Stories of Christmas
A story written for Stories of Christmas 2012
I was asked to team up with an illustrator called Benjamin Wright to write a children’s Christmas story based on this well known object.
"Polystyrene red boot with a peeping mouse and a green and white striped stick. A Christmas tree decoration of unknown origin but forever part of our festive family. Always watching over the chocolate angels, ever suspicious when they suddenly disappear…"
You wouldn’t believe it now, but there was a time when Avery Mouse was a never-sit-still, listen-to-nobody kind of mouse. Coming from a large family there were always plenty of chores to be done. Instead of thinking how busy life was for his mum and dad, Avery could only think of excuses when it was time to stock up on wool and feathers for the winter. No, he preferred to play outside with his best friend, Blizzard.
Now if Avery was a rascally kind of mouse, Blizzard was a bite-me-and-I’ll-bite-you-back kind of cat. He was an orange headed fluffball, with pink skin and a spray of white freckles. A treacherous sort, he was the type who would remove the dinger from his bell, then tell his mum that you or I had done it. Fond of using your foot as his toilet, he’d run away shrieking with laughter at the naughtiness of it all. All this he would do in return for a beating at chess, though he’d never admit that was why. Avery loved Blizzard all the same. He was lairy and hairy. He told good jokes and best of all, the ginger cat didn’t come from a huge family.
One Christmas Eve, the arrival of dozens of cousins meant Avery was given lots of jobs to do. No way, he thought, I’m off. True to form, he snuck out to meet his friend. Walking along the lane, Blizzard pulled Avery to his mouth and whispered, ‘This will be fun. No one will ever know.’ Next, Blizzard was running towards the farmhouse, kicking and head-butting milk bottles from the doorstep. Flushed by the sound of breaking glass, the pair cried with laughter over the white graffiti of spilt milk.
Deep down Avery knew he had crossed a line. What he didn’t know was that when Blizzard smashed the bottles, the farmer’s wife was biting into a sugary peppermint candy cane. Eyes popping, throat coughing, mouth spluttering, the good woman began to choke on the green and white stick. In her panic, she fell head first into the ginormous Christmas tree that sat proudly in the hall.
No one could have imagined what happened next. As the tree careened towards the doorway, the fingerish branches flicked over a lit candle. In seconds the curtains were on fire, but it was the unmistakable shrieking of a hysterical woman that caused Avery and Blizzard to look up.
Avery started for the doorway. “Blizzard,” he yelled, “we must help.” But Blizzard wouldn’t move. Why should he, he thought, when there were lashings of milk just lying there for the taking. Quick as a flash, Avery leapt through the fiery furnace and began gnawing the top of the curtains for all his might. The fabric eventually fell to the floor moments before the fire had a chance to unfurl.
Blizzard was right. No one ever did find out about their adventure. The fire was contained. The farmer’s wife swore she’d never eat another peppermint cane so long as she lived. But something inside Avery Mouse had changed forever. He began to reflect how his actions might affect others. He did more to help his family. And every Christmas, he would sneak into the farmer’s house to keep a watchful eye (and ear) open for any unforeseen shenanigans, accidental or otherwise.