Milk and Cookies

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Being twins had some advantages, but being branded the epitome of cutedom by squint-eyed relatives was not one of them. Yet problem solving was an area greatly enhanced by the unique and multiplicative power of twin minds. And on this quiet afternoon the telegenic twins sat on a plush sofa, next to a tinselly tree, pondering the incontrovertible fact that Santa was coming and that some preparations had to be made. With a recalcitrant wisp of hair in her face, Dromia sat up and waited for her brother to make a pronouncement on a perennial and somewhat intractable problem—what to leave Santa and his ravenous reindeer.

“We need milk and cookies,” was the high-pitched utterance from the tall-as-a-gunnysack boy.

“Dromio, you are the best.” This ringing endorsement was music to his tender, slightly pinkish ears. And at that moment the girl sprang from the enveloping comfort of the crimson sofa where she unmindfully sat, and dashed out of the room–only to return with a long, I-have-terrible-news-for-you frown. “We seem to be out of cookies and milk. And no carrots for the reindeer either.”

The boy let out a long sigh and cautiously proposed the following: “Why don’t we ask the elf?” A fire roared in her eyes and she exacted from her tiny larynx a high pitched squeal. This signaled, for those conversant in the language of squeaks and squeals, that it was a splendid idea and why-oh-why had she not thought of it. “He’s in the barn,” said the boy, and they headed for the vestibule. And with the characteristic celerity of tots, which always seemed to produce boots on the wrong feet, they sifted through soft mountains of mittens and downy coats, dressed, hastily, and headed for the barn with unstinted glee.

When the children arrived, the elf was sitting on a bale of hay. His vitreous eyes had the chatoyancy of a Siamese cat. He had snowy whiskers, a tricorne hat, and wore curious curlicued shoes which showcased meretriciously his green ankles.

The elf, fiddling with the top buckle of his frogged jacket, pointed at the tall cheval mirror, which stood a little lopsided, and said, “I can see her perfectly.” The children peered into the mirror and fixed their gaze upon a lily-white unicorn with a sheeny coat. “I milked her this morning.”

Dromio felt a sharp pang of delight. “Can we taste it?”

“Of course, but don’t let the smell bother you, it has a natural yet wonderful fetid odor.” And so the twins, not certain of the meaning of the word fetid, wet their lips with the frothy milk.

“It doesn’t taste like milk,” said Dromio disappointedly.

“Why should it!” exclaimed the elf.

“It tastes a little like lamb’s vomit,” said the girl, and the boy agreed with his coeval, cute-as-a-dumpling sister, and then conspicuously wiped from his carmine lips a newly acquired mustache. “It will have to do. And we need something to go with that,” added the diminutive girl.

And, as luck would have it (that undisputed master of all things),the elf announced that he had some dragon egg cookies. “I made them fresh and they are the perfect complement to mare’s milk.”

“But these are silver-blue,” said the obviously-partial-to pink girl.

“What do you want these delicacies for, are you having a party?” asked the elf, with the nonchalance of a librarian.

“No, they are for Santa,” said Dromio’s sibilant sister.

“Oh,” said the elf. “Santas are notoriously fickle. They don’t like dragon’s eggs. Come to think of it, unicorn milk is out of the question, as it is too rich for pudgy, itinerant folk.” Dromia started to cry and this exasperated her brother.

“What about carrots for the reindeer?” asked Dromio mirroring Dromia’s growing despair.

“Not a one,” said the elf. “Carrots make me incontinent. I had wax-pale skin till I started to eat carrots, now I’m the color of green bile. I suffer terribly.”

Dromio pouted. Was he refusing to be drawn into a defense of brightly colored vegetables?

Instability reached a portly pinnacle. And in a paroxysm of displeasure, Dromia methodically worried the elf’s tender neck, till he volunteered the following: “just leave them some store-bought milk and a box of sugar cookies. Help yourself to my larder, but please let go of my neck!”

“And the carrots?” asked the mad girl.

“You can have my private stock,” said the elf, who now felt cornered into admitting his orangey fetish.

“Liar,” the unanimous verdict for a carrot hoarding stumblebum, was trumpeted in stereo.

At that revelatory moment a bolt of lightning hit a nearby tree, and the television went dead. Gone were the elf, the unicorn, and the two fictitious, apple-dumpling children.

“What shall we do now? We’ll never know how the story ended!” said the girl discontentedly. Richard looked at his sister Marcy, and sensing her devastation tried to think of something cheerful to say. And just as movie matinee volcanos explode in time to punish proverbial armies of evildoers, “It’s Christmas Eve,” blurted from his lips.

Marcy excitedly jumped off the couch and left the room without saying a word. Richard, shoulders slouched, sat staring blankly at the dark heart of the television monitor—hoping for a miracle. He saw his own reflection, haunting perhaps, but there was no miracle, only the queer feeling that life imitated art, and it was at that moment that Marcy, having now returned from the kitchen, approached her brother with a long I-have-terrible-news-for-you frown.

Twas the night before Christmas

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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.

dasher and prancer and comet

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Ariel is practicing for her role as Prancer in this year’s production of “I’m Not a Reindeer,” written and directed by a famous, frequently frostbitten, Scandinavian author.

p.s. notice the tail–what wonderful plumage!