• Published 12th Jun 2014
  • 1,595 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.

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Do Me a Favor (Epilogue)

Ten Years Ago

On a sunny day with clear skies, Apple Bloom sat in school. She was staring out of the window with a hoof on her cheek, propping her head up. Although Apple Bloom had many questions to ask, none of them were questions she felt her teacher, Cheerilee, could answer. On a normal day, the smallest Apple sibling might have worn her favorite pink bow, or paid attention during school, or not had dark bags under her eyes. Maybe on a normal day Cheerilee would get onto Apple Bloom for not paying attention.

Yet Cheerilee did not scold the little Apple. Although she had never told a soul in Ponyville, she knew exactly what Apple Bloom was going through. She also knew what it was like for him to not come back. She knew the bags showed not only the hard work the little filly had to take up, but the crying and lack of sleep that occurred as well. She knew what real worry and anxiety was, and it was something only a military family could understand.

So Cheerilee didn't coax Apple Bloom for not paying attention.

Instead Cheerilee would make her way to the Apple farm every day after classes and ask Applejack if she could help out in any way possible. Sometimes there was no extra work to do and the school teacher got to go home before dark. Sometimes the teacher would stay at the farm working for hours with the new Apple matriarch. Sometimes Applejack had some money to give Cheerilee for her hard work and help on the farm.

Every time Cheerilee would refuse any kind of compensation.

So it was a relief to the whole town when Big Mac came back from service. Cheerilee didn't have to worry about the sisters, and the sisters didn't have to worry about their brother. There were good and bad days, but he was finally home. The family was together.

On this one day however, Apple Bloom was a bit more sad than usual. Big Mac had just left for service once again after being at the farm for a few weeks. The initial shock left the filly after a few days when the crushing realization occurred that this was in fact real, and her brother wouldn't come back for another four years. Today was not a day to pay attention in school. In fact, today was not a day to go crusading with her friends.

Today was a day to visit Granny.

When the bell finally rung, the little filly took her saddlebags and slung them over her back, strapped them on, and walked slowly back to the farm. It was hot for a spring day. The rain from the previous night cooled things off, only to heat up Ponyville with humidity the next day. The bright sun and clear blue skies seemed to mock the filly with feign happiness. It's not something she noticed, however. She just hung her head and looked at the ground the whole way home.

Eventually, Apple Bloom's eyes found the steps to their porch and the gently tossed her saddlebags off of her back. She then took a turn eastward and went towards the farthest of the orchard fields. After passing the initial rolling hills, there was one hill that overlooked the entire farm. As the filly climbed up the steep slope to get to the top, she began to get a bit emotional. She reached the top to find no trees or plants, but a small section of the peak fenced off. She went to the small wooden gate and opened it up.

Inside the fenced area were four tombstones. One for her Paw, one for her Maw, one for Grandpappy Apple, and a relatively new one for Granny. Applejack had decided long ago when their parents died that they should be laid to rest here on this hill, because the Apples would always look over the Apple farm and whoever lived on it.

But in Apple Bloom's mind, she was sure that the late Apples and Fate had all turned their backs on the farm and those who lived on it. She did not wail and she did not scream. Instead, the filly plopped down on her haunches and let her lip quiver and the tears roll off of her face. She sat there for several minutes, silently crying to herself and the late Apples.

Then she looked at Granny's stone and just asked,

"Why? ...

Why............... again?"

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A few days later, Apple Bloom skipped school to help her sister plant the next batch of trees in the west fields. Usually they would talk all day while they worked about whatever was on their minds. They had grown close by learning to take care of the farm by themselves.

Today, however, Applejack didn't talk much. She seemed a bit more somber than usual and Apple Bloom decided not to ask.

After the work was done, they went inside to start dinner. As they ate, Applejack still didn't look any better. Apple Bloom decided to ask, "Sis, you okay?"

Applejack shot her head up, only to cock it down a bit. She knew she had to tell her sister what was going on. She had to give it to her.

"Yeah, everything's fine Apple Bloom. Finish up yer supper. I gotta give ya something."

Applejack got up and went to her room for a few moments and went back downstairs and sat in the living room. A few minutes passed by and her little sister joined her. The filly sat right next to her sister on the old couch and Applejack put her arm around her little sister.

"Apple Bloom, you've so good helping me around the farm, and I just want to let you know that before I give you this. No matter what, I'm always proud of you." She reached down and presented Apple Bloom with a letter in an envelope.

Applejack looked at her little sister with somber green eyes. "Me and Granny talked about some things a long time ago. She wrote this a few weeks before she passed on, and told me to give it to you when the time was right. I don't know exactly what she wrote, and I've never read what is in the envelope. I do know what her main point was with the letter, and I think it's time you read it."

She gave the envelope to Apple Bloom, who then opened it up.


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Dear Apple Bloom,

If you're reading this right now, it means that I can't read it to you myself. I trust your sister Applejack has given this to you in the time I've told her to.

First off hun, I'm sorry I can't be there for you. I'm sure you need some ears to talk to right now and as much as I wish those ears belonged to me, I know for a fact that Applejack will always make time for you. As I'm writing this, I feel the life slippin' away from me, ever so slowly. My time is coming soon, and these old bones are about wore out already. When my time comes, I want it to be peaceful. I think there's no better way to go than while sittin' on my rocking chair on the porch overlooking the east fields.

Ya see when I look at the fields, I can only think of how this family has kept up through the years. Every generation of Apples has had their unfair share of hard times, you and your siblings included. And yet, through all of the hardships, through all of the heartaches, and yes... even through death, we've managed to work hard enough to keep on goin'. Whether you know it or not, Apple Bloom, you're as much a part of that as any of the folks who ever lived here. When Mac left, you jumped right in and did your work on the farm. You're mature beyond your years, even more so than your ole' Granny was back in my day.

It's because of your maturity that I'm writin' this letter for ya. If Applejack has done right, you'll get this letter after Mac goes back into the army a second time. I know he will, even without being able to see it happen.

You see, your Paw also went into the army. Boy howdy, he was gung-ho about it too.

I sat home every day hoping he wouldn't be brought home in a box. That's how Caramel's paw came home, ya know. I could never talk about it, and I would never let on to the fact that I'd find myself worked up into a frenzy hopin' my boy would come home breathing. It's all I could think about. When he finally came home I about broke his back with the biggest bear hug I could muster. I also wanted to beat him silly for making me worry like that. That's how I got this awful grey hair. At least when he got home I could sleep again.

....For a little while, at least.

He started to settle down again and got back into farm work. He met your Maw and they got married, and went to havin' foals right away. Even though he was different he still was functioning and adjusting well to life outside of the service. He got up earlier than I remembered him doin' before, but he'd go straight to the fields and plow. He'd come back in for food and then go right back out for work. While he did that, your Maw would go and sell the products at the market. Now see, your Maw was a pretty gal and every soul in town would come down and buy some of those apples, even if some of those stallions wanted an excuse to talk to her.

Anywho, after a couple of weeks it seemed like your Paw was gettin' better and enjoying life more. Time went on and after Mac and AJ were born, your parents had you. By the time you were born, the thought of your Paw re-enlisting was non-existent. He had everything he ever wanted in life with his family. He seemed more than content, he seemed happy.

Then I saw those damned re-enlistment papers. I never hated anythin' so bad in my life, like I did those pieces of paper. I begged him not to go, but he was gone before I could argue with him.

My boy brought home a medal for being shot, and yet I had never seen it until I was cleaning his room after he left. And dumb ole Granny went to lookin' for more of his stuff after that. I had so many questions about what had happened to him. That's when I saw letters that were addressed to him. It took me a couple of days to figure out that he wrote to his battle buddies. He mentioned with them how many of his friends had died fighting.

He thought it was unfair that he lived, but he had never told us that.

Soon after he left to re-enlist, we got the letter that he had fallen in battle.

But Mac isn't your Paw. He's got the courage and bravery of your Paw, but he's also got the level head and the intellect of your Maw. Now I'm not going to lie. Sometimes that's not enough. A soldier can be tough and smart but still not make it, but I think Mac's gunna make it. He may be depressed at times, and I don't doubt that there's times where he wouldn't mind killin' himself, but he won't. You know why? Even though war is awful and Mac has probably done some things he regrets while in service, he'll still have you and AJ. That's not to say he won't re-enlist a hoof-full of times. I'm sure he might get wounded a time or two. But your brother is strong, strongest there is in fact. I don't think Fate has it out for him; I just got me a feelin' about it.

He'll act strange when he is home. Your Paw was the same. He won't be himself for a good long while, but maybe one day he'll get better. He may lose track of time, or day dream, or have trouble sleeping. It might be will be hard seein' him like that, but just let him find his own way home, so to speak. Trying to help someone in that condition is only a good idea if they ask for it. After he comes home again, he might go back to the fightin'... again. When he doesn't say goodbye, it's because he's not leaving you. Try to remember that, little Bloom.

So do your Granny a favor and don't give up on your brother for me. I know it will be hard for ya, and I know you'll have plenty of reason to give up, but don't. His siblings are the only things he'll have left when he gets back. It'l take some time, but Mac will eventually find his way back to the farm and he'll be home that time. Soon enough, your big brother will come home... for good.

Love,

-Granny Smith

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With pleading eyes and a few tears, Apple Bloom looked up at her big sister. "So what do we do now??"

Applejack grabbed her sister in a big hug and began her own tears. "We're going to be patient and wait for him to stay home. We're not going to judge him and we're going to be here when he gets back. And most importantly Apple Bloom," AJ let go of her sister to look her in the eyes.

"We're going to love him no matter what."

Author's Note:

Welp, that's the last of it. Now onto my uber-long AN.

Also, please check my latest blog post. It actually has relevant information regarding how I'll do a story you want me to write! Click HERE to go to the blog.

This story didn't turn out the way I thought it would. To me, it turned out better. It started as a Big Mac "Apocalypse Now" fic. It started out as Mac more of a psyco than a PTSD patient. Then it became almost unreadble because Apocalypse Now is very visual and wouldn't make sense with just writing. I went back and changed a ton, including how choppy Mac talks in the beginning. It was a new sentence every four words or so. When I was ready to publish, it was something much more by typing out much less. There's a good bit to read between the lines, else none of this really made sense at all. I also had the story moving in a similar fashion to "Pulp Fiction" but again, it's hard to make that work with no visuals. Therefore I scrapped that idea as well.

So now I'd like to go over a few questions you may or may not have.

Is this an anti-war piece? No. It is not. Regardless of how you feel towards the subject of war, the care of our soldiers is nothing to joke about, regardless of what side they are on. Mental health is something that needs more attention in medical care, especially those who have served in the armed forces.

Why was Mac acting so weird when he got home? In the story, Mac has a case of PTSD. Look it up. Many war vets have it and a lot of times it goes untreated, which can lead to severe deterioration of the mind.

Did Mac's PTSD subside at the end of the story? Yes and no. While I've never had it, I'm told PTSD never really goes away. Sometimes it can get better with time, which is what happened with Mac. He still has it, just not to the same crippling degree as before. He can never be the same stallion, but he can live in a non-violent society again. Most importantly, he can be with his family again without fear of an episode.

Why did Mac's "voice" change through each of his chapters? As Mac got better with his PTSD, he began to speak more normally. His grasp of reality gets better as time goes on and he can see things for how they really are. Similar to "A Beautiful Mind" where the protagonist can't tell when what he sees is real or not, eventually he knows what is real and what his mind is making up.

Did Mac make it back to the farm? That's up to you. Stories like this would usually say yes, but in reality the good guys don't just win because they are the good guys. Does he deserve to make it back to the farm to see his family? Absolutely. Do I hope soldiers in real life get to do the same? Absolutely.

In the end, if this made you think and question your previous stance towards soldiers, PTSD, mental health, and/or war, then I count this as a success.

Peace out folks, and thanks for the read.

-AJ

Comments ( 3 )

An interesting Epilogue. Overall, a nice short story.

4585805 I'm glad you liked it. :twilightsmile:

When I was a young boy my Uncle who we always loved and was a caring man went to war, he came back 4-5 years later different, the things he saw scarred him for life, he was still a caring guy, but not as much as he was before, PTSD destroyed him, and we (As in his family and us) kept him sane, but he will never be the same again, no matter how many PTSD sessions he goes to, he is a good man, but war fucked up his mind, No-one deserves that, but we still need a fighting force, so when I become a USMC soldier I know I will get scarred, but its for people how deserve to live, so I don't give a damn.

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