Chestnut rockets down the stairs to the kitchen and leaps on to the easy chair sitting in the corner. He vaults over the armrest and somersaults onto the seat, landing on his back squarely in the middle of a beam of morning sunlight.
His amber eyes flash about the room, land on Molly as she circumscribes a plodding path around the table, tennis ball held eagerly, hopefully, in her mouth. As she moves past the chair, her long body swaying purposefully, Chestnut flails wildly at her flank with his front paws as he pushes himself forward on his back with his hind legs off the backrest of the chair.
Molly skips forward and Chestnut pushes himself farther, stretches out as far as he can and grabs at the thick fur of Molly’s backside and then her tail. Molly swings around then, looks at the cat with piercing eyes, stands in her permanent, no-nonsense, military stance and drops the ball. It bounces twice and then rolls towards the chair.
Chestnut lies splayed on his back, front legs outstretched, eyes locked on Molly. “I dare you,” he says. “To pick up that ball.” I watch Molly process the conundrum. Her beloved ball has rolled within range of the cat. If she goes for it, he will grab at her and she’s not allowed to retaliate, although she doesn’t understand why. But she can’t leave the ball there for just anyone to find, it’s hers and if she’s patient enough someone will eventually throw it for her.
She tiptoes forward eyeing the ball, almost sliding on her big lion-like front paws, as she ducks in to retrieve it from the bottom edge of the chair. Chestnut strikes then, arching his back and stretching his legs, claws splayed in another wild attempt to grab hold of some fur. Molly skips sideways with the ball securely in her mouth and then lunges forward as though to nose-butt Chestnut in the face; the cat retreats, pulling his paws to his chest and half rolling away.
“Molly!” I say, a warning before she gets too rough.
“Fine,” she says and turns reluctantly from the cat, who moves like lightning and takes a final swipe at her tail as Molly walks away. She skips ahead and throws a glance over her shoulder, contemplates going back.
“Come on Molly,” I say, breaking into her train of the thought with the magic words. “Bring your ball over here.”
Ears tall, eyes bright, Molly plods towards me, dropping the ball too soon as usual, looks at me with anticipation, completely forgetting about the annoying cat. Chestnut watches from his upside down position, eyes round and wild, the sun glinting off his white belly, tail flicking menacingly.
It is not long before that movement catches his eye, and Chestnut amuses himself for the rest of the morning, turning somersaults on the chair in earnest pursuit of his tail.