That afternoon, Boots and Gracie were curled side by side on the sofa. Gracie heard “Pssst!” and looked up. “I’ve got it,” Boots told her.
“What have you got? Worms?”
“No, silly, the way to get Willow in the tub.”
“Shhh. He’ll hear you.”
“No he won’t. He’s up on the kitchen counter, sniffing around for food. Puss is waiting below with her mouth open. Mmmm, I wonder if there’re any blueberry muffins up there?”
“I don’t understand why you like blueberry muffins so much, but I doubt there’s any just lying out on the counter. Don’t change the topic. What’s your idea?” Gracie asked.
“You and I are going to challenge Willow to a race up the stairs. Make it a game – who can get to the bathroom first? The first few times we’ll win, and we’ll finish up sitting on the edge of the tub. The third time, we’ll let him win.”
“And then what?”
“I’m working on it.”
“But I’m not sure I can beat him up the stairs on only three legs.”
“Well, I’ll win and you can follow him up, like you’re chasing him. Anyway, the night of the big dip, Master will have to be taking a bath and you’ll have to create a diversion to get him out of the tub.”
“And just how do you think I should do that?”
“Get into a hissing and spitting match with Puss. Roll around on the floor. Pull out some fur.”
“Are you kidding? She’ll flatten me!”
“Use your claws. You know she hates claws.”
Just then Puss meandered into the living room, but not before crouching on the hardwood floor at the edge of the rug, sneaking forward and attacking a knot in the wood.
“Honestly, Puss,” called Gracie. “You do realize that it’s just a mark in the wood, don’t you?”
“Well, sometimes I think it moves,” Puss responded haughtily. “What are you two talking about? I saw you, you’re conspiring to get Willow, aren’t you?
“Maybe,” answered Gracie, in an I-know-something-you-don’t tone and a wiggle of her whiskers. “And you know what I’ll do to you if you say anything?”
“Not exactly, but I’m sure it won’t be nice. Still, I don’t like you ganging up on him. He’ll blame me and I won’t be able to snuggle with him anymore. I know he prefers Boots. He never hisses at her and he even tried to wash her last week.”
“Yuck. Like that’s ever going to happen,” replied Boots, lifting her nose in the air. “Is that a blueberry muffin I smell?” And she ran to the front door, where Mister and Missus were coming in with packages.
That night after dinner, Puss, Boots and Willow were lying in a row on the couch with Gracie in Mister’s chair, all of them licking their whiskers. Boots said to Willow, “Race you up the stairs to the bathroom? I’ll bet with all that food you ate, you won’t even make the top stair.”
“You’re on!” Willow assumed a crouch, wiggled his rear end, and with that, both cats, with Gracie following, raced out of the living room. As they rounded the curve into the hallway, their rear paws scrabbled on the wooden floor, and they slid in to the far wall with a mighty thump, then regained their feet and thundered up the stairs. Boots won by a hair and sat on the edge of the tub looking down at Willow, who walked back and forth in irritation. Gracie came in last and sat down to rest.
“Wanna go again?” asked Boots.
“Maybe tomorrow,” replied Willow. “I’ll be up there looking down at you the next time.”
“I hope so,” said Boots under her breath.