Harley bustled in the door of her Brownstone at just before 11:00 a.m. She’d spent the morning hurrying from shop to shop in Downtown Under Dome, trying to purchase all the necessities for B.H.’s impending arrival before they all closed at 10:43. She huffed out an impatient breath as she juggled various bags and boxes from paw to paw, finally kicking the door with her hind foot so it slammed shut.
“Prescott?! Gordy?!” she bellowed. “I’m back! Are you here? I could use some help with these packages!” She waited a brief moment and, hearing no reply, began to trudge slowly down the stairs to the guest room.
She dropped the bags on the floor and looked around the spacious room. While out this morning, she had ordered a bunk bed to be delivered before noon, along with a desk and chair, area rug and a cozy lounge chair that she planned to put in the corner and create a reading nook. She figured the vole would enjoy reading since that was one of her own favorite activities. She began rifling through the bags until she found the set of curtains she had found for B.H.’s window – they were brown with tiny pictures of voles playing sports and she had thought they would add a bit of whimsy to the room. After a few minutes of struggle trying to reach the curtain rod, she gave up. “Prescott can hang these when he comes home.”
She puttered with the remaining bags and boxes, then decided to wait until the furniture was delivered before trying to do any more decorating. She left the room and headed for the kitchen, muttering to herself. “You’d think Gordy and Prescott would be a little more excited to have a new family member,” she groused. She had decided that she would treat B.H. more as an adopted ward than an employee – she felt she had a lot to offer as a mentor and was looking forward to sharing her experience and philosophy with the young vole clone. When she had outlined her ideas to the Buffaloes the previous evening over dinner, they had snuffled and seemed less than enthusiastic about giving up the exercise room, but had agreed to help her decorate it for B.H. anyway. Now, she wondered where they were, and why they weren’t here to help her with the heavy lifting and reaching the tall places in the room.
As she prepared a light snack of cheese, thickly sliced meat, crackers and a tall mug of warm gravy, she pondered how her life would change with the addition of an assistant/roommate/family member. Would B.H. be as supportive of her as Harry was to Roper? Would he have a good sense of humor? Would he like gravy? She arranged the snack on a small plate and carried it to the eat-at bar. As she climbed onto a stool, she gave another brief thought to when Gordy and Prescott were coming back. Dismissing it quickly, because it made her want to bolt the snack rather than savor it, she returned her musings to B.H.
She wondered if B.H. would enjoy romping in the snow or swimming? She hoped Harry hadn’t accidentally (or on purpose) programmed any of Roper’s personality traits into the clone … she shuddered at the image of B.H. prancing into her life wearing a shiny purple jumpsuit with spangles and shouting, “Jazz paws!” every time she spoke. She took another thoughtful bite of meat and chewed slowly. It would be great if B.H. liked all the things she liked, she decided. But even if he didn’t, she would still be able to use him to help organize her activities and affairs. And maybe she could mold him into the kind of vole she enjoyed spending time with.
Finishing up her snack, she took the empty dishes to the sink, washed her paws and got a long drink of water. Feeling refreshed, she decided to work a little longer in B.H.’s room, and if the Buffaloes weren’t home by the time she was done, she’d call them and find out where they were.
She located a small step ladder in the top floor closet and carried it awkwardly down to the bedroom. She carefully climbed up and, using her “Super Do” Claw, she hung the curtains, adjusting them so they hung straight and even across the top of the window. She idly wondered if B.H. would notice it wasn’t a “real” window, but one of the many monitor screens in the house that could be programmed with the occupant’s choice of weather or other scenic views. It was at that moment, she heard the doorbell ring. Glancing at the wall clock, she saw that it was most likely the delivery voles with the bed and desk, and hurried upstairs to let them in.
She opened the door and ushered the four delivery voles through the entry and down the stairs. Two carried the bunk beds she had picked out for B.H. and the other two carried the small desk. She looked out the door and saw the desk chair on the front porch. She stepped out and picked it up then turned to back to the voles. Harley saw that they were each wearing an orange jumpsuit made from some kind of silky material and lemon yellow boots. On the back of each suit the name of the store, “Buy Furniture Here,” was embroidered in bright blue. Each vole’s name was stitched in the same blue on the front pocket of their suits. She read each name aloud, “Sebastian, Bunsen, Flannigan and Pete.” She knew that the furniture store was one of Roper’s many enterprises and that he would have designed their uniforms. Apparently, he had given no thought to the fact that the orange outfits made them look more like escaped convicts than helpful household workers. Maybe she should mention that to him. After all, it might drive away potential customers if folks thought they could be robbed or murdered by the delivery voles.
“In here, please,” she motioned the voles through the door of the bedroom. “I’d like the bed against that wall,” she said, pointing. “And the desk over there, under the window.” She watched as the voles carefully placed each piece of furniture, then nodded her approval when they turned to her questioningly. “Yes,” she said, still nodding her head, “that looks just right. I assume the lounge chair and area rug I ordered will be arriving in another delivery truck?” Pete nodded. When they asked if there was anything else they could do, she thought for a moment, then said, “No, I think everything else I was going to do will wait until my guest, I mean my roommate – no, that’s not really right, either – until my vole arrives.” She ignored their puzzled looks and showed them back out the way they came in. “Thanks a lot!” she called as they climbed back into their delivery truck.
Just as the truck pulled away, she saw Prescott and Gordy walking up the street carrying a large parcel between their horns. “It’s about time,” she muttered, watching them. As they arrived at the door, she started to reprimand them about being late, but was stopped by a hard look from Prescott. She chuffed out a breath and turned back into the house.
Gordy and Prescott didn’t speak, but walked directly down the stairs and into B.H.’s room, where the deposited their package on the floor. They looked expectantly at Harley.
“Well,” she demanded, throwing her paws into the air. “Where have you two been?! I waited and waited and finally ended up moving all the furniture and everything all by myself!”
Gordy looked at her steadily, his nostrils flaring every so slightly. Prescott raised his shaggy eyebrows and snuffled once.
“Fine,” she glowered. “I had the furniture delivered from the store. But I put up the curtains!” she cried defensively. “And I had to climb up on a ladder! I could have fallen to my death!”
Prescott looked pointedly at his watch, then back at Harley. The look clearly said they weren’t late and there was plenty of preparation time left. Harley rolled her eyes and sighed. “Okay,” she said in exasperation. “We have plenty of time left before B.H. arrives.” She added petulantly, “I’m just excited, that’s all.” Prescott shared a look with Gordy, who then nudged the package with his nose toward her.
“What’s this?” she asked curiously, her previous irritation forgotten. She pounced on the package, opening the wrapping with her snout, tearing and shredding the paper enthusiastically, the contents forgotten in her frenzy. The Buffaloes watched her indulgently for a few moments before snuffling lightly.
Harley looked up from her task, bits of paper in her jaws, her ears perked, a glassy look in her eyes. Gordy shook his hump. Harley shook her head as if to clear it. “Oops,” she said sheepishly. “Guess I better be a little more careful, huh?” Both Buffaloes smiled and she turned her attention back to the package, gingerly nosing the paper out of the way to reveal a comforter set and sheets in a checked print of black and bright red.
“Ooh,” Harley breathed. “Buffalo plaid.” She rubbed the soft fabric with one paw while peering up at Gordy and Prescott. “B.H. is sure to feel like one of the family when he sees this!” She held each piece of bedding up and admired it. “Such soft fabric!” she said, impressed. “Must be mole-skin?” She looked at Prescott, who nodded. “Well, I think we need to get this put on the bed right away and then wait for Harry upstairs. He said he’d be here after lunch, you know.” She gathered up the sheets and proceeded to make up the beds. Gordy handed her the comforters and pillows, giving her a boost on his shaggy hump so she could reach the top bunk. Prescott snuffled lowly, then disappeared from the room.
“I hope he fixes a big lunch,” Harley confided to Gordy. “All this domestic stuff I’ve been working at all morning has me pretty hungry!” Gordy patted her head gently with one hoof and carried her back upstairs to the kitchen on his hump.