• Published 13th Apr 2012
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Excerpts from a Filthy Diary - SR Foxley



Excerpts from Filthy Rich's diary, shedding light on a side of him you probably didn't know.

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Chapter 2: Spanking the pot

Excerpts from a Filthy Diary

Chapter 2: Spanking the Pot

by SR Foxey

(With thanks to the pre-reading / proofreading abilities of Impossible Numbers, Ezn and Letedwend)

=============

July 16, 965

We had some strange weather last night that the pegasuses say they didn't make. Grandpa told me that it probably meant the zap apples were coming. I didn't know what a zap apple was, so Grandpa told me they were magical apples from the Everfree Forest that the Apple family makes into a really good jam. I guess it's a tradition for Grandpa to buy the first 100 jars the Apple family makes. Honeycrisp was there helping her mom get ready for the harvest. She looked really pretty.

Grandpa made me wear a bunny costume and sing to the water with the other foals. I felt really silly, but at least Honeycrisp smiled at me.

---

To be honest, at first I was fuming.

It had all seemed just plain silly when Grandpa was explaining it to me in the shop after school, just how the zap apples appear almost overnight, and how each stage of their growth was accompanied by strange magical weather, and how they would disappear if they weren't harvested quickly enough.

"And that ain't the half of it," he called while rummaging through one of the disused boxes in the stockroom behind the register. "Y'see, Granny Smith takes them zap apples and makes this sweet jam, the likes of which y'ain't never gonna taste nowhere else. It's finer and sweeter than the best dessert ya could ever get in any fine restaurant in Canterlot. Better even than the fancy vittles to be had at one of the Princess's fine soirées."

"Really?" I asked. I was dusting off a few of the figurines in one of the glass display cases toward the middle of our shop.

"Well, I oughtta know," he said.

I stopped and looked at the stockroom door with one eyebrow raised, as if Grandpa could see my skepticism through the wall, and as if he would have even noticed it if he had seen.

"Got a whole... rit'chul round makin' it, too," he said as the sounds of his rummaging continued. "Y'see, bein' a magical fruit and all, it takes a special process to make it inta jam. It ain't a magical process, but it has all kinds of crazy steps so that the jam turns out just right. Like talking to the jars."

"Granny Smith talks to the jars?" A smile quickly spread across my face as I imagined Granny Smith sitting down in her living room with a cup of tea surrounded by all manner of glass jars, cups, beakers and flasks, a tiny ornamented tea cup sitting in front of each of them. Oh Mason, she'd say, you simply are too transparent.

"More like shouts at 'em," Grandpa said.

"Er... oh," I said as my vision shattered.

"Then there's the way she paints pink polka dots all round her kitchen. And puts the water cans for waterin' the zap apple trees in a great big circle and hops all around 'em, a-singing and a-hollerin', all the while dressed up like a march hare."

The smile came back in a flash as I tried to picture this even more incredible scene.

"Next you're gonna say she has the Mad Hatter dance a jig with her while the Dormouse stirs the pot," I said, and I laughed.

"No," came Grandpa's reply, the joke apparently having sailed through his ears without resistance, "there ain't a whole lotta dancin' involved. Leastwise not at that stage. But she does get help singin' to the water. Then there's the bees."

"The bees?" I asked, eager to find out what the next hilarity would be.

"Oh yes," he said. "One year Big Green was a bit too rough coaxin' the honey from the bees for the jam. Managed to break a hive accidentally. He was covered in welts, but that weren't half so bad as the jam that year. Couldn't hardly sell a jar! So now Granny Smith is real genteel when it comes to sussin' the honey from the bees. She fairly acts like a starry-eyed filly on her first hearts and hooves day the way she woos it out of 'em."

"Haha!" I stomped, punctuating my laughter. "Are you serious, Grandpa? She really does that?"

"Well, a'course I'm serious, Filthybilly!" Grandpa said. But I could hear the mirth in his voice too. "In fact this one year—ah! There it is!—This one year there was this one bee that seemed to take a hankerin' to Granny's nose. Sat right down in the middle and wouldn't budge for hours. She wouldn't let nopony shoo it away for her, neither. Granny was sore afraid of upsettin' the thing and what that might do to the zap apple jam, so she did all the rest of her shoppin' that day walkin' around like this."

Grandpa Stinking emerged from the stockroom door carrying an enormous pair of cream colored bunny ears in his teeth. He was staring cross-eyed at the end of his nose, eyes wide, with a rictus of terror on his face. He was taking exaggerated, slow steps, kicking his legs wide and standing on his hoof tips.

I lost it. I fell backward laughing and kicking my hooves in the air. I wasn't sure what was funnier: The idea of seeing Granny Smith walk around all of Ponyville like a cross-eyed tightrope walker, or seeing my normally stern Grandpa actually imitating the act.

Grandpa smiled, dropping the ears. "Well, she's gotten better about lettin' the bees land all over her. And the zap apple jam really was extra special that year."

I got to my hooves. That's about when I actually noticed the pair of bunny ears Grandpa had brought. I smiled and wiped a tear from my eye.

"So, what are those for?" I asked.

---

That's how I found myself walking down the dusty road toward Sweet Apple Acres wearing an enormous pair of cream colored bunny ears, followed in tow by Grandpa Stinking. We were both silently fuming at each other.

It actually wasn't that strange of an occurrence… well except for the obvious. In those days Grandpa was usually upset with me over one thing or another. This time it was because my laughter had turned into angry shouting the moment I realized the bunny ears were for me. Grandpa started shouting back about how the zap apple jammin' held a special meaning for our family, and about how it was really an honor to be able to take part in it, and how he'd been waiting for years for the chance to share it with me, and how he hoped I'd be grateful, and… blah, blah, blah.

I was nearly old enough to start going to junior high, and now I was going to have to go and humiliate myself in front of all the other foals by taking part in this ridiculous "tradition?" As if it weren't already hard enough for me at school!

Things had not been going well since my now infamous introduction a couple years back. Oh, I did just fine in all the subjects. Very well, in fact, but that was actually part of the problem. I apparently had a talent for numbers, and reading, and science, and Equestrian studies, and just about everything else except crafts and physical education; so much so that I was constantly scoring at the top of the class in most of these subjects. They hated me because I had arrogantly told them all I was going to be richer than them. They hated me because I was smart and making their grades look worse. They hated me because it looked like I really was going to be richer than all of them. And with a name like "Filthy" they had all the fodder they needed to pull practical jokes, make even ruder names and demeaning little rhymes about me, and otherwise make me the laughing stock of the whole school.

I absolutely did not need to give them anything else about which they could laugh at me. But there wasn't anything I could do about it: Grandpa Stinking had put his hoof down, and when he did that, there was no going back.

Presently, we were approaching the main gate at Sweet Apple Acres. I could hear the voices of foals singing gleefully, punctuated with laughter. The zap apple trees themselves were covered in big, dark leaves, and Big Green was out among them spreading around baskets, barrels and whole carts under the largest trees. I stopped and sighed, reluctant to take that first step through the gate. My anger had turned into the familiar miasma of sadness and impending doom I would get when one of my craft projects was about to be shown to the class, or when Prissy Pants' older brother Shot Put got that glint in his eye just before recess, or when I'd scored a full ten points higher than the next highest pony on the latest math test, or when I'd woken up in the morning to remember it was a school day, or…

Grandpa startled me by placing his hoof on my wither. I looked up at him and saw that his expression had softened. He almost looked sympathetic.

"It'll be OK, Filthy," he said. "You jest need to get outer the shop and play with some other ponies yer own age fer once. Make some friends and have fun! Now, c'mon!" He slapped my flank with his hoof.

I started up but quickly slowed to a plodding walk as we made our way toward the farmhouse. As we neared, I could see the ring of watering cans spaced out just enough so that there was space for a foal to jump between them. Several foals dressed in bunny costumes who I recognized from school were actually doing so now, and singing… the alphabet song? I could feel my stomach twist again. Granny Smith was there too, struggling with a huge iron cauldron she was pulling from a storage shed toward the main house.

When she spotted us, she stopped what she was doing and called out, "Well, howdy-do, Filthy and Stinking Rich! How're y'all doin'?"

Grandpa called back, just as loud, his voice veritably dripping with sweetness, "Well, thank you for asking, Mrs. Smith! We're just fine. Just as fine as this be-youtiful summer day which is, might I take the liberty of saying, not even half so fine as you."

"Oh ponyfeathers, Mr. Rich," she said, blushing. "Y'all always did have a silver tongue hidden behind those perfect teeth. But don't y'all go lettin' Big Green hear you sassin' me like that. He's lival to take a few of them teeth a'fore he'd be through witcha."

"Wouldn't dream of it, my dear," my grandpa said, grinning. "Not if it had to replace the dream standin' a'fore me right now."

Granny Smith worked her jaw wordlessly for a moment.

"Ahem! Well!" Granny said, blushing a brighter shade of pink, "I er... I s-s'pose y'all came down to help out with the zap apple jammin'? That's er… jest fine."

"Indeed it is," Grandpa said, leering.

"Ahem! Well! Why don't you go down and help Big Green set out the baskets? The zap apple blooms oughtta be showin' up any time this evenin' and we're runnin' a smidgen behind. Little Filthy here can help the other foals sing to the water."

"Why thank you Maria Ann!" Grandpa leaned down to pick up Granny's hoof. He smiled and planted a delicate kiss there. "I jest want to make sure you know jest how much of a sheer pleasure it has been, and will always be, to be of service to you." He winked and trotted off in the direction of the northern fields.

For a few moments the only sounds were the clip-clop of Grandpa's receding hooves, the songbirds in the trees, and the distant, woody thump of Big Green tossing another basket at the foot of a zap apple tree. Granny Smith plopped back on her haunches, mouth slightly agape as she watched Grandpa Stinking's rear end trotting away. All of us foals stood stock still, staring at her, also with mouths slightly agape. Slowly, a smile spread itself across her face. She shook her head, chuckling.

"Land sakes!" she said to nopony in particular. "I swear I could live to be a hundred and never get used to that old fox."

Granny seemed to suddenly notice the rest of us staring at her.

"Oh, ponyfeathers," she cursed. "Don't y'all go thinkin' nothin' of that. Nor sayin' nothin' neither. He's jest always… er… ah… he jest… ah…"

"Always what?" came a voice from behind her.

Granny jumped into the air and nearly did a backflip. She landed, breathing hard.

"Oh! Honeycrisp! It's jest you."

Honeycrisp raised an eyebrow and tilted her head.

"Er… never you mind, Honey." Granny swallowed. "Here, why don't you show Filthy how we sing to the water?"

Honeycrisp shook her head and rolled her eyes. She smiled at me and picked up the battered watering can she'd been bringing from the well and trotted in my direction.

Freckles…

Of course, I'd seen her nearly every school day. But we'd never really had much to say to each other after the… incident. She'd grown up a little since then, as had I, and had only just gotten her cutie mark. It was, of course, a beautiful red and green honeycrisp apple.

In defense of my dumbfounded state, staring at the back of her head from three rows back is quite a bit different from seeing her beautiful, freckled face approaching from the front, braided mane bouncing with each step. And she was actually smiling at me.

She set the water can down a few feet in front of me and looked up again, smiling. "Howdy Filthy," she said.

"Er…" I phrased eloquently.

Her smiled drooped a little. "So, ah… have y'all watched how the other foals have been singin' and hoppin'? Ah see ya brought yer floppy ears."

"Oh! Er…" I glanced upward at the pink liners of the huge cream colored bunny ears protruding above my head and all of the embarrassment of the trek from our store to Sweet Apple Acres came rushing back. I could feel my cheeks start burning and I felt weak in the knees.

"No… Ah mean! Er… yes, Ah've er… yes. Ah saw how they were doin' it earlier," I said.

I'd been living in Ponyville long enough and at a young enough age at this point that my southern accent was all but gone; but it did come back again to a certain degree when I was flustered or deliberately trying to put on airs. The latter was not the case just now.

Honeycrisp smiled again at me and said, "Well, all right then. Jest get in line and do what the others are doin' and you'll be jest fine. 'Tain't hard." She turned and trotted back toward Granny Smith. "Ah'm gonna help Ma with this pot. Then I'll go get mah suit and come'n join ya," she called over her shoulder.

I shuffled forward and filled the gap between Prissy Pants and Morning Glory as the foal lined up outside the ring of watering cans.

"Ready everypony?" Prissy called out loudly.

No, I'm not, I thought.

"Then, let's go!" she shouted and started hopping.

"A, B, C, D, E, F, G!" we all sang.

I can't believe I'm doing this, I thought.

"H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P!"

I can NOT. BELIEVE. I'm doing this.

"Q, R, S!"

I glanced up at Honeycrisp. She had just finished helping Granny Smith get the cauldron lifted over the top of her head, the latter's rear quarters with apple pie cutie mark and four legs visible, teetering precariously as she managed the weight. Honeycrisp was steadying her as they began to make their trek up to the house.

"T, U, V!"

Honeycrisp glanced over her shoulder and smiled at me.

"Double-U, X!"

I felt something tug my head to the left, hard, as I tried to make that last hop.

"Y, and…"

My whole world turned upside down. There was sky, then there was the earth, then there was sky again. And there were ponies, and watering cans, and limbs, and surprised faces, and then I was on my back, with the wind knocked out of me, and there were two pink lined, cream colored bunny ears hanging in front of me, the left one with a suspiciously familiar hoof print on it. Between the ears I saw a watering can arcing slowly upward, spilling its contents into the air weightlessly.

"Z!" someone shouted.

I followed the path of the watering can. The water coming from its top and spout was forming little roundish droplets and amorphous tendrils of glittery, rainbow colored light as it diffracted the late afternoon sunlight. The whole mass seemed to be slowly pulling itself outward, as if to free itself from its metal prison. It looked like an airborne jellyfish.

No! I thought. Not that way!

The can and rainbow jellyfish had nearly completed a half revolution. The jellyfish had almost freed itself from the can now, reaching its beady tendrils slowly downward.

To the left! I shouted in my head. More to the...

SPLOOSH! CLANG-ANG-ANG-ang-ang...

Granny Smith took two steps to the right, then two steps to the left as she steadied herself under the weight of the resonating cauldron. A yard to her left, Honeycrisp was splayed out in the middle of a spreading puddle, a watering can lodged firmly over her entire head. As the sound of the resonating cauldron ebbed, the only other sound was a steady drip, drip, drip.

I covered my face with my hooves.

Dear Princess Celestia, I prayed, I know that Nightmare Moon only comes around on Nightmare Night each year, but could you please see to it that you send her a few months early this year? In fact, if you could send her over in the next three or four seconds, I would be very grateful if she could gobble me up so that I don't have to go through whatever is about to happen next. Thank you ever so much! Your loyal subject, Filthy Rich.

That's about when I started hearing laughter. It was a kind of eerie, hollow, resonating laughter.

Oh wait! I thought, I didn't really mean it!

And then all the other foals around me started laughing.

Then someone was pulling on my right hoof, and I saw Honeycrisp standing over me. She was holding the watering can up over her head like a hat with her right hoof and pulling me up with her left. Her mane was wet and matted down against the side of her neck awkwardly and on her face was the biggest smile I think I've ever seen.

"Ah-har, you OK-hay?" she laughed, "That was so-ho! So-ho! Oop!" She fell over backward, a riot of giggles.

Slowly, a smile materialized on my face. I started snickering. Then snickering turned into giggling. And then giggling turned into laughing. Before long we were both rolling around in the dirt, kicking our hooves in the air and gasping for breath.

A few moments later, the other foals helped us to our hooves and we were leaning against each other to keep from falling down again.

Honeycrisp was still giggling at me. "That was so funny, Filthy!" she said. "Ah didn't know you could do a cartwheel!"

"Ah didn't either," I said. I couldn't stop grinning.

"Ah bet ya didn't!" she exclaimed. "The look on your face! It was just…! And the way ya got that watering can tangled up on your hoof, and how ya tackled Prissy, and then th' watering can was up in th' air, and then…"

"Sploosh!" I beamed.

"Sploosh!" she agreed, and we both stomped our hooves in mirth.

"Ah do say," she went on, wiping a tear from her eye. "My ma said Ah ought to expect the unexpected 'round zap apple tahm, but Ah never would have figured on somethin' like this happenin'!"

"Hello-oh?" It was Granny Smith's voice, somewhat muted and echoey. "Can one of y'all please tell me what jest happened?"

We glanced over to where she was standing next to the puddle, the cauldron still atop her head and her four hooves splayed to take the weight. Honeycrisp and I looked back at each other and erupted into a fresh round of laughter.

When this had subsided, Honeycrisp turned to me and said, "C'mon. Let's go help my ma, then we should go fill up these cans again. There're a lot of zap apple trees that need waterin' a'fore supper time."

---

Just before supper a huge flock of crows sprang up as if it out of nowhere and flew above the zap apple orchard in an apple shaped formation. Dark clouds from the Everfree Forest rolled in and the wind picked up. Moments later there was a sizzling sound as an electric arc zapped from tree to tree. The zap apple blooms appeared as the lightning arc started and were in full bloom by the time it ended. I'd never seen anything like it in my life.

Later that night Grandpa Stinking and I were back on the dusty road from Sweet Apple Acres. We were walking just as slowly as before, but this time it was because we were laboring under the burden of a humongous Apple family supper. Grandpa looked tired from the day's work in the orchard, trying to keep up with Big Green. I was there, plodding along without really seeing the road in front of me in the moonlight, the enormous bunny ears still on my head. I couldn't stop grinning stupidly.

Grandpa turned to me as we slowly clip-clopped along.

"So," he said, "it looks like you enjoyed y'self."

"Yeah," I replied.

"I guess it weren't as silly as y'all thought, then?" He smiled.

"Oh, it was plenty silly," I said. "But it was really fun, too."

"Oh? What was your favorite part?"

"Honeycrisp smiled at me."

That year's zap apple jam was the best batch to date. Grandpa managed to buy an extra twenty jars before they were all sold out. We saved them for ourselves and as special gifts to friends, slowly rationing them over the whole next year. Later, I found out that Granny Smith decided to add "Spanking the Pot" to her list of zap apple jammin' rituals.