Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 31 The L.A.S.E.R. Room

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 31 The L.A.S.E.R. Room

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 31 The L.A.S.E.R. Room

“Did you ever find out what in the world Harley’s building over at her Brownstone?” Roper asked Harry.

He was sitting behind his desk flipping through a catalog of fabric swatches the day after the party.

Harry nodded briskly. “Yes, Sir, I did. I went over there the other day as you asked, Sir. She took me into the basement addition she’s putting in to create enough space for her new bionic hippo, Sir. You met him yesterday at the adoption party, remember?”

“Oh yes,” Roper said. “I do remember. Unusual looking fellow, wasn’t he? But I thought she was getting a horse. I distinctly remember her telling me she was adopting a horse.”

“Well, Sir,” Harry began cautiously. “She referred to him as a water horse, but -”

Roper paled and reached convulsively for his ever-present glass of mole waters. “Water horse?” he whispered.

“Now, Sir,” Harry spoke quickly. “Sir, you remember we talked about this? A water horse is just a very snooty way of referring to a hippopotamus. Harley adopted a bionic hippopotamus, Sir. Not a water creature … completely,” Harry murmured the last bit so quietly that Roper couldn’t hear clearly.

“No water?” he asked.

“No, Sir, no water,” Harry answered blandly, not even a little bothered by the lie.

“Oh, well,” Roper said, considerably calmer. “That’s good. You had me scared there for a minute, Harry,” he chuckled. “I wouldn’t have put it past Harley to try and sneak in some sort of swimming hole or some other thing having to do with – well, you know …” he trailed off and took another sip of his drink.

“She thinks I overreact to danger, although I can’t imagine why,” he said confidentially. “I believe strongly, as you know, Harry, in being 110% prepared 110% of the time. And as I’ve said many, many times … danger is dangerous and it lurks in every corner.”

After another healthy sip of his drink, Roper continued, “Harley’s much too careless regarding matters of safety. Don’t you remember when she suggested pulling up the carpet in the streets at last month’s Council meeting? I mean, that would be terrible – cars speeding along over 4 miles per hour, careening around corners, screeching tires! And suppose there was an accident? Suppose you needed to get out of your car suddenly and had to step out on bare cement??” He shuddered dramatically. “Can you imagine anything more dangerous than cold paws on a hard surface, Harry?”

Harry shook his head solemnly. “No, Sir. Certainly not, Sir. Cold, hard surfaces are clearly listed in your Decree of Most Dangerous Things, Sir. I believe they fall in between venomous insects and hot beverages, Sir.”

“Exactly!” Roper cried. “Harley is known to be reckless and unconcerned with not only her own safety, but the safety of everyone else. You just cannot be too careful when it comes to safety. Am I right, Harry?”

“You’re certainly correct, Sir.”

“So. What is she building to “accommodate” her new bionic hippo horse thing?” Roper asked. “Some sort of cage with hay or one of those clear tube thingies people put around the ceiling?”

“You mean a hamster run, Sir?”

“Sure, sure, a hamster run,” Roper replied, absently flipping through fabric swatches again.

“Harry, do you think this color of red velvet would clash with my gleaming butterscotch pelt?” He pointed to a swatch.

“Uh, no Sir, definitely not, Sir. Red is a very good color for you, Sir. Powerful.” Harry glanced at the fabric sample then tried to steer the conversation back on track.

“Well, Sir, with regards to Harley’s addition …” Harry paused, thinking of the right way to word his response. “Well, Sir, it’s really more of a garden-like setting, Sir. No water, of course,” he lied quickly, “but very bright lights – she’s installed Solar Tubes that let sunlight come directly in while keeping air, weather, nature, and the like out, Sir.”

Roper looked up sharply from his swatches. “Bright lights?” he shrieked. “Solar Tubes?” He reached for the glass of mole waters. “What in the world is she thinking? We can’t have sunlight in the Under Dome! It might cause widespread panic and blindness! We could have some sort of skin dissolving epidemic on our paws!”

Harry tried to soothe Roper by saying, “Sir, I’ve been assured by both Harley and her engineers – one of your own Architectural Engineering Vole Squads, Sir – that no sunlight will ever leach out into Greater Under Dome, Sir. It will be completely contained within this …” Harry tried to recall the name Harley had used. “… this ‘Laser Facility’, as Harley calls it, Sir.”

That did not have the effect on Roper Harry had hoped. His eyes bugged out and he began to pant in fear. “Laser Facility???” He began to chant about deep shallow breaths and swoon in his chair.

Harry struggled to think. “Yes, Sir,” he said crisply. “A L.A.S.E.R. Facility – it stands for ‘Long Awaited Spot (for) Everyone (to) Relax’, Sir. It’s an acronym.”

“An acronym?” Roper asked tremulously. “What’s that, Harry? I thought she was getting a hippo!”

Harry fought the urge to roll his eyes and answered patiently, “An acronym is an abbreviation – a word that is formed from the initials or parts of other words. Like T.E.N., Sir. It stands for The Under Dome Emergency Network. Do you understand, Sir?”

“Oh.” Roper visibly relaxed. “I do understand. That was a very gentle and clear explanation, Harry. Thank you. So, if I’m hearing you correctly, Harry, Harley has built some sort of botanical jungle room for her hippo horse and it’s completely water-free?”

“Yes, Sir. You are completely correct, Sir. No water of any sort involved, Sir. Completely safe and waterless, Sir. Just plants and light and a juice bar,” Harry confirmed.

“Ooooh,” Roper clapped his paws together. “She’s added a juice bar? I just love juice! Maybe I should go and visit her – see what this thing is all like?”

“Uh, Sir, have you forgotten about the Solar Tubes, Sir? You wouldn’t want to accidentally get sunlight on your pelt, Sir.”

“Oh,” Roper said, “You’re quite right, Harry. That wouldn’t be good at all. And since sunlight is dangerous, well, you know how I feel about danger, Harry. Perhaps I’ll just send her a nice card and a fruit basket or something.”

“Yes, Sir,” Harry sounded relieved. “I think that would be most wise, Sir.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 28

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 28

Adoption Day had finally arrived and Harley, Gordy and Prescott were having a difficult time keeping B.H. calm. He had leaped out of bed at 5:20 a.m. and raced into Harley’s room. He’d proceeded to jump on her bed, shaking her out of a sound sleep, which had not pleased Harley in the least. After shooing him back to his own room she’d tried to get a little more sleep, but found it difficult to reclaim the totally relaxed state of rest she’d been experiencing.

When she finally gave up on sleep and trudged slowly into the kitchen for a mug of gravy, she had found Gordy and Prescott, each of them in a similar state of bleary-eyed exhaustion. From their snuffling and hump shaking, she determined that B.H. had visited his overwhelming excitement on them, as well.

Now, after she had finally managed to settle B.H. enough to eat some breakfast and brush his teeth, she was trying to wrangle him into his ‘going somewhere’ clothes so she could comb his hair. “Darn it, B.H.,” she said crossly, “hold still. I can’t tie your shoes if you keep wiggling and jiggling around so much.”

B.H. ceased his fidgeting briefly, but was soon overcome with excitement again and he began to squirm and bounce, chattering about how much fun the new hippo was going to be and how much he was looking forward to having a playmate.

Exasperated, Harley jerked off the still untied sneakers and went to B.H.’s closet. “Here,” she said, turning back to the vole. “Wear your cowboy boots. Then I won’t have to fight with you over tying your shoes anymore.” B.H. happily pulled on the bright blue boots, all the while continuing his happy jabbering.

After several minutes of dodging and ducking, B.H. finally held still just long enough for Harley to swipe a brush over his head. The vole’s fine hair went smooth for a short minute before springing back up in an unruly looking wave over his forehead. “This darned vole-lick of yours won’t lay down, B.H.,” she muttered, trying to smooth it down again with first the brush, then her paw. Finally, she sighed. “I think that’s as good as it’s going to get, B.H.. Maybe you should just wear a hat.” Shaking her head, she took his jacket down from the closet and handed it to him. “Better wear a sweater, B.H., that adoption agency is always really cold.”

At last, the family was loaded into the van. Prescott was driving while Gordy had claimed shotgun. Harley snapped B.H. into his seatbelt and then, adjusting her own, announced, “Alright! Let’s get this bionic waterhorse show on the road!”

Traffic was light and the drive unremarkable as the van wound its way through the carpeted streets of the city. B.H. had suddenly stopped his excited chatter and now sat quietly, looking out the window of the van with big eyes. Harley noticed that both Buffaloes were unusually quiet, as well. She felt her own excitement turn into something more like nervousness as the van turned into the parking lot of the Under Dome Rehoming and Adoption Center for Voles and other People.

Prescott parked and turned off the engine. The group sat in silence for a few moments. Harley looked at B.H., who was quietly working at the buckle of his seatbelt. She watched Prescott adjust his tie in the rearview mirror and saw Gordy pull down the sun visor to check his hump and swipe a hoof over his beard. Harley unlatched her own seatbelt and smoothed her eyebrows with her paw. “Are we all ready?” she asked anxiously.

Each of the others nodded and the group left the van, walking quickly toward the entrance of the building. Prescott held the door open and Harley and B.H. entered the lobby, looking around curiously. Harley spotted the manager coming toward them and bent down to speak to B.H. quietly.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” she asked. B.H. nodded solemnly. “Now, B.H., this is serious – we can’t bring him back once we take him home. So if you’re having second thoughts or want to adopt something else, now’s the time to speak up.” B.H. shook his head and whispered that he was very happy to meet his new hippo. “And you’re sure about the name we picked out?” Harley added. B.H. grinned happily and nodded again. “Okay, then, here we go,” Harley said firmly, straightening up to greet the manager, a slightly overweight but attractive vole.

“Hello there, you must be the Harley Bishop Family,” the manager extended a neatly manicured paw. “I’m Noreen.” Harley shook her paw, as did the others. “I know this is a big day for you, but there are just a few details we have to take care of before you can take the newest member of your family home,” she smiled. “If you’ll just follow me, Harley. The rest of you can wait right over there.” She pointed toward a seating area filled with comfortable furniture, a book shelf and a large television. B.H. scurried over and plopped onto a fluffy chair. He located the remote control and immediately turned on the TV, settling happily into his seat. Prescott and Gordy each patted Harley on the head and went to sit with B.H.

Harley followed Noreen into a small but neat office and sat where Noreen indicated she should.

“There are just a few papers that we need to review and sign and then you’ll be all set to go home,” Noreen explained, shuffling through a stack of files on her desk. “I understand that you’ve been told about your hippopotamus’s special needs?” She slipped on a pair of reading glasses and looked up at Harley.

“Well, yes, if you’re talking about his bionics and such,” Harley said. “Although I’m not entirely sure why it’s such a big deal.”

Noreen looked at her a moment before dropping her gaze to the now open file in front of her. “Well,” she began, “aside from the obvious issues presented with a bionically enhanced being – super strength and speed, enhanced motor function, increased appetite, and the like – there may be some emotional issues that arise. It’s very difficult for non-bionic people to understand the strain of maintaining the control necessary for a bionic – in this case a bionic hippo – to exist in a normal world. Chairs may not be designed to hold his heavier frame, for example. And a broken chair could lead to him feeling insecure about his size. We wouldn’t want him to begin to exhibit any self-harming habits such as eating disorders or cutting, for instance, as a way of expressing emotional distress. It’s very important that you recognize any signs of depression or trauma, therefore, and be prepared to deal with anything that arises.” She gazed at Harley expectantly.

“So you’re saying I need to watch him and make sure he’s happy?” Harley said.

“Exactly,” Noreen confirmed. “We do offer a series of counseling sessions for all our new adoption families, at a significant discount, of course. You’re more than welcome to sign up for them before you leave today, in fact. Most of our families have found the classes to be invaluable while integrating their adopted children – or whatever – into their households.”

“I think I’ll pass,” Harley replied. “We’re pretty laid-back at home and we’ve been doing a lot of research into what will make him feel comfortable. I think we’ll do okay on our own.”

Noreen pursed her lips in disapproval, but only said, “Well, fine, then. Sign here and you can meet your hippo.”

Harley scrawled her signature at the bottom of the page.

“By the way,” Noreen examined the paper, then looked at Harley, “have you picked out a name?”

“Yes,” Harley said, rising from her chair. “We’ve decided to name him Mandrake.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 26

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 26

“What in the world is a ‘water horse’?!” Roper ranted. “And why does Harley need a building permit to add that much space to her Brownstone? It’s like she’s building a whole additional structure! And why is she even considering bringing something that clearly requires water – I mean it’s right there in the name, for Pete’s sake! – into the Under Dome? She knows darn good and well there’s a city ordinance that prohibits water being inside or anywhere near the city limits! She’s always been inconsiderate of others, but this really takes the rice casserole – I can’t let her just ignore policy this way. It’ll set a bad precedent, Harry. If the public finds out Harley has brought a water horse into town, it’s just a short way to a watertrough. Pretty soon, we’ll have voles wanting to add water features and water fountains to their yards. And before you know it, the whole Under Dome and all its Territories are completely underwater and we’ve all got webbed toes!” He glared at Harry and punctuated his words by flapping his paws in a swimming motion.

“Right, Sir,” Harry agreed, “webbed toes, Sir. A real threat, Sir.”

“But what can we do to stop her?” Roper whined. “I tried to deny her permit and she threatened to sue the City.”

“On what grounds, Sir?”

“On the grounds that she said I had no legal cause to deny her permit and if I tried to do it again she’d put an armadillo in my office.”

“I see, Sir. Have you considered finding out exactly what a water horse is, Sir?”

“Well, of course I have,” Roper huffed indignantly. “I tried to Voogle it but the security features I had the Vole Technical Squad install on my computer made it butterscotch as soon as I typed the word ‘water’. I tried going to the Library but Fluffy had the Vole-vo that day and I didn’t feel like driving the Tram all the way across town. Plus, you know the Library makes me uncomfortable. All those books – it’s just a paper cut waiting to happen.” He shuddered. “I tried calling Harley and asking her, but she said she was much too busy with her construction project to talk and she hung up on me. I thought I might be able to lure her to a meeting at the Southside Cafe so I could talk to her in person but then Fluffy said I go with her to take the twins to the bus station and see them off to New Vole City. And she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’m just at a loss, Harry.” He hopped down from his chair and walked to the mini fridge where he extracted a bottle of mole waters.

“Well, Sir, if you’d like, Sir, I could go over there and see what’s going on, Sir,” Harry offered.

“Yes, Harry, that would be wonderful. I know you’d never allow Harley to bring water into the Under Dome and put all our lives at risk.” Roper sipped from his bottle then smacked his lip. “I don’t know where you found the imported mole waters, Harry, but this is so much more,refreshing than the domestic stuff I’ve been drinking. Let’s make it the official mole waters of the Under Dome,” he said.

“And all its territories, Sir?” Harry asked.

“Absolutely,” Roper nodded. “And all its territories. Now why don’t you head on over to Harley’s and find out what she’s doing over there, then report back to me in the morning? I’ve got to get home and console poor Fluffy who must be missing the twins horribly. I bet she’s just laying around the house eating Grub Butter Cups and crying. She’s probably been working all day to prepare all my favorite foods in an attempt to make herself feel better.” He shook his head in sympathy.

“What about the quadruplets, Sir?” Harry reminded him.

“Oh, they practically take care of themselves,” Roper replied breezily. “I’m sure Fluffy just puts them out in the yard and lets them play all day … no trouble at all.”

“Right, Sir,” Harry said skeptically. “I’m sure, Sir.” Shaking his head, he left the room to run his errand.


The sound of the doorbell irritated Harley. She didn’t have time for visitors and as she hurried toward the front door, she went over her rehearsed statement to get rid of whomever it was. Opening the door, she began, “I’m sorry, no time to chat. I’m on a very tight deadline and you’ll have to make an appointment …” she broke off upon seeing Harry on the front porch. “Oh, Harry, it’s you. Hello. Let me guess – Roper sent you here to find out what I’m doing?” Harry nodded. Stepping back she allowed him entry. “Well, follow me,” she said, already moving back toward the source of loud construction sounds.

Harry took notice of her dust covered fur, the hard had perched on her head and the clipboard she held in one paw. “I’m technically here in an official capacity,” he said to her back. When she nodded, acknowledging that she could hear him, he continued. “Though I must admit to being rather curious as to your plans. I want you to know that I will not take any information back to Roper that might jeopardize his emotional or physical well-being.”

“Well, that’s a good thing,” Harley snorted. “Because what I’m about to show you would most definitely put him into a butterscotch of epic proportions!”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 25

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 25

Early Tuesday morning, Harley and B.H. were settled into their favorite booth at the Southside Cafe. Harley bit into a gravy-filled donut and smacked her lips in appreciation. “You really can’t beat a nice, healthy breakfast to get your energy up in the morning, B.H.,” she told him. B.H. nodded and eagerly tucked into his own breakfast – a stack of bacon cheese pancakes and gravy.

“I know things have been pretty chaotic around here lately,” Harley addressed the top of B.H.’s head as he bent over his pancakes. “I wanted to talk to you about, you know, things,” she added. “Like, are you feeling comfortable in your room? Do you like living with the Buffaloes and me? Things like that.”

B.H. looked up, mouth full and nodded happily.

“Okay,” Harley continued. “Well, that’s great, B.H., because we really love having you in our family.” She drank from her mug of gravy and belched loudly. B.H. giggled, drank from his own, much smaller mug, belched and giggled again.

Harley chuckled and patted him on the head. “Anyway, I know you were pretty scared back at Thanksgiving with that whole ‘Isis’ thing. And the parade last week was certainly more excitement than I bargained for,” she shook her head in disgust. “So, are you scared or worried or anything?”

B.H. shook his own head and kept eating.

“Oh, well, that’s good,” Harley signaled the waiter to bring another plate of donuts. “I want you to feel, you know, comfortable and everything. I don’t want you to think you’re in any danger or whatever. I mean, Roper’s kind of ridiculous and obviously Cookie – I mean, ‘Isis’ – is crazy, but that’s just sort of the way things are here. It’s perfectly safe – I’d never let anything happen to you.” She was watching B.H. earnestly, hoping to convey the care and concern she had for him without expressing any actual emotion – which made her very twitchy.

B.H. continued to chew his pancakes and looked at her, wide-eyed.

She drank more gravy and shoved another donut into her snout. Swallowing, she looked seriously at B.H. “B.H.,” she began gently. “I was thinking that you might be a bit lonely. You haven’t really made any friends since you came to live with us, and even though I’m very exciting and dynamic, the Buffaloes are pretty boring. I mean, Gordy likes to play board games and Prescott has that super cool button collection, but, well, I thought you might like to spend time with someone different once in a while. Someone you have more in common with.”

B.H. looked thoughtful. Then, he nodded his head excitedly before returning to his breakfast.

“Okay,” Harley declared. “Well, then it’s settled. I think we should get you involved in some clubs or maybe a sports team. Maybe you could enroll in a class or two at the University? Would you be interested in joining Vole Scouts?”

Harley and B.H. discussed a variety of social opportunities over the rest of their meal. Afterward, Harley paid the check while B.H. used the little vole’s room.

On their walk back to the Brownstone, Harley listened as B.H. chattered happily about the many exciting activities that had been proposed.

“You know what, B.H.?” Harley asked suddenly. “I think we should consider adoption.”

B.H. looked up at her questioningly.

“Well,” she explained, “we adopted you and that’s working out great.” B.H. grinned. “So I think we should adopt again. Maybe not another vole, though. I mean, voles are good and all, but we should diversify. Bring someone from another culture into our home,” she reasoned.

B.H. nodded.

“We’ll visit an agency after we talk to Gordy and Prescott,” she said. “Now, let’s go home and look at The Under Dome University course catalog. Maybe we can find a film class to enroll you in!”

B.H. giggled and turned in a circle as they continued to walk.


After supper that night, Harley and B.H. sat with the Buffaloes in the family room and discussed their ideas for adoption. Harley also took the opportunity to tell them that she had enrolled B.H. in a class at the University. Upon further questioning, she informed them that he had been particularly interested in “Circus Stunts,” a semester long course that would prepare him for life under the Big Top. Gordy also thought the class sounded like fun and announced he was going down to the college and enroll himself. B.H. responded with much clapping and enthusiastic jumping up and down.

The next morning, Harley and B.H. went to the Under Dome Rehoming and Adoption Center for Voles and other People. Harley explained that she was interested in the adoption of what the Center called a “Non Traditional” placement. Which was a snooty way of saying ‘someone who wasn’t a vole’, in Harley’s opinion. They looked at well over a dozen portfolios and finally narrowed the field to three potentials.

With the portfolios spread over a conference table in front of them, Harley and B.H. discussed each one carefully. Harley was prepared to defer to B.H. in the final decision, but wanted to make sure he understood the permanence of the adoption.

“Now, B.H.,” she said firmly. “I want to make sure you understand that which ever portfolio you choose is fine with me. But it’s not like when we go to the shoe store. You can’t pick out a pair of shoes and then take the shoes back in this case. Because we’re not really talking about shoes. We’re talking about people. And people aren’t shoes. I mean, you’re going to pick one and we’re going to take him or her home and you’re going to have be satisfied with that. We’re not going to bring them back and tell the adoption people that the shoes didn’t fit, or they weren’t the right color or they didn’t go as well with that pair of yoga pants as we thought they would. And we’re not going to be able to put them in a closet and leave them there until we have our spring yard sale, then sell them for fifty cents to the vole down the street who likes sparkly flip flops. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

B.H. shrugged and shook his head.

“Let me see if I can explain it this way, B.H.,” Harley tried again. “When we go to the shoe store and I buy you a pair of shoes, it’s because you like the shoes and I want to make you happy so I get you the shoes you want. But then, when we get home with the new shoes, sometimes you decide youdon’t like the shoes after all and so I take you back to the shoe store and we return the shoes for a different pair or sometimes I just get my money back because you can’t find a pair of shoes you really like. When that happens, we just go home without any shoes at all and then you don’t have any shoes. Do you understand, now?”

B.H. looked at her for a moment, then he untied his shoes, took them off and put them on the table in front of her.

Harley rolled her eyes. “No, B.H., I don’t want your shoes,” she said, handing them back to him. “I’m saying this is not like shopping for shoes.”

The vole shrugged again and began putting his shoes back on. He muttered something quietly.

Harley sighed. “What I’m trying to tell you, B.H., is that once you make a decision about who we’re going to adopt, you can’t change your mind. It’s forever. Like when we adopted you. We can’t send them back. So I want you to be very, very sure. Okay?”

Nodding in understanding, B.H. finished tying his shoes and then pointed to the portfolio lying open in front of him. He tapped it with his paw and smiled.

Harley looked over the information carefully. “Are you sure, B.H.?” she asked. “This is going to be a big responsibility, you know. Are you sure you’re ready for that?”

Grinning happily, B.H. nodded emphatically and tapped the portfolio again.

“Okay, B.H., let’s go let them know we’ve made our choice. We’re getting a water horse!”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 24

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 24

“I’m so exhausted,” Roper whined to Harry. “I had to come into the office last night, just to get some sleep, you know. Those new kids are so loud and Fluffy is still refusing to let me sell them. She won’t even let me send them to The Beaver Military Academy until they’re older.” He spun lazily in his chair, and watched Harry file papers in the cabinet near his desk.

Harry nodded sympathetically and continued to work.

“And now,” Roper tapped his foot in agitation, “the twins are saying it’s time they go out into the world on their own and Fluffy is all upset about that. I tried to calm her down and said it would be a great idea for them to leave because we wouldn’t have to mess with taking care of them anymore and she thumped me. Right on the snout!” he declared indignantly.

“Where are the twins planning to go, Sir?” Harry inquired, hoping to lead the conversation away from a rant about Fluffy’s abuse.

“Well, it seems that Griff has a school chum who lives in New Vole City. Griff says he wants to go there and be an international play-dachshund. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it’s got his mother pretty unhappy.”

“I think, Sir, that it means he wants to move to the city and party all the time at your expense, Sir.”

“Oh, well. I don’t see why Fluffy’s so mad about that? Sounds like a greatjob to me!” Roper sipped from his mole waters. “What do you think, Harry? Doesn’t that sound like a great job?”

“I don’t think it actually qualifies as a job, Sir,” Harry pointed out, filing the last of the documents. “Perhaps that’s why Fluffy is less than thrilled?”

“She never wants anyone to have any fun,” Roper said sourly. “You get a new log and all you want is for her to help you test it out and she gets all angry and says you never do anything she wants to do. She’s so selfish – it’s no wonder she’s against poor Griff. The poor boy just wants a chance to live a little and there she is, squashing his dreams for a bigger, better log.” He gulped his drink and spun the chair.

“What about Taffy, Sir? What’s her plan, Sir?” Harry tried again to steer the topic to something less volatile.

Roper snorted indelicately. “She says she’s signed some sort of contract with a modeling agency in the city. She’s going to be on the cover of magazines and do television commercials and such. She’ll make tons of money. Says she’ll be wearing the latest fashions and have a team of professionals who follow her around making sure she looks good every minute of the day. Fluffy’s practically packing her bags to go along, she’s so excited over the whole deal. Can you imagine a more frivolous waste of time than spending day after day doing nothing but thinking about your clothes and how you look and having people chase around after you taking care of your every need?” He rolled his eyes. “Really,” he added, “I always thought she was the smart one!”

Harry’s tone was mild. “Of course, Sir. It’s terribly embarrassing. I don’t know how you’ll be able to show your face in the Under Dome in light of her mortifying shallow-ness.”

“Exactly,” Roper replied. “It’s humiliating. At least Griff will be doing something noble and worthwhile.” He shook his head. “Fluffy has her priorities all in a jumble.”

“Indeed, Sir, indeed,” responded Harry sardonically.

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 23

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 23

Harley settled more comfortably into the fluffy cushions of the sofa. Beside her, B.H. snuggled under his soft blanket. Gordy and Prescott bustled in to the room with bowls of fragrantly steaming popcorn and, placing the bowls on the square table in the center of the seating area, took their own seats in large faux-leather wing chairs. Harley pressed some buttons on the remote control and the large, flat-screen television flared to life.

“I love movie night,” Harley declared as she popped several kernels of popcorn into her snout. “I’m really glad we recorded the Mary Lou Retton gymnastics special so we could watch it together, as a family.” She crunched noisily and Prescott slanted a narrow gaze at her.

The whole family was wearing Mary Lou Retton themed apparel. Gordy and Prescott each wore an exact replica of the 1984 Olympic women’s gymnastics team track suit/cover up, in a much enlarged size. B.H. still wore his oversized MLR t-shirt, but had added a tiny trucker hat with the slogan “Are U Retton It?” across the front. Harley had many articles of Retton-inspired clothing to choose from but for tonight’s viewing she had chosen a leotard in the same style and pattern as Miss Retton had worn during her historic and gold medal winning performance. As a Mary Lou Retton purist, she was loathe to make any changes to the outfit. But for practicality and comfort’s sake, she had given in and added a snap-closure at the crotch and a small hole for her tail to poke through.

Harley fidgeted with the leg holes of the leotard. “I want to look authentic,” she complained to B.H., “but I’m telling you – this thing is constantly wanting to crawl up my butt. I wonder if Mary Lou used some kind of glue or tape to keep her leotard from giving her a wedgie?”

B.H. shrugged before scrambling to the popcorn bowl and digging out a few of the buttery puffs. He had just settled back into the nest he’d made in the blanket when Harley pointed the remote at the TV.

“Here we go!” she shouted excitedly. And everyone’s attention focused on the screen.

About forty minutes into the program, the images of Mary Lou Retton and gymnastics routines abruptly disappeared and the screen projected a picture of Roper Lee’s face. His large snout seemed to poke itself into the room. The image smiled toothily.

“Is this on?” the giant snout asked. “I mean, can they see me?” The face turned to look at something off screen. “Well, I know it’s going to be live … Oh – you mean it’s live now? So they can see and hear me? Okay. Good. Let’s get started.”

Harley bolted up from her relaxed position. “What the heck?” she cried. “Where is this coming from?? Where’s Mary Lou??” She frantically pushed buttons on the clicker but every channel showed the same thing.

“Citizens of the Under Dome,” Roper began. “And all its territories. Tonight I am coming to you live from an undisclosed location with a very special announcement.”

Prescott snuffled loudly.

“I know!” Harley yelled. “I’m trying to get the show back. How’s he even doing this?” she snarled. “That gymnastics program was on my DVR – he can’t interrupt a show I’m playing back!” She continued to click and point without success.

“I’m sure many of you may be wondering how I’m able to broadcast this live over any pre-recorded programming or dvd’s you may be watching,” he said conversationally.

Harley wanted to throw something at the television.

“Well,” Roper said eagerly, “I don’t really know all the technical mumbo gumbo. But I can tell you that’s it’s a pretty exciting new invention that my – I mean, our – top notch Under Dome scientists have come up with. And,” he paused to sip from a glass that appeared in his paws from off camera, “it means that I will be able to interrupt your television viewing with my important announcements any time I want! Hee hee! Isn’t that neat?” he tittered.

Prescott and Gordy snuffled. Harley growled. B.H. shook his small fist angrily at the screen.

As if sensing their hostility through the TV, Roper’s expression changed and he looked scared. “So. Anyway,” he sipped his drink again and glanced off screen. “Um, I guess you’re all probably really wondering what the announcement is, right?” he said awkwardly. “Sooo, I should probably tell you,” he looked off screen again, then back to the viewing audience. He was beginning to look panicked.

“He’s really going to get it!” Harley fumed. “First he schedules a stupid parade at the same time our program is supposed to be on. Then he causes a riot in the streets and makes us miss our supper reservation at the Southside Cafe. Then he interrupts our replay of the program he made us miss in the first place. And now he can’t even remember why he interrupted!” She threw her paws in the air in exasperation. “I’m going to kill him!”

She flopped back in her seat and then tugged at the leg of her leotard. “And now my stupid leotard is trying to floss my butt!” she ranted. “This is all Roper’s fault.”

B.H. patted her paw with his smaller one and offered her a piece of popcorn he had just found in the folds of his blanket.

“Thanks, B.H.,” she muttered, cramming the corn into her snout.

Roper could be seen and heard from the television just then, clearing his throat loudly. They turned their attention back to the screen just in time to see a stack of disembodied note cards floating at the side of Roper’s head. He caught sight of them through the corner of his eye and was visibly startled. He swatted at the cards briefly before another voice could be heard from somewhere off camera. “Take the cards, Sir.”

“Oh, well, yes, of course,” Roper stammered, trying to recover his composure. He snatched the cards and glanced down at them.

“As I was saying,” he said. “I have a very special announcement to make.” He shuffled the cards nervously. “As many of you know, there was a bit more excitement than usual at this afternoon’s parade.” He glanced down at his notes, then off camera, then back to the camera. “I am referring, of course, to the Beaver Military Escort that we were fortunate enough …” he trailed off and look around, confused, as a loud “No, Sir!” could be heard in the background.

“I don’t mean the Beaver Military Escort?” he asked, puzzled. “But it says right here, “Beaver Military Escort – see?” He turned from the camera completely and appeared to be showing the note cards to an unseen someone. “Of course I can read your handwriting – it says very clearly Beaver Military … well what is it, then? Oh, Maternity – so it’s a Beaver Maternity Escort? No? It’s a what? Oh. Okay.”

He turned back to the camera. “I am referring, of course, to the blessed maternity event that we were fortunate to witness this afternoon in my Very Important Roper and Harry Box.” He glanced off screen and winked.

“I am very proud and excited to announce that my darling Fluffy, my Treasure Pup, my one and only log – I mean love – has given me four more children today. They’re pretty gross looking – I mean they’re all hairless and squirmy … just really unattractive, generally …” He made an expression of disgust and shivered. “But she tells me they’re mine and so I guess they are. There are two girls and two boys,” he leaned forward and whispered, “although I don’t see how you can tell the difference. I mean, they don’t have big boys like me and they all look exactly the same, which is icky.” He straightened up and continued in his normal tone. “We have decided to name them as follows …”

He looked around and saw the pair of reading glasses waving off to his right. Taking them and slipping them onto his snout, he looked down at the note card in his paws. “We have named them Prince of the Realm BoJack Blackburn; Princess of the Realm Rio Carolina; Prince of the Realm Niles Alistaire; and Princess of the Realm Winn Dixie.” He looked up and blinked. Then he spoke to someone off camera. “Really? That’s what we named them? Those are horrible names. I mean, where’s the flair? Where’s the flash? This is what happens when I let Fluffy pick the names. Remember when she wanted to name the twins Donny and Marie? And I said those were too plain and she hit me with a newspaper? But in the end, I got to name them and I think ‘Griff Alouicious Fauntleroy Lee’ and ‘Taffy Gleaming Star Lee’ are much more impressive sounding than ‘Donny’ and ‘Marie’. What? Oh, right.” He turned back to the camera. “So. There you have it. I have four more kids and Fluffy says we can’t sell them. Have a nice evening.”

And with that, Roper was gone and the screen changed to the Great Seal of the Under Dome and All Its Territories.

“That was weird,” was all Harley said as she pointed the remote at the TV and turned the Mary Lou Retton program back on. “Now let’s watch something really important.”

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 22

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 22

“This is stupid!” Harley snarled as she stood on the sidewalk in downtown Under Dome with B.H. and Harry. “I can’t believe Roper’s having a parade at the same time the Vole Sports Network is airing the Mary Lou Retton gymnastics special! I mean, I’m recording it to watch later, but it won’t be the same as seeing it live,” she groused.

B.H. nodded his head in agreement. The tiny t-shirt he wore sported a photo of Mary Lou Retton at the moment of her 1984 Olympic triumph, arms up, a victorious smile on her face as she received thunderous ovation after she stuck a perfect dismount from the vault. Even though Harley had ordered the XXX Super Small size from Volezon.com, B.H. swam in the shirt. The sleeves were rolled up so many times the resulting cuffs were puffy and kept the little vole from being able to put his arms against his sides. On a normal sized form, the image of Mary Lou Retton would have appeared as a small picture in the middle of the shirt front. On B.H., she appeared to be about the same size as he. With her upraised arms it looked like his head was floating on her outstretched fingers like some sort of bizarre trophy raised high in victory.

“I just don’t know why he keeps truckin’ those Beaver Tested Vole Squads around town,” she continued her tirade. “Everyone knows they’re there – it’s not like those bright yellow and green uniforms are hard to spot. And, really, what kind of message does it send about Under Dome Security when you see them marching behind the Buffaloes, looking like little fluorescent droppings skittering along the streets?!”

Harry cleared his throat. “They’re Beaver Trained, Harley – not tested,” he reminded her gently. “And Roper has been working very hard to keep the Under Dome and it’s territories safe for everyone. I really think you should be more supportive of his efforts,” he finished. He cast a pointed look in her direction.

“Fine. But it’s not like he’s supportive of the things that are important to me,” she replied ungraciously.

Harry shook his small head disapprovingly, but thought better of mentioning all the technology and other resources that Roper had (albeit unbeknownst to him most of the time) made available to Harley for her various hobbies and entertainment pursuits.

About that time, a soft trumpeting sound announced that the parade was about to begin. Voles lining both sides of the main thoroughfare began to stir excitedly, clapping their paws and cheering. A few even whistled shrilly.

Harley started to roll her eyes but caught sight of B.H. whose eyes glowed with excitement. His tiny paws were clapping together with such enthusiasm that Harley feared he might injure himself. She chortled as she watched him put two claws in his mouth and try to whistle. He ended up spluttering wetly, vole spit dribbling down his front. Still, he looked totally thrilled. Harley sighed and, shaking her head ruefully, prepared to watch the parade without comment. For B.H.

The crowd spotted the shaggy Buffaloes first and began to chant loudly. Shouts of, “Gordy!” “Prescott!” “Noble Bison!” “Sentry of the American Frontier!” could be heard as the two great beasts made their way in stately fashion down the street.

Harley couldn’t contain her laughter when she saw that each Buffalo was sporting a uniformed beaver on his hump. The beavers were dressed in military-style uniforms of olive green and brown. One wore a pair of highly polished brown boots over a pair of tan jodhpurs. His jacket was covered with ribbons and shiny medals and the epaulette on each shoulder boasted six small gold stars. His hat was reminiscent of a captain’s hat, except that rather than the traditional navy/white color combination, it was olive green and brown. The bill was embroidered in golden thread with what appeared to be mirror images of a beaver tail instead of the nautical version’s golden leaves.

The second beaver was similarly dressed. He had, however, only four stars on his shoulders and instead of jodhpurs, he was wearing tan trousers with an olive green stripe down the outside of each leg. He wore polished brown shoes, not boots.

Both beavers stood at attention, ramrod straight and unwavering. Or at least as unwavering as one could expect while riding down the street on the hump of a buffalo.

Harley laughed louder as the beaver commandos saluted the Very Important Roper Box as they passed by. Roper had built the structure so that he could watch any parade in which he wasn’t marching, in safety, above the crowds of street level. Now, Roper, Fluffy and the twins observed the spectacle from the plush accommodations. Roper offered a gentle wave in response to the beavers’ salute, flagging his paw back and forth like a beauty pageant contestant. Harley snorted.

Harry looked at her sharply. “You need to be more respectful, Harley,” he chided. “Those are very important Beavers – a six star and a four star general in the United Beaver Battle-ready Army. They were in charge of training our new Under Dome security personnel. It’s a real honor to have them in our parade. Brigadier General Huston is a combat veteran – he fought in the great Armadillo Invasion of 2006. And General Potts survived being a POW in a New Money prison camp. He was captured after his log jammed in enemy territory. They’re both real heroes,” he said reverently.

Harley looked at Harry to be sure he was serious. Clearly, he was in awe of the military beavers. “Sorry,” she muttered. “I’m not really up on Beaver history, I guess.”

She could tell by the looks on their faces that the Buffaloes were not enjoying themselves. She’d heard them mention countless times how embarrassing it was to be in these silly parades of Roper’s. Of course, she said to herself, I don’t see them turning Roper down. She understood that both Buffaloes (Prescott especially) secretly liked the attention they got from the crowds, even if they did feel momentary discomfort during the event itself.

Harley, B.H. and Harry continued to watch the parade as it wound its way down the street. Harley grudgingly admitted that the new security team uniforms were a vast improvement over the neon colors, although she maintained that making them march directly behind the Buffaloes was still a bad idea.

A group of vole children passed by, dressed in colorful leotards, doing a gymnastics and dance routine to the delight of the crowd. They were followed by a troupe of jugglers who tossed sponges into the air and caught them with a flourish. The onlookers ooh-ed and aah-d. A small band of mustached guitar players had just passed in front of the Very Important Roper Box when a loud shriek pierced the air.

The crowd fell silent and everyone looked around trying to pinpoint the source of the noise. Another loud, ear-splitting squeal sounded, followed by a crash. Parade goers gasped as the Very Important Roper Box began to shift and sway.

“Look out!” Harley shouted. “Roper’s Box is going to fall!” She turned to Harry, “Take B.H. and get him to safety.” Harry nodded, took a frightened B.H. by the paw and led him away from the restless mob.

Harley began to make her way toward Roper’s viewing box. I’m no hero, she thought. But I might be able to keep Roper from having a complete meltdown if that thing crashes.

Voles and moles began to scramble away from the shuddering structure. Suddenly, Roper himself appeared, clutching the edge of the box.

“Help! Help!” he screamed. “Something is wrong with Fluffy! I need an ambulance, a medic, a log!” He looked deranged. His ears were askew. The small boutonniere he had donned for the parade was hanging upside down by the stem. His electric blue caftan was wet and wrinkled, giving him a disheveled appearance.

A Medical Vole Squad rushed up the rickety stairs into the Box. They reappeared moments later bearing Fluffy on a litter. They whisked her into a waiting ambulance and raced away, sirens blaring softly. Roper stumbled down the stairs, weaving like a drunk. He looked around like a wild dog, his crazy eyes finally settling on Harley.

Behind him, a vole Harley assumed was the twin’s new nanny led Griff and Taffy down the steps and bustled them away from the parade scene. Not before she cast a dirty look in Roper’s direction, however.

“What the heck is going on, Roper?” Harley demanded, grabbing him by the arm and giving him a quick shake.

Roper stared at her without blinking for several moments before another shake finally spurred him into the moment. “Where’s Fluffy?” he asked in a trembling voice. “Where did they take my Treasure Pup?” He sniffled noisily.

“I think they took her to the hospital,” Harley replied. “What happened?”

“I’m not sure,” Roper whispered miserably. “I was watching the tumblers and thinking how scary they were. I don’t think we’ll have gymnastics in parades anymore – it was terrifying,” he began to ramble.

Harley shook him again. “Focus, Roper,” she snapped.

“Oh, well,” he glanced over her shoulder. “I remember thinking maybe I should grow a mustache like those musicians and then Fluffy started panting. I asked her if she was hot and I tried to find someone to get her a cold drink. She just gave me one of her looks – you know, like when I give her a new log for her birthday – and she kept panting and groaning. I got scared and looked around for Harry. I forgot he said he was watching the parade with you today so I was looking for him but he wasn’t in the Very Important Roper Box. Maybe if I’d called it the Very Important Roper and Slightly Less Important Harry Box he would have been here,” Roper began to sob quietly. Snot streamed from his nose.

Harley grabbed a napkin from the street, obviously left by someone in the crowd and handed it to Roper. He mopped at his wet eyes and nose then continued.

“I decided that I should probably get someone to help me with Fluffy. She wasn’t being very nice to me at that point. She said I was a scourge that needed to be eradicated or something and I thought she should have someone else taking care of her because I didn’t know what was wrong or what to do and I couldn’t find Harry …” he trailed off into more sobs.

Harley rolled her eyes, then took a deep breath. “Roper,” she said with exaggerated patience. “What. Happened?”

Roper blew his nose loudly. “I turned to send the nanny to find Harry because Harry always knows what to do and I think I bumped something in the Box. It started to shake and then Fluffy kicked me in the haunch and screamed. It was a horrible scream. It scared me so much that then I screamed. The she just started kicking me and pummeling me with her paws and yelling at me to get an ambulance.” He dabbed his moist eyes again. “It was horrible!”

Harley nodded. She realized what was going on and decided to take pity on Roper. He really was a complete mess.

“Roper,” she said as gently as she could manage. “Did Fluffy seem to be in a lot of pain?”

Roper nodded vigorously. “She sure seemed like it and I know she was causing me a lot of agony!” he said indignantly.

“Roper,” Harley announced. “I think Fluffy is having her babies.”

“Babies?” Roper seemed confused. “Fluffy is having babies? Oh, that’s right,” he said, suddenly understanding. “Fluffy is having babies.”

His expression brightened. “I’m going to call Jose and get started on a wardrobe for the babies!” he declared. “Rhinestones and ribbon and satin – the babies will look fantastic!”


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?”