Meg was so proud to find her first red tomato that she barely noticed them at first.
She came out that afternoon with the dog, mostly to shade her eyes against the sun and decide whether or not it was going to rain, when she noticed the bright red sphere hanging like a Christmas ornament from the tomato plant.
"Oh, my gosh, Cookie. This could be it!"
Cookie was sniffing the withering basil, but, to his credit, turned to look at her when his name was called.
Meg hopped down from the porch step.
Most of her plants were dying. She'd taken up gardening when she moved into this place a year ago because she was a homeowner now and, by God, she was going to have a garden like she always said she would. Of course the plants had other ideas and started withering just when they looked promising. It was like everything else - the promotion she never got, the knitting hobby she'd made no money with. Nothing seemed to stick.
But now, here was a perfectly ripe tomato, shiny as a piece of plastic in the bright sun. She leaned over to get a better look.
Meg leapt back from the plant. Across the yard, Cookie scampered against a wall and stared at her.
"Cookie, there are bugs on my tomato plant!" Meg stomped around in a circle a few times, putting her hands on her hair. "I can't believe it! Screw gardening. I thought maybe this one thing, but no!"
Meg squatted down again to get a look at the monsters. Maybe she could salvage this one tomato.
What? Those weren't bugs.
Meg scrubbed her eyes and looked again. A handful of tiny green cats was dancing in the soil around the base of the tomato plant, bouncing on their hind legs and sashaying in a wide circle. They couldn't be taller than an inch and all wore little hats of flower petals or fallen leaves.
"Um, hello," Meg said.
The cats didn't say anything. Of course, why would they? They just kept dancing in their little circle round and round.
Meg called Cookie, went inside, and went to bed early, and she didn't come out for the rest of the evening.
The next afternoon, the cats were back, this time drinking water from cups made of pecan shells. Meg set some milk in a saucer next to the tomato plant and let them be.
When Meg went out the next morning, she noticed her first tomato was getting bigger and others were turning red and ripe. The green cats had drained the saucer and were playing a game of hopscotch with squares they'd drawn in the soil. Meg tried to teach them a hand-clapping game, but their paws didn't clap as well as hands, so they grew bored soon.
On the fourth day, the cats had a big party for Meg. They tipped their hats and waved at her tomatoes, which had all grown big and juicy and glistening. Meg took the tomatoes inside to wash and make into a salad and brought out canned tuna for the cats. Meg ate her salad and the cats ate their tuna while Cookie gnawed on a bone and Meg told the cats she hadn't been proud of herself like this in a long time.
The fifth day, the cats didn't come back. Meg sat on her patio all night, but she didn't see them. Perhaps they wouldn't come back until there were more ripe tomatoes.
The night after that, Meg started to paint. She made big, bold strokes and wasn't sure what exactly she was painting until the end, but when she finished, she loved it.