A Taste of the Good Life

Main Course is a successful chef and restaurant owner. Or he was, anyway, until a fire tore up his life's work and left him adrift. When he visits his sister in the rural backwater town of Ponyville, he discovers an abandoned building that's perfect for a quick fix-up so he can flip it for a profit. But the building comes with an unforeseen tenant, and when he lets her stick around he discovers that maybe, just maybe, there's something out there more important than wealth and fame.

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4. Interview With a Pinkie Pie

INTERVIEW WITH A PINKIE PIE

Main Course stared blankly up at the ceiling above him. All in all, the pink wasn’t that bad, just... very confusing. On the other hoof, that may have been some sort of pavlovian reaction to the experience he’d just undergone.

“How are you feeling?” asked Silver Scroll, passing him a glass of water. He took a sip. Somehow, it still tasted like cake frosting, as did everything else he’d tried to eat in the last six hours. What had that mare done to him?

“I feel like I just got hit with a wrecking ball. A wrecking ball made of confetti and streamers.”

“Yeah, that’s how the first Pinkie Party always feels. She really went all out for yours. You’ll get used to them, though.”

“I’m not sure I want to get used to them. There was an alligator riding a tricycle, Silver. An alligator riding a tricycle. Do you know what she told me when I asked her about it? ‘Ridiculous, right? Gummy really needs to learn not to focus so much on cardio. It’s like, geez, pick up a dumbbell sometime.’ You could have warned me, by the way.”

“And missed the look on your face when she popped out of that snowdrift and grabbed you? Also, you scream like a little filly.”

“Her hooves were like ice!” Main Course sighed and shook his head. “Anyway, now that we’re alone would you mind if I ask you for some advice?”

Silver Scroll hopped onto the couch with him. “Sure, what’s on your mind?”

“You know Scootaloo? Little orange pegasus filly?”

“Sure. She was a bit skittish around me the first time I met her, but she, Applejack’s sister, and Rarity’s sister are inseparable. Why?”

Main Course recounted what had happened the first night he’d spent at the Knoll, and the following day. Silver Scroll listened patiently, a thoughtful look on her face. “Okay,” she said as he finally finished, “do you want the lawyer advice or the sister advice first?”

“Lawyer, please.”

“Break your promise to her, tell the Guard, and have them bring her into custody. Right now you’re knowingly allowing a minor to live in potentially unsafe conditions at a property you own and preventing Foal Protective Services from getting a full account of whatever’s happening in her home life. What if a floorboard gives out underneath her and she breaks her neck? You would be liable, maybe even criminally negligent.”

“Also, y’know, a foal would needlessly lose her life. There’s that too,” said Main Course.

Silver Scroll held up a hoof. “I’m channeling lawyer-mode right now. Your pony emotions have no place in this part of the conversation.”

“Fine. So your lawyer advice is to rat her out. What’s the other advice?”

“Mind if I preface it with an observation?” asked Silver Scroll.

“Sure, what’s that?”

She sprung forward across the couch and wrapped him up in a big hug. “You are the sweetest big brother ever! Taking her in and helping her like that, I knew that deep down you were really just a big ol’ softie.”

Main Course struggled in her grip, but she was surprisingly strong. “Am not.”

“Oh, don’t deny it. Now do you want the actual advice or not?”

“Please, enlighten me,” he grumbled.

“Two things: first of all, be supportive of her. Forget that first day for a moment, how was she yesterday?”

Main Course thought back. The first day had been the roughest, certainly. The next morning Scootaloo had been much more relaxed, and had eventually accepted a bag lunch before heading off to school for the day. “She was a totally different pony. She agreed to all of my terms, and even said she’d have dinner with me tomorrow night. I figured my soup won her over.”

“Main, I’ve had your french onion soup. It’s good, but not instantly-overcome-all-trust-issues good. Did you ever consider how that first night must have looked from her perspective? You showed up at ‘her’ house, the weather trapped her in there with a much bigger, much stronger pony whose first action was to tackle her to the ground and could have done anything he wanted to her without being discovered for days. Then you threatened to expose something she obviously wants very badly to keep a secret. So maybe she was a little bit paranoid around you at first, but can you blame her?”

Main Course’s face drooped into a frown. “I thought I was helping her.”

“Hey, you did great. Better than most ponies would have in the same situation, I’ll bet. It was just a really tense environment for her is what I’m saying,” said Silver, giving him a pat on the head. “The second thing I’d do is try to build off that foundation. I know you don’t want to violate her trust, but you need to bring more ponies into this. Adults who she already knows.”

“Like who? And how do you suggest I do that without her freaking out?” he asked.

Silver Scroll considered that for a minute. “Maybe you could put her in a situation where somepony ‘accidentally’ discovers that she’s staying with you. It's probably going to happen on its own anyway, might as well make it happen on your terms. She agreed to let you make her dinner tomorrow night, didn’t she? Arrange things so that an adult ‘just happens’ to drop by unannounced. If it’s somepony she trusts, maybe she’ll fess up. The more ponies who she feels like she can count on, the better off she’ll be.”

“I take it you have somepony in mind already?”

“It’s no secret that the filly practically worships the ground Rainbow Dash flies over so she’d be my first suggestion, except she’s about as subtle as a ton of bricks. Same deal with Applejack. Mare can’t tell a convincing lie to save her life. No, I think it’s time for you to meet Rarity.”

--------------------------

Following Silver Scroll’s directions through the snow-covered streets of Ponyville brought Main Course to the front door of a building he’d noticed a few times in passing but until now never had a reason to visit. As he stepped up to the front door, he noticed that the icicles that hung from the roof had a subtle pattern to them, lined up side-by-side by sequential length. A longer icicle would be followed by shorter and shorter ones until they reached an empty gap, then on the other side they would start to lengthen again. The overall impression he got from them was that somepony had carefully hung flowing, icy curtains that glistened in the mid-afternoon sunshine.

He pushed the front door open and heard a bell jingle overhead. That wasn’t a bad idea. He made a mental note to look into getting one of those for the Knoll. “Just a moment!” called a voice from the back room. While he waited, Main Course took stock of the showroom. Various intricately-decorated gowns and dresses hung from the nearby mannequins. One of them was even done up in what looked like a replica Daring Do costume, although the mannequin itself looked like it had seen better days. His inspection was interrupted when the store’s owner emerged.

“Miss Rarity, I presume?” asked Main Course. Silver Scroll had emphasized that he should be on his best manners when he met her.

“Just Rarity will do,” she said as she ran a hoof through her perfectly-coifed mane. Although her facade of a calm and in-control store owner was excellent and clearly well-practiced, Main Course spotted a few little hints of stress around the corners of her eyes. “It seems you have me at a disadvantage, mister...”

“Main Course. I’m the pony who bought that old abandoned building a few weeks back.”

“Oh! You have no idea how happy I was to hear that something was finally going to be done about that eyesore. I wish you all the best; it would be delightful to finally have somewhere to take my Canterlot clients for a meal without them turning up their muzzles at the cuisine. But I’m sure that isn’t why you’re here. How can I help you today?”

Main Course thought about how best to broach the subject. “I’m here about... well, it’s something of a personal nature. I’d appreciate your discretion.”

Rarity’s surprised expression passed into one of intrigue. “Absolutely. Whatever is the matter?”

“Do you know Scootaloo?”

“Well, naturally. She and my sister are quite close. Why, she hasn’t done anything, has she? If she approaches you and requests your help in becoming a ‘Cutie Mark Crusader Building Renovator’ or anything of that sort I would suggest that you decline the offer.”

Main Course chuckled. “No, nothing like that. Tell me though; how well do you know her family?”

“Scootaloo’s?” She paused to think for a moment. “Well, I’ve never actually met her parents. From what she’s told me they both travel a great deal for their jobs, which... I can’t recall if she’s ever mentioned what, specifically, they do. Why do you ask?”

He bit his lip. No going back after this. “I’m not certain she was being entirely truthful with you.” Before Rarity could question him further he launched into his story about the odd encounter with Scootaloo for the second time that day, in as much detail as he could remember. Once he’d finished, Rarity stood there in stunned silence for a long moment.

“Two years? She’s been homeless for two years? How could I not have noticed? How could she not have told me, or Sweetie Belle?” She stared at Main Course, as if he could give her some answer, or some forgiveness. “I was always trying to shoo them away from the Boutique so I could work. They can be so much trouble sometimes, but if she’d just said something...”

Main Course nodded. “I was hoping you might be able to help me get her to open up a little. Could you come over to the restaurant tomorrow around seven? And don’t let Scootaloo know I’m asking you.”

Rarity thought about it for a moment, then winked at him. “Just one small businesspony welcoming another to the neighborhood. I understand perfectly. Is there anything else I can do in the meantime?”

“Well, there might be,” said Main Course as he looked around the room. “Do you make winter clothing in filly sizes? I’d feel better if I knew she had some before the next big storm.”

“Hmm... I can make some, but probably not for at least two weeks. I have big event coming up; thirty nobleponies and designers are coming to see my new line, and it isn’t finished yet. Plus that’s far too many to entertain here, so I’ll need to make sure everything is ready at Town Hall for the evening. She could use some of Sweetie Belle’s old ones I suppose, but Scootaloo’s frame is so much leaner than Sweetie’s is...” she trailed off, and squeezed her eyes shut. “Of course it is. I’ve been so blind.”

“It sounds like everypony missed it, not just you,” said Main Course. “What if you didn’t need to worry about the logistics of your show? Have a catering company take care of all the food and setup.”

“That would take a great deal of the work off my plate...” she chuckled. “Pardon the pun, I suppose. Serve them dinner during the presentation itself, then cocktails while we mingle... yes, that would be ideal. But I’m in a bit of an awkward situation in terms of cash flow at the moment, at least until the orders from this show begin to come in. I can’t afford to cater a dinner party for thirty.”

Main Course smiled. “I need some filly-sized winter outfits, and you need food. I think a trade is in order. I’ll cater your show and take the clothes as payment.”

Rarity gaped at him. “That is by no means an even trade. I can’t accept such an excessive offer for a few outfits. Besides, your restaurant isn’t even open yet.”

Main Course furrowed his brow and stared off to the side, mentally taking a step back from the situation to ensure that he wasn’t making a promise that he wouldn’t be able to keep. He’d been planning to open up a week or after Rarity’s proposed date, so he’d have to move up hiring potential staff. Still, The kitchen itself could be ready with time to spare. It would serve as a great opportunity to break in the new servers and work out any kinks before the actual opening. Plus there were networking opportunities to be had. If these ponies were wealthy enough to commission designer dresses, maybe some of them were wealthy enough to buy a restaurant in a few months, or could connect him to somepony who was. His contacts were mostly in and around Manehattan, but that was no reason not to be open to other possibilities. “I can make it work. I’m sure the outfits will be worth every single bit.”

“In that case, I’d be happy to," said Rarity with a smile. "I’ll wait until after we speak to her tomorrow night to take her measurements so as not to arouse suspicion."

"Thank you, that's a load off my mind. It sounds like you're busy, so I'll let you get back to your designs. Until tomorrow, then?"

"I would appreciate that. I suppose I needn't tell you how much work it takes to make a business like this work. And thank you for bringing this to my attention. I won't tell a soul."

Finding himself with a new, tighter deadline than before, Main Course made his next stop the local printer's offices. He laid out what he needed, and the green earth pony stallion in charge assured him that there would be fifty 'help wanted' fliers posted around town by the weekend. With any luck the first resumes would start trickling in a few days later.

What he hadn't expected was to find one posted on Silver Scroll's door when he returned to her house. He tore the pink sheet of paper from where it had been tacked up and examined it.

 

Pinkamena Diane ‘Pinkie’ Pie

 

 

Upstairs, Sugarcube Corner

 

 

Ponyville, Equestria

 

 

 Multi-talented mare seeking employment (PT/FT) at your local eating establishment

 

 

Previous Employment:

 

-Rock Farmer

 

 

-Apprentice Baker

 

 

-Investigative Detective (Solve rate: 1/1)

 

 

-Party Planner

 

 

-Party Executor

 

 

-Secret Agent (Don’t tell anypony, though)

 

 

-Professional Skeptic (Oatmeal only)

 

 

-Demolition Expert, specializing in fourth walls

 

 

-Aeronautical Engineer

 

 

-Element of Harmony, Laughter

 

 

Notable Accomplishments:

 

 

-Laid siege to the sheep kingdom capital of Baa Ram Ewe for six hundred days

 

 

-Battled the forces of the criminal underworld under the super-secret alias of (the last word was scribbled away beyond recognition)

 

 

-Has memorized names, ages, addresses, social security numbers, and known weaknesses of every pony in Ponyville. Including yours.

 

 

-Can lick her own elbow

 

 

-Can lick other ponies’ elbows (Easier, unless they run)

 

 

-Thanks to foresight, precognition, and advance preparation, has never been caught off guard by sock emergencies

 

 

-Capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1500 degrees Marenheit

 

 

-Saved Equestria, like, a lot

 

 

So yeah, you should totally hire me.

 

Main Course read through the... well he wasn’t quite sure what to call it, actually. He shuddered at the idea of the mare that had abducted him early that morning and dragged him into a room full of guests who seemed equally confused about why they were there for a ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ party interacting with his customers. He’d be the first to admit he had a distinct bias towards employees who were actually sane, and that meant staying as far away from that pink vortex of crazy as possible.

And then the door swung open, and there stood the very pony in question.

“Hiya!” said Pinkie Pie. “Can we do my job interview now?”

“Hi, Main,” said Silver Scroll from the couch. “Pinkie Pie came over.”

“Thanks, Silver. I hadn’t noticed.”

“You didn’t?” asked Pinkie. She began waving her hooves in front of Main’s face, to his immense displeasure. “I’m right here! Oh no, I didn’t turn invisible by accident again, did I?”

“No, Pinkie, we can see you just fine,” said Silver Scroll, treating the question as if it was perfectly valid. Maybe for Pinkie it was.

“Phew! That was a close one. Anyway, I figured that after you read my resume you’d want to make sure you hired me as quickly as possible, so I stuck around and hung out with Silver Scroll for a bit. She told me how much you loved your party this morning.”

Main Course met his sister’s eyes, which were twinkling with amusement. “It was really something, yes.”

Pinkie beamed. “Thanks! Something is exactly what I was going for. But I don’t want you to hire me just because I threw you a super-fantasterrific party. I’d be a perfect fit for The Classy Vole.”

“It’s The Grassy Knoll, actually.”

“What? They’re hiring too? Oh no, you gotta interview me before it’s too late and they make me a better offer! We’d better get started right away.”

Silver Scroll got up from the couch. “I’ll give you two the room.”

“Don’t worry, I promise we’ll give it back when we’re done,” Pinkie called after her as she left.

Main Course sighed and settled down into an easy chair. “Take a seat, Pinkie.”

“Take it where? When Silver gave us the room, was she giving us the seats too? Because I don’t wanna steal anything.”

“...Just sit down.” Pinkie jumped up onto the couch. The pink coat on pink mane on pink couch on pink wall vision in front of him was the latest in a long line of things giving him a headache right now. “If we’re going to do this, and I’m not entirely sure why we are, I need to know that you’re actually taking this seriously. This restaurant isn’t a joke to me, do you understand that?”

“Absolutely!” said Pinkie, slamming a foreleg on the armrest for emphasis. “The Gassy Hole is no laughing matter.”

Main Course let that one go by, taking a moment to collect himself. “Alright, so what about your last job would you say has prepared you for working the front of the house?”

Pinkie tilted her head to one side. “But I thought you were looking for people to work in a restaurant, not a house. I’m not a maid, silly. Well, except in some pieces of saucy fan art, but that hardly counts.”

“No, I mean what have you learned about how to deal with disgruntled customers? That’s the toughest part of the job.”

“Oh, that’s easy,” she said. “Making ponies smile is my special talent, and a smile is the most effective form of regruntlement known to ponykind!”

Main Course’s tension eased a bit. That was actually a valid and not-half-bad answer. “I like that, Pinkie. But say you have a customer who’s somehow gotten so angry he’s actually scary. Legitimately terrifying. What do you do?”

“Scary? Well obviously you just giggle at the—”

“Really. Your answer is that you would laugh in the customer’s face?”

“...No?” asked Pinkie. “I mean, no, of course not. I would... uh...”

She trailed off for a while, and Main Course rolled his eyes. Why was he wasting his time like this? He should just shut her down as quickly and as cleanly as possible. But for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to do so.

“Singing’s fine, right? Uh... Serenade the sirens! Opera at the offal! Vibrato the vampires!”

“Pinkie, just... just stop. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

“No? Singing’s out too? Well, uh, we can dance through the danger! Waltz on by the werewolves! Flamenco with... flamingos?”

“I’d have gone with ‘flamenco with the phantoms, to fit the meter a bit...” he trailed off and shook his head. Don’t help her, you idiot! screamed the rational part of his mind.

Pinkie’s mane went flat, deflating even as he watched. She sank down into the couch cushions and covered her face with her hooves. “I’m sorry, Granny Pie. I messed everything up,” he heard her whisper.

“Pinkie?” asked Main. “Pinkie, look at me.” It took a few seconds, but she lifted her face from her forelegs and looked at him, her tears on the verge of spilling. “Why do you want this job at all? Aren’t you happy working where you are?”

“Yes! Yes, I love it there, that’s why I need this job,” she cried.

Main Course was taken aback. “I don’t understand.”

“I have to get this job. Because of the freezer.”

He stopped and waited for an explanation, but none was forthcoming. Still, it was Pinkie Pie. He’d figured out by now that she wasn’t supposed to make sense. Probably just some random tangent about, who knows, a new ice age or something.

And yet he found himself kneeling besides the couch and draping a foreleg over her. “What freezer?”

“The Cakes’ freezer broke,” she muttered. “It broke and Mr. Cake said they could replace it, but Mrs. Cake said that with your restaurant opening up they shouldn’t spend the money. Because they know you’re probably gonna serve super-delicious desserts and nopony who eats at your restaurant is gonna come to Sugarcube Corner after dinner so they won’t make as much in the evenings. And it wouldn’t be that big of a deal except now the twins need to see the doctor for checkups and they keep telling me to skip shifts and they say it’s just to give me time off but I know it really isn’t it’s because business is so slow already and now you’re gonna open and it’s gonna get slower and the Cakes are gonna make even less and they’re gonna ask if they even really need me anymore and they might not and then they’re gonna kick me out and I won’t have anywhere to go and—”

Main Course couldn’t pinpoint the moment he wrapped Pinkie up in a hug, but he found himself holding her tightly anyway. For a long while, he wasn’t sure it was really helping, but eventually she got much quieter. “So why would you want to help my business succeed? You should be rooting for me to fail.”

Pinkie looked up at him, horrified. “No! I would never do that. If ponies like your food, why would I want to make them less happy by making you close? But if I work for you and you pay me with the money ponies aren’t spending at Sugarcube Corner then I can use it to buy the stuff they aren’t. I’ll give the money back to the Cakes and they’ll have enough to fix the freezer and—”

“Okay, I get it,” said Main Course, cutting her off. She was quite possibly a double agent, sent with a sob story by the Cakes to undermine his startup. Or she was just insane, driven by a completely irrational belief that she could singlehoofedly salvage a failing business model. Either way, the smart thing to do would be not to hire her. “So, can you start in two weeks?”

“You... you mean...”

“It’s provisional. You get a one-week grace period, and if I don’t think that you’re an exemplary employee right from the start, you are gone. I don’t want you disrupting the other workers or making customers uncomfortable with your behavior. No warnings,” he said. “...But yeah. Welcome to the Grassy Knoll family.”

The resulting high-pitched squeeing sound nearly blew out Main Course’s eardrum. “Thank you! Thank you thank you thank you thank you! You won’t regret this, I promise,” said Pinkie, kissing him on the cheeks between words.

“I’ll be the judge of that. You better start getting ready now, though, because I plan to put every one of my employees through their paces. No special treatment.”

Pinkie’s expression became deadly serious. “Sir! No sir! I’ll start training right away!” Then she bolted past him and out the front door, slamming it shut while Main sat there in a daze. What had he just done to himself?

“Well that seems like it went well,” said Silver Scroll’s voice from the other side of the room. Main Course looked over and saw just how widely she was grinning.

“Hiring her was a strategic decision,” he said, “she knows everypony in town. Even if she’s a mediocre employee, she’ll be a word-of-mouth dynamo.”

Silver said nothing, and that grin didn’t budge an inch.

“It isn’t in my interest to drive any local businesses under, either. I can’t be sure this business model will last long term. The least I can do is leave the local economy in approximately the condition I found it.”

The grin remained. If anything, it grew wider.

Finally, Silver Scroll chuckled. “Big ol’ softy.”

Main Course groaned and walked away, if only because he didn’t have any effective retort to that.

 

 

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