Roper Lee was enjoying a quiet breakfast in his office the next morning when the door burst open and Harley charged in shouting his name. “We have to talk,” she cried. “Now! So put down your sissy coffee and listen up.” Behind her, the vole Roper employed as receptionist scuttled into the office, then seeing that Harley had already announced herself, scuttled back out closing the door softly.
Roper was so startled by the intrusion that he almost spilled the contents of the cup he was holding. He set it down on the desk quickly, so as not to lose a drop of his morning mole waters, then looked at Harley with irritation.
“For your information,” he snipped, “I don’t drink coffee. Too much caffeine tends to make me jumpy. This,” he pointed at the delicate tea cup on the desk, “is mole waters. It’s a wonderfully refreshing way to start the day. What do you mean barging in here so early in the morning and upsetting my routine, Harley? You should have scheduled an appointment with Sharry.” He brushed some crumbs from his sleeve and settled back into his chair. “I’m very busy this morning and I don’t have time for one of your rants about Under Dome policy.”
Harley shifted the briefcase she carried under one foreleg then flopped into one of the soft chairs in front of the desk. “I’m not here to rant about Under Dome policy,” she said dismissively. “Since you obviously forgot at last night’s council meeting, I’m here to discuss my big announcement. And for your information, I know you aren’t busy – the only thing you have going on this morning is getting soused on mole waters then making prank phone calls to New Money. It’s Friday and that’s what you do every Friday.”
“Well,” Roper sniffed, “be that as it may, you should still have called ahead. I could have been busy.” He picked up his cup daintily and took a sip before nodding at his sister. “So what is this big announcement you have to make? Getting a new buffalo?” He chuckled at his own attempt at humor.
Harley sent him a sidelong glare. “No. This is big Roper. Really big. Like change the world big. I, along with one of your super geeky technical vole squads, have come up with an invention that is going to revolutionize dog-manity.”
Roper looked at her with interest. “Well, what is it?” he demanded.
Harley opened her briefcase, took out a bound report and handed it to him. “This is the ‘Do Claw’,” she said. “You’ll find all the details in that report, but essentially, the Do Claw is a prosthetic device worn by dogs or other thumbless animals, I guess, that will allow them to have the same mobility they would have if they had an actual thumb and finger. Imagine the possibilities! We can now play the guitar, race RC vehicles, play Candy Crush on a cell phone, weld, hitchhike – we can achieve total world domination!” She stopped to let the implications sink in.
Roper sat up straight in his chair and clapped his paws together excitedly. “We can finally form an Under Dome curling team!” he squealed. “All this time we’ve been trying to teach the voles to curl, but they just aren’t big enough. They always end up just riding the stones in circles, getting dizzy and then crashing into each other. It’s an ugly mess, is what it is.” He shook his head. “But now,” he went on, “now we can do the curling ourselves! You, me, Fluffy, Cookie – it will be brilliant! The Under Dome is finally going to be an Olympic contender! This is wonderful news, Harley. Just wonderful!” He grinned widely, his upper lip slipping up over his gums allowing his teeth to show fully. “Well done, Harley. Well done.” He ran his tongue over his teeth several times, attempting to get his lip unstuck.
Harley rolled her eyes and said derisively, “This is about more than just your silly sports team, Roper. Think of the opportunities.” She pulled more papers from her briefcase in preparation to list the potential activities made possible by the Do Claw.
Roper sat back in chair, displaying his boys. “Now,” he interrupted her. “As co-owner of the Do Claw, I say we start production right away. We’re going to need a marketing slogan, too. It should be catchy and easy to remember and really product-oriented.”
Harley opened her mouth to tell him about the slogan she had come up with but he cut her off.
“I’ve got it!” he announced. “Buy the Do Claw and you can do all the things that you couldn’t do without it!” He looked at Harley triumphantly. “It’s perfect!”
Harley stood up and looked down at Roper. “Co-owner?!” she shouted. “Since when are you the co-owner?! You didn’t come up with the idea! You didn’t come up with the name! And for your information, that is the stupidest slogan in the history of slogans! My slogan is much better!” She began to stomp back and forth in front of the desk.
“Well,” Roper said imperiously, “you did use one of my technical vole squads to develop the thing. That vole squad belongs to the Under Dome, which belongs to me which means the Do Claw is part mine.” He looked at his toenails and continued, “I’ll give you 32.13% of the profits.” Looking up to see her reaction, he quickly added, “I think that’s a fair division considering how much effort I put into coming up with the marketing plan.”
Harley snarled and stalked around the desk, staring down at Roper until he squirmed uncomfortably. “Okay,” he squeaked, splaying his paws out in front of him. “How about 46.8%?” Harley continued to glare. “79.6%?” he whined.
Harley growled deep in her throat. It was a sound Roper recognized – the same one she made when someone tried to take a plate of food away from her before it was empty.
“Okay,” he whispered, “102%, but that’s all I’m willing to give you. You can’t just pirate my vole squads for free.”
Harley backed around the desk and sat down again. “Fine,” she said, gathering up her paperwork and tucking it back into her briefcase. “I take 102% of the profits, I retain 100% ownership of the the Do Claw, I supervise production and marketing and I add a notation on the packaging, in very small print, that the Do Claw manufacture was made possible by the Under Dome University Technical College. Your name is mentioned nowhere. Isn’t that what we agreed?” she smiled sweetly at Roper as she shut her briefcase with a click.
Roper gulped. He reached for his mole waters and took several deep drinks. He wiped his mouth on the back of his paw and nodded meekly. “Yes,” he said hoarsely, “that sounds more than fair. Thank you for the opportunity to share in this amazing invention.” He smiled wanly at her as she strode purposefully to the door.
Turning, she said briskly, “It’s always a pleasure doing business with you, Roper.”
Waving weakly as the door banged shut behind her, Roper reached for his intercom. “Harry, I’m going to need more mole waters.”