Blossom the Cat at a Barbecue

Blossom the Cat at a BarbecueIt was tradition each summer for Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever, and his family to be invited to dinner on the Hatchers’ patio.   In keeping with tradition, Mrs. H decorated the picnic table with checkered cheesecloth, placing little tea candles down its center.  Willow stacked up paper plates in wicker holders and filled a mason jar with plastic forks.  Mr. H donned his chef’s hat and overcooked everything.

“You could probably take the wieners off a minute or two earlier,” Mrs. H would suggest.

“And don’t put the cheese on the hamburgers until right before they’re done,” said Willow.  “You always put the cheese on too early and it all melts off.”

Blossom and Riley shook their heads, watching Mr. H sulk over these insults.  Using his special long-handled spatula, he flipped the burgers, tossed on the cheese, and rolled the flaming wieners around so they could burn evenly.

Riley turned to Blossom.  “Remember the time we used Mr. H’s barbecue flipper to sling toads across the lawn?”

Blossom and Riley fell over onto the grass, howling over the memory.  The previous summer Blossom had held a toad down on the spatula’s handle with her paw.  Then quickly letting go, Riley whacked the face-up metal flipper as hard as he could, launching the terrified toad into the air.  Their eyes tried to follow as it sailed across the lawn.

At the time, they’d meowed so hard they got the hiccups.  However, Blossom remembered feeling their game was maybe a whisker mean-spirited, watching the toad flinch as he was catapulted into space.  But then she’d tell herself that she and Riley could have done what most ordinary cats would have done.  They would have just eaten him.

This evening, the air was hazy with smoke as Mr. H completed his barbecuing.  The burgers had only a thin veil of cheese still clinging to them and the wieners were so black they no longer resembled something edible.  As the guests at the picnic table fanned their faces in order to not choke from the smoke, Mr. H, using the same spatula that had once served as Blossom’s and Riley’s toad slinger, shoveled all the burgers and wieners onto a serving platter.  All except for one wiener that was blackened even more than the rest.  Mr. H surveyed those seated at the table and, seeing that no one was watching him, especially Mrs. H, casually flicked the remaining wiener off the grill where it disappeared into the grass.

Blossom and Riley wide eyed each other.

“Dinner for two!” meowed Blossom, hardly believing their good luck.

After Mr. H seated himself with the others, Blossom and Riley quietly trotted over to the divine dinner awaiting them.

“You take one end and I’ll take the other,” said Blossom, studying the wiener, laying in the grass like one long ugly dog poop.

“I don’t know.”  Riley had a worried expression on his furry face.  “There’s so many ashes on the outside of it, if you know what I mean.  I don’t like ashes, do you?”

Blossom scowled, almost feeling the charred pieces wadding up on her tongue.  Leave it to Mr. H to burn a perfectly good cat entree beyond recognition.  “Mr. H cooked it so long it doesn’t even look like a wiener anymore,” she grumped.  “It looks like a burnt human finger.”

Riley turned his head to the table.  “The grill’s still hot.  There’s onions and pickles and cheese.  I like cheese.  You like cheese.  Do you think we could grill a cheese slice?”

“No,” Blossom pouted.  “This is supposed to be a real barbecue.  I want a perfectly toasted pink wiener or grilled shrimp or a filet.”

“Filet of what, Blossom?”

Sitting beneath the ledge-like tabletop attached to the side of the grill, summer breezes fluttering her fur, Blossom donned her imaginary chef’s hat, closed her eyes and sighed.  “I want a filet of mouse, seared on the outside, still pink on the inside.”

“Yes!” Riley agreed.  “A nice juicy mouse filet, so tender you can cut it with your claws.”  Riley turned to Blossom, eyes blazing.  “Blossom, when I looked at that barbecue flipper, I had one meower of a thought!  If we set the flipper just so. . . ” Here Riley stood on hind legs and curled his paw up onto the attached tabletop.  The spatula lay face-up and Riley slowly scraped the utensil toward him, careful not to catch the attention of the Hatchers or their chattering guests.  He pawed it into position so that the flipper end was closest to the hot grill and the handle end was farthest away.  “Now,” he went on.  “We lay a piece of cheese on the end of the handle.  The mouse will walk out onto the handle to get the cheese, and then we just hit the flipper like this.”  He lightly tapped on the wide metal flipper.  It made a small clink!  “Only we’ll hit it harder than that so the mouse will fly up and over onto the grill!”

“That’s brilliant, Riley,” said Blossom.  But somehow she didn’t like Riley meowing we, because really he was going to do the dirty work, not her.  She thought back to their toad slinging days. “Don’t you think that’s maybe a little cruel?  I mean, if the mouse lands right on the grill, he’ll be barbecued alive.  I think you’re only supposed to cook food that’s already dead.  Don’t you think we should kill him first?”

“Well . . . I guess so.” Riley did not at all sound like he guessed so.  “Wait, Blossom, I don’t know.  Think of it as payback.  How many times have we been bamboozled by a mouse?”  Riley’s mug turned into a sly grin.  “And wouldn’t it be fun to see a mouse hopping around on a sizzling hot grill?  You know that would be fun!”

Blossom couldn’t help herself.  The excitement bloomed in the pit of her stomach as Riley snaked his paw into the wrapper of cheese slices, sitting on the tabletop.  With his claws, he dragged one piece over and onto the spatula’s handle.  Now all they had to do was wait for a mouse to show up, but that wouldn’t be a problem.  There were more mice in the Hatchers’ back yard than robins roosting all up and down Tulip Drive.

Riley’s family put out more noise than a chicken coop.  As Blossom and Riley crouched low in the grass, wondering would a mouse dare appear while one kid kept shrieking. . . twirling turtles.  Both cats sat still as sticks as a mouse skittered across the patio bricks.  The mouse stopped, sniffed, then darted off in another direction and sniffed again.  And before Blossom could meow mouse, it leaped up onto the tabletop, taking mini-mouse steps toward the handle laden with the cheese.

Mr. H was telling one of his corny jokes.  The squealing kids were making duck lips with their chips.  Riley slunk up to the attached table and smoothly raised a paw.  There was so much racket in Blossom’s head, her ears buzzed.  Her heart pounded the way it might before a hamster ambush.  An odd thought flitted through her brain, had she seen any A1 sauce on the picnic table?  The mouse crept out onto the handle’s end.  Blossom’s whiskers quivered in anticipation, eyeing Riley’s paw, raised like a cobra, then flashing down.  Whap!  Up sprung the spatula’s end along with a strangled squeak! The mouse shot straight up, the spatula clattering twice before rolling off the tabletop.

Blossom’s head tipped up, making her ears graze her back.  “Riley, I think you hit the spatula too hard.”

Jaw dropped, Riley said, “Where did it go?”

A soft plunk! came from the picnic table, followed by ear-curdling screams.  “Mouse!” Mrs. H dropped a plastic bowl, covering the ground with potato salad.

Blossom’s eyeballs were riveted to the mouse’s tiny feet racing down the length of the table, toenails making a soft clickety, clickety, clickety over the cloth, weaving in and out of the tea candles, then flying off the end.  One end of the table clunked down as too many big people tried to bolt from that side, hoisting the other end into the air.  Paper plates skidded out of their wicker holders, some stopping inches from the table’s edge, others plopping into the grass.  Tea candles hopped across the surface before rolling off.  An older girl had sprinted clear to the back steps where she curled up like a worm, toes tucked in tight.

Amidst all the commotion, Blossom’s eye caught a movement of parting grass as the mouse dashed along, grabbed the burnt wiener by one end and disappeared altogether.  She flattened her ears in outrage.  “That was our wiener!  The mouse got away with our wiener!”

“Who cares about the wiener?  There goes our filet of mouse!” Riley’s mouth scrunched up in dismay.

Eventually all calm returned.  The older girl uncurled herself.  The kids returned to the table. Willow retrieved the runaway tea candles.  Mrs. H snatched up the remaining serving bowls and ran them inside to safety.  Mr. H picked up his spatula, brandishing it as a warning to future party crashers.

So much for a night of culinary cat cuisine.  “We were bamboozled again,” Blossom felt steam puff from her ears.  There was nothing on the planet worse than being outsmarted by a mouse.  “I’ll never be nice to a mouse again,” she snarled, even though she’d never been nice to one anyway.

Riley hung his head.  “I hate being bamboozled by a mouse.”

Blossom sulked.  Somewhere a mouse was sitting down to a dinner that resembled a burnt human finger.  Nothing could have added to this un-meowable mouse misfortune until Mr. H, still wielding the spatula, remarked, “You’d think something like this wouldn’t happen with two grown cats in the yard.”

Blossom the Cat Tries Flying

Blossom the Cat Tries FlyingMrs. Hatcher was the last living person on Tulip Drive who still used a clothesline.  Back in the olden days, a previous owner of the Hatchers’ home had cemented two posts into the ground.  The posts stretched the width of the back yard with a double line between them.  Mrs. H still took advantage of the warmer months to hang her sheets and pillowcases out to dry, securing them with snappy little clothespins, kept in an old clothespin bag that hooked over the line.

Sometimes Blossom would study the clothespin bag from the ground.  She noticed how it forever ended up in the middle of the line even when Mrs. H had pushed it to one side before she began her clothes-pinning.  No. 6 on Blossom’s bucket list was Flying and she’d often ponder whether the clothespin bag might make a good vehicle for a cat to sail the clothesline from one end to the other.

So one sunny afternoon, it was Blossom’s good fortune that Mr. H, in an attempt to tighten the sagging clotheslines, left his stepladder out, forgetting to return it to the garage.  Blossom took this opportunity to leap up the ladder rungs, two at a time, and hop right into the clothespin bag.  Her weight caused the bag to immediately sink like a balloon filled with water.  For a moment she feared the whole thing might plummet to earth but, as she carefully shifted herself about, she decided it might just hold her after all.  And because it did hold her, Blossom took this as a sure sign that she was meant to fly.  Up high in the sky, Blossom sighed deeply, taking in the beautiful vista of the neighborhood, seeing past the next door neighbors’ yards.  Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever, and Merle, the neighbor bulldog, were in their yards watching her from below.

“Look at me,” she meowed to them.  “I can see way past Sheba’s house.”  Blossom felt special, being up near the clouds when her friends were not.  Being extra special and having her friends watching her every move, she picked her brain for something an extra special cat might proclaim to her subjects.  All she could come up with was, “Sheba’s neighbors are building a new fence.”

“I think those neighbors just got a new spaniel pup,” said Riley.  “And I hear Coyote Kyle’s been visiting the neighborhood so they need a fence to keep the pup in and Coyote Kyle out, if you know what I mean.”

Merle did a little hop and shook his head at the same time.  “I don’t think a fence can keep Coyote Kyle out.  Beware is all I can say.”

Blossom huffed.  Her fun of having a new and important perch was being interrupted by one pokey clothespin that kept jabbing her in the butt.  She reached around with her paw and plucked the annoying clothespin out.  Clumsily grasping it in her paw, she held it up for inspection.  Clothespins were such strange wooden contraptions, made up of two pincer parts held together by a dangerous looking spring.  They almost looked like weapons.  But she had bigger fish to fry, so she tossed the bothersome clothespin to the ground where it was swallowed up by the forest colored grass.  Curling her paws around the rim of the clothespin bag, she announced, “It is time for me to fly.”

Blossom tried to stand in the bag, her legs wobbly atop the ever-moving clothespins and the bag’s fabric that would not sit still.  But after shifting her weight to one side, the bag began to make its way toward the center of the line, however, the going was so slow an inchworm could have passed her up.

“The bag won’t move with that much weight in it!”  Riley called.

“Get rid of some of the clothespins!” said Merle.

Blossom reached down with her paw and scooped out a paw-ful of pins, flinging them over the side.  The bag rocked side to side as the clothespins clattered to the grass.  Once the bag settled down, she again put all her weight to one side.  Now it felt more comfortable.  The bag continued sliding across the line.

Paws gripping the bag’s rim, Blossom meowed, “Weeeeeee!”

The bag continued until it had gone the entire length of the line.  Blossom resituated herself and leaned with all her might in the other direction.  This time the clothespin bag glided all the way to the other end without stopping.

Back and forth Blossom went.  “I’m flying!  I’m really flying!” she howled, spirits soaring.  Each trip, she held her head high, letting the breeze ruffle her fur.  As she flew over the lawn, she reached down and grasped one of the remaining clothespins, hurling it in Riley’s and Merle’s direction.  Ping! It hit the chain link fence.  She tossed another at the apple tree.   Clunk! It hit a hanging wren house, causing the wren to poke its head out and give her a dirty look.  This was too fun.  Plunk! Splash! One landed in the birdbath.

Blossom was on a clothesline roll, pitching the pins here and there, when she heard a little scritch beneath her toes.  Her right foot had poked through one corner of the bag, probably from her sharp toenails.  Oh well, she’d just shift her weight to the other side.  Scritch!  Her other foot poked through.  Oh tadpole toots, she was having trouble keeping her balance now.  Rippppppp! went the bag as both of Blossom’s feet pushed through at either corner.  She plopped down hard on her butt, her hind legs dangling through the ripped holes.  But the real dog downer was that now her flopping legs were adding so much weight and pulling so hard on the bag, the top of it was folding in, forcing her to hold her front legs straight up and out the top and so tight to her head they were squishing her ears.  And because she had sunk all that way down into the bag, its rim came clear up to her eyeballs and she could barely see out.

From within her little cloth prison she heard meows of amusement, barks of glee.

“Blossom,” Riley howled.  “You look like you’re wearing pants.  Or, no!  You look like you’re wearing diapers.”

“Whoa!” Merle’s woofs sounded like he might be rolling around on the ground. “All we can see from here is your legs.  You look like a turtle that forgot to tuck his legs in!”

Blossom didn’t like that her friends were no longer treating her special.  “Willow, get me out of here!” she yowled.  Of course, Willow couldn’t hear her.  Blossom sulked.  If she had been smart, she would have thought to fling a clothespin at Willow’s bedroom window before her bag debacle.

As if Riley had read her mind, he said, “Don’t worry, Blossom.  Your family will realize you’re not in the house and come looking for you.  I’m off to take a nap before my TV shows come on.  Take care!”  Blossom pictured Riley trotting back to his house.

“Hopefully they’ll realize you’re gone sooner than later,” said Merle.  “You don’t want to run into Coyote Kyle after dark.  See ya!”

Feeling foolish as flies in a toad house, Blossom gulped.    Her eyes blurred at the bag’s outside blue and red print that she could vaguely see from the inside, that of a perky woman snapping dishrags to a line.  She sensed the sky had turned gray, the moon was preparing to make its debut.  Her ears strained to hear through the thick fabric. The backyard seemed unusually quiet.  The birds and frogs were no longer singing.  Then she heard paw-steps softly padding through the Hatchers’ back yard. And the paw-steps were soon accompanied by sniffing sounds, near the patio, and a wolfish snarl that went, “Heh-heh-heh-heh.  Heh-heh-heh-heh.”

The evil tone made Blossom’s fur stand on end.  She silently stretched her whole body tall so her eyeballs rose over the rim of the bag.  It was Coyote Kyle and he was looking right at her!  Blossom’s eyes felt like big buttons.  Her ears heard . . . what?  What was that noise?  She felt herself sinking lower.  Rrrrrrrrrrrrripppp!

The bottom seam in the clothespin bag split wide open, tossing Blossom onto the ground along with the rest of the clothespins.  She landed on all fours but Coyote Kyle whacked her with his paw and sent her sprawling on her back.  In a blink, Coyote Kyle was hovering over her.  His eyes were glazed like a mad Doberman.  His tongue hung out, dripping with slimy coyote spit.  His millions of teeth looked like fat toothpicks.  His breath smelled like old mice and pepperoni.  “Heh-heh-heh-heh,” he cackled.  “Heh-heh-heh-heh.”

Beneath her fur, Blossom’s skin crawled, every speck of it squirming like busy bees in a crowded hive.  Something flashed from the corner of her eye.  She yanked her head around, thinking maybe Coyote Kyle worked in twos and a coyote co-worker might be sneaking up behind her.  But it was only a clothespin in the grass.  Without any thought in her blank brain other than her being the next coyote take-out, Blossom reached for the clothespin, grasped it in her toes and flung it right at Coyote Kyle’s mug.  She flinched as it popped him right in the nose.

Coyote Kyle leaped back, putting a paw to his face.  “Ow!  You hit me!  You broke my nose!”

Blossom could only lay there, all fours in the air, mug gaping, whiskers trembling.

Coyote Kyle slunk back over, putting his face right up to Blossom’s, making her eyes cross.  His hot stinky breath swarmed over her, smothering her like the stench of fabric sheets piping from a dryer vent.  “Do I look OK?” he said.  “Is my nose still on the end of my snout?  Tell me my nose looks OK.”

Blossom could only blink.  Coyote Kyle looked no different.  The clothespin hadn’t done squat to his snout.  But her feline intuition told her maybe this was not an especially smart thing to say to a coyote whose big pointy teeth were just inches from her throat.  So instead she mewed, “Your nose is missing.  I must have knocked it off with the clothespin.”

“Oh no!  Oh no!  Say it isn’t so!”  Coyote Kyle circled the yard, as if searching for something.  “My nose!  Where did my nose go?” he cried.  He stopped, face to the moon.  “Yip! Yip! Arrooooooooooooooooo!” he howled.  The Hatchers’ outdoor light snapped on, the back door whipped open, all the noisiness making Coyote Kyle sprint across the yard.

“Blossom!”  Willow’s feet clattered down the steps and into the yard.  “I didn’t know you were still out here!”

“Willow!” Blossom meowed.  “I almost got eaten by Coyote Kyle!”  Blossom watched Coyote Kyle cross Tulip Drive and gallop off into the night.  Holy hairballs, she’d almost been a dinner.

Willow didn’t even question the ripped clothespin bag or the clothespins laying all over the yard.  She just scooped Blossom up and headed back inside.

Later that night as Blossom sat on Willow’s bedroom window ledge, she said a silent thank you for Willow coming to her rescue.  But, wait a minute.  Blossom cocked her head. Her clever cat clothespin fib is what really saved her.  Coyotes were supposed to be wily but she had outsmarted Coyote Kyle all on her own because he’d believed she’d knocked off his nose.  Looking out into the starlit night, Blossom chuckled at her special smartness.  He thought I knocked off his nose.  What a ding dong.