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It Could Have Gone Better · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Simple Motivations
Push stared out the window, clutching her broom in both forelegs. The bride and groom were dancing, surrounded by their friends in something resembling a line dance. She should be out there with those ponies. Celestia had given them the whole city the day off. Why was it she had to be stuck here?

The answer to that question called to her from near the center of the ruined ballroom. "Stop mopin', kid! You think this place'll clean itself up?"

Heaving the hundredth sigh of the evening, she turned back to the pile of debris she'd been sweeping up. "Yes, Uncle Dry."

"Speak up! Can't hear a word of your whining if you mumble," Dry Broom snapped.

After a long inhale, Push counted to ten. She let the air out in one long gasp. It wasn't enough to keep the venom out of her repeated, louder "Yes, Uncle Dry!"

"That's a good girl." He wiped sweat from his brow and continued working on his own pile of rocks and ruined furniture. As the two of them worked, the older stallion started in on his complaining, as he did with every job. "Back when I was a happy bachelor stud they had proper weddings. Family gets together, play some nice music, share a couple 'I do's'. Now they gotta have massive parties that wreck the reception area! Ponies these days got no respect for marriage. This was supposed to be a royal wedding! What kind of example are they—"

Push tuned him out, focusing instead on the music that barely penetrated the marble walls from the garden area. She wondered if her uncle even noticed the changelings running rampant through the castle a few hours ago. Probably not. She wondered what foul deed she'd committed as a foal to deserve being stuck as his apprentice. It had seemed like such a big deal when she'd joined him six months ago. Being a janitor wasn't glamorous, but she was a janitor in Canterlot Castle, which was probably as close to the big time as she'd ever manage.

Her illusions had been shattered quickly. She glared at her uncle, still rambling about 'proper weddings' and new royalty 'ruining the hallowed images of the princesses'. He was always grumpy, and always making sure Push worked when any reasonable pony would be out having fun. "Like at a royal wedding the entire castle staff is invited to," she growled under her breath. Sometimes she wondered if this job was really worth it.

The door leading to the halls opened. Push didn't bother checking to see who it was. "Reception's been moved to the gardens," she growled out.

"My. Our niece really overdid it, it seems."

Push froze. Heavy hoofsteps resounded in her ears as the visitor approached. She heard the sound of her uncle's broom hitting the floor. Slowly, she turned around to find Princess Luna standing before her and surveying the damage. Push's muzzle slammed against the dirt floor. "Princess! F-forgive my rudeness."

"Oh, do rise." Luna's voice kind and dismissive at the same time. "This is supposed to be a celebration. No need for formality, Miss...?"

"P-Push Broom, Your Highness." She rose, noticing her uncle doing the same. He went back to work, casting scathing glances at Push as if to ask why she wasn't doing the same. But her legs were locked, unwilling to obey her as she gaped at the princess.

Princess Luna continued to survey the ballroom, the corner of her lip turned up in a slight smile. "I take it the wedding didn't go as planned."

Swallowing to clear her dry throat, Push replied, "It c-could have gone better."

"And yet you are still here." Luna studied her as if she were a curiosity. Then she smiled and set a silver-clad hoof to Push's shoulder. "Keep up the good work, Miss Broom." And with that, she moved on.

Push touched her shoulder. A tingle ran through her. The royal hoof had graced her person. Six months of thankless labor, but... she'd met Princess Luna!

Dry Broom watched her as she broke into a grin, fiddling with his broom like he'd never held one before in his life. "Y'know... You could go to the reception. If you wanted."

She looked to him, then to Princess Luna just as she existed the room. Grinning, she grabbed her own broom. "Nope, I'm good. Let's get to work!"

Where she not so giddy, she might have noticed the oddity that was his smile.
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#1 · 1
· · >>PaulAsaran
I’m split on this one. I mean, I can definitely see Luna thinking, “It is good to see some ponies still know their place in this strange age. Continue toiling for your betters.” Personally, I think it’s a pretty darn twisted message, especially if the end result is a stallion who can fail to notice a city-wide attack of shapeshifting bug monsters through sheer curmudgeonry. I’m not sure what mindset is necessary to best appreciate this story, but I’m not in it, and I’m not sure what you were trying to get across.
#2 · 1
· · >>PaulAsaran
Who the hell names their kid Push Broom?

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This might sound extreme, but this might be the only modern story I've read in at least a few months that endorses slavery. Not literal slavery, mind you, but blind obedience to doing one's work for some higher power, regardless of personal reservations or even outside forces that require one to maybe put down the broom and help everyone out.

That really bothers me. I'm sure it's not the author's intention, but that's how it comes off, and it contaminates one's reading of the whole thing.

What's weird is that in terms of grammar, structure, all that, this is an otherwise pretty solid entry.

Even Luna sounds like herself, albeit with that nasty connotation I mentioned earlier hanging over her head.

So yeah, I don't know if I can recommend this to anyone, or if there was even an audience in mind to begin with.

I'm feeling a decent to strong 6 on this.
#3 · 1
· · >>PaulAsaran
Yeah, I ain't gonna lie: I see the unfortunate implications here too. Work ethic is all very well, but this feels needlessly self-depreciating, even self-punishing, for no obvious benefit to Push Broom.

Which is a shame, because I think it would only require a little tweaking to make this work. For instance, you could have her just go at the end (it's not hard to assume the grumpy uncle stays out of some misguided loyalty or spite). Or you could edit the "everyone's allowed off" part to "this is an emergency cleanup" part (the changeling invasion was mentioned). Or you could have her actually enjoy the job and her uncle's company (some people do). Or you could link their denial of the time-off with a more tragic angle, like they're denying themselves a moment's special fun completely pointlessly because of some mental block. Any one of these minor edits would have pushed it into less awkward territory.

That said, I do like the individual elements. The uncle's curmudgeonly approach with occasional soft-hearted charity was neat. I do like the way Push Broom's loathing and awe was conveyed early on, and in a vacuum I like the way the uncle's soft side is conveyed at the end. It's moments like these, taken on their own, which make me think the whole "happiness in misery" angle is an unintended byproduct of trying to mash up the first half with a more loyalist angle in the second half.

I mean, I don't seriously think you're implying she should give up a rare piece of enjoyment for a job she clearly hates with someone who annoys her. But there does need to be less "I hate this I hate this ooh prestigious castle ooh princess" and much more of what we got at the ending; more implication that she does see plenty of good in the job and in her uncle.

So... I guess middle of the pack or solid entry. It's hard because I keep seeing the fic I think you wanted to write, and it's twisting my view of the fic you actually wrote, and I don't know if that's something to reward or punish. If you get my drift?
#4 · 1
· · >>PaulAsaran
That last "Where" should be "Were".

This is a nice slice of life. I'd have liked it better if Luna had interacted with Push more, however. It feels like Push just got put in her place and didn't learn anything from the experience.
#5 ·
· · >>PaulAsaran
I think it can be deceptively difficult to make a simple "character-learns-a-lesson" story work in a minific format, and I think this story does a great job of making it feel like its main character genuinely did have a significant experience. The fact that this character is an OC is also pretty impressive.

Compared to a lot other reviews here, I wasn't as bothered by the "moral", but it did still strike me as funny. I get that you're trying to teach Push Broom that life isn't all just fancy parties and that there is meaning in work that isn't immediately apparent. But at the same time, it almost feels like Push Broom doesn't deserve to enjoy a Royal Wedding because of her job. Her character arc is that she learns that she can be happy without attending a dreamy wedding, but I think that the fact that she is not allowed any involvement in the wedding at all (outside of her labor) makes it feel like she's being excluded from privileged society and forced to be content.

So maybe have Luna sneak her a cupcake, or something? Or make it clearer that Push Broom's absence from the wedding is ultimately her choice. I still enjoyed the story very much and will likely score it towards the top of my slate, but if your themes were a little clearer, it might help prevent some of the unfortunate readings that some folks seem to be having.
#6 · 4
· · >>No_Raisin >>BlueChameleonVI
Huh. You know, I think this may be the first time I've ever not made it into the finals? Does that count as a milestone? I'm gonna count it as a milestone. Yay, milestone! Congrats to those who moved on.

>>FanOfMostEverything >>No_Raisin >>BlueChameleonVI >>Trick_Question >>Bachiavellian
I fascinates me that nobody got what I was really doing with this story, and even applied vastly off meanings to it.

For reasons I honestly can't claim to know, I found myself thinking about how the average, ordinary, everyday pony might view the princesses, and as an extension of that, how average, ordinary, everyday people look upon their idols. Twilight Sparkle's adoration of Celestia in the first season, the way she just lit up at the very idea of her mentor, is a good example. But I didn't want to use Twilight Sparkle, that was too easy. So instead I went with randomly generated OC #136078.

The whole point of the story was nothing more than showing how a regular run-of-the-mill pony, who was otherwise having a bad day, could suddenly feel on top of the world just because one of the princesses happened to notice she existed. And praised her, bonus! Is this not how people in the real world behave around their heroes? Would a vehement Trump backer not gush if he walked into the room? Would a liberal acolyte not become a grinning mess if Hillary Clinton walked up and shook their hand? I just wanted to capture that little moment of joy for a pony.

All that being said, I can see there are issues to be had. My intent wasn't clear. Everyone expected a lesson or a moral to the story, and I didn't offer one. That's entirely on me. I suppose I also could have made Luna more friendly or chatty with Push Broom, but that would have defied the seminal point: the idol doesn't need to do anything but be present and say a word or two of acknowledgement to make the pony's month. It's a shame people took this as Push Broom being a social slave or self-punishing or any of the other negative connotations, which are not even remotely related to what's happening here. And again, that's probably on me for choosing this particular setting and not clarifying the intent.

But I digress. I'm supposed to be working right now anyway. My thanks to everyone who commented! You've all given me a little more to think about. Which, really, is the reason I enter these contests in the first place.
#7 ·
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
>>PaulAsaran In slight defense, I did say I was pretty sure that wasn't your intent. But intent is only half the battle, and execution is the other half. It's like GI Joe. :D
#8 ·

Similar to >>No_Raisin, though I just assumed you were going for a moral about having a positive work ethic, and not that you had no actual moral in mind. Also, I'm dead biased against an "idolatry" mindset, especially in such a socially stratified civilization, so there's that (for honesty's sake, Twilight's hero-worship of Celestia is definitely not my favourite part of the show).

I think the problem is the unfortunate connection between this awestruck perspective and being in a low-status position that includes menial work. To put it bluntly, Luna's visit does nothing fundamental about the latter and even appears to validate it. Push hates her job and her uncle, both of which she's stuck with for now, but Luna's one-time visit somehow makes it all better.

It gives the impression of being creepier than was probably intended. Combine that with the weird fact that Push is, against public decree, actively denying herself a day off from her crummy job, and the unfortunate implications just pile up.