• Published 14th Sep 2017
  • 274 Views, 11 Comments

Love Song of a Loser - Pascoite


Applejack doesn’t get the chance to speak that often, to say what she really wants. That’s okay. I’d like to have a conversation with her anyway.

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Love Song of a Loser

Author's Note:

I’ve marked this as a sequel to “My Domestic Equestria,” but it’s not a continuation of that. It’s more a spiritual successor, in the same vein of what impact ponies have had on my life.

I still don’t know if it was a good idea to post this, but here goes. Thanks to Present Perfect and themaskedferret for giving me their thoughts and encouraging me to let at least the few people who might find something interesting here see it.

If you were hoping for an actual sequel, I do have notes on other games my son and I have played, though there’s nothing terribly different, and I’d make that an added chapter anyway, not a separate story.

I read once that all fiction is a lie, that the author merely adds enough detail, makes things reasonable, and insists it all happens, to the point the reader becomes convinced of it and believes the lie. All the guidelines for good writing only constitute ways of making the reader drop his objections to the utter falsehoods.

So Applejack walks over and shakes her mane out. She’s gotten a little muddy bucking apples after the recent rains, but dirt never bothers her.

Sound like her? I think so. But wait, I haven’t painted the picture yet. Yeah, sorry, it’s one of those stories.

Sweet Apple Acres spreads all around like the green jewel she knows it is, flecked with red apples, as if Pinkie Pie herself had strewn them about like bits of juicy confetti while on a sugar rush. I don’t recall seeing any other color there, but they did grow corn that one time. The weather never gets too hot here, not that she’d care. Over the years, she’s gotten so used to all the birdcalls around her that she barely notices anymore, except when she pauses for a drink of cider; then she can breathe easy and really listen for a change. But they’re so ingrained in her mind that she can hum along, second only to Fluttershy. She gathers all these things up and stores them away, and they don’t always come immediately when bidden, but family wisdom just accumulates like that.

A few shouts sound from over by the clubhouse—Apple Bloom playing with her friends, no doubt. Granny Smith, enjoying a nap back at the old homestead, and Big Mac somewhere off in the fields. It’s easy to place him there so I don’t have to think about where else to put him.

It can’t be too easy to keep the grass mowed between all the apple trees, but they manage it somehow. Say the sheep come over and keep it cropped short. Yeah, that’ll work.

Are you happy here, Applejack?

She smiles and nods. “Sure I am, sugarcube.”

She calls everyone that, even me. Not that sugar cubes mean anything to me, but she has a habit of using the term. Even though I’m no horse, she doesn’t care.

Are you happy, though?

For a second, she frowns and looks at the ground. Do earth ponies draw strength from that? “I think so.”

You see the problem, then. Are you happy for real? Or just because I wrote you that way? Would you even know the difference?

“I…” she starts to answer. I know all the memes. She’s a background pony, unimportant insofar as she only facilitates what happens to everyone else. She’s dumb. She’s boring.

I don’t think so. She doesn’t take her time answering because she isn’t well-spoken. More that she likes to think through her entire answer before giving it. I’d prefer a considered response to a hasty, stock one. Don’t tell me what I want to hear, AJ.

You know you’ll be the only character listed in the tags, and that could well mean not many people come to read.

Now she scrapes a hoof at the ground. “If I’m happy, I’m happy. I guess you might take it like someone in one o’ them old folks’ homes who’s out of his gourd. We like to think how bad they must have it, but really, we feel worse, right? If they’re frightened or in pain or something, yeah, it’s easy to call it bad. But if they’re doin’ just fine off in their little world? We should all have it so good.”

She didn’t respond to the last part, about her character tag. I’d hug her, but man, that opens a can of worms.

A lot of these fans are still pretty young, you know? Little kids have a sense of family, and it gets important again once you grow older. But it seems like it doesn’t hold as much sway for those in between. Still trying to forge their own identities, which means not hewing to a group like that. I admire you, though, AJ.

And she laughs. “I don’t mind, sugarcube. I can’t help being that way, as you might say—heh, now don’t that sound like Zecora?—but I love my family. I would, no matter what.”

I hope so. Plus you like to cut to the chase, avoid all the nonsense. The practical one. I’ve said this before, but I think that’s another reason people call you boring: they don’t like practicality in their fantasy world. Do you remember that?

“Naw,” she says, shaking her head, “but that sounds about right.”

I sit there for a minute, not saying anything. Of course that’s not true, since I’m writing this, but Applejack still picks up on it.

“So, sugarcube, you have some grand adventure planned for me? Some time with the family? Maybe I get into a tussle with Rainbow Dash?”

No. I didn’t really have any ideas for a story. I do have one I planned to write years ago but never got around to—see, this would take place right after “Look Before You Sleep,” and you still felt bad about what happened at the sleepover, so you invite Rarity over to have dinner with your family, and she doesn’t trust you, but it’s also looked down upon to refuse an invitation like that, so… well, I don’t want to spoil it. I might yet write it.

“She doesn’t trust me? The most dependable, most reliable—”

Relax. You know it’ll all turn out fine.

“I s’pose.”

It’s not really a setup for anything bad to happen, plus I just don’t have a taste for hopeless endings.

“You didn’t spell that as ‘Ah.’”

Readers know how you talk. Yeah, yeah, I wrote a “s’pose,” so I’m inconsistent, but there is a difference. Anyway, here, I’ll get another pen. You write your dialogue, however you want to. Just put it in quotes so it fits what I’ve written so far. I’ll fill in the narration bits.

“You’re doing fine by me.”

No, really. It’s important to me. Like I said, how do you know whether you choose to say things because you actually want to or because I wrote that you wanted to? It’s another one of those outright lies, something I can never truly convince the reader of, but I want to give you a voice. Please?

She slouches a bit, but I think it’s all an act; a spark glints in her eye as she takes the pen in her mouth. She doesn’t get to do this very often.

“Alright. If you don’t have a story planned, why’d you bring me out here?”

Yeah, as much of a “cut the crap” pony as ever. I probably should start making a point, or I’d have no purpose. I shouldn’t waste the reader’s time, after all.

“Well?”

I wouldn’t have expected this, but it’s difficult to type. Not as much as if I were saying it for real, out loud, to a person, but still… it isn’t something inconsequential that blazes on the screen for a moment, but who cares, because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean anything. This does.

I wanted to tell you I love you.

She blushes, because that’s what characters always do when someone says that to them, right? It’s the approved response, time-worn, tried and true.

No. She doesn’t. Because I watched her and recorded what she did? Or because I say so, and my word is law here? I can’t prove either one, but no, she doesn’t blush, because she doesn’t. She’s seen this enough times, and she can act a certain way if it’s required of her, but nothing is required here. Just be Applejack.

She nods and scuffs a hoof at the dirt like she’s having the most mundane conversation possible. “I figured.”

Not love in that way, though. Do I say that for her benefit or the reader’s? Or mine?

I mean… are you aware of all that? The countless stories where you love this or that character? Where you love someone who started out as a friend, or some new character, or some Anon, or some unnamed “you”? Or where you love a character who’s obviously the author himself? There. I removed all that. I didn’t create some overpowered wonderpony to stand in for me. It’s just me.

“Yeah, I know about those. They’re not exactly well-hidden,” she says with a knowing grin.

But do you mind? If I think about what I’ve written… I don’t recall writing a romance about you. Well, there was the one. But it’s not published, under this account, anyway. I have to wonder, though. Do you like being a part of romances? Do you see it as a violation to end up in them? Or does it feel more like you’ve just read the stories instead of living them? I don’t know. I don’t know how I’d feel about that. I mean, the more mature stuff—I don’t read it. It’s not like I have a moral objection or anything; they simply don’t interest me.

Ugh. I can’t know, can I? If you love getting paired up all the time, if you wish I’d do that for you, would I have failed you? Or if you hate every minute of it and wish it would stop, then that’d obligate me to go on some crusade against it, right? Start into some diatribe of a blog post.

I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Does that make me a monster for not sticking my neck out? Blissful ignorance, huh?

She doesn’t answer right away. Yeah, “diatribe.” I used a fancy word with her, and she knows exactly what it means. She isn’t dumb. Like I said, she just wants to think things through completely first, make the most succinct and precise answer she can. Her brother takes it to the extreme, but an economy of words is just another offspring of economy, something the Apples know well.

“I’m a fictional character, sugarcube. I knew how all this would go when I signed up for the gig.” Her tied-back mane flips around with her laughter. If she can at least joke about it…

“See, you might as well ask the cow if he minds munching on grass. It’s just what he knows. It don’t bother him none.”

Well, abuse is just what some people know. That doesn’t make it okay.

For a second, she opens her mouth, but she has to think it over again. Now she has the same problem I do: she can only ask me to believe her. I can never know for certain.

“You have nothing to worry about. And I wouldn’t lie.”

So it doesn’t bother her? Or she just doesn’t blame me? That’s probably as much of an answer as I’ll get.

Anyway. I’ve wandered off topic.

I’m reading a book right now where the author relates his adult life to his obsession with sports, and in places, he’s brutally honest about it, and I admire his courage. A lot. Could I do that? I really wanted to here, to bare some really personal things about what ponies have meant in my life. Would people even want to hear that?

“You gotta say what’s on your heart, sugarcube.”

I already said I loved you. What more do you want?

“Har-dee-har.”

I mean… you’re all just so adorable and fun, and I’ve loved spending time with you. I always wonder if it’s too much, though. My son’s enjoyed watching with me, and he’s gotten some of the toys, picked out others for me. I spend a lot of time helping authors, though. Too much? I don’t know.

I almost always play with him when he asks, but he’s getting to the age where he doesn’t ask much anymore. Was it enough? Did I let all that take too much attention away from him and my wife?

“You know I can’t answer that. You also know what family means to me.”

Yeah. It’s just… I’ve helped so many people. It’s a great feeling, seeing that someone made real, verifiable progress as an author, that someone got a new appreciation for some aspect of writing because of the time I gave them, and I wouldn’t have had much of that knowledge to pass on if not for this community. I’ve learned so much, and I want to give back, but all the late nights start getting to me.

Just one more chapter so I can get a response to this author sooner, just one more story to keep the reviewing queue going, and once in a while, I dare to take a few hours to myself and write something of my own. I don’t do that much anymore, you know. But pushing all the time, a little more, a little more, and living on far less sleep than I should, for years now, all because it feels good to help.

Then knowing I’ve pushed too far, because it gives me an arrhythmia, and I have to make sure to get to bed earlier, midnight this time, no later, and then I look at the clock and how did it get to be 1 AM already? Tomorrow. I’ll catch up on sleep tomorrow. Just enough to where it goes away, live on the edge.

She looks down and scrapes a hoof over the emerald blades of grass. “Shoot, it’s not worth hurting yourself over me. I didn’t want that.”

I know. It’s not your fault. I could be more conscientious about it if I really wanted to.

“Well, take care of yourself, then.”

See, you even have me doubting now. You used my speech tic there.

Applejack only shrugs.

Jeez, I… I cover my eyes and look at the floor. Except of course I don’t; I’m sitting here typing this.

About one of those “just another chapter” times… you know how it is with kids. Babies need constant attention, then when they grow into toddlers, you have no privacy, and both will leave you exhausted. My wife’s got a very narrow window of time between putting the kid to bed and getting zonked out. So she came downstairs wearing something slinky, and I was not five minutes from a good stopping place of helping an author, but that’s all the delay it took for her to fall fast asleep.

And now there are… medical complications. Not that she can’t—it’s just caused some issues, for years, that finally went away, but now maybe they’re back, and—

“I got the picture, sugarcube. Or close enough, anyway.”

You can’t take for granted that anything in your life will always be there. Five minutes made me feel like I’d made a value judgment, and I never let it happen again. Sure, I get the occasional comment about how much time I spend on the computer, but if I shuffled around tending to four hobbies instead of one, I don’t think anyone would complain. I’d look busier, I guess, even if I wasn’t being more productive. But I do make time for them. I hope it’s enough.

There goes another downvote.

At least I did it. I put myself out there.

“Did it help?”

I don’t know. But I do love you. I love all of you. Yeah, you’re adorable and cuddly, but that’s extra. What I love is what I was able to do because of you. I hope I’m a better person. But you did give me another way of relating to my son, and I’ve learned a lot about storytelling that I could pass on to a lot of other people. I think I’ve made a little mark in the world, and I never would have without you.

She doesn’t get the limelight very often, and this time, she does blush. The pen drops. She doesn’t have anything to write. She just gives me a hug before she fades away.

Thank you, Applejack.

Comments ( 11 )

That was the best love note and thank you I've ever read.
*sniff*
And just so you know, at least from me, you're doing great.

And like AJ said, take care of yourself. You're terrific!

Man that was touching. Based on the previous story at least, it sure sounds like Applejack and her friends helped you get really close to your son.

I'm so glad you published this.

Yeah, sorry, it’s one of those stories.

don't you fucking patronize me

I know all the memes.

don't you fucking patronize me

I wanted to tell you I love you.

miss me with that shit i'm out

I know almost exactly how you feel. I probably should say more, but my husband is waiting for me to put Trixie to bed, and I'm writing this comment. So I'll stop now, and I'm going to enjoy bedtime more tonight. Thank you for writing this.

8429014
Y'know, I do imagine you must very well be in a similar situation. I know you've brought your family to Bronycon before, but I don't know how much they'd actually want to go of their own accord. My family doesn't know that much about what the show means to me, just that I like it, and wifey knows I write stories about it. She's read a couple humanized versions, but none of the pony ones yet, though there are a few she wants to, and I'll let her.

I'm digressing though. I imagine you're even more in the situation of trying to balance the time you put into pony and worrying that you've got it all wrong. If you remember the show "Boy Meets World" that started in the 90s, there was an episode where the dad Alan takes his two sons to an art museum. He has nice discussions with the younger one (Cory, the titular boy) while he just kind of treats the older son Eric, who's always portrayed as a scatterbrained goofball, like more of a tag-along. I'd love to paste in the whole scene, because it's a very powerful moment, but I'll just say the episode title is "Raging Cory" if people want to look it up and watch the whole thing. Long story short, Alan asks Eric for his take on a piece of art, leading to this exchange about an abstract sculpture with various shapes of polished metal:

Eric: A monkey. [pauses] Two monkeys, and they're fighting over a coconut, which symbolizes the father monkey's attention.
Alan: Uh, this may not have been a good idea.
Cory: Well, Dad, it is open to interpretation, you know?
Eric: My interpretation is that the artist is illustrating a very painful situation, where the father monkey has two sons, but only one coconut, so he splits the coconut in half, but only a half a coconut isn't enough for either son.

There's more goodness to this scene, but as Alan and Eric eventually walk off to discuss another piece, Cory stays behind to look at the art's title plaque, which says "Monkeys With Coconut."

But it's that bit about how you only have one coconut, and both sons want the whole thing, and the father can never satisfy everyone, that this puts me in the mind of. Good things come from both, but I'm never sure I'm finding the right balance.

8429131
God, I never know if I'm doing the right thing with my family, but splitting time between myself (and my fandom) and them is definitely a part of that. It's a bit easier with my husband, who writes RPGs part time and is more casually in Star Wars and LotR fandoms himself (along with liking MLP), so he at least gets the fandom thing. Of course, this means we're both in the same boat, balancing projects and expectations of a whole handful of fandoms between us and still trying to put each other and Trixie first.

And the thing is, you're never going to know if you got it right until later, a decade or more down the road, when you're either happy with where you are or looking back and wondering what the hell was wrong with you.

Along the same lines (or possibly on the other hand, depending on which way it goes) there's a story I keep in mind. When I was five years old or so, I begged my mother to let me go through a haunted house. She had my little sister with her, but she finally let me go through by myself. I came out screaming, and cried for an hour. My mom was sure she'd traumatized me for life.

I have no memory of this, at all. And I'm a well adjusted...ish adult. Things that seem like a big deal now, when the kids are little, probably aren't. Most of the time, if your intentions are good, things will be fine.

...but they might not be. And you're never gonna know until later. I totally get it.

This was lovely. It was really a pleasure to read. I hope your son still enjoys ponies into the future, even if it's not the same way he once did. Please take care of yourself. You are awesome but anyone who wants your help at the expense of your family and/or health is being monumentally unfair--though they may not realize if you don't speak up. Please get the rest you need. Make sure you're there for your son. Thank you, even so, for taking the time to write this.

And now you've got me thinking about what I've done with my life for the past six years. This was clearly an excellent story; nothing bad could get me to look at myself the way this has. Besides, I'm a sucker for metafiction. Thank you for this.

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