Tangled Up in Blues
Written by The Descendant
Chapter 5: "The Penny's Worth Blues"
We had set Finder's Day Weekend as our opening weekend target. We actually were probably ready to go before then, but we rehearsed, went over the fire codes with the fireponies twice for safety, and took our time hiring the best barkeeps, bouncers, and janitors we could find. Our non-discretionary funds would last through the end of that month, so we made sure we had everything set up to go.
As this time of waiting came around I sat on the veranda that surrounded the old dance hall playing my sax and garnering the interest of passers-by. Often Miss Rarity, who owned Carousel Boutique across the road, would come by and check on us, and we were happy to have such a great neighbor.
Play sax, meet new ponies, distribute fliers. Recycle, redo, reuse.
As I did this one day I noticed something unusual. One of the posts that supported the roof of the veranda had taken on an unusual foal-shaped lumpiness.
As I watched the lump I continued to play and as I did two eyes settled out from behind the post. It was a little filly, a little blank-flank with a fearful look in her eyes. As I played she continued to watch me.
I had never seen a look like that in the eyes of child before. Children should not look so sad. Life would be hard enough. That was one fact I knew for sure. Before I could rationalize what I was doing I was speaking to her through my saxophone.
"I see you" implied my song, "you silly thing."
With that she became self-conscious and began to walk away. As her hooves hit the ground I played tiny little notes, giving her motions music just to have some fun, hopefully get one laugh out of her before she disappeared.
At once she turned, a fierce look on her face, and she came galloping back over. As she did I played "Tallyho!" and she became self-conscious once again. As she went away I played light little music, as light as a saxophone can, to give her the impression that she was flying.
She turned around gain and came stomping back. As she did so I played great ponderous notes, aiding sonically to her attempt to intimidate me.
"I was gonna tell ya'," she yelled, utterly ignoring all of the good and practical information her parents had hopefully imparted to her about interaction with strangers, "that I've got a horn like that!"
"It's a saxophone," I replied, regarding her with one eye, suddenly realizing that I was an older single male pony talking to a filly-foal that, based on my best information, I was not related to and I did not know, "And didn't your daddy tell you not to talk to strangers?"
"My daddy doesn't come see me anymore."
She looked at me as those fierce eyes fell away to something less. I pulled my legs up onto the veranda, and opened the door behind me. Ponies coming and going in all directions could see us now, it was now a public space. I would stay on the veranda. She would stay in the street. Okay, good
"I'm Blues," I said, "Do you play it often?"
"I'm Penny's Worth," she said, her face becoming much softer, a hint of a smile "and I can't play it it's too big for me. But but I'd like to hear what it could sound like "
So, I played. I played nothing too bluesy, nothing too sad. Soon she stood with a smile and cantered away, and that, I assumed, was that.
Until the next day when she did the exact same thing, and the day after and for a week following.
I appreciated the audience, but it was a little creepy.
One day I emerged onto the veranda, opening the doors again not only in anticipation of the juvenile section of my fan club but also to let the last bit of dust out of the dance hall.
We had decided, even though we weren't going to officially open for a month, that since we already had the staff on the payroll and the place ready, that we should have a "stealth opening" that night.
We would do this just to try it out, just to see how we do, see if there's anything we could do to make adjustments so that the "real" opening would be perfect.
Well, as perfect as we could make it, we the colts who were once assaulted by a drop ceiling.
As I put the doorstops in place I looked around for Penny's Worth. Seeing as none of my posts were deformed I assumed that she had simply tired of it and moved on
C'est la vie whatever that means.
I sat down to start rehearsing once again when I happened to glance up. What I saw in that fleeting moment almost made me swallow my entire sax in driving and consuming fear.
There, in the distance, I saw Penny being lead by one of her hooves into a group of ponies, her eyes back towards me, looking directly to me across that distance, wide with a nameless emotion.
Something moved inside me that I had never felt before, something I cared never to feel again.
I dropped my sax and leapt from the veranda, galloping full tilt across the green and up the street. I dived into the herd of ponies that were making their way this way and that, obviously unaware of the situation as I saw it.
"Penny?" I called, restrained at first, but soon louder, "Penny?!"
I weaved through the crowd, and there, right up on the edge of the square, I caught sight of her bubbly pink mane, that sand colored coat as she disappeared around the corner, still being lead by the hoof, looking around bewildered.
I am there in an instant, breathing hard, interjecting myself between her and the pony who was leading her away.
"Penny!" I cried, standing tall, my body ready to do anything, to tear into the monster, "Penny, do you know this pony?!"
"Oh hi, Blues!" she says with a giggle, "I was wondering if you saw me! This is my mommy!"
"Awkward," I thought as I deflated, "Also, potentially felony-inducing."
I looked down across Penny into the horrified eyes of the pony who had quickly gathered her into her forelegs as I had darted among them. Penny, mistaking it for an embrace, answered her mother's hug.
I looked into the eyes, now defiant and challenging, of the mare. Despite her countenance I saw the most beautiful mare I had ever seen, and also saw that she was determined to either find out who I was and how I knew her daughters name, call for help at the top of her lungs, or beat me to death with a nearby pump handle.
I looked up to see that we were in fact just outside Sugarcube Corner.
"Fancy a doughnut?" I asked, heaving for breath, hoping to bring about the first one to the exclusion of the others.
After a few graceless minutes Pinkie Pie had brought us our orders.
"Bluesy, Bluesy, Blusey's back! Now he's gonna take a whack at bringing back our dancing shack " sang Pinkie as though she had just learned that I was back in Ponyville.
Her song ended with another one of her amazing hugs, and as I blushed Penny giggled as only a little filly can at an outward sign of affection.
Pinkie Pie had always been dear to me, she had always shown me remarkable kindness and concern. It was to no pony's surprise more than my own that I'd never fallen in love with her. Maybe ponies only fill certain roles in our lives maybe it's just as simple as we can't choose the ones we fall in love with.
"So," began Taffy Twists, Penny's mother, "this is the Blues you've been telling me about, Penny? In Celestia's name, Penny! He's a grown-up! A stranger! I thought you were talking about one of your little classmates, not a grown adult pony!"
For the first time since I had arrived back in Ponyville I was sickened at being called an adult. Adults know better than to strike up an acquaintance with a foal they just find on the street. Maybe I'm not so wise, Dad.
"You don't know what this stallion could have done! He could have taken you off to a salt mine in Appleoosa!"
"He could be a mean pony who "
"He's not mean, mom!" cried Penny, defending me out of the blue, "He's silly and kinda stupid!"
I smirked for an instant. Out of the mouths of foals. It was, though, perhaps the most accurate description of myself I'd ever heard. I quickly beat down the smirk and made the responsible part of myself rise up.
"Your mother is absolutely right, Penny, you had no way of knowing what type of pony I am on the inside. You can't tell anything about a pony from the way they look, you can't read their hearts "
"And where were you, young lady, when you were meeting with Blues?" she said, that worried mother part of her very, very, very close to the surface, "Tell me the truth "
"I was just kinda standing in the street listening to him play," said Penny, confusion evident in her voice, "Why?"
Her mother blanched.
"Because if something had happened to you, like if you got hurt, your mother would need to know to look in all the places where you should be. That's why you sat in the street and listened while I sat on the porch and played, where everypony could see us. That's why I opened the door to my club, so that my band could see everything and know we were safe and why I never invited you in "
Her mother looked to me, then to Penny. "Is that what happened?" she asked in quieter tones.
"Yeah," replied Penny, quickly returning to munching on her cider doughnut.
Her mother looked at her, then at me, then drank some of her coffee. Penny lifted her hot chocolate, and I my spiced cider. The cool afternoon of the autumn day was drawing over us, and the Indian summer was quickly drawing to a close. I looked up as Taffy addressed me.
"That was a wise decision to make, Mr. Blues."
"You are absolutely justified in feeling the way you feel," I stated, nibbling at my cider doughnut, "It is how any parent would feel how I would feel if a child of mine was in such a situation. I am sorry for the worry this has caused you. Really, I am truly, truly sorry."
"However," spoke Taffy Twists, addressing me personally, "why would you, then, strike up a conversation with my daughter, sir?"
I would not lie. That could only make the situation worse. I took a deep breath.
"Because I had never seen such a sad child. I just wanted to see if I could make her happy just one laugh."
I dropped my gaze to my cider. I felt Taffy Twists eyes on me for a long while afterward.
"And what is it you do, Mr. Blues?" she asked. I explained that I was of the owners of the new club, and a saxophonist. I explained how it was Penny's interest in my playing that had her brought her close to my porch.
Taffy Twists continued to stare at me for what felt like an eternity. Before long though, to my surprise, we are standing at the door of The New Blue Flag.
"Can I really go in?" Penny asked her mother. Taffy nodded, and at once the foal dashes within.
"This place is amazing!" called the little foal, spinning around, prancing jubilantly across our polished dance floor.
"Hey! Lookee here!" said Lucky, carrying a few instruments to their positions, "Looks like your Streetside Appreciation Society finally made an interior appearance!"
I looked quickly to Taffy, and I can see from her expression that she was now truly beginning to see that Penny had never been inside, that we had both been telling the truth.
As I give them both the tour we get another guest. Miss Rarity, our dear neighbor, arrives and to our amazement she has brought us all a "good luck" gift. The four of us look on in awe as she reveals costumes for us to wear. They are incredible each reflecting our unique personalities, but each complimentary of each other.
Mine, of course, is blue. Tiny cobalt gemstones cover it, yet it is incredibly light, and I sense there is magic in it. It is the finest piece of clothing I have ever owned.
As we put them on I heard Rarity speaking to Taffy. I eavesdropped as her beautiful voice oscillated up and down.
" and please tell your cousin Bon Bon to pick up her oh, for months now No! These? Wonderful neighbors gentlecolts each of them Oh my! She's yours! I didn't she's beautiful, Taffy! no, only out on the street, darling, from the porch as far as I saw "
And, finally, to my immense relief, "I've known Blues for going on two years oh, yes gentlecolt."
I heard a "bwargle" sound, a sound that had as much meaning to me as my mother's voice, and I turned to see something that made me very happy. Short had produced his own first sax, a tiny one, a foal's sax.
She had ignored all of the good and practical advice her mother had given her about not putting strange things in her mouth and put the reed to her lips. She did so again as Short pressed the keys, opening the valves, and in an instant she had played the first bars of "The Wheels on the Cart", sorta.
Her mother looked at her, her mouth hanging open. "You can borrow it," said Short, "if you come back for lessons from Blues. I play the base and harmonica now, so, I don't need it plus I'm all grown up, too bad about that, huh?"
"Really? I can?" Penny answered happily. Her mother walked over slowly, and nuzzled her daughter. "Okay, Penny's Worth," she said, "we have to let these stallions get ready for their show."
"But, but can I come back sometime? Can Mr. Blues give me lessons?" she asked, grabbing onto her mother's hoof, dropping to the dance floor as an immobile Equestrian lump.
All was quiet.
"We'll see," she answered, "We'll talk about it tonight."
For Penny that was as good as a yes, and the little foal ran happily around the wide open room, whooping and hollering joyfully, bringing obscene amounts of joy to the faces of the four colts and two mares there gathered.
I walked them to the door, the other colts thanking Rarity over and over.
" and we have an unofficial kind of opening tonight, and next week, but we'll open officially in three weeks, on Finder's Day weekend," I said, giving her the official spiel. Before I had even thought of it the words, "I'd love to have you here for any of them," had fallen from my lips, and she gave me a cross stare.
Another mare had given me a similar stare once a mare hidden behind walls she'd built to protect herself. What constitutes your wall, Taffy Twists? Why did you build yours?
I looked back to the floor as we reached the doors, examining the doorsill. "Mr. Blues," she said, Penny hanging off her leg, "Thank you for being honest with me."
"I'm sorry to have caused you any concern," I said, nodding to her, "I'd love to give those lessons somepony did so for me once "
She looked at me again, this time regarding me with a pondering expression, and with a nod of her own she and Penny were out the door, Penny waving to me as they cantered away.
I watched them go for a long while.
The hours sped by, and we ate little and talked less. As eight chimed from the Ponyville clock we started to play slowly, our barkeep put ice in glasses, and the bouncers, Tuff Stuff and Pink Bunny, took up positions at the door.
For a half of an hour, we played to ourselves. That was fine, this was the test opening, no biggy.
At eight-thirty Davenport became our first customer. He was followed soon after by my former milkpony. Almost instantly after that came the old stallion with the crumpled hat and white beard. He slowly came up to the stage and put more bits in my case, but this time he only smiled at me, and I back at him. Our traditional conversation no longer applied, and instead I quickly changed the song to one closer to his era.
Soon ponies were trickling within.
I looked up to the door to see the massive, hulking, brutal form of Pink Bunny, our bouncer, giving me a questioning look. He pointed down and there stood Twilight Sparkle's pet dragon. I made a motion through the air and Pink drew a big "X" on his clawed hand with a grease pencil, allowing him inside.
As we took our first break I introduced myself to the dragon, the first I had ever spoken with. I soon learned that he wasn't a pet, but instead something more like a cross between a personal secretary and an adoptive son!
"Here kid, on the house," I said, returning with an ice cream sundae with garnet sprinkles, somehow hoping to make amends for my years of misunderstanding. As he ate we talked about life, the living of life, the socio-economic implications of fire-based communications systems and mares, mostly mares.
As he spoke about Twilight, and another pony he didn't want to name, I saw something in him. I remembered something I had seen him do once, and a thought shot through my mind for a second.
"Hey, kid, can you read sheet music?"
"Ummm, yeah why?" he asked.
Fifteen minutes later Spike the Baby Dragon became our first guest performer, playing a variation of the "Hard Baby" song I had written as I left Cherry behind, tapping it out on our old piano.
"How does a kid that young know how to play the blues like that?" asked Bluegrass. I just hung my head and chuckled, channeling Moody.
"Mares, colt, mares!"
As the crowd left I saw that Taffy Twists hadn't come, and I was surprised by how depressed that made me.
A few days later I sat on our porch, practicing once more.
I looked up to see a familiar face smiling broadly at me, so close to me in fact that it filled my vision.
"Does your mother know you're here?" I asked.
"Yup!" replied Penny, "and she says I can sit on the porch, too but I can't go inside, yet."
She waited while I grabbed Short's sax. I set it up for her on a stand at first, letting her lift it a little bit longer each time she came to take a lesson. By the end of the first week she can hold it for almost the entirety of the scales, and she can play them as well.
"You did very well, Penny," I tell her as her lessons come to an end for the week, "You're learning very fast."
"As fast as you learned?" she asked.
I'll not lie to her. "No," I said, watching her face drop, "I had learned a different instrument first, so picking up a saxophone was easy, plus, I had a special type of magic."
"Magic?" she says, her eyes sparkling, "Like the type the unicorns my mommy works with use?"
"Well," I said as I rocked back and forth a bit, "yes and no. All of us Equestrians have magic, even us earth ponies, but this magic was unusual, you see. It was already in me it was the way I used something "
"Used what?" she asked, going silent, standing closer, as though she expected it to be a secret.
"My hurt the things that make me sad, in my heart," I said, placing my hoof to my chest, "A wonderful old pony showed me how to use them to make something better something beautiful."
Penny looked at me, then stared at the saxophone. Silence was our companion on the porch for a few minutes, and I listened to Ponyville pass by as she stared at it.
To my amazement, she reached out for the saxophone, and standing, took it to her lips and then stared at me. It took me a minute to understand, to see what she was asking, but when I did I closed my eyes and told her I what I had realized over those years.
"Picture the sadness, Penny, the way it wraps around your heart, the way it sits behind your eyes. Imagine it turning into a liquid, like melted gold then, then make it turn into a mist. Now, make the mist the music."
Bwargle. Bwargle, bwargle, bwargle toot. Toot, toot, tweet. Toot, tada toot, tada toot toot tweet
My eyes opened to the picture of an unsteady Penny playing an uncertain version of "The Wheels on the Cart". I was amazed at it, I was overcome by it. My mouth moved up and down, my eyes went wide.
"I guess I'm sad sometimes too," she said. In one quick motion she had placed it on the stand, given me a big bear hug, and cantered off towards home.
I watched the street for long moments after she had already disappeared. I then stood, went inside the New Blue Flag. There I stared up to Moody's altar until I felt the need for dinner.
That night was our second "super-secret" unofficial opening night. It wasn't much of a secret. The crowd was larger, livelier. In their midst I saw my old friend Big Macintosh. He was wrapped up in bandages his war wounds must have been acting up again. During our break Spike played a couple of songs while I met with Big Mac, the huge stallion embracing me in his massive forelegs. I realized I hadn't checked in when I had returned
We talked about life, the living of life, and the obscene frailty of the apple commodities market and mares, mostly mares.
Spike ran off, running on all fours in a spectacular effort to be home before his curfew, so, we did another set and then asked our guests to return the next week for our official opening.
As they left I looked them over and I realized that I had been hoping that one pony had come. But, she hadn't. I wanted to show Taffy Twists what I really was how I was. I didn't know why, but for some reason I found myself wanting her approval.
That week was a blur. It was one part preparing the building for our opening, fixing the few things that had gone wrong (toilet tanks aren't load bearing who knew?), and watching Penny grow in her skills.
I had never paid much attention to foals. They simply weren't part of my life as a young male single stallion. I had no siblings, so I was nopony's uncle, so that was that. But, as soon as Penny had showed her magic, had let it cascade forth like that, suddenly she became an important part of my world.
We shared that special inner magic magic that Moody had revealed in me. He had brought it out in me by giving me his first sax. I had brought it forth in Penny by just showing her that she mattered enough to be given a chance.
"Mommy said that I should wait here for her to come and get me, rather than go home," said Penny as our lessons began that week, "she has to work later than usual, so wait here. That's what she said."
Okay, fine not a problem. Unless, like, I had other plans, but fine.
Not all of my time with Penny was spent playing the sax. She would have homework on her mind, sometimes, and we'd work on that. The things they make kids learn these days! Really, teaching them the Pythagorean theorem in first grade? I was in third before they had us working at that!
Sometimes we didn't even do that much. Sometimes, especially when it was the start of the weekend, we'd just sit and watch ponykind flit by.
Just like I had with Moody.
But that week, the one before we opened the place up to (what we hoped would be) the teaming masses was pretty much spent just on her hoofing of the sax, letting her learn where they were supposed to fall when she made the notes on her scales.
"Think of that song you played, and work backwards," I said, directing her through the method.
"Can't I just use the magic tah' play whatever song I want?" she asked, in a confused tone.
"Ha! No," I answered, channeling Moody's brutal honesty, "The song you can play, it was already in your heart because Short had helped you play it when you visited with us so, it was already 'spooled' and ready to go but, it will help you learn others, especially the ones you write yourself, and the ones that have meaning for you "
I sat still for a moment, watching her practice her hoofing. As did I thought of all my songs, the ones I'd made after each bit of pain and loss, "Crashing Down", "Train of Memory", "Hard Times", "Baby Done Left Me", "Hard Baby", "Death the Thief" the unofficial and descriptive titles that held mountains of meaning to me, that bore witness to the trials of my being and other dripping silly sentimental nonsense.
Her mother had come to get her each evening at just about five, her work up on the mountain being at some important juncture. I had gathered that she did some important work in Canterlot, and that she was one of those ponies who rode the incredible magic carts that traversed the space between Ponyville and Canterlot each day.
In short, she commuted to work and back.
We listened, as we practiced, for her arrival just after hearing the flapping of wings overhead and the springs of the suspension not so far away.
"We have plenty to eat here," I offered each night that week as Penny jumped into her mother's forelegs, "you're more than welcome to stay and have some, so you don't have to cook "
"Thank you for the offer, but I've already planned our meal "
Audible sigh, head drops, tired metaphor.
As that last weekday ended, beginning that odd time when 'week' becomes 'weekend', Penny and I began listening for her. As we did pegasus ponies began drifting clouds into place, seeking to get in the last scheduled rainstorm of the week before the weekend got underway.
Like everypony else I had checked the weather schedule posted in the town square that week. It had become almost automatic to do so, one of those traits of civilized life; brush your teeth, comb your hair, say 'Thank You', check to see what sort of weather our magical flying colored ponies will be manipulating the forces of nature to bring about and assure the continued life of Equestria, don't pick your nose, etc., etc., etc
As I had read the weather chart I was upset to see that the weather that day had called for: "Rain from 5p.m. to 8p.m., varying by location."
At first I had been upset because I had worried that it would affect the turnout for our opening weekend. As I saw Penny looking up and down the street for her mother, the clouds getting thick overhead as the peagasi shouted orders to one another, I suddenly had another, greater, concern.
I tried to flag down one of the pegasi, but they were in a rush to be done with this late shift and didn't see me or intentionally ignored me.
As the rain began to fall Penny looked at me with worried eyes. A single shiver went up our backs at once as the first truly cold wind of the autumn blew down the porch.
"Stay right here for a second or two, okay?" I said, making a smile appear on my own face despite my emotions. She looked up to the rain and then back again.
"I'll be right back," I said. She nodded at me, and I quickly went inside.
I grabbed everything that I owned that was made of fabric. Blankets, towels curtains. I took the old gum blanket tarps we had used while painting the place out of storage. I borrowed the pillows from the office.
"Hey!" I called out in general, giving a whistle.
"Whaaaat?" replied Lucky, poking his head out of the coat-check room.
"Cover me for dinner!" I called as I ran towards the door.
The second I arrived at the door, piles of layers of reams of fabric and tarpaulin across my back, I stopped dead cold.
Outside the door, at the very top of the steps, stood Penny's Worth. As her worried head went back and forth, gazing up the street and down the street, up the street and down the street over and over, looking longing for her mother, she stood there shivering. The cold autumn rain was as unforgiving as the circumstances of her life.
On her face was the same torturous expression of deep permeating sadness I had first seen two weeks ago. I realized then where her song flowed from, the sad she felt, how it was that she had come to be
"Kiddo," I said, stepping out the door, depositing the stacks of cloth nearby, grabbing up a towel, "Come out of the rain, silly."
"But, how will mommy see me?"
"She knows exactly where you are just like we talked about the day I first met your mommy, remember, stay put she'll come to you she's probably all worried that she hasn't been able to get here yet " I said, drying her head, getting the water out of her puffy pink mane.
There was a noise at the door. "Hey, Blues, I did dinner last night! It's not oh oh, okay, sure " said Lucky, seeing the context of my dilemma, watching as I dried Penny's mane.
"I've got dinner," he said, "Should I make some extra?"
"Yes yes, thanks Lucky," I said, seating myself on the chilly porch.
I put a set of pillows down to sit upon, one where I would sit and another in front of me so she didn't have to lay against my side if she didn't want to.
Of course, once she saw what I had in mind, the first thing she did was plop herself down against my side.
With that I began to wrap us in towels, then blankets, and finally the gum blankets. I designed each element perfectly, allowing it, I believed, to be the most efficient way to preserve heat and keep out moisture. As I went on, Penny offering helpful, and sometimes not so helpful, advice I wondered if it was possible to get a second mark this one for structural engineering.
Once I had carefully arranged all of this I heard a still small voice.
"Blues," she said, looking at me through the hole I had left in our little cloth mountain, "I have to go to the bathroom."
I quickly undid all of it, and she trotted off through the rain to the outhouse behind the paddock. As she returned I quickly wiped her down again and just flopped the whole assembly back over us.
Making sure it was water-tight we sat and listened to the rain, watching ducks slowly waddle along, hearing the voices of the pegasi high, high, high overhead as they shouted words we couldn't make out to one another.
There was a sound like the sloshing of a washing machine, and it grew louder. Overhead I heard the voices of my friends as they looked up the street. I heard Short as he called out what they were seeing. Soon it was very loud indeed, a continuous rolling drone, and Penny looked up to me with concern. "Blues?" she asked, but I pointed to the street and said, "Watch."
With that a regiment of soldiers came marching down the street between The New Blue Flag and Carousel Boutique making, I guess, for the semi-permanent camp nearby. Their band wasn't playing, each music pony instead sheltered their instrument from the precipitation. I looked for their bugler wondered if in a different reality I was marching through the rain and he was sheltering on this porch.
I couldn't see what regiment it was. Their flags were furled and covered with gum covers to protect the silk from the driving rain, and through the foggy pelting rain I couldn't see their regimental number or corps badges on their helmets, but it didn't matter. The colts on the porch above clapped slowly as they went by.
"Wow!" went Penny, waving furiously at their colonel. The dignified pony noticed her, and dipped then lifted his sword from his muddy boots to his streaming helmet. "Miss, Sir."
She continued to wave as the whole regiment, some thousand ponies, went by, each company lead by their captain, each who saw us nodding or saluting. The soldiers themselves would wave, or nod, or laugh at the sight of us, peaking as we were from beneath the blankets. All the while the rain kept coming down, tinkling off their armor with the sound of a million chimes, washing down the tired faces of the soldiers, soaking the soft parts of their uniforms.
Surprisingly soon they had all passed, and as their supply wagons and ambulances went by they left fresh ruts in the now exceptionally muddy road.
"Wonderful" I thought, "Our opening night and our customers will be traipsing mud through the place."
"If we got any," I thought again, looking to the darkened sky.
I looked down to Penny, she had buried herself in the blankets again. An idea fired across my brain, and I entertained it. I stretched myself, grasping for my saxophone gingerly, not wanting to jostle her.
"Penny," I asked, raising myself a little, "What do you think it felt like being one of those soldiers? Do you think they were cold, sad? Why would they be sad? Do you think think that they miss their mommies too? How does it feel right now, Penny, in your heart?"
As I asked each of these questions, she answered. As she did I gave her words notes, let her feelings become the bridges and chords of the music. As I did my best to play the sax from the unusual position she gave her feelings sound.
"No," she'd say, "it's more down here," or "It's not that sad!" or "Can we try that part again?'
And so, as we lay there in the blankets, Penny's Worth wrote her first song, "Marching in the Rain".
With that exercise complete she stuffed herself deeper into the blankets, and was silent for a while.
"Blues," she said, "My mommy is coming."
"Yup, any minute now, probably just got held up at work maybe carriages can't fly in the rain," I said, realizing that I'd never seen one of the carts in the sky during a shower.
"Blues," she said, a moment later, "if she's really late, what will I do?"
"You'll have dinner here on the porch with me. I had Lucky make extra," I said, proud of my foresight.
"Blues," she said, "if she doesn't come back, ever like my daddy "
" would you take care of me?"
"Of course," I answered.
To my utter surprise she actually fell asleep. A nice little nap as we waited, on the porch, in the rain.
As six moved towards six-thirty there was a rumbling shock, and a filament of purple light condensed into a ball which then shattered into the forms of Twilight Sparkle, Spike, and Taffy Twists. I watched as they materialized in the middle of the muddy street.
Watching ponies flash and teleport never gets old.
"Blegh!" called Spike, wrapping himself around Twilight's leg to keep from sinking deeper into the mud.
"You're not climbing up here with feet like that!" called Twilight, conjuring a poncho for both of them with her magic.
My focus however was on Taffy. The second she had materialized she was already mid-stride, heading towards the New Blue Flag at a gallop, the mud flying up into her as her hooves beat the wet ground.
She stopped dead at the top of the stairs, almost crashing into her sleeping daughter and I before she had realized that we weren't a pile of discarded laundry.
"Hi," I said quietly, "She's asleep."
"Oh," she said, looking down as I uncovered the blankets, leaving a few towels across the slumbering form of the foal.
The look of concern she had on her face, her love and worry over her daughter, was so strong palpable. She, in that moment, was the most beautiful mare I'd ever seen.
I know, I say that a lot. But but as I saw her emotions so close to the surface, there were things I wanted to say.
It was in that silence that I conveyed to her all I had been trying to say since I had first met her two weeks ago. I used my eyes, my big old yellow eyes, to tell her what I had done, silently, as to not wake the foal.
I have protected this child, my eyes told her.
When she was cold, I kept her warm.
When she was wet, I kept her dry.
When she was in doubt, I gave her my strength.
When she was in fear, I gave her my resolve.
I have done this because she trusts me, relies on me, has become dear to me
and she loves you, therefore you are dear to me.
My eyes are rather expressive, apparently.
I looked from Taffy's eyes to her forelegs they were muddy, dirty. As she saw me looking at her body she recoiled a touch, standing and staring at me.
I moved slowly, letting Penny's little form slide gently down my flank until she rested gently on the pillow, her nap uninterrupted.
I gathered up a big white towel, the same one I had used to dry Penny's mane.
"You can't pick her up with those hooves and forelegs like that," I whispered, motioning to Taffy. For the first time she seemed to notice her dishevelment, and with small uncertain motions she opened up her forelegs to look them over.
The towel had been rather new, we had just bought them a month ago, but I sacrificed its virgin sheen to her needs. I placed her hoof in the towel, and she let out a gasp of surprise, but did not withdraw, as I began to wipe the mud from her hoof and foreleg.
Behind me I heard Lucky arriving at the door, most likely to tell me that dinner is ready. He sees what was going on and, being an awesome wingman, doesn't say a word.
Out in the rain I see that Spike had crawled beneath a blushing Twilight, staring out from beneath her front legs like any pony's foal would do.
I wipe the mud from Taffy's leg, past the fetlock and back, in slow deliberate movements, capturing all of the mud that I can.
I feel her pulse. She's breathing shallowly.
As I finish I hold the towel to her other hoof, just beneath, letting her choose to lower it. She moved with flitting uncertain motions, the same way Seafoam went through life. I offered it up again, and as I leaned over Penny's still sleeping form again she stood there looking at me for a second time as the rain continued to come down and then lowered her other hoof into the towel.
I have followed your law, Taffy, my actions tell her.
I have protected your foal from these elements, had found a way to do so without breaking my word to you, without jeopardizing the narrow, thin, sheet of trust that stretches between us.
I have done this, it implied as I slowly removed every last bit of mud and dirt from her trembling hoof, because I want you to trust me. I don't know why, Taffy, but your trust means something to me I want you to know that you can rely on me
I have protected what is most precious to you, Taffy, as I always will, as I will always find a way to.
I see the walls you've built, Taffy don't let them rule you, as they did somepony else who was once dear to me.
Let me take some of your burdens, Taffy, put them on my back that's what a stallion is for.
Actions, it seems, can speak louder than words, and as I finished she held her trembling hooves out to me for a second longer. I lifted the sleeping Penny into her forelegs, and Taffy stared at me.
"Lucky," I said, turning to him, "Would you put some dinner into the travel trays enough for both of them?"
"Sure," he says, heading back within.
"You don't have to do to do that," she says, loudly at first, but then silently as Penny tossed in her forelegs.
"It's already six-thirty, it would be seven before you were ready to eat and then it would be her bedtime," I said in a small but resolute voice, guiding my little blue-painted ship through the storm, "take your foal home and sit with her she missed you terribly."
She looked at me with an expression I'd only ever seen in movies. I explained to her, kneeling before her over the pile of blankets, how we had written a song.
"She'll be ready for a recital, soon, I think," I whispered.
"That that would be wonderful," she says, looking down at the silent foal.
Lucky returned with the travel container, wrapped up in a bag, with bread and salad. Excellent presentation. I carried them out into the rain, Twilight volunteering to carry it as Taffy carried Penny. I gave Spike a quick endorsement to Twilight, and she remarked that he wouldn't always be able to play at the club, but she'd love to come hear him some time.
I returned to Taffy on the porch. I was now wet through.
Before she could say anything I had wrapped a gum blanket around Taffy and Penny.
"We'll we'll have to repay you for dinner, have you over some time," she said, slowly making her way down the steps on three legs, clutching Penny.
"I'd love to come. Let me know when," I said, water dripping down my face.
She turned back to me with the rain running down the sides of the gum blanket and said, "If if it ever comes back to this, again, feel free to you can go inside, with her now if it rains or, whenever."
"Okay," I answered, waving goodbye.
With a last long look to me she stood beside Twilight and Spike. As they flashed away the last thing I saw was the faintest hint of her raising her hoof to wave in reply.
I picked up the towels and went inside The New Blue Flag. In less than two hours I would be officially opening my club.