Thursday 14 December 2023

MICE FOR CHRISTMAS by Madeleine McDonald, hot chocolate with marshmallow

 ‘If you don’t laugh at life, you’d cry,’ the card from her best friend said.

A reluctant laugh escaped Jenny when she unwrapped the gift paper and opened a box of ‘alternative’ Christmas tree decorations. Half a dozen pink sugar mice sat among bluebirds and white hearts.

Mice were the least of her problems.

She looked round the bare front room. A new Christmas tree stood in the bay window, festooned with lights. That was Jenny’s way of telling the neighbours she was here to stay. Richard’s house had lain empty for a year and the mice had taken over. But Amanda had also stripped the house of anything valuable before Jenny changed the locks. Her strident claims to possession had convinced the neighbours. ‘That’s Amanda’s house by rights,’ were the first words her next-door neighbour had said.  

As if! Amanda was only the last in a long line of women seduced and later abandoned by her blood father. Somehow, her embittered mother had kept track of his life, and it was Mum who insisted Jenny claim her inheritance. ‘Your father won’t have made a will. He wasn’t that sort. He only married me because you were on the way, and that didn’t stop him running off with that tart.’

So here she was, a homeowner at last. It did not feel cosy, with Amanda challenging her in the street and putting unpleasant letters through the door.   

For Mum’s sake, she would stick it out. Defiantly, she switched on the Christmas lights.


It was not until summer that Jenny discovered a briefcase in the shed, pushed behind a box of half-used paint tins. The mice had gnawed through the leather but she identified the remains of a legal document. Richard had indeed made a will, and appeared to have hidden it in a safe place. But its provisions were illegible. Every page had been destroyed by little teeth.

Like so much of his selfish, rackety life, Richard’s last wishes remained a mystery. Jenny, Richard’s daughter in more ways than she knew, scooped the pieces into a little heap and tossed them in the air like confetti. Fortune’s wheel had turned. Thanks to those pesky mice.  


About the author 

Madeleine McDonald's published work ranges from newspaper columns to Shakespearean sonnets and historical novels.

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