by Mary Grace Mauney
Well, that was it. There was no way to get everything done on time now. Tomorrow, there would be no party, and no Tabbies. Everything that everyone had been working on for weeks was gone. After the fire had been doused by a few daring pets, everyone trudged back to bed miserably, the squirrels most of all, as it had been their doing and they felt terrible for it. They wanted to go back home to the woods right then, but since it was night, Mister Migs convinced them to stay in the warehouse where they had been residing all week. He assured them that it was okay, they were still welcome there, even though they had been sure that he would kick them out for what they had done.
“On Christmas?!” was his shocked reply. And so they had stayed, but they felt all the more ashamed for it.
A few hours after they had sadly returned to slumber, no visions of sugar acorns dancing in their heads anymore, Scurrius found himself awoken by a smell. It was not the smell of smoke but…evergreen? Yes, evergreen and…maple sawdust. How odd. He rose from the large pile of his fellow squirrels that were sleeping together for warmth, and got up on his haunches to sniff the air. Yes, he was right! Evergreen, maple sawdust, and sweet anise! He could hear movement in the dark as well, but since squirrels did not have good night vision (hence why they are daytime animals) he couldn’t tell just what it was. However, its footsteps were soft, almost padded-sounding, as if whatever it was was wearing thick wads of stuffing wrapped around its feet. It sounded very small and light too, like a fellow rodent perhaps, and so Scurrius was not afraid.
“Hello?” he called out in the darkness, “Who’s there?”
In answer, the lights came on, and Scurrius gasped at what he saw.
Hours later, when morning arrived, the Mister Migs employees came shuffling in, hanging their heads and dragging their feet. They knew that today would be spent cleaning up damage from fire, rather than enjoying the party with their customers like had originally been planned. Speaking of the customers, they still needed to call them and tell them what had happened and not to come to Mister Migs today after all. No one was looking forward to being the person who had to do that. Sighing, they made their way en masse to the warehouse to begin assessing what would need to be done...and when they opened the doors, they saw that it was not only fully repaired already, it was also fully decorated once again! In fact, there were even more decorations than there had been before---fairy lights, crystal glass, lace angels, red taffeta ribbons, holly garlands, golden bells, potted poinsettia flowers, stockings on the wall for each employee, and more! The squirrels broke their awed silence with happy calls and Christmas greetings, snapping the employees out of their shocked daze.
"What happened here?" asked Mister Migs, "How did you do all this overnight?"
"We didn't!" said Scurrius, "They did!"
The sea of squirrels parted to reveal four little stuffed bears in their midst, each only about eight inches tall and standing upright. One raised its arm and called cheerily, "Hello, Merry Christmas!"
Everyone, pets and humans, jumped backwards. Regular animals talking, wearing clothes, and holding jobs was one thing, but a STUFFED TOY?!
"What is that?"
"Is it animatronic?"
"It’s a costume, there must a rat inside or something!"
"No!" proclaimed Scurrius, "They are real! Your fake tiny bears have come to life!"
"Wait," realized Louey, "I recognize two of those bears! They belong to my mom!"
"You're right," gasped MiMee, and explained to the other workers that Ms. Karen, her human, had lots of little toy bears, and she could recognized each of the ones here right now. She pointed them out one by one, and they each nodded and bowed at their name, "That’s Gerald, Kissie, and Timothy, but who is..."
She had never seen the fourth one, and trailed off, confused.
"My name is Young Fezziwig!" said the fourth bear, "I was recently ordered in from Vermont by your mom, and I just arrived—just in time, clearly! Your Christmas sure was in trouble!"
Young Fezziwig was made from dark cream mohair, had eyes made from black glass shoe-buttons, and wore a deep red wool scarf. He was stuffed with maple sawdust and pine, and carried a little stocking with some sweet anise inside; all this was what Scurrius had smelled earlier when he and the other bears had first crept inside and began their repairs.
"But…but…how are you…how did you…you’re alive and talking and walking!" Sam the rat could barely contain her bafflement, and was actually hopping on her big feet and pawing at her head in her confusion as she tried to understand how this could be.
"Yup!" agreed Gerald.
"And we're fixing the place up!" added Timothy, who had a stopwatch.
"And making Tabby Vest Accessories for all the squirrels!" Kissie had a British accent, which made sense, since Ms. Karen had ordered her from England. She was also telling the truth; at her words, all the squirrels gleefully held up Tabbies, each a perfect duplicate of the ones that had been lost in the fire
"It’s as if it never happened!" said the squirrels all together, "Look at the burned spots in the warehouse, they’re gone! Not just fixed, but gone! It's magic!"
"Christmas was in trouble at Mister Migs," said Young Fezziwig, "That’s why we came to life. It’s not something we can just do any time for any reason, but on Christmas, if we’re needed…"
"Then we come to life and help!" chorused Kissie and Gerald together.
"It's why I have the stopwatch," said Timothy, holding up the device, "It counts down until Christmas each year, so I know when to be ready."
"All those years Ms. Karen had you...and I never knew!" said Mister Migs.
"You never needed us before," explained Timothy, "And it's not something we really like to spread around, so keep it under your Migrubbie, maybe?"
"Sure, it'll be a biiiig secret," said one of the squirrels, "All of us squirrels know, and now all these humans and dogs..."
"Well, you kept the lost city under wraps!" Sam pointed out, then clasped her paws over her snout as she realized what she'd just revealed, "Whoops."
"In the name of the holiday spirit, we'll forget that," Gris glared at her, "As I'm sure everyone else who just heard it will have the good sense to do..."
Everyone else was much more interested in the teddy bears anyway, so he needn't have worried.
"We'll be having a party soon," said Mister Migs to the little bears, "The guests will be coming any minute now, in fact. Will you need to hide for that?"
"Oh, we're not a secret," explained Kissie, "We just prefer a low profile. But a few more in the know won't hurt!"
Mister Migs was right, the guests soon arrived; not only customers of the Mister Migs boutique, but the friends and families of the employees there as well. Some came in festive costumes; Justin the rat was Santa Claus, and Annie the chinchilla was a winter angel. Even those not in costumes were still dressed for the occasion: Hazel had a big Christmas rose (which, despite the name, is not a rose and does not look like one at all!) in her hair, and many of the other pets had Tabbies in Christmas colors affixed to their Migrubbies and MigDivas.
The food was divine; Justin had made excellent catering choices to accommodate all species from dogs to humans to rodents of all variteties. The bears also contributed as well. Kissie supplied traditional British Christmas fare like brandy butter atop plum pudding, sherry trifle, mince pies, and some good old English toffee. Young Fezziwig, being from Vermont, had brought apple butter, anadama bread, fiddlehead ferns, corn chowder, and maple-flavored everything. And the squirrels, naturally, had nuts of every kind prepared in every way: boiled, roasted, salted, candied, you name it!
Sam scurried around taking pictures of everything for the Mister Migs Instagram, Jenner tried to get Miss Blatz under the mistletoe, Hazel recounted her tale of besting the coyote to Louey (who claimed he’d have just punched the brute in the nose), and MiMee split a Christmas cracker from Kissie with Sadie Lynn while the squirrels serenaded them in a choir of traditional winter squirrel songs that no one could actually understand but which at least seemed quite pleasant in tune. As for the bears, they used the merriment and mirth surrounding them as a cover to quietly slip away, back to Ms. Karen’s home, to go to sleep once more and wait for the next time they were needed…