The sun’s orange brilliance was about to push through the gray of dawn. Out for her back yard stroll, Blossom spotted Riley, her best feline friend forever, through the chain link fence that separated their yards. Shortly Merle would appear, his fenced yard backing up to theirs. Merle was awesome even though he was a bulldog.
Blossom scampered to the fence ready to burst with the news of Willow’s discovery the day before. In the Hatcher’s back yard, under the birdfeeder, something pink and stringy had glistened in the grass. Tufts of feathers lay scattered about. Willow said the scene was straight out of a horror movie. The pink shimmery piece had made Blossom’s skin feel like it might just crawl off her body. So she’d searched the tree branches of the elm looming overhead, just in case.
But this morning as Blossom reached the fence and opened her mouth to blurt out her news, a soft glow caught her eye. She looked to the birdfeeder where a form lurked beneath, possessing an eerie sheen like that of the moon’s. A figure perched there on a small pedestal staked into the wood chip mulch surrounding the feeder’s pole. The shape was motionless but shone white and evil and out-of-place in the gray morning light. Blossom slitted her eyes to see better. Her back went prickly. She flattened herself up against the chain link fence, hoping to create more distance between her and it.
And then she knew. Holy cat chow, it was a white owl. An owl that had gone albino. Or worse, an owl that was a ghost. Or double-dog worse, a vampire owl.
“Riley!” Blossom whispered. “Check out that thing under the feeder.”
Riley joined her at the fence, nose pushing through the chain link circles. The two stared in silence, Blossom holding her breath, not knowing what she’d do if the glowing thing turned their way.
A door squealed to their side, making them both jump. Merle had just been let out. After Merle did his duty, he trotted over. “What’s up?” He turned to see what the two were gaping at. “Whoa!” Merle did a little hop himself.
Blossom recovered enough to remember what she’d come out to boast about. “Yesterday Willow found a nightmare under our elm tree.”
“You mean nightmare on Elm Street,” Riley corrected.
“But you guys live on Tulip Drive,” said Merle.
“Shhh!” Blossom hissed. How could those two be so jokey when an alien was in the yard? Blossom donned her wise-and-all-knowing cat posture. “You ding-dongs, it’s a vampire owl.” She let this statement sink in.
Riley and Merle looked at each other. Riley turned to Blossom. “You’d better nip this in the bird,” he said. “If you know what I mean.”
“And owl’s heads spin round, so you have to be quick,” said Merle.
“And don’t look it in the eye,” said Riley. “It’ll hypnotize you and then bite your neck. And if you turn into a vampire, you might want to bite Willow or . . .” Riley’s eyes went round as quarters, realizing what he’d just said.
Merle took a few steps back. “Gee, Blossom, I’d really like to help but I can’t get into your yard.”
“Me too,” said Riley. “But if that owl comes after you, do this.” Riley swiped his paw down the middle of his face and then across it, making the sign of the cross. “It will think you’re holy and hide under its wings.”
Blossom felt a nervous twitch in her back, but her friends where there, even if the fence prevented them from helping two licks. Anyway, what really made her claws itchy was the idea that something thought it could come into her yard without asking. Landing in the Hatcher’s yard and then killing a bird. What a disgrace, killing birds. If anything, that was Blossom’s job.
Blossom dug her claws into the ground. “Wish me luck,” she said, and darted across the lawn using her cheetah strides. She felt extra powerful as the stupid owl didn’t even turn its head in her direction, had no idea she was even coming, probably deaf to her silent tiger steps. Adrenaline coursed through her veins like ants stampeding to a Terro trap.
Then she pounced, nails out, teeth barred, and, “Oh my gosh!” she meowed on contact. The thing was hard as a rock, knocking every last breath from her. The stony owl ripped from its perch, a sound like wrenching Velcro, and rolled across the grass. It hit the metal bird feeder post with a clank, rolled a bit more and died.
“Dude!” Riley and Merle cried together.
Blossom stared in horror at the lifeless form. She thought it funny how she listened to everything the Hatchers said but then tucked most of it in the part of her brain that wasn’t all that sharp. It hadn’t hit her until this minute but now she recollected Mr. H saying the other day he’d ordered a solar-powered yard ornament online, one meant to scare off unwanted critters. And there it was. Mr. H’s ornament snapped from its perch and laying under the bird feeder.
“Oops!” said Merle.
“It’s a statue!” Riley blinked like he’d laid eyes on Santa. “Blossom, you killed a statue!”
The Hatcher’s back door creaked as Mrs. H came out, surveying the yard. “What was that noise? Blossom, what are you doing under the feeder?”
Blossom could only watch Riley’s and Merle’s butts as they headed back to their own homes, knowing her butt was in the doghouse.