• Published 11th Jul 2012
  • 17,202 Views, 1,008 Comments

Off the Beaten Path - PingSquirrel

A tale of someone comfortable with his life becoming somepony not well liked at all.

  • ...



The trip back up along the lonely road to my truck was uneventful and my breakfast much more normal as I could expect for the circumstances. Not to say it was bad either. The Cakes were as good as any baker back home if not better, but it was just some old rolls that I was left munching on. While laying on my debilitated truck's opened tailgate, I got to watch the sun scoot bashfully back a few hours in the sky to a proper morning elevation. Seems the other sister does control the sun. Take that Newton. It's all magic here.

“So, 'Scriber',” I said to myself between the last few bites of my rolls, “Any plans to get me home?”

I was silent and whatever prompted me to give that name seemed absent, so I let the thing drop. As far as pony names go, it was not bad and it did not rise any eyebrows so I was going to run with it. Besides, I had work to do today. Behind me, in the truck's box was a load of metal pipe, duct-work and equipment that were supposed to wind up in some building in Saskatchewan, but given the circumstances, I figured that it was safe to poach from the pile. I would pay my boss back with interest if and when I got back home. So I loaded up everything I thought I might need, though I regretted not taking a proper look at what I was to do.

My tool bag and the matching belt ended up hanging from my neck with a small fan balanced on my back along with a bundle of pipe that was held on with a load strap. I tried to carry it without, but there was just no way to keep it from rolling off, so I ended up laying down on it pipe and pulling the strap around my body like a belt (As a side note, I need to clean those things. They taste really dusty.). There was no doubt in my mind that I looked rather silly hauling so much at once, but I was strong enough to take it and if I could avoid, it was not going to walk between the bakery and my truck more than once. Last thing I wanted was a pony following me home. I was not up to answering the questions that might come up. I bounced a few times on my hooves to test the load, then I was off.

This time, the trip was quicker, and I slipped through town rather easily without even needing to talk to any ponies as I went, though the traffic seemed light. Just this morning, the streets were a buzz of activity in the setting up of the market, and now, there was just a few ponies behind the counters and even less shoppers. All of the missing the ponies were likely waiting to see the other princess a the hospital and that was fine with me. One of the ponies that was left did catch my eye. She was a bright pink one that looked remarkably like the mare at the hospital, but while Pinkamena was dark, angry and edgy, this mare seemed to be made of cotton candy and zest for life. It was with the latter she was driving the florist she was dealing with to drink. I kept my head down and just passed her by as she ordered, “More daffodils! No, wait, I think Twilight likes daisies more. Yup! Get me a dozen tulips!” If she had any of her apparent sister in her, I really did not want to deal with her without a deity in my corner to back me.

“Wait!” she called and I stopped nervously. I just gave a little glace over my shoulder, hoping that I was not recognized. Luckily enough, the pink one was just standing at the cart, rubbing her chin as if she were weighing the most deadly of decisions before her. “Should I go with roses or even more daisies, Mister?”

I blinked twice. I really had no opinion on the matter, nor did I want to give the mare any reason to turn around. “Why not both?” I offered.

“Both? Both! I'll have both! Well, I won't have both because they aren't for me, but they look super yummy anyways! Twilight will love them! Why didn't I think of having both together? Thanks!” she chimed back to me without even looking as she was focused on helping the poor florist create the greatest of floral arrangements that a pony has ever seen. I just kept walking.

When I arrived at the bakery, the bell rang just as merrily as the first time I walked through the door. “Good day, eh?” I greeted with a wave and my best friendly smile I could manage to offer the Cakes.

“Oh! Deary me! I didn't expect you back so soon! Especially with the Princess in town now!” Mrs. Cake returned as she pulled herself from the flour and dough of her own work.

“Unless she's about to come here and fix your kitchen, I do not see how that makes a difference to the job at ha-hoof here,” I said from the customer side of the counter. “Speaking of, can your husband show me around back to the work?”

“Oh! My husband took the foals to see Princess Celestia for the first time. The little cuties were so excited, deary. I would be there too, but someone has to tend the store,” she replied as she turned back to her work. “Just let yourself around and you'll see what you need to do.”

I took up the offer and went around back. Now, I will not bore you with all the details of putting in an exhaust fan, but I will tell you that it went well enough. The work went slow at first as I learned the limits of my new form. I was not as tall as I was, so getting to the ceiling was tricky, but with the careful stacking of a few buckets, I was able to reach it. The lack of fingers was harder to cope with than I hoped for, but it was still easier as I dreaded. What made up for it was a couple of things. First, I still could hold onto a lot of my tools, abet with limited motion. Using tin snips with two hooves was a learning curve I do not want to repeat. Secondly, I was much stronger as a pony as I ever was a human, and kicking out an old run of pipe with one blow was remarkably satisfying. Finally, a hoof makes a dandy hammer. I am sure you can figure out how that worked.

What was interesting was discovered halfway through the day, just after I stopped for a quick lunch. Mrs. Cake provided that, and would not let me speak of paying her back for what I ate in any way. “We can't have a workpony hungry on the job, can we, deary?” was the counter-argument to any and all protests I could offer her. It was amazing the difference a little anonymity has made for me, so in the end, I thanked her and enjoyed the freshly made goods she offered me.

While getting my tools ready for the afternoon of work I needed to do, I saw a free outlet in the wall. It was just like one you would see back home. Even on earth we did not have standardized plugs across the globe, but here I was, looking at a normal three prong plug. I glanced at my drill, and the battery charger that went with it.

“There's no way that this is going to work,” I told myself. It would be ludicrously long odds involved in finding a place to plug my tools and electronics into on any place other than earth. But then again, I just rigged up a fan and all the wiring looked about the same. The similarities between here and home were getting hard to ignore, so I decided to try it. The worst case scenario was the battery got burned, but I only had a few working days of charge anyways, and they would be useless then too. What's the worst that could happen? Second thought, do not answer that.

I gathered up the charger, brought it over, and after a final consideration of what I was going to try, just plugged it in. The reward for the experiment came quickly and the little green “Charging” light lit up on the device. I had to blink hard at what I was seeing before I was laughing at the absurdity of what just happened. Of course, I was taking this as the first of a many part apology that the universe owed me for stranding me as a pony away from home. At least, it was going to let me use my tools still.

The rest of the job went smoothly as I was no longer afraid of wearing down my charges and before long, I was cleaning up the dust the work knocked down.

“Honey, we're back!” called a familiar stallion. I guess the Royal visit was over by now, and the princess has gone about her way. She must not of been in a rush to see me like Luna said. I was quite alright with that.

“We really are!” echoed another mare with a familiar voice.

“There you are, dearies!” Mrs. Cake called back to her family from where ever she was in the store. From the back, I could hear them all quite well, and felt no need to get involved in the greetings. “I hope you had a good day. It has been so very quiet here today, but that gave Scriber time to finish the job in no time.”

“There's a new pony?! I have been neglecting my welcome duties because of Twilight, but since the princess said she just needs time, I think I need to get back in the swing of things!” the other voice cried over the others with boundless energy. The outburst was followed by a laugh from both of the cakes.

“That's Pinkie,” Mr. Cake stated mirthfully before the two started talking so I could not overhear them. It was not like I was trying to though. All I really just wanted to do was finish the work, get paid and get out of their hair. With that in mind, I kept sweeping the dust to a neat little pile. I was just about to start sweeping the pile into a carefully balanced dust pan when the back door into the kitchen burst right open, blowing the it away.

“Welcome to Ponyville, Scriber!” declared that pink mare from this morning as she dashed in, with a ridiculously festive cart in her tow. “I am Pinkie Pie and-” Her eyes met mine and went wide. Her mouth was stuck mid sentence while I just furrowed my brow and offered a hoof to the mare.

The silence was getting uncomfortable so I spoke up. “Hello Pinkie Pie. I think I met your sister, Pinkamena last night. I just wish it was under better circumstances.”

There as the sound of something deflating and instantly the vibrantly pink mare looked dull, sullen and grey with her mane going from the wild tangle of cotton candy to a simple flat cut. That cannot be good. “I cannot believe I nearly got TRICKED into giving you a welcome!” she coldly returned, “What are you doing here?”

“My job,” I replied nervously as I was being reminded how dangerous a mare can look first hoof. “Just about done too. No need to worry about me, alright. Not looking to cause a fight at all.”

She kicked off the cart, and it sailed flawlessly out the door as if she had practised the shot a hundred times, then approached me. “Alrightie, Scriber McMeanie,” she said, “But I have my eye on you, so don't try anything funny. Not even if it is like, super-fantastically actually funny.” An eye should not flex to point out like a dagger, no matter how momentarily it happens. Actually, scratch that. An eye should not flex, period. Now that I have seen it, I can state with confidence that it is very creepy.

“Deal,” I replied, before I went to just to pick up my tools. Every motion was inspected and carefully considered by the pink-grey mare, and every time I looked up, it seemed she inched a little closer to me, though I never once saw her move. I am sure the Cakes could handle the sweeping at this point and I was not about to stand here to with Pinkamena looking at me like that. She seemed rather happy with that, though she was never more than a few steps behind me, watching me intently for any signs of deception as I went to Mr. Cake.

“You're done! How did it go?” he asked me, looking much more cheerful than the mare just behind me.

“Well, you're hooked in and its ready to go. Just flick the new switch, and it should help out,” I replied, “If it doesn't, get in touch with me and I'll fix it up.” The offer to help further was met my Pinkamena clearing her throat behind me. I disregarded it, and offered a hoof to the stallion. “You're a good guy to work for. You're good bakers too, if that lunch is any sort of example.”

“Well, we try our best,” he answered with pride, and he pushed a little sack that jangled invitingly towards me, “This should cover you for the work. And if you're this quick every time, we might hire you again for when we expand the kitchen next year.”

“What!?” the mare behind me shrilly protested. “Oooooh, no no no no no times infinity plus ten! He can't come back! He's totally mean and stuff!”

Mr. Cake was taken aback at that, and looked between both myself and her. “I don't know what you're talking about Pinkie. He's been good and honest with us. You might be thinking of another pony,” he said in my defence, and I sighed softly in relief as I quietly took my payment into my work bag.

“Thank you for saying so. Means a lot to hear that, and if you do need a little more work, I will be around for a couple months so just keep an eye out for me,” I replied as I closed up my bag, “Now, in interest in maintaining the peace, I should get going.”

“Yeah! You should get going! Forever!”

“Pinkie!” the yellow stallion scolded before he looked to me sheepishly, “I am sorry. She's never like this. I have no idea what got into her, Scriber.”

“It's alright. Really. Just might be one of those days,” I replied, “See you when I need to top up my breakfast supplies, eh?” I made for the door quickly after that, but I still heard Pinkamena and Mr. Cake arguing behind me as I went. I wonder if Godwin's Law applied to pony arguements as well. I was not about to stick around to find out though. Once outside, I looked around and the town did look busier with the milling of ponies back and forth.

“Now what...”

Then I had a thought on how to pass the time and prove to myself a pet theory I had about all civilization, no matter where you would find it. I think it was Socrates that said, that all cities would have religion. As the gods of this world seemed to be a little more tangible, I wanted to know if all settlements would have a place to relax and imbibe. With a pouch full of bits, no place to be, no pony to talk to and nothing but time on my hooves, I decided to look to find out if this town had a tavern.