Ginseng and Sassafras Tea: Chapter Three
written by Sugarberry

"Not more dishes!" groaned Laser as Lacewing plopped yet another tray of dirty dishes on the counter next to the stainless steel sink where his forelegs were submerged in hot, sudsy water.

"Don't complain," Lacewing snapped. "My hooves are coated in sticky, slimy, leftover ice cream." She thrust her hooves into the sink to wash them off.

Laser lowered the latest batch of dishes into the steamy water. "I thought working at the ice cream shop would be fun," he confided, "but after cleaning up all these spoons and bowls, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to enjoy ice cream again."

"Yeah," sighed his sister. "I know what you mean."

Meanwhile, out front where the action was, Hood and Drumstick were busily attending to the customers. Word had gotten out that a brand new flavor-- Berry Medley-- had arrived in the day's delivery, and every pony who loved ice cream wanted to get a taste. A usually quiet afternoon at the shop had turned into a frenzy.

"Good thing you brought the kids in," commented Drumstick. "We'd have never been able to keep up to demand without them." The yellow stallion took a second to brush a lock of his green mane off his forehead before preparing a Berry Medley ice cream cone for a toddler crying out of sight on the other side of the counter. Hood was whipping up a calorie-laden sundae for the foal's mother.

"Don't tell Whistler that I was in today," the smiling mare said to Hood as he sprinkled nuts across the sundae. "He says I'm putting on weight."

"You look as lovely as ever, Chit-Chat," Hood judiciously replied as he handed the sundae to her.

Drumstick had gone around the counter to present the finished ice cream cone to the little pony, who accepted it while sad tears still trickled down her cheeks. "Tank you."


As Chit-Chat and Giggles moved off to a recently vacated table, Lacewing busily cleared the dirty dishes and wiped off the sticky spots. As she stepped away from the table with her laden tray, she accidentally became entangled in the little legs of Giggles. With a crash, she and her tray fell to the tile floor. Spoons and dishes slid hither-scither in all directions. Lacewing looked up sorrowfully at her uncle, who had rushed to her aid. "I'm sorry, Uncle Hood." She looked as if on the verge of tears, but stoically fought them back.

"Are you okay?" Hood demanded worriedly. "Does anything hurt?" He felt along her legs and searched for scrapes and bruises.

"I feel stupid."

Hood grinned. He brushed the tangled seafoam green mane out of Lacewing's eyes gently. "You've just been initiated," he assured her. "Everyone drops a tray sooner or later."

"But I dropped my body, too." Lacewing grimaced at the thought.

Hood helped his little niece to her feet while Drumstick picked up the scattered utensils and bowls. He lifted her onto a stool at the counter and used a wet napkin to clean off the drops of ice cream and caramel that spotted her lavender body.

"How about an ice cream cone?" Drumstick asked Lacewing in an effort to make her feel better.

Lacewing turned down the offer; she couldn't face ice cream right now. "Maybe a glass of milk?" she questioned.

"Coming right up!" beamed Drumstick. In no time at all, he served the young filly a fresh, cold glass of milk. "Feeling better?"

"Yes, I think so," Lacewing responded with a shy smile.

Drumstick patted her on the head. "Good girl!" Then he moved on to help the next customer.

Lacewing sighed. She was just a kid in Drumstick's eyes. She sipped thoughtfully on the milk.

"What's up?" asked Hood as he cleaned off the counter in front of Lacewing. "You look a million miles away."

"Uncle Hood, am I pretty?"

Hood was taken back by this question. He looked searchingly at the filly before him. "No," he finally answered.

Lacewing's face fell drastically.

"You are beautiful, little one," he continued as he cradled her chin in his hoof.

She blushed. "You really think so?"

"Would I lie?" teased Hood. "Of course you're beautiful; you're my niece, aren't you?"

This made Lacewing laugh out loud. She had always thought Hood was the most handsome stallion she'd ever seen, next to her dad, of course. "It runs in the family, right?" she quipped.

"You got that right, Sugar." He tousled her mane. Then with a glance at the busy shop, he added, "If you're up to it, there's a table that needs cleaning."

"Sure thing, Uncle Hood," she saluted as she slid off the stool.

As always, the conversation at the shop eventually turned to the problems that had besieged the community of Woodlawn.

"Have you heard the latest?" asked a grandfatherly stallion as he seated himself in his usual spot. "There's been more mischief about."

Hood cautiously raised an eyebrow. William always had some gossip to share, and it wasn't always accurate.

After ordering an ice cream cone, William was determined to spread his news even if Hood wasn't cooperative. "That big house at the north edge of town... you know, the one painted up all in pink and purple? They got hit last night."

Hood frowned. "That would be Bellflower and Bugle's place. What happened?" He continued to scoop up ice cream into a crispy waffle cone, but his attention was riveted to what William had to say. Bellflower and Bugle were a newly married couple who had taken over her parents' large dwelling earlier in the summer; Hood hoped that nothing serious had befallen the pair.

Leaning forward over the counter, William confided, "Every strawberry out of their patch was picked sometime last night." He tapped his hoof in front of Hood for emphasis.

"It would be difficult picking strawberries during the night, don't you think?" cautioned Hood as he handed the completed cone to William.

"You know what I mean. Daybreak comes awfully early, before most ponies are up and about."

"That garden of Bellflower's is a big one, too," pondered Hood, "and it sits a fair distance away from the house, doesn't it?"

"Yup! And they didn't hear a thing. Just got up like normal, and Bellflower went out to get some berries for her breakfast, and finds ‘em gone."

"Anything else taken or disturbed?"

"Nope. Not that I've heard." Both ponies lapsed into a thoughtful silence.

Lacewing approached the counter from the kitchen area. "Uncle Hood, Laser says his hooves are so wrinkly that they'll never be able to hold a football every again." She stood before Hood with her hooves on her hips, a posture that her mom often employed when she'd reached the end of her patience.

Hood grinned. "Wrinkly, is he? Well, you go back and tell him that Patchwork Petal should be reporting in any minute."

Lacewing had no sooner left on her errand when a vivacious teenager trotted through the door, donning a red-and-white striped apron as she approached the counter. "Hi, Grandpa William," she smiled. "Hi, Hood. Looks like the new flavor is going over okay."

Every table in the shop was filled, although the flow of new customers had slowed down.

William looked appreciatively at Hood's pretty helper. "Finally, someone shows up that adds some sparkle to this dump." He winked at Hood.

"If you weren't such a permanent fixture in here, the shop would have a better atmosphere all the time," retorted Hood.

Patchwork Petal giggled. "You two always bicker like a couple of kids."

William snorted. "At my age, I'll take that as a compliment!"

Hood moved off to release Laser and Lacewing from their afternoon bondage. He was surprised when they turned down his offer of their choice of any dessert on the menu.

"No, thanks, Uncle Hood," they chorused. "We better get home."

Hood shook his head after them. "I thought they liked the ice cream," he puzzled as he watched the two run from the shop. "Well, hopefully Moonglow had a peaceful afternoon."

The after-work crowd was beginning to trickle in, so Hood returned to the counter and put his thoughts of family aside.

Go Back to Novels Index
Go Back to Tabby's Dream Valley