BEEP BEEP BEEP
The alarm clock next to Rumble’s bed went off, but he was already awake and in the kitchen. Though he never really considered himself an early bird, more often than not he was up bright and wide awake in the morning. On the other hoof, Thunderlane was prone to sleeping in past noon on certain days and never got up before he did (unless he was forced to). This didn’t bother him. They still got to spend some time together after school and on weekends. As the toaster pastries warmed up Rumble stretched his wings and did as many push-ups as possible. Working out together used to be a normal thing they did until Thunderlane decided sleeping in was more fun.The smell of toasted blueberries wafted to his nose and his stomach grumbled in response. They finally popped. Finishing at twelve push-ups, he flitted up and put the two pastries on a plate. Pouring himself some orange juice, he sat at the table for breakfast.
The sun had barely begun to rise over Ponyville when Rumble set out towards town. Landing on the ground, he discovered to his delight a moderate layer of fog greeting his hooves; having never seen much fog back home before, he kicked it around in his hooves, playing with the mushy, supple cloud for a few moments. This special ground cloud wasn’t something he planned on wasting his day on, so he toyed with it for two minutes longer before discarding his fog-cloud-tower. It slumped back into the fog as Rumble trotted towards town.
It had been a week, maybe a week and a half, since he, his brother, Flitter and Cloudchaser had moved from Cloudsdale down to Ponyville. It was a cheaper place to live, more relaxing, and meant Thunderlane could finally get out of his parents’ house. Rumble was cool with the idea of moving –not that he didn’t have friends in school, but the idea of going somewhere entirely new in his life was exciting. Visiting his parents was only a short flight away and with Thunderlane being an adult it was okay that he could take after him.
Rumble did remember quite clearly his mom grabbing Flitter and Cloudchaser by their wings to deliver a hushed command to keep a close eye on him.
There was plenty of fog covering the ground all over the place. Thunderlane must have been at it all morning. The birds chirped a happy tune in the trees above. Rumble kicked at the wisps of fluff around his hooves and started whistling too. It wasn’t something he was very good at it –but it was fun to do. Before he knew it he’d broken into a giddy trot and found himself traveling past a long wooden fence corralling an orchard full of apple trees. Red delicious apples swayed in the gentle breeze. With the sunlight beginning to filter through the branches, they shone like rubies.
His stomach growled. Having a light breakfast was probably a poor choice. The tantalizing fruit was beckoning him for a bite. Rumble stopped walking down the path and leaned on the fence. Certainly nopony would miss just one apple. They weren’t too many bits and he could always pay for it later. Maybe he could fly home and grab his allowance and find the owner. With a cautious glance over his shoulder, he unfurled his wings.
“Well howdy there, Rumble!”
He froze mid-lap, one hoof still outstretched. Turning his head around, he saw Apple Bloom trotting over to him from the edge of the trail. The saddlebags slung on her back were packed with hammer, nails and other tools that jangled together as she neared him. “So how come y’all are up so dang early?”
“I uh… “ Rumble hopped off the fence post. His ears flattened and wings dropped. He felt like a theif caught in the act. “Just wanted to walk around town. Didn’t see any of it when me and Thunderlane moved here because of school and homework. It looked pretty big from my porch.”
“Ponyville is plenty big!” said Apple Bloom proudly. “Why Ah can’t tell you jus’ how many things there are to do ‘round here! Ah mean Ah could,” she giggled,” but y’all are better off exploring town for yourself! What didja see so far?”
“I saw. Well. I didn’t visit anything yet,” Rumble sheepishly admitted. “I kind of fell asleep on the ride down but I remember this really big building in the middle of town,” he put a hoof to his chin, trying to remember. There was another building that looked like a merry-go-round and this one that looked like a gingerbread house. That one was way cool.”
“That’s Sugarcube Corner!” grinned Apple Bloom. “It’s got the best baker in town inside, next to mah big sis o’course.”
Rumble’s stomach growled again. “Do they have breakfast?”
“You bet your behind they do! Applejack –that’s mah sisters’ name by the way– she’s friends with the bakers and supplies them with her apples for all their apple flavored treats,” Apple Bloom puffed out her chest. “See, Sweet Apple Acres has the best, highest quality apples around town.”
“We got all out apples shipped from Hoofington Fields,” Rumble remarked.
“Phooey!” Apple Bloom scrunched up her nose and stuck out her tongue. “Their apples are so bland ‘n boring they make my tastebuds cry.” A bright idea struck her. “Hey since y’all are right here why don’t ah let you have a real quality Apple Family apple!”
Apple Bloom dropped her heavy–looking saddlebags and hopped the fence. Quick as a flash she had bucked the tree. A small torrent of apples fell from the branches. Like a mantis grabbing a fly, Apple Bloom snatched one from the air with her teeth. Rumble licked his lips in anticipation. With a sweep of her tail, the yellow filly had two more flung into the air. Honing on a particularly shiny one, Rumble flapped up and grabbed it with his hoof.
“Ah can guarantee that you’ll love it!” said Apple Bloom, taking a confident bite from the one in her mouth. “Shee, everypony who triesh our applesh lovesh ‘em.”
Rumble discovered that one bite of the crimson fruit was indeed the most delicious he’d ever tasted. He thanked the giggling filly who handed him another when he finished gobbling it down. Taking a leisurely bite, he asked Apple Bloom what the work equipment in the saddlebags was for.
“Oh that junk? Me, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo are sellin’ lemonade together an’ we’re gonna build ourselves a proper stand,” she wiped her mouth and burped loudly. “Ah got the tools, Sweetie’s got the lemons ‘n stuff , and Scoot has the wooden boards.”
“Scootaloo?” he stopped eating his apple mid-bite. “Can I ask you about Scootaloo?”
“Y’know…” his ears flattened against his head. “The whole race thing…”
“Oh, all that nonsense?” Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. “That’s nothin’ to get yourself all worked up over.”
“I think she’d mad at me…”
Apple Bloom considered that for a moment.
“Aw shoot, Rumble. Scoot’s been sore since the race for sure. Not entirely at you. That pair of prissy fillies in school’s what’s to blame,” said Apple Bloom matter-of-factly. Burping again, she walked over to her saddlebags. “Ah’d love to stay an’ chat, Rumble, but Ah got to go. This thing ain’t gonna build itself.” Glancing over to him she saw his face still wearing a frown. “Also, Ah think maybe if ya stopped by you can get a discount. Just for today. Sound good?”
“Yeah sure,” he smiled at her. “Lemonade sounds cool.”
“See ya later then, okay?”
“’Kay,” replied Rumble.
“One more thing!” called out Apple Bloom. “Since y’all are a blank flank like me, Sweetie ‘n Scoot you are considered eligible to join the Cutie Mark Crusaders! It’s been all fillies since Featherweight got his cutie mark so, y’know, jus’ something to think about. Bye!”
In two shakes of a tail, Apple Bloom was out of sight. Considering they hadn’t spoken much in school, he was surprised how affable the young filly was – even getting an offer to join their club! That was so generous of her. There was still a whole town to explore and judging from the position of the sun it was only around eight. Rumble finished his delicious apple, wiped his hooves, and continued forth into town.
More of the townsfolk were starting to stir by the time he arrived into town, and the streets were getting busy. Ponies were opening their shops and starting their daily routine. Pegasi flew around overhead, some of them carrying things for delivery, others part of the weather patrol adjusting clouds. The layer of fog laid out by Thunderlane for the morning was already dissipating in the growing heat of the sun and Pegasi were pushing puffy chunks of cumulus around the sky to provide some shade. Rumble gave up trying to spot his brother amongst all the other ponies. Walking around with his nose in the air ended up with him bumping into some very annoyed stallions.
Turning the corner past the Quill and Sofa store, Rumble noted a lot of these houses were combination shops and apartments. Walking over a small bridge, he spotted the merry-go-round building he half-remembered. Thoughts of an indoor fair were deflated when the store windows only offered a gallery of frilly dresses inside. Carousel Boutique was suddenly the least fun-sounding place to be.
The largest building was Ponyvilles' town hall, which, upon closer inspection, was falling apart at the roof. It wasn’t terribly interesting. There was a large tree growing in town smattered with round porthole windows and around five telescopes that he could spot. Instead of running over to see what it was, he asked a homely yellow mare carrying a basket of flowers, who told him it was the library. Rumble made a note to visit it later. There were still some Daring Do books he hadn’t read yet.
Baking cinnamon and blueberry wasted past his nose. Rumble inhaled deeply. It smelled amazing. As if the scent alone were pulling him to this bakery, his wings spread and he felt himself gliding towards its source. He found himself staring up at the brown door to Sugarcube Corner. Rumble put his hoof on the door.
“Well well well –if isn’t the most popular blank flank in school.”
The unmistakably grating voice of Diamond Tiara drifted through his ear. Turning he found the piercing ice-blue eyes of the mean–spirited filly boring into him, along with her consistently present friend, Silver Spoon. Rumble was having a pretty good morning, and with the oddly pleasant treatment he’d been getting from them all week he was caught off guard.
“Uh…hey?” he cautiously offered.
Silver Spoon walked over to him. “Hey yourself, blank-flank. I just bet you’re loooving all the attention you’ve been getting from everypony else –basking in the popularity that a talentless pony like you doesn’t deserve.”
“Just so you know, Rumble, easy comes as easy goes,” sneered Diamond Tiara, circling around him. “Winning that race was a fluke, that lucky enough worked for you, works for us as well. Just so you know, we can take that away from you super easy.”
“All we need to do is say the word,” said Silver Spoon.
“Do some things.”
“Say some things.”
“Things that don’t even need to be true!” added Diamond Tiara briskly.
“Then you’ll be a nothing nopony blank flank just like our resident loser squad.”
“Maybe they’ll even let you join their exclusive club, seeing how well you fit the bill,” Diamond Tiara arched her eyebrows.” You’ve even got kind of a filly face. So you’ll fit right in.”
Rumble’s cheeks burned hot in anger. He stamped his hoof in the dirt. “Both of you are just a couple of bullies! What’s your problem!?”
“We’re just making sure blank flanks,” –she motioned to his bare haunches– “like you know their place. Until they get their marks they’re just a bunch of good for nothing ponies taking up space.”
“That is NOT true!” Rumble said through gritted teeth.
“Oh yeah?” smirked Diamond Tiara, meeting his gaze. “Then what are you good for, huh? What’s your special talent?” the lack of response from Rumble allowed her some more taunting. “What’s Apple Bloom good for? Sweetie Belle? Scootaloo? Nothing. So they’re worthless ponies until they’re good for something and have a mark to prove it.”
Though he was rather meek, Rumble had never felt the urge to lash out at anypony so strongly before hearing those stinging words. Instead he ground his teeth at her face and did nothing.
“If you’re lucky,” she continued. “You’d just find a diff-“
“Diamond Tiaraaa! Young lady, we’re heading to the boutique now!” called a stallion from somewhere close by. “You and Silver get trotting or I’m skipping it.”
“Coming, daddyyyyy!” she answered back. “Let’s go Spoon. I think we’ve had enough of our time wasted by this blank flank.” Diamond Tiara turned around and flicked her tail at Rumble’s nose, shooting him a mocking grin as she pranced over to her father. Silver snickered and followed at her side. Rumble waited until they were out of sight to buck the air in frustration. What complete jerks. How could they think those things? Everypony was a blank flank once.
Rumble unclenched his jaw and took a deep breath. It helped a little, but the burning comments stuck. Hopefully having a buttered muffin or bagel would cheer him up; something light. He pushed the door to the bakery open.
“Thanks for visiting Sugarcube Corner! Have a super duper day!” rang a cheery voice behind the counter. Sitting behind the counter was the pinkest mare Rumble had ever seen. Her bubblegum coat was similar to the bully he’d just spoken to, but her hair was a different story. It was a mess of loops and curls that bobbed with every slight shake and nod of her head. The customer she was waving off headed towards the door with a white cardboard box dangling from a candycane–colored string in her mouth. Rumble held the door open for her, and then marched up to the counter.
“Um…hello. What do you have for breakf-“
The pink filly gasped loudly, jumping into the air. Rumble backed away in surprise wondering if he said something wrong. The mare landed on the counter and bounced over to him.
“OhmyGOSH WHO ARE YOU!? You’re new in town aren’tcha because I know everypony in town there is to know and I don’t know you yet so that means somepony’s due for a party! You like parties right? Haha what am I saying EVERYPONY loves a party like, DUUUH. The only time I met a party pooper was this donkey his name was Cranky Doodle and he was a big ol’ grumpypants but even then I still managed to make him my friend!”
“Uh,” Rumble blinked, trying to process all that, “huh?”
“Name’s Pinkie Pie!” introduced Pinkie Pie, giving him a shake of the hoof. “What’s your name?! OOH! OH! Can I guess? Let’s make it a guessing game!”
“Uh…” he shrugged. “Kay.”
“Sssssssssspeedy?” guessed Pinkie Pie.
Rumble shook his head.
“Krastos the Kooky Krazy Kraftmaster?!”
Rumble stifled a laugh. “Noo…”
Pinkie tapped her chin. “Hmmm… well I give up!” she threw her forelegs up in defeat. “I never ever ever win guessing games.” Pinkie Pie sighed and walked back behind the counter. “So what’s your name?” She asked, leaning over with interest.
“REALLY!? That name is super AWESOME!” Pinkie shouted, clopping her hooves together. “I love it! I TOTALLY bet your super special talent is going to be something rumbly! Like a drummer for a super famous rock band!”
At that suggestion Rumble couldn’t help but laugh. “That would be way cool.”
“You bet!” said Pinkie enthusiastically. “So what can I getcha!?”
“Oh…um, I didn’t bring any bits with me and I already ate an apple,” said Rumble sheepishly. “So I’m just looking around.”
“Oh nonononononoNO!” Pinkie’s face was absolutely aghast. “You can’t just leave Sugarcube Corner without trying any of our sweets!” Like a rocket she was over at the chocolate cupcake counter. “They’re still super fresh! Here!” Pinkie shoved a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting into his hoof. “Try this! It’s super good!”
It was. Pinkie Pie was not fibbing. The chocolate cupcake was warm, deliciously moist on the outside and filled with flavorful custard on the inside. It practically melted in his mouth as he ate it bite by bite. This was not a treat to wolf down. Finishing the cupcake, Rumble licked the few crumbs on his hoof, then blushed at Pinkies ear-to-ear grin.
“Soooo?” she tilted her head expectantly. “Was that NOT the best thing ever or what?”
“Mm…yeah,” Rumble smiled, feeling good all over. “It was.”
“YES!” Pinkie Pie jumped up in the air, then stopped, just hanging there. “Also what are your two favorite flavors of anything? This is important!”
“Ooh! Good combo!” Pinkie zipped over to the counter, flipping open a yellow pad and dotting things down. Rumble trotted over and leaned against the counter.
“How come you wanted to know that?” he asked, not sure what she was up to.
Pinkie looked at him as if he asked what color she was. “Duh! For your party!”
That was wholly unexpected. Rumble felt his jaw go slack.
“A party?” he quickly found his voice. “A party for me!?”
“You betcha! I try to throw parties for all the new ponies in town and you are no exception!” Pinkie Pie flashed him another huge grin. “Now flap on over here and tell me more about your favorite things to eat and games to play!”
“So Pinkie Pie is really throwing you a party? That’s awesome!”
Shady threw up his hoof and met Rumble’s with a heavy clop. Not wanting to leave Featherweight, who was trotting silently to his right, feeling left out, Rumble raised his hoof high-hoofed him too. The force of it nearly threw Featherweight off kilter.
“Yeah that’s really nice of her. When Pinkie Pie threw me a party it was so much fun,” recalled Shady, thinking back to it fondly. “Believe me it’s going to be great!”
“What was your party like?” asked Rumble.
“Oh shoot was it fun! A Pinkie party always has lots of loud music, streamers, confetti, tasty food and they’re just great!”
“Sometimes they get to feel same-y because she does so many,” chimed in Featherweight.
“Doesn’t make them bad!” quipped Shady, seeing Rumble’s concerned look. “They don’t get old either, but he is right. They don’t feel very unique. One welcoming party is like them all,” Shady toyed with his visor. “Since it’s your first Pinkie party ever we know you are going to love it.”
A smile creeped across Rumble’s face. “Well alright. All of you guys are invited ,‘kay?”
Another quick round of high hoofs broke out and the two colts who had had parties hosted by Pinkie recounted some of their favorite moments. Pretty much all of them were held inside the bakery. With every detail shared, Rumble felt his smile grow bigger and bigger. Featherweight nudged him in the side as they turned a corner past the train station.
“So who else are you inviting?” he asked.
“Everypony I know! My big brother and,” –the twins flashed in his thoughts– “his two friends and everypony else in class!” Rumble’s nose scrunched up momentarily. “I don’t think I want Diamond Tiara or Silver Spoon to come.”
His two friends stopped dead in their tracks. They were completely taken aback.
“So what?” asked Rumble, actually more surprised than irritated at their reaction
“Dude you don’t just NOT invite them. They’re the most popular fillies in school!” Shady’s voice was dead serious. “They get invited to everything.”
Featherweight nodded in agreement. Rumble was less than pleased.
“Why do you think I have to invite them? I- “he swiveled his head around to make sure no snooping fillies were around. “I don’t like them very much. They’re mean. How come everypony likes them?”
“They throw really good parties,” quipped Featherweight.
Rumble snorted. “I thought Pinkie Pie had the best parties.”
Shady pawed at the ground. “They are...but, those ones are pretty good too.”
“They hire clowns!” said Featherweight.
“Bands to play music!” added Shady.
“Bags of candy for everypony!” Featherweight flapped his wings excitedly. “They hand out the best goody bags!”
Rumble huffed and continued down the trail. “That sounds like overkill. Is her dad rich or something?”
Shady broke into a trot to catch up with him. “Yeah he’s Filthy Rich.”
“Figures,” he muttered in response.
“No his name is Filthy Rich,” stressed Shady. “He runs Rich's Barnyard Bargains and has a lot of bits to spare.”
“Oh.” Rumble briefly considered the idea of his mother naming him Filthy. The mental image forced a giggle out of his mouth. “His name is Filthy…hehe.”
“Her dad gets all mad when ponies call him Filthy,” Shady snickered, kicking a small rock down the trail. “Miss Cheerilee does it on purpose I think because she always calls him Filthy.”
“Haha.” He hadn’t seen that happen yet but Rumble was looking forwards to it. The afternoon sun shining above was beating down on their backs. Smacking his lips of the chocolate icing that still lingered there, Rumble was regretting his choice in an early lunch at the bakery. The sweet treats felt heavy in his stomach. Washing it down with a free strawberry milkshake left his mouth sticky. For the moment, all he wanted was something cool and clean to drink. Flying up to take a look for a water fountain seemed like a good idea. Rumble craned his head upwards for a good cloud to sit on.
“Oh cool a lemonade stand!” cried Shady.
“Huh?” he snapped back to attention and looked over to where his friend was pointing. Set up down on the opposite side of the tracks leading out west was a crude looking wooden stand. The trio of fillies running it was unmistakable. Apple Bloom spotted them at once.
“HOWDY FELLAS!” she called over. “Care for a drink? Ah guarantee it’s the best lemonade Ponyville can offer!
Featherweight zipped over to the stand immediately, with Shady taking a slow trot over himself. Rumble cringed, his wings opening with the intense desire to just go airborne. Scootaloo was there –she was looking right at him too.
“C’mon dude! There’s plenty left. We’re all thirsty. So get over here!” Shady was waving him over. Rumble gulped and started a nervous trot towards the stand. Apple Bloom held a steady glass as Sweetie poured the yellow pitcher of lemonade. It caught the sunlight and illuminated her already yellow face into a brilliant bright gold. Apple Blooms’ shining visage broke into a white smile as he neared.
“Heya Rumble! Sure took your sweet time struttin’ over here. Why Ah hope you’re thirsty ‘cause we got plenty o’ lemonade left!” she pushed a glass over to him.
“Heya Apple Bloom,” he said, grabbing the glass. Rumble turned to Sweetie who was pouring another. “Hi Sweetie.”
“Hi!” she responded, absorbed with steadying the heavy pitcher. Rumble turned his attention to Scootaloo.
“H-Hey Scootaloo,” he murmured.
Scootaloo noisily crushed a lemon between her hooves. Specks of lemon juice smattered his (and her) face. “Hi,” she said snappily, glaring at him.
“That’d be two bits!” cut in Apple Bloom before Rumble could say anything further.
“I left my money home today, sorry,” he began. Scootaloo leaned over and pulled the cup towards her, the ice in the glass clinking noisily.
“No bits no sale,” she said flatly.
Featherweight dropped two gold bits into the half filled glass jar. “I’ll pay, no problem Rumble.”
The money issue solved thanks to his friends’ generosity, Rumble reached over and gently took the cup of lemonade from Scootaloo. Though she had been gripping it tightly, the orange filly relinquished it immediately. Counting her collected coin was now of greater concern. The glass jar jingled with the sound of shifting bits as Scootaloo turned it upside down onto the table. Water condensing on the glass collected in Rumbles’ hoofgrip. Not wanting it to get any warmer he took a swig.
“Mmm…this lemonade is good!” he complimented, taking another small sip.
“Yeah it’s great! Lemonade is my favorite drink,” agreed Featherweight, downing a second glass. “This is a bit sugary but okay.”
“That’d be another two bits. Ahm afraid we don’t offer free refills ‘round these parts,” said Apple Bloom matter-of-factly, pointing to a barely legible scrawling underneath the wooden printing. Featherweight shrugged and plopped down another two coins on the table. Scootaloo swiped them up immediately.
“…nineteen…twenty…twenty-one…twenty-TWO!” cried Scootaloo triumphantly. “We did it girls! I’ve got enough here for a new wheel! I’m back on track alllright!”
Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom threw their hooves up in celebration. The three fillies embraced in a brief hug followed by a victory drink of their lemonade. Apple Bloom cast the three colts standing around the sign a smile. It faded though, her eyes widening as if she just remembered something. Whispering into Sweetie’s ear she nudged her friend in the side and the white filly nodded. Apple Bloom set her hooves down and cleared her throat.
“Hey y’all, ‘fore me ‘an my friends set up on this side of the trail we gon’ and started on that side,” she pointed past them to squattish set of bushes across from them. “There was a dead ‘possum lying behind the big fat bush there. Ah figure you want to see it?”
“Whoa really?!” Shady and Featherweight shared an excited glance. “Let’s go poke it with a stick!”
Sweetie Belle sprinted over to the bush with the two colts on her tail. Not wanting to miss out, Rumble began a gallop before feeling a sharp tug on his tail pulling him backwards. He plopped on his butt from the reversal of momentum. Turning around he saw Apple Bloom spitting out his tail.
“Hush you,” she ordered, leaning over to his ear. “You jus’ stay right here for a sec’, okay?”
“Um…” Rumble considered that demand for a moment. “kay?”
With a satisfied smile, Apple Bloom winked and joined the other three ponies over at the fat hedge. Rumble sat there dumbly. Wasn’t she going to talk to him?
The insistent sound of hooves knocking on wood rose from behind. Rumble took to the air and righted himself, landing in front of the stand. He momentarily forgot about Scootaloo still sitting behind the stand. The orange filly sighed, ran her hoof through her purple hair and started scratching the back of her neck.
“Listen, Rumble, right?” she asked wearily, accepting his slight nod as an answer. “Last Monday when we had our race, that I lost, and cracked my wheel, well, I think we got off on the wrong hoof.”
Scootaloo stopped scratching her neck, preferring to look at an interesting cloud instead of Rumbles face. “So when I lost I got really mad about it. Then you got all popular –everyone liked you and I just…stayed mad, at you.”
“Which is…wrong,” Scootaloo swallowed hard, as if what she were trying to say was affecting her speech. “Plus it’s also not entirely your fault…and, well, what I’m telling you is…” she trailed off, now looking over his shoulder. Rumble glanced back and spotted Apple Bloom scrunching at them and motioning with her hoof, then stopped when she caught Rumble looking. He swiveled back and found Scootaloo’s light purple eyes directly meeting his.
“I’m sorry for kind of being a jerk to you this whole week,” she said with a light sigh. “Like really, I’m not like that. It’s just those two fillies get to a pony after a while. So are we cool?” she put up her hoof.
Rumble bumped it happily. “Yeah we cool. Also don’t think that I’m friends with them or anything. They’re a couple of bullies.”
Scootaloo’s eyes widened. “You think so too?”
“I know so,” he replied. “They’re only pretending to like me; because I’m still a blank-flank they don’t actually think I’m cool.
“Even though they aren’t mean to you?”
“They told me so themselves.”
“Really?" Scootaloo leaned over the counter. “Tell me what they told you.”
Time flies in good company. For the next hour or so, Rumble, Scootaloo , and the rest of the young ponies sat around the lemonade stand. Since their goal was finally met, Apple Bloom declared the rest of the lemonade to be on the house. Featherweight drank half the pitcher himself. Talking about school was the main topic, delving into other parts of town. Rumble re-told his encounter with Pinkie Pie to the three Crusaders –who had a good laugh over her antics. They were excited to hear about his upcoming party and Rumble assured the fillies that they were all invited. Halfway between a story told from Pinkie Pie on the origins of her cutie mark Featherweight burped loudly and got the rest of the group laughing.
“What time is it?” asked Featherweight, trying to change the subject.
“I’m not wearing my watch today,” Shady looked at his hoof dejectedly. Apple Bloom put a hoof to her brow and looked up at the sun.
“Ah reckon it’s around five,” she said, her voice confident.
“Oh gosh! I need to go home. I can’t be late for dinner!” Featherweight said, looking worried. “My family has dinner early. It’s probably finished cooking already! See you guys later!”
In a blur the cream colored colt had zipped off down the trail. Shady just shrugged and said that if it was getting close to dinnertime he might as well leave too. Giving Rumble a pat on the side, he said he’d see him tomorrow. Sweetie asked the lone gray Pegasus if he was going, too.
“Nope. I don’t eat dinner until seven,” said Rumble. “What about you?”
“Rarity probably wants me home. I bet you saw her dresses at the Boutique right? She lives in the upstairs and that’s where I stay when Mom and Dad go vacationing. See you later!” she said, her voice cracking on the last word. Sweetie pranced over to Carousel Boutique leaving just Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and himself.
“C’mon Scoot, let’s get this packed up.” Apple Bloom grabbed the sugar canister and spare lemons sitting on the table. With one sweep of her foreleg, all the bits on the table went into the glass jar. It was boring to watch. Rumble sipped the last of his drink. Being a fifth wheel was not something he was used to.
“Can I help?” he offered.
“Sure!” said Apple Bloom. “Think ya can push the stand into the bushes? It’s mighty heavy ‘cause of the wood we used to make it.”
“I can do it!” he exclaimed, moving around to the right of the stand. Scootaloo lifted the jar off the now bare top as Rumble planted his hooves.
One push was all the confirmation he needed for the stands’ weight. It was heavy. Rumble readjusted his posture, planting his hind legs firmly in the dirt, and shoved with all his might.
The heavier-than-it-looked stand finally gave, sliding noisily against the dirt. Panting and gasping, the last edge of it finally slid into the grass. Rumble turned around and leaned against the side, wiping the sweat off his brow.
“Wow! That was amazing dude!” Scootaloo darted over to him. “I didn’t think you could do it!”
“I didn’t,” he gasped. “I didn’t…think I could do it, either. It weighs a ton!”
“Pushing that dumb thing onto the road took us almost ten minutes! We broke our backs over it and you did it in less than half. You are awesome!” complimented Scootaloo.
“Thanks,” he offered her a weak smile. “How come…you just…didn’t build it on the road?”
A shrug was her response. Rumble laughed, and she broke into a sheepish grin herself. “We don’t always have the best ideas.”
Rumble rested for a few moments longer as Apple Bloom finished collecting her things. Scootaloo saw her off with a wave, and she departed with what Rumble assumed were considerably lighter saddlebags. Scootaloo strapped on her helmet.
“You really like that thing, huh?” whispered Rumble.
“I use my scooter for everything. Plus, I’m the best at riding one! Nopony rides a scooter like I do,” she bragged, stuffing her purple hair into the helmet.
“Well, I’ve never been on one, but you do some pretty cool tri-“
Rumble flinched, not expecting her to shout. The incredulous look on her face froze him to the spot.
“You mean you’ve never ever ridden a scooter? Why? How?!” she trotted over to him. “Lots of ponies like scooters.”
“Well I’m from Cloudsdale and they don’t have anything to, uh, scoot on up there since we all just flew around,” he cast his eyes away, hoping she wasn’t hurt by his comment. “If we wanted to go fast we’d just race…”
“Then you got to ride it right now!”
Scootaloo zipped behind and shoved Rumble to his hooves. The blue scooter in question was leaning up against a tree. Not wasting any time she righted her scooter and positioned herself onto it.
“This is how you stand,” she wiggled her right hoof. “If you’re a lefty, the other hoof points closer. Both fore hooves stay on the handlebar especially for newbie’s like you.” Scootaloo hopped off and Rumble awkwardly replaced her stance on the scooter. “No no put most of your weight on that hoof. No leaning back, you don’t want to fall. Space your hooves farther apart on the handles! Don’t move them! Perfect! Now go!”
Rumble cocked an eyebrow. “Go? What do you mean go?”
“Flap your wings, dummy! You’ve seen my sweet moves on this baby. Just do what I did,” she said, her own wings fluttering in excitement.
Rumble took a deep breath and shut his eyes to concentrate. The wings on his back started flapping. He clenched his jaw, trying to flap them harder, remembering the buzzing of Scootaloo’s wingbeats.
“Huh?” he squeezed one eye open. The grip he had on the handlebars was tighter than he realized. Rumble was hovering three feet up!
“Ahaha! Look at you! Can’t even scoot around on a scooter! Flying lessons can mess you up in other ways,” she teased as Rumble descended. “Look, it is getting late but there’s no way I’m going home without you getting a ride on a classic scooter. There’s nothing else like it! Hold still.”
Scootaloo removed her helmet and slipped it over Rumble’s head. It wasn’t tight. Actually it fit quite well. The straps dangled past his chin.
“So are we going for a practice ride?” he asked.
“Nope! I’m taking you for a real ride!” Scootaloo jumped up, grabbing him tightly around his chest. Rumble flinched. Her grip was pretty firm. The sound of her buzzing wings filled his ears as she gave a strong push with her hoof to move the scooter forward.
They were off.
“WHOA!” The dirt trail along the train tracks was wide. From his porch he knew it stretched down for a mile or so before winding through a small section of Whitetail Woods. The scooter was quickly picking up speed. The wind was rushing through his hair, tail whipping behind him. It was like flying almost. The biggest difference was the growling sound coming from the scooter itself. Vibrations from the wheels traveled through the wood up his legs. His teeth were chattering. Scootaloo pumped her wings even faster, lifting her hind legs off the board and letting them hang in the breeze. A laugh caught in his throat. This was great!
“LEAN!” barked Scootaloo into his ear. There was a turn coming up ahead. Wind was stinging his eyes a bit. “LEAN TO YOUR RIGHT!” she repeated urgently.
They hit the turn, feeling his heart thumping hard in his chest. Scootaloo leaned before he did, the shift in her weight signaling Rumble to lean as well. The right half of the scooter lifted off the ground and a chill went up his spine. It skidded, and Rumble grit his teeth –the wheels touched dirt.
“NOT SO HARD! RIGHT?!” Scootaloo shouted. The trail switched from an open wide trail to something much smaller, with tighter turns. Not letting up on the speed they powered through it together, blasting through tight turns left and right; it was like riding down the back of a snake. Whitetail Woods showed up to his left, the large, old oaks blocking the setting sun’s rays and only letting in a few bright rays to dapple the stretch of dusty trail.
In ten seconds they had cleared the trail, turning a right down another long, slightly hilly stretch. There was a large building to his left. A large red plus sign adorned its façade. Scootaloo wasn’t kidding. This was unlike flying in the best possible ways. It felt chaotic. It felt dangerous. Nopony wore helmets in the air. Adrenaline rushed through his system. Scootaloo was pumping her wings at top speed and not letting up. He turned to look at her. The buzzing of her wings and helmet muffled the world around him but she was laughing and wooping along, the wind blowing through her mane, eyes determinately set on the path ahead. Scootaloo noticed him looking and tapped the side of the helmet where his ears were squashed against the padding.
“ISN’T THIS THE MOST FUN!?”
“THINK YOU CAN HANDLE A TRICK?”
“SOMETHING EASY! PULL UP ON THIS NEXT HILL!”
“RIGHT…NOW! PULL UP NOW!”
As directed Rumble pulled up on the scooter for this jump –he felt Scootaloo’s hind legs securely wrapping around his waist. Rumbles breath caught. The world began to spin as she pulled him backwards. He saw the sky, tinged with yellow, a flash of purple from Scootaloo’s long tail and finally the incoming ground. They touched down on the trail in a storm of dust. Knots in his stomach unwound. That was pretty intense.
It was the home stretch now; this part of the road turned to a mix of gravel. The next turn up ahead would lead them both back into town. Even though it was almost over he hoped Scootaloo would forego dinner a little longer. This was so much fun.
The split wheel of the scooter snapped in half. The additional weight of another rider coupled with the last hard landing finally took its toll on the wheel. The front edge of the scooter ground into dirt flinging both young riders forwards. Hitting the gravel hard, the handlebar snapped in two. The flat blue board sailed up high into the sky. Scootaloo launched forwards. Rumble frantically worked his wings to no avail, landing on some rocks. The helmet protected him and rolled off his head. Tumbling for a few feet Scootaloo eventually rested on her belly, all four limbs splayed out, panting heavily. Rumble pulled his face from the stones.
He felt like a startled deer. The urge to run tickled at the back of his mind but he couldn’t. All he could do sit and look at Scootaloo.
“My scooter it’s,” –she inspected the smashed handlebars and split wheel–“it’s totaled! Ruined! Completely destroyed! NonononononoNO! NO!” Scootaloo shrieked, panting heavily. Her eyes frantically darted back and forth at the wreckage, finally landing squarely on Rumble.
“Doctor, I know you’re on break, but we would really like some help here.”
The chubby pink nurse zeroed in on the doctor sitting on a plush chair in an otherwise empty break room. Nose deep in an article concerning unicorn horn infection, the yellow stallion did not budge.
“Peachy, you know I’m off the clock for another twenty,” he said, without breaking from his line. “Is somepony dying right this second?”
“Of course not,” she bristled at the snappy remark. “However, there are two injured young Pegasi who walked into the hospital that I think you should talk to.”
Sighing, he lowered his magazine. “Nothing I have to work on?”
“Holly and I tended to the dears but they need a talking to. From somepony firm,” the chubby mare rubbed her shoulder. “I’m not one for giving others stern speeches. You know that.”
Easy as it was to sit there and read the article it was pointless now. His interest was piqued. The magazine was something could always pick up later. Getting to his hooves, he trotted out the break room with Nurse Peach at his side.
“Anything else I should know before I talk to them?”
“The two were riding along on the trail together outside the hospital. Hit a bump by the gravel and got into an accident. Scrapes, bruises, some bleeding,” said Peach quietly. “That’s what they said.”
“Sounds typical. Is this that orange filly again?” he gave Peach a look. “The one that fell on her wing last year?”
“Scootaloo, yes,” nodded Peach. “This time she had another rider. Gave him the helmet to wear so his noggin is fine.”
“Him?” the doctor snorted in amusement. “Usually she’s tugging those other two fillies.”
“So then…” they rounded the corner down to the hospital entrance.
“Well, Holly suggested something happened. For one, they aren’t speaking to each other.”
“Mhm,” he spotted Scootaloo’s purple tail at the end of the bench.
“Two…well, that’s why you’re here.”
Nurse Holly was already standing over them. Peach joined her side and the doctor stood between them. The two youngsters looked like they’ve been through quite a tumble. Band-aids were scattered across their legs, back, and their sides once they shifted in their seats to look at him. Everything seemed superficial enough. Recognizing the two most obvious injuries on each Pegasus took a momentarily glance. Rumble held a blue ice-pack wrapped in paper towel over his left eye. The filly nursed a bruising right hoof. Rumble looked upset and an angry grimace was stuck on Scootaloo’s face. Neither were looking at each other. What may have happened registered immediately.
“Have their parents or guardians been contacted?” he asked Holly.
“We dispatched an orderly to fly to their homes,” answered Peach for her. “They should be here soon.
“Good,” he took a step closer and cleared his throat. Rumble gulped and glanced at Scootaloo, who narrowed her eyes and glared at him. Though they were on opposite sides of the bench their tails were fairly close. Scootaloo flicked hers away and Rumble flinched. “I think you two need some more thorough explaining of how you fell.”