Chapter 14

 

The Exhibition

 

When opening their Daily next morning, the Hamsterton population got such a shock that most of them went back to bed and stayed there for the day.

 

‘Hamsterton bankrupt! Shall we all starve?’ the headline yelled at them. Pictures of once upon a time’s 48-hours-famine were added as a gruesome extra. Followed an article which let the blood freeze in the veins of those hamsters who had not gone back to bed. With excessive exaggeration some doomsday scenario was given. At the end of the first page some sort of hope was conveyed to the interested reader, describing rescue measures. Quite dizzy by the idea of starvation, the hamsters could read that there still was hope. There was talk about a temporary reduction of Internet speed, about taxes on all computer games. So what? What was all this compared to starvation?

 

So it happened the all of a sudden the inmates of all houses yawned with boredom. Certainly, Internet connections were active – if you will call one word per minute ‘active’. A police razzia collected all computer games against a receipt and a voucher. New computer games could only be bought for astronomical sums as the surtax was at 100 %. Instead of this, all over the town snug little gambling houses could be found, opened by the Hamstian senate as sparkling sources of tax income.

 

Of course also the vouchers were cashed here and everybody did so. The snug little gambling houses were most popular and all the shops and takeaways as well. Naturally the vouchers were soon spent and the hamsters had to pay with money. From this moment on taxes came flooding in like hell. Chief accountant Conk and the tax-team around him hardly could manage the counting of money. First of all the wages of the civil service employees were paid so that police, dustmen and so on took up their work again. There still were sporadic protests but they were scotched by vouchers for gambling halls and restaurants. If there was food, what was any protest good for?

 

The whole action was accompanied by a gigantic PR-campaign of the press. Chief Officer Topple, in charge of exhibition marketing, made good use of his friendly contacts to the ‘Hamstian Daily’. The byword was ‘positive comments’ and even when in the town hall a bearing wall collapsed, there was no negative headline. ‘Chief Botchy adopting innovative techniques’ the ‘Hamstian Daily’ informed their readers. Photos of buried and wounded hamsters were sold as ‘Disaster training’ and the cover showed a merrily grinning hamster named Trample who was caressed by a nurse. She smiled in a most friendly fashion. There was no mention of Trample lying on a stretcher to be transported to hospital. Neither was there any mention of the fact that chief Botchy – smiling in the background – had a strong cudgel behind his back and had announced consequences to ‘Trample our friend’ in case he did not play along.

 

“Isn’t this manipulation of the public? Are not here false information scattered at will? Is this not taking the piss out of the people?” Flecki wanted to know from President Daby after reporting on the new dress code of Hamsterton Police. “Is this not a false image of truth?”

 

“It is”, Daby retorted.

 

“And are not citizens wishing to live their hobby soaked and exploited without mercy?”

 

“They are.”

 

“And shall this go on?”

 

“It shall, at least until the opening of the exhibition which has to be soon. My presence will then no longer be necessary. I’ve got to get home anyway.”

 

“Pity”, Flecki grinned and left. When descending the stairs of the town hall, Goldi came scuffling along.

 

“Well, gulped down pizza for an hour? Did you ring them up or was there no time?”

 

“As it is”, Goldi muttered, “I needed some vouchers first. No problem, enough cops around with vouchers. When I told some of them that I’m all against the new regulations, they handed me lots. Well, so I took my lunch and after that rang up Hamstermound. It’s all right, that esoteric-bird won’t get far. And what are you doing here?”

 

“I’ve been with the president and now I’m on my way to the driving school.”

 

“Driving school? What do you show a woman after two year’s accident-free driving?” Goldi smirked, trying to pass Flecki quickly.

 

“Well, what do you show her?” Flecki growled, barring his way.

 

“The second gear! Ha ha, a-a-a-a-a-ah!” With a shrill scream Goldi moved down the stairs backwards. On the next floor a door opened.

 

“What happened?” Flecki heard Daby call out.

 

“Nothing important”, Flecki soothingly said. “Goldi had the bad luck to slip on the stairs. No harm done, he’s still moving.”

 

She walked down the last stairs, took one big step across the groaning Goldi and left through the main entrance which by now had been repaired.

 

Growling, Goldi picked himself up, a dagger glance followed Flecki and once more he mounted the stairs. From the distance already he could hear the repair team finishing their preparations on the 2nd floor.

 

“And why, you big fool, did you not help mounting the tent on the town hall square? That’s refusal to work, that’s what it is!”

 

“But I wanted to, Boss, I was not permitted…”, Dodo wailed. “There was that sign saying ‘Keep off the building site’.”

 

“O my!” Botchy mumbled, trying not to hear the cackling of the other hamsters. “As a reward I have good news for you: You need not work tomorrow.”

 

“Thank you, Boss!”

 

“Don’t mention it. You have to get ready with all your work today. The rooms have to be spick’n span, all unevenness removed.”

 

While Dodo and Trample set out to empty all rooms, the rest of the repair team walked to the town hall square to mount the marquee.

 

At the same time the mayor discussed with President Daby. Chief accountant Conk was also present because now they had to solve one of the last financial problems of Hamsterton.

 

“Well, that Dingus-Jelly – er – that Mr. Jello is the only one so to say insisting on his claims…”

 

“Hamsterjello you mean, Mr. Mayor”, the chief accountant remarked. “And you say all other persons harmed during the first exhibition refrained from opening disclaim?”

 

“Erm, yes, they did. For tickets for that there dingus…”

 

“You want to say for the upcoming re-opening of the exhibition, Mr. Mayor.”

 

“Yes, uppeningus – er – just so!”

 

“Why does Hamsterjello not waive his claim, Mr. Mayor?”

 

“Erm, well, what he says is that since that accidingus a few weeks ago he no longer yearns – er – earns…”

 

“Stupid matter”, the chief accountant mumbled. “So now we cannot claim taxes from him…”

 

“Something’s coming to my mind…” Daby grinned and took up the receiver. She leafed through the mayor’s notebook and found what she needed. Then she dialled a number and switched on the loudspeaker. “Oh, I’m glad to reach you! For months I’ve been following all your concerts!” the mayor and the chief accountant heard the president say.

 

“Do you really?” they heard a satisfied answer.

 

“As it is, they are not very well attended, are they?”

 

“Come, come, you can’t say so. They are all fully booked!”

 

“Anyway, your last CD wasn’t such a seller, was it?”

 

“What do you say there? Sure it was – sold over a million times! That’s a funny sort of questions for a fan to ask!”

 

“Fan? O no, I’m just discussing with the mayor and the chief accountant of taxation about your financial circumstances…”

 

“Er – what? How’s that?” a very confused Hamsterjello gasped at the other end.

 

“Silly thing, that damage claim to Hamsterton, your tax progression will rise now…”

 

“Oh – this – er – that”, came a stammer. “A misunderstanding. Please – er – tell the mayor, er – yes…”

 

“Free concert”, the mayor whispered to Daby.

 

“Understood”, Daby said without mercy. “So you will repeat your concert to the re-opening – free of charge of course?”

 

“But certainly… One call of the mayor and I shall be there – promised!”

 

“So that is that”, chief accountant Conk remarked drily. “What about financing the interior of the exhibition – and what kind of interior is planned?”

 

“Computer”, the president said. “It will be a game exhibition.”

 

“In that case no amusement tax will be due as it is a municipal exhibition”, the chief accountant stated facts.

 

“Just so. And the Hamsterton population will just love to lend their private computers because first they do not have any more games and second they will get food vouchers – third of course the ‘Hamstian Daily’ will name them as hamster-unlike if they refuse…”

 

Daby rose to close the window to leave outside crashing and cries of pain. The first attempt to mount the marquee had not been successful… Instead the bawling of one certain chief on the neighbouring staircase could be heard all the better.

 

“Another thing, Mr. Mayor”, Daby sighed. “Please have the preparations controlled by chief officer Topple.”

 

During the day HAMPO officers collected most of the private computers. As chief Botchy was fully occupied debating with the chief officer, also the repair team progressed nicely. All rooms were cleaned and decorated to Flecki’s advice, the computers were installed and games piled up. There were pictures on the walls showing the history of the Hamsterton computers, starting with a simple calculator, i.e. one sunflower seed, up to the High-End-Computer. All over the place explanatory tablets accompanied the visitors who learned among other things that this one sunflower seed had been the mother of all calculators as with this the binary numbers 1 and 0 could be shown, i.e. sunflower seed is there and sunflower seed has been eaten.

 

In the late afternoon there was a peculiar accident. As to witnesses a window pane on the 2nd floor splintered and with loud shrieks the chief officer landed on the roof of the marquee. Unharmed. However, neither he nor the chief – who one hour later had a fat shiner – were willing to comment. The saying was that there had been a big brawl.

 

In the late evening all preparations for the exhibition were finished and Hamsterton spent the last night before the opening of the ‘Games and Fun Exhibition Hamsterton’. The night was not quite undisturbed because the Hamstian police had to move out several times. Once someone could be stopped at the very last moment to demolish a house with a stolen crane. A person up to now unknown had the new car of chief officer Topple on the hook and obviously wanted to smash his house with it. Soon after this a driverless road roller rolled towards the house of chief Botchy. Also this time with the help of the fire brigade damages could be stopped.

 

Next morning the official opening took place. All those involved in the exhibition were lined up peacefully. A small platform was erected right beside the marquee. All were elegantly dressed, only chief Botchy and the chief officer came of badly as both had bandages round their arms, legs, and heads. Dodo had forgotten to change and looked quite poorly in his working overall just like Trample whose only festive trousers had burst, stood with a fiercely red head and wished to be somewhere else.

 

President Daby held a short speech, thanking everyone – also the Hamsterton population – for their active assistance. After that chief accountant Conk informed in a paper sprinkled with figures about the sound financial situation of Hamsterton. The last one was the mayor.

 

“My dear yellow pittymen – er – citizens! In spite of all – erm – trouble we’ve taken, we today open the exhibition. I say we and I mean all and we tried hard so to day on this day…”

 

“Come to the point, fatty!”

 

“Erm, yes, that’s why we – and we paired no Spains – er – spared not pains…”

 

“Open the munching tent!”

 

“… to prevent an exhibition quacking for the beatles – er – looking for its equal”, the mayor bravely continued in spite of catcalls from the hungry guests. “Nobody could have stopped us…”

 

“Try us, fatso!”

 

The mayor reddened but talked on. “There were people not believing in us but we snowed them – er showed them…”

 

“Oh, did you, bigmouth?”

 

“No butter could cure… er – no nutter could lure us off our course…”

 

“Talking about butter! Open the munching tent, blatherskite!” a voice came from the hungry crowd.

 

“As in my office as… I’ll right punch your faces, you thankless riff-raff!”

 

“Mr. Mayor, please compose yourself…”, President Daby shouted and hastened towards the mayor to stop worse things happening. Unfortunately her high heels got stuck between the floor-boards.

 

“Your daft niece sips the dregs from the bottle return machine!”

 

“Leave Molly Malone – Dowdy alone!” the mayor yelled at the crowd. “Who let you out of the padded cell, he? Do your nurses know that you are here?”

 

“Ey, ey”, came a shout from the crowd. “You’ll hear clapping right away, but not for applause!”

 

“And you”, the mayor shrieked, quite uncontrolled, “better hide, the dustman are coming in a minute!”

 

“Ey, pugmouth, the zoo just rang up! Wanna have you back!”

 

“For goodness sake, we’ve got to do something, Goldi!” Flecki gasped when the first eggs and tomatoes came flying at the mayor.

 

“What for, it’s quite usual… Okay, okay, I’ll do something”, Goldi growled and turned to Dodo. “Eh, Dodo, the president’s got stuck, help her out, will you?”

 

The next moment shrieking Daby sailed across the marvelling crowd. She landed with a thud on the soft roof of the marquee.

 

“Ey, pugmouth, that means, munching is opened?”

 

The mayor had just torn a board from the floor of the platform and was ready to fall onto the crowd when Goldi whispered to him: “Tell them munching is opened!”

 

There was silence. The prospect of munching had unified them again. Eagerly the crowd listened to the next words of the mayor.

 

“My dear visidingus, our president has just opened the bunch – er – the punch – er – the bongo or something the like!” the mayor stammered and powerfully bit into the floor-board.

 

“Better let’s stay safe”, Flecki proposed and together with the other hamsters watched how the crowd of visitors stormed the marquee to stuff their tummies.

 

“By the way, where’s Trample?” Goldi wondered and looked about him.

 

“He’ll be at the food counter”, Dodo said. “Oh, I think he’s coming!”

 

Indeed Trample

our friend came tumbling out of the marquee. He was quite wet and his fur clotted with food particles.

 

“You should take a shower”, Flecki remarked, wrinkling her delicate nose. “What’s been happening now?”

 

“At the food counter”, Trample lamented, “there was such a fat, greedy hamster wanting a refill at once. I told him he had to queue up again so that everyone gets his turn.”

 

“Quite correct”, Flecki nodded.

 

“Quite wrong”, Goldi smirked.

 

“So he grasped me and dipped me into the pot of soup.”

 

“That was mean!” Flecki growled.

 

“That was to be expected”, Goldi bawled, sniffing Trample up and down. “Smells yummy…”

 

“’vaps ve vould vet vomeving varm av vell”, the mayor proposed, chewing at the board.

 

“Later, Mr. Mayor, now is the opening of the games exhibition in the entrance hall of the town hall!” President Daby panted, still out of breath from climbing off the marquee roof. High time indeed as the first load of food was munched down so that the star turn had to be announced now. It would after all take some time until the fire brigade, who had volunteered for preparing the food, would have the next lot ready.

 

“Let me give a short speech, Mr. Mayor, and finish your meal at leisure!” Daby said as they entered the balcony of the town hall.

 

“Throw down that mayor-twerp, honey!” some crowd-members bawled. Daby mentally checked her return schedule and very much looked forward to quiet Loch Broom.

 

“Or make the Disco Diva for us!” another one shouted and whistled on his paws.

 

“Welcome to the ‘First Hamsterton Games and Technics Exhibition’ in this lovely town”, she began. “In the exhibition halls of the town hall you may expect a great number and variety of thrilling games which you a welcome to test. Also the historical…”

 

The president interrupted her speech and, shaking her head, watched the tumultuous scenes in the great entrance hall. There was jostling, pushing, and pulling to get at the game pads, there was shoving and abusing. ‘A matter of time till HAMPO has to be called in’, the nerved president thought and dropped the idea at once when she saw that the worst shovers and abusers were HAMPO-officers anyway.

 

“Which blockhead was that? Which zombie-brain has done that? Who ripped out the sockets and plastered the outlets?”

 

“But, Boss, ‘t was you who told me to remove all unevennesses…”

 

“Stop shirking my fists and be thrashed like a man…”

 

A window splintered, a big hamster dived for the marquee roof. There was a sound of cloth ripping. And a splash. “Wow, yummy, barley soup…” Dodo’s voice could be heard.

 

Under the ovations of the exhibition visitors Botchy dived behind him. In spite of all his bandages he cut a fine figure. Also on his impact followed a splash, then a clank. A big hamster fled from the marquee, followed by a smaller but fatter and bandaged one who waved a ladle over his red head. Soon both had disappeared at the horizon.

 

“There is soup left!” the president shouted with a desperate undertone. Immediately the crowd pushed and shoved into the opposite direction, away from the plastered sockets. “Chief officer, quick, take the repair team and install extension cables from the upper floors to the computers… Or they smash everything to bits when they come back!”

 

“Respect!” Goldi nodded. “Daby quickly adopted to our lifestyle and culture.”

 

“Ay”, Flecki agreed, “a hard boiled diplomat.”

 

And so from the safe platform the hamsters watched the crowds trooping out of the marquee again, leaving behind waste and empty pots and pans. Wild bawling, cheerful yelling and little rows. Now and then a shrieking hamster came flying from one of the floors, one even still clutching the keyboard and after several window falls the marquee collapsed. The chief officer came limping and ordered police and fire brigade to roll up the tarpaulin and the marquee was changed into an ‘Open Air Eating’ event.

 

“Yea, yea-a-a-a-a, not this time. This time I’ve been lucky”, the hamsters heard Trample cheering when the tarpaulin was taken away and he emerged from it unharmed.

 

“Congratulations, Trample!” Flecki shouted.

 

“Thanks! The big mast saved me, I was just beside it, I’m a lucky… Argr-r-r-r-r!”

 

Unfortunately the big mast fell as it no longer was held by any tarpaulin.

 

“Oh, how fortune is fickle”, Goldi nodded while a fireman dragged unconscious Trample from under the mast.

 

And so the ‘First Hamstian Exhibtion’ had a happy ending – for most at least. Once more Hamsterton was saved although during the festivities half the town hall came tumbling down. However, no one took much interest in this. Towards evening also the chief and Dodo returned: Dodo was unharmed, only the chief had broken both his arms when trying to hit Dodo over the head. President Daby had disappeared in the early hours of the following day, obviously in a hurry to get back to quiet Ullapool.

 

By the by, Dowdy Buzzer never returned to Hamsterton. She founded an esoterics-school in Hamstermound and for the very first time had a fixed income. The mayor who was back in all his offices, was really glad and proud of her. Let’s look forward to all the disasters to come…

 

 

THE END

 

 

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