Blossom believed in self-improvement and her goal by summer’s end was to be fit as a fish stick. Her strength training program consisted of sitting on the patio pavers and flinging her collection of yarn pom-poms toward the wooded area at the end of the Hatchers’ lot. One day she decided to throw Chip, her favorite felt mouse toy. Clutching Chip with one paw, she threw him as hard as she could, watching him sail like a swallow across the lawn and disappear into the woods. “I’m stronger than I thought,” she meowed. “I’ll go fetch him after I’ve taken my workout break.”
After having a snack of high protein chicken and trout treats, Blossom ventured into the woods to find Chip. While admiring how the summer breeze made each tree leaf flutter, her ears pricked to another sound, one of whispers. They were coming from the Hatchers’ back yard. Three baby bunnies sat amongst the colorful border of Super Elfin Paradise Mix Impatiens that Mrs. H had just planted. Blossom hid behind an old fir tree, watching them mow down the impatiens as they bunny bantered. The violet flowers are mine so you eat the pink ones! Munch, munch. You’re not the boss of me! Munch, munch. This is boring!
“Excuse me,” Blossom meowed as she approached them. “This is my house on Tulip Drive and eating impatiens is not allowed. Please hop along to another yard.”
One bunny turned to Blossom. “Why did you throw a felt mouse at our burrow? Because now he’s ours.”
“You mean Chip? Give him back!” howled Blossom. “And then you may move along.”
“You have very bad manners,” chirped the second bunny. “Anyway, we can’t give him back. We’ve already buried him.”
The third bunny had a nose that not only quivered but was very runny, as if he had allergies. “We can dig him up for a price,” he sniffled.
Blossom couldn’t believe her ears. When had rabbits become so greedy? “Chip’s been mouse-napped?” she meowed, but then casually batted a paw. “I’ll sniff him out and dig him up myself.”
“You’ll never find him,” the third bunny replied. “We buried him under a rock. Now leave us alone so we can decide on Chip’s ransom.” The bunnies huddled, whispering so low that no matter how hard Blossom turned her ears, she could not hear what they were saying. She also gulped, thinking how these bunnies seemed more sinister than most. Finally, the first bunny spoke up. “We want rib-eye steak. We think we might like steak.”
“Steak?” The bunny’s request almost knocked Blossom off her feet. “I don’t know what steak is,” Blossom lied, a truly leopard-sized lie for Mr. H had just grilled steaks the night before.
“You’re a liar,” the second bunny said. “Your family just grilled steaks last night. We saw, we were spying. The old guy even said there would be leftovers.”
“You’d better give in to our demands,” sniffled the third bunny. “Or Chip is compost.”
Blossom left the surly bunch to prowl the back lot, sniffing high and low, but she could not pick up Chip’s scent. He had vanished. That afternoon Blossom sat outside the kitchen entrance with her thinking cap on, debating what to do. She’d never ever stolen food from the Hatchers’ fridge but Chip’s well-being was at stake, no pun intended. And because of her strength training, she knew her strong paws could open that fridge door.
The kitchen was clear so she crept up to the fridge, curled a paw about its door handle and pulled. The door opened with a soft suctioned poof. The foil-wrapped steak was on the second shelf. She knew from past Hatcher conversations that steak cost an arm and a leg so these leftovers were very valuable to her family. But then she thought of Chip, buried alive, his little felt body mingling with the worms. On hind legs, she pawed the steak from the shelf where it thumped to the floor.
The wrapped steak was almost too big to handle, but Blossom also had very strong chompers so she was able to pick up the package with her teeth and wrestle it out Willow’s bedroom window. Then she innocently waited at the back door to be let out. As Mrs. H opened the door for her, Blossom heard Mr. H say, “Where did you put that leftover steak, Dear?”
For being such a fit feline, the steak seemed especially heavy as Blossom dragged it across the lawn out to the impatiens where the bunnies were waiting. She knew she was doing the right thing. If someone took off with Willow, for sure Mr. and Mrs. H would hand over the steak.
The bunnies bounced up and down when they saw Blossom coming. “We want steak! We want steak!”
Blossom dropped the steak in the grass but sat on it. “First, I need to see the black beads of Chip’s eyes before I hand over the ransom.” Then she spotted Chip, lying beside the impatiens patch, maybe a bit dirtier than before but his ratty eyes and tail were intact. “Chip!” she cried. She flew to Chip, returning him to the patio. But she headed out again. She had to make sure the bunnies ate up all the evidence. It would be howlingly awful if Mr. H ran over the steak with the lawn mower.
The foil wrapper had already been peeled back and the bunnies were gathered around it as if it was a dinner table. Their eyes lit as they began to nibble. Munch, munch. “This is too chewy. It hurts my teeth,” whined the first bunny. He spit out a ball of chewed meat and turned to Blossom. “Why did you bring me this?”
The second bunny stopped eating, his mouth scrunched into one big wrinkle. He glared at Blossom. “I won’t eat this. And you can’t make me.”
Munch, munch. The bunny with the bad nose was still at it but then sat back and eyeballed Blossom accusingly. “I don’t like steak.”
Spoiled rodents thought Blossom as she trudged back to the house, collecting Chip on the way. Once inside, she deposited Chip in her sleeping basket, giving him a reassuring pat, then headed to the kitchen to check out the ruckus of drawer sliding and slamming going on. Mr. H and Willow stood back, watching as Mrs. H sat on her knees before the open fridge, rattling around in the crisper. “Maybe I accidentally put the steak in with the vegetables.” She looked like she was about to cry as she flung a bag of carrots and stalk of celery onto the lower shelf of the fridge while she shoveled through the crisper drawer.
“Could you have accidentally thrown the steak in the trash, Mom?” asked Willow.
Mrs. Hatcher put her hand to her mouth, reminding Blossom of how Willow looked the time she’d lost her backpack and all the school books that had been in it. Mr. H walked off, sighing. “Of all things to misplace. Steak costs an arm and a leg.”
That evening Blossom headed to her sleeping basket especially early. It was as if everyone was in a very bad mood over the missing steak. And the scratching was on the wall: Mrs. H thought she was going crazy. Right then and there, Blossom knew what she had to do.
In the morning, from the edge of the woods the bunnies watched as Blossom dragged the steak back to Willow’s open bedroom window. “Don’t worry, Mrs. H,” Blossom called to no one in particular. “You are not crazy and I will prove it.”
From the back lot Blossom heard one of the bunnies say, “The cat’s talking to herself.”
“How am I going to get the steak back into the house again?” Blossom fretted. “Throw it through Willow’s bedroom window? Oh Lord, I’m not that strong,” she sighed. And then the most meow-velous thing happened. Mrs. H trotted out to the clothesline with her blue plastic clothes basket. While removing her air-dried sheets from the line and placing them in the basket, the neighbor next door came over to talk. This completely distracted Mrs. H, drawing her away from her sheet folding ritual. As Mrs. H chatted at the fence, Blossom hovered over the basket, quickly shoving the sheets to one side. She then dropped the steak to the bottom and pushed the sheets back in place, giving the stack a firm pat. She hoped the sheets wouldn’t receive grease stains. The meat was beginning to look a bit used. After waiting and waiting and waiting, Mrs. H wrapped up her conversation and headed inside with the sheets. Blossom was able to retrieve the steak from the basket before Mrs. H got around to it.
Once again Blossom opened the fridge door. “This time, I’ll put the steak in the side door! It can’t be missed!” she cried, proud as a prize piglet over her idea. She managed to situate the steak on its end so half of it was almost falling out. “Mrs. H will see it and think, Oh, I never thought to look in the fridge door!” Blossom pushed the door shut. “Another happy ending, thanks to me and my strength training,” she meowed.
At the dinner table that evening, Blossom watched as Mrs. H shook her head. “I still can’t believe I could throw a steak in the trash.”
Blossom’s Meow Moment had arrived. She scrambled to the fridge, rubbing her body back and forth against it while meowing loudly, “Mrs. H, the steak is in the fridge door. Come look!”
They all turned to Blossom. “Blossom, what’s gotten into you?” Willow said, then turned to Mrs. H. “After dinner, I’m going to go through last night’s trash, Mom. Just to make you feel better.”
Blossom pawed at the fridge door. “No need to, Willow. I think the steak might be in the fridge. In the door. You can have it tomorrow for lunch, Mr. H!” Her meows were ignored.
“Thanks, Willow,” said Mrs. H. “But I’m over it. Out of the fridge that long, it couldn’t be eaten anyway. It would make someone very sick!”
Blossom’s paw hung in mid-air, her meows caught in her throat. “What? Make someone sick? How sick?” She plastered her back up against the fridge as if that could keep the Hatchers from entering the refrigerator.
Willow scrunched her eyebrows. “What’s with you, Blossom? I see you meowing to yourself in the backyard and now this thing with the fridge.”
Mrs. H got up from the table. “Tomorrow I’ll clean the fridge. If the steak is still in there in some odd spot, I’ll come across it and we can eat it then.”
Blossom felt her back twitch, vowing that once the steak-for-rabbit-ransom was just a bad family memory, she’d never, ever go into the fridge again. That night when the kitchen was clear, she once again opened the door and removed the valuable steak that had somehow turned to poison, according to Mrs. H. The foil almost fell off when it hit the floor. The rib-eye looked rather dried out, like beef jerky. From there, Blossom rushed it off to Willow’s room, shoved it out the window, then hightailed it to the back door to be let out. “So much running around!” she cried. “I’m really getting a workout!”
The sun had almost set when she was finally let out. The bunnies were clustered at the woods’ edge watching as Blossom dragged the steak across the lawn and pitched it into a wild lily patch in the woods. Whoosh!
Blossom plodded into the woods to make sure the steak was gone for good. As she climbed back out of the brush, the first bunny called, “Why did you do that? If I smell that steak my nose will hurt. Not fair!”
Blossom glared at the troublesome bunch. Their small silhouettes in the fading light made them resemble tiny bowling pins. But she didn’t have time for bunny bowling.
“You’re looking at me,” said the second bunny. “Stop looking at me.”
Blossom chuckled to herself as she turned to head back to the house. “I’m not going to get my tail in a knot. After all, they are just baby bunnies.” But as she trotted on, she recalled how 1) they’d mouse-napped Chip, 2) buried him under a rock, 3) forced her to steal a valuable steak and 4) return the same steak back to the fridge only to remove it a second time. As her fur bristled up, she heard the third bunny’s sniffling, runny-nosed voice and she just had to look.
The third bunny glared at her with his little pouty bunny eyes. “I don’t like you,” he snuffled.
Blossom was very grateful for her strength training that beautiful summer evening as she headed down to the impatiens patch, grasped the third bunny by the scruff of his neck and flung him into the woods, aiming for the same patch of lilies where she’d pitched the steak. His brothers darted off to safety but he landed in the tall brush with a whoosh! and a thump! and a bunny shriek of, “My toes touched steak!”
As Blossom headed back to the house, she heard him bawling, “I’m telling my momma!”
Blossom shook her head. She’d done enough strength training for the summer.