Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 12

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 12

The release of the ‘Do Claw’ ushered in a new era of entrepreneurship and productivity in The Under Dome. Over the following weeks and months, Harley became a celebrity and was hailed as a creative and technological genius for her invention. Requests for public appearances, interviews on daytime talk shows and invitations to author scholarly publications poured in. Harley became so busy trying to keep up with the demands on her time that she finally decided she needed an assistant to help manage her daily affairs. Knowing Roper was a bit put out by her own recent rise to fame, she decided to extend an olive branch and seek his advice on the matter.

Harley dialed the Roper’s private office phone number using a prototype device – a newer and more advanced version of the Do Claw, which she was planning to introduce into the market the following spring. She was calling it the “Super Do Claw” and had tentatively made arrangements to test market it at Under Dome General Hospital and Convalescent Center for Voles and Moles. The ‘Super Do’, as she referred to it, had more robotic technology and she felt it might have better application in medical and emergency services. Of course, she understood that as soon as Roper got wind of it, every Vole Squad and Super Vole Squad in the Kingdom would be equipped with the device as well. Military contracts notwithstanding, though, she was excited about the potential of the new product. As the line began to ring, she tapped the Brown Tooth device on her ear and settled back to schmooze Roper Lee into doing what she wanted.

********

A/N:  Just a word about Roper’s ‘deep shallow breathing’ … obviously, deep shallow breaths result in hyperventilation and sometimes loss of consciousness.  This state of self-induced (usually due to fear, worry or embarrassment) unconscious is what Roper refers to as ‘Butterscotching’.  He does this frequently and the reader will know a Butterscotch as happened when Roper makes a comment such as, “When I woke up.”  This is not something Roper did in reality, however, Roper’s desire to be held, have his head stroked and be called ‘Little Pardner’ does actually reflect a real event in his life.  His Grandpa used to call Roper Little Pardner when he was a puppy.

“Hello?” Roper answered the phone himself, whispering tentatively as though he expected the caller to jump out of the box. “Who’s there, please?” he asked, looking fearfully down at the phone.

“Roper!” Harley barked loudly, then laughed gleefully when she heard his terrified squeak on the other end of the line.

“Not funny, Harley,” Roper said sourly. “You could have given me a heart attack.”

“Ahhh, Roper,” Harley sighed, wiping a tear from her eye with her paw. “It was very funny. But, although scaring the butterscotch out of you is always entertaining – that’s not the reason I called.”

Sniffing disdainfully, Roper straightened up in his chair and quickly pressed the button that would silently summon Harry to his office. “Well, why did you call then?” he snapped peevishly. “I thought your new “career” would be keeping you much too busy to bother with your only living relative.”

Harley rolled her eyes in exasperation, but said mildly, “Funny you should mention my busy schedule, Roper. That’s exactly what I wanted to discuss with you.”

“Do you need someone to start taking over some of your public appearances?” Roper asked eagerly. “Someone to be the face of the Do Claw?”

Harley snorted, “I’m the face of the Do Claw. And I’m managing my public appearances just fine, thank you.” She glanced at the clock on her desk and, noticing the time, decided she had better hurry the matter along before Gordy and Prescott came home. She doubted they would approve of the large basket of grub fries with gravy she was currently enjoying. “What I need from you, Roper Lee, brother of mine,” Harley crammed a forkful of gravy fries into her snout, “is staffing advice.”

Stuffing advice!” Roper repeated incredulously. “What in the world do you want to stuff??”

Harley swallowed, then growled lowly in frustration. “Not stuffing advice, you nitwit! Staffing advice. You know, as in a staff – personnel – people who work for you?”

“Oh.” Embarrassed, Roper fidgeted with the buttons on his vest before going on. “Well, you really should speak more clearly. It sounds like you’ve got a mouth full of – well, I don’t really want to know what.”

“Never you mind what I’m eating,” Harley said. She was certain Roper would snitch her out to the Buffaloes if it suited his agenda. She tried not to let him have any more leverage over her than possible, for safety’s sake. “I need a personal assistant. I’d like to hire Harry for the next few months.” She grinned wickedly and waited for his reaction.

“HARRY!” Roper cried. “You can’t hire Harry! He’s mine! I mean, he belongs to me! I mean he works for me.” Panicking, Roper looked around frantically for Harry, pressing the ‘Call Harry Alarm’ button repeatedly. “What makes you think he would want to come work for you??” When Harry didn’t appear in the office immediately, Roper panicked further, worried that Harley had somehow managed to sneak Harry away from him.

He began to chant quietly, “Deep shallow breaths. Deep shallow breaths.” When the breathing exercises failed to bring him to the sweet oblivion of a Butterscotch, he began to cry and whined, “Oh Harry, where are you? I need you?” More deep shallow breathing, then Roper wailed, “Harry!”

Harry silently appeared by Roper’s office chair, a tumbler of mole waters in his paw. He patted the now sobbing Roper gently on the head and held the drink to his snout. “Here, Sir,” he said soothingly, “Just try to take a little sip, Sir. There you are, Sir. It’s going to be fine, Sir.”

“Oh, Harry,” Roper wept, “I had the most awful dream! I dreamed you went to work for Harley and you left me all alone! It was horrible!” Roper continued to weep while Harry patted his back, continued to give him sips of mole waters and murmured ‘There, there, Sir’ – over and over.

Harley waited patiently for Harry to get Roper back under control. She munched her fries, did a quick inventory of her snack stash and then checked some emails on her computer before deciding Roper had melted down long enough.

“Relax, Roper,” she said finally. “I was just kidding around. I know how vital Harry is to your survival,” she added sarcastically. “I don’t want to hire Harry – but I do want an assistant who is just as efficient and qualified. But I think I want someone a little less, well,” she tried to think of a word to describe Roper’s vole without insulting him, “less Roper-oriented.”

Hiccuping, more from the mole waters than the crying jag, Roper answered, “That was just about the meanest thing you’ve ever done to me, Harley. I’m so hurt that you would treat me this way. After all I’ve done for you!” he slurred the last bit slightly, as the mole waters continued to work their relaxing magic on his tense frame. “But I’m a magnanamoose sort of fellow,” he continued. “I’m going to help you out, Harley. Because you’re my sister, and helping family is what I’m all about.” He looked at Harry, who nodded encouragingly. “I’ve got a little project we’ve been working on in the labs and I’m confident you’ll find just what you need. Meet me here at the office tomorrow morning at 10:38. No – wait – there’s a parade planning meeting then. Um, meet me at 9:12 here in my office. Roper Lee out.” Without waiting for a reply, Roper ended the call with a click.

Turning to Harry, he sniffled pathetically. “Harry? Would you hold me? Will you stroke my head and call me Little Pardner?”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 11

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 11

Roper Lee was enjoying a quiet breakfast in his office the next morning when the door burst open and Harley charged in shouting his name. “We have to talk,” she cried. “Now! So put down your sissy coffee and listen up.” Behind her, the vole Roper employed as receptionist scuttled into the office, then seeing that Harley had already announced herself, scuttled back out closing the door softly.

Roper was so startled by the intrusion that he almost spilled the contents of the cup he was holding. He set it down on the desk quickly, so as not to lose a drop of his morning mole waters, then looked at Harley with irritation.

“For your information,” he snipped, “I don’t drink coffee. Too much caffeine tends to make me jumpy. This,” he pointed at the delicate tea cup on the desk, “is mole waters. It’s a wonderfully refreshing way to start the day. What do you mean barging in here so early in the morning and upsetting my routine, Harley? You should have scheduled an appointment with Sharry.” He brushed some crumbs from his sleeve and settled back into his chair. “I’m very busy this morning and I don’t have time for one of your rants about Under Dome policy.”

Harley shifted the briefcase she carried under one foreleg then flopped into one of the soft chairs in front of the desk. “I’m not here to rant about Under Dome policy,” she said dismissively. “Since you obviously forgot at last night’s council meeting, I’m here to discuss my big announcement. And for your information, I know you aren’t busy – the only thing you have going on this morning is getting soused on mole waters then making prank phone calls to New Money. It’s Friday and that’s what you do every Friday.”

“Well,” Roper sniffed, “be that as it may, you should still have called ahead. I could have been busy.” He picked up his cup daintily and took a sip before nodding at his sister. “So what is this big announcement you have to make? Getting a new buffalo?” He chuckled at his own attempt at humor.

Harley sent him a sidelong glare. “No. This is big Roper. Really big. Like change the world big. I, along with one of your super geeky technical vole squads, have come up with an invention that is going to revolutionize dog-manity.”

Roper looked at her with interest. “Well, what is it?” he demanded.

Harley opened her briefcase, took out a bound report and handed it to him. “This is the ‘Do Claw’,” she said. “You’ll find all the details in that report, but essentially, the Do Claw is a prosthetic device worn by dogs or other thumbless animals, I guess, that will allow them to have the same mobility they would have if they had an actual thumb and finger. Imagine the possibilities! We can now play the guitar, race RC vehicles, play Candy Crush on a cell phone, weld, hitchhike – we can achieve total world domination!” She stopped to let the implications sink in.

Roper sat up straight in his chair and clapped his paws together excitedly. “We can finally form an Under Dome curling team!” he squealed. “All this time we’ve been trying to teach the voles to curl, but they just aren’t big enough. They always end up just riding the stones in circles, getting dizzy and then crashing into each other. It’s an ugly mess, is what it is.” He shook his head. “But now,” he went on, “now we can do the curling ourselves! You, me, Fluffy, Cookie – it will be brilliant! The Under Dome is finally going to be an Olympic contender! This is wonderful news, Harley. Just wonderful!” He grinned widely, his upper lip slipping up over his gums allowing his teeth to show fully. “Well done, Harley. Well done.” He ran his tongue over his teeth several times, attempting to get his lip unstuck.

Harley rolled her eyes and said derisively, “This is about more than just your silly sports team, Roper. Think of the opportunities.” She pulled more papers from her briefcase in preparation to list the potential activities made possible by the Do Claw.

Roper sat back in chair, displaying his boys. “Now,” he interrupted her. “As co-owner of the Do Claw, I say we start production right away. We’re going to need a marketing slogan, too. It should be catchy and easy to remember and really product-oriented.”

Harley opened her mouth to tell him about the slogan she had come up with but he cut her off.

“I’ve got it!” he announced. “Buy the Do Claw and you can do all the things that you couldn’t do without it!” He looked at Harley triumphantly. “It’s perfect!”

Harley stood up and looked down at Roper. “Co-owner?!” she shouted. “Since when are you the co-owner?! You didn’t come up with the idea! You didn’t come up with the name! And for your information, that is the stupidest slogan in the history of slogans! My slogan is much better!” She began to stomp back and forth in front of the desk.

“Well,” Roper said imperiously, “you did use one of my technical vole squads to develop the thing. That vole squad belongs to the Under Dome, which belongs to me which means the Do Claw is part mine.” He looked at his toenails and continued, “I’ll give you 32.13% of the profits.” Looking up to see her reaction, he quickly added, “I think that’s a fair division considering how much effort I put into coming up with the marketing plan.”

Harley snarled and stalked around the desk, staring down at Roper until he squirmed uncomfortably. “Okay,” he squeaked, splaying his paws out in front of him. “How about 46.8%?” Harley continued to glare. “79.6%?” he whined.

Harley growled deep in her throat. It was a sound Roper recognized – the same one she made when someone tried to take a plate of food away from her before it was empty.

“Okay,” he whispered, “102%, but that’s all I’m willing to give you. You can’t just pirate my vole squads for free.”

Harley backed around the desk and sat down again. “Fine,” she said, gathering up her paperwork and tucking it back into her briefcase. “I take 102% of the profits, I retain 100% ownership of the the Do Claw, I supervise production and marketing and I add a notation on the packaging, in very small print, that the Do Claw manufacture was made possible by the Under Dome University Technical College. Your name is mentioned nowhere. Isn’t that what we agreed?” she smiled sweetly at Roper as she shut her briefcase with a click.

Roper gulped. He reached for his mole waters and took several deep drinks. He wiped his mouth on the back of his paw and nodded meekly. “Yes,” he said hoarsely, “that sounds more than fair. Thank you for the opportunity to share in this amazing invention.” He smiled wanly at her as she strode purposefully to the door.

Turning, she said briskly, “It’s always a pleasure doing business with you, Roper.”

Waving weakly as the door banged shut behind her, Roper reached for his intercom. “Harry, I’m going to need more mole waters.”