Dear Herr Drosselmeyer,
There’s no easy way to put this, old friend: you’ve cracked your last nut in the Stahlbaum house.
When our house developed a rampant infestation of mutant vermin in advance of our annual soirée, you were the first person I called. Not everyone would trust an unattached older gentleman who dresses like a pirate sorcerer and enters rooms in a puff of smoke. But I have long been a fool for all things fantastical, and our house is full of your wondrous creations. I made you my children’s godfather, for heaven’s sake.
I thought I could rely on you.
I asked, “Do you have some device that can rid us of these troublesome mice?” You winked your mischievous eye and disappeared with a poof, and I thought, He’s got this. I told my wife, Marie, to cancel the exterminators. “Dross will work his magic,” I said.
Marie gesticulated wildly and spun away from me en pointe, as is her custom.
It saddens me that her misgivings were warranted. Before the party, you were nowhere to be found. I tried to ignore the noisy scratching of the mice behind the walls as we decorated. He’s got this, I kept telling myself. Dross has never let me down.
When you finally arrived — hours late, and with an uninvited nephew in tow — your entrance was so alarming that our guests froze in terror. Then you embraced my family with a sweep of your black satin cloak and acted as if everything was normal. Everyone resumed celebrating, and I resumed staring at the walls and baseboards which, so far as I knew, continued to shelter rodents.
I tried to catch your eye. You were too preoccupied pulling boxes — large, heavy boxes — from beneath your voluminous cloak.
Those boxes were the first hope I had all night. Good ol’ Dross, I thought. Better late than never. But you didn’t have a single mousetrap with you. No magical flute to lure the mice, Pied Piper-style. Not even cheese and crackers. All you had was a disquieting collection of life-sized dolls. And while they were marvelous dancers, I doubted their skill in extermination.
I didn’t know then what I know now: that your pest control strategy almost entirely relied on my be-nightgowned daughter, Clara, aided only by that unsettling nutcracker figurine you gave her for Christmas. You could have just given her a doll. Or, perhaps, something that would actually kill mice.
To make matters worse, you weren’t even planning to get started on this “make the sleeping child eradicate vermin” plan until the party was over and everyone was asleep.
What the hell, Dross? How did you get back into the house, anyway?
Have you ever awoken from a deep slumber to the shrieks of a terrified pre-teen who claims she fought a seven-headed Mouse King, Dross? No? Because I have. Every night since Christmas. And the only thing that gives her comfort is that whiskery nutcracker you gave her. Which — bonus! — she loves with a fervor that is not entirely age-appropriate.
I sometimes catch her pressing her fingers in its jaw and squeezing.
“That is for nuts, Clara,” I tell her. I grasp her by her shoulders and look into her eyes. “You are not a nut, Clara.”
She gesticulates wildly and spins away from me en pointe, as is her custom.
Don’t even get me started on the increase in our household’s sugar budget. If we don’t have a constant supply of peppermints, candy canes, hot chocolate, and other confections, Clara moans that “the Sugar Plum Fairy” has banished her from the “Land of Sweets.” If she’s not consuming bonbons at all times, she says, “I’ll never find my way back to my prince.”
What prince? Hell if I know. She just dances with that damn nutcracker and cries.
It took every servant of our household to pry the thing from her grasp. You will find its cursed carcass in the box that accompanies this note. We told Clara we were sending it to a farm in the Northern provinces. I think you should consider moving there yourself, and never darken our door again.
To be sure, Dross, our holidays without you will lack magic, whimsy, and six-foot-tall tin soldiers with extraordinary strength and flexibility.
But the alternative is a sugar-fueled fever dream that pulls everyone into its thrall and leaves madness in its wake.
And who would ever want to see something like that?