As the nurse gazed upon Sam she smiled her professional nurse's smile, but inwardly she rolled her eyes up and thought, "Poor boy looks like a mouse." Although, she did grudgingly admit that if he had been a mouse, he would have been a handsome one, with a cute pointy nose, fine sleek hair and beady but engaging eyes.
Sam's father, unblinded by motherly love but still blinded by his fatherly hopes, had them evaporated on the spot. First his heart sank, then he sighed, then he gave up the thought of him and his wife being supported in their old age by a very large and very rich football player. His final thought was, "They're going to beat him up," since, when he looked several years into the future, he envisioned his tiny mousy son being the butt of many a cruel joke at school.
Right from the start Sam was an adorable baby, one who bypassed crawling and walking and went straight to scampering and hopping. His mother found him terribly amusing, as (to his great surprise) did his father, especially when Sam engaged in such antics as springing straight up in the air and doing back flips. "Let's see your son do that!" he would say proudly to the other fathers, who would suppress looks of annoyance, since their babies could do little more than upend bowls of warm oatmeal on their heads.
Sam's father was immensely relieved, indeed very surprised, when his son started school and, because of his unfailingly cheerful nature and natural comedic skills, became the most popular kid in class. His father had long since given up his football-player fantasies, and was content to not have Sam’s tail pulled or his nose tweaked. In fact, he grew quite proud of his offspring, who was so lovable and funny and talented he could bring the class down in hysterics (including the teacher) by doing something as simple as eating a piece of cheese.
Alas, all was not perfect. Unfortunately, there was one student who did not like Sam. Indeed, Toby, the one who had made the nurse run for a bowl, hated Sam, and did so the first time he looked upon him. "I do not like you, Sam" thought the sullen and surly Toby, although he couldn't explain why. Toby didn't like anyone (Sam most of all), and would creep through the school halls, ignoring everyone except when he sneakily stole their cheeseburgers and Yoo Hoo during lunch.
Toby had it in for Sam every chance he could get. When no one was looking, Toby pulled Sam's tail, and pinched his ears, and tweaked his nose. Everyone else loved Sam. But Toby didn’t. "Sam's different, but he's funny," the students said. "Toby's different, but he's creepy," all explained, claiming Toby would slink around at night glaring at people.
Sam, who quickly grew to loathe Toby, knew that with his tiny physique he was unable to defend himself against Toby's bulk. Like most students, he subscribed to the Code of Kiddom, which prevented him from complaining to the school administration, or his parents, that some kid was bullying him. So, instead, Sam rapidly became adept at zipping away whenever he saw Toby, to hide in whatever hole was handy. "The kids all like me, and no one likes you," Sam taunted Toby, from his hole. "You'll never catch me, never never ever."
Sam was right on all counts. All the students loved Sam, none liked Toby, and Toby never caught him again all through the school years. Or after school, either, even when Toby went to the immense trouble of building a huge mousetrap and covering it with the fall leaves in Sam's front yard. "That boy's going to be nothing but trouble all his life," grumbled Sam's father, grimacing as he removed the sprung trap from his foot.
Time passed, and everyone graduated. "Goodbye, you creepy Toby," Sam thought, and then, taking his father's advice that everything loose in America rolled to California, moved to that state, which, he hoped, was so full of strange people that no one would pay any attention to a man who looked like a mouse. He was right.
There, Sam blossomed. Exercising his naturally given talents, he found himself making a substantial living as a stand-up comic. "Amazing!" exclaimed those in his audiences. "I've never seen a man crawl up drapes before! And so fast!" they howled. Sam became, if not a huge success, then a pretty big one.
Life was good for Sam. It got even better when he noticed how attractive one of the women who worked at one of the nightclubs was. "Such smooth sleek hair and dainty little paws!" thought Sam, enchanted. But he was terrified to approach Doreen, wondering how any woman could be attracted to a man who looked so much like a mouse.
Screwing up all the courage that existed in his heart, (there was a lot more than he thought), and fighting the urge to hang his head, look at his paws, and mumble, he shyly asked, "Hey, Doreen, do you think you might want to go to a movie with me?"
"Oh, yes!" breathed Doreen, looking at Pee Wee adoringly (that being the pet name she immediately gave him, having decided they were soul mates, going to get married and have a home in the suburbs complete with four smart handsome kids, a barbeque pit, an aboveground pool, a dog, a cat, and a station wagon), love shining from her beady little eyes. Her cute little ears even turned pink. "Well, I'll be darned," thought Sam, in shock, "even a man who looks like a mouse can get a girl and find happiness. Will wonders ever cease?" Apparently not, he decided.
For months everything was wonderful. He and Doreen made a perfect couple, bouncing around the city and amusing everyone they encountered. Everyone adored them. "What a lovely couple," everyone sighed. Sam made a lot of friends, and so much money he would have no problem supporting his parents in their retirement. "Such a great son," his father told everyone. "And to think I wanted a football player!"
Then, one day, Sam and Doreen's happiness was punctured by the arrival of Toby at their door. "Oh, no!" Sam said in horror after he opened his front door and saw the evilly-grinning Toby standing there. "What are you doing here?” Sam cried. “Won't you ever leave me alone? You've been tormenting me since the day you were born!"
"I missed you, pal," Toby smirked as he walked uninvited into Sam's apartment. "My life's never been the same since you moved away. It's been missing something, you know? A purpose, you could say. and since you were always my purpose, I decided to move out here to keep you company."
Doreen walked in from another room and burst into instantaneous female tears (Sam was always amazed girls could do that) when she saw Toby. "How horrible!" she gasped. "Tell him to go away, Sam!" She jumped to Sam's side and clung to his arm in terror. "He's awful!" she cried, seeing into Toby's pea-sized, wizened soul and sizing up his truly cruel nature in an instant.
"Who’s the dame?" Toby leered. "Not bad-looking at all! Don’t have much taste in guys, do you? You could do better, a lot better. Like me! So why don’t you ditch the loser you’re with and come over here?"
Doreen glared at Toby and wished him, if not dead, then at least folded in half, then folded again.
“I think you'd better leave, Toby," Sam said quietly.
"Sure thing, Sammy," Toby said, still smirking his cocky smirk and running his x-ray eyeballs up and down Doreen's shapely figure. "But you're going to be seeing a lot of me. For a long time. For years, in fact. And your soon-to-be ex-girlfriend is going to be seeing a lot of me, too."
Since Toby was looking at Sam as he was leaving, he didn't see Philibert standing in the doorway, and bumped into, and off of, him, or his chest, actually, which was level with Toby's head. Toby gaped up at him and like all bullies, immediately collapsed. "Yow! Yow! Yow!" he went.
"What is dis?" said Philibert, standing in the doorway, shifting his toothpick in his mouth and lifting his upper lip to grin his feral grin and show his quite large and scary teeth. He looked at Toby and his pupils, as they always did when he was annoyed, dilated to huge black dots. His heavy brows beetled and a frown then turned down his heavy, protruding jaws. Toby's eyes bugged out of his head like poached eggs.
"Hello, Philibert," Sam said cheerfully. "This is Toby. Remember him? I think I told you all about him. Oh, and Toby? This is Philibert, my biggest fan."
Toby was too frozen to utter a word, but Philibert said, "Yeah, I 'member yoot telling me about dis guy." Philibert stared down at Toby, who stared up at the mountain of muscle, paralyzed, his hair standing on end in terror. "I got a good nose and I smelled somethin' funny over here, so I come over to check it out. Are yoot botherin' my good buddy here, buster?" He raised one huge paw, made a fist the size of a cantaloupe, and waved it in front of Toby’s face. Toby, mesmerized, wobbled his head back and forth as he stared at the fist, like a kitten watching a yo-yo.
"I, I was just leaving," Toby wheezed. "Excuse me!" He tried to squeeze by Philibert, but Philibert, who filled the entire doorway, merely shifted a bit to prevent Toby's escape.
Philibert, who was as loyal as loyal could be, and sometimes even so manic he ran in circles when snacks were around, wasn't the smartest guy in the world, or the neighborhood, or even the building, but he told the truth when he said he had a good nose. A great nose, actually. And he smelled something he found very unpleasant. "Dere's somethin' funny about yoot I don't like at all," he told Toby. He peered at him disapprovingly, and suddenly the scales (figuratively speaking, that is) fell from his eyes.
He found himself staring at the black fur standing straight up, the cold yellow eyes, the dreadful claws, the small sharp teeth. . .
"Dang!" he howled, "I know what yoot are! A miserable, lousy, stinkin' cat!"
Philibert was so stunned by his discovery that he missed his grab at Toby, who, hissing and tail bottled, flew between Philibert's legs and out into the hall. Philibert spun around and howling, "Pick on a little guy, will yoot? I'll murder you, you bum!" ran after Toby.
"Go get him, Philibert!" Sam and Doreen yelled encouragingly and simultaneously at Philibert. From the hallway came crashing sounds, interspersed with hissing and snarling, followed by chomping noises. Then came a rhythmic banging sound, much like something being swung by its tail from one side of the hallway to the other. One of their favorite pictures -- that of Philibert, resplendent in black bowler hat and stogie, playing poker with his buddies -- fell off the wall.
"Philibert's our best friend," Sam said. "And I don't think Toby's ever going to bother us again."
"Thank God," Doreen answered. "You're my hero, Pee Wee." She looked at Sam (or Pee Wee, depending on how you look, too, at him) with love in her eyes and they held paws. Sam blushed and hung his head and looked at his feet, and realized, just like in the fairy tales, that he and Doreen (with some occasional dips and bumps and an argument or two), were going to live happily ever after.
They never did disagree, however, on changing their mind about owning a cat.