Manehatten is a magnificent city in the summertime. The weather ponies always take the utmost pride in their work, tirelessly clearing away the clouds in the day, letting the busy ponies go about their work amongst the hustle and bustle of the downtown businesses. Ordinarily that same hustle and bustle would subside over the course of the day, but today was far from ordinary. At least, for most ponies. For one pony this sort of thing was the norm, whenever he could be goaded into making an appearance, and this was because it was his presence that caused all the commotion. The pony in question was named Silver Tongue, a powerful looking stallion who just happened to be one of the foremost authors in all of Equestria. And while most days saw him alone in his abode, whiling away on his typewriter, today he found himself signing autographs for his fans - tiresome work, but a necessary evil.
“Thank you for stopping by,” He smiled at an excited unicorn mare, “I hope you have a wonderful day.” The unicorn stepped out of line and trotted off with a friend, giggling gleefully and leaving a gap between the table where he sat and the earth pony at the front of the line.
“Afternoon, sir,” Silver Tongue greeted him, before he was interrupted by a small, small-town voice.
“Ahm not a sir! I’m a miss!”
Silver Tongue blinked, and leaned over his table to find the source of the voice - a little yellow earth filly, flank bereft of a cutie mark, and a pink bow in her red mane. “So you are!” Silver Tongue laughed, “What can I do for you, little miss?”
“Th’ sahn outsahd said you were sahnin’ autographs today!” She exclaimed happily, lifting a book onto the table, “And ah wanted to get one!”
“Well, that sign speaks the truth,” Silver Tongue said, inspecting the book - it was The Soul of the Hoof, one of his older works, about a pacifist soldier. “But, ah, if I may,” He said, “This certainly doesn’t seem like something for a young filly like yourself...”
“Oh, it’s not mahn,” She told him, “It’s my big brother, Big Macintosh’s! I wanted to surprise him, he’s a big fan of yers.”
“Ah, the makes sense,” Silver Tongue nodded, flicking the book open to the inside cover, “and might I say, your brother - Big Macintosh, you said his name was? - is a very lucky fellow, to have such a wonderful little filly as yourself for a sister.” He picked up his pen, and wrote a greeting inside the book. For some reason, perhaps it was the filly’s boundless energy, he felt compelled to make this different from his standard. Thank you, Big Macintosh, for being such a wonderful fan. I sincerely hope you continue to enjoy my books for as long as I can continue writing them. Satisfied, he nodded, and handed the book back to the young pony. “There you are, young miss,” He said as she took the book back, “Have a lovely day. And if you remember, say hello to your brother for me, alright?”
“Sure thing, mister!” She exclaimed, scurrying off and leaving her place in line to be filled by the earth pony.
“Good afternoon, good afternoon, how are you?” Silver Tongue greeted. He greeted tirelessly, customer after customer, fan after fan. Young and old, colt and mare, unicorn, pegasus and earth ponies all came for his autograph. Slowly, the afternoon crept away, and the line of ponies dwindled, cutting off completely once the bookstore he sat in closed.
“How you doin’, Silver?” A pegasus stallion asked him from behind the register. Silver Tongue stretched, and twisted. His spine snapped and popped, sounding for all the world like a sheet of bubble wrap in the hands of an obsessive-compulsive child, and he grunted happily.
“Well enough, I suppose, “He responded, “Though my mouth is beginning to taste of pen.”
“Well, you’ll be able to clean it with that wine you like so much,” The pegasus laughed, “With all the bits we took in today, you’ll be able to live on wine for a year - the fancy stuff, too!”
“Wine is wine, Quill,” Silver Tongue chuckled, “Some of it might taste better than the rest, but it’s all the same in the end. Still, I think you might be on to something - I think I’ll go find a place to eat, if you don’t mind.”
“If you’re looking for company, I’ll be done here in a couple of minutes,” The pegasus known as Quill told him, starting to gather a stack of papers. Silver Tongue shook his head, and walked for the door.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” He said, “I’ve hit a bit of a block in my latest work, and I’d like some time to puzzle it out.” He opened the door and walked out into the cool evening, followed by a “suit yourself” from Quill. He breathed the crisp air deeply, and his nostrils caught hint of a familiar smell - Pasta, and a cream sauce. Telltale signs of Trotalian food, a favourite of Silver Tongue’s. He walked in the direction of the scent, and soon came upon a small cafe, with several outdoor tables. Silver Tongue smiled and sat at one, whereupon he was quickly attended to by a pegasus mare. Thankfully, she didn’t recognize him, and he gave his order quickly and with little fanfare. The mare went back inside, leaving Silver Tongue alone with his thoughts. Despite what he had told the pegasus in the bookstore, they were not thoughts of his book, but rather thoughts of foals. Specifically, thoughts of a young colt, only a few days old, and red as an apple. His meal came quickly, and with it came the wine. He sipped it gratefully, savouring the texture over his tongue, the richness, and the bitter sting of the taste. He set the glass down, and was just about to start on his meal when he heard a familiar voice.
“Big Macintosh, look! It’s that writer I was tellin’ you about! Hey, mister!” Silver Tongue looked up to greet the young filly from earlier that day, but saw who she was with, and froze.
A stallion, powerfully built, and red as an apple.
“Heya, mister! Remember me?” The filly said, running up to him and breaking his trance. He shook his head slightly, and said,
“Why, yes I do, little miss.” He turned to the stallion, and smiled, “And you are...Big Macintosh, I presume?” The stallion slowly walked up to the table, and nodded.
“Eeyup,” He said simply, “You’re Silver Tongue?”
“Yes,” He answered, “Yes, I am.”
“Big Macintosh didn’t believe me when I told him you said hi,” The filly told Silver Tongue, “But you can set’m straight, right mister?”
“Applebloom, we shouldn’t bother the nahce pony,” Big Mac began, but Silver Tongue waved a hoof at him.
“Not at all, not at all,” He insisted, “your sister is quite right, I did ask her to say hello to you on my behalf...I enjoy meeting my fans. Would you, uh...” Silver Tongue paused, arranging the words carefully in his head, “Would you care to sit, and join me? It’s a lonely work, eating alone.”
“Oh well,” Big Mac said, “We’re meeting our sister soon...”
“Aw, Big Mac, Big sis won’t be done talking to Auntie and Uncle Orange yet! We can talk to him for a while, can’t we?” Big Mac tried his best not to look into his sisters eyes, which had grown wide as dinner plates, but he simply couldn’t resist.
“Alright,” He sighed, “Yer’ right, we can stay and talk for a bit.”
“Awright!” Applebloom exclaimed, hopping up on a chair across from Silver Tongue. Big Mac pulled one up as well, and Silver Tongue thought that, despite his earlier complaints, he looked excited beneath his stoic shell. Silver Tongue tried to hide his own glee, and fortunately for him the young filly piped up again.
“How come yer’ not eatin’ with anypony, Mister? I’ll bet anypony would love to talk to you!” Silver Tongue chuckled, and told her,
“Well, yes, I imagine they would...I really can’t say, I simply manage to find myself alone some days.” In truth, those some days seemed to come more often then not, but Silver Tongue didn’t feel like dampening the eager pony’s attitude.
“But...how come,” She asked, “you must have friends, dont’cha?” Big Mac looked at his sister, and for a moment it seemed like he was about to chastise her, but Silver Tongue cut him off.
“Well, yes,” He said, “But sometimes some ponies like to be on their own...I’m sure your brother must understand?” Big Macintosh blinked at this, and Silver Tongue blinked back, as if only just realizing what he had said.
“...Yeah, Ah understand,” Big Mac said, “How’d you figure that?”
“Ah, well,” Silver Tongue said quietly, “My life is built on characters, isn’t it...I consider myself to be able to judge them quickly.” He sipped at his wine, searching for a way to expel the awkwardness from the situation. Once again, he found that Applebloom came to his rescue in this regard.
“This is an awful fancy place to come on yer own, ain’t it though?”
“I suppose it is, yes,” Silver Tongue admitted, “But I’ve always been fond of Trotalian food...it was a favourite of my wife’s...”
“Yer married mister?” This time, Big Mac did step in.
“Nah Ahpplebloom,” He said quickly, “That’s awful personal, ain’t it? You should apologize.”
“Nonsense,” Silver Tongue insisted, “Little ponies always have big questions, after all. I’m not married, no,” He cast his eyes downward, and said, “But I was once, yes.”
Silence fell around the table. Silver Tongue looked at his meal, his thoughts suddenly filled with his once bride, while Big mac looked on with a somehow knowing look. Applebloom looked between the two stallions, and her movement caught Silver Tongue’s eye.
“It’s alright,” He told her, “Go ahead and ask.”
“What happened?” Applebloom blurted out. Her eyes narrowed, and she added, “How’d you know what ah was gonna ask?”
“Everypony always does,” Silver Tongue chuckled softly, “my wife has left us, I’m afraid. She died some time ago.”
“Yer wife died!?” Applebloom shouted, dumbstruck. Big Mac nodded faintly, producing a wry laugh from Silver Tongue.
“You’ve done your research, I see,” He addressed the red stallion, who looked away, ashamed.
“Ah’m sorry, I guess it must be personal - “
“It’s only natural to be curious,” Silver Tongue shook his head, “I looked into the lives of many of my favourite writers when I was younger. Besides,” He added, “I am, at my core, a storyteller. Very little can convince me to hide a good story - I told two strangers, didn’t I?” He leaned back in his chair, and sipped at his wine again. Peering at the stallion across the table from him, he seemed to have become quite at ease with Silver Tongue, who smiled sadly into his drink. “In fact,” He added, “How would you like to hear a story right now?” Big Mac blinked, and Applebloom furrowed her brow.
“Are you gonna talk funny, like in yer books? ‘Cause I can never understand what yer sayin in ‘em...” She asked.
“Not if you don’t want me to,” Silver Tongue replied, and eyed her brother carefully. “So,” He asked, “What do you say?” The red stallion nodded slowly, and admitted,
“Ah’d love to hear one, mister Tongue.”
“There’s no need to be so formal,” Silver Tongue assured. He blinked a few times, and his eyes seemed to drift off into the distance as he spoke.
“I occasionally get convinced to do interviews,” He began, “And many times they ask me what my favourite story is...I usually tell them it’s a falling of apples...and if I were to contain what counts as a story to what I’ve written, that may be true. But I don’t, and so I’m afraid my fans know a lie about me. No, this...this is my favourite story.” His storytelling trace was broken for just a moment to peer at his audience, both listening intently. He smiled, and continued.
“I don’t think I’ll ever really understand how I came to meet her. I was never really one for talking, back then. I was a quiet colt, and I kept to myself. If I had to hazard a guess, I think she must have gotten her hooves on some of my poetry. That was how I started writing, you see, with poetry. I’ve always loved the rhythm of our language, and it seemed that she shared that love with me. I speak, of course, of my late wife. However she and I met, we grew close quickly - as you can imagine. Back in those days, I was not so successful. I could hardly support myself with my writing alone, but she was always happy to help. In fact, she always seemed to insist on it. She arrived at my apartment one day and informed me that I would be moving in with her, in fact.” He chuckled, and continued, “I really do miss her. But there’s something that, sometimes at least, makes her absence bearable. You see, I don’t make it public knowledge, but my wife’s death was...obstetrical, the term is.”
“Hold on!” Applebloom said, “you said you weren’t gonna talk funny! What does obter...oberst...what does that word mean?”
“My apologies,” Silver Tongue said, “My choice of language is an affectation. I thought I could shake it, but it seems I was wrong.” Applebloom gave him an odd look again, and Big Mac explained to her,
“An affectation is talkin’ in a way that ain’t normal.”
“Quite right,” Silver Tongue nodded, impressed, “And an Obstetrical death is...” He sighed, and continued, “Death in childbirth.” Once again, silence fell over the table.
“You...have a foal?” Applebloom asked slowly, once again scaring away the silence.
“No...well...It’s complicated.” Silver Tongue said, “He was a colt...red as an apple, just like his mother. She always insisted that if our foal was red like her, we would name them Little Apple. I followed her wishes, and so Little Apple he was. I doubt he goes by that name now, though...you see, I’m afraid I don’t really know what became of him.” He sighed, and drank deeply from his wine. A waitress came by to refill it, and he thanked her before continuing.
“It was not an easy time for me, not at all. And it was not simply because of my loss. No, I had the foal, that would have been enough to at least preoccupy me, but...well, I was not always as successful as I am today. If she had been alive, it would have been easy. We would have had more than enough to provide for him, we would have been able to make it through, but...I was never the bread winner for our little family. I simply couldn’t do it. I had to let him go.”
“You just gave him up!?” Applebloom shouted, jumping up onto the table, her eyes watering visibly.
“Applebloom!” Her brother chided, “That’s enough!” Silver Tongue raised a hoof, and shook his head.
“That was many, many years ago.” He said, “And there’s little she can say that I hadn’t said to myself at the time. I tried, I really did - I tried so desperately hard for him, but there was nothing I could do. For a while, I thought that if I could just hold out a while longer, just long enough to sell a book, we would be alright, but...well, I would always be busy writing. I’d never have time for the poor colt, and that’s not the sort of father that anypony should have. In the end, I did the right thing, and I accept that.” He drank silently from his wine, and whispered, “Though it wasn’t easy.”
“So you just...let him go?” Applebloom asked, clearly fighting back tears now, “You didn’t even try to find him one you got rich n’ famous?” Silver Tongue shook his head sadly.
“No...I just called faolcare services, and let them know. It was easier that way...I wrote a note, while I waited for them to arrive. I thought long and hard about asking them to give it to the family that took him in, about asking them to give it to him when he was old enough, but...” He took out a small, old piece of paper and unfolded it carefully. “I never did,” He said, “It wouldn’t be fair. I wouldn’t want to upset him...I’m sure that somewhere right now, he’s living a wonderful life, and I wouldn’t want to hurt that at all for him.”
“Is that...the note?” Big Mac asked with a deliberate slowness. Silver Tongue nodded, and handed the note across the table to him. Big Mac read the letter silently.
My Little Apple,
I suppose you don’t recognize the name at all...it was the name that your mother gave you when you were first born. I could hardly blame your new family for changing it...but in the end, it was all I could give you, so I just wanted you to have it.
I’ve spent my whole life as a writer, but right now, I find myself at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say to you to make what I did right. I don’t know if anything that I can say will make it right. Somehow, I doubt it. I won’t try and explain myself, at least not here. It wouldn’t mean anything. You must be hurting so bad right now, I can’t even imagine...you must hate me for giving you up. I couldn’t blame you. I just want you to know that...whatever it may seem like, I really, truly loved you. I love you more than anything else in the world, even now. I just want you to know that, no matter where you go, and no matter what you do, I will always, always love you. Even if I never get to meet you, I’ll always think of you as my Little Apple...and I’m so, so very sorry.
Once more, there was silence across the table, only occasionally punctuated by Applebloom’s sniffling. This time, though, it was Big Macintosh who broke the silence. “Why tell us?” He asked, “Two ponies you don’t even know?” Silver Tongue shrugged.
“I don’t know,” He said, “ I don’t tell many ponies...but you seemed like good folk.” He shook his head, saying, “When I said it was my favourite story...it’s always there. Sometimes, it weighs on me, and I need to tell it. But it’s a special story, so I have to save it...” He shrugged. “I just don’t know.” Big Mac nodded solemnly. He careful folded the note, and handed it back to Silver Tongue.
“We should get going,” He told his sniffling little sister, “Ahpplejack will be finished visiting Aunt and Uncle Orange by now.” Applebloom nodded silently, and got down from her seat.
“Goodbye, mister,” She said quietly.
“Goodbye, little miss,” the storyteller said in return, “Enjoy your evening.” Big Macintosh followed after her, but turned back to Silver Tongue.
“Ah don’t know if y’all care about mah opinion,” He said quietly, “But fer what it’s worth, Ah think you should have given him the note.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” Silver Tongue said, “I was wonderful meeting you, Big Macintosh.” The red stallion nodded in kind.
“Eeyup.” He said. He turned away and followed his sister, leaving Silver Tongue behind, sipping at his wine.