when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Wrong. The mice were up to something. And it may only be a matter of a twisted chromosome or two, but the genetic defect that leads to unstinted gluttony (so common in the rodent family) was on display this frosted night. And inside one particular tinselly house you could hear the rattle of pots and pans all the way to Santa’s workshop, some three thousand icy miles away. With that racket you’d think the mouse-folk were competing gastronomes at a culinary arts show, convened at some lodge in Switzerland, accessible only to those who have survived the open tundra. But tiny mouse-chefs these were not! The cacophony was a concertina of fumbling about, gnawing, and sawing. You have to mangle a lot of carrots to keep those ever-growing incisors short. But what really keeps them chewing are the bonuses. And the really filthy lucre comes from chomping on floor boards, beautifully milled spindles, Ikea furniture, which for archaeological purposes can be radiocarbon dated to within seconds of home assembly, and the train set, made from the finest chipboard, destined for Timmy, whose eyes on Christmas morn are brighter than the storm-piercing lamp on a John Deere snowblower.
But the real trouble stems from a small group of intellectuals deep in the bowels of the Rodentia order, and the challenge of providing enough chewing material to keep the working class mouse with reasonably short teeth is what they argue about most vociferously. One of the leaders, a certain mouse known as John Maynard, with dove-grey whiskers and a pair of spectacles resting atop a most distinguished snout, proposed to make available stacks of wood from the warehouse. This was done in order to help tide the mouse-folk over till things picked up again. And though this sounded like an idea of great moment, it led to the perpetual plundering of the warehouse, and heroic steps had to be taken to keep the stores full to the brim with tasty pine, delectable cedar, and creamy elkwood. Some independently-minded mice were afraid that a surfeit of timber (the easy-wood policy) would lead to a so-called bubble. But what could possibly go wrong with a system bloated by the creation of wood products, be they in the form of folding lawn chairs, white picket fences, or dog houses for gawky Great Danes? Flood the market with cheap wood and the rodent economy will thrive. And so, twas indeed the night before Christmas, and the mice-folk were positively busy—little did they know they were staring into a dark abyss.