The Hatchers’ weekly game of Monopoly was usually accompanied by ear-turning conversation. On this particular night, it was Willow who made a statement that would keep Blossom’s tail in knots right up to Election Day.
“We have to do a report on a politician,” Willow said, as she counted out money to purchase Boardwalk. “My report’s going to be on Catrina Bunce.”
Blossom took her spot at the Monopoly table, putting her paws on the table’s edge. “Did you just say CATrina?” she meowed. “You’re doing a report on someone whose name starts with CAT?”
“CATrina Bunce? Isn’t she running for State Representative?” said Mrs. H, eyeing Boardwalk. “I read something about her protecting wildlife. The woman owns quite a few rental properties in wooded areas.”
“She does,” said Willow. “And CATrina Bunce says she’ll work to regulate puppy mills. And do you know what else?”
Blossom was all ears.
Willow put her money down, Boardwalk forgotten.
“She’s opening a doggie daycare?” guessed Mr. H.
“Dad, get serious. CATrina Bunce says she’ll protect farm animals from being treated inhumanely!” Willow smiled triumphantly even though she had not yet acquired Boardwalk.
Blossom didn’t care two Greenies about puppy mills or farm animals but if CATrina was going to protect them and Willow was going to report on them, it must be a good thing.
Mrs. H eyed the dice which she could not throw until Willow completed her Boardwalk transaction. “Well, she certainly sounds like an animal lover. I also like what she’s done for our schools.”
“And parks,” said Mr. H. “However, animal rights are important and I’m sure if the animals could vote, they would vote for her.” Mr. H looked at Willow, then Mrs. H. “Whose turn is it?”
And right then and there, Blossom knew her next mission: she would vote for CATrina Bunce. After all, everyone loved her.
In the following days, Blossom came up with a plan. On Election Day Mr. H would drive to the elementary school, the Hatchers’ polling place. He would vote and then go on in to work. Mrs. H would drive to the school later when it wasn’t busy. All Blossom had to do was sneak into the car’s back seat, somehow get into the school, hang tight until Mrs. H showed up later, and hitch a ride back home again.
Blossom was near bursting as she scampered down to where the fences came together. She couldn’t wait to tell Riley, her best feline friend forever, and Merle, the neighbor bulldog, her news. “I’m going to vote for CATrina Bunce,” she boasted to them.
Merle put his nose to the chain link, his furry forehead more wrinkly than usual. “You might want to rethink your decision, Blossom,” he woofed.
Blossom and Riley moved closer as Merle continued. “On one of my morning walks with my Mumsy, she says, Oh no, I forgot to bring a poop baggie along. So when I do my duty in the park, Mumsy looks both ways and, since no one’s around, says, We’ll just leave it. Just this once.”
“Dude!” Blossom and Riley meowed together.
Merle hung his head. “Well, we go on our way and we see this woman jogging toward us and Mumsy says, That looks like CATrina Bunce up ahead. I want to shake her hand. And wouldn’t you know, when CATrina reaches us, instead of extending a kindly paw, she barks at Mumsy about leaving poop in the park. Says she saw Mumsy do it and shouldn’t we be ashamed of ourselves.”
Blossom wiggled her whiskers in horror. “How embarrassing for you. And all over one little poop.”
Merle looked like he might whimper. “I’ll tell you, I’ve never been so humiliated. The woman has no compassion.”
The next day was Election Day, cold and crisp. As Mr. H backed down the driveway, Blossom slouched low in the back seat, pondering over Merle’s poop-shaming incident. When the car pulled into the parking lot, Blossom snatched a peek out the back window. The school’s entrance door was propped wide open. Meow-elujah for that! Slinking out the car as Mr. H opened the door, then slipping under it to hide, Blossom waited until she saw Mr. H disappear into the building. Dead leaves skittered across the asphalt as she crept up to the double doors. She was about to step inside, when she heard a chattering come from the line of shrubs along the sidewalk. A squirrel popped out. “School doesn’t start until 7:30.”
Blossom paused, then proudly meowed, “I’m not going to school. I’m here to vote for CATrina Bunce.”
The squirrel’s spindly tail twitched twice. “CATrina Bunce? What a cheapskate.”
If Blossom wanted to, she could have paw-punched the squirrel right between the ears before he could chirp unsalted peanuts. But, since it was Election Day, and she wanted to display good manners, she simply meowed, “CATrina Bunce is going to protect wildlife.”
“Well, she’s also a crafter,” huffed the squirrel. “Acorns are my fave and CATrina has a beautiful oak tree in her back yard. But, wouldn’t you know, she picks up every last acorn under it and makes necklaces out of them. And then, she sells them. Making a profit off our food supply, even though our ancestors gathered acorns under that oak tree before her condo was even built!” His nose quivered in disgust. “But us squirrels don’t get mad. We get even. We steal all the birdseed she puts out for the birds.”
The squirrel leaped back into the shrubs, leaving Blossom to puzzle over why someone would be so greedy about acorns. And what dog-brain would pay money for an acorn necklace. A swish-swish in the bushes made her jump. A very shaggy and shifty-looking cat stepped out and yowled, “Did I hear politics being discussed in my shrubs?” In the gray morning light the school’s floodlights made the cat’s shadow appear most monstrous. The cat scratched at her ear as she eyeballed Blossom. “What’s a cat like you doing at the school?”
“Are you here to vote too?” said Blossom.
“No way, blue jay!” said the cat. “Politics are for the birds.”
“Well, I’m voting for CATrina Bunce,” said Blossom. “CATrina’s going to regulate puppy mills.”
“CATrina Bunce?” The cat’s eyes grew round as marbles. “CATrina Bunce owns the Chickadee Village Apartments. That’s where I live.” The cat scowled. “So I like to go on the prowl at night, pick through garbage cans and such. I might bring home a flea here and there. So big deal. It’s not like I’m collecting cockroaches.”
Blossom saw something leap from the cat’s fur.
“Then one day the renters that live below us claim they have fleas in their apartment and tell CATrina they’re coming from our place.” The cat inched closer. “Can you imagine that? Can you?”
Blossom clearly could. “So what happened?”
The cat hoisted a leg into the air and gave her ear a very intense scratching. When she was done, she inspected her toes, then continued her tale. “CATrina buys my owner flea and tick shampoo. Orders me to take two baths in the stuff. And tells us we have to evacuate our apartment the next day so she can have the carpets steam cleaned.”
“That’s lame,” said Blossom. “Everyone knows you can kill fleas with Old Spice deodorant.”
“Exactly!” howled the cat. “I gave the woman a lion-sized hiss and you know what she did? You’ll never guess.”
“She flea-shamed you?” said Blossom.
“No, she threw a shoe at me.” The cat waited for Blossom’s reaction, which Blossom could not help but let out a mortified meow. Pleased with the impression she’d left, the cat swaggered off toward the shrubs, nose pointed skyward. “The day CATrina Bunce regulates puppy mills, I’ll be on the cover of Cat Fancy.”
Oh dear. Blossom was not one to change position because of one disgruntled squirrel and an infested cat, but her mission no longer seemed clear as clarified butter. Perhaps the Hatchers loved CATrina. But, threw a shoe. And she must not forget Merle’s poop-shaming testimony.
Blossom entered the school building and slunk down a shadowy hall to the gymnasium. She noticed a woman standing under the red EXIT sign handing out I VOTED stickers. Blossom dearly wanted her own I VOTED sticker, a sign of having completed her patriotic duty. But as she tippy-toed across the gym’s polished hardwood floor, her brain couldn’t stop swirling with doggish thoughts of CATrina Bunce.
And her heart sank whiskers lower as she noted the lit voting tables all held attached pens. Despair consumed her like a sinkhole of snakes. She was hoping for buttons to punch. She’d never be able to color in the dot to elect CATrina, the woman who would protect wildlife. The same CATrina who poop-shamed Merle and his owner. CATrina, who would regulate puppy mills. The same CATrina who hoarded acorns. CATrina, who would protect farm animals from inhumane treatment. The same CATrina who threw a hissy fit over fleas.
Blossom shook her head, trying to clear all the catty CATrina vibes spinning inside. Sadly, Blossom decided she still must figure out a way to cast her vote for CATrina. Otherwise she wouldn’t get her I VOTED sticker.
A woman whipped past Blossom, heading to a vacant voting table. A huge bag hung from the woman’s shoulder with a Chihuahua tucked in it. “Hey, you!” the Chihuahua yelped at Blossom as he went by. “Don’t vote for CATrina Bunce.”
“But she promised to protect wildlife . . .” Blossom took a few steps toward him.
“No, wait!” the Chihuahua scrambled to get his front paws out of the bag, so he could hang over its edge. “CATrina’s our neighbor,” he yipped at Blossom. “You know, I like to bark a bit before I go to bed. So I was out barking a bit in my back yard one night, minding my own business. CATrina comes out on her deck and yells down at me, Pipe down or I’m calling the cops. Well excuse me for living, but I wasn’t finished barking a bit. So guess what CATrina did?”
“Called the cops?” Blossom meowed.
The Chihuahua shook his head. “No, guess again.”
“Threw a shoe at you?”
“Close!” the Chihuahua yapped. “She threw a pail of water at me. I was so wet, my collar shrunk!”
Water? Flipping Friskies! Blossom felt her mug go slack as she watched the Chihuahua settle back inside the bag. Water! Darting down the hall and out the entrance door, her heart felt heavy as wet litter. She had started the day with such noble intentions and now the one person she’d bet all her catnip on turned out to be a total mongrel. And worse, she’d go home without her I VOTED sticker.
Blossom sat on the sidewalk, tail whipping from side to side, wondering when Mrs. H would show up. A vole darted across the pavement unaware Blossom was there. When he saw her, he reared up on hind legs, raising his tiny front paws in the air. “Whoa!” he squeaked. “Please don’t eat me!”
Blossom just grunted. “I suppose you’re going to tell me CATrina Bunce did something mean to you too.”
“CATrina Bunce!” the vole squealed. “The woman’s front lawn is covered with vole traps. My cousin got stuck in one. It took three of us to peel him off the sticky stuff. Leaping lawn turf, all we did was dig hundreds of holes in her yard. I’m telling you, after the sticky trap ordeal, my cousins and their cousins and their cousins’ cousins all packed up and moved to another yard.”
“How awful,” Blossom cried, almost hurling a hairball. CATrina Bunce claimed she would protect animals and their rights when, really, she was just plain mean to them. Holy cat chow. Politics were as meaningless as flies splattered on a windshield.
As the November breeze ruffled her ears, a small red speck lifted and tumbled across the sidewalk. It was an I VOTED sticker that had probably fallen off a voter’s jacket. Blossom scampered to fetch the red dot, pouncing upon it with both paws. It still had a bit of stick to its back so with one paw she picked it up and slapped it on her leg. Blossom admired her I VOTED sticker as she waited for Mrs. H to arrive. She decided the sticker would be a sign of hope that someday a real animal-loving person would run for State Representative. Perhaps it would be Willow.