• Published 13th Apr 2012
  • 3,129 Views, 51 Comments

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.

  • ...
1
 51
 3,129

Chapter 3: Chimicherrychanga

Excerpts from a Filthy Diary

Chapter 3: Chimicherrychanga

by SR Foxey

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

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

February 8, 967

I'm so lucky! Honeycrisp said "yes" when I asked her if she would be my very special somepony for Hearts and Hooves Day next week!

---

Stinking Rich was alternately nibbling on his hooftip and tapping it against his teeth. For all his swagger around the senior mares, he still had a tendency to absentmindedly do this when he was thinking about something hard, or considering the best way to deliver some news somepony else was unlikely to take well. He flipped over the battered pocket watch in his left hoof to scrutinize it a bit more, shifting his weight from one hind hoof to the other. His eyes went from the watch to the pony standing on the other side of the counter. Grandpa Stinking looked him up and down briefly before returning to the pocket watch in his left hoof, turning it over once again. He resumed his nibbling.

I was about ten yards away, ostensibly straightening a couple of the puzzle toy sets on a shelf at the side of our shop. I reached up to adjust one for the twentieth time again, sticking my tongue out of the side of my mouth and furrowing my brow as if I were trying to get it to look just right on the shelf. It wouldn't do to interrupt them during a negotiation.

"So," said Grandpa, not looking up from the watch, "how's yer neice doin', Weezer? All packed up and ready to skedaddle out of this two-pony town?"

Weezer Wheatwagon closed his lips over his prominent buckteeth briefly before opening his mouth and licking his lips. He'd been nervously prancing in place with his hind hooves since he’d walked into the shop forty-five minutes ago. It was only in the last ten minutes that he had worked up the courage to approach the counter where my grandpa usually sat.

"No," he said, licking his lips again. "The fall semester don't start until late August, so it'll be a few months before she ships out." He cleared his throat. "She's real excited to get going now, of course."

Grandpa nodded without looking up. "Oh, I expect so. It ain't every day a pony from Ponyville gets into the Canterlot Academy, after all."

I straightened the puzzle box again. Besides the clop-clop-clop of Mr. Wheatwagon's hind hooves still beating a quiet rhythm on the wooden floorboards, I could hear the quiet tick-tock of several cuckoo clocks on the wall on the opposite side of the shop. There were a few dust motes making their way lazily across a shaft of mid-afternoon sunlight streaming in the window next to the clocks.

"Has she picked out a subject, yet?" Grandpa asked, looking up at Mr. Wheatwagon again.

"Law," he replied, quickly. "She's going to study law to become, um, a lawyer, I think."

"Really?" Grandpa feigned surprise. "That'll make her the first lawyer in yer family, won't it, then?"

"Yep!" replied Mr. Wheatwagon, smiling proudly. "First pony in the whole Truck family to go to college, too."

"You don't say!" said Grandpa, nodding appreciatively.

They both returned their attention to the pocket watch in Grandpa's left hoof. Mr. Wheatwagon resumed his nervous prancing. Grandpa tapped his teeth with his hooftip.

Clip-clop, clip-clop, tick-tock, tick-tock, tap, tap, tap.

Grandpa seemed to come to a decision. He set the watch down on the glass countertop between himself and Mr. Wheatwagon and straightened up a little.

"Two hundred fifty," he said.

Oh, I thought, it's going to be one of these.

"Two hundred fifty!" Mr. Wheatwagon shouted, stomping his hoof. "I'm sorry Mr. Rich, but there ain't no way that's what it's worth!"

Grandpa narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaw momentarily, frowning.

"'Course it is," he said. "You asked me to make you a fair offer on this here pocket watch, and that's my offer. You accusin' me of tryin' to cheat ya?" He slammed a hoof down on the countertop, making the watch jump.

"No, er… I…" Mr. Wheatwagon stuttered. He looked mortified. "What I meant was, there ain't no way that it's worth that much."

Grandpa's expression softened a bit and he stood up a little straighter.

"Oh! Well, then it really is good thing ya came to me with this," he said. "Elsewise y'all might have been cheated. Here, let me show ya somethin'." He picked up the pocket watch and turned it over. "Ya see these here scratches on the back? Like this really deep one that goes right through the engraving?"

Mr. Wheatwagon scrutinized the back of his pocket watch, squinting his eyes and moving his head to get a better angle.

"Mmm-hmmm," he mumbled.

"Ya see how the color of the brass outside the scratch is different than the color in the middle of the scratch?"

"Yes," replied Mr. Wheatwagon. "It's all bright and shiny in the middle of the scratch."

"Well," Grandpa continued, "that dull color on the outside—that's called a patina. Collectors go nuts for a good patina. It means the watch is pretty old. Makes it more valuable."

"R-really?" Mr. Wheatwagon seemed to visibly brighten.

"That's what I said!"

"But, um," Mr. Wheatwagon said sheepishly, "but it doesn't even work anymore."

"Oh, pish posh!" said Grandpa, waving a hoof dismissively. "That's easy enough to fix. Jest where did ya get this fine time keeper anyway?"

"It's been… Well, I've just sort of had it. Er... around. For years. I think it might have belonged to my granddad." Mr. Wheatwagon scratched at his neck absentmindedly.

Grandpa's eyes went wide and he slowly looked back down at the battered old pocket watch in his left hoof. He gingerly set it back on the countertop before looking back up to stare intently at Mr. Wheatwagon.

"Er… what?" Mr. Wheatwagon was smiling nervously under my grandpa's serious gaze.

"Do you mean to tell me," Grandpa began quietly, his intensity and volume rising with each word, "that ya waltzed right into my store this afternoon to try and sell me the pocket watch of Albus 'All Aboard' Coalcar?"

"Um, yes?" Mr. Wheatwagon said.

"And ya almost let me buy it for two and hundred fifty bits?"

"Um, yes?" Mr. Wheatwagon squeaked.

Grandpa closed his eyes and put his hooves to his temples as if to squelch the sudden onset of a headache.

"Land sakes," he muttered. "If ya worked in my shop, I'd have to fire ya in a week! You young whippersnappers have no idea about the worth of anythin' nowadays."

Mr. Wheatwagon's cheeks reddened and he looked at the ground, shuffling his hooves.

"Look, I didn't mean to upset you. I'll just go," he said, and reached for the watch on the countertop.

"No!" Grandpa shouted, slamming his hoof down again hard and making Mr. Wheatwagon jump. "Do ya know who yer grandpappy was?" he asked.

Mr. Wheatwagon hesitated. "He, ah… he worked on the railway, right?"

"Not jest any railway! He shoveled coal on the Ponyville Express! And not jest that: Why, yer grandpappy was shovelin' coal on the Canterlot-Las Pegasus Line a'fore there was a Ponyville Express. A'fore there was a Ponyville, even! If I do recall correctly, he was even on the first train to come into Ponyville station jest one day after they laid the track. And nearly every train thereafter. He worked the Ponyville Express for twenty years a'fore he retired."

Weezer Wheatwagon looked from Grandpa Stinking back at the watch, his eyes going wide.

Grandpa said, "Do ya know why they used to call him 'All Aboard'? He used to play this game where he'd try to beat the conductor to calling 'All Aboard' for the passengers. Got real good at it too. The conductor would be lookin' at his watch real close, waitin' for the last few seconds to tick away. He'd take a deep breath, but a'fore he got to hollerin', everyone would hear yer grandpappy shout 'All Aboard!' clear as a bell, comin' from the coal car."

Grandpa walked around the counter to stand next to Mr. Wheatwagon, who was admiring his pocket watch on the countertop.

"This one time, the conductor was in the outhouse, see. Only yer grandpappy didn't know that, so when the time came, he hollered 'All Aboard.' And the engineer, bein' accustomed to hearin' your grandpappy call it, assumed everything was ready to go and started the train. It went all the way to Canterlot a'fore anypony realized the conductor was still back in Ponyville!" Grandpa cackled and slapped Mr. Wheatwagon on the back.

Mr. Wheatwagon tittered nervously. "Is that so?" he said.

Grandpa looked at him in mock offense and said, "Weezer, have ya ever known me to be a liar? 'Course it's so!" Grandpa nodded toward the watch and said, "What ya got there ain't jest some old pocket watch. It's a piece of Ponyville history."

Mr. Wheatwagon cleared his throat. "Does, er… Does that make it more valuable then?"

"Five hundred," Grandpa said.

Weezer Wheatwagon gasped and took a step backward.

"M-Mr. Rich!" he stuttered.

"Six hundred!"

"I-I, really, I…"

"Seven hundred! Don't make me beg, Weezer! I must have that watch!"

It suddenly occurred to Mr. Wheatwagon that he was supposed to be negotiating. He coughed and straightened up, trying to regain some composure.

"Eight," he squeaked and cleared his throat again. "Er… eight hundred?" he suggested, timidly.

Grandpa smiled and turned away to resume his position behind the counter.

"Now Mr. Weezer," he said, "we are runnin' a business here. And as such, we can't be payin' exactly what everything is worth. Elsewise we'd never turn a profit."

"Oh, that's fine," Mr. Wheatwagon said brightly. "I'll happily take…"

"Seven hundred ninety-five!" Grandpa exclaimed, cutting him off. "I'm afraid that's my final offer. Take it or leave it."

"I'll take it!" Mr. Wheatwagon shouted, then immediately looked embarrassed. "Er… I mean, that sounds good to me," he said.

"Sounds like we have a deal then," Grandpa said, beaming and picking up Mr. Wheatwagon's hoof to shake it vigorously.

"Oh thank you! Thank you so much, Mr. Rich!" Mr. Wheatwagon said. "You have no idea what this means to me!" His eyes were watering, and I'm pretty sure he would have hugged my grandpa had there not been a counter separating them.

Grandpa chuckled and said, "It's been a pleasure doing business with you, Weezer. Now don't go spendin’ it all in one place."

Grandpa turned to look at me.

"Filthy!" he called. "Pay this gentlecolt."

"Okay, Grandpa,” I said. “But you're gonna have to open the safe. We don't keep that kind of cash in the till."

---

The bell on the door jingled as Weezer Wheatwagon fairly danced out of our store. In the street I could see him jump into the air, clicking his hooves together before prancing away. Grandpa laughed and picked the watch up off the countertop, bringing it into the storeroom to squirrel it away. He was humming to himself happily as he opened one of the chests there.

"You know," I called, "we're not a pawn shop. You do know that, right?"

"Well, it's a good thing he sold the watch to me instead of trying to pawn it then, ain't it?" Grandpa's response was just slightly acidic, but I could tell my question had dampened his mood a bit.

I sighed and found a rag to wipe up some of the coal dust that had fallen out of the watch and smudged on the countertop. After buffing the glass for a bit, I opened up the display case to straighten one of the price tags that had fallen over next to the bright and shiny pocket watches showcased there. It read "35 bits."

The trunk in the back slammed closed and Grandpa Stinking came trotting back to the entrance. He wiped his hooves on his apron, frowning at me.

"But since yer in an observant mood this afternoon, I'm curious about what else ya mighta noticed about heretofore transaction," he said.

I made a show of taking a great sigh and rolling my eyes exaggeratedly. I positively hated this game.

"Well," I said, "the scratch on the back ruined the patina, which would have ruined its value. Except it was worthless to begin with anyway. Nopony is gonna pay for an old pocket watch that doesn't work anymore. Plus, they've made about a million of those watches, and are still making them." I gestured toward the watch display case where a brand new copy of the same watch was reflecting the mid-afternoon sunlight.

Grandpa was nodding and saying, "Mmmm-hmmm," with each point, as if putting marks on an invisible checklist. When I didn't continue, he frowned down at me.

"And…?" he said.

"And, we just got fleeced paying for a piece of junk?" I guessed.

Grandpa shook his head and placed his left hoof on his forehead, closing his eyes.

"Don't ever let it be said that ya thought too much, Filthybilly," he said. "Try again."

"Well, I don't know!" I protested. "I think it's really silly the way you talked him up like that. It doesn't make any sense, if you ask me. I don't know why you wanted that watch so badly. It was almost like you were trying to throw money at him."

"Land sakes!" said Grandpa. "Maybe there's a brain inside that thick skull o' yers after all! But ya don't get credit for stumbling on the answer."

"You… were trying to throw money at him?"

"Now why would I ever do that? Goes against the principles of capitalism, don't it?" Grandpa smirked.

"Well, er…" I started, not sure how to proceed.

"What do you know about Weezer Wheatwagon and his family?" Grandpa asked.

"Well, um…" I said. "Mr. Wheatwagon hauls grain and other things in his wagon for a living…"

"Not much money in that," Grandpa muttered.

"…and, um, he's not married, even though he's a little bit older than most ponies who are married and have foals. Um, he's got a brother and sister-in-law in town, the Turniptrucks, I think, right?"

Grandpa nodded.

"And they also haul things for a living. I guess most of the ponies in his family do. And, um, the Turniptrucks have a daughter. She's about to graduate from high school. Her name's Sugarbeet, right?"

"Fancy that!" Grandpa exclaimed. "We were jest talkin' about her!"

"She's, um, going to go to college in Canterlot, right?"

All at once it clicked, and I blinked at Grandpa.

"You overpaid for the pocket watch so that Mr. Wheatwagon would have some money to give to Sugarbeet Turniptruck for law school?"

Grandpa smiled at me.

"And to think Miss Cirrus told me ya couldn't be taught," he said.

I flushed angrily. "But if you wanted to help pay for Sugarbeet's college, why didn't you just go give her some money? Why put on a big act and take Mr. Wheatwagon's worthless old watch?"

Grandpa frowned and deflated a bit.

"Maybe Miss Cirrus was right after all," he said.

I stomped a hoof and snorted.

"Oh come on, Grandpa! I got the answer, so now you have to tell me! That's the rule!"

Grandpa sighed.

"Okay, Filthybilly. Fair's fair. Weezer Wheatwagon ain't married, but he always wanted a foal. So when his brother married and his brother's wife had a filly, Weezer absolutely, positively doted on 'er. She's the daughter he ain't never had nor is likely ever gonna have. So when she got her letter from the Canterlot Academy two weeks ago… well, clearly he wanted to do something special for her. That old broken pocket watch may look like a piece of junk to you and me, but to Weezer it's an heirloom. Ya might have noticed how the chain left a mark in the hair at the nape of his neck, or, I dunno, how every time ya'd see him round town prior to the time he walked into our shop today, it was with that pocket watch round his neck."

I flushed again, looking down at my hooves.

Grandpa said, "Ain't nopony gonna give up his family's special treasures unless he's got a good enough reason." He beamed in mock pride. "So, seein' as how I am a clever and observant pony who saw all of this the moment he trotted into our shop…"—Grandpa actually paused to buff his left hoof on his chest before stretching it out before him admiringly—"I figured 'What the hay, why not?' and made him a very happy pony today.”

"You still haven't told me…"

"Pride, Filthy," Grandpa interrupted. "Sure, I coulda gave Sugarbeet money for school. But then that woulda come from me. And I coulda gave Weezer some money to give to Sugarbeet. But then it still woulda come from me. But since he was willin' to part with a precious family heirloom to make a heart-felt gift to his niece—Ah! That was my chance. And now, when Weezer gives Sugarbeet that money, it'll come from him."

"Oh," I said.

Grandpa paused, looking at me expectantly. I just stood there, passively looking at my hooves.

"Oh?" he said. "That's it? Jest 'Oh?' No 'Yer so stupid, Grandpa'? No 'Quit spending my inheritance, Grandpa'?"

I ground my teeth together.

"No," I said. "It was a good lesson."

"Huh," Grandpa said.

I forced a smile and walked into the stockroom to retrieve a broom. Bringing it back out onto the store floor, I began to sweep. Grandpa was watching me with narrow eyes. He began to tap his teeth with a hoof absentmindedly.

"Ya feelin' all right, Filthy?" he asked.

I smiled at him and said, "I'm fine, thanks."

"Hmmm," he said. "You know I was just pullin' yer leg about Miss Cirrus, right? She actually says yer a humdinger of a student."

"Yeah, I know." I smiled at him again, somewhat sheepishly. "What're you gonna do with Mr. Wheatwagon's pocket watch now?"

He waved a hoof dismissively. "Hadn't thought that far yet. But I suppose it'd make a good graduation gift for Sugarbeet if I get it fixed and polished up real nice. Hmmm…" He was still watching me out of the corner of his eye.

I continued to sweep, and Grandpa eventually turned to walk into the stockroom.

"Actually…" I began.

Grandpa stopped and walked backward, looking at me sidelong and smiling smugly.

"Yes, Filthy?"

"Um, I was wondering if I could leave the shop a few hours early today."

Grandpa frowned. "Well, o'course, Filthy. Ya spend so much time here anyways. It'll do ya good to get outta the shop. Ain't no customers here right now anyways."

"Thanks, Grandpa."

My sweeping eventually led me around one of the taller shelves. I could hear Grandpa tapping his teeth again.

"But, ah… Bein' the parental figure in our happy relationship, some might say I'm obligated—duty bound even—to ask you where you're gonna go."

I poked my head around the shelf.

"Oh, you know, out," I said.

"Out?"

"With friends."

"With… friends? Ah-huh."

Tap, tap, tap.

I sighed. Might as well get it over with, I thought. There's no getting around this part.

"There was one other thing I wanted to ask you," I said.

"Well then, ask," Grandpa said. He was frowning and peering at me, one elbow on the countertop and one hoof tapping his teeth.

"I was… I was wondering if I could make you an offer on the diamond tiara."

Grandpa seemed to freeze. His eyes darted to the display case containing the jewelry we had for sale. Among the sparkling and glittering items there was a bejeweled tiara, sized right for a filly. Grandpa's eyes darted to me again, then back to the tiara, then back to me. His face went slack and his eyes widened.

"Oh, Filthy, I didn't know. I mean, I guess I've never seen ya walkin' or talkin' with any of the fillies in town, so I guess I shoulda known..."

"Grandpa—"

"And it ain't all that unusual in this modern age, though I hear it's more common in big cities like Manehattan and Las Pegasus…"

"Grandpa—"

"But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I mean, y'ain't never been able to fit in with the other foals in school…"

"Grandpa!" I shouted.

"Er… yes, Filthy?"

"It ain't fer me!"

"Oh! O'course it ain't, thank god! Er… not that it woulda been a problem if it were fer ya, o'course." Grandpa tittered.

We both stood there in awkward silence, the only sound being the tick-tock of the cuckoo clocks. I hadn't expected that kind of reaction, so it mostly destroyed the series of arguments I had been piecing together all morning. I tried to pull my thoughts together again.

"Um, so," I began. I cleared my throat. "Ah know the list price on it is four hundred bits. And Ah know Ah've only got one hundred and seventy-eight bits saved up. But that tiara's been there for years, and Ah don't think y'all will ever sell it. So, um, if ya sell it to me for one hundred and seventy-eight bits, ya could at least realize some income from it, and ya'd free up valuable display space for inventory that'll sell quicker."

As I laid out my perfectly reasonable arguments to Grandpa, he watched me in silence, his embarrassment giving way to a look of concern. He let my talking die down to the relative silence of the ticking cuckoo clocks before he spoke.

"I dunno, Filthy. One hundred seventy-eight bits is a lot of money. It took ya over a year to save up that much," he said.

"Ah know it is," I said. "And Ah've done a lot of thinking about it. And Ah think it's worth it." I swallowed nervously.

Grandpa was looking at me now with brow furrowed, ears drooped, and lips turned down in a sad frown.

"It's fer that Apple filly, ain't it?"

How did you know? I thought, shocked. I hadn't said a word about this to anypony. It was so frustrating that Grandpa was so good at reading me!

I swallowed again. "Um, her name is Honeycrisp. Ah'm s'posed to meet her at the gazebo at four-thirty."

Grandpa nodded.

"I'm sorry Filthy, but no deal."

I had been somewhat prepared for this. After all, paying one hundred seventy-eight bits for a four hundred bit item was a pretty raw deal for Grandpa.

"Ah know it ain't enough. But, Ah dunno, maybe you could lend me the difference and Ah can pay ya back? Or Ah could work the late shift for the next three months? C'mon, Grandpa, ya gotta cut me a deal!"

Grandpa was just shaking his head.

I didn't want to have to do this, but I did have a plan B.

"Well, how 'bout the ruby anklet then? List on that is one hundred seventy-five."

"Sorry, Filthy," Grandpa said, "But the price on that just went up."

I was beginning to panic.

"Well, how much then? Surely we can make a deal here!"

"You cain't afford it, Filthy."

I stood there for a few moments with my mouth agape. When I tried to say anything, I ended up just stuttering.

Eventually, I was able to form words again. "But… but, how can ya say that?" I exclaimed. I was starting to get angry now, "You jest… you jest gave some stallion seven hundred ninety-five bits for a worthless piece of junk! And now ya won't cut a deal with me, yer own kin? How can ya be so heartless?"

Grandpa, predictably, was starting to react in kind.

"What I do with my money is my own business," he said angrily. "And in my shop I get to decide who I'm gonna do business with, too. And today, that ain't you."

"Well, fine then!" I shouted. "Give me my money and Ah'll go get something from somepony else's shop!"

"No."

"But… it's my money!"

"My shop, my rules. I said no."

"But that's… that's jest not fair!"

"No it ain't," Grandpa agreed.

I was starting to cry now. "But that's jest… horseapples! Yer such a hypocrite, Grandpa! You jest…"

Grandpa's eyes flashed. "Ye'll watch yer language in my shop, Filthy!"

"Yer jest… yer jest a mean old goat, Grandpa! A mean old goat who never wants me to be happy! Ain't ya ever been in love?"

"Confound it, Filthy!" Grandpa slammed a hoof down on the countertop. "Land sakes, I'm tryin' to do ya a favor! Ya want to win the heart of Honeycrisp Apple? Believe me she is not gonna be impressed by how rich ya are!"

"But… but what am Ah s'posed to do with no money?" I could taste salt and snot as the tears ran down my face.

"Bake her a cake. Take her on a picnic. Take a walk with her. Tell her how beautiful her eyes are. Write her a confounded sonnet! You know, do anything that any normal colt would do!"

"But... Ah… Ah..."

"Fine!" Grandpa shouted, throwing open the register and taking out a couple coins. "Ya want to buy yer way into Honeycrisp's heart? Here's two bits. Buy her with that!" He slammed the bits onto the countertop.

"But Ah… Ah jest don't know what to do!"

"Well, " he said, looking pointedly at one of the cuckoo clocks, "ya got two hours and twenty-three minutes. Better think of something quick."

---

The winter sun was a hoof-span over the western horizon, and in the crisp wintery air, the evening sunlight was glittering pink and blue and yellow in the crystalline crust of the snow drifts and branches around the gazebo. In the far distance I could see several pegasus ponies pushing gray clouds about, gathering them into one corner of the sky in preparation for tomorrow's snow shower. I had heard it was going to be a wet mix of snow and rain which would turn this picturesque landscape into slush. But today things looked just perfect.

"If Ah could offer a suggestion," Honeycrisp began.

I turned to look at her, laying down next to me on top of the checkered blanket I had placed under the gazebo. I gingerly spat a cherry stone into my hoof before surreptitiously placing it in the small heap of cherry stones in the snow beside me.

"Mmmm-hmmm?" I said, my tongue searching around in my mouth for more stones.

"Cherries are fine and sweet all on their own, but when ya cook 'em like this, it wouldn't hurt to add a little bit of sugar to the mix to sweeten things up a bit," she said.

I nodded.

"Or maybe ya could make a sweet glaze to pour over these, er… what do ya call 'em?"

"I hadn't really thought of a name yet," I said.

"Well, these deep-fried, cherry… burrito thingies." She took another bite of hers. "Pretty good idea, anyway," she said, smacking her lips.

The truth was that by the time I had cleaned myself up a little and made it to the market with my two bits, all but two of the vendors had already packed up and left for the day. One of them was selling the early crop of Dodge Junction cherries. The other had a stack of tortillas. This close to the end of the market, it wasn't hard to talk them down a bit on price.

"Yeah," I said. "I'm afraid I don't know much about baking. This was just sort of an idea I came up with, last minute and all."

"Well, Ah'd be happy to show ya a thing or two," Honeycrisp said, smiling. "My ma makes the best apple pie you'll ever taste this side of the Maresouri. She's been teaching me how to make apple fritters, and apple cobbler, and all manner of dee-licious apple desserts."

"If you don't mind, I think I'd like that," I said.

"Of course, Filthy! It'd be my pleasure. Why don't ya come home with me tomorrow after school, and I can show ya how to make cupcakes? If, er… yer grandpa is okay with that."

"Oh, I think he'll be just fine running the store by himself for a while," I said with just a hint of bitterness.

"Well, all right, then." Honeycrisp smiled.

We fell silent then, quietly chewing as we watched the sun slowly descend in the sky. Several pegasus ponies were pushing a huge heap of a cloud together in the distance. As it came together with the other mass of clouds, it blocked the sun from our view, dulling the landscape in muted gray. I heard a soft crunch as Honeycrisp bit down on a cherry stone.

"Erm," she said. "Might wanna take the pits out next time, too."

I must have looked crestfallen.

Honeycrisp looked at me sympathetically and quickly added, "Of course, if ya had, then I wouldn'ta been able to show ya this."

She stood up and fixed her gaze on a snow-laden branch about twenty yards away. Then she reared back slightly before throwing her head forward and spitting a cherry stone with a great "ptooie."

The stone shot through the air and hit the branch with a loud crack. A moment later all the snow on the branch plopped softly to the ground.

I laughed. "That's pretty good, Honeycrisp!"

"My pa holds the record for long-distance precision apple seed spittin' in the county fair," she said, beaming. "He's been teachin' me how to do that."

All at once the sun descended into the gap between the horizon and the cloud bank the pegasi were constructing. The underside of the clouds lit up in streaks of red, pink and orange while the crusty snow drifts once again burst with glittering color all around us.

"Ah gotta give it to ya," Honeycrisp whispered, gazing at the brilliant sunset. "Ya sure did pick a nice spot for this picnic."

Now would have been the perfect moment to unveil the diamond tiara. The twilight rays of the sun would have been caught in the gemstones' facets just right. But since I'd been robbed of that option…

I cleared my throat and said, "Your eyes are like the blue, blue sky. Your voice as sweet as an apple pie."

"Why thank ya kindly," Honeycrisp interrupted, turning to look at me. "That's a real nice thing for ya to say, Filthy! Ah like yer eyes, too. And the way ya groom yer mane."

I blushed, releasing the breath I had taken to say the next line. I was actually somewhat glad for the interruption. I'd only been able to think of three lines for the sonnet so far, and one of them didn't even rhyme.

"Yer jest," I said, "um, really, really pretty Honeycrisp."

"Shucks, Filthy."

Now she was blushing, rubbing one hoof with another absentmindedly. I tried to think of something else to say, but was coming up blank. So we simply stood there for a while, both of us blushing at each other as the twilight began to fade.

"Listen, Filthy," Honeycrisp said, breaking the silence. "It's startin' to get late, and my ma's gonna be all kinds of upset if Ah don't get back home soon."

"Wait, Honeycrisp!" I hoped I didn't sound too desperate. "Before ya go. There's, er... there's something Ah wanted to ask ya."

"Yes." It was a statement, not a question.

"Er, pardon?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "You wanna know whether Ah'll be yer very special somepony for Hearts and Hooves Day, right?"

"Ah, yes. Yes! Er… really? Y'all will be my very special somepony?" My smile must have been a mile wide.

"Jest fer Hearts and Hooves day," she said, blushing again. "Then Ah guess we'll see what happens after that."

"But how did ya know?" I asked.

Honeycrisp made a sweeping gesture at the blanket, the gazebo and the sun just as the last sliver of light peeked over the horizon.

"Well, ya ain't exactly been subtle about it," she said, grinning.

---

As we crunched our way back up through the snow on the road toward Sweet Apple Acres, Honeycrisp bumped her flank into mine conspiratorially.

"Ya know," she said, "for a while there Ah was afraid ya'd do something silly, like tryin' to give me a gold necklace or something."

"Haha!" I tittered, my cheeks burning. "Imagine that!"

"But Ah really liked those deep-fried cherry burrito thingies ya made."

"Really?"

"Yer all right, Filthy Rich."