The Cricketers in the Rye

by Earth Writer

The Arrival

By the time 2 o’clock had rolled around without crisis following upon its heels, Twilight Sparkle felt that maybe, just maybe, the rest of the day might go according to schedule as well. She held her breath for second after thinking so, as if the very thought might bring disaster crashing down around her mane. Two seconds later, she was shaking her head, chiding herself, “Really Twilight, you have got to stop being so superstitious!”

As cheerily as she resumed her afternoon routine, she couldn’t deny that if she had been superstitious, Ponyville would have given her plenty to be superstitious about. It seemed that something was always on the verge of happening at some conveniently dramatic moment, which would invariably escalate into some huge brouhaha that would set the town on edge for a week, before dying down into a deceptive bucolic peace. *How in Equestria did small towns get a reputation for being dull? Most of what I’ve read suggested that, but it just doesn’t match up with experience.*

She fixed an afternoon smoothie while pondering this conundrum. Spike was out for the day, and like most such days, she’d missed lunch while lost in a book. Right now she just needed something nutritious and portable, to bring along while she picked up a new shipment from the train station. While the Ponyville Library was impressively stocked, Twilight was always on the lookout for new additions, plus every few years the new editions of encyclopedias came out. Those had to be ordered in bulk, and were too massive altogether to justify burdening the postage system. Better just to get them wholesale and shipped direct.

*It must be the size,* the unicorn reflected as she exited through the door. *This town’s so small, if anything does happen, you can’t get away from it- *


It was reflexive by now; she heard those words and immediately hit the ground, hooves covering her head in case anything was coming down to hit it. Something did in fact: the smoothie, no longer being levitated by Twilight’s magic, spilled all over her face, obscuring her vision. It took a few blinks to clear away the pink, strawberry-scented globs to reveal a Pink Pony, also smelling of strawberries, as everything tended to do when you had your nostrils plugged with strawberry smoothie.

Pinkie Pie was staring down at the lavender unicorn, a worryingly intent expression upon her face. “Something big is coming down!”
“Bigger, I assume, than a smoothie?” Twilight replied in a sarcastic voice, but still covering her head.

“Bigger even than the Colossal Colussus Smoothie of Cowmen Miranda! Ooh-ooh,” The earth pony trotted in place in consternation. “I don’t know what to do, three knee knocks, two jerks of the neck, and five tail twitches! I can’t remember what that’s for; I don’t even know if I’ve had it before, actually.”

Twilight let out a kind of bubbly sigh through the blended fruit slipping down her face. “Pinkie, if you don’t know what’s actually coming, it’s probably best you not tell anypony and get them all worried.” Resignedly, she got up, regretting not fetching a lid for her now-empty cup.

“Oh,” Pinkie seemed to consider this point for second, before taking a flying leap into another train of thought. “So, watcha doing? What flavor is that?” Without waiting for a reply, she stuck out her tongue, licking the smoothie off of her friends face with one slurp, leaving Twilight blinking on the doorstep.

“Er, strawberry, thank you.” She said, trying to get mentally back on track. “I was just going to the train station to pick up a new set of encyclopedias.”

“GASP!” The sudden intake of breath practically inflated Pinkie like a balloon, actually suspending her in the air for a few seconds before she exclaimed, “The Train! Of course it’s coming down by the train, why didn’t I think of it before? C’mon, I’ll take you there!”

And with that, a still off-balance Twilight was yanked off her hooves on a full out gallop towards the Ponyville train station.

“Awake, Comrade Batsman, we approach our destination. Cast off the blinkers of Morpheus, and bid the day anew, and sleep adieu.”

“Mgrph.” Might stirred, more in response to the prodding of Psmith’s hoof that his words, having gone to sleep to the smooth susurrations of the unicorn’s voice. Stretching, he lifted the brim of his hat above his eyes, and blinked at the world. “We there yet?”

“We arrive momentarily; it is only polite that we greet the locals in our best manner, all neat and correct. First impressions will be crucial, comrade, if our stay is to be congenial.” For the fifth time in as many minutes, Psmith adjusted the crease of his sleeves and checked his cuffs. Might, not being accustomed to wearing clothes everyday, had elected to simply wear his cap.

The town was just coming into view through the coach window, Apple orchards thinning to give view of a farmhouse, yielding in turn to the park-like road leading from the farm and joining up the main street of Ponyville. The architecture on display was typically Earth Pony, for the most part, rustic-looking houses of wood, straw, and stone. More recent settlements of unicorns and pegasi had added to the variety on display, however, with more elaborately decorated storefronts and hovering cloud houses placed here and there, though no pony would have called the place cosmopolitan. It reminded Might of Trottingham, which shot him with an unexpected bolt of homesickness as he and Psmith extracted their luggage from the grasping helpfulness of the porters and disembarked upon the station platform.

Psmith took the lead while Might balanced their suitcases on his back, bowing in his best Canterlot Gentlecolt manner to the first pair of mares in view. “Good Afternoon, ladies. My name is Psmith, you could say also say it was Wordsworth, but I wish you wouldn’t. My encumbered colleague is none other than Might Batsman, of whom you have no doubt heard.” A quick glance revealed that neither the lavender unicorn nor the pink earth pony had. “A peerless friend of absolute reliability, and incidentally the star cricket batter of his generation.”

“Hey, what did the poor crickets ever do to him?” The pink one shouted indignantly, and shot a glare at Might that knocked him back on his flank, and dislodged the two suitcases with a crash. “Wait’ll I tell Fluttershy about you, mister-”

“Pinkie!” The lavender mare interjected, half in alarm and half in annoyance, “He doesn’t hit insects; cricket is the name of an old Trottingham sport, practiced on a well-maintained green field called a ‘pitch,’ wherein a pony called a ‘bowler’ attempts to knock over a wicket with a leather ball, while another pony guards it with a flat wooden bat, hence the term ‘batter’.”

“Oh, well that’s alright then. “ Pinkie cheered up immediately, helping Might back up with a sudden hoist and swinging the luggage back on him with a thump. “I don’t know what Fluttershy would have done to you if she found out you were a bug batter and not a ball batter.” Might just blinked in bewilderment at the pink phenomenon now prancing back to her friend, who was shaking her head good-naturedly.

“That’s just Pinkie Pie, you get used to her eventually.” She smiled, extending a hoof to the dapperly dressed unicorn. “I’m Twilight Sparkle, the town librarian. Welcome to Ponyville!”

Psmith took the proffered hoof with all the gravity due a great ambassador, or perhaps a great ambassador’s lady, as he bowed his head to kiss it. “So I gathered, from the clarity and eruditeness of your speech, comrade Sparkle. I should also guess you were, at one point, a resident of my own home city, due to your easy familiarity with one of its chief sports.”

Twilight looked impressed. “Actually, I did move here from Canterlot three years ago, though I was never much involved in its sporting world. Most of what I know of it is from books.” She gave a quick look around; fortunately, Rainbow Dash wasn’t here to take a crack at her for that.

“Ah,” Psmith said, as if a long-standing puzzle had finally given up a solution, “Then I am pleased to inform you that you are in luck. Comrade Batsman and I will be setting up as cricket coaches this summer, offering our services gratis to the citizens of this fine town. Give us only a place to lay our heads at night, and I assure you that no keener sportsponies shall you ever have at your service.”

“Well,” said Twilight hesitantly, for Psmith’s quietly grandiose verbosity was starting to get a little off-putting, “The O’Ryes have a room free, but-”

Here Pinkie interrupted again. “You’re here to stay!?” She asked excitedly, before suddenly dashing off before anypony could answer.

“What… is she going to do?” Asked Might apprehensively. He was always slightly uneasy in unfamiliar surroundings, and when you added a sudden encounter with Pinkie Pie with no warning whatsoever, unease evolved into something like dread.

“Brace yourselves…” Twilight muttered as Pinkie returned, pulling a particolored contraption that resembled a combination calliope, oven, and artillery placement. She brought it to stop right by the platform, aiming the cannon right at the two colts. Might looked frantically from side to side, but nopony passing seemed to take much more than a mild interest in the proceedings, for all the world as if newcomers being threatened by heavy bombardment were a routine occurrence in this town. Encumbered as he was by the luggage, he was quite unable to dodge whatever was going to be fired out, and could only be grateful that Psmith was at least standing in front of him.


With a sudden report, the cannon fired a shower of confetti, while the oven simultaneously shot out a fully finished cake, which Pinkie presented to Psmith and Might while singing a little ditty:
Welcome, welcome, welcome,
To two ponies so clean,
Who are here to teach us cricket,
Whatever that may mean!

Twilight only sighed in relief. “Sometimes she gets it mixed up, and puts the cake batter in the cannon and the confetti in the oven.” Psmith looked down at his suit, imagined the irreparable damage that would have resulted from such an error, and shuddered at the narrow escape.

Pinkie seemed to pay the exchange no mind. “Now you just sit down and enjoy your cake from Auntie Pinkie Pie, while she get’s your official Welcome Party ready. Woohoo!” And with that exclamation, she shot off again.

“Auntie…” Might croaked. The very idea seemed to choke the earth pony colt, but his friend seemed to take it all in stride.

“Now what did I tell you, Comrade Batsman; our care in making a good first impression has paid dividends.” He flicked multicolored paper off his jacket as he went on. “The key is diplomacy. Without diplomacy, where are we? In Hobbesian barbarity, with everypony fighting against everypony. Instead, we are now enjoying cake, a marked improvement you will agree.”

Might only replied with a weak smile and a “Right-ho.” He took a bite of the cake. He had to admit, it was good. This town was obviously some kind of lunatic asylum, but if this was a fair sample of its hospitality, they might survive until the term resumed.