It was tradition for Mrs. Hatcher to make small Easter baskets for all the children who lived in the cul-de-sac, which was a lot. Blossom counted the baskets set out on the table. Nine baskets, each filled with shredded Easter grass, one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a pink, blue or green wrapper, one foil-wrapped Cadbury egg and a cellophane wrapped Peeps marshmallow bunny lollipop. Blossom had never eaten a Peeps lollipop bunny. She gazed at one of the bunnies, a deep shade of lavender, staring back at her with its beady black eyes. He looked crunchy and chewy all at the same time.
In that moment, Blossom wanted more than anything in the world to sink her teeth into one of the bunny’s ears. Yet his piercing eyes held a rather menacing look, just daring her to come near. Without further thought, Blossom used her teeth to pluck the lollipop, wrapper and all, from its basket. She’d get Riley, her best feline friend forever, to sample the bunny with her so it didn’t seem such a selfish gesture. She felt a bit bad, knowing one kid on Tulip Drive would miss out on a Peeps, and maybe a bit scared that Mrs. H might notice the missing bunny. But, trotting down to the spot where the fences came together, she decided eating a Peeps was a necessary life experience for a cat.
Riley and Merle, the neighbor bulldog, were already at the fence.
“Whoa!” Merle did a little hop when he saw Blossom. “A Peeps lollipop.”
“I borrowed it from one of the baskets Mrs. H made,” said Blossom.
Merle cocked his head. “How do you borrow an Easter treat?”
At times, Merle could be a little too goody-goody. What was the fun in life, Blossom pondered, if one was always honest?
But, no matter, Riley could be counted on to cherish new experiences. “I’ve never had a Peeps,” he said. “It looks as fun as sushi.”
Blossom set the bunny down near the fence and, with one paw, pulled off the crinkly wrapper. Blossom and Riley sniffed it a bit. Its scent was not very alluring. For just a moment, she considered trying to get the bunny back in its packaging and return it to the basket. Then Riley bit off the first ear.
“You bit off its ear,” Blossom meowed, as if the thought had never occurred to her.
“Well, what was I supposed to do?” Riley’s furry forehead wrinkled up, his meows barely understandable with the big wad of Peeps stuffed in his mug.
Even though Riley took the first bite, the injured bunny seemed to be staring back at Blossom like she’d thrown the first blow. So she bent down and bit off the other ear, taking one of the bunny’s eyes with it. The yard was silent except for the sounds of the two cats chewing. And chewing. And chewing. The bunny ear felt pasted to the top of Blossom’s mouth. And it was sweeter than cookie frosting. It made her mug pucker.
Riley hacked, spraying what was left of the snow with purple dots. “Yuck! It’s like eating spongey Kool-Aid.”
“And now you guys have purple tongues,” said Merle.
With the taste of sugar slime in her mouth, Blossom fretted, going over in her brain Mr. H preaching about the consequences of poor decision making. Her fur felt crawly. The bunny’s remaining eye glared up at her. The bunny that may have been greatly appreciated by one of the toddlers on Tulip Drive but instead had fallen victim to cat curiosity. Blossom had to shake her head to clear out the guiltiness. No, she reasoned, this had to happen. Otherwise, she’d have gone all her nine lives never knowing what a Peeps tasted like. She looked to Riley, waiting for him to agree.
“Well, that was a big mistake,” said Riley. “We should have left him for a kid that likes sugar and marshmallows. I guess you’d better dispose of the evidence.” At least Blossom and Riley thought alike about covering their tracks.
“I hope no one’s disappointed they won’t get a Peeps,” said Merle.
Blossom tried not to make eye contact with Merle, even though there’d been plenty of instances where she’d seen him pee on the same roses that were clipped for vases and brought into the house. She didn’t know where to hide the half-eaten bunny so she tried tucking him under a garden rock, like that would erase all her bad deeds.
That evening as Blossom lay in her sleeping basket, she couldn’t help but snatch glimpses of the baskets on the table, waiting to be taken to their new homes on Tulip Drive. Her eyeballs kept zeroing in on the one bunny-less basket. Mrs. H would be making her rounds before church in the morning, leaving the baskets on the neighbors’ steps. Blossom could not stop dwelling on her poor decision making, the result being a real howler. Now some unfortunate child would not receive the same great basket as the others. And, as panic ruffled her fur, she thought, what if that one child also had a brother or sister who also received a basket from Mrs. H. And that one child noticed a Peeps lollipop in their sibling’s basket but not their own. She could almost hear their cries of not fair! and their thoughts that Mrs. H was not very competent in Easter basket making. Oh, holy hairballs. If Blossom could drive a car, she’d head on down to Walgreens this instant and buy another Peeps lollipop.
After a night of Peeps nightmares, Blossom woke to Easter morning. The sun was a golden ball and, trotting down to the fence, the air smelled like spring. She kept an eye out for the rock where she’d hidden the bunny, hoping maybe a miracle would have occurred and the bunny would be whole again. But she couldn’t locate the rock. Riley and Merle were already out.
“Do you see the rock where I hid the bunny?” Blossom asked.
Riley scanned the Hatchers’ back yard from his side of the chain link. “I don’t see it. Oh wait. It’s over by the garden.”
Blossom scampered over to see. The rock had been moved. “The Peeps is gone!” she cried.
“Maybe a bird or a mouse ate it,” said Riley. “But how could something that small move the rock? Or, I know.” Riley nodded his head. “The Easter bunny took it back to his hutch to put new ears on it.”
Blossom liked that idea.
“An angel came from heaven and rolled back the rock.” Merle was standing, nose to the chain link, eyes wide as quarters.
Blossom and Riley stared at him.
“It’s from the Bible,” said Merle.
“How do you know what’s in the Bible?” said Blossom.
“Haven’t you ever watched The Greatest Story Ever Told?” said Merle. He wagged his head. “I think Jesus has been in your garden and he left with the Peeps.”
Blossom turned to Riley. His yellow eyes were round as well. It was obvious Merle’s story made more sense than the one about the Easter bunny. Blossom almost shivered and it wasn’t that cold out. She’d taken something that didn’t belong to her and now Jesus knew about it and that meant God also knew about it. And God knowing about her naughtiness was worse than Mrs. H finding out.
Blossom dragged herself back to the house. Easter was a day to celebrate and rejoice. Instead, her brain was so filled with her misdeeds, she felt a meow-graine coming on. She crawled into the family room to punish herself again by checking on the bunny-less basket. Half the baskets were now gone, having been delivered, and Willow was gathering up what was left.
“Mom, this basket looks funny.” Willow compared it to the others. “It’s missing a Peeps. Do you have any more?”
“I think I’m out of those,” Mrs. H said from the other room. “Let me find something else.”
“No, don’t bother. I’ll fix it,” said Willow, going to fetch her own Easter basket from the Easter bunny, a basket that was much nicer than the little ones for the neighbors. She took a chocolate wrapped bunny from her basket and plopped it into the bunny-less basket. “Found something,” she called.
And despite Blossom’s brain feeling like it had been loaded with too many jelly beans, she felt her heart swell to the size of a hard-boiled egg. Willow had sacrificed her own chocolate bunny. And, the bunny looked much grander in the tiny basket than an old Peeps lollipop. Blossom could only hope that this special basket would go to the most worthy child in the cul-de-sac, a child that didn’t deface bunnies and hide them under rocks.
Before Willow walked out the door, she turned to Blossom and said, “Happy Easter, Blossom.” And in a whisper, she added, “I don’t even like chocolate.”
Alone in the room, Blossom looked to the walls, then the ceiling. “I don’t even like Peeps,” she meowed. “And I’ll never steal another one either,” she added, just in case God was listening.