When they all returned to the living room, Mister, now ensconced in his special chair, asked them, “What in heaven are you three up to? You sounded like a herd of elephants going up the stairs!”
“I don’t know. Maybe he’ll tell us.” But no explanation was forthcoming.
The next day, midmorning, Boots once again issued her challenge to Willow, who, although he was cleaning his rear end yet again, was ready for it. Once again the three cats raced out of the living room, slid into the far wall of the hallway as they tried to get a purchase on the wood floor, and galloped up the stairs. And once again, with a superfeline effort, Boots managed to be sitting on the edge tub when Willow ran into the bathroom, slid on the rug and hit the tub. “I’ll win tonight, I swear,” gasped Willow.
Yes, you will, thought Boots. And none too soon. I don’t think I can do this again.
At eight that night, Boots went quietly up stairs and found Mister running a bath. Perfect! She thought. I just have to wait until its half full.
“Boots,” said Mister, as Boots stropped back and forth and around his legs. “What are you doing in here? You’re not going in my bath again.” And with that, he picked her up, deposited her in the hallway and shut the door.
Boots sat on the floor like a Sphinx and looked at the bathroom door in despair. What do I do now? she thought. How can I get him to open the door? She thought some more. Of course, pretend I’m Puss! So she went to the door and pawed at it, meowing piteously. What a surprise!” she thought sarcastically when Mister opened the door, leaned down and petted her head.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I don’t want you in my bath, understand?”
Boots darted down the stairs before he could turn and close the door. She didn’t hear it close, so the game was on, the only problem being the split second timing. Boots raced into the living room and hopped up on Mister’s chair next to Gracie, who was kneading away at an old sock.
“Where’s Puss?” she whispered.
“In the kitchen,” Gracie replied. “Where else?”
“Time to start the diversion.”
Gracie got up slowly, jumped down from the chair, and even more slowly hopped toward the kitchen “You owe me one,” she called back to Boots. Boots in the meantime had wandered over to just below the end of the couch where Willow was curled up. Ready, set…
Just then the sound of hissing and yowling and food bowls clashing emerged from the kitchen. Missus got up from her end of the sofa and yelled to Mister, “Dear, get down here! Something’s wrong with Gracie and Puss.” Boots heard Mister’s steps in the upstairs hallway.
“Ready to race?” she asked Willow, who was never interested in anything smacking of a real cat fight and was more than ready for the race. He leaped over Boots and ran straight for the hallway, sliding into the far wall with Boots on his tail. They encountered Mister coming down the stairs, while the howling and spitting continued from the kitchen. Gracie’s doing a good job of it, thought Boots. Willow hit Mister’s left leg, which elicited an exclamation Boots had never heard before, but he bounced off and continued up the stairs. Mister jumped and managed to avoid running into Boots, who arrived in the bathroom to find Willow sitting on the edge of the bathtub, looking down at him with thinly veiled contempt. “Told you so,” he said.
Boots leapt, propelling Willow into the tub and landing on top of him in the warm water. A great thrashing ensued, as Willow struggled to get out, clawing at the side of the tub, howling and spitting water. Eventually he figured out he could put his feet down on the bottom and he jumped out and sat on the bathmat, dripping and shaking himself. Boots continued to sit in the bathwater up to her neck, enjoying the warmth. Mister could be heard running back up the stairs.
“What’s going on in here?” he exclaimed, taking in the sight of a wet and pitiful Willow on the bathmat, and Boots sitting in the bathtub. “Bad cats! Bad cats! What has gotten into you all tonight?” With that, he wrapped a towel around Willow and called Missus to come upstairs and take him away to dry. Missus showed up a second later and burst into laughter when she saw Boots wallowing in the tub. “Here, take him,” said Mister with not a little irritation. “I’ve got to get that cat out of tub so I can run another bath.” He leaned over and picked up Boots with one hand, pulled the plug in the tub with the other, then wrapped the dripping cat in a towel. Mister and Missus went downstairs and dried both cats with a hair dryer.
Finally, peace was restored. Mister went back upstairs to draw another bath and this time, shut the bathroom door firmly. Missus returned to her end of the sofa and resumed reading her book. Gracie was already curled up in Mister’s chair, apparently none the worse for her ruckus with Puss, while Puss, the hair on her tail still ballooned out, was sitting on the bottom level of the cat tree, glaring at Gracie.
Willow took his place at the other end of the sofa and began licking himself clean in long strokes of his tongue. Occasionally he paused to lick his paw and run it over his face. Boots was already pretty dry and jumped up on the sofa, heading for Missus’ lap. She needed some cuddling after all the turmoil, but she was feeling pretty proud of herself. Missus allowed her to curl in her lap and Boots started kneading Missus’ pants.
“Well,” said Willow after a while. “Why on earth did you do that to me? You know I hate water!”
“Because I could,” replied Boots. “Lately, you’ve been very mean to us, and you needed to be reminded that you’re not top dog, pardon the expression. And if you ever need reminding again, I have just the thing for it.”
“What?” asked Willow.
“Never you mind. Just think about it.”
For the next several weeks, at least, Willow was as nice as could be to all the other felines in his life, but he was really plotting.