• Published 29th Nov 2011
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Keeping It Simple - Ivory Piano



Big Mac suddenly finds himself on the business end of friendship.

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1. Dealing Stud

Dealing Stud

When he finally woke up it was with the great reluctance and stubbornness all too characteristic of the Apple family. Though waking up in a lumpy hospital bed too small for him and only adorned with a thin white sheet didn’t help his mood much.

He’d done it this time: a dislocated right shoulder and a couple of cracked ribs. Though even worse than the focused pain of these injuries was the widespread pain of the cuts, bruises, and rope burns that warranted the bandages covering him from head to hoof.

Still, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been given the circumstances. There were no broken limbs at least and he’d been injured enough times to know that a cracked rib would only take a few weeks to heal. He sighed, contrary to the popular gossip in Ponyville he actually didn’t have a body of steel but more one of duct tape.

But Big Macintosh was tussled away from his thoughts by a ‘knock’ on the curtain surrounding his bed, asking for entrance to the other side. He grunted to signal his approval and moments later the curtain was pulled aside by an orange mare with a blonde mane. Her green eyes gazed at her older brother with concern and, most heavily, guilt. She approached the bed and propped herself against its edge, right next to the small table holding his harness and a single blade of wheat.

“How ya feeling, big brother?”

He couldn’t help but smile. His sister’s usual rambunctious nature had all but disappeared, leaving behind a quiet demeanor of fault and sadness. It didn’t fit her at all, but he supposed she just needed a little time.

“Ah’m a’right,” he said, boredom lacing his voice. He sighed as he shifted his weight and sat up on the bed, all the while making sure to mask his pain behind a smile, “Ah just wanna get outta here and back to work. ‘specially now that Ah got to build an apple cart to replace the broken one.”

She averted her gaze and instead took a sudden interest in the floor. Minutes passed before she could look back at him. When she did, her eyes were filled with tears.

“Ah’m sorry,” she said softer than a whisper. To Big Mac it was two words too many. He leaned over and nuzzled his kid sister.

“Aw heck, sugarcube, ain’t nothing ta apologize for. Ah’m just glad yer okay.” His words seemed to cheer up the mare, if only a little bit. Then, not being much of the sappy sort of pony, he quickly changed the subject, “Any word on when Ah’ll be outta here?”

With a slight smile she answered him, “There’s ain’t much damage done, so Nurse Redheart says ya can come home tonight after she takes a last look.”

Big Mac sighed in relief. Sleeping in a hospital bed wasn’t the most comfortable rest he’d ever had. And being back home in his own bed and close to his family sounded like heaven right now, even if he would be out of commission for a week or two or three. But he would worry about the general feelings of boredom and uselessness later.

“Say Big Macintosh,” his ears perked up a bit as his sister’s tone turned more inquisitive, “me and a couple of my friends play cards in the barn once a month and Ah figured you’d like ta join us. Ah know how bored ya get when ya ain’t workin’.”

He hummed in thought, not to think about her offer but on the best way to tease her, “Ah don’t know, AJ. Seems like Ah could be doing better things than playin’ old mare with a bunch of fillies.”

Just as he had expected Applejack was on it like ugly on a diamond dog, “Now wait just a pony pickin’ minute, for yer information we play poker.”

“Really?” he said, feigning surprise. “Let me guess, five-card draw?”

“Nope. Whinnyssippi stud, no limit, one hundred bit buy-in.”

Big Mac’s interest was genuinely piqued. A hundred bits was a sizable chunk of change after all.

“When?” he asked. It was enough for Applejack to crack a smile.

“A week from tomorrow after sundown. Now if ya’ll excuse me, Ah still got some chores to do back at the farm.” She gave her big brother a farewell nuzzle before turning to take her leave. But she stopped suddenly and turned to face him, “Is there,” she paused for a moment as if to look for the right words, “anything ya want me to tell my friends?”

He took his time to think of an answer, “Tell ‘em I don’ want to be bothered ‘bout this.” As he said it he knew he didn’t like the sound of it. The phrasing just had too much annoyance laced in its words.

“Ya want me to say it a bit nicer, don’t ya?” his sister asked, earning a nod from him. Good ol’ AJ was always able to read him pretty clearly when the need arose. It was with a grateful smile that he saw her go.

It took a final check-up and a promise to not overexert himself for Big Mac to finally be released, but not without an argument with the nurse about wearing his harness. In the end, Nurse Redheart finally gave in. As he left the clinic and entered the early night he ignored the ring of pain around his neck where the familiar weight of the wood rested. He tested the limits of his battered body and was glad to find that his shoulder, though aching, only caused him debilitating pain when he placed all his weight on it. His cracked ribs, meanwhile, only posed a problem if he twisted and bent his body or took a deep breath.

With his thresholds known, he made his way back to Sweet Apple Acres and the family waiting for him. At least, that’s where he intended to go before an idea came to him and he suddenly turned around to the opposite direction.

It didn’t take long for him to reach the huge tree that housed both the extensive library of Ponyville and the purple librarian unicorn charged with its care. He walked up to the door and wondered whether he should knock or not. It was a public library after all and it wasn’t that late in the day. But it was also a house, a mare’s one at that, and he would hate to intrude.

After comprehending the inanity of the debate, he resigned himself to knock a couple of times on the door. It only took a few moments for it to glow with unicorn magic and open a second later. On the other side stood a purple unicorn with a dark mane with a contrasting dark pink and purple stripe.

She seemed taken aback at first by the mass of bandages before her. It only lasted a moment, however, as she recognized the general form of the pony standing at her doorstep.

“Oh Big Macintosh, come in. You know you don’t have to knock when the library’s open.” Her voice was casual as she stepped aside to let him through. As he entered he noticed that she didn’t quite look him in the eyes.

“Woah, Big Mac, is that you? You know Nightmare Night isn’t for a few months, right?” A small purple and green dragon holding a feather quill and a sheet of parchment appeared from behind the unicorn.

“Spike!” the mare whispered harshly to the dragon before turning back to Big Macintosh, “Sorry. I was just about to write a letter to Princess Celestia. Are,” she paused for a brief second, “are you feeling okay?”

He smiled kindly, “Eeyup.”

“Oh, well is there anything I can help you with?”

“Nnope.”

“O-okay, I’ll just leave you to it then,” she said with a nervous smile. It was all the incentive Big Macintosh needed to walk past her and begin perusing the shelves of the library for the books he needed. It wasn’t a hard task since the library was organized in alphabetical order by subject. He started looking under ‘C’ for carpentry when Twilight Sparkle began reciting her letter aloud for Spike to transcribe.

“Dear Princess Celestia,” he was a bit surprised that she didn’t mind him being close by and within earshot while she composed her letter. He tried his hardest to drown out her voice with his own thoughts. He just didn’t feel comfortable eavesdropping like this. But no matter how hard he tried her voice sung loud and clear.

“Today Applejack learned an important lesson about taking on more than she can handle…again. She also learned the importance of doing a job right and to never take the easy way out, no matter how much others say otherwise. And I learned that even though something may be done with good intentions, without proper forethought and caution things might not…” She stopped and Big Mac pretended not to feel her gaze on him, “turn out so well. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”

Once silence had resettled within the library, he finally found a book on basic carpentry that seemed to suit his needs. Grabbing the book within his teeth, he walked over to the checkout desk and placed it on the wooden surface before turning back to the bookshelves. It took him less time to find a good book on poker strategy. As he walked back towards the counter he found Twilight Sparkle already there.

She took the books from him and levitated a pad of paper and quill to her. There she wrote down the names of the books as well as Big Macintosh’s name. She didn’t bother asking for a library card.

“Big Mac, about earlier-“

“Ain’t nothing to say Miss Sparkle.” She was about to speak again, but he raised a hoof to stop her, “Now Ah mean it. Ah ain’t mad at ya for what ya did. Ah know ya were just tryin’ to help my sis and Ah appreciate that. Ah’m just glad y’all are okay.”

“But you aren’t,” she said as she pointed to the bandages on his body. Which pretty much meant she was pointing to his body in general.

“Now don’t fret none, this ain’t nothin’ but a few cuts and cracks.” He smiled and it seemed to be enough to make the unicorn give him a genuine smile of her own and drop the subject altogether, “But can ya do me a favor and stick these inta my harness?”

She nodded and with a bit of magic managed to squeeze the books securely into his yolk while Big Macintosh made sure to hide the pain from the added pressure on his bruises. With a last goodbye he left the library and made for home.

-*-

The next week was spent in boredom interrupted with a bit of light reading. While the book on carpentry proved helpful, there really was nothing he could do until he made a full recovery. And though the book on poker strategy filled him in on a few pointers, most of what it covered he had already known. Things like an ante being the beginning community bet before the deal and a bring-in being the bet that a player places after the first cards are dealt, usually the player with the worst showing hand. Other than that, the rules for Whinnyssippi Stud were pretty straightforward.

First three cards were dealt, two face down and one face up followed by a round of betting. Then two more face up cards and another round of betting. Another face up card, another round of betting. Then a final up-card and a final round of betting before a showdown, where every player left revealed their hidden two cards and saw who could make the best five-card hand.

Other than the cursory reading, he spent most of his recovery laying about the house like a useless red rock. At first he had tried to sneak in a few chores, nothing particularly hard, just chores like moving some buckets of apples and fixing the fence that bordered the Apple family property. But once Applejack found out she gave him such a verbal lashing that he didn’t dare try it again.

So he resigned himself to the less physically challenging chores like cooking and cleaning to clear his boredom. But once the fridge became packed with leftovers and the hardwood floors started losing their color Applejack quickly relieved him of these chores as well.

After that there was nothing to do but figure out the farm’s budget. An endeavor he gave up on after the first couple of hundred fiscal years. After all, speculating on the supply and demand of apples, extrapolating the farm’s revenue, calculating the inflation rate, and theorizing on new technologies at that point was the sign of a desperate pony. Finally he settled on sitting about with a deck of cards and practicing his skills at dealing.

As the week went on and the day of the game drew nearer, Big Macintosh became more and more excited. Partly because of his quickly recovering body. Since leaving the hospital his cracked rib had begun to bother him less, to the point that his range of movement had increased drastically. Not to mention the dozens of cuts and bruises that healed since then, making him look like an actual pony rather than something from a horror novel. So when the day finally arrived he couldn’t wait to start a night of poker.

Big Mac was not a whole lot of sorts. For example, he wasn’t the sort to put himself in a position to lose money or the sort to be in any sociable scenario. But the extreme boredom and his slipping sanity had given him a strong desire for any little distraction the world could offer and if he could make a few extra bits from it, then it couldn’t do much harm.

As he and Applejack made their way to the barn he saw two other mares that even he, in his less than stellar social tendencies, knew of. Both legends in their own right, the first was a bright blue pegasus with a technicolor mane and tail known for her incredible speed and skill in flying. The other was a pink pony with a poofy curled mane that Big Mac was sure resembled what would happen if someone crossed cotton candy and marshmallows, a combination the party-throwing pony would no doubt enjoy. Both were waiting at the barn’s open doors wearing saddlebags similar to the one Applejack was wearing herself.

“Hey gals, Ah don’t think Ah need to introduced y’all to Big Macintosh. And Big Mac, Ah don’t think Ah ever properly introduced ya to Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. Ah think you can guess which is which.”

He could, but there really was no need for an introduction. He had seen them dozens of times before but never really interacted with them much. He kept his famous blank face as he nodded his acknowledgment to each of them.

“Hope you’re ready to lose your bits, big guy,” the light blue mare said with a smug grin on her face. But Big Mac’s expression stayed the same though it took a great effort to keep a smirk from appearing on it.

“Big Macintosh!” Pinkie Pie bounced up and done with almost every word, “This is great because you know I know everypony in ponyville and I know you but I don’t really know you you know I know you in sort of a I see you around town sort of way but seeing isn’t knowing at least not really knowing so I’m so excited to get to know you so I can really know everypony in ponyville.” Pinkie Pie’s words, though not rushing out at an indistinguishable speed, came in one breath.

He looked at his sister, years of practice the only thing holding together his blank expression. Applejack took his signal and leaned her head towards him and he, in turn, lowered his own head towards her, “Just be glad she ain’t breakin’ inta song,” she whispered in his ear. All he could do was nod his thanks.

“Alright if we’re done talking then let’s get started, or do you just want to skip the embarrassment and give me all your bits now?” Rainbow Dash playfully taunted as she sauntered into the barn with Pinkie Pie bouncing alongside her.

“Now what makes you so doggone certain you’re gonna win?” an annoyed Applejack said as she followed the other two.

Big Macintosh stayed behind to indulge in a small chuckle. His little sister had always told him how much the technicolor pony got under her skin. What he didn’t expect was for her to get under his skin as well and so soon after first meeting her. He didn’t know what it was that penetrated his usually calm demeanor. Maybe it was her tone, her cocky attitude, the sound of her taunting voice, or maybe something else entirely.

But unlike his sister he wasn’t going to respond to her teasing gibes with annoyance, laughter, or even taunts of his own, that would be childish and not at all as satisfying as winning while playing the unassuming underpony. Not that he wanted to sound cocky or anything.

And with that thought he slowly walked into the barn to see it a bit cleaner than usual. The hay that had littered the ground had been swept, albeit only to the farthest corner. The room smelled better too, though more like scented candles rather than the actual smell of clean. In the center was a small card table set low to allow the four to sit at a comfortable level. On the table was a single deck of cards and right above was the only source of light, a single lantern hanging from a hook attached to one of the roof beams.

Applejack took the spot to the right, placed her saddlebag on the ground, and fetched two brown pouches that she placed on the table, “Ah got yer bits here, Big Mac. Now who’s dealin’?” Applejack asked as Pinkie Pie sat across from her, grabbing her own bit bag. Rainbow Dash meanwhile took the spot facing the door, which left the spot across from her for Big Mac. And honestly, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“Why don’t we make the newbie do it?” Rainbow Dash smiled as she slid the deck towards Big Mac with a wink. Without hesitation he grabbed it and, while never breaking eye contact with the rainbow mare, shuffled the cards with a quick table riffle shuffle finished with a few running cuts. It was quite difficult with hooves, but that’s where the skill came in.

“Wow, that was amazing.” Pinkie Pie said and, bless her heart, it sounded sincere.

Rainbow’s reaction was a little less enthused, “Yeah, it was okay I guess.”

He ignored her and looked over to his sister to silently ask her for the betting structure.

She picked up on this immediately and looked at the other two, “Y’all mind if my big brother decides the terms?” she asked. Without much thought Pinkie Pie nodded while Rainbow Dash chose to add a few words.

“If he can talk long enough to do it, then sure,” she said before turning to Big Mac, “but we like to play for a few hours so keep the minimum bet low, alright big guy?”

While his face remained blank, he couldn’t help but be a little irked by Rainbow Dash’s name for him. But for now he only nodded before speaking, “Whinnyssippi Stud. One bit ante and a one bit bring-in, worst hand. Spades is the highest suit, then Hearts, then Clubs, then Diamonds. Betting minimum is two bits until the last two rounds, then it doubles.”

Despite himself, he was pretty impressed when the three mares all nodded in understanding. The night became a bit more interesting as he realized that maybe these fillies actually knew what they were doing.

The foursome placed their ante before Big Mac began dealing the first three cards and the game started amongst competitive silence. That was the best part for Big Mac about poker, the silence of it. All he had to do was vocalize a raise and call while the rest could be done with simple gestures. He could check by tapping the table with his hoof and fold by flipping his up-cards facedown. All the while he examined the other players for anything that could give him an advantage.

Applejack had the most obvious strategy, usually just playing a straightforward game. She raised a great hand, called a good hand, and folded a bad hand. She wasn’t much for bluffing for the obvious reason that bluffing was a kind of lying and her lying face was so horrible it was outright painful, and hilarious, to watch. But she also had a damning tell. Whenever she felt confident, a small smile crept across her lips when she took a peek at her cards. It only lasted a moment, but it was enough.

Rainbow Dash was quite the opposite. She played a loose game, almost never folding and almost always raising. Even when her hand looked the lowest on the table, even when her hand actually was the lowest on the table. Her only saving grace was her impeccable poker face. No matter how much she bluffed Big Macintosh just couldn’t see any tells on the mare, not on her wings, eyes, mouth, hooves, or ears.

Pinkie Pie…well, she was really in a league of her own. Her behavior was completely unpredictable. She would smooth call a pair of kings on fifth street one hand and fold the same several rounds later, but only after raising. She didn’t have a tell, if only because it was hard to separate it from the flurry of other activities she was prone to partake in. If she wasn’t bouncing she was talking, or singing, or humming, or standing on her head and playing her hand with her hind hooves. At first, Big Mac thought it was Pinkie Pie being random until the game went on and her share of bits became larger and larger.

Big Macintosh himself wasn’t one for complicated strategies. He only relied on his blank expression and a quick calculation of pot odds, expected value, and equity. He didn’t bother with bluffing since it wouldn’t be very effective against Rainbow Dash. Instead he played a passive game, allowing the other three to pick each other off.

Finally after a couple hours of clinking bits and small talk, Applejack was the first to lose all of her money. Not even skill and luck proved enough to overcome her tell. Rainbow Dash went next, her extensive raises and bluffs detrimental without the cards to back them up.

“Why don’t we take a break for halftime? Ah got some apple cider in the back.” Applejack said as Big Macintosh gathered the cards and gave them a quick shuffle. A chance to stretch his legs sounded really good right about now and he had been aching for a bit of fresh air. So after the other two agreed to the break he stood up and walked out of the barn to enjoy the pricks of the cool night air gently piercing his coat. A slight breeze glided around him and rustled the leaves of the orchard and for a moment he smiled.

“The moon looks sooo big tonight. I think Princess Luna isn’t as strong as her sister, or maybe she likes to show off.”

Big Macintosh looked to his right to find the pink pony sitting next to him and gazing up at the full moon hanging above them. He debated whether to answer her or not since there really wasn’t anything for him to add to the non sequitur or really any hook for him to continue the conversation.

Luckily, it didn’t seem like she was waiting for him to answer, “So…” for the first time in his rather limited interactions with Pinkie Pie she seemed to hesitate, “about what happened last week-“

“Ain’t nothing to say,” he cut her off, “Ah’m just glad y’all are a’right.” He really hated to have to deal with this yet again like a broken record. It made him wonder if Applejack had relayed his message or not.

“Well of course there are things to say silly,” she said, throttling back into her usual habits, “like ‘are you okay’ or ‘thanks for helping us out’ or ‘that’s a real brave thing you did’. There are hundreds of things to say and none of them are enough to say what needs to be said. So I wanted to throw a party to say everything I want to say all at once.”

Big Mac stiffened as the word ‘party’ left her lips, the last thing he wanted was to be the center of attention. He looked at her, “Miss Pie Ah don’ want-“

“Bring it in you two, we can’t wait to see who takes it all.” Applejack called from the barn. Pinkie Pie hopped back inside before Big Mac could say another word. He sighed and took a slow walk back to the barn.

“I think it was just beginner’s luck.” Rainbow Dash told his sister, just loud enough for him to hear.

“First off Rainbow, ya need ta be a beginner to have beginner’s luck. Second, it doesn’t take much ta beat a mare who thinks she’ll win a showdown with a pair of deuces and a jack kicker.”

“Hey, it was the best hand showing. It’s not my fault he had a pair of aces in the hole.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle quietly as he took his place at the table. With only two players left Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash switched places while Applejack stuck to her original spot. Big Macintosh grabbed the deck, shuffled and cut it, and dealt the first three cards to start the second half of the night.

The bits were divided somewhat evenly between the two and it stayed that way through most of the night. While Big Mac’s legendary poker face remained unreadable, so did Pinkie Pie’s barrage of randomness. It all came down to the luck of the cards and the skill of the bluff. He would turn out ahead with a full house only for her to win it back with a flush. For hours the two played and no clear winner showed themselves. After a while the two spectators decided they had enough.

“How ‘bout you two just call it a night and split the pot?” Applejack said through a stifled yawn.

“Aww, but the fun part of a card game is beating everypony else.” Pinkie Pie said as she moved the deck towards Big Mac for him to deal the next hand. He couldn’t help but smile at her mercilessness.

“Come on, Pinkie,” Rainbow Dash added, “you’re usually the first to lose anyway. Just quit while you’re ahead. Same for you, big guy.”

Big Mac just focused on shuffling the cards as he thought. It was getting pretty late, actually, and no matter how long they played they’d probably get nowhere for a good while. They could just bet it all on the next hand, but if he was going to lose so much money on how the cards played out he rather it be through a game of pure luck. At least then the loser could blame the cards instead of their play of the cards.

“Miss Pie,” Big Mac spoke and everyone looked at him with a mixture of surprise and attention, “ain’t nopony’s company Ah enjoy more than a pretty mare with a competitive edge, but Ah think it’d be best if we let lady luck decide the winner.” As he finished he placed the deck right at the center, drawing Pinkie Pie’s gaze to it. He could swear her eyes were literally glittering.

“Ooo, you want to draw for it. Okey dokey lokey, I’ll go first.” Without hesitation she drew the top card and flipped it on the table to reveal the three of Hearts. A low card to be sure, but Big Mac wasn’t ready to breathe easy just yet.

Silently he drew his own card, flipped it, and smiled at the two of Spades. With a small chuckle he pushed the pile of bits towards the winner and Pinkie Pie took them graciously, though with a short and loud cheer. She went on to counting her winnings bit by bit.

“Well that was anticlimactic.” Rainbow Dash droned with a roll of her eyes, “If that’s all then I’m off to bed, catch ya later.” With little more ceremony she hitched on her pack and flew off, the wind from her take off unsettling the table's balance for a second.

“She sure left in a hurry, Ah guess she’s feelin’ a bit sore from losing,” Applejack said before yawning, “'bout time Ah hit the hay myself. 'Night you two.”

And just like that Big Mac found himself alone with a hyper pink mare that was currently busy counting the bits she had won. Even though it didn’t take much to figure that a hundred bits per pony added up to four hundred. Still, it was pretty dark out and it didn’t seem proper to just send her off home alone.

“Ah’ll walk ya home Miss Pie, it’s the least Ah could do after a good game.”

“Sure thing, Macky, I had tons of fun too.” She smiled so sincerely he couldn’t help but return it, even if she did call him a stupid nickname.

Big Mac trotted at a gentle pace on the path leading to Ponyville with the bubbly mare bouncing alongside him. Her voice was going nonstop throughout. She talked mostly about the various misadventures she, his sister, and their friends always seemed to find themselves in. It seemed to him that a lot of their problems would have been resolved a bit smoother if they learned to ask a few questions before everything got out of control. But he was too polite to say anything.

“…and that’s where dragon eggs come from.” She finally finished about halfway through the path. Even though she was a bit hard to follow at times he couldn’t help but enjoy her ramblings. It meant he could focus on listening rather than thinking and worrying about what he was going to say. Maybe that was why he felt a bit down when she stopped.

But he soon found out that she hadn’t really stopped, only slowed down, “So…” again she showed that uncharacteristic hesitation, “what kind of cake do you like?”

He smiled, “Now is that the infamous Pinkie Pie tryin’ to use tact?”

“Well I…I thought that if I mentioned the party you wouldn’t want it so I thought you might like it better if you knew there’d be cake. Everypony loves cake.”

“Ah a’ready said Miss Pie, Ah don’t want a party.” It came out a bit firmer than he meant it to. Thankfully she didn’t seem to notice.

“Why not? You deserve it after what you did for us. Plus you’re always working on the farm, so I thought you’d like to relax a bit and not be so stiff.” She froze and fell to her side, still as a statue, to illustrate her last point. It was enough to get a small laugh from him.

Without thinking he helped her up, placing his muzzle underneath her and lifting her back to her feet. The faint smell of sugar and vanilla wafting into his nose made him realize how much he intruded on her personal space, even if it was to help her.

“Ah’m sorry,” he said, quickly backing a step away from her.

Again Pinkie Pie didn’t seem to notice a thing, “Thanks. Hey, did anypony ever tell you how much you smell like apples? I mean Applejack smells like apples too but you really smell like apples and I think a little like mud but in a good way like how dirt smells just before it rains.” She smiled in that way that forced him to smile back no matter how much he didn’t want to.

“Oh well, thanks. Ya…ya smell good too.” He practically cringed as the words left him and he hurriedly looked for any change of subject he could think of. “Ya think Ah’m stiff?” he said the first thing that came to his mind.

“Of course, you’re almost always working and I don’t think I ever see you with any other ponies besides your family. And I almost never ever see you doing anything fun.”

He had to stop and think about that for a moment. It was a new one that was for sure. He’d been called laid-back, boring, slow -in all its meanings- but never stiff. Sure he was hard working but he was quite proud of his work ethic. Was there really anything wrong with that?

“Ta tell ya the truth, Miss Pie, workin’ is fun fer me.”

Pinkie Pie stopped dead in her tracks and looked at him with a strange mix of horror and concern. Big Mac ignored her, choosing instead to keep walking. But he stopped when she appeared, seemingly from nowhere, in front of him. She got on her hind legs and balanced herself against him with her front hooves on his shoulders. She brought her face incredibly close to his, examining him with a stare of hard concentration. She looked into each of his eyes before stretching her neck to look into his ears inadvertently pressing her neck against his nose, causing her scent to intrude upon him yet again.

“Miss Pie, yer makin’ me a might uncomfortable.”

She paid no attention to him, “Show me your gums.”

He rolled his eyes with a smile as a sudden thought occurred to him. He took a practiced step forward, ducked his head beneath her, and with a quick lift flipped the pink mare on his back, but not without her letting out a surprised squeal. She was a bit lighter than Applejack, but then again it had been a while since he did this last and his memory might be a bit faded.

Pinkie Pie meanwhile was in a fit of laughter, “See, wasn’t that more fun than working all day?” Pinkie Pie shifted around until she was on her stomach and her breath fell on the back of his neck.

“It’s…a different sorta fun.” Big Mac said, continuing the walk as they entered the outskirts of Ponyville.

“A funner sort of fun,” she said and even though he couldn’t see her he could clearly hear the grin in her voice, “the kind of fun a pony has while at a party, especially one made especially for them.”

He sighed, “Miss Pie yer a sweetheart, ya really are, but ah just don’ want a party. Ah don’ feel comfortable around all those ponies.”

“What about a small one? Oh! What if it was a really small one, just you and the six of us?”

All was quiet for a few moments as Big Mac tumbled the thought through his head, but he didn’t have much time to think before Pinkie Pie continued, “You know we’re going to want to thank you no matter how much you don’t want us to. At least this way we’ll do it all at once.”

Big Mac thought about it for a moment before answering, “A’right Miss Pie that sounds just fine, but if it ain’t too much trouble Ah’d like it during the winter when the farm chores have lightened up a bit.” He secretly hoped that she would forget all mention of the party by then.

“Applejack rules, got it,” she said, chipper as always. He felt her shift again and this time felt her head rest on top of his, “But there’s something you have to do for me between now and then.”

Big Mac’s hesitated for a moment, “What’s that?”

“You have to have fun!” she said as she bounced off his back.

He sighed. “Fair enough, but Ah just don’t see why yer insisting so much.”

For the second time she appeared in front of him, but this time her body language was much more subdued and when she spoke it was almost in a whisper, “Because when I see you work on the farm, it reminds me of when I used to work on my family’s rock farm and how unhappy I was back then.”

Neither of them moved for a long while and neither of them said a word. Big Mac, taken aback by the sudden moment of emotion, just stood there as the wind blew through the hush between them. Finally he found the words he needed, “Miss Pie, Ah’m not unhappy.”

She smiled. “I know my family’s rock farm isn’t like Sweet Apple Acres and I know you’re not as unhappy as I was. But fun is still important. Even if you think working is fun it just doesn’t compare to real fun.” Her attitude changed in an instant and with a giggle she continued towards Sugarcube Corner with Big Macintosh, once he got over the sudden change in her mood, following close behind.

Finally, they arrived at the front of the confectionery and the two paused to say their goodbyes, “Goodnight Miss Pie, and Ah do appreciate y’all letting me join in on yer poker game.”

“I’m glad you joined, usually I just let Dashy or Applejack win because a game’s no fun if the same pony wins all the time.”

Big Mac couldn’t help but smile as he realized how exacting her randomness actually was during the card game. He couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to this crazy pink pony than she let on.

Pinkie Pie giggled. “Raging waters run deep too, Macky.” He was surprised when she seemed to read him so easily, until a small smirk crept across his face.

“Miss Pie, Ah surely don’t think it’s a matter of raging water runnin’ deep, but more of if mechanical balloons dream of electric toothbrushes.” He wondered for a brief instant if the pink mare’s eccentricity was rubbing off on him and, if it was, whether he really minded.

“Big Mac, you’re so random.” Pinkie Pie laughed and with a final goodbye entered her home and left him alone with his thoughts. And what thoughts they were.

As he walked back home her words kept echoing in his head. They bothered him a bit, not because they were insulting but because a small bit of him thought them true. Sure he had fun working on the farm with his family but she was right, it didn’t compare to the fun he had tonight dealing cards and talking to Pinkie Pie.

He mulled over his thoughts until he came to the edge of the gate marking the boundaries of Sweet Apple Acres. A small crunching sound made him look down at the twig he had snapped underhoof. As he saw his hooves an idea came to him. He brought them together, front and back, and with a whispered grunt hopped a few inches into the air, propelling himself a few inches forward just as he had seen Pinkie Pie do.

He smiled. In a life filled with routine, perhaps doing new things out of the norm was a good release. Though, these things would be small new things. No reason to reach Pinkie Pie levels after all, he’d leave that to the mare with the knack for it. As he walked the rest of the way towards his warm bed he promised himself to at least try one new thing a day and a fun one at that. But for now, he just tried to get the smell of sugar and vanilla out of his nose.