Chapter 04

A Pro to come

“A bit more salt wouldn’t have been bad for the Monsterburger”, chief Botchy said when the whole troop had left the restaurant again. “Apart from that it was well enough, considering how long I had to wait.”

“It was right mortifying, you especially, Goldi!” Flecki nagged.

“We can’t show our faces there any more”, Finny agreed in a sad voice.

“Blokes!” Finny hissed and Flecki nodded.

“You wouldn’t think that they can dumb down yet, but they succeed every time.”

“And it was absolutely awkward when the chief told that poor waiter to send the bill to the mayor!”

“Hey now, Emmy”, Botchy interrupted, “the mayor told us to come in two hours time and I told him that we are for lunch. So we were for lunch.”

The chief turned around and frowned:

“By the by, where is Dodo?”

“He, well, er, he went to the loo”, Hamstilidamst explained. “He said he’ll come later.”

“All right, people, let’s hear what the mayor has to tell us but be careful on their stairs.!”

“The staircase certainly had been cleaned by now?”

“Oh, Finny, go on dreaming!” Flecki laughed. “By whom? The mayor has ‘important’ calls, the aid hamsters are not involved and the caretaker is knocked out.”

The staircase was indeed in a terrible state still. They walked up cautiously and met the chief accountant.

“Oh, Mr. Botchy and his troop”, he shouted. “Isn’t it a shame that no one feels responsible for cleaning that staircase?”

“Don’t you have cleaning hamsters?” Botchy grumped. “You might easily break all your bones here!”

The chief accountant nodded and suddenly looked very serious.

“Yes, just like that young man. He has been carried away a moment ago. O yes, Miss Pinky mentioned that he was bandaged and asked for you, Mr. Botchy. One of your people?”

“Well”, Botchy grumbled, “that will have been Trample. Should pay him a visit.”

“Poor chap”, Sasy sniffed, “we did not even see him again! But we heard about him and that’s nice after all, isn’t it?”

“He seems to feel quite fine in hospital or why does he go there all the time?”

Flecki gave a look of wrath to Taty who had made this shameless remark, but before she could comment, Finny shouted:

“We’ll bring him some flowers, that will cheer him up!”

“A knight’s armour would be all the better”, Goldi grinned and got kicked by Flecki.

“And biscuits”, Tuffy shouted. “He likes them more than anything else.”

“Hazelnut biscuits!” Emmy knew in detail.

“Later, pals, later. First of all we’ll hear the mayor’s report. Later on we’ll pay Trample a visit.”

After saying so, chief Botchy wanted to walk on but stopped, when a well known voice shouted:

“Wait for me – hello!”

“Take care, Dodo, the stairs!” Tuffy shrieked but the warning came too late. On the middle part of the staircase Dodo executed a perfect pirouette, made a beautiful back somersault and rolled down the stairs.

“Looks like us paying a visit to two dear colleagues”, Tealeafy compassionately said.

“I’ve got to get on”, the chief accountant remarked. “We are buried under work because almost all employees are in hospital. Oh, Mr. Botchy, my offer still stands of course. If you’re looking for a career change…” The next moment he was one floor up and out of sight.

“I can’t…”

The glances of the repair troop went back to Dodo who really did not cut a good figure when desperately trying to climb the slippery stairs: one forward, two back.

“Well?” Tealeafy sneered. “Not that fit today?”

“Now get you gone, we don’t have all the day!” chief Botchy yelled, waving his short arms.

“Ca-a-a-an’t!” came the wailing answer and the chief replied in a calmer voice.

“You have to take step by step, Dodo. Just try to wriggle along like a seal!”

Sobbing, Dodo followed the advice of his superior and tried, lying on his belly, to take step by step.

“O my, that does look daft. Small wonder that there are so few seals.”

“Seals are just darlings!” Flecki hissed, giving Goldi a dagger look.

“Come on, you’ll make it!” Emmy and Sasy chorused. Now also the other repair hamsters started to cheer the step-to-step-slipping Dodo.

“Wriggle-Dodo, Wriggle-Dodo!” it sounded through the stairwell and really Dodo reached the last step. Then it happened. His chin banged onto the hard edge of the step and he slid down the whole staircase. There he was lying now dizzily.

Alarmed by the noise, the chief accountant and his remaining employees came running.

“I told you it’s perilous. We claim danger pay!” a small hamster with a base cap shouted who carried along several files.

“Something has to be done”, the chief accountant shouted. “Mr. Botchy, you are a resolute man…”

The chief only shrugged.

“It’s soap, is it? Tuffy, what do we know about soap?”

“Soap is a mixture of different, longer-alkali salts of fatty acids and are among the tensides, more precisely to the anionic surfactants. However, if working with potassium hydroxide and potassium salts to form potassium salts of fatty acids, which are in contrast to the sodium salt until soft and greasy hygroscopic. You get soft soap and…”

“Tuffy!”

“Yes, Boss?”

“Another word and you’ll lick the stairs clean. I don’t want to know what soap is but how to get rid of it!”

“We did not yet learn that at vocational school, Boss.”

“I knew it for certain”, Botchy triumphantly said, “you learn nothing there!”

“And what do we learn from this?” Taty jeered.

“That Botchy is at a loss again!” Goldi trumpeted.

“O yes? Why am I always to know everything?” the chief foamed. “Mr. Clever Goldi might think of something!”

Before Flecki could shout “Better not!” Goldi had run to a corner of the staircase where a fire-extinguisher was hanging. He pulled it from the wall and placed himself at the upper step. There was a loud hissing and under the cheers of Taty and Tealeafy all the lower part of the stairwell was transformed into a snowy landscape while the rest of the troop was crying out in shock. However, a moment later there were delighted cries of “Ah!” and “Oh!” when Goldi put aside the extinguisher casually, pointed at the wintery scene and said:

“Guess that nobody will be seen slipping today.”

“You and your repair team are a blessing, Chief”, the chief accountant delightedly said and walked a few steps until reaching the head of the stairs. Cautiously he held one paw into the foam, bending forward a little. Followed a shriek and he was gone.

“Tuffy, what do we know about fire extinguishing foam?”

“Extinguishing foam is a special foam, consisting of air, water, and foam. Condition for the formation of foam bilayer is a soap, which is separated by a thin layer of water from each other, chief.”

“Thank you, Tuffy, thank you. And what it the meaning of this?”

“No idea, Chief, no one told us.”

“Do you just learn by heart at school?” Botchy grumped, looking into the foam scenery. In the middle section something seemed to be moving.

“As it is, foam is made of soap, and if soap meets soap, it will be slippery, won’t it?”

Tuffy helplessly looked at the chief. “We did not have any lessons about that…”

“Swell, Goldi, really great”, Flecki scolded. “First rate idea of you. Now there’s a better slip-slide than ever before!”

Goldi shrugged. “I only said that we will see nobody slipping today!”

“He’s right”, Tealeafy shouted, “in all that foam you can’t see anyone slipping!”

Emerged a white creature out of the foam.

“Oh, the chief accountant!” Botchy merrily cried. “We did not see you coming. Anything changed in the state of the staircase?”

“I’m afraid no”, the tired chief accountant gasped. “But on my way I’ve found something. Does this seal belong to you?”

“Seal?”

Hamstilidamst and Emmy stepped up to the foam packet the chief accountant had dragged up the stairs and freed it of foam as well as possible. There was a delighted “Honk, honk!”

“You okay, Dodo?” Emmy asked in a small voice.

“Honk, honk”, was the prompt answer.

“O well”, Botchy turned to the chief accountant, “that’s no real employee, more of a freelancer for special tasks.”

“I see”, he nodded, “drain pipes and the like.”

“Just so”, the chief agreed. “But we really have to get on now. The mayor surely is waiting for us.” He beckoned his troop to follow and walked ahead. The ascent took some time as the elevator was still out of order. After a while the chief stopped and turned round angrily. “Will Dodo stop that hooting now? He’s getting right on my nerves!”

“Dodo is a free seal with a right of opinion!” Flecki said indignantly.

“To forbid him barking would be a cruelty!” Dasy agreed.

Grumbling, chief Botchy scrambled on and planned for certain to repair that elevator soon. After two more floors they arrived and faced the sign ‘Shut down temporarily due to inspection – Caretaker’

“There not being any damned caretaker, we don’t need that daft sign!” the chief bawled, pulled down the sign and hurtled it down to the next floor.

“By that the lift won’t work any better”, Finny remarked and received a dagger look.

“What a pity”, Goldi said, fumbling the elevator buttons, “we have to walk back all the way down and…”

He broke off as the elevator door opened like by magic.

“Gosh!” Flecki cried. “That lazy caretaker just put up the sign there and in truth the elevator is working without fault!”

“I’ll have a go at that one”, Botchy gnarled. “But first things first. Now we will listen to what the mayor had to tell us.”

Without knocking, he entered the mayor’s office, followed by his repair team and one seal, happily barking “Honk, honk!”

“Ah, my very dear dingus – er – Botchy”, the mayor said good humouredly. “Do come in!”

“I am in, Mr. Mayor!”

“Er, yes, of course. What is this?” The mayor pointed at Dodo who was lying seal-like on his belly and seal-like came wriggling in, accompanied by merry barks of “Honk, honk!”

“This? Oh, that’s Dodo, the seal for special tasks”, the chief grinned.

“Fine, fine, most important for governments.”

“Seals, Mr. Mayor?”

“Certainly, dear thief – er – chief. Only recently I read that all official papers of the government need seals. Once the English government almost failed completely because the Great Seal was missing. So be proud that you have you own steel – er – deal – with the seal…”

It took some time until there was quiet again in the mayor’s office and even the last repair hamster stopped laughing. Rather bewildered, the mayor was sitting at his desk, listening to the explanation of Flecki, Emmy, and Finny as to the difference between a seal and a seal. Botchy grew impatient.

“Now if we could start…”

“Curtainly, dear chief – er – certainly. Never tiring, I mumbled my tribe – er – troubled my mind about how this exhibition out there will knife – er – strive.” He walked up and down the room, his paw pointing to the window and out to the market place. “Out there…”

He did not get further as he had stumbled over Dodo.

“Erm, Greatseal – er – Dodo, would you mind creeping to the door?” he gasped after getting himself up and back to his desk.

With a merry “Honk honk!” Dodo wriggled to the door and was now lying between the door and chief Botchy who only shook his head.

“Thanks, Honk – er – Dodo”, the mayor said, preened his whiskers and let his glance wander from one hamster to the next. “The cask given – er – task given to me of finding a pro has without doubt been pompleted by me with cursing – er – completed in person – by me…”

“Absolutely unnecessary, that senior office ape is a numbnut”, came a bawling voice from the door.

“Well, er, my dear chief, I do agree with you”, the mayor stammered. “And it’s not that I think you completely incapable, it’s just…”

“Well?” came a hiss from the door.

“Your works so to say speaks for you…”

“That’s just it!” Some voice from the repair troop.

“And the little mishaps…”

“Mishaps?” Botchy interrupted the mayor, reddening fiercely and putting up his chin. “Mishaps?”

“…never were your fault”, the mayor continued hastily.

“My idea exactly”, the chief gnarled and made a step back to lean at the doorpost. There was a bang because he had not seen Dodo lying on the floor.

“Will someone shove that silly seal to some other place? Into the tub for my sake.”

“It’s a feeling creature, chief”, Flecki cried, rather indignant. “You cannot just shove it to some place.”

From the floor came some backing up howl.

“So what kind of pro is that and was is he to do?” now Goldi asked the most important question and the room was dead silent. Just when the question was to be answered, there was a knock at the door.

“Erm, come in!”

The door was opened, something white entered and was lying on the floor the next moment as it had stumbled over Dodo.

There was an “Ouch, my paw” and an “Honk, honk, wail!” and silence again.

Slowly the white creature rose, wiping foam from its face.

“Trample! Are you well again?” his friends chorused and ran to him, careful not to kick Dodo the seal who with a loud whimper tried to jump up to Trample.

“Well”, Trample said, “doctor thinks I should take it slowly…”

“Sure”, Botchy grumped, “you’re right with us. Just take it slowly, no one will hurry you. But tell me, you fool, did you come up the stairs?”

Trample nodded. “The lift is defect after all, isn’t it?”

“Lots of things are defect here but not the lift”, Tealeafy said with a grin. “But you’re just in time. The mayor is going to tell us what kind of loser he found as a pro to manage the ‘First Hamstian Exhibition’.”

With a nod the mayor thanked Tealeafy for the bridge to his speech. He cleared his throat and was about to begin, when there was another knock at the door.

“Erm, come in!”

The door was opened, the chief accountant entered and crashed onto the carpet as Dodo was still lying in front of the door. Angrily he got up and walked over to the mayor.

“My dear Mr. Mayor”, he said excitedly, “the entrance to this building has to be freed from soap immediately. But that is not all. As you know, there are 23 departments in this building with 119 employees. For reasons unknown at the moment 2/3 of the employees are in hospital, that it 89 ¼. The other 29 ¾ have to do all the work and due to complete exhaustion half of them had to be sent home already. So at the moment I only have 14 7/8 employees at my disposal. Of these 14 7/8 there is an amount of 5/8 having a claim on last year’s holiday so that…”

“Erm, yes”, the mayor interrupted, “I do understand. And what am I to do now?”

“See that I get new people, temps or the like!” the chief accountant shouted.

“Well, hum, new people”, the mayor pondered and remembering all the job applications he had in his desk, he plucked up. “I think, my dear chief accountant, I in a way so to say can help you. I still have some thingy people.”

“Fine”, the chief accountant said, turning to the door. “I rely on you.”

Once more he became the victim of Dodo the seal and stumbled out of the door. Then there was a terrified outcry and the falling of a body. Something rumbled like someone rolling down the stairs.

“Well”, Goldi grinned, “that leaves 13 7/8 employees with 5/8 minus X holiday claims.”

“Tuffy, please go and take a look if anything happened to Mr. Conk. Oh, and take care not to stumble over that silly seal.”

The little hamster nodded and walked out, accompanied by calls of “Honk, honk!” Impatiently the mayor drummed his paw on the desk as by now he was quite peeved because up to now he had had no chance of delivering his great announcement. Sooner than expected Tuffy was back to report that chief accountant Conk had limped into his office, swearing.

“Erm, wonderful in a way”, the mayor grumbled and sat up straight. All eyes were on him, he enjoyed this moment of attention on his person.

“The task given to me to find a seal – er – a real pro was a difficult task. Well, I do not pinch – er – flinch from trouble as is seemly for a dispensable parson – harrumph – responsible person so to say…”

“Make it short – or I’ll set the seal on you!” chief Botchy gnarled and the repair hamsters nodded and giggled.

The mayor interrupted his speech and goggled at Botchy. ‘Set the seal’ might have two meanings: one setting the seal and the other – setting the seal. Indeed, time to get to the seal point. He rose and smiled daftly.

“Ladies and gentlemen, dear seals of sorts – Hamsterton has a professional now!”

These weighty words resulted in much excitement with the repair troop. There were snatches of sentences:

“Didn’t I know, can’t make a dent with the chief…”

“Thank God, our disaster will be professional now!”

“Will we have more holidays now?”

“Honk, honk!”

“Or we’ll be out of work!”

“We’ll starve!”

“Honk, honk!”

“We are too young to die!”

“Honk, honk!”

“Damn, shut up!” chief Botchy yelled to stop the jabbering of his folks which by now had become loud howling and lamenting. “No one will lose his job and no one will starve to death. That funny pro is to manage the whole. These chaps are only able to organize and can’t hit a nail on the head!”

“Harrumph”, the mayor angrily said. He did not think much of Dowdy his niece, quite on the contrary, she had got on his nerves often enough, but she was his niece after all and no chief had the right not to think much of Dowdy his niece! If someone had the right not to think much of his niece, if was him, the mayor! “We are talking about a processional – erm – what I mean is, she is a profit so to say.”

“Honk?”

“It’s not a ‘he’, it’s a ‘she’”, the mayor added after seeing the bewildered faces around him.

“For making coffee, or what?” Goldi bawled and got kicked by Flecki.

“And she knows something about building works?” Chief Botchy was baffled and forgot to close his mouth.

“Er, rather no, she will co-ordinate the thing.”

“Will that be the end of our nice planning commissions?” Tealeafy asked with a grin.

“In a way it will, er, yes.”

“No more phat competence teams?” Taty mocked.

“Erm, no!”

“How will such a dumb Dora manage us if she knows nothing about building works?” Botchy wanted to know.

The mayor opened his mouth and closed it again.

“Because, erm…”, he began but Flecki came to his rescue.

“Goldi knows nothing about cooking and munches away everything anyway!”

“Er, yes, just so”, the mayor gasped, “munches away so to say. That’s the way with the co-dingus – er – operation. In a way she had studied and knows the latest trips – er – tricks.”

“I don’t need any tricks and such newfangled crap!” chief Botchy bawled and went up to the mayor. “Solid handicraft goes without foul tricks!”

While in the background some hamsters cackled heartily, the mayor pushed back the excited chief and exhaustedly leant back in his chair. Slowly Botchy took a step back.

“Now, see here, my dear chief, it’s like this, my niece is just…”

“Niece!” sounded a chorus.

“Erm, well…”

“Did he say niece, Taty?”

“He did, Tealeafy, that smells right away like cronyism!”

“How not, we hamsters in some way or other are all cronies…”