A fence separated one side of the Hatchers’ back yard from a four-lane highway. Between this highway and the Hatchers’ fence was a sidewalk and, on occasion, a walker or biker with perfectly bad manners might toss an empty water bottle over the fence while passing by. Candy wrappers, newspapers and plastic bags also ended up in the grassy area near the fence. Recently an empty tuna can found its way over. Blossom discovered this when one night her nose detected a small but distinct whiff of skunk. Peering into the back yard from the kitchen window, Blossom spotted Clementine the skunk holding the can between her paws, squealing to the night sky, “Tuna oil is to die for.” Blossom normally let the woodland creatures know that they were in her back yard on Tulip Drive and they should scamper off the property, however, she stifled her meows where Clementine was concerned. Merle, the neighbor bulldog, had a cousin once sprayed by a skunk. It was a real nose-turner, according to Merle.
One day Blossom found a new item of litter in the corner of the Hatchers’ lot: a small plastic bottle, white with purple lettering. The bottle was small enough to haul in her mouth, thus she dragged it over to where the fences came together, calling to Riley, her best feline friend forever. “Look what I found.” Blossom’s whiskers quivered at her meow-velous find. “A bottle of SmartyKat catnip mist. I saw this on an infomercial!”
“I’ve seen it too!” Riley purred. “I love their slogan. A couple of pumps will send cats rolling!”
“I want to roll,” meowed Blossom. “I’ll hold the bottle and you press down on the sprayer.”
Blossom held the bottle upright with both paws while Riley stretched a leg through the chain link and hit the dispenser as hard as he could with his paw. Whap! Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Blossom inhaled deeply and almost hacked a hairball. “That’s the worst catnip ever. And it got me in the face!”
“Flipping fish sticks!” Riley cried. “My nose is burning and it didn’t even touch me!” He sneezed three times.
Blossom’s eyelids wanted to stick together every time she blinked. She touched the fur between her eyes. It was all matted and smelled howlingly awful. A door slammed. It was Merle heading out his back door but he stopped before he even got close to the fence. Riley was still sneezing and making funny faces.
“Dude!” Merle looked at Blossom, then Riley, then the spray bottle. “What’s this?”
“Our catnip party took a turn in the litter box,” Blossom meowed. “Now my fur smells as bad as the little green pine tree dangling from Mr. H’s car mirror.”
“I don’t understand,” Riley snuffled. “I know that’s SmartyKat catnip, I saw the informercial with my own eyeballs. But I don’t feel like rolling one bit.”
Merle did a little hop. “That’s not SmartyKat catnip. It’s Paul Mitchell Extra Body Finishing Spray. I saw that with my own eyeballs in our bathroom. My family sprays it on their hair.”
Blossom and Riley meowed together, “Why do they do that?”
“So they can look stylish,” barked Merle. “But the spray gets all over the bathroom floor and when I walk on the tiles, my toes get sticky. Your face looks like my bathroom floor feels, Blossom.” Merle sniffed the air. “And, woof-da, you need a bath!”
“I’m going in and soak my nose in my water bowl,” said Riley. “Singing salamanders, Blossom, you do need a bath.” Off he trotted.
Blossom spent that afternoon before the full length mirror in the Hatcher’s master bedroom, licking her paw, swiping it over her head, then repeating. By the time she finished, her fur had regained some fluff. She put a paw to her head, then sniffed her paw. “Woof-da! I still stink.”
When the Hatchers sat down for dinner that evening, Blossom planted herself next to Mrs. H’s chair and howled, “I need a bath, please. I smell like a Magic Marker.”
Mrs. H looked down and sniffed. “Does Blossom smell funny?” she asked Mr. H and Willow before taking a bite of her tuna melt sandwich.
They both sniffed the air twice and shook their heads. “No.”
Blossom glared at her family munching on their tuna melts. “Your noses are useless,” she huffed.
That night she awoke to Clementine, once again praising that same tuna can. Holy cat chow, how many days did it take to lick a tuna can clean? Blossom couldn’t decide which was worse, listening to Clementine and her skunk-grumbling gibberish or inhaling the fumes wafting off her dirty cat coat. She should really confront Clementine, but that was just asking for a skunk spraying. Blossom sat up straight, ears flickering at her brilliant thought. If she got sprayed, the Hatchers would surely notice. Then she’d get her bath.
The next morning as Blossom passed a bird feeder on her way down to the fences, a finch warbled, “Have you been to a beauty salon or what?”
Riley and Merle were at the fence but when they saw Blossom, they each backed up a few steps.
“I have a plan.” Blossom decided to run her clever idea past her friends. “What if I got Clementine the skunk to spray me? Then I’d smell really, really bad and Mrs. H would give me my bubble bath.”
From his safe spot, almost halfway back to his house, Merle looked Blossom straight in the eyeballs. “Well, keep your eyes shut tight, Blossom. My cousin nearly went blind when a skunk sprayed him. And make sure your pantry has tomato juice. Mrs. H will have to add that to your bath.”
“Be very careful,” advised Riley. “Skunks are schemers, if you know what I mean.”
“Well, OK.” Blossom nodded, like her friends were pawing out meow-nstrous advice. But what she was really thinking was how crafty she was herself. She could surely outsmart a skunk.
That night Blossom dreamed that Mrs. H left her at PetSmart and an employee, named Paul Mitchell, sprayed Blossom with so much hair spray she stuck to the grooming table. Blossom shot from her sleeping basket, heart sprinting over the nightmare. Chip, her favorite felt mouse toy, lay on the floor beside the basket. Even he didn’t want to be too close.
Blossom slunk to the window and saw Clementine rummaging out in the back woods, so she popped the lock and pushed up the window. “Hey, Clementine,” she called. “This is my house on Tulip Drive and you should skedaddle. And if you don’t like that, then go ahead and spray me. I dare you.”
Clementine trotted to the window. “Blossom, you aren’t the boss of me. And if I spray you, I won’t have any left for real predators. So I’m not wasting an ounce of it on you. Tuna oil, yum!” And off she scurried.
Blossom grunted. Clementine was craftier than she’d thought.
The next day Blossom headed down to her friends. Riley and Merle were talking, almost nose to nose at the fence but, upon seeing Blossom headed their way, they each dashed off to a safe distance. “Hi, Blossom,” they called from the middle of their yards, as if nothing was wrong.
“I tried to trick Clementine into spraying me,” Blossom meowed extra loud so they could hear her. “But she said I’d use up all her precious spray.”
“You shouldn’t be tricky,” Merle scolded. “Just say you’re in a bit of a bow-wow and ask her nicely. Honesty is the best policy.”
Riley did not nod his furry head in agreement. “But Clementine didn’t tell the truth. Skunks can spray more than once. I’d be careful, Blossom. Clementine’s crafty.”
That night after everyone was in bed, Blossom tip-toed into the pantry and saw there were two large bottles of tomato juice. That should be sufficient for Mrs. H to perform the bubble bath after Blossom received her spraying. Next, she searched for the tuna can Mrs. H had used to make the tuna melts. It was in the recycle container. A tuna can might come in handy.
Blossom thought about the skunk advice she’d gotten earlier. Be honest, Merle had said. Don’t trust a skunk, Riley had said. “I’ll consider both,” she meowed. Blossom crept to the window, pushed it open and called, “Hey, Clementine, I have a dilemma on my paws and really need to be sprayed. Pretty please with parakeets on top?”
Clementine looked in Blossom’s direction but quickly turned her attention back to the tuna can.
Blossom wiggled her whiskers and gave it another try. “I know you don’t want to spray me, but there might be a little something in it for you.”
Clementine darted across the lawn, streaked-tail flashing in the dark. She approached the window. “Do tell, Blossom. What might be in it for me?”
“A tuna can, just opened this night,” crooned Blossom. “And I know you can spare one spray for me because you are able to spray more than once.” Clementine looked like she might disagree so Blossom added, “I read it in a book.”
Clementine cocked her head. Blossom could almost see the less-than-clever wheels spinning in Clementine’s white-striped head, trying to figure out how Blossom could be such a feline genius. Then Clementine relaxed. “Blossom, Blossom,” she said in her grumbly tone, smacking her lips. “Spraying is not the answer. I have a much better solution to your problem.”
“Oh?” Blossom was all ears.
Clementine growled, “And I guarantee, you will get your bath.”
Blossom’s ears pricked up. “It’s a deal then! Scratch on it?” She was just toepads away from fresh smelling fur!
“It’s a deal,” said Clementine. “But first, bring me the tuna can.”
“Will do!” Blossom crowed, scrambling off to the recycle bin. Mrs. H had scrubbed most of the tuna from it, but seeing how Clementine had needed days to clean out the other tuna can, Blossom decided a skunk couldn’t tell the difference between a clean can and a dirty one. Blossom ran back to the window, can between her teeth, envisioning herself already in the laundry tub, Mrs. H with a scrub brush and tomato juice, scrubbing her fur until she smelled fresher than kitten breath. Blossom’s toes tingled at the thought. And after that, Riley and Merle wouldn’t run when they saw her coming. It would be just like old times! Blossom flung the can out the window, hanging halfway out herself, extending a paw. “So, Clementine, what do I get that will guarantee my bath?”
Clementine watched the tuna can roll across the grass but dismissed it. Standing on hind legs, she reached up and grabbed ahold of Blossom’s paws. “Fleas,” she hissed.
Blossom pulled back. “Fleas! Fleas won’t get me my bubble bath. I’ll end up in a bath full of flea shampoo and come out smelling worse than hairspray!”
“Blossom, you are wasting my time,” Clementine snapped. “I’ve already told you, NO spray for you, you silly cat. Now, leave me to my tuna!” Clementine trotted toward the tuna can, the one Blossom had just pilfered from the recycling.
Blossom’s ears flattened. “Why, you little…” It was time to put Riley’s and Merle’s advice into action. “Clementine, the truth is you’re a schemer and a liar and what’s more, YOU’RE silly. You’ve been licking the same tuna can for three nights.” Blossom was ready to shut the window. She’d slam it good just so Clementine knew exactly who had the last meow.
But Clementine was already racing toward the window, eyes flashing. “Take this,” she hissed, turning around, lifting her tail, blasting Blossom right in the face. WOOF-DA! Blossom hacked loud enough to wake up all of Tulip Drive. She could hear Mrs. H already rustling out of bed. Blossom’s eyes stung and her nose smarted. But, meow-elujah, finally she’d get her well-deserved bubble bath. It was a whisker worrisome that the Hatchers’ entire kitchen smelled like a skunk farm. But hopefully they’d get used to it. Their noses were pretty useless.