Edited by Smayds
The unicorn held the wrench in his hoof, biting his lip. Under his cream colored coat that covered his lanky body like a drape, his muscles were tense. The unicorn paused and frowned. He was positioned under a massive piece of machinery, some kind of locomotive, with his back resting on a skateboard.
He groaned to himself, his upper lip twitching with irritation. The red mustache he had grown, cheaply styled to look high-class, twitched as well. His green eyes narrowed as he looked up at the underbelly of the great vehicle.
“Do you see it, Flam?” Another unicorn, standing anxiously by the side of the mechanical behemoth, swallowed thickly and ducked his head down to look at his twin brother, positioned on the skateboard. His white and red mane was discordant and messy, as though it hadn’t seen the face of a comb, or any kind of soap or general hygiene, in several days.
Flam, the mustached unicorn, didn’t acknowledge his brother, but simply raised a hoof and adjusted a dial in the midst of the dull, rusting gears of the machine. A torrent of foul smelling liquid rained down onto his face, and he gagged as much of it landed in his mouth.
Rancid apple cider.
He coughed and hacked, bracing his hooves against the gears and sliding himself out from under the machine, the cider dribbling down his mustache and face onto the ground, leaving dark droplets of the stuff on the sandy dirt road. He snatched a blackened, oil-covered rag and wiped his face of the foul substance, his eyes tearing up from the horrific stench and taste.
He coughed again and spit.
“Are you quite alright?” His brother asked, leaning in slightly toward Flam. He nodded.
“Yeah, Flim.” Flam smacked his lips several times, frowning deeply. “I’ll be alright. I’m worried about the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000.” He mumbled, planting a hoof on the old red locomotive and frowning. His white and scarlet tail twitched as he rested a cheek against it and stroked the machine like a cat.
Flim, holding a dusty blue and white striped shirt, two black bowties, and cheap straw hats in his front hooves, frowned. “What’s wrong with it, do you think?” He asked, tilting his head to the side and climbing up to a cockpit-like area at the top front of it, setting the shirts, now tinted brown from grime and dirt, on the passenger seat.
“The wood jammed the system.” Flam sighed. “Damnit!” He scuffed a back hoof against the dusty ground. They were pulled off the side of the road in the middle of the desert. The sun beat down unforgivingly on the two stallions and their odd machine.
In all directions, sand stretched endlessly for miles, a flat expanse of empty desert. If one squinted hard enough, they might be able to make out the thin, dark speck of a city that was the next spot on their map. If they could just fix the blasted machine. “We’ve been driving it fine!” protested Flim, stamping a hoof indignantly.
Flam glared at his brother from the sandy ground as Flim slid down the side of the vehicle. “This is your fault!” Flim pointed a hoof at his brother, glaring.
Flam narrowed his eyes. “How is this my fault?” His mustache twitched comically again.
“You just HAD to stop in Ponyville, huh?” Flim snapped. “You just had to check out all the hubbub about the Apple Family, huh? They were just trying to make money!”
“I know that!” Flam snapped, his eyes narrowing significantly. “I know! They had a family to take care of. We have to eat, too. I did what I could.”
“Which is threatening to take their home? Their livelihood? The idea was to sell some cider and get out of there! No, but you had to keep pushing, and you had to drag me into it, too!”
“Oh, please!” Their voices had escalated significantly now, echoing throughout the dry desert valley. “Don’t act so innocent, Flim! You were the one who decided to turn us into conmen by swindling that poor old granny! You started us on that track, I was just following your lead!”
Flim scowled. “Flam, what are we doing, arguing like this?” He paused, casting his eyes upward toward the sky and wiping his sweat-beaded brow.
Flam suddenly frowned as well. “Sorry. I just don’t… I don’t like this. I don’t like lying or cheating or stealing. Or any of that.” He plopped down on his haunches.
“Me neither,” Flim mumbled. He sighed, looking down at his stomach, which growled with hunger immediately, and he shrunk back. They hadn’t earned any money since Canterlot, and were beginning to look emaciated. Flam’s ribs were showing.
Who wanted to hire two ponies named Flim and Flam? The Flim-Flam Brothers? How droll. No one would take them seriously. They had to be self-employed! They’d been salesponies from the time they were young. Business partners. Entrepreneurs! The frontier of traveling salesmanship was one that many in Equestria had yet to break into. They would be among the first. They would start a new generation of ponies, ones with open minds.
Flam had noticed the cider shortage in Equestria and decided that he would build a machine. It would be a fantastic machine, one that could make barrels of cider in minutes, easy to distribute to thirsty ponies all over Equestria. They’d travel together, they’d be world famous!
They’d be the World Famous Flim-Flam Brothers, traveling salesponies nonpareil! They’d bring joy to those all around Equestria, and get some bits in their pocket while doing so.
If they just hadn’t taken it so far. If they just hadn’t gotten greedy and carried away. It hadn’t been intentional. No, they had respect for their fellow vendors. They weren’t sure what they had been thinking, or indeed if they’d been thinking at all.
The musical number had been prepared by Flim, it almost always got the audiences riled up enough. But they’d pushed it too far. They’d gotten that damn contest, and they’d almost taken a farm and home from an innocent family.
They’d just wanted to give the ponies some cider and sell some alongside the Apples, then move along.
Their next stop, though several miles away, was definitely in view, if even just a dark speck on the horizon. But they were so hungry. Now, according to Flam, the cider-making mechanism in the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 was jammed with woodchips and leaves from the Apple family’s trees, which had been sucked into the machine in their rush to win the contest and take away a family’s livelihood.
It was still able to drive, and there was enough wood to burn in its system as fuel, but without the ability to make cider, how were they going to make money and get food? Flim’s stomach rumbled again and he frowned deeply. “I suppose it’s best we keep on going, hm?” he mumbled, lifting his head and gazing longingly at the ever-distant speck of a city. “Maybe we’ll just have to look for normal work until we can fix it.”
“There’s no fixing it,” Flam argued back immediately. His face, neck, and chest were going sticky from the quickly evaporating cider, leaving behind a foul-smelling residue. “I don’t know what we’re gonna do.” Flam stared sadly at the ground for several seconds, shutting his eyes and inhaling deeply. The sun made the thickening cider in his cream-colored coat even more disgusting; he couldn’t move his forelegs without having to unstick them from his chest.
Flim paled. “Wh… What do we do?” His knees began to tremble and his eyes grew moist. He looked desperately at his brother, eyes scanning his slightly older twin for some kind of guidance. Flam merely sighed.
“I don’t know.” He threw his hooves into the air and violently shook his head. “Okay? I don’t know,” he said resignedly, quieter this time than before. “Of course, I can pretend as though I know what I’m doing. Sure. We ran off!” Flam sadly picked up the oily cloth in his mouth, cringing at the taste. “Sfay sfill,” he muffled through the rag as he sat beside Flim and took the cloth into his hoof. The stallion held the residue-covered rag, seeping a nasty mixture of substances, and pressed it up against his brother’s cutie mark, a segment of an apple.
Flim winced, promptly snapping his head toward his brother and waffling his eyebrows in general confusion. “What are you doing?”
The mustached unicorn closed his eyes and continued rubbing the rough rag against his sibling’s dock. Little bits of paint rolled into balls and began to peel off of the fur, unsticking from the individual strands of hair and forming small rolls of color. Damp, diluted paint ran off of his flank.
Flam drew back the cloth, scrutinizing his gaze at Flim’s ‘cutie mark.’ Little bits of the apple slice was still visible, but a mass of green could now be made out behind the crusty paint. He wiped several more times, pressing vigorously before he took back the rag again and wiped the cutie mark with his hoof.
A large stack of money, kept in place with a rubber band. That was Flim’s cutie mark. Flim sighed dejectedly, silently motioning to be given the rag. Flam nodded and wordlessly gave it to his brother, turning to wipe his flanks of the offending substance as well.
Flim sighed, scrubbing madly away at the dried acrylics. “Sorry,” he grumbled through his teeth.
Flam blinked. “Why?”
“For letting us get carried away like that.”
Flam paused and nodded. “I’m sorry, too. This isn’t just your fault, you know.”
Flim laughed dryly. “Yeah, I suppose.” The dry air made him cough. He looked drained and sleepless, dark bags gathered under his bloodshot eyes. An unfitting pallor had overtaken his normally rosy-cheeked face. He gasped and hacked again, frowning, his face reddening from the effort. He pulled back the cloth, now coated with thin bits and layers of paint to reveal several gold coins sitting on Flam’s flank.
Flam paused. Now that the fake, painted-on cutie marks were removed, what would they do? They had nothing to sell any more. His eyes cast downward and his frown only deepened. He sighed, looking up at the machine. “Maybe…” He narrowed his eyes. “Hey, Flim?” His eyes widened as he reached a revelation.
Flim had climbed back into the driver’s seat of the great machine, fiddling with several old, creaky mechanisms. “Yes?”
“How fast can you gallop?”
Flim slowly stopped his fumbling and cocked an eyebrow at Flam. “Why?” he asked, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.
“I say we pull one last escapade.” The corners of Flam’s mouth were slowly curling upward into a grin. “How do you feel about selling the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000?”
“Selling it? Why? We wouldn’t have any way to get around, and no one wants to buy a stupid old machine that can’t do anything, Flam.” Flim rolled his eyes. Sometimes, his brother could just be so senseless.
“Oh, no, Flim. The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 is a remarkable breakthrough in cider-making technology. It just so happens that the next town we’re stopping in is also a large exporter of apples and apple products. Start warming up your singing voice. Are you ready to tell them all about the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, and sell them this wondrous machine?”
Flim paused, realizing what the other unicorn was getting at. He reached over, taking one of the straw hats that he had been carrying earlier, and perched it on his head. “Let’s do it, Flam.”
“Oh, we’ve got opportunity in this very community!”
“We’re the world-famous Flim-Flam brothers! Traveling salesponies nonpareil!”
They ended the musical number, complete with song and dance, in the middle of a dusty town with a few earth ponies dotted here and there. Some of the earth ponies stopped to look at the marvel of two unicorns, but for the most part, a small crowd had gathered. It consisted of only what the brothers could assume was the entire town’s population, judging by the relatively small size. There was a sheriff, some kind of drunkard with dry lips who insisted on smacking them obnoxiously every few seconds, and a dull-looking stallion with a monocle and a mustache.
However, one earth pony had forced his way through the miniscule crowd and pushed his way to the front by the end of their song. His orange mane hung down in front of his eyes, his yellow face shielded by a brown, dusty cowpony hat. His green eyes lit up and he exclaimed excitedly, “I’ll take ten!”