It Ain't Just 

Tierney Oberhammer | Fiction

It’s May 1st, which means soft-shell crab season has finally arrived. A little after noon, my mom texts to ask if I’d had any yet.  

Crab rolls last night, she writes and attaches a picture of a gorgeous fried crab sandwich with two claws hanging out. $7 per pound! Dad made Dijon aioli (mayo). U? 

Marsha and I are still in bed. “My mom thinks I don’t know what aioli is,” I say.  

Marsha laughs. “Despite what they say about Black people and mayo, I love aioli.” 

I’m not sure what they say about Black people and mayo, but I laugh like I do, and we start our day. If I am going to make Marsha soft-shell crab for dinner, we need to head to Chinatown.  

Whenever I make food for Marsha, she says I must have learned to cook from my mother.  

“All these herbs and spices. That’s your melanin,” she declares. “That’s why you’re a good cook.”  

I don’t think melanin correlates with cooking proficiency. My father is white, and while I was growing up, he did most of the cooking. He was good, too. Lamb chops. Lasagna. Chicken cordon bleu. He spent time on our meals. My mom, the Asian one, overcooked meat and undercooked vegetables. But I don’t offer Marsha these details. I like that she thinks of me as kindred, as not-white. Often, I wish I had a name tag that said, “Hi I’m… Not-White.” But with Marsha, I never needed one. She casts a wide net. I’m only a quarter Vietnamese, but Marsha says that counts. She can tell, she says.  

Walking to the train, I show Marsha the photo my mom sent of her crab roll dinner last night, and Marsha tells me she doesn’t like shellfish, which surprises me.  

“I thought you liked seafood.” 

“No, no,” she says. “I ate too much seafood as a kid visiting my grandparents in St. Anthony.”  

“What about your cousin’s seafood boil?”  

Marsha has been talking about a seafood boil for weeks, ever since she saw photos from a wedding she missed in Atlanta. I remember when she held out her phone and waited for me to look at the pictures. All the guests wore bibs and sat in folding chairs around a long table lined with brown paper. It was the longest table I’d ever seen, covered with crab legs, prawns, clams, corn on the cob, sausage, boiled eggs and red potatoes, all of it glistening with garlic butter and flecked with herbs.  

In the first picture, one of Marsha’s cousins grinned next to an ear of corn and a lobster tail. It was impressive, all that shellfish. Marsha had double tapped the carousel of images, and I’d had made a mental note to make seafood for her sometime soon.  

My ears pop as we go under the East River. “Your cousin’s seafood boil?” I repeat.  Marsha looks confused. Then my question clicks, and she explains that it’s been years since she’s gone to a boil. She craves the spirit of it, she says, emphasizing the word spirit.   

“And the buttery corn and potatoes! Lord deliver me. I love starchy vegetables and Zatarain’s.” 

I raise my eyebrows in fake surprise. “So, you’re just a carb head?”  

“If loving carbs is wrong,” she starts, but doesn’t finish.  

As we climb the stairs to the street, I try to explain that soft-shell crab is a different beast. Soft, chewy and crunchy all at the same time. The juiciness. The subtle sweet flavor. In the end I land on a more conceptual explanation: 

“If I could divide the year into two parts, I would divide it into soft-shell crab season and not soft-shell crab season. There’s nothing like it.” 

“Intriguing,” Marsha says, unconvinced.  

We visit all the fish stores in Lower Manhattan, navigating the puddles of melted ice on the tiled floors. We pop into art galleries and shops that intrigue us and break for lunch at Whole Foods. I’m hyper-aware of myself and of Marsha as we pick through the streets together. I have mixed feelings about Marsha’s appearance. On one hand, she looks incredible. Her nails are Barbie pink. Her cornflower blue dress looks painted on, and the color is great on her. It’s a short dress, too. She has to keep smoothing it down in the back to make sure she’s covered. Braids hang straight down past her waist, and when she laughs, her teeth flash like paparazzi cameras.  

But I worry that the dress and the long braids draw too much attention. I try not to let it bother me, but I catch people looking twice. Sometimes I worry that it’s me–or us, together–that attracts double takes. Then I remind myself, it’s 2017. Interracial relationships are old news. Plus Marsha’s gorgeous. I’d look twice too.  

I try to focus on the task at hand. At each counter, fishmongers purse their lips and shake their heads. “All done,” they say through rough English. “Come tomorrow. Early.” 

I always get fish in Chinatown. Tuna, oysters, scallops, squid. The crowded, dirty streets and standoffish vendors remind me of grocery shopping with my mom back in Houston’s Chinatown. When I was a kid, we drove to the Hong Kong Food Market the first weekend in May to check the fish. I used to hope the vendors would notice my low eyelid crease and see that I resemble my mother. Nowadays, I work to win them over with a different approach. I try to charm store clerks with niceties. They ignore my efforts. It’s a familiar game.  

Today everyone in Chinatown is sold-out of crab, so Marsha and I head back to Brooklyn. When we turn the corner onto my block, the royal blue awning of Monty’s Quality Fish catches my eye. I’ve lived caddy-corner to Monty’s for over a year now, but I’ve never gone in. The late day sun lights up the storefront like a movie set. “It Ain’t Just Fish!” the sign says in curly type.  

Monty’s is Old Brooklyn. To the left of Monty’s is an Italian restaurant run by an Instagram chef. To the right is a hair salon where the twee stylists wear denim aprons. Monty’s sits dully between the two businesses, a vestige of Brooklyn’s past. I feel a sort of reverence for it, but I’m afraid my reverence is fucked up. Like, look! How sweet, the neighborhood is still intact. The original inhabitants, mostly Black and brown people, hang onto the footholds. Meanwhile, I work in finance. I’m the reason my landlord can charge twenty-five hundred for a one-bedroom. I feel guilty. I worry about their resentment. I look white, but I’m not, and I’m not good at being Asian either. “Put Caucasian,” my mother told me when I filled out college applications in high school. She wanted me to belong. Meanwhile, I thought I already did. It doesn’t matter now. I definitely don’t belong in Brooklyn.  

Marsha’s not from here either, though, and she seems comfortable wherever we go. She was raised between New Orleans and St. Anthony and came to New York for college. Last week marked five years in the city for her. We went out to lunch on her old block to celebrate, and I asked her why she chose New York.  

“Why does anybody choose New York?” she said.  

Lots of reasons, I thought, but I liked the premise that it was the same for everyone.  

“This city is a magnet,” Marsha added.  

“No, you are,” I said, pulling her toward me.  


Marsha is talking excitedly about her favorite crime podcast when I take her by the elbow. “Let’s try in there,” I say and steady her as she steps over the curb toward the fish store.  

In the middle of the intersection we pass two men, and I notice them noticing Marsha. Their eyes pause at her bare thighs and visible cleavage. They glance at her face. Neither man looks at me at all. Irritation sparks in my chest.  

“She played an evil stepsister, but not the worst one,” Marsha says, referring to the main suspect in her murder podcast. I’ve lost track of the narrative, but I murmur an acknowledgement. All five-foot-one of Marsha balances on platform espadrille sandals as we make our way across the street. 

I hold open the door to Monty’s, and Marsha walks to the middle of the tiled floor. I glance around. A pan that once held mac and cheese crusts under a heat lamp. A sign announcing the specials leans against the drink fridge. Marsha looks back at me, like now what?, and I join her in the center of the room.  

Behind the counter, a man with dark skin and a white T-shirt looks up, sees Marsha and straightens. His biceps and shoulders show through the thin cotton of his shirt. My eyes land on the line where the elastic of Marsha’s underwear cuts across her hip, visible through the blue dress.  

“What can I do for you?” the man says. His voice is deep. Despite a raised scar intersecting his hairline, the man is handsome. I glance at Marsha, looking for signs that she notices his good looks. She smiles at him.  

“What time y’all close?” Marsha asks, hands clasped behind her back.  

The man calls over the hum of the store, “Seven-thirty. Hot food is done at seven, and fish at six-thirty.” He lifts a stack of shiny trays onto a shelf. 

“Ah,” Marsha says. “OK. We wanted to know about the fish. Next time.” 

She looks at me and shrugs. I shrug, too. No fish tonight. It was always a long shot. 

Then the man stops and lifts his chin. “What you want?” He looks back and forth between the two of us, but he’s talking to Marsha.  

Marsha and I joke that when it comes to dating and relationships, we are members of the two least desirable groups. Asian men and Black women. It’s a perfect match, we say. There’s even a hashtag: #AMBW.  

I’m not making up the “least desirable” thing, either. I read an article. Some researchers pulled statistics from a dating app. Fewer people are swiping right for Black women and Asian men. But Marsha and I swiped right for each other.  

“I thought you were Cuban or something,” Marsha said when we first met. “You better not be white.” My stomach had clenched, but when I looked up, she wore a wry smile. “I’m playing,” she said. “You’re cute, period.”  

I love her sense of humor now, but it took some getting used to.  

To be fair, I looked more Asian when I was a baby, then I lost it. Not that there’s anything wrong with being all white. Plenty of white people in my family tree. In fact, mostly white people. We are all-American. My father is a cosmetic surgeon who commutes to New York, and my half-Vietnamese mom is a petroleum geologist for Shell, though I usually leave off the petroleum part because people have a lot to say about oil and gas.  

My parents haven’t met Marsha yet–we’ve only been together for a few months–but I think they’ll like her. Marsha’s cool. She manages the restaurant at a hotel uptown and runs an Instagram account called “Bag Dogs.”  

“Putting my fine arts degree to good use,” she announced when she first showed me.  

It’s actually really popular. Forty thousand followers. She goes around the city snapping photos of dogs in bags, and then she asks the owner for their pet’s name and favorite activity for the caption.  

Her new concept is “City Snakes.” At first, I pointed out that snakes aren’t a common sighting, but it didn’t bother her.  

“There’s always some muscley guy with a snake in Washington Square Park,” she said. Then she went on a tangent about her childhood in Louisiana. Growing up her dad had a python named Benito that Marsha adored. She talks about Benito a lot. I wish I didn’t hate snakes as much as I do.  

In Monty’s, the handsome young man behind the display case waits for our answer, and Marsha looks at me, eyebrows raised. “Crabs?” She turns back toward the fishmonger and smiles some more.  

I step forward and echo her. “Do you have any soft-shell crabs?”  

“Ha!” The fish guy lets out a big, clipped laugh. He makes a show of turning to check the time on the wall clock hanging behind him. “Soft-shell crabs? Now? You’re coming in here at close talking about soft-shell crab?” 

My jaw clenches. The man is calling me silly. I hate him for it, for making a show in front of Marsha, but I’m in his store, and he’s right.  

“Something else, then,” I say. I wonder if maybe we should just leave, but I don’t want to walk out empty-handed. All the display bins sit empty, dripping water. The man shouts toward the back of the store.  

“Monty! We got any soft-shell?” He turns to me. “You might be in luck,” he says and disappears through a swinging door.  

I take a deep breath and look around the interior. It’s a gray linoleum, drop ceiling establishment. The prices are written on a discolored dry erase board. An enormous fan at the entrance drowns out the street sounds like a white noise machine. Marsha leans back to see where the man has gone. She balances on one foot momentarily, and her painted toes pop against the drab flooring. She looks out of place here, but she’s not turning her nose up. Instead, she seems curious. I like that she appreciates novelty.  

Once, we tried a new brunch spot a couple weeks after meeting. Our third date, maybe. Marsha picked the restaurant after reading a write-up. Over matcha lattes, she explained her high expectations around food.  

“It’s my Anthonian and Southern roots,” she said. “White people can’t cook.” Waving a hand toward the back of the restaurant, she added, “Look. It’s all Spanish in the kitchen.”  

I wasn’t sure what to say. I turned and accidentally made eye contact with a brown-skinned busboy. He didn’t look Spanish to me. I gave him a nod and considered Marsha’s theory.  

I turned back to Marsha, noting her color. Honey. Coffee with cream. Lightly toasted toast. “Is your whole family the color of a waffle?” I asked.  

She frowned. “Waffles? Waffles are yellow.”  

“You’re thinking of an Eggo waffle,” I said. “Picture a perfectly-browned Belgian waffle.” I glanced around the dining room looking for an example. When I found one, half-eaten and soaked in syrup on a child’s plate, I pointed.  

Smiling, Marsha rolled her eyes. “Oh, excuse me. A Belgian waffle. Fancy.”  

“You would know,” I teased back, “with your high expectations around food.” 

Marsha closed her menu. “Waffles can be the dessert.” I couldn’t tell if she was upset, or acting coy. She smiled and changed the subject.  

Now, in Monty’s Quality fish, Marsha touches my hand, startling me. She gives me a squeeze. She smirks.  


She points at the chalkboard sign in the corner. It is advertising a seafood boil special for $10. The board looks dusty.  

“Good deal,” I say. It’s a great deal.  

Marsha is laser focused on the sign. I know she’s thinking about the seafood boil from Instagram. She misses the South and her family. She talks about them a lot. I consider asking if we should switch to a crab boil for dinner, but then the man returns carrying a wooden crate.  

“How many crabs do you want?” he says.  

He pushes the crate across the counter toward me and Marsha. We peer in. Five crabs rest motionless atop a bed of straw. Finally, soft-shell crabs.  

“Are they alive?” I ask. It’s a common question, to check, to make sure.  

Head tilted down, the fish guy looks at me from under his eyebrows. “Are they alive?” He imitates me, his voice pitched up. “Come on, man.”  

My face flushes hot.  

He knows and I know that you only purchase live shellfish. Live or frozen. I think I know what he’s saying–that they are indeed alive but stunned still from the refrigerator, and how dare I even ask–but I want verbal reassurances. I want him to say the words. Yes, they are alive. No illness will come from these crabs. But more than anything else, I want the interaction to end. I want to leave the store. 

I look at Marsha. “Four?” I say.   

She nods. 

I turn to the man. “Four.” 

The man cocks his head. “Nah. Five. What’s one more? Ain’t nobody gonna want just one. They’re yours.” 

A soft-shell crab can only survive for a day in the fridge after you take it home. You don’t buy extra. You buy as many as you’ll eat. Then you clean them and prepare them within twenty-four hours. I don’t want five. But I want to be gracious.  

“Okay,” I say. “Thank you for pulling them out. I know you’re trying to go home.” 

He grins. “Kid, you’re welcome to buy fifty dollars of seafood any time you want.”  

I sneak a glance at Marsha. She stares at the man, frowning, then steps away to look around the small shop.  

The man pulls a cutting board and a pair of scissors from somewhere behind the counter and reaches into the crate. “I’ll clean them for you.” He turns to stand in front of the sink, facing away from us and holds the first crab under water.  

Ten dollars per crab is a rip-off, and I’d planned on cleaning them myself, but I don’t say anything. I concentrate on my breathing.  

At the cutting board, the man takes his scissors to the face of the crab. He cuts across, removing the eyes and mouth. Now the crab is dead. A dark yellow substance, the mustard of the crab, oozes from its body cavity. With skill, the man snips out the feathery gills on either side of the creature and then cuts off its tail. He places the crab onto a Styrofoam tray and reaches into the box for the next one. It doesn’t bother me, but I look away. I already know how to clean a crab. 

I find Marsha staring at the seafood boil sign. I’m glad she’s distracted. I don’t want her to see the crab cleaning. It’s disturbing, killing them like that. A more decent man would take the crabs to the back to do it.  

Marsha shouts over the hum of the industrial fan. “I’ve been dreaming about a seafood boil. It’s great to know they do that here.”  

The man grunts and lets out a disappointed sigh.  

“Your girl says she’s dreaming about a seafood boil, and you don’t make it for her? Come on, man.”  

My muscles tense. The man raises his eyebrows, purses his lips and glances back and forth between Marsha and me.  

Back off, I want to tell him. Mind your business. I’m gonna make something special for my girlfriend, something she’s never had. I don’t have to explain myself to a stranger hawking fish in a crumbling store.  

The man turns toward the sink to rinse another crab. He is slow in his movements, and I wish he worked faster. How many has he gotten through? It’s quiet in the store, even with the fans blowing. No music plays. No workers or customers mill about. The lights are bright, and it’s just the three of us. Marsha looks at the ground. I need to say something. I take a deep breath.  

“I don’t know how to do a seafood boil. Doesn’t it take a long time?”  

From afar, a seafood boil looks like an all-day affair, something only put together for special occasions, like Marsha’s cousin’s friend’s wedding.  

The man shakes his head, disappointed again. Then his mouth cracks into a mischievous smile. “If you come in here three, four times, maybe I’ll teach you how to do a seafood boil. Then you can do it for her.” He uses his fingers to find the gills again. Snip. Snip.   

How nice, I think. He wants to teach me. I want to shove him, but I force a laugh instead. “Sure thing. Sounds fair.” 

Marsha clears her throat. “Okay, okay,” she says. A crease I haven’t seen before appears between her eyebrows. “Seafood boil is easy. Pot of water. Butter. Spice packet. They sell them at the grocery store.” She sounds annoyed. She can make her own boil, I guess. I can feel her looking at me, but I don’t meet her eyes.  

I watch the man checking the crabs for life under cold water. He pinches their claws and gives them a gentle shake. He makes cleaning them look easy.  

“Miss, I can do a seafood boil for you any day of the week, whenever you feel like it. I’m here.” 

Unsmiling, Marsha nods. “Good to know.” 

The man pulls another crab from the crate and turns away to rinse it. When he turns back, its pincers flail in slow motion, proof that it’s alive.   

I step to Marsha and touch the small of her back. I try to remember that this is a good thing. We finally found crabs. We’re lucky.  

“It’ll be nice,” I say. “Lightly fried in butter with some fresh basil and thyme. Mayonnaise. A little white wine. How’s that sound?”  

Marsha puts her hand to the space between my shoulder blades. “Butter,” she says, brightly. “That sounds amazing.” Affirmations come easy to Marsha. Her catchphrases are, “I love it!” “Amazing!” “Wow!” 

The man overhears and cuts in. “Okay. White wine. Fresh basil. You can’t do a boil, but you can do that. That sounds nice.” He nods, up and down, up and down, sizing me up. “Maybe you’re alright after all.”  

I laugh, uncertain about his tone. “Don’t worry,” I say. “I know a little something.” 

“I’m sure you do,” he says, and it’s genuine. I hate that his endorsement feels good, that he has some cultural capital that I don’t.  

The man finishes up with the crabs, and I pay him fifty dollars plus a ten dollar tip. As he hands over the plastic bag, he gives Marsha a once-over. He shakes his head, chuckling. “You’re a lucky man,” he says. “I’ll tell you that much.”  

He’s being friendly, complimentary, so I share the laugh, but Marsha sucks her teeth and drops her hand from my back. The bell hanging over the front door jingles, and I look back to see Marsha pushing her way out of the store. I thank the man for my purchase and follow her out, ignoring his smirk.  

On the street, Marsha squints into the sunset. “I didn’t like that,” she says.   

I didn’t like it either, but I’m not sure what Marsha didn’t like. The man tried to cuck me, but he was okay in the end. A little jostle is par for the course. We finally found crabs, and now we know there’s a seafood boil a stone’s throw away. I need to toughen up.  

We head down the block, and I’m feeling a little lost. I don’t know if I should reach for Marsha’s hand or crack a joke or let the moment pass. I sneak a look, and her mouth is set in a straight line. Her shoulders are rigid.  

I’m working up the nerve to ask her what she didn’t like when she gasps. Then I see it too. Up ahead, a skinny white guy has a giant python stretched across his shoulders. The animal is sinister, all yellow muscle. Its head levitates. It sniffs the air with a flicking tongue. Two rows of Marsha’s perfect teeth show and her nose crinkles into a grin. I look at the snake and shudder. 

“Go ahead,” I say. “I’ll wait.”  

She rummages around in her tiny, pink purse, pulls out her phone and walks toward the man with the snake. Her dress is riding up again. It’s too short, really and truly. One more inch and I’ll know what color underwear she put on this morning. The skimpiness is unnecessary. She’s already a woman who turns heads. I don’t know why she has to put me in these situations again and again, like she’s testing me.  

“Marsha,” I hiss, stepping after her.  

She halts and turns half-way toward me.  

“Your dress,” I say. I mime like I’m pulling down my own skirt. Louder this time. Firmly. “Your dress.” 

She squints. Then both of her hands come up, fingers curled, and she gestures toward me as if to say, “What’s your problem?” I catch a glimpse of teenage-Marsha sucking her teeth at her mother. It stings. She flips her braids and turns back toward the man with the snake. I watch the hem of her dress. Miraculously, it stays in place.  

An hour later, we are in my kitchen, white rice steaming in the cooker. Thinly sliced carrots marinate in salted vinegar. I pick some leaves off a stalk of basil while the cast iron heats up. Whenever I’ve made soft-shell crabs in the past, I cleaned them myself. Cleaning them is half the work. Tonight, the meal takes no time. The man did a good job. 

Marsha, who has been trying to select the best photo of the man with the snake, puts her phone down.  

“Hey,” she says. “At the fish store. It’s still bothering me. You need to chill out or man up.”  

My throat constricts. I stop picking the basil and shut off the heat on the stove.  

“How he made it out like you’re no good because you never boiled a crab? Then he changed his mind when you said ‘white wine’? Like he gets to decide? I was standing right there. I choose who I’m with. I decide. And then you give me grief about my dress? What was that?” 

Marsha starts digging at the edge of her thumb with her pointer finger. I hear it every time the nail flicks over the calloused edge of skin. It reminds me of the snip snip snip of scissors on the crab’s bodies. I feel agitated. Marsha is a smart girl. Perceptive. Had she really not understood what was going on? 

“I think the man was just being protective. He sees you with me. One of his women. We were in his space. He did us a favor, going to the back for the crabs.” 

Marsha stops picking at her finger. “One of his women?”  

“That’s not what I mean,” I say, correcting. “You know what I mean.” 

“What do you mean?” Her voice drops low, a tone I haven’t heard. “Why do you make everything so racial?”  

“Racial? I just wanted to be respectful.”  

She scoffs. “I want everyone to be respectful. But I’m not a ruler so you two can measure dicks. And then he told you that you’re lucky! I was standing right there.” 

She takes her thumb to her teeth and bites the edge, tearing at the skin. I reach across the counter and bring her hand down. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t want to make a big deal. I let him have it.” 

She groans. “You let him have it,” she says, making air quotes. 

She’s upset. I can’t say anything right, but I need to save the mood. I go around the counter and squeeze her shoulders.  

“Let’s forget about it. I’m gonna fix this crab, and you tell me the truth, whether or not you like it. If you don’t like it, we’ll blame the fish guy. Then we’ll go find a seafood boil somewhere.” 

She shrugs my hands away. “Alen, no. Stop.”  

I try to relax my jaw and make a smile. I consciously lower my eyebrows.  

“What’s wrong with your face?” Marsha says. “You look weird. Are you mad?” 

“No. I just don’t want to fight,” I say. “I wanna have a nice evening with you.” I move back to the stove and twist the dial until the burner clicks and a flame billows under the frying pan.  

She sighs. “I’m mad, too,” she says, though she doesn’t sound upset anymore. Her voice is gentler now. “But sometimes you gotta fight.” 

I’m not sure if Marsha means I ought to have fought the fish guy, or if I ought to fight with her, right now. Her soft tone makes it easier to make eye contact with her though, and when I do, she looks sincere and open. Her face is relaxed. Fighting wouldn’t be the worst thing, she’s saying. Fighting wouldn’t mean the end. Maybe it’s something else to get used to. I feel nervous, but not in a bad way. I feel nervous like when we first met.  

I test the temperature of the pan with a wooden chopstick. The oil bubbles golden around it. That’s how I know the pan is hot. 

When dinner is ready, I set two plates down on the counter. I kiss Marsha’s cheek, and she lets me. I wrap a fried crab in lettuce and add fixins.  

When Marsha bites into the crab, she shakes her head and closes her eyes.  

She chews, swallows. Takes another bite. Chews, swallows. She grins, and I can tell it’s real.  

“Wow,” she says. “It’s amazing. I love it.”  

After we eat four soft-shell crabs, I offer her the fifth, and she accepts.  

I contemplate the impossible texture of the crab. Juicy, crunchy, chewy, soft. Butter and mayonnaise. Fresh, green herbs. The meal is a success.  

Then the guy at the fish store sneaks into my mind. Does he have buckets of crabs in the cooler back there? Is he waiting for the next batch to molt? Once they molt, their shells harden again within days. It’s such a small window of time.  

I hate that I’m thinking about him when he’ll probably never think about me again for the rest of his life. I’ll never go back to Monty’s, that’s for sure.  

Next time, if Marsha wants to fight, we can fight. Next time, we’ll find a crab boil, or make one ourselves. Better yet, we’ll boil potatoes, corn and eggs in seasoned water and pour melted garlic butter over the whole thing. No seafood. A carb boil. 

When Marsha finishes the last crab, she gets back on her phone. After a while, she shows me the post. I read the caption first. This city snake’s name is Angel, it says, and Angel is ten years old this month. Whenever anyone on Angel’s block has a mouse problem, they use catch-and-release traps and bring the mice over to watch Angel eat. The hashtags are #citysnakes, #snakegirl and #girlwithasnake. The image already has 40 likes.  

Someone else must have taken the picture because Marsha is in it, grinning next to Angel and Angel’s owner. The colors look great. The banana-yellow snake, the baby blue dress, Marsha’s waffle-brown skin. Marsha looks beautiful, too. She looks happy, and it has nothing to do with me.