janet wyman Coleman

   The raccoon inspected the cellar. His eyes scanned the jars of homemade pink jellies and the shelf of Sammy’s outgrown boots.

    “Where’s the food?” he asked.

    “The food?” Puff gasped. “You’re going to steal my food?”

    “They’ll give you more,” Eddie said. “I promise. You won’t even miss a meal.” He shook dirt off his right paw. “Besides, I adore cat food.”

   Above the animals heads, the microwave beeped. Chocolate and butter swirled with the eggs and sugar.

    “Can I have a lick?” Sammy asked as he stared into the bowl.

    “I can’t believe I told you about the tunnel,” Puff whispered, “and my food on the cellar stairs. I’ll never tell you anything ever again.”

    Eddie started toward the stairs. “You’re being ridiculous,” he said.

    The oven door opened and the pan skidded onto the rack. Sammy licked the back of his hand. Black batter covered his chin.

    “We’re going to get into trouble!”

    “I can handle the Plotkins.”

    Puff began to shiver. “I don’t believe you’re doing this. My best friend!”

    “No one’s going to let you starve,” Eddie insisted.  “There’s always more for you. But who takes care of me? Besides, aren’t best friends supposed to share? You’re just thinking about yourself.” Fast Eddie rose up on his hind legs and twisted toward the cat.

    “Come on,” he said, “I’m a raccoon. Raccoons have stolen food for thousands of years, long before there were Plotkins on this earth. If we didn’t, that would be the end of us. Anyway, I was here before the Plotkins. I liked the other owners better. They weren’t so fussy.” He dropped onto his front paws, hesitated, and looked back over his shoulder.

    “Do I try to change you, Puff?” he asked. “Do I tell you it’s disgusting the way you depend on people? You’re no more independent than Sammy Plotkin. But you’re a cat. I know that. Take the free food, but remember-everyone isn’t so lucky.”

    Mrs. Plotkin walked over to the sink and turned on the water. A fork fell down the disposal. Sammy lifted his shirt and licked a teardrop of batter off the front.

    Eddie climbed the stairs effortlessly. His head fell into the cat’s bowl. Puff sat back on her hind legs.

    Cat food dribbled down the stairs and bounced on the cement floor. Puff’s bowl glided through the air like a Frisbee. It bounced off the shelf of jellies and landed on the floor. THe jars wobbled.

    The water ceased. “What was that?” Mrs. Plotkin asked. She dropped an orange sponge on the counter.

    Fast Eddie grunted. Mrs. Plotkin’s sneakers squeaked. The door opened. Daylight filled the stairwell. Puff couldn’t move.

    A green barrel rolled sideways down the cellar stairs. Brown kernels of dog food exploded like popcorn. Mrs. Plotkin screamed. The door slammed.

    Fast Eddie took his time coming down the stairs. When he reached the tunnel, he swung around.

    “You’re my best friend, Puff,” he announced. “Including all raccoons.”

Illustrations by

Alec Gillman