• Published 2nd May 2016
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The Last Impressionist - CrackedInkWell

On the way home one night, Fancy Pants discovers a painting of extraordinary quality being thrown away in the trash in the poorer part of Canterlot. Curious, Fancy discovers a depressed artist who's down on his luck named Acrylic Brush.

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Chapter 14: Of Symphony and Sympathy

It’s been a few weeks since the poker game, and I managed to find somepony to replace Acrylic’s old position to make way for his new one. As Valet, his duties in the house are only required during the morning and evening in which I either wake up or before I go to sleep. I confess that it was a little weird at first to have him help me dress and undress as he gives me my cuffs, shirt, vest, collar, bow tie, and suit. Outside of those, he also helps run the bath in the morning, and help maintain my personal possessions, along with taking care of my clothing such as sewing a new button on or repairing tears in my shirts.

Nevertheless, outside of that for him, it leaves him time to take care of his commissions in the afternoon. Ever since his promotion, he’s been painting two or three canvases a day. Mr. Brush told me that each would take an hour-and-a-half to about two hours per picture to create, which left up to me to negotiate the price for each picture with his clients. Why in the past couple of days alone, he’s already made roughly one-thousand-two-hundred bits, and the week isn’t even through!

This leads me here, standing in front of my mirror with Acrylic helping me for a night on the town. “So Mr. Brush, how was painting for Mrs. Silver Cup?”

“She wanted me to paint her flower garden, sir,” he said has he given me my blue vest. “I experimented a little with the colors a bit, and she said it reminded her of Moneigh.”

“I take it that she’s pleased with it?”

“Yes Mr. Pants,” he then took one of my ties, went in front of me to tie it around my collar. “She told me that she liked what I did with the light and said that it would be a perfect present for her husband. Before I forget, she’s coming tomorrow to talk to you about the payment.”

“That’s good to hear,” I looked into the mirror to check on the bow tie. “Now for the suit if you please.” He nodded and went into the walk-in closet. “So how are you feeling today Mr. Brush?”

“To be honest, tired,” there were sounds of coat hangers being moved as he looked for just the right suit. “I’m glad that ponies actually want me, but after a while, it gets rather exhausting.”

“Perhaps that might be because you haven’t taken the time to have some fun?”

“Fun? What is that? I never heard of such a thing sir,” he said as he stepped out with the suit.

I laughed, “Perhaps tonight might be an exception. Acrylic, how would you like to go on a second date with me?”

His eyes widen and stopped suddenly with the suit still on the hanger. “Sorry?”

“I mean, after that picnic, I was hoping that we could, as the young ones would say, hang out again. That is, of course, unless you already have something else planned for tonight.”

“W-Well,” he gave me the slipped the first sleeve before he walked around me for the other. “I didn’t think you would ask.”

“Why would I?”

“To be honest with you,” he said, slipping the other sleeve up the other. “I thought that we went out on the last date was because you felt sorry for me.”

“Not quite, it was more of a test run. One in which I wanted to do again. Lord Night Light had given me his tickets to the symphony tonight since he can’t attend. Box seats too. So do you want to come?”

“What about dinner?”

“Oh that’s right, servants eat late… well don’t worry about it. After the show, I can take you out to dinner to show off my handsome date,” I ended it with a smile.

He looked away with a faint blush, “I’m not handsome, sir.”

“Nonsense. Just come along, it’ll be fun.” There was a pause when a thought came to me, “Have you ever been to a symphony?”

“One that’s played live?” he asked, “No. Not really.”

“Well come anyway. I would love to have you there. Besides, the way you’re dressed now, you can come as you are.”

To my delight, he agreed.


So after dusting off and giving me my monocle, we were off. Of course, Fleur de Lis came along too on the way to the theater. After we took a playbill of tonight’s performance, we soon separated when we took our seats.

Although we arrived early, there was a good deal of noise going on inside the theater. On stage, musicians were coming on to take their seats, tuning up their instruments or playing a few bars. In the audience, there was a good deal of noisy conversation that combined with the instruments made a racket that created discorded melodies that start from nowhere and end nowhere.

“Is it always noisy in here?” my date asked loudly, we already sat in our box seats and he was covering his ears.

“Don’t mind about that,” I said back. “This noise will be over soon, everypony’s just warming up.”

“What time was it supposed to start again?”

I pulled out my pocket watch, “In a few minutes. Now let’s see what they’re playing tonight.”

We looked at the playbill in Acrylic’s hooves that listed off tonight’s music. They’ll be only playing three pieces according to the paper. The first is String Songs Adagio from his Organ Symphony, the Second is from Gallup Mahler’s Adagietto from his Fifth Symphony, and after intermission was Moztrot’s Clarinet Concerto that took up the second half.

“Have you ever heard of these pieces?” I asked.

He shook his head, “I’ve never heard of these first two before, I think I have with the third but I’m not sure.” We sat there listening to the chaos before he asked, “Have you been to these before?”

“Not as much as I like,” I confessed. “While I do enjoy listening to my records, there’s nothing about music being played live that could beat. I say, what kind of music do you listen to?”

He shrugged, “In the town that I grew up in, there was only a small band that provided all the music for everything. For festivals, weddings, funerals, you name it. I grew up listening to hearing plucking guitars and banging of drums. When I moved to Equestria, I heard recordings of loud and exciting pop songs all the way up here. So I think this’ll be my first time listening to anything like this. Are these songs long?”

“They are,” I told him, “but they’re very beautiful.”

Acrylic looked around the theater at the audience, “They're a lot of old ponies around… probably about two thirds as a whole.”

I chuckled, “That’s because the old are the ones who have an appreciation for this sort of music. The young tend to want what’s new and exciting as you’ve said. Not that it’s a bad thing, but for somepony like me, I tend to want something a little deeper then what a techno band can produce.”

“Deeper?” Mr. Brush raised an eyebrow.

“Just wait and see,” I said while the theater quiets down until our conductor came on stage. There was applause for him that came up to take his place, bowed and opened up the score that sat on a stand. When it all died down, the conductor tapped on the stand three times, cuing the orchestra to ready their instruments before he raised his.

At first, there was a low note of what sounded like an organ before the strings performed their swan song. A melody that a moment later was joined in by clarinets and horns that gave a calming sound of gentle waves of tones.

I turned to Acrylic who was leaning forward towards the orchestra, seemingly transfixed by the music.

“What do you think?” I whispered.

He nodded. “Relaxing, and it isn’t boring at all.”

We sat there for a minute before I changed the subject, “Have you heard anything from your parents?”

“I’ve got a letter from them,” he said softly. As if respecting the presence of the music itself. “They responded about me finally becoming noticed as an artist. Dad was really surprised and Mom was in disbelief that I’m getting commissions.”

“Did you tell them about your attempted suicide?”

He shook his head, “Are you kidding? How do you write to your family about that? ‘Dear Mom and Dad, I got depressed the other day and I almost killed myself by jumping off the side of a building. Don’t worry though, my employer saved me at the last minute. Signed, your son.’ How do you think they’ll react to something like that?”

“But they’re your parents, are they not?”

“So? Do you really think that they would understand? For Celestia’s sake Fancy, the topic of homosexuality is taboo where I come from and they’re not the artist themselves. What comfort would they give if they knew? Or rather, how disappointed would they be that I’m going out with a stallion?” Here his ears folded back against his skull.

I wrapped a foreleg around him, “Does this really concern you?”

“Well… not so much. After all, I’m far away, we communicate through letters, so they can believe whatever I tell them. Sure, it may be a lie, but at least it’s one that they’re ready to swallow. That I’m happy, successful and looking for the marefriend that will never be.”

“Have you been lying to them this whole time that you’ve been to Equestria?”

He shook his head, “Not really, I just happen to leave out some… details about myself. Because I know that they don’t want to hear any of that other then I’m just a happy robot with no worries at all.”

I frowned, “Acrylic, is there something I can do?”

“No. You don’t have to. Just being here is enough with this sacred music playing.” Again we sat there; he was leaning up against me. His eyes were closed, meditating at the holy sound in the theater. “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“What’s your ideal special somepony?”

I took in a deep breath, “That’s a big question…” I thought for a while, “Well… As I said before, gender for me isn’t much of an issue. But my ideal pony is someone that is selfless about whatever fame or fortune I could offer. Someone that I can fall in love with every day that I would move planets because I know that they would do the same for me, one that while not an exact copy of me, is someone that can give me a new perspective on life and art. I hope to find someone who can teach me about a deeper kindness, deeper compassion, a deeper love that will last. One in which that they could change into another gender, but I will still fall in love with them. What about you?”

He nuzzled against my withers, “For me, I’ve already found him. He listens, he doesn’t see me as stupid, he gave me a second chance to live, he helps immortalize my art, and he cares for me because I’m me.”

Okay, I confess… that was heartwarming. “You really see like that?”

“You did the impossible. I just hope that it doesn’t end when it’s getting good. Fancy, I don’t want this new found luck to change for the worst.”

“Hey, what’s this now?” I softly patted his head. “What are you talking about?”

“I have met many ponies that said they would help me, only to leave halfway through. Just when it seems that dream was going to become real, it suddenly ends. It follows in with the curse I have that prevents me from finding happiness.” For a moment, he went quiet before I heard a quiet sob. “Please… Please don’t make it stop. Don’t wake me up from this dream.”

“Now, now,” I held onto him, “Mr. Brush, do you want to leave?”

He shook his head. As the music played on, he became quiet but as time went on, I could feel the tears running down. This poor bloke, this poor unhappy chap. He was holding onto the only pony within miles that cares. Yes, I admit that I care, but as my father says, “That’s what comes for having such a big heart.”

The night went on; he did recover from his moment of depression but remained quiet after the performance. I took him to a bakery that was near closing time to give him a sandwich. But on the way home, as our cab went down the streets with Fleur beside us, he spoke.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know what came over me.”

I patted his back, “No, don’t be.”

“But, I don’t know why I did. There’s no reason for me to be sad. Everything was going fine and then I had to be stupid-”

“Acrylic,” I said firmly, “what happened there wasn’t your fault, or anyone else’s,” I breathed in deeply before continuing: “I think what happened was that you just had a panic attack. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Then, what’s wrong with me then?” he questioned. “I was just there listening to some heavenly music, talking to you and the next… I… burst out crying; only I know there’s nothing to cry about.”

I started rubbing his back, “I don’t see there’s anything wrong with you. Mr. Brush, did I ever tell you that my mother had these panic attacks too?”

He looked up at me, “She did?”

Nodding, I continued, “Even as a child, I remember how she would go from enjoying everypony’s company, then suddenly, and unexpectedly started to break down. She would get very upset, would walk out of the room and cry. Father told me that the best way to handle something like this isn’t to tell them to get over it but to be there to listen to them, and to hold on until it’s passed. And to do one’s best to reinsure that there’s somepony there that cares.”

He looked back down towards the floor of the cab, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. You didn’t ruin anything tonight; I got to know you a little better. Besides,” I lead forward to kiss him on the cheek, in which he froze, “You were very sweet tonight.”

His hoof reached up to the place where I kissed, a look of amazement as he felt the spot.

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