Make Our Garden Grow
A tiny yellow colt peered at the ground, his eyes sad and wide. Before him lay nothing but dirt.
"Dad?" he asked. "It's not growing."
"Give it time, sport," said his father. "You just planted it ten minutes ago."
"But what if it doesn't grow?" asked the colt, worried. His father squatted down next to him, a watering can in his mouth.
"Here," he said, giving it to his son. "It'll grow. All it needs is a little water, a little sunshine..."
The young colt took the watering can and started sprinkling the ground where he had planted the seed.
"...And a whole lot of love."
“Huh?” asked Colton in a bored stupor.
“Are you listening to anything I’m saying?”
“Yeah, it’s the raisins thing.”
“Mr. Vines,” said a unicorn in a business suit, “we can’t proceed with this if you aren’t going to take this seriously.”
Sir Colton Vines III, owner of one of the largest vineyards in Equestria, sighed. The unicorn was a marketing rep who wanted to talk about opening a new line of raisin products. It wasn’t that Colton didn’t care; it was just that he was up in his stuffy little office and the sunlight was glaring through the window.
“Sorry, sorry,” said Colton, “just... yeah, go right ahead. Kids like raisins, right?”
“Long as they aren’t substitutes for candy, anyway,” shrugged the unicorn.
“Hmm... candy,” said Colton, a spark of enthusiasm creeping in. “We could consider seeing if we can do something with candied grapes or something. I mean, apples have caramel apples, right?”
“We’ll look into it.”
“Good, good,” nodded Colton. “Now, that concludes this meeting...” He stood up and started for the door.
“But I wasn’t finished—”
“Yes you were,” said Colton, brushing past him. “You were finished and I was going outside to get some lunch. ‘Sides, I need to take a look and see how the development of our newest property is going. New property, new grapes, that means we sell the raisins.”
It was a long walk down the stairs from Colton’s office up top. The stairwell was drafty and it carried an echo every time he set a hoof down. It was, however, faster than the elevator, and Colton was eager to get to lunch as quickly as he could.
Outside of the building was his vineyard. It was a large one, center of the tycoon’s grape empire. Sure, grapes had never been as big as apples, but he still had a hold on a niche market, and it was better than nothing.
He passed through the vineyard with a brisk trot, passing by the earth pony workers with not so much as a second glance.
“Good morning, Mr. Vines!” greeted one of the workers. “Grapes are good tod—”
“Yeah, yeah, wonderful,” said Colton as part of an automatic response. Truth be told, he didn’t really care for the details, and didn’t need to hear anything beyond “grapes are good.” If the grapes were good, that meant the money would keep coming in, and that was all fine and dandy.
As he came into Ponyville, Colton found himself in the mood for something sweet. As such, he decided he’d go to Sugarcube Corner and see if he could get himself a cake or something. That’d be just the thing he needed, he thought.
The gingerbread house was unmistakable. He could never be completely certain whether or not the building was actually made out of gingerbread, but he decided he wouldn’t ask for fear of looking like an idiot. He could’ve sworn he saw Pinkie Pie trying to gnaw on the side once, but that wasn’t really a good indication of anything.
The bell rang as he walked in, signaling Mrs. Cake, one of the owners, to hop over to the counter.
“Oh, hello, dear,” she said, “anything I can do for you?”
“Yeah,” he said, “I’d like a cake.”
“Well, what kind of cake would you like? We’ve got chocolate cakes, ice cream cakes, vanilla cakes, black forest cakes, carrot cakes...”
“Say...” said the tycoon, an idea occurring to him, “how about grape cakes?”
“Yeah, you can make cakes out of a bunch of things,” said Colton, “why not try grapes? We could form a little partnership.”
“Think about it, you’ll be the first establishment to be selling Regal Vines’ Grape Cakes! Wouldn’t that be something?”
“I’ll... talk it over with my husband,” said Mrs. Cake. “In the meantime, how about something we actually have?”
“Sure, gimme a slice of carrot cake,” said Colton. “Oh, and my card.” He said, presenting her with his business card. After paying for the cake, he took it outside, hoping to find someplace to sit down and enjoy himself. He’d eat his cake, he figured, and then go for a little walk. Maybe he’d check on the other local produce sellers to see how the local market was doing.
He was roused from his thoughts, however, when he saw three earth ponies sitting at a table, apparently worried about something. Normally he wouldn’t be too concerned about what some random ponies were doing, but he recognized one of them as an employee, and he knew what the work schedule was.
“Hello, boys!” he said, walking up to the table where they were seated. Surprised, they all looked at him. “How’s work going?”
“Uhh...” said one of the ponies.
“You do know who I am, right?” asked Colton. “Your employer? The guy who isn’t paying you to sit around not doing things? Cause it’s kinda my money?”
“There’s a bit of a problem, sir,” said one of the other employees.
“What’s the problem?” asked Colton, “I just asked you to clear some land so we can start growing grapes. Simple, right?”
“You didn’t say anything about the protesters.”
“The...” Colton started, “the what?”
“There are some girls there. They’re not budging.”
Colton groaned. He was all set to make some hilarious sarcastic remark and then fire someone, but it turned out he couldn’t do that. Now it was worse, because it seemed there was an actual problem. Now the raisin ponies would really be annoyed.
“Well, then,” said Colton, turning to leave, “I’ll have to go see what this is all about. And once I take care of the protesters, I suggest you get to work immediately.”
“Sure thing, boss.”
A short distance outside of Ponyville was a public park. Well, it used to be public until Regal Vines, Inc. purchased the land. It wasn’t much of a park, really, just a bunch of walkways surrounded by tons and tons of trees and flowers. It didn’t get used a whole lot, except for a handful of earth ponies who came by and planted things, amateur gardeners that they were.
Colton intended to take the land, clear everything away, and start growing grapes. Of course, he should’ve figured that some hippies would come along and get in the way. He saw them—three fillies—a cream-colored one with a red mane, a fuschia one with a blonde mane, and a pink one with a green mane. The red one was holding a placard that read Where have all the flowers gone?, and the pink one was pacing back and forth. He saw their cutie marks: they were the flower girls he’d seen in town. Shouldn’t be too hard, he thought.
“Helloooo there!” he said, merrily trotting up to them. “And what are you ladies doing here today?”
The flower girls looked at him. Rose, the one with the red mane, narrowed her eyes. She, in any case, wasn’t going to be fooled by Colton’s attempts at charm.
“We’re protesting,” said the pink one. She glanced at his flank and saw his cutie mark. “Protesting you, actually.”
“Protesting me?” Colton asked. “Come on, there’s got to be a misunderstanding, miss...?”
“Daisy,” said the pink one, “You’re Sir Colton Vines III, head of Regal Vines, Inc.?”
“Why, yes I—”
“You’re planning to clear away the park.” Daisy cut him off.
“You’re going to take away the public garden to grow grapes!” shouted Rose. Colton looked at her, and then at the placard.
“Wouldn’t it make sense to carry around that placard after I clear it?”
“You’re not going to clear it!” said Daisy. “That’s the intention here.”
“Listen,” said Lily, the fuschia one with the lily in her mane, “this is a public park. The young foals come here and this is where many of them first learn about trees and flowers.”
“Yeah...” said Colton, looking around, “Don’t see many foals around. In fact, I don’t see much of anypony here except us.”
“It’s a school day,” Daisy said through her teeth.
“Point taken,” said Colton, laughing. “Now, look, I’m sure we can all come to an amiable agreement—”
“What, you only clear part of the park?” asked Rose sarcastically.
“I think he means paying us money,” said Daisy in a similarly sarcastic tone.
“Look,” said Colton, “tell ya what, I’ll reserve a table at that restaurant, oh, what is it... The Green Gardens? Yeah, I’ll reserve a table there for dinner tonight, and you three ladies can come by and we can discuss this all businesslike.”
“But—” said Daisy.
“How’s six o’clock?” asked Colton, turning to leave. “Six o’clock sounds great for me. See you there!”
As the grape tycoon trotted off, the three flower girls looked at each other with similar looks of annoyance and confusion.
Daisy arrived at The Green Gardens completely alone. She’d only eaten there once before, and she hadn’t liked it. It was one of those stuffy joints where the food was too expensive and the music was too slow.
“May I help you, mademoiselle?” asked the stallion at the reception desk, a unicorn with a fancy moustasche and ridiculous French accent.
“Yes, I’m here with a reservation? It might be under ‘Colton?’”
“Oui, oui, cherie,” said the waiter, lifting a menu, “right this way.”
Daisy followed the waiter, somewhat confused. “Haven’t I seen you at that Hoedown restaurant? I thought you worked there.”
“I work at every restaurant.”
The waiter led her to a large table surrounded by red cushions, where Sir Colton Vines III was seated, looking bored out of his skull. Bored, that is, until he saw Daisy approaching.
“Ah!” he said. “So glad you could make it.”
“May I start you off with something to drink?” asked the waiter, as she sat down. Daisy opened her mouth to start, but Colton cut her off.
“Allow me,” he said, “get a bottle of the best. I think you know what I mean.”
“Certainly,” said the waiter, nodding and walking off. Colton turned back to look at Daisy.
“Where are you friends?” Colton asked. “I invited—”
“They didn’t come,” she said. “We drew straws, and I got the short one.”
“I feel offended...”
“What,” Daisy asked, “did you think we’d all leave the park and leave it open for you to bulldoze it?”
“Well, I wasn’t gonna take advantage of you all being away,” said Colton. “I just wanted to show a little goodwill, see if we can come to an agreement?”
“I don’t see how that’s possible,” said Daisy. “You want to clear out the park, I want it to stay. I don’t see how that works out.”
Soon, the waiter returned, carrying a bottle.
“Ah, wonderful!” said Colton as the waiter took their glasses and poured it out—grape juice. “Waiter, show her the label.”
The waiter, his expression not changing but clearly hiding a degree of annoyance, complied and turned the bottle around. On the label was Sir Colton Vines’ smiling face.
“Ya like it?” asked Colton, flashing the same smile. “Mon visage, as our waiter here might say, eh?”
Daisy’s expression, however, was not promising for the stallion. “Is this what you brought me here for?” she asked. “To show off your grape juice?”
“Pardon me for trying to break the ice.” Colton leaned forward. “Listen, I get that you’re mad because you like the park and all that, but y’see, I gotta run a business. I spent money on the land, and that means that it’s mine. If I wanted to, I could just sue you and bump you off of there.”
“Good,” said Daisy, “you do that. See how much money you have to spend on your lawyers.”
Colton’s eyes shifted, confirming Daisy’s suspicions that it had been a bluff.
“Okay...” said Colton, “listen, I’m trying to be reasonable. Grapes aren’t as big as apples or oranges or bananas or any of those fruits. Profits have been falling, and my backers aren’t happy...”
“Isn’t that a better reason not to spend money developing land?”
“I’m taking a risk here,” said Colton. “But my folks are thinking of opening a new line of raisin products.”
“Yeah. Kids like ‘em. Well, parents like ‘em, anyway. But that’s beside the point. The point is, the park—”
“We use that park to teach the kids about nature,” said Daisy. “Do you remember when you were a colt?”
“Back when you were a colt, in school,” said Daisy. “Do you remember that?”
“Remember the unicorns and the pegasi in your class?” she asked. “How they had magic and wings and you didn’t? Did they ever show off? Lord it over you? Make you feel like you weren’t special?”
“Ummm...” said Colton, thinking, “I dunno.”
“Well, kids have to put up with that. We use that park to teach the earth pony foals that they are special. We teach them about the flowers and the trees and about nature, and about the special connection they have to it. You should understand that, Mr. Vines.”
“Well, I do—”
“No, you don’t,” said Daisy. “Because if you did, you’d realize that it’s more important than making money selling raisins.” She got off of her cushion.
“Hey, where are you going?”
“Back to the park,” said Daisy, “it was dumb of me to come here.”
“But can’t we meet again?” said Colton. “I mean, really, I want to come to an agreement here.”
Daisy looked at him. There was that smile again, the smile on the label of the bottle—charming but completely insincere. She turned and left without saying another word.
Lily sat on a stone, tuning a guitar. Rose sat on another nearby stone, the placard leaning against her shoulder. It was now evening, the stars just starting to come out. In front of them sat a flickering campfire.
They were still in the park, as they’d been almost the entire day. They’d passed the time by swapping slogans back and forth, chanting to nopony in particular, singing, and occasionally tending to the flowers in the park. This passed largely without incident until Daisy came back, grumbling.
“Well, that was a complete waste of time,” she said, sitting down on a rock.
“What happened?” asked Rose.
“Nothing, that’s what,” Daisy shrugged, “he wasn’t interested in the park or anything. He just wanted to talk about his grape juice. And raisins.”
“No terms?” Rose asked. “No requests?”
“None that I gave him time for,” said Daisy. “It was dumb of me to bother going. If he wants to make a deal, he can come right here.”
Lily strummed a few chords on the guitar. Daisy just sulked there. “He threatened to send his lawyers after us,” said Daisy, “but I think he was bluffing.”
“Wait, what?” Lily asked as the guitar playing screeched to a halt. “Lawyers?”
“Because we’re technically on his property?” Rose asked nervously.
“He won’t do it,” said Daisy. “He wants things to go over nice and easy without being any trouble.”
“Oh, we’ll give him trouble alright...” said Rose, beating her hooves against each other.
“Rose, please, just let me think...” Daisy said, rubbing her temples.
“Umm...” said Lily, “when are we going to stop? I mean, I’ve got my flower cart...”
“We’re not stopping, Lily,” said Rose, “that’s why it’s a protest.”
“It’ll be fine if one of us leaves at a time,” reasoned Daisy. “Wasn’t the end of the world when I left,” she laughed. “Y’know, it’s funny...”
“What?” Lily asked.
“He pretended to be all offended that we didn’t all drop the protest and join him for dinner.”
“Full of himself, huh?” Rose asked, rolling her eyes.
“Very,” Daisy nodded dryly.
Lily resumed strumming on the guitar, getting a decent chord progression going, while Rose stared at the campfire. Rose heard a rustling sound next to her, and turned her head to see Daisy standing up. “What’re you doing?”
“I’m going for a walk,” said Daisy. “Just going to look at the park. If we can’t save it, I’d like to get a few last looks at it.”
“Okay,” said Rose, as Daisy walked off.
As Daisy left the campfire, the chords from Lily’s guitar were replaced by the sounds of crickets. The garden wasn’t very well-lit from the stars or the moonlight, but she could feel it around her, cool and beautiful in the night. She, like many ponies, liked to take walks—they helped her to clear her head and think.
She knew all the flowers in the park: the violets, the roses, the chrysanthemums, the orchids, the hibiscus, the poppies, the crocuses, the pansies, the iris, lilies, the bird of paradise, the snapdragons (the kids loved to play with those ones), and even the dandelions, which needed to be weeded out sometimes. She stopped at one spot she remembered fondly—it had been the place where she had planted her first bed of daisies. The day they bloomed was the day she got her cutie mark. The daisies were long-gone, however, now replaced by a rosebush.
She was going to save this park. She had to, and she didn’t care if she had to stop a grape tycoon or the princess herself.
“Alright,” said an earth pony at the table. “So, protesters are preventing us from developing our new property. What do we do?”
Colton, his board of directors, and other important officers sat around a table.
“Three hippy flower girls,” said Colton. “Cute ones, too. They didn’t respond well to be asked out to dinner, though.”
“We have other options,” said a glasses-wearing pegasus. “Obviously, we can try making a deal: we could pay them off, donate to some sort of charity they like...”
“We could simply force them off,” suggested a unicorn.
“No, no no no,” said Colton. “That’s too blunt and that makes us look bad. We need to come to an agreement; find some way so that they’ll go quietly. I think we’d best focus on the leader; without her, the other two will quietly slink off to the side.”
“So what do we do?”
“Publicity campaign!” shouted a unicorn excitedly. “We go out and plant trees! That way they see that we... we...” His voice trailed off as he saw the other ponies looking at him with flat, deadpan expressions.
“No,” said Colton. “That’s stupid. We’re not doing that.”
“I suggest we just try to find something they want,” suggested another pony. “See if they’ll accept some money in exchange, or maybe agree to set aside some of the land for a public park. That’s what they want, right? We just need to get them to let up a little; we’ll get what we want, and they’ll get a little something they want.”
“Good idea,” said Colton. “I’ll drop by on my lunch break tomorrow,” he laughed. “Hippies are fun. They’re always up with their flowers and stuff and then they get so angry. Also, you,” he pointed at the unicorn who suggested publicity, “don’t talk again.”
Daisy wasn’t at the park that day; it was her turn to watch the trio’s flower stands in the Ponyville market. They couldn’t afford to let their livelihoods suffer while they were fighting to save the park.
The flower business went about as well as it always did; there was always somepony who wanted flowers to freshen up a room or impress a pretty filly. It wasn’t a big money-maker, but it was a dependable living.
They’d put up posters on the flower stands: Save Ponyville Park, they read. The ponies didn’t directly respond to it; they’d glance at the poster and then go about their business, but some of them did show up at the park. Daisy still wished they’d gotten more support, but she didn’t have any better ideas.
The day went normally: she opened the cart, tended to them, sold flowers, made small-talk, and all the usual pleasant and comfortable activities of the day.
There was always, however, a sag in business at some point in the middle of the day, which gave Daisy a chance to catch a breather.
“Taking a break from the hippy protest?” asked a voice. Daisy looked up and saw a smugly smiling Colton.
“Shouldn’t you be doing a board meeting or whatever it is you business-types do?” she asked.
“I like to go outside for my lunch breaks,” said Colton. “So, how goes the protest?”
“It’s going fine,” she said, her tone flattening.
“Y’know, I was thinking of making another proposition,” said Colton. “Y’see, we’ve put a fair bit of money into buying the land, so you can understand that we’re not happy about this. However!” he emphasized as he propped himself up, “We are willing to invest a little bit more into the land.”
Daisy waited for Colton to continue. When he didn’t, however, she realized that he expected her to respond. “...Aaaaaaand?”
“Well, I look at your business here,” he rapped on the counter with his hoof, “and I think that it can’t be a very big source of income.”
“It’s enough for me...”
“But just think,” said Colton, cutting her off with a raised hoof. “We give you girls a bit of an ‘economic boost,’ as they say, you can expand your business here. Think about it—a little money could get you a lot of flowers, and you’d be able to share it with a lot of customers.”
Daisy stared at him.
“Well?” he asked.
“I don’t believe it,” said Daisy. “You know, before I thought you were at least trying to be subtle, but you’re actually trying to bribe me?”
“Well, not just you,” shrugged Colton. “All three of you, really.”
“Don’t insult me, Colton,” glared Daisy. “Just because you’re easily convinced by money doesn’t mean that I am.”
“Don’t insult me, Daisy,” whispered Colton. “In my line of work you need to be practical. Sometimes that means you don’t always get everything you want. Sometimes that means you have to make compromises. I happen to have made the right compromises, and maybe you’d be better off if you started thinking about it.”
“Why? So I can be like you?”
Colton didn’t say anything. He straightened his neck in an attempt to make himself look taller. “I’ll report that as a ‘maybe’ for your sake,” he said. “I suggest you don’t burn bridges before you cross them. As much as you might loathe me for being a corporate horse, keep in mind that if I and my backers were so inclined, we could simply force you off of the park without you getting a bit.”
“Well, at least then I wouldn’t be a sell-out.”
Colton turned to leave, his steps hitting the ground a bit harder than they had before.
Colton was walking along the street, back to his home. Usually there was some other pony with him, discussing business, but this time there wasn’t, due to his previous dinner plans. He had hoped that his walk home would be with the protesters, but that hadn’t worked out like he wanted.
When he finally reached his home, he was more than ready to just flop into bed. He walked up the pathway past the lawn to his front door. He didn’t feel like properly maintaining a real lawn, so he’d replaced it with a fake one some time ago. He opened the front door, walking in. While the house was all fancy and shiny on the outside, inside it was a disorganized jumble. He walked down the hall, his eyes half-shut, feebly avoiding newspapers, packaging, letters, bills, photographs of him looking like an idiot, and other miscellaneous junk. He peered out the window, looking at the vineyard, completely silent and still now that the workers had gone home.
He passed by a bulletin board, glancing at the sheet of paper posted on it. Blah blah blah marketshare falling, he thought, blah blah blah the vineyard’s losing money. He walked to the fridge and opened it. Inside was grape juice, grape juice, and more grape juice, and all of it smiling at him with his own face. He laughed to himself—there were probably more bottles of the stuff in there than there were on store shelves. He stuck his head into the fridge, taking one bottle that was already open, end-first. He pulled his head back out of the fridge and then craned it backwards, letting the cool, sweet grape juice go into his mouth. That was what he needed before going to sleep.
He trudged over to a nearby couch and flopped down on it, bottle still in his mouth. The floor around the couch was littered with bottles. He closed his eyes, trying to lick the last bits of juice out of it. A little while after he tried to fall asleep, however...
DING-DONG! went the doorbell. Colton moaned and turned on the couch. DING-DONG! it went again.
No, go away, Colton thought, I’m asleep/busy/not home.
Still, the doorbell did not relent. DING-DONG!
Oh, all right, he grumbled, sitting up. He blinked, noticing that there was light coming from the windows; it was morning already. He groaned again before hauling himself off of the couch and heading for the door.
When he got to the door, he opened it. At first he saw that there was nopony there, but then he looked down and saw a filly staring at him. He certainly did look odd, with those groggy eyes and the bottle in his mouth.
“Hi, sir...” said the filly. Colton, not wanting to look like an idiot, placed the bottle down.
“Yes?” he asked. “What in Equestria are you doing out this early in the morning?”
“I’m with the Filly Scouts, sir,” she said. “I’m selling flower seeds.” She nodded her head towards a wheelbarrow behind her, stacked with boxes.
“Flower seeds?” Colton asked.
“Yes sir,” she said. “We have daisies, lilacs, dandelions...” She continued to list them off, but Colton was still tired and tuned out after that. He really just wanted to get to bed, but he decided he’d be polite.
“Alright,” he said, “how much for, uh, the first one?”
“Just one bit for a box!” she said, apparently very glad to make a sale.
“Alright, just hold on a second,” said Colton, retreating into the house, while the filly did an excited little dance. He emerged a few seconds later, tossing a coin into the wheelbarrow, while the filly held out a box of daisy seeds in her mouth.
“Thank you so much!” she said happily, as Colton took the box.
“Mm-hmm...” said the stallion apathetically as he shut the door. He retreated back into the house, tossing the box unceremoniously onto the counter and flopping back onto the couch.
Daisy woke up a little later the next morning than she had planned to. The campfire had long since burned out, and Lily and Rose were nowhere to be seen. Well, Lily was nowhere to be seen—Daisy quickly saw that Rose was standing around with her placard.
“Did I oversleep?” Daisy asked, sitting up.
“Kinda, yeah,” said Rose. “Lily went back into town to take care of our livelihoods.”
“Anypony come by?” yawned Daisy.
“No, not really.”
Daisy sighed and got up, joining Rose at the picketing spot. She guessed it didn’t really matter how much support they got, as long as they didn’t mow over the park. Still, she felt a sense of despondency that nopony else seemed to care.
“So, how’s it going?”
Daisy’s head shot up. There was Sir Colton Vines III. “What do you want?” she asked.
“I was thinking about terms,” he said. “You know, you left before I got a chance to say anything.”
“Well?” she asked.
“Okay, here’s my idea,” said Colton, “what do you say I leave a patch of land for you or anypony to keep as a park—like a little public garden that you’ll be in charge of?”
Daisy didn’t say anything. She looked over at Rose, who seemed to be mulling it over. She looked back at Colton, and saw him smiling the smug “bottle smile” again. That did it.
The smile dropped right off of Colton’s face. “No?”
“You heard me,” said Daisy. “The park stays.”
“You know, you’re really not allowed to decide that,” said Colton. “I’m trying to be nice.”
“And I’m trying to be honest.”
The two ponies stood there, glaring at each other. Rose looked back and forth between the two, not completely sure what to make of the whole thing. Colton took a deep breath, trying to regain his composure.
“Listen, think about it from my perspective,” he said. “I’ve put an investment in here. If I can’t develop it, well... there goes the money.”
“What if we can buy it back?” asked Rose. They both looked at her. “I mean, that seems fair, doesn’t it? If we can raise the money—”
“I don’t think...” Colton began.
“But if we can?” Daisy interrupted.
Colton stood there for a bit, pondering the idea. “I think that could work.”
“Buy back the park?”
“Seemed fair enough?” Colton shrugged.
This statement was met by groans from the other ponies in the board room. Colton looked around—bunch of stuffy business types who probably enjoyed all the financial talk a lot more than he did.
“Buying the land back is not an option,” said one of them, a grey earth pony with a white mane and a monocle. “We need the land in order to expand the vineyard.”
“I know that, three-eyes, I’m not stupid,” grumbled Colton.
“Then maybe it’d be best if you’d let us do our job, Mr. Vines,” said the earth pony. “I don’t think you quite appreciate how badly this company is doing.”
“Well, if you say so, Mr. Posh,” said Colton, “how exactly do you propose we deal with the protesters?”
“Oh, it shouldn’t be very difficult,” said Mr. Posh, turning toward the window. “Everypony has their price.”
“Dude, have you ever met a hippy?” asked Colton. “I mean, I kinda already tried that, and she got offended.”
“Can’t we just...” asked a unicorn, “shoo them off?”
“You met these girls?” Colton asked with narrowed eyes. “Try it. No, really, you try it.”
“Colton, you don’t understand marketing like I do,” said the pony dubbed Mr. Posh. “Everypony has something they want. And if you can give that pony what they want, you can get anything you want from them.”
“Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but there’s one little problem with that train of thought,” said Colton. The posh pony turned his head. “You kinda forgot that the something they want is ‘don’t take away our park.’ So you see, we’re kinda at an impasse.”
“Nopony wants just one thing...” muttered the posh pony. There was a pause. “You know, I don’t know if your heart’s really into this. What, you don’t want us to succeed here?”
“Look, all I’m saying is that we can’t develop the land if there are protesters on it, and there really isn’t a good way to get the protesters off it. I think maybe we should...” Colton gestured randomly with his hooves, “Just... let them raise the money, let them buy the park back, and then we find some new plot of land that isn’t covered in flowers.”
The ponies in the room were almost completely silent. They mulled it over, considering it.
“You think they can raise the money?” asked the posh pony.
“Not really, no,” Colton shrugged.
“Mr. Vines,” said the posh pony, walking back to the table. “I would like to remind you—”
“No, don’t you remind me anything!” snapped Colton. “This is my company! The vineyard has been in my family for three generations. I got it where it is, I built this company, and I—”
“...Did not bother to keep track of how many shares of stock you were holding onto.”
Colton sat back down. Mr. Monocle continued.
“Every day those protesters prevent us from developing the land is another day that we waste money on employees who are waiting to do their job, another day where our land investment is wasted. Mr. Vines, you have one week to solve this problem. Either you get those hippies out of the park, or we get our money back. Otherwise, we’ll have to take some unfortunate measures. Is that understood?”
Colton sat down. “Yes,” he nodded.
As the park was the most pressing thing on Colton’s mind the next day, he walked there on his time off. There were the workers, still waiting; still taking up company time and money. He could just see that unicorn with the raisins in his mind, pulling his mane out in frustration. He laughed at that.
He noticed, to his surprise, that the park was much better-attended today than it had been earlier. There were pony parents with their foals, and the flower girls seemed to have set up a stand with a giant sign: SAVE PONYVILLE PARK. Some foals were lined up in front of the stand, where Lily was sitting, handing out packets to whomever came to the front of the line. Colton took his place at the end of the line, to which Lily took no notice until he got to the front.
“Why, hello,” said Colton. “What’s this for?”
“Uhh...” said Lily. “We’re selling seeds for the foals to plant.”
“Got a bit of word-of-mouth out too?”
“That’s right,” said a voice behind him. He turned around to find Daisy facing him.
“I guess you decided to take me up on that offer?” Colton asked. “You’re going to buy the park back?”
“That’s the plan,” said Daisy.
“So far, we’ve got fifteen bits!” proclaimed Lily. Colton simply stepped out of line.
“...Yeah, that’s not enough.” He said, shaking his head.
“We’ve still got time.” Daisy said, a little less confidently.
“A week, actually,” said Colton. “That’s as much time as we can spare.”
“We’ll get the money.”
“If you say so,” said Colton. “Good luck on that.”
“So, uhh...” said Lily. “Would you like to buy some seeds?”
Colton narrowed his eyes. “No, I...” his voice broke off. “Wait a minute...”
“What is it?” Daisy asked suspiciously, but Colton didn’t answer. He just turned around and trotted off. Rose looked at him, an eyebrow raised.
“What’s he up to?” she asked.
“No idea,” dismissed Daisy. “He probably thought of some new way to bribe us.” Daisy was uninterested in whatever was turning around in Colton’s mind. He’d probably be back in a half-hour and try to act charming again, but she wouldn’t be interested. She watched as more foals lined up to buy their packets of seeds. Once purchased, they took a watering can and went over to a bare patch of dirt to try planting them.
There was one filly, however, who seemed a bit too nervous to start. She just sat, staring blankly at the dirt in front of her.
“Is something wrong?” asked Daisy.
“I’m scared,” said the filly. “What if I can’t do it?”
“You’ll do fine,” said Daisy. “Just start by digging a little hole. Go on...”
The filly nervously lifted a hoof and began rubbing it into the dirt, make a small depression in the soil.
“Not too deep, though. The seed needs to be able to break the surface when it grows. Now, just take one of your seeds,” continued Daisy. The filly slowly took a seed in her mouth and dropped it into the hole. “Now, put the dirt back on.”
“After all that?” asked the filly.
“Yes,” Daisy made an effort not to laugh. “Now, just move the dirt back on top...” The filly did so. “Now, sprinkle a little water on it.” The filly struggled a little to lift the watering can, managing to splash a little water onto her patch of dirt. “That’s good. Now it just needs some time, and soon enough you’ll have a beautiful flower that you planted all by yourself.”
“Will it really grow?”
“I think it will.”
Daisy walked away and watched as the foals—some with parents—worked to try planting their seeds. Lily had put up some posters on the flower cart back in town and told customers about the park. It seemed that had been a good idea, but Colton’s words worried her; just how much money would they have to raise to buy back the park? And was it even possible? Well, she figured, we have to try.
Rose, meanwhile, was still holding up the placard, and Daisy had to concede that maybe Colton was right; the sign really didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
“Well, I’m back!” called a voice from outside of the park, to Daisy’s eternal consternation. “You know, a funny thing happened the other day,” said Colton through his teeth, due to the bag in his mouth. “A Filly Scout stopped by my door and...”
“Daisy seeds?” asked the mare, her eyes narrowed at the package. “Are you even trying to be subtle anymore?”
“Uhh...” Colton said. This, he realized, was awkward. “Would you believe me if I told you that I was tired and that this was completely coincidental?”
“Worth a shot...” said Colton. “Anyway, I thought that since you’re doing a whole ‘planting’ thing, I’d try out. I mean, that is okay, right?”
Daisy looked at her compatriots, a little uncertain. “Well, okay, I guess...”
“Okay,” said Colton, walking up to a patch of dirt and setting down the packet of seeds.
“You could’ve bought some from us...” said Lily.
“But then I’d be giving you money,” said Colton, “which you would then have to give back to me. That’d be confusing.” He stepped over to a stretch of soil. “So, I think I can do this...”
Daisy watched him; she was curious. Colton knelt down to the ground and started fiddling with the soil with his hoof, poking small holes into the earth, all in a row. He opened his bag of seeds and put a seed in each hole, before covering them up with the displaced soil. He smiled softly as he did so; it wasn’t the same as the smile on the bottles. This one didn’t seem like it was trying so hard to put a face forward.
“Wait!” said Daisy. Colton looked up. “You’re planting them too close together...” she knelt down, poking at the dirt with her hooves. “If you plant them too close together the roots will strangle each other. Not to mention it doesn’t look as pretty.” Daisy had rearranged the holes in the dirt so that they were a little farther apart. “There,” she said, “that should do it.” She looked at him, smiling a little before she remembered who she was talking to.
Colton laughed a little nervously. “Well, I guess I just haven’t done this in a while,” he finished.
“Have you done gardening before?”
“Yeah, I have,” said Colton. “Back when I was a foal my parents owned the vineyard; the family business, y’see, so I helped out. It was a lot smaller then. More like a big backyard, than, well...”
“Then you expanded?”
“Yeah, I did. Got so that it was more than I could handle on my own, so I got some hired hooves, and, well...” He gave another nervous laugh. “I think I got a little out of practice. Kind of ironic, really... The more I grew, the less I did myself. I haven’t planted a seed or gotten my hooves dirty for...” his voice trailed off.
“Well!” he exclaimed as he stood up. “I think I need to get back to the vineyard now. I’ll be back tomorrow?”
“You aren’t going to try to bribe us before you leave?” Daisy asked.
“Afraid not,” said Colton, walking away, “I’ll see if I can think of something tomorrow.”
Forty-five bits, Daisy counted. It’d been three days, and that was all they’d gotten so far. The foals stopped coming, the initial interest having died off. It was no good. They wouldn’t be able to buy back the park, but she couldn’t give up. Lily was still sitting at the stand, and Rose had fallen asleep next to a tree, dubiously propped up by her placard.
“Hey,” said a voice. Daisy turned around and saw Colton there. “So, how’s ‘Project: Save the Park’ coming?”
“It’s coming along great,” said Daisy. “It’s still here, after all.”
“Uh-huh,” said Colton, as he looked up at the trees. “Y’know, I can see why you’re so eager to save this place. It’s... it’s nice.”
“Glad you think so,” said Daisy. “That mean you won’t tear it down?”
“Wellll, it’s not completely my say,” said Colton. “I mean, got a business to run. Shareholders to satisfy. Those things. Besides, I don’t like losing.”
“Neither do I.”
Colton continued walking down the path, looking at the dirt where the foals had planted their flowers. “Did the kids like it?”
“Yes, they did,” said Daisy. “It’s like I said, this is important for the earth pony foals. Even if their talents turn out to be something completely different, this... this connection to the earth is part of who we are.”
Colton stopped at one part. “Well, lookie here,” he said, pointing a hoof at one little sapling that seemed to not have broken through the top of the soil all the way. “This one isn’t doing so well.”
“It’ll do fine,” said Daisy, taking a nearby watering can. “All it needs is a little water, a little sunshine, and a whole lot of love.” She lightly watered the sprout. “There,” she said. “It just needed a little...” she turned around and saw Colton, his legs completely locked up. “Colton?” she asked, a puzzled expression on her face. He was frozen, but in that way that made it look like he was trying desperately hard not to shake. Something seemed wrong with his face, too: his face seemed scrunched up and his eyes were clenched shut. “Are you alright?”
“I... I...” Colton said, barely able to get any words out. “I gotta go!” He choked out, before he turned and galloped out of the park.
“Wait!” Daisy called after him, but he didn’t stop. He just kept running out. Daisy stood there, deeply confused and more than a little concerned.
She walked back to the stand where Rose and Lily were stationed, thinking about what just happened.
“Wow, girl,” said Rose. “I don’t know what you just did, but that was hardcore.”
“Huh?” asked Daisy, still not completely down to earth.
“You must’ve done something to Colton,” said Lily.
“Tore right through here,” said Rose.
“He was crying.”
Daisy stood there, stunned. “Crying?” She looked off in the direction that Colton had run off in, wondering what in Equestria it was that she did.
Colton sat in that stuffy little meeting room again, listening to the suits prattle on about marketing and products and the other assorted thing. The unicorn—the one who was interested in opening the line of raisin products—was talking about his hopes and dreams for the near future.
“So, I think that once the protesters are gone, we can immediately start growing and hopefully get the raisins out by the end of the season—”
“Oh, will you shut up about the dumb raisins already?” groaned Colton. The unicorn instantly shut up, while the earth pony with the monocle raised an eyebrow at the tycoon.
“Tell me, you’ve talked to the protesters. Will they get enough money?”
“Nope,” said Colton. “Not a chance. It’s not the kind of money you can get with the low-rent equivalent of a bake sale.”
“Well, guess we’ll just have to wait for them to clear off.”
“Eh,” said Colton. “They’re hippies. You can’t count on them to ‘clear off.’”
“Perhaps not. But if they don’t, I think we can simply have them arrested.”
“What?” Colton’s head shot up. “Arrest them?”
“They’re on our property. If they don’t vacate when we tell them to, we’ll be well within our rights to—”
“They’re flower girls,” said Colton. “You... you can’t have some flower girls arrested for, for... c’mon, think of the bad publicity!”
“It might be regrettable, but I don’t think it could sink us much lower. It’s desperate times, Mr. Vines. Sweet Apple Acres is breaking into the grape business, and we might not be able to compete with them.”
“I’ll bet not,” said Colton, “seeing how we get beat by hippies.” He looked around the table; the other ponies were staring at him. “What?”
“Are you happy with this development, Mr. Vines?” asked the monocled pony.
“Happy...” said Colton. “Happy... am I happy? No. I’m not happy. I don’t think I’ve been happy for a very long time. I’m always either at my cluttered-up home with its terrible fake lawn or I’m in my office listening to you stodges go on and on about figures and profits and oh-no-how-are-we-going-to-fare-in-the-next-quarter and I hate it. Y’know, at first it was nice getting a lot of money, but now, now it’s just...” His voice trailed off as he looked around. The other ponies were staring at him. “What? What are you looking at me for? Say something!”
The silence in the room was deafening. “I think...” said posh pony, “that everything’s been said.” That was the last thing he said before he walked out of the room. The other ponies followed suit, slowly filing out.
“Where’s everypony going?” Colton asked. “What are you...” But there wasn’t anything left to say. The room had emptied.
Lily and Rose had gone home. Daisy was all alone in the park. The stand where they had been selling seeds was starting to fall apart, but that didn’t really matter. Nopony was buying. They hadn’t even made a fraction of the amount of money it would take to buy the park back. She put a hoof up against a cherry tree. It would be about time for its flowers to blossom soon. The flowers on the cherry tree didn’t last very long; they sat there briefly, and fell. Maybe that was part of the reason they were beautiful.
She heard hoofsteps coming up behind her. Maybe Rose and Lily had come back. When she turned around, however, she didn’t see her friends, but she instead saw a familiar stallion, one who didn’t have his head quite as high as he usually did.
“Colton?” she asked.
“The park stays,” said Colton. “You win.”
“What?” Daisy asked. It seemed silly—all of a sudden, the guy just up and quit.
“The vineyard’s gone,” he said, shrugging. “The other stodges didn’t like how I was taking too long. They, uh... they liquidated everything.”
Daisy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Not only was the park staying, but Colton was... She gasped. She’d put Colton out of business. “You mean...”
“Yeah,” Colton said, “all gone. Well, not completely gone. I’ve still got some money and some plants, and enough land for me to grow on.”
“I’m sorry...” said Daisy. “I didn’t mean to ruin your livelihood.”
“No, don’t be sorry,” said Colton, “I came here to thank you. You were right. This park is more important than me or the other guys making more money. More important than the raisins.” He looked around at the park. “You showed me everything, Daisy. Showed me everything I used to think was beautiful and important. I... I’d forgotten how beautiful it was to see the plants just starting to break the soil, to see the flowers blossom, to see the hummingbirds and the bees. To watch the flowers bloom in the spring and then bear fruit in the autumn, and watch everything sleeping in the winter. That’s an entire world that I used to know, and then I forgot it.”
Daisy was not completely sure how to take this. It was as though he’d done a complete turnaround overnight. Gone was the smug smile on the bottles, the attempts at sweet-talking, that arrogant tone of “oh-you’ll-see-it-my-way-soon-enough.”
“What are you going to do now?” she asked.
“I think I’ll start over,” he said. “Plant my grapes. But... this time I want to do it right. I’m also going to get an actual lawn.” He turned to leave. “Well, I gotta go now. I’ll see you around, Daisy. Maybe we’ll get along better now that I’m not trying to destroy something you love.”
Daisy watched as he slowly walked out of the park. “Colton, wait.”
Colton stopped and turned his head to see Daisy walking up to him.
“You’re a bit rusty on the gardening,” she said. “I think you could use some help.”
“I’d like that,” he said. “Y’know, you’re not so bad. For a hippy.”
“Well, you’re not so bad. For a corporate horse.”
Colton chuckled a little at that, before resuming his walk with Daisy. For once, he felt good about himself. He wasn’t going to have as much money anymore, but he didn’t think he needed it. He’d be happy as long as he had a beautiful garden to tend to, and somepony to share it with.