The morning grass was wet with dew as Blossom tip-toed into her back yard to visit Riley, her best feline friend forever. Riley, however, was not down at his usual spot where the fences came together but up at the other end of his yard. He was staring out at Tulip Drive.
When he spotted Blossom, he cocked his ear to the chain link and meowed, “Listen. I hear cows mooing.”
Blossom sniffed the air. “I smell pigs pooping.”
Riley closed his eyes and let his head sway. “Why does Tulip Drive sound like merry-go-round music?”
“And our yards stink of mini donuts?” Blossom looked to Riley. “It could only mean one thing.”
“The county fair is here!” Riley already had his paws on the fence.
“Let’s go!” said Blossom. “But do you think we can sneak out, do the entire fair and get back before anyone knows we’re gone? I’m already in the doghouse for eating part of Mrs. H’s tuna sandwich.”
Riley batted a paw. “No problem, we’ll be back in an hour.” And without another thought, they jumped their respective fences, dashed up Tulip Drive and turned the corner.
Blossom and Riley snuck through the entrance gates and trotted over the fairgrounds, already filled with parents and kids and strollers. They saw the carousel with rainbow-colored horses. Each horse wore a different colored hat and pumped up and down to the music that had made its way over to Tulip Drive. The music was much louder up close. Two costumed characters on stilts stalked through the crowd. A pirate was handing out candy. Against the pool blue sky was a Ferris wheel, its colorful buckets carrying two to four people each. The smell of deep-fried food followed wherever they went. People traveled in all directions, running into each other like confused cattle.
Blossom and Riley came upon a fenced-in pen with little pink piglets. Blossom was about to stop by to pet one when Riley cried, “Look, games! Let’s play ring toss!” and darted right through the crowds, forcing Blossom to follow for fear of losing him.
They stood before a tented booth housing a table covered in pop bottles. Hundreds of stuffed animals hung from the tent’s ceiling. Buckets filled with red rings sat on a ledge that ran around the outside of the booth. Riley was already threading his paw through a ring. A teenager stood on the far side of the bottles, his back turned. Blossom could tell by the way he was working his elbow, he was busy picking his nose.
“I win!” cried Riley, flinging the ring. It sailed straight up into the tent but didn’t come down. The cats turned their heads, looking up, down and around.
“Where did it go?” said Riley.
“There it is!” Blossom pointed up at the ceiling of animals. The ring dangled from the foot of a stuffed monkey. There were no other customers, so Blossom meowed, “My turn!” She wormed her paw through a ring and gave it a snap. The ring flew clear over the bottles and hit the teenager in the back.
“Hey!” The boy turned, wiping his finger on the side of his pants. It left a fine glistening line along the fabric. Giving his nose another quick pick, he looked Blossom in the eye and said, “Where’s your tickets? You need to buy tickets.”
“Tickets?” Blossom meowed. “We can’t buy tickets. We don’t have jobs and only Willow gets an allowance.” She clawed at another ring until it toppled out of the bucket and clattered onto the ledge.
The boy held out his palm, the one that had been at his nose. “I need three tickets.”
“No, you need hand sanitizer.” Blossom pointed a paw toward the top of the tent. “Look, my friend already nabbed a monkey.”
Riley put his paws up on the ledge. “Can I have my monkey? Then we’ll go.”
The boy brushed Riley’s paws off the ledge. “Scamper off!”
“But . . . what about my monkey?” said Riley.
The boy started toward them like he meant business, so Blossom and Riley did scamper off to a food stand with a neon mouse hovering over the ordering window. A woman was just being handed a little cardboard food tray loaded with cheese curds. Blossom wanted a cheese curd. Just one. So she rubbed her body along the woman’s leg and purred, “Can you spare a cheese curd, please?”
Blossom’s leg rub did get the desired results but not in the manner she had expected. The woman shot straight up in fright, showering the ground with cheese curds. “I’m allergic to cats!” she cried as she scurried off. Since the woman hadn’t bothered to collect her scattered cheese curds nor did anyone else seem to want them, Blossom and Riley gobbled up as many as they could.
“Hopping hamsters, Blossom, that lady gave me one howling thought,” said Riley. “Maybe if we rub up against other people’s legs, they’ll drop their food just like she did.”
Riley’s plan was meow-velous. Sudden fur on the leg caused people to utter Eek! and Yikes! And adding a purr or placing a paw on the leg to beg, made some people’s hands fly up in surprise, dropping their sticks that skewered pronto pups and pork chops and deep fried pickles. Again, it was a total ear-scratcher to Blossom why not one person picked up their fair food once it fell to the ground. After all, dirt was dirt, not day-old roadkill.
When Blossom and Riley decided they could not eat one more fish taco or blooming onion or Spam burger, they wandered on until they came to a brightly colored ride called The Scrambler. It was made up of eight long benches held together by a big steel spider. Outside the ride’s gate, a timid looking little girl, holding a paper cone of pink cotton candy, stood with her mother. Everyone else was entering the turnstile and selecting one of the seats to sit on. There were still two empty benches so Blossom and Riley squeezed between the gateposts, chose a bright blue and yellow bench and hopped on. The ride started up before they could pull the safety bar shut so they just let it bang against the bench.
The Scrambler seats started weaving in and out, just missing each other. Blossom sat back, letting the wind ruffle her ears. “Wee! This is fun!”
The ride sped up a whisker. “I hope we don’t fall out!” meowed Riley.
Blossom was about to howl for joy a second time when she swiftly slid all the way to the seat’s outer edge, whacking her head up against its side. Riley followed, smooshing up against her. There was no need to worry about flying out. They were packed in place like sardines. Now the cars were zipping past each other. The ride made a whirring sound and then a whomp each time their bench changed direction. Whir. Whomp! Whir. Whomp! Blossom’s surroundings were blurred. “Isn’t this great, Riley?” she mewed. It sure as shellfish was not great.
“I ate too many cheese curds,” Riley croaked. “I want to get off!”
The Scrambler hummed. Whir. Whomp! Blossom’s eyes were pasted shut from all the gusts of air coming at her. And the round and round motion made all her eaten cheese curds act like jumping beans. Bits of mozzarella were dancing one-by-one up her throat.
“Hack!” Blossom and Riley both yacked at the same time.
Blossom guessed their hairballs must have flown clear across the freeway until she heard the little girl on the sidelines wailing. “Momma! There’s chewed-up cheese curds and foam on my cotton candy!”
As soon as the ride ended, Blossom and Riley rolled off their bench and wobbled off. Blossom’s legs criss-crossed as she and Riley stumbled under a pine tree to recover.
“Blossom, I don’t ever want to ride on The Scrambler again.” Riley rolled onto his back and closed his eyes.
“I yacked up all my cheese curds so now I’m hungry,” Blossom whimpered. She guessed there was so much dirt and dust on her toes, she’d spend the next week trying to lick it all off. Unless Mrs. H noticed her filthy feet first. Blossom cringed, just thinking about Mrs. H’s scrunched eyebrows, holding her half-eaten tuna sandwich up to the light as if that might expose the teeth marks of a cat.
Blossom and Riley trotted home in silence. The chirping crickets made up for their lack of conversation. Finally Riley said, “I’ve been thinking and thinking about the monkey I didn’t get. I would have named him Albert. That’s a good monkey name, if you know what I mean.”
“That’s a good, solid name for a monkey,” said Blossom, pondering over her own problems. “Riley, were we at the fair for more than an hour? Do you think anyone will notice we were gone?”
“Naw, we’re good,” answered Riley as they made their way under the once pool blue sky, now twinkling with stars.
As they rounded the corner and headed down Tulip Drive, Blossom could make out Mrs. H’s silhouette in the fading daylight, standing in the Hatchers’ front yard, hands on her hips. Oh oh!