Blossom the Cat and the Snake

Blossom the Cat and the SnakeBlossom hated chocolate but had thought she might enjoy the crunch of a candy-coated m&m between her teeth.  Thinking back, a moonlit Halloween night was not the best time for her bag biting to have gone wrong.  The shiny brown package actually exploded, sending the candy pieces bouncing across the kitchen floor, covering it like a blanket of colorful hailstones.  Anyway, there went Mrs. Hatcher’s candy offering for this evening’s Book Club gathering, a stunt that earned Blossom one meower of a time-out.  Mr. H had taken Willow to a Halloween party.  The neighborhood cats were about to prowl and howl beneath the moon.  Blossom’s tail thumped as she sat on the bottom stair step leading into the basement, hoping Riley, her best feline friend forever, didn’t go on the prowl without her.

She stared at her only chance of escape, a window near the basement’s ceiling.  The problem was the window well beyond the window, piled high with leaves.  The well was also occupied by Wyatt, the snake, and crossing it would be trespassing.  Trespassing was very bad manners but, even worse, what if while wading through all those leaves, she accidentally stepped on Wyatt.   Wow, meow.  She looked back to the top of the stairs and the locked door.  Her other options were slim.

The chattering leaves danced at the screen.  Let us in they seemed to say as Blossom popped the lock on the window and pulled it open with a paw.  “Happy Halloween, Wyatt,” she mewed.  “Wherever you are.”

The dead leaves rustled.  Wyatt’s striped head popped up.  “Greetingsssssssssss, Blossom.”

Wyatt was a slippery sort, so Blossom knew she must choose her meows carefully.  “Wyatt, I have a problem.  I want to go out prowling but I don’t want to go through our living room and disturb Mrs. Hatcher’s Book Club, so I hoped you wouldn’t mind if I just quick-as-a-bunny hopped across your den.”

Wyatt’s forked tongue flicked in and out.  “Did you say Book Club? What book might they be discusssssssssssssing?”

Blossom did not know or care two toadstools what Mrs. H and her Book Club buddies were discussing.  But not to get Wyatt’s tail in a twist, she told a fly-sized fib.  “I believe they’ve just read Mouse in Hiding.”

Wyatt held his head high.  “Mousssssssse in hiding.  How interesssssssting.  I have a proposal, Blossom.  You may passsssss though my den and in exchange I will quietly sit in on the Book Club.”

“It’s a deal.  But you must promise to be quiet,” Blossom meowed, stifling a chuckle.  Once Wyatt realized the door to the upstairs was shut tight, he’d probably get bored in the basement and slither back to his den.

Off Blossom scrambled to where the fences came together.  Riley was waiting.  “What took you so long?” he meowed.  “Did you get a time-out on Halloween?”

“Yes,” Blossom replied.  “But I tricked Wyatt into letting me pass through the window well.  Wait until he finds out the basement door is locked and he can’t get upstairs to join Mrs. H’s Book Club!”

“Oh no, Blossom,” said Riley.  “Snakes can flatten themselves and glide right under a door.”  Riley tossed his head.  “But, Book Club?  Wyatt just wants to hunt for mice, if you know what I mean.  Just meow mouse and a snake will come calling.”

Riley’s comment made Blossom wish she hadn’t mentioned the word mouse to Wyatt.  Bear or elephant would have been better.  “Before we go, Riley, let me have one last look in the window,” she said.

Standing on hind legs, Blossom peered into a window on the side of the house.  The Book Clubbers were seated in a half-circle.  Three were on the couch, two on a love seat, and Mrs. H sat at the other end.  Judging by the intent crinkle above Mrs. H’s nose, she had just thrown out her usual book club question, What was your first reaction to the book?  Nuts, cheese and crackers were attractively spread out on the coffee table.  Glasses on coasters.  The m&m bowl held fun size candy bars really meant for the trick or treaters but necessary since the intended m&m’s had been trashed after being swept from the floor.  The scene appeared perfectly meow-velous and Blossom was about to return to her Halloween prowl when she spotted Wyatt coiled up in her sleeping basket.

She gasped, not knowing what to do.  Then she pawed at the window.  “Wyatt!  You’re not allowed in MY sleeping basket!”  But Wyatt couldn’t hear her.  Blossom’s whiskers twitched with dread at seeing Chip, her favorite felt mouse toy, just inches from Wyatt’s slick skin.  His forked tongue darted in and out, his little flat head moved side to side.  Then he noticed Chip.  A hairball rose in Blossom’s throat as Wyatt opened his mouth wide and snatched Chip up with his fangs.  “Chip, No!” Blossom cried.  Wyatt clamped down on poor Chip but must have immediately realized Chip was nothing more than stuffing and plastic eyes because he spit the toy out and slithered off.

Blossom stamped her foot.  “Flipping Friskies, Wyatt’s ruining my Halloween,” she wailed to Riley.  “I can’t go prowling with you until I get rid of Wyatt and the only way in is through the front door.  Mrs. H will howl when she sees me.”

“Pretend you’re a trick or treater,” Riley said.  “Maybe she won’t recognize you.”

“Hold on one whisker.”  Blossom dashed around to the front steps, leaving Riley scratching his ears.  Standing on tippy toes she stretched her front leg, up, up, up, as far as it could reach and batted at the doorbell until she heard it chime.  Blossom’s ears pricked at the urgent clack, clack, clack of Mrs. H’s trendy boots scurrying toward the door and the dramatic apology to her guests.  “I’m so sorry to interrupt our discussion but Willow’s out with her dad, leaving me to handle the trick or treaters!”  Blossom mustered up her assertive look, preparing for a stare-down with multi-tasking Mrs. H.  The door flew open.  For one long moment Mrs. H wore a bewildered expression, almost closing the door again, but then she looked down to see Blossom.  “What’s this?” she exclaimed.  “Blossom, how did you get outside?”  She opened the door just a crack letting Blossom squeeze past and dart through the living room as if her tail was on fire.  A few women cried, Oh! 

Mrs. H sighed wearily and said, “That cat!”  But she returned to her seat and cheerily said, “Nuts anyone?  What did you think of the story’s setting?”  Blossom’s entrance was already forgotten as she tore through the house, searching under the furniture, on the furniture, even the walls.  If Mrs. H discovered a snake at her Book Club after finding Blossom on the front steps, she might put two and two together.  A basement time-out lasting clear to next month’s get-together was a possibility.

Wyatt had vanished but this did not comfort Blossom.  Not one bit.  Trotting back out to the living room, she stopped, paw in mid-trot.  There was Wyatt, curled up with the candy in the m&m bowl.  He was right in the middle of the discussion group, not even a tail length from the mixed nuts.  Blossom froze, fur standing on end, afraid to move.  One Book Clubber yawned.  Blossom’s heart settled down.  Good.  A yawn meant the night was wrapping up.  Her eyes remained fixed on Wyatt and the candy bowl.  Hopefully no one wanted a Snickers or Baby Ruth.  The conversation had turned to things people say when they’re getting ready to leave.  Things like, This was a very fun night and Thank you for hosting.  Two women stood up.

Yes, it looked like Book Club was a wrap.  Blossom sighed so deeply she almost choked.  Trouble averted.  Another successful party, m&m episode forgotten. Mrs. H was in high spirits, beaming ear to ear.  “Thank you for coming,” she chirped, flitting among her guests as they filed toward the door.  Blossom glanced at the window.  Riley was still there waiting for her.  Be there in a whisker, she motioned with her paw.  All is well.

Mrs. H continued her sparkly banter.  “Any ideas for our next book?  How about something from a new author?  I hear his first novel is quite good.  It’s entitled Mouse Trap. 

Wyatt’s head shot up, sending two KitKats skidding across the coffee table.  “Exssssssssssscellent!” he hissed, forgetting he’d promised to sit quietly.  All heads turned to the candy bowl.  Someone screamed, then another and . . . . Wow, meow.

Blossom the Cat Goes Up North

Blossom the Cat Goes Up NorthJumping the fences was not allowed.  On occasion this rule was broken, for Blossom and Riley, her best feline friend forever, believed life confined to the backyard was perhaps OK for chipmunks, but not for cats.  Unfortunately, one morning Mrs. H cornered Blossom in the laundry room.  “The time has come, Blossom, for you to be registered and wear a collar with identification,” she chirped while fastening the dreaded collar with tag about Blossom’s neck.  “And Riley’s owners have done the same,” she added with a sly smile.  Later that day, down where the fences came together, Blossom and Riley sat sulking as Merle, the neighbor bulldog, barked about his family’s upcoming vacation plans.

“Guess where we’re going?” Merle said.  “I’ll give you one clue:  I’m going to have the best time ever!”

Blossom listened politely even though her fur bristled at the unfairness of Merle getting to go on a fun-filled vacation while all she got was a binding collar.  Riley, on the other paw, was displaying very bad manners.  “This collar is so embarrassing,” he whined.

Merle did a little hop.  “Riley, it’s your duty to wear a collar with proper identification.  Now, I know you’re just dying to know where I’m going.”  Merle sat back proudly and woofed most boastfully, “We’re going to Brainerd.  And we’re staying at a condo on a lake!  I’ll get to swim in the lake and build sand castles on the beach and catch fish from a boat!  We’re leaving tomorrow morning.”

Catch fish.  Merle’s rapidly wagging tail was enough to make fur curl.  But Blossom held her good-mannered tongue and meowed, “Where is Brainerd?”

“Up North!” said Merle.  “It’s over 100 miles away and takes hours to get there!”  He practically galloped back to his house, Blossom and Riley wistfully watching him go.

“I think my collar’s cheap looking, if you know what I mean,” Riley grumbled.

Blossom was about to meow how the new metal tag resting against her chest was very annoying when Dylan, the crow, landed atop the chain link fence.

“That’s a beautiful collar you have on, Balsam,” Dylan cawed.  “I saw the tag glimmering from afar.”

Dylan always mispronounced Blossom’s name.  But because she wanted to pick his little bird brain for ideas, she decided to ignore this shortcoming.  “Dylan, Riley and I want to go Up North.  Do you know how to get there?” she meowed.

Dylan flapped his wings.  “Take a bus from the senior center parking lot.  I see many buses there while I’m eating breakfast off the asphalt.  I heard one bus goes to Hinckley.  That’s Up North.”

“I know the buses you’re cawing about!” said Blossom.  “I’ve seen them on the way to visit Dr. Moss, my vet!”

The next morning Blossom and Riley jumped the fence and trotted to the senior center.  People stood in the parking lot, many with hair the color and consistency of cotton balls.  Blossom’s whiskers twitched twice as a bus drove into the center’s round-about and stopped.  The bus was the color of purple martens and had a lovely lake mural running along its side.  Blossom thought she actually spotted Dr. Moss in the crowd but was sidetracked when Riley meowed, “These people don’t look like they’re going on vacation.”

“Yes they do,” Blossom insisted.  “Dylan said so.  I’m sure he said that.”

“I have to disagree with you, Blossom,” said Riley.  “Where are their suitcases?”

Blossom grunted.  “We’re going on vacation and we don’t have suitcases.”

The bus driver climbed out of the bus to assist the line of people, giving Blossom and Riley a chance to sneak on and hide under the seats.  Once everyone was settled, which took a bit as the people with the cotton ball hair moved like snails, the driver announced, “We’re off to Mystic Lake Casino.”

“Mystic Lake!” Blossom crowed, knowing she was right and Riley was wrong.  “Mystic Lake is where Merle’s family was headed.  I’m sure he called the lake mystic!”

Riley’s eyes were slits.  “Merle said he was going boating on a lake that had castles.  Those were his exact barks.”

After a meow-nstrously long ride of bickering and another lengthy unloading of passengers, Blossom and Riley hopped out, taking in the vacation scenery while everyone else filed into the casino.  On either side of the main building were very, very tall structures dotted with windows that sparkled diamond-like in the sun.  “This is the condo where Merle is staying.” Blossom tipped her head back to see all the way to the top floor.  “Merle, we’re down here,” she howled.  Yes, a good time was in the cards.  She could feel it in her fur.

“But where’s the lake?” Riley sniffed the air.  “I can’t even smell it, if you know what I mean.”

The casino’s entrance door was about to close so they scrambled in.  Blossom’s visions of clambakes and fish fries were put on paws as they made their way through the dark casino with dim lighting, flashing neon signs and unpredictable sounds.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  Blossom and Riley wound in and out of people strolling the floors or planted at game machines, fingers flickering over the brightly lit screens.  Beep! The minute one machine went quiet another started up.  Beep!  Coins clinked out of the payout slots, bouncing about as if they were alive.  The air was hazy with smoke.  “It stinks in here!” sniffled Blossom.  “How can Merle stand this?  He has such a sensitive nose!”  Beep!

One machine had lime colored fish blinking across its screen.  Blossom’s paw itched to reach up and touch the wiggly images.  She actually lifted a foot to just touch . . . Ding! Ding! Ding!  She swiftly put it back down as her thoughts scattered like bird seed. A deep voice came booming out of nowhere.  Merle Johnson, you’ve just won a car.  You have 45 seconds to come to the front desk and claim your prize!

“Merle!”  Blossom and Riley wide-eyed each other.

“I didn’t know Merle’s last name was Johnson, did you?” said Riley.

“Who cares?” meowed Blossom.  “He can give us a ride to the lake.  Where is the front desk?”

After locating the front desk, they did some serious skulking but Merle did not appear.  However, a gentleman came huffing and puffing to the counter.  “I’m Merle Johnson!” he cried.  One casino worker handed him a set of keys.  Another took his photo as he grinned ear to ear.  The booming voice blasted from the walls again.  Merle Johnson has just claimed his car! 

Blossom placed a paw on the gentleman’s pant leg.  “Excuse me, but you’re not Merle, you liar.  That car belongs to our friend but he can’t claim it right now because he’s out catching fish on Mystic Lake.”  The Merle imposter stepped on her tail.  As Blossom let out a lion-sized hiss, a shaft of bright light flooded the casino floor and, for just a whisker, she thought perhaps it was God coming to make the car thief/tail stomper give back the car.  But it was only a customer opening the entrance door, preparing to leave.  Blossom and Riley took this opportunity to exit themselves.

Sitting on the curb, tails swishing, Riley meowed, “This is the stupidest vacation ever.  We haven’t found the boat or lake or castles.  And someone took Merle’s car!”

“I’m never going to Brainerd again,” whimpered Blossom.  She stared at the five buses lined at the curb, all purple, all with lake scenery splashed across their sides.  “Holy cat chow!  Now we’re hundreds of miles from home and we don’t even know which bus to get back on.”

“You’re not hundreds of miles from home, Balsam.”  Blossom looked up to see Dylan, the crow, perched on a stop sign.

“Dylan, did you take the bus too?” said Blossom.  “You couldn’t have flown.  You’re hours from home.”

“I’m only 15 minutes from home, as the crow flies,” cawed Dylan.

“No,” said Riley.  “Merle said Brainerd was hours away.”

“But you’re not in Brainerd,” cawed Dylan.  “You’re in Prior Lake.”

“No, Dylan, you are mistaken,” huffed Blossom.  “We’re at Mystic Lake.”

“No, you’re at a casino,” Dylan cawed knowingly.  “There is no lake.  Mystic Lake is just the name of the casino.”  He puffed up proudly, looking like he’d just polished off prized carrion.

Blossom and Riley blinked at each other as Dylan flapped his wings and flew off.  A man’s shoes clipped loudly across the drive, then stopped before the third bus in line.  The man got in, causing Blossom to do a somersault.  She’d know that man anywhere, even without his white coat.  “My vet just got on that bus!  Come on, Riley!”  Blossom dashed toward the bus, calling, “Dr. Moss, it’s me, Blossom, your favorite patient!”

Dr. Moss did recognize Blossom and commended her for wearing an ID tag.  “However,” he said, “Since I know where you belong, I’ll just call Mrs. Hatcher and let her know I found you two at the casino.”  Blossom decided a not so good time was in the cards.  Mrs. H was pretty handy at dealing time-outs in the basement.

As the bus loaded and cruised out of the parking lot, Riley’s mug scrunched to a pout.  “Blossom, my collar’s not only dorky-looking, my tags didn’t work like they were supposed to.  I thought Dr. Moss would just drop us off in our backyards and nobody would know we’d been gone.”

That scenario was what Blossom had hoped for as well, but, chin high, she replied, “Riley, look how much smarter we are for having jumped the fence.  Now that we’ve visited Mystic Lake, we know we wouldn’t come back here again if we had nineteen lives!”

“We are really smart,” Riley agreed.  “I can’t wait to tell Merle he won a car but somebody stole it.”

Blossom the Cat and the Rabbits

Blossom the Cat and the RabbitsBlossom believed in self-improvement and her goal by summer’s end was to be fit as a fish stick.  Her strength training program consisted of sitting on the patio pavers and flinging her collection of yarn pom-poms toward the wooded area at the end of the Hatchers’ lot.  One day she decided to throw Chip, her favorite felt mouse toy.  Clutching Chip with one paw, she threw him as hard as she could, watching him sail like a swallow across the lawn and disappear into the woods.  “I’m stronger than I thought,” she meowed.  “I’ll go fetch him after I’ve taken my workout break.”

After having a snack of high protein chicken and trout treats, Blossom ventured into the woods to find Chip.  While admiring how the summer breeze made each tree leaf flutter, her ears pricked to another sound, one of whispers.  They were coming from the Hatchers’ back yard.  Three baby bunnies sat amongst the colorful border of Super Elfin Paradise Mix Impatiens that Mrs. H had just planted.  Blossom hid behind an old fir tree, watching them mow down the impatiens as they bunny bantered.  The violet flowers are mine so you eat the pink ones!  Munch, munch.  You’re not the boss of me!  Munch, munch. This is boring!

“Excuse me,” Blossom meowed as she approached them.  “This is my house on Tulip Drive and eating impatiens is not allowed.  Please hop along to another yard.”

One bunny turned to Blossom.  “Why did you throw a felt mouse at our burrow?  Because now he’s ours.”

“You mean Chip?  Give him back!” howled Blossom.  “And then you may move along.”

“You have very bad manners,” chirped the second bunny.  “Anyway, we can’t give him back.  We’ve already buried him.”

The third bunny had a nose that not only quivered but was very runny, as if he had allergies.  “We can dig him up for a price,” he sniffled.

Blossom couldn’t believe her ears.  When had rabbits become so greedy?  “Chip’s been mouse-napped?” she meowed, but then casually batted a paw.  “I’ll sniff him out and dig him up myself.”

“You’ll never find him,” the third bunny replied.  “We buried him under a rock.  Now leave us alone so we can decide on Chip’s ransom.”  The bunnies huddled, whispering so low that no matter how hard Blossom turned her ears, she could not hear what they were saying.  She also gulped, thinking how these bunnies seemed more sinister than most.   Finally, the first bunny spoke up.  “We want rib-eye steak.  We think we might like steak.”

“Steak?”  The bunny’s request almost knocked Blossom off her feet.  “I don’t know what steak is,” Blossom lied, a truly leopard-sized lie for Mr. H had just grilled steaks the night before.

“You’re a liar,” the second bunny said.  “Your family just grilled steaks last night.  We saw, we were spying.  The old guy even said there would be leftovers.”

“You’d better give in to our demands,” sniffled the third bunny.  “Or Chip is compost.”

Blossom left the surly bunch to prowl the back lot, sniffing high and low, but she could not pick up Chip’s scent.  He had vanished.  That afternoon Blossom sat outside the kitchen entrance with her thinking cap on, debating what to do.  She’d never ever stolen food from the Hatchers’ fridge but Chip’s well-being was at stake, no pun intended.  And because of her strength training, she knew her strong paws could open that fridge door.

The kitchen was clear so she crept up to the fridge, curled a paw about its door handle and pulled.  The door opened with a soft suctioned poof.  The foil-wrapped steak was on the second shelf.  She knew from past Hatcher conversations that steak cost an arm and a leg so these leftovers were very valuable to her family.  But then she thought of Chip, buried alive, his little felt body mingling with the worms. On hind legs, she pawed the steak from the shelf where it thumped to the floor.

The wrapped steak was almost too big to handle, but Blossom also had very strong chompers so she was able to pick up the package with her teeth and wrestle it out Willow’s bedroom window.  Then she innocently waited at the back door to be let out.  As Mrs. H opened the door for her, Blossom heard Mr. H say, “Where did you put that leftover steak, Dear?”

For being such a fit feline, the steak seemed especially heavy as Blossom dragged it across the lawn out to the impatiens where the bunnies were waiting.  She knew she was doing the right thing.  If someone took off with Willow, for sure Mr. and Mrs. H would hand over the steak.

The bunnies bounced up and down when they saw Blossom coming.  “We want steak!  We want steak!”

Blossom dropped the steak in the grass but sat on it.  “First, I need to see the black beads of Chip’s eyes before I hand over the ransom.”  Then she spotted Chip, lying beside the impatiens patch, maybe a bit dirtier than before but his ratty eyes and tail were intact.  “Chip!” she cried.  She flew to Chip, returning him to the patio.  But she headed out again.  She had to make sure the bunnies ate up all the evidence.  It would be howlingly awful if Mr. H ran over the steak with the lawn mower.

The foil wrapper had already been peeled back and the bunnies were gathered around it as if it was a dinner table.  Their eyes lit as they began to nibble.  Munch, munch.  “This is too chewy.  It hurts my teeth,” whined the first bunny.  He spit out a ball of chewed meat and turned to Blossom.  “Why did you bring me this?”

The second bunny stopped eating, his mouth scrunched into one big wrinkle.  He glared at Blossom.  “I won’t eat this.  And you can’t make me.”

Munch, munch.  The bunny with the bad nose was still at it but then sat back and eyeballed Blossom accusingly.  “I don’t like steak.”

Spoiled rodents thought Blossom as she trudged back to the house, collecting Chip on the way.  Once inside, she deposited Chip in her sleeping basket, giving him a reassuring pat, then headed to the kitchen to check out the ruckus of drawer sliding and slamming going on.  Mr. H and Willow stood back, watching as Mrs. H sat on her knees before the open fridge, rattling around in the crisper.  “Maybe I accidentally put the steak in with the vegetables.”  She looked like she was about to cry as she flung a bag of carrots and stalk of celery onto the lower shelf of the fridge while she shoveled through the crisper drawer.

“Could you have accidentally thrown the steak in the trash, Mom?” asked Willow.

Mrs. Hatcher put her hand to her mouth, reminding Blossom of how Willow looked the time she’d lost her backpack and all the school books that had been in it.  Mr. H walked off, sighing.  “Of all things to misplace.  Steak costs an arm and a leg.”

That evening Blossom headed to her sleeping basket especially early.  It was as if everyone was in a very bad mood over the missing steak.  And the scratching was on the wall:  Mrs. H thought she was going crazy.  Right then and there, Blossom knew what she had to do.

In the morning, from the edge of the woods the bunnies watched as Blossom dragged the steak back to Willow’s open bedroom window.  “Don’t worry, Mrs. H,” Blossom called to no one in particular.  “You are not crazy and I will prove it.”

From the back lot Blossom heard one of the bunnies say, “The cat’s talking to herself.”

“How am I going to get the steak back into the house again?” Blossom fretted.  “Throw it through Willow’s bedroom window?  Oh Lord, I’m not that strong,” she sighed.  And then the most meow-velous thing happened.  Mrs. H trotted out to the clothesline with her blue plastic clothes basket.  While removing her air-dried sheets from the line and placing them in the basket, the neighbor next door came over to talk.  This completely distracted Mrs. H, drawing her away from her sheet folding ritual.  As Mrs. H chatted at the fence, Blossom hovered over the basket, quickly shoving the sheets to one side.  She then dropped the steak to the bottom and pushed the sheets back in place, giving the stack a firm pat.  She hoped the sheets wouldn’t receive grease stains.  The meat was beginning to look a bit used.   After waiting and waiting and waiting, Mrs. H wrapped up her conversation and headed inside with the sheets.  Blossom was able to retrieve the steak from the basket before Mrs. H got around to it.

Once again Blossom opened the fridge door.  “This time, I’ll put the steak in the side door!  It can’t be missed!” she cried, proud as a prize piglet over her idea.  She managed to situate the steak on its end so half of it was almost falling out.  “Mrs. H will see it and think, Oh, I never thought to look in the fridge door!”  Blossom pushed the door shut.  “Another happy ending, thanks to me and my strength training,” she meowed.

At the dinner table that evening, Blossom watched as Mrs. H shook her head.  “I still can’t believe I could throw a steak in the trash.”

Blossom’s Meow Moment had arrived.  She scrambled to the fridge, rubbing her body back and forth against it while meowing loudly, “Mrs. H, the steak is in the fridge door.  Come look!”

They all turned to Blossom.  “Blossom, what’s gotten into you?” Willow said, then turned to Mrs. H.  “After dinner, I’m going to go through last night’s trash, Mom.  Just to make you feel better.”

Blossom pawed at the fridge door.  “No need to, Willow.  I think the steak might be in the fridge.  In the door.  You can have it tomorrow for lunch, Mr. H!”  Her meows were ignored.

“Thanks, Willow,” said Mrs. H.  “But I’m over it.  Out of the fridge that long, it couldn’t be eaten anyway.  It would make someone very sick!”

Blossom’s paw hung in mid-air, her meows caught in her throat.  “What?  Make someone sick?  How sick?”  She plastered her back up against the fridge as if that could keep the Hatchers from entering the refrigerator.

Willow scrunched her eyebrows.  “What’s with you, Blossom?  I see you meowing to yourself in the backyard and now this thing with the fridge.”

Mrs. H got up from the table.  “Tomorrow I’ll clean the fridge.  If the steak is still in there in some odd spot, I’ll come across it and we can eat it then.”

Blossom felt her back twitch, vowing that once the steak-for-rabbit-ransom was just a bad family memory, she’d never, ever go into the fridge again.  That night when the kitchen was clear, she once again opened the door and removed the valuable steak that had somehow turned to poison, according to Mrs. H.  The foil almost fell off when it hit the floor.  The rib-eye looked rather dried out, like beef jerky.  From there, Blossom rushed it off to Willow’s room, shoved it out the window, then hightailed it to the back door to be let out.  “So much running around!” she cried.  “I’m really getting a workout!”

The sun had almost set when she was finally let out.  The bunnies were clustered at the woods’ edge watching as Blossom dragged the steak across the lawn and pitched it into a wild lily patch in the woods. Whoosh!

Blossom plodded into the woods to make sure the steak was gone for good.  As she climbed back out of the brush, the first bunny called, “Why did you do that?  If I smell that steak my nose will hurt.  Not fair!”

Blossom glared at the troublesome bunch.  Their small silhouettes in the fading light made them resemble tiny bowling pins.  But she didn’t have time for bunny bowling.

“You’re looking at me,” said the second bunny.  “Stop looking at me.”

Blossom chuckled to herself as she turned to head back to the house.  “I’m not going to get my tail in a knot.  After all, they are just baby bunnies.”  But as she trotted on, she recalled how 1) they’d mouse-napped Chip, 2) buried him under a rock, 3) forced her to steal a valuable steak and 4) return the same steak back to the fridge only to remove it a second time.  As her fur bristled up, she heard the third bunny’s sniffling, runny-nosed voice and she just had to look.

The third bunny glared at her with his little pouty bunny eyes. “I don’t like you,” he snuffled.

Blossom was very grateful for her strength training that beautiful summer evening as she headed down to the impatiens patch, grasped the third bunny by the scruff of his neck and flung him into the woods, aiming for the same patch of lilies where she’d pitched the steak.  His brothers darted off to safety but he landed in the tall brush with a whoosh! and a thump! and a bunny shriek of, “My toes touched steak!”

As Blossom headed back to the house, she heard him bawling, “I’m telling my momma!”

Blossom shook her head.  She’d done enough strength training for the summer.

Blossom the Cat Goes to the Mall

Blossom the Cat Goes to the MallMr. H had a passion for contests.  He’d won gift cards, free golf lessons and even a dozen bagels.  But Mr. and Mrs. Hatcher were left scratching their heads when Mr. H won a coupon from a school raffle, good for one nail clipping, shampoo and lion trim at Five-Star Feline, a pet salon at the mall.

“They actually shave the cat’s coat to resemble a lion’s?” said Mr. H.  “Why?”

“On some cats it is attractive.”  This came from Mrs. H whose raised eyebrows said, Blossom is not one of them.

“I think Blossom would look awesome with a lion trim,” Willow said, rubbing Blossom’s ears.  At least Willow knew that Blossom was the best-looking cat on Tulip Drive.

With feather-light feet, Blossom pranced down to where the fences came together to boast about her upcoming visit to Five-Star Feline.  “I’ll get my nails clipped,” she meowed, stretching a paw toward Riley, her best feline friend forever.  “And, after that, a lion trim and shampoo,” she explained to Merle, the neighbor bulldog.

“Blossom, I hear there’s a fish restaurant at the mall, if you know what I mean,” said Riley, licking his chops.  “But you don’t speak their kind of English.”  He shook his head.  “The servers wouldn’t understand you.”

Blossom batted a paw.  “Who needs English with meows like mine?  I’ve been purr-fecting my communication skills with Willow.  When I practice assertive meowing, she nods her head and sometimes says, I know, or Really?

Merle gave a little hop.  “Assertive meowing?  Blossom, you truly have a gift if people can understand you.  Perhaps you should focus more on using your gift to help others.  Besides, how can you dine at the fish restaurant and have time for your lion trim appointment?”

Merle was very wise, for a dog, but Blossom didn’t want advice on helping others.  And because she was determined to eat fish and get a lion trim, she just mewed politely, not mentioning she’d already filed Merle’s wisdom in the trash containing yesterday’s litter.

The next day Mrs. H dropped Blossom off at the check-in counter of Five-Star Feline but before leaving, waggled a warning finger at Blossom.  “You behave, Blossom!  I’m off to Macy’s One-Day Sale and will be back in two hours.”

Blossom had every intention of behaving, although the minute Mrs. H’s shoes clattered off toward Macy’s and the cat groomer wrapped her strong hands around Blossom’s middle, the smell of seared salmon nearly made Blossom drool.  The sizzle of salmon came from across the mall hall.  In big red letters over a storefront was a sign, CRAVE.  Blossom turned her head to the groomer who blinked down at her with big brown eyes.  “Let’s get started, Blossom.”

Blossom looked to the CRAVE sign, beckoning like a stick of butter.  She calculated she could wolf down a salmon fillet in two whiskers and be back before the groomer could pick up her nail clippers.  “I’ll be back in a flash,” she meowed, slipping right through the groomer’s grip.  She bounced to the floor and shot off into the crowd of mall shoppers.  At the entrance to CRAVE, Blossom crept up to a tall desk that resembled the pulpit in the Hatchers’ church, the one she’d hid behind on Blessing of the Animals Day.  No one was stationed at the desk so she trotted over to an open booth and hopped up.  Her feet made a soft crunching sound as they touched the leather-covered seat.  She held her head high to be noticed.  Her whiskers twitched with irritation.  “Why is no one coming to take my fish order?” she huffed.

A server in black uniform with white apron, sat slumped in a booth across from Blossom.  Tears streamed down the woman’s cheeks.  Her nose was the purplish hue of a coneflower.  Another server stopped by, patted the sad woman on the shoulder and said, “Lacy, I’m very sorry to hear that your grandmother passed.”  The consoling server then moved on, never looking in Blossom’s direction.

Blossom shifted her weight in the booth, making the leather crunch again.  Puffing up her chest, she meowed assertively, “Excuse me, Lacy, I see you’re crying but I’d like to place my fish order.”

Lacy looked up to see what had just meowed.  When she saw Blossom sitting patiently in the booth, her eyes lit.  “Grandma?” she called to Blossom.  “Is that you?”

Blossom looked behind her.  She did not see a grandma, was that question meant for her?  Lacy had gotten out of the booth and was heading Blossom’s way.  Finally.  “I’d like some of your seared salmon, please,” Blossom said.  “But I don’t have all day.  I have to get back to Five-Star Feline for my lion trim.”

Lacy seated herself across from Blossom, making the leather crunch three times.  She placed her elbows on the table and leaned in.  “It’s a sign,” she said in barely a whisper.  “Grandma, I knew you’d come back to let me know you were OK.”  Her face turned sad again.  “I miss you, Grandma.”

Seeing how mistaken Lacy was, Blossom decided she’d use her purr-fected communication skills to point the server’s nose in the right direction, that being the salmon.  “I’m not your grandma, Lacy.  I’m Blossom Hatcher of Tulip Drive,” she meowed sternly.  “I’d settle for plain old fish sticks, though.  ASAP.”  Another tear rolled down Lacy’s cheek.  You should focus more on using your gift to help others.  Blossom silently snarled at Merle’s barks of wisdom, working their way out of the trash. She stretched out a paw and patted Lacy’s arm.  “I lost my grandma too,” she mewed.  “She’s buried in our back yard.   I take great comfort in knowing that I was her favorite grand kitten.  But I must get back to Five-Star Feline.”

Lacy cocked her head as if she’d understood every single meow.  “Grandma,” said Lacy, “You always say the right things.  You knew how much I loved cats and, look, here you are, back as a cat!”  As if letting Blossom in on a big secret, she lowered her voice.  “Grandma, I come in here every day and say to myself, Lacy, you love cats.  Go over to Five-Star and see if they have any job openings.  Should I, Grandma?  Should I apply?”  She held up her index finger.  “Just give me a sign, one little sign.”

Glancing out into the mall, Blossom spotted the groomer from Five-Star Feline searching up and down the hall for her runaway client.  The groomer went back into the shop.  “Lacy, I must go!” she cried, springing from the booth and sprinting over to Five Star Feline.

“Grandma, where are you going?” Lacy stood up.  “To Five-Star?  I knew it!  I knew you’d give me a sign!”

Feeling light as a finch from her good deed-doing, Blossom couldn’t help but grunt to find the Five-Star check-in counter was deserted.  Nonetheless, she howled at the empty counter, “I’m ready for my lion trim.  Hurry up before Lacy comes over here and takes up my appointment time asking about job openings.”  The groomer did not appear, however, an entirely new smell had wafted Blossom’s way.  It was wafting right out of another storefront kitty-corner from Five-Star Feline.  WILLIAMS-SONOMA blazed over its entrance.  Blossom sniffed. What was this new odor?  It reminded her of home.  Cooked potatoes?  She looked to CRAVE.  Lacy must have decided to stay put.  Blossom figured she could gobble down a few potatoes and pop back by the time the groomer showed up, so she ventured back out onto the mall’s gleaming white tiled floor.  Standing in front of the WILLIAMS-SONOMA entrance, she had to blink three times at so much copper and colorful cookware on display.

A woman wearing a forest green apron was at a central counter demonstrating a silver appliance about the size of a cat.  “This is our new state-of-the-art air fryer.”

Blossom joined the spectators, waiting as the air fryer lady handed out French fry samples.  Over the din of curious customers and the hum of the air fryer, Blossom roared, “Excuse me, but the fish restaurant didn’t serve me salmon.”

For one moment Blossom’s heart froze as she spotted the familiar red star of Macy’s on a large white bag, thinking Mrs. H had already returned.  She relaxed upon seeing it was a stranger, one that nodded at Blossom and said, “We were here first.  Wait your turn.”

“It’s just that I’m late for my lion trim appointment and could use a few fries to hold me over,” Blossom meowed as assertively as possible.”   You should focus more on using your gift to help others.  The next time she saw Merle, she’d let him know his annoying do-gooder comments belonged buried with his bones.

The air fryer lady turned to another worker.  “Call Security about the cat,” she barked.

“What an unfriendly store,” Blossom meowed as a security guard carried her out of WILLIAMS-SONOMA.  “And all they serve is potatoes.”

The guard marched Blossom across the mall and into another room, one in a dark corner.  This place was called OFFICE.  Once inside, she was cast into a cage.  The cage’s latch snapped shut and the guard said, “I hope your owner comes for you.  If you don’t get picked up in 24 hours, we’ll call Animal Control.”  Then he left and Blossom was alone in the very quiet OFFICE.

Blossom hung her head.  Merle was right after all.  She couldn’t have her fish and lion trim too.  And, the more she thought about it, the more she realized she’d really used her gift to help herself.  In fact, paws down, she’d displayed very catty manners to 1) the groomer, 2) Lacy who’d just lost her grandma, and 3) the crabby air fryer lady. “Now Mrs. H will return from Macy’s and the groomer at Five-Star Feline will tell her I ran away.”  Blossom whimpered, consumed with kitty self-pity.  “And I won’t get my nails clipped or my lion trim or my bubble bath.”  Then an extremely doggish thought popped into her head.  Maybe Mrs. H wouldn’t think to come to the OFFICE in search of Blossom and she’d just go home with her Macy’s purchases.  Fear sprinkled through Blossom’s fur.  “I’ll be here forever,” she wailed.  “Oh wait, I’ll be at Animal Control.

As Blossom continued her kitty pity party, her ears turned to the sound of footsteps outside the OFFICE.  “I figured this was the only place you could be.”  It was the groomer, running her fingers through her hair.  “I could have lost my license because of you!”  She waggled her finger at Blossom.  “I won’t tell anyone about your running away.  But if you so much as put ONE TOE outside of Five-Star again . . .”  The silence hung thick as tartar sauce.  She unlatched the cage and snatched Blossom up.  “I can just fit in your appointment if we hurry.”

Back at Five-Star Feline, Blossom got her nail clipping, lion trim and shampoo.  She couldn’t stop admiring her slim tail with a poof of fur at its end.  “You look good in a lion cut, Blossom,” the groomer said, drying her hands.  She bent down to Blossom’s level and looked her straight in the eyeballs.  “I like grooming cats, I really do.  But sometimes I think I’d rather do something less stressful.  Like sell phone cases from a mall cart or serve fish at the restaurant across the way.”

Blossom’s ears did a double-flick.  This was her Meow Moment, her chance to really help others.  Looking into the groomer’s big brown eyes, she meowed with enough assertiveness to plow down a field of mice.  “Do you know Lacy, the server at the fish restaurant?  Anyway, she just lost her grandmother and she’s interested in working here.  Maybe you two could switch jobs?”

The groomer didn’t appear to be listening.  She was looking up toward the ceiling, which was an ugly mess of pipes and fluorescent lighting.  “Or maybe. . .”  The groomer’s eyes flashed.  “I could hire an assistant!”  The groomer grinned proudly, as if she was the brightest bulb in the mall.  Blossom was about to meow aloud how this happy ending was all a result of her misbehaving, but decided she’d done enough assertive meowing for one day.

And while waiting for Mrs. H’s return, she saw Lacy making her way over to Five-Star.  Tomorrow Blossom would let Merle know how much she appreciated his woofs of wisdom regarding gifts.  But today the biggest gift of all came when Mrs. H returned with her many packages from Macy’s One-Day Sale.  Dropping her purchases at Five-Star’s check-in counter, Mrs. H took a step back to take in what she was seeing.  “Blossom, is that you?” she cried.  “You look absolutely stunning.”

Blossom the Cat and the Spray Bottle

Blossom the Cat and the Spray BottleA 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.

Blossom the Cat and the Bird Bath

Blossom the Cat and the Bird BathOne 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.

Blossom the Cat and the Ring

Blossom the Cat and the Ring“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.

Blossom the Cat and the Menorah

Blossom the Cat and the MenorahMitzi the Weimaraner had fur the color of soft ashes.  Mitzi lived across the street and, according to Mrs. H, was a dog that possessed the gracefulness of a gazelle and the same chutzpah and charm as her owners, the Haskvitzes.  The Haskvitzes celebrated Hanukkah and during past holiday seasons, Blossom could never predict exactly when, a menorah would appear in Mitzi’s window.  The menorah had eight candles that were lit one, then two, then three and so on over the course of many nights.  A ninth candle right in the candelabrum’s center burned every single night.  This whole ritual somehow made Blossom’s Christmas complete.

Tonight was Christmas Eve and the Haskvitzes had just lit the first candle on the menorah.  Snowflakes dotted the gray sky.  The combination of the multi-colored Christmas lights running round the Hatchers’ living room window and, across the street, the menorah with its first glowing candle gave Blossom a feeling of comfort and hope for good things to come to Tulip Drive.

That evening Blossom scratched at the door to be let out.  She then raced around to the side of the house where the chain link fence faced the street.  “Happy Hanukkah, Mitzi!” she called.

Mitzi galloped out to the edge of her front yard.  “Shalom, Blossom!” she barked.  “And Merry Christmas to you!  I love, love, love celebrating The Festival of Lights.  But enough kibitzing.  I’m off to beg for latkes and open my first gift.”

“Your first gift?” Blossom meowed.

“Yes, my family gives gifts for each night of Hanukkah.  Tonight is the first night of eight.”

“Eight gifts!” Blossom felt the fur ruffle up her back.  She wouldn’t get eight gifts if the Hatchers won a shopping spree at Petsmart.

Mitzi’s nose pinched up in puzzlement.  “Well, you Christmas cats do all your celebrating on one day.  Surely you get at least eight gifts.”

There was something in the way Mitzi had woofed the word surely that made Blossom casually bat a paw and meow, “Eight gifts?  Try twelve.”  Blossom watched Mitzi let out a surprised yip and run back to her house, leaving Blossom to ponder over the Santa-sized fib she’d just told. Yet, excitement still swirled like snowflakes in the night.  Blossom had heard first-paw from Riley, her best feline friend forever, that Santa was delivering some howlingly good gifts this year.  The thought made her toes absolutely tingle for Christmas morning!

Christmas morning arrived.  With the Hatchers’ home smelling of pancakes, Blossom admired the new cat condo she’d found near the tree.  Santa must have worked half the night getting her gift down the chimney.  The condo, indeed, was top-of-the-line with enclosed sleeping quarters roomy enough to turn around in and spacious enough so that Chip, Blossom’s favorite felt toy mouse, could join her.  The condo had stair steps and perches and carpeting.  A cat could not have asked for more.

After Blossom had placed Chip just so in the cat condo’s shelter and tried out a few new sleeping positions, sprawling out on her back, then sides, she headed to the Hatchers’ living room window.  The second candle had been lit on the Haskvitz menorah.  Outside at dusk the clouds looked heavy enough to burst.  Blossom stood at the fence, waiting for Mitzi to show.  Mitzi shot from her front door and down to the curb, carrying something in her jaws, which she let plop in the powdery snow.

“Tell me about your Christmas, Blossom.  What did Santa bring you?” Mitzi was all eyes and ears.

“Well, I can’t drag it out here, it’s so huge.” Blossom’s whiskers quivered.  “But I got a cat condo.”  Blossom sat back smugly, trying to hold in her boastfulness until her eyes almost crossed and she feared her head might spin.  “And it’s fully carpeted, has two flights of stairs and perches that face south and west.”

“A cat condo!”  Mitzi’s nose twitched.  “Well, mazel tov to you, Blossom!”

Did Mitzi’s nose twitch indicate just a touch of resentment?  Even though that wasn’t really Mitzi’s style, Blossom wanted to think so.  Because the cat condo, which she loved almost as much as Chip, was all she got for Christmas.  “What about your Hanukkah?” Blossom meowed.

“Look, a menorah toy,” Mitzi barked, picking the dropped item out of the snow with her teeth.  Then she let it fall again, placing a paw on it.  “Listen.  It even squeaks.”  Mitzi pressed her paw to the menorah, making it wheeze.    “Sort of schmaltzy but see the rainbow of colors, it’s almost a work of art.”  She picked it up again so Blossom could get a better look.

It was a work of art, thought Blossom.  And would look stunning as an accent in her new cat condo.  The menorah was made of rubber, the really squishy kind.  Each candle was a different color.  There was no description for it other than meow-velous.

“Well, must schlep myself back to the house and schmooze with the cousins,”  Mitzi warbled through clenched teeth and trotted off with her toy.

Blossom scratched at the back door to be let back in, thinking about Mitzi’s menorah toy.  It was awesome but the cat condo was still a much better gift.

The next day when the third candle had been lit, Blossom paced about her cat condo, the new carpet smell curling around her nose like pipe cleaner.  She’d told Mitzi about her cat condo and now she had no more gifts to show off.  But she had to tell some tale to Mitzi.  She hauled her haunches to her toy box, looking for ideas.

As the sky grew grayer, Blossom ran out to the chain link with her old red pom-pom.  Hopefully from a distance Mitzi couldn’t tell that it was older than Blossom was.  “Look at my new pom-pom, Mitzi!  I love pom-poms and this one bounces really far.  I think the yarn has rubber in it.  What did you get?” Blossom asked, even though five plump mice couldn’t distract Blossom from what sat atop Mitzi’s ash-colored head.

“How do you like my dreidel hat?” Mitzi tipped her head from side to side.

Blossom didn’t say so but in that moment she wanted a plush dreidel hat more than she had wanted the menorah squeaky toy.

“Too schlocky?” arfed Mitzi.  But before Blossom could meow well, maybe a tad, Mitzi said, “Well, must go now.  Time to break out the real dreidels.”  Mitzi tossed her dreidel clad head, creating a whir of blues and gold. “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel I made you out of clay,” she yodeled as she pranced off.

Blossom felt the steam puff from her ears.  Mitzi just had to know that her dreidel hat was not one whisker schlocky.  Didn’t she?  In fact, Blossom thought it was perhaps the most beautiful dreidel hat on earth.  One could drown in its plushness.

Blossom’s eyes followed Mitzi as she trotted through the door. What was going on?  Mitzi had always been a good friend.  Now Blossom felt like she was in a one-up competition with Mitzi, which was something, according to Mr. H, that upstanding people did not do.

That evening as Blossom sat staring at Chip in her cat condo and wondering what her next gift to show Mitzi would be, a meower of an idea flashed in her face.  Chip would be the gift.  Mitzi had never seen him, Blossom had never meowed of him.  And Chip really was Blossom’s favorite, even though his once lemon-colored felt was now a dismal shade of Grey Poupon.  And one of his beady eyes dangled from his head.

Next night, the fourth candle had been lit.  Blossom went over in her head her rehearsed fib about Chip being the newest and best cat toy on the market when really, he now resembled something one would pluck from a vacuum cleaner bag.

Mitzi went first.  “Blossom, see my new blue chew toy.  It even has the Star of David on it.”  Mitzi gazed upon her gift with wistful ash-colored eyebrows.  “It’s so beautiful, I don’t know if I should chew it or just admire it.  Oy, what a dilemma.  Let me see what Santa brought you.”

After Blossom described all of Chip’s bells and whistles, which she could not demonstrate because actually there were none, she meowed, “Did I mention my cat condo has a sleeping shelter with an arched entry?”  As Blossom bragged, she felt her ears flicking with envy over the beautiful blue chew toy.  She sure as shellfish knew what she’d do with that blue treasure.  She’d give the Star of David chew toy a place of honor in her cat condo, like people did with crucifixes and vintage posters.  Why did Hanukkah and all its gift giving have to go on for days and days?  It was totally not fair.

And then a Meow Moment sprung from nowhere, giving Blossom that all-too-familiar need to cringe.  Mitzi wasn’t even bragging.  Mitzi was just being Mitzi.  But Blossom was . . . jealous.  Or even worse.  Blossom looked at the gray clouds above, wondering if God was observing all this.  Because the real fly in the butter was that Blossom wasn’t thankful for what she already had.  And, according to Willow, not being grateful was worse bad manners than being jealous.

Next night, the fifth candle had been lit.  The glow of Mitzi’s menorah stretched all the way out onto the snowy street.  The flames created little halos about each candle.  Blossom watched from her window as soft snow fell, blanketing the ground like a white cotton tree skirt.  She sighed.  The scene was truly magical.  But she must head out to see what new trinket Mitzi had received this evening.  Blossom, however, would lie no more.  She was now a cat with a conscience.  She was also a cat out of clever ideas.

Mitzi came a-galloping out her front door, plowing through the fresh snow, leaving paw prints criss-crossing all over the yard.  “Happy holidays,” she barked to Blossom. Mitzi frolicked in her yard, leaping and licking at the air, trying to catch snowflakes with her tongue.

“What gift did you get today?”  Blossom didn’t really want to know.  And yet she did.

“This snow is better than opening gifts!” Mitzi howled, then stopped short as if she’d burnt her tongue or stubbed a toe.  Her mug turned serious as she trotted to the edge of her yard and peered across the street.  “Blossom, do you know what I love most about this time of year?”

“Opening gifts for eight days straight?” Blossom meowed.

“No, you silly mensch!” Mitzi crowed, then turned her nose to the snow-filled sky as if deep in thought.  “I love looking out my window at night and seeing the colored lights all a-twinkle on your house and in your trees.  I think that’s what Heaven must look like.”

Blossom felt the white flakes light on her back.  The envy and ill feelings tightening her ears to knots fell away like loose tree tinsel.  “I feel the same way when I look out my window and see your menorah,” she purred.

Blossom the Cat Sings a Song

Blossom the Cat Sings a SongSometimes a song comes along that is so inspiring, one can’t help but howl about it. For Blossom, that song was Eye of the Tiger, which she first laid ears to during a rerun of the movie Rocky III. Mr. H was such a fan of watching old Rocky movies that Mrs. H had taken up watercolor painting to avoid the boredom of having to sit through another boxing match. But, Blossom, with a furry ear for music, soon had all the lyrics down. At that point, she began serenading the Hatchers during dinner.

“And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eyeeeeeeeeee of the tiger.”

It was Blossom giving her all while meowing the word eyeeeeeeeeee that made Mrs. H roll her eyeballs and get up from the table.

Willow turned concerned eyebrows at Blossom. “Blossom, what’s the matter? Are you sick?”

Blossom’s vocal stylings swiftly earned her time-outs in the basement. Going forth, she decided to take her music into the Hatchers’ back yard. After all, the cardinals and chickadees loved to sing. She would fit right in. Under the apple tree, Blossom crooned, her heart swelling with the last line of her beloved song.

“And he’s watching us all with the eyeeeeeeeeee of the tiger.” Singing salamanders, that single line made Blossom feel like a tiger.

“Blossom?” Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever, was at the chain link fence that separated their yards. “Are you OK? You sound kind of sick, if you know what I mean.”

Merle, the neighbor bulldog on the other side of the fence, did a little hop. “Blossom sounded like she yacked on a toad,” he whispered to Riley.

No amount of whispering could escape Blossom’s musical ears. Yacked on a toad. Riley and Merle wouldn’t know fine singing if it bit them on the nose. “I’m practicing my favorite song,” Blossom said. “I’m going to be a great singer someday.”

But singing wasn’t enough for Blossom. Going deeper into the woods of the Hatchers’ back yard, so deep that Riley and Merle couldn’t spy on her, Blossom sat back on her haunches. She began roaring her favorite song but put up her paws as well, just like Rocky, and started jabbing the air. Punch. Punch, punch, punch. Her paws punched the air, their rhythm in perfect time with the song’s guitar chords playing in her head. Blossom batted her paws this way and that. She rose up on hind legs and hopped about, displaying her fancy footwork.

Meow-stro Blossom continued conducting concerts for all the woodland creatures in the Hatchers’ back yard.

“What’s up with all the howling?” cawed a crow.

Now what would a crow know about good singing? “Howling?” Blossom howled. “I’m not howling. I’m singing Eye of the Tiger.”

The song’s melody made her whiskers quiver. The lyrics left her paws punching right, left, right, left. But the last line of the chorus, the crescendo that led up to the all-important eyeeeeeeeee, gave Blossom a most meow-velous feeling of empowerment. This feeling of really being a tiger.

Blossom the Tiger. She no longer pictured Rocky Balboa performing these stunts. It was she, Blossom the Tiger, running through the alley of Tulip Drive. Punch. Punch, punch, punch. Taking a swing at a lady bug attached to a blade of grass. Punch. Punch, punch, punch. Sprinting laps through the neighborhood, dog at her side. Maybe Merle could trot along?

Blossom yowled the words, “And he’s watching us all with the eyeeeeeeeeee of the tiger.” The tiger in her could not be leashed. She purred the words and punched the air. A cat on fire. Splat! Warm bird poop slid down Blossom’s face, matting the fur between her eyes. She tilted her head back to see a robin perched up above.

“Enough already,” it chirped.

“Blossom, are you OK out there?” Riley called from his yard.

The following evening Blossom waited until she saw that Riley and Merle had gone back in their houses. She then raced to the back door, scratching at it until Willow let her out.

Crossing the patio, passing beneath the apple tree, into the soft, green grass, she trotted. The dense woods that lined the Hatchers’ back yard were thick with croaking frogs and trilling finches. Blossom situated herself among the columbine and day lilies, thick as swamp grass. Who knew what lived within them? An audience, that’s who.

She opened her mouth to perform but a sound came to her ears she could not identify. Right there in the woods with her. What? What was that horrible racket, its voice scratchy as toenails on brick? And then she spotted the awful singer in the Hatchers’ catalpa tree, near the very back of the lot. It was a squirrel, screeching for all he was worth. The same squirrel, in fact, that often made himself at home on the Hatchers’ window ledge, glaring in at them as they watched TV. Blossom watched the chatter pour from his mug.

“Getting strong now
Won’t be long now”

The squirrel zipped up the tree, then darted down just as fast. Up, down. Up, down. Blossom’s neck got sore just trying to keep up with him. “Excuse me,” she finally cried. “This is my back yard on Tulip Drive and you need to do whatever you’re doing somewhere else.”

The squirrel only blinked at Blossom and continued his ritual. Up, down. Up, down, all the while warbling,

“Gonna fly now
Flying high now”

There was something familiar about his babble and then it hit Blossom like a bag of Milkbones. He was singing the theme song to the first-ever Rocky movie. Yes, she recalled even Mr. H in his off-key yelping, Gonna fly now, touch the sky now. And he sang so loud Mrs. H was forced to politely close the door to her craft room so she could paint her watercolors in peace.

Blossom found her head swaying back and forth to the squirrel music. This song wasn’t as catchy as Eye of the Tiger, but was inspiring all the same. Maybe if she sang along, he’d at least squeak in the proper key.

Blossom sucked in breath and belted out the meows, imagining it was she flying up all those steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Gonna fly now. Flying high now.” The woods rang with Blossom’s beautiful notes.

“You sing terrible,” hollered a bluejay.

“Take singing lessons,” tweeted a falsetto wren.

Blossom could only sigh. Fame never came easy for anyone. After all, it took Rocky five movies to get there.




Blossom the Cat Goes to the Polls

Blossom the Cat Goes to the PollsThe 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.