• Published 27th Oct 2014
  • 2,031 Views, 109 Comments

The New Crop - xjuggernaughtx



With the Apple family deep in debt, Big Mac climbs into the ring once again to save the farm. Now all that’s between him and the two-thousand-bit winner’s purse is some unicorn named Blueblood. Things are about to get ugly.

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The Minutes After

It don’t feel all that much like winning when I step back from Blueblood. His blood’s leaking out across the canvas, and he looks real still. Uppercut raises my hoof, but I don’t pay that no mind. I’m looking at Blueblood. For a moment, I don’t see it, and my blood goes cold, but then it happens. His chest rises and falls, and Uppercut and I share a nod. We both feel the weight lift off us a little.

With the bout over, I try and drop back down onto all fours, but the second my front hooves hit the canvas, this great big pain shoots through them. All of a sudden, I’m laying on the canvas, too, and Granny and Apple Bloom are running out to see to me.

Ain’t never happened to me before, but I’ve heard of it. A fighter hits so hard that they fracture their hooves up without even realizing it’s happening. I’m laying there, clutching my hooves to my chest and watching Blueblood’s team drag him outta the ring. He still ain’t really moved none.

Granny and Apple Bloom are trying to pull me out, but I’m too much for them. It’d feel real good to have somepony pick me up and carry me out, but they can’t do it, and that kinda stuff don’t look good in front of the crowd. It’s hard. Maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I get my hind hooves under me, and I stand up. Granny Smith’s right there to give me some support, but I try not to lean on her too much. She can barely walk as it is.

The crowd’s still screaming as we make our way back to the locker room. We gave them exactly what they wanted. It’ll be all the town talks about for weeks. Even though he lost, Blueblood’s made a name for himself in this circuit now, and I’ve racked up a win against somepony that they all could see was a tough customer. We’ve both come out ahead.

I try to remember that when I look down at my ruined hooves, then back over to where they’re loading Blueblood onto a stretcher.

Up ahead, Apple Bloom pushes open the door, then lets it swing shut when Granny and I get through. The closing door slices through the noise like a reaping blade. The crowd’s screaming transforms into something low and steady. It ebbs and flows, like the heartbeat of this place. This arena lives off of broken stallions.

I hop onto the stool, and it all comes out. I hate this part, but it happens every time. Here, away from the crowd, I can finally relax, and when I do, I just start bawling. I guess all that pain’s gotta go someplace.

Granny Smith wraps her hooves around me. She’s gently rocking me back and forth and whispering stuff into my ear. I can’t really understand it yet. Getting punched really messes up your hearing for a while, but the tone still soothes. Beside me, Apple Bloom’s rubbing my back. She knows talking ain’t gonna do nothing for me.

So I cry. Hooves covering my face, I just try to get it over with. Little flashes of the fight come back to me, and the tears flow harder. The sound of breaking ribs. Uppercut as he stood over me, counting down the loss of our farm. The way I tried to hurt Blueblood at the end. The way I wanted to hurt him for being so stubborn.

And more than anything, I’m crying for Blueblood. Whatever he was fighting so hard for, I just took it away. Granny told me he’s a criminal. She told me he’s a jerk. Well, ponies say a lot of things, but all I know is that he fought like a desperate stallion tonight, and fighters usually fight like desperate stallions when they’re desperate. I did what I had to do, but I’ve got to go to bed tonight knowing that I probably just ruined some pony’s life. They’ll say it was me or him, but that don’t do no good. The world should be better than that, but it ain’t.

Ponies say it was, long ago. They say that Equestria was bright and sunny. That the princesses ruled in harmony before Celestia banished her sister. But nopony’s seen the princess in generations. The sun barely rises, and sometimes the moon doesn’t drop down below the horizon. More and more, it’s just always twilight. Granny Smith says it’s grief that’s done it.

I don’t know much about that. I got my doubts as to whether some all-powerful pony controls everything, but if she’s actually real, then I can’t say I think much of a ruler that don’t try to take care of her subjects. It don’t matter what’s she’s lost, that just ain’t right. But I ain’t got the power to change things. My hooves are full right here. They’re busted up pretty good, and in a month’s time, that bill will come due again. We’ll need the bits just as bad as we did tonight.

So we’ll start it all over. I’ll cry tonight. I’ll go to the doc tomorrow and start healing up. In a week, Granny will find a new opponent, and I’ll start training. Two or three after that, and we’ll have another fight. Then I’ll cry again.

Granny tells me it ain’t long now. Just a year. Maybe two. Then we’ll be out from under these bills. I nod and say, “Yup,” but it ain’t so, and we both know it. That plow’s about to fall apart, the barn needs repairs, and that saggy hip that Granny Smith thinks she’s hiding from us all needs looking at. Somewhere in all of that, we gotta get some money together for Apple Bloom’s schooling. She’s too smart to waste her life working the worthless fields we got here.

And so we all lie to each to each other that it’s almost over. That I’ll be able to stop hurting folks, and getting hurt in return. We all lie to each other, and we all lie about knowing we’re lying. Otherwise, it’s too hard to get by.

I catch my reflection in the cracked mirror across the room. The fur’s matted beneath my eyes, and I’m beat all to hell. Granny Smith’s beside me, patting me on the back, but it’s Apple Bloom who I’m fretting over. She looks real worried, but also real proud. Like I did something out there. It ain’t what I want her to think about all this. I’ve told her that, but I’m her big brother. I’m the one that’s holding us together. I guess it’s natural that she looks up to me like I did a great thing tonight. And, in a way, I guess I did. Something great and terrible at the same time.

I hate this. We all do. But we all kind of love it, too. We keep doing it, over and over. Lying to ourselves again and again. But truth is, Apples have always made their own way. We tried to do it with trees, but it ain’t worked out so much. Now we do it with damage. Granny Smith plants seeds of violence, and Apple Bloom tends to them. They grow, strong and hateful, until it’s time for me to harvest them in that ring. Then the season’s over, and the planting starts again.

We tell ourselves this is about the farm, and we’ll keep on telling ourselves that, but we all really know what it’s about. Pain’s the Apple family’s new crop now.

We finally figured out how to get something to grow just right.

Author's Note:

This story has been nominated for a feature in The Canterlot Royal Library. If you enjoyed it, please consider giving it your support by upvoting the nomination in the thread. The nomination thread can be found here.

Comments ( 99 )

I haven't read the story, but that was literally the first thing to come to mind.

5194012 Well, it was going to be sort of a satire of Rocky and movies like it, but then it went in another direction.

5194034

Well, the idea of Big Mac becoming Rocky is, at least in my opinion, awesome!

From start to finish, this was quite the tale.

I thank you for letting me help with as (little) as I did.

~Skeeter The Lurker

5194051 Your input is always appreciated. The way I look at it, if I can interest people that have read a million stories, then I must be doing something right.

5194056

Haha, that is indeed very true!

~Skeeter The Lurker

Ah so its finally up. Very nice to see its finished form.

And wow that cover art. Nice job to whoever did that piece.

5194100 Yeah, I like that guy. He runs the MLPDrawingSchool over on Reddit. There are a few details that aren't correct, but it's most right. Definitely good enough to use.

Edit: He send me a corrected version! Awesome.

Just as dark and depressing as I remember. It sucks you in but there is no glory to be had in this Equestria.

5194135 Sorry, man. I don't know why this one came out like this. I'm usually a happier writer... :pinkiesad2:

I have so many happy coincidences where I find a person I could have sworn I followed writes another unrelated story which I also happen to like and I then realize I have to follow that person.

5194313 I'm glad I could interest you again!

I'm not sure why, but re-reading this story here after working on it elsewhere was quite different. Still moving, still powerful... and even more strikingly (pun unintended) sad.

Thank you for the chance to help a bit with this story. I enjoyed the process, you're fun to work with, and very simply: it's good.

I'm especially glad that it gave me a chance to stretch my horizons. I tend to stay away from Dark stories... but this was more than worth the read.

Light and laughter,
SongCoyote

5194974 It's something that I'm mulling over. I got about halfway through writing this, and it hit me that I really wanted to know why Blueblood was in the ring.

5195519 You know, just another day at the office.

Damn son

Mad

Helluva story and true as fuck.

5196664
5196626 Thanks! I didn't box professionally, or at an elite amateur level or anything like that, but I took various martial arts for about twelve years, one of which was boxing. Well, I mean that I took several over a twelve year period of time. Not that I took any one of them for twelve years. I've also been in more sparring sessions and actual fights than I can really remember, and this story is how I remember that stuff.

You comment above about people that can throw hard, fast combinations is how I remember the first fight that I really lost. I started some shit in a punk club. At the time, I feared nothing because I was really physically fit and I'd been training for a few years. If I saw someone that pissed me off, I went after them. It was the dumbest time of my life, but at the time, I felt justified. I thought I was helping to give these assholes what they deserved. Anyway, I was in a mosh pit, and I forearmed this guy in the back of the head as hard as I could. He fell, but got right back up and went after me. I threw a bunch of punches at him, but I realized after about ten or so that he'd blocked pretty much everything.

Then he opened up on me, and he pretty much whupped my ass. He could punch really, really hard and much faster than me. I kept thinking he'd get tired, but he just kept at it. At some point, security ran in to break it up. I got kicked out, and I was really glad. I drove home thinking about badly I'd done, and it was my fault.

At the time, I used that as a reason to train harder, and it worked for a while. I did get better, but I eventually got a reputation for causing too much trouble and it all went downhill from there. Now, I'm happy I can defend myself if some shit happens, but I'm ashamed of that time in my life. I beat up a lot of people with no real good reason, and I was beaten up a lot in return later on down the road.

Mad

5196758 I got in trouble at a bar once because some asshat tried to steal my drink, I took it away from him and told him to go get his own and he started pushing me around and punching at me so I tried to calm him down and the fucker pulled out a knife. Quick right cross to the gut and he threw up on me and I got thrown out of the bar but what happened to him? Not a fucking thing!!! Pretty common for me really, people around here don't like me because I'm just a "fucking retarded commie sumbitch" as they elegantly put it. When I moved to Colorado I really didn't expect everyone to be stupid over patriotic hillbillies but I guess every state has it's bad neighborhoods.

5195057 Thanks for reading this!

*Looks at you* *nods once*

5197905 *touches temple twice with two fingers, then points them at you while returning the nod*

Interesting, though I'm quite more interested in the backstory behind all this now.

In the end it seems no on really wins in this. Scary and sad for all involved.:fluttershyouch:

Yup, as good as this was, I'm interested in the backstory and whatever it was Blueblood was fighting for just as much. Missing Princess, no Ponyville (or at the very least a significantly different one), no Celestia to train Twilight, etc. No reason to believe that Dash didn't do her Sonic Rainboom, but we sure know AJ wasn't in Manehatten to see it, and who knows about the others.

5198920
5206401 I'm probably going to write a sequel to this from Blueblood's perspective, and that will include a whole bunch of stuff from the royal court. I haven't fully decided, since this story wasn't too popular, but I'm personally pretty interested in what's going on, so there is a very good likelihood that I'll write it.

5200099 Yeah, this Equestria's not a very happy place. Not too many nice endings here.

I cried. This one is definitely a favorite. Applejack and her family are by far my favorite when written well, and this story hit home. Thanks for this. I need to go see what else you've written now!

5230606 You're very welcome. It's nice to hear that this story worked for you. It didn't attract a whole lot of attention, but I'm glad that those that did find it seemed to have enjoyed it.

I enjoyed this story. You do a nice job building a dystopian alternate Equestria (the slice of life tag only enhances the despair). Although the story is much more violent than the typical MLP fic, the realism with which you describe the violence makes sure it is nether celebrated nor gratuitous. Despite the dark atmosphere, the characters and their values from the show remain familiar. I like how Blueblood isn't really portrayed as a villain; rather, I somewhat get the sense that the crowd -- and the broader social forces that they represent -- are the real antagonists of the story, forcing Big Mac, Blueblood, and others like them into lives of violence.

5238344 To me, the real villain in this story is just life in Equestria. The crowd is a symptom of a hard life. This is a place that doesn't know the magic of friendship.

I'm glad that Blueblood didn't seem like a villain. It's something that I really wanted to achieve. When I was writing this, I also had to think of it from Blueblood's perspective in order to know what he'd do. In a way, that story is much more interesting than this one, and I'm still mulling over whether to write it or not. Blueblood has had an interesting journey to reach the point where he's at, and I left in the paragraph about the palace dysfunction to tie into it if I decide to write that story.

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Haven't read it yet, but the description reminded me of Jack London's "A Piece Of Steak". It's on my read list.

5374725 I haven't read A Piece of Steak but reading the description shows me that there are some similarities.

What a lovely, bitter ending. Well done, sir.

5375758 Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it, depressing as it was.

Hee hee, I get it... Little Mac... Big Mac.... Well played...

Hell of a story, this. There is no joy here. Just a quality story.

5385050 Unfortunately, this Equestria is not a very happy place, but I'm glad that you got some enjoyment out of it.

Fantastic. My god you've come a long way. I mean, I can't know how much is the result of your editors of course, but the quality of the sentence structures in this is a light-year ahead of all that pissing about with Awaken Scootaloo. I picked out barely more than a handful of sentences that I would have smoothed out – less that could be written of as mere style clash.

Add to that the fantastic way the pacing and the emotional content sync up perfectly and this was a real pleasure to read. We had our conversation about where I didn't think Tyrant justified the spotlight it got, but this blows all of those concerns away and really deserves a spotlight of it's own, in my opinion.

I like that the story is almost trivially simple at it's core. It highlights just how much of the meat of the story revolves around drawing the reader into that simple struggle by making it completely understandable and yet impossible to predict. Not so much edge-of-chair suspense as emotional commitment. I also liked how it played it's AU-style worldbuilding so utterly cool as to never speak of it outside of Mac's immediate train of thought. Everything had its place and slotted in without fanfare.

Quality work. Really impressed with you, Juggy.

5464479 I'm truly pleased that you enjoyed this because I thought a lot about you while I was writing it. I re-read the book that you sent me, and I tried to incorporate the lessons found there. Specifically, I tried altering the flow of the sentences to the emotional "speed" of the story at whatever point it was at. Longer, more thoughtful sentences for slower points, and shorter, choppier sentences for action. Muddled sentences for times when Mac was in trouble, etc.

As for how much of this is me, I'd say something like 90%. Pascoite edited this, and he helped me tighten up quite a few spots, but not much of the story or structure changed. It was more about specific sentences. He didn't connect with this story very much, so he didn't have a lot to say about it. Not to make it seem like he didn't do any work. He spent days commenting on this, but it was very specific things, like getting rid of the sound effects I'd written in or dialing back Big Mac's accent a little bit. One thing he did point out was the Apple family's backstory. It was all lumped in at a single spot after Blueblood had been knocked down for the first time. He thought it felt pretty unnatural for the focus to move away for that long, and I agreed when I thought about it. So I took that information and spread it out over three different spots. I think it was a good call on his part.

Chris wasn't so hot on the AU here, but I like how it plays out. I don't really think most of the details of the world are important for the story. Just what impacts Big Mac, and a tiny bit more for flavor. That was my take on it, anyway. I'm possibly going to write a sequel from Blueblood's perspective that will shine some light on what is really going on in this world, but we will see. I have limited time.

All in all, I'm proud of this story. It's one of my favorite things that I've written. I knew going in that it wouldn't really pull in a wide audience, though it would have been nice to have been wrong on that front. It didn't make a very big splash, but I think quite a few people that have given it a shot have found it to be worth their time.

This is fantastically written! Well done!

5540818 Thanks! I'm happy that people are still running into it.

5540838 You're welcome. It was very well composed.

I normally eschew first person, but the originality of this topic overcame my hesitation. I'm glad it did; I don't think I've ever read a story like this, about a boxing match and the emotional highs and lows it engendered. I certainly never expected a story like this out of MLP! Well written, very readable, immersive but in a teasing way. I liked it!

5582222 Thank you very much for your kind words. It's a pretty odd story for MLP. I had intended to write zany comedy that kind of parodied Rocky and Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!, but it didn't really go that way. At all. However, I'm happy with how it turned out, even with all the bleakness, and I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed it, as well.

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