Adoption Day had finally arrived and Harley, Gordy and Prescott were having a difficult time keeping B.H. calm. He had leaped out of bed at 5:20 a.m. and raced into Harley’s room. He’d proceeded to jump on her bed, shaking her out of a sound sleep, which had not pleased Harley in the least. After shooing him back to his own room she’d tried to get a little more sleep, but found it difficult to reclaim the totally relaxed state of rest she’d been experiencing.
When she finally gave up on sleep and trudged slowly into the kitchen for a mug of gravy, she had found Gordy and Prescott, each of them in a similar state of bleary-eyed exhaustion. From their snuffling and hump shaking, she determined that B.H. had visited his overwhelming excitement on them, as well.
Now, after she had finally managed to settle B.H. enough to eat some breakfast and brush his teeth, she was trying to wrangle him into his ‘going somewhere’ clothes so she could comb his hair. “Darn it, B.H.,” she said crossly, “hold still. I can’t tie your shoes if you keep wiggling and jiggling around so much.”
B.H. ceased his fidgeting briefly, but was soon overcome with excitement again and he began to squirm and bounce, chattering about how much fun the new hippo was going to be and how much he was looking forward to having a playmate.
Exasperated, Harley jerked off the still untied sneakers and went to B.H.’s closet. “Here,” she said, turning back to the vole. “Wear your cowboy boots. Then I won’t have to fight with you over tying your shoes anymore.” B.H. happily pulled on the bright blue boots, all the while continuing his happy jabbering.
After several minutes of dodging and ducking, B.H. finally held still just long enough for Harley to swipe a brush over his head. The vole’s fine hair went smooth for a short minute before springing back up in an unruly looking wave over his forehead. “This darned vole-lick of yours won’t lay down, B.H.,” she muttered, trying to smooth it down again with first the brush, then her paw. Finally, she sighed. “I think that’s as good as it’s going to get, B.H.. Maybe you should just wear a hat.” Shaking her head, she took his jacket down from the closet and handed it to him. “Better wear a sweater, B.H., that adoption agency is always really cold.”
At last, the family was loaded into the van. Prescott was driving while Gordy had claimed shotgun. Harley snapped B.H. into his seatbelt and then, adjusting her own, announced, “Alright! Let’s get this bionic waterhorse show on the road!”
Traffic was light and the drive unremarkable as the van wound its way through the carpeted streets of the city. B.H. had suddenly stopped his excited chatter and now sat quietly, looking out the window of the van with big eyes. Harley noticed that both Buffaloes were unusually quiet, as well. She felt her own excitement turn into something more like nervousness as the van turned into the parking lot of the Under Dome Rehoming and Adoption Center for Voles and other People.
Prescott parked and turned off the engine. The group sat in silence for a few moments. Harley looked at B.H., who was quietly working at the buckle of his seatbelt. She watched Prescott adjust his tie in the rearview mirror and saw Gordy pull down the sun visor to check his hump and swipe a hoof over his beard. Harley unlatched her own seatbelt and smoothed her eyebrows with her paw. “Are we all ready?” she asked anxiously.
Each of the others nodded and the group left the van, walking quickly toward the entrance of the building. Prescott held the door open and Harley and B.H. entered the lobby, looking around curiously. Harley spotted the manager coming toward them and bent down to speak to B.H. quietly.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” she asked. B.H. nodded solemnly. “Now, B.H., this is serious – we can’t bring him back once we take him home. So if you’re having second thoughts or want to adopt something else, now’s the time to speak up.” B.H. shook his head and whispered that he was very happy to meet his new hippo. “And you’re sure about the name we picked out?” Harley added. B.H. grinned happily and nodded again. “Okay, then, here we go,” Harley said firmly, straightening up to greet the manager, a slightly overweight but attractive vole.
“Hello there, you must be the Harley Bishop Family,” the manager extended a neatly manicured paw. “I’m Noreen.” Harley shook her paw, as did the others. “I know this is a big day for you, but there are just a few details we have to take care of before you can take the newest member of your family home,” she smiled. “If you’ll just follow me, Harley. The rest of you can wait right over there.” She pointed toward a seating area filled with comfortable furniture, a book shelf and a large television. B.H. scurried over and plopped onto a fluffy chair. He located the remote control and immediately turned on the TV, settling happily into his seat. Prescott and Gordy each patted Harley on the head and went to sit with B.H.
Harley followed Noreen into a small but neat office and sat where Noreen indicated she should.
“There are just a few papers that we need to review and sign and then you’ll be all set to go home,” Noreen explained, shuffling through a stack of files on her desk. “I understand that you’ve been told about your hippopotamus’s special needs?” She slipped on a pair of reading glasses and looked up at Harley.
“Well, yes, if you’re talking about his bionics and such,” Harley said. “Although I’m not entirely sure why it’s such a big deal.”
Noreen looked at her a moment before dropping her gaze to the now open file in front of her. “Well,” she began, “aside from the obvious issues presented with a bionically enhanced being – super strength and speed, enhanced motor function, increased appetite, and the like – there may be some emotional issues that arise. It’s very difficult for non-bionic people to understand the strain of maintaining the control necessary for a bionic – in this case a bionic hippo – to exist in a normal world. Chairs may not be designed to hold his heavier frame, for example. And a broken chair could lead to him feeling insecure about his size. We wouldn’t want him to begin to exhibit any self-harming habits such as eating disorders or cutting, for instance, as a way of expressing emotional distress. It’s very important that you recognize any signs of depression or trauma, therefore, and be prepared to deal with anything that arises.” She gazed at Harley expectantly.
“So you’re saying I need to watch him and make sure he’s happy?” Harley said.
“Exactly,” Noreen confirmed. “We do offer a series of counseling sessions for all our new adoption families, at a significant discount, of course. You’re more than welcome to sign up for them before you leave today, in fact. Most of our families have found the classes to be invaluable while integrating their adopted children – or whatever – into their households.”
“I think I’ll pass,” Harley replied. “We’re pretty laid-back at home and we’ve been doing a lot of research into what will make him feel comfortable. I think we’ll do okay on our own.”
Noreen pursed her lips in disapproval, but only said, “Well, fine, then. Sign here and you can meet your hippo.”
Harley scrawled her signature at the bottom of the page.
“By the way,” Noreen examined the paper, then looked at Harley, “have you picked out a name?”
“Yes,” Harley said, rising from her chair. “We’ve decided to name him Mandrake.”