone-on-the-Sabbath kind of person.

5.17.19 8:23 PM


Challenge accepted. The frog will not be with me because I do not trust you. Bring cold hard cash or he goes in the river.

Respond by text to the following number.


So there we go. I gave them my number. And now I have to wait twenty-five hours before they text me.

The wait is going to kill me.

* * *

5.19.19 1:12 AM

SG: See u on Thursday

LK: u woke me up u abomination

SG: Say it to my face frog thief!!!

LK: I guess I will! On Thursday!

SG: I’ve never been so excited for anything in my life  :)

Well, that doesn’t make me nervous at all.

* * *

Sivan is right. I’m a liar. On Thursday, Moshe Ribbetnu is tucked into the bottom of my book bag. I am not unreasonable. I am happy to release my hostage if Sivan agrees to my terms, namely:

1) They agree that I am not an internet scammer, I am an entrepreneur, and guidance counselors should be one hundred times prouder of me than they are.

2) Moshe Ribbetnu is mine by law, and transfer of custody can only occur via transfer of funds.

3) I deserve a hot chocolate, paid for by not me.

I think I am being very generous. I am not even asking Sivan to apologize for the tone of their initial message. I am a professional. I comfort myself with this knowledge as I squeeze Moshe Ribbetnu’s little webbed foot for non-nervous reasons.

* * *

Sivan is waiting for me at the Starbucks. I know it is Sivan for several reasons, despite having never seen a photo.

First, they are about my age and sitting by the window looking very impatient.

Second, their dangling earrings are shaped like frogs. It is possible that Sivan Groysman has an obsession.

Third, they are wearing a sweatshirt from some kind of team-spirit-laden youth activity with the name of the local Conservadox temple on it. So Sivan is the kind of person who owns brand new sweatshirts from activities they actually participated in, and the activities in question combine sports with tzedakah, which sounds horrible. Duly noted.

Sivan also has chipmunk cheeks and eyelashes that could have been stolen from a beautiful gazelle. They are wearing skinny jeans but are in no way skinny. They’ve covered their head with something that’s either a beanie like Ellen Page might wear or an Orthodox lady’s scarf in hat form. I can’t see their hair, so maybe the second thing? I should probably know what those scarves are called.

It figures that Sivan would be cute. It is the only thing that could possibly make me more agitated.

“Where’s my rightful property, ghostmonger?” they say when I come inside. Their voice is a little too loud for the space, but I like the sound of it. It’s sweet and higher than I imagined. We are going to be kicked out by angry aspiring novelists, but I don’t care.

I fold my arms and glare. “Where’s my ten bucks?”

Sivan looks me over. They’re taller than me, which isn’t saying much, but they sort of tilt their head back while they’re looking at me, to make their expression more judgmental, I assume. “What if instead we arm wrestle?”

“What if instead you give me my money?”

“What if instead you quit repeating everything I say?”

I flip them off instead of answering. We eye each other for a minute.

I feel awkward suddenly. This nemesis thing was easier online. I didn’t actually come here for a fistfight. I came here to be honest, I think. But that’s not really a thing I’m good at.

“So,” Sivan says. They sound as nervous as I feel. “Um, can I get you a drink or something?”

“You may.

“Shut up. What do you want?”

“Hot chocolate with peppermint. A big one.”

Sivan makes a face. “Leo, that stuff is so bad.”

“Wow, how dare you.”

“Whatever, if you enjoy suffering.” They slide off their chair and go over to the counter to order. I climb up on the chair next to theirs and kick my bag under the footrest.

Sivan’s phone is lying on the counter. I guess if I needed proof that we were just fake fighting this whole time, I’ve got it. Sivan trusts me with their phone, which has a puffy sticker of a frog on the back of the case.

They are obsessed, and it’s really adorable.

“One milk death with a side of menthol,” Sivan says, coming back and interrupting my careful calm-down deep breathing. “And for me, a real drink.”

“Great, now we can open negotiations like reasonable humans.” I tell them my terms, counting them off on my fingers. They already got me a drink, so that’s taken care of.

There is silence when I’m done talking.

“So?” I prompt when I don’t get a response.

“Great,” Sivan says. “Cool. I’ll think it over.”

It seems like they want to keep talking, but they don’t. There is another awkward silence.

Sivan is a fidgeter. They keep adjusting the position of their feet on the barstool and picking at the seam of their coffee cup with a freshly painted turquoise fingernail. I wrap my hands around my hot chocolate and try to think of something a normal person would say in a friendly conversation. Then I’m afraid we’ll both try to talk at the same time and I won’t get to hear Sivan talk.

“So,” Sivan finally says. “You’re from here? Like forever?”

I don’t see what that has to do with Moshe the frog. “Yes.”

“How come I’ve never met you before, then? I thought I knew everybody Jewish.”

“Yeah, I thought so too, but apparently I don’t have the secret Orthodox card that unlocks Groysman content.”

Sivan rolls their eyes at me. “I am barely even what anybody would call Orthodox, my friend.”

I point at their sweatshirt. “You’re plenty Orthodox if you go there. My dad is in a fight with them because the rabbi said patrilineal people don’t count or whatever.”

They look flustered. “I don’t have to agree with my rabbi. Jewish is Jewish, right? It’s whatever.”

“What does that mean?”

“I mean, like, Ahavas Yisrael and stuff. I don’t think less of you or anything.”

“Jesus Christ, dig yourself deeper, why don’t you.”

This Christian-normative bit of defensiveness is cover for how I’m not entirely sure what Ahavas Yisrael means. When somebody says something that’s obviously Hebrew but they say it all Yiddishy with the S on the end, that’s the secret Orthodox content. All the Yiddish I know is from a Tumblr post about super-complicated insults.

“Anyway,” Sivan says, “the point is, if I were actually Orthodox, I don’t think I could have a naming ceremony in shul. So maybe we should both stop assuming stuff?”

I think they mostly mean that I have been assuming stuff all over the place, but they’re too nice to say it outright.

Sivan is now drinking their coffee with an air of desperation. I could tell them it’ll only make them more anxious, but that feels too forward. I look around the place as if one of the various adults on their laptops might step up and give me a hint about how to talk to other human beings.

Why are we fighting? Sivan is right—they don’t have to agree with their rabbi.

“I went to secular humanist school,” I tell them finally. “My dad believes in Jewish social justice and also low-key in UFOs. My mom believes in the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society even though she is neither Jewish nor an immigrant.”

“Oh, cool.”

“Also the shtetl.” I take the lid off my hot chocolate so the milk foam won’t get caught on it. The milk foam is the best part. “We are very big on the shtetl, as a concept.”


“So I’m super Jewish, and that makes me an authority on all things, except maybe who is Orthodox and who isn’t, so. Sorry.”

Sivan hesitates. There is an actual blush happening on their face, and I wish I could apologize for this whole conversation. “Um, what if I gave you ten bucks and told you I’m also in a fight with one of our rabbis, so I get where your dad is coming from, but the other rabbi is totally cool, actually? Also, by the way, maybe you don’t know me because your dad is in a fight with my shul and not because you don’t have secret privileges or whatever? Then could we talk about something else?”

I pretend to give it some thought. Really I’m trying not to look too relieved. “Those terms are acceptable.”

They give a snort of laughter and start digging in their backpack. I try not to be nosy about the contents, but I notice that they’re carrying a beat-up sketchbook and a library copy of some fantasy novel. I’m glad they read library books. It makes me feel better about how new their clothes look compared to mine.

There’s also a water bottle with Kermit on it.

I do not love anything in my life as much as Sivan clearly loves frogs. It makes me feel bad for wanting to keep Moshe a little longer. I mean, I want an excuse to keep talking to Sivan. But they’re really into this stuffed animal. But also I think I’m going to miss him. And them. And us?

“You really didn’t sell my frog, right?” Sivan says in a quiet, hopeful tone that makes me want to squeeze their adorable cheeks. But I don’t, because I am a professional here to conduct business. “I know it’s weird, but he’s important to me.”

This is not so much weird as it is incredibly obvious. “Yeah, I got that from how you were super rude to me.”

Sivan sits up, offended. “You were peddling lies, Leo!”

“I am finding animals in need of new and loving homes. I am basically a charity. Tzedakah, baby.”

“Moshe isn’t haunted!”

“I mean, okay, I did make that up and everything, but are you sure? Because, like, he did successfully find his way back to you. And sometimes his one good eyeball follows me around the room.”

Sivan laughs again. Okay. We can pretend that I was joking.

They finally find ten dollars and hand it over. “So, next time you’ll bring Moshe, right? You’re not scamming me now? Because I did buy you a drink also, so I have met your terms. Oh, except I didn’t tell you you’re a legitimate merchant and whatever. Sorry for impugning you.”

“Yeah,” I tell them, tucking the money away. “Next time, Moshe will be here.”

Now what? I don’t want the conversation to end, but we’ve done what we came here for. There’s another pause. I slip the cardboard sleeve off my hot chocolate and test the temperature of the outside of the cup. Sivan wipes up a drop of spilled coffee with the corner of their napkin.

“Which school are you at?” I ask, giving up and going for a question my mom would ask. “Like, normal-people school. Not Jewish school.”

“I’m a sophomore at North.”

“Ooh, so fancy.”

“It’s a public school, Leo, come on.”

I raise my eyebrows at them and just stare until they blush and go for their coffee again.

Oh, shit, now I think I’m blushing, too. What the fuck. This was not part of the plan. I was going to be funny and cool and confident.

The thing is, I’m so much smarter and funnier when I can take an hour to compose everything I say.

Finally Sivan pulls themself together. “So, you’re at South? Or do you go to an underground school for grouchy gnomes, maybe?”

“That is what South is, actually.”

That gets me a smile. They have cute big teeth to match their cute chipmunk cheeks. I am dying. “How come you sell haunted stuffed animals, anyway? I mean, allegedly haunted. By ghosts you made up, because you are terrible.”

I give my hot chocolate a swirl to break up the skin that’s forming on top. I should probably drink it before it gets cold, since I bullied Sivan into buying it for me and everything. But I’m hyperaware of them watching me, and I keep imagining all the embarrassing things that could happen with a cup of hot chocolate, from full-on lap spills to choking to dark-brown milk mustaches.

Sivan is right—I am a gnome.

“I don’t know. I go to thrift stores a lot, and there are all these animals there, and I guess, like, people like haunted shit and stuff, so.”

It was kind of an organic thing. I didn’t set out to have my main hobby/part-time job be making up ghost stories about plush Snoopys. It just sort of happened, because the animals sitting in the thrift store bins week after week were starting to depress me even more than the fact that I had nothing better to do than hang out in the thrift store by myself.

“You’re really good at the stories,” Sivan says. They’re watching me swirl my drink, and they push their untouched plastic spoon in my direction kind of discreetly, the way a mobster would slide money across the table in a heist movie. “I read all of them. Then I, like, Googled parts of them, and you didn’t plagiarize any of it. I was super disappointed.”

I raise my eyebrows and finally take a sip of hot chocolate. It is lukewarm and tastes mostly of mint. Maybe Sivan is right and I have terrible taste in drinks, but I’ll fight anyone who tells me Starbucks’s allegedly weak hot chocolate isn’t the best kind. “You were going to prosecute me for internet crimes?”

“Yeah, I was hoping to, but then I got, you know, really into emailing you and stuff, and I realized you’re just a huge weirdo.”

“Thanks so much.”

“You’re so much welcome.” We smile at each other. I really like that smile. “You will give my frog back, won’t you? I mean, you’re actually cool. You’re not an actual mean person or anything.”

“I told you, his eyeball follows me around the room. You can totally have him.”

They look genuinely relieved. I’m not sure what to make of this. They’re a sophomore, and they’re still this attached to a stuffed animal? I mean, I’m buying and dressing and reselling them because I need money, but also because I spend so much time in the thrift store feeling desperately bored and lonely.

In their first email, they did say they hated everyone in Hebrew school, which seems weird from someone wearing a Tzedoccer shirt, but whatever.

My experience with being weird is that people find it off-putting, and Sivan is weirder than I am.

Maybe Sivan is lonely, too.

I can practically feel Moshe glaring at me from the bottom of my bag. Take a risk, Leo, you coward! Just tell them you want to hang out more and send me home with them!

No, Moshe. You’re my insurance. I am not a risk-taking person.

“Next week, same time,” I tell Sivan. “Right here. You and Moshe will be reunited.”

“Baruch HaShem, I thought Mashiach would come first.”

“You’re just doing that to annoy me now.”

“Yes,” Sivan says, smiling again. “It’s nice that we understand each other.”

* * *

I try to play it cool and not text Sivan, but they text me before I even get home.

SG: so now that I have your phone number and have seen your face and everything

SG: can I be sincere for a second

If there is anything I’m afraid of, it’s sincerity. I have, like, a valve in my brain that turns off everything but my rude voice when I’m nervous. Meeting Sivan in person proved that.

So naturally I text them back idk can you? like a wretched little troll.

SG: Leo be quiet

SG: I love teasing you and being teased and everything but there’s something I was too shy to say in person

SG: and I can’t just not say it or I think I’m going to spontaneously combust or something

SG: so…

SG: is next week, like

SG: a “date”???????????????

I probably shouldn’t let that text go unanswered for more than two seconds. I am not terribly familiar with dating etiquette, but from what I do know, I believe that people get very nervous when they put themselves out there emotionally and get nothing back.

The thing is, though . . .

What if I say yes, it’s a date, and then Sivan wants to hold hands or something, and my hand is sweaty? What if they want to kiss me, but I have eaten a ham-and-cheese croissant and they drop dead immediately from unkosher meat? What if I get nervous and talk too much, or forget how to talk entirely, which has sometimes happened to me even when no one with gazelle eyelashes was in my immediate vicinity? What if it’s just straight-up uncomfortable? What if somebody sees us?

But then what if I say no, and nobody is ever interested in maybe possibly holding my hand again, and I die alone, probably eaten by haunted stuffed animals? That definitely seems worse.

LK: yes we are arranging our marriage

LK: frog Moshe is the shidduch

LK: I googled that shit

LK: for you only, a public service, free of charge, it’s me pretending I know what orthodox things are

SG: cool I googled worst ways to say yes to a date and it said exactly what you just said

LK: that’s queer culture Sivan how do you not know this

SG: oy gevalt ur such a trash fire. Btw the word you wanted was SHADCHAN

LK: screams

SG: u wanna try responding to my invitation again or what

LK: listen

LK: my sincerity machine is like broken ok

LK: I’ve never been on a date before and I really want to hold hands or whatever people do but I’m really scared



SG: oh

SG: ok

SG: …. I think you’ll find that THAT is queer culture

LK: screams!!!

* * *

I specifically arrange to meet Sivan at a time that gives me a chance to change my clothes after school, because I know whatever I choose in the morning isn’t going to feel or look good enough by the afternoon. After about five costume changes, I settle on a red flannel shirt that is definitely too frayed to count as dressing up, but at least it makes me look extremely like myself, which I guess is as good as I’m going to get. Sivan can be cute for both of us, I guess.

I change Moshe the frog’s clothes, too, putting him in a nice frilly blouse I sewed myself.

No matter what I wear, you can still divine the presence of my hips if you squint at the correct angle, and I’m never going to find a pair of jeans that really fit me how I want them to. But Moshe looks like one of those fancy poets from the nineteenth century. He looks distinguished. He looks like he was rescued by someone who really cares.

I hope Sivan thinks so, too, because if my conversational skills are as good as they were last time, that’s the only thing I’ll have going for me.

Well, that and the fact that I’m giving them their ten dollars back, tucked into a notebook with a pattern of lily pads on the cover that’s been sitting in my desk drawer untouched forever. I think Moshe the frog used his last bit of stuffed animal magic to point the notebook out to me, because I dug it up when I was looking for thread to fix a loose seam on his blouse. I think—I mean, I really, really hope—Sivan is going to like it.

* * *

5.23.19 8:06 PM

Dear Leo,

Moshe is very happy to be home. Please find attached a photograph of him enjoying himself more than he ever enjoyed himself at your house, because I am his REAL DAD/MOM/PARENT and you are THE WORST.

Speaking of parents, how do you feel about coming over to be fed enormous quantities of kugel? My mom has seen your blog photo and she says you look nice, which means she is definitely losing her eyesight but also that she thinks we should get married.


5.23.19 8:15 PM

Dear Sivan,

If we get married I will be Moshe’s stepparent and GUESS WHAT—the real Moses was raised by his stepparent. CHECKMATE!!


5.23.19 8:20 PM

Dear Leo,

Ok fair enough, I did ask him and he did say that you’re very attentive and good at holding hands and stuff. I stand corrected.

P.S. Moses’s birth mom raised him in his adopted mom’s house. Are u suggesting the pharaoh’s daughter married Yocheved??? Please send me whichever Torah you are reading, but this still means I am the rightful caretaker.


5.23.19 8:22 PM

Dear Sivan,

HOW did you know I’ve held hands with the frog?


I refresh the email twice with no response, and then my phone buzzes on the bed behind me, and my heart starts beating again.

SG: lol i’m psyyyyyychic

SG: and also u know you’re the kind of person who would hold hands with a stuffed frog

SG: a SWEET person

SG: <3

LK: <3 <3 <3

{ Edited by Sharyn November. }