Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 20

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 20

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

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

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

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

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

********

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

Harry nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dachshund Chronicles:  Chapter 12

Dachshund Chronicles: Chapter 12

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

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

********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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