'Twas the night before New Year's, and all through the White House, not a creature was stirring—not even a mouse.
I lied. The mice, in fact, were more than stirring. Mouse No. 1, the one with the orange top hat, had spied the lid ajar on the big ceramic, teddy-bear-shaped cookie jar. When the old lady went outside to hang the laundry, he made his move, noting that the kitchen clock read precisely 8 a.m. "Easy takings," he mused, and then repeated it. "Damned easy takings." He looked right; he looked left; then he looked up, bounded across the black linoleum floor, sprinted up the hand towel hanging from the lower cupboard, gingerly scurried over the spice rack, and climbed inside the jar.
Mouse No. 1 stood atop the colorfully decorated treats with an exultant grin. At first, he only nibbled on one cookie. "Oh, how yummy!" he exclaimed. He savored every bite. But hours later, he had gorged himself terribly. By the time the parlor clock struck five, he was suffering a severe tummy ache, and the jar was nearly empty. His enthusiasm for his plunder had already bolstered his middle to an enormous size. "I'll bet," he fretted, "my family doctor won't be happy with me."
At the time Mouse No. 1 entered the cookie jar, it had been crammed full. The tall pile was his escape route. Understanding the hazards of being so small, he had carefully planned his departure. "It will pose no problem," he thought. "When I've had my fill, I'll simply climb out." Along with his simple exit strategy, he had developed a contingency plan. Should the old lady appear, he would simply launch himself from the pile of cookies, leap from the counter—perhaps even taunt her by running down her housecoat—then dash for the safety of his hole. When he visualized it, a satisfied look came over him. "I'm so tough and so smart," he thought.
But that had been nine hours before, and the situation was now markedly different from the one he'd anticipated. The large stack of cookies had disappeared. He took several running leaps in an attempt to summit the jar's rim, but, though he tried with all his might, it was futile.
"Maybe I can break the jar to escape," he considered. He launched himself against the vitreous surface. After seven attempts, there was a telltale ooze of blood seeping from his reddish hair and dripping down his nose. He sat there, sobbing. In his desperation, he exclaimed to himself, "I should have known! I have only myself to blame; I created this mess and now there is no way out." (Oops! I just lied again. Even the most creative novelist could not fabricate such a story. It exceeds any realistic expectations of Mouse No. 1. For a pathological narcissist and dyed-orange-mouse-hair liar, self-review is not a possibility. Taking responsibility for his own behavior would be the ultimate children's fairy tale—total fantasy.)
Meanwhile, on the floor below, several mice were writhing in pain. An empty d-CON box sat on the Formica dining table. "I told you," groaned one, "free candy is always suspect." Several others held a peaceful march, carrying signs that read, "End Cruelty to Mice." While their more courageous friends chanted slogans for the cause, other mice huddled in the doorways of their mouse holes, trembling and unable to muster up the courage it would take to assist their fallen comrades. One turned sadly to another, lamenting, "There's nothing we can do for them; they're goners. As for me, I will never venture out there again. This has been a terrible holiday season. I find myself going through an identity crisis. I know we look like mice, but at best we are only chickens."
"Run! Run!" the cries spread across the floor like a freight-train tsunami. "It's her; she's back." Sure enough, the kitchen door opened and Granny Mueller walked in. "Damn," she barked, "the mice have been at it again." She noted the lid of the cookie jar was askew and slid it into place, securing its precious contents; swept up the carcasses of the dead; and sat down for a cup of tea. "My New Year's resolution," she said, "is to rid this house of mice. That will make it a very happy new year indeed."
The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to email@example.com