Whenever somepony says that a pony’s fillyhood years are the best days of their lives, I have to remind myself that almost nopony recalls their own past as well as they believe. If you think really carefully about those so-called “best days” and find yourself wincing, you aren’t nearly as starry-eyed as most ponies.
One constant fact of my fillyhood was that I was almost always broke. Which is why I found myself planting my saddlebag-burdened butt in front of a want ad display board in downtown Cloudsdale. My buddy Gilda was filming me with her new video camera, providing commentary the whole time.
“Hey, Dash!” chuckled Gilda as she zoomed in on a picture of a purple unicorn foal sitting in a high chair. “Here’s a good one. ‘Need foalsitter for a few hours this coming Friday night. Our little Twilight has good manners and loves having books read to her. Not at all fussy and probably no longer uses transfiguration spells on foalsitters. “
Blowing a raspberry, I shook my head. “You lost me at book reading. I’m nopony’s egghead.”
“Considering how low your book report scores are, it’s just as well. I still can’t believe you tried to read that foal’s book ‘Goodnight, Luna’ in front of Mrs. Cirrus’s English class.”
“Hey, I told the teacher that reading that book put me on the edge of my seat. Which is what happened as I read to the class.”
“Right before you nodded off and dropped to the floor. Because that book is supposed to put foals to sleep!”
I crossed my forelegs indignantly. “That dumb teacher thought I had a heart attack. I spent the rest of the day in the nurse’s office. And I still got an F!”
Her camera lens crept closer to my head. “Keep talkin’, Dash. This is totally going in my movie library.”
“Why do you have cool stuff like that camera and I’m stuck with my dad’s hand-me-downs?”
“Well, Dashie, that’s why I dragged you out here. If your folks aren’t paying you an allowance, you can make a nice stack of bits from these job fliers. Thanks to them, I worked my lion’s tail off mowing lawns and moving furniture over the summer while you were in detention. Now I’m the eye in the sky who sees all.”
“I would have an allowance if my dad didn’t cut me off. He’s gotta pay for those Ponyville windows I accidentally broke, so bang goes my regular cash-flow.”
“That’s what happens when you break the sound barrier too close to the ground. Was Hoops pestering you again?”
Impatiently tapping a hoof, I frowned into Gilda’s camera. “Yes, eagle-eye. He’s still ticked about us knocking him and his dorky buddies around like bowling pins the day you first showed up. He kept kicking me out of my nap-cloud, so I bugged out before I gave him the poundin’ he’s beggin’ for. When I get mad, I get fast.”
Gilda laughed. “Since he knows I could toss his blank flank into a trash can with one claw, he figures you’re fun-sized and therefor easier to duke it out with.”
“That makes me feel oodles better,” I replied, rolling my eyes. Then a light bulb went off. “Hey, maybe if he picks on me again, you can film that and land him in a ton of trouble with Principle Tsumani.”
“I only have so much video tape, Dash. I can’t watch you all the time. You’ll have to deal with Hoops one way or another.”
Looking over the want ads, I sighed. “Thinking about that numbskull makes me grumpy, Gilda. Help me find a job that doesn’t involve foals. Or work.”
“Here’s one. ‘Ponyville retiree Sharp Spur needs lawn mowing on a weekly basis. Good pay’.” Gilda’s golden eyes lit up. “Hey, wasn’t he a Wonderbolt at one time?”
Shrugging, I replied. “I dunno. I don’t pay much attention to sports.” I saw that the job ad that Gilda read had phone number and address slips dangling on the bottom. Since the job market seemed to be skinnier than a changling’s legs, I peeled off a slip and stuck it in my saddle bag.
“Well, that’s one, Dashie,” said Gilda encouragingly. “It took me about a dozen jobs to get this camera, though, so let’s keep looking. Oooh, this looks cool. ‘Need assistant to keep me from having interior monologues while we travel to other worlds in my police box . . .”
“AGH! No, I don’t feel like dealing with the tin-foil hat brigade,” I cried, holding out my hooves, as if I were warding off the job’s craziness. “Let’s call it a day, Gilda. Flight camp starts up again tomorrow and I gotta get ready. I just hope Hoops is finally bored with bothering me.”
* * *
Nope. He wasn’t.
Hoops’s dark brown bangs obscured his eyes as he flew around me in the Junior Speedster’s Flight Camp playground. He waited until Gilda had to go to the bathroom and started razzing me. Since neither of us had gotten our cutie marks yet, he couldn’t call me a blank flank. But that fact didn’t slow down the snark train.
“Hey, Crash! I heard you busted some ground pounder’s windows. Are you trying to make your dad go broke?”
“Keep it up, Hoopty-loop,” I replied, gritting my teeth. “I can break more than just glass.”
He waggled his hooves at me. “Ooh, boogah-boogah! I guess your dad ought to just rename you Rainbow Smash!”
My wings were twitching. I wanted to fly away from this dork, but since recess was almost over, I couldn’t travel too far from school.
Hoops rubbed his chin, trying to find two brain cells to rub together. Finally, he landed in front of me and yelled, “Maybe I should just call you balderdash!”
Kids love to press each other’s buttons, don’t they? Hoops finally stomped on mine.
I slammed my chest into his, knocking him off guard. “You know what, Hoopy-doofus? I’m kinda just not giving a care about putting my hoof into your hollow head!”
As he regained his footing, he smirked. “If you want to knock me out, try reading me ‘Goodnight, Luna’!”
Standing on my rear hooves, I swung back my right foreleg and drew a bead on Hoops’s stupid haircut. “Let me read you ‘Goodnight, Hoops’ instead!”
My right hoof was grabbed right before I was lifted off the ground. Then two familiar angry eyes filled my vision. Those bloodshot peepers have burned a hole into my mane enough times for me to know that they belonged to Principle Tsunami.
They darted toward Hoops, who was trying to ninja-sneak away. “Hoops! Rainbow Dash!” He barked. “ My office! Now!”
The gray Pegasus with the blue mane and tail loomed over both of us in his office like a lightning-filled thunderhead. “Do you enjoy detention, Miss Dash? You didn’t seem to mind spending a month in summer school.”
Even in my filly years, I always spoke my mind, even when I had the collective smarts of goat cheese. Which was often. This one time, however, I tried to choose my answer carefully.
“Hoops keeps pickin’ on me!”
Tsunami pointed at him, while keeping his eyes on me. “Do you think hitting this colt, or any other pony, is the best way to handle teasing?”
I almost said the remark, “It would make me feel better”. It sat on the back of my mind, waiting to get used. It’s still waiting, because I chose to instead say, “Can’t you just tell him to stop bothering me?”
“Very well. Hoops?”
Hoops looked up, puppy-eyed. “Yes, sir?”
“Stop teasing Rainbow Dash.” Leaning back to face both of us, he continued. “If I catch either of you fighting each other or anypony else again, I will have both of you expelled from flight camp. Do you understand?”
We both nodded, which seemed to satisfy him. “Good. Hoops, go back to class. Miss Dash, stay here for a minute.”
When Hoops left the office, Tsunami sat down in front of me. “Rainbow, you know that simply telling that colt to stop teasing you isn’t going to work.”
My ears flattened. Man, I hated it when grownups told me stuff that I needed to hear. “My dad’s still mad at me for having to take summer school, mister Tsunami! If I get expelled, he’ll tie me to my house’s weather vane until I’m an old mare!”
He snickered. “I doubt he would be that cruel. In spite of your numerous . . . shortcomings, you are a very bright pony. You’re brimming with energy and aggression. Why can’t you channel your active nature towards something more constructive?”
Patting me on the shoulder paternally, the principal said, “As long as it’s something that won’t get you expelled, I don’t care. Perhaps you should make it less fun for him to tease you. Bullies tend to get bored quickly if you don’t give them anything to work with.”
“That’s what my dad keeps saying.” Sighing, I said, “I’ll think of something.”
As I left his office, Gilda flew over to me. “Hey, Dash. I heard what happened. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to cover your back.”
Giving her a pat on the shoulder, I replied, “Ah, it’s cool. I didn’t hit Hoops.”
“You don’t strike me as a violent kind of pony. A little dweeby, sometimes . . . “ When she heard my low growl, Gilda held up her hands and quickly added, “But that’s a good thing. For you. I guess.”
“I don’t want to punch that stupid colt, but I would like to beat him at something.”
Gilda pointed at a poster. “Maybe you can beat him at that.”
I stopped and looked at a picture I walked past a thousand times but never really noticed. It showed two Wonderbolt colts racing each other on a cloud-lined obstacle course.
“You’re rubbing your hooves together and grinning. That means you’re hatching a plan.”
“That will end up with everypony hating you.”
“If I can get the best of Hoops, I won’t care. I’ll need your help, though.”
Gilda grinned and shrugged. “Hey, as long as I’m not the one that gets expelled, I’m game.”
* * *
Hoops stared at me as if mushrooms were growing from my mane. “You want me to do what?”
“I want you to race me to Ponyville city hall after school. If I win, and I will because I’m awesome, you have to promise to stop bullyin’ me.”
Hoops shook his head like a disappointed father. “And when I win, and I will because I’m a colt and you’re just a bite-size mare, what’s to stop you from lying about winning the race?”
Suppressing the urge to strangle Hoops, I pointed at Gilda, who was filming us. “My buddy will wait at the finish line to film me beatin’ you. What do you say?”
He grinned. “When you lose, you’ve got to let me bully you whenever I want until you graduate from flight camp. No tattling to any grownups. Not even Gilda. Got it?”
I spit in my right front hoof and held it out to him. “Deal! Put ‘er there.”
Every Pegasus who’s old enough to know how to go to the bathroom unattended knows that a spit covered hoofshake agreement is a sacred bond. I just wish that Hoops hadn’t drunk milk right before he slapped his loogy-coated hoof on mine. The splat of our swapped spit sounded like a bug exploding across a windshield.
Gilda turned off her camera, sticking her tongue out. “Ech! Why did I film that?”
* * *
This race was supposed to be known only to the three of us, so naturally anypony who was anypony had lined around the flight camp entrance to watch Hoops and I tune up at the starting line. A few of the younger fillies even held waved our names on banners that sparkled with half-dried glitter glue.
Some yellow, quiet mare held up a checkered flag. When she was sure we were both ready, she swung down the flag and got blasted aside by our mutual launch.
There’s a reason why some Pegasus parents keep their foals on leashes until their teeth grow in. Flying feels awesome. Only the most powerful unicorns can make themselves hover like pegasi. Earth ponies can use hang gliders, sure, but even a young Pegasus like me can leave those wannabes ten miles behind me in a few minutes. Nothing beats having natural born wings.
When I broke through a thick patch of clouds, I saw Hoops turning into a speck of dirt as we got closer to Ponyville.
My heart thumped into my gut. I forgot that Hoops may have been a doofus, but he was a fast doofus. Since I didn’t want his unbridled teasing to haunt the rest of my school days, I pounded my wings even harder.
When we were two miles from Ponyville, I found myself gasping for breath. My wings were threatening to cramp on me soon, so I had to catch up to Hoops quickly. At the speed I was going, my eyelids were peeling away from my face.
Not being able to blink made my vision blurry. I had to slow down to wipe my eyes so I wouldn’t accidentally smash into a building.
Holding a hoof over my eyes, I squinted at the town. I couldn’t see Hoops anymore. I was only a mile from the finish line. Which meant he was even closer. Oh, sholey hitballs.
Panic can make you do a lot of things. It made me speed up. The back of my mind kept trying to remind the front something about flying that close to the ground, but I was too frazzled to focus on anything but winning the race.
The buildings zipped past me faster than the last time I was in town. When I saw city hall looming beyond the trees, I whooped with joy. Then I heard flapping behind me.
“Hey, Rainbow Crash! (Gasp) You’re (wheeze) going to lose!” heckled Hoops as he inched closer.
Only a half mile remained. Gilda was sitting on top of the building, camera at the ready.
Looking behind me, I hollered, “Dream on! I got this race in the bag!”
His eyes bugged out and he widened his wings vertically to stop. “You’ll going to get roofing tiles in the face if you don’t . . .”
The world exploded around me in a hail of splinters and pain.
When I crawled out of the wreckage, Gilda hauled me upright. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Those are upturned thumbs, Gilda.”
“That’s because you’ve won!”
I whooped as much as my sore body allowed. Man, I felt like I had spent an hour in a tumble-dryer. Gilda picked me up and flew us both down to the ground. I couldn’t help but smirk when I saw Hoops stamp in frustration.
Gilda held up her camera triumphantly. “I got a lot of great footage, pal! Rainbow won by at least ten hooves!”
“So what! That doesn’t mean squat to me because I got my cutie mark!” He pointed at his flank, which now had three basketballs on it. “At least this way I’m still ahead of you. I’ll keep my promise to never bully you again, Cra . . .uh . . .Dash, but my buddies are faster than me. They’ll want to race you, too.”
I scratched my head. “Why would a Pegasus get a basketball cutie mark?”
Gilda pressed the rewind button on her camera, hit the play button and let me take a peek at her footage. Hoops had lost control and crashed into a basketball court. When he bounced off a backboard and slipped through the net, his mark appeared.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I rolled around laughing. “Hey, Hoops! It looks like you got two points!”
Stammering and blushing, he flew away.
Wiping away my tears, I heard larger wings flapping towards us. I looked up to see my father frowning at me. “Well, I’m glad to see you’re having so much fun wrecking Ponyville property again, young filly.”
Gilda gulped and smiled nervously. “Hello, Mister Dash.”
I jumped to my hooves. “Dad! It’s not what you think!”
Rubbing his temples, he closed his eyes. “That’s what you said after you shattered all of those windows. Do I have to tie you to my weather vane to make you settle down?”
My skin trembled as if ice-water had gotten dumped on me. “N-no, dad! Listen, I was racing Hoops because Principal Tsunami said that if I hit him like I wanted to, because Hoops kept teasing me, he’d expel me and . . . and I beat Hoops! But in a race, not with my hooves!”
“Rainbow?” said my dad.
“He was really past, but not so fast that I had to break the sound barrier because you told me not do that anymore but I wasn’t watching where I was going . . .”
He coughed. “Rainbow, I’m not . . .”
“and I accidentally by accident crashed into city Hall . . .”
“Hey, Rainbow Dweeb!” Yelled Gilda. “Shut your cupcake hole!”
Good old Gilda. Even to this day, in my so-called adult life, I sometimes need her to snap me out of hyper-speed blather-mode.
I slumped to the ground, ears flattened. Quietly, I said, “I really didn’t want to do anything to make you even madder at me.”
My dad sat down next to me and patted my back. “You chose to race somepony rather than get in a fight with him?”
“Did you remember to get him to spit-hoofshake on an agreement to never bully you again if you won?”
“Yeah! Wait, you did that when you were in flight camp?”
“A few times, yeah. I’m proud of you, my little Dashie. You have a lot of pent-up energy and aggression, but when you try, you come up with great ideas. I’m not mad at you about the race. I’m not even angry about the hole you punched into city hall.”
My eyes gleamed. “Really?”
Rubbing his chin, he pondered, “Well, I’m a little annoyed about that particular property damage. One more bill for me, I guess. You and I are going to pay a visit to a friend of mine. It seems that when you zipped past his house, a few tree branches snapped off and smashed his patio window.”
“Aw, nuts! Who is he?”
“He used to be one of the best Wonderbolts around. Super Speedy Sharp Spur, we used to call him.”
“Wait a minute! I have his phone number from a job flier he posted in Cloudsdale! I bet if I mowed his lawn, that would pay the debt!”
Dad chuckled. “That patio window cost a lot of bits, Rainy. You’ll have to mow his lawn for free for at least a month to compensate him.”
“Look at it this way, Rainbow,” said Gilda. “You’re going to need the exercise if you want to get fast enough to beat Hoop’s friends in future races. They all probably hate you for making him look bad.”
I looked at Gilda as she aimed her camera at me. “Yeah, you have a po . . . wait, were you filming us this whole time?”
Grinning, she nodded. “I sure was, ‘Rainy’. Man, that’s definitely going in my movie library.”
Standing on my rear hooves, I pointed at her and hissed, “Only my parents can call me that, okay? Don’t you dare tell anypony else!”
Holding up a hand, Gilda replied, “You got it, Dash.”
Slitting my eyes, I asked, “Do I have to make you spit-hoofshake on that?”
Ruffling her feathers with a nauseated shudder, she shook her head.
Patting my head, Dad said, “You have great speed for such a young filly. Have you ever given any thought about being a Wonderbolt? I’m sure Sharp Spur could give you some flight tips.”
I shrugged. “Eh. I’ll think about it after I pay for his window.”
That’s my fillyhood in a nutshell; they were definitely not the best days of my life, but they weren’t too bad, either. I was almost always without bits, but thanks to people like Gilda and my father, I was also almost never bored.