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The story of the Santa Mouse began some thirty years back.
Wife and I were, of course, poor as church mice while we Worked To Better Ourselves and finish up our Bachelors, get our certifications, and, y'know, have money and food and things.
That was, of course, the Christmas that our little girl wanted the Advent Calendar, this thingy where each day before Christmas, you'd open a little door and there'd be a little treat behind it, as a buildup for Christmas. And, of course, as many of you who have been parents will know, Christmas is a heckuva time for parenting, because the kids have to have the Christmas magic, and yet the rest of the world wants PAYING for it, a thing which, at the time, I was not well equipped to do. There was a tree, there were presents, there was a dinner -- we had the basics covered -- but durned if this advent calendar thing didn't throw me for a loop, because it wasn't inexpensive, and I had no budget for it, and why they stick that stuff out there to tantalize the kids AFTER all the budgeting is done?
And lacking funds, I fell back on ingenuity, and had her write a letter to the Santa Mouse.
My darling little girl cocked a cynical eye at me and said, "Santa Mouse?"
"Yeah, write a letter to the Santa Mouse."
"And this Santa Mouse is distinct from Santa Claus? In what way? Elucidate," she said.
I might mention that while my little girl was a sweet little toddle-darlin' with stars in her beautiful big brown eyes, she might have been a bit precocious.
"Well, sweetie," I began in the proper dadly way, "You know Santa Claus. He's the Big Guy, with the big job of manufacturing toys, as well as brokering deals with major toy companies for specific high demand items, and operating mass delivery systems via reindeer, UPS, Amazon, and the post office, and the like. But like any big corporate deal, he has subcontractors."
"Right..." said my little moppet.
"And that's where the Santa Mouse comes in," I said. "Bein' a mouse, he is ill equipped to bring bicycles or Barbie's Malibu Dream House to your stoop; that's not his job. What Santa Mouse does, now, is he handles the small stuff, spaced out daily from Christmas, and then on Christmas Eve, he rides with Santa to deliver the last small item, and assist with cookie eatin' duties and suchlike."
"Small stuff, spaced out daily," said my little girl, having immediately locked onto the salient facts in the narrative. "So, basically, chocolates, small toys, and suchlike?"
"Yups," I said.
"So Santa Mouse serves the same function as an Advent Calendar?"
"Pretty much," I said. "But he's not the mass operation that Santa is. You have to contact him directly, and contract for the services."
"And what criteria are in the contract?"
"You have to write him a letter, care of Santa Claus, and ask. You have to give mommy and daddy a kiss before bed, and you have to be good, as per Section C of your Santa contract. And you have to leave the Santa Mouse his own cookie (or a piece of cheese) on Christmas Eve before you go to bed, to conclude the contract."
"That doesn't sound particularly tough."
"I leave it to you, my little darling."
And so she wrote Santa Mouse and asked if he wouldn't please include our home in his daily routine, and gave me the letter to mail, because even though she was far from stupid, she WAS still a child, and certain observances had to be met. And so, the next day, I informed her that Santa Mouse had faxed me his response (it was the eighties, gimme a break,) and that daily services would depend on her ability to locate the Santa Mouse icon that he had provided me; he would be hiding it every night, somewhere in the living room, and it was HER job to FIND the thing and lay claim to the provided goodies what would accompany it.
"Was this included in the contract?" she said doubtfully, examining the fax.
"I assumed you were agreeing to the terms when I signed off on it as your proxy," I said. "Don't you remember our conversation about contract negotiations? If you didn't want to authorize me as your proxy, you shooda said so." And she sorrowfully agreed that one should always read the fine print before signing anything, sure. It's never too early to start on certain life lessons, you know?
"So what do I need to do?" she asked.
"Just leave the little Santa Mouse figurine in front of the TV," I said. "Each night. If it's there, he'll pick it up and hide it somewhere, and in the morning, you can hunt for it and see if he left you anything." And my little girl dutifully did just that, and upon searching the living room the next morning, found that the Santa Mouse figure was over on the bookshelf with a Fun Size Snickers bar, a thing she found quite acceptable...
…and our rather odd December commenced.
Now, at this point, the reader is no doubt wondering what the heck is going on. This is because I haven't explained it yet. Y'see, a while back, Reaper Miniatures began the manufacturer of these lovely little Santa Mouse pewter figurines, right? And as a collector, I bought and painted one, and this is what Little Darlin' was putting in front of the TV every night, and her mother and I would hide it in the living room along with whatever candy or goody I could scavenge from someone's candy dish at work, or whatever was in the bottom of her mother's purse, or whatever I could get out of a gumball machine with the coins I could find in the couch cushions. I make no apologies. Any poor person will tell you it's easier to come up with thirty bucks gradually on a daily basis than it is to do so all at once for a dumb overpriced advent calendar.
Each day, she’d clamber out of bed and begin an examination of the living room until she found the little red Santa Mouse sitting atop a Fun Size M&Ms bag, or a pack of gum, or whatever. I did have a bit of a skid one day, when Santa Mouse was sitting atop a Happy Meal toy from McDonalds; I’d grabbed a quick bite there the previous day and had saved the toy for just this purpose.
“It seems curious that Santa Mouse would reutilize secondhand merchandise,” my daughter mused.
“The little plastic bag was still sealed,” I replied. “It was new merch, purchased from McDonalds, no doubt; even mice have to eat. McDonalds is, after all, the number one toy distributor on the planet. And when one is benefiting from a localized magical phenomenon, it is unwise to question the mojo, yes?”
She had to agree with that, and the matter was dropped.
As December went on, she did ask about Santa Mouse’s methods of operation. Did he use a sleigh? Perhaps he used Santa’s transport and tackle, to warm it up for Christmas? How does a mouse manage a full sized sleigh?
I replied that he did not, that he instead used a gold plated roller skate, repurposed as a mouse sized sleigh, and pulled by a friendly enchanted pair of skunks, who could not only fly, but keep predators at bay while Santa Mouse did his job, as no sane predator would mess with skunks.
“And how does he manage all the candy and toys on one roller skate?”
“Same as Santa Claus does: magic bag.”
“What are the skunks’ names?”
“Barney... and, um, Clyde,” I said, thinking fast. Fortunately, she did not question this, and the conversation turned to other topics.
By the time Christmas rolled around, Wife and I were pleased to note that we had spent under ten bucks on Santa Mouse, less than a third of what they wanted for the advent calendar, while providing hours of amusement and fascination for the child. And we were greatly touched when on Christmas Eve, she insisted on making a special little sandwich for Santa Mouse (Squeezy Cheez and Swiss on Ritz Cracker, with parsley sprig) to fulfill her contract with this strange and magical entity.
I WAS just gonna eat the thing, but Wife insisted that I uphold the magic, and therefore I ate about half of it, and then made a great many little mouse sized bites out of the remainder with a hole punch, which I later had to clean the Squeezy Cheez out of, to my slight irritation. But it galvanized the Sproglet the next morning to see that Santa Mouse did indeed take tiny bites, as opposed to what Santa’s daddy-sized dentition took out of the Oreos.
And thus a tradition was born.
Years later, in college, she got around to asking me, “That first year with Santa Mouse?”
“Eeeeyes?” I replied over my book.
“Santa Mouse was all over the living room, hiding candy and toys?”
“It would seem so.”
“How many cats did we have at that time? Five?” she said, eyeing me for a reaction.
“As I recall, Santa Mouse has a posse,” I replied smoothly. “Barney and Clyde, the magical skunks, specifically to keep cats at bay.”
“What about Mr. Magoo?” she asked, referring to a cat we had had at the time. “Magoo was dumb enough to think he could make friends with a pit bull, and was in love with one of your socks. You think a couple of skunks would have slowed him down?”
“Well,” I said, “what was the second lesson we took away from our experience with Santa Mouse?”
The Kid frowned at me, and recited: “Always read the fine print?”
“The SECOND lesson,” I said.
She frowned again. “When one is benefiting from a localized magical phenomenon, it is unwise to question the mojo.”
“She remembers,” I said with a smile. “Plainly, I have fulfilled my purpose as a parent.”
And I guess I did.
Funny thing about this story? It's largely hooey. Anyone who knows me can check the dates, and say, "Dude, when your little girl was a little girl, Reaper Miniatures didn't exist yet. And by the time Santa Mouseling was in production, she was in college already." And this is true.
But one year at work, I gave out hand painted Santa Mouselings, and they went over quite well, until someone wanted to know the STORY behind them. And, durnit, I can't turn down a request for a story, just because there actually isn't one, particularly when I'm already three cups into the spiked eggnog. So the first version of this tale was born. And now, every year at work, the Old Hands watch me like a hawk to make sure the new hires, at Christmas time, get their little Santa Mouseling and a printout of the story; it's a tradition now.
And durn, I sure wish they'd start making Santa Mouseling in Bones...
By Lord of the Dish Pit
It seems 2021 is to be the year of the "painting blehs", where many of us are struggling to find out just where our inspiration has wandered off to. The world seems to be going increasingly mad each passing day, so this isn't surprising. With so much uncertainty about, it's difficult to get back into painting mode with so many other things to worry over.
Last year I was knocked out of any steady routine for long periods of time, and it appears that for this year that may hold true as well. So how to adapt is the question here. To begin with, to recognize how I wound up with a horde of half finished minis on the table nagging at me. Simple, for the last few years I've had the tendency to bite off far more than I can chew on a regular basis. Between juggling Undead, Witch Hunters, and the Witch/Halloween army, I've put myself in a place where I'm dealing with units on a regular basis, and using pretty much the same palette on all of them. Don't get me wrong, the limited palette achieves what look I'm going for with everything and I'm still just as much in love with all of my factions as I was when I started them, but like with all things there are consequences. My habit of opening a blister of something new to try and feed the motivation also doesn't help me here.
Humans are to a greater or lesser extent novelty seeking creatures. Although I fall into the far end of lesser, sooner or later it catches up. Also part of why I fell into the current structure is logistical, I've lost the knack of small pours, and have a horror of wasting paint, so limiting colors to what can be spread far in the case of overspill makes sense.
Another contributing factor is that having learned the hard way with drawing, I cannot and will not try to "force it" when it comes to artistic projects. All well and good, but it leaves me in a position where as soon as the muse decides to hide beneath the sofa, the project comes to a screeching halt whether it be painting or writing.
So what to do about this now?
Goal setting in the loosest possible sense of the word. Overall objective is to clear everything off of the table before unblistering or opening anything else. I've been doing good here, so it's just a matter of keeping this up.
Outside of my faction projects, these are what's staring at me...
Drangus the Duck Knight, meant as a Christmas gift two years in the running now, saving grace is that the recipient has no clue about this.
Zombie Dragon, also meant as an unexpected gift. The snag here is that this is the first full size dragon I've ever attempted so scale got intimidating quickly and that I was having a difficult time trying to figure out what was rotted flesh and what was muscle. Gluing the wings on this early didn't do me any favors either. I have another one still in it's package that is destined for my undead army, so hopefully by tackling this one I can have an easier time when it comes up in rotation.
Even here it's obvious as to how I go strongly with theme, even in my "random" minis. Since I tend to try and paint as large a batch as possible, with this the solution might be to focus on one or two, finishing them before moving on, even though my brain is going to screaming at me otherwise.
Aftermath is a dungeon crawler board game that is the heir to both Mice and Mystics and Stuffed Fables.
The game takes place in a post apocalyptic world where rodents have formed colonies to scrounge resources for survival, cobbling together the things they need.
For the set, I went with a lot of textures and a lot of wear and tear. Nothing these mice have is brand new, and I really wanted to express that.