• 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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Afternoon

Apple Honey’s Perfectly Ordinary Day
Chapter 2: Afternoon
Admiral Biscuit

She hadn't yet made it over to Goldengrape's stand when the town clock began chiming again. Apple Honey shifted on her hooves before making up her mind. I can always collect from him later. As it is, I'm already going to be late getting back to the shop.

It's not that big a deal, she reminded herself as she hastily selected a bunch of carrots from Golden Harvest's stand. True Blue should be there by now. Just the same, she only made a token attempt at haggling before buying her carrots and stuffing them in her saddlebags.

She didn't actually trot back to her shop, but she was close to it. As she rounded the corner, she saw True Blue, her filly apprentice, struggling with the sliding door, while Night Soil stood patiently in the street, a filthy wagon hitched behind him.

She slowed down her pace. It would be good to see how her apprentice handled this.

Apple Honey watched as the door was finally opened far enough, and Night Soil backed the wagon into the shop with a little bit of guidance.

“Afternoon, Night Soil.”

He turned his head at the sound of her voice. “Oh, hi, Apple Honey. Are you busy this afternoon? 'Cause I ripped the drop chains off my muck wagon.” He tilted his head. “They're in the back.”

“Yeah, I can get to it.” She moved alongside Night Soil and took a look at the wagon. “How good a fix do you want? The front bolster's pretty rotten.”

“Enough to get by.”

“Okay.” Apple Honey stood back as her apprentice unhooked the traces from Night Soil's harness. “I can have it done today.”

“Really? That'd be great!”

“Yeah, really.” Apple Honey wrinkled her muzzle. “Can you pick it up at the end of the day?”

“Uh . . . probably?”

The last thing she wanted was to have this wagon stinking up her shop one moment longer than necessary. “I can deliver it, if that would be easier.”

“Yeah, that would.” Night Soil nodded eagerly. “Hazel is out with the new wagon, cleaning up at the town hall.” He snorted. “Politicians, right? We’ll probably be there late.” He sighed. “I was hoping this would hold together a little longer . . . it's kinda a busy season for me, you know?”

“It's always a busy season for you.”

“Yeah.” He chuckled. “Well, I'd better get back. Don't want to let Hazel have all the fun. I think she's fetlock deep in Wooly's campaign promises.”

Apple Honey kept the smile on her face until Night Soil was down the street, then she held a hoof over her nose and squinted one eye shut before leaning in and closely examining the front bolster of the wagon. Suddenly, she was glad she hadn't had a chance to eat her lunch yet.

When she looked up, she saw Blue uncoiling a hose. Apple Honey quickly held up a hoof to stop her. “Woah! Don’t rinse the wagon out.”

“But . . . it stinks. And it’s full of—of stuff.”

“I know. Think for a minute, though, what happens if you rinse it off? You’re going to make a mess in the street, or in the shop. And it’s going to be dripping down on us and the floor the whole time we’re working on it. Better to leave it the way it is and just deal with the smell.”

“Oh.” Her ears fell back. “Can’t you fix it tomorrow morning?”

Apple Honey swept her foreleg around the room. “If this is the kind of thing you want to do for a living, you’re going to have to deal with that more often than you’d like.” She pointed to the muck wagon. “Push it the rest of the way into the shop, then open the back door. Maybe if we get a breeze, it will help. Then pull the drop chains out of the back, so I can see what we're working with.”

“Ew.” True Blue stood on her hind legs and peered inside the wagon. “Do I have to?”

“The sooner we get it done, the sooner it'll be out of here,” Apple Honey called over her shoulder as she headed up to the office. “If you've got all that done by the time I drop my saddlebags, get out a brace and bit.”

Without even waiting for a reply, she pulled open the half-door to her office and walked behind the counter, pausing just long enough to loosen the belly strap on her saddlebags before she made it to her desk.

She pulled them off and draped them over the back of a castoff kitchen chair she kept up front, being careful to not bruise the fruit and vegetables they contained.

Apple Honey came back out of her office sans saddlebags in time to see True Blue standing atop an old flour barrel, fishing for the chains with a broken rake handle held in her mouth. She had her pasterns hooked over the wagon's sideboard for balance and was sighting cross-eyed down the stick.

“Just mare up and climb inside,” Apple Honey suggested. “It'll be quicker.”

“Do I haf oo?”

“The chains are still gonna have shit on them when they come out, you know. You aren't going to be able to pound open the ringbolts without getting some on you. It’ll wash off.”

“Can't oo ufe the old bolfs? Fread ‘em in new holfs?”

“Bolster's too rotten. They won't stay.” Apple Honey rummaged through her toolbox until she found her smallest spade bit. “Gonna drill through-holes.”

“Got it!” True Blue leaned back, causing the chain to slide down the stick. She instinctively stepped back, which tilted the barrel and sent it skidding out from under her hooves. Before she could react, the chain smacked her in the muzzle. “Ew, ew, ew!

Stifling a laugh, Apple Honey took pity on her apprentice, upending the barrel and sliding it back under Blue's scrambling hooves. For a moment, she was tempted to stick her head under the filly's rump and pitch her into the wagon, but she decided against it.

Even though her father had told her it built character when he’d done it to her.

She leaned into the other side of the wagon and pulled the second drop chain loose, rattling it against the floor. “Check the bins and see if we've got a pair of ringbolts half again as long as my hoof.”

“Okay.” True Blue snorted a couple of times, blowing her nostrils clear. Apple Honey sat in the space between the bolster and the singletree, and set the bit up against the wood. I'll just make the old holes into through-holes, she thought. It'll probably last as long as this bolster will.

She was almost all the way through the first when Blue walked up beside her. “Don't have any ringbolts, but we've got a couple of hooks that’re threaded for nuts.”

“That might be more practical. Have we got big enough washers? Six of them?”

True Blue nodded.

“So, here's what we can do.” It had taken Apple Honey a while to learn that she had to explain to her apprentice what she was doing, and why. She wasn't used to having any help: she usually just visualized things in her head and then carried out her plan. “We'll put one end of the chain between a pair of washers on the frontside. That'll hold it in place, and leave the free end to be dropped over the hook—they won't need linchpins any more.”

“Why not just use four washers?”

Apple Honey shook her head. “Chain'll dig into the bolster, and the ringbolt will work loose.” She tapped a hoof against the wood to illustrate her point. “Probably won't be as strong as a ringbolt would be, but on this wagon it won't matter. Enough load to pull the hook open will probably just split the bolster.” She slid the brace and bit across to the other side, and followed it by scooching on her behind. “You got the ringbolts knocked off the old chain yet?”

True Blue looked guiltily down at the chains spread across the floor.

“Get to it. Sledgehammer's on the workbench somewhere.”

• • •

After showing True Blue the proper way to open a ringbolt, Apple Honey let her free the other chain. She'd already set the first loosely in place, and did the same with the second when True Blue brought it over.

“I'm going to have you hold the nuts, then tighten them down,” Apple Honey explained as she pointed to a wrench. “Be easiest if you were under there.”

“Got it.” True Blue looked around. “Um, where's the . . . uh, the laying down roller dohicky thing?”

“Leaning over on the wall. Right next to the broom.”

“Mister Sweepy?”

“Yes.” Apple Honey nodded. “Mister Sweepy.” She eyed the small piles of filth underneath the wagon. “Which you will be using as soon as we've got this wagon out of the shop.”

Apple Honey turned her ears as she heard the front door of the shop jingle. “Just a minute. I'm kinda busy,” she shouted towards her office.

She turned her attention back to the wagon, just in time to see True Blue flop onto the creeper and shoot underneath the muck wagon. Braking hadn't been on the filly's mind; she rolled under the whole length of the wagon before bumping to a stop against Apple Honey's flank.

Without a word, Apple Honey kicked the head of the creeper and launched it back out the other end of the wagon. Her apprentice stretched out her hind hooves just in time to stop before she smashed into the far wall, then sheepishly paddled back into position at a more sedate pace.

She reached up with the wrench, and Apple Honey turned in the hook until the inner washer had just bitten into the bolster, then had True Blue tighten the nut.

They switched over to the other one and got that tight, too. Satisfied with her work, Apple Honey got up off the floor and walked into the office to see who had just arrived. “Push the wagon into the backyard while I see who’s up front,” she called over her shoulder.

A smile crossed her face as she spotted the fiery orange tail of Ginger Snap. The filly spun around when she heard the door behind her, and she broke out into a broad grin. “Good afternoon Miss Apple! Is Bluey here?”

“Hello, Ginger. Blue's in the shop, sweeping up.”

“Can I talk to her? ‘Cause we decided to move our filly scouts camping trip at the last meeting but she wasn't there so she wouldn't know.”

“Sure.”

“Oh, and I wanted to ask you if you could put something in the newspaper for us? We're selling cookies again to raise money and I thought it might help if it was in the newspaper. Me and some of the other fillies will be going door to door in the evening.”

“I'd be glad to put that in the paper.”

“Thanks a bunch!” Ginger looked at her hopefully. “Do you want to buy any cookies?”

“Do you still sell those mint ones? Covered in chocolate?”

Ginger nodded.

“I'll take two boxes. Mm, no, make that three.”

“Okay, thanks! Can I go back there and talk to Bluey?”

“Go right ahead. Watch where you step” Apple Honey motioned for the door, before crossing the office and getting behind her desk. She picked up a scrap of paper and wrote a note about the cookie sale on it, then stuck it in the carriage of her typewriter, where she'd be sure to see it later.

Ginger was gone by the time she got back into the shop—and so was the wagon. Blue had the broom in her teeth, and was clearing the wood shavings and clods of muck off the floor. Apple Honey picked up a dustpan, and was halfway to her apprentice when the bell over the office door rang again.

“Just a minute,” she called out. “I’ll be right up there.”

The newcomer clearly didn’t feel like waiting; she heard the latch on the Dutch door between the office and the shop open, followed by the distinctive click of caulks on concrete. “Hey, you weren’t up front.”

I know. She turned to face Berry Punch.

“Do you have any used washtubs or troughs or barrels or anything like that?”

Apple Honey nodded. “Yeah. What size do you need?”

“Anything, really, as long as it’s big enough to press grapes in.” She sighed. “I’ve got a loose stave on mine, and the cooper says it’s going to be a week before she can make me a new one.”

“Hmm.” Apple Honey put her hoof to her chin in thought. “I’ve got a big oak barrel in back. I was going to use it as a rainbarrel, but never got around to it. You could use that, if we sawed it in half—or just took the lid off, if you didn’t mind stamping grapes on your hind hooves.” She looked up in time to see Blue rolling it into the shop.

“That’s the best you’ve got?”

“Don’t really get a lot of ‘em here, you know. Most ponies’d just trade ‘em with the cooper.”

“If she had any—“ Berry said glumly.

“You wouldn’t be here.” Apple Honey smiled. “I know. Nopony wants to be here when their stuff’s broken. So, will this barrel work for you?”

“Yeah.” Berry ran a hoof over the wood. “Well, it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. I think—it’d be cheaper if you just took the lid off, right?”

Apple Honey nodded. “Less coopering work for me.”

“Can I pick it up at the end of the day? I’ve got to get back to my stand. I’ve got Cherry Berry watching it, but it’s not fair to make her run two stands.”

“Sure. I’ll have it done by then.”

• • •

Apple Honey and True Blue had gotten to work as soon as Berry left, knocking the hoops off the staves and then fishing the head out of the barrel. She’d just finished demonstrating how to use a rope to pull the staves back together—not really necessary on this barrel, but still a handy bit of knowledge—when she heard the town’s fire bell begin to clang.

She dropped the hoops over the barrel and picked up the wooden mallet, handing it to Blue. “It's going to be a little slow this afternoon,” Apple Honey said thoughtfully. “Half the ponies in town will have followed the fire engine. Now would be a good time to return Night Soil's wagon.”

“We're closing early?”

“No. You've got to stay here and put this barrel back together, then take care of the shop until I get back.”

“Aww.” True Blue's ears fell. “But . . . I don't know how to do anything.”

“Sure you do.” Apple Honey ruffled her mane. “And you'll know more if you have to learn it on your own. Adversity builds character, my dad always says.”

“I know. He told me the same thing last time he was here.” She brightened slightly. “If the wagon's gone, it won't stink anymore.”

“That's the spirit. Want to help me harness up?” Apple Honey walked over to a wall-peg and pulled down her harness, making sure that none of the straps were tangled.

She sat down on the ground and fed the maze of straps and the yoke around her head, pushing them into about the right position with her forehooves.

When she stood up, it was all mostly where it was supposed to go, which was a plus. Her hip strap assembly hung off a little bit to the right, and she wiggled her rump around to seat it better.

True Blue came over and started helping, working around her hindquarters. She let the filly work—while putting on one's own harness was a mark of pride among earth ponies, it was always faster to have an assistant, especially for things like the crupper dock.

“Pull the breeching strap in a little tighter,” Apple Honey advised. “The muck wagon hasn't got brakes.”

“If it's any closer, you'll chafe your rump when you're pulling.”

“I'll go slow. I'd rather not have it overrun me when I stop.”

“You're the boss.” True Blue pulled the breeching strap one notch tighter. “That good?”

She moved her hind legs experimentally, and nodded. “Good as it's going to get.” Her ears fell. “Why is it whenever I get into this thing, I suddenly have to pee?”

“The same thing happens to me,” True Blue said brightly. She ran her hoof along all the straps, pushing them to make sure they were tight were they were supposed to be, and loose everywhere else. “How does it feel?”

“It'll work.” Apple Honey walked over to the wagon and turned around, backing carefully between the shafts. She'd be a little further from the tongue than she was used to, since it was set up for a stallion, but it would work to get her across town.

She let True Blue hook up the traces before she dug her hooves into the ground and began pulling. She'd gotten special shoes that had rubber inserts for better traction on the concrete floor of her workshop—they cost a little more, but they were worth it. With plain steel shoes, she'd just be skidding.

The wagon felt heavier than it was—the wheel bearings were as worn out as everything else on the wagon. Once she got it moving, though, that would actually be a slight advantage—it wouldn't kick as much as wagons usually did. Of course, it would also be a lot of extra work to haul, but it wasn't that far across town.

• • •

“So?”

“So?' Apple Honey stepped through the door of her shop and began shucking her harness.

“So where was the fire?” True Blue leaned up against her stifle and unclipped the breeching strap. “I know that you asked.”

“Pepperdance’s compost heap caught, and it spread to her toolshed.”

“Ouch.”

“I heard it was pretty minor, actually. Just scorched the walls. A pegasus got a cloud over it before the shed went up.”

“No, your leg.” True Blue dropped the strap and looked closely at the damage. “I told you it was too tight.”

“It's fine. Hardly even bleeding.” Apple Honey bent down and loosened her belly band. “You got the quarter straps unfastened?”

“Yeah. Lift up your tail.” The filly stood on her hind legs and braced herself against Apple Honey's rump. She hooked the crupper dock’s loop on the toeclip of her horseshoe and gently slid it up until it was clear Apple Honey’s dock. “Okay, drop it.”

When Apple Honey complied, the filly fed her tail the rest of the way through.

“Okay.” Apple Honey leaned forward, letting the harness slide loosely along her body. She had to shake her head a couple of times to get the heavy yoke to move up her neck and drop to the ground, but after that it was a fairly simple matter to back the rest of the way out of the harness.

“What do you want me to do now?” Blue asked eagerly.

“I’m going to eat some food. You . . . there’s a broken spring tooth in the scrap bin. Sharpen it on the grinder, then bring it up front when it’s done.”

“But, if it’s broken, why does it need to be sharpened?”

“For practice. Believe me, most of our work is doing boring stuff like sharpening. You’ve got to learn to do that right.”

Once Blue had scurried off to find the spring tooth, Apple Honey returned to her saddlebags, which were lumped across her chair. She pulled out the food she’d gotten from the market, her stomach growling at the scent of the fresh produce.

She shoved a carrot in her mouth and began chewing, hoping that she could bolt down most of her lunch before a customer interrupted her, but it was not to be. She’d just taken a bite of an apple when Heather Rose let herself into the office. “Did you hear about the fire out at Pepperdance's place?

“Yeah.” She furrowed her brow. “I heard it was just the compost heap and the shed—that's all, isn't it?”

“Yeah,” Heather Rose scuffed her hoof on the ground. “But the fire engine got stuck.” Her ears perked up. “Ground's pretty soft out there, that's why the compost heap's where it is, 'cause if it floods in the spring it doesn't matter.”

“And the shed's up on rocks, to keep it dry.”

“Gives the chickens a place to have shade, too. Pretty smart of her.”

“But it rained yesterday morning and the day before—“

“—and the engine dumped a lot more water on already soaked ground,” Heather Rose finished.

“I thought a pegasus put out the fire.”

“Blossomforth, yeah. She saw the smoke, and dragged a cloud over to soak the shed, but there wasn’t enough rain left in it to really wet down the compost heap. The fireponies had to rake it out and soak all the hot spots to get it all the way out. They used up all the water in the tank wagon, and a couple more rainclouds, before they were done. We're going to need a bunch of ropes and tackle to get the engine out.”

“I'll bring my stone-boat.” Apple Honey was already picturing the scene in her mind. “I've got to stop over at Bumblesweet's place and drop off a new bee house for her. And finish eating—I missed most of lunch, 'cause I had to fix one of Night Soil's muck wagons.”

“There'll be food out there.” Heather Rose sighed. “I'm bringing drinks, too. A couple of cases of ale. Might as well make a night of it . . . 'cause that's how long it'll take.”

“I'll head out after closing. I'll bring True Blue, too, if she can stay out late.”

“Bring any extra eveners and chain you've got,” Heather Rose advised. “It's pretty bad.”