Blossom the Cat Holds a Séance

Blossom the Cat Holds a Seance

Willow was hosting a Halloween party for a few friends, including Lilly who brought along Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever.  Strings of mini pumpkin lights and carved jack-o-lanterns adorned the Hatchers’ dimly lit basement.  A card table and folding chairs had been set up with a crystal ball set in its center.  Willow was dressed in a long, flowy dress, hoop earrings and beautiful jeweled turban.

The party was to start with a séance. The guests seated themselves around the table and Willow made them close their eyes.  Blossom and Riley crouched in a corner, watching as she waved her hands over the crystal ball.   “Squiggle, jiggle, wormy wiggle,” she said in a ghostly voice.  “Spirits of the past, move among us.”

The basement was silent but outside the October wind swirled about, causing tree limbs to brush against the house.  Blossom’s fur ruffled as the wind called, “Ooooooooooooo.”

A small voice answered from the shadows above. “Willowwwwwwwwww!  Is that you?”

Willow’s friends opened their eyes, looking up and around.

“It’s a trick,” said one.

Another friend didn’t sound so sure.  “Willow, let’s not do this.”

Lilly got the giggles but then stopped short.  “I think I felt something touch my leg.”

Riley eyed the shadows on the walls made long by all the twinkle lights.  His back arched.  His ears pricked.

“Willowwwwwwwwwww, I’m here,” said the voice again.  “Look.  Can’t you seeeeeee me?”

The lights flickered, making Riley shoot from the floor, howling like his tail had been pulled.  The girls screamed, chairs scraped and they stampeded to the stairway, thundering up the steps.  Even Willow freaked out, screaming like she’d seen a skeleton.

Riley had wedged himself into a bookshelf, tail wrapped over his face.

“It’s OK, Riley.”  Blossom had watched Willow plan this all out.  “That was Mr. H calling from the clothes chute.”

“I thought it was a ghost!” Riley slinked out, fur standing straight up.

With the girls upstairs, Blossom hopped up into one of the chairs.  Normally she hated the basement with all its shadows and hiding places.  But tonight with all the orangey glowing pumpkins it felt safe.

“Riley,” said Blossom.  “Let’s have a séance!”

“I don’t know,” Riley said.  “Isn’t a séance to summon the dead?  Who do we know?”

Blossom didn’t know but she wanted to put her paws on the crystal ball and chant like a fortune teller.  Standing on hind legs, front paws on the table, she called down to Riley.  “Come on, it’s just for fun!  Please?”

“What if we conjure up something scary?” Riley jumped up.

“All Willow conjured up was Mr. H.”  Riley was not going to party poop on her spirit summoning.    “Now close your eyes, Riley, and I’ll begin.”  Blossom mustered up her fortune teller voice.  “Oodle, poodle, tuna noodle.  Calling all spirits from Tulip Drive.”

They sat in silence but for the wind whistling in the night.  “Ooooooooooooo!”  Dead leaves skittered about in the window wells.

And then a tiny voice from above called, “Blossommmmmmmmm!  Is that you?”

Blossom’s eyes popped open as did Riley’s.  Her eyes scanned the rafters.

“That doesn’t sound like Mr. H, if you know what I mean.”  Riley’s eyes gleamed like white gumballs.

“Blossommmmmm!” the voice called again.

Who could it be? Blossom ticked off names of dead ones in her brain, which totaled only one.  “Grandma?  Is that you, Grandma Catalina?”

Blossom turned to Riley.  “Grandma Catalina was my favorite.  Grandma was so tiny that at death they buried her in a shoebox, but Mama said she lived each of her nine lives like a tiger!”

“How come your Grandma never visits you when you’re stuck down here on one of your time-outs?” Riley said.

Blossom gave Riley the stink-eye, returning her attention to the crystal ball.   “Grandma?”

“Yes, Blossom.  This is your Grandma Catalina,” the voice said.  “Blossom, I’ll let you in on a little secret.”

Blossom’s paws gripped the crystal ball.  She scanned the ceiling, hoping to see Grandma’s ghost floating overhead.  “What, Grandma?”

“Blossom,” said Grandma, or Grandma’s spirit, Grandma-spirit, whatever.  “You were always my favorite.”

Blossom felt a glow spread from ears to toes.  She turned to Riley, “I knew it!” she whispered.  “I always knew I was Grandma’s favorite.”

Riley opened his mouth but then shut it again.

“Blossom can you do me a favor?” the grandma-spirit went on.

“Yes, Grandma!” Blossom cried.  “I’ll do anything for you!”

“Listen closely, Blossom,” said Grandma’s spirit.  “I’ve been dead for sooooooo long, you know I never get to eat anything in my shoebox.  I’d really like a piece of Swiss cheese.  There’s a nice wedge of Swiss on Willow’s party table.  Bring that to me!”

“Whoa!” said Riley.  “Willow might not like that, Blossom, if you know what I mean.”

“Who asked you?”  Grandma’s spirit voice turned nasty.

Blossom could only shrug.  Maybe Grandma was cranky from all those years cooped up in a shoebox.  “I’ll be right back,” Blossom called.  “Don’t go anywhere.”  With that she scrambled upstairs, Riley on her heels.

The wedge of cheese, surrounded by crackers, sat on a wooden tray on the table.  The girls were busy playing a Princess Patty Melt board game.

Blossom crept into a chair and snaked her front leg along the table.  Curling her paw around the cheese, she shuffled it to the floor where it thudded softly and rolled over once.

“Sorry, Willow,” Blossom said under her breath.  “But this is for Grandma who hasn’t eaten in centuries.”  Then clutching the wedge in her jaws, she flew downstairs, jumped into the chair, and placed the cheese on the table next to the crystal ball.  Riley hopped into an adjacent chair.

“Here’s the cheese, Grandma,” Blossom said, paws once again on the crystal ball.

“Bless you, Blossom,” said Grandma’s spirit.  “Now there’s just one more thing you need to do for me.”

“Yes, Grandma?” Blossom was all ears.

“Blossom, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there,” Grandma’s spirit called.  “You need to be one tough biscuit!”

“OK, Grandma,” said Blossom.  “I will.  I promise.”

“Show me how tough you can be.”

Blossom blinked.  “How?”

“Show me how hard you can squeeze Riley’s nose.”

What?” Blossom looked at Riley, his eyes were slit like a snake’s.

“Go on, do it for Grandma!”

Blossom put her paw over Riley’s nose and squeezed as best she could.

“Ow!” Riley jumped back, pawing at his nose and glaring at Blossom.  “You didn’t have to squeeze so hard.”

“Now Riley,” commanded Grandma.  “Do the same for Blossom.  You need to be tough too.”

“Huh?” Blossom grumbled at the crystal ball.

Riley squeezed Blossom’s nose, twisting it at the same time.

“Riley!  I didn’t squeeze your nose that hard!” Blossom meowed.

“Now both of you skedaddle upstairs!” roared Grandma.  “You must escape.  I hear a kennel full of spirits rolling in down here!”

Suddenly the lights went out, leaving the basement black except for the lit jack-o-lanterns with their sharp teeth.  Upstairs, the girls screamed.  Blossom and Riley flew up the steps as if snapping lobsters were on their tails.

In the living room, Mrs. H was going around with an automatic lighter, clicking light into any candles they had.

“Calm down,” Mr. H was trying to settle the noisy girls.  “The power just went out.”

And then like magic, the power flicked back on.

“The power went off and on and on Halloween,” Blossom cried.  “Do you think those spirits turned it off and Grandma made them turn it back on?” Blossom’s fur felt all tingly.  “Riley, I’m going to go ask Grandma.  After all, I was her favorite grand kitten!”  Blossom scampered off before Riley could object.

Halfway down the stairs leading into the basement Blossom and Riley stopped in their tracks.  There on the card table with the crystal ball and Swiss cheese was a mouse.  The mouse was on his back, rolling around on the table, laughing in high pitched squeaks.  At one point he laughed so hard he gave himself the hiccups.  Finally his grating hiccup-squeaks turned to sighs.  He got up and took a bite of cheese.

Blossom wasn’t positive, but it almost sounded like the mouse said, “Stupid cats,” in between munches.

Blossom and Riley stared at each other.  Riley’s mug hung open so wide Blossom could count most of his incisors.  Blossom felt like her head had been run over by a Dyson upright.

“We’ve been bamboozled by a mouse,” said Riley.

“Grandma would roll over in her shoebox if she knew how stupid I’ve been,” Blossom said.  “I stole Willow’s party cheese and treated you like a bug butt.”  She waited for Riley to disagree but he didn’t.

They watched as the mouse, back turned to them, nibbled away at the cheese, gobbling it up as if the night’s high jinks had never occurred.

Blossom and Riley side-eyed each other.  Riley was the first to speak.  “Hey Blossom, care for some cheese with your mouse?”

“That would be awesome,” said Blossom as they prepared to pounce.

Blossom the Cat Visits an Apple Orchard

Blossom Visits an Apple Orchard

Blossom loved autumn, riding in the country under a gray sky, decaying leaves all around and apple scent in the air.  She had just had her annual check-up with Dr. Moss and was in her cat carrier in the back seat of the Hatchers’ car.  Mrs. Hatcher and Willow decided to make a side trip to The Apple Farm before returning home.

They turned onto the dirt road leading up to The Apple Farm.  The parking lot was full so Mrs. H had to park on the side of the road.  The tires crunched over the gravel before rolling to a stop.  Blossom expected her carrier to slide to the floor, the car felt to be sitting at a definite downward slant.

“Whoa, this hill is steep.  It’s like being at the top of a roller coaster and looking down!” said Willow.  “Did you put on the emergency brake, Mom?”

“Oh Willow, people don’t use emergency brakes anymore,” Mrs. H said, getting out of the car.

Mrs. H must have left her thinking cap at home.  Mr. H always used the emergency brake.  Blossom wasn’t sure if he used it because he enjoyed the annoying scritch sound it made or because he had read the drivers manual front to back and did everything it told him to do.

“We’ll be right back, Blossom.”  Willow had no sooner shut the car door when Blossom heard her say, “Look Mom, isn’t that Emily and her new baby?”

Mrs. Hatcher’s agreeable squeal was all it took for Blossom to want to see what she could not.  Their footsteps crunched off down the path.

Blossom cried, “Wait, what about me?  Don’t leave me locked up!”   She repeatedly pawed at the carrier’s door, trying to unhinge the latch which finally popped, springing the door wide.

Blossom leaped into the driver’s seat, nose to the window.  Mrs. H and Willow were already at a table with apple-filled baskets, cooing over a baby in a stroller.  Blossom could not understand what was so cute about a baby.  Cats were way cuter.  Babies had little red wrinkled faces and cried if one didn’t constantly jiggle them.

A woman trotted past the car.  Out of her enormous shoulder bag, peered a Yorkie with hair bows.  The Yorkie yapped at Blossom.  “I get to go to The Apple Farm!”

Blossom grumbled and stared out the window ahead, taking in all the apple tables and surrounding hills and countryside that she could only experience behind a windshield.  Plus the steering wheel was blocking her view and that made her wonder what it was like to drive.  She stood on hind legs, paws pressed upon the wheel, trying to turn it from side to side.  A car zoomed by with a black lab, head out the window, tongue wagging.

“Look at me!”  Blossom boasted.  “I’m driving a car!”

Then a car pulled up on the opposite side of the road.  A family of four got out, slamming their doors, leaving their miniature poodle in the back seat.  They’d left the window partially rolled down.

“I’m driving my car!”  Blossom called to the poodle.  She wished she knew how to honk the horn.

“You don’t have your seatbelt on,” yodeled the poodle.

Seatbelt?  Blossom tossed her paw in the poodle’s direction.  “I don’t need one, I’m such a good driver.”

Blossom was curious about the big black stick situated between the front car seats and the column of letters next to it.  P R N D.  The stick had what looked like a black dog nose on its side and when she touched it, she discovered the nose could be pushed in.  So she pushed it in, feeling the stick move beneath her paw.  Her whiskers quivered as the stick moved out of the P slot, thunked past R and settled into the N position.

She’d moved the stick from P to N!  Blossom just had to share her smartness.  “My family’s down at The Apple Farm,” she bragged to the poodle.  “When they return, I’m driving them home!”  Her head felt big like her brains were dancing but, at the same time, her stomach felt itchy the way it did when the car was moving. Then she realized the car was moving.  Down the hill.  At first slowly but then it picked up its clip.

“That’s bad manners to drive your car into an apple orchard!” the poodle barked.

Blossom didn’t know what to do so she kept her paws on the wheel.  Luckily there were no cars in her path.  However, she was headed toward a table where two girls were dishing up apple sundaes.  Maybe they’d know how to stop the car, if they looked up before she ran over them.

“You’re going to crash into the apples!”  The poodle was somersaulting about in his car, racing front to back and front again, as Blossom rolled past him.

Willow and Mrs. H were at a stand on the other side, buying apple donuts.  A tractor had just pulled up to the main building.  Kids and parents hopped off the attached trailer, some carrying pumpkins they’d picked from the patch.  The sundae makers were spraying squiggly whipped cream on their creations, clueless that a car was about to take out their table.

“Excuse me!  I need to drive my car into The Apple Farm!”  Blossom meowed, really wishing she could honk the horn or at least alert the sundae makers to lay flat so she could run over them.  She also wished the day wasn’t such a gray one because she suspected she might spend the rest of it in the Hatchers’ dismal basement.

As the car approached the apple sundae table, Blossom faintly heard the poodle back up the hill.  “You should have used your emergency braaaaaaaaaaake!”

The car was really moving now, barreling actually.  People were screaming and clamoring to get out of the way.  Blossom recognized Emily’s baby, hollering its wrinkled red head off.  How could anyone say that was cute?  The car was about to crash and Blossom was meowless.

The car clunked sharply into the wooden table holding the sundaes.  Blossom felt her head hit the ceiling before she landed on top of the steering wheel.  The sundae makers scrambled aside, sprinting off to safety.  Clumps of whipped cream speckled the windshield, then ran down, leaving gauzy streaks.  Plastic dishes and spoons clattered to the ground.  The sundae table tumbled into another table with glass jars of cider and decorative wooden apple signs, neatly on display.  Blossom’s ears flattened at the shower of shattering glass.  One apple sign clacked into another and the rest went down like dominoes.  Next went the table with the apple baskets.  Blossom had never seen so many apples roll in so many directions.

There stood Mrs. H and Willow, shock plastered across their faces.  Had they seen Blossom at the wheel?  Hopefully not.  All she could think was that she had two whiskers to make it back into her cat carrier!  Blossom flung herself into the back seat, heart deflating to find the carrier had fallen to the floor, its door latched shut.  Her one chance for survival smashed like the apples.

Mrs. H and Willow were flying toward the car, eyes wide like pit bulls were after them.

Then Blossom’s brain had a flash more brilliant than fish-flavored toothpaste.  She flipped over on her back, letting her legs sprawl all over the place.  She imagined she was in a pit with scorpions, hoping the terror of that thought would translate itself across her face.

“Oh goodness!”  Mrs. H yanked the car door open, hand over her heart.

“Blossom, are you all right?”  Willow said, near tears, reaching in to grab her.

Blossom sighed, hoping her eyes conveyed torment, and let out her most pitiful mew.  “Mowwwwwwwww!”

“Oh, Blossom, poor kitty!”  Willow held Blossom tight and patted her back.  “Don’t worry.  Everything’s OK now.”

“I’ll never forgive myself for not using that emergency brake,” Mrs. H scolded herself.

Blossom tucked her nose into Willow’s armpit, afraid the relieved look on her mug might blow her cover.  Someone, indeed, had been watching over her on this gray day.  How often did a piece of car equipment save one’s tail?

Blossom said a little prayer of thanks for being saved by the emergency brake.  Or lack of.

 

Blossom the Cat and the Cake

Blossom and the Cake

Lester Locket had been one of the oldest charter members of the church the Hatchers attended.  He had also been an avid Monopoly player.

Mrs. Hatcher was not a great cake baker by nature.  So perhaps it was because she too was fond of playing Monopoly, she decided to make her Chocolate Surprise Bundt Cake for Lester Locket’s funeral.  The batter-filled Bundt pan sat on the kitchen counter, waiting while the oven preheated.

Blossom studied the cake from her favorite place, the top of the refrigerator. The batter was a boring brown. The surprise inside was only fudge.  Big whoop.  Nothing tasty like liver pate or salmon mousse.

Catching an out-of-place blob from the corner of her eye, Blossom glanced back at the empty space above one of the cupboards to see a mouse.  Excitement loomed on the horizon.

“Excuse me,” Blossom said to the mouse.  “This is my kitchen on Tulip Drive.  You don’t belong here.”

The mouse said nothing and, upon closer inspection, Blossom realized the mouse was dead.  This confirmed what Blossom already knew, that mice were so lazy they didn’t care if they spent eternity with the worms or the dust bunnies.  With that, Blossom reached up, intending to slap the dead mouse to the floor so she could swipe his corpse under the fridge or somewhere where no one had to look at him.

The mouse should have just landed on the floor but, instead, his stiff little body smacked the corner of the toaster and bounced into the Bundt pan.  Blossom watched in horror as the batter consumed his body.  For a moment his long tail protruded from the gooey chocolate but then that too disappeared.  And before Blossom could collect her thoughts, which were presently more scrambled than eggs, Mrs. H blew into the kitchen and put the cake in the oven.

Blossom’s thoughts whirled about like berries in a blender.  She’d normally keep a tight mug after flipping a mouse onto the floor, but into a cake!  It would be very bad manners to bring a mouse infested cake to poor Lester’s funeral!

Blossom’s brain raced on.  And what if the cake was sliced just so, that the mouse was all in one slice.  And what if one funeral attender got that piece and speared the mouse with his fork?  And what if that same funeral attender screamed in fear the way Mrs. H might do upon spearing a mouse?  There was the possibility they might die of fright.  And then Pastor Dan would have to perform a second funeral right in the middle of Lester’s funeral!

Willow was beating powdered sugar in a bowl to make the cake’s glaze.  Sometime into the baking, Mrs. H commented, “That cake smells funny.”

Willow crinkled her nose.  “It smells like meatloaf.”

Blossom could be silent no longer.  From her place atop the fridge she cried, “It is roast mouse you smell.”

Mrs. H stared at Blossom as if she’d grown horns.

Willow said, “See, Blossom thinks it smells like meatloaf too.”

“That’s impossible.”  Mrs. H wrenched the cake from the oven, making the oven rack screech.  All the while she kept sniffing like a rabbit and wrinkling her nose.

After the cake had cooled a bit, Mrs. H inverted the Bundt pan onto a cake plate. “Do you think the chocolate could have been old?”

“I don’t think chocolate goes bad, Mom,” Willow said as she drizzled the glaze over the top, her mouth screwing-up the way it might if she were trying to solve a math problem.  “Did you add bacon grease to it or something?”

“No!”  The tone in Mrs. Hatcher’s voice suggested they all zip their lips but Blossom could not be silent.

She leaped onto the kitchen table, looking at Willow and then Mrs. H and meowed in her loudest.  “There’s a mouse in this cake!”  Why could humans not at least lip read?  Cats could.

“Are you sick, Blossom?”  Willow scrunched her forehead.

“Get down from the table this minute or I’m putting you in the basement!”  Mrs. Hatcher’s puckered chin meant a meltdown was in the making.

Blossom thumped to the floor and huffed off to a corner.  That stupid mouse.  Any other rodent on the planet would have clunked to the floor, not bounced off a toaster and landed in a Bundt pan.

Chocolate Surprise Bundt Cake.  Flipping fishsticks, if anyone at the funeral ate that cake, they sure would get a surprise.  She owed it to Lester Locket and all the Monopoly players and the funeral attendees to keep that cake from joining the other funeral goodies.  But how?

Blossom donned her thinking cap.  No. 1, she could knock the cake to the floor.  But the cake plate would break and it had been a Christmas gift from Willow.  No. 2, she could eat a piece out of it and really make Mrs. H hit the ceiling.  But she didn’t want to risk biting into that mouse either.  She shuddered a bit at the thought.  Who knew how long he’d been dead?  A normal mouse would at least have made sure it was fresh when it died.  Blossom only had one option.

Mrs. H was in the closet getting her jacket.  Blossom really, really didn’t want to get a time-out in the basement.  But she was doing it for the good of all.  Lester Locket, Monopoly player and charter member of the church, would have a grand, mouse-free funeral.  And someday when it was Blossom’s turn to trot across the Rainbow Bridge, Lester might be there to thank her for making his funeral one meower of a good time.

Blossom jumped onto the table, gracefully stepped into the Bundt cake’s center and lay her whole furry body over it, glaze and all, and waited for Mrs. H to come fetch the cake.

* * *

Later that day, Blossom pondered over whether Lester Locket’s funeral was a success.  She did this pondering from her not so favorite spot, the step next to the bottom stair step leading into the basement.  Hopefully by the time Lester’s funeral concluded, Mrs. H would return with her empty cake plate and a pawful of thank-yous for having contributed her mini blonde brownies, purchased from Cub Foods.  Mrs. H would never know that in the trash, along with a Bundt cake with cat fur all over it, there was also a baked mouse.  And she’d open the door to the basement, letting Blossom back into the family.

Blossom the Cat Gets Blessed

Blossom the Cat Gets Blessed

St. Francis of Assisi was known as the patron saint of animals.  Every October, to honor the Feast of St. Francis, a Blessing of the Animals was held at the Hatchers’ church.  Blossom looked forward to this occasion, considering it a fresh start and opportunity to sweep her past poor decisions under the rug.

Pastor Dan officiated at this ritual, usually held on the lawn of the church.  However, this particular Sunday it was raining cats and dogs and the ceremony was moved to the sanctuary.  The line of pets on leashes, or in their owners’ arms, went down the aisle and out the door.  When it was Blossom’s turn to be blessed, Willow held her near the baptismal font.

Blossom looked down at the font.  It was made of very heavy sculpted clear glass in a deep shade of robin egg.  There was enough holy water in it that if Blossom could stand in it, it would come up to her knees.  Of course, she would never stand in a baptismal font.  Pastor Dan dipped his fingertips into the water and sprinkled it across Blossom’s head in almost the same place Willow always scratched her.  Blossom shut her eyes tight as the droplets lighted on her forehead, eyes and nose.

Pastor Dan bent his head close to Blossom and whispered, “You are blessed, animal of God.”

Blossom felt glowing and there was maybe just the slightest vibration ruffling through her fur, like tall grass shimmering in the sun.  She couldn’t help but wonder, is this what it felt like to turn holy?  Willow once told Blossom that Jesus had walked on water because he was holy.

When much of the congregation had been blessed and some owners and their pets had actually filed out, others stayed behind to chat.  Willow and Blossom were making their way around those in the remaining line when the unthinkable happened.  A gray and white schnauzer, Blossom had never seen before, pooped on one of the steps leading up to the altar.

Sheba, the glamour kitten who lived several houses away from Blossom, was nearby and leaped from her owner’s arms, landing in one of the pews.  “Ew!  I just had my nails polished!  Where on earth is the janitor?”  She gave the schnauzer a catty look and jumped to the floor.  She continued huffing, “Dogs!” as if they were lower life than slugs.

Willow, always the good little helper, called, “Pastor Dan, I’ll clean it up!”  Willow set Blossom down and pointed a finger at her. “Blossom.  Stay.  Right.  There.” Then she scurried up the aisle to get some cleaning supplies.  Pastor Dan was doing the final blessing of a hamster.

Staying right there and doing nothing, Blossom couldn’t help but be drawn to the baptismal font, no longer in use.  It was calling to her like a grilled cheese sandwich.  Blossom tried picturing in her brain what it would look like, Jesus walking on water.  For a cat to walk on water and not get wet, well that truly would be a miracle.  When no one was looking, perhaps she could do a quick dip in the font.  Because of her holy toes, upon contact wouldn’t the water turn rubbery, like Jell-O?  She’d probably bounce right out.  She trotted over to the font and stood beneath it, her furry head all warm and glowing with the blessing she’d just received.

Then Blossom took a tremendous leap into the baptismal font, claws out and ready to bounce, trampoline-style.  Instead, the water splashed up and around her, cold and wet and smelling of something Blossom couldn’t place but it conjured up images of Mrs. H scouring the bathtub.  And because she did not land dead center on the pedestal but off to one side, her weight caused the font to groan as it tipped.  Blossom danced about the font, trying to regain her balance.  And luckily the font righted itself but not before water sloshed to the floor, flowing in all directions, spilling down the altar steps.  A couple cats on the floor pranced to escape their paws getting soaked.  Needing to exit herself, Blossom pushed off from the font’s rim, sailed into space but after landing, skidded into a wrought iron fixture that held tea candles.  The fixture wobbled, then crashed to the floor.  There were barks of fear, meows of horror.

“My Popping Pink polish can’t get wet for three hours!” cried Sheba, hopping one foot at a time like a pointer maneuvering through an obstacle course.

And then the schnauzer, the one who’d pooped out in public, barked, “Water fight!”

Dogs leaped from their owners’ arms, bounding into the water, splashing about.  Blossom thought her eyes would pop when she saw one little Chihuahua splash, sniff and lift his leg on an altar floral arrangement.

A few dogs were dancing in the puddles, woofing, “Splish, splash!”

Sheba screwed up her furry face and slit her eyes at Blossom.  “Look what you’ve done. You didn’t deserve to be blessed!”

Willow was heading back with paper towels and stopped in her tracks at the chaotic scene.  Many of the animals had ceased frolicking and stared at Blossom.

Blossom didn’t know what to do so she darted behind the altar, hoping God wouldn’t notice her if he decided to pay Pastor Dan’s church a visit.  She peeked out to see Willow finishing up with the dog doo-doo clean-up.  Owners had retrieved their pets and gotten them under control.  But her eyes met Sheba’s for a moment.  Sheba tossed her head and pointed her nose skyward, dismissing Blossom.

Blossom felt warm but not in a good way.  She really wished Sheba had not been in the church to witness her not walking on water.

A goat in the crowd bleated, “Jumping into a baptismal font is really bad manners.”

Blossom gulped.

A doberman barked importantly, “Now they’ll have to go all the way up to Heaven to get more water.”

From her hiding spot, Blossom saw a Scottish terrier trot into the crowd of animals and arfed, “We should try to forgive this cat that messed up.”

“I think not!” whined Sheba.  “My diamond collar got wet because of her!”

Willow’s heals clipped up the altar steps.  She stood over Blossom who huddled behind it like a cornered mouse.  Blossom had not stayed right there.  She’d failed Willow.  She was a disgrace to God and her fellow pets.  Her one chance at holiness and being good now down the chute like dirty litter.   All because she thought she was as talented as Jesus.

Willow bent down and scooped Blossom up.  She held her tight and rubbed her forehead, the same place where the holy water had been.  “Poor Blossom,” she said.  “At least you didn’t poop on the floor.  But I’m sure glad Mom wasn’t here.”

Willow walked over to Pastor Dan.  “I’m sorry for all this, Pastor Dan.  I should have never left Blossom alone.  She is kind of mischievous.”

Blossom wanted to grow tiny and disappear.

“Don’t worry,” said Pastor Dan.  “It’s best for this ceremony to be held outside.  It’s too small of a space for all these animals.”  He patted Blossom on the head and said, “You’re a good kitty.  At least you didn’t poop on the floor.”

Blossom’s heart swelled at Pastor Dan’s compliment.  It was like a message from God.   From here on out, she vowed she’d be a good Christian cat.  She saw Sheba and her owner leaving the sanctuary.  Maybe if she prayed more often, God would tell her to back off the next time she thought about putting her paws where they didn’t belong.

“Well Blossom still needs to apologize,” Willow said, holding Blossom out.  “Go ahead, Blossom, say you’re sorry.”

Pastor Dan might be holy but he still wouldn’t understand an apology from a cat.  So Blossom licked his hand instead.

Pastor Dan patted Blossom on the head.  She’d tucked her head down but looked up at him.  Pastor Dan gave her a wink and said, “You’re still blessed.”

As Willow and Blossom waited under the roof at the church entrance for Mrs. H to come pick them up, Blossom looked out into the parking lot at the rain still coming down in sheets.  Even though she was blessed, it hurt to think that maybe Sheba was a better cat because she didn’t attempt walking on water but was content to live life with painted nails and a diamond collar.   But the more Blossom thought about it, the more she realized she may have been afraid of what God thought of her but maybe even more afraid of what Sheba thought.  And that made about as much sense as putting a dog collar on a gerbil.  If Riley, her best feline friend forever, had been at the church, he wouldn’t have said those mean things.

Life could be confusing.  But even though she caused a brawl in God’s house, Pastor Dan was OK with that and had even said she could hang on to her blessing.  So that gave a cat something to live up to.

 

Blossom the Cat Goes to the Movies

Blossom Goes to the Movies

Mr. and Mrs. Hatcher were taking Willow out to Buca for dinner and then to a Pixar film.  Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever, was staying at the Hatchers’ home overnight so his family could attend an out-of-town wedding.

It had happened by accident, but Blossom recently stumbled over the kitchen’s 15-inch flat screen’s remote while on a mission to find some little snack on the countertop.  Her toe had clumsily pressed the remote’s top button, turning the TV on.  She’d figured how the arrowed buttons switched channels and, as fate would have it, she’d come upon a program about searing salmon filets.

Blossom almost turned inside out waiting for her family to leave, so she could demonstrate her flat screen skills for Riley.  This was one of the smartest things she’d ever discovered.  She felt her furry head growing bigger as she importantly pressed the remote’s buttons.  The programs flipped by.  Wheel of Fortune, Nickelodeon, DIY.  Where did the food channel go?  Hmm.

Riley looked on patiently.  “We could be watching On Demand, if you know what I mean.”

Blossom felt her Meow Moment folding.  “I know there’s a culinary fish show out there somewhere.”  She was trying her best not to be catty as she knew it was bad manners and Riley was a sleepover guest.

“Let me try.”  Riley spread his big toes over the remote and ground his footpad into the big red button in the middle.  Something flashed on the screen.  “See, look at the TV now.”  It was his turn to sound a bit show-offy.

Neither of them knew how to read but there were little pictures next to each title listed.  Blossom recognized the tawny colored cat wearing a red and yellow cape in one of them.   “Captain Cat! Let’s watch Captain Cat!”

Riley hit the remote’s button labeled OK and, just like that, the movie rolled.  They sat back on the tiled floor and stared up at the screen.  Blossom had seen this Captain Cat movie before with Willow.

When the movie finished, Blossom crowed, “I want to see another!”  This On Demand was the greatest invention since Fancy Feast Medleys.  They needed a snack to go with their movie viewing.  Yesterday in the pantry, hadn’t she spotted that cheese that squiggled from a can?

Riley hit the next Captain Cat title.  “This Captain Cat movie is brand new.  You can only watch it if you hit the RENT or BUY button.”  He looked at Blossom like they were about to pull buttons from a couch.  “At my house we can only watch two RENT movies in a week.”

Blossom knew her family only watched FREE movies but she really, really, really wanted to see another Captain Cat movie.  “Maybe if we only watch the beginning and turn it off, it will still be FREE.”  She looked at Riley for agreement.

That sounds logical, if you know what I mean,” said Riley.

Blossom and Riley watched the whole movie.

“That Captain Cat is a hoot,” hollered Blossom, rolling around on the floor.  It was definitely time for some squiggle cheese.

After that movie ended, Blossom said, “So what should we watch now?” There were no more Captain Cat flicks.

Riley tapped the up arrow, advancing more titles.  “Stop!”  Blossom cried.  She couldn’t spell but she did know the word CAT and had seen it flash by.  Riley tapped the down arrow.

“There it is!  There it is!”  Blossom’s toes were a-tingle.

Riley’s furry forehead wrinkled up.  “Z-o-m-b-i-e Cats,” he slowly sounded out the word.  “Not sure what that is but it’s another one of those RENT movies.”

“Go for it!”  This was going to be a movie night to remember.  Blossom trotted into the pantry, jumped onto the second shelf and knocked the can of squiggle cheese to the floor. It made a tinny sound as its plastic cap flew off.  Orangey colored cheese squiggled straight up like a frightened snake.  Strings of cheese landed on the pantry door and the floor and clung in ribbons from the pantry shelves.  The remaining cheese continued to squiggle into a big pile on the bottom shelf until nothing but air came out of the sprayer.

Holy cat chow,” said Blossom.  “We’ll never be able to eat all of this.”  She was feeling a little itchy, hoping the squiggle cheese incident wouldn’t earn her a time-out in the basement.

Riley’s eyes had turned to slits. “Blossom, this zombie cat movie is R.  We can only watch PG movies at our house.”

“Us too,” said Blossom.  “Mr. H told Willow she couldn’t watch R movies until she was as old as he was.”

Riley’s face lit.  “But we’re three years old and every year is six human years, so we must be way older than Willow.  How old do you think Mr. H is?”

“I think 100,” said Blossom.  She had no idea how old Mr. H was but something clawed at her cat gut, telling her Mr. H was not an R kind of guy anyway.  Maybe they should stop watching movies and try to eat up all that squiggle cheese.  Blossom hated time-outs in the basement.  Once she thought she saw a troll hiding behind the laundry tub.

Riley hit the RENT button anyway and the movie began.  It definitely did not have the colorful settings or beautiful costumes of the Captain Cat variety.  In this movie, cats were prowling all over the place and their eyes glowed.

Blossom caught herself cocking her head at the screen.

Riley did the same.  “Whoa!” he said.  “Is that cat eating a human hand?”

Blossom felt the fur on her neck standing straight out.

“He is!” Riley nodded his head.  “Blossom, he’s eating a human hand!  That would be like you eating one of Willow’s body parts!”

Blossom lay down and put her paws over her ears.  “Stop it, Riley!  Don’t say those things!  Ick!  I don’t want to watch this!”  Through her paws, she could hear the zombie cat chewing.  And the cats that weren’t eating were howling.  Words out of nowhere winked like fireflies in Blossom’s brain.  Wild.  Rabid.  Feral.

Riley lay down as well.  His paws covered his eyes.  “This is too scary!” he cried.  “Turn it off!  I’m going to have nightmares!”

Blossom knew the right thing to do was turn the TV off.  But she was too scared to move.  She looked over at Riley, flattened to the floor like a rug.

First looking behind her, Blossom pounced upon the remote, repeatedly smacking it with her paw.  How could an evening that started out fun as mice bowling turn into something as ugly as clumped litter?  The TV would not shut off so she whacked the remote across the floor.  It hit the fridge and made a cracking noise.  Two batteries popped out, making her jump.  The batteries continued rolling around on the tile like they were alive.  This made Blossom feel jumpy as a bunny.  And she couldn’t stop checking behind her like a zombie cat might be there.

A piercing squeak sounded out the kitchen window.  Blossom shot off the floor.  Riley had already bolted down the hall into Willow’s bedroom.  Blossom tore after him and they both scooted under Willow’s bed, listening to their hearts leaping about like popcorn.

There were more squeaks and rattles and Blossom had to shut her mug tight for fear her heart might hop up her throat and onto the floor.  Riley shook as if he’d had too much DQ.

The walls began to vibrate with a low hum.  Blossom sighed.  It was the garage door opener!  The Hatchers were home!

Her heart settled down so she opened her mouth.  Everyone was safe.  Pretty much.  If the zombie cats really were out there, Mr. and Mrs. H might be dog biscuits, but not Willow.  Willow was clever, she’d outsmart the zombie cats.

Blossom heard Willow’s feet padding down the hall.  Mr. H out in the kitchen questioned why the TV was on and the remote on the floor.

Blossom could almost see Mrs. H roll her eyes as she said, “Have we ever left Blossom and come home to find everything as it should be?”  Mrs. H could probably destroy a zombie cat with her icy eyeball look.

“Blossom,” Riley whispered.  “We shouldn’t have watched that movie.  I’m still scared under the bed!”

“It could be worse,” Blossom whispered back.  She could be in the basement with zombie cats and trolls.

“What did I tell you?  Look at this cheese mess!”  Blossom listened to Mrs. H stomp her feet across the kitchen floor, huffing and puffing like life was throwing her lemons.

Under the bed, Blossom meowed a little prayer of thanks.  She wouldn’t get a time-out in the basement while Riley was here.  Hopefully Mrs. H would be in better spirits in the morning.

Blossom the Cat Makes Pancakes

Blossom the Cat Makes PancakesAlready prepared pancake batter in a carton was the cat’s meow, according to Mr. Hatcher.  Mrs. Hatcher had been called to jury duty this week and the next and it was Mr. H’s job to make breakfast for Willow.  Blossom knew Mr. H was an artist at heart.  His pancakes were fun little creations with chocolate chips for eyes or a banana slice nose.  However, paws down, Mrs. H had the corner on cleanup in the kitchen, as Blossom quickly spotted.

Mrs. H had left the house early to make it to the courthouse by 8:00 am.  Blossom chuckled to herself as Willow scurried off to school, then Mr. H on Willow’s tail out the door and off to work.  Placemats had been put away, dirty dishes in the dishwasher, countertops wiped clean.  However, the carton of pancake batter, spout still open, and butter, had been left sitting near the washed and dried electric griddle.  Tsk! Tsk! Mr. H, Blossom shook her head.  Sun filtering through the kitchen curtains, Blossom decided today she would put on her chef hat and whip up a little pancakes with butter.  Maybe she’d even haul her finished masterpiece over to the family kitchen table and have a little brunch party on it. She jumped onto the countertop to get started.

Blossom was quite expert at tossing her favorite toy, Chip, flying through the air.  In the same fashion she used both paws to hoist the almost empty batter container up, dumping the remaining contents onto the clean griddle.  The batter splashed and spread out in a not quite pancake shape, forming more of a blob with spiderish fingers running in all directions.  The expected sizzle that comes with batter hitting the pan did not happen. Feeling quite pleased anyway with her pouring technique, Blossom waited for the bubbles to form on its surface and the room to fill with the smell of pancake.

Puzzled that none of this was occurring, Blossom donned her thinking cap.  Something was surely missing.  Aha!  It was the hum of the electric griddle.  Blossom inspected the pancake griddle.  It was plugged into the outlet.  But what was this dial?  Pressing a toe against the dial’s side, it slowly turned.  A little red light glowed and the griddle began to hum. She turned the dial some more.

Tiny bubbles appeared on the pancake’s top, a sign it was baking.  But wait! Something was still amiss.  The pancake needed a face. Oh dear, she’d forgotten to add a face!  Leaping to the floor, scampering to her food dish, Blossom grabbed a mouthful of Meow Mix and returned to her project.  So much kibble felt dry in her mouth.  It stuck to her mouth’s insides and didn’t want to come out.  She had to perform a good hairball hurl and hack! the food bits shot from her mug, speckling the pancake.  The kibble design looked more like polka dots than a smiley face.  Blossom wished she had monkey fingers to do some rearranging but, no matter.  Extending a paw toward the batter, now really bubbling, she figured she could adjust a few pieces.  Her toe touched the pancake.  “Singing salamanders!” she meowed, quickly withdrawing her paw.  It was like pressing a toe to sun-baked asphalt!

But giving her toe a quick lick, brushing aside the pain, Blossom felt truly thankful for her thinking cap because that day she discovered the formula to pancake making.  More humming equaled more bubbles and more bubbles equaled more pancake smell.  She also had to ponder was she just so hungry she’d flipped her Friskies or was it really roasting up here on the Hatcher countertop?

Something else wasn’t right.  The pancake was not turning golden brown on top.  She ticked off in her head the pancake making items that Mr. H had used.  Chocolate chips, bananas, an apron.  Hmm.  Bingo!  The solution zapped her like a June bug in the night.  Blossom couldn’t help but squeal at her smartness.  She needed a pancake flipper.  The pancake needed to be turned!  Only Mr. H must have filed the flipper in the dishwasher.  Blossom doubted she could have used one anyway, lacking a set of monkey fingers.  Maybe if she turned the griddle’s hummer up, the top would turn the lovely golden brown it was supposed to be.

Once again, turning the dial knocked the griddle’s hum up an octave.  Now the griddle was almost as loud as the fridge.  But the pancake sure smelled like a pancake, the kibble riddling its surface, dancing around as the bubbles formed and popped.  The whole thing quivered about like a frying egg.  It was looking yummy except the lovely pancake odor soon turned to something more like pizza crumbs turning black on the oven’s floor.  The pancake’s spidery legs became charred as burnt matchsticks. If Blossom made her eyes into slits, she could faintly see ripples of heat rising from her masterpiece.  And smoke.

Smoke?  Holy cat chow! She’d end up at the Pet Rescue for sure if she set the kitchen on fire!  With one expert move her toes gripped the griddle’s dial and turned and turned until the humming stopped altogether. Blossom let out a sigh. The smoke and smell dissolved like old mouse remains. The pancake stared up at her from its pan, the bits of kibble blackened as ancient raisins.  Its appearance and smell did not excite Blossom’s taste buds.  Not one bit.  She huffed.  None of this would have happened had she possessed monkey fingers.  And because she didn’t have monkey fingers, she couldn’t fetch the crispy pancake from the pan and deposit it in the trash.  Oh well, it wasn’t a complete success but then Willow always said pancakes were too much work anyway and why not eat Eggos instead?  All Blossom truly hoped for was that Mr. H or Willow returned home that night before Mrs. Hatcher did or all their butts would be in the doghouse.

Blossom sat on the countertop surveying the room.  It smelled a little like overcooked pancakes.  But with the happy sun streaming through the kitchen window on this most wonderful day and an almost full plate of butter sitting on the counter, she stretched and meowed loudly to no one in particular, “Carpe diem!”*  Then she seated herself for a breakfast of butter without pancakes.

* Latin, meaning Seize the Day!

 

Blossom the Cat Has a Party

Blossom Has a Party

In honor of Blossom’s birthday, Willow invited four of her neighborhood girlfriends and their pets to celebrate.  The pets included Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever, Merle, the bulldog whose yard backed up to the Hatcher’s yard, and Sheba, the rich glamour kitten who lived next to Merle.  Finley, the terrier who lived across the street, was the fourth pet guest.  Blossom didn’t often talk with Finley, partly because she would have to cross Tulip Drive to see him but mostly because Finley was shy and never woofed a word.

Willow was a great hostess for a pet party. Each pet place setting included a teacup filled with kibble. And Willow had whipped up a birthday cake using three cans of Fancy Feast mixed with peanut butter. Yum!

As the guests arrived, Blossom could not contain her excitement seeing the wrapped gifts piling up at the front door.  What could they be?  Toys?  Food?  This was like Christmas!

Riley ate the kibble and cake and then stared at the leftovers.  Merle ate a few bites of Meow Mix to be polite.  Finley was silent.  Blossom just wanted her gifts.

“Dry food, are these apps?” Sheba’s nose went wrinkly the way it did when her fancy head swelled.  “Willow made the cake I hear.  Not store bought?”

Blossom felt a growl coming on and wondered why Sheba’s family didn’t pack up and move to Hollywood.  But her Meow Moment was fast approaching and she didn’t care if they dined on ant legs or Alpo.  This was what she had waited for from the time Willow first prepped for the party.

The girls moved the gifts to the center of the room.  “Open your presents, Blossom,” Willow said.

“Pick mine!” said Riley, putting his paw on the smallest of the gifts, bundled in a paper towel.

Blossom had to hold the gift down with one paw but was able to shred most of the paper toweling with the other.  Willow kept poking a hand in to help, to the point Blossom just lay on top of the gift so Willow would back off.  Smelling the catnip fumes beneath her, she popped up and quick finished the unwrapping.  Inside was a blueberry-colored felt mouse with a jingle bell tail.

“Oh Riley! That’s awesome,” Blossom meowed.

Riley’s eyes lit like diamonds.  “I picked it out myself at Petco, where the pets go.”

Boy, if cool felt mice came in such small packages, Blossom’s brain buzzed with what might be in all the larger ones.

“Do mine next!” Merle did a little hop around a longish almost shoe-sized box.

“No, me!” Sheba had a rather snarly voice and a gift in an even larger box than Merle’s.

But Blossom eyed the smallest of the three remaining presents.  “Should I open your gift, Finley?”

Finley blinked three times at Blossom but said nothing.  Finley had about as much personality as a toad but he did bring a not completely small gift, so Blossom decided to be kind and tore into it.  Willow had to remove the lid as it had been scotch-taped together and, upon opening, had to remove tons of tissue paper.

“Oh, this is just lovely, Finley!” Willow said.  Blossom tried to nose her way into the box.  After all, it was her gift, not Willow’s.  “Just adorable,” Willow added, taking it out. The other girls gathered round, oohing and aahing, leaving Blossom on the outside.  Willow gently set the gift at Blossom’s feet.  It was a framed photo of Finley.

Blossom had to screw her lips tight knowing it would be very bad manners to blurt out, “What?” but that was exactly what she was thinking.  Where was she going to put that, next to her sleeping basket?  Better yet, her litter box, but then she wouldn’t want Finley watching her do her private stuff.

“Oh Finley, you handsome dog,” Sheba meowed cutely.  Riley and Blossom side-eyed each other.

Blossom decided to open Merle’s gift next.  It was even wrapped in red paper with little kitties all over it.  Before her claws had shred the paper halfway, she knew she recognized that pink box beneath the wrapping as she’d seen it at Willow’s own parties.

“A Barbie doll,” she croaked.

“Red Carpet Barbie!” squealed Willow and her friends.

Whose party was this anyway?  It was beginning to feel like Willow’s.  Blossom felt her mug scrunching into an ugly line but she couldn’t unscrunch it.  “Merle, what am I supposed to do with a Barbie doll?”

Merle’s furry brow crinkled up in a hurt expression.  Blossom could have bit her tongue off.  Merle was the sweetest bulldog in the whole world but, hello, not even dogs played Barbies.

“Lack of courtesy killed the cat!” sniffed Sheba.

Sometimes Blossom wished someone would rubber band Sheba’s mouth shut.  Now she felt double-dog bad.  “I’m sorry, Merle.”

Merle barked.  “No worries, Blossom! I love my Barbie.  She has chewy legs, almost like rawhide.”

“Perfect!  I’ve always needed a good chew toy.” Blossom put on her fake happy cat look, anything for Merle, and proceeded to attack the last and largest gift from Sheba.

As the shreds of sparkly paper fell away, Blossom thought about Sheba’s owners who ate steak every Saturday night, according to Sheba anyway. They were the only family on Tulip Drive with a built-in sprinkler system and two cars with no dings, dents or missing paint.  And Sheba’s owners took her to Cat Couture once a month to have her toenails clipped and painted. So Sheba’s gift had to be worth a million bucks.  The gift was almost unwrapped, leaving a heap of sparkles and glitter resembling solid gold kitty litter.

The box was from Cat Couture. Blossom’s heart ticked quickly.  What was inside?  Maybe a stuffed toy bigger than Riley’s mouse?  Cans of organic cat food?  Or, Blossom held her breath. Willow removed the lid.  The box was almost big enough. . . for a bed?  Blossom’s toes tingled at the thought of sleeping in silk sheets.

Willow gasped.  The others crowded round.  Sheba pointed her nose skyward the way she always did when she knew she’d outdone every pet between Tulip Drive and the freeway.  Willow held the contents up for all to see.  It was an outfit.  Clothes.  Cat clothes and attached to it, Blossom gulped, a hat.

“A princess outfit.”  Willow sighed lovingly at Blossom.  Blossom knew that look and felt her cat cookies crumbling in the pit of her stomach.  Her head felt itchy and she wasn’t even sporting that pointy princess hat yet.

“Medieval meow, if you know what I mean.” Riley was in his jokey mood.

Blossom stared at the shiny pink dress, the skirt made of scratchy mesh.  The hat with a snappy chin band.  Everything about it spelled tight.  Blossom was meowless.

Sheba, mistaking Blossom’s look of horror for one of awe, crowed, “See, she likes my gift best!”

Finley opened his mug but nothing came out.

“No she doesn’t,” huffed Riley.  “Blossom doesn’t want to wear polyester on a hot day like today.”

“A princess dress sure beats a blue mouse,” Sheba hissed.

“He only meant,” Merle began, trying to smooth things over.

“What was that, Barbie Doll?” Sheba snarled.

Blossom gasped.  Sheba must have gotten out of the wrong side of her sleeping basket this morning. She needed to quickly don her thinking cap before a brawl broke out.  Hadn’t something similar happened at one of Willow’s parties?  Mr. H called it one-upping.  He’d taken Willow aside and told her there was only one way out.

“I love all my gifts equally,” Blossom meowed, even though she really only liked Riley’s.

The barks of resentment and meows of anger ended.  There was a silence like that after a mousetrap snapping.

Finley sighed, more sound than Blossom had ever heard from him.

“I’m sorry.” Riley stared at the floor.

“Me too,” said Merle.

Sheba looked to her owner, Francesca, who along with Willow and the others had emerged from the bedroom with Willow’s favorite doll, Samantha. “Sometimes Francesca gets a time-out for being too full of herself. . .” Sheba didn’t finish the sentence.

Maybe Blossom was being a little too full of herself just then, but this was a way better Meow Moment than the feeling she’d had anticipating her birthday gifts.  At least everyone was happy.

Blossom looked to the girls, giggling at the prospect of trying to fit the princess dress, Blossom’s princess dress, onto Samantha and sighed herself.  Another dress for Samantha.  Good, that’s where it belonged.

Blossom the Cat Rides a School Bus

Blossom Rides a School Bus

It was customary for Mr. Hatcher’s fanny pack to take up residence on the kitchen table for at least a week after the Hatchers had visited the State Fair.  Eventually Mrs. H would pluck the pack from its place and fling it onto some unimportant shelf where Mr. H would locate it again for next year’s trip.

It was Blossom’s good fortune on this beautiful autumn day that the fanny pack was still occupying the kitchen table and also that Willow’s elementary school bus happened to break down right in front of the Hatchers’ house.  Blossom seized this opportunity to flee into the kitchen, nose her head through the fanny pack’s strap and dart out the front door.  And while the bus driver walked around outside, checking mirrors and tires before restarting the engine, Blossom scampered down the drive and snuck onto the bus.

No. 10 on Blossom’s bucket list was Going to School.  Strapped with her fanny pack/backpack, Blossom pranced over to where Willow sat, chatting with her best friend, Lilly.  The driver popped back into the driver’s seat, the bus engine roared to life and they took off.

Blossom batted at Willow’s leg.  “Look at me, Willow!  I’m going to school with you today!”

Willow looked down but instead of smiling, her eyebrows went into that scrunched mode that said all was not well on Tulip Drive.  “Blossom, what are you doing?  And what’s Dad’s lame fanny pack doing on you?”  Willow let her shoulders sag and rolled her eyes which always made Blossom feel really unspecial.  “Now I’ll have to call Mom to come and get you once we get off the bus.”

Holy cat nip, Willow, you’re no fun!” Blossom meowed back.  “This day was to be all about me.”  She huffed and strutted off down the aisle.  Willow’s eyebrows had raised in a guilty curve.  Good.  Now Blossom would select a seat and pretend she was a student and every time Willow looked back in guilt, Blossom would refuse to look at her.

The bus had filled.  The kids were talking.  Loud.  Some were kicking the seats in front of them.  Loud.  One boy bent over to grab Blossom and she skedaddled out of reach.  Something whizzed by her head.  A crumpled up paper.  And then a shoe kicked her in the butt.  Blossom turned and hissed and then remembered she was a student and that was bad manners.

“Cat on the bus!” one child said.

“Is that your cat, Willow?” said another.

“Cat on the bus,” someone took up the chant.  Others joined.  And then the whole bus.  Blossom’s ears wanted to curl in.  These students were not being polite.  And Willow needed a lesson in cat courtesy.

Right when Blossom thought her eardrums might burst, the bus stopped so quickly a few kids flew forward in their seats.  There was total silence except for the bus flashers’ click, click, click.  Blossom looked up the aisle.  The bus driver had gotten out of her seat and was making her way down the aisle.  Blossom gulped, feeling like a mouse about to be ambushed.

Willow stood up after the bus driver passed.  “That’s my cat.  Sometimes she misbehaves like this. . .” her voice trailed off.

Blossom couldn’t believe her furry ears.  Misbehaves like this?  Willow must have misplaced her perfect pet owner conduct in one of the zillion zipped pockets on her Princess Patty Melt backpack.

Blossom didn’t exactly enjoy her visits to the vet but Dr. Moss was a very kind and gentle vet.  On one visit, however, Dr. Moss had an assistant who treated Blossom like she’d rather pull her tail than pet her.  This bus driver had that same anti-cat look.

“Hey cat, go sit by Hunter,” whispered one boy, shooing Blossom even further back.  “Hunter shouldn’t be on the bus either.”

Blossom looked to the very back of the bus where there actually was one space available, next to a boy who looked very sad.  Hunter wore a black backpack with orange cat ears and a nylon lunch bag sat on his lap.  He looked at Blossom and patted the seat next to him but still did not smile.

Blossom jumped into the vacant seat, turned a circle or two until the fanny pack felt right hanging around her neck, and sat down.  The bus driver returned to the front.  Willow was just returning to her seat but glanced back at Blossom, guilt swimming across her face.

Blossom looked away.  Take that Willow, she thought to herself.  I’m Blossom the Student riding on a school bus and when we get to school, I’ll run away so I can attend class and do math.  And at recess, everyone will love me and I’ll ignore you there too!

The kids had lost interest and were back to their kicking and punching and name calling.  But as the bus pulled into the school parking lot, the sad vibes continued rolling off Hunter.  Blossom looked at Hunter’s face.  Did he not like school even though he had a cat backpack and cool lunch bag?  Maybe he didn’t have any friends?

A boy in the seat ahead of them turned around and shook his head.  “Hunter, you should’ve stayed home when you had the chance.”

“Yeah, Hunter,” said the kid next to him.

Hunter sat there and said nothing and Blossom’s heart felt so sad for this fellow student who was going to school to learn math and birdhouse building and dog training, or whatever they learned in school, but didn’t seem to want to.  Blossom decided right then and there that she would be Hunter’s friend.  She would be Blossom the Good Student, making all feel welcome and important.  Something Willow was definitely not role modeling today.  Blossom placed a paw on Hunter’s hand that looked to be holding on for dear life to the lunch bag.  She patted his hand.  You’ll be OK, Hunter. She pressed her paw into his hand.  I’m here for you, Hunter.

Hunter looked down at Blossom with the palest face and saddest eyes ever.  Sadder than those of a basset hound.  And then he vomited, hitting Blossom right between the eyes, which she closed tight because she could feel it running down her face and her back and in between her toes.  She could even feel it in her ears which kept flicking on their own.  And the smell was horrible.  She could have handled the scent of barfed-up kibble but this reeked of cherry Pop-Tarts or something disgusting along those lines.  A hairball was inching up her throat.

Through all the commotion girls were squealing, “Ew!”  Boys were yelling, “Gross!”  A few kids gagged.  Blossom blinked her eyes which felt sticky and saw Willow heading back to her.  Finally.  But then Willow stopped halfway, maybe changing her mind.  She put up a hand and said, “Don’t worry, Blossom.  Mom will meet us at the school,” and scurried back to her clean, safe seat in the front.  The fanny pack felt like a cold, wet blanket on her back.

The bus driver was heading down the aisle again.  Hunter sighed deeply.

Blossom had to admit the kid looked tons better.  She sighed as well, thinking about Mrs. H giving her a bubble bath once she was home again.  And the big apology she’d better get from Willow at the end of the day.  Well, she almost scratched No. 10 off her bucket list, maybe she’d revise it to just Riding a School Bus.  It would have been nice to learn math and try swinging on the monkey bars, but she could seriously do without birdhouse building and dog training and kids who ate Pop-Tarts.

Blossom the Cat Stalks an Owl

Blossom the Cat Stalks an OwlThe sun’s orange brilliance was about to push through the gray of dawn.  Out for her back yard stroll, Blossom spotted Riley, her best feline friend forever, through the chain link fence that separated their yards.  Shortly Merle would appear, his fenced yard backing up to theirs.  Merle was awesome even though he was a bulldog.

Blossom scampered to the fence ready to burst with the news of Willow’s discovery the day before.  In the Hatcher’s back yard, under the birdfeeder, something pink and stringy had glistened in the grass.  Tufts of feathers lay scattered about.  Willow said the scene was straight out of a horror movie.  The pink shimmery piece had made Blossom’s skin feel like it might just crawl off her body.  So she’d searched the tree branches of the elm looming overhead, just in case.

But this morning as Blossom reached the fence and opened her mouth to blurt out her news, a soft glow caught her eye.  She looked to the birdfeeder where a form lurked beneath, possessing an eerie sheen like that of the moon’s.  A figure perched there on a small pedestal staked into the wood chip mulch surrounding the feeder’s pole.  The shape was motionless but shone white and evil and out-of-place in the gray morning light.   Blossom slitted her eyes to see better.  Her back went prickly.  She flattened herself up against the chain link fence, hoping to create more distance between her and it.

And then she knew.  Holy cat chow, it was a white owl.  An owl that had gone albino.  Or worse, an owl that was a ghost.  Or double-dog worse, a vampire owl.

“Riley!” Blossom whispered. “Check out that thing under the feeder.”

Riley joined her at the fence, nose pushing through the chain link circles.  The two stared in silence, Blossom holding her breath, not knowing what she’d do if the glowing thing turned their way.

A door squealed to their side, making them both jump.  Merle had just been let out.  After Merle did his duty, he trotted over.  “What’s up?” He turned to see what the two were gaping at.  “Whoa!”  Merle did a little hop himself.

Blossom recovered enough to remember what she’d come out to boast about.  “Yesterday Willow found a nightmare under our elm tree.”

“You mean nightmare on Elm Street,” Riley corrected.

“But you guys live on Tulip Drive,” said Merle.

“Shhh!” Blossom hissed.  How could those two be so jokey when an alien was in the yard?  Blossom donned her wise-and-all-knowing cat posture.  “You ding-dongs, it’s a vampire owl.”  She let this statement sink in.

Riley and Merle looked at each other.  Riley turned to Blossom.  “You’d better nip this in the bird,” he said.  “If you know what I mean.”

“And owl’s heads spin round, so you have to be quick,” said Merle.

“And don’t look it in the eye,” said Riley.  “It’ll hypnotize you and then bite your neck.  And if you turn into a vampire, you might want to bite Willow or . . .” Riley’s eyes went round as quarters, realizing what he’d just said.

Merle took a few steps back.  “Gee, Blossom, I’d really like to help but I can’t get into your yard.”

“Me too,” said Riley.  “But if that owl comes after you, do this.”  Riley swiped his paw down the middle of his face and then across it, making the sign of the cross.  “It will think you’re holy and hide under its wings.”

Blossom felt a nervous twitch in her back, but her friends where there, even if the fence prevented them from helping two licks.  Anyway, what really made her claws itchy was the idea that something thought it could come into her yard without asking.  Landing in the Hatcher’s yard and then killing a bird.  What a disgrace, killing birds.  If anything, that was Blossom’s job.

Blossom dug her claws into the ground.  “Wish me luck,” she said, and darted across the lawn using her cheetah strides.  She felt extra powerful as the stupid owl didn’t even turn its head in her direction, had no idea she was even coming, probably deaf to her silent tiger steps.  Adrenaline coursed through her veins like ants stampeding to a Terro trap.

Then she pounced, nails out, teeth barred, and, “Oh my gosh!” she meowed on contact.  The thing was hard as a rock, knocking every last breath from her.  The stony owl ripped from its perch, a sound like wrenching Velcro, and rolled across the grass.  It hit the metal bird feeder post with a clank, rolled a bit more and died.

“Dude!” Riley and Merle cried together.

Blossom stared in horror at the lifeless form.  She thought it funny how she listened to everything the Hatchers said but then tucked most of it in the part of her brain that wasn’t all that sharp.  It hadn’t hit her until this minute but now she recollected Mr. H saying the other day he’d ordered a solar-powered yard ornament online, one meant to scare off unwanted critters.  And there it was. Mr. H’s ornament snapped from its perch and laying under the bird feeder.

“Oops!” said Merle.

“It’s a statue!” Riley blinked like he’d laid eyes on Santa.  “Blossom, you killed a statue!”

The Hatcher’s back door creaked as Mrs. H came out, surveying the yard.  “What was that noise?  Blossom, what are you doing under the feeder?”

Blossom could only watch Riley’s and Merle’s butts as they headed back to their own homes, knowing her butt was in the doghouse.