• Published 29th Nov 2011
  • 5,971 Views, 147 Comments

An Apple Alone - Blue Thrush



With her siblings out of town, Apple Bloom has to run Sweet Apple Acres all by herself. Is she up to the task of managing the farm?

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Apple Bloom slowly ascended the stairs of the Apple family home and entered her bedroom. The daunting task now set before her still weighed heavily on her mind. Muttering about her predicament, the pouting pony flung her schoolbag against the wall and plopped face-down onto her bed in a huff. She snatched a pillow and buried her head underneath it, groaning in frustration. The young mare’s dreadful thoughts continued to grow in her mind, making everything worse.

As her downward spiral continued, a rapid pitter-patter on wood emitted from the floor below. The noise tracked up the stairs and into the bedroom as a brown and white border collie appeared with a grin and a soft, steady pant. Winona bounded onto the bed expecting the usual adoration and attention from Apple Bloom, giving off a playful bark. Apple Bloom ignored her, continuing her muffled murmuring beneath the pillow. Not to be denied, Winona poked her nose under the pillow, coming face-to-face with Apple Bloom, and delivered a sloppy kiss on her cheek. The combination of the sudden show of affection and wet saliva now dripping off her face snapped the yellow pony out of her funk. She pulled her head out from under the pillow and reciprocated the kiss with some affectionate petting, giggling softly as she did so.

Apple Bloom sighed softly as she continued to pet Winona. Ah can’t just mope all day, she mused. Ah got things ta do. Applejack and Big Macintosh are countin’ on me. ‘Sides, I got Granny Smith helpin’ me out. With her Ah’m sure Ah can do this! Now more resolute, the young farmpony hopped out of bed and ran downstairs to start on her now-longer list of chores, Winona skipping along happily in her wake.

The late-afternoon sun was still shining brightly as Apple Bloom made her way outside. She went along at a slow trot, surveying the farm and trying to determine what needed to be done by day’s end. “Lesse, gotta git the sheep back to their pen soon, Ah reckon. Tha pigs need feedin, but we need ta gather up more food for ’em first. Gotta feed the rest of the animals too. Hmm... The parta’ tha orchard I was harvestin’ yesterday needs finishin’ up. Think tha carrot fields need harvestin’ still, and tha corn fiel-- nah, we did tha corn fields last week. Oh! Can’t ferget the apple trees Applejack and Big Mac were workin’ on. What parts o’ the orchard were they gatherin’ from again?”

The young mare pondered idly as she continued looking about Sweet Apple Acres. “An’ Ah thought mah chores alone were gettin’ excessive... Ah didn’t think about havin’ ta keep track o’ all this stuff. Granny Smith oughta’ have all that figured out, so Ah’ll just start with what Ah know needs doin’.” She paused, turning to the canine. “Think we oughta rustle up some food for tha pigs first, Winona?” The family dog gave her a quizzical look, tilting her head askew. “That’s a no, huh? How ‘bout we round up the sheep?” The collie gave an enthused bark. “Alrighty, then. Let’s git er done!” Winona took off towards the sheep feeding ground. Kicking her forelegs in the air and belting out an uproarious rebel yell, the eager mare followed suit.

* * *

“Hey, Apple Bloom!”

At the sound of her name, the farmpony turned to see two figures approaching from just over the hill. While distracted, she was quickly jostled by a sheep straying from its path, forcing her to re-focus on the task at hoof. She bumped the sheep back in line and gave a shrill whistle. On command, Winona came to her side and helped herd the stragglers into their pen. With the last one inside, Apple Bloom bucked the gate closed and nosed the lock into place. Her job done, she turned to greet the ponies who grabbed her attention a moment ago. “Hey Scootaloo! Howdy Sweetie Belle!” She shouted, wiping some sweat from her brow.

Sweetie Belle galloped up towards her farmer friend, while Scootaloo flapped her wings a bit more rapidly than a typical pegasus would to maintain flight, buzzing along. She sped over Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom’s heads, made a quick U-turn, and landed beside the other two crusaders. Winona immediately greeted the two with jovial barks and kisses for both of them, tail wagging wildly. Sweetie Belle began petting her while the orange adolescent gave Apple Bloom an exasperated look. “Where’ve you been? We’ve been waiting for you!”

The yellow pony grimaced at her friend’s critical remark. “Sorry girls, but Ah don’t think Ah’m gunna be able ta hang out with y’all fer a while.”

“Why not?” Sweetie Belle inquired. “You’ve got all the sheep put away now. You said you didn’t have much to do after school today and we figured that you’d be done by now.”

“Ah woulda’ been done already if Ah didn’t have a whole cartloada’ work ta do.” The farmpony answered sullenly, pawing at the ground.

“What’d you do this time? Is Applejack still giving you grief over that thing with the pig and the anvil? It survived didn’t it?”

“Tain’t that, Scootaloo. Ah’m not being punished. Somethin’s just come up is all.” Apple Bloom laid out her dilemma before her two best friends, explaining how the next two weeks were going to be fully occupied with keeping Sweet Apple Acres afloat while Applejack and Big Macintosh were away. The young mare’s two friends grew disappointed looks on their faces as her explanation finished.

“Guess that means we aren’t going crusading thing weekend... Or for a while.” Scootaloo moped, now taking over the petting-Winona duties for the trio.

“No, you two go!” Apple Bloom insisted. “There’s no reason y’all shouldn’t have fun just ‘cuz Ah’m stuck here on the farm.”

A happy look appeared on Sweetie Belle’s face. “Not to worry, Apple Bloom. You know that crusaders stick together no matter what happens!”

“But Sweetie Belle, I don’t want to--” Scootaloo’s griping was shortened by a stealthy poke into her side from one of Sweetie Belle’s hooves. “I-I mean, she’s right, Apple Bloom.” She gave Apple Bloom a determined look. “Whatever we do, we do it together!”

“Wait, yer sayin’ that you gals wanna chip in on all this farmwork?” Apple Bloom was touched at the generous offer of her two friends. “I-It ain’t gonna be no walk in the park.”

“Of course we’re sure.” Scootaloo said. “Who knows, maybe my special talent has something to do with farming anyway.”

“We already tried that before. I don’t think your special talent is farming.”

“Yeah, took us forever ta rebuild the barn... Twice...”

“Well this time it’ll be different!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “I’m willing to give it another shot.” She held out a hoof. “Together!”

Apple Bloom grinned, sticking out her own hoof. “Nothin’ll tear us apart.”

“That’s right!” Sweetie Belle reached out, topping the pile off. “Because we are--”

“The Cutie Mark Crusaders!” The trio declared triumphantly. Winona barked in agreement, jumping in excitement. “...And Winona!” They added happily.

* * *

Now that’s how ya sell some apples, Granny Smith thought smugly as she ambled home, pulling along an empty apple cart. Good thing Ah know how ta drive a hard bargain. Not sure I coulda’ pulled this thing home if it still had anythin’ in it. Despite struggling to pull the empty cart along, the aged pony felt great about earning her fair share in the day’s market. Ah’m plum tuckered out. With a tired smile, she crested the hill to Sweet Apple Acres, a farm ably tended to and cultivated by the Apples for generations.

“What in the name of...” The light green mare stared as a black chicken cropped over the hill. “...Kung Pow? What’re you doin’ outta’ yer coop?” She gently kicked the escaping bird back towards the farm. “Git along now.” It promptly complied with the nudge and headed back over the hill. Granny Smith reached the top of the hill and stopped dead in her tracks. When she left for market with Applejack that morning, the farm had been organized and held to the standards of Apple family farms everywhere. Now it was in a state of complete disarray. Nearly all of the animals seemed to have been let loose, with chickens, cows, pigs, and sheep ambling about the property. Winona was fervently making her way between the various creatures, barking all the way. Lacking guidance from anypony, her efforts to round up the escapees were in vain. Some were munching on the grains spilling out of a new hole in one of the silos. Others were busy attempting to get at the freshly-grown carrots that had yet to be harvested. A small stampede of cows raced after... Was that a sheep? Nah. The grandmother thought. Sheep don’t come in purple... Or have a horn...

“Sweetie Belle?” She said aloud. As if to answer her question, the panicked unicorn let out a scream as she tried to get away from the stampeding cattle. Suddenly the disaster before Granny Smith made sense. Where’s the other whippersnapper that Apple Bloom’s always hangin’ around with? She thought, looking a little higher. Sure enough, she spotted Scootaloo buzzing around about 15 feet off the ground, a bag of chicken feed straddled to her back. The panicked pegasus was looking about frantically as all the animals went about their business across the farm. She caught a glance of the elder Apple at the top of the hill. Eyes shrinking at the sight of Granny Smith, Scootaloo abandoned her quest. She tossed the feed bag to the ground and raced behind the house trying to get out of sight.

The old pony had seen enough.

“AHHHHHHPLE BLOOOOOM!” She hollered at the top of her lungs, an impressive feat given her age. At the sound of her voice, every animal ceased what they were doing and looked up at the source of the sudden noise. The old earth pony saw an apple tree off in the distance shake, its fruit toppling to the ground. She witnessed Apple Bloom, mid-buck, as she got clonked in the head by one of the falling apples, hearing a small “ow!” emitting from that direction as a result.

Apple Bloom caught sight of the enraged mare at the top of the hill, still rubbing her head from the sudden attack of the falling apple. Once she saw the cart in tow, she knew who it was. It was just now that the farmpony noticed the utter chaos the farm was now under siege of. She gulped. “Oh, this ain’t gonna end well.”

The yellow pony started making her way towards her grandmother. Scootaloo, having landed after going around the house to hide, gave her a concerned look. Apple Bloom gestured that the pegasus accompany her and face Granny Smith together. Sweetie Belle, no longer having to stay ahead of a stampede, joined the other two young mares as they made their way around animals milling about and up the hill. Winona stood by some of the other animals, tail wagging, and followed the crusaders up the hill as they passed by her. The four stopped in front of Granny Smith, who was staring daggers at them at this point. The family dog took a seat, panting heavily, while the three young mares looked down at their forehooves, guilt apparent in their body language.

“What do you have to say for yourself, young lady?” The angered farmpony addressed her granddaughter directly.

Apple Bloom began to say something when the other two crusaders interjected.

“It’s not her fault, Mrs. Smith!” Sweetie Belle declared.

“Yeah, we talked her into letting us help out!” Scootaloo insisted.

“She told us about how much work she had to do, and--”

“We couldn’t just let her work alone while--”

“Gals, it’s okay,” Apple Bloom interrupted her defenders. “It wasn’t y’all’s jobs to keep the farm runnin’, it was mine.” She looked up at her grandmother. “When I told ‘em about why Ah had to stay an’ work they volunteered ta stick around an’ help me out.”

Granny Smith’s eyes narrowed slightly. “An’ what part of their help involved tearin’ the farm up like an outta control storm?”

“Actually, that was my fault...” Sweetie Belle claimed. “...Not the ‘destroy the farm’ thing!” She added hastily. “I mean, I was the one who suggested we split up the chores so we could finish the work faster. Apple Bloom would collect the apples she needed, I’d harvest the carrot patch, and Scootaloo would feed all of the animals.”

“Heh, about that...” Scootaloo said hesitantly, rubbing the back of her neck with a hoof. “I kinda got the idea that if I just got all the animals out and piled all the food in one spot then I could feed them all a lot more quickly.” She indicated the pile of chicken feed, slops, and hay that laid a ways off, some of which was being enjoyed by some of the escaped farm animals. “I didn’t expect them to start... Running wild.”

“I was pulling the carrots out of the ground with my mouth at first,” Sweetie Belle explained. “That was taking too long, though. So then I tried using magic to get them out of the ground more quickly. I know I haven’t had much practice, but I figured it shouldn’t be too hard to yank some carrots out of the ground.” The white mare sighed, “I guess trying to get them all out of the ground at once was a mistake, because none of them would budge! I thought I was getting close when those cows started chasing me!” She gave a sideways glance the small herd that had chased her about the farm and took an involuntary step away from them.

“I did get about halfway through the trees I had leftover, though, Granny,” Apple Bloom offered. “All that’s left is--”

“Is this mess,” Granny Smith interrupted. “You two,” she indicated to Apple Bloom’s friends, “git along home now. I think y’all’ve done enough fer one day.”

The pegasus and unicorn attempted to reason with the old mare.

“But--”

“We could--”

Git,” the elder mare repeated sternly, stomping a forehoof.

The two non-earth ponies frowned and begrudgingly complied, starting to walk slowly away from the farm towards Ponyville. Scootaloo opted to walk instead of fly this time around. “Sorry, Apple Bloom,” she apologized, “we didn’t mean for you to get in trouble.”

“We only wanted to help,” Sweetie Belle added. “Guess... guess we’ll see you later then.”

“No problem, gals,” the yellow pony said, attempting to brush off the severity of what their antics had caused. “I’ll see y’all some other time.”

With the others gone, Granny’s expression softened a bit. Apple Bloom began absentmindedly petting Winona, looking at her elder with a worried expression. “Look, Apple Bloom,” the old pony said, “it was mighty nice o’ yer friends ta offer their help. Takes a good pony to accept it too; yer sister could tell ya that much,” she leaned in a bit closer to her granddaughter, “but those two don’t exactly have what it takes to be helpin’ ya out ‘round here.”

Not expecting the playful jibe, the young mare giggled. “Couldn’t survive a day here on their own, could they?”

“I’d give ‘em half a day,” the light green mare retorted lightly, “but they don’t have ta. It’s up ta you to keep the farm goin’. While yer siblings are away, yer tha one in charge, and no matter how many helpin’ hooves ya get, if the job ain’t done, tha farm suffers.” She sighed lightly, looking about the farmland. “Much as Ah’d like to, ya know Ah can’t do a whole lot anymore mahself.”

Apple Bloom frowned. She accepted the criticism well enough, but she hated it whenever the elder pony brought up her infirmity. The young mare always looked up to her grandmother as a source of strength and pride of the Apple family, seeing past the old age. Apple Bloom had always had her entire family supporting her, but nopony matched Granny Smith in experience. Hearing her admit that she wasn’t the best pony for the job anymore was depressing for the yellow pony. “Ya do plenty ‘round here, Granny,” she said, confidence building, “and Ah’m sure I can handle this place fer a coupla’ weeks.”

“Well yer gonna have ta do better than this,” the elder farmpony gestured about the farm. “Yer gonna be set back half a day at least gettin’ all this mess cleaned up. If ya get started now you could finish by sunset.” Granny gave her granddaughter a look. “Straighten up an’ buck right, Apple Bloom, cuz it’s only gonna git harder from here.” She disengaged from the cart and slowly made her way to the Apple house to get some rest.

“Yes ma’am!” The young mare replied enthusiastically. On the inside though, Granny’s critical words stung, more so than being yelled at. The angry expressions she’d received didn’t bother her as much. The look of disappointment that Granny tried to hide, however, hit Apple Bloom hard. The young farmpony knew she hadn’t exactly made a great first impression at tending to the farm solo, but it seemed like Granny wasn’t confident that she could do it. Winona saw through Apple Bloom’s charade of enthusiasm and padded up to her, nuzzling one of her forelegs and giving off a soft whine. “I know Ah can do this, Winona,” she softly spoke to the comforting collie, “but Ah just can’t seem to get off on the right hoof. Ah gotta take this one step at a time, git focused, and git what needs doin’ done.” More resolute, she settled into the cart’s harness to put it away for the evening. “First things first: Ah gotta clean this mess up. Tomorrow, we start fresh!”

With a playful bark and the panting smile returning, Winona trotted up to the yellow pony and hopped up onto her back, nosing forward to give her a kiss on the cheek. The collie, unlike the rest of the family, had been around the young mare for nearly her entire life. Born just a few years after Apple Bloom, they had grown up together. While she was an outdoor pet, she had spent many nights sleeping with the youngest farmpony, especially on the coldest of nights. The family dog was determined to assist the young mare in whatever way she could. Apple Bloom smiled at Winona, letting out a soft laugh. “You an’ Granny are all tha help Ah’m gonna need, ya little scamp!” She decreed.

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