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.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 10

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 10

Harley was furious. By the time she had made her way back to her brownstone, she was in such a rage she hardly noticed the delicious aroma filling the house.

“Stupid Roper,” she growled, tossing her bag and lunch cooler onto the entry table. “I tell him I have an announcement and he prances off to a parade. It’s only the most important invention in all of history.”

Stomping loudly, she continued to gripe as she made her way through the tastefully decorated rooms, entering the kitchen to seek comfort in the form of a snack. She was brought up short by the sight of a buffalo who was not Gordy or Prescott standing in front of the stove, stirring something in a pot. Something that smelled wonderful.

“Grandma?” Harley asked in surprise. “What are you doing here? Gordy and Prescott didn’t tell me you and Grandpa were coming for a visit.”

The buffalo looked at her briefly, snuffling softly as it returned its attention to the simmering pot.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t happy to see you,” she said defensively. “I just said I didn’t know you were coming.”

More snuffling left Grandma’s snout, followed by a hump shrug.

“Well,” Harley conceded, “I am in a bit of a mood. I’m sorry, Grandma. I am glad you’re here. Where’s Grandpa?” She looked around the room but saw no sign of the other buffalo.

Grandma stopped stirring the pot, and huffing loudly, dropped the spoon on the stove top with a clatter. Wiping one hoof on her apron, she shook the other in the air while snuffling excitedly.

“Oh,” Harley said carefully. She could tell Grandma was upset and didn’t want to further agitate her. “He went to visit Allen and Chatauqua, huh? Well, it’s nice you came here. I’m sure Gordy and Prescott will be thrilled to have you stay for a while.”

She peered interestedly at the pot on the stove. “What’s that you’re cooking, Grandma? Gravy?” she asked hopefully. A hump shake and more snuffling. “Oh,” Harley said, disappointed. “Vegetable soup. Yum.”

Harley sighed. If Grandma was visiting, there wouldn’t be any meat cooked or served in the brownstone for the duration of her stay. She was very strict about that and no one dared to cross her. She had quite a temper. Or so Gordy and Prescott had always said. She was, after all, their mother, so they should know.

Harley decided not to cause trouble so soon in the visit, especially since Grandma already seemed pretty upset about Grandpa’s visit to Chatauqua and her family. Knowing that the couple always traveled together, Harley figured there was some sort of argument involved and she simply didn’t have time for family drama. She quickly bade Grandma good-bye and headed for her bedroom to brood and scheme revenge on Roper, who had ruined her day. And to find the stash of beef jerky she had squirreled away in case of emergency.


“So, Grandma,” Harley swallowed a large mouthful of vegetable soup at dinner later that evening. “Guess what happened to me today?”

Grandma looked up from her own bowl of soup and snuffled encouragingly.

“Well,” Harley began, shoveling another spoonful into her snout. “You see,” she continued, mouth full. “Roper called a council meeting and I told him I wanted to make an announcement before everyone left and then he pulled one of his ‘hee hee, I’m so sorry Harley, I forgot you wanted to say something but I really don’t care so I told everyone to leave before you could make your big announcement’ moments and sent everyone home before I could say anything about my big news.” As she spoke and chewed at the same time the vegetable soup became a gory image sloshing around in her toothy maw – coming dangerously close to slopping out of her mouth completely several times.

Grandma aimed a hard look at her, holding her gaze until Harley stopped talking completely.

“Sorry, Grandma,” Harley gulped the masticated bites of food then wiped her snout daintily with a napkin. “I didn’t mean to chew with my mouth open. It’s really tasty and I’m pretty hungry.” She took another large bite, but was careful this time to chew and swallow before continuing her story. Grandma nodded in approval at her improved table manners.

“Anyway, Roper sent everyone home before I could tell them about my new invention. Well, it’s not really my invention. I mean, it was my idea, but I got Harry to assign a Vole Technical Squad to really flesh it out, you know?” Warming to her subject, Harley looked around the table. Grandma appeared to be listening with interest, but Gordy and Prescott continued to eat, focusing intently on their large bowls of soup. Harley glared at them, but when neither acknowledged her, she continued her story.

“My idea was that it’s really hard for us dogs to get anything done because we don’t have a thumb or a finger, right?” She looked from Grandma to Gordy to Prescott. “And so I thought, well, what if we did have a thumb and a finger? We could do so much more. So I said to Harry, ‘Hey Harry, let’s talk about creating a device that dogs can wear on one or both paws that gives them the flexibility and function of a thumb and a finger.’ And Harry was all over that. And finally, just yesterday, we finished the clinical trials. We’ll be launching an Under Dome wide ad campaign and then, based on my projected numbers, we’ll be taking the “Do Claw” global by the end of the year. I even came up with a great marketing slogan – “Do more with the Do Claw!” I think it’s going to be HUGE!” Harley bounced slightly in her seat and waited for the buffaloes to heap praise on her.

Grandma smiled indulgently. Gordy looked up from his meal just long enough to snuffle a perfunctory congratulations, while Prescott simply patted Harley on the head gently with a large hoof.

“Please,” Harley muttered sarcastically, “try to contain your enthusiasm. No, stop, you’re embarrassing me.” Seeing she wasn’t going to get any more reaction from them, she glumly returned to her own soup. “You’ll see,” she grumbled. “The Do Claw is going to be huge.” She chewed thoughtfully as she imagined her impending celebrity.

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 9

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 9

Harley grabbed her messenger bag and hastily slung it over her shoulder. She glanced around the study making sure she had all she would need for the morning’s activities before switching out the lights and hurrying from the room. Mentally, she ticked off her schedule. “Council meeting, snack, nap, post-nap snack, teach Dachshund Ethics class at TUDU, lunch, nap, post-nap snack …” She snatched her lunch bag from the counter – Prescott had prepared it and she bet there was nothing good in there – and bustled out the door. “There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” she grumbled. “I have to go to the bookstore, but it’s Thursday and that means Roper has everything shutting down at 1:26 for his weekly parade; must be why Prescott and Gordy were so cranky this morning.”

While Roper’s love of a parade was well-known in The Under Dome, it was equally well-known how much Harley’s Buffaloes disliked them. Every Thursday, second Tuesday morning of the month and every other Monday afternoon Roper lined the buffaloes up at the front his themed parade and marched the procession around the town square. He designed, with the help of his stylist Jose, costumes for the bison that coordinated with whatever theme he had dreamed up for the parade. More often than not, the costumes involved sparkles, glitter, rhinestones (Roper’s favorite) and occasionally tinsel. Gordy and Prescott hated the costumes, but did enjoy the noteriety and acclaim that came from being the (as Roper called them) “Noble Bison leading the way to a powerful future for all of The Greater Under Dome … and it’s territories.” They were famous, and their celebrity often brought them new clients and business contacts. Gordy’s exercise studio, Hot Buffalo Yoga, had grown so large that he was now condisering an additional location on the other side of town. As a financial planner, Prescott was very much in demand by the wealthier vole families who loved being able to say their fortunes were being managed by such an auspicious buffalo.

Nevertheless, the buffaloes always bristled on Parade Days, often spending the morning snuffling grouchily and snapping at Harley. She understood their pique, but still wished fervently they wouldn’t take it out on her lunches – she knew she would not be finding the meat and cheese she so loved in the neatly packed cooler bag and resigned herself to tofu bites and soy chips.

*****

“I now call to order this meeting of The Under Dome City Council,” Roper Lee sat at the head of the table in Town Hall Conference Room T and gazed over the assembled Council-Voles, Council-Moles, assistants, secretaries and interns. “Does anyone know where Harley is?” he asked, glancing at Harry, who shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. Roper huffed out a sigh. “We’ll just have to start without her.”

The door burst open and Harley rushed in, just then, apologies tumbling from her snout.

Roper yelped at the sudden noise. “Aiinh!” he squeaked.

“Sorry, sorry, excuse me,” she muttered, skirting the table to take her reserved seat. “Traffic was slow and I had to go to the bookstore before coming here because someone (she glared at Roper) is closing all the shops early today. But I’m here now, so, you know, proceed.” She waved her paw dismissively toward Roper’s seat and began to rummage in her bag, pulling out a pad of paper and writing tools.

Roper made a production of looking at his notes and collecting himself before continuing. “We have a lot of ground to cover today so let’s get started,” he began. “First, I’d like to make a small announcement of a personal nature. It seems that my lovely wife, Fluffy, has decided that we need more children. So, to this end, she got herself all – what’s the word, Harry?” he turned to Harry, who whispered lowly in his hear. “Yes,pregnant, that’s right.” He looked as though he had swallowed something unpleasant as he continued. “So, I guess we’ll be having more kids and I’m getting the feeling she won’t let me sell these, either. I’m not really sure what we’re going to do with them, but, well, there it is.” He looked around the table as though waiting for a response. Some of the voles and moles clapped weakly. Harley rolled her eyes.

Roper straightened in his chair and went on. “In old business, it looks like we are still working on bringing tourists to The Under Dome. This report says we’re going to be holding some sort of Festival of the Vole next month and that certainly sounds exciting. Keep me posted on that. And, Harry, your cousin Vance has that soft rock band – you were going to get him to play in the park on Wednesday evenings, right? How’s that coming along?”

Harry fiddled with his VDA. “Sir, yes, Sir. Vance and the Vole Tones will be playing every Wednesday at the bandstand in Ringworm Memorial Park, Sir.”

“Good,” Roper nodded. “Very nice. Okay, on to new business. I’m promoting my kids’ nanny, Cookie the Poodle, to Defense Minister. You aren’t going to get to vote on this because I already told her she could have the job and quite frankly, she scares me so, you know. If any of you want to try to fire her now, go ahead, but do so at your own risk. She’s pretty mean. That said, I think she’ll do a great job protecting our city – she was quite helpful during the Armadillo Crisis and she does seem to have a certain something about her that inspires one to keep their distance.” He flipped through his notes.

“Also,” he looked at Harley. “I trust you and your Buffaloes will be at the Parade this afternoon?”

Harley looked up from her note-taking. “Uh, yes, as far as I know,” she nodded. “I have an announcement of my own whenever you’re finished, though.” She went back to her notes.

“Riight,” Roper said warily. Harley’s announcements were never to be anticipated, he knew. “Okay,” he said. “Our last order of business today involves upgrades to our Under Dome Dire Emergency Reporting System. It has come to my attention that most of the citizens are finding this very confusing so I think we need to come up with a clearer way of explaining how it works and launch a new marketing plan. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far,” he looked expectantly around the table. “U.D.D.E.R.S. is designed to make reporting emergency situations simple and fun for everyone. Don’t know what to fix your family for dinner? Did you forget what day it is? Have you been injured in a smelting incident? Did you spot an Armadillo or agent of Okinawa? Our operators are standing by to handle any level of emergency you may be experiencing.” He bounced slightly in his seat and went on, “Dial 011 if you are lonely and just want to hear a friendly voice. 111 operators are on hand to remind you what street you live on or your kids’ names. Press 211 for restaurant guides or entertainment options including movie and documentary listings. Dial 311 if you can’t find your car keys or your tire is flat. 411-level emergencies are strictly relating to public works disasters such as tears in street carpeting or pee pee accidents in public places. If you find a hot spot or cold spot, puddles, or any other potential climate-related or weather-related emergency, call 511 immediately. If you witness a fashion crime such as someone wearing white after Labor Day, too few sparkles on a jumpsuit or a bad comb-over, dial 611. To hear a listing of Roper’s favorite songs, call 711. 811 calls are limited to reported sightings of Armadilloes, Agents of Okinawa, New Money spies, or to report access-hatches to the World Above Under Dome left open.” He glared pointedly at Harley, “So those of you who repeatedly go above ground to do whatever it is you do and leave the door open – remember to close it!”

He glanced at his notes. “911 is really only for my personal use. I use it to call Harry or one of my Super Vole Squads when I’m out of mole waters or if I need to contact Jose regarding a new jumpsuit or some other really dire emergency.”

He settled back in his chair and looked at the Council. “So, what do you think?” he asked. “Oh, yes,” he sat up straight. “There is one more dire emergency that we need to include. I’ve added a 10 key to all VT&T phone systems in the Under Dome. 1011 is to be called to report that things have just gone completely wrong and we need to evacuate the City to The Under Dome Deeper. Now,” he aimed a pointed look at some of the Council-Voles. “We need to explain this very carefully to the general population. It is imperitive that they dial 1011 – not 10-10-11, which actually changes their long-distance service to Sprint. Remember, 1011. That’s 1-0-1-1,” he enunciated slowly. The voles nodded gravely. “Okay, then. Well, that’s all I have for now. Spread the word. Meeting adjourned.”

Voles and moles began to disperse quickly. Harley looked around and then stood up, shouting, “Wait a minute! I have an announcement!” She shot an irritated look at Roper. “Dang it, Roper! I had something to announce! Why did you adjourn the meeting?”

“Oops! I forgot.” giggled Roper. “Guess you’ll have to wait until next meeting,” he shrugged. “No more time – got to get ready for the Parade. It’s going to be wonderful … the theme is ‘United by Glitter’ and everyone will be wearing costumes made of glitter-encrusted grub-silk. Don’t be late! Hee, hee!” he scampered out of the room, leaving Harley fuming silently, alone.

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 8

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 8

“And so I ask each and every one of you to dig deep into your Drazi pouches – I mean, pockets – and give all you can.” Roper stood behind a podium, looking out over the large crowd of business-moles, business-voles and Under Dome citizenry. He took a sip from the cup at the edge of the dais and waited for the refreshing mole waters to take effect. He hated public speaking. Well, he loved speaking into a camera and having his image and voice broadcast throughout the Under Dome on the close-caption vole-vision system while he relaxed in an undisclosed location. But standing in front of a large live audience made him nervous.

“The Under Dome Vole Center for Enlightenment has done a lot of great work,” he continued. “We have been able to establish a University to further vole and mole higher education, as well as offering support to many new businesses which add so much to our economy. But there is much yet to be done. Every Euro-grub contributed tonight will go towards funding new, plusher street carpeting and will ensure that no citizen of the Under Dome or Under Dome tourist will have sore feet while doing business or shopping for pleasure in our beautiful downtown area.” Roper glanced to the side of the stage area and nodded slightly to Harry, who began clapping loudly, triggering wild applause from the audience.

“In conclusion, I would like to thank all of you for attending tonight’s event. I would also like to thank Southside Cafe Catering for the delicious and tender meal. And most especially, I’d like to thank someone without whom I would not be able to do the work of leading this fine city – Mr. Harry the Vole.”

He gestured with his paw toward Harry. “Take a bow, Harry.” Harry bowed awkwardly then quickly retreated into the backstage area. The audience clapped politely. Roper nodded, clapping enthusiastically. “Yes, wonderful vole, that Harry,” he said. “So again, thank you all for coming and remember to drive softly.”

The audience began to move away from their tables and towards the exit, stopping suddenly when Roper squeaked excitedly from the stage. “Oh, yes!” he called, flapping his paws back and forth. “My lovely wife, Fluffy! She’s here with me! I mean, not on the stage of course – you certainly didn’t come to hear her speak, right? But she came with me. In the car. We brought the Vole-vo. It’s actually a very smooth ride and of course, I’m an excellent driver. You know, it’s interesting that I used to be afraid of driving. But now I just love it. Love, love, love it! It’s relaxing and exciting at the same time. Not too exciting – that might be dangerous…” Roper trailed off, staring with glazed eyes at the crowd. Suddenly he started and glanced around anxiously. “What was I saying? Oh, yes, Fluffy. Thank you, Fluffy, for coming with me tonight.”

He shrugged. “I guess that’s everything then.” Then he giggled and scampered off the stage, calling over his shoulder, “Hee hee!”

Harry caught up with Roper backstage. “I think that went very well, Sir,” he said, giving Roper a fresh cup of mole waters. “There seemed to be quite a few contributers to the ‘Street Carpet Fund’, Sir.”

“Yes, yes,” Roper nodded, sipping thirstily. “I’ve got a real gift for fundraising, don’t I, Harry?” Without waiting for an answer, he walked to the stage entrance and peeked out front. “Did you see Harley or her buffaloes out there tonight?”

“No, Sir. No buffaloes were in attendance, Sir.” Harry checked a guest list on his VDA. “But Mr. Prescott Buffalo did send a sizeable check, Sir. And Harley sent her regrets. Apparently she had a prior engagement, Sir.” Harry followed as Roper began to pace back and forth.

“Prior engagement, my paw!” snorted Roper. “She probably wanted to stay at home and watch V.V.” He emptied his cup and raised a paw at Harry. “That’s just like her, Harry. Selfish, self-absorbed, inconsiderate … she never thinks of the community – only her own comfort and pleasure. You know, Harry,” Roper lowered his voice and spoke intensely, “I’d like to be able to have more leisure time, too. I’d like to be able to stay home and watch V.V. with my family. I’d like to order a grub pizza, watch a movie with my kids or maybe spend the evening shaking my wife and rolling her over a log. But I don’t.” He spun around and pointed his paw at Harry. “I have a responsibility to this city and the voles and moles who live here. I have to get dressed up and make these public appearances for the good of the Under Dome. I wish Harley would take her own responsibility to the City as seriously.” He shook his head and sighed. “But I guess we’ll just have to keep trying to get her to see the importance of it all.”

“Yes, Sir. Importance, Sir. Would you like me to send an email, Sir?” Harry asked.

“No, Harry,” Roper said sadly. “It would only make her defensive. Let me think about it for a while – I’m sure I can come up with some way to impress upon her how vital her support is to the Under Dome. She’s always been so stubborn,” he added confidentially. “You have to sneak the responsibility in disguised as something frivolous that she wants to do.”

“Yes, Sir.” Harry nodded.

“Well, Harry,” Roper said, suddenly cheerful. “I guess the evening’s about over. Maybe it’s not too late to go home and roll Fluffy over a log. Send a Vole Squad to my home, Harry – I’m going to need them to shake her, then hold her.” Roper pranced off to collect Fluffy and head home.

“Yes, Sir. Shaking and holding, Sir. I’m on it, Sir.” Harry called to his retreating form.