The Ice Sculpture Contest
written by Sugarberry

Sugarberry, Spike, and Tabby met outside the vet clinic on the morning of the Bushwoolie's ice sculpture contest. All of Ponyland was in a festive mood as the day dawned sunny and bright following days of bitter cold temperatures. It was perfect weather for ice sculpting.

Every entrant in the contest was supplied with a block of ice delivered by Tiny, the Bigfoot of the Dark Forest. The Bushwoolies, as sponsors of the event, couldn't participate in the actual sculpting; they were, however, responsible for maintaining lists of entrants, ensuring availability of ice blocks at the proper locations, and the actual judging of the sculptures at the end of the day.

On this particular morning, Ponyland appeared to be bedecked with jewels as the blocks of ice glittered in the sunlight, awaiting the talents of the ponies to transform them into works of art.

"Oh, my," frowned Sugarberry as she approached one of the three giant ice cubes that she, Tabby, and Spike had optimistically signed-up to sculpt. Their plan was to carve them into the soft, furry shapes of Ponyland's most admired felines: Fluff, Fuzz, and Callie. "Where does one begin?"

Tabby tentatively tapped her hoof against the hard, smooth surface of her ice block. She, too, frowned and groaned. "I've just got a bad feeling that this isn't gonna work out."

Of the three, only Spike remained up-beat. "We can do it!" he urged his co-designers. "Just start chipping away anything that doesn't belong on a cat."

"Yeah, sure," responded Tabby.

"Oh, my," repeated Sugarberry once again.

Luckily, Spike had rounded-up various chisels, knives, hammers, and other appropriate utensils that could be used to shape the forbidding ice blocks into, hopefully, three magnificent cats.

"Choose your weapons!" he declared dragonishly as he held up a large chisel and began to tap away at his ice block. Sugarberry and Tabby cautiously picked out items that might work for them, and then they both stood staring at the ice.

"Maybe if we close our eyes and envision the cats, we'll be able to get started," suggested Sugarberry as she took her own advice, closed her eyes, and imagined Fluff sitting before her. She opened her eyes, and shivered. "Well, here goes!" she exclaimed as she began hammering the chisel into the ice.

Meanwhile, Tabby eyed the knife in her hoof and thought of Callie curled up asleep at home on a warm, soft cushion. "Typical," she thought. "The cat always gets the best of life while the owner gets the dirty work." Feeling just a bit frusterated, she began cutting away at the ice.

Once started, the three sculptors got into the swing of things and ice chips began to fly. Thomas came out of the clinic and surveyed the progress of the three with amusement. He, for one, had refrained from signing-up to carve a sculpture, opting instead to be in charge of supplying hot chocolate and sandwiches to slightly frozen and terribly hungry workers. After circling the three diligent artists, he raised his eyebrows and questioned, "Weren't you going to sculpt three cats?"

Sugarberry had the good sense to ignore the remark, but Tabby resented the implication that their work wasn't shaping-up quite as planned. "I'd like to see you do any better," she spat.

Laughing, Thomas held his hooves aloft and shook his head. "No thanks! I know where my talents lies, and that's in caring for cats, not in creating them." That said, he took off down the street to see how the other contestants were doing.

Various other ponies who had chosen not to actively participate in the contest took it upon themselves to critique and supervise the work in progress, so the concentration of the three sculptors was often shattered by such remarks as "Which one is Curly?", "Are these supposed to be trees or mountains?", and "Take a little off the left side, Sugarberry, and it'll be a perfect likeness of Hydia."

Spike was beginning to fume a bit when, fortunately, Thomas returned and declared, "It's lunchtime, you guys! Time for a break!"

Sugarberry looked at Thomas thankfully and laid-down her chisel; Tabby and Spike quickly followed. They collapsed into chairs in the clinic, and hugged steaming mugs of hot chocolate in their near-frozen hooves.

"You know, that ice is cold!" complained Tabby. She blew on her hooves to restore a vestige of warmth to them.

Spike gulped down several cookies and three mugs of chocolate before he added, "Ice sculpting is tricky business!"

Staring rather blankly ahead of her, Sugarberry sighed, "I suppose we'll have to finish them," and she closed her eyes and sank more deeply into her chair.

Thomas was gentlepony enough to know when to keep quiet, so he simply refilled mugs as needed and passed the sandwich tray. If any of the three numb ponies would have had the energy to notice, they'd have seen a cynical sparkle in Thomas' eyes and a certain "I told you so" attitude in his movements. But even Tabby was too discouraged to notice.

The three were just mustering up the courage to continue their seemingly ill-fated project when Snuzzle entered the clinic. "Hi gang," she cheerfully called. "How's it going?"

Sugarberry managed a bleak smile and tried to sound optimistic. "We're just going out to put the finishing touches on our work now."

"Oh, good for you!" Snuzzle bubbled. "Your three monkeys that see no evil, hear no evil, and say no evil are coming along superbly!"

Tabby was just about to chide Snuzzle for mistaking their cats for monkeys, when she received a sharp kick from Sugarberry. So instead of hurting the feelings of a sincere but uninformed pony, Tabby simply glared at Sugarberry and said, "Whatever."

The sun had passed its zenith by now, and the air temperature kept dropping as the ponies and dragon worked frantically to salvage some bit of their pride in this very public demonstration of their artistic ability. And surprisingly, the three of them began to see a certain amount of feline dignity begin to emerge from their once stark ice blocks. Sugarberry's worried expression was beginning to relax, Tabby was beginning to hum softly to herself, and Spike had the old bounce back in his step. Things were looking up!

"Where's Goldilocks?" asked a brusque voice from behind the craftsponies. No one took notice at first because of their concentration on the work at hand. But again came the curt question, "Where is Goldilocks?"

Tabby's humming ended quickly as recognition of that voice pierced her brain. She swung around to face Tex. "How should we know where Goldilocks is, for Pete's sake!" she shrieked. "We're kinda busy here!"

"Well, I was just wondering," teased Tex. "I see Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear... where's Goldilocks?"

Tabby's eyes shot arrows and even mild Sugarberry poured-out a venomous look at Tex; how dare he taunt them after the hard day of effort they had put into this contest? Both girls in a single motion ran to a snowbank nearby to batter Tex with a volley of snowballs.

But Spike had his feelings hurt, too, and he was beyond the point of good manners. He was bristling with animosity over this last jeer that came when he and his friends were just beginning to regain their self-confidence. Furthermore, nobody could make fun of his friends and get away with it! And for a dragon, all that rage had only one outlet... he breathed fire!

Tex, Tabby, and Sugarberry gaped in surprise as dragon-fire enveloped the three sculptures. As quickly as it began, the fire was squelched as Spike realized his error and covered his mouth with his hands. All his anger melted into penitence. And the sculptures, too, melted. The sharp, pointed cat ears drained away; the defined faced dissolved; paws and tails vanished. But the arctic cold encompassed them immediately, and the thawing was halted as suddenly as it had began.

Thomas had come out of the clinic when he heard the commotion, and he stared in wonder at the three would-be cat sculptures. A smile spread across his face, and he turned his gaze to take in Tabby's and Sugarberry's reaction. Both ponies were staring in wide-eyed fascination at what now stood before them, luminous and glowing from the last rays of the setting sun in the clear western sky. Even Tex was speechless.

At that moment, the six flocculent Bushwoolies appeared on the scene. As official judges for the ice sculpture contest, the Bushwoolies were in the process of rating each entry on the merits of essence, naturalness, and artistic beauty. Tabby, Sugarberry, and Spike's attempt was the last display they had to tally. The exuberant Bushwoolies gathered before the sculptures.

"Ooh!" "Aah." "Wonderful." "Swell." "Cool."

"It's us, yah, yah," exclaimed Friendly gleefully.

And so it was. By whatever miracle or quirk of nature, Spike's blast of flame had succeeded in softening the sculptures' cat lines into the rounded, shaggy outlines of the Bushwoolies, and a quick-freeze has preserved them perfectly for all to behold.

After a quick conference in a disarrayed and bouncy huddle, the Bushwoolies proclaimed this entry as the winner of the Special Merit Award. Only after that announcement did Tabby, Sugarberry, and Spike find their voices once again.

"Oh, yeah! We got the big one!" Tabby cheered.

She and Sugarberry high-hooved it, and both rushed to embrace Spike in an enormous bear-hug that caused him to turn beet-red. "You were wonderful!" exclaimed Sugarberry.

"Aww... it was nothing," modestly murmured Spike, suddenly feeling very shy.

Thomas shook hooves with Tabby, Sugarberry, and Spike in turn and congratulated them on a job well done... even if it was by accident. Crowds of ponies swarmed around the sculptures, enjoying the last minutes of daylight before the darkness swallowed-up the creativity of those who had worked so hard on this exceptional day.

"You three deserve a treat," stated Thomas jubilantly. "Anyone for the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe?"

"I thought you'd never ask!" quipped Tabby as she set off her for favorite hang-out.

Sugarberry wearily agreed. "I need more hot chocolate!" she muttered as the frigid night air crept through her body.

Spike grabbed Sugarberry's hoof and gaily led her off to some peace and relaxation at Scoop's haven for cold, tired, and hungry beings.

Thomas invited the Bushwoolies to join them, and they all readily agreed. So it was a lively and happy bunch that marched through the doors a few minutes later. After Tabby, Sugarberry, and Spike were enthroned at their favorite table, Scoops came to take their order.

"I hear congratulations are due you three," she greeted them. "Your orders are on the house tonight."

Tabby's eyes lit up. "Make mine a strawberry sundae!" Everyone giggled. Even after a day in the cold air, leave it to Tabby to stick with her favorite ice cream confection.

"I'll have hot chocolate, please," smiled Sugarberry. Just being able to sit down had made her feel rejuvenated.

Spike decided on hot apple cider with cinnamon. "Thanks, Scoops!"

The Bushwoolies all had apple cider, too. "Good, good," they chattered noisily.

Sugarberry sighed happily as she glanced over the merry group gathered together. She accepted a refill of hot chocolate, and rested her head on her hoof. It had been a hard day, yet a fulfilling day. Just then, her eyes met Tabby's and she winked at her friend; at the same moment, Spike turned and grinned at them both. Yes, it had been a very fulfilling day. Nothing better than a day spent with best friends, Sugarberry thought happily, then yawned and fell asleep.

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