Blossom 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.