“Have you heard that if you put your ear to a seashell, you can actually hear the ocean?” Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever, asked this question as the two of them and Merle, the neighbor bulldog, met where the chain link fences came together. Riley continued, “Well, a pair of seashell earrings was left on the bathroom vanity so I decided I’d listen to them.”
Blossom was all ears. “What did you hear?”
Riley hung his head. “Nothing. I picked one up with my toes but accidentally dropped it in the sink. It slid right down the drain.”
“You must feel really bad for doing that,” barked Merle.
“And it gets worse,” Riley meowed. “It turns out, the earrings belonged to Lilly.” Lilly was Riley’s owner and Willow’s BFF. “Lilly cried and cried when she realized one earring was missing,” Riley explained. “She’d bought them when the family vacationed in Florida. They were a souvenir, if you know what I mean.” Riley’s eyes drooped. “Everyone was so sad for Lilly, they forgot to feed me. No dinner and no Greenie treats for dessert.”
“No Greenies?” Blossom meowed. Dessert Greenies were to Blossom what m&m’s were to Willow. “I wish I could help, but . . .” Blossom didn’t finish the sentence, her thoughts drifting to the seashell earring slipping down the drain and into the sewer. By now a sewer rat could be wearing it. The silence between the three friends hung heavy as the January cloud cover.
“I know!” Merle did a little hop. “Maybe new jewelry would cheer Lilly up. How about pearls? Pearls come from oysters. And oysters come from the ocean, just like seashells. I know these things because my family watches National Geographic.” Blossom was about to ask where Merle intended to get pearls when he added, “I’m telling you this because Dear Momma has a string of pearls she keeps in a box. She never ever wears them.”
Dear Momma was Merle’s owner and Blossom felt her nose twist just a bit to the right. Merle was certainly being generous, thanks to Dear Momma’s pearls. But Blossom decided it didn’t matter as she and Riley were still way better friends. Until Riley howled, “Merle, you’re better than Greenies. You’re the best friend ever.”
Later that day Merle returned with the pearls. As the three stood knee-deep in their back yard snowdrifts, Merle explained to them how the pearl box was soft as fur on the outside and very hard to open. “But I was just so determined, as dogs naturally are, to help Riley out. I persevered until that doggone lid snapped open. Made me jump.”
Blossom felt her fur curl as Riley pranced back to his house with the pearls, happy as a hamster. “I can persevere too,” she grumbled to the birdfeeder as she plodded home.
The next day when they gathered again, Blossom was surprised to see Merle’s face, long as an aardvark’s. “Last night some friends asked Dear Momma and Poppa if they could meet for dinner at Panera,” Merle groaned. “So Dear Momma decided maybe she’d dress up her sweatshirt and jeans with pearls.”
“Oh-oh,” Blossom and Riley meowed together.
This time Merle hopped twice. “And it gets worse. Dear Momma stomped around the house like a horse, slamming drawers, asking herself how she could have misplaced such a valuable item.“ Merle lowered his head, woofing in almost a whisper, “Those pearls must have been worth millions because they cancelled their Panera plans. I feel terrible for what I’ve done.” He looked from Riley to Blossom and back to Riley.
Riley opened his mouth, perhaps to suggest something that would make him appear better than Greenies to Merle. But it was Blossom’s turn to be better than Greenies. So she howled the first thing that popped into her head. “Don’t worry, Merle. I’ll find something for Dear Momma that’s better than pearls.” Riley snorted, the kind of snort one makes when poking fun. Since Riley was displaying such bad manners when Blossom was being so helpful, she could not resist adding, “I’m a better than best friend.”
Riley’s eyes narrowed to slits. “So what are you going to do, Blossom? It has to be worth millions, if you know what I mean. Something you’d wear to Panera.”
Tears the size of peppercorns rolled one after another down Merle’s silky fur. Even in the fading light they glistened like fine jewels and this vision gave Blossom one lobster-sized idea. “Merle, meet me back here before dark. Don’t worry, I won’t let you down.” She stuck out her chin at Riley. “Because I’m the best friend ever.”
That afternoon Blossom slipped into the master bedroom and crept up to the small crystal dish on the night stand. The dish that held Mrs. H’s wedding ring. Mrs. H only wore her ring when she went out and Blossom had once overheard Mrs. H tell her sister that someday when the Hatchers had more money, she’d see if Mr. H would be OK with her upgrading her ring to a bigger diamond. Hmm. Blossom put on her thinking cap and was hit with a thought most meow-velous. Maybe if the ring were to disappear, Mrs. H’s ring upgrade could happen now. Really, Blossom would be doing everyone a huge favor.
Blossom daintily picked the ring out of the dish with her teeth. With her tongue she tried tucking it in her cheek and went to the door to be let out. She had to wait patiently because if she opened her mug to meow, the ring would fall out. But, flipping fish sticks, the ring’s diamond was all pointy edges and prickled like bee stingers. It was becoming painful to hold so she let out a small, “Mowwwwww,” and Willow came running. Blossom nearly galloped down to the fences. Her spirits soared joyfully as gerbils when she saw that Riley was there as well. He needed to hear the praise Merle would surely shower her with. Merle’s short tail wagged with the whir of a hummingbird.
But before Blossom could spit the ring out, Riley meowed, “Blossom, you’ll never believe what happened! Lilly’s mom decided she should check the pipes under the bathroom sink, just to be sure someone hadn’t knocked the seashell earring into the drain. So she unscrewed the gooseneck and it was there! Lilly got her seashell earring back and I got dinner and dessert Greenies! Blossom, I am so relieved.”
“And it gets better,” woofed Merle, practically bouncing. “Because then Lilly’s mom phoned Dear Momma and said she’d found a pearl necklace on her bathroom vanity, the one I gave Riley, and asked if it was hers. Which it was. Blossom, I am so relieved.”
Blossom felt her nose twitch to the right and it was more than just a little bit. Her ears flattened, thinking how hard she’d work to conceal a diamond in her mouth. Certainly hairballs harder than prying open a jewelry box! She picked a smooth patch of snow so she could spit out the ring and explain this to these two Milkbone-heads. But when she spit, the ring did not come out.
She looked at Merle’s and Riley’s way-too-happy faces. She couldn’t be happy now if a cardinal swooped down and perched on her head. “I must have swallowed Mrs. H’s wedding ring.”
“Oh, I don’t need it anymore anyway,” barked Merle. “But thanks for trying.”
“Keep checking your litterbox.” Riley nodded his head in the slow and sagely fashion of a wise old turtle. “Things have a way of working themselves out.”
Merle woofed wildly at Riley’s joke. But Riley’s merry meow ended abruptly. His eyes became wide with fright. “You know, wedding rings are big. What if the ring doesn’t come out on its own? What if Dr. Moss has to cut Blossom open to get it out? Eww!” Riley shivered and hunched his shoulders clear to his ears.
“That is true,” Merle turned serious. “Well, good luck to you, Blossom. I have to go now. It’s time for National Geographic.” He trotted off.
“Me too,” said Riley, rushing off, leaving Blossom frozen in place, not due to the cold but fear.
“Riley, wait!” she called out. Riley stopped and turned but Blossom didn’t know what to say other than she was done being catty. “Do you think I’ll be OK?”
“I was heading to my litterbox to say a prayer for you,” said Riley. “My litterbox is such a quiet, peaceful place. I said a litterbox prayer when I lost Lilly’s earring and look what happened!” Blossom watched Riley disappear into his house.
Blossom meowed at her own door and dragged herself over the threshold, a heaviness in her chest. Probably the ring. She almost howled aloud when she stepped on something sharp. Limping a few steps on three feet, she spotted the offensive object, sparkling upon the rug. It was Mrs. H’s diamond ring. Meow-elujah! Had it fallen from her mouth when she mewed at the door earlier? Perhaps. Or perhaps it was Riley’s litterbox prayer. The next time she saw Riley she’d let him know he was the best friend ever.