• Published 2nd Sep 2015
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Apple Honey's Perfectly Ordinary Day - Admiral Biscuit



Apple Honey has a perfectly ordinary day.

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Morning

Apple Honey's Perfectly Ordinary Day
Chapter 1: Morning
Admiral Biscuit

The crowing of her neighbor's rooster and the squawking reply of her own hens woke her. Apple Honey blinked her eyes open and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds before kicking the covers off with her hind legs.

She rolled to her side and slid off the bed rump-first, stretched, and flicked her tail a couple of times to work some of the bed tangles out.

She yawned as she walked to the kitchen and fed the wood stove, filled the kettle, and set it dead-center. It would boil while she did her morning chores, and then she'd have some tea and breakfast.

Her kitchen routine accomplished, Apple Honey headed downstairs. She avoided the third riser out of habit—it squeaked annoyingly whenever anypony stepped on it, and she just hadn't gotten around to fixing it yet. Too many other projects.

The henhouse was the first stop. She owned three chickens—enough to provide her with two eggs for breakfast, and one for trade. The biggest egg would be set aside: it would go to Sugarcube Corner. Each week, they added up to a free brownie from the bakery.

When the eggs were safely in their basket, she opened the door and let the hens out for the day. They scurried off through the makeshift door into the small yard. Bobby, her biggest hen, made a short flight to perch on the ruins of a wagon which occupied one corner of the yard.

Apple Honey had gotten the wagon a couple of years ago for a song—specifically, it had cost her a dozen eggs and a gently-used side-backer harness. The wagon had had a broken axle: it could be pulled along empty if a mare was careful, but it couldn't support any load.

She'd had every intention of getting it fixed, but then Cherry Berry had needed a singletree in a hurry, and the one off the wagon was good enough to sell. Besides, she had an extra that wasn't quite as good that she could put on the wagon, once the axle was fixed.

Now that she'd sold the wheels, tailboard, and most of the ironwork, there was little point in fixing it any more. It lay upside-down, where she and Golden Harvest had rolled it over to strip the friction brakes off. One of these days, she was going to just pull apart the body for the lumber, but for now it was fine where it sat.

Apple Honey crossed the chicken run and opened the gate to her kaleyard. Tom, her scarred guard-cat, was waiting there for her, and she leaned over and nuzzled his head affectionately. She'd gotten him from Fluttershy years ago, to help discourage rabbits and other pests from her garden, and he'd done wonders. She'd made a garden home for him by putting a sugar barrel lined with seed bags on a pile of bricks. It wasn't much, but he was happy there. Every weekend, she pampered him with fresh fish from the market and cream from the dairy, and if he felt like letting her, she groomed his coat. The rest of the week, he worked as hard as she did.

While she weeded, Tom patrolled the perimeter. It was an odd habit of his; he'd meet her at the gate, and then walk around the border of the garden, until he got back to the gate. Then, he'd head off to his barrel-home, and take a short catnap.

Oddly, he’d never cross the old stile into her orchard—it wasn’t a barrier to a cat, but he clearly felt that it wasn’t his duty to patrol there. At the end of a row, she paused with one hoof on the worn step and regarded her tiny grove of apple trees and the old patent beehive in the center. Seeing nothing back there which required immediate attention, she turned back to her garden. While the apple trees were rather tolerant of weeds, her garden was not.

When she’d finished in her garden, she closed the gate, picked up her trio of eggs from the henhouse, and went back to her apartment to make herself breakfast.

Every workday morning, she made herself the same breakfast: a bowl of oatmeal, flavored with honey, two slices of buttered toast with a little bit of honey drizzled on, a cup of black tea sweetened with honey, and two fried eggs. She liked some consistency in her morning routine, because once she started work, Celestia only knew how her day was going to go.

When the breakfast dishes were washed and put away, she headed to work. Instead of turning right at the bottom of the stairs, she turned left. Like most business ponies, she lived above her store.

Apple Honey opened the shutters on her office windows, and then went outside to yank the sliding door to her workshop halfway open. It was already shaping up to be a nice day, and there was no reason to be all cooped up while she worked.

Her first stop was her treadle-powered grindstone. She had a dozen cultivator tines to sharpen for Big Mac. That would take her the better part of an hour, if nopony stopped by.

She was halfway done with the fifth when she heard the bell over her front door jingle. Polite ponies—her regular clientele—went into her office and waited, knowing that she'd be up front as soon as she could. Others just wandered into the shop and interrupted whatever she was doing.

Apple Honey finished the side of the tine she was working on before setting it on the workbench and trotting up front to see who was there.

It was Goldengrape, and he was wearing a harness that hung slightly askew on his back. His ears perked as she came into the office, and she smiled brightly at him.

“I broke a belly strap.” He turned his nose to indicate the offending part. “Backing into my shed to hook up my wagon. Got it caught on the doorframe, didn't know, and. . . .”

She was the town's expert at temporarily repairing harnesses, so she leaned under his belly to get a closer look. The harness wasn't in great shape, and probably ought to have been replaced. It never should have broken from just backing into a table. “I can take your measurements and get a new hip strap assembly,” she told him. “This one's pretty well done for.”

His face fell. “How long will that take?”

She shrugged. “Custom? A week, maybe more. It'd be longer if it was planting or harvesting time; nopony ever replaces anything before it breaks.”

“I can't afford to miss market for a week.” He sighed. “And I don't have any more harnesses at home. Who keeps a second one? Nopony. Can't you just have one sent on the afternoon train?”

“I suppose I could order one from a mail-order house in Manehattan. It’d probably be in on a train tomorrow, if you wanted to pay extra for a telegram. Overall, it’d be cheaper than custom.” She held up a hoof before he could speak. “It’d take a bit of adjustment, though, to make it fit, and they usually aren’t as durable as a proper, hoofmade harness.” She looked at the broken strap again. “I've got some spare straps in the back room. I ought to be able to piece one together that will fit.”

Apple Honey left him standing in the front office, pawing at his broken harness, and went into her storeroom to see what she could find. She always kept good bits and pieces she came across, because one never knew when they might come in handy, but finding them was a bit of a chore.

Three boxes later, she found what she was looking for. She pulled the most likely candidate out of a crate, and went back to the office.

Goldengrape fidgeted as she crouched under his barrel, threading the repair strap into his harness. Colts were such babies when a mare was under their belly. “Quit fidgeting,” she ordered. “If I set up the quarter strap wrong, you could drag it across your sheath when you turn.”

She slid out from under him and threaded the strap through the buckle, holding it in position while she punched a new hole with an awl. She finished the job by latching it and trimming the free end off with a pair of scissors. “How does it feel?”

He wiggled around. “Good enough,” he said. “How much do I owe you?”

“Half bit.”

“That’s all?”

Apple Honey nodded. “’Cause it’s a used strap. But I'm serious—you ought to look into getting your whole hip strap assembly replaced. I can get a price for you, if you want to stop by after market. You don't fix that, one day you're going to try and stop your wagon, and your breeching strap's gonna just tear right off.”

“I know, I know. Um, I don't have any bits on me. Can you stop by my stall later today?”

• • •

She leaned back over the grinding wheel and put the finishing touches on the penultimate tine. Three more ponies had come in; she'd sold a leftover sack of rye seed to Caramel, made an appointment to go over White Clover’s rotary hay rake, and gossiped about Strike's new cutie mark with Allie.

Rather than rush right back to her work, she picked up a stubby pencil and wrote down a brief summary of her conversation with Allie. Everypony liked hearing about fillies and colts finding their cutie marks, and even if there wasn't a cute-ceañera planned, Strike'd enjoy seeing himself mentioned in the newspaper. His parents might clip out the article and keep it posted in a scrapbook.

Those were the kinds of stories she liked writing the best. Some of the newspapers that the library got were always full of depressing news from faraway places, but they never thought to cover all the good things that happened every day.

Apple Honey stuck the scrap of paper under her typewriter, looked back into her cluttered workshop, and momentarily considered the advantages of cleaning at least one workbench before she finished the tines, but then she caught a flash of gray out of the corner of her eye.

One of her best sources was approaching.

She slid a hardly-used piece of paper across her desk and squared herself in her worn chair. A moment later, the door chimed cheerfully, and the mailmare came through.

As always, duty was first, and she set a mouthful of mail on Apple Honey's counter, picked up the much smaller pile of outgoing mail—a few monthly invoices, and a couple orders from smithies in Fillydelphia—and tucked them neatly in her saddlebag.

“How's Dinky?”

The mailmare's eyes glowed with pride. “She helped cook dinner last night. Sparkler's teaching her how to use her telekinesis, and she set the table with it.”

“Pretty soon, you're not going to have to do anything at home at all.”

“I know.” A blush formed on her cheeks. “Sometimes I feel like I don't do enough already.”

“You have two wonderful fillies. They're following in your hoofsteps, and you’ve got big shoes to fill.” Apple Honey grabbed the mail off her counter and set it on her desk. “Heard anything new around town?”

• • •

Ten minutes and three new story leads later, Comet Tail broke up their gossip session when he came in with a partially-disassembled gearbox. He set it on the counter, and then floated the rest of the parts one-by-one out of his saddlebag. Apple Honey gave an absentminded wave as the mailmare headed out the door, then focused her attention on the gearbox.

“What happened?”

“Shaft bearing wore out.” Comet Tail pointed to a slightly blued race on the main shaft. “Probably should have stopped using it right away, but Cherry wanted to finish windrowing her back field.”

Apple Honey looked dubiously at the pile of parts on her counter. “Is that everything?”

“Mostly. We lost a couple of bolts by the shed, and of course the bearings are gone. Rolled away somewhere. But you won't have any trouble putting it back together.”

Apple Honey sighed, and moved a few of the bigger gears around with her hoof, suppressing an urge to tell Comet Tail just what she thought about ponies who took things apart when they didn’t know what they were doing. “Gonna have to heat that race,” she said, mostly to herself. “Shaft might be damaged. Probably have to order a new bearing out of Manehattan, unless I've got one on my parts shelf. When do you need it back?”

He shrugged. “First cut's done. Sun Streak wanted to borrow it, but she can always use Candy Twirl’s if she gets in a bind.”

“No less than a week. More if it's an odd bearing, and you'll have to pay freight if it is.”

“Okay.” He tilted his head towards the collection of parts. “Just come by market when it's done, or when you know what it's going to take.”

She kept up her smile until he'd left her office, then let her shoulders slump. Neither he nor Cherry Berry were smart enough to stop before they got in over their heads; they usually tried to fix things themselves first, and then brought them to her only after they were stumped, or had managed to break something that shouldn't be broken.

She always told herself that she should charge them extra . . . she was going to have to reassemble the gearset based solely on experience, and it would probably take her two or three tries before she got it right. There was also the matter of figuring out which screws were missing, and what size they were supposed to be.

Still, both Cherry and Comet were friendly, and paid their bills promptly, which was more than she could say for some ponies. Deep down, she already knew she was going to charge them less than the job was worth.

Apple Honey slid the parts into a small box and carried it out into her workshop next to her small forge, where it joined a collection of projects. She usually only fired her forge once a week, and tried to knock out all the forge-work on a single day. The smithy kept theirs going every day, but she simply didn't get enough of that kind of work to justify the expense.

That chore done, she scooted her chair over to her typewriter and picked up where she'd left off the night before—a short blurb about a new threshing machine that was said to cut the need for farmhooves in half. While she was hardly in favor of taking jobs away from ponies, she knew that some of the farms had trouble finding enough help in the fall, and maybe a bunch of farmers could get together and rent a machine like that for a week during the harvest season.

A jingle at her door drew her attention, and she perked her ears as a light mulberry mare poked her head through her door. “Delivery!” she cheerfully announced.

“Already?” Apple Honey hopped off her chair. “I didn't hear the morning train come in.”

“Too busy napping?”

“I wish.” She walked around the counter. “You got a wagon?”

“Yup. Out front. Snuzzle's pulling it.”

“Really?”

“She owed me.” Blossom pushed the door open. “Usual place?”

“Yeah.”

Apple Honey turned back to her typewriter. Normally, she liked gossiping with Blossom, but she just wasn't in the mood—her mind was set on finishing the article, even if the words weren't coming as easily as she'd have liked.

Just the same, she was nearly done when Blossom returned to the office, a bunch of invoices held in her mouth.

“Gonna use the sandbox,” she muttered after she'd set them on the counter. “You got anything good in there?”

“New Steers and Roebuck catalog,” Apple Honey offered. “Came in yesterday.”

“Ooh. I haven’t seen that one yet.”

Apple Honey nodded absently and pulled the documents towards herself. She skimmed through them, picturing her stock quantity in her mind, and making sure that she'd gotten the right amount of everything. She wasn't very good at bookkeeping—Nat Tally came in once a week and handled that—but she always had a good idea what she had on hoof back in the shop. Blossom came through twice a moon to take an order, and then a few days later, she came by train to fill it.

On the back of the invoices was a total, which saved Apple Honey the trouble of adding it all up. She scrounged around on her desk until she'd found her checkbook and a fairly fresh quill, then wrote out a check by mouth. She set it on the desk, dropped a leftover bearing race on top so it wouldn't blow away, and headed for the shop, figuring that she might as well greet Snuzzle.

• • •

Her gossip session got cut short when Golden Harvest came in, curious if any new implement catalogs had come with the mail. They had not, but the two mares had a long discussion about the advantages of a two-pony cultivator for the carrot farm. When Goldie finally left, Apple Honey was fairly sure that she'd ultimately get a sale. There weren't any used ones to be had in town, and it was obvious to anypony that the current arrangement was at its limit. Goldie’s family had more land they could work, but they didn't have the equipment to handle it.

Apple Honey plunked back into her office chair for a moment, imagining how it would feel to actually sell a major piece of equipment which was brand new. She'd have to make sure she was down at the train station to receive it—along with Golden Harvest, of course. They'd want to go over it carefully and make sure that everything was in good working order before they accepted it from the freight agent. Then they’d have to haul it to the shop for final assembly and testing, which was sure to gather a small crowd of curious mares, and maybe bring a little more business to her shop and to Golden Harvest’s farm.

Her ears perked as the town clock chimed. She still hadn't unpacked her new inventory. That was always a highlight of her day—it was like a mini-Hearth's Warming.

She went into the shop and picked a short crowbar out of her tool crib, eagerly trotting over to the boxes set neatly along her workbench. With practiced ease, she jammed the end into the lid, and twisted her head to pry it free.

The first box was boring. The top layer consisted of nothing more than interlaced hardwood handles for rakes, hoes, and shovels. They were a perennial best-seller—the metal bits of such tools generally outlasted a few handles—but they were boring. Nevertheless, she dutifully carried them over to the appropriate bins, refilling the stock she'd sold over the past two weeks.

Below that were several skeins of binder twine, along with some more substantial manila rope. Again, profitable but boring.

The bottom layer wasn't exactly paydirt, either. Small boxes of nuts and bolts, each neatly stamped with the size and pitch. Still, farms ran on bolts, and farmhooves were always losing them. There had been talk of standardizing sizes, but thus far it hadn't happened—everypony who made farm equipment felt that their particular style was the best, and as a result she had dozens of different bins, when half that number should have been sufficient.

If it hadn't been for the hardware store, she'd have had to stock more. The ones she kept on hoof were the ones that fit the majority of equipment she repaired, but it was hardly complete coverage. Her quick glance at the gearbox Cherry Berry and Comet Tail had broken had confirmed that she probably didn't have the right bolts, unless she had some used ones in one of her screw jars, and as she was filling the racks, she debated whether she ought to order them from Blossom, or continue going to the hardware store and paying a premium. It wouldn’t save her any money on this job, but in the future she might need more, especially if Cherry Berry and Comet Tail kept breaking their hay rake.

She set the empty little boxes off to the side. They were handy for keeping track of small parts, and sometimes foals came in and wanted them to carry a bug or frog they'd found home. She preferred the small burlap bags she used to get—they were more durable—but progress was progress.

The second crate proved to be much more interesting. Blossom re-packed her order into whatever she had lying around, so she never knew what she was going to find in any given box. This one had originally contained Prench wine, but now it was chock full of hinges and gate hardware.

She had to struggle to slide it across the shop—how Blossom had gotten it out of the wagon without splitting open the crate was beyond her. She spent a happy ten minutes examining each latch, hinge, drop rod, hook, and handle, before piling them neatly in her cabinet. Good fences made for good neighbors, everypony knew that. If she had some vacant column space in the next issue of the paper, she'd mention her supply, although it probably wasn't really needed. Like the handles, fencing practically sold itself.

The third crate was the mother lode. On one side were sacks of seed, which was exciting enough. She'd been reading through the seed catalogues and could easily discuss the advantages of each different variety she now held in her hoof. Over half the order was already called for, and she'd have no trouble selling the rest.

On the other side, a fresh new patent beehive filled the rest of the crate. She lifted it up onto the bench and raised the lid, marveling at the tightly-fitted honey boxes. This was supposed to be a huge improvement over the traditional skeps that dotted the fields and meadows of Ponyville. It had taken her a solid month of wheedling and cajoling before she'd managed to get Bumblesweet to accede to trying one—and she'd had to agree to sell it practically at cost and take it back for a full refund if Bumblesweet wasn't satisfied—but she was sure that they would be popular once ponies got used to them, and much easier on the bees as well. Fluttershy herself had endorsed it, and that counted for a lot.

Apple Honey was expecting to see Bumblesweet at the Prancing Pony, and while it might take a day or two before she came to the store to claim her new hive, it wouldn't do to have it back in the shop where it might get dusty before that.

She flicked her ear as the town clock announced noon—there was still one more tine to finish. She'd expected to get them done before she went to lunch, but time had gotten away from her, as it often did.

Do I finish it now and cut my lunch short, or should I wait until after lunch to finish?

It only took a moment to decide. She couldn't let the Apples down—they were her kin, after all. Better to have them done now. She set her hooves back on the treadle and got the grinding wheel back up to speed, narrowing her eyes against the shower of sparks as she slid the tooth forward on the tool rest.

• • •

Five minutes later, it was done. She sighted down the edge, making sure it had a good finish, before wiping it down with an oily rag so it wouldn't rust.

She dropped it in the burlap bag with its sisters, looped a simple plowpony's knot in the top, then went over to her sink to rinse off her hooves.

Apple Honey stepped into her saddlebags, leaning against the wall to hold them in place while she bent under her belly to pull the strap tight. She wiggled her barrel to center them and then headed out into the street, pulling the sliding workshop door shut behind her.

A moment later, she turned back around, opened the door a crack, and went to her workbench, where the bag of plow teeth was still sitting. She took a quick second glance around the shop, to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything else, before she headed back out into the street.

She headed straight for the market. As was so often the case, she was going to have a working lunch.

Her first stop was the Apples' farmstand, where she delivered the plow teeth to Big Mac. He slid them under the counter and hoofed over a pair of apples and a bit coin.

She’d just turned to go to Goldengrape’s stall when she caught Blue Clover out of the corner of her eye. She was sweet on him, although he’d given her no sign back—not yet, anyway.

She trotted over to him, the paltry amount Goldengrape owed her completely forgotten. “Hey.”

“Hi, Apple Honey. Nice to see you out.”

“You, too.”

He took a step across the market green, while Apple Honey’s mind churned, trying to come up with some way to keep the conversation going, then she hit on it.

It took a couple of steps to catch up to him, and she waited until she was alongside to begin talking. “Your sister—she made an appointment to look at her hay rake this week.”

“Yeah.”

“I was kinda in a hurry when she stopped in. Is it broken?”

“No.” He slowed his step just a bit. “Needs servicing, is all. We don’t like to let things break.”

“I wish everypony thought that way.” She perked her ears up. “Maybe . . . you might want to wait until haying is done. I’ve got the gearbox to Cherry Berry’s in my shop right now, in pieces. Sun Streak hasn’t got her field cut yet. She was gonna use Cherry’s rake. You could rent yours out to her and make a few bits.”

“Not a bad idea,” he said thoughtfully. “Thanks!” Without any warning, he leaned in and brushed his nose against her cheek, leaving her standing dumbstruck in the center of market.

Author's Note:

Special thanks to Topaz Moon and theRedBrony for story ideas and plot points. They also pre-read and edited, along with AShadowOfCygnus, metallusionismagic, and MSPiper.

To reduce the length of the blog post, I've split it into two parts. The first part, the dramaturge (or cast of characters, for you non-theatre people) is HERE. The rest will be along later.