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Dancing with the Czars

Chapter 4: The sassy saga of Dot & Dash continues …

 

Amy knocked and opened the office door enough to stick her head in.  “Excuse me, Dottie.  Dashiel’s here,” she whispered and cocked her head.

Dottie looked up from her laptop and blinked.  “Here?  Why?”

Amy shrugged.  “I’m sorry.  He didn’t confide in me.”

Dottie slumped back in her chair.  “Interrupt us in five minutes, OK?”

“Sure.”  Amy stepped back and turned to Dashiel who stood at her desk scrolling through his PDA.  “You can go in now, Dashiel.”

“Just reading my horoscope,” he said distractedly, keeping his eyes on the tiny screen.  “What sign are you?”  He glanced up at Amy.

“Cancer.”

“OMG!  So am I!”  He beamed at her.  “So’s Dottie.”

“I know,” Amy stifled a chuckle.

“Oh, right.  The twin thing.”  Dashiel laughed.  “So, did you read ours today?”

“Um, no.  I really don’t –“

“Dash!” Dottie called from inside her office.  “Tic Toc!”

Dashiel rolled his eyes.  “She’s such a party pooper,” he whispered conspiratorially.  “Oh, I almost forgot.”  He handed an envelope to Amy.

“What’s this?”

“Your first return on your investment in Swim Cinema.  The accountant could have mailed it, but I wanted to see your expression when you opened it.”

Amy ripped the envelope open and stared at the check.  “This can’t be right.”Dashiel grinned.

Amy looked from the check to Dashiel and back again.  “This is triple what I gave you,” she whispered.

Dashiel nodded.  “I know.  And there’s more to come.  Ain’t capitalism grand?”

Amy stared at the check.  “But…”  Amy’s eyes welled with happy tears.  “Dashiel, thank you so much for letting me be a part of this.”

“My pleasure.  Thank you for taking a risk and believing in me.”  He lowered his voice even further.  “You might want to eyeball this.”  Dashiel slipped a brochure into Amy’s hands.  He gave her arm a gentle squeeze and stepped into his sister’s office.

“Oh, my Lord, Dash, you look like Nanook of the North!  Where did you get that coat?!”

“Fabulous, isn’t it?  Don’t worry, it’s faux fur.”  He turned slowly, affording his sister a 360º view.

“But it’s so…big.”  Dottie stood behind her desk and gave him the head-to-toe look.

“I know.  That’s the only drawback.  It’s lined with faux blubber or something, I don’t know.”  He removed the massive coat and draped it on her taupe leather sofa. “I had one made for Monsieur Guy just like mine but he is absolutely terrified of it.”

“I can imagine he would be.  You must have been sweltering in that.  It’s not that cold outside.”

“Well, no.  Not here in the city it isn’t.”

Dottie raised an eyebrow and sat.  “So, where were you?”

Dashiel gazed out the corner window at the crisp New York skyline.  “Funny you should ask.  Nome.”

“No need to call me a gnome.”

Dashiel rolled his eyes.  “Nome.  I was in Nome.  The city.”

“Rome?”

“Nome,” he corrected.

“What were you doing in Alaska?”

“Two words, honey.  Prefabricated igloos.”   He paused to allow it to sink in.

“Prefabrica –”

“Igloos.  Yes,” he said quite pleased with himself.  “For Arctic vacationers – see it before it vanishes.”  He spread his hands as though indicating a billboard.

“Excuse me for sounding thick, but what really is there to see up there other than snow?”

 

 

DEATH AT THE DRIVE-IN by Mary Vettel

A sometime amateur sleuth, Billie offers to help the cops solve a local murder. One mention of her psychic visions and they scurry, but when a body from a cold case appears in her backyard, they’re all ears. During this turmoil, Billie realizes her accountant, Emmett Gilmour, is sweet on her. She’d like to let him know the feeling’s mutual but doesn’t remember how; it’s been decades since she dated.

 

 

Dashiel gawped at his sister, then took pity on her for her ignorance.  With a perfunctory sigh, Dashiel enumerated some of the sights to see.  “The Iditarod culminates in Nome, there’s glacier viewing cruises, bear watching, beluga whales, killer whales, moose, caribou, sea otters, kayaking, willow ptarmigan – the state bird, and, of course, the big draw is the Northern Lights – aka Aurora Borealis.  And you call yourself a cultured person.”  He tsked.

“OK, granted there seem to be some things to … experience there.  But surely there are enough hotels and cabins to house the curiosity seekers.”

“Hah!  But that’s where you would be wrong.  In the Northern Region there are zero hotels, zero B&Bs, zero cabins available for thrill-seeking tourists.”

“And you think prefabricated igloos would be just the thing.  What are you going to do, start a chain?  Igloo 6?”

“Tut, tut, Dottie.  I sense a hint of derision in your tone.  Once again, sadly, you underestimate my business acumen.  My extraordinary knack of anticipating the next ‘in’ thing.  Admit it, Dottie, I am on the cutting edge of predicting a need and filling that need before anyone else even realizes there was a need.”

“I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a ‘need’, Dash.  You know, in reality, there wasn’t a ‘need’ for Swim Cinema.”

“I totally agree.  But it caught on immediately and is doing swimmingly.”

“Amazingly,” Dottie acquiesced softly, ignoring his grin.

“And Om On The Range?” Dashiel prompted her, referring to his Montana ranch for those who want to meditate and do Yoga under the Big Sky.

“Yes.  True enough.  But, Dash, prefabricated igloos?”

With a flourish Dashiel slid a glossy 4-color brochure in front of Dottie, then sat in a taupe leather chair across from his sister, swinging his crossed leg.

“Excuse me, Dottie.  You wanted me to remind you that you had to get ready for that conference call,” Amy lied from the doorway.

Dottie gasped.  “What conference call?”

Amy looked from Dottie to Dashiel.  “Um…you know…the one that’s going to start in five minutes.”  Amy chewed her lip, hoping her boss got the secret message.

“Oh, yeah.  That conference call.  Yeah, it’s been postponed a bit.”

“Oh.  Sorry for interrupting, I wasn’t aware of that,” Amy said and pulled the door closed quietly behind her.

Dottie studied the brochure from cover to cover.  “Nice mock-up.”  She nodded and gave Dashiel an encouraging smile.

“It’s not a mock-up, sillypants.  Twenty-five hundred of those puppies have been mailed out and our website has received more than 2,000 hits this month.”

“Your website?” Dottie scanned the back of the brochure.  “Prefabigloos.com.”

“What were you expecting, Prefab Igloos R Us?”

Dottie gave him a raised eyebrow.   “These look pretty nice.”

“Praise from Caesar.”

“But you’re kidding, right?  I mean this one shows a Jacuzzi.”

“That’s one of the higher end models.”

“What’s this ‘AB Roof’?”

“You know how some cars have a sun or moon roof?  Our prefab igloos have Aurora Borealis Roofs.  So you can lie in bed and watch the Northern Lights dancing overhead.”

“What if snow builds up on the roof?”

“The built-in dehumidifier melts it away in no time.”

“And, um…so, you’re getting some interest, then?”

“If you’d call an initial order for 46 units ‘some interest’, yes.”

Dottie’s jaw dropped.

“It gives me such a good feeling to know I’m helping the sagging economy up there by hiring 50 local craftspeople to manufacture the igloos as well as creating an influx in the tourism sector by providing affordable housing.  And it’s all eco-friendly green.”

Dottie recovered quickly and came around her desk to hug him.  “Dash, I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks, sweetie.  But that’s not why I stopped in to see you.”

“No?”

“No.  I want to invite you to a soiree next Saturday.  The theme is Dancing with the Czars.  You can go as one of the Czarinas – Anastasia or someone.”

“Ooh, sounds like fun.  Who are you going as?”

“Stephen Hawking.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Stephen Hawking – Czar of the Internet.  Isn’t that hysterical?  Of course my dancing will be a bit hindered by the wheelchair and all, but – “

“Dash, Stephen Hawking isn’t a czar of the internet.”

“He isn’t?”

“No.  He’s a theoretical physicist.  A professor of mathematics at Cambridge University.  He’s known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity.  You know, regarding black holes?”

“Damn!  I wanted to zip around in that motorized wheelchair and talk through that funny squawk box thingy.  What?”

“Dash, the man’s afflicted with ALS, a debilitating disease, like Lou Gehrig.”

Dashiel covered his face with his hands.

“You thought it was just some quirky affectation he was sporting?” Dottie asked gently.

Dashiel nodded and removed his hands from his face.  “I thought he was just some über geeky computer nerd.”

“How about Bill Gates?  He’s sort of the Czar of the Internet.”

“That aging Opie-looking guy?”

Dottie nodded.

Dashiel rolled his eyes.

“How about Nicholas II?”

Dashiel shook his head.

“Czar Alexander?”

Dashiel moaned.

“Ivan the Terrible?”

“There’ll be dozens of them.” Dashiel pouted.

“Some say Vladimir Putin is to be next Czar of Russia,” Dottie suggested.

“But he’s not one now?”

“No, Dash. He’s the current President of the Russian Federation.”

Dashiel slouched deeper into the chair, his pout more pronounced.

Dottie tapped a pencil against the side of her head to encourage a thought.“Anything?” Dashiel asked plaintively.

“Hmm….how about Leonid Friedland?  He’s one of the most powerful men in fashion, as president and CEO of Mercury, the largest luxury retail group in Russia.”

“I thought they were all babushkas and rot gut vodka.”

“Au contrare, mon frere.  Leonid Friedland is expanding his fashion czardom to

Zhukovka, an area that’s called the East Hampton of Moscow.”

Dashiel pursed his lips and gazed over his sister’s head at the cityscape before him.

“Wondering what to wear?  I haven’t seen a photograph of him, but I read that he wore a bright yellow tie to a runway thingy.  Dash?  Hello?”

“Hmmm?  Oh, I was wondering who to contact regarding establishing a franchise for my prefabricated igloos in Siberia.”

# # #

Previous episodes in the Dot & Dash Chronicles:

Chapter 1: Unday Runch

Chapter 2: Om on the Range

Chapter 3: Swim Cinema

 

Born and raised in the Bronx, MARY VETTEL has spent the last 15 years residing in Southampton, NY, where she’s written six of her nine novels, two of her illustrated children’s books, and The Chronicles of Dot & Dash. She also adapted her novella, Greetings From Hell! (based on her three years living in Central Florida) to a stage play which was produced by The Naked Stage of Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY. Her novel, DEATH AT THE DRIVE-IN, is available on Amazon. You can also view some of her work at www.MaryVettel.com

 

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