Wrote and published this in 2009. It still cracks me up.
When buying Christmas candy this year, I included a personal favorite of mine, those little bell-shaped chocolates with slivers of Butterfingers mixed in. They’re so festive and seductive in their gold, red and green foil wrappings, I couldn’t resist sampling one (okay, two) before hiding them in the attic that night. The next day, while wrapping Christmas gifts, I felt a hankering for just one more. I unlocked the attic, stumbled among the empty boxes and discarded junk until I found the bag I’d hidden.
The bag was empty.
I shuffled around more, thinking that maybe I’d found last year’s depleted bag, because a bag full of Christmas bells just can’t disappear. But searching produced nothing else. I crumpled the empty bag in my hand, marched downstairs and thrust it at my husband. His blank expression proved his innocence.
“Twelve hours ago, this bag was full,” I insisted. “I’d only taken two.”
He shrugged in a bemused fashion. “I had no idea you’d bought them.”
“That’s because I hid them.”
We mulled over this puzzle and agreed there was no way our son could have gotten into the attic in the past twelve hours, nine of which he’d spent sleeping. We trooped back upstairs and into the attic to further investigate.
Five minutes later I found a clue: a few tiny, black pellets, in the white plastic sack the bag of bells had been sitting in. Closer inspection revealed a hole in one corner of the bag, shredded by tiny masticating jaws.
Which means that, in the course of one night, the mice had silently removed the bells, every last one of them. Twenty-two, perhaps.
Even faced with such incriminating evidence, no other possible explanation, I could hardly wrap my mind around it. I visualized those mice, a line of busily working creatures, like ants. Did they carry them in their paws while walking? Drag them behind them? Create some little sleigh-like transporting device? I felt like an unwitting character in a Nutcracker production, the oblivious adult who sleeps while the mice, having sprung to giant proportions, wage noisy war against those guarding the house (the stuffed animals? the cats? Lego toy soldiers?).
The mice won. Big time.
I should be sort of creeped out. We’ve heard mice in the house before, scratching around. We’ve trapped them (humanely, I promise) and released them far from our house. But that was a year ago. No noises since then. These bell-stealers we definitely have not heard. Even now, fortified by chocolate, they are not making any noise as they move about in the attic, the eaves, the house’s invisible nooks and crannies.
I imagine those mice right now, huddled silently around this towering pile of gold, red and green bells, staring awestruck at this enormous treasure that will sustain them for a long time to come. A Christmas gift they hadn’t expected, one I certainly hadn’t planned to give.
Darned if it doesn’t give me that warm Christmas feeling.