• Published 7th Nov 2011
  • 30,117 Views, 795 Comments

School Daze - Paleo Prints

Can Cheerilee make a group of inner city colts and fillies stand and deliver?

  • ...

Chapter 1: Don't You Forget About Me

School Daze
by Paleo Prints
Chapter 1: Don’t You Forget About Me

The slow squeaking of the closing door reverberated through the oppressive office atmosphere. Principal Prunecrop of the Canterlot Education Council closed his door with exaggerated gentleness while repressed frustration gleamed from his eyes. As she listened, Cheerilee reflected on her recent lesson on metaphors; the door and her career were a pretty good match right now.

The nervous earth mare tried to retract her hooves into her body as Prunecrop slowly trotted behind his desk. She forgave him his pace due to his advanced years, but Cheerilee's optimistic outlook blinded her at times. She would never realize that he carefully measured every step in order to draw out the tension. The careful destruction of ponies was his greatest joy, and Prunecrop would remember her quivering with fondness over a dinner of lukewarm soup for many weeks.

“So, Ms. Cheerilee,” the graying stallion began, magically adjusting his glasses. “How have your lessons been going? Did the field trip go well?”

She squirmed inwardly. Straight to the point, as always. Spin it with that positive flair! He loves to be complimented.

“It was a wonderful gift of your resources, sir. All of us in Ponyville are grateful for the bits the Council sends our way, and the parents were overjoyed that we could walk the full Canterlot Monument Lane Trotting Tour.”

That’s right, show him how much I've touched the lives of the pupils. It’s just another annual review to ace, frame, and hang on the wall.

“Hmm. I have seen the effect you've had on your…what is it, nine students?” He grinned like a hydra visiting a Home for Gullible Fillies with a cart of barbecue sauce. The trap was sprung.

“That is what I do, sir," she said with a nod. "My cutie mark is three flowers of inspiration. Nurturing is my skill.”

He furrowed his brow. “Fascinating. By the by, my mark is a pair of garden shears.”

Cheerilee gulped.

His chartreuse horn glowed while it levitated a bundle of scrolls, before he suddenly spilled them out dramatically onto the desk. The metal scroll tubes rung out with a sound Prunecrop thought sounded like a cheerful chorus singing “doom.”

“So, let’s see the effect your inspiration has had on our treasury.” He began opening tubes and unwrapping scrolls in succession, reading off each with growing glee. Great, he’s going to mention the bake sale, Cheerilee thought with enthusiasm.

“Well, we owe the Museum of History 4,322 bits for the incident hereafter referred to as the ‘Cutie Mark Crusaders Siege Engineers.’ That dovetailed quite nicely into the Cutie Mark Crusaders Painting Restorers fiasco, a running total of 8,999 bits regarding the Mona Appaloosa, not counting the repair for the now-repaired Venus De Mallorquin.”

She grimaced nervously. “Little Applebloom had apparently spent hours in the library researching the Venus to get the ‘replacement’ limbs right. It’s a remarkable amount of work for a farm filly.”

This is too easy, Prunecrop thought. Either she’s that blindly optimistic or she’s actually throwing herself upon her plow willingly.

“And that would be wonderful, Ms. Cheerilee, if she had been earning the five thousand bits per hour that would have been necessary to fix her fixing. This is, of course, not counting the debacle at the Philharmonic involving the ‘Cutie Mark Crusaders Cello Players.”

I can still pull out a win, she thought. Think of all the plays you love from the 1080’s, like ‘Fast Times at Ridemount High.’ You grew up on this, Cheerilee! I’ll get him to care and break down his resolve. Hay, this would end with a musical number and a frozen high-hoof-five. She smiled. I never understood why they bothered magically freezing those brohoofs onstage. It was rad, though.

“You can see how much they care, Mr. Prunecrop! I have students from many diverse backgrounds who’ve found a common purpose, whether it's Snips and Snails running the Magic Club or Silver Spoon’s yearbook team. They’re all so very motivated to be more than just small town kids. They are BANGIN’, sir,” she proclaimed as her inner glam hair pony began to claw to the surface.

His nonplussed look spoke volumes.

“Well, we do have some insurance. We are talking about Ponyville, after all. Your little hamlet is renowned for collateral damage. As long as the last report isn’t too bad, we might be able to forget this.” His grin did an accurate shark impersonation.

This is IT. We can do it, girl! Cheerilee was certain that whatever damage was left over, she had set his heart aflame. She could hear the sounds of a classic guitar solo from the Ramanes already in her head. We’ll have a ‘Trot & Roll High School' ending after all!

“So, let’s look at that last report. One final tally and we’re done here. You could canter back to your little wrecking crew and train them in the arts of well-researched property damage. Let’s see, where was it from?”

He savored the way her hope almost audibly shattered at the next four words.

“The Canterlot Statue Gardens.”

Cheerilee’s retro-daydreams instantly ceased as all motion and conversation stopped.

His horn flared with sickly-yellow joy as he floated the abacus directly between himself and the now-heartbroken teacher. “We’ll start with the psychological damage lawsuits and work our way to agricultural damages. This may take a while.”

“Of course, it’s ‘that bad,’ Twilight. My students released the Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony! “

Twilight Sparkle gave a nervous grin as she searched her brain for some tactic that could cheer up her downtrodden friend. She had spent the last few hours helping Cheerilee pack, and no beam of sunshine had been able to penetrate the schoolmare’s mental cloud. Surely her beloved logic was worth a try, she thought.

“I cast a maximized and extended restoration spell heightened by the Elements of Harmony. How could anything be possibly wrong after that?”

Cheerilee smiled. “Okay, you get an 'A+' for immediate town clean up. But Diamond Tiara’s parents are suing the school after chain-smoking penguins used her as a piñata. I’m just glad she’s fine. That’s more than can be said for the Carrot family’s croplands, soaking in chocolate syrup. By Celestia, even the Canterlot observatory is reporting damages since the increased day/night rotation ruined observations of Ingram’s comet they spent months preparing for.”

Cheerilee started pawing the ground, regretfully. “They were actually going to present their findings to the class personally. Not much chance of that now. I’m a liability to the district, Twi. Even if I’m not ruined in education, I’ll never work in Ponyville again.”

As Twilight moved among the crowded shelves of classroom supplies, planters, and demonstration equipment, she started to feel her friend’s depression. Twilight calculated that the volume of classroom equipment here easily exceed the volume of the schoolhouse. No wonder Cheerilee pulled a cart to school every day.

Cheerilee’s house was a seemingly random array of materials; one shelf was an organized array of Canterlot Campus teaching textbooks; below it were dated and labeled jars of eggs soaking in vinegar keeping company with a beaker filled with repulsively orange mold. It was labeled ‘Snips' Science Fair Project.”’ The beaker gave off a unique but not enticing aroma. Leaning against it was an Abraham Lincolt hat made of felt and macaroni. The shelf beneath had a stack of impressively labeled forms using a Charles Darwhinny doll figure as a paperweight. His clothes had mysterious acid burns.

And I thought I was disorganized. Then again, she always seems to find things. A disturbing thought trickled into her head as she called out to Cheerilee.

“Cheeri, humor me. You’re an earth pony, correct?”

Cheerilee looked confused, momentarily distracted from sorting insect toys and building blocks.

“I thought you were Celestia’s best student, Twi. What’s your point?”

Twilight voiced her fears slowly and carefully. “You brought these science fair projects from the schoolhouse, right?”

Cheerilee nodded, organizing an array of Equestrian Geographic maps into her pack. “The Kingdom Science Fair rules only allow mold projects if grown in a house away from children, and Snips was so excited about his I had to keep it at my house.” She suddenly stopped packing, and cast her eyes downwards. “He was supposed to get it back next class. I’ll have to put it with the stack of things to go to the next teacher.”

There’s one more hope. “So you threw it in your teacher cart for the trek home?” Twilight flashed a hopeful smile.

“Nope," Cheerilee replied. "My cart was full of Solar System Models to grade. I couldn't risk it spilling out all over the asteroids.”

Stunned by the implication, Twilight exclaimed, “You carried THAT home…with your MOUTH?!”

Cheerilee shrugged as she went back to work.

“It was that, or be stuck with a third one of Snips’ volcano models in a row. He was finally paying attention in science; I had to help.” The soon-to-be exiled schoolmare continued working, not seeming to notice or understand Twilight's expression of shock and disgust.

Like I always say, Twilight considered. Everypony. This town. CRAZY.

Watching Cheerilee pack her possessions into her saddlebags was heartbreaking. She paused after every shelf, becoming more visibly upset as she contemplated the rows of scavenged and donated school supplies that would go unused. Worse, Twilight thought the entire thing was totally unnecessary. She had to act fast to buoy Cheerilee's spirits, and thus fell back unto her old standard; vocabulary.

“So your freakishly focused fillies freed the phantasm of frantic fear and furor. You do so much for this town for a single mistaken monster medley of misrule and madness to end everything. It’s just one incident.”

Cheerilee sighed with a reluctant smile fighting to the front of her face and leaned against one of her homemade bookshelves. She tried to recapture her mood by glancing around at the multitude of blooming plants hanging from the ceiling of her home. It didn't work. Cheerilee could only think of how she’d have to replant or abandon her ‘babies’ as she trotted out of her hometown.

“Twi, I appreciate the wordplay. I’d love to think that I made such a good impression on the town, but the truth is I failed. I admit, the kids do love me. I think I’m the only earthbound adult Scootaloo listens to without an automatic eye roll." She bit her bottom lip as she willed herself to keep talking, then continued. "Getting their love doesn't matter if can’t also rein them in. My discipline style didn't work at all.”

Twilight reclined on her haunches, taking in a large breath of the house's earthy smell. Her eyes flickered sideways to the odor's source, and she caught sight of the opened worm composting bin, where a beautifully made yet unfinished sandwich was being broken down into waste.

Twilight shivered as she levitated the lid back. She racked her brain for ways to help, and made a promise to herself; she WOULD solve this friendship problem.

“There must be some way we can work this. Why not take it to the parents? They'll see all the effort you put in. Seriously, look at all the work you grade at home, Cheerilee. There’s as many papers spread out here as my house, and I live in a library! ”

Cheerilee eyes darted along the wall over several end-of-the-year class pictures. “I’m afraid even a good reputation can’t pay this bill. You saw the tally.” Twilight backpedaled as the suddenly animated earth pony met her almost nose-to-nose.

“Do you know how long they suspend a teacher for this level of damages?” Cheerilee's green eyes quivered with moisture as she pushed forward into physical contact with Twilight. “FOREVER. I’ll never work in Ponyville again. They’ll send me to the frontier, or move me to an inner-stable school where kids carry pies to class. Maybe they’ll build an inner-stable school in the frontier just for me.”

The logic chains in Twilight's brain melted under Cheerilee's raw stare, and she also felt tears start to form.

“You can’t leave," Twilight said as she poked Cheerilee with a hoof. "Nopony else understands all the words I use,” she said. “NOPONY. The data sampling levels out a eighty-seven percent for Rarity, and everypony else has a straight drop of at least six percentiles.”

Something between a snuffle and a giggle rose out of Cheerilee. "Twilight, you actually compiled data on this?"

Twilight shrugged in return, smiling despite the wetness on her face. "You knew who I was when we started hanging out, 'Lee."

The two friends stared at each other for long moments, silent and smiling. Suddenly, a small and scaled foot kicked open the front door. “I got your smelly dirty plant tools!”

Spike had chosen an interesting moment to carry in the bundle of gardening equipment from the shed out back. Whistling and bobbing his head to the sounds of the classic 80’s K-Colt subsidiary station that perennially filled the house and yard, he dropped everything as he saw the two tearful mares stare into each others' eyes, their faces almost touching.

“Wow. Is this, like, Lyra and Bon-Bon stuff going on here?”

Twilight turned a mortified shade of magenta, but Cheerilee only smiled.

“Spike,” she asked calmly. “If we said 'yes,' would you really have any idea what that would actually entail?”

He looked toward Twilight, blushing and hiding her face, then turned to Cheerilee, whose heaving chest contrasted with a calm expression. Spike shrugged. "Um, No.” He sat down with a hopeful look. "Do I finally get an explanation? Twilight changes the subject when it comes up."

Cheerilee walked over to him and gently nuzzled his forehead. “Oh, Spike. You act so mature sometimes I forget how young you really are. I really should have brought you to class.”

The now red-cheeked dragon pup found himself wordless as Twilight rolled her eyes. Celestia, if she had stayed she could give Rarity some competition. Twilight suddenly swallowed as caught the resignation of her own thoughts.

They packed without further talking, letting the coarse tones of Coatorhead and the soulful voice of Rick Ambley fill the room. The joy of Cheerilee’s childhood heroes quickly faded at the next station break.

“That’s right, Equestria. You’ve been Rick Roaned! This is K-Colt, and you’re listening to a concert of classic colts and cool covers. This one goes out to whoever let those freaky fillies rampage through the Philharmonic this week. A friend of mine was there, and her instrument got some wicked battle scars in that mosh pit. This one’s for you, oh Unknown Schoolmare, ‘cause just like the diamond dog of metal, you’re CRAZY!”

A maniacal voice shouted ‘All Aboard!’ as the sounds of Ozzy Osbark's “Crazy Train” filled the house. Twilight turned off the radio as she watched her normally music-loving friend fight back tears. Cheerilee stood still almost completely still for a few seconds. The sounds of an erratic knock finally gave her a welcome distraction and a reason to start moving again.

She was greeted by the sight of a pair of crossed eyes, but not the familiar ones she normally expected. A light-violet mare with chaotic hair and a spinning green beanie was smiling in a disconcerting way.

“Me not happy to see you! You set loose nice dragon-horse that not make Screwball. You have nothing to do with me being here. Me hate you forever! Me came SO far to not see you. ” The oddly-speaking pony began playing with her lips in an absentminded manner, then suddenly spread her hooves wildly and threw back her head. “We’ll NEVER be friends!”

Startled into taking a step back, Cheerilee stared blankly out as her mind grappled with the barrage of bizarre babble. She started to choke up as she slowly closed the door. The violet oddity cocked her head and frowned.

“Me…understand,” Screwball whispered as she walked away.

So much for the goodwill of the townsfolk, Cheerilee lamented. That was the first of the angry mob.

“Twi, I’m calling it for the night. Even an earth pony can only carry so much weight at once.”

Twilight paused as Spike followed her down the darkened Ponyville street, looking back at Cheerilee’s house with eyes of worry. They narrowed into slits filled with determination as she saw the imperfect scarecrow planted in the front rows of her friend’s garden, a gift of the Cutie Mark Crusaders to their teacher. The stuffed pony effigy angled to the side, Applebloom’s half attached asymmetrically to Sweetie Belle’s sewn-together monstrosity. Sweetie had stitched the phrase ‘Besst Teechur’ across the front, and an irrepressible young pegasus had added a design of her teacher skateboarding with a guitar-sword in her mouth just below.

“Spike, let’s hurry home. I need you to take a letter. There’s one more ally to assist our avenue of assault, assistant.”

Cheerilee rested on her bed, hooves tightly tucked underneath with tension. She smiled wanly as she looked for the last time of her collection of teaching books and materials. With the amount of bits she had spent on her classroom, she would ironically be unable to afford moving into a home big enough to hold them. As it always had with her, desperate times called for thoughtful measures.

"All right," Cheerilee said while nibbling her pen stub. "The planet models can go to Ditzy's kids. I can ship extra art supplies to High Class. I suppose throwing a lawn sale might net me a few bits. Who else needs school supplies?"

She furrowed her brow, sucking on the quill before moving it to the side of her mouth. Cheerilee had the skilled tongue of an earth pony who wrote more than half of the village combined. She missed having marefriends she could joke about that with.

"Apple Bloom has a relative who's a teacher, I think. Bit Counter went into business, so not him. Page turner's a librarian in Baltimare, now. Checkmark joined her husband's accounting business."

Her shoulders sagged as the pen fell out of the corner of her mouth.

"So, all of them make more bits than me, huh? Um." Her head perked up. "Back to work! Miss Sharpener's retired... "

She carefully placed the pen onto the short list, smiling to herself.

"... and she definitely deserved it for dealing with me."

Long ago, in a messy classroom in the magical land of Equestria
“Be careful with those supplies, Cheerilee. We get beakers replaced annually, not weekly. Watch your head!”

The young teaching assistant quickly dodged to the left, letting the glassware miss her completely as it met a loud reunion with gravity. “I’m sorry Miss Sharpener. I have no idea how earth ponies are supposed to handle shelves like this. Do we even need all of this stuff for teaching?”

The middle-aged yellow schoolmare smiled nostalgically at her frizzled-haired replacement. “If we’re talking unnecessary things, I’d love to address your wardrobe. It reminds me of your old school play dandelion costume. No, my dear, I’m afraid you DO need all of this ‘stuff.’”

As Miss Sharpener walked back to her desk, Cheerilee nervously touched one of the blue lightning bolts that hung from her ears. Maybe these should go in the jewelry box. They’ll definitely distract a parent at a conference. She took in a deep breath. There’s always weekends.

The young New Wave pony came back to reality while watching her mentor. Sharpener was contentedly admiring a framed stack of awards. As she placed the topmost one in her cart, Cheerilee saw it was written in misspelled crayon.

“We need to use everything we can in every way we can, Miss Cheerilee. There’s a way to reach every student if you can find it, and it may be in the last place you’d look.”

An unexpected knock on her door woke Cheerilee from her reverie. She picked up the dripping quill off of her bed, admiring the way the new ink stain fit in with the old ones. Nice use of composition.. With an amused smile, she walked over to greet the midnight caller. After all, she thought, for once I can sleep in on a weekday. Cheerilee opened the door, sagging in the doorway as Twilight met her gaze.

“Twi, I said I was done for the night. I was asleep,” she lied, poorly.

Twilight smirked. “Cheerilee, you’re the only pony I know with a worse sleeping schedule than mine, and I know Pinkie Pie. I didn’t come to talk. I brought someone else to do the talking.”

Twilight stepped out of the way as a regal figure stepped out of the darkness. Cheerilee gasped as she recognized the flowing hair of starlight crowning a horn as dark as the night. The schoolmare was stunned; a whisper could have knocked her over.

Thus, she was totally unprepared for the booming Canterlot Royal Voice, which suddenly greeted her. “FAIR EDUCATOR, WE WOULD PRESENT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THEE.”

Twilight face-hooved as her friend fainted dead away. Princess Luna nervously met the gaze from the unicorn’s uncovered eye.

“Um…old habits die hard?”