Harley grabbed her messenger bag and hastily slung it over her shoulder. She glanced around the study making sure she had all she would need for the morning’s activities before switching out the lights and hurrying from the room. Mentally, she ticked off her schedule. “Council meeting, snack, nap, post-nap snack, teach Dachshund Ethics class at TUDU, lunch, nap, post-nap snack …” She snatched her lunch bag from the counter – Prescott had prepared it and she bet there was nothing good in there – and bustled out the door. “There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” she grumbled. “I have to go to the bookstore, but it’s Thursday and that means Roper has everything shutting down at 1:26 for his weekly parade; must be why Prescott and Gordy were so cranky this morning.”
While Roper’s love of a parade was well-known in The Under Dome, it was equally well-known how much Harley’s Buffaloes disliked them. Every Thursday, second Tuesday morning of the month and every other Monday afternoon Roper lined the buffaloes up at the front his themed parade and marched the procession around the town square. He designed, with the help of his stylist Jose, costumes for the bison that coordinated with whatever theme he had dreamed up for the parade. More often than not, the costumes involved sparkles, glitter, rhinestones (Roper’s favorite) and occasionally tinsel. Gordy and Prescott hated the costumes, but did enjoy the noteriety and acclaim that came from being the (as Roper called them) “Noble Bison leading the way to a powerful future for all of The Greater Under Dome … and it’s territories.” They were famous, and their celebrity often brought them new clients and business contacts. Gordy’s exercise studio, Hot Buffalo Yoga, had grown so large that he was now condisering an additional location on the other side of town. As a financial planner, Prescott was very much in demand by the wealthier vole families who loved being able to say their fortunes were being managed by such an auspicious buffalo.
Nevertheless, the buffaloes always bristled on Parade Days, often spending the morning snuffling grouchily and snapping at Harley. She understood their pique, but still wished fervently they wouldn’t take it out on her lunches – she knew she would not be finding the meat and cheese she so loved in the neatly packed cooler bag and resigned herself to tofu bites and soy chips.
“I now call to order this meeting of The Under Dome City Council,” Roper Lee sat at the head of the table in Town Hall Conference Room T and gazed over the assembled Council-Voles, Council-Moles, assistants, secretaries and interns. “Does anyone know where Harley is?” he asked, glancing at Harry, who shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. Roper huffed out a sigh. “We’ll just have to start without her.”
The door burst open and Harley rushed in, just then, apologies tumbling from her snout.
Roper yelped at the sudden noise. “Aiinh!” he squeaked.
“Sorry, sorry, excuse me,” she muttered, skirting the table to take her reserved seat. “Traffic was slow and I had to go to the bookstore before coming here because someone (she glared at Roper) is closing all the shops early today. But I’m here now, so, you know, proceed.” She waved her paw dismissively toward Roper’s seat and began to rummage in her bag, pulling out a pad of paper and writing tools.
Roper made a production of looking at his notes and collecting himself before continuing. “We have a lot of ground to cover today so let’s get started,” he began. “First, I’d like to make a small announcement of a personal nature. It seems that my lovely wife, Fluffy, has decided that we need more children. So, to this end, she got herself all – what’s the word, Harry?” he turned to Harry, who whispered lowly in his hear. “Yes,pregnant, that’s right.” He looked as though he had swallowed something unpleasant as he continued. “So, I guess we’ll be having more kids and I’m getting the feeling she won’t let me sell these, either. I’m not really sure what we’re going to do with them, but, well, there it is.” He looked around the table as though waiting for a response. Some of the voles and moles clapped weakly. Harley rolled her eyes.
Roper straightened in his chair and went on. “In old business, it looks like we are still working on bringing tourists to The Under Dome. This report says we’re going to be holding some sort of Festival of the Vole next month and that certainly sounds exciting. Keep me posted on that. And, Harry, your cousin Vance has that soft rock band – you were going to get him to play in the park on Wednesday evenings, right? How’s that coming along?”
Harry fiddled with his VDA. “Sir, yes, Sir. Vance and the Vole Tones will be playing every Wednesday at the bandstand in Ringworm Memorial Park, Sir.”
“Good,” Roper nodded. “Very nice. Okay, on to new business. I’m promoting my kids’ nanny, Cookie the Poodle, to Defense Minister. You aren’t going to get to vote on this because I already told her she could have the job and quite frankly, she scares me so, you know. If any of you want to try to fire her now, go ahead, but do so at your own risk. She’s pretty mean. That said, I think she’ll do a great job protecting our city – she was quite helpful during the Armadillo Crisis and she does seem to have a certain something about her that inspires one to keep their distance.” He flipped through his notes.
“Also,” he looked at Harley. “I trust you and your Buffaloes will be at the Parade this afternoon?”
Harley looked up from her note-taking. “Uh, yes, as far as I know,” she nodded. “I have an announcement of my own whenever you’re finished, though.” She went back to her notes.
“Riight,” Roper said warily. Harley’s announcements were never to be anticipated, he knew. “Okay,” he said. “Our last order of business today involves upgrades to our Under Dome Dire Emergency Reporting System. It has come to my attention that most of the citizens are finding this very confusing so I think we need to come up with a clearer way of explaining how it works and launch a new marketing plan. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far,” he looked expectantly around the table. “U.D.D.E.R.S. is designed to make reporting emergency situations simple and fun for everyone. Don’t know what to fix your family for dinner? Did you forget what day it is? Have you been injured in a smelting incident? Did you spot an Armadillo or agent of Okinawa? Our operators are standing by to handle any level of emergency you may be experiencing.” He bounced slightly in his seat and went on, “Dial 011 if you are lonely and just want to hear a friendly voice. 111 operators are on hand to remind you what street you live on or your kids’ names. Press 211 for restaurant guides or entertainment options including movie and documentary listings. Dial 311 if you can’t find your car keys or your tire is flat. 411-level emergencies are strictly relating to public works disasters such as tears in street carpeting or pee pee accidents in public places. If you find a hot spot or cold spot, puddles, or any other potential climate-related or weather-related emergency, call 511 immediately. If you witness a fashion crime such as someone wearing white after Labor Day, too few sparkles on a jumpsuit or a bad comb-over, dial 611. To hear a listing of Roper’s favorite songs, call 711. 811 calls are limited to reported sightings of Armadilloes, Agents of Okinawa, New Money spies, or to report access-hatches to the World Above Under Dome left open.” He glared pointedly at Harley, “So those of you who repeatedly go above ground to do whatever it is you do and leave the door open – remember to close it!”
He glanced at his notes. “911 is really only for my personal use. I use it to call Harry or one of my Super Vole Squads when I’m out of mole waters or if I need to contact Jose regarding a new jumpsuit or some other really dire emergency.”
He settled back in his chair and looked at the Council. “So, what do you think?” he asked. “Oh, yes,” he sat up straight. “There is one more dire emergency that we need to include. I’ve added a 10 key to all VT&T phone systems in the Under Dome. 1011 is to be called to report that things have just gone completely wrong and we need to evacuate the City to The Under Dome Deeper. Now,” he aimed a pointed look at some of the Council-Voles. “We need to explain this very carefully to the general population. It is imperitive that they dial 1011 – not 10-10-11, which actually changes their long-distance service to Sprint. Remember, 1011. That’s 1-0-1-1,” he enunciated slowly. The voles nodded gravely. “Okay, then. Well, that’s all I have for now. Spread the word. Meeting adjourned.”
Voles and moles began to disperse quickly. Harley looked around and then stood up, shouting, “Wait a minute! I have an announcement!” She shot an irritated look at Roper. “Dang it, Roper! I had something to announce! Why did you adjourn the meeting?”
“Oops! I forgot.” giggled Roper. “Guess you’ll have to wait until next meeting,” he shrugged. “No more time – got to get ready for the Parade. It’s going to be wonderful … the theme is ‘United by Glitter’ and everyone will be wearing costumes made of glitter-encrusted grub-silk. Don’t be late! Hee, hee!” he scampered out of the room, leaving Harley fuming silently, alone.