Hands on hips, Apple Bloom watched as her friend Scootaloo tried to untangle a hopelessly knotted mass of kite string.
“I told you it wath a bad idea,” the overall-clad farm girl sighed, her missing tooth still causing her to lisp as she talked. Her message was clearly conveyed, however, as the look on her face easily expressed her disapproval.
“No it wasn’t,” Scootaloo insisted as she yanked at the snarled mass. “I was just unlucky, that’s all.”
“You call it luck,” the bow-bedecked child said dryly, “I call it crathing into a tree.”
“The sun was in my eyes,” Scootaloo replied, the string now even more hopelessly tangled than ever. She looked to her friend and gestured back to the string. “So are you gonna help me out or not?” Apple Bloom replied with an apathetic shrug.
“Ugh, I give up,” the little yahoo groaned, tossing the string away in frustration. “I just hope someone comes by soon. I’m starting to get dizzy.”
“Well, conthidering you’ve be–” Apple Bloom began, but stopped as she saw movement a ways off through the trees. “Hold on, I think thomebody ith coming.” Shading her eyes, she was delighted to see that it was in fact Marshal Graves walking along the path towards Sweet Apple Acres.
“Hey Mithter Graveth!” she called out as she jumped around and waved her hands about like a cheerleader missing her pom poms. Catching sight of the bouncing little girl, the marshal detoured over.
“Morning, Miss Apple Bloom,” he said, tipping his hat to her before turning to the purple-haired girl. “Who’s this?"
“Mornin’, Mithter Graves,” she smiled. “Thith here’th my friend Thcootaloo,”
“Yo, sup?” the spunky girl grinned with a two-finger salute thrown in for good measure. Graves replied with another nod of his head.
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Scootaloo. Need some help there?” he asked, to which the little girl gave a grateful sigh.
Now how did Graves know she needed help before he asked? Well, it’s kind of easy to tell when you have a small child who’s on eye level with you, especially when they manage it while they’re upside down. Fact was, Scootaloo was dangling like an inverted puppet from the limbs of a tree, caught up in the mass of tangled kite string she’d been working on.
“How’d you get up there?” Graves asked as he worked to untangle her.
“So, I’ve been trying to build my own pair of spell wings, but I’m still a long ways off from finishing, so I figured I’d get a little practice in some other way.
“By tying yourself to a kite?” he suggested, eyeing the mangled mass of paper and wood in the limbs higher up.
“I told her it wath a bad idea,” Apple Bloom insisted, “but she just doethn’t listhen.”
“Like I said, it was bad luck,” Scootaloo repeated.
“If Thweetie Belle were here, thee’d agree with me,” Apple Bloom said as she stuck her tongue out towards her friend.
“Yeah, well she’s on vacation, so there,” Scootaloo retorted with a loud raspberry blown in the freckled farm girl’s general direction. General was all she could really do as act of untangling rope had her twirling about in gyroscopic confusion. But after a few deft tugs here and some clever finagling there, the task was done and the young rapscallion freed.
“There you go,” Graves nodded as he set Scootaloo on the ground. Picking a few twigs and leaves from her hair and orange shirt, she beamed up at the marshal with a cheery thumbs up.
“Hey, thanks for the assist, Graves. You’re a pretty cool guy.”
“So I’ve been told,” the marshal replied. He couldn’t help but think this was what Rainbow Dash must have been like as a kid.
“Tho anyway, what bringth you out here, Mithter Graveth?” Apple Bloom asked.
“Making my rounds,” he answered as he headed back to the path, now with the two girls following on either side. “Thought I’d check to see how things are out here.”
“Oh, everything’th jutht dandy,” Apple Bloom smiled. “Courthe, there’th a bunch of appleth that thtill need pickin’, tho maybe you thould athk Applejack.”
“I’ll do that, thanks.”
“Come on Thcootaloo,” the gap-toothed girl called out, turning to her friend. “I thaid a kite wouldn’t work becauthe what you really need ith a catapult!” For better or worse, Scootaloo's eyes lit up like the afterburners of a G-12 Imperium fighter.
“Best. Idea. Ever!” she grinned. “Come on, I think there’s some wood by your shed out back!”
“Then let'th get going! Bye, Mithter Graveth! Thee you you later!”
“Yeah, bye Graves!” And with a pair of cheery waves, the bow-bedecked girl and the mini-tomboy added quickly scampered off and out of sight. With half a smile for the two girls and half a frown for their safety, Graves waved farewell and continued walking on.
Arriving at the center of the orchard, Graves was startled to hear what sounded like the war cry of a raging barbarian quickly followed by a thunderous crash.
“HEE-YA!” It came again, and Graves trotted forward just in time to find Applejack drop-kicking an apple tree. Colliding with trunk in a titanic crash, Applejack fell to the ground, but not before the tree shivered and let loose a veritable torrent of apples that fell into awaiting baskets below.
“Oh, hey there, marshal,” the freckled blonde called out from where she lay on the ground. “Fancy meetin’ you here.”
“Interesting way of harvesting,” Graves commented as he extended a hand to help her back to her feet. She took it and straightened her hat with a proud smile.
“Innit? Signature harvestin' techniques of Sweet Apple Acres. Kickin’ don’t do nuthin’ to the tree and this way, only the already ripe apples come off.”
“Very creative,” Graves nodded. He didn’t know a thing about apple picking, but at least it sounded pretty impressive.
“So anyway, what brings you all the way out here?” Applejack asked. “Don’t reckon those marshal varmints are comin’ back, are they?”
“Nothing like that,” the marshal assured her. “Just checking to make sure everything’s all right.”
“Well shucks, that’s mighty neighborly of you,” she grinned as she gave him a hearty slap to the back. “But aside from gettin’ these apples in, there’s not much goin’ on around here.”
“Need help with the apples?” Graves asked with a surreptitious roll his shoulders. Applejack’s slaps really hurt: he’d be black and blue before long if she kept it up.
“Would you really?” the cowgirl smiled. “That’d be great! I’ll be able to get all these apples in, and still have time to fix up the old barn before supper!”
So the two got to work. Though not quite as adept at physically assaulting plant matter, Graves found that stomping the trees as he would when kicking down a door worked quite well. Thus, with Applejack sailing through the air and Graves rampaging like an angry debt collector, the ripe apples were knocked down and collected.
“Hey Applejack, ith lunch ready?” Apple Bloom called out as she ran up with Scootaloo. Considering the number of bumps and bruises covering the two, not to mention the sheer amount of foliage dispersed on their persons, it was pretty clear how their catapulting session had gone.
“Probably,” her older sister replied after giving her hands a good dust off. “Granny Smith said she was fryin’ up some corn fritters today: I expect they’ll be done before long.”
“Oh boy!” the younger Apple girl squealed. “You’re gonna love ‘em Thcootaloo; Granny’th corn fritterth are the betht!”
Smiling at her little sister’s excitement, Applejack turned to the purple haired flyer.
“You wanna join us fer lunch?” she asked.
“Don’t mind if I do,” the chipper child replied. “All that flying practice has got me hungry.” Applejack just chuckled.
“I’ll bet it has.”
“All done,” Graves said as he came out of the barn and shut the creaky wooden door behind him. “Stored like you showed me, Miss Applejack.
“Much appreciated, marshal,” she answered with a cordial tip of her Stetson. “Now that that’s all settled, let’s head on in. Granny’s got lunch on, and she’ll be pleased as punch to have you joinin’ us.” Graves looked at them, then looked up at the sky where the sun stood high overhead.
“That late already?” he breathed as he squinted up in disbelief.
“Well, duh, we have been workin’ all mornin’,” Applejack replied. “Come on, let’s head inside and get some grub.”
“I can’t,” Graves said, already shouldering up his rifle, “Got to get going.”
“Wha? But you just got here,” the blonde cowgirl frowned in disbelief.
“Need to finish my rounds.”
“But… but lunch… and corn fritterth,” Apple Bloom said, looking like his departure meant the end of all things happy as she knew it. Graves shrugged apologetically.
“Oh, well alright then,” Applejack said with a kindly smile. “See you around, Graves.”
As he walked off, he could hear Applejack consoling her sister as they headed inside. He didn’t get it, but something about Applejack’s smile bothered him. It was as if she was somehow disappointed, but that didn’t make sense. They’d finished picking all the apples, hadn't they?
Was it was because he couldn’t stick around and help with the barn repairs? Maybe that was it, but he’d already spent too much time here already. A marshal’s job was to help out as many people as possible, and regardless of how refreshing it had been to curb stomp defenseless shrubbery or how delicious the smell of the Apple home cooking was, that meant he had to move on and see to the rest of the town.
Although he was a little peeved at not being able to completely finish helping the Apple family, Graves left with new determination. The next place he stopped off at, he was going to do better, finish quicker, and be more useful. That way, he could actually be of service and everybody would be happy.