Tangled Up in Blues
Written by The Descendant
Chapter 7: "The Friendship Blues"
I awoke alone. With small panic I leapt up and quickly went sprawling to the ground as my legs began to feel the multitude of pin pricks which indicated their protest at having to support me as I slept sitting on the floor. My back too disliked having slept against the bed, and it protested in loud terms. None of these hurts though could match the pain that was flying through my heart at the idea that she had left me
I was able to soothe one of those complaints as I lurched into the sitting room. There a small note met me, one in her perfect little hoofwriting.
"Had to go pick up Penny. We'll both be back tonight."
"Yes!" I cried, throwing my hooves into the air. At once my legs and back, frustrated at being ignored, launched another attack that sent me flailing and screaming into my coffee table.
Even when I'm happy, painted blue.
I asked you before, Moody if you knew where I am as I'm making this mental note to you. Of course you know, but if you had guessed at the club doing that servicepony's benefit you'd be wrong.
I would like to tell you what happened there though
That night the club was alive with ponies. Soldiers of the brigade that was stationed in the camp above Carousel Boutique filled both the tents we had set up and the old hall itself. They mixed with our regular customers as their proud flags flew from rafters, the colors adding excitement to our party.
Penny and I smiled at one another, and I lifted her onto the stage. "You ready kiddo?" I asked as her mother looked on in surprise. "Yup!" she answered, lifting her little sax to her mouth.
"Ladies and gentlecolts," I cried, "In honor of our guests the serviceponies, I present for your patriotic consideration Miss Penny's Worth, in her world debut, playing 'Beneath Sun and Moon'!"
As I slid off the stage so she could look at me and concentrate the soldiers and Ponyville civilians alike applauded. I looked to Penny, she took a deep breath, and closed her eyes.
"Beneath Sun and Moon", as you know Moody, isn't Equestria's national anthem, but it is dear to the hearts of all Equestrians. It's song about our good land, and how we all are one ponydom despite being three races. It's about how the Sister Sovereigns guide us, watch over us, love us. So it was that even as it wobbled from a child's saxophone it caused ponies to remove their hats and helmets, and more than a few misty eyes were seen.
I felt Taffy leaning against me, the beautiful light frame resting easy alongside mine and the engaging scent of the mare washing away all the others in the room. I laid my head against hers. It was at that moment when, barely a few chords into the song, Penny saw us.
As she looked at us, Moody, her whole expression changed. I swear, Moody, the kid became lighter, her whole countenance fell away and was replaced by a being made of "Zap!" and fireworks.
She had seen us, the two of us, Taffy and I, leaning into each other the love between us now evident to her.
In her little world something fell into place, something that had not been meshing properly came together. At once all of those concerns, the worries that had dogged her, parted ways and she focused on her song
her song, Moody!
At once life burst from that saxophone. It was incredible. "Beneath Sun and Moon" came alive, and the crowd was awed by it, overwhelmed by it.
Her song ended, and in that still sudden second between when it ended and when the crowd could begin to cheer something amazing happened.
There was a sound like a falling star sliding across a frozen lake, and a look went over Penny's face like somepony had poured quicksilver down her flank. She looked down, her face went wide, and she turned to us with the most perfect expression on her face that I'd ever seen.
If I could have bottled that expression, Moody, I could have sold it for ten bits a pop on the street.
"Mom!" she called out, her voice still the only one in the room as the crowd looked on unspeaking, still awestruck, "My cutie mark!"
At once the crowd burst out into cheers, the whole of the dance hall, the entire assembly that had gathered around the open windows as the song progressed, cheered wildly.
They all cheered again as Penny leapt from the stage into her mother's forelegs, they rocked the structure with their cheers so much that ancient dust bunnies we hadn't thought to clean out came down from atop the rafters.
So loud was it that the flags overhead vibrated with it. I noticed all of this as I climbed back up onto the stage. As I did I felt a little tug and looked down into her face, the little wonderful face.
"Let's see that mark!" I said, gathering her up, tickling her as I lifted her around.
It was a gumball machine. At first I was startled, was Penny destined for a life of automated food distribution maintenance?
No, I realized, think about how she got it, stupid. She had gotten it because she had focused on us. She had received clarity, a deeper understanding of the mechanics of her world. Because we loved each other she no longer had those worries, those fears, those permeating concerns that clouded her little world.
Now, to her, it was all clear blue skies.
The gumballs in the machine all exist, but they come out one at a time you put in your money and out comes your penny's worth. Oh. Ohhh. Ohhhhh!
Hers was the gift of clarity, of focus. Celestia alone knew what she could do with such a powerful mark how her song would come out in the end.
"Up, up!" she called, and I lifted her high above me and spun her around, and she fell into my forelegs as we wheeled down to the floor, her mother looking up to us with tears in her eyes and her hoof over her mouth as the crowd continued to cheer.
I don't hate Penny's biological father, Moody. I don't hate anypony or anything.
In time, I knew, in an effort to be honest with me that Taffy would tell me about him, not wanting to have any secrets from me. I could already guess though how the story would go.
Poor Taffy, alone, seeking shelter from a storm in her life, thinking she'd found a safe harbor.
Oh, Taffy, there were hidden rocks weren't there? Oh, Taffy.
They aren't real stallions; those who whisper sweet lies, those who play a game with the hearts of mares they are merely animals spreading their seed.
From a biological perspective, with most stallions off fighting The Wars for all of these generations, I guess it's necessary. There are repercussions to having the streets of these villages and cities filled with a ratio of 3 mares to 1 stallion. Ponies don't come through some magic mirror or through some other ways found in the fables we tell foals to avoid telling them the embarrassing truth.
So I don't hate him. If he hadn't scratched his itch I'd never have met Penny, and therefore never met Taffy never fallen in love with both of them.
But, as I sat there on the stage embracing Penny, receiving her kisses over and over as the crowd continued to cheer for her, I couldn't help but think that the bastard was the biggest bloated sack of stupid idiocy to ever trot Equestria for leaving this behind.
I looked down into her face as the band began to play again. "That" I said, resting my head to hers, "Was one killer first recital, kiddo!"
She just giggled as I lead her to her mother's side. There I watched as Taffy's cousin Bon Bon and her green life partner cooed and cuddled and fawned over Penny. Soon more relations were coasting over to them as I looked on amused.
As I did I felt Bluegrass tap me. He lead me aside and to the door to the office. He killed the lights as we looked out through the doorway, over the heads of the throngs of the ponies listening in as Spike burned the place up on the piano.
We gazed for long seconds.
"What am I looking at here?" I asked him after "ridiculous" had firmly set in.
"Look to the third booth down on the far side," indicated the colt subtly with his hoof.
I focused on the table, partly hidden as it was by the moving crowd. As I did I concentrated on it, narrowed my eyes.
"In Celestia's name!" I cried, "I I don't believe it!"
"I know...how," began Bluegrass.
"They're almost out of toothpicks!" I said, scrambling for the supply cabinet.
Bluegrass smacked his hoof to his forelock, gathered me up (toothpicks in hoof) and pointed me back at the table.
"Look at the stallion," he said in a cloaked whisper, "The band and I were discussing this we're like 99.999% sure it's Midnight Runner."
Midnight Runner, Moody, I'm sure you know that name. I sure did. There was probably no more successful blues musician alive, Moody, and with your passing he was probably the greatest living one too.
We looked across the way to where Midnight Runner sat among a small crowd in one of the booths, the old grey stallion bobbing his head with the music our young dragon friend was playing.
"You should go talk to him," said Bluegrass.
"Why me?" I asked.
"Hey, you're the boss around here," he added with a shrug.
I was about to snort and make a comment, but as I looked down to Bluegrass I saw that he was staring back out across the way, not a hint of irony on him.
The colts saw me as the boss, Moody. I was in charge, Moody. I was the respectable one, Moody. I was the presentable one, Moody. Celestia help us all, Moody.
We soon had to retake the stage, and as Spike took his bows and ran off, the applause for him turned into a repeated call for Penny to take the stage again. She played one more song, her first, "Marching in the Rain" with us and then was off to bed.
As we wound down the night I determined to see Midnight Runner. As the crowd dispersed though we lost sight of him, and soon the place was empty.
At the next meeting of The New Blue Flag Club, L.L.C., his presence was noted, but I first suggested that we have all of our families here at the club for a massive Blessings Day dinner. "Bring all of them, all that we can fit inside," I motioned.
"Second," called out Short.
"Aye," called one and all.
As the meeting progressed I had the pertinent information that I was now deeply and utterly in love and that I would appreciate the understanding of the gentlecolts in the matter added to the record.
Lucky added to that report that I already owed him two nights of his dinner duty and that would start to accumulate interest if canoodling transpired and he was put in the position of having to do so again.
Recognizing that information as factual I agreed to the terms and we set about planning for Blessings Day.
Two weeks later our families began to arrive, and we put them up at the better hotels like The Seabiscuit. As morning dawned on the feast day they arrived in a constant stream, the older ponies meeting one another, making new acquaintances, and renewing tenuous bonds of familiarity. It turns out that Short's father served with Bluegrass's uncle in one of The Wars, same regiment and everything.
To my delight Taffy and Penny escape unnoticed from a mass gathering of their clan and join us. Penny joins the myriad number of nieces and nephews of the colts as they run around the dance hall, and I introduced Taffy to my parents.
My mother regards Taffy as some Celestia-sent prize for her years of patient waiting. "We aren't married, mom!" I laughed.
The entire staff is there, it takes nine of those long tables to fit them and the families. It takes three more to fit all of the food they've brought, and the kitchen had never been so busy.
As everything comes together I am seated at the head of the u-shaped stretch of tables, Penny and Taffy to my left, and my mother and father to my right, the rest of the committee panning out and down, from Bluegrass and his massive herd of family all the way down to Pink Bunny and his mommy.
I see all eyes on me, Moody, on "the boss", and I realize I'm being called upon to make the Invoke.
As I turn to the stage where the pictures of Luna and Celestia sit among a display of food and gifts the families stand with me, and I feel Penny's hoof in mine.
I'm not the most spiritual pony, but for the first time since my grandfather, now there with you in the Well of Souls, Moody, had said it the Invoke has meaning for me.
"For all we are given," I said, and bowed. They all did the same, and we turned to eat.
As we did the conversation flowed around, and the place was almost as loud as it was during nights we were performing. As I stood to get some more from the buffet table I felt the light move funny, and I looked to the door. There a figure stood briefly before leaving.
I looked to my bouncer Tuff Stuff and he galloped to the door. I would have sent Pink Bunny but he was too busy cautiously cutting his food like a gentlepony, chewing each bite thoroughly. The massive, hulking, brutal form of the bouncer was sweating under the withering gaze of his tiny mother.
Tuff Stuff opened the door. I saw him extend a hoof and for a second, Moody, I thought it was you he brought within. I'm sorry, but it's true I know because I almost dropped my plate all over one of Bluegrass's nephews.
The old pony came forward, and those of us who recognized him gasped. It was Midnight Runner.
"I'm sorry tah' interrupt," he said, removing his checkered cap, "I'd totally forgotten that it wer' Blessin's Day. I I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all!" chimed we four colts in unison.
Many of the families kept talking, not caring about or even noticing him, as he spoke with us, the three other ponies leaning over me to hear him.
"I've been thinkin' about hittin' the road again, and I'mma always's lookin' for new talent for the label. I was here that other night couple weeks ago. Stallion alive, you colts killed it, ate it up, them soldiercolts were eatin' it up, eatin' it up."
Our pride grew as this legendary figure inflated our egos.
"So I got tah' thinkin', if you colts would like tah do some recordings "
That was my dream, Moody, if you remember. To be a big recording star, to tour Equestria, become a legendary performer, selling records left and right.
Here he was, Moody, one of your old associates, he even held his head like you. He was you, I realized, if you'd made a different choice
" or come on the road with me and the like, move on up tah' Manehattan."
The room was suddenly quiet.
"Whattcha think, colts?"
I slowly spun in my chair, looking up to the colts. As I did I felt for her hoof, ran my hoof across her foreleg.
I'm your harbor, Taffy. You are safe here, Penny is safe here.
I looked up to the colts, gave them everything they needed to know with one look.
I can't go.
I've made a promise.
This is where I'm supposed to be, I'm home for the first time in my life.
We've done something amazing here.
I won't stop any of you if you want to go, but please, please stay.
You're like brothers to me.
I love you each.
My eyes, if you remember, Moody, are very expressive.
I looked to each of them in turn and got a nod, and then turned back to Midnight Runner.
"I'm sorry we can't."
He didn't ask why, there was no long explanation of our stance, no counter-offers. He just nodded and turned to leave.
"I mean we can do the recordings, but we can't move to Manehattan, or tour for years at a time we're home, here, you see."
He turned back to us, his smile returning.
"Well, 'spose that'd work, yeah that'd work."
"Won't you join us for some dinner?" Short asked.
"We'd love to have you," added Lucky.
"I've got some stuff that's been wanting to show you since I was a foal," added Bluegrass.
The old stallion ran his hoof through his grey mane, turned and looked at the tables of smiling faces the little wave he got from Pink Bunny's mother.
"Well," he said with a wheeze and a chuckle, "Beats walkin' back to dah' hotel just tah' eat alone, don't it?"
"Yessir," I said, "Yes it does."
Later I sat with him as he had some desert following his meal. He sat with Pink Bunny's mother as I sat in that towering pony's shadow. I carefully cleared a spot on the table and laid out your album, Moody.
As he gasped and rocked back and forth he spewed forth names and remembrances. He was even in a few of them, pictures from the original Blue Flag, you and he battling it out.
"Dat' Moody Blues, weren't nopony ever better ya' know "
"I know," I said, "He taught me everything I know about the blues. Showed me how getting tangled up in them would show me my song, perfect it "
"Did he now?"
I showed him your case, Moody, with your name still inside on the label. I let him hold your first sax, the very same one he had played against on that stage with you two generations ago, and something moved in him. I showed him your altar and he is saddened, but not depressed.
I see what he is Moody. He is you if you'd gone the other way, if you'd made the other choice.
"C'mon, colt," he says, motioning me to stand up, "Let's give this a go."
We stand in front of your altar, Moody, as I lift your old sax to my lips, the colts running for the stage as they see what's about to happen. Lucky taps out a rhythm on the drums, Bluegrass at his guitar, Short takes the base. Our families begin to clap as Runner lifts his fabled harmonica, the one called Tangerine, and belts out the blues as I accompany him.
For three songs I'm able to pretend I'm playing at your original club, the first Blue Flag, and in his eyes I'm you and he gets to be young again for a moment.
As it ended he looked up to your altar again.
"Y'all got a ladder?" he asked, looking to each of us.
Soon Pink Bunny, Tuff Stuff and I are holding the ladder as the old pony climbs, and we are one and all astounded as he leans in and kisses your portrait, Moody, right on the forehead.
Such is our tradition now...every pony who comes to the New Blue Flag to perform must climb the rickety ladder and supplicate themselves thus.
"You'll come back and play with us sometime, right?" I ask as I see him to the door.
"Of course!" he says, putting his checkered cap back on. He looked at me and smiled.
"Old Moody Blues, he'd be proud of you, Blues," he says, shaking my hoof.
"Thank you," I said, nodding to the grey stallion. He took a few steps back and apparently noticing a sound, turned to look at its source. He gave a slow whistle.
"Ya' even got da' flag right!" he said with a chuckle before walking away, his hooves crunching the fallen leaves.
I returned inside to see the band, my employees, and my parents standing beneath your altar and staring at me. Penny and Taffy came forward, holding my sax, your sax, and its case.
"While the ladder is up," said Lucky, pointing, "It's time."
"What, wait, what?" I asked, confusion reigning down over me as I stared at my, your, beloved sax.
As I look on Bristle Brush and Sweeps, my janitors and the most unfortunately marked ponies I'd ever met, bring forward two immense glass cases and set them on the overhang next to your portrait.
I soon understand what they want of me. They want me to take down the blue flag that our little ship has been flying. They want the waves to wash away the blue band I've painted around it, let it return to a proper ship, ready to make for distant shores.
They want me to take the captaincy.
Penny and Taffy each give me long hugs as I first take the case up, and arrange it so that all can see the label, then close it within the glass.
They both give me another hug, and my parents as well, as I gather up the enchanted sax. I kiss it beneath the bell, place it on the stand, then forever consign it within the glass, sealing it until Celestia decrees otherwise and consecrating it to your memory.
I kiss your portrait, then make my way down the ladder. As the colts take their turn to kiss your forehead I watch the sax shimmer in the spotlight and then turn to those gathered there.
"Well," I said, already becoming emotional as I watched, "That was powerfully symbolic, but it does leave me without a sax "
"Taken care of," says Bluegrass as two of his nephews bring forward a new case.
All my family and friends gather around as I look at the label. At first I had been worried that Taffy had tried to give me back Moody's second sax, the one I'd told her to give to Penny.
But that, I realized immediately, couldn't be the case literally. This wasn't the same make as either of Moody's. This was a Grand Persian case, which meant that the sax inside would have to be one of the most perfect instruments made in Equestria.
"How you, you didn't have to " I stammered.
"It was in the equipment budget!" shouted back Tax Form, our accountant, hired just that week to manage our burgeoning income.
I swallowed hard, opened the case.
I lift it up and out, and around its perfect surface are engraved names of ponies I'd held dear, and pictures of my parents, grandparents, and the band.
And you too, Moody, smack dab in the center of the bell smiling wide.
And I notice two ovals not yet engraved, but present ready and room for many, many more.
"It's perfect thank you, thank you all so " I begin, becoming emotional.
"Plaaayyyy!" demands Pink Bunny in a bellowing tone.
I lift it to my lips. It tastes like a mule shoe, thank Luna. I take a breath and
"Bwargle", goes the sax, a rather traditional sound for me. Not it's fault, as soon I'll be making music with it that challenges anything I'd accomplished with yours, Moody (no offense).
However, my problem at that moment was, if you've been paying attention to my story old friend, was that I had started to cry yet again.
As I cried Penny and Taffy come forward, wrapping their hooves around me. Soon my parents followed, and my band, then my employees. They join me in these tears, I don't cry them alone this time these happy tears, these type of tears I'd been waiting to cry for more than two decades.
As I lift Penny up onto my back I listen to the sound of them all, especially Pink Bunny's tearful bawling. I see all of them, my little crew, and realize it's not so bad being
I looked to your picture again, Moody.
Like I said, I've been thinking about you a lot recently. If you can see us from down in the Well of Souls, I hope you can see how things have gone in the months since that tearful Blessings Day.
Do you know where I am yet as I scribble this note to you in my own little blue head? Of course you do, I'm being facetious, but do please have a guess.
I'm not in the club, the weather has turned good again, even if it was a hard winter, and I'm very ready to be outside.
It was a hard winter, but for the first time since I was a foal I'd looked forward to the winter holidays. Yule, New Years (which was a blast at the club), even one I had found repugnant and depressing a few years ago, Lovelaced Day, these all took on amazing new meanings for me, now that I had special ponies, ponies I loved, in my life.
It was amazing to me to be able to carry a sleeping Penny up the stairs on a cold blustery night, let her and her mother sleep in my bed while I slept on the couch so they didn't have to fight their way home through the snow. I enjoyed drifting off to sleep listening to the small sounds they'd make as they were sleeping in the next room.
More than once I awoke with Penny laying on my chest, having joined me in the night, and once her mother too with her head resting against Penny and I as she sat sleeping on the floor beside the couch.
When we awoke her the next morning she had a similar experience to what I had months before when I awoke from the same position. Penny and I had to fight from laughing aloud.
I fall more and more in love with that mare everyday, Moody.
It was a hard winter, Moody. The crowds dropped off after the winter really set in, but we've made a very respectable profit every month, and we'll pay off our loans early at this rate. The crowds are picking up again as the weather turned good.
I found a drawing Lucky had made of a brand new New Blue Flag, a massive club that can hold 5,000 ponies at a time. Colt's got dreams. Short though I think he's thinking military. Doing his part. Whatever his decision, I support him. Bluegrass is happy no matter what, looking for a mare of his own though!
We had one really big crowd that winter, the weekend that Midnight Runner came to play with us. The joint was packed to capacity. He kept his word, and he was magnificent.
He died two weeks later in Fillydelphia, you know, before he was able to start a new tour. Our place is now famous as the last place he played. I assume you've met up with him there. Please tell him that we miss him already, and that Tangerine already has her own place of honor on his own altar.
Tell him I look forward to playing with him again someday.
Just not very soon.
Which brings us back to you, Moody.
Moody, I'm telling you these things because I've been thinking about you a lot recently.
You see, I think I've figured out what happened.
You sacrificed yourself, didn't you?
You simply stopped. Walked away from the fame, the club, everything. I've wondered why you'd done that, why you never told me about your life before we met.
It wasn't simply that you were an iced tea enthusiast, was it? You had a reason to be on that stoop. You knew, somehow, that someday some poor unfortunate pony was going to come walking down that street with his head held low, bouncing off of garbage cans and street performers.
So, thinking that saving that pony was more important that your own fame and fortune, you just walked away. You just walked up those stairs, flipped on that porchlight, and spent the last decades of your life waiting for me.
That's what you meant, isn't it, when you told the old sax "ya' gotta be for the colt" isn't it? You had been waiting, watching, preparing for the instant I would come down that street. By Celestia's will, I realize it now.
Have you guessed where I am Moody? I'm standing with Penny and Taffy as we watch the most amazing meteor shower I've ever seen. They are huge, audible as they crackle through the atmosphere. Penny clings between Taffy and I as we watch, she tips back and forth, trusting, knowing we're both there to catch her.
The child is so much better now, stronger, more alive than when I first met her. As the meteors are falling I see enchantment on her face, and in her mother's I see calm, certainty hope, love.
You left bits and glamour behind because you knew doing so would, in time, save that child, one you'd never meet.
You gave up having your name in the entertainment magazines because you knew that I'd pull Taffy, a mare you'd never see, out of her fearful loneliness.
You essentially buried yourself alive in that rowhouse knowing that doing so would give me nights like this, Moody. I know that now.
I'm told by very wise ponies that there is no greater love than to sacrifice ones self for ones friends, Moody, and I see that's what you did. Even after you'd met me, even after you'd passed on your horn and got me tangled up in blues you still stayed on that porch for those last years years and change, of your life waiting to see if I'd be coming back that day to be sure that even if I was tangled up in them that they wouldn't choke me.
You sat there in the rain so that some day I could reach out to Penny and fall in love with Taffy.
You sat there in the snow so that someday I could meet the colts and have my own club where ponies flock by the thousands.
You sat there in the beating sun so that the losses of my apartment, Seafoam, Cake, and Cherry wouldn't beat me.
You sat there instead of in a club of your own, getting more and more famous and wealthy, and chose to wait for weeks on end for me come so you could help me through them, help me learn from my tribulations, add them to my song so that it "had gotten da' right mellow to it" as you would say.
And all that you asked in return was to play that song along with me a few times and that I be your friend, the last one you ever made as your life slowly but certainly ended.
Had you waited for me, that last day? Had you sat on your porch as the taste of copper entered your mouth? Did you look down the street one last time to see if I was coming as your left foreleg went numb? Did you flip on the porchlight as you struggled into your house and up the stairs one final time in case I came late?
Your love goes on, Moody, through my song. Your love goes out to Penny and Taffy, to the colts, my parents, my friends like Big Mac, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie, even my employees
yes, even Pink Bunny is the benefactor of your benevolence.
Do you know you are my very best friend, Moody? A stupid tiny little inconvenience like you being dead doesn't stop that, our relationships we forge in life continue onward in cascading spirals for decades, even generations after we are gone. We can never know the number and magnitude of the lives we touch with our love, and the Pony of Death can only remove the veil of flesh and carry it to the Fountainhead, but from the Well of Souls we continue to draw our strength for as long as we live and through those we touched ever after that
You sat and played the sax with me Moody, taught me that it was alright to be painted blue. I am forever your friend, Moody, and eternity rings with your kindness and love as clearly and as loudly as a saxophone sounding out into a darkened club as glasses tinkle and ponies stare into each other's eyes.
That, Moody, I think is the type of thing that's possible when friendship is magic, and while Procer Celestia Invictus and Procer Luna Revenio continue to guide their charges across the Equestrian sky.