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17 January 2006
BY WALTER D. REIMER
The Woodcarver's Son
© 2005 by Walter D. Reimer
October 31, 1936:
“This session of the Althing Executive Committee will now come to order,” a lean canine intoned as he tapped the gavel on the table in front of him. The other members of the government stopped conversing among themselves and sat back to listen to the Finance Minister, who held the rotating chairmanship of the committee for the session. “First order of business will be mine,” and a chuckle ran through the group.
Several bored spectators and members of the press sat back and listened as Minister Hoanui ran through the last quarter’s balance sheet. Finally the collie summed up by saying, “When everything’s said and done, we end up with a surplus in the budget for the last quarter. This is due mostly to the great work done by the Tourism and Public Works Ministries,” and here he nodded to the two ministers, who looked pleased, “and a surprising infusion of cash from a reward collected by the Constabulary.” He smiled at the Interior Minister, a short and nervous feline who nodded jerkily and looked pointedly at his paws. His report done, Minister Hoanui glanced at the agenda. “We’ll hear next from Foreign Minister Teiva.”
The water spaniel leaned forward in his chair. “Thank you, Hoanui. The Foreign Ministry’s received a request from the Ministry of Public Instruction regarding a clarification of our collective security agreement with Rain Island.” He smiled. “I’d like Minister Larson to explain.”
“Thank you, Minister,” Alf Larson said, standing up. The stocky otter clasped his paws together and began to talk in a vaguely lecturing tone reminiscent of his days at the University of California. “Ladies and gentlemen, as we all know the world is advancing rapidly, and even we here in the Nimitz Sea have to move with it, or be left behind.” He paused for a moment and grinned. “I’m not going to stand here and suggest that we set up a college – all I have to do is see the look on Mr. Hoanui’s face to know that we can’t afford it.” The other ministers chuckled.
“Now, we do have excellent schools here on Spontoon,” Larson said, “including the Technical High School and Althing Gate. However, we need to give qualified students access to institutions of higher learning.
“Rain Island currently has a fine college up in Seathl City, and they actively look for new instructors.” He laughed. “I should know; they tried to get me to come up from Berkeley before I came here. But what I’m trying to say is this: Can’t our treaty with Rain Island allow us to send qualified students to their college or vocational schools?” He sat down as a short mutter of conversation rose, only to die as Hoanui gaveled for order. Teiva said, “Thank you, Minister Larson. Minister Heipua? The security arrangement is your brief as well as mine.”
Defense Minister Heipua ran a paw through her graying red headfur before replying, “Our treaty with Rain Island is set up for mutual defense and cooperation in the event that either we, they or Tillamook are attacked. There’s nothing in the treaty about allowing students to attend schools there.”
The feline gave Teiva a sympathetic smile as he said, “Thank you, ma’am. You’ve just dropped it back in my lap.” The committee members laughed.
“I’m sure we can all see the merit in what Minister Larson’s proposing,” the spaniel said. “But what matters is what our friends in Seathl City will have to say about it. “I’d like to talk it over with their envoy and see what can be arranged.” He sat back, and Minister Hoanui moved on to the next person on the agenda.
Several hours later Teiva and Heipua stood up as Lisa Fallingwater stepped into the room. The envoy of Rain Island to Spontoon was a tall vixen who was quite frank in her preference for Spontoon’s warmer weather over the climate of her own home islands. “Minister Heipua, Teiva,” she said as she took a seat, “what’s the problem?”
“Problem, Lisa?” Heipua countered with a smile. “Does a problem need to arise in order to ask you over?”
The vixen laughed. “Well, in that case,” she said, “I can go back to the Double Lotus.” Fallingwater’s hobby was jazz clarinet, and she could be found some nights at that particular bar. She didn’t share many of the interests of the bar’s usual clientele, but did enjoy the music and camaraderie.
All three laughed, and Teiva sat down in a chair beside her. “Lisa, the reason Heipua and I called was to ask you to send a request to the Foreign Syndic.” With the Defense Minister’s help, he outlined the proposal. By the time he finished, the Ambassadress was no longer smiling.
“What you’re asking,” she said slowly as she smoothed her skirt and drumming the fingers of one paw on her knee, “is for a major change in our pact with Spontoon.” She looked from one to the other. “Are you sure about this? Have you voted on it?”
Heipua nodded. “A quorum of the Executive Committee has already discussed and approved it, and as soon as we have everything finalized the full Althing will have to vote on it. The reason we decided to talk to you about it now is to sound out Rain Island. How would you feel about it?” the older woman asked.
Fallingwater put her paw to her chin as she thought. “It’d mean closer ties than just security … but then, all sides have grown beyond the original idea … hmm …” she muttered as she thought the question through. Suddenly she looked up, then stood. “I think that Seathl will be receptive to the idea. I’ll cable them in the morning, if you like. For now, though, I have to get back to the Lotus.”
“I’ll go with you,” Heipua said and the vixen’s ears twitched in surprise. “I didn’t think – “ she started to say.
Heipua chuckled. “I don’t,” she said, “but I could use a drink.” The two women laughed and left the office.
November 2, 1936:
Recently appointed Chief Syndic of the Rain Island Governing Syndicate, Anders Engstrom still looked a bit lost in the ‘public’ office that he was expected to be seen in. A carpenter by trade, he had been quite surprised by his appointment, but was determined to do the best job possible. The burly elkhound privately joked that he hoped to be let off with good behavior.
Now he sat at his desk and read the cable from his country’s envoy to Spontoon, then glanced at the Foreign Syndic and the two furs who commanded Rain Island’s small army and larger navy. “Well,” Engstrom said quietly. “This is – what? – the first time in ten years they want to change the treaty?”
The Foreign Syndic nodded. “I think it might not be a bad idea, Anders. After all, we’ve wanted Spontoon to be more involved in the alliance. What better way than to provide people with higher education and possible jobs in the military? New people, new ideas,” she added with a shrug as she glanced at the two military officers.
Commodore Deirde O’Rourke of the Naval Syndicate fiddled with the baseball cap in her paws as she turned away from the window. Setting her duty uniform’s headgear aside on a nearby table, the tall Irish wolfhound said, “We’ve accepted recruits from Tillamook for years, so this should be easy. And we can benefit from the level of technical expertise being taught in the Spontoon schools. Jerry?” She glanced over at her opposite number.
The shorthaired feline pondered the question for a moment, then ran a paw over one orange tabby cheekruff and said, “It sounds like a perfect idea to me, Deirde, but the Naval Syndicate will see more of a benefit than the Army. You have the larger service. Besides, from what I’ve been told the Spontoons already have a very effective militia.”
“So, we’re agreed that this would benefit all sides?” Engstrom asked. The others nodded, and he said, “Then let’s draw it up and see what the Althing has to say.”
From the Daily Elele (Spontoonie edition)
November 7, 1936:
From A Special Correspondent:
The Althing met as part of its regular session today and agreed to amend the Mutual Aid and Defense Treaty with the Rain Island Anarchcracy. Provisions of the amendment include the opening of Rain Island schools to qualified applicants, as well as eliminating visa restrictions.
November 8, 1936:
Melli paused as she walked up the road to the general store and watched the younger terrier industriously sweeping. She thought for a moment, then squared her shoulders and headed for him.
Ranua looked up as she approached and stopped sweeping. “Good morning, Melli,” he said, leaning on the broom. “What can I do for you?”
“Ranua, good morning,” the otter replied. She was in Euro clothes today, and looked like the person she usually was – a teacher, and a very good one at that. “Are your parents in?”
The wirehaired terrier nodded. “I think they’re going over the books.” She thanked him and entered the store as he resumed his chores. Again two thoughts briefly warred in her mind: He needs a wider world fought with Do I have the right? She paused again, to pray that she was making the right choice.
Tama and Imana were arguing good-naturedly about an item in the store’s ledger as Melli walked in. “Melli!” Imana exclaimed, coming from behind the counter to give her a friendly hug. “You’re looking well today. Can I get you something to drink?”
“I’m fine, Imana, and you’re looking quite well today,” Melli said with a smile. “Hello, Tama.”
Tama nodded pleasantly, tucking a pencil into a small pocket in the apron hanging nearby by a nail. “What can we do for you today, Melli?” he asked.
You can let me steal your oldest son away, a truant thought teased in the back of her mind. She shoved the thought away firmly and said, “I think I will have a cup of tea, Imana. I would like to talk to both of you for a moment.”
“Certainly,” Imana said. “Let’s go to the back and we’ll talk.”
A short while later, Ranua stepped into the store to find it deserted, but he could hear voices in the back of the shop. He shrugged and stepped behind the counter as a woman strode in. She explained that she was from South Island, and was looking for a few items not found in the shops there.
As he totaled up her order and she paid, he heard his father call out, “Ranua! Come back here, please.”
“One moment, Father.” He thanked the woman as she left, and he stepped into the back room.
His Guide instructor and his parents were seated around the kitchen table, cups of tea growing cold as they turned in their seats to look at him. He smiled, then made a show of looking behind him. “Something wrong, Father?” he asked.
“Nothing’s wrong, Son,” his father said, “but Melli has a rather interesting offer you should hear about.” Ranua turned toward Melli, who smiled as a paw touched her teacup.
“I don’t know if you read yesterday’s Elele, Ranua, but the Althing has approved a new agreement with Rain Island,” she said. “The basics behind the agreement are these: in exchange for service in the Naval Syndicate – four years minimum – Rain Island will be willing to give qualified applicants access to higher education.” The otter looked up as Ranua blinked and his ears went back. “Would you be interested?” she asked.