One should be a lifelong learner. That was Blossom’s motto and, putting meows into action, she’d recently mastered the art of unlatching and opening the sliding door that led onto the Hatchers’ deck. A heated bird bath was mounted on the deck’s railing and the chickadees, finches and cardinals pretty much perched around the bath’s rim all day long. They were very rude, in Blossom’s opinion, partying so loud and long. They were stupid as well, chirping about things not worth turning an ear to. She’d no sooner settle down for an afternoon nap when clear through the glass her furry ears would pick up scraps of sentences such as, “Cracked corn very high in carbs. Just sayin’,” or “Oops, pooped on your claw. My bad.” This obnoxious bird banter forced Blossom to put her nap on pause and put her door-opening skills into action. Slowly sliding the door along its track, she’d extend an anonymous paw through the gap, which was quite narrow as Mrs. H had stuck a rod in the track so burglars couldn’t get in. But with outstretched claws, Blossom crooned, “Here birdies. Come see what I have for you.”
There was one cardinal in the bunch. Blossom judged him to be the size of a Cornish game hen and thought his feathers more vibrant in color than Mrs. H’s flame red slow cooker. Apparently speaking for the entire group, the cardinal would turn to Blossom and chirp, “Keep your paws to yourself, stupid cat.”
“Yeah,” echoed the other birds.
“Then pipe down and let me sleep,” Blossom scowled, adding, “Bird brain.”
The cardinal not only ignored her suggestion but continued twittering catty remarks. “This bird bath’s smaller than most, but it is what it is.”
The cardinal’s bad manners ruffled Blossom’s fur. He certainly was a poor role model for the rest. Unruly birds needed a paw to put them in place. A little chickadee chop here, a finch flipping there. The cardinal fluffed up his feathers at Blossom. Cardinal catapulting was absolutely in order.
Blossom studied the cardinal strutting around the bird bath’s rim like he ruled the entire Tulip Drive roost, the other birds hopping aside to let him move. At what point in time had birds acquired such bad manners? She needed to get rid of this bunch so a more peaceful group of feathered friends could congregate.
That night Blossom lay awake thinking about the cocky cardinal. This bird bath’s smaller than most. Blossom huffed. “If I could get my paws around that cardinal’s red neck, I’d use his head like a dish scrubber.” As she meowed her thoughts aloud, her ears turned to footsteps coming down the hall. From her sleeping basket, Blossom raised her head to watch Mr. H plod into the bathroom. She heard the medicine cabinet creak open and then Mr. H proceeded to the kitchen clutching a box of Alka-Seltzer as if it was priceless treasure. He poured himself a glass of water, opened the box and unwrapped a little packet, which crackled forever as he struggled to rip the foil. Then plunk! Into the water dropped a tablet and the most amazing thing occurred. Blossom listened as a hissing sound, sssssssssssss, came from the glass. Millions of tiny bubbles rose to the water’s surface. Mr. H downed the water, fizz and all, and trudged back to bed, leaving the box on the center island. Blossom had no idea why he would drink fizzy water in the middle of the night, but as he padded down the hall he let out a lion-sized burp and this gave Blossom one meower of an idea. Hopping atop the island, Blossom tore every single Alka-Seltzer from its wrapper with her razor sharp teeth. She deposited each tablet back into the box and carried it back to her sleeping basket. Tomorrow she’d attempt a new skill: Alka-Seltzer hurling. One Alka-Seltzer in the bird bath and those stupid birds wouldn’t dare go near it.
The next morning when the kitchen was vacant Blossom slid open the door to the deck, Alka-Seltzer box at her side. Three finches, five chickadees and the cardinal were gathered at the bath, out-tweeting each other as usual. “Hawk took off with my brother. Everything happens for a reason.” “Blue jays got their own feeder. Total win-win situation.” Blossom curled her paw around one of the unwrapped Alka-Seltzers in the box and flung it at the bird bath. The tablet zoomed straight over the bath’s rim, narrowly missing a finch’s head and causing a few birds to fly off. The remaining ones turned to see Blossom once again plunge her paw into the Alka-Seltzer box.
One finch bravely sang, “Dumb cat. There, I said it.” The others nodded their little heads in agreement.
Blossom flung another tablet, this one bouncing off the deck railing. Close!
The cardinal fluffed his feathers. “To be frank, that cat’s plain stupid.”
Blossom’s whiskers trembled. “I’m the smartest cat on Tulip Drive!” she meowed. And if she could actually get out onto the deck, she’d pop that cardinal like a Tiddlywink. Then he’d see who was stupid. She flung a third Alka-Seltzer at the bad-mannered bunch. Plunk! The tablet hit the water, spattering all those perched upon the railing. Blossom’s smart ears heard the ssssssssssssssss bubbling up from the bird bath.
“Awesomesauce!” peeped a finch, eyes large and round as peas.
“But is it safe?” chirruped a chickadee to the cardinal. “I need to pick your brain about this!”
The other birds froze, hypnotized by the fizzing water, wide-eyed, even fearful. Blossom puffed up, looking the cardinal right in his beady black eyeballs. “Your bird bath’s out of business,” she snarled, tossing her furry head. Now she could add tablet tossing to her growing list of lifelong learning. Just about to slide the door shut, she stopped.
“Just chill,” the cardinal cooed to the group. He nibbled at the water.
Blossom could hear the constant white noise off the freeway miles away, but the air in the Hatchers’ back yard was strangely silent as the birds watched their leader with turned heads, riveted and waiting.
“I know all about these things,” crowed the cardinal. “This bath water has turned into Mountain Dew. I mean, literally.”
“Mountain Dew!” cried the others, all taking a taste.
Blossom slunk back to her sleeping basket to put on her thinking cap. But first she performed her downward dog yoga position to calm her nerves. “Mountain Dew,” she grumbled. “How would a cardinal know Mountain Dew from dirty bird water? Just because it has a few bubbles.” She had hoped the carbonation would go straight to his beak and knock him off the deck. And that thought brought on a much better thought, which was good because, for just a whisker, she was feeling rather feather-brained herself. “So what if the water was so bubbly the stupid birds couldn’t drink it at all?” Blossom meowed to no one in particular. “Like, what if I put more than one Alka-Seltzer in the bird bath? Tee, he, he,” she mewed. “I’ll fix that red-winged wonder. At the end of the day, he’ll be . . .” Blossom put a paw to her mouth. She was beginning to talk like them.
The next morning the bird bath was birdless so Blossom took the opportunity, from her spot by the door, to fling the entire box of opened Alka-Seltzers into the bird bath. Plunk! Plunk! Miss. Miss. Plunk! Miss. She was getting pretty good. She decided to hold back three tablets, just for safe-keeping.
Eventually the birds came around but the water was so effervescent, spitting out bubbles, and sounding like SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, they kept their distance. The cardinal finally landed on the railing and, head held high, strutted to the bird bath. Blossom pondered how well he’d saunter if she tied his little stick legs in knots. But when he reached the bath’s rim, he cocked his head, not sure what to do. The others gathered around. “What is it?” they cried.
Stupid birds. Blossom could only sigh at their silliness. Yes, time to scratch tablet tossing off her lifelong learning list. She was just about to slide the door shut for good when the cardinal replied, “I know all about these things. The bath water has turned into spring water. Quite similar to the Fountain of Youth.” He raised a wing. “Do not be afraid, little ones. We are fearless fliers. And, at the end of the day, we will all be younger.”
“Yay!” the birds cried. Splash! Splash! Splash! One by one they jumped in, crowding the bird bath until they could hardly move, but all the same flapping their wings and hopping about the water like feathered frogs.
Blossom rolled her eyes. “Holy cat chow. How stupid can birds be?” But she had to sit back and scratch her head. Actually, she didn’t know all the ways of Alka-Seltzer or why Mr. H drank it in the first place. And come to think of it, he did look better in the morning. And maybe a little younger. Blossom’s brain began to sprint. “Maybe the Alka-Seltzer would work for me.” Her whiskers quivered. “Maybe I could have more than nine lives, like 12. Or 13.” Blossom couldn’t scurry to her water bowl fast enough, dragging the Alka-Seltzer box with her. Plunk! Plunk! Plunk! “Three Alka-Seltzers all for me!” She lapped up the water as fast as a cat could. Bubbles popped on her furry face. Her nostrils flared from the fizzies. Her fur tingled, her eyes crossed and her ears fluttered on their own. Blossom couldn’t put her paw on the feeling. Wonderful yet horrible. But sometimes a smart cat had to go to extremes in the process of lifelong learning.