“Thanksgiving is coming up soon,” Roper mentioned casually to Harry as they lunched at the Southside Café. “I’m sure Harley is going to want to host some kind of family thing at her Brownstone and I just don’t know if I want to go,” he said. “So much noise and she always has those weird foods that the Buffaloes put out,” he added, sipping mole waters from a crystal goblet. “It’s terribly stressful.”
Harry nodded. “Yes, Sir. Stressful Sir.”
“And have you noticed how strangely Cookie has been acting lately?” Roper carefully nibbled at his grub casserole. “It’s like she’s not herself, and whatever it is she’s trying to be is very disturbing.” He sipped again from the goblet and nodded his head at Harry. “Yesterday, I passed her on the street and she was wearing the most repulsive outfit. I think it was a caftan.” Shuddering, he went on. “And when I said, ‘Hello, Cookie’, she just stared at me and I swear, Harry, I heard her purr! She actually purred! It was bizarre. I mean, bizarre, even for Cookie.” He shook his head and ate more casserole.
“Yes, Sir. Bizarre, Sir. Very strange indeed, Sir.” Harry ate a bite of his salad and chewed thoughtfully, listening to Roper’s observations with careful consideration. “Go on, Sir.”
“Well,” warming to his subject, Roper leaned forward and spoke intently. “A few days ago, I caught her talking to herself in the hallway outside my office. She seemed to be holding a conversation of some type with someone she called ‘Isis’. I asked her who she was talking to, and she got really quiet and said no one. Then, she sort of growled at me, which is nothing unusual, but then – she smiled. It was super scary!” Roper drank quickly from his mole waters and realizing the glass was empty, he gestured to the waiter for a refill. Turning back to Harry, he said, “Harley always invites her to family events and I have a bad feeling about her being there this Thanksgiving. She’s unpredictable on a good day and I have a feeling most of Cookie’s good days are behind her.”
Harry nodded in agreement and they ate in silence for a few moments. Uncomfortable with the lack of conversation, Roper spoke again. “So, do you think I should go to Thanksgiving? Or should I hang out in my Little Texas Soft Cave?” he asked.
Harry chose that moment to fill his mouth with salad and sat, chewing and staring at Roper, allowing him time to answer his own question.
“Yes, you’re right, of course, Harry,” Roper said. “You’re always right, Harry. How is it you always know exactly what I need to hear? You’re just a wonder, Harry. I’ll go to the Thanksgiving dinner.” He shook his paw at Harry and added, “But I want you to be on standby with the Vole-vo, just in case things get out of hand. I want to be able to make a quick getaway in the event of anything potentially dangerous.”
After receiving assurances from Harry that he would be perfunctorily removed from any potentially dangerous situation, Roper finished his meal and called for the check.
Later, when they were settled back into Roper’s office, Harry received a text on his VDA, which caused him to rush out, muttering excuses. Roper poured himself a drink and relaxed into his chair. Picking up a remote control from the desk top, he pushed a button and the soothing sounds of Little Texas filled the room. “Ahhh,” Roper sighed contentedly, sipping his mole waters. “Nothing like a little Little Texas to melt your troubles away.” Tapping his hind foot in rhythm with the music, he closed his eyes and drifted peacefully off to sleep.
He was jolted awake some time later by Harry’s rather frantic shakes. “Sir. Sir!” Harry cried. “Sir, I’m sorry Sir, but you must wake up, Sir!” Harry sounded alarmed, which immediately alarmed Roper.
“What? What? What is it?” Roper squeaked, panicked. He sat up in his chair too suddenly and it rolled away from the desk where Roper’s feet were propped. He began to slide from the seat and scrabbled his front claws at the arm trying to gain purchase. Eyes wheeling, he tried to focus on Harry, who was trying to stop the chair’s movement and prevent Roper from spilling to the floor.
“Sir!” Harry said sharply, trying to stop Roper’s obvious panic attack. “Sir, you need to stop squirming, Sir. I’ve got the chair, Sir. It’s not moving, Sir. You can relax, Sir.” He patted Roper’s shoulder reassuringly. “Are you alright, Sir? You were talking and moaning in your sleep, Sir. You were thrashing around and I was worried that you were having a nightmare, Sir. Is everything okay? Do you need medical attention, Sir?” Harry continued to pat Roper’s shoulder, and began to look around for the ever-present tumbler of mole waters.
“What?” Roper looked around, disoriented. “What did you say? Harry? Is that you Harry? I can’t see you, Harry! I’m blind! Oh no! I’m blind, Harry!” Roper began to whimper and cry. “Oh, Harry,” he wailed. “I’ll never get to see your beautiful face again! I’ll never get to see my beautiful face again!” He dropped his face into his paws in despair, then began to grope at his face. “Harry!” he cried. “What’s wrong with my face??” He continued to paw at his eyes, snout and chin. “I’m blind and maimed!” he moaned. “And I was so lovely …” he sobbed.
Harry discreetly moved close to Roper and gently removed the night mask covering his eyes. “Sir,” he said gently. “Sir, it’s just your mask, Sir. It must have slipped down over your eyes when you were struggling in the chair, Sir. It’s fine, Sir. Your face is fine, Sir. Can you see me now, Sir? Here’s your mole waters, Sir. Take a drink, Sir.”
“Oh,” Roper gulped, “Oh, thank you, Harry!” Roper drank again. “Yes, I can see you, Harry! You’ve never looked more wonderful!” He stared into the mirror Harry had handed him. “Ooohhh, Harry … I’ve never looked more wonderful, don’t you think?” he preened.
Harry nodded in agreement. “Absolutely, Sir. You look amazing, Sir. Panic and fear look very well on you, Sir.”
“I know, Harry,” Roper said confidently. “I know.