Birds chirped happily in the trees that morning, as they did the morning before, and the morning before that, and every other morning since the day after Winter Wrap-up. They swooped from their nests upon the branches to collect their morning meals. The early bird, after all, does indeed get the worm. But, as Celestia's sun crept across the early reaches of the daytime sky, many ponies still slept.
However, in a modest house near the centre of the sleepy little town, one pony defied convention, as she did every weekday morning. The blonde mare made her way down the stairs cautiously, the early morning sunlight nearly blinding her through her descent from her bedroom. She had just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat before heading off to work for the morning, and if she was anything, she was punctual.
Digging into the refrigerator, only her bubbly flank would be visible to any pony standing in the hall. She lived alone, so she made no effort to stifle the clanking of bowls, or the pouring of cereal. Sitting on the table, however, sat a book she was reading the night before, pages still exposed to the ceiling above. The mare quickly retrieved her bookmark, nestled it into the spine, then shut her book, revealing its title to be "20,000 Leagues under the Sea". It was a literary classic written by none other than Burning Jewels, who lived over a hundred years ago, speaking of undreamt marvels.
A smile crept upon her face as she laughed inwardly at her own forgetfulness. How could she have left such a classic out in the open like that? After finishing her quick breakfast, she made sure to deposit it back on the bookshelf in her living room where it rightly belonged. The mare quickly made sure all the doors and windows were locked before she grabbed her hat off the stand by the door and left for work.
Sure, being a mailpony wasn't her first career choice... but she had to admit that the job had grown on her, and she simply couldn't imagine herself doing anything else. Derpy Hooves smiled as she took off into the early morning sky. There wasn't any better time to fly then in the morning to her. The morning dew of the early summer morning still shimmered in the light, giving off the illusion that the ground below was made of precious gemstones.
Inevitably, there came the time when she had to descend from her lofty perch, landing in front of the Ponyville Post Office. It was a rather small building, considering the number of ponies it served, but they somehow managed to get the job done every weekday morning and afternoon. In the morning, the mail ponies would go around door to door and check every single post box for an outgoing letter. Then, in the afternoon, after sorting, they would be distributed.
Oddly, the thought never occurred to them to cancel that service and have the ponies drop off their mail in fewer, but larger collection boxes. They'd be guarded by lock and key to assure nothing got tampered with, unlike the current system. Derpy had tried to voice her idea before, but... there were difficulties.
The grey mare quietly rounded to the back door of the Post Office and slipped inside. Already, her fellow mail ponies were gathering their bags, or having a cup of coffee to get going before the long day ahead. As usual, nopony spoke a word to her as she walked over to her locker and collected her bag. Work didn't begin for another five minutes, but she liked to make sure she had everything. She had a bad habit of misplacing things.
"Morning, Derp," came a bright cheery voice when she emerged in the Break Room. Derpy quickly identified the pony as Fairybelle, a rather new pony to the team, but she seemed nice enough. Fairybelle was a bright and cheerful Earth Pony who sported a lavender pink coat and a short cyan mane. Her flank bore a cutie mark in the shape of a speeding letter. Obviously, she had a talent in getting packages and mail to their destinations quickly. Derpy had no doubt she would become Postmistress of Ponyville one day.
"Pickles fly!" Derpy replied, waving a hoof at her in greeting. The younger pony giggled a little at the unusual response as everypony did.
"Sorry, Derp," she smiled, realizing her faux pas. "It's just that you say such random things!"
Sadly, by now the filly had been exposed to her exploits by her coworkers. Derpy could tell she was apologizing just to make nice, but she really still thought of her the same way everypony did.
Walking through town later that morning, the young mare slowly became apprehensive as the route passed her by. The exchange with her co-worker had left her doubting herself and her plans for the day. Derp's saddlebags began to dig into her back a little from the weight of all the mail she had picked up, plus a rather hefty package from Bon-bon to Lyra, which she suspected was jammed full of chocolates. She didn't care much for chocolate: Derpy would prefer a muffin any day of the week.
Speaking of muffins, the mailmare slowly approached her next stop. It was an old and interesting building in town, since it wasn't a building at all; but rather, a tree. She approached the Library a little apprehensively as today was Wednesday, and knowing the pony's habits, she probably had a letter to deliver. Ever since she came to Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle had attracted Derpy's attention. Not in the romantic sort of way, but in the kindred spirit sort of way.
Tales had spread wide and far about the purple mare's love of a good book, and her above-average intelligence. Derpy wasn't one to brag, since she could never seem to say what she wanted anyway, but the two had at least that much in common. Perhaps, her mind raced, they could even be friends one day. To this end, the gray mare took a deep breath and knocked on the door of the Library.
"Just a minute," echoed the voice of the unicorn from behind the door. The Library didn't have a mailbox, so Derpy had to receive the letters... right from the horse's mouth, one might say. She waited in anticipation at the door, hoping to Celestia that her lazy eyes didn't start to act up... or that she could get at least one word she wanted past her lips.
"Oh, Hi... um... Derpy," Twilight spoke as she opened the door. "I'm sorry about the delay, but Spike was begin his usual unproductive self." She shot a look back into the building as she spoke the last few words, dripping with sarcasm.
"I haven't eaten yet, what do you expect, Twi?" A whiny voice echoed from inside the tree.
The purple mare shook her head and rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "Boys," she remarked before reaching over to a side table and gathering up a letter in her teeth. Derpy took the letter happily and stuffed it into her saddle bag. She shuffled her hoof awkwardly at the door, trying to bring herself to say something.
"Um..." Derpy spoke softly. It wasn't often that she'd try to start a conversation, and even more rarely during her route. Still, disorder be damned, she was going to talk to this mare. She burrowed her brow in deep concentration, the look seemed to surprise Twilight, as her pupils narrowed and she stepped back nervously.
"Uh... are you okay, Derpy?" She spoke, concerned that the mailpony was having some sort of attack.
"I...I...icicles... like fish!" A look of horror came upon the blonde pony as she covered her mouth with a hoof. "K...kelp eats breakfast in Virginia."
Twilight couldn't quite explain what was happening, but it was beginning to creep her out. "Okay," she chuckled awkwardly. "Well, I'm sure you've got a lot of work to do, and I just remembered this fascinating book I've just gotta read so... see you later." With that, the door of the library unceremoniously closed in Derpy's face. Her ears drooping in despair, she realized she'd blown her one chance at a good first impression. Twilight must have thought that she was... that she was...
A tear dropped down her eye as it drifted to a corner of her face, the young mare's head hung low as she reluctantly continued her morning route.
Derpy Hooves dropped her bag into the sorting room, having just wiped some tears off of her face. Her boss, a brown stallion with a grizzled, gray mane and a five o'clock shadow on his face frowned at her. "Derpy!" He exclaimed angrily. "You're five minutes late, you feather brain!"
"Kumquats," she muttered apologetically as she turned tail. Perhaps a walk through town during her break would take her mind off of things? She had about an hour to kill anyway... and there was only one thing that could cheer this sorrowful pony up. The winged equine decided to take flight to her destination, a haven in times both good and bad; a place that boasted itself as the haunt of a mare who could cheer up anypony: Sugarcube Corner.
It was around noon, so Mr. and Mrs. Cake were busy in the kitchen while their hired hoof, Pinkie Pie, minded the customers.
"Hi, Derpy," the pink pony cheered happily. "What kinda muffin can I get you today?" That radiant smile, Derpy swore, could lift even the most down pony. She paused for a minute, considering.
"Bumblefoot, turkey!" The Pegasus pony announced.
"You're in luck!" Pinky chirped. "The Blueberry ones just came out of the oven!"
Of all the ponies she had ever met, Pinkie Pie was the only one who could understand her insane murmurings. She'd try to get her to speak on her behalf before, but nopony would believe her. They seemed to think that Pinkie wasn't acting as an interpreter, but would rather insert what she thought Derpy was actually saying. Needless to say, the whole thing was quite frustrating.
Pinky's smile suddenly faded as she looked into Derpy's yellow eyes. They weren't 'derped' as everypony called it, so why did she stare? "Are you okay, Derpy? You look sorta sad."
Derpy shook her head. Was the whole incident with Twilight really that easy to read? Speaking of reading, the mare remembered a book she had at home on the subject... she'd long since abandoned her attempts to explain Pinky, much like Twilight previously. Unlike her, however, the gray mare didn't have to learn it the hard way, and she was grateful for that, considering.
"Lions nest in spring," Derpy started. "...bees sting on the dot. Light sink in a cupcake sky."
"Oh..." Pink voiced in realization. "Well, she can be all fuddy-duddy like that, but Twilight's okay when you get to know her. You just gotta try a different approach!" Again, the wickedly uplifting smile spread across her face, and the blonde mare couldn't help but return it. She passed the pink earth pony her bits and took the muffin in gratitude. "Then even if you made a complete, total disaster of the first go, you've got the second go to make up for it!"
Derpy Hooves spent the rest of her lunch hour in the break room back in the post office. The other ponies chatted idly among themselves while she sat at a small corner table and dwelt on Pinkies words. Perhaps she did need a new approach to communicate with Twilight... but that begged the question: how was she going to go about it?
A few days later, during her normal delivery route, she would find the answer. One of the ponies on her delivery route that afternoon was a special case. He was a typical stallion, nothing really remarkable about him. It was more his brother, who lived in Hoofinton, that was the remarkable one. The mailmare trotted up to the door and knocked on it lightly. The stallion of the home answered, his brown coat and black mane shimmering in the light.
"Ah, hey Derpy," he spoke softly. "I take it if you're here, then I have a letter from that dear brother of mine?
"Fish paste!" Derpy chirped, handing over the letter. His brother, you see, had the most appalling writing anypony had ever seen. It was more akin to scribbles then it was to actual letters. Still, his letter, plus her translated version, was always well received by his brother. He looked at his newest letter, and a smile spread across his face.
"You know, Derpy," he started. "You have a talent for making things clear on paper that otherwise nopony would understand."
In that beaming face, an epiphany had washed over the mare. She could not help but share his smile, though he had no idea why. It was all so obvious to her now. Why had she not thought of it earlier? Derpy scolded herself inwardly as she finished her route for that day. She must really have been stupid if it wasn't clear to her before! Suddenly, she was quite looking forward to her next encounter with Twilight Sparkle.
It was Wednesday again, a week to the day since her first ill-fated attempt at talking to the purple unicorn. This time, however, things would be different. It was her afternoon route: Twilight had not been around that morning, meaning she had no outgoing mail. Ah well, that didn't matter to the grey pony, for she could fit her in regardless. She knocked politely on the door of the library, an annoyed and frazzled Twilight thrusting it open.
"WHAT!?" she exclaimed a little louder then she intended. "Oh, it's you. Sorry about that." Twilight smiled apologetically at her outburst.
"Jellyfish!" Derpy exclaimed happily, presenting the violet unicorn with a bunch of letters.
"Oh, thank you." The unicorn gingerly too the mail from her, and before she could say another word to the Pegasus, she had already trotted off on her route. "It must be nice to be such a simple pony," she added after she left.
Twilight's mail was of the usual sort. Letters from some ponies she didn't talk to very often, her subscription to 'Magic Monthly Magazine,' and the odd flier or two from some of the local shops in town. However, a curious letter lay among them that she just had to open first. On the envelope, you see, in elegant, cursive handwriting, which she briefly mistook for Princess Celestia's, read the word, "Twilight."
Interested, she placed all the others onto the side table and sat in the middle of the Library on a cushion to read aloud, to nopony in particular.
"Ms Twilight Sparkle,
I would like to take this moment to apologize for my abysmal behaviour this Wednesday past. You must think of me as a baseline idiotic pony, who can only speak in inane outbursts. While my speech impediment may ring true, I have no doubt that the extent of my mental capacity is making itself evident to you as these words pass your eyes by. Please, allow me to explain myself to you, succinctly from the beginning.
I experience a mental block in regard to my vocal abilities. The only word I can seem to utter on command is "muffin" as well as its plural form. In addition, I tend to misplace items of importance and have a curious pair of lazy eyes.
As for my conduct last Wednesday, I sense I may have startled you, but I sincerely meant no harm. You see, I have admired you from afar for some time now. Not in a romantic capacity, but in a more... platonic capacity, I daresay. You see, I am an avid lover of both classic and contemporary literature and would like to discuss such with a pony of your intellect.
Alas, most ponies see me as dim-witted, or simply would not understand me should I deign to write to them in this fashion. However, I believe that you do. I apologize for my logorrhea, and shall get to the point of this missive. Last Wednesday, I simply wanted to ask you to join me at Mr. Shake's that Saturday afternoon so we could get to know each other a little better. You could use your words, and I a pen and pad to express myself properly. It is not something I'd do for anypony though.
If you are interested, please intercept me on my route tomorrow morning. Failing that, a simple visible token left on your door will do. It can be anything you wish.
Hoping to converse soon,
Twilight read the letter over repeatedly, wondering how her eyes could deceive her so. How could such a... unique pony like Derpy Hooves possess such a command of the English language? There were some words in that letter that she didn't think anypony else knew, and she had been the bookworm of any group for as long as she could remember! Perhaps... perhaps she had been a little quick to judge her... but never in her life had she been so wrong.
The purple pony needed a minute to clear her head. She stepped out onto the balcony and took in a breath of fresh air. If this Derpy Hooves was really so smart, perhaps she'd have to see it in person... have her write like that right in front of her face. She probably just had a smart friend write that letter for her... that had to be it!
A couple of days later, Spike was napping in the Library when the sudden slam of a door echoed through the building. "Spike!" came the all-too familiar bellow of a very bossy pony. He rolled onto his side and reluctantly left the warmth of his blanket behind. Obviously, he had not moved fast enough, since he heard his name called a second time with greater volume and urgency.
"Just wait until I'm all grown up," he muttered darkly as he walk down the stairs. "Yeah, Twi?"
"Take a letter, Spike," the pony replied. Spike couldn't help but notice a distinct mixture of shame, embarrassment, and a touch of envy on the face of the unicorn as he reached for a scroll and quill.
"Alright, shoot," he spoke in an irritated manner.
"Dear Princess Celestia,
Further to an earlier letter, about never judging a book by it's cover, I learned today that the same thing can even go for ponies you know. You never really know a pony until you've sat down and really talked, laughed, and shared interests together. You might just be surprised with how many acquaintances turn out to be friends you never knew you had.
On a more personal note, I also learned that, no matter how smart one thinks they are, there is probably somepony out there who is even smarter.
Your faithful student,