Tangled Up in Blues
Written by The Descendant
Chapter 2: "The Ponyville Blues"
That summer had been awesome.
I returned to Ponyville just in time to catch a bustling party season. I played gigs that went on until obscene hours of the morning more than once I met my milkpony leaving my one little bottle as I was coming home.
"Cheers!" I would say, my eyes blurry and my sax case chiming with bits. I'd down the whole bottle in front of him before going upstairs to sleep for an immensely satisfying two hours before running off to whatever job I had organized that day.
Of course, if there were parties, Pinkie was there. She'd come up to the band and try to scream over the music. Of course she'd be in the middle of screaming into my ear when the music would stop and her cry of "Still trying to get that party for you together!" would ring in my ears for the rest of the night.
Of course, it ended. As the leaves changed color my last real job of the year was the closing ceremony of the "Running of the Leaves" marathon. I was almost late some pony had thought it funny to turn one of the signs around and I ended up halfway up a mountain before I realized that it wasn't the most likely spot for the venue.
That winter had been hard. My apartment had been rebuilt to exacting standards no gap smaller than an inch. It was so cold that I turned oh, right.
I did a lot of work that winter for Sweet Apple Acres, mostly hauling logs and stacking firewood that they would sell. In time I got to know more and more ponies and soon I had found that I had blended into the scenery of Ponyville, it seemed as though I was part of the very background of the city.
I learned what it was like to be an earth pony in Ponyville when winter was winding down and I received notice that I was to be part of the annual Winter Wrap-Up. I found this out when the most beautiful mare I had ever seen, this one named Rarity, delivered to me a brown vest that marked me as one of the "plant" or "earth tending" teams.
I realized pretty quickly that this was a rather important event for Ponyville, and that they put a lot of work into it. I mean, in Celestia's name, we had rehearsals for the theme song alone for three weeks beforehoof!
On the designated day I made my way to city hall, listened to the mayor's bland little speech, and then made my way to Sweet Apple Acres where Big Mac's sister Applejack, who must be the most beautiful filly I'd ever seen, instructed us on how we were to clear the fields of snow.
There was a part of me that wondered if perhaps it wouldn't be better to let the snow melt on the ground and therefore fertilize the good earth without extraneous effort but tradition is tradition I suppose.
Anywho, I hooked up to the plow and off I went, criss-crossing across the endless fields and trying my best to look like I knew what I was doing. I started getting into a groove after about the third time I tipped the stupid thing over in the ruts.
After a while I had gotten into a real cadence, and even though I was panting and heaving I felt like I was contributing, I really felt like I was part of the life of Ponyville. I really, really, really felt like I was part of a bigger story like I was really home.
I looked up the hill as I went by to see that one filly and her pet dragon talking with Applejack. The unicorn started down the hill and sat behind a plow. I puffed myself up and did my best, once again, to look like I knew what I was doing.
As she came down the hill I saw that she moving pretty quick. Of course, the closer she came the faster she went.
Of course, as she came racing by, her face full of fear and surprise, her cries filling my ears, I could almost picture what would happen next. It happened in slow motion, one continuous drawn out expression of misfortune
With that, the most beautiful filly I'd ever seen, unintentionally but factually plowed snow all over me. It filled my ears, it went in my eye, the little bits of dirt from the field that clung to it entered my mouth, crunching in my teeth. The big old dirty wet snow of a dying winter slid over me, soaking me
I turned my face to the horizon, and as her screams again grew near I sat there resigned to the pounding inevitability of it all
With that, she did it again, and this time I am utterly covered with it.
I clean myself off, shivering from the cold. I hear Applejack yelling at her. I heard the filly, Twilight Sparkle, start to cry and she began to run away. I was not enough of a stallion to stop her and tell her that it's okay. Instead my back was to her as she went, and I am instead upset, and I wondered if this is what Moody meant by mares being a good source of the blues.
I can't even begin to image how wrong I am. Within hours my education will begin.
Twilight Sparkle, that filly, saved Winter Wrap-Up, and I'm happy for her and her pet dragon. I am asked by the mayor to play with an ensemble at a party marking the end.
There's a small crowd, most ponies being too tired for festivities after their exertations of that day. Those who are there are vibrant and happy though, rejoicing that the winter was now gone and the spring now here.
Once again Pinkie Pie was there. Once more she screamed "We'll have that party for you soon!" into my ear at exactly the wrong moment, exactly as the music ended. I suggested a date as my ears rang, one I selected at random and long way off in the future. She frowned and said she had a party for an alligator planned for that day.
As I play I can't help but see that one unicorn is keeping to herself, she's drifting around the party, speaking to nopony, but trying to seem involved.
She notices me looking at her, our eyes meet, and I look away. This happens again and again. As my set ends she canters over to me, and I blush. She's the most beautiful filly I've ever seen.
"Hey, I'm Seafoam," she says.
"I'm Blues, nice to meet you."
I stare at the unicorn for a few seconds. We talk about music, the weather, what she does for a living. As the lights come down we walk together through Ponyville's streets, talking about stuff. As it gets colder I find her leaning into me, seeking warmth. It is an incredible sensation.
I walk her home to her apartment. Her roommate does a horrible job of eavesdropping as we wrap up our conversation.
"So," she asks, "are we dating or what?"
I'm stunned, and I stammer like an idiot for a second.
"Yeah yeah, sure," I say, "Would you like to go to dinner tomorrow?"
"Yes yes I would," she says, turning and heading up the steps into her apartment, bumping into the poorly hidden roommate as she does.
"See you tomorrow."
"Absolutely," I answer as she smiles at me and the door closes. I don't go back to my apartment. I walk the streets for hours. Even as Luna's moon glides away, I walk. Even as it gets frosty and the pale dawn hides awaiting Celestia's magic, I walk.
"Cheers," I say, greeting my milkpony, and then finally I go to bed.
The next two months are the most...interesting, of my life to that point. Seafoam is a beautiful girl, smart, and seemingly very happy. She was a lot more, well fluid than I am. She liked experiencing new things, new ponies, new ideas. She's was also very physical she wanted to be next to me, lay with me, wrap herself around me.
I hadn't pictured it somepony actually wanting to rub beside me, to lay her head into mine, to run hers up my crest to my withers and back. That somepony wanted that of me. A kiss as I came off the stage, given to me, waiting for me.
Like all unicorns, her magic is visible, radiating from her horn. To an earth pony, whose magic lies within, it's always amazing to me to see it at work.
"So, ummm," I stammer as we sit beside the fountain, throwing bread to the ducks, "What is the basis of your magic? What does it revolve around?"
"Oh, this," she answers, dividing the water in the fountain into cubes that float through the air.
"So," I say, leaning closer to her, placing my hoof on hers, "Why are you here in Ponyville? Wouldn't your powers be better used in well, a place close to the ocean, or besides a lake?"
With that the cubes crash to the earth, and she pulls my hooves around her.
"Can we talk about something else?" she asks, her voice breaking a bit.
"Sure, yeah sure," I answered, just the littlest bit of panic in my voice.
In hindsight, I understand Seafoam. She was a flighty thing, unsure of herself. I think of her as though she was looking for a clarion call as though she was listening for a song to call her home. It's like she was a female bird listening for the call of a male to bring her to a new nest site.
That's the best way to look at it, I think, considering what happened next.
We are down in the market as spring is fading into summer. The first round of crops were available and we were looking them over, embracing the scents of the freshly pulled vegetables and picked fruit.
At once I come around a corner, and she's staring. I followed her gaze, and it lands square on a huge freakin' pony who's at least twice the stallion I am. I think the jerk assaulted the testosterone reserves and plundered them all just to grow his chest hair. His beard alone looks like it absorbed half of the manliness in Ponyville.
"Hey!" he cried, holding aloft a tool of some organized sport of which I have no real interest, "Who's been using my racket?"
As he looked the crowd over Seafoam stared, her mouth hanging open. Suddenly I hear Moody's voice in my head, "Mares, colt, mares," and I begin to understand.
She is quiet for the rest of the day. We go to dinner, speaking about trivialities, and I can see her mind racing. She kept looking up, kept meeting my eyes and then looking away.
You're flitting away from me, little bird.
Is my song not clarion enough, does it not invite you?
We walked by the river, over the bridges. Out past the gardens where insects came and went, silently standing together watching the wind blow through the sea of grass outside the city, past the statue of the pony that stands namelessly in the path that leads to the forest this is where, I knew, our story was ending.
I walk her up to her apartment.
"Blues," she says with a sigh, "Can we talk?"
"It's not you it's me "
"I think we should see other ponies "
Just make glue out of me.
"I hope we can still be friends "
"Sure," I say, "Good luck with everything."
I felt that was a better way to go about it than ripping my beating heart out of my chest and flinging it before her as I wailed and begged for Celestia to smite me with the power of the sun and let my ashes drift away on the four winds.
She forced a smile, turned, and entered her apartment. Her roommate, whose name I never asked, gave me one long confused look and then closed it behind her.
I don't go back to my apartment. I walk the streets for hours. Even as Luna's moon glides away, I walk. Even as it gets frosty and the pale dawn hides awaiting Celestia's magic, I walk.
I met my milkpony at about four. He stared at me, and I back at him. "Bad night, kid?" he asks.
"Not particularly good."
He gave me my usual little bottle of 2%, but stopped me before I can open it. He rifled through his cart, pulling out a bottle of chocolate milk.
"On the company," he said, shaking the bottle. He placed it in my hoof and I flipped off the cap, letting it circle on the paving stones.
"Cheers," I answered, slowly sipping. He moves on as the dawn rises, and soon the smells of the city come to life. Bread in the bakery, breakfasts of all types, and stale water being released from cisterns these all reach me as I sit on the stones outside the Quill & Sofa.
I went upstairs. As I put away my sax I take a second to look at Moody's beautiful hoof written label once more.
"Do I have questions for you, old stallion, do I have questions for you "
Then I slept.
Two weeks later I played a gig for some sporting event, a lunch benefit for some charity or another at a local club. As the band started up the athletes are introduced. They come in one at a time, our music playing, the cameras of the paparazzi flashing as they smiled their perfect smiles.
I recognized him right away, the bearded one with all of the manliness. I am utterly unsurprised that Seafoam is by his side.
How is your new roost, Seafoam, is his the song you've been waiting for or are you soon to hop to another fencepost and listen once more?
She doesn't see me, thank Celestia, but as soon as our first few songs are done and we take our first break I dump all of my bits into the cases of the other musicians and leave.
As I do I see her face one last time. Her expression is exactly the same as it was when we were dating. She's unchanged. I am different.
I followed the little rivulet that runs through the club down to a brook. The brook led to a stream; the stream led to a mill trace near one of the bridges across the river.
I sat there and played. I played a song that I had written in mere moments.
"Oh, my baby done left me for another stallion," it went, or at least I suspect it would have went if it had words, "and now I am so sad." It is exactly the same as half of the other blues songs I've ever heard, half I've ever played but now I understand them, now they are part of my song.
Moody was right. Now the song gets really good the worse it goes for me, the better the blues became.
I looked up to the bridge above the river, and realized that my song has attracted a listener. There stood the older stallion with the crumpled hat and white beard. I don't have to explain to him what the song is about. I don't have to tell him a huge backstory. He knows knows just from the way that I am playing and how the music is flowing he knows.
"You poor bastard " he says, and throws me two bits. I caught them as he trundled off once more, cart behind.
I laid there, my sax next to me, as the water raced through the mill trace, as the big wheel went around and around and around, making soft wet wooden sounds in a perfect cadence. The wind jostled the tree above me, and the little seeds come falling down in whirligig patterns around me.
I stood up, carefully removed the seeds, and made my way back into Ponyville.
Pinkie Pie was the most beautiful filly I'd ever seen. In that unhappy time, when I had come up the hill from beside the mill, that was utterly true, if only momentarily.
"Heya' Blues!" she called, running up beside me, bouncing around me in a circle, "I know we haven't had time to throw you a party, and I really wanna throw ya' a party, 'cause I'm really good at parties "
I watched, smiling for the first time that day, wondering if she would ever take a breath. One was not evident as she continued.
" but it's really nice to have something or somebody just kinda show ya' that they're glad you're here, and since you are here, and since we all kinda' know you now having a 'Getting to Know Ya' party wouldn't work "
Here she took a single long breath and I, expecting another long diatribe, sat.
" so I baked you a cake! C'mon!" she called, bouncing away.
I fumbled to my hooves, quickly following as best as I could as I fought to get the saxophone case strap across my neck while cantering along.
We arrived outside the place where Pinkie worked, Sugarcube Corner, and she told me to wait outside.
She emerged with a huge cake. She then scolded me for not having closed my eyes, so she went back inside, and I closed them.
"Surprise!" she shouted, bounding out once more with the cake. I opened my eyes and beheld it, once more, in its grandeur. It was a beautiful cake, truly. It was three layers, and the frosting was blue. And I mean it was the real frosting, not that cheap stuff that stains your skin whatever color it had been dyed.
I looked it over as she talked in her usual rapid style, "So, ya' know I've seen you at a lot of parties, and when I see ponies at parties I try to figure out what they like, so I saw that you liked chocolate cake and vanilla cake and marble cake, and angel food cake and devil's food cake only thing you don't seem to like is the cheap frosting "
As she went on I examined it further. It had little eight-notes, each one carefully made with that gel icing, the type that you sneak out of the cupboard to suck right out of the tube when you're a foal. Atop it was, of all things, a perfect little saxophone, made of pressed sugar. It must have taken her all night.
" it took me all night, but here ya' go! Enjoy!" she said, presenting it to me.
"Thank, thank you so much Pinkie I, I'm so grateful," I muttered, "Thank you so much."
"You're welcome!" she cried, and then to no pony's surprise more than my own, she lent in and gave me a quick hug. It didn't last nearly long enough.
In a moment she is bounding back within Sugarcube Corner, and I, cake in hoof and with saxophone slung around my shoulders and withers, am left standing in the afternoon sun.
I make my way slowly, oh so slowly, down the cobbled streets towards the Quill & Sofa. My each step is excruciating. My will was bent on the cake, my cake. It took on an individual identity. It was now not just a cake, but Cake. I forced myself only to see the street ahead, to concentrate only on Cake and Cake-centered concerns.
I decided that Cake would be shared with people I know. Since my little icebox already had difficulty containing my milk and luncheon meats Cake would not have long to live. The top layer would be dinner but the pressed sugar saxophone I'd save.
The bottom two layers
I decided that Cake will sit on my nightstand until I could buy some paper plates and disposable forks, and then I would, with a touch of sadness, divide Cake into pieces and distribute Cake to everyone who no not everyone
No, that is a distraction, I thought. Right now, I thought, Cake must be delivered safely home. My world shrank to about thirteen inches in diameter around Cake if a manticore had been chewing on my hind-flanks I wouldn't have known about it until it I tried to sit. Princess Celestia could be battling a coven of earth witches three feet from me and, unless they were using Cake-based spells, I would have been utterly unaware.
My world became an endless agonizing repetition of one sure hoof-fall and then the next until I could see the Quill & Sofa on the horizon.
When I reflect on what happened next, something unusual happens. I think my subconscious tries to protect me, and I begin viewing the proceedings not as I did then, but instead as though I am floating above the scene, as though I'm having an out-of-body experience.
In short, my mind tries to save me from having to go through that again, so it lets me watch it from outside myself.
I watch my own ears perk up as somepony calls, "Watch out below!" I see my eyes go wide, and in the space of fractions of a second my expression goes from immediate alarm to that of resigned sadness.
From high above a filly swoops in, tumbling through the air. It's one of Pinkie's friends, and the most beautiful filly I'd ever seen. The pegasus, Rainbow Dash, wheels between buildings, falling over and over herself through the sky, bouncing off of walls, skidding along the street for just an instant before igniting her wings in an attempt to regain control.
I watch in slow motion as the heads of ponies all around turn in alarm. I see that my eyes have closed down, and I've bit my lower lip, as though knowing that there is only one place where the misfortunate mare could possible end her calamitous descent.
Her "landing" catches me square in the middle of my back, traveling forward. Her body crashes into mine with a poetic anarchy, her form wheeling over, mine arching down to the ground in just the perfect way to send my prize flinging through the air and then along the cobblestones, exactly with the correct force and momentum to make it smear across the paving stones completely.
Oh, Cake, we hardly knew ya'.
As I watch from above, circling ephemerally, I see the action speed up, and I watch as she makes a graceful recovery, slipping only slightly on a bit of the remains of Cake. I watch as a sheepish grin makes its way over her face.
I see that I'm laying there with no expression on my face at all, just lifting my head to view what is left of Cake and listening to the ponies that once more simply walk by.
"Hey, buddy Blues, right? Yeah, Blues. Sorry about that," begins the pegasus, shaking the remains of Cake off of her hoof. "I was trying this new trick ya' see and it kinda got away from me it's supposed to be this kinda roll into a descending spiral, but I kind rolled through the spiral and well, yeah, you get the picture."
I see how she stops and looks at me. I watch as I say nothing, my eyes just becoming more and more distant. She now bites her lower lip and looks the scene over.
"Hey, sorry about your cake. I'll I'll buy you a new one "
I see myself reaching out one hoof. My floating self looks down to see my physical body reaching for something as she continues talking. There, in front of me, is the little saxophone, the one made out of pressed sugar. I reach for it, I try to tenderly lift it from the cobblestones and as I do it breaks into tiny fragments, each crumbling away in my hoof.
I'm looking at it as she stops speaking and again she is biting her lip. After viewing this from afar a few hundred times I've begun feeling bad for Rainbow Dash. She didn't realize what she had done, of course, and she hadn't done it on purpose.
But it still didn't make it hurt any less.
"Hey, hey," she states as let the sugar slide away, "are you hurt? I didn't hurt ya' when I crashed err, failed to recover? I'm sorry really, and again I'll pay for "
Her eyes go wide.
" are you crying? Blues? Are you "
I was, I was crying.
I was crying in short little bursts that eventually gave way to long rolling sobs. The tears fell from me as I lay there in the middle of the street, ponies looking on as they went by, as I lay there smeared with the remains of Cake, the beautiful pegasus dancing uncertainly around me as she tried to figure out what was wrong.
"Hey, hey...there's no need really, are you hurt? I said I'd pay for "
Then she nuzzles me. Nuzzles me! All I can do is cry more realizing how pathetic I must seem.
I don't want another cake, I don't want her to buy me one. I want Cake. I want the cake that Pinkie Pie made for me for me, Blues because she wanted me to be happy, to know that I'm supposed to be here.
I want Seafoam to come back to me.
I want to live in an apartment without cracks in the wall.
I want sell recordings of my music.
I want a meal that doesn't come out of a can or that I mooch off of my friends.
I want my perfect song about ships and the sea and dead captains to have stayed on the damned rocks.
I want to be any color other than blue.
I want to be free of them, but instead I'm tangled up in blues, I'm rolling around in them until they've soaked me through
All of these things reach me as I hover above the scene. The feelings I had then reach me even as I float above my body, watching as Rainbow Dash nuzzles me and tries to get me to talk, as she dances around in worry, as she actually begins calling for help for help!
I simply can not be far away enough, can not climb high enough inside the protective layer in my mind, to be away from the consuming frustration, sadness, and feeling of utter, complete, and total unfairness of it all.
The next memory I had, as I slid back into my body, was of the following morning. As Celestia rolled the sun out from where it had been hiding I was already walking away from Ponyville, my saxophone slung over my withers, my need and purpose for the place having firmly ended.