Chapter Four: The Bagel Next Store.
After the party, Muffin rolled home, pushing the black suitcase with the cage inside, and laughing all the way. He kept picturing Fox, who had still been lying unconscious on the floor when Muffin left. The old woman had been worried about Fox, so Muffin had made a suggestion.
"Pour a big bucket of ice water on his head. That will wake him up, all right! But don't do it until I'm gone."
When Muffin reached The Bakery Building, before he could roll through the front door, which was left open on hot days like this, the doorman tipped his hat and spoke to him.
"Good afternoon, my little Pastry Pal." The doorman wore a big smile on his round red face. "Hey, I got some news for you, Muffy. While you were out, a new tenant moved in. You two should have a lot in common. Why not go say hello to him right away? He's in the other little room, the one across from yours." And, still grinning, the doorman pointed a finger toward the back of the lobby. "Right back there."
"Thanks, Charlie, but since when do I need directions to my own room? I may look crumby," he added, "but, unlike some people, there's nothing wrong with my brain." And Muffin made a mental note to invite the doorman to check out his special cage some time.
As he rolled to the back of the lobby, Muffin was a little nervous. The other room had been vacant ever since Muffin's big fight with Cupcake a year ago, after which she had moved away without even leaving him her contact information. Dropping the cage off at his own room, and drawing a deep breath, he rapped on his new neighbor's door.
From behind the door came a voice that sounded strangely hollow. "Yo," said the voice. "Tell me who's there. Not that I care. But I may pull your hair."
"Oh, no," Muffin thought. "A rhyme-ster!"
The door sprang open, and, to his astonishment, he stood face to face with a grinning bagel. They were about the same size.
"Wow!" said Bagel, doing a 360-degree whirl as he spoke. "Call me a puffin! I don't mean nuffin', but ain't you a muffin?"
Muffin collected his wits and replied, "Those dots you got ain't dimples, my friend, they're pimples. And lots. Dots without end!"
Bagel scowled. "Those 'dots' are poppy seeds. Call them 'pimples,' and you bleed!"
After a few more rude exchanges, Bagel and Muffin agreed to stop rhyming for now, and Bagel invited Muffin in to see his room.
"Since we're neighbors," he said, "we might as well be friends."
"I guess that's possible," Muffin replied, looking around. "But it depends. Oops, sorry, I didn't mean to rhyme. Nice décor."
"Hey," smiled Bagel, "No big whoops. Happens all the time. I'm not sore."
Bagel's room was lovely. Whereas Cupcake had gone in for fresh flowers and brightly colored walls and fabrics that looked like frosting, everything was now decorated in the style of bagels. For example, there were portraits of distinguished-looking bagels that Muffin guessed were Bagel's dead relatives, in round gold frames. Even the soft chair he offered Muffin was round, with a big hole in the middle, into which Muffin's round bottom fit very snugly. This chair, and the matching one that Bagel took, both had tan slipcovers with little yellow dots. Muffin noticed that Bagel sat down carefully so that his hole was exactly over the chair hole.
"Sesame seats," Bagel explained, gesturing to the slipcovers. "They go very nicely with your brown complexion."
Although Muffin hated to admit it, he was afraid he might have met his match in the joke department.