• Published 29th May 2020
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Mothering, Someday - Impossible Numbers



Mare's Day, a tribute to motherhood. Twilight Velvet is the ordinary mother of an extraordinary family; Derpy is the opposite. They normally wouldn't cross paths, but in a town where an outsider can become Princess of Friendship, anything's possible.

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The Elements of a Good Carrot Family

Carrot tea?” said Velvet.

She’d just sat down on the sofa, initially next to Golden Harvest until Dinky leaped into the gap between them. Both adults shifted their bottoms aside to avoid squeezing the devil to death.

“Oh yes,” said Golden Harvest. “I started trying that a few years back. You just roast a carrot until it’s nice and hard, then shred it or julienne it –”

“Julienne?”

“Cut it into short thin strips. Then you let it dry out, and then you bake it in the oven for… Well, I usually find forty-five minutes is enough to brown it, but then I do it on a low heat… or you can just put it straight in the oven, and then when it’s done, you put it in a cup and add boiling water.”

Velvet wasn’t the world’s greatest chef, but… “Isn’t that technically a broth?”

Golden Harvest frowned. “I suppose. I tried a version using just the leaves, cooked and diced.”

“And it’s drinkable?”

The offended pout that hit Velvet made her remember unwise days of her youth, when she’d been a bit too cheeky to the farmers of Vanhoover.

“Yes,” said Golden Harvest stiffly. “Frequently.”

“Your tea,” said Amethyst, offering the tray.

Golden Harvest accepted it graciously. Between them, Dinky snatched up her hot chocolate and shuffled and writhed, impatiently waiting for it to cool.

“Cappuccino,” said Amethyst, turning to Velvet.

“Oh, oh yes. Thank you, Ammy.”

Golden Harvest snorted into her drink. Dinky gasped. Derpy dropped the chair she was dragging along the carpet.

Silence concentrated around Amethyst’s glowing iron face, then around Velvet’s horrified confusion.

“Excuse me?” growled Amethyst.

It was Dinky who leaped forwards to the rescue in a whisper. “Don’t call her Ammy! Only family can call her Ammy!”

Velvet hid her face behind a cup. How was it she managed to tread on one mare’s hooves so readily?

“I mean thank you Amethyst no offence intended!” said Velvet in one fleeing breath.

With a mere harrumph, Amethyst turned away. This the others took as their cue to relax and – in Golden Harvest’s case – surreptitiously wipe the stains off the upholstery.

“And don’t feel you have to hold back, Dinky,” said Amethyst, moving on. “I’ve already cooled the chocolate.”

Yes!

Grateful, Dinky quaffed and gulped-gulped-gulped the lot without once coming up for air. Curious herself, Velvet peered over the lip of Golden Harvest’s cup to see what carrot tea looked like. The liquid was, of course, orange.

Nearby, Derpy drew up a chair from the table, and it clattered onto the floor. “Whoopsie,” she said.

“I got it.” Amethyst righted the chair in passing as though about to do it anyway, as part of her “lady’s maid” choreography. All whilst balancing a tray too.

As she moved away, though…

“You were upstairs a while,” said Derpy suddenly.

Amethyst hesitated a second too long. “Ask them, not me.”

“I was getting my book!” Dinky held it up as a shield.

Immediately, all gazes turned to Velvet.

“I… got lost on the way to the bathroom?” she said.

Derpy screwed up her mouth, humming. Then she turned to Amethyst, made to put her own mug down, missed, yelped, and sighed in relief as Amethyst’s much quicker hooves saved and trayed it.

She scraped her chair back. It barely tipped over before landing on all fours again.

“Ammy,” she said smartly. “Can I have a word with you in the kitchen, please?”

Back turned to Derpy, Amethyst tossed Dinky and Velvet a resigned shrug. Velvet got it instantly. Although Amethyst wasn’t the sort to blab over everything, she wasn’t going to tell a direct lie to her mother either. It just wasn’t going to happen.

The fireplace was not lit, yet Velvet wished she could turn down the heat. She was starting to stick to the sofa.

As the kitchen door clicked shut, Velvet’s mind struck out desperately.

Only then did she notice the book tucked under Dinky’s forelimb.

“What’s that you were going to show me?” she said. There were muffled voices coming through the wall; she could dimly recognize Amethyst’s sullen growl from Derpy’s dopey tones, but no words.

Dinky surfaced, mouth splattered brown with a fresh chocolate moustache and beard. She practically shoved the book in her face.

Starter Particle Physics for Particularly Smart Fillies,” Velvet read aloud. “Is that homework?”

“Nope,” said Dinky proudly. “It’s fun. I’ve already memorized the whole Periodic Table.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Hi, hello, little Beryl bored…”

“What?”

“Oops! Sorry. That’s the mnemonic. Let me try again: Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron…”

Intriguing. “Can you spell ‘mnemonic’, by any chance?”

“M, N, E, M, O, N, I, C.”

“I see. And what’s the fifty first element in the table?”

Here, Dinky faltered. Her lips trembled as she whispered the learned sequence under her breath.

A part of Velvet warmed up to her at once. Twilight had liked being quizzed, which caused trouble as Velvet had to be taught the questions, the answers, and how to tell them apart, all of which usually took longer than the actual Twilight test. Someone like Dinky who didn’t immediately have everything figured out was more her speed.

The kitchen had gone quiet since.

Then Dinky finally said, “Tin?”

“Er, is it?”

“Why are you asking me? You have to tell me if I’m right!”

“I don’t remember either!”

Over the easy laughter, Golden Harvest sipped and then said, “You’re doing better than me, Velvet. Though that’s not hard.”

Dinky pouted pompously. “Lady Carrot Top has… other kinds of geniusness.”

Either the carrot tea was too hot, or Golden Harvest’s face often turned red for no reason.

“You don’t mean to say you pester poor Carr– I mean, Golden Harvest whilst she’s working?” said Velvet.

“Well, of course,” said Golden Harvest dignantly, “Dinky and her family are always welcome to visit me on Golden Harvest Hills, work or no work.”

“I visited her when she was in the shower once,” said Dinky.

Indignantly, Golden Harvest added, “And they’re very discreet about what they discuss to other ponies.”

“I didn’t know you could sing in harmony with a tin bath.”

Dinky,” wheezed Golden Harvest out of the corner of her mouth.

“Sorry,” said Velvet as soon as she stopped fighting her own chortle. “So, uh, how long have you known each other?”

“Very long,” said Golden Harvest, “and very well. I was the first pony Derpy met when she came down from Cloudsdale. Ammy – that’s Amethyst –”

Velvet chuckled a little more humbly.

“– got her first job with me on the farm. And this little terror –”

“She’s talking about me,” said Dinky proudly.

“– wouldn’t leave my farm alone if you bribed her.”

“Oho,” said Velvet, nudging Dinky in the flank. “I hope you’re not taking things that don’t belong to you, little lass.”

This invocation of nostalgic fun times was met with shocked puzzlement.

“You don’t mean stealing carrots?” said Dinky, horrified.

Ah. Standards here were obviously a bit different than Vanhoover’s.

Eventually, Velvet unfroze. “Er, no, no. I meant… other things.”

“I’d never steal anything from Carrot Top!”

“Er… you’ve never made a game of it, or something?”

“You’re from…?” Golden Harvest said suspiciously.

“Cant– Vanhoover.”

Then Golden Harvest sipped her tea and the strengthening brew flowed through and relaxed her muscles tenderly. “Ah, now it makes sense. I had an aunt in Vanhoover.”

“Ooh, I’m going upstairs!” Dinky leaped off the sofa and hurried out, yelling behind her, “I wanna show you something else!”

Velvet’s memory checked the dusty old address book. “That wouldn’t be Old Miss Imperator, would it?”

“Big, bossy, booms a lot?” said Golden Harvest, giggling.

Of course, the famous earth pony frankness. Velvet ignored her own momentary wince.

“She could put on a good spurt of speed, I remember that vividly.” Yes, and what would happen if she caught any filly unicorn messing with her prized carrots.

“Well, things are a little different here, Velvet. There were only two major farms here when Ponyville was founded, and they didn’t get along. They didn’t get along in a very pointed sort of way, you see. In fact, they tended to be very firm about things not getting stolen, if you see what I mean?”

“Two farms? So yours and the apple farm?”

Harsher laughs have only been heard out of excited hyenas. Velvet nearly jumped out of her seat.

When Golden Harvest finished, she added bitterly, “Us? Oh, goodness no. We were beneath notice. We weren’t dumb enough to call ourselves a farm. We were novelty landscape gardeners.” She winked three times, once for each word. “Novelty. Landscape. Gardeners.

Velvet waited for sense to be delivered, hopefully first class.

Grunting, Golden Harvest put her tea on the arm of the sofa to better wave and gesture emphatically. “Look, the Apple family founded the town, and then the Pear family moved in when it was expanding. Apple farmers tend to be a bit… possessive.”

“Jealous?” offered Velvet, hoping to keep up. She hadn’t met many apple farmers. In Vanhoover, they had mostly lost the ongoing war against pears.

“Warlike, more like. When my great-grandmother, Spring Harvest, decided to set up a carrot farm, she might as well have painted a target on her back. So she pretended it was novelty landscape gardening.”

“OK, OK, I think I get it. You don’t have to wink so much. It can’t be good for your eye.”

“And this was a pretty abandoned countryside area before Ponyville came along, so settlers tended to be a bit… forthright.”

“And now?”

Golden Harvest shrugged. “The Apples won the war and the Pears moved back to Vanhoover to claim a better stake there. Who cared about a tiny carrot farm after all that?”

“What about the rest of your family? Don’t tell me it’s just you and your little sister.”

A long, years-long sigh. “It’s just me and my little sister.”

Velvet felt the world-weariness seeping into her already. She was close enough to feel the full effect spilling out of the carrot farmer’s slumping body.

“Wh-What about kin?” she said.

“There isn’t any.” Golden Harvest listed off on her hoof. “My grandparents are in the Piney Shade Retirement Home. Dad passed away a while back. Mom left the farm as soon as I was old enough to take over, and then she was out of Ponyville.”

Velvet winced.

“My brother found his calling in the baked goods business. Who else is left?”

There and then, Velvet could see it all: every family member in a framed photograph, slowly winked out one by one, until only two souls, lonely together, stood in front of a barn much bigger than their huddled selves. In Vanhoover, there had only been a couple of farms that faced that fate. They hadn’t lasted long.

“You couldn’t have asked around Ponyville?”

Golden Harvest’s eyes narrowed. “Certainly not! This is my decision. I won’t let anyone down, nor am I going to be a burden to someone else.”

Gingerly, Velvet touched her on the shoulder and held her steady.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

The tension drained away. Golden Harvest’s narrowed eyes relaxed again.

“Anyway, it’s not as bad as it sounds.” Golden Harvest brushed her off gently and picked up her tea, drinking a large gulp. “Derpy and the others help.”

“I didn’t think they were farmers.”

“I didn’t say they did any farming. I just said they help.”

Quietly, Velvet sipped her own cappuccino. It had gone lukewarm, but she hardly cared. Drinks were something to have whilst her thoughts and feelings found better baths to soak in.

Velvet found her love for the Derpy family growing that little bit.

“You never wanted to leave?” she said.

Then she saw the furrows on that face and realized she’d just asked an exceptionally cruel question of a proud farmer.

“Speaking speculatively,” she added.

The furrows tidied themselves up at once. “When I was younger, I did want to go into theatre. Singing, dancing, that kind of stuff.” Before Velvet could open her mouth, Golden Harvest rounded on her and beat her to it: “I don’t regret anything, though. I’d work a hundred farms so long as I stayed with my family.”

Your family didn’t stay with you, though. Velvet very nearly said it. There weren’t many things Velvet was uniquely proud of, but as far as she cared, not saying that at a time like this was worthy of a gold medal.

“You mean D–?” she began instead.

Just then, Dinky burst into the room. Pranced about in a cape so long it was a streaming banner. Landed on boots apparently made in neon. And beamed behind a mask that looked like a mosaic half-made out of tiles.

“Ta da da DAH!” she boomed. “Make way for ELEMENT MARE!”

“Oh,” groaned Golden Harvest into her hoof.

Velvet peered closer at the mask. “Is that… Erm…?”

“The Periodic Table of the Elements! I made it myself, see? See the little atomic numbers? I looked them up. Twice.”

Nothing could stop Velvet laughing now. “It’s very… you, Dinky.”

“Dinky? Who is Dinky? I don’t know any Dinky. I am ELEMENT MARE! I can turn the elements into other elements using my psychic radioactive decay powers!” Dinky hopped forwards to whisper, as an aside, “It’s OK, it’s the good kind of radioactive decay. Your mane won’t fall off.”

Then she went hopping about the room, smiting invisible evildoers with a hearty “KABLOW!”, a lungful of “KABLAST!”, and a mouth-straining “KABLAM!”

“Certainly a very subtle superpower,” said Golden Harvest between Velvet’s giggling fits.

Velvet couldn’t help herself. “And this is your sidekick, the Beta Carrotina?”

“Velvet! Don’t encourage her, please.”

Element Mare landed on Golden Harvest’s lap as though boarding the Elemobile. “Nah! She’s the butler who hides my secret identity for me. I’ll call her Leeves.”

“There are so many things wrong with that statement. Dinky, don’t shuffle so much. I’ll drop my tea.”

Something shattered in the kitchen.

The laughter hushed up pretty quick: Velvet barely remembered the two missing ponies before she shot to her hooves, but Golden Harvest moved faster and was through the doors already. Skidding to a halt behind her, Velvet peered over her shoulder at the scene.

There were cookies, fragments of cookie, and pieces of plate all over the floor. Derpy had her legs stuck out as if to catch something mid-fall. Amethyst already had a dustpan and brush held up.

Derpy gulped.

“The plate was dropped,” said Amethyst at once.

Velvet knew enough to spot a weasel passive when she heard one.

“Oh,” she said. “Is that all? I thought something bad had happened.”

Derpy’s limbs began to shake. She was still horrified and apparently intent on waiting to catch whatever invisible thing hadn’t landed yet. Only when Golden Harvest coughed did she straighten up.

“No, nothing! Nothing!” she gasped.

“Are you s–?” Velvet stopped; Golden Harvest had placed a firm hoof on her chest.

“That’s quite all right, then,” said Golden Harvest even more firmly. “Nothing to worry about.”

Both of Derpy’s eyes pointed apart in shattered alarm. Derpy’s horrified face make a slight shifting noise as though about to break.

She watched them as they both backed out of the kitchen and Golden Harvest carefully put the door between them and her.

Then Velvet and she sat back down again, heavily.

In an undertone, Dinky asked, “Do you think Ammy told her?”

“I think the penny dropped, yes,” whispered Velvet back.