How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bon-Bon
Part One: A Bad Assign
The offices of the Trotter were a notch less bustling when the rust-colored earth pony entered.
It would be nearly imperceptible to anypony who hadn’t worked there long, as there was always something that had to be done 5 minutes ago at Equestria’s largest newspaper. But a trained ear could pick up that the normal buzz in the newsroom had less of a harried edge; a trained eye could see that the caffeine stockpiled in almost every newspony’s body was being frittered away more in twitching tails than the fervent scratching of pencil or quill to paper.
Presspass hid a sigh as he gave a toss of his head, flipping his black fedora onto the hat rack beside his desk. Save for the details of the Trotter ID in its band, the hat matched the mark that adorned his flank.
“I saw that,” chimed a voice. He turned his head toward the turquoise unicorn at the desk behind him, her mane cut in a trendy bob around her face. Her fanned out tail half-concealed her star-shaped cutie mark.
“Oh what, Celebrity? You mean like only my 257th consecutive perfect hat toss?” Presspass gave his light grey mane a shake of mock machismo.
“Uh-huh; I’ll just keep banking all the swooning I owe you on that,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “You know what I’m talking about. Another bloated meeting of the Hays and Greens Committee?”
“Worse: it was canceled.” Presspass batted his hat into a spin on its hook. “I’ve got nothin’.”
“Ooh, bad day for that, P-Dub,” Celebrity said, lowering her voice. “Stuff’s been falling through left and right today, and you know how the chief gets when that happens.” She tilted her head toward a closed door on the far side of the office graced with the placard, “Etta Trix, Editor-in-Chief.” Although it was impossible to hear for real over the din of the newsroom, every worker who looked at that door could hear, in their heads, the stomping of their boss’s hooves as she wore her traditional “Where’s the copy?” rut around her desk.
The rhythm began to pound between Presspass’s ears as he quickly turned back to Celebrity. “I take it you’ve got your flank covered with some birdcage filler?”
“But of course!” Celebrity smiled. “My column this week is on how some say Sapphire Shores deliberately conceals her cutie mark as an encouraging anti-cultural statement to the youth. But I argue that it’s just a convenient excuse cooked up by her PR team to skirt the fact she has still not found her true purpose!”
“And these ‘some’ that say she’s making a statement... wasn’t that actually you? Last week?” Presspass smirked.
The columnist’s tail bristled. “Per... Haps...” She shook off the catch and transitioned into a low, demure nod. “But I am already debating the most formidable opponent I’ve ever faced. I will not let comments from the peanut gallery deter me.”
“And what do you suggest for a peanut who can’t weave his stories out of moonbeams and dumpster dives, oh clever one?”
“Uh... Well, if I were you, your best bet would probably be to--”
The editor’s door flew open, scattering a hapless pegasus intern and the box of donuts he had been delivering. Hardened eyes scanned the newsroom from behind black rectangular glasses as a dozen Bavarian creams splattered down like gooey, delicious napalm.
“Eh, I don’t run an advice column, anyway,” Celebrity said with a shrug.
It wasn’t that Etta Trix was evil; she often spent weekends helping orphans learn to read. But years of deadlines and endless squabbles with Canterlot’s high-brows had given her a newsroom aura that could leap from her stark white body and strangle you if it felt the need to. Her inky black mane and tail swayed sharply as she sauntered up to the two writers.
“I heard your meeting didn’t take place,” she said. “Anything else lined up?”
Presspass swallowed. “Not, uh... no, chief.”
Celebrity instinctively averted her eyes, but Presspass was surprised to see Etta give a reassuring smile. Very reassuring. OK, now it was too reassuring.
“That’s perfectly fine!” Etta said. “I just got off the phone and have another assignment for you! Apparently a sweet shop has created an interesting new flavor of bon-bon.”
“Good-good,” Celebrity nodded.
“Good-good?” Press arched an eyebrow.
“Oui-oui, P.P.!” she shot back with a mad little giggle.
Etta gave a terse snort. “Miss Dish, don’t you have some celebrity couples’ names you need to smush together?”
The giggle immediately died. “Oh, gee. I most certainly do and I shall get right on that right exactly now!” She gave a strained smile as her horn glowed, sending a quill to paper.
“Yes, bon-bons,” Etta said, turning back to the reporter. “It’s not Pulletzer material, I know, but apparently they’ve caused enough of a sensation to warrant their own party. It should be a nice, breezy story to fill the remaining gaps in today’s copy.” That smile returned. “Yes, just a nice, breezy trip down to Ponyville an--”
Presspass’s face threatened to match the color of his mane. “P-p-ponyville?! Whoa, wait! Oh, no! No-no-no!”
Etta heaved a sigh. “Presspass, I know you have your... ‘misgivings’ about the town, but you’re just overreacting.”
“Overre--chief! There’s something about that place--something very very not right! Whenever I go there, bad things happen! Bad things to me!”
Celebrity glanced up from her desk. She liked where this was going.
“Come now, Presspass,” Etta said flatly. “Not the bunnies again...”
“I was touring that town’s largest carrot patch when those little demons stampeded out of nowhere!” His face grew sullen. “It was a maelstrom of floppy ears, fuzzy tails, and cute little buckteeth that were too frenzied to tell the difference between a simple carrot and the hide of an innocent reporter. Sometimes, when I’m just about to fall asleep at night, I can still feel them; feel the nibbles. Coming from all sides.” His voiced lowered to a raspy hiss. “The nibbles...”
Celebrity’s paper rose to cover her mouth. The chief just stared ahead.
“OK, fine!” Presspass leaned forward. “If you don’t think that was bad, remember that ‘breezy’ little pony interest story you sent me on afterward, to see how the next generation was trying to discover their cutie marks?”
“Look, I still have no idea how you--”
“How I ended up plastered to the schoolhouse bell covered in tree sap?! Crazy fillies, chief. Crazy fillies from Ponyville!”
“The jury is still out on who was crazy that day...” Etta said.
“And best of all, how about that ‘probably nothing’ rumor you had me check out in the Everfree Forest?”
“You should be proud of that one. That ended up being huge and you broke it wide open!”
“Oh, thank you. I am!” Presspass nearly shouted, his eye twitching. “How else would anyone have known a cockatrice was on the loose if Koltchak hadn’t dragged my petrified body out of there!?”
Etta narrowed her eyes. “We took the utmost care of you until that zebra healer delivered a remedy. Why, Celebrity herself even volunteered to guard you at night! We even gave you full, paid time...”
The chief continued on, but Presspass’s eyes had glanced over toward the columnist, whose eyes remained on her work. The slightest smirk appeared on her mouth, however, as her horn sparked and a desk drawer opened, a thick envelope rising just into view. Scrawled in marker, with hearts dotting the i’s, was:
P-Dub Blackmail Photos (for major emergencies only)
The reporter’s jaw dropped.
“Have you been listening to me?!” Etta huffed as the envelope dropped back into the desk.
“Augh! Yes! I’m sorry!”
Etta smiled. “Good; I knew you’d come around. Your balloon leaves in 5 minutes. Deadline is tonight.” And with that, the editor turned and clopped back to her office.
Presspass’s mouth moved, but his brain hadn’t caught up. He finally just glared at the turquoise unicorn.
“Oh, come on,” she said. “Do you think I’d ever really use them? I’m sorry I startled you into acceptance there, but you know she would’ve just throttled it out of you otherwise.”
Presspass sighed. “Fair enough.” He donned his saddlebags and grabbed his fedora with his mouth, flipping it onto his head.
Celebrity’s eyes softened as she gave her co-worker a smile. “You’ll be fine,” she said. “Just go down there, talk to some yokel candymaker and get back up here. No problem!”
Presspass looked back and grinned. “Thanks.” She was right, he thought. How could this one possibly go wrong?
He had a list of 17 ways by the time his balloon landed.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bon Bon
Part Two: All the Ponies in this Town Are Crazy
Presspass stood in front a house.
“Excuse me!” he called to a passing stallion with a half-apple mark. “Is this Sugarcube Corner, the sweet shop?”
The stallion glanced at the building, then gazed quizzically back at the reporter.
“Ya mean this one here that looks like some kinda Neapolitan ice cream festooned with frostin’, candy cane swirls and a giant cupcake on the roof?”
There was an awkward silence.
“So... yes?” Presspass asked with a sheepish grin.
“Ah, well, good! Because... because it’s my job to make sure!” Presspass called to the stallion as it retreated down the lane. “I mean, there might be more than one place like this and--and it’s not exactly on a corner now, is it! I am observing absolutely no implication of a corner here...”
He stared at the shop a few more seconds, then shook his head.
“What are you doing?” he said to himself. “Stop stalling. You are a professional; nothing bad’ll happen if you just go in there and do everything by the book: Be nice. Locate the owner. Ask questions. Gently stay in control. Remind them journalists are not supposed to accept gifts. Take bon-bons anyway when they insist (of course). Get out. Go home. Write the story. Make the chief happy. Spend tomorrow eating all the bon-bons in front of Celebrity!” The pony’s face cracked into a grin. “Yes! This will be perfect!”
The mood surrounding him as he lifted his head and strode confidently into the shop was certainly friendly enough. Balloons, streamers and confetti filled much of the space not already taken by herds of mingling ponies. Lively music wafted through the background noise as partakers happily sampled the treats on a nearby table: a mountainous layered cake, a bowl of purplish punch and, sitting between them, a large plate heaping with chocolate-drizzled bon-bons.
They definitely looked nice, but Presspass gave a curious glance around the room. For a party centered on the sweet little nuggets, there wasn’t really a whole lot of focus being placed on them. There were no other mounds of the candies about, but maybe there were more in the kitchen; or even more likely they were limiting free samples so ponies would buy some for the road.
What the reporter did spot, however, was a likely interview: a short, kindly-looking cyan mare with an apron and three cupcakes on her flank, chatting from group to group and taking away empty glasses.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” he called out to her as he trotted up. “I hope I’m not bothering you, but my name is Presspass from the Trotter. I was hoping I could speak with the owner of this shop?”
“Oh, you’re no bother at all, dear!” the mare smiled. “And you found me! Or a half-owner, at least. I’m Mrs. Cake; I run this shop with my husband.”
Press grinned. Bingo. He’d be in and out before disaster even knew he was here.
“You have a very lovely party here today,” he said. “Could I ask you some questions about it and the new bon-bons you have?” He gave a quick stomp with his front left hoof, triggering his corresponding saddlebag to release a mechanism that unfolded around his front and held his notepad at perfect writing distance below his muzzle. A quick stomp of his right hoof caused a pencil to spring out of his right saddlebag to a clean catch in his mouth.
“Oh my!” Mrs. Cake’s eyes widened. “If that isn’t an impressive, er... writey machine!”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Presspass said, beaming a little. “It’s my own earth pony design. If you can’t levitate, innovate! Now if we can just begin with the bon-bons...”
“Oh, I’m sorry, but I’m just not the pony to talk to about that. I didn’t make this party or the treats!”
Presspass tilted his head. “No? ...Oh, they’re your husband’s creations then?”
Mrs. Cake shook her head. “The one who throws all our parties here is Pinkie Pie, but I’m sure she’d just love to talk to you! She’s the pink filly with the curls right over--oh! Deary me, now she’s over th--oh. Well...” the mare giggled with the slightest hint of strain. “We usually find it easiest just to stay in one place and have her come to us, don’t you know...”
“Haha! All right, then. Thank you so much for your help!” The reporter smiled brightly at Mrs. Cake as she returned to the party, but his pencil was giving the slightest quiver. So a little stumble, but still well in the lead of disaster, right? There was still somepony to talk to, which meant a way out. Stay calm. Stay professional. Stay
“HIII-EEE!” Pinkie squealed, leaning in until the two ponies’ eyeballs practically touching.
“GYAGH!” Presspass fell back on his haunches, the pencil flying out of his mouth as he hid professionally behind his notepad.
Pinkie peered around the paper barrier. “Welcome to my party! Are you new because I know every Pony in Ponyville and if I don’t know you that must mean you’re new and--” She suddenly gasped. “No wait! I have met you!”
“You... you did?” Presspass asked, regaining his voice. “Because I’m pretty sure I would’ve remembered you if we have...”
“Yeah, I’m sure it was you now! I was hopping down Mane Street this one time and you passed by and I said, ‘Hi! I’m Pinkie Pie! You look new, what’s your name?’ and you were all ‘AUGH! AUGHHH!! GET ‘EM OFF ME!!!’ and I was like, ‘Wow, that is a really weird name but then you’re also covered in bunnies which I also find just a teensy bit strange!’ but you just kept going--”
“Please!!” Presspass’s tail bristled out like a silver feather duster. “Let’s... let’s not talk about the bunnies, haha...” He searched around the floor for his pencil in an attempt to regain his composure. It had vanished.
“Anyway, it’s really great to meet you again, AUGHH-”
The reporter held up a hoof. “My name is Presspass, actually.” He gave smile. “Anyway I’m glad to see you! You see, I’m here for a story--”
Pinkie Pie gasped again. “A story!?” Her eyes sparkled. “Yes! That’d be so great!”
“Awesome!” Presspass said, giving a short sigh of relief as he stomped another pencil out of his bag. “Now if I can just ask you a--wha?!” The pencil clattered to the floor as the pink pony grabbed him. Before he knew it, he was standing on a small table looking out over the other guests.
“Hey, everypony!” Pinkie called out. “This is Presspass. He’s gonna tell us a super neat story!”
The crowd fell silent and turned all their eyes upon the reporter, who swallowed hard. He was suddenly reminded of a movie he saw that had looked kind of like this. It ended with the villagers dumping parasprites on the interloper’s head.
“Um, Miss Pie? There’s a misunderstanding. I don’t actually have any stories myself...”
“Ohmygosh ohmygosh, you totally do!”
Presspass’s ears drooped as he let his hat slide over his eyes. He didn’t have to see the small, orange pegasus filly springing excitedly in the back of the room. He knew the voice all too well.
“Tell ‘em about the time you let me shoot you out of a cannon!” the filly exclaimed. The crowd murmured incredulously.
“How many times do I have to tell you, I didn’t let you!” Presspass cringed. “It was an accident!”
“Scootaloo, ah don’t think he wants to be tellin’ that story,” the yellow filly in a bow said.
“Awww, come on! Pleeease?!” Scootaloo whined. “It was sooo awesome! BOOM! Fweeeeeeee! DONNNNNNNG! The 11th coolest thing I’ve ever seen anypony do, easy!”
“Really,” Presspass said. “I’m not here to tell stories. I--wait, what? Only 11th?!”
“The top 10 is reserved strictly for Rainbow Dash,” the prim white unicorn filly said.
Scootaloo nodded in admiration. “You’re right below her brushing her teeth!”
“But! That’s--” the reporter twitched. “Argh, I don’t have time for this!” He leaped off the table and landed on all four hooves at once in front of Pinkie Pie. “Now please, please listen. I am a reporter. This story is not about me!”
“Ohhh.” Pinkie said. “Of course it isn’t!” She shifted her eyes knowingly to the side. He followed her gaze to nothing but a blank wall.
He gave an exasperated sigh. “I am writing a story about you. And this party. And your bon-bons. Now I will ask you questions about these things and you will answer them to the best of your ability, and then everypony in Equestria tomorrow can read about all the delightful things that happened today at this delightful sweet shop and be delighted. Do you understand?”
“Okie dokie!” Pinkie grinned. “See? Answered one already!”
The reporter’s eyes widened in befuddlement, but his face suddenly brightened as he bolted up. “Yes! Good! This is good!” He snatched another pencil as it jumped from his bag and set poised to write, lifting a hoof to just barely tilt the head of the smiling pink pony. “There. Maximum answer efficiency! OK! Now, Miss Pie...” he grinned back. “These bon-bons at the center of your party; what is in them that makes them so special?”
“Oh, that’s an easy one!” Pinkie beamed. “I have no idea!”
Pencil lead snapped against paper. “You... what?!” Presspass spit out the pencil. “But aren’t you the one who made them?”
“Rolled them? Dipped them?”
“With your own hooves??”
“Then how can you possibly not know what’s in them!?” The stallion’s fedora was threatening to turn into a hovercraft with the steam billowing beneath it.
“I was hoping you’d ask that!” Pinkie grinned. “Can you write in song?”
“No.” Presspass narrowed his eyes.
“Aww, I’ll just have to tell you! So yesterday I brought out every ingredient in the kitchen to experiment with the mission of making a brand new super sweet fantastic unheard of species of bon-bon and I was just about to start when I remembered hey! I left my theremin on! So I went to turn it off and when I came back I found my pet Gummy had gotten into everything and dragged random stuff into my mixing bowl to make his own little moat and I went GASP! OH NO! but then I thought what the hay, let’s try it because Twilight says sometimes that’s just SCIENCE! So I did--I mean I removed Gummy first--but then I made them and they turned out super sweet fantastically unheard of! But there’s these ethically bakily rules about having to know exactly what’s in something if you’re gonna sell it so we can’t do that and I don’t know how to make ‘em again but they made the perfect excuse for throwing a PARTY! not that I actually ever really need one now that I think about it!” Pinkie panted from her resting point on the ceiling. “Did you get all that?”
“You mean I’m here to write a story on bon-bons no one will be able to buy and that have no real bearing on this party that you probably would have thrown anyway?” Presspass squeaked, wide-eyed.
“Hm...” Pinkie pondered. “Yeah, that’s it! You’re really great at condensing things!”
A familiar rhythmic pounding began in Presspass’s head. “Ergh! OK. No reason to panic. There’s still a story here! Somewhere... Ah! I can dissect a bon-bon and try to find the recipe!”
“Uh, I don’t think the last Bon-Bon would approve of that,” Pinkie said, pointing an apologetic hoof toward the table.
Presspass turned to find the plate on the table fully stripped. A white pony with blue and pink hair stood beside it, her cheeks bulging as she chewed in bliss. Her eyes caught the accusing stare of the reporter and her lip began to quiver with humiliation.
“Donf juff me!” she cried, spitting bits of chocolate as she ran off.
Presspass’s hat flattened against his head. “There is no way this can get any w--mpph!” He shoved a hoof in his mouth before he could finish that statement.
“Hey!” Pinkie chirped, dropping to the floor and pulling a small, green lump up into a squeeze. “Gummy! I haven’t seen you all party!”
Presspass turned back, his mane standing on end once he recognized the sight. “That’s your pet?!”
“Yep! Don’t worry; aside from being a master bon-bon chef, he’s a perfect gentlegator.” She gave Gummy a soft toss, the reptile performing a somersault onto her back.
“Yeah, sure...” Presspass stared distractedly at the creature when a bolt of inspiration suddenly hit. Well, it was more a convincingly dressed bolt of desperation, but he was willing to take it.
“Of course! If he made them before, he can make them again! ‘The cold-blooded boss of the bon-bons’!”
“Ooh, catchy!” Pinkie nodded. “But are you sure he can-eep!”
Gummy latched onto her curls as the reporter dragged her into the kitchen. “I’ve got the headline; it has to work!”
The pristine counter of Sugarcube Corner began to haphazzardly accumulate every utensil and ingredient Presspass found while rooting through the cupboards. Pinkie Pie kept a safe distance and tried to coach from the sideline.
“You’ll need that for-- That’s actually for cup-- You can’t even eat tha-- Augh! Be careful with her!”
Presspass plopped the bag of flour onto the table and eyed the pony girl as her cheeks deepened several shades.
“That. Be careful with that...” she said sheepishly.
The reporter stepped back and surveyed the stock. “Everything a prolific bon-bon master would need, more or less!” He plucked Gummy from Pinkie’s back and giddily set him next to the giant bowl.
“OK, little guy...” he stood poised with his notepad. “Create!”
Gummy blinked his wide, purple eyes in tandem, staring motionless into space.
“Come on... come on come on comeoncomeoncomeonnnn!” Presspass begged.
“He doesn’t look comfy,” Pinkie said. “I think he might’ve eaten something that didn’t agree with him.”
Presspass stared, dumbfounded. “He’s an alligator! What could he have possibly gotten into that would upset that stomach!?”
“HORK!” Gummy said.
Presspass’s tail drooped. “We’re going to find out, aren’t we.”
Both ponies hit the floor as a high-powered chunk of slobbery pencil shot out of the alligator’s mouth and ricocheted around the kitchen. Hanging pans crashed down. Containers spilled their contents. Presspass peeked out from beneath his hat as the cacophony subsided.
“So that’s where they were going,” he muttered, returning to his hooves. He surveyed the mess around him. “I’m so sorry about this. I just...”
“Hey, don’t worry one little bit!” Pinkie said cheerfully. “I’ve done way worse in here!”
The two ponies shared a chuckle until a high-pitched hiss caught their ears. They turned to find an industrial sized vat in the corner straining at its seams.
“Ohhkayy, this might be a new one...” Pinkie said.
The explosion brought the rest of the party scurrying toward the kitchen entrance. A chorus of gasps erupted as they found the room splattered with orange-ish brown goo. Three pairs of eyes belonging to entirely coated creatures peeked out at the crowd.
Presspass gave a stomp. His notepad retracted into his saddlebag with a weak smishing sound.
“I give up,” he said quietly. “I come down here every time trying to find the story and what do I get? Curses. Concussions. A clopping three-ring carnival of disaster!” He dripped as he trembled with pent up rage. “Just what the hay do you have against me, Ponyville!? What else have you got in your little crazyverse to chuck at--”
He froze in his tracks as the room’s new aroma registered. “Wait. What... what is this stuff, anyway?”
Mrs. Cake pushed her way through the crowd and gave a startled cry at the scene.
“Oh, fudge! All the carrot cake batter for the school bake sale!”
Presspass’s eyes grew wide as his pupils dilated. “Ca... Carrot...?”
“Yeah, tell me about it!” Pinkie said. “It’s sort of meh stuff. I mean yeah, carrots themselves are good but--”
“No!” the stallion twitched, his eyes darting nervously around the room. “Don’t you understand?? They will come! It will draw them!”
“Oh!” Pinkie nodded, then tilted her head. “They who?”
A saddlebag belonging to a meek yellow pegasus rustled and opened. A pair of long, white ears poked up, followed by a fuzzy white head that sniffed curiously at the air.
“THEM!” Presspass cried, pointing an accusing hoof at the creature as his other three slipped and scrabbled against the slick floor in an attempt to fall back. He gave a manic little cackle. “I... I see now. See it all too clearly... You orchestrated all of this with your devious bunny influences; this whole ruse just to get me down here so you and your evil legion could finish the job you started back in that carrot patch, didn’t you. Didn’t you!”
The rabbit stared disinterestedly and yawned.
“Don’t play coy!” Presspass snapped. “You may have ruined my career and marked me for delicious death, but I will never go down easy, you hear me?! Never!”
The newspony reared up with whoop, slipped and fell flat on his face. He fought his way back to his hooves, trotted carefully to the back door of the sweet shop, and tore out screaming as soon as he had the footing.
Everypony stared in stunned silence as they watched the form of the reporter disappear down the lane.
“I think I’m gonna drop him down to 12th,” Scootaloo said.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bon Bon
Part 3: One More Pony in this Town
The purple unicorn’s mane bristled with aggravation as she once again suspended her reading of Ethereal Enigmas and Time-Tested Tinctures. She turned and glared at the dragon peeking into her room.
“Spike, this better not be about that reporter again.”
“It is, but--”
“I’ve already told you, if you’re going to take it upon yourself to drag strange ponies off the street and into the library--especially ones who are babbling incoherently and covered in cake batter--they are wholly your responsibility.”
“I know, Twilight, and I’ve been helping him all on my own!” Spike threw up his hands. “I hosed him down, dried him off, gave him a glass of warm milk...”
“All very nice of you, Spike.”
“And when none of that worked, I slapped him until he started talking sense!” the dragon beamed.
“Uh, yeah...” Twilight cringed. “Fluttershy would be proud of your tender healing mercies.”
“But now that he’s back to normal--or normaler, I guess--he’s been going through the books and asking for your help.”
“Well, that does sound sound like my department,” Twilight said with a shrug. “Let’s see what he needs.”
As the two descended to the main floor, they could see the fedora-wearing pony nosing through shelves at an urgent pace. He at least looked approachable now, Twilight thought, and the fact he was filling the room with the faint, sweet smell of carrots wasn’t hurting much, either.
“Bonanzas... bone setting... bon--bonobos? Oh, come on...” Presspass muttered as he skimmed the titles. He turned at the sound of hooves on the stairs behind him. “Oh, Miss Sparkle! Sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier. I was, uh...”
“We could go with ‘distracted’,” Twilight said encouragingly.
“Yes! Good word! Very... non-humiliating.” The reporter shifted uncomfortably. “I’m Presspass, from the Trotter, and if I’m not to face murder at the hooves of my editor I could really use a book on bon-bons...?”
The reporter gave a pleading half-smile as the others took a moment to digest his request.
Spike sighed. “Sorry, Twilight. I guess he needs some more care.” He raised his hand and stepped toward Presspass, who yelped and brought his notebook up to cover his face.
“Sweet freakin’ Celestia; call off your slapdragon! I’m not crazy!”
“Hold it, Spike,” Twilight said, the glow of horn magic dragging the eager dragon back by his tail. “At lest give him a chance to explain his situation.”
Presspass exhaled in relief and retracted his notebook. “Thank you.” He gave a sideways glance at Spike and continued. “All right. I know this may be hard to believe with the way you, er, met me, but I was sent down to talk about new bon-bons with a filly named Pinkie Pie--”
“Ohh...” the unicorn and dragon said in unison.
“And--wait, what?” Presspass arched an eyebrow. “What’s with the ohs?”
“Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said.
“She’s like this a pair of magic words,” Spike picked up. “Anything you say that involves her is instantly conceivable.”
“Meet Pinkie Pie; end up running screaming down the street covered in cake? I can see that now,” Twilight nodded sagely.
“Oh, yeah. Totally,” Spike said. “So what did she do this time?”
“What did she do?” Presspass blinked, thinking back to earlier in the day. “Well, she... watched...”
“Watched?” Twilight looked slightly bewildered. “Watched what?”
“Watched the vat of carrot cake batter explode. After one of my pencils rocketed out of her pet alligator and ruined the kitchen. When... when I was trying to get him to make bon-bons for us oh for braying out loud just go ahead and smack me I really have gone crazy!”
Spike happily sprung forward and was magically pulled back again.
“What is it about this place?” Presspass slumped against the bookshelf. “I come down here focused on just one goal and end up making a complete fool of myself in front of half the town. What pony does that?”
Spike looked expectantly at Twilight.
“What?” she silently mouthed back to him.
“And here I am now, spilling my guts to Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia’s own prized pupil; somepony who would never let anything get to her!”
Spike’s glare began to bore into the unicorn.
“All right, all right! Fine,” she huffed. “You’re not fully gone, Presspass. Crazy things happen in Ponyville all the time, and everypony here loses their oats now and then.” She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Even me.”
The reporter’s eyes widened. His notebook sprung from his saddlebag.
“Don’t you even dare,” she hissed.
“Oh, heh; sorry.” Presspass shoved the contraption back inside with an embarrassed grin. “It does that on its own sometimes. This is completely off the record, I promise.” His curiosity still got the better of him as he leaned forward. “But really, how bad has it been?”
“So glad someone finally asked!” Spike said. “See, I’ve been working for a while on a scale to measure the intensity of Twilight’s freak-outs.”
“You what?” Twilight bristled.
“A 1 on the scale is when this one hair on her mane will just frizz out and pop straight up, like the circuit breaker’s been tripped on her brain. Nothing major, but sometimes she’ll do something weird like build a scale model of Ponyville out of popsicle sticks. You know, ‘just in case.’” The dragon made air quotes with his fingers.
“Spike...” Twilight urged through clenched teeth.
“You go up through until you reach 10, and boy that’s a doozy. She explodes! I’m talking spontaneous combustion, here! Mane and tail fully aflame! Scary as all get out yet somehow kind of cute at the same time. I don’t know--”
“Spike!” Twilight stared sternly at him, eyes blazing. “What stage does your scale say I’m at right now?”
The dragon gulped and managed a nervous smile. “I’d say about a 6 and rising... Got the point, heh....”
“Yeesh...” Presspass raised his eyebrows as the unicorn took a few calming breaths. It may have been his imagination, but the library actually did feel a few degrees warmer. “So if strange stuff happens here so often, why not go back to Canterlot? Everything there runs so much smoother.”
Twilight paused for a second, then gave a surprising smile. “I guess I sort of need the chaos.”
Presspass tilted his head, befuddled. “Need? As in ‘Bartender, another shot of calamity!’ need?”
“Well, sort of,” Twilight nodded. “Back in Canterlot, my whole world was made up of books. I felt in control of everything, but that’s only because I was experiencing next to nothing. So when Princess Celestia sent me to Ponyville, I was expecting things to work out the way I wanted them; but the more I tried to force things, the more spectacularly they blew up in my face.”
“Hey, now that’d be a cool disaster scale,” Spike said. “The Face Rockage Index! I need to write this down.” He ran off to fetch a quill.
Twilight gave a dismissive shake of her head. “So yes, I’ve failed. I’ve totally lost it. But in doing so I’ve learned so much more about the world and gained the support of ponies I now consider my best friends. In the end, I’ve never had to be afraid to mess up because almost everyone here has had their head stuck in the same barrel at one time, too.”
Presspass stared ahead pensively. “When you put it that way, it sounds... liberating!” he said. “But I do have a question.”
“Yes?” Twilight asked.
“That barrel you mentioned, was it a metaphorical barrel or is there really one around here that everyone gets stuck in? Like, are there some really tasty daisies growing in the bottom of it so you can’t help but shove your head inside and--”
“It’s a metaphorical barrel,” Twilight said flatly.
“Oh, OK. Thanks,” Presspass said with a nod. He suddenly squinted as rays from the descending sun angled in through the windows. “Ah, no! I still don’t have a story and deadline is tonight! Maybe Etta will let me write my own obituary...”
“Hey, you still have time!” Twilight smiled. “Are you going to give up after all I just said? Let life happen, make the best of what you get and you’ll find stories you never thought were there.”
“Make the best...” Presspass muttered in thought, then his eyes suddenly lit up beneath his hat. “That’s it! A story was staring me in the face the whole time!” He sprinted for the door. “I gotta get back to Sugarcube Corner. Thanks for everything, Miss Sparkle!”
Spike looked up from his quill and parchment as the newspony left. “Do you think he’ll be OK?” he asked.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Twilight said. “Can you take a letter, Spike?”
Spike grinned. “Of course!”
“Good!” Twilight said. “Dear Princess Celestia... Now write down all that stuff I just said 2 minutes ago. I’m going back to reading.”
The happy commotion Presspass first heard just outside the sweet shop had disappeared by the time he returned. He pressed an ear against the front door and heard a voice faintly singing in the back.
I’m mopping up the mucky
Sponging up the spilly
Cleaning up the cra--
Presspass rapped on the door with a hoof. The voice stopped, and a few seconds later the door opened. The pink pony behind it wore a brief look of surprise that turned into a genuine smile.
“Oh wow hey, it’s you!” Pinkie said. “I was a little worried when you ran off!”
“Afraid the bunnies would get me?” the reporter asked, his cheeks burning slightly.
“Oh no, that’s just silly!” Pinkie said. “I was worried the sun would bake all the batter on you while you were running around all crazy until it hardened and froze you in place and you couldn’t move and somepony would find you like that and think, ‘Hey! Free carrot-scented art!’ and you’d spend the rest of your days as their decorative garden ornament!”
“Oh,” Presspass said as his brain tried to pull out of its Pinkie-induced stall. “I really never would’ve considered that, but I’m extremely glad it didn’t happen... if it can.” He took a breath. “But about all that earlier, that should’ve never happened. I was forcing the story and it wasn’t professional of me. I’m really sorry I wrecked your party.”
“Wrecked my party?” Pinkie giggled. “My parties are fearsome, indomitable juggernauts of joy!” She reared up to emphasize her point. “They are not so easily defeated by pushy pressponies!”
“But... but I blew up your kitchen...” Presspass said.
“Happens all the time,” Pinkie smirked. “Anypony who’s good at throwing parties should know to always plan for small, unexpected explosions.”
Presspass laughed. “I wouldn’t have agreed with that until today. And that’s just the spirit I overlooked when my brain was full of bon-bons. The real story here was never about them; it’s about a pony who is willing to find any reason to share fun with her friends and community. I’m still sorry about the trouble, but I’d like to ask--”
He glanced at the glowing orange sun as it grazed the tall mountains in the distance.
“I’d like to beg you to let me write a story about you and the parties you’ve thrown. Why you do it; how you do it. I think there are some ponies out there who could really use the inspiration. And in return, after the story’s in, I can help clean up the mess I caused. Deal?”
Pinkie’s colors almost seemed to brighten as she hopped excitedly. “Absolutely! I’ll do anything if it helps ponies learn to cut loose and par-TAY!” She suddenly stuck to the ground. “Oh, just one more condition.”
“Condition?” Presspass asked.
“Yes. You,” she beeped his nose with her hoof, “still owe me a story!”
Presspass opened his mouth to protest, but chose to smile instead. “All right; you deserve it. I’ll tell you about the time I was accidentally shot out of a cannon while we clean up, OK?”
“Yes!” Pinkie chirped. “I was hoping you’d go back to that one! I’ve only ever done it on purpose. Well, why are you still standing outside; come on in!” She skipped off into the store. “Oh! By the way, there’s still a lot of cake batter coating the kitchen. Are you going to be OK with...?”
She trailed off as she watched Presspass shove a display case in front of the door. He looked back at her sheepishly.
The newsroom fell into hushed whispers as Presspass moseyed in with a yawn. He gave a tired toss of his hat, which bounced off the side of the rack and wobbled to a stop on the floor.
Celebrity had followed him with her eyes, waiting for his entrance all morning. She made a darting glance toward the still-closed door of Etta’s office, then back at the reporter.
“Presspass! What did you do?” she said, keeping her voice low.
“Huh?” Presspass looked at the rack, then down at his fedora beside it. “Oh, I guess I missed.” He shrugged
“No, not the hat!” Celebrity hissed. “Your story! What happened down there?”
“Oh, that!” Presspass gave a tired smile. “Well, there were some, er, stumbling blocks at first, but in the end I found another angle.”
“Yeah, some angle!” Celebrity said. “The chief is... well, we don’t know how she is! She’s been in her office since your story came in last night. The whole newsroom is on edge!”
A tingle went down Presspass’s mane as he made his own passing look at the office door. “Really? Are you sure?”
“I was here when the story arrived,” Celebrity said. “Magically popped in on the chief’s desk, right on deadline.” She crinkled her nose. “It smelled like nachos.”
“Well, I had to get Ponyville’s messenger dragon after his normal business hours,” Presspass said. “He was having his nighttime snack.”
“Ew. Anyway, the proofreader wanted a look, but the chief sent it straight to the press because we were almost out of time as it was. ‘Presspass writes like clockwork! What could possibly be wrong with it?’ were her exact words.”
“Ah...” a bead of sweat ran down the side of the reporter’s face.
“I see you can tell where this is going,” Celebrity said. “The first copy came off the press, the chief took a look, her face turned several shades of the rainbow all at once and she stomped into her office. Even worse, comments have been pouring in to her all morning. Good? Bad? No clue. All we know is she’s been pacing around in there all night and morning. Around and around her desk; over and over. And as more comments come in, the faster and faster go the sound of her hooves. It’s driving all of us mad! We’re afraid she might wear a--”
The columnist was interrupted as a creak strained loudly from the editor’s office, followed almost immediately by a tremendous crash that reverberated beneath the floor. A chorus of gasps made way to silence as everypony looked at each other, wondering what they should do.
Then the stomping began anew. Faintly at first, but growing louder; closer. All eyes turned to the basement door just in time for it to burst open with a mighty kick. A couple ponies screamed. The pegasus intern fainted, more donuts falling to an untimely demise.
The form of Etta Trix stood in the doorway, heaving with each snorting breath. Her white coat was blotched with dust; her glasses perched wildly askew on her muzzle. Ponies shriveled as she passed over them with a gryphon’s glare, until she found--
Celebrity had no smart comments this time around, looking very much like a deer caught in the lights of an oncoming freight train as the editor marched toward them. Presspass, not faring much better, opened his mouth and searched for his vocal cords.
“Are... you OK, chief?” he finally managed.
“What is this?!” Etta stormed onward, snatching a copy of the day’s paper from a desk and thrusting it in front of Presspass’s face. ‘Ponyville’s prime party-thrower can make mirth out of anything’ read his headline just above the fold.
Presspass peeked around the side of the paper, deciding it wasn’t such a great idea after seeing Etta’s face. “I can explain this all!” he pleaded.
“I sent you to write a simple story on some new bon-bons. Candy, Presspass! What could’ve been simpler?!” Etta fumed. “Instead I get... get these tales of ridiculous celebrations and four--FOUR--separate versions of how Equestria was made!”
“Well, she actually had six, but I was running out of ti--”
“You should see the reactions that are coming in, just like I knew they would!” Etta continued, flinging the newspaper aside. “Citizens of Canterlot are confused! Disgusted! They think we’re trying to play some sort of strange joke! A few want me to can you!”
Presspass felt sick as the editor paused, filling her lungs with a few raspy breaths. “And then,” she said. “Then there are the reactions coming in from Ponyville.”
“P-ponyville?” Celebrity mustered enough bravery to say. “But almost nopony down there ever writes in...”
“I know! And somehow, it’s all praise!” Etta cried. “Almost all of them love the story! They say we’re finally making an effort to understand life down there. One pony even said her parents will finally have to believe her when she tells them about that crazy pink filly in the sweet shop! And that--that’s not even all! Subscriptions from Ponyville have risen nearly 15%, and that’s just this morning!”
“And... is that offsetting the subscriptions lost from Canterlot?” Presspass asked hopefully.
“Oh, hay yes!” Etta attempted to laugh, but it came out more of a maniacal cackle. “The Canterlotians who complain about us will do so all day, but they hardly ever take any action. The newspaper owners are going to be quite happy by this turn of events.”
Celebrity gave a whoop of joy. Presspass just heaved a sigh of relief.
“Wow!” he said with a chuckle. “So you’re not really mad at me?”
Etta laughed along with her reporter, but something strained about its nature caused him to stop.
“Oh, my little Presspass, that is where my true dilemma lies,” Etta said. “You have brought good to the paper, for sure. The owners are undoubtedly going to want me to reward you.” She smiled at him, even as her eyes flashed intently. “But you have given me so much trouble, so much ulcer-inducing rubbish that I... I just don’t know what to do with you! I can’t decide whether to choke you right where you stand or just give your throat a great big happy HUG!”
“Chief?” Celebrity said meekly. “Those sort of sound like the same thing.”
“I know,” Etta growled, giving Presspass the second-most petrifying gaze he had ever seen. “So which one would you like, hm?”
Presspass’s mouth went dry as his mind weighed his various demises. But suddenly, an escape route became clear.
“Make me Ponyville Features Editor!”
“What?” Etta said, her eyes widening.
“FWAGH-ACK!” Celebrity said. All eyes turned to her.
“Sorry! Sorry...” she coughed. “Dry spit take.”
“Make me Ponyville Features Editor,” Presspass said again, a little more confidently. “I’ll live in Ponyville and send in weekly stories. Ponyville gets their press, you and Canterlot get me out of your manes for the most part, and I will likely face tortuous situations on a regular basis!”
The disheveled editor’s mood seemed to simmer down a notch as she mulled the request.
“Why,” she finally said in amazement, “I do believe that covers all the bases! It’s like a promotion and a punishment all in one. A promunishment!” She tittered at her own rare play on words. “Yes. I’ll make sure this new position gets set up. Return to Ponyville as soon as possible and Celestia help you.” Her anger and adrenaline largely spent, she smiled warmly at the newsroom and staggered off toward her office. “If anyone needs me, I’ll be lying down next to the hole where my desk used to be.”
Life in the newsroom began a gradual return to normalcy as the editor closed the door behind her.
“That was incredible!” Celebrity said. “But are you sure you want to go through with this, P-Dub? I mean, just yesterday we thought you were kind of nuts for being such a whiny foal about going to Ponyville. But now that you’re so willing to dive back down there, you just seem, well...”
“More nuts?” Presspass said.
“It doesn’t look bad on you!” Celebrity said supportively. “But yeah. Full oatmeal.”
“A fair observation,” Presspass said, picking his fedora up off the ground and flipping it onto his head. “And maybe I really am losing my mind. But if I am, I might as well have fun and learn from the masters.”
“Well,” Celebrity said, “it’s not going to be the same in the office without you, but if anypony can triumph through the slow and steady deflation of their sanity, I know it’s you.” She smiled sweetly.
“Gee, thanks,” Presspass smirked, donning his saddlebags.
“Presspass?” Celebrity asked. “Since you won’t be around as often, there was a question I’ve always wanted to ask you. Which came first: your hat or your cutie mark?”
“Oh, sure,” Presspass grinned. “The mark came first. I was so happy, I marched right into a hat shop and said, ‘Make me something that looks like my butt!’”
The turquoise pony’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“Nah,” Presspass said. “But it’s the story you wanted to hear.” He winked as he strode out of the newsroom.
Celebrity giggled. “Yeah...” She turned back to her work, but a few seconds later her head snapped up again.
“Wait. Did you mean something by that??” she shouted, taking off after the reporter. “It’s not like that if that’s what you think, Presspass! Presspass!!”
Dispatches from Ponyville: Single Action Colt
Part I: Miss Dish Goes to Ponyville
“Thank you so much, Miss Rarity!” The turquoise unicorn beamed as the door to Carousel Boutique opened out onto a bright, warm day. “I’m very excited about this arrangement.”
Her elegant companion smiled warmly. “Please, darling. For the last time, it’s simply ‘Rarity!’ And please stop thanking me! It makes me absolutely giddy that you’ve let me in on this little soiree you’re planning! Not only that, but modeling my new line of heels for your column? How could I have possibly said no?”
Celebrity Dish, premiere gossip and trends columnist for the Trotter, looked down and admired once again the sparkling crystal shoes that adorned her hooves. They had been a very unexpected addition to all the scheming she’d done today, but once they had come up, there was no way she was going to let the designer say no, either.
“I was hoping you’d go into hoofwear ever since I saw you at the Grand Galloping Gala,” Celebrity said. “I was just so instantly transfixed by these the moment I saw them, I barely even noticed you were splattering frosting on the crown prince like a mad do--”
She was cut off by a noise that started as a demure laugh but took a sharp turn into a piercing screech. Birds ceased their chirping and the clouds over the boutique halted their drifting as the pegasi steering them nervously peeked down.
“Haha!” Rarity said with a dismissive hoofwave and a barely perceptible twitch in her eye. “There’s really no need to go into that now! If ever!” Celebrity smiled and nodded silently. Experience had taught her better than to ruffle up the artistic types. “Now,” Rarity continued, “heels are fragile things and can take some time to become accustomed to. If you do feel like you are going to fall over--”
“Spring with the legs of your most stable side, barrel roll, take the brunt of your landing with your back and tuck your hooves in to prevent scuffing,” Celebrity recited.
Rarity gasped in delight, a smile spreading wide across her face. “Fashion Preservation Protcol Number 10! You are the perfect choice for this! Oh! but I mustn’t be keeping you. You have to find your colleague if we are going to make all of this work! Now what day is it...?” The unicorn rolled her eyes upward in thought. “...Ah, you may be in luck! I often see him outside the bowling alley about this time each week! I don’t go there myself, of course--such a dreadfully tacky place--but now that I think about it, I’ve never seen him actually walk inside, either. How odd... Oh well! You should start your search there and I shall finish preparations here. Best of luck. See you soon!”
Celebrity thanked the unicorn again and turned down the lane, her new heels making a rhythmic tik tik tik tik as she trotted toward the center of the village. They shone and sparkled and gave her a graceful posture, yes, but her favorite thing about them was how they reminded her of the chief stomping around her office. Hopefully they’d trigger the same response in Presspass, and with what she was going to ask him, she’d likely need any psychological advantage she could get.
She felt the eyes of the bustling ponies around her--looking up in a friendly greeting, then lingering down for a few amazed seconds on her hooves--and couldn’t help but give an appreciative smile. For all Presspass had always babbled on about how crazy it was in this town, it at least felt like a genuine place, and moving down here had brought out a certain je ne sais quoi in her coworker’s writing. Something about it felt more vivid and alive than when he had been milling about her highbrow territory in Canterlot; and if he belonged better down here, then all the better for him. Sure, the first couple weeks he was gone, she would raise her eyes with some new quip or dig about him only to look downcast at the empty desk in front of her. But then she hung a mirror there, which helped.
So really, Celebrity thought to herself, if Presspass is fitting in in Ponyville, her assignment down here could only help him out. He could end up being even happier than he is now!
“GRRAWRGHGH!” Presspass growled, the small creature between his teeth flailing as he whipped it around by the scruff of its neck. The burgundy earth pony flung his victim up with a snort and met it in mid-air with a fierce headbutt, sending it flying ragdoll-like into a pile of garbage bags.
He spat out stray bits of white fur, then gave a menacing chuckle as he stalked deeper into the back alley.
“Thought you could pull that one over on me again, huh?” he sneered. “But observing is what I do, fuzzball! Now you’ll see what happens when you don’t switch up your ga--”
The pony froze in mid-sentence as a high-pitched shriek resounded down the alley, causing his mane to stand on end. He spun around to find a wholly unexpected yet familiar unicorn, eyes wide with terror.
“Cel??” he choked. “What are you doing here?!”
“Presspass!” she squeaked. “C-calm down, now. Let’s talk about this!” She held up a trembling hoof. “I know you have issues with them, and I... I’m sorry I never took them seriously, but for Celestia’s sake, don’t kill that poor, defenseless bunny!”
“What??” Presspass recoiled in shock. “No! This is way, way not what it looks like! And trust me, that bunny is not defensele--” A rustle from the pile behind him stopped him again as he nervously turned back. “Uh oh...”
Trash exploded in all directions as a fluffy white ball of rage careened toward the earth pony. He had no time to take a defensive stance before a large foot connected with his throat, the other swinging up in a flipkick squarely beneath his chin. As the pony wheezed and staggered back onto his haunches, the rabbit landed on the ground, rebounded off the near wall and put the full force of its body into smashing the reporter against the side of his face. He fell over, dazed, as Celebrity screamed again.
“Agh-kk!” Presspass frantically waved his front hooves in submission as the rabbit leaped for his throat again. “I give! I GIVE!” He panted, relieved, as the creature cut its attack short, landing smugly on the pony’s chest. “Sheesh, Angel, you big cheater. Way to take advantage of company showing up.”
The bunny waggled his paw at Press’s face and chittered derisively.
“Oh, right,” the pony conceded. “You do get a free one for that time I surprise attacked you from off Twilight Sparkle’s balcony. But we’re totally even now, right?” Angel’s ears wobbled as he nodded in agreement.
“Uh, excuse me,” Celebrity chimed in, carefully making her way through the scattered litter. “I don’t mean to interrupt what looks like a sweet bonding moment, but will you please tell me why I just found you fighting a bunny behind a bowling alley?!”
“Well, Cel,” Presspass said sheepishly as the victor let him up. “It’s kind of a long story...”
“Just give me the brief, reporter boy,” Celebrity huffed back.
“Sure.” Press shook himself off and pointed a hoof toward the rabbit. “This is Angel. He’s my group therapy partner.”
Silence crept upon the alley as Celebrity waited expectantly, then rolled her eyes. “All right, I bite. A little more to go on, please.”
Prespass walked over to his fedora and saddle bags, placed neatly off to the side. “After that whole, er, episode at Sugarcube Corner--the one with the carrot cake and the explosion--Fluttershy--”
Celebrity gasped. “Fluttershy, the former model?”
“Whaf?” Presspass flipped his hat from his mouth up onto his head. “Nah. She’s sweet, but there’s no way she could’ve been a model. Anyway, she discovered my phobia and thought it would help if I had some sessions with her and her pet rabbit here, Angel.” The pony lowered his voice delicately. “He has a few anger management issues.”
Angel folded his paws across his chest and gave a small snort.
“But there was just one problem,” Presspass continued.
“You’re too far gone to help?” Celebrity ventured.
“Nope. Fluttershy’s a terrible therapist! I mean Celestia bless her, she tries, but you can’t make any breakthroughs if you’re too afraid to disagree with anything we say!”
“Why didn’t you just call me?” Celebrity asked. “I’m great at that!”
“I know, right?” Presspass replied. “It’s awful, but you just can’t get mad at somepony like her, so we always leave her cottage ready to boil over. Then one day we were especially steamed and Fluffbutt suddenly puts up his dukes. I was all, ‘No way! I don’t have a reason to beat on you!’ So he roundhouse kicked me in the face and stole my hat and then I was like, ‘Oh. IT. IS. GOING TO HAPPEN RIGHT NOW!’”
“So you fought.” Celebrity tilted her head quizzically. “And this made things better, somehow?”
“It was so cathartic!” Presspass bounced up on his hind legs and punched out with his front hooves. “We went for each other’s throats for like half an hour! And as we were lying on the ground bruised and wheezing, that’s when we realized: This is healing! Angel can finally vent away from Fluttershy, and I have built my confidence in holding my own against spontaneous rabbit attacks!” Presspass beamed with specific pride at the last part. Angel just looked at the unicorn and shrugged.
“So we still go to the sessions,” Presspass continued, “and we just smile and nod. Fluttershy is seeing such great progress in us, you know.” He grinned slyly. “Then we come here and smack the alfalfa out of each other! We call it ‘The Flutterfight Response!’”
Angel rolled his eyes and booted the maroon pony in the shin.
“Ow! OK, OK. I call it ‘The Flutterfight Response.’” His explanation fully stated, he smiled broadly at the unicorn, who stared blankly back.
“...I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear any of this,” she finally sighed, turning around and navigating back through the minefield of trash. “You two finish up your dumb macho escapades and I’ll see you out front.”
Once Presspass emerged from the alley--and following a sniff test from an insistent Celebrity--the two newsponies began a meandering stroll through the village. If they had been any other pair, they might’ve taken the chance to “catch up on old times,” but when most of your remaining “old times” are now lining chicken coops or have been folded into makeshift sailboats, they don’t seem to have as much relevance. Instead, Presspass made increasingly distracted glances downward.
“Nice shoes,” he finally said. “They make you sound like Etta.”
“Oh?” Celebrity batted her lashes in innocent surprise. “I hadn’t noticed!”
“Sure...” Presspass arched a suspicious eyebrow, but suddenly recalled a more pressing concern. “Oh, hey! Speaking of Etta, has she changed her mind about--”
“No, Press,” Celebrity rolled her eyes. “She’s never going to give you those vacation days back for that whole Discord thing.”
“Aw, come on!” the earth pony protested. “I keep telling you, I was writing my flank off when all that weird stuff was going down all around me. Honest. But then the words started swirling together and that thing just popped out my notebook and gave me the freaky eye!” He leaned in and bugged his eyes out at the unicorn, who warily craned her neck backward. “Things are kind of hazy after that, but I was working and that’s the important part!”
Celebrity gave a small sigh and lifted a curled sheet of paper out of her petite saddlebag. “We believe you up to that point, but then you... Look, I was told never to show it to you, but if it’ll get you to stop pestering me to talk to the chief every chance you get...!”
She clenched her teeth as the sheet magically unfurled itself in front of Presspass’s face. He recognized his own mouthwriting, if not a little jittery:
How are you? I am great. I ate tons and tons of cotton candy clouds today and urped in Carrot Top’s upside-down floating garden. Please write back soon!
P.S. Nothing to report today but I have an interview with a ladybug at 5! /)^3^(\
The unicorn watched her colleague’s face run the gamut from confusion to disbelief. When it jumped to unbridled horror, she knew to put the paper away.
“See?” she said simply.
Presspass gave one last defiant huff, then let his ears droop as he looked down in shame.
“Carrot Top did say her harvest tasted especially sweet this year...” he muttered.
Celebrity gagged. “Blagh! Can we just drop this whole thing now? Please?!”
“Yes, yes! I’ll drop it, trust me.” He sighed at Celebrity, then suddenly narrowed his eyes. “Wait,” he snorted. “How many copies did you make?”
“Oho!” Celebrity’s eyes sparkled. “I--er...” As much as she wanted to tease him with the stack of Discorded Dispatch she left next to the water cooler, she realized it would be detrimental to her mission. “I didn’t come down to rub this stuff in your face, you know. What I need is someone with, um...” She floundered for a second, then waved a glistening hoof. “With your expert knowledge of Ponyville and its residents!”
“Really?” The earth pony’s countenance brightened as he stood tall. “Well you’ve come to the right pony, of course! I’ve slipped into the culture here like a greased pumpkin through a mail chute!”
“Pardon?” Celebrity arched an eyebrow.
“Just something I heard an old pony say in the market once.” Presspass grinned. “And that’s why I’m the pro! I’ve already found all the secrets about this place, including...” He glanced around to ensure their privacy, then leaned in close. “The Background Society.”
“Background... Society?” Celebrity blinked. “That sounds kind of oxymoronic.”
“A high-falutin’ hob-knobber like you would think that, but I’m telling you they have some sort of all-seeing eye over this city.” He jerked his head to the right. “A lot of them are over there right now!”
Celebrity glanced over. “You mean that group of everyday ponies by the cafe that are chatting in pairs, milling by and otherwise not doing anything out of the ordinary with their lives at all?”
“Not so loud!” Presspass put a hoof up to the unimpressed unicorn’s mouth. “They look perfectly normal, but I’m telling you: follow them around for a day and if something big happens? Boom! It’ll be right where they are! Parasprite swarms! Dragon attacks! Spontaneous production numbers! It’s as though they’re being guided by some invisible hoof to each scene...”
“Okay, then... Well...” Celebrity looked awkwardly around, trying to come up with a decent response to his lunacy, but all she could think to herself was, Why aren’t you used to this by now?
“Back to topic,” she finally said, giving up. “Etta’s been very happy with the increased Ponyville attention you’ve been digging up; so much so that she wants me to pitch in with my section and provide some gossip from down here. It’s a fine idea, I guess, but...”
“But no one around here is ever found face-down drunk in a ruby-encrusted trough of dandelion wine, right?” Presspass smirked, receiving an annoyed glare in response.
“There are much more graceful ways of putting that,” Celebrity huffed, “but let’s just go with it for your simplicity’s sake. So then I thought, if I couldn’t find any entertaining gossip, why not make some entertaining gossip?”
“Well that sounds like a potentially disastrous thing to s--”
“Shut up. So what does every pony love to see? A budding, homespun romance, of course! That is why, through the blessing of our editor-in-chief and the help of the most-fabulously-out-of-place-in-these-parts Rarity, I have arranged for a ‘speed dating’ event at Carousel Boutique! Ponyville’s most eligible bachelorettes will line up for four dashing gentlecolts and at the end, they will get to decide who to whisk away to a lavish dinner date in Canterlot! And I--if I’m lucky, and let’s face it, I usually am--will get plenty to write about in the process. Grand thinking, no?”
Celebrity beamed at her colleague, awaiting his response. He raised his eyebrows and thought for a second.
“Eh. Doesn’t sound too bad, Cel. It should get the job done,” he said. “Just hope you didn’t name it something dopey like all your other pet projects.”
The unicorn’s mane would have bristled were it not cemented in place with a variety of chemical products.
“Dopey!?” she sputtered. “My names are not dopey! They are thoughtful and engagingly clever!”
“It’s something like ‘Lovey-Go-Round,’ isn’t it.”
The unicorn’s eyes grew wide. “No!? No. I mean no! Of course not, haha! ‘Lovey-Go-Round’? That is just completely dopey! The dopiest--no! I mean come on. So dopey!” She gave a flippant laugh that died out as she chewed on her lower lip. “You really think it’s dopey...?”
Presspass did his best to stifle his own laughter, the effort being far from good enough. “Pffthaha! Go on, forget it. It is what it is.” He gave a bemused sigh. “So you want me to help point out who’s who in this little romantic-ish interlude, right? No problem. Should be fun watching those poor saps have to deal with all those dames.”
“Ohhhh, not quite,” Celebrity said with a wispy, high-pitched titter. “You see, one of the colts I arranged for this--some Whooves fellow--has just up and vanished on me. So I don’t exactly need you as a resource as much as I need you for your, well... sappiness?”
She looked up sweetly at the sap in question, whose mouth dropped open.
“Wait. You want me to--and have--for--” The newspony’s pupil’s dilated. “Oh, no. No-no-no-no!”
The response wasn’t unexpected for Celebrity. In fact, after all the stuff with rabbit boxing and unsettling showings of confidence, she felt they had finally returned to familiar territory.
“Oh, come on, Press,” Celebrity cooed. “This could be your big chance to find that one special filly!”
“Under your watch?” the earth pony balked. “No way! This is Ponyville, Cel! Not one of your little Canterlotian garden parties. I’ve gotten good at handling the crazybombs that are part of life here, but throw in a crowd of love-addled fillies and you’ve got a Grade A Nuclear Wackhead in the making! Besides, I... I’m not looking for a fillyfriend right now! So having me there would just be unfair.”
He stood defiantly against the unicorn--or so it would have seemed if she wasn’t madly giggling.
“You? Not looking?!” she giggled to the point of snorting, shamefully throwing a hoof over her mouth. “You are so totally lying!” she hissed. “You should know better than to try to pull this sort of thing over on me!”
“Oh, geez,” Presspass rolled his eyes. “You are not going to play ‘Fashion Detective’ again, are you?”
Celebrity regained her composure and cleared her throat. “First,” she pointed a hoof at his, “the fetlocks you so obsessively kept neat and trim in Canterlot have grown wild and free, just the way most rural ladies prefer.”
“Ha! That’s not proof! I just haven’t been to the barber in a--”
“Your mane is recently trimmed and impeccable!” Celebrity shot back, making the other pony set his jaw and glare. “Exhibit B,” she continued. “Aside from the faint scents of rabbit and misplaced machismo I detected upon you outside the bowling alley, I also smelled a new cologne with hints of apple. Again, popular with the local female persuasion.”
“You still have nothing,” Presspass said with a snort. “These... They’re just ways I fit in around here!”
“Oh?” Celebrity said with a devious grin. “Even if they are, how do you explain the fact that with every filly we’ve passed today, you’ve instinctively sucked in that small gut of yours you’ve developed? Which, I might add, you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t placed your home base so close to that sweet shop!”
“Gah!” Presspass recoiled! “Okay! Fine! Stop your freaky voodoo gossip magic, geez! So I’m still on the market somewhat, are you happy?” He sniffed indignantly. “And also, I blew up Sugarcube Corner’s kitchen, duh! I am trying to make it up to them with my patronage. It’s my little yoke to bear.”
“Yeah, you’re bearing it, all right!” Celebrity snickered, poking Press in his newfound pudge. “So it’s settled, then. Thank you so much for agreeing to this for me!”
“What the hay?!” Presspass grimaced. “I never said any such thing! You may have gotten away with goading me into things back in Canterlot, but maybe it’s time for you to learn the first lesson I received down here: You can’t always make things turn out the way you want them!”
“Oh, Press,” Celebrity giggled. “It was a very good lesson for you to learn, absolutely! But you must realize that only applies to certain ponies. A lady will always get what she wants.” She smiled primly, her eyes bright with just a hint of threatening flash. “I’m not going to leave you alone until you say ye-es~!” she sang.
“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Presspass sighed. “You used to pull this on me all the time too, but you know what?” He stomped a hoof, triggering the device that popped his notepad out of his saddlebag and in front of his face. “Oh no! Where did Celebrity go? I can’t see her anymore! Guess I don’t have to take part in her ridiculous and dopily named capers anymo--OW!!”
The unicorn had pulled down on the notepad and let it go, snapping it back into the reporter’s face. Once his eyes stopped rolling, he plainly saw her glaring at him, face scrunched in anger.
“I planned this for four colts,” she said through her teeth. “I promised four colts and I shall give them four colts.”
“Well, when you put it that way...” Presspass sat and gave a mock salute. “...Good luck finding a fourth!” He turned hooves on the fuming columnist and began trotting away. “Try your flirty face or your angry face as much as you want. They’re not working on this pony anymore!”
Presspass didn’t look back, even as a low growl crescendoed behind him. The sound of magic gave him a bit of pause, however, especially when he began to feel it tingle and spark around him. Every muscle in his body froze when he glanced back against his better judgment and witnessed Celebrity poised as if to strike, horn and eyes blazing as surrounding ponies screamed and ran in all directions.
“Oh,” Presspass squeaked as a turquoise field of light surrounded him. “That must be your really angry face...”