For about the tenth time, Toby tried in vain to lick the sticky stuff from his crusty, matted fur. Well, no one cared anyway. He was just a scruffy old alley cat who remembered once being handsome but tried not to think about it. Toby gave up grooming and got back to business.
Each evening when shadows were deep in the dimly lit alley, the big blue metal door creaked open, and Henry, the Pizza Shop owner, would toss out pizza bones on his way to the dumpster. Toby checked the cardboard boxes for left-over meat and cheese only after he’d gathered up every pizza bone he could and stashed them in his hideout in a dark and dusty corner of Henry’s basement.
Toby was well aware of three pairs of eyes watching him from the shadows, but a few curious little mice didn’t scare him. Just for fun, he turned and hissed, satisfied when the frightened mice scurried off into the darkness. But Toby didn’t know there were a lot more than three little mice that watched him greedily stash all the pizza bones each night; there were more than thirty mice, and they weren’t all little.
Days stretched into years went on as Henry tossed out old pizza bones, and Toby stashed them. At one point, Henry even began tossing small pieces of meat right in front of Toby’s nose! He never had to eat the old pizza bones again - the truth was Toby didn’t even like them. Yet, he never shared with the mice who drooled hungrily in the basement.
Winter arrived on a chilling, swirling wind one day when Henry didn’t come to the Pizza shop. Toby waited outside for hours and then days. He was dismayed when workers came and boarded up Henry’s front window. Toby’s hunger grew worse as days went by, and it became difficult to move because the cold made his bones ache. Bones? Why, yes! He had bones, all those crunchy yet delicious bones he’d stashed! He hobbled as fast as he could to the basement.
It was too dark to see, so Toby relied on his nose and whiskers for guidance as he crept across the cold basement floor. Just when he thought he should be getting close to where he’d stashed the bones, Toby banged his head on the wall. He shuffled slowly along in the dark until he was certain he was at the right spot. But all he could feel was the cold hard brick – and a small hole in the wall. Oh No! Had the sneaky mice been stealing all his pizza bones? All those nourishing bones that he hadn’t ever shared were gone. Toby slumped against the wall and cried as if he’d never stop.
A soft rustling came from a nearby mouse hole, and a small pink nose appeared.
“Huh?” Toby sniffed.
“I think you’ve almost it got it.”
“Got what? I’m hungry, cold, and lonely. That’s what I’ve got!” Toby went back to crying
“Shhh, you’ll be alright. Just adjust your attitude.”
“Attitude? What’s that got to do with…” Toby was confused, but he had stopped crying.
“You’ll see. I’ll be back soon.”
“Wait! Don’t go! “Toby stared at the hole in the wall. “It’s nice talking to you. I’ll adjust…” his words trailed off when the mouse didn’t reappear. He huddled in a ball near the hole in the wall, determined to wait for the mouse to return.
A very slight scraping sound woke Toby from a fitful sleep. His eyes flew open wide when he saw what was slowly being pushed through the small hole in the wall. A pizza bone!
“Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!” He yelped with delight and immediately began to gnaw on the bone before stopping himself.
“Here, would you like to share?” he said to the tip of a pink nose poking out of the hole.
After a couple of whisker twitches, the mouse sauntered cautiously out. “Why, yes. Yes, I would.”
In a short time, Toby was full, but he shivered from the cold. “I can’t thank you enough,” he began
“No need, my friend. It’s all in your attitude. You’ll be alright.”
‘My attitude is…gratitude…” Toby couldn’t seem to keep his eyes open.
The scruffy old alley cat slept long and warm that night with his belly full of food, and his heart filled with gratitude for his new-found friend.