“And so I ask each and every one of you to dig deep into your Drazi pouches – I mean, pockets – and give all you can.” Roper stood behind a podium, looking out over the large crowd of business-moles, business-voles and Under Dome citizenry. He took a sip from the cup at the edge of the dais and waited for the refreshing mole waters to take effect. He hated public speaking. Well, he loved speaking into a camera and having his image and voice broadcast throughout the Under Dome on the close-caption vole-vision system while he relaxed in an undisclosed location. But standing in front of a large live audience made him nervous.
“The Under Dome Vole Center for Enlightenment has done a lot of great work,” he continued. “We have been able to establish a University to further vole and mole higher education, as well as offering support to many new businesses which add so much to our economy. But there is much yet to be done. Every Euro-grub contributed tonight will go towards funding new, plusher street carpeting and will ensure that no citizen of the Under Dome or Under Dome tourist will have sore feet while doing business or shopping for pleasure in our beautiful downtown area.” Roper glanced to the side of the stage area and nodded slightly to Harry, who began clapping loudly, triggering wild applause from the audience.
“In conclusion, I would like to thank all of you for attending tonight’s event. I would also like to thank Southside Cafe Catering for the delicious and tender meal. And most especially, I’d like to thank someone without whom I would not be able to do the work of leading this fine city – Mr. Harry the Vole.”
He gestured with his paw toward Harry. “Take a bow, Harry.” Harry bowed awkwardly then quickly retreated into the backstage area. The audience clapped politely. Roper nodded, clapping enthusiastically. “Yes, wonderful vole, that Harry,” he said. “So again, thank you all for coming and remember to drive softly.”
The audience began to move away from their tables and towards the exit, stopping suddenly when Roper squeaked excitedly from the stage. “Oh, yes!” he called, flapping his paws back and forth. “My lovely wife, Fluffy! She’s here with me! I mean, not on the stage of course – you certainly didn’t come to hear her speak, right? But she came with me. In the car. We brought the Vole-vo. It’s actually a very smooth ride and of course, I’m an excellent driver. You know, it’s interesting that I used to be afraid of driving. But now I just love it. Love, love, love it! It’s relaxing and exciting at the same time. Not too exciting – that might be dangerous…” Roper trailed off, staring with glazed eyes at the crowd. Suddenly he started and glanced around anxiously. “What was I saying? Oh, yes, Fluffy. Thank you, Fluffy, for coming with me tonight.”
He shrugged. “I guess that’s everything then.” Then he giggled and scampered off the stage, calling over his shoulder, “Hee hee!”
Harry caught up with Roper backstage. “I think that went very well, Sir,” he said, giving Roper a fresh cup of mole waters. “There seemed to be quite a few contributers to the ‘Street Carpet Fund’, Sir.”
“Yes, yes,” Roper nodded, sipping thirstily. “I’ve got a real gift for fundraising, don’t I, Harry?” Without waiting for an answer, he walked to the stage entrance and peeked out front. “Did you see Harley or her buffaloes out there tonight?”
“No, Sir. No buffaloes were in attendance, Sir.” Harry checked a guest list on his VDA. “But Mr. Prescott Buffalo did send a sizeable check, Sir. And Harley sent her regrets. Apparently she had a prior engagement, Sir.” Harry followed as Roper began to pace back and forth.
“Prior engagement, my paw!” snorted Roper. “She probably wanted to stay at home and watch V.V.” He emptied his cup and raised a paw at Harry. “That’s just like her, Harry. Selfish, self-absorbed, inconsiderate … she never thinks of the community – only her own comfort and pleasure. You know, Harry,” Roper lowered his voice and spoke intensely, “I’d like to be able to have more leisure time, too. I’d like to be able to stay home and watch V.V. with my family. I’d like to order a grub pizza, watch a movie with my kids or maybe spend the evening shaking my wife and rolling her over a log. But I don’t.” He spun around and pointed his paw at Harry. “I have a responsibility to this city and the voles and moles who live here. I have to get dressed up and make these public appearances for the good of the Under Dome. I wish Harley would take her own responsibility to the City as seriously.” He shook his head and sighed. “But I guess we’ll just have to keep trying to get her to see the importance of it all.”
“Yes, Sir. Importance, Sir. Would you like me to send an email, Sir?” Harry asked.
“No, Harry,” Roper said sadly. “It would only make her defensive. Let me think about it for a while – I’m sure I can come up with some way to impress upon her how vital her support is to the Under Dome. She’s always been so stubborn,” he added confidentially. “You have to sneak the responsibility in disguised as something frivolous that she wants to do.”
“Yes, Sir.” Harry nodded.
“Well, Harry,” Roper said, suddenly cheerful. “I guess the evening’s about over. Maybe it’s not too late to go home and roll Fluffy over a log. Send a Vole Squad to my home, Harry – I’m going to need them to shake her, then hold her.” Roper pranced off to collect Fluffy and head home.
“Yes, Sir. Shaking and holding, Sir. I’m on it, Sir.” Harry called to his retreating form.