Timid Timmy Tigermouse…

And the Vegetable Patch Mishap

Timmy is a mouse. But he isn't an ordinary mouse like you or me. He is unique because he was born unlike many mice that exist today. Timmy was born with Tiger stripes; thus making him very rare amongst his fellow mice. While Timmy is unique looking; he is not, however, immune to many of the challenges that each of face each day. For instance, because Timmy is unique; the other mice, children and adults alike, often give Timmy strange looks and make him feel like an outcast; like he's not a valued part of the community. But it isn't Timmy's fault, he was born this way.

Timmy is very shy, and very timid. Timmy doesn't like participating with other members of the village because he often feels left out and not a part of the group. Despite this, Timmy loves the mouse community and has always wished that he were normal, so he could be a better member of the village. Timmy longs for the day when his fellow mice will look upon him as an equal. But until that day, Timmy just continues fitting in the best way he knows how; by keeping to himself and not drawing any extra attention to himself.

We look in on Timmy's life while he is going through any ordinary day. Timmy wakes up every morning and gets ready for school; just like any other mouse his age would. Timmy learns about many things at school that mice like us would learn. There are the basics of course; reading, writing, and arithmetic. But Timmy also enjoys learning about how the elders build their houses, how to grow and cultivate food, and how to sneak about to avoid the bigger creatures in the world.

After school each day, Timmy comes home to a happy little hideaway in the corner of the village where he lives with his grandma. And this is where we catch up with Timmy for this particular tale. Timmy is at the dinner table, sitting across from his grandma. On tonight's menu; macaroni covered with cheese and a large portion of freshly steamed vegetables. Timmy finishes the macaroni and cheese very quickly and ends his dinner the way he ends all his dinners; by pushing the vegetables from one side of his plate to the other. Timmy looks up from his plate and says, "may I be excused?"

"You haven't eaten your vegetables," replies his Grandma.

"I don't like them," states Timmy sullenly.

"We go through this every night Timmy," says Grandma, "you have to eat your vegetables so you grow up to be big and strong. So you live…"

"…a long and healthy life," Timmy mumbles, interrupting Grandma. "I don't like them!" he states, in a more matter-of-fact tone. Timmy crosses his arms and stares down at the table, "I had a bad day at school. May I please be excused?"

"I don't like it that you don't have any friends," says Grandma.

"The other kids don't like me because I'm different," says Timmy.

Grandma gets up from her seat, and crosses the room to Timmy's side of the table and kisses the top of his head, "well, I love you… because you're different. You may be excused… to your room. But you get a double helping of vegetables tomorrow."

Timmy smiles excitedly and scurries off to his room, grabbing a book from the hallway shelf on his way. Timmy curls up on his bed and opens to where he left off last night. This is one of Timmy's favorites; it's about a little boy who saved his family from a burning house. 'A true tale of courage,' Timmy thinks to himself, 'surely a work of fiction.' But he enjoys it nonetheless; this is his fifth time reading it.

Finding it hard to concentrate tonight, Timmy's mind starts to wander and he finds himself staring out the window; gazing at the moon, which is just starting to peek its head out of the fading twilight.

Suddenly there is a commotion, and Timmy looks down into the street. Below, several older mice from the village are frantically hurrying in Timmy's direction; walking right down the center of the road. While they go past Timmy's house he hears one of the older mice say, "we've never been threatened by a cat before." While another was saying, "how can we defend ourselves against a cat?"

'A cat?' Timmy thought to himself. He was scared and excited. Timmy didn't know what to do. To his own shock and surprise Timmy got up from his bed and headed for the window. Timmy leapt and made a cushiony landing in the thick grass below. He meant to follow the crowd of elders and he couldn't believe it himself. Timmy had never seen a cat before.

By the time Timmy exited his house the crowd had already passed, he hurried to catch up. Timmy noticed a small group of children following silently behind the group and followed them. Timmy didn't get too close, because he didn't want to be noticed. He followed the crowd towards the edge of town. He realized that the crowd was heading towards the vegetable patch where all the village's plants grew.

When the group arrived at the vegetable patch, Timmy remembered the only time he had ever visited this place; it was a few years ago with his Grandma. Timmy hid behind some taller grass with the rest of the children that had followed; most of them were looking ahead and didn't notice him. Bartholomew, one of his classmates turned to look back and noticed Timmy, "what are you doing here?" said Bartholomew, a little bit louder than Timmy would have liked. The rest of the children turned to see what was the matter.

One of the other children, Timmy wasn't sure whom, said, "yeah, what are you doing here Timid Timmy Tigermouse?"

They were all staring at him. Bartholomew said, "go home, what can you do to help us?"

Several of them also told him to leave; some weren't so nice about it. Finally, the closest mouse he had to a friend; Cindy, pushed her way through the crowd. "Leave him alone, you guys. He's no different than all of us; he's part of the village too."

"Why do you like him all of a sudden?" Asked Bartholomew, "it's typical that you'd like someone different from all your friends."

Cindy frowned and sighed, she looked at Timmy and whispered, "I'm sorry Timmy, but they're right. You should go home." Cindy turned from Timmy and went back to the group.

Timmy faded into the tall grass; discouraged but not defeated. This is how the rest of the children always treated Timmy; he was not surprised and no more disheartened than he normally was. Timmy found his way around the group of children and snuck up behind the group of elders who were looking toward the vegetable patch.

The patch was set in a clearing in the field of tall grass, and there was a small grove of tall trees on either side of the patch. The group hunkered down behind the largest of the tall trees and they all stared around, cautiously looking. Timmy got as close to the front of the group as he dared, no one noticed him; they all had their attention on the vegetable patch.

Timmy looked about as well; he marveled at the neat rows of plants; carrots, beans, potatoes, and on and on. It was all very neatly arranged and very well taken care of. Timmy looked up the row of carrots and began to count to himself, '1, 2, 3, 4,' then Timmy saw something he had never seen before; something that frightened him. Timmy fell backwards, in an attempt to back up, bumping into his Grandma's friend Billy. Billy looked down at Timmy and saw the fear in his face, "well Timmy, whatever is the matter…" Billy followed Timmy's gaze and saw what had frightened Timmy; sleeping among the carrots, was a one-eyed mangy cat. He looked mean, even as he slept.

Billy silently alerted the rest of the group as to what he and Timmy had seen. Each one cautiously moved about to get a better glimpse of what they had came to see. Rupert; the eldest of the village Elders made a motion with his hand waving everyone to follow him. The group left the vegetable patch and headed back to town. They all made their way to the village hall in the middle of the town square. Billy arrived first and held the door open for everyone while they filed into the hall. Timmy was following closely behind and attempted to enter the Hall; Billy put his arm out; blocking Timmy's entrance, "sorry Timmy, this is adult's business. Hurry home to your Gram now, I'll check in on you later." Timmy sullenly slinked off as Billy entered the hall and closed the door behind him.

Timmy sat on the edge of the road. The group of children he'd encountered earlier approached him. "What were you thinking Timid Timmy Tigermouse, sticking your nose in the grown-ups business?" asked Bartholomew.

Timmy stared down at the road and shyly said, "I wanted to see…"

Bartholomew interrupted him, "we all wanted to see, who do you think you are? All the children know adults' business is adults' business and it's not our place to meddle. You sure are strange Timid Timmy Titmouse." The other children snickered.

The group of children turned to leave, each of them going their separate ways. Cindy stayed where she was and looked at the ground, where she was rearranging the dirt with her foot. Bartholomew looked back, "aren't you coming home Cindy? Leave Timmy be, he'll learn sooner or later."

"I'll catch up," said Cindy. "Tell Ma I'll be right along."

Bartholomew stood staring at his sister. Cindy made a sooshing motion with her hand and said, "I'll be along, just go."

"Okay, but I'm telling Dad that you're with him." Bartholomew snuffed and trudged off towards home.

Cindy slowing walked closer toward Timmy, "I'm sorry about my brother, he doesn't know any better."

"Don't apologize," said Timmy, "I'm used to it. You should go before you get in trouble."

Cindy lowered her head and began to walk away. She stopped abruptly and looked back, "you want to sneak around back and peak in the window?"

Timmy looked over his shoulder at the town hall. "Okay."

The two children snuck around to the back of the town hall and crouched down below an open window in the back. They dared not peak their head up to look through in fear of being caught. They crouched low enough just to be able to hear what was going on inside. They heard Rupert's voice, "I don't know how long he's been there. Vince and Jules spotted him this morning. Luckily they saw it before it saw them."

"Well what are we going to do," said someone from the crowd.

"A few of us should go back," said Rupert, "and try talking to the cat peacefully. Find out if he's dangerous and if he means us harm."

"Of course he's dangerous," said another voice from the crowd, "did you get a look at him. He's filthy and one of his eyes looks like it's scratched out."

"Now now," Timmy recognized this voice as Billy's, "let's not judge things by how they appear…"

A commotion started, mice were talking over other mice, Timmy and Cindy couldn't make out a single word. Then they heard a gavel strike, and Rupert yelled above them all in a booming voice, "quiet… quiet… calm down." Everyone first lowered their voices, and then quieted. "Billy, myself, Vince and Jules will return to the vegetable patch. We will approach the cat; cautiously and peacefully and try to figure this whole mess out. Everyone please remain calm and either wait for us here or return to your homes."

"There's no way I'm going home," another nameless voice from the crowd.

"Me either," several others chimed in.

The group of four elders left the hall and headed for the exit. Cindy tapped Timmy on the shoulder and whispered, "let's go, Timmy."

Before Timmy could offer resistance, Cindy hurried off to hide in a stand of bushes near the front of the hall. Timmy caught up and whispered to Cindy, "maybe we should just go home. I don't want my Gram and your Mom and Dad to worry."

"What?" asked Cindy; she couldn't hear Timmy's whisper.

Timmy got a bit closer and whispered directly into Cindy's ear. Cindy heard him this time and turned toward him abruptly. She didn't realize how close Timmy had gotten and half-scared she backed up quickly and nearly fell down. Surely the elders would notice this rustling in the bush and pull them out screaming. Cindy turned to look at the group of four. The four elders were outside the town hall and talking to each other. Luckily, they hadn't noticed the commotion.

The elders turned and began walking back in the direction of the vegetable patch. Cindy turned back to Timmy, "we have to follow them Timmy. Don't chicken out on me now."

"I don't know Cindy," maybe Bartholomew was right, "we should leave them to their business."

"Don't talk so silly," said Cindy, "my brother's never been right about anything." Cindy grabbed Timmy by the scruff of his neck and pulled him after her as she followed the elders up the road. The two children followed the elders back toward the vegetable patch and they hid where Timmy had encountered the group of children earlier. The elders had snuck their way back to the tallest tree in the grove and were again talking to each other; probably devising some sort of plan. The cat hadn't moved.

Timmy stood next to and slightly behind Cindy. He said, "before when you said Bartholomew's never been right about anything…"

"Yeah?"

"Um..," Timmy looked at the dirt and shuffled his feet.

"I meant anything," said Cindy, "he thinks he knows everything. The rest of the children just follow along with what he says because he's the biggest. I have to listen to him because he's my big brother."

"So, won't your parents be mad at you?" Asked Timmy, "will you get in trouble for not going home when he said to?"

"Probably."

"So, why are you…"

"You ask too many questions Timmy Tigermouse," she interrupted, "but you're kind of cute when you blush." This, of course, made him blush instantly. Cindy turned her attention back to the elders. The four elders were looking into the vegetable patch. Cindy could see their lips moving, and figured they were whispering to each other. Suddenly, Rupert pushed his way out from behind the tallest tree and through a small thicket of tall grass and into the vegetable patch. He took a couple steps towards the cat, the cat didn't move. Cindy took Timmy's hand and pulled him along behind her as she slowly moved closer to the vegetable patch. Timmy didn't say a word, and he didn't resist her pull.

Rupert slowly approached the cat, darting from one tomato plant to the next; one row away from the cat who slept among the carrots. Rupert made it to a tomato plant directly across from the cat and stood with his back to the stalk of the tomato plant doing his best to keep his breath steady, and not make any noise.

Rupert turned toward the direction of the cat and peeked out from behind the stalk of the tomato plant. He cleared his throat and said, "excuse me, Mr. cat," his voice cracked at the end. The cat only stirred slightly. Rupert cleared his throat again, and stepped out from behind the stalk of the tomato plant, "Mr. cat, we mean you no harm and come peacefully." The cat's ear twitched slightly, but he remained asleep.

Rupert looked back to the grove of tall trees; Billy motioned for him to get closer. Rupert cinched up his pants and took a deep breath. He moved closer to the cat, the cat began to purr. Rupert moved closer still, and the cat purred more loudly. Rupert took a few more steps, now the children could clearly hear the cat purring. Cindy turned to Timmy and smiled, "maybe he's a friendly cat."

Rupert cleared his throat again, but didn't say anything. The cat stirred, and his purring became less noisy. Rupert mustered up his courage and said in a slightly loud voice, "Mr. Cat, please…"

The cat startled awake, he immediately jumped onto all four feet, arched his back, puffed out his fur and let out a loud screech. The cat looked around frantically. Rupert backed up; fearful and unable to take his eyes from the cat. The cat found Rupert and let out a loud hiss, "SSSSSSSSSS." Rupert was in total shock and frozen in fear. The cat raised one of its front paws high in the air, Cindy and Timmy gasped. Cindy moved slightly forward into the vegetable patch and Timmy moved back; wanting nothing more than to be out of here.

The cat extended its claws, and Timmy heard Billy yell Rupert's name. Rupert snapped out of his daze and made a move to hide behind the tomato plant where this all started. The cat swung at Rupert and just missed slashing him with his razor sharp claws. Rupert sprinted behind the tomato stalk and he heard the cat panting frantically, but it hadn't moved toward him. The cat hissed in Rupert's direction, "what do you want?" asked the cat.

Rupert was too shaken with fear to respond. The cat moved toward Rupert's tomato plant. Timmy looked toward Billy, Vince, and Jules and saw that Billy was now standing well inside the vegetable patch clearing. Billy cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled for Rupert just as the cat was raising his paw to make another swipe. "RUUUUUPERRRRT RUUUUUUUUN." Rupert took off from behind the tomato plant and headed straight for his friends just as the cat slashed at the tomato stalk. The tomato plant he was cowering behind fell beside him as he ran. The cat saw Rupert in a full sprint for the tall grass and took off after him. Cindy grabbed Timmy's hand and pulled him behind her yet again, they were running away from the scene. Timmy turned back to watch.

Rupert was fast for his age, but the cat was faster. The cat was gaining; Rupert looked ahead to see his friends at the edge of the grass yelling for him to run… run! Rupert ran faster; faster than he has ever ran; until finally he made a mad leap for the grass and felt the wind from the cat's final swipe as he barreled into his friends in the tall grass. The four elders hurriedly got up and ran in different directions through the tall grass.

Cindy and Timmy hurried back to town, and hid behind a corner of Timmy's house watching the street. One by one the elders came to the cut of the road from the tall grass. They all gathered and dusted themselves off. "Whew, that was a close one," said Rupert.

"A little too close," said Billy as they turned and walked back toward the town hall.

Cindy began to follow after, but Timmy grabbed her hand, "maybe we should call it a night. I'm sure your parents are worried about you."

Cindy meant to put up a fuss, but said, "maybe you're right. I'm in enough trouble already." Timmy smiled and looked over his shoulder at the door to his house. "See you at school Timmy Tigermouse." Cindy turned and hurried toward home.

"Bye," Timmy said shyly. He wasn't sure if she'd heard though. Timmy raised his hand and waived; then turned and went to the front door.

"Timmy, is that you?" asked Gram as Timmy shut the front door.

"Yes ma'am. I was playing in the yard."

"I wish you had stayed in your room Timmy." He blushed and looked at the floor. "You better get to bed now; you don't want to be tired at school tomorrow." Timmy went to his room and curled up in his bed, but he couldn't get to sleep right away; his heart was racing from the excitement. Timmy stared out the window from his bed, gazing at the moon; it was full tonight and it was smiling down at him. This comforted Timmy, and eventually he settled down and sleep found him.

Timmy was up early the next morning and got ready for school like any other ordinary day. He kissed his Gram goodbye and headed out the door and down the road. When Timmy arrived at school, a small group of children had gathered on the front lawn. Rupert was on the steps leading up to the front door of the school with several of the teachers. As children climbed the steps to enter the school Rupert talked to them; Timmy could see that he was saying something very serious to the children but he couldn't hear what it was. Fearfully, Timmy climbed the steps to where Rupert and the teachers waited. "Sorry Timmy," said Rupert, "no school today. Please hurry back home and tell your Grandma to lock all the doors and stay hunkered down until we come and tell her everything is alright."

"What's the matter?" Timmy asked, knowing full well, what was the matter.

"Just do as your told Timmy," said Mrs. Flowers.

Timmy turned and went down the steps. Timmy tried to go widely around the group of children that had congregated on the school lawn. Bartholomew was a part of the group and called after him, "Timmy, wait up." He began walking toward Timmy, who had made it to the road. The group followed. "What happened after we left last night?" Asked Bartholomew as the group approached.

Timmy looked at the ground and said, "um… nothing, I went straight home.."

"Liar," Bartholomew said. Timmy looked at him to see if he was being jokey; he wasn't. "Cindy came home, she was frightened half to death. She wouldn't tell me what happened."

"I don't know Bart, I went straight home."

Bartholomew got an angry look on his face, "you know I hate being called Bart, Timid Timmy Ti…"

"I didn't know that," Timmy interrupted; with an apologetic look on his face.

Bartholomew shoved Timmy to the ground and kicked dirt at him. "Tell me what happened you freak, or I'll…"

"Or you'll what?" said Rupert as he came up behind the group. The children all turned to look. "I told every single one of you to return home and lock your doors. Now do as I say… OR I'LL." Rupert emphasized the last two words to show Bartholomew he wasn't pleased with what was about to happen. The group scattered, each heading for home. Rupert helped Timmy to his feet. Timmy brushed the dust from his back and bottom. "Hurry along now Timmy," said Rupert.

Timmy lowered his head, "yes sir," and hurried toward home.

When Timmy came in the door at home his Grandma was waiting for him. She pulled him toward her and wrapped him in a giant hug, like only Gram could. "Billy stopped by this morning and told me what happened at the vegetable patch last night. I'm so glad you're alright." She kissed the top of his head.

"What are we going to do?"

"We are going to do as we're told and wait inside."

"But what about the cat?"

"Don't worry about the cat. You should be more worried about vegetables, this village needs that food."

"It's only vegetables Gram, I've survived just fine without them."

"Don't sass me, young man," Gram was getting angry now. Timmy knew he'd said something he shouldn't have. "You you you; that's all you know. The mice of this village rely on that vegetable patch for food. Just because you don't eat your vegetables doesn't mean other members of this community don't rely on them."

"I know, I didn't mean… "

"Well, what did you mean?"

"I don't know…"

"That's right, you don't know. Vegetables are an essential part of every mouse's diet and it's imperative that we maintain and protect our supply. Aren't they teaching you that at school? Should I go talk to Ms. Flowers and tell her that you say she's not teaching you the value of healthy food?"

"No Gram.. I didn't mean too.."

"Okay. Maybe someday you'll learn." She let out a long sigh. "Now go to your room, and stay there this time!"

Most of the day passed by uneventfully. Timmy stayed in his room and read his books. He also doodled a bit. He drew a picture of the cat chasing Rupert through the vegetable patch. Timmy was becoming stir crazy alone in his room. Finally, his Gram called him down for dinner. Timmy sat down at the table and looked at his plate; a double helping of vegetables just as Gram had promised, and nothing else. Timmy looked up at his Gram and was about to protest when Gram interrupted, "don't say a word, you know the rules. You didn't eat any vegetables last night, and you were out when I told you not to." Timmy reluctantly began eating his dinner. Peas, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower; all steamed.

"Well, how is it?" Gram asked.

"Good," said Timmy as he put the last carrot in his mouth. "May I be excused?"

"You may," she said, "go to your room and stay…" Timmy interrupted her with a smile. Gram smiled back and Timmy was about to continue to his room when there was a knock at the door. Gram crossed the room and opened the door. "Oh, hi Billy! What can I do for you?"

"Just checking up on you guys, everything okay?"

"Everything's fine. We're just finishing our dinner. Would you like to come in?"

"Sure I could use a rest." He came in and sat at the table where Timmy had just eaten his supper.

Gram followed, "go to your room Timmy," she said as she spotted Timmy peaking around the corner.

Timmy went off to his room, but kept the door open and crouched down so he could hear what they were saying at the dinner table. "we're at our wits end," said Billy.

"I can imagine, how did a cat find our garden anyway?"

"We're not sure. Everyone is so frightened because of what happened last night." Then Timmy heard a rustling outside his window and his attention turned to the outside.

Timmy went to his window and looked out, he didn't see anything and started back for the door to continue listening. "Timmy!?" he heard a voice from outside his window.

Timmy looked out the window. "Cindy? What are you doing out of your house?"

"I want to go see the cat."

"Are you crazy? We'll get killed for sure, leave it to the adults."

"I just want to see. No big deal, cats are lazy. He won't hurt us."

"He didn't look lazy last night."

Cindy sighed and looked to the ground. "What happened at school today?"

"Nothing, why?"

"Rupert came over and talked to Dad. Dad gave Bart a good talking to."

"He doesn't like being called Bart, you know."

Cindy smiled up at him. "Come with me Timmy Tigermouse."

"No. It's dangerous."

"Then I'll go by myself…" she started off towards the vegetable patch on her own.

Timmy stood at his window and watched her go. "Cindy." No response. "Cindy!" a little louder. Cindy just kept walking. Timmy sighed and meant to yell after her, but realized Gram and Billy would hear him. Timmy jumped from the window and landed softly in the grass. He hurried after Cindy.

"Knew you'd come," she smiled at him.

"Yeah, yeah. We're just looking."

Cindy took off running. Timmy followed.

Cindy and Timmy reached the vegetable patch and stood under the tall trees looking into the garden. The cat was in his usual spot amongst the carrots, basking in the late afternoon sun. "Okay, we see him. Can we go now?" asked Timmy quietly.

"I'm going to go talk to him," Cindy said never taking her gaze from the mangy one-eyed cat.

Timmy became frantic and wanted more than anything in the world to go home and hide in his room; but he couldn't leave Cindy out here by herself. "Are you crazy? We've seen him, we should get home. If my Gram finds out about this I'll be grounded and have to eat nothing but vegetables for an entire month."

Cindy looked at Timmy. "Somebody has to do something Timmy, everyone in the village is scared and no one knows what to do."

"They're only vegetables; we can find food somewhere else."

"Timmy Tigermouse," said Cindy flabbergasted. "If your Gram heard you talk like that you'd be in deep trouble."

"I really don't see what the trouble is."

"We mice need our vegetables to live long healthy lives Timmy," Cindy was beginning to sound like Timmy's Gram and Mrs. Flowers. "Most of the elders wouldn't have lived as long as they have without this garden. Our village needs this garden; we depend on it to survive. Where would you be without your Gram?"

Timmy thought on that for a moment. Then he remembered that Gram was always eating vegetables, in fact his Gram loved vegetables. She ate them with everything and in everything. "Are you saying Gram wouldn't be here without these vegetables?"

"Yes, Timmy. None of the elders would be." Cindy gave Timmy an odd look, "your Gram is the oldest member of the village Timmy. She has outlived many, many brave and beautiful mice. A lot of the elders think it's because of the vegetables in this garden. We all need these vegetables to live long and happy lives. Don't you want to live long and be happy?"

"Sometimes." Timmy looked down at the ground and began to get sad thinking about his situation and how he was always picked on for being different. He felt like crying.

"Only sometimes Timmy Tigermouse?" Cindy tried looking him in the eye, but he turned away. "We should all want to live long and healthy lives, so we can be here for our friends. Like Billy, Rupert, Vince, and Jules were last night. Like all of the elders of the village are there for all of us children."

"It doesn't matter," Timmy sniffled, "if I'm here or not. I don't have any friends."

"What about your Gram?"

"What about her?" Timmy sniffled and began to sob. "I know she cares about me and I love her, she's my Gram. But I'll have no one when she's gone."

"What about me Timmy?" Cindy said sullenly. She put a hand on Timmy's shoulder and turned him around, towards her.

"Well… I don't… what…"

"I'm your friend." She said sadly. "I want to be anyway, and I hope when were old, that we can look after each other like Rupert and Billy and all the other elders."

Timmy looked at the ground and shuffled his feet.

"Don't you want to be friends Timmy?"

Timmy looked up at Cindy and smiled, "of course I do, but I've never had a friend before. Maybe I don't know how to be a friend. All the other children laugh and make fun of me. They don't want to be friends with me because I'm different."

"Well, I want to be your friend because you're different," said Cindy matter-of-factly. "You're unique. You're not like the rest of the kids in the village, and it's not just because you look different. You're smart too… And brave."

"Me?" scoffed Timmy, "ha, that's a laugh."

"You were here with me last night, and you're here with me now," said Cindy trying to prove her point. "No one else is."

"Because you made me," protested Timmy. "I couldn't let you come here alone."

"I'd say that's a pretty good friend, wouldn't you?" Timmy smiled and nodded. "Now what about this cat?"

"I still think we should go home and let the elders handle it."

"I'm going to talk to him," and before Timmy could object or grab her and make her stop, Cindy exited the tall grass and was walking through the vegetable patch toward the cat.

"Cindy," Timmy called after, but she kept on walking. "CINDY" Timmy yelled this time, and she stopped in her tracks. But that got the attention of the one-eyed mangy cat; who stopped bathing himself where he sat; basking in the sun. The cat got onto all four legs, stretched, and then sat on its haunches.

Timmy ran into the patch as fast as he could and grabbed Cindy by the hand. He began pulling her toward the tall grass and she cooperated once she realized what was happening.

"Stop!" ordered the cat. Timmy continued running pulling Cindy behind with all his might. The cat stood up on all fours and hissed loudly at the two children. "STOP!" the cat yelled this time. The children froze in their tracks. "Good, thank you," said the cat as he sat back down on his haunches.

"Please don't hurt us Mr. Cat," pleaded Cindy.

"You're trespassing in my garden," said the cat, "you were lucky enough to get away last night. Now, tell me, what business do you have here?"

Cindy stood up straighter and put her hands on her hips, "this is our garden," she stated, "these are our crops. Our village depends on this food to survive."

"There's a whole village of you, is there?" inquired the cat.

Cindy dropped her hands from her hips and took a couple steps back. "Don't you be getting any ideas Mr. Cat. You'll sure be in for a fight if you try coming to our village. We have a lot of help behind us, you'll be sorry."

"Look at me girl," said the cat with a laugh. He grinned, "I'm already sorry. It's a good thing I happened upon this vegetable patch, I was starving. I could have survived here for weeks, but now this meal seems to have suddenly turned into a feast. I'll start with you, and then I'll follow your trail back to the village and make stew out of all your little friends."

"Then why haven't you already?" asked Cindy, "why bother telling me about it?"

"I'm a cat," he smiled, "we're inherently lazy, I'll get around to it when it suits my needs."

"Well, you should know that we have a Tigermouse amongst us, and you'll be in for it if you cross him," Cindy gestured, without looking, behind her to where she thought Timmy was.

"What, pray tell," inquired the cat, "is a Tigermouse?"

"Well a Tigermouse is the bravest and fiercest of the mice," proclaimed Cindy. "They are descendants of the great Tiger's that roam the plains of Africa and relatives of the mighty beasts that rule the jungle. They are the fiercest of the fierce, the most ferocious creatures alive. My friend Timmy here is a distant relative of these creatures; hence his unique fur pattern."

"You mean the kid hiding behind that bean stalk?"

Cindy looked behind her and saw Timmy peaking from behind a bean stalk. "Timmy!" she hissed, irate at her friend, "get out here and help me."

Timmy scurried out from behind the bean stalk and stood in front of Cindy. "Hello, Mr. Cat."

"Hello Timmy," said the cat, "you're the Tigermouse?"

"I am."

"Is it true?" asked the cat, "everything she said."

"Well, Mr. Cat," Timmy stammered, "y-y-you know Cindy here's a good friend and I-I-I'm not one to embellish…" Timmy rolled his hands together and began to slink backwards, "I am pretty fierce, Mr. Cat, sir."

The cat laughed, he chuckled. He threw his head back towards the sky and giggled; almost uncontrollably. Then he stood up and began walking towards Timmy and Cindy; who looked like they were about to make a run for it. "Don't move," said the cat, "one move and I'll snatch the both of you up before you can whistle."

The two children stood in their place mortified, the cat approached. He came slowly closer and closer; sniffing the air the whole time, "you two sure do smell tasty."

"Please, Mr. Cat sir," pleaded Timmy, "we mean you no harm.."

"Shhhhhhh," the cat whispered, and then he hissed. The cat moved around the children in a circle, "I think I'll eat your girlfriend first Timid Timmy Tigermouse," then he lunged for Cindy. Timmy quickly pulled Cindy out of harm's way and stood in front of the one-eyed mangy cat; tall and brave.

"Leave my friend alone!" Timmy proclaimed indignantly. "We mean you no harm and just want to be friends."

The cat arched is back and hissed at Timmy. Timmy took a couple shaky steps backwards and stepped on a loose stick that had fallen from one of the trees. Timmy picked up the stick and shook it at the cat, "leave us alone, you mangy cat. And leave our vegetable patch, or I'll…"

"Or you'll what?" purred the cat as he hunkered down ready to pounce.

"Or I'll…," Timmy lunged at the cat before he knew what he was doing, "poke your other eye out." The cat dodged the first attack, but was too slow for the second; Timmy caught him on the shoulder with a swipe from the stick, then bopped him over the top of the head with all his might. The cat let out a loud screech and took off running for the grove of trees on the other side of the vegetable patch. Timmy dropped the stick then turned and ran towards Cindy. He snatched her by the hand and pulled her along behind him headed toward the tall grass and back home.

"Timmy wait," Cindy said as she tried to stop him. They reached the tall grass and Cindy pulled harder on Timmy's hand until she broke his grip. Cindy tripped backwards and Timmy stopped suddenly as he no longer felt Cindy's hand in his.

Timmy ran back to get Cindy, but she refused to get up. "What are you doing?" Timmy asked, "we need to go get help."

"Wait Timmy, just listen."

Timmy poked his head above the tall grass and looked about the entire field, he looked over the entire vegetable patch, but didn't see or hear anything. "What is it? Is he coming back?"

"No," said Cindy as she got up, "listen, over there." Cindy pointed to the grove of trees on the opposite side of the vegetable patch. Timmy inched his way closer to the garden and perked his ears toward the grove. He heard a whimpering and looked back toward Cindy quizzically. "That's the cat, he's crying," said Cindy.

"As he should be," boasted Timmy, "I walloped him a good one."

"We should see if he's okay."

"Are you crazy?" Timmy was flabbergasted. "We barely escaped with our lives, we should go get help."

"Maybe he's just as scared and shy as you are," pleaded Cindy, "maybe he just needs a friend."

Timmy looked at the ground and fussed his feet among the grass, and he listened to the sobs of the cat from across the garden. "Did you mean all those things you said about me being a Tigermouse? I mean, do you think their true?"

"I don't know Timmy," Cindy said honestly, "they certainly could be. Don't you think?"

Timmy shrugged, "I don't know either." Before Cindy could respond Timmy was through the tall grass and making his way to the opposite side of the garden and Cindy followed after him.

Timmy stood at the edge of the tall grass where the cat had run to hide, "Mr. Cat, can you hear me in there?"

"Go away," sobbed the cat," I'll leave your stupid vegetables alone and I'll go far away from here and never bother you folks again." Timmy looked back at Cindy; putting both palms up and shrugging. Cindy stood firmly behind him and motioned him to continue with her hand. "Um, Mr. Cat… we uh… I'm real sorry about hitting you with the stick…" he looked back at Cindy; and she motioned for him to continue, "I'd uh… we'd uh.. really like it if we could be friends. I didn't mean to hurt you, I was just protecting my friend." He looked back at Cindy; she was smiling.

The grass rustled and the cat stood up from his hiding spot, "I'm sorry I was mean to you guys. I didn't mean any harm."

"You snapped at Cindy," argued Timmy, "and you almost slashed Rupert to pieces, you chased after him."

"To be fair," protested the cat, "I was sleeping, minding my own business. When that fellow woke me up last night I freaked out and didn't know what to do, my instincts got the better of me."

"You tried to eat us," complained Timmy, "and threatened to eat our village."

"I was scared," said the cat, ashamed, "it's tough out here for a lonely cat. You never know where your next meal is coming from, and you're always on the run from groups of wild cats. I was just trying to protect what little comfort I had found here in your vegetable patch."

"How did you wind up here?" asked Cindy.

"I was being chased by a group of wild cats," explained the cat, "their leader and I used to be friends. We had an argument and he scratched my eye out. I ran and ran for days and nights, until I got so tired and found this place. Then I laid down to take a long nap."

"Maybe we could be friends," said Cindy.

"Um.." Timmy wanted to object, he meant to continue his protest, but Cindy interrupted him.

"Timmy Tigermouse, I would think that a mouse such as you would be searching near and far for all the friends he could find." She stared at him, tapping one foot on the ground. "We should all be friends, so we can all take care of each other," she smiled. "Right Mr. Cat."

"I sure would like that," stated the cat, "I'd like to have both of you as friends."

Timmy looked at Cindy, then at the cat, "I'd like to have you as a friend also, we can all watch out for each other."

"Hello Mr. Cat," said Cindy, introducing herself, "I'm Cindy and this is my good best friend Timmy Tigermouse."

"Hello Cindy and Timmy," said the cat smiling and purring, "pleased to make your acquaintance."

"What's your name?" asked Timmy.

"Oh," the cat giggled, "you can call me Tom."

Timmy smiled and looked at his two new friends, "you're name is Tom?"

"Yeah," Tom smiled.

"You're a cat and you're name is Tom?"

"That's right," Tom purred, "what's the big deal?"

"Nothing," Timmy and Cindy smiled at each other as they led the way back across the garden.

"Hey," Cindy said smiling at Tom, "how about a ride, it's a long way back for us tiny mice."

Tom giggled, "sure, hop aboard."

And there they were; Tom the cat bounding through the wilderness with his two newest friends on his back; Cindy and Timid Timmy Tigermouse. When they returned to the village all the houses on the edge of town were empty, including Timmy's.

Timmy had stopped to see his Gram so he could introduce her to his new friends, but she was nowhere to be found. Timmy climbed back on Tom's back and they headed for the village square and the town hall. As they approached, elders and children alike lined the street watching in amazement as the two children seemingly had conquered the threat that had worried them all. Cindy tapped Timmy on the shoulder and pointed to Bartholomew in the crowd; who looked shocked and a little bit angry.

When they reached the square Rupert and Billy and Timmy's Gram and everyone from the village was there to greet them. Timmy and Cindy hopped off Tom's back and approached Rupert. Rupert looked at the two children quizzically and then at the cat, "what is the meaning of this?" he asked the children.

"This is our new friend, sir," said Timmy, "his name is Tom."

"Tom tried to eat me, Timmy."

"Rupert, sir," Timmy stammered, "he was just frightened sir. He had been through a long ordeal where he was being hunted by a group of wild cats. They meant him harm, and he found a place to rest in our garden, he was just frightened is all."

"We were all worried sick about you," explained Rupert, "your Gram went to your room and was frantic when you were missing. We were just putting together a search party to look for you and Cindy; her parents were worried sick."

"I'm sorry we caused so much trouble, is everyone okay?"

Rupert looked around the village square, "I think we're just fine now Timmy, that you're both safe and that our vegetable garden is safe." Rupert looked to Tom, "thank you for bringing our children back safe," Tom purred. "Where will you be going next?"

"You're welcome Mr. Rupert," stated Tom, "and I'm sorry I gave you all such a fright," he said looking through the crowd of mice. "I don't know," Tom explained, "I'd like to stay here with all of you and my new friends, Cindy and Timmy Tigermouse. I'd like it if all of you were my friends too."

Rupert smiled and laughed, "well, we could use some help guarding the garden."

Timmy, Cindy and Tom all smiled at that.

"Alright everyone," Rupert told the crowd, "thanks for all your help, now please return to your homes and be safe."

The crowd muttered "be safe" in return to Rupert and headed for their homes.

As the crowd dispersed, Timmy's Gram came forward and gave him a giant Grandma hug, "I'm glad you're alright Timmy, I was so worried about you."

"I'm sorry Gram," said Timmy, "I had to help my friend."

"That's a good boy," praised his Grandma, "we should get home now, you've got school tomorrow."

"Can I say goodbye to Cindy first?"

"Certainly dear."

Timmy approached Cindy who was standing in the square with her parents and Bartholomew. Timmy approached the group with his head down. Cindy's parents turned their noses up and huffed, Bartholomew did the same. "Thanks for saving me Timmy, I'm glad we could be friends," said Cindy. Bartholomew's jaw dropped open and he faked a gagging noise.

"I'm glad were friends too," Timmy blushed.

"There you go again Timmy Tigermouse," said Cindy as she came up to him and pinched one of his rosy red cheeks. "See you at school tomorrow," she walked away and headed for home.

Timmy went back by his Gram and said excitedly, "I can't wait for school in the morning. I'll get to see my friend again. And Grandma, I'll even eat my vegetables without complaining from now on, so I can grow up to be healthy and happy and so I can be here for my friends."

"That's good Timmy," Gram kissed him on the head and started for home. Timmy followed after her telling her all about his adventure with Cindy and his new friend Tom. Tom followed them down the road.

When they made it home, Timmy went right to bed; he grabbed his favorite book of the bookshelf and snuggled into his bed. He looked out the window at the moon, then whispered out the window, "Goodnight Tom."

Tom was nestled in Timmy and Gram's backyard, cozy and warm for the night. He began to purr, and whispered back up to Timmy, "Goodnight friend." Timmy's head hit his pillow and he was asleep almost instantly.