The tumbleweeds tumbled down the dusty streets like a thing that tumbles, and the sound of the theme song to Colt Eastwood's "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" played in the background. On a kazoo. By me. Because I was playing it on a kazoo. In the saloon.
The bartender, Saloon Keeper, was polishing up the glasses in the back, and I thought about asking him for another lemonade, but y'know, he looked busy, keeping a saloon and all. It was bright and hot outside, due to the sun being up, and the streets were practically deserted. Hardly anypony was out and about right now. Which was probably a good thing because the streets were really dusty. Out here by Appleoosa, most everyone's got a cutie mark to do with apples, which is weird because apples don't grow in the desert. I can't say I've ever seen anyone sweep the streets. Gotta wonder sometimes what they all do, given, you know, not too many apple trees out here.
Then the doors of the saloon swung in dramatically just as I was playing the "waaaooooh wa wa wa" part, and this weird fella came in. He was tall, and he looked like some foals got their "build-a-model" kits for ponies, dragons and griffins all mixed up, and he was wearing a black shiny raincoat and a fedora. Which, you know, desert, so you gotta wonder why a raincoat. Or why a fedora, ever. Couldn't even see how it stayed on his head, really, because he had antlers. Well, one antler. Other one looked like a goat horn or something.
I figured I shouldn't stare, even though everypony else was staring, because y'know, that's rude. So I turned back to my kazoo playing and did the "waaaaooooh wa wa WA" part. That Ennio Mareicone, he knows how to write some music.
Imagine my surprise when the weird guy came over and sat down right next to me. Actually, you don't have to imagine it, because I'll tell you. I was really surprised. Enough that I kinda jumped in my seat and knocked over my glass. It was empty, though, so at least I didn't waste any lemonade.
"You're the stallion they call Cheese Sandwich?" he asked.
"They do," I said. "On account of it being my name."
"Oh, good, good," he said. "It's always a wonderful thing when ponies call you by your name. Much better than 'Hey, you' or 'You over there, with the hat' or 'Aaaa, kaijuuuuu!'" He leaned forward. "Bartender!"
"I ain't a bartender," Saloon Keeper said. "I'm a saloon keeper."
"Whatever you are. Got any chocolate milk on tap?"
"Sorry, fella. Milk doesn't keep in this heat."
"You mind if I bring my own?" He pushed a couple of bits across the counter. "Give me a couple of clean glasses."
"I ain't got no clean glasses," the bartender said. "Got some that ain't too dirty."
"I'll take 'em."
The bartender brought over a couple of glasses that weren't too dirty, and took my dirty glass off the bar, where it was still lying sideways 'cause I'd forgotten I knocked it over. The stranger snapped his front leg, which looked like a griffin front claw, and the glasses were full of something brown.
"Smells like chocolate milk," I said.
"That's on account of it is chocolate milk," he said. "Though I could have made it smell like oranges, if you'd like. Drink up. It's on me."
"I never turn down a drink from a new friend," I said, and took a sip. It was great. Turns out chocolate milk really hits the spot when you've had a long, hard day of kazoo playing.
"So, Mr. Cheese Sandwich. I've got a proposition for you."
I put down my glass. "Sorry, fella, not that kind of stallion."
He rolled his eyes. And by that I mean he took them out of his head and rolled them onto the counter, where they looked up at me, and the counter had his lips on it and it said, in his voice, "Really? That joke's older than I am. You can do better than that, I'm sure."
Tough crowd. This guy'd been around the block a few times, I figured. He knew his comedy. "Sorry," I said. "What kind of proposition?"
"Well," he said. "You've heard of the town of Ponyville, I presume."
My heart beat harder in my chest, beating hard like a hard-beating heart. Ponyville, where it all started. Where I first saw the party that changed my life and woke me up to my destiny, and the mare who threw that party. "I know Ponyville, all right," I said. "Don't have much call to go there, though. They've got a darn fine party planner of their own."
"Oh, yes, I know her well," the stranger said. "Dearest Pinkie Pie." He picked up his glass and slurped it down. By which I mean he drank the glass, leaving the milk inside it. I guess that's why he paid the bartender for the glass even though he was bringing his own drink, if he was gonna drink the glass and not the drink. Which makes you wonder, if he drinks the glass and not the drink, then why do we call the drink a drink if he's not gonna drink it? Maybe the drink is the glass and the glass is the drink. Always heard glass is really a very thick liquid anyway.
"You know Pinkie Pie?" I said, playing it cool, like I wasn't about to go all fanboy and ask him if he could help me get her autograph.
"That's what I said, do try to keep up," he said. "Recently dear Pinkie did me a great favor, helping care for me when I fell ill unexpectedly, and I want to do her a favor as well. She's planning a big party for a friend. So big, I fear it will quite overwhelm her. Why, she's even made a promise to herself to make sure that party is the best party ever, and you know what will happen if she fails to keep it."
I nodded. I wasn't Equestria's biggest Pinkie Pie fanboy or anything, on account of I'm actually not that big a stallion; there are plenty of guys in Equestria bigger than me, and I figure some of them have gotta be fans of Pinkie's work. But I knew about the Pinkie Promise, and what happens to the ponies who break one. I shuddered. "Tough bar to set for herself," I said.
"So as her friend, I thought, why not send some help her way?" He grinned at me, at which point I noticed that the fella had a lot more sharp teeth than you'd really expect to see in a pony-like face. "You're known as the best party planner in all Equestria."
"Really?" My voice squeaked. Hate when it does that. I took out my trusty little spritzer of olive oil and spritzed it down my throat to oil up the old voicebox and stop the squeaking. "I mean, of course I am."
"So who better to help Pinkie make her friend's party into the best party ever than the best party planner in all Equestria? You can show her a few things, I'm sure. Lighten her load a bit."
I'd say my heart was beating really fast, then, but I don't wanna repeat that joke about it being a fast beating thing. Me, helping Pinkie Pie? The mare was my idol, the pony who'd helped me get my cutie mark and awakened me to my true calling. If I could impress her, and help her out, that would be the most wonderful thing ever, except maybe for that party we were gonna throw.
"I got a party here in Appleoosa I'm throwing tomorrow night," I said. "When's Pinkie's shindig?"
"Oh, I'm so bad with dates. But I'm sure you'll know it when it's time."
My eyes narrowed. "You know about my Cheesy Sense?"
"Oh yes, my little pony. I know a great deal about you. After all…" He grinned at me. "Nopony makes chaos quite like a party pony. So I've been keeping an eye on you. Metaphorically. If I'd been doing it literally you'd probably have noticed."
"Yeah, I tend to notice disembodied eyeballs sitting on me," I said. "Good thing you didn't, because Boneless here has been known to peck at disembodied eyeballs. I keep telling him, he doesn't know where that thing has been, but you know rubber chickens, they think they know it all." I gestured at Boneless, sitting on the bar stool next to me, which I'd hiked up so he could reach the bar.
He shuddered dramatically. "Elysia forfend." Then he stood up. "So. I can count on you to help my dear, dear friend Pinkie out with her party planning?"
"I'm your pony," I said. "Metaphorically speaking."
"Excellent. I look forward to seeing what you come up with." Broad grin again. Something about that guy's grin was right unsettling. Maybe it was all the sharp teeth. "I expect it to be gloriously chaotic."
He headed out of the saloon. His chocolate milk, still sitting there on the counter where he'd left it, lost the shape of a glass and turned into a puddle of chocolate milk, running all over the counter. Shame about that. If I'd known it would do that I'd have stuck it in my own glass first.
Saloon Keeper came over to mop up the spill. "What a freak," he muttered.
"Yeah, he was a character all right," I said. "I never did get that fella's name."
"You didn't recognize him? That was Discord, Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony."
"Oh. Yeah, I saw a statue of him on a field trip once." I shuddered to remember it. That was when my classmates Stupid Jock and Lowlife punched out one of my foal teeth, while Gold Digger and Sidekick were cheering them on and the teacher was yammering on about art styles. I hated those guys. "Guess that's why he was going on about glorious chaos."
"Guess so," Saloon Keeper said. He finished mopping down the bar and walked off to not-clean some more glasses.
I took a sip of what was left of my chocolate milk, and I wondered. If the Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony was asking me to do something, didn't that automatically make it a bad idea to do it?
But naah. He said Pinkie took care of him when he was sick. This had to just be some kind of friendly gesture, not an elaborate plot to cause disharmony in Ponyville and use me as a catspaw to nearly wreck my idol's life and plunge her into depression, thus leading her to decide to fight me on my own terms and totally ruin the party we were gonna plan. After all, I'm a party pony and she's a party pony, of course we'd be able to work well together. What could possibly go wrong?
I settled up my bar tab and headed out onto the dusty streets. Which weren't as dusty as they used to be. I tipped my hat to a fella with a broom, sweeping the streets. "Good work there," I said, noting his cutie mark of a broom and a patch of cobblestone. "What's your name, fella?"
"Street Sweeper. And I know you, you're Cheese Sandwich."
"That I am. Gonna be at the party tomorrow, Street?"
"I wouldn't miss it!" He grinned. "Gonna make sure the streets are all nice and clean before your party tomorrow."
"Thank you kindly." I walked down the slightly less dusty streets toward the inn I was staying at. Lots of stuff still to do before the party tomorrow, but I was already starting to think about Ponyville.