Disclaimer: I do not own My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic or the answer to the ultimate riddle: Why is a pony like a cardboard box?
By GWFan (The Softcore Brony)
Cheerilee's cutie mark itched in delight as the question she had raised was answered.
"That is absolutely correct," Cheerilee remarked happily. "The divisor is the number by which the dividend is divided. I'm so proud of you, class. We're moving along so quickly today. I can honestly say that I believe every one of you is going to do well on the test at the end of the week."
Cheerilee taught her class with great enthusiasm and confidence in her students, even if some of them didn't necessarily agree. One of those students was Apple Bloom. She always tried her hardest, but didn't always succeed, especially where math was concerned. As it happened, math was the last lesson of the day.
Cheerilee addressed the class with jovial sincerity. "We now know that the number to be divided is called the dividend and the number by which it is divided is called the divisor. But can anyone tell me what the answer to a division problem is called?"
"I know!" Twist said, raising her hoof. "The quotient."
"That's right, Twist," Cheerilee said proudly. "The answer to a division problem is also called the quotient. This will be very important when we start using division in word problems tomorrow."
"More word problems?" Apple Bloom muttered. Regular math problems she could deal with but she wasn't very good with word problems. She always had to read the question three times before she figured out where to even start. And she had learned weeks ago that her sister Applejack could only help her so much with it at home. Her brother Big Macintosh was much better at them, but never did a particularly good job of explaining how.
Cheerilee glanced at the clock. "I think there is just enough time to give you all an example of one before we leave for the day. Any questions before we start?"
As might be expected, Twist raised her hoof, but she didn't get the chance to ask. The door opened and an older pony with a brown mane, dark shades, and a satchel around his shoulder, walked into the room. His cutie mark was a straightedge ruler, symbolizing his orderly command of school affairs.
Cheerilee greeted him cheerfully. "Principal Kickerbuck, to what do we owe the pleasure?"
"I'm afraid some not so good news, Ms. Cheerilee."
"I see. Should I see you after the bell rings?"
"No, no. This concerns the students as well, so it must be addressed now." Kickerbuck cleared his throat. "As you are all aware, we recently began construction of an additional classroom in preparation for our growing class sizes next year. The good news is the classroom is now complete." The news was met with mixed results, that being that Twist and Cheerilee were the only ones who clapped. "Unfortunately, somepony, who shall not be named, underestimated the cost of this classroom and our school is now suffering from a bit of a budget crisis."
"Oh dear. That is serious," Cheerilee said alarmed. "Does that mean we're not going to get new textbooks again? Those history books are outdated by ten whole years."
"The good news is we've already ordered new text books. The bad news is that that has also contributed to our budget crisis." Kickerbuck snorted loudly and pulled out a series of papers from the satchel around his shoulder before continuing. "I have reorganized all of our classes and starting tomorrow, all of you will switch to new classroom assignments. Some of you in fact will be going to the new classroom."
"I don't understand. Does that fix the budget somehow?" Cheerilee asked.
"No. It just reorganizes the students so that we have enough teachers to teach them all."
"What do you mean? We already have enough teachers."
"The good news is we've found a way to balance the budget. The bad news is we have to fire three of our teachers."
Cheerilee paled at the news. "That's awful. This effects how effectively we can teach the students. Are you sure we have to fire so many?"
"The good news is we've hired a new teacher to help with that. The bad news is that you are one of the teachers I'm firing." The classroom erupted in a unanimous gasp.
Cheerilee was almost speechless. "What?"
Kickerbuck handed her a pink slip. "I'm sorry Ms. Cheerilee, but I certainly hope my positive negative sandwich approach eased this undoubted shock."
"But… but Principal Kickerbuck…,"
"Oh wait, I'm supposed to end with a positive note. The good news is the budget has been balanced. There." Kickerbuck smiled, truly proud of himself.
Cheerilee gaped. "But… but… my students… how will I… what will I…?"
But Kickerbuck ignored her and went about distributing the various other papers he had brought with him in his satchel. "As I said, beginning tomorrow these will be your new class assignments. The good news is some of you will still be in the same classroom. The bad news is some of you will not. Oh, darn. That's not ending on a positive note at all. The good news is some of you will also have the new teacher who came highly recommended. The bad news is some of you will not. Dang. Not positive again. Um…,"
"Are you okay, Ms. Cheerilee?" Twist asked.
Cheerilee realized she was still gaping and quickly put on a smiling face. "Of course, Twist. I'll be just fine. I'll just have to find a temporary job… working somewhere else…,"
Apple Bloom felt sorry for Cheerilee. She had always been such a good teacher and she had learned so much from her compared to her teacher the year before. Sighing a little, Apple Bloom looked at the paper the Principal had put on her desk. It seemed she was being moved to the new classroom. She also had a teacher she didn't recognize the name of. Ms. Plum.
The pink slip. Fired. Cheerilee. The three words didn't go together at all.
Cheerilee slowly emptied the contents of her desk into her saddlebag. Her pencils. Her eraser with the smiley face on it. The apple Apple Bloom had brought her that morning, still uneaten. Her teacher of the year award… all three of them. How could this have happened to her? Teaching was both her life and greatest joy. And now…
"What's done is done," Cheerilee said to herself. "As long as the students still have a school to go to and a teacher to learn from, I can leave with my head held high."
She glanced out the window and saw many of her students still lingering in the schoolyard. They seemed to be discussing the papers the Principal had given them. Many of them looked excited about their new classroom assignments and Cheerilee wouldn't be around to be apart of that joy.
"No. I have to remain positive. Cheer is in my name after all. With Celestia as my witness, I will have another job!" A bright light shone behind her as she dramatically pointed to the ceiling. Then abruptly, the light bulb making the light behind her fizzled out, leaving her in semi-darkness.
Then the janitor appeared in the doorway. "Sorry about that. Budget cut." He removed the light bulb and put it in the wastebasket before leaving. Apparently, he didn't have another one to replace it with.
"Seems the budget crisis is deeper than I thought. Perhaps I was being paid too much." Still, the room was quite dark now and it had been the only light source in the room. The students couldn't use this room in the dark. Maybe the school had some other plan. In any case, it wasn't something Cheerilee had any power to fix anymore. Or maybe she could just buy a light bulb and donate it to the school. Still, the first thing she needed to do was find a job and she was confident that she knew exactly where to find one.
Out in the schoolyard, many students were exchanging both joy and sorrow. Some of them were happy that they would be paired with their friends in new classes while others were sad that they would be separated. A few were also disappointed that their favorite teachers were being fired. Another hot topic was the mystery of who the new teacher was. The Principal had said she came highly recommended.
Over by the swing set, Apple Bloom and Twist met with their other friends Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. The first thing on their minds was whether they would be in the same class together.
"Hey, we're going to be in the same class again," Twist said excitedly to Apple Bloom, pointing out what was printed on her paper.
"Check it out," Scootaloo announced. "I'm in your class too."
"Me too!" Sweetie Belle said.
"You mean the four of us are all together!" Apple Bloom asked. "Well there's the positive end the Principal was lookin' for."
"Yay!" All four of them shouted, pulling together in a group hug.
"Oh look, we're both in the new classroom." Apple Bloom and her friends turned their attention to the seesaw when they heard Diamond Tiara's voice.
"And who the hey is this Ms. Plum?" Silver Spoon asked snootily, pointing to something on her paper.
"Aren't we all in the new classroom?" Scootaloo asked.
"Which means that Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are going to be in there too?" Apple Bloom asked.
"It doesn't matter. We're still going to be together, right?" Twist pointed out.
"Yay…," the Crusaders said dismally.
"Come on guys, who cares if those two are in our class? They can't do anything with the teacher there," Twist said positively.
"I guess, but still," Scootaloo pouted.
"Twist is right. The important thing is that we all have the same class. And we totally outnumber those two," Apple Bloom put in.
"Yeah," Scootaloo finally agreed. "You're right. Maybe we can turn the tables and give them a taste of their own medicine."
"For what? Bully cutie marks?" Sweetie Belle asked. "I don't think I want to have that as my cutie mark." Besides, what would a bully cutie mark look like? A hoof in a pony's face? A pony headfirst in a trashcan? A pony headfirst in a toilet? None of them sounded appealing.
"Good point. But now that were in the same class, maybe we can step up our crusadin'. You know, like some sort of school related cutie mark."
"Good idea! Cutie Mark Crusaders, school wizards!" Scootaloo suggested.
"Maybe we could get some pointers from the new teacher and get teaching cutie marks?" Sweetie Belle said. "Cutie Mark Crusaders, super teachers."
"Don't you guys think it's kind of weird that they fired three teachers but still hired a new one?" Twist suddenly asked. The Crusaders looked at each other and unanimously shrugged.
"I dunno. Kinda," Apple Bloom answered. "I don't really understand all that budget stuff though, so maybe it does make sense and we just don't know it."
"Still seems kind of weird."
Perhaps it did seem a bit strange, but as Apple Bloom had already said, she didn't really know much about that kind of stuff. There were other things on her mind.
"What do you think the new teacher is going to be like?" Apple Bloom asked her friends, completely ignoring Twist. She didn't know everypony in Ponyville of course, but this Ms. Plum was certainly one she had never heard of.
"I bet she's really nice. Like Fluttershy," Sweetie Belle suggested.
"Or maybe she's really cool, like Rainbow Dash. I wonder if she's a pegasus? Maybe she could teach me to fly."
"Or if she's a unicorn, she could teach me how to use magic."
"Or of she's an earth pony she could teach me… whatever it is earth ponies are good for."
"This is great," Scootaloo put in. "This is gonna be the best teacher ever."
"We haven't even met her yet," Twist pointed out, wondering about the mysterious new teacher herself. "And what about Ms. Cheerilee? Think she'll be okay?"
"Well yeah, I feel bad for Cheerilee, but I'll bet you this new teacher is cool."
"And Ms. Cheerilee knows lots of stuff and is really motivated. She'll find a new job no problem," Apple Bloom said confidently. "You'll see, Twist. Why, I bet by tomorrow, we'll see Cheerilee enjoying her new job."
Fortunately for Cheerilee, she was friends with Horte Cuisine, the pony who ran one of the larger restaurants in Ponyville. As soon as he heard her plight, he offered her a job, starting immediately. Unfortunately for Cheerilee, she never expected that she of all ponies would get first day jitters.
After a quick crash course in waitressing, Cheerilee found herself walking up to her very first table during the afternoon pre-dinner crowd. Two pegasi from Cloudsdale had come down to enjoy the fine cuisine, a boyfriend and girlfriend perhaps, Cheerilee thought
"Good evening. My name is Cheerilee and I'll be your server. Um… can I take your… no wait. That comes later… Can I offer you any… no wait. It wasn't quite like that… Um…," The male pegasus, whose cutie mark resembled a whistle, grimaced, apparently concerned about her performance. "Forgive me. This is admittedly my first day. Would you like to order anything?"
The pegasus looked at his friend. "Do you know what you want?"
The female pegasus, whose cutie mark resembled a flute, answered, "Sure."
"Okay then, I guess we're ready to order. I'll have a rose sandwich and an apple strudel."
"And I'll have-"
"A rose sandwich and apple strudel?" Cheerilee suddenly interrupted. "What a coincidence you should say that. Did you know that roses and apples are part of the same family?"
The couple looked at each other. "No…,"
"They're both part of the family called Rosaceae which of course is the rose family meaning that apples are actually related to roses."
"Okay…," the pegasus looked at his girlfriend again. "What do you want to order?
"That's a very good question sir," Cheerilee interrupted again. "Rosaceaeis is part of the order known as Rosales. Anyway, as I was saying, apples are not the only fruit related to the rose family. Apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries and even almonds are part of the rose family as well."
"That's cool I guess but…," The pegasus tried to get a word in but Cheerilee had found herself back in the classroom, readily teaching her two newest students the wonders of learning.
"Of course, you're probably thinking that almonds are actually a type of nut, not a fruit. But of course this is a common misconception as nuts are technically a fruit."
"No, no. I'll answer questions in just a moment. Now as I was saying, we know that nuts are a type of fruit because they grow into trees that bear fruit. Of course, only a limited number of nuts are considered by biologists to be true nuts."
"I think you're a true nut."
"Excuse me?" Cheerilee said abashed. "That was completely uncalled for young colt. One more crack like that and I'll have you after school for detent…," Cheerilee's eyes widened in sudden realization. Her classroom warped back into a restaurant and she was suddenly a waitress offending her customers. "Oh my. I… I'm so sorry. I'm still getting used to this job."
The pegasus waved is hoof. "No, I guess it's all right. I was a little out of line."
"No. It was completely my fault. Old habits die hard I suppose."
"Quite. I suppose-"
"That was an idiom of course," Cheerilee continued. "An idiom is a phrase with a figurative meaning. I was merely saying that it's hard to change my accustomed behavior."
"Clearly," the pegasus said annoyed. "Can my sister order now?"
"Sister? Oh dear. I was under the impression that you were dating. Forgive me."
"Okay… does that make some kind of difference? I just want to order food," the other pegasus said.
Cheerilee raised an imaginary pointer stick and indicated an imaginary chalkboard with an imaginary drawing on it. "Perspective makes a very large difference in most cases. In fact, it would have dictated the type of drinks I would serve you. Were you a couple, I would be obligated to ask if would like some spiced apple cider, whereas, since you are merely siblings, it is not necessary." Her imaginary materials disappeared back into imagination land and Cheerilee hurriedly tried to fit back into her new occupation. "That reminds me, what would you like to drink, sir?"
The pegasus looked at his sister before wearily returning his attention to Cheerilee. "I think I'll play it safe and just say water."
Cheerilee nodded her head. "Distilled, double distilled, deionized, or reverse osmosis plant water?"
The pegasus paled. "Whichever one doesn't come with a lecture."
Cheerilee blushed. "Oh. Sorry again about that, sir. Uh… water it is. And what would you like to order, ma'am?"
The female pegasus stared blankly at her. "What the heck is reverse osmosis plant water?"
"No, don't!" her brother said quickly as Cheerilee's eyes lit up again.
"I'm so glad you asked," Cheerilee said happily. "Reverse osmosis is a process where large molecules and ions are removed from water through a membrane technical filtration method and…,"
"Ahem," somepony said from behind her. It was Horte. "Cheerilee can I talk to you for just one moment."
"Of course, Horte. Just one second."
"Now please." Reality struck home again and Cheerilee realized that she had made a mistake and quietly excused herself from the siblings. Horte apologized to them as well, telling them that he would return to take their order personally.
"Cheerilee," Horte started after they had stepped out of earshot of the customers. "I'm glad you're so enthusiastic about your job but… how can I put this nicely? Could you maybe be a little less enthusiastic? You know, less lecture, more order?"
"Like I said, old habits die hard."
"I'm sure they do, so please, for the sake of my business, would you let sleeping dogs lie?"
"That is also a very good idiom." Horte raised an eyebrow. "I'm sorry about that Horte. It won't happen again. I promise."
"Its okay, Cheerilee. I know you're going through a rough time. Anyway, there's a customer over on table 3 that needs service. Go see if she's ready to order would you?"
As Cheerilee went over to the table, Horte wiped his face with the handkerchief he always kept in his vest pocket. He hadn't expected it to be so difficult for Cheerilee to adjust to such a simple job. A few years before, he had hired a pegasus named Rainbow Dash as a waitress for a brief time and even she had adjusted quicker than this. Of course, he had had to fire her a week later for trying to serve too many customers at once as quickly as possible, consequently resulting in several trays of food being dumped on the mayor. Twice. On two different days.
But Cheerilee was different. She was much more mature and educated than Rainbow Dash and Horte had every bit of confidence that she would do just fine.
"On, no, no, no. Carbohydrates alone do not make you fat. It is actually the combined consumption of carbohydrates and protein in the same meal that forms fat in your body." Horte slowly turned around. Cheerilee was talking to the customer at table 3. "Low-carb diets are not healthy for you. Not only does it rob you of much needed long term energy, but you become more prone to kidney stones and will be at higher risk for a heart attack." Cheerilee turned around when she heard a thud behind her. "Mr. Horte, are you all right? You seem to have fallen over. Are you suffering from a heart attack? Was it a low-carb diet?"
Horte slowly picked himself off the ground. A heart attack wasn't really that far off from how he felt at the moment. "Cheerilee, I'm sorry, but can I see you inside for a moment, please?"
"Okay, Horte. I'll be there in a second," Cheerilee answered cheerfully, before turning back to the customer. "It is recommended that you eat most of your daily protein during lunch and most of your daily carbs for dinner. In fact, eating food filled with carbohydrates for dinner will aid in getting a more restful sleep."
"Mr. Horte, are you sure you're all right? You fell down again."
"Cheerilee. Right now. Please!" Horte sighed. He didn't want to do it since she was his friend, but he had no choice. Cheerilee had just broken Rainbow Dash's record for the shortest-term employee he ever had.
It was midmorning of the following day and Cheerilee sat in a chair with a cup of hot coco, staring at her collection of two pink slips on her kitchen table. She had woken up early to go to work, only remembering she didn't have a job anymore after she had jumped in the shower. It was only her first day out of work and already she missed it.
"Cheer up, Cheerilee," she told herself. "It's not the end of your career. Surely there are other places looking for a teacher." But that would mean leaving Ponyville. She had lived here her whole life and didn't want to think about starting somewhere new. "Maybe I could… get a different job. I wonder if…," Cheerilee shivered and shook her head. "No! Never again. I can never go back to pro wrestling." Some things were better left in the past.
Sighing, Cheerilee left her coco sitting on the table and quietly left her house. It was strange walking around Ponyville at this time of day on a Tuesday. Things were a lot busier than she expected. Already, many ponies were walking about, some working, others probably on their way to work. There weren't any kids around though. School would start in approximately four minutes, and thirty-two seconds. The children must have all been at school by now.
Cheerilee forced herself to walk away from the direction of the schoolhouse. She had to stay focused on her goal of finding a new job, whatever that might end up being. However, the odds of finding a job (that didn't have to do with waitressing) on the first day seemed rather slim. Surely, there must be a golden opportunity somewhere.
Cheerilee jumped when something landed next to her. It took her a minute to realize that it was a hammer. But where had it just come from?
"Sorry ma'am!" an earth pony shouted from a rooftop right above her. "I'm afraid my partner here is rather clumsy." The pony indicated a grey pegasus whose eyes didn't seem particularly focused. "Derpy, say you're sorry and get that hammer back up here."
The pegasus named Derpy scratched the back of her head and blushed. "Sorry. My bad." Then she spread her wings and jumped down to the ground. The earth pony on the roof, face hoofed when Derpy hit the ground face first.
"Oh my goodness! Are you okay?" Cheerilee asked and helped Derpy up.
Derpy giggled. "I guess I forgot to fly." Despite the fact that she probably should have suffered some sort of serious injury, Derpy spread her wings again and smiled, showing that she didn't have a scratch on her.
"Dang it all, Derpy!" the pony above exclaimed. "I wouldn't have to suffer through this if you hadn't dropped that load of shingles on Roof Master."
"Roof Master?" Cheerilee wondered allowed. "Excuse me sir, but are you by any chance shorthoofed today?"
"Yeah. The guy I usually work with got hurt the other day and Derpy here is the only extra I've got. It's a real problem too. We still have three more leaky roofs to fix and I don't know what my team and I are going to do about the re-roofing project tomorrow."
"If you need some extra help, I could offer my assistance," Cheerilee said with a smile.
"I don't know. This is pretty tedious work."
"I assure you, I'm a fast learner and a hard worker. I'll do it or my name's not Cheerilee."
The earth pony scratched his head. "Well… I guess it can't hurt to give you a chance. My names Storm Drain by the way."
"Glad to make your acquaintance Storm Drain. If you don't mind, I'm ready to start immediately."
"I guess that's fine. You can't possibly do any more harm than Derpy."
As soon as Apple Bloom ran into the new classroom, something didn't seem right. She had accidentally overslept and gotten to school just before the bell rang, so she must have been the last one there. But it didn't make any sense. Cheerilee had pointed out before that fewer teachers meant bigger class sizes, but for some reason she was looking at a class of eight students, not counting herself. Besides her three friends, and Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, the only other students were Snips, Snails, and Noi.
"Take a seat please. You were almost late." An earth pony with a white mane and a tan coat, raised an eyebrow at her. She wore large circular glasses, red earrings, and her cutie mark resembled… actually, Apple Bloom wasn't sure what it looked like. Her cutie mark was five horizontal black lines. Maybe it had something to do with geometry?
"Don't just stand there looking foolish. I said take a seat." This had to be the new teacher, Ms. Plum.
Apple Bloom sheepishly took the only remaining seat, which happened to be next to Twist. Everyone else watched her closely. For some reason, the students all looked a little nervous.
"Good. Nine students. First day, perfect attendance and no tardies. Remember to try and keep it that way. It makes me look good."
Had she really just said that? Apple Bloom looked around and saw the other students all smiling and nodding nervously, save for Scootaloo who slightly glared. Apparently, today was not a good day to be almost late. What in the world had she missed?
Ms. Plum walked to the front of the classroom and smacked her hoof on the chalkboard to get the class's attention, as if she didn't already have it. "My first order of business is to find out who is who in this class," Plum began. Then she pointed at Silver Spoon. "You. What's your name?"
"Silver Spoon, ma'am. And I'd like to add that I love your hair." As it happened, both Silver Spoon and Plum had the same hairstyle. Unexpectedly, Plum raised her eyebrow and looked a little cross.
"Oh, a suck up are we? I know who's sitting front and center from here on out."
Silver Spoon gaped in shock as some of the other kids giggled.
"I think I like this new teacher," Apple Bloom whispered to Twist. Twist just looked at her and grimaced.
"You with the hair bow!" Apple Bloom stood up out of her seat at full attention. "What's your name?"
"Oh, oh!" Twist raised her hoof. "Her name is Apple Bloom."
"Okay… Apple Bloom." Plum wrote something down on a piece of paper. "And your name?" she said to Diamond Tiara.
"What'd you do that for, Twist?" Apple Bloom asked crossly as she sat back down.
"Sorry. I just wanted to answer her question."
"You always want to answer every question. And that was the first question I coulda answered all year too. Now she probably thinks I'm the dumb kid in class."
"She wouldn't think that."
"What's with that arrogant attitude?" Plum suddenly said to Scootaloo. "All I did was ask your name. I'll bet you're the class clown aren't you? You think your funny, is that it?"
"Well… maybe she wouldn't think that…," Twist blushed.
Apparently, the new teacher wasn't quite what the students had expected. Apple Bloom slumped angrily in her seat. "When she asks what your name is, Twist, I'm tellin' her it's Mud."