• Published 23rd Sep 2021
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The Only Mark That Matters - CocktailOlive

The story of Radish Root, a pony with obscene cutie marks.

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57. The Second Date

Radish and Light strolled through Canterlot’s farmers market, taking in the sights, sounds, and aromas. Ponies were selling produce, homemade goods, gifts, and snacks from the many booths.

Light paused in front of one. She stared at a basket of fat, squat brown root vegetables.

“What… are these?” she asked.



“They’re great. You can make fries out of them.”

She wandered over to the next stall, which had several varieties of bananas laid out.

“Wait… all of these are different kinds of bananas?” she asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“I didn’t know there were this many. I’ve only seen the regular ones at the store.”

“Oh, there’s way more varieties than this,” said Radish. “Thousands, actually, depending on how you count them.”

“Thousands!” She started to gather some up in her hooves. “Well, now I have to try them all.”

Radish smiled. “Now you’re the one taking me back. After Celestia fixed things between me and my parents, we actually started to enjoy farm life. I wanted to grow every kind of crop there was.”

“And did you?”

“Well, not every crop will grow in the Flint Steppes.”

“It must have been weird, having Celestia just show up in your bedroom one day.”

“Yeah, it sure was. There were times when I questioned if it really happened.”

“But you two are really on good terms now?”

“Yeah. Things have never been better between us.”

Radish’s bunkmates gathered around a poker table in their common room. Spats dealt.

“So, uh, Rad’s on his second date,” he said.

“Mmm hmm,” said Maple Bar.

“After that is the third date,” said Spats. “And you know what they say about the third date.”

“Okay, I’m just going to put this out there,” said Bunker Buster. “Is anyone else worried about what would happen if Radish has sex with someone who’s not Celestia?”

“Why?” asked Maple Bar. “What do you think could happen?”

“What if, like, the universe explodes because he went against his cutie mark?”

“Oh, come on,” said Zero. “My cutie mark is a dartboard- the universe doesn’t explode when I play backgammon.”

“But you know how you got your cutie mark,” said Bunker Buster. “Rad’s is a big cosmic mystery. The cosmos might take exception to being defied.”

“Well,” said Spats, “if Radish being happy destroys the universe, so be it. It was an honor working with you all.”

“I’m more worried about Celestia,” said Zero. “First Halcyon had to leave unexpectedly, then her niece got married, and now Radish is off the market.”

“Celestia operates on a level far above us all,” said Bunker Buster. “I doubt she has desires like a normal pony.”

“And she’s never felt that way about Radish,” added Spats with a shrug. “It’s not like she’s going to start now.”

“I call this day’s proceedings to a close,” said Princess Celestia from her throne.

Her court stenographer, Cricket, concluded her transcript and started to pack up her things. Celestia stretched and worked out the numbness in her lower back.

“I think we did some real good today,” the princess said.

“Yes, ma’am. I agree,” said Cricket. “I’m glad we finally got those gazebo standards settled.”

“Do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“My sister and I are going rock climbing, ma’am.”

“Ah, what fun.”

Celestia shifted her weight on her throne. She leaned on her hoof with a smile. “So, Cricket… any good gossip around the castle lately?”

“Ma’am, your employees are discouraged from engaging in scuttlebuttery.”

“Oh, come on. Surely you must have heard something juicy. Something that has the whole palace abuzz, perhaps?”

Cricket finished packing her equipment and looked at her princess. “Come to think of it, I heard something about Lieutenant Root recently…”

Celestia leaned forward. “Oh, really?”

“Now, what was it? Something about him… and somepony else…”


“Oh, I just can’t think of it right now. Maybe an hour in the royal spa would rejuvenate my memory?”

Celestia leaned back. “I don’t think so, Cricket.”

“Okay, maybe I bought too many bananas,” Light said, struggling with the bulk and weight of her purchased fruit. “Why didn’t you stop me?”

“I’d never want to kill a pony’s enthusiasm for the agricultural arts,” said Radish. “Here, let me get those.”

He put her purchases in his own bags.

“Come on,” said Light, “my shop is a few blocks from here. We can have a tasting there.”

Light led Radish down the streets of Midtown, past vintage clothing stores, bars, and adult boutiques. Her shop was on a sycamore-shaded street, squeezed between a pizza parlor and a barber.

“So, this is it,” she said, unlocking the door. “The rent is really good, because the utilities on this block are really bad.”

Radish read the store’s name off the front sign. “Cat’s Howl? What does that mean?”

“The question is, what does it mean to you?”

“Oh, it’s that kind of thing, huh?”

She led him inside. The store was long and narrow, with aisles of art supplies down the center, and various colorful T-shirts, posters, and bumper stickers featuring odd phrases in wild fonts hanging on the walls.

Radish approached a rack of shirts. “Wait… I see tourists in the palace wearing these all the time. This is where they’re coming from?”

“Yeah! I started making stuff with whatever silly phrase came to mind. It sold pretty well. My friends started suggesting their own ideas, so I would make them and share the profits. It’s turned into sort of a co-op.”

The merchandise featured context-less phrases such as “No, It’s Not ”, “Cool Rocks”, “One Out Of Two”, among numerous others.

“I never knew what any of these meant,” said Radish.

“Well, the real question is-”

“What do they mean… to me?”

“Now you’re catching on.” She spread several of the bananas out along a counter and sat in the stool behind it. “So, which of these do you want to try first?”

Radish pointed to a few of them. “This one is a good appetizer- it’s got a light and airy taste. This one is thick and savory, so it’s more of a main course. And this one tastes like a cream pie- we should save that for dessert.”

Light cocked her eyebrows. “I can’t tell if you’re bullshitting me or not.”

“Try it.”

Light peeled and tasted the first banana. Her eyes went wide. “Son of a nag. How did I never know about this? Thanks for sharing this kind of stuff with me.”

Radish smiled. “I’m happy to.”

A wisp of smoke appeared above Radish’s head, then burst into a scroll.

“Gah!” howled Light, flailing backwards. She fell off her stool and hit the carpet. “What the fuck was that!?”

“Sorry, it’s for me. Twilight Sparkle magically sends me mail sometimes.”

Light climbed back into her stool. “What? Is there some kind of national emergency?”

Radish opened the scroll. “Uh, let’s see… Pinkie Pie found an old joke book and annoyed everyone in town with constant knock-knock jokes…”


“...so the townsfolk called an emergency meeting and… banned knock-knock jokes...”


“But it turned out that the joke book was actually a prison for a gremlin, and the only way to put him back was to let Pinkie Pie finish all the jokes, but-”


“Uh, long story short, everyone learned a lesson about… communicating, or something.”

Light crossed her hooves. “Just how often does Twilight send you stuff like this?”

“I can talk to her about setting some kind of… ‘Do Not Disturb’ schedule.”

“Yeah?” Light looked down. “Then… how about you make next weekend ‘Do Not Disturb’?”

“Are you saying you still want a third date?”

She smiled. “Yeah. I do. You’re pretty different from every guy I’ve dated, and I think I like that.”

“You’re different from all the girls I know. And I like that, too.”

Another scroll burst overhead. It landed on the counter atop the bananas. Radish and Light stared at it.

“You know,” said Radish, “I think this one can wait.”

“Are you kidding? I can’t wait to hear the next chapter of that saga.”

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