Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 21

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 21

The days following what was being referred to (at least by Harley) as “The Thanksgiving Dinner That the Damned Poodle Ruined,” were frantically busy. Roper implemented a full security overhaul, with the specific purpose of “Isis proofing” the entire Kingdom. He had, unbeknownst to Harry, begun the process several weeks earlier when he first began to notice Cookie’s odd behavior.

Now, several weeks later, Roper and Harry were still overseeing the last few details of the new system. Most of the Security Vole Squads had been sent to an advanced training camp at the Beaver Village on the outer edge of The Under Dome. There, they had been instructed by members of the Beaver Special Forces Unit in paw to paw combat and the ancient and revered art of Tooth Kwan Do. Roper had insisted that the Beavers fulfill their contract and assist in matters of Under Dome defense, which was part of their Settlement Agreement.

The new ‘Beaver Trained’ Vole Squads patrolled the streets day and night in newly designed uniforms of Day-Glo green and yellow. Roper thought they looked capable and majestic in their tall boots and berets. He had taken to having them march directly behind the Buffaloes in the weekly parades – a lineup that Harley had declared looked ridiculous.

“You put those little tiny voles behind the great big Buffaloes, Roper?” she had barked. “It looks like Gordy and Prescott are leaving waves of neon buffalo doody in their wake!”

While Roper protested that the BTS (Beaver Trained Security) Vole Squads were a force to be reckoned with and that their stately presence instilled a sense of confidence and protection in the citizens; he was secretly concerned that Harley might have a small point. It was this concern that had him working late on a Wednesday evening, redesigning the uniforms with his trusted stylist Jose.

“I really thought that cats couldn’t see green or yellow because their eyes are the same color,” Roper remarked, idly flipping through the color swatches Jose had left on the table where he worked. “I figured it would be smart to dress the BTS Vole Squads in sort of ‘cat camouflage’ to keep them safe from Isis, or whatever she calls herself this week.”

He ear-marked a few color choices and handed the swatch book to Jose. “So you’re telling me that cats can see every color, regardless of what color their eyes are?”

Jose nodded absently.

“Hm. Interesting,” Roper muttered. “Maybe we should put them in some sort of night camo,” he suggested. “Silver sparkly fabric for the jackets and navy blue spandex for the pants, maybe? Or champagne-colored jumpsuits with fancy rhinestone-covered fringe on the shoulders?” He bounced a little in his chair and poked Jose with one dainty paw. “What do you think?”

Jose looked at him steadily and blinked.

“You’re right,” Roper nodded. “The rhinestones are a tad too much and jumpsuits take too much time to undo when you have to go to the bathroom. We should definitely stick with the pants and jackets.”

Jose nodded once and turned back to his sketch pad. A few moments later, he held the finished drawing up for Roper’s approval.

Roper took in the completed ensemble. The jacket was a shimmery silver fabric that would drape flatteringly over the voles’ rather chunky mid-section. The pants were a deep midnight blue shade and appeared to made of some sort of soft, brushed material with a slight nap. The legs were tucked neatly into tall, shiny black boots. The boots themselves were embroidered down one side – in glittering colored thread a ferocious-looking vole battled what appeared to be some sort of bird.

“Is that a hawk?” Roper asked incredulously.

Jose nodded in the affirmative.

“Well done, Jose. Well done. It’s perfect.” Roper clapped his paws together in delight. “Make up a sample and we’ll have Harry try it on before we start producing enough for all the BTS Vole Squads.”

He danced around the room for a few minutes in celebration before flopping into a chair. “This is going to look amazing,” he tittered. “I can’t wait for next week’s parade!”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 20

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 20

Harley heard the doorbell and leaped up from her desk chair.  Racing to the front door, she called out, “I’ll get it!  I’ll get it!”

Yanking open the door, she expected to see Fluffy on the other side.  She didn’t manage to hide her disappointment very well when she saw that it was Harry instead.  “Oh,” she said glumly, “Hi, Harry.”  She noticed Prescott watching her from the kitchen door and immediately tried to recover.  “Happy Thanksgiving, Harry,” she added in a brighter tone.  She stepped aside to let Harry enter and noticed Roper standing in the front yard looking around.

“What’s Roper doing out there?” she asked Harry.  “Looking for turkeys?”  She chuckled at her own joke.

Harry giggled before answering, “I believe he’s looking for a butterscotch carpet.  He seems to be under the impression that his arrival would be a major media event.”  Harry cast a glance toward Roper before entering the Brownstone.

Harley shut the door. “We’ll just let him wander around for a while,” she said, shrugging.  “When Fluffy gets here, she’ll bring him inside.  In the meantime, do you want to come watch the replay of last week’s parade with B.H. and I?  It’s all that’s running on Under Dome TV today.”

Harry declined, saying he’d rather help Gordy and Prescott in the kitchen.  Harley told him she understood – she figured he must get pretty sick of all those parades.  And he had to put up with Roper’s constant planning meetings, too.  She shook her head and wandered into the den where B.H. was watching television.

“I thought Fluffy was here, B.H.,” she said quietly.  “But it turned out it was only Harry and Roper.  But Fluffy should be here soon, so be ready.”  B.H. nodded, then turned back to the parade.

“You like the parade?”  B.H. nodded eagerly. “I know you’ve only been here a short time, B.H., but you’ll get to be in plenty of them from now on.  Roper loves parades.  He has them several times a week.”  B.H. looked excited at the prospect.

A short time later, the doorbell rang again.  Harley ran to answer it, calling, “I’ll get it! I bet it’s Fluffy!”  She pulled the door open and saw Cookie – or at least she thought it was Cookie – standing on the porch.  Cookie, or whoever it was, was wearing a purple caftan with pale yellow fringe around the cuffs and hem.  It wore a silver headband over its forehead with some sort of stone set in the center.  Multiple beaded necklaces rattled and clanked around its neck, along with several bangle bracelets which jangled noisily when it lifted its paws in apparent greeting.

Harley stood in the door, blinking.  “Cookie?” she asked slowly.  “Is that you?”

The ‘entity’ shook its head.  “Uhhh.  Unnhh.  Uh.  Unnnn.  Uhhhn,” it said.

Harley nodded.  “Oookay.  Well, you sound like Cookie, but I can never understand what the heck she says, so that doesn’t help.  Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving, come on in.”  Harley motioned the new arrival inside and started to shut the door.

Roper scurried up the steps and through the door quickly. He looked around furtively and whispered to Harley, “Did you let Isis in?  I don’t think that’s a wise move, Harley.”

Harley looked at him in confusion.  “Who the heck is Isis?  What are you rambling about, Roper?  And where’s Fluffy?”

Roper wrung his paws.  “I saw Isis standing at the door.  Did you let her in?”

“Who is Isis, Roper?” Harley demanded.  “You saw Cookie at the door.  At least I think it was Cookie.  She said something, but I never can understand her.  I let her in because she was invited.  I don’t remember inviting anyone named Isis.”

“You’re going to be sorry, Harley,” Roper warned.  “Cookie has had some sort of mental break – she’s calling herself Isis and thinks she’s a cat!  Why am I the only one who ever seems to know about these situations??  Where’s Harry?  Did Harry come in?  Did he bring my mole waters?  I can’t find it in the car.”  Continuing to talk, Roper pranced down the hall, calling for Harry as went.

Harley shook her head in dismay.  “Sounds like Roper’s already had quite a bit of mole waters,” she said.  “And if he starts rattling on about Cookie being a cat, the Buffaloes will never take anything he has to say seriously.”  She smiled smugly.  “One more piece of my plan that is falling into place perfectly.  Now where is Fluffy?  I’m starving.”

She rejoined B.H. in the den and found that Roper and Harry were also present, watching the re-broadcast of last week’s Pre-Thanksgiving Parade.  They were seated at one end of the comfortable sofa and at the other end was Cookie.  But instead of watching the television, Cookie sat licking her paw and swiping it across her head, ears and face repeatedly.

Harley plopped down in the big chair where B.H. sat, nibbling on a piece of broccoli from the vegetable tray Prescott had thoughtfully placed on the table in the center of the room.  “What the heck is Cookie doing?” she asked B.H.  B.H. shrugged, his eyes never leaving the screen.

Harley leaned over and whispered to Roper, “Roper!  What is Cookie doing over there?  Looks like she spit-washing her face.”

Roper looked at Harley sourly.  “I told you – she thinks she’s a cat.  Calls herself Isis now and she’s going to go live in a yurt down by the Badger Docks.  You should pay more attention when people talk to you Harley.”

Harley began to get an ominous feeling in the pit of her stomach.  Watching Cookie ‘groom’ herself like a cat was making her feel nervous and worried.  What if she did something crazy and ruined dinner?  Or somehow revealed Harley’s plot to the Buffaloes?  That would be very, very bad.  Before she could work herself into a proper state of anxiety over the situation, though, the doorbell rang again.

Harley launched herself out of the den and to the front door with such eagerness that Prescott, who had come from the kitchen to answer the doorbell, gave her an odd look followed by a hump shake and some snuffling.

“I’ll just get that,” Harley said solicitously, “since I’m right here.”  She added quickly, “It’s probably Fluffy and I know she could use some help with all the food she brought to share with everyone.”  With one paw on the door handle, she waved Prescott away with the other, calling out, “B.H., come help me help Fluffy with her packages!”

Prescott gazed at her steadily for a long moment then started back to the kitchen.  Not before a speculative look entered his eyes, however.

B.H. arrived quickly at the door and Harley opened it wide, a welcoming smile on her snout.  Fluffy stood on the other side, arms full of containers from the Southside Café.  On either side of her, were Griff and Taffy, their small paws clutching carryout bags, also from the Café.  Harley stepped out of the way, allowing the three entrance.

“I was getting worried,” she said to Fluffy as she began taking containers and bags from them and handing them off to B.H. who scurried away to the dining room.  “You’re the last one here – what took so long?”

Fluffy glared at her and pointed to the twins, who were jumping excitedly around B.H.

“Oh,” Harley said.  “I guess I didn’t think about how hard it would be to run one little errand with the twins.  Next year, you can bring them by here first and then go get the food,” she decided.  Fluffy rolled her eyes, but carried the last of the food into the dining room, placing it where Harley and B.H. indicated.

At last, Gordy announced that dinner was ready and everyone filed into the dining room and took their assigned seats around the big table.  Once everyone was seated, Prescott looked expectantly at Harley, who stood and took out a piece of paper.  She began to read.

“We are gathered here today to partake of the bounty of giving and receiving,” she began.  “The receiving of the giving is the most important part of Thanksgiving, even though it’s called Thanksgiving and not Thanksreceiving.  Which it should be.  Because without the receiving, there can be no giving.  And when we receive that which is given, we give the gift of happiness which is then received by the person that is doing the giving.  And so the circle of giving and receiving is given and received again.  In order for there to be giving, there must be receiving.  And it is that receiving that is the giving back to the giver, who receives it. Let’s eat.”  She sat down, oblivious to the confused looks around the table.  “Pass the potatoes,” she added.

After a few minutes during which the assembled guests tried to assimilate Harley’s somewhat unorthodox speech, food began to make its way around the table.  Harley was thrilled that her plan was going perfectly – she took large helpings of the special foods and only tiny amounts of the vegetarian dishes, which she mixed together on her plate.  Prescott and Gordy were told that Fluffy’s contributions to the meal contained coconut and pineapple, which kept them from even smelling the dishes as they went around.  They ate, Harley ate, B.H. ate, Roper, Fluffy and Harry ate and Cookie/Isis licked  at the food on her plate, purring in contentment.

If Cookie’s bizarre actions bothered anyone during the meal, no one said anything about it.  Although there were a few tense moments when Harley thought Cookie was going to stick her tongue into the gravy boat.  In the end, Cookie simply turned her head away from it completely and went back to alternately licking her plate and her paws, eventually leaving the table and wandering off in the direction of the kitchen.  Harley saw Roper watch Cookie leave the room, then turn and whisper something to Harry.  She watched Harry shake his head emphatically and both of them turned back to their food.

Harley ate with gusto, stopping only to request more food.  And when she thought she wouldn’t be able to stuff another bite into her snout, Gordy announced it was time for dessert.  Harley employed her favorite power eating technique to prepare for the creamy, sweet pumpkin pie that would be appearing.  She focused on a single spot on the table in front of her.  She swallowed.  Focus, swallow.  Focus, swallow – don’t blink.  Swallow, swallow.  Her meal was staying put and she felt like she could eat more.

In addition to the pumpkin pies from Fluffy, there was the wheatberry soy pudding, some gluten free, almond butter and carob chip cookies, and a dish of something that looked like what Harley had left AG on her Monkey Romp this morning.  When asked, Gordy said it was a sugar-free mock-chocolate mousse.  Ick, thought Harley.

While Prescott dished up servings of the soy pudding and passed around the cookies, Harley waited impatiently for the pie.  Finally, Prescott took the knife and reached out to cut it into thick, sweet, creamy slices of heaven.  As the knife lowered to the pie’s surface, something jiggled in the custard filling.  Prescott pulled the knife back and leaned forward to see more closely.  The filling jiggled again, then began to crack and separate.  Prescott leaned back in alarm.  Harley jumped up from the table and watched in horror as the surface of the pie erupted, splattering everyone with bits of crust and filling.  A moaning sound emitted from the pie dish.  Something was in the pie!  Or, as Harley soon realized – someone was in the pie.

Cookie emerged from the ruined remains of the pie, moaning and swaying, covered in pumpkin custard, bits of crust and whipped cream globules hanging from her head and face.  She spun slowly, then faster and faster until she was swirling around the table, stepping in the leftovers of the other foods, flinging bits of pie in all directions.  All the while, she was chanting over and over, “Uhnnn uhnnn!  Unnn!  Uhhhh unnhh!”

No one could understand what she was saying.  Griff, Taffy and B.H. had been pushed under the table by their parents and Harley.  They cowered there, huddled together, waiting to be told it was safe to come out again.  Roper’s eyes were wide and terrified.  He was breathing shallowly and deeply, clutching Harry’s paw, making a high-pitched keening sound as he struggled not to Butterscotch.  Prescott and Gordy simply looked on in shock, unbelieving of what they were seeing.  Fluffy excused herself to the bathroom and raced away.  Harley sat, dumbfounded.  Eventually, she came back into herself enough to focus on what Cookie was saying.  She couldn’t make sense of it.  She banged her paw on the table loudly, startling everyone, even Cookie.

“That was my pie!” she raged.  “Who do you think  you are, you crazy poodle!  You’ve ruined Thanksgiving!!”

“Uhh unnn Uhnnnn uhh!” Cookie moaned loudly.

“Oh for crying out loud!” Harley yelled in exasperation.  “Roper!  What is she saying?”

Roper gulped mole waters from the tumbler Harry pressed into his paws.  He looked around, glassy-eyed, unsure of who was speaking to him.  Harry patted him reassuringly.

“Roper!” Harley repeated, out of patience.  “What is she saying?”

Roper blinked.  He drank another healthy amount from his glass before whispering in a trembling voice, “She says, ‘I am Isis, Queen Cat of the Realm.  All shall love me and despair.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 20

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 20

Thanksgiving day dawned grey and blustery.  Not that anyone in The Under Dome (besides Harley, who had already been out for her early morning Monkey Romp) would ever know the outside weather conditions:  Roper’s edict that nothing AG (Above Ground) ever enter the Kingdom ensured that no one dared venture a thought as to what weather conditions, economic woes or other current events might be occurring outside the protective cocoon Roper had spun around his home.  Nevertheless, the mood in The Under Dome was festive – everyone in Roper’s family and extended family was looking very forward to a traditional holiday celebration at Harley’s Brownstone.

While Gordy and Prescott toiled companionably in the kitchen, preparing a variety of low-fat, low- calorie, vegan foods, Harley and B.H. worked feverishly to bring their dream of a full-fat, full-calorie, meat-laden Thanksgiving feast to life.  Harley had made arrangements the previous day with both the Southside Café and Fluffy.  Since Roper always brought a separate vehicle to any family gathering, Fluffy promised she would stop at the Café and pick up the food Harley had pre-ordered the day before.  She would come in the front door, laden with containers of food, which the Café would have already labeled with a special marking.  Harley would immediately take the food into the dining room and place it at the end of the table where she and B.H. (and Fluffy, since that was part of the agreement Harley had made with her) would be sitting.  B.H. had been up early that morning, creating special place cards with a Thanksgiving theme to indicate where each guest would sit.  He had arranged them around the large table so that Gordy and Prescott, Harry, Roper and Cookie would be sitting at the opposite end as Harley and what she was referring to as her “Meat Crew.”

If the Buffaloes asked about the special foods Fluffy had “brought,” they would be told that she had added peanuts, pineapple or coconut to the dishes.  Since both Buffaloes suffered severe allergies to one or more of those ingredients, they would obviously bypass them, ensuring Harley and the “Meat Crew” complete and total ownership of the food.

Harley was delighted that the plan had come together so smoothly.  She could already taste the pumpkin pie, which was going to be so much more delicious than the wheatberry soy pudding Gordy had announced as being dessert.  Of course, she’d probably have to choke down a helping of that so as not to arouse suspicion and avoid hurting Gordy’s feelings.  But if she ate that first, she could purge the foul taste from her mouth with the creamy pie.

Satisfied that everything would go according to plan, she turned her attention to the blessing she was supposed to deliver before the meal.  Settling in at her desk, she worked on the speech, sipping tea and dreaming of turkey until the time Fluffy was set to arrive.

********

Roper had a bad feeling about this family dinner.  He said so to Harry as they rode together in Roper’s plushly appointed Vole-vo.  “I just have a terrible sense of forebowling, Harry,” he said as he sipped mole waters.  “I just know something is going to go wrong at this dinner.  Remember I told you Cookie has been acting strange, Harry?”

Harry nodded.

“Well,” Roper went on, “She came by my office yesterday afternoon and asked if I would help her apply for a building permit.  I asked her what she wanted to build and she got very secretive.  I finally got out of her that she wanted to build a house on the edge of town – over by the Badger Docks.  Only – and this is the really weird part, Harry – it’s not a house she wants to build.  It’s something she calls a yurt.  Have you ever heard of a yurt, Harry?”  Roper sipped his drink again and flapped his paw in the air.

Harry shook his head, “No, Sir.  I am not familiar with a yurt, Sir.  What is it?”

Roper sighed and shook his head.  “It’s some sort of big tent, Harry.  Cookie wants to build and live in a tent.  In my city.  It’s ridiculous, of course.  Which I told her.  But she started scratching at the floor and yowling – she sounded like some sort of wounded animal – and it scared me so bad that I told her I’d fix it and she could build whatever the heck she wanted wherever she wanted if only she’d get out of my office.”  Visibly shaken from describing the encounter, Roper drank deeply from his mole waters and took several deep shallow breaths.

Harry patted his shoulder and murmured words of comfort.  “Then what happened, Sir?”

“Well, after that she calmed down but said she wanted the permit by Friday.  I said, ‘But Cookie, tomorrow is a holiday!  I can’t possibly guarantee a building permit on Friday!’  And she looked at me with this terrifying expression on her face and she said – I’m not kidding you, Harry, I thought she was going to lunge at me and tear my throat out!  I was so scared, Harry!  I don’t know what I would have done if she’d attacked me – I mean, I could Butterscotch but that wouldn’t protect me from her vicious claws.  And I wasn’t even near my desk – see, she’d followed me into my office and cornered me right by the door – and I couldn’t get to my panic button to call a Vole Squad or anything!  I didn’t even have my whistle!”  Roper began taking more deep shallow breaths in an effort to calm himself.

Harry refilled Roper’s drink.  “What did she say, Sir?” he prompted.  Harry noticed they were near Harley’s house and he was anxious to get the story out of Roper so he would have an idea what to expect from the day.

Roper’s glazed expression cleared and he looked at Harry expectantly.  “What did who say, Harry?”  He sipped calmly from his drink.

“Cookie, Sir.  What did Cookie say, Sir?”

“Oh, yes, Cookie.  She said, ‘I am Isis.  Cookie is no more.  Isis will rule.  Isis is all.’  Then she purred and left the office.  I was petrified, Harry!  I’ll tell you, I got on the phone to the building department and got that permit right away.  I’m going to give it to her today.  I’m also going to tell her she’s fired as the children’s nanny and  my Director of Under Dome Security.  Actually, I was kind of hoping you’d do that for me, Harry.  You have such a way with people.  Also, I don’t want to do it.  She really scares the Butterscotch out of me!  And, on a side note, we’ll be needing to appoint a new D.U.D.S on Friday.”

Roper drank more mole waters and settled back into his car seat.  The vole chauffeur buzzed a short time later, announcing they had reached the Brownstone.

“Oh, we’re here, Harry.  Well, great.  I’ll just give you the building permit and let you take care of Cookie.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, Harry.  And, after all, if she mauls you, we’ve got the clones in reserve so we can either fix you up or replace you completely!  It’s a win win for everyone, isn’t it?”  Roper tittered.

Harry looked at him for a long moment before answering.  “Yes, Sir.  Certainly a win win, Sir.  Good to know you have a plan, Sir,” he said with a touch of sarcasm.

Harry’s tone was completely lost on Roper as he began to primp and fuss over his outfit.  “I really hope everyone notices my special Thanksgiving suit, Harry.  What am I saying?  Of course they’ll love it! It’s one of the best holiday ensembles Jose has ever put together!  Don’t you agree?”

Harry sighed resignedly.  “Yes, Sir.  It’s quite a look, Sir.”  Taking the permit from Roper, he exited the Vole-vo, holding the door for Roper.

As Roper exited the car, he looked around expectantly.  “Where’s the butterscotch carpet, Harry?”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 19

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 19

Harley and B.H. sat at the kitchen table, each with a mug of gravy and a small plate of cheese.  While B.H. nibbled his cheese politely, Harley crammed all the pieces into her snout and chewed loudly.  Gordy, chopping vegetables at the counter, looked over his hump at her and snuffled loudly.  Harley swallowed her food and wiped her snout with the back of her paw.  “Sorry,” she mumbled to Gordy.  “It’s been a long time since I ate lunch and I’m pretty hungry.  When’s supper, anyway?” she asked in a surly tone.

Turning back to his vegetables, Gordy snuffled and pointed a hoof towards the oven where something was baking.  Harley thought it smelled like meatloaf, one of her favorites.  But she was positive that the loaf would not be made of meat – nothing ever was when the Buffaloes made it.

She shared a look with B.H. then asked, “Is that your famous meatless meatloaf I’m smelling, Gordy?”  She rolled her eyes behind his back and B.H. giggled.

Without turning around, Gordy snuffled and nodded his big shaggy head in the affirmative.

“Well, that’s good,” Harley said in a falsely cheerful voice.  She pantomimed putting her paw down her throat and gagging.  B.H. giggled again.

Gordy turned around and fixed his large brown eyes on the pair.  Harley sat looking innocently at him while B.H. tried, unsuccessfully, to contain his giggles.  Snuffling in irritation, Gordy shooed them both out of the kitchen.

“Well that’s a fine how-do-you-do,” Harley grumbled as they left the room.  “I don’t know why you can’t just let me eat what I want!” she shouted over her shoulder.  Gordy pointed his hoof at the kitchen door and snuffled.  “Well I think it tastes like card board!” she responded.

Turning to B.H. she whispered, “They think they’re so smart, feeding me vegetarian crap.  But I’m not going to let them ruin Thanksgiving, B.H.  We’re going to have real Thanksgiving turkey with dressing and gravy and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and Prescott and Gordy can put their pressed tofu turkey mold where the hump don’t shine.”  B.H. nodded encouragingly.  “Come on, B.H.,” Harley said decisively.  “We’ve got work to do.”

Harley walked quickly to her study, B.H. close behind her.  She shut the door behind him and motioned for him to take a seat in front of her desk.  She settled herself into the chair on the other side and then leaned forward to speak intently to B.H..

“Here’s what we’re going to do, B.H.,” she said.  “Gordy and Prescott have a vegetable-heavy Thanksgiving meal planned out.  There won’t be any meat in the turkey, no fat in the gravy and I’ll bet you they’re going to try to put some weird dessert in place of the pumpkin pie.  Last year, it was gluten-free flan.  Blech.”  She shuddered at the memory.  B.H. looked scared.

Harley continued.  “This year there’s going to be meat feast!”  Her eyes took on a gleam of meat lust that burned intensely. “I’m going to call the Southside Café and have them cater a real meat meal.  I know it will be expensive, since Roper pushes the grub-based diet, but it’s going to be worth it.”  She rubbed her paws together.  “Oh, B.H.,” she cried gleefully.  “Just wait until you taste that first bite of juicy, tender turkey!  It will bedivine!”

B.H. bounced excitedly in his chair and clapped his small paws happily.

“Now,” Harley said, leaning back in her chair, tapping her paw on the desk as if to aid her thinking process.  “What’s the best way to trick the Buffaloes into not noticing the real meal we’re eating while they gnaw away on their grassy knolls?”

“You know, B.H.,” she said after a moment.  “We’re so lucky that Grandma and Grandpa decided to go spend Thanksgiving with Chatauqua and Alan.  Grandma is too  shrewd to ever have the turkey wool pulled over her eyes.”  B.H. nodded sagely.  “But Gordy and Prescott are pretty gullible so this should be easy peasey nice and cheesey.”  B.H. nodded again.

“Back to the plan,” Harley said.  “I think it’s best if we let them prepare the whole meal.  After all, they’ll have to eat something.”  She tapped her paw on her chin thoughtfully.  “Our biggest worry, believe it or not, is going to be Roper.  He’s going to notice that we’re eating real turkey and stuff and he just can’t keep his mouth shut.  He’ll say something stupid, alert the Buffaloes and then it will all be over.”  She pointed her paw at B.H.  “We can’t let that happen, B.H.  There’s too much at stake.”

She paused in her plotting and went to the small kitchenette in the corner of her office.  “Would you like some tea, B.H.?” she asked politely.  “Tea helps me think.”  B.H. nodded.  “I have some really good blends,” she offered.  “This one’s my favorite – beef and apple – it’s decaffeinated so it won’t keep you up all night.”  She heated a kettle of water on the small hot plate, then prepared two cups of the pungent tea.

Handing a cup to B.H., she warned, “It’s very hot, B.H., so be careful.”  B.H. nodded and carefully took the cup into his small paws, sipping tentatively at the steaming brew.  He looked at Harley and smiled his approval.

She arranged herself comfortably behind her desk once again and resumed the conversation.  “You see, B.H.,” she sipped from her own mug.  “All we have to do is get Roper all looped up on mole waters and he won’t have the mental juice to say anything.  At least not anything the Buffaloes will take seriously.  They think he’s a complete poncey poof at best.  If he starts babbling about turkey and dressing and meat – they’ll ignore it and assume he’s a rambling nitwit.”

B.H. slurped his tea noisily.

“That just leaves the issue of sneaking in the real food and mixing it in with the Buffaloes’ “healthy” meal.”  She took out a note pad and began making notes, a pen held firmly in her Do Claw’s grasp.  “I think I can get Fluffy to help us.  I’ll have her stop at the Café, pick up the food and bring it here, disguised as her contribution to the meal.  The Buffaloes are kind of scared of Fluffy so they’ll never question her.  Then, we mark our food with some kind of secret symbol so we know which food to eat, we let the Buffaloes eat hay and everyone is happy.”  She dusted her paws together.  “Mission accomplished,” she declared smugly.

“Thanks for your help, B.H.,” she said warmly.  “This is going to be the best Thanksgiving ever.”  She smiled at the little vole, who slurped his tea, then grinned back at her.

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 18

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 18

“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.

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 17

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 17

The following morning, Harley awoke early, expecting to have to go get B.H. out of bed. After Harry had left the previous afternoon, Harley and the Buffaloes had given the little vole a tour of the Brownstone, prepared a celebratory welcome home meal and then played Jenga late into the evening. She supposed B.H. would be worn out from his big day and would sleep in that morning.

Instead, she found him in the kitchen, sitting at the table with a small cup of gravy in his paws. He looked up from the newspaper he was reading when Harley entered the room and nodded a greeting.

“Well,” Harley looked surprised. “I didn’t expect you to be up so early, B.H. Did you sleep well?” When B.H. nodded vigorously, she crossed the room and saw the gravy pot was finished percolating. She took her favorite mug from the cabinet and poured herself a steaming cup. Inhaling the aroma deeply, she turned back to B.H. “I guess you’re eager to get started on the day, then?” Another excited nod from the vole.

Harley took a sip from her mug. “Ahh,” she said. “There’s nothing quite like that first taste of gravy in the morning, is there, B.H.?” She licked her snout and took another gulp. B.H. did the same, sighing happily as he swallowed the thick brew.

They were both on their third cup when Gordy and Prescott entered the kitchen a bit later. After much Buffalo snuffling and hump shaking, Harley grudgingly consented to eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. “Although I really think we get all the nutrition we need from a hearty cup of gravy,” she grumbled quietly to B.H. B.H. nodded solemnly.

Satisfied, Prescott set two bowls of pale, jiggly oatmeal on the table in front of Harley and B.H. and gazed at them steadily until each picked up their spoon and began to eat. “Mmmm,” Harley said dryly, “It’s so delicious – I can’t believe it’s real food.” B.H. snickered into his own spoon. Prescott glared at both of them, then turned back to the stove to serve himself. Gordy sat in one of the vacant chairs, a container of Swedish yogurt in one hoof and cup of Oolong tea in the other. He watched impassively as Harley and B.H. continued to eat the oatmeal, then nodded in approval when they had taken the last bites.

“I guess we better get going,” Harley declared suddenly, practically leaping out of her chair. “Big day, today, you know. Have to get ole B.H. here up to speed on his duties and what-not.” She made a big production of pulling B.H.’s chair out and shooing him out of the kitchen. “Meetings, appearances, lectures – yessir, my day is jam-packed.” She continued rambling as she bustled B.H. down the hall, grabbing her messenger bag and stuffing papers in it as she went. She handed B.H. a bag identical to her own, about a quarter of the size, then snatched up her scarf, gloves and ‘Do Claw’. “Quick, B.H., go get your coat and boots on. If we hurry, we can get out of here and stop at the South Side Cafe for a real breakfast before the Buffaloes leave the house for work. They’ll never know,” she whispered urgently. B.H. nodded quickly and rushed to his room to get his winter gear. Harley tossed a few more items into her bag and met B.H. on his way up to the front door.

“Good job, B.H.,” she said. “Let’s get out of here before they try to send a sack lunch with us!” She adjusted the vole’s small coat collar and buttoned up the top button before shouting toward the kitchen, “We’re leaving! See you tonight! Might be late – don’t fix supper!” Without waiting for a reply, she and her new assistant went out the door and moved quickly down the street toward freedom … and breakfast.

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 16

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 16

After a carefully prepared (by the Buffaloes), but dissatisfying lunch of quinoa salad with marinated tofu, Harley was full but unhappy. Back in B.H.’s room, she grumbled to Gordy as they finished arranging the lounge chair and fluffy area rug that had just been delivered by the Buy Furniture Here delivery voles.

“I just don’t think it qualifies as real food!” she argued. When Gordy snuffled and shook his hump at her, she protested again. “But it’s not meat. And no matter what you soak it in, it’s not going to be meat. I understand that it’s supposed to soak up the flavor of whatever you soak it in, but the truth is – I could soak a kitchen sponge in some of Prescott’s fancy sauce and it would still be a sponge. And sponges are not meat! End of story.” She glared at Gordy, the tip of her tongue slightly protruding through her teeth and lip, as it tended to do when she was emotional. Gordy snuffled in what sounded like light chuckle and shook his hump again.

Harley took a final look around the room. “I think this looks pretty comfortable, don’t you? I mean I think B.H. will like it. Not that I really know B.H., but you know, if you were a vole clone who didn’t know anyone or anything, you’d think it was comfortable, right?” She looked at Gordy hopefully. Gordy nodded.

Harley was about to start fussing nervously with the bedding again, when she heard the doorbell sound upstairs. She turned in an excited circle before racing out of the room and up the stairs, calling over her shoulder to Gordy, “He’s here! B.H. is here! Come on, Gordy!”

Prescott met them at the door, drying his hooves on a kitchen towel. Harley looked at the Buffaloes and issued a warning. “Now, don’t talk about where he comes from – he may not even know he’s a clone. We don’t want him to be self-conscious, we want him to feel like he belongs. He’s probably going to be very nervous and the last thing we need is you two being all ‘Buffalo-ey’ and scaring him half to death. Try to look smaller – suck in your humps. And don’t crowd around him!” She pointed a paw at them, pleased that they both looked appropriately docile and friendly. “Good. Okay, here we go,” she said excitedly, grinning widely and opening the door.

Harry stood next to himself on the front porch. One Harry was holding a small suitcase. The other Harry nudged him in through the open door and followed, closing the door with a click. The two Harrys stared at the Buffaloes, then Harley. Harley looked at Harry, then at the other Harry, then at the Buffaloes. No one spoke.

Finally, Harley could take the awkward silence no longer. “So, which one of you is the vole clone?” she blurted. Prescott and Gordy looked at her in horror. Harry cleared his throat. Harley slapped a paw over her snout. Wide-eyed and embarrassed, she continued in a shrill voice, “I mean, which one of you is B.H.? Of course you wouldn’t be a clone – I meant clown. I heard you were a clown as a hobby. Everyone loves a clown, don’t they? Except those who find them terrifying. Prescott here doesn’t like clowns at all. Bad experience when he was just a little buffalo and all. But I’m sure he’ll like you. As long as you don’t dress up like a clown and jump out from behind a chair or something. He does not like that at all. Nope, not at all …” she trailed off, looking at first Prescott, then Gordy, her desperate glance finally landing on Harry.

Harry nodded briskly. “Yes, well,” he began, shooing the group towards the stairs. “I’m quite sure B.H. would like to see the room you’ve arranged for him, Harley. Perhaps you could direct us?”

Harley skulked down the steps and down the hall, pausing before she allowed them entry into the room. She turned and said to B.H., “I wasn’t sure what your style was so I took the liberty of, you know, getting some stuff for the room. If you don’t like it we can exchange it.” She shrugged, as if it was no big deal. B.H. looked at her timidly.

She opened the bedroom door and stepped back, allowing Harry and B.H. to enter first. She and the Buffaloes followed. B.H. was looking around interestedly, his small eyes lighting up when landing on the bunk beds. He dropped his suitcase and hurried over to them, letting out a tiny giggle as he climbed the ladder to the top bunk and began to jump up and down.

Harley raised her eyebrows. “Should he be doing that?” she asked Prescott. Prescott snuffled. She rolled her eyes. “I meant is it safe for him to be doing that?” She huffed in exasperation and stepped to the edge of the bed. “Now, B.H., I don’t think that’s a very good idea …” she began. B.H. bounced higher, chortling with glee and waving his small paws in the air. “B.H.,” Harley said again, firmer this time. “B.H. come on down from there before you hurt yourself.” More bouncing and gleeful laughter. Harley stomped her foot. “Barry Harry Vole!” she yelled. “You better get down from there right now!” B.H. stopped bouncing and stared at Harley in alarm. He began to squeak loudly, scrambling down the ladder and going quickly to Harry’s side where he stood trembling and watching Harley warily.

Harry patted his back gently, murmuring words of comfort and sending irritated glances at Harley. Prescott and Gordy glared at her for several minutes before Prescott pushed her forward with his hoof, nodding his hump in a gesture that plainly said, ‘fix it’.

“Uh, well,” she began moving slowly toward B.H., speaking in a conciliatory tone. “You see, B.H., what I meant to say was that I really think it’s dangerous for you to be jumping on the bed like that.” As she approached him, B.H. went very still and peered at her with wide eyes. She stopped moving and continued, “I’m only concerned about keeping you safe.” Harley said the word again, enunciating carefully and looking into his small face. “SAFE.” She held out her paw and B.H. reached out with his own tiny paw, tentatively placing it in Harley’s. He looked up at her and blinked. Harley nodded encouragingly. “See? Safe.” B.H. nodded briefly before moving forward quickly, throwing his small arms around Harley’s snout, hugging tightly.

Harley looked over at Prescott and from the corner of her eye saw both he and Gordy grinning and heard them snuffling happily. Harry stood with a satisfied look.

“Okay then,” Harley said after a few minutes when B.H. finally released the hug. “Everybody’s fine. Everybody’s safe. How about a snack? Big bowl of gravy anyone?” She looked around the room and was pleased to see B.H. bouncing excitedly from foot to foot, clapping his paws and smiling. “Well, B.H.,” she said happily, “Looks like we’re going to get along just fine. Follow me – the kitchen is this way. I’ll show you how to heat the gravy to just the right temperature.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 15

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 15

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.

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 14

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 14

Harley stared in amazement. “So, I guess you want me to use one of these clones as my assistant?” she said after a few minutes.

“Well,” Roper began, relaxing in his chair, “I – I mean we – thought you’d like to choose some of the final characteristics.” He pointed to the nearest stasis chamber. “This clone is almost finished baking and there’s time for you to have some input on personality and that kind of thing. You know – like, do you want him to be musical? Harry has a wonderful singing voice – he’s always singing me to sleep. Very soothing.” Roper chattered on while Harley looked to Harry for direction.

Harry motioned for her to follow him and they walked to a small console that resembled one of the fancy computerized menu machines at a fast food restaurant Harley had protested earlier in the week. On the console were several buttons, each labeled with a word or phrase.

“Sense of humor, taste in clothing, movies, books …” she read out loud. “So I can, like, program a personality into my assistant?” she asked. “If you had this technology, why didn’t you program a personality for Roper?” she added with a snort. Harry looked at her dispassionately. “Right,” Harley smirked, “Roper has a personality. Sort of.” She shifted her eyes sideways to look at Harry and, seeing his disapproving expression, sighed. “Fine,” she huffed, “let’s talk about my clone.”

Harry handed her a glossy brochure. On the front were the words “Clone-O-Matic 1000” and underneath, the slogan “Own a clone today!” Harley opened the brochure and began reading silently. She wasn’t surprised to read that the technology had been developed by Roper’s technical voles – they were quite brilliant, although very weird. What did surprise her, was that Roper had been able to keep this project a secret for what appeared to be a good long while. Normally, he blurted out whatever thought happened to bubble through his empty little head.

He was especially vocal about his fantastic ideas that eventually turned out to be the cause nearly apocalyptic disasters.  For example, his fitness drink, “Roper-ize,”  which was supposed to build haunch muscles and make the drinker’s coat gleam like Roper’s but instead had ended up causing voles all over The Under Dome to develop bald patches and explosive diarrhea.  Or his fragrance line, “Butterscotch Musk,”  a pungent, overpowering cologne that had the eyes of every citizen in the Realm watering non-stop and had almost caused an ‘incident’ with the Beaver Contingent when the stench traveled into their territory.  Harley shook her head remembering Roper’s most insane and deadly invention – “The Live Wire Night Suit,” to which he’d assigned the slogan, “Never be afraid of the dark again!”  The design was simple – a rechargeable battery-powered suit which would keep the wearer warm and  ‘lit up’ for 12.2 hours at a time. Hundreds of those death traps had been sold.  It was known still as “The Night of a Thousand Twinkles.”  In that one night, the emergency room at Under Dome General Hospital  had been swamped with vole and mole casualties, second and third degree burns over most of their bodies where the Christmas lights Roper had used inside the suit had melted into their tender skin.  There had been a swift recall of the remaining suits, but the damage to the population’s blind faith in Roper Lee had been shaken.  It had taken him months to convince the general population that it was even safe to turn on the lights in their homes.

But this, Harley, reasoned, had to do with Harry and Roper was incredibly possessive of Harry. So it was, she supposed, the main motivation for him keeping quiet. She read on, raising her eyebrows at the long list of personality traits that could be programmed into each clone. This might take a while, she thought. She finished reading and looked up to see both Harry and Roper watching her expectantly.

“Well,” Roper demanded, jumping up from his chair to prance from foot to foot. “What do you think?”

“I think, as much as it pains me to admit it, that this is a fairly brilliant idea,” she said. “I like Harry’s efficiency, his attention to detail, his ‘get it done’ attitude … I’d like to have all that in my assistant. I won’t need the constant stroking, reassurance, coddling, fetch and carry stuff – I’d like my clone to be a bit more interested in life outside Roper – I mean, me,” she added quickly, when Harry and Roper both shot her slanted looks. “I mean,” she explained, “I’d like him to want to be around me, obviously, but I don’t mind if he has outside interests of his own. Like if he wanted to join a book club or something – I wouldn’t care.”

“That’s easy,” Roper declared. “Isn’t that easy, Harry?” Harry nodded. “So, just fill out this personality questionnaire and we’ll take care of the rest.” Roper scrabbled around on a nearby desk and produced a sheet of paper, handing it over to Harley with a flourish.

“This a list of all the personality traits I want the clone to have?” Harley queried, looking over the page.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Roper tittered. “It’s a personality profile for you. This way, we just input your information and the computer comes up with the personality that best compliments you. Easy peasy pie.” He added ‘jazz paws’ to emphasize the statement. “It’s like a dating service!” he squealed.

Harley rolled her eyes. “I’m not looking for a date, Roper. I’m looking for a personal assistant. Remember that.”

“Oh, yes, I know,” he nodded soberly. “I just meant that it would be a perfect match. Like Ropeo and Harriet. Hee hee,” he giggled.

“Right,” Harley muttered. “Just get it done quickly.”

Harry handed Roper a computer printout. “Well,” Roper said, reading the page. “It looks like, if you can get the questionnaire to us sometime today, we can have your clone up and ready by tomorrow afternoon … say, 1:34-ish?”

Harley nodded. “I’ll have it back in your tiny little paw before lunch,” she said matter-of-factly. “By the way, will I have to choose a name for my clone or does it come with one?”

Roper looked at Harry, then back at Harley. “Well,” he began tentatively, “we sort of came up with a system of naming the clones. I felt,” he looked to Harry for confirmation, “it was important to recognize Harry’s contribution to this project. I mean, after all, we used his VNA to start the whole process. So, I decided that each clone should have a name that includes Harry’s name. Beyond that, you can name him whatever you want. As long as it also rhymes with Harry.” Roper said the last bit quickly and very quietly.

Harley’s ears perked up and her eyes widened. “So I have to name the clone something that rhymes with the name Harry and also includes the name Harry?”

“Yes.” Roper replied. “Other than that, it’s totally up to you.”

Harley stared at him for several minutes before speaking. “Exactly what do you propose that I name this vole, then?” she said finally, paws up, shoulders shrugging.

“Well,” Roper stammered, looking at Harry and shaking his head. “I’m sure I have absolutely no idea what you’d like to name him!” he exclaimed innocently.

“How many Harry clones are there in circulation or whatever, out there in the Under Dome?” Harley demanded. “And what are their names?”

“Um, let’s see,” Roper looked at the ceiling and tapped his chin whiskers with one small paw. “There’s my secretary, of course – you’ve met Sharry. And Larry down in the mail room. Ah, Chef Parry over at the Southside Cafe – he’s responsible for preparing all my meals, you know. Um, Jarry, Carry and Garry, on my Vole Security Team. Marry, President of the Under Dome Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Director and Tarry, my stylist, Jose’s assistant. I think that’s everyone, don’t you Harry?” Harry nodded.

Harley sighed. “So you’ve taken Sharry, Larry, Parry, Jarry, Carry, Garry, Marry and Tarry? That doesn’t leave me many names to choose from, Roper. And no offense, Harry, but it also doesn’t sound like my assistant will have much of an individual identity, no matter what I choose.” She gave another disgusted sigh.

Harry leaned close to Roper’s ear and whispered something. Roper’s expression, which had drooped during Harley’s complaint, brightened again. “That’s a wonderful suggestion, Harry!” He clapped his paws together excitedly.

“Harley!” he said confidently. “Harry and I think you should name your clone/assistant Barry! Isn’t it a beautiful name?!” he cried gleefully.

“No.” Harley said petulantly. “But it’s better than Farry or Darry, which is all I could come up with.” She shrugged again. “Fine. Barry it is. But,” she pointed a paw sternly at Roper, “I’m not calling him Barry Harry. He can be B.H.”

“Fair enough,” Roper nodded. “Harry will program his personality and bring him to your house tomorrow afternoon.” He started to get up, but sat down again when Harry looked at him intently. “Oh, yes, that’s right,” he waved his paws in front of his face. “I almost forgot, Harry.”

“Now, Harley, B.H.,” Roper carefully enunciated the name, “will have his distinct personality and all the qualities that you requested. But what he won’t have, is a place to live. Will you be furnishing him with an apartment or something, or is he going to live with you?”

Harley looked thoughtful. “I hadn’t really thought about that,” she admitted. “But I suppose it would be a good idea for him to live with me and the Buffaloes. I have a spare room at the Brownstone … Prescott and Gordy have been bugging me to turn it into a home gym.” She shuddered at the idea. “But this way,” she rubbed her paws together and smiled, “I’ll have an unbeatable excuse! I mean, who would cast a poor, tiny, orphan vole out on the street just so you could have one of those awful elliptical machines?” she put on an innocent, sweet face, then laughed wickedly.

“It’s settled, then,” Roper said, rising from his chair and making his way toward the door. “Harry and B.H. will be at your house sometime tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got a meeting so you can show yourself out, Harley.” He turned back and said over his shoulder, “And Harley, you can’t tell anyone about Project Pardner … it’s a matter of Under Dome security.” He turned and was gone.

“I guess I’d better get going, Harry,” Harley said. “I’ve got a lot to do before tomorrow – a whole room to decorate. Or maybe I should wait and let B.H. pick out his own décor?” She looked at Harry questioningly. Harry shrugged. “Yeah, you’re right. We should probably pick it out together. I’ll just make sure he’s got the necessities and we can go shopping tomorrow or the next day.” Muttering under her breath about bedding, paint colors and no evil exercise equipment, she exited the lab and made her way out of the building.

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 13

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 13

At 9:00 the following morning, Harley walked slowly into Roper’s office. She wasn’t an early morning dog, unless the reason for the early morning was a) a large breakfast or b) a monkey romp in fresh snow. This morning’s meeting was neither and she had to keep reminding herself that she was here to get her new assistant (which was something she really,really wanted) so she wouldn’t turn around, go home and tunnel back into her warm, soft, inviting bed.

Not surprisingly, Roper was not yet present. If there was any dog who was less of a morning lover than Harley, it was Roper Lee. Especially when he had overindulged himself on mole waters the night before, which was pretty much something he did every night. Harley gave a brief thought to the notion that perhaps someone should say something to him about his clear dependence on the fizzy, refreshing beverage. But knowing as she did that Roper loved his mole waters beyond reason, she quickly dismissed the idea.

She made her way to the corner of the office where a small kitchenette had been installed. It housed a toaster oven, well-stocked refrigerator, microwave, cappuccino machine, dishwasher and sink, as well as a small set of cabinets containing dishes and glasses, cups and other small cookware items. Harley knew Roper had no idea it was even there – if he had known there was (as he called any sort of cooking apparatus) an “incendiary device” located in such close proximity to his boys he would refuse to come into the office until it was gone. But given Roper’s penchant for oddly-timed office hours and meetings, it was as likely as not for Harley or any of Roper’s other friends, family or business associates to be in the office during meal or snack times. Harry had graciously (and discreetly) added the little kitchen in an unused corner of the room and put up a room divider to hide it from Roper’s view. To keep him from looking too closely and discovering the snack center, Harry had told him that what lay behind the divider was a maintenance access door that led directly to the surface. Of course, Roper was assured, it was securely locked and only Harry held the key, but it was a sufficient deterrent to Roper’s further exploration of the area. He had hired an artist to paint a portrait of himself on the divider and pretended there was nothing beyond it.

Harley busied herself with making a second breakfast: She toasted an English muffin and added a thick slice of the real (not grub) ham and cheese she found in the refrigerator. “Oh, God bless you, Harry,” she murmured gratefully. She also found a mug of gravy in the cooler and heated it in the microwave. Grabbing a cloth napkin from the basket on the counter, she took her snack back into the main part of the office and settled into a chair near Roper’s desk to eat and wait for him to arrive.

At precisely 9:12, Roper pranced into the office, closely followed by Harry. Today, Roper was wearing a lime-green sateen jumpsuit with a wide, jewel-encrusted belt around his middle. The top of the jumpsuit boasted a wide collar attached to a deep V-neckline which showed off Roper’s (in his mind) well muscled pectoral area and his butterscotch chest fur. The long, puffy sleeves ended with ruffled cuffs which nipped in to hug his dainty forepaws. Each sleeve shimmered with an iridescent sherbet-colored overlay that fluttered when he walked. Over each of his haunches was a cut-out, outlined with an embroidered vine-like design in neon yellow. The legs of the suit were also overlaid with the iridescent fabric and they, too, gathered in closely around his hind feet and ended in a wide cuff studded with sparkling stones. On his feet were shiny patent leather ankle boots in eye-searing orange with a modest heel and bright green tassels attached to the zipper pulls on the inside of each boot. He wore a fedora-style hat in the same orange color, with a lime-green hat band. It was perched on his head at a dashing angle and the candy pink feather with which he had adorned the band waved jauntily as he walked.

Harley stared, open-mouthed for several seconds before swallowing the mouthful of food she had been chewing. Shaking her head and rolling her eyes she let out a loud, barking laugh. “Good Lord, Roper!” she exclaimed, “You look like a color blind genie in that get-up!”

Roper glared at her from under his hat brim. “I’ll have you know this is the peak of fashion in Europe!” he huffed indignantly. “All the most stylish people are wearing jumpsuits this season,” he added with a sniff.

“Uh huh,” Harley remarked dryly. “So the ‘Technicolor Pimp’ look is popular?” She laughed again when Roper gave her a sour look.

“Well, I’m sure you’ve made yourself at home in my office,” he said, looking pointedly at her empty plate and mug. “Thanks ever so much for stinking up my private space with your breakfast.” He made a production of settling behind his desk, smoothing his jumpsuit, puffing his sleeves and adjusting his hat.

“No problem,” Harley replied. The best way to deal with Roper when he tried to be all sarcastic and snooty was to take everything he said literally. It always had the added benefit of making him even more irritated and was something of a habit Harley had developed over the years. “So, what’s the plan to help me out with my staffing issue?” she asked abruptly, not wanting to give Roper more time to primp and ponce before getting down to business. She was, after all, a busy dachshund.

Roper looked up sharply at her sudden change of subject. “No time for even basic courtesy or small talk, Harley?” he said. He mimicked Harley’s voice, “My, Roper, you’re haunches certainly do gleam this morning.” “Why, thank you, Harley,” he went on in his own. “I had a vole squad come in early this morning to give me a haunch massage and get the circulation going. You know that’s one of my little beauty secrets – regular massages – don’t tell anyone,” he confided.

Harley snorted rudely. “Don’t worry,” she retorted. “I never talk about your ‘beauty secrets’. It’s weird that you even have beauty secrets.”

She waited a moment longer for Roper to settle himself and take a healthy gulp of mole waters before asking again, “So, really, Roper, what’s the deal? I don’t have all day to piddle around and watch you groom yourself and drink mole waters.”

Roper glanced at Harry before speaking. “I think it would be better to showyou what I’ve been working on instead of telling you,” he said, suddenly all business. “Harry, let’s take her down to the lab.” He put down his mole waters and stood, waiting for Harley to get out of her chair.

Harley blinked at the sudden change in Roper’s demeanor. Normally, he was, at best, ambivalent about business matters. Now, he seemed not only interested, but well informed and professional. She shrugged. It was odd, but so was Roper. She got up, collected the go-cup of gravy Harry had placed on the table beside her and prepared to follow Roper and Harry out of the office.

Harry led them down a series of hallways to an elevator. Pressing an amber button marked with the letters “T.U.R.D.,” he motioned them inside when the doors opened.

Harley looked at Roper with concern. “Where are we going, Roper? What is ‘turd’? Some new snack bar you’ve opened?” she asked hopefully.

“The Under Dome Really Deep,” Roper began, aiming a condescending look at his sister, “or ’T.U.R.D.’, (he raised his paws to make air quotes around the acronym) is the top secret laboratory facility where Harry and I have been working on ‘Project Pardner’ (more air quotes). Some time ago, I realized that Harry was not only my best friend,” he directed an adoring gaze at Harry, “but also the most valued member of my government. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to effectively run The Under Dome and all its territories. He keeps me organized, gets me to events on time and makes sure I always have mole waters.”

The elevator stopped and the trio exited the car. Harry led them down a darkened passage way while Roper continued to speak.

“So one night I had a dream – a nightmare really – that Harry was gone and I was all alone. It was so horrible,” he shuddered at the memory. “I knew I had to make sure nothing could ever happen to Harry. That’s when we developed the idea for ‘Project Pardner’.”

They reached a door, guarded by two tough-looking voles dressed in black with ‘Under Dome Security’ emblazoned on their shirts. To one side of the door was a small electronic panel with a numbered keypad under a square paw-reader. Roper looked pointedly at Harley, “You need to turn around, this is a top secret facility, remember?”

Harley rolled her eyes and huffed, but turned around. After a moment, she heard a series of beeps and then a soft ‘snickt’ sound.

“Okay,” Roper said, “follow me. And don’t touch anything.”

They entered a room, dimly lit and lined down both side walls with what looked to be glass coffins. Inside, Harley could see that each contained some sort of body, shrouded in mist.

“This,” Roper said, grandly, “is ‘Project Pardner’.” He threw his paws out and made his signature ‘jazz paws’ motion with them. “Isn’t it neat?!” he exclaimed.

Harley gazed around the room, not sure whether to be impressed or terrified. “Roper Lee, what have you done?” she breathed. “What is this ‘Project Pardner’ of yours?”

Roper bounced excitedly on his hind feet and shook his front paws again. “It’s only the best idea I’ve ever had!” he crowed, gleefully. “Harry and I decided the best way to make sure that he never left me alone was to make a whole bunch of him … so we cloned Harry!” He danced around the room, twirling in a circle until he dizzily bumped into a lab table covered with equipment. The equipment shook, teetered and looked as though it might crash to the floor. Harry quickly grabbed Roper and gently steered him away from the table, then turned to still the wobbling objects. Harry sat Roper softly, but firmly down into a chair before giving him a look that plainly said, “Stay.”

“Oops!” Roper giggled, then sat, chastised, when Harry pinned him with another look.

“You’ve cloned Harry,” Harley repeated slowly. “So, all those coffin thingys along the wall are full of Harry?” she asked incredulously.

“Yep!” Roper nodded his head enthusiastically.