Blossom loved school release days because that meant Willow could spend more quality time with her. That Friday morning Blossom awoke, looking forward to a day of being waited on paw and foot. But she sneezed three times before she ever got out of her sleeping basket. And by mid-morning Blossom was already dozing off, curled up next to Willow while she read a book.
When Willow suddenly hopped off the couch to take a phone call, Blossom sat up and blinked. Her eyes had crispy matter balled up in their corners. But this was OK because Willow was off school and could baby her. Only Willow bounced back into the room, announcing she was doing a sleepover at Lilly’s. This was where Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever, also lived.
“Willow, you can’t leave now,” Blossom rolled over on her back. “I’m getting sick and you need to take care of me.”
“Silly Blossom,” Willow scratched her tummy. “I’ll be back in the morning. Be good for Mom.”
As Blossom watched Willow scamper down the driveway and over to Lilly’s, her nose began to run. All that runniness made her sniff more. And sniffing more made her nose’s insides feel squishy. She sulked off to the couch where she pulled at the shawl draped over its top, making it roll down on top of her. While she huddled under the shawl, thinking how unfair Willow was being by going off to Lilly’s and Riley’s house, she dozed off again. She woke up to what she concluded could only be the worst. Her claws ached, her fur shivered, her eyes drooped. And where was Willow? Off having one meower of a time.
Blossom plodded into the kitchen where the TV was turned to Top Chef. Mrs. H was half watching and half leafing through a cookbook. Feeling totally ignored, Blossom meowed, “I’m sick and my nose is all full of crispy things.”
Mrs. H looked up from her book. She knelt down and felt Blossom’s nose and then her forehead. Sitting back, she said, “You’re sick.” And after crinkling her brows a bit she added, “Hmm. What to give a sick cat. Chicken soup?”
Chicken soup sounded super to Blossom so she uttered a pathetic mew and rolled over on her side, lying there like a cow ready to call it a day. And after Mrs. H poured some warm soup in Blossom’s bowl, she found an old baby blanket, wrapped Blossom up in it and sat with her in the rocking chair.
“Once you feel better, I have to read up on my appetizers for Book Club tomorrow night,” Mrs. H said.
Blossom had no idea Mrs. H could be so nurturing and, even though Blossom was already feeling better, she decided it might be of benefit to remain sick a while longer.
That night Blossom woke up. And sat up. She felt well enough to do her nightly prowl but decided maybe she’d rather have more chicken soup. So she crept to the door of the Hatchers’ master bedroom and meowed loudly. “More soup, please.”
The covers rustled and Mrs. H sat up. “Huh?”
Mr. H was sleeping on his stomach. His light snoring stopped. “What was that?”
Mrs. H rolled over and groaned. “That darn cat has a cold.” She got out of bed. “She’s being extremely needy.”
Blossom grunted. She wasn’t being needy. She just wanted attention 24/7.
It looked like Mr. H had his face crushed into the pillow. “Warm milk is supposed to put you to sleep,” he said in a muffled voice.
Mrs. H sighed, scooped Blossom up in one arm and staggered out to the kitchen.
“Will you wrap me up like a baby again?” Blossom whined.
Mrs. H plunked Blossom onto the floor, pulled a soup bowl from the cupboard and filled it with milk which she then microwaved. After testing its warmth with her fingers and placing it on the floor, she said, “Now drink this and Go. To. Sleep.” Then she headed back to bed.
Blossom knew that when Willow spent the night away from home, Mr. and Mrs. Hatcher had this secret ritual of seating themselves side by side at the kitchen table and sharing a huge bowl of ice cream before they went to bed. She jumped up onto the sink. There was the bowl with melted ice cream still in it so she polished that off as well. She returned to her sleeping basket feeling like a spunky kitten.
The next morning, Blossom’s eyes weren’t crusty, her nose was cold and its crispy boogers were gone. But Willow had not yet had her turn nursing Blossom back to health so it was important to continue her sickness. Dragging herself into the kitchen, she watched as Mrs. H dropped two sticks of butter into a microwavable bowl. “Mowww,” she said. “I’m still very sick. Maybe you could call Lilly’s mom and make her send Willow home.”
Mrs. H looked up from her cookbook, her mouth a slit. “I hardly got any sleep last night because of you. I hope I don’t screw up these appetizers because my brain’s half asleep.”
Blossom almost chuckled at that. How could a brain be half asleep? That would be like saying her tail was half asleep. However, she could sense Mrs. H was in no mood to be challenged so she assumed her sick pose instead and let out a pitiful mew.
Mrs. H stomped over to the fridge. “Oh, I don’t believe it!” she whispered, standing before the open freezer section.
Blossom jumped a little, then readied herself to skedaddle in the event she’d sent Mrs. H over the edge.
Mrs. H turned to Blossom and said, “I don’t have enough spinach!” With that, she removed her apron and huffed off to the coat closet. “Wait!” she hurried back to the kitchen and placed a paper towel over the butter. She threw a worried look at Blossom, but then added, “Maybe this isn’t necessary, but better to be safe than sorry.”
Blossom was wearing her best miserable look, not exactly sure why Mrs. H bothered to cover food with paper towels anyway. Was it because she thought a fly might stop by and land on it? Possibly, but most likely Mrs. H thought that Blossom couldn’t find butter if it was under wraps. Which was as ridiculous as dressing a snake in pants.
As soon as the door closed behind Mrs. H, Blossom sprung to the counter top and inspected the ingredients waiting to become Book Club appetizers. In addition to the butter in hiding, there was a bowl of cream cheese and one of feta. Holy catnip, she could sample a little from each and none would be missed.
First she licked a little off the ends of each butter stick. Then clawed a little cream cheese off the rectangular undersides where her claw marks wouldn’t be seen. She saved the best until last. The feta was stinky as dirty sneakers. She knew this because her nose was no longer stuffed-up. Feta was also totally awesome because a cat could neatly spear the individual crumbles with a single claw, which she proceeded to do. One, two, three, four feta clumps. She admired her toes and wiggled them, a ball of cheese at the end of each, then popped them one, two, three, four into her mouth. Blossom was truly grateful she’d recovered enough for this little cheese tasting party.
After inspecting the phyllo dough, covered in wet paper towels, and deciding it wasn’t worth a lick, she heard Mrs. H’s car roar up the driveway. It was time to assume her ailing cat pose so she sprawled out onto the floor. Just as the door opened, she let out a little sigh. And then a few more, to make sure she was heard. Mrs. H entered and, joyful gerbils, Willow was with her!
The first words out of Mrs. H’s mouth were, “Willow, now that you’re home, will you please take care of Blossom?”
Mrs. H set to work chopping spinach, then beating the cream cheese with a vengeance and finally brushing her phyllo sheets with melted butter. She never gave Blossom one concerned glance. But, no matter, now it was Willow’s turn to play nurse.
“Willow, you’ve had your fun,” whimpered Blossom. “Now take care of me. I think I’m near death.”
“I wrapped her up in that blanket,” Mrs. H nodded at the baby blanket draped over the chair. “I’ve never seen her so dependent. I wonder if she’s running a fever.”
“Mom, really?” Willow looked at Blossom. “Blossom, poor baby. Are you that sick?”
Only Blossom knew Willow like the back of her paw. And Willow’s scrunched eyebrows and sparkling violet eyes were not saying poor baby at all. Maybe something more along the lines of you faker.
But Mrs. H was strutting about the kitchen like a contestant on Top Chef. So Willow, being the good little cat owner, wrapped Blossom up and rocked her in her arms like a newborn baby. And Blossom caught herself right before she belted out a purr, which would have been a sure giveaway that she was in good health. Instead she let out a pitiful wail. And, for good measure, wailed again. Then she let her body go limp. And hung her head like a dead cat would. But not before crying out once more.
“Ok, that’s it,” Mrs. H clinked down her cooking spoon, hard enough to make the bowls on the countertop rattle. She marched off into the bathroom. “This will determine if I should call Dr. Moss.”
“Now you’ve done it,” Willow said under her breath.
Blossom listened as Mrs. H pulled out a drawer, making its contents clatter about. She perked her ears, not sure hearing the vet’s name was a good thing. Mrs. H rushed back in to her phyllo dough. Blossom immediately hung her head again but out of the corner of her eye spied Mrs. H triumphantly holding up a different utensil.
Willow turned up her nose. “Ew, Mom,” she said. “A thermometer? I know where those go. You know, Lilly’s mom bought one of those new instant-read ear thermometers for Riley.”
Blossom’s ears stood at attention. Thermometer, what’s that? Does this have to do with me? Blossom tried squirming but Willow had her in a bear claw grip.
“Well, this is a perfectly good old fashioned thermometer and we’re not spending big money on an ear thermometer just because Lilly has one,” said Mrs. H. “Now that you’ve got a good hold on her, I’ll just pick up her tail and take her temp!”
Blossom didn’t like where this scenario was headed. “I’m not sick anymore,” she cried. “See, my cold’s all gone! I’m fit as a fish stick!” Straining against Willow’s grizzly bear grip, Blossom bolted from her arms and thumped to the floor. She tore off to the bedroom and scrambled under the bed. She’d stay there until next week, if need be. She listened for footsteps coming down the hall, but none came. Instead, Willow and her mom remained in the kitchen, laughing.
“I guess Blossom isn’t sick anymore,” said Willow. “I think the thermometer had something to do with it.”
Mrs. H had resumed beating the cream cheese to death, the spoon making a frenzied clink, clink, clink against the glass. Blossom could almost see the corners of the woman’s mouth curl up into one of her wise old owl smiles as she said, “That trusty thermometer works every time!”