• Published 12th Jun 2014
  • 1,596 Views, 19 Comments

A Time in the Sand - AppleJared

Big Macintosh gets drafted to the service of protecting his country. He makes it home alive.

  • ...

Some Stranger

Dear Princess Celestia,

Since I'm one of the Elements, I know I'm supposed to write to you whenever I learn something real important but this time I need your help with something. I know you gotta be awful busy keeping Equestria in harmony but I'd appreciate some advice on something. I don't know exactly where to start, but I'll try my best to make as much sense of this as I possibly can.

About nine years ago, my older brother Big Macintosh was drafted to fight in the Great War. Mac is a farmer through and through, but he knew what his nation needed of him and he reported for duty as soon as harvest was over. I remember he told me to behave myself and take care of my little sister Apple Bloom and my Granny Smith. We had to hire for extra labor but Mac's pay covered that. We figured he would serve his term fighting and then he would come home.

As I'm writing this down, I'm realizing how unprepared I was for Mac leaving. I thought maybe four years wouldn't last too long and he'd be back before I knew it. I wasn't ready to not see him for months, and not hear back from him every day. I just wasn't ready for it at all. I know that now, and I guess that's why I'm writing you.

Princess, I know this is old hat for you, but I'm not too proud to admit that I... I had some... dreams. There were a couple of nights where I swear I could hear him screaming for help. I could imagine him taken prisoner, beaten, tortured. It pains me just to write it down, Princess. I stayed up crying a few nights worrying about my big brother.

It was rough on all of us at the farm. Apple Bloom took it harder than anyone else, and sometimes she would sleep with me when she'd get worked up. I'd have to try and pretend I wasn't worked up too when she came in my room at night. I had to be strong. It's what Mac wanted. Folks were real nice though and the hired help never even asked for a raise. I knew a couple of folks who came by the stand who didn't even like apples. They bought our apples because we wouldn't accept a handout. It's about the nicest thing anyone ever did for us. Even though I can't tell you how much I appreciated what folks did for us, I'd rather they be rotten rotten to us if it could have brought Mac home sooner.

Every once in a while, we would get a letter from Mac. He was stationed out in the desert somewhere and he always told us that army work wasn't that bad. He rarely ran into any fighting and he never lost a soldier in his company. It warmed my heart to get his letters in the mail. I'd read it over myself to make sure it was good for young ears, then I'd read it out loud for Granny and Apple Bloom to hear. But as time went on, he wrote less and less. Every letter was less detailed than the last, and every time it sounded less like Mac. He just wrote so... detached! The last thing he wrote on his first tour was "I'm fine." That was the whole dadgum letter!

About a year before Mac's tour was over, our Granny Smith died. She just... she just kinda fell asleep on her rocking chair. Doc said it was just old age, and she shouldn't have felt any pain when she passed. Apple Bloom was so tore up about it she wouldn't go to school for a week. I sure didn't feel like working, but I couldn't starve to death. As much as it hurt, I had some closure knowin' that Granny died peacefully. I'd bet the farm she wanted to go out on that darned rockin' chair too.

Granny's service was so beautiful, Princess. I wish you could have seen it yourself. The whole town came by to pay their respects, as well as some folks from the neighboring towns and almost all of the Apple family. Your sister Princess Luna came and said a few words for Granny. It was so nice. I'm tearing up a little but just thinking about it.

The only thing that was missing at her service was Mac. I sent him a letter telling him what happened and I tried to softball it as best I could. He didn't write home after that.

Twilight came over and told me that during war time, soldiers can be uplifted by memories of home. Boy, that lit the fire on the flanks. I got that quill and wrote him every week about things that were happening at the farm, around town and whatever else I could squeeze in. After doing that thirteen times exactly with no response from Mac, I quit doing it. I didn't want to give up on him, so I decided to wait patiently until he could respond.

I started to give up on Mac. Every night I would tuck my sister in bed and she would ask if Mac was alright. I pat on her little head, and told her that Mac was the strongest there is, and he'd make it home fine. Inside, I wasn't sure what the hell was going on. I feel obligated to tell you that for a little while, I did give up on him.

Next thing I know, he's standing in the front doorway at our house. I screamed and hollered and cried and yelled and cheered just as loud as I could. I jumped on him like a fly on fish and hugged him so hard neither of us could breathe. I don't think I let go for a good solid couple of minutes.

Eventually I did let him go, and I punched him right in the jaw just as hard as I could. I think I yelled at him, no, I'm positive I yelled at him for not responding to my letters. Then I punched him again. Princess, I know I shouldn't have. I'm not proud of what I did, but I was really hurtin' as to why he didn't answer me anymore. What made me feel worse was that Mac just stood there and took it. After I was done yelling, I sat down. I calmed myself. It took me shutting up to realize that he hadn't said a word since he got home.

"You feelin' alright Mac?"

He finally cracked a smile. "Eeyup."

He sat in the living room to surprise Apple Bloom when she got home from school. She opened the door and didn't even look in the living room before going into the kitchen for a snack. I went in and told her to check for a surprise in the living room. She went over and about jumped out of her own bow. She jumped into a hug with him and got about as emotional as I did, minus the violence outbreak.

When I saw him hug Apple Bloom, I put everything behind me. I put all of that fear, anger, sorrow and anxiety behind me. Whatever happened, whatever reason Mac stopped writing back; it was over. We had a new leaf to turn in our lives and we would do it together as an Apple family. We had ourselves a good dinner that night, and Mac went to bed early because he was tired.

Princess, I never slept so good in my life. In fact, that was the first time I was really happy since he went away. I could smile without puttin' on a face and could sing a bit without missing notes. I could really taste what I was eating...

That next morning, I let Apple Bloom skip school so we could all work on the farm as a family. Mac grabbed his yoke and strapped himself to the cart while me and Apple Bloom put the apples in the cart. We were jumping around and singin' and carrying on with ourselves, havin' a good time. Mac didn't talk much while we were working. He seemed a bit quieter than usual, but I thought I'd give him his space after just getting back. Still, it was awful nice to have him back and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The only problem is, Mac didn't cheer up. He never wanted to go into town, he could never go to sleep and stay asleep, and he flat out refused to talk about what happened over there. I wanted him to talk to SOMEONE about what happened over there. I was heartbroken he didn't want to talk to me about it, but I wanted him to get whatever was bothering him off of his chest. All of my friends said they would do anything for Mac if it meant him getting better.

He started acting funny after a couple of weeks. Not just being quiet, but acting real funny. I knew he wasn't going to talk about what had happened, and he wasn’t going to admit what was bothering him, but things just kept on getting worse. He started getting antsy about seeing folks in town, and after one particular visit to the store he wouldn’t go back into town anymore. Period. I caught him talking to himself real quiet on occasion. He started carrying his gun on him when we went out to work too.

I know there are certain things that a sister shouldn’t involve herself with concerning her brother’s life. I also know that his love life is one of these areas. I also know that I would do anything to help Mac get over whatever was bothering him. I might… nor might not have encouraged a couple mares to take their apples straight from the farm. Nothing too obvious, and nothing inappropriate of course. I had to try it. Granny tells me stories of how wild and rowdy Paw was before he married my Maw. She also tells me how powerful love is. I thought Mac could use some of whatever Paw got.

It didn’t work. He didn’t take notice to any of them and never went outside the “business as usual” talk.

I started to get a hold of what was going on around me. I started thinking that this was really my big brother now, and nothing could change him back. I got angry and upset at the army for doing this to him, but I never told him that. In fact I never told anyone that at all. But it was there in my mind and it burrowed into my brain. I found my fuse getting shorter with folks and my patience was at an all-time thin.

I took a day off from the farm work one day and went to our swimming hole by myself. I had a lot to think about, and I needed to set this right with myself. I thought about how unfair it is that Mac has changed this much… for the worse. I started getting negative again, and complaining how awful this whole experience has been not only for me, but for the whole family including Mac. Then, I thought of Caramel’s family.

I’m not sure if you know this, but our cousin Caramel Apple volunteered when he heard Mac joined up. Caramel didn’t come home again. I thought of how his momma mourned for him when she got the letter from his CO. After I thought about that I figured that even though Mac wasn’t exactly the same, he was still alive. He was here with us, instead of a battlefield or a POW camp and I realized how good this Apple family got it. By the time I was done thinking, it was time to head back to the house for dinner. I promised myself on that walk back that I would help as much or as little needed until we could make Mac better again. And I was alright with that.

That’s about the time when the nightmares started with Mac. He’d have these awful nightmares and he’d toss and turn and make all sorts of noises. He never could stay asleep long enough to get rested, which led to his daydreams in the field. I can still remember laying outside of Mac’s door at night hearing him fret in his dreams, hopelessly wishing I could do something… ANYTHING to help him. I could hear him cry sometimes and it tore me up on the inside to hear my big strong brother reduced to such a state. I tried to stay positive and thought it had to get worse before it got better.

But I guess mine and Mac’s perspective of “better” was a tad different because next thing I know Mac has signed re-enlistment papers and he’s headed for a recruitment office. I think he sat us down and talked to us for a minute about it, but I can’t remember what he said. All I can remember was thinking that this was some awful dream and there was no way that Mac would actually do this again. As soon as I paid attention to see if it was actually happening, he was already gone.

I'm not ready for another four years, Princess...

Author's Note:

Thanks to The Well Dressed Ninja for pre-reading. Look up his work on here. Now.