Tangled Up in Blues
Written by The Descendant
Chapter 6: "The Taffy Twists Blues"
Hey Moody, it's me Blues.
Just checking in, letting you know what's been going on in my little blue life over these last few of months since the club opened.
I've been thinking about you a lot recently, so, if those of you who have gone down into the Well of Souls do, as they say, watch us in the waters, or can flit around those you knew in life unseen, well sorry if this is "old news", but I just wanted you to know.
Oh! You'll never guess where I am as I'm thinking this, as I'm making this little note for you in my head
We opened the New Blue Flag during Finder's Day weekend. Miss Rarity had made up this huge blue flag to fly outside the door, and it was worth every bit of her commission. It's magnificent, Moody, I hope you can see it from beyond where the Pony of Death carried your little light in his lantern. It has our marks, the colts and I, in small little silver spirals in the middle cascading out across a field of blue so perfect you'd think you could go swimming in it.
Bluegrass says that he had her base it on the one that everypony thinks you and your colts had flying outside the original Blue Flag, but that nopony remembers so at the time I thought that Luna, Celestia, and you only knew if it was true or not.
We wondered how many ponies had been waiting beneath its tassles as we waited for the club to open that first night Moody. "Celestia's will," Lucky had said as the clock struck eight.
Our New Blue Flag is certified by the fireponies to hold 750 revelers at a time.
We had that inside the first hour, Moody, the first hour!
It was amazing to me to see them all, how the moisture from them, those ponies who had been waiting in the rain, evaporated above them in a visible haze, how they laughed, danced, and cavorted as we played the blues, jazz, swing, bluegrass even a touch of country, and (forgive me) some rock.
The second night went just as well, except there was no mud and rain, so we opened the doors and windows and let the music and laughter pour out into the streets of Ponyville.
When it was over we pulled out one of those long tables, the ones we keep under the stage for ponies who rent the hall for parties, and dumped all of our earnings all over it.
We paid the staff their deserved salary; our bouncers, our barkeeps, bussers, and wait staff, the dishwashers, and then finally, the band/ownership committee.
With our bits in our saddlebags we all then stood there, the entirety of the employee and managerial components of The New Blue Flag Club, L.L.C., and stared at what was left over on the table.
It was obscene, Moody, it was absolutely disgusting. I actually felt bad about how many bits were still there, shining in a decadent heap the table. And here we had dipped the prices just to get ponies in the door!
How did it go with the original Blue Flag, Moody? Did it feel like this? Did you have a big first weekend? Did it ever have hard times? I wondered then why you had closed it, but I think I know now
You should see how Penny has grown over the five months. She is so much stronger, less fearful. She even got her cutie mark!
We had moved our lessons off the porch as autumn descended into its "cold and wet" phase. At first we sat right up on the stage, but to my surprise she only wanted to be up there when we were practicing the sax. If we were doing homework she wanted to be right down in the middle of the dance floor, laying there as her pencils and crayons rolled in all directions, where she could see up through the skylight.
Her focus is much better, she's not worrying about things, so she has more energy to put into the music and her work.
"Will my music ever be as good as yours?" she asks as she had wobbled through a new song.
"Probably," I said, "Maybe even better. But but you'll have to learn to focus, and and you'll have to develop the song within, Penny, you're song will mellow as you learn more about yourself, as you go through life, have new experiences. Some will be sad, some happy, but each will add to your song."
Who had I been paraphrasing there, Moody? Who had told me something similar while I sat on his stoop, eh?
I remember how sad it had made me that my life would be tangled up in blues, and I was worried about how it would affect her.
"Okay!" she said, diving back into her lesson, and I could only smile.
Which, of course, brings us around to the matter of Taffy Twists.
At first she had just stood at the door and called to her daughter, and I'd walk Penny to the door and have some small talk as she looked down to her daughter as she swung back and forth from her legs to mine and back.
Soon enough though she was coming to lay with us as we finished Penny's homework. She would watch with a smile as her daughter wobbled through a song, or would sit quietly with her eyes on us as we finished her declination tables.
One day, two weeks later, she lay there nearby as we both watched Penny play her way through the song she'd been preparing for an eventual recital. As I watched Penny play suddenly an amazing sensation went up my foreleg. I looked down to see that she had placed her hoof on mine.
She was just as surprised as I, as though she had done it by reflex. She quickly looked up to me, withdrew it, and with a bright blush went looking back to her daughter.
There were cracks in her wall, Moody.
The Nightmare Night festival came around. It is a holiday that, despite its ancient roots in earth spirits and agricultural magic, had pretty much devolved into an excuse for costumed foals to run around in costumes begging ponies for mass-produced candy treats.
The only adult ponies who participate are emotionally compromised stallion-foals who no sense of self-worth and don't care about looking like idiots in public so of course I went as my old friend Cake.
For the first time since I was a foal I was looking forward to the festival. I hadn't worn a costume for a decade, mostly because at this time of year for the last few years I was suffering from crippling depression and living in moldy apartments.
The dance hall was rented by the school district to put on a haunted barn as a fundraiser and the band and I dived into helping out with reckless abandon. Penny and I came up with a great little chamber...a frosting-smeared Kitchen of Doom.
Pinkie Pie and Rarity had helped us out with this one, my two good friends. Rarity did the costuming, Pinkie the frosting.
"See the Pony Eating Cake!" said the sign outside, dripping with frosting. As the fillies and colts sheepishly entered they were treated to the sight of Penny, dressed as a demented chef, munching Cake's topmost layer.
The foals booed, and one particularly sharp one said, "Oh, it's wordplay I get it, see, it's an exploration of our fears and apprehension we wrap ourselves in worry so that when we enter our expectations are that "
That's the point where I opened the huge mouth, complete with yellowed felt teeth, let out an unearthly noise, and chased the foals around the interior of our chamber for a good minute while they screamed in primal fear, their eyes wide with unrestrained terror.
Good times, Moody, good times.
The night wore down and parents began to arrive to begin taking apart the sets. Penny and I, who had made a point not to give away too many details of our plan, sat awaiting Taffy.
"Penny?" she said, passing within through the flap, looking at the sign, "How did it go? What was your skit like?"
With that we give her the full effect, spraying frosting everywhere, Penny munching horrifically, and I beginning my chase.
Rather than screaming Taffy instantly gets the joke, and even while I am chasing her around she began to laugh. As she laughs, Penny laughs, and soon my roars mix with giggles and become bwargles of laughter. Soon there was frosting in my eyes and I tripped, falling to the floor even as I laugh and try to clear my eyes.
"I'll get a mop," says Penny, leaving the chamber as the lights came back on in the dance hall.
I can't get the frosting out of my eyes, and it's starting to hurt. As I curse under my breath, rubbing around them, I felt the sensation of a hoof in my mane.
"Here," says Taffy, "lean back."
She produces a handkerchief and slowly, certainly, she leans into my Cake costume and begins to wipe the area around my eyes free of the frosting.
"Blink," she says in a soft tone, one I'd not heard from her before. As I did the moisture of my eyes began to clear some of the frosting, and as I looked up at her she licked the handkerchief and put it back to the task of clearing my eyes.
Just as I had wiped her hooves weeks before, she carefully and cautiously freed me from the detritus, sensing how far I'd let her go, letting me decide how far we go down the road towards familiarity.
I tell you, Moody, that if she had begun to lick to frosting off my face with great long lapping motions while giggling softly I wouldn't have lifted a hoof to stop her.
But, instead, as I looked up to her, my vision restored, we smiled back and forth uncomfortably, each one waiting for the other to speak first.
There are cracks in your wall, Taffy. What's going to break through?
Are you still flitting around, Taffy, or are you eyeing a spot to land and roost?
As Penny returned I wiggled out of my Cake costume. I tripped over one of the eight-notes, sending myself sprawling into more of the frosting.
Penny and Taffy helped me up, and within a few moments we had cleared our set and soon were helping clear the hall. We finished and to everypony's surprise it was still relatively early. I walked Penny and Taffy home, Penny even able to gather more candy from some lit houses, the faces of pumpkins still illuminated on the still air by candles that flickered and bobbed as we passed.
As I saw them to their door, seeing their little place for the first time, Taffy spoke saying, "We still owe you that dinner. How about next week?"
"I'd love to," I answered.
I'd never visited you during any holidays, did I, Moody? Did you carve pumpkins? What does a legendary bluespony's pumpkin look like? How did you spend the holidays? Did you ever have anyone over on Blessings Day? Did you spend Yule alone? Apart from New Year's at the Blue Flag did you have ponies with you at any of these times?
When did you spend time with the mares in the photos, Moody? How long were they in your life? Did you tell me about the purpose of a stallion, to absorb pain and doubt, based on your own pain or instead in remembrance of happy times spent in their company?
I spent time with Taffy, alone, for the first time after that dinner, Moody.
The meal had been delicious. The colts were decent cooks, but nothing tastes like a meal made especially for you.
Penny brought me things from her room, she kept wanting me to see the little toys and awards, school projects and semi-completed art projects. I listened intently as she described each, Taffy looking on as I'm slowly covered in the colorful crafts.
Penny had an invitation to spend the night with a friend, and as she gathered up her overnight gear, we loaded her up and saw her to the door. As a dizzy looking Applecore and her father guided them away I turned to say my goodnights.
Before I could even speak Taffy said, "You don't you don't have to go right away."
She made us some warm drinks and we sat in her parlor talking. She tells me about her work. She works in public affairs up in Canterlot, in the House of Earth, the royalty of the earth ponies.
"Whenever they want to do something in public, like a charity event, I'm the one well, there's a handful of us, who make all the preparations," she said, sipping from her mug.
"That sounds very interesting," I said, smiling at her.
"At times," she said, "It's not always just flying off on magic cart to the far reaches of ponydom at times I want to just make up the events, not have to be away from Penny all day, something I can do from here in Ponyville. It fits my mark though, making up something special," she said looking back to the wrapped pieces of taffy. I looked too before I realized that I was, in effect, ogling her flank.
I looked back to my hot chocolate and then told her a bit of unfortunate truth. "I have something to tell you something embarrassing."
As she looked on with a tilted head I explained how I had seen her in the street the day before and went up and began to speak with her for two minutes before realizing that it was a different pony entirely.
I had apologized to this other pony and said I thought she was somepony else.
"Tell me about it, happens all the time," answered a mare at her side, a green one with a golden lyre as her mark.
To my relief Taffy laughed. "That was most likely my cousin Bon Bon or one of our little family circle. We all have a resemblance, all the fillies in one generation it's a magical condition."
I'd never heard of it. But then again, I added, sometimes I can see two ponies in the streets who look relatively alike. I once looked out the window of the carriage in Appleoosa to see myself dancing.
She laughed again. I loved the sound.
Cracks in your wall, Taffy.
"I keep seeing this pegasus with Penny's bubbly pink mane and same sandy coat color. I keep imagining that she's what Penny will look like when she grows up minus the wings, of course."
She looked back to me, tossing her head a bit.
"I've never seen Penny open up to anypony outside of our own family, let alone a stallion, as much as she has with you," she said, leaning forward a little, looking me up and down.
"We have the same magic in our hearts," I said. She then studied me carefully, tilting her head from one side to the next.
One of the first things Penny had said to me jumped into my mind.
"Hey," I asked, "Penny had said that you bought her a saxophone once, but that it was adult sized "
"I'm always buying her things, our closets are full, just to let her know that I'm thinking of her when I'm on the road. Celestia alone knows why I bought it. Probably just because I was in that part of Manehattan "
I coughed a touch, Moody, fighting to put down the mug.
" at an estate sale. Are you okay?"
I began to turn blue er, as she said it. See where this is going Moody?
"May I see it?"
She took me upstairs to the edge of her bedroom. I waited in the door. She rustled through the closet, pulling out the tarnished sax. I went to sit at the top of the stairs and she laid down beside me as I examined it.
I took the time to do a regular check first, see that everything was free and moving, that nothing was missing. It seemed in pretty good order.
With that I took a deep breath and focused on the space beneath the neck screw, wiped away a bit of oxidation to see what I already knew would be engraved there.
Pain and loss, Moody, are very real things, as you know, and sometimes they strike us out of the blue.
"What's what's wrong?" she said, her expression going ashen as my tears started. Dammit, Moody, I cry a lot. I know that in past periods of Equestrian history the ponies would save their tears in crystal jars, keeping the salt from the evaporation for generations. There's a special magic in it, they'd say.
If I had kept all the salt from all of my tears we could have melted all the snow on the roads in Manehattan, Moody. I'm a proper bluespony, Moody, just as you knew I'd be my pain became a song, and I shared it with her.
As Taffy looked on I put that horn to my lips Moody, your last horn, and let it flow out into the house. She has her hoof over her heart as she sees the pain, hears it, feels it.
"Left behind, left behind," sings my song, echoing in her stairwell, "artifacts of ones dead and gone."
Your horn tasted better than you described it, Moody. It tasted like eternity, like a forgotten world and yes, perhaps, just a touch like a mule shoe.
As tears flowed down my face she watched me, two single shimmering tears of her own, crying at my pain my song.
When I finished playing that song I carefully laid your second horn down beside me and fell backwards across the landing at the top of the stairs that lead up from their parlor to the second story bedrooms.
Why do so many important parts of my life happen on porches, stoops, landings and stairs, Moody? Is there somepony there on the other side of existence who can explain that?
As she looks down at me I tell her bout you, Moody, about who you had been in my life. I show her the engraved initials, and her mouth hangs open. There are those, Moody, who think Celestia is a trickster that she makes our lives miserable for her amusement. They are fools. They know nothing, you know that for fact from where you are, don't you? Celestia has her plans, true, but they aren't meant to hurt. They have their purpose
"Do do you want the sax?" she offers.
"No no, you you bought it for Penny. It's hers, he'd want a young bluespony to have a good horn, even if she can't use it for a while. If she sticks with it, I'll I'll tell her someday about who owned it the pony he was "
Celestia's purpose for your old horn came to that. As I lay there telling Taffy of you she lifted her hoof and began running it through my mane, looking down at me with tender eyes.
Thank you, Celestia. Thank you, Moody.
Soon, she began to lean. Soon those eyes closed, and mine did as well soon I felt how close her lips were to mine
Anchor here, Taffy, I'd just shown you my storm within, and you can see it is a safe harbor.
"Mom!" called Penny, "I'm back! Applecore was throwing up all over the place!"
Taffy bolts upright, shock in her eyes. Her hooves go to her mouth. At once she had jumped over me and was going down the stairs as silently as possible, looking back to me and then to the kitchen where Penny was dropping her gear.
" it was green and yellow and there were chunks of "
I stood and made my way to the bathroom on silent hooves.
"You know, honey, that I I was showing Blues that sax I bought for you. He, he likes it very much."
"Is Blues still here?" said Penny with a surprising enthusiasm that made me quite happy to hear. I also heard her mother jump at the question.
"Yes he's, he's "
On cue, I flushed the toilet.
"Occupied!" I heard her call.
You're always your parents' foal but they are very happy when you are grown up and can take care of yourself, mostly because they can finally ship you all your crap that's been clogging up their house.
I received mine and put everything that I thought of value or had meaning around my rooms and donated the rest to charity. As I looked at it all I was actually just a touch proud of how full my room was, how many emblems of my life I was surrounded by.
We had gotten a lot of business at The New Blue Flag from the army camp nearby. The soldiers were glad to have a place to escape the monotony of winter camp and when they were on leave or dismissed they'd crowd in with the regulars and civilians.
As Servicepony Day drew near I suggested to the ownership committee of The New Blue Flag Club, L.L.C. that we hold a special event weekend for the regiments that were encamped nearby. "Aye!" shouted the entire workforce, and at once we set about preparations.
We rented these two huge freakin' tents to cover the paddock, to temporarily expand our capacity. We'd hire some new acts to play out here and circulate between inside and out. Tuff Stuff and Pink Bunny held up the massive posts that held the tent aloft as Bluegrass, Short, Lucky and I went gingerly about the upper fold, wrapping them to the posts.
"Hey!" called Short, reading a warning label, "It says don't anchor to the main post while expanding the guidelines or you could fall through the seam!"
"What? I can't hear you! I'm anchoring to the main post while expanding the guideline!" I called back as I fell through the seam.
As I climbed back up they shook their heads and laughed, and I shrugged.
Awhile later, as I careful pulled at the anchoring post and cautiously avoided the guideline, I happened to look back towards the dance hall. We were almost level with the second floor windows, actually third floor if you consider how tall the hall was above the dancefloor, and I marveled at how well our trim work and gingerbread was holding up.
I happened to glance towards my own sitting room window. As I did a shadow of a pony flit across it, my humble belongings being thrown up in the air behind the intruder.
I was being robbed. This never, never, never happens in Equestria.
"I'll be right back!" I called, as I tripped over the guideline. I was already running, my hooves paddling through the air, as I fell through the seam again. I hit the ground running, and bursting into the club I grabbed "The Heat" off the wall.
It was a decorated canoe paddle, one meant for humorous initiation ceremonies, but a paddle nonetheless. I crept up the stairs silently, making down the hallway towards my room. As I passed Bluegrass's rooms I checked them quickly. His things were undisturbed, or in reality not any more disturbed than he usually left them. I alone had been targeted.
I entered my door as quietly as I could, peeking around the corner. Noise was coming from my bedroom. I noticed that even though my things were askew, they had not been broken, just put back shoddily. Unusual. The burglar would have plenty of time to tell me about his obsessive-compulsive disorder as I had Pink Bunny and Tuff Stuff bounce him back and forth in the most brutal game of tetherball I could picture.
I stood at the door of my bedroom pounding "The Heat" into my hoof as the intruder, unaware of my presence, rifled through the storage box that stood beneath my bed.
At the noise the thief stood shock upright, almost unponylike in appearance.
I dropped "The Heat" as I stared into Taffy Twists' eyes.
She was able to burst past me, Moody, and out the door because I was in just as much shock as she was.
"Wait!" I called, seeing her just gallop out of my rooms, actually giving a small kick like a wild horse would when in fear. I ran out into the hallway and heard her sobs in the near stairwell.
I went quickly but cautiously down the hallway in the opposite direction, and dropped down the stairwell nearest the main door, the one with your altar over it, Moody.
I hear the thudding of the doors on the far, far side of the dance hall, beyond the stage, office, and kitchen. She'll find no escape in that direction, I knew. Those doors were locked tight with keys kept in the safe in the office. I heard her sobbing as the thudding stops, as she comes out through the kitchen, knowing she must face me.
I had already hung "The Heat" back up when she came trotting through the main hall. Seeing me there her sobs become more forceful, rocking her as she canters across the dance floor and up and into me, as we fall to the floor just short of the doors.
We lay there, her curled up with her legs beneath her. I wrap my hooves around her and repeat over and over, "I'm not angry .I'm not mad, Taffy. Taffy, I'm not mad "
As she cries I rock her and the autumn sun sends purple and red dots over us as it filters through the stained glass of the doors.
As I rock her I begin to ponder why she would do this. A few scenarios play out in my mind, and I save one for last. She didn't need money, she's not a thief. As my chest and barrel are soaked through I ask her each one.
"Taffy," I asked as the sobbing subsides, "Do you think I took something from you? Is something missing from your place?"
She shakes her head no, rubbing it against my chest.
"Do do, you think I'm hiding something from you?
She shakes her head.
"Taffy," I ask, hoping that this one was true, "Were you checking my story seeing if I had told you the truth? Like you have to do when preparing sites for the royals?"
She cries afresh, new sobs, and my suspicion is confirmed. She was getting ready, making preparations loosing the anchor chain, fluttering above the landing site.
"Taffy Taffy," I said, lifting her head to look at me, her colors blurred by the red of her flush and pained outpouring, "I've told you the truth, I swear it in Celestia's name, in Luna's name. I want you to trust me. I want you to lean on me, Taffy "
"Penny loves you!" she called out, her sound muffling as she wiped her face against my chest.
"I know," I said, pulling her in closer, "I love her too."
"I " begins Taffy, sucking in a great quantity of air, and I fear she's pulling the words back in that she was getting ready to say I hope she was fueling her will to say them, to go once again into the tempest waters where she'd been dashed apart before.
I am a safe harbor Taffy, I am painted blue to let all see my weakness, so they know what I am.
I am strong Taffy, I am not going to drop the nest you build here.
Pull out the bricks, Taffy, come through the wall to me.
"I love you," she says, lifting her face, looking into my eyes as hers stream tears.
"I know," I said, placing my head to hers, wiping mine along hers, wiping down across her forelock to her withers and back, "I love you too. I love you Taffy."
We sat together like that, together, for a good long while, as the purple and red dots moved over us as Celestia slowly dropped the sun.
"Hey!" calls Lucky, opening the door. "Are we gonna put this tent up today or oh. Oh Oh," he states, seeing us there. Being the awesome wingman he is he slowly closed it as he went back outside.
After a while we stand, and I take her hoof in mine. "Let me show you something," I say, leading her back towards the stairs, and together we pass beneath your altar, Moody, bowing.
I put the doorstop in the door, leaving it wide open, and having done so she enters. As we put my rooms back in order I lead her down the shadowed corridors of my life, pointing out the meaning of certificates, remembering Yules where I received this gift or that, the importance of blankets I was wrapped in as a foal, my first pair of horseshoes, bronzed, sit on the shelf .pictures of me at scout and/or band camp.
Time passes quickly, and there's an "Ahem" at the door. Lucky stood there, two plates in hand.
"Thought you two might like some dinner," he says, self-consciously.
"Thank you, Lucky!" she says, giving him a quick hug, turning him bright red.
"Gentlecolts, all of them," echoed Miss Rarity's words in my mind. As Taffy took the plates and cleared my little kitchenette table he quickly looked at me and mouthed "That's two you owe me!" as I nodded in agreement.
As we eat I wonder about Penny. Apparently Applecore, now recovered, had asked for a "re-do" of the sleepover. As I wash dishes she wanders around my rooms. There's only one left to tour.
I walk deliberately to my bedroom, and I latch this one open as well. Slowly she enters. I had already sat down beside of my bed, ignoring the way things were still spread around. If she chooses to close the door, to turn it from an open space to an intimate one, that's her choice. I rejoice in her presence either way, and it is her wishes and wants we address here, not mine.
Instead she focuses on the big black book in my hooves as I collect it from the small bookcase. She lays herself across my bed, resting her head in her hooves as she looks over my shoulders at the pictures.
I show her your life, Moody. I share your life with her it was the last drop of my life I had left to show her, how you had added so much to mine. I hope you don't mind. As we reached the last page I showed her the picture of us together, the newspaper clipping.
"He would always rub my mane," I said, "I don't think ponies of his generation did the whole 'bro-hug' thing."
"Like this?" she asks, running her hoof through my mane tenderly.
"Ha! No," I add quickly, "It was closer to a noogie but, but it was all the emotion he'd allow himself."
Just for the record, Moody, if you'd wanted a hug, I'd have given you one.
With that she kissed me on the cheek.
"I like your way better," I said, turning to reply in kind. She though had already draped her forelegs around my shoulders and hung her head over them, resting into me.
I looked to the window. Luna's Harvest Moon was already climbing. I laid my head into hers, rubbing against it briefly before I too fell asleep.