• 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 4: The Rich Debt

Excerpts from a Filthy Diary

Chapter 4: The Rich Debt

by SR Foxey

(With thanks to the pre-reading / proofreading abilities of Letedwend)

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

December 24, 968

It's Hearth's Warming Eve! A couple weeks ago Honeycrisp got picked to play Smart Cookie in the pageant tonight, and I'm helping out backstage. I can hardly wait, I'm so excited!

Also, the old goat, a.k.a. Grandpa Stinking, is finally letting me go and buy something expensive for Honeycrisp for the holiday. I'm gonna knock her shoes off!

And that's not even the best part. I got my acceptance letter from Manehattan U today! College, here I come!

Could this day be any more awesome?

---

I was standing behind the curtain, stage right, doing my best not to slip or let go of the rope I was holding in my mouth as the cast of the Hearth's Warming Eve pageant finished singing the closing hymn with the audience. It had been a good show. Nearly three hundred Ponyville residents had shown up and judging by the enthusiastic way the audience was singing along, most of them had been moved by the performance.

I had managed to weasel my way into the production as the "prop pony"—a role for which I was totally unqualified, but one they'd reluctantly agreed to give me after my insistent begging, and after nopony else volunteered. Of course many of the town residents were enthusiastic enough about putting on the production, but as small a town as Ponyville was back then, it could sometimes be difficult to pull together enough ponies to put on the show properly. Also, being a town founded by earth ponies, we non-magical and flightless folk still made up the majority of the population. In the past the show organizers have had to use earth ponies in roles which should have been filled by unicorns or pegasi.

In a big Canterlot production of the pageant, the talented unicorn they were able to get to play the role of Clover the Clever would reproduce the Windigo banishment spell during the final climactic scene. This would light up a beacon over the whole city that could be seen all night as far away as Ponyville. Here in Ponyville, however, we were lucky enough this year that Prissy Pants had just enough magical levitation ability to lift a big, wooden heart while making it glow with her pinkish magical aura—with help, anyway.

The problem was that in the excitement of the closing hymn and final curtain call, Prissy had forgotten to continue assisting me in keeping the prop aloft. It also didn't help that I had forgotten to tie off the rope securing the prop. Weeks before, I had constructed it with the help of Big Green Apple out of some old wooden beams left over from a recent minor remodel of the Apples' old barn. It was a simple thing for him to carry it to the Ponyville amphitheater on his back, but it actually weighed almost as much as I did.

I could feel myself starting to slide forward as the applause of the audience finally began to die down, which was my cue to lower the curtain. I kicked at the knot holding the curtain in place, and in the blink of an eye, the rope securing the curtain wrapped itself around my right hind hoof. I had just enough time to think, Oh, ponyfeathers! before I was thrown off my hooves and into the air.

The curtain came down and I went up, striking the massive heart-shaped prop halfway. This knocked the rope out of my mouth and the curtain rope off my hind hoof, and suddenly I was heading downward again. The curtain had just closed when the prop struck the stage with a loud crash and splintering of wood. A split second later I landed in a heap on top of the prop. I gasped for breath as the world seemed to spin around me.

"Are y'all okay, sugar cube?" It was Honeycrisp's voice, though I was having trouble focusing on her at present.

I shook my head and tried blinking my eyes a few times to clear the double vision. I could vaguely see Honeycrisp standing before me dressed up to look like Smart Cookie, whose part she had just finished performing in the play.

"Yeah, I think so," I said.

"Gosh Filthy!" said Prissy. "What happened?"

I blinked once more and was able to finally focus. Judging from where I was lying on top of the broken prop, I had missed the row of actresses by mere hoof-spans. I could also see Prissy's father—who also happened to to be the caretaker of this amphitheater—glaring at me from offstage.

"I... just don't know what went wrong!" I lied.

"Hey!" Mr. Pants quietly insisted. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Daddy!" exclaimed Prissy, a harsh tone in her voice.

"Sorry, sir," I said.

"Don't worry, Mr. Pants," said Honeycrisp. "My pa'll get it fixed up right proper this time next week."

"See that he does," he muttered before pushing his way through the curtain. I could hear him tell the audience that the noise they had heard was nothing to be concerned about.

Honeycrisp and Prissy helped me to my hooves.

"Are ya sure yer okay?" asked Honeycrisp.

I was giggling, suddenly giddy that I had narrowly avoided causing serious injury to myself or anypony else this evening. It wasn't that I was especially clumsy, per se—after all, I routinely cleaned and restocked the delicate items for sale at Grandpa's shop—it was more that I was especially clumsy around her.

"Yeah," I said, laughing. "Better to break the stage than a leg, I guess. Didn't Mr. Pants say the stage could really use a trap door? I guess it'll have to be heart-shaped, but I'm sure we'll figure it out."

Honeycrisp snorted, smiling.

Prissy huffed. "I don't think that was very funny, Filthy Rich," she said before turning to stalk off the stage.

Honeycrisp slapped me with her tail. "That tongue of yers is gonna get ya into some serious hot water someday," she said, still smiling.

Of course, she was the only reason I had had any interest in participating in the production in the first place. Constructing props and following cues during a performance required a level of skill, coordination, physical strength and resourcefulness that seemed to be incompatible with my very essence—as I had proved on numerous occasions at Sweet Apple Acres over the last year.

Things had gone well after Hearts and Hooves Day between Honeycrisp and me, at least on the level of very special someponies. We were as different as two ponies could be, but maybe that's why we were so attracted to each other. Or at least that's what I told myself. In truth, I was so enamored with Honeycrisp that I wanted to be a part of her life in any way I could, and she seemed to enjoy the attention in her own cutely demure way.

In my efforts to ingratiate myself with the Apple family, I had tried learning baking from Granny Smith, but except for one successful batch of cinnamon apple toast, I could tell all the fritters, pies, and even caramel apples I had made were eaten slowly and graciously in my presence and then thrown away discreetly after I left. I had tried helping Big Green harvest apples, but when I ended up in the river after trying to pull one particularly laden cart, nearly drowning and losing both apples and cart in the process, I felt it was best for me to just stay out of his way. However, I persisted, and eventually I arrived at a mutual, unspoken understanding with Honeycrisp's parents: I would be allowed to sweep and clean and perform other smaller tasks unlikely to result in a bigger mess than I had started with, and they would tolerate me being around and occasionally going on walks with and spouting horribly hackneyed poetry at their daughter. After several months of this, they almost seemed to enjoy my presence and clumsy attempts at being useful.

I never did admit to Grandpa that he'd been right to prevent me from spending all my money in a vain attempt to impress Honeycrisp. It took me weeks to realize this myself, even, so by the time I did understand that showing off my wealth was probably the one certain way to attract the ire of a filly and her family who did struggle with money and valued honest hard work and perseverance above all, I was so invested in the idea that Grandpa was a miserly old goat that I couldn't bring myself to admit my mistake to him, let alone thank him for looking out for my best interests in spite of myself. But tensions between us had relaxed over the last several months and we were once again as agreeable around each other as we ever were. More so than before, even—having a love interest in my life probably made me a lot more tolerable to be around.

He was still wary about how I spent money, though. When things weren't going well between Honeycrisp and me, I was sorely tempted to try to make up for it with an expensive gift. Grandpa was frustratingly often the voice of reason, in his cantankerous way.

That holiday season though, a gamble Grandpa had made in funding a clock-maker friend of his to develop his new toy train idea and bring it to market had paid off in spades when he got the exclusive right to sell them in his store that year, and the clockwork toy trains ended up being so popular that we could hardly keep them on the shelves. We even had rich ponies coming from as far as Canterlot to pick up a set! We made so much money in so little time that, in my begging and pleading, I was finally able to convince Grandpa to let me splurge a little.

After all, I had argued. It's Hearth's Warming, and we've made so much this yearit'd be selfish not to share some of our good fortune!

I could see Grandpa hesitate, about to tell me "no" once again. But instead he stopped and looked at me with a strange expression I didn't recognize.

He chuckled and said, Well I'll be, Filthy. It ain't every day ya say something that shows ya can use yer brain fer something other than stopping the wind whistlin' between yer ears. Yer right. Why don't ya go buy Honeycrisp something nice? He frowned and added quickly, But not too nice. No jewelry.

Presently the cast and I were just finishing cleaning up the stage, putting away the props and stowing the costumes. The cracked floorboards were a mess, and I wasn't relishing the idea of asking Big Green to come and help me fix the stage. Though he had been rather antsy since the harvest had ended, and there was little to do but wait for Winter Wrap Up at the start of spring.

Looking around, I spotted Honeycrisp standing with the rest of her family as she and some of the other cast members prepared to head over to Sugar Cube Corner for the after-show party. I could see her scanning the dwindling audience as I trotted up with my saddle bag.

"Where's yer grandpa, Filthy?" she asked. "Is he plannin' on comin' to the party tonight, too?"

"He stayed home sick," I said. Then when she looked at me worriedly, I added, "Oh, but he didn't look that sick. I think it must have been those fermented oats he sometimes has for lunch. He was fine all day until a few minutes before we were going to leave, then he told me last minute he'd have to miss the show."

"Aw, shucks! Ain't that a shame! Ya think we oughtta stop by and see how he's doing?"

"I'm sure he'll be fine," I said. "It'd probably be better to let him get some bed rest anyway. Besides, we wouldn't want to be late for the party, right?"

"If ya say so."

I smiled at her and said, "But before we head over there, I have a little surprise for you." I set my saddle bag down and pulled out the fresh bouquet of flowers I'd purchased earlier that afternoon.

"Oh, Filthy!" Honeycrisp said. "Hibiscus, this time of year? Where on earth did ya find them?"

I set the flowers down, beaming. "You know Sweet Blossom?"

Honeycrisp nodded.

"Well," I said. "You know how she's been experimenting growing flowers out of season in glass houses using unicorn magic?"

She looked shocked. "Ya didn't just go and take 'em, did ya?"

"Yes! Er… No!" I frowned. "Of course not, Honey! She sold some to me." I was a little offended at the assumption and was starting to worry about how this could be going sideways. Wasn't she supposed to swoon or something?

She looked back at the flowers, brow furrowed. "They musta been expensive," she said.

I sighed. "Well, yes they were a little expensive, but you did so well in the pageant, and it is Hearth's Warming Eve, after all. And… I mean, this is an okay gift, right?" I scratched at the back of my neck with one hoof.

Honeycrisp looked up at me, smiling gently. She threw her arms around me and kissed me on the cheek.

"Ah think it's a real nice present, Filthy," she said.

I blushed and nearly swooned.

"Girls!" Honeycrisp practically shouted in my ear, snapping me out of it. "Look what Silly Filthybilly brought us!" She picked up the bouquet and trotted over to where the other cast members were standing.

I rolled my eyes, smiling.

---

As we walked toward Sugar Cube Corner, I stopped to look at the heart-shaped magical beacon that had appeared over Canterlot. Honeycrisp stopped next to me. We stood there for a while, letting the others go on ahead while we gazed at the pink and purple twinkling glow over that city in the distance.

"You know," I said.

"Hmmm?" Honeycrisp mumbled. Her breath still smelled like the sweet hibiscus bloom she'd shared with me.

"There was one other surprise I had for you tonight," I said.

"What's that?"

"Well," I said, looking down and shuffling my hooves, trying to make the moment last longer, "I got a letter today."

Honeycrisp waited for me to say something else. When I didn't, she turned away from the distant twinkling beacon to look at me.

"And?" she said.

"And it was from Manehattan," I said, smiling at her.

A brief hesitation and look of confusion, then her eyes went wide.

"From the University? Ya got in?" Honeycrisp said.

I grinned. "Uh-huh."

She looked ecstatic. Rearing, she shouted, "Yee-haw, Filthy! That's jest, er…" Her expression darkened for a moment as her forehooves came back down to the earth. She looked up at me, smiling again as if nothing had changed. "That's jest wonderful, Filthy! Ah'm so happy for you!"

Of course I barreled on. I was too excited not to.

"Isn't it just awesome? I mean, I sent in the papers by the early admission deadline, but I hadn't expected to hear back until after the new year. I'm in, Honey! Next fall I'll be a brand new undergraduate student at Manehatten U! There was even a note in there from the dean of the school of business saying how he’s looking forward to my arrival on campus. Can you imagine that? The dean! And I'm not even a student there yet! And Manehattan—just wow! It's the business center of all of Equestria! It's where all the big players are and where all the big deals happen!"

"Sounds like yer gonna fit right in there," Honeycrisp said.

I began to pace back and forth in front of Honeycrisp. "I just can't wait! Don't you see? This is my chance to finally prove myself! And maybe even start over. I mean,"—I stopped, shuddering at the thought—"I mean, if I introduced myself as 'Rich' to them, that's what they'd call me, right? I could be 'Mr. Rich' or just 'Rich.' Lots of ponies go by just their last name, right?"

"Ah… er," Honeycrisp said. "Ah didn't know callin' ya 'Filthy' bothered ya so much. Ah could call ya 'Rich' if ya want, too."

I could hear a tremor in her voice. Looking up, I finally saw the expression on her face. She was trying so hard to look happy.

Oops, I thought, Filthy, you're such an idiot.

"N-no," I stammered. "No, I don't mind when you call me 'Filthy,' Honey. I mean, with you, I know you don't mean anything bad with it." I smiled sheepishly.

"Yer jest sayin' that to be nice," she said. "O'course ya don't like a name like 'Filthy'—"

"No!" I interrupted. I sat and picked up her hoof in mine. "I mean, I really like it when you call me ‘Filthy.’ Or ‘Silly Filthybilly.’" I smiled, scrunching up my lips. "Or ‘Filthybilly-Wiggle-Bottom.’"

She looked up at me, smiling tentatively. "Ya really mean that?"

"Of course I do, Honeycrispy-Biscuits-And-Gravy-Lips,"

Honeycrispy-Biscuits-And-Gravy-Lips laughed and playfully slapped me with her tail.

"Stop it, Filthy! My ma might hear ya!" Honeycrisp was genuinely smiling again.

I raised my eyebrows. "'Stop it'…?"

She blushed. "Silly Filthybilly-McLong-Willy," she whispered.

I smiled and gave her a peck on the nose. Mmmm… hibiscus.

"Look," I said. "I'm really going to miss Ponyville."

She raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, maybe not Ponyville. But I'm really going to miss you, Honey. It's… well, it's really the only downside to this whole deal."

"Yeah, Ah know," she said. "Ah'm really gonna miss ya too. So will my folks."

I chuckled. "Well, maybe they'll miss cleaning up after me," I said.

"Ah jest... Well, Ah almost hoped ya wouldn't get in, jest so ya'd still be here," she admitted.

I smiled sheepishly. "It's not gonna be so bad," I said. "Manehattan is only a day's train ride away, and I'll come home as often as I can. And it's just four years. Maybe I can do it in three if I work real hard. Then I promise I'll come back."

She sighed, looking down at her hooves, still trying to maintain a smile of sorts.

"Besides," I said, "we've still got about eight months of seeing each other almost every day before I head out. I'm sure that'll be enough time for us to get sick of each other and never want to see each other again."

She smiled at me, a little more genuine this time. "Ah could always push ya into a mud puddle again, if that'd help."

"I'll make you a deal," I said. "I'll promise to send you a letter every week I'm away, if you'll promise to send me one every week as well."

"Ya sure about that? I ain't that keen on writin', and it ain't like much changes here on the farm anyhow. Ya'd be readin' about feedin' the hogs, fixin' the barn, and apple buckin' nearly every week."

I made a mock frown and tapped my teeth with a hoof. "Hmmm… ya drive a hard bargain, sillyfilly," I said in my best 'Grandpa.' "How's about I throw in a telegram every other Tuesday to sweeten the deal a bit, hmmm? What do ya say to that, ya young whippersnapper?"

Honeycrisp laughed. "All right then, deal!" She spat in her hoof and held it out to me.

I gave her a big hug.

"You know I really love you, right Honeycrisp?"

"Ah love ya too, Silly Filthybilly."

We stayed that way for nearly a minute. I could see the heart-shaped beacon over Canterlot still twinkling. Honeycrisp’s neck felt warm against mine and I could feel her trembling slightly in the winter chill. It felt so good to be this close to her.

"Er… we'd better catch up with the others," Honeycrisp said, "or else they might think we're makin' out."

"What, again?" I looked in the direction the others had headed. "We've probably only got about five minutes before they notice we're gone. But since you insist, I guess we'd better get started if we really want to give them something to talk about."

Honeycrisp laughed. "C'mon, Filthy!" she called as she trotted out in front of me.

---

I was happily humming the tune of the Heart Carol to myself as I made my way home from the after-show party. I wasn't exactly traveling in a straight line—not that I was completely drunk, but I certainly had a nice warm buzz going on and didn't really feel the need to rush, despite my breath making little clouds in the wintry air. Big Green had brought a pony keg of his Apple Family Special Reserve Aged Cider along to share with the cast members and their families. While most of the ponies there were adults, it couldn't be helped if somepony accidentally spilled three and a half mugs plus the last bit of sputtering foam from the keg into the community punch bowl. I have no idea who had done that anyway. Besides, it was irresponsible of them to have put both beverage dispensers so close to each other; and most ponies know I can be a little accident-prone at times.

As I approached our store, I was surprised to see light coming from Grandpa's bedroom window upstairs. The old codger usually went to be early on most nights and tonight he was supposed to have been sick. When I entered our upstairs apartment, I was even more surprised to hear him singing. Grandpa had never sounded this happy!

"…We are a circle of pony friends, A circle of friends we'll be to the very end," I sang in unison with Grandpa as I entered his room. I laughed and Grandpa smiled.

"Well, you sure seem to be feeling better," I said.

"Yeah," he replied. "Musta been a one hour flu."

"Or maybe you should stop eating those horrid fermented oats for lunch."

I watched him for a few moments as he straightened the vest he'd just taken off and practically bounced into his closet to hang it up.

"So, you went out then?" I asked.

"Jest fer a… er… quick stroll 'round town."

"And you didn't stop by the party? Granny Smith was asking after you."

"No, I had some things I needed to take care of," he said.

I thought about saying goodnight and leaving. But given that he was in such a good mood, and I was feeling adventurous anyway…

"Ok, Grandpa," I said, "I'll bite. What in Equestria has gotten into you this evening? And what was so important that you had to miss the pageant and the party afterward?"

Grandpa stopped fiddling with one of the buttons on his spats to look up at me. Was he… blushing?

"Oh, it's… er… nothin'," he said, avoiding eye-contact.

Despite the buzz I was feeling, my mind raced through the options. Then it occurred to me.

"All right," I said. "Who is she?"

Momentary confusion passed across Grandpa's features.

"What? Er… no, Filthy. It ain’t a mare."

"Well, then what's got you acting like a school filly on her first Hearts and Hooves Day?"

"Well," he said, "I guess ya could say I went out to go pay a debt."

I laughed. "Don't be silly, Grandpa. Everypony knows you don't owe any money to anypony. It's the other way around! And even if you were paying a debt, why would that make you so happy?"

He sighed. "Well, I guess I was gonna have to tell ya sometime soon anyhow," he said.

I looked sidelong at Grandpa, cocking my head to one side. He looked at me with a sheepish half smile, coming down from his boisterousness a bit.

"Filthybilly," he said. "I jest gave away most of our profits from the sales of Tinker’s new toy trains."

I froze for a moment and then started smiling.

"Good one, Grandpa!" I said, laughing. "You almost got me with that one!"

He continued to stand there, now staring at me soberly.

"Wait, you aren't kidding, are you?" I said.

"Well, we didn't need it,” he said. “We've always gotten along jest fine with our normal sales this time of year. And this year we ended up making a lot more than ever."

This couldn't be happening. Ever since coming to Ponyville, I'd only ever had one really big desire—to go to a prestigious college so that I could get out of this two-pony town and start living my life as it was meant to be. When the sales started rolling in early this holiday season, I'd dared to hope that we might have enough to put me through one of the best universities in all of Equestria. I'd discussed it with Grandpa and he agreed that I ought to apply. I'd just gotten the acceptance letter that afternoon… and now Grandpa had thrown it all away. There was just no way we'd be able to pay the tuition now, let alone room and board! Manehattan was a very expensive city to live in. I'd have to write them back and decline the admission offer. I'd have to go back to the drawing board and see if there was another school we could actually afford to send me to. But nothing was going to compare to Manehattan U! Nothing! I’d had my dream and now I was watching it splinter and break in front of me. And it was all Grandpa's fault! Everything had been going my way until he just had to pull one of his idiotic shenanigans again. I was going to be stuck here forever! I was forever going to be known as—

"Filthy!" Grandpa was standing over me with a hoof on my head. "Ya got to breathe, son!"

I gasped and looked up at him. I could feel the anger rising in my belly. I slapped his hoof away.

"Of all the hare brained, completely moronic, idiotic… Augh! Grandpa, what were ya thinkin'? Ya've done some really stupid things, but nothing, and Ah mean nothing compares to this!"

"Ya might be surprised," he muttered.

"Ah... Ah needed that money, Grandpa!" I shouted. "Ah mean, how'm Ah gonna pay for college now?"

"Part time job, maybe?" Grandpa said.

"Part time…? Is this a joke to ya? Y'all think this is funny? Ah jest… how could… who did…"

"It's all right," Grandpa said. "Get it out of yer system."

"It's all horseapples, Grandpa!" I shouted. "The way ya always give money to ponies ya think need it, and then don't let me spend my own how Ah want to. A pony ought to be able to enjoy his hard earned bits however he pleases! And y'all should be lookin' out for yer kin! How could ya not know that Ah'd need that money for school? Ah cain't wait until Ah'm out of this house and livin' far, far away from horseapples Ponyville and horseapples you!"

Grandpa winced, but said nothing. After a few moments of this, I huffed and turned to leave his room.

"Would it help..." Grandpa began.

I stopped.

"Would it help if I told ya that ya still get to go to college, to Manehattan Univerisity?" he said.

I turned to look at him.

"We cain't afford it, Grandpa. Not now, anyway," I said.

"Well, what if I told ya we can?"

"Then Ah'd say yer a liar," I said, and started to turn toward the door again.

"I'll make a solemn promise to ya," said Grandpa, rubbing one eye with a hoof, "that I will pay for yer college education, and the room and board, too."

I sighed and turned around to face him again. "Yer serious? Ya'd really make that promise to me?" I said.

Grandpa smiled, and spread his arms wide. "Come on, Filthy! Ya know me! Ya know I'd sooner have my heart cut out or be flung from the tallest tower in Canterlot a’fore I'd break that kind of promise to ya!"

I was beginning to feel a hint of guilt at the back of my mind. But still... "Look, wantin' to do somethin' ain't the same as bein' able to do it. Y'all just gave away most of our money. How can ya afford it, now?"

"Ya think that money is the same thing as wealth," he said sadly. "I've got friends, Filthy. And nearly everypony this side of the Maresouri—not to mention a fair number on the other side—owes me a favor. If I had to, I could get enough money to buy all of Ponyville."

I could feel my cheeks burning as I sat down and stared at my hooves. I wanted to crawl under a rock.

"B'sides," he continued. "I said I gave away most of the profits. Not all of them."

"Oh," I said.

We sat there for a few moments in silence, then something else occurred to me.

"But wait, if ya knew ya could afford it, why did ya let me go on thinkin' Ah wasn't going to college anymore?" I said. Then, as I remembered some of the things I had shouted, I winced. "And… er… why ain't ya yellin' at me right now?"

Grandpa sighed and looked out the window. "Well, I ain't rightly clear on that myself," he said. "I guess, what with yer acceptance letter coming in today, I started thinking and realized that real soon I ain't gonna be a part of yer life no more. Not the way it's been since yer pa died, anyhow. And I needed to see something." He sighed and glanced in my direction, frowning. "Not about you, per se… but more about me."

As I watched Grandpa, I could see tears welling up in his eyes.

"I'm so sorry, Filthy. There's so much ya don't know, and I ain't taught ya yet. I jest…” He turned away from me to wipe his eyes. “Well, I guess it always felt like there'd be more time. A'fore today, anyhow. And as fer not yellin' at ya…" He frowned at me and sniffed. "Not that ya don't deserve it, but I guess I figured that I never seemed to get through to ya by yellin' at ya, so I thought I'd try listenin' for a change."

I didn't know what to say to that. This was a side of Grandpa that I'd never seen before. So I just kept my mouth shut and continued to watch and listen.

He sighed and continued, "That's a lesson I was reminded of today, actually. Y'see, there's this little filly at the Ponyville Hospital. She's real sick, though ya'd not guess it by lookin' at her. She's five years old, and might not live long enough to see her sixth birthday. But what really got me—she knows it! Nopony has told her, o'course. But she said to me, 'You can learn a lot if you listen real good.' No five year old pony ought to think she's gonna die."

I cleared my throat. "That's where ya went, then? To go visit this little filly?"

"It's one of the places I went. The other two…" He looked out the window again. "Well, those families have probably found the buckets of bits I left them by now."

I blinked. "You… left them literal buckets filled with bits?"

"On their doorsteps."

I shook my head, confused. "But why go to the trouble to wait until they're away? Why not just give them money like Ah've seen ya do for other folks?"

Grandpa turned to look at me, eyebrow raised. I could almost hear him say, Gee, Filthy, what is it ya keep inside yer head where the rest of us have our brains? But apparently he wasn't in the mood for snide comments. It was good to see a little of the old Grandpa again, though.

"Well, ya've got to at least try to do it anonymously," he said, "or they might try to give it back. And if ya want to talk about the second most uncomfortable conversation ya can ever have, try giving charity to some proud pony who don't think he needs it."

"They're gonna know who done it," I said.

"Maybe so," Grandpa conceded smiling. "But at least this way I can deny it up and down if they do try to give it back. Plus, they don't usually guess who done it, or at least have the good graces to act like they don't."

It made sense, in the inescapable and unabashed way my grandpa felt justified in manipulating ponies. He’d do them good whether or not they wanted him to. I wasn’t sure whether Grandpa enjoyed did this sort of thing so he could be smug about it when nopony was watching, or whether there was something else there I just didn’t understand. In any case, whenever he did anything like this he always seemed very happy. Speaking of which...

"Ya seemed awfully chipper when Ah got home, for having spent the evening with a dying little filly," I said.

Grandpa actually chuckled a little. "That's jest it, Filthy. She might not die!"

I cocked my head to one side. "But y'all said…"

"I know what I said," said Grandpa. "But ya ain't rightly listenin'. She's in the hospital because she's real sick. But there's a treatment for her disease. There're unicorns in Fillydelphia at the Foals' Medical Center there that have been doin' some amazing work, things that jest weren't possible when I was a colt. It's risky, and might not work, but there's a chance. It's just that… the treatment takes months, and her ma and pa would need to be there with her the whole time. They wouldn't rightly be able to work, and bein' in a new city like that, they'd just not be able to afford it."

"…until now," I said.

Grandpa smiled, pleased that I now understood and that he’d been able to teach me yet another lesson. "It was so easy, Filthy! There's hope now. Real, honest and true hope. And all it took was a little money."

I looked down at my hooves again. "Well, not a little money," I said.

Grandpa just shook his head and rolled his eyes, smiling.

It was a lot to take in. My concerns seemed so petty in comparison to what I'd just been told. Get out of Ponyville? Go to college? I'd have found a way even if we hadn't made all that money this holiday season, and even if Grandpa wasn't willing to pay for it. I'd been so caught up in my own manufactured misery, my own frustrations that I'd forgotten there are ponies right in our own neighborhood with real problems. Grandpa may have helped save a life today, and there I had been, shouting at him.

"Listen, Grandpa, Ah... Ah'm sorry—" I began, my voice quavering.

"It's all right," interrupted Grandpa. "Ya didn't know. Ya couldn't've known. And although I know I just said giving money like that was so easy… well, it ain't. Not at first, anyway. I wasn't always the pony ya've known for the last few years, and it ain't fair of me to expect ya to understand all of this, especially at yer age."

I looked down at my hooves again, not sure what to say.

"But that don't excuse the fact that I've been remiss in my duties," he said. "Ya don't know enough, Filthy, and yer about to go and face a big world with lots of ideas about right and wrong and who ya ought to be. So… I need to start makin' up for that. And I'm gonna start by teachin' ya another lesson tonight. It's the one I've been tryin' to show ya for years. It's one of the greatest and hardest lessons ya might ever learn. And although I can teach it to ya, ya won't really understand it tonight."

I sniffed. "What's that?"

Grandpa walked up next to me and pointed a hoof at my flank.

"Ya see this here?" he said.

"My cutie mark?"

"We don't get these jest because we want 'em. And we don't always understand their true meaning at first. Yer cutie mark says somethin' about ya, Filthy—about who ya are and what ya can be. I don't rightly know exactly what yers means, and I don't think ya do neither. But I think I could wager a guess or two.

"Yer gonna be rich, Filthy. Way, way richer than I've ever been. But wealth comes with a price.

"Ya see,” he said, “our family owes a debt. It ain't a debt to anypony. It's a debt to everypony. And it ain't because we borrowed money, or hurt anypony. It's because we were lucky enough to be who we are, to live where we live, and to get given what we got.

"We live in Ponyville. But Ponyville ain't just a town, it's a community. And community means we care about each other and help each other, and do our darndest to make sure nopony gets left behind. We're Rich, Filthy. Not because we deserved it or because we worked harder or smarter than anypony else. It's because we're lucky, plain and simple. And that means our job in this community is to give a few bits to whoever needs it whenever we can.

"It ain't easy. And sometimes someponies will see just how much money we've got and become envious and hate us for it. They might even try to steal from us or hurt us. But ya've got to learn to look past all that and keep paying our family debt.

"Now, when ya start to get rich, yer gonna have a choice. Ya can either choose to pay this debt, in which case ye'll start to understand what true wealth is and what true friendship is. Or ya can choose not to, and in the end, ye'll learn that money… is jest money.

"I'm proud of ya, Filthy. I know I don't always show it. But I can see ya got a good heart in ya. And that's why I believe ye'll do jest fine."

I was silent for a long time, thinking about what Grandpa had just said. I sank to the floor. It was all so overwhelming.

"Ah... Ah don't know if Ah can do this," I said.

Grandpa smiled and put his hoof back on my head, ruffling my mane. "Well, of course ya cain't!" he said. "Not right now, anyway. I just put the yoke of the world around yer neck, Filthy. It's gonna take time before ya learn how to pull. Jest remember this: Yer jest one little earth pony, and no one pony can pull the whole world. Nopony is expectin' ya to do more than yer able."

He smiled and stepped over to his dresser, fiddling with one of the buttons on his spats again. "And there’s somethin’ else I ain’t told ya: Sometimes I cain’t do it neither. This ain’t easy, but it is always worth it.” He paused and sighed, looking at me sidelong. “Anyway, if ya want to choose to pay our family debt," he said, "then the first step is to learn to love ponies more than money."

I was still reeling on the floor. There was something about the elderly pony standing before me. He was something... different than what he appeared to be. I saw simultaneously my grandpa and some stranger, wearing my grandpa’s skin, looking back at me.

And what he had said... He was right: I didn’t understand. A family debt? And just because we were rich? It didn’t make much sense to me, but I could tell these were his most precious words of wisdom, so I was reluctant to question him. But there was something missing, wasn’t there? I could feel it but not quite put my hoof on it; something he wasn’t telling me about all this.

"Now," he said, returning to the dresser. "I think that's jest about enough of that kind of talk for this evening, don't ya? How did Honeycrisp like the flowers ya bought her?"

I looked at him from where I lay on the floor—that silly old goat that was my grandpa and the stranger. I cleared my throat. "She liked them fine," I said. They were actually her favorite, and I knew it. "We ended up sharing them with the whole cast."

"That's good. I'm sure she was right pretty in the play, too?"

I murmured in agreement. The only sound was the slight whisper of cloth as he finished taking off his spats.

He said, "There's a pot of cider on the stove. Should still be warm. Why don't ya go and pour me a mug?"

I got up and walked slowly to the door.

"Grandpa, does this change things?” I said. “Between y'all and me, Ah mean."

"Well, I hope it does," he said.

"Oh."

There was a pause, then Grandpa said, "But if ya think this means I'm gonna let ya off easy, now that yer all high and mighty and full of respectable ideals, or not point out each and every time yer using yer head like a big bowl of pudding, ya got another thing comin'!"

There was the Grandpa I knew! A wave of relief washed over me.

I smiled and said, "Ah'll go get that cider now."

As I opened the door he said, "Filthy?"

"Hmmm?"

"Happy Hearth's Warming Eve."

"Happy Hearth's Warming Eve to you, too, Grandpa."

Comments ( 29 )

Excellent! I am really enjoying the story!
"Now, when ya start to get rich, yer gonna have a choice. Ya can either choose to pay this debt, in which case ye'll start to understand what true wealth is and what true friendship is. Or ya can choose not to, and in the end, ye'll learn that money… is jest money."
This is a great quote!

I see someone has gotten custom cover art.

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Yay! I'm glad that you continue to like what I'm writing. Thanks for letting me know!

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Yep! This was drawn by Wolf Gibbson, who also happens to be one of my house mates. (I love the expressions on their faces. :twilightsmile: )

:coolphoto:First of all, that's great cover art. It makes your story stand out, and it fits neatly with Stinkin's and Filthy's interactions. Was it based on any particular scene?:ajsmug:

Second of all, this was a good chapter, but first I'll get a problem out of the way; I'll admit I found it a little telly in places, especially around the Pageant. It was still interesting enough to learn a little about the customs and how things were going over the few months, but when it went on a few alarm bells began to ring. I find a helpful technique to lessen the telly-ness of a chapter is to look at the "telly" passage in question and think "How could I convey this in a single scene if it were on a movie screen?" For instance, see this passage:

I had managed to weasel my way into the production as the "prop pony"—a role for which I was totally unqualified, but one they'd reluctantly agreed to give me after my insistent begging, and after nopony else volunteered.

I'm not saying this particular passage was bad. I'm just using it for illustrative purposes. This sentence gets the info across, but perhaps it could have been more vividly conveyed by, say, a conversation between him and the manager. This isn't a perfect example of show, but it should give you an idea of what I'm thinking:

"Now you just focus on pulling the ropes and things, OK?" said the manager coming up behind me. He was scowling, as though I'd already let the cord go in his mind and it was just a matter of waiting for reality to catch up. "Don't want any more accidents, now do we, Prop Pony?"

That's Mr Rich to you, I wanted to say, but I had no desire to make him any angrier. "I promise you, sir, there won't be any accidents. You couldn't find a better pony."

"Too darn right we couldn't," he said. "And if anything goes wrong, then I don't care how much you beg for it, next time we do this you won't get any part in the production. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal, sir."

"Hmph," he said, and strode off to bully a bunch of make up artists.

I'm not saying you should go back and rewrite this passage. Contrary to what many people think, telly isn't all bad, and in small doses it's vital to keep a coming-of-age story like this going. However, too much of it can discourage a reader because it is, like exposition, dry and distant, and readers like to feel close to the drama sooner or later. It might be worth bearing this in mind in case you find your future chapters err towards the telly.

Otherwise, I didn't pick up any grievous problems. Stinkin's talk near the end was a fascinating turning point in his characterization, especially alongside Filthy's jumping to conclusions and later viewing of a "stranger wearing grandpa's skin". The talk might have been a little overlong and repetitive - I remember reading "family debt" one time too many - but it did its job and you saved it from turning maudlin with some well-timed humour. This was an excellent passage that captures the complex family dynamics quite nicely.:pinkiesmile:

I agree with Foxhound74. That's a great quotation.:twilightsmile:

The relationship between Honeycrisp and Filthy is certainly gaining momentum. There's still enough of the old tease in her to remind us of her earlier behaviour during his schooldays, and I like how there are small tensions between Filthy's ambition and their budding relationship. Having read your original version of this story, the Dramatic Irony is particularly strong here, but I'll keep mum on that for now.:raritywink::trollestia:

Your humour is definitely coming into its own now. Stinkin's exasperation of Filthy is hilarious, and I really liked this line:

Well I'll be, Filthy. It ain't every day ya say something that shows ya can use yer brain fer something other than stopping the wind whistlin' between yer ears.

:pinkiehappy: Also, this was a good one, and I did a double-take when I read this:

How did Honeycrisp like the flowers ya bought her?"

..."She liked them fine," I said. They were actually her favorite, and I knew it. "We ended up sharing them with the whole cast."

:twilightsheepish::rainbowlaugh: That was a good one! I admit I didn't see that coming.

Overall, this is an enjoyable chapter. Keep up the good work, SR Foxley!:scootangel:

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As always, thanks for your helpful comments!

> cover art

Yep-- it's based actually on the moment where Filthy says, "Ah... Ah don't know if Ah can do this."

> Show vs. tell

Yeah, this is something I've got to work on. I did consider setting up that part of the scene like that, but have had a niggling feeling that this and the last chapter have been a bit too dialogue-heavy. That, and the whole scene was meant to liven things up a bit and lead to the next scene (where we get some actual character development) since the rest of this chapter is pretty heavy. Hmmm... I need to do some more reading on this. Trying to avoid the talking heads syndrome as well, eh...

> humor

Heh! Thanks! This is something I really struggle with (especially in a story like this one), so it's good to hear it's being well received.

Anyway, thanks for reading and continuing to give me really helpful feedback, eh!

"stranger wearing grandpa's skin"
Read this again and realized. CHANGLINGS! Changlings everywhere! :pinkiegasp:

Good Heavens sir,

I remember liking this story when I first read it, but the stuff you added blows that out of the water. You've done a great job with a subject most writers don't touch and I applaud you for it.

There needs to be a Filthy Rich tag.

I love this story so far, but because of how things are in the show I can see where it's going to end up. I've even lived through part of what Filthy is going to face in the near future here when he leaves for college.

Don't take that as a con, I still enjoy the story and I hope you continue. :twilightsmile:

I know things don't work out in the end for Honeycrisp and Filthy... but you just made them one of my favorite pairings. Heck, and I didn't even give Filthy any thought before, just dismissed him as a rich pony and Diamond Tiara's dad. (It kind of explained why he named her that too...) I love the character development... you really showed how he matured over the years, and the diary entries were a nice touch. I can't wait for the next update! :pinkiehappy:

This story is now my personal head canon .

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Thanks, y'all! I really appreciate hearing that from readers, eh!

657650

Thanks! And yeah-- this is sort of a weighty and controversial topic for some, so I guess I can understand authors' reluctance to approach it. That and it'd be really easy to alienate a huge chunk of the audience (one of my bigger fears with this)... But, eh, I guess we'll see how it goes as I write more. :)

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It's on its way, though it'll probably be a little while (real life circumstances have me busily distracted for most of June, so I might not get the next chapter out until July or something.) But I know what needs to happen next; I just need to figure out how to approach it.

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Inorite? Yeah, when I was choosing tags for this one I was all like, "Well, there's Granny Smith. And... um..."

And for the rest of your comment: Thanks! Definitely will be seeing this one through, eh.

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Thanks! One of my goals with this story is to develop Filthy Rich into a real, believable, and empathy-worthy character. (Too often have I seen the "rich snob" character / villain who ends up being so boring and predictable... and after I saw Family Appreciation Day and Ponyville Confidential... that got the wheels in my head a-turnin'.) Anyway, by your comments, it sounds like I'm succeeding. So thanks for letting me know!

One of the most wealthy men I ever met taught me some manners while we were eating at a restaurant (I was on a job hunt and he offered to give me some resume and interview pointers). Most of the conversation was recycled from a lot of the crap I learned in college, but something he said when we were paying our tabs stuck out to me:

"Leave a good tip. I didn't get where I am at the expense of servers, and I've never liked working with people that think that leaving paltry tips is a good way to save money."

Stories like this give me hope, even if they are full of adorable pastel ponies.

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Haha! Awesome. It's mine, too (well, obviously). :trixieshiftright:

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Sounds like a pretty awesome guy, eh.

And thanks, eh-- I'm glad my story is giving you hope. :twilightsmile:

Why is it that when I try to imagine Honeycrisp, I can only picture Carrot Top?

This is fantastic! Filthy's growth and arc so far has me smiling--like Kitty Crunch, I know it won't end well, but I'm happy to enjoy the ride.

This chapter was fascinating in that it seemed to touch a bit on privilege. Not something that I see much in fandom, and I liked it quite a bit. Stinking seems like a classy guy.

What I'm most curious to see is how Diamond ends up turning out--she hates Apple Bloom, but Filthy is perfectly kind to Granny Smith still. Finding out who her mother is will be a major piece of the puzzle, I bet.

Thanks for writing! I can't wait to read more.

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That's funny. I sort of see her as a female version of Big Mac, but with an obviously smaller build and other subtle differences. (Though, if I know where this story is going, I think Carrot Top does show up in a scene much later on...)

675046

Thanks for your comments! There will definitely be answers to the whole Diamond Tiara / Apple Bloom thing, but that obviously happens much later in the story. In any case, I'm happy you're enjoying my story thus far, eh!

It might be a little while before the next chapter is out (I'm guessing sometime in early July), just because I'm busily away and distracted for most of June. That, and I've realized there's a bit more research I need to do before I'm going to be able to do justice to the next character that gets introduced...

This story is really good. As in, so good that I actually used it as somewhat of an example in explaining why being a good steward of the community is important. Of course, I didn't want to bring up that it was an MLP story, so I used words like "the rich man's grandson", but I still pretty much quoted that one section verbatim:

Now, when you start to get rich, you're gonna have a choice. You can either choose to pay this debt, in which case you'll start to understand what true wealth is and what true friendship is. Or, you can choose not to, and in the end, you'll learn that money… is just money.

And Stinking Rich and Filthy Rich's characters in the story are pretty much my headcanon now. There really aren't enough of these quotable stories around here, and I'm really glad I came across this one.

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Wow! That's a very nice thing for you to say. I feel truly honored, eh! :twilightsmile:

And now you've got my interest piqued: Where or in what context did you use this story as an example?

Um... Are you still here? I really want another chapter please :fluttershysad::fluttercry:

1425938 Hi Derpidity! Yep, still here. And still working on the next chapter. (That whole real life thing has totally caught up with me in the last few months something fierce.) I don't have an ETA on the next chapter yet, but I'm hoping to have it out before Season 3 starts, eh.

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Congratulations, SR Foxley! Your fanfic was reviewed by the Seattle's Angels, and they think you've done a great job. Here, take a look if you wish.

Consider it a pat on the back for all your hard work! You've earned it. :scootangel:

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Bwa-huh? But... it's not even finished yet! And the next chapter is taking FOREVER to write! o.O

Still though, I'm really honored, eh. Thanks for pointing this out to me!

Thank you SR Foxley! I love this fic. Keep up the good work. You just got a like and favourite from me (btw how long til the next chapter, cause none of my other favourites are updating)

3276921 Heh! Well, I hoped to have the next update out over a year ago. Obviously that hasn't gone according to plan. All I can say is that I'm definitely committed to seeing this story through, but don't feel like I can credibly give any kind of estimate at the moment as to when the next part will be out. That is to say, I know what happens in the next few chapters in pretty good detail-- the reason it hasn't been done yet mostly boil down to rather uninteresting time management issues on my part, coupled with irrational anxiety about screwing up what I'm trying to say with this story. However, I'm experimenting on this front, and hope the fruits of these attempts at subtly changing my habits will result in the next chapters coming sooner rather than later, eh.

In any case, thank you very much for your kind words. This really helps to motivate me, eh! :twilightsmile:

Thanks for getting back to me. Not a lot of authors pay attention to comments on their older stories, so it's good to see that you're still here. I understand why it's taking a while and I don't mind. Cheers again for getting back to me though!

While most of the ponies there were adults, it couldn't be helped if somepony accidentally spilled three and a half mugs plus the last bit of sputtering foam from the keg into the community punch bowl. I have no idea who had done that anyway. Besides, it was irresponsible of them to have put both beverage dispensers so close to each other; and most ponies know I can be a little accident-prone at times.

It's a good thing "the cast members and their families" didn't just happen to include any young colts or fillies.

The old codger usually went to be early on most nights and tonight he was supposed to have been sick.

I'm guessing that should be 'to bed.'

I wasn’t sure whether Grandpa enjoyed did this sort of thing so he could be smug about it when nopony was watching, or whether there was something else there I just didn’t understand.

... Is 'did' supposed to be 'doing?'

Apart from all that, any plans on an update to this?

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Thanks for the corrections, eh! I'll be sure to get them into the text soon.

And yes, despite all signs to the contrary this is still a story that I'm working on and do intend to finish. Thanks for your interest!

This was an incredibly sweet chapter to read during the holidays. I'm glad it ends on such a hopeful note, and that there was so much of Filthy Rich to see. Even if this doesn't get finished, what is here is very good.

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