It had been a long day at school, and Cheese was so glad that it was over.
When his teacher had announced to the class that it was his birthday, his classmates were quick to pester him about why he didn’t bring a treat, such as cinnamon rolls, brownies, or cookies. He wanted to sarcastically apologize for his mother not finding baking fun, but he kept his trap shut in case he ended up offending somepony.
They had sung “Happy Birthday” to him at the teacher’s urging, and then used recess as an excuse to bother him about not bringing some goodies to class as was tradition for birthday foals. The pressure from the chorus of complaints was enough to send Cheese climbing the usual tree, having to be plucked out by one of the pegasus teachers.
Those kids were jerks, and the ones who weren’t were just bored with him or too shy to try to get to know him. He knew that painful feeling.
Now at home and doing homework, he was thankful that his brother, Tomato, was having naptime–he loved the little munchkin, but he didn’t need any distractions lest Mom threw a fit. So, he pushing himself to hurry and finish so that he could visit his grandparents. Unlike his wet blanket of a mother, at least they were eager to celebrate his birthday.
After about a good hour of writing an essay on griffons at home, he had stuffed the paper into his saddlebag and danced in place at the excitement of a birthday tradition that his grandparents did whenever it was either his or Tomato’s birthday.
“Mom, I’m done with my homework! Can I go to Gramma and Grampa’s now?” he called.
“I don’t know… can you?” his mother called back.
Cheese rolled his eyes. He hated it when Mom did that. “Yes, I can… so may I go?
“Yes, you may. But wait just a minute, let’s see if your brother’s awake from his nap.”
Cheese heard the sound of a door opening, and like a rocket, Tomato had zoomed to the living room and tackled him. Cheese’s head was cushions by his bushy mane of curls, and few ponies knew that it was that way because he had such a hyperactive little brother.
Tomato hopped off him and bounced around Cheese as he picked himself up. “Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy! Did you get any presents from your friends at school? Did you? Did they sing Happy Birthday? Did you get any yummy treats? Did you get a cake and blow out the candles? You musta had lots of fun being the Birthday Colt!”
Tommy was silly. Cheese didn’t have any friends, because he was a shy weirdo. Tommy just thought Cheese had lots of friends because he thought his big brother was the coolest pony in the world; therefore, in the little colt’s mind, everypony thought the same. But, still, Cheese wanted to humor him.
“Nah, I didn’t get any presents, and I’m supposed to pass the treats when it’s my birthday,” he replied. “But they did sing Happy Birthday.”
Tommy pouted. “What’s the point of a birthday if you don’t get presents or treats?”
Cheese noogied him. “Don’t worry, Gramma and Grampa will do that. Now let’s go!”
He opened the front door, and was about to step out before he remembered something. He turned and bolted to his room, shouting, “Darn it! I almost forgot my accordion!”
Tommy blinked and shouted, “I’ll see you at Gramma and Grampa’s pizza place!”
“You’re not supposed to go without me, you little dummy!”
Tommy had already gone out the door, thinking he knew the way there.
It was getting dark when the two finally reached their grandparents’ pizzeria, and when Cheese had kicked open the door, the patrons in the restaurant turned to them, and recoiled at both the sight and smell of both him and Tommy.
Cheese did not want to describe the disgusting adventure he had in the sewer, thanks to Tommy being reckless once again and ending up plunging into a ponyhole. From having to swim in the gunk, to keep Tomato from drowning in it, and then climbing out of the hole and scaring off ponies that touched his accordion case, both he and his brother were a mess. So now, here he was, dripping wet and covered in smelly gunk, carrying his sheepish brother on his back and an accordion case in his mouth.
His grandmother, Cucumber Melon, trotted toward them, her face in a smile. “Oh, I am so glad you’re finally–” She staggered back at the sight. “My goodness! What happened?!”
Cheese set his case down and pointed to the little colt on his back. “He fell in the sewer, and I had to swim in icky water.”
Tommy had his tongue hanging out. “The water’s groooossss…”
Cucumber Melon wrinkled her nose. “To put it bluntly, you two look gross as well.” She picked up Cheese’s accordion case and set it on a table, then took Cheese’s hoof. “Come, boys, I’m taking you upstairs to give you a bath.”
Once Cucumber Melon had come back down with two squeaky clean little colts, she set them down on the counter, located her husband, Pizza Pockets, and told him it was time for Cheese’s birthday celebration.
Pizza Pockets took a pan and a spoon and drummed on it, getting the attention of the customers sitting at the tables scattered around the dining area. Setting them down, he announced, “I appreciate having you ponies and you families choose this restaurant for your dinners. We thank you heartily for your support of our business.”
Pizza looked at Cheese, who was in the process of opening the case. “Anyway, we are happy to announce that our grandson Cheese Sandwich has turned eight today!”
Ponies blinked, and then they smiled and clapped for the colt pulling out an accordion. Cheese blushed at the attention, and hid his face with the instrument. Beside him, Tommy was clapping for him too.
Pizza smiled and asked, “Cheese, would you like to show them how you’ve improved at playing the accordion?”
Cheese nodded, and then started to play. It was a simple tune that he played, and some of the notes were rather squeaky and abrupt, but it was played nicely for the most part. Some ponies were nice enough to clap along to the song, which made Cheese’s heart soar. It made him happy to see that ponies were actually enjoying his music, and he was quick to spot that the smiles were genuine.
He finished his song, and the restaurant clapped for him. Putting his accordion aside, Cheese hugged his tail, a little bashful from all the attention.
Tommy jumped up and shouted, “Isn’t my big brother the coolest?! He can make music!”
Pizza laughed and said, “Yes, he can, Tomato. Aren’t you happy that you know him? Because I know I am!”
“And so am I,” Cucumber Melon said, bringing out a large cake with eight candles. “Now, will you all join us in singing him a Happy Birthday?”
Tommy scooted over so that the cake could be placed between him and Cheese, and then everypony started to sing for the little eight-year-old. Cheese still hugged his tail, listening to the melody that was just for him. Sung by his family, and by strangers who just happened to be in the restaurant today, it was nice having some attention that was positive. No bullies, no Mom nagging, and no feelings of loneliness brought about by feeling like he didn’t belong.
It was a shame Mom and Dad didn’t seem to care enough to be a part of this.
Once the song was finished, he closed his eyes and thought of a wish. Then, he took a deep breath and blew out the candles, much to the applause of the customers.
Tommy rocked back and forth. “What’d you wish for?”
Cheese stuck his tongue out playfully. “If I tell you, it won’t come true.”
Tommy blinked, and then furrowed his brow in thought. “So that’s why I didn’t get that puppy I wanted…”
Cucumber Melon swept her eyes across the dining area and announced, “Who wants cake?”