The next morning, Granny Smith sent Pinkie Pie-occhio off to school. "How wonderful!" she said to Opal. After a moment, something came to mind. "Wait a second! Where's Spike?"
"I'm right here," Spike said groggily. "What's up?"
"You've gotta take Pinkie to school!" cried Granny Smith.
Spike shot up, completely awake. "Oh no! I'm late already! I'm coming, Pinkie!" Down the street he sprang.
Granny Smith waved to him, only for something else to come to mind. "Wait a second, Spike! You're headin' the wrong way!"
She began to run after him…or rather, walk after him…actually, it was more like a hobble. "I gotta get that new hip…"
A pair of shady-looking ponies strolled along as the little ponies of the village rushed off to school.
"Flam," the first one said.
"Doesn't it fill you with hopefulness to see these children heading off to school?"
"Not really," said Flam.
"Why's that?" Film asked his brother. "After all, it's a nice reminder that there's always fresh blood out there to scam, to separate from their hard-earned cash."
"I used to think that," said Flam, "until I realized that they'll learn things at school. They'll be less naïve, you see, less susceptible to our old song-and-dance. Why, they may learn enough to compete with us someday!"
The pair shuddered.
"Might I remind you," Flam continued, "that we never went to school. They'll…they'll…they'll know more than us, perhaps!"
"Street-smart and book-smart are not the same thing," Flim argued. "Still, we haven't had a good gig in quite a while. What we need is somepony who acts like they were born yesterday."
"I was born yesterday!" came a girl's high-pitched voice.
"Very funny," Flim said dryly, "but I didn't mean…" he turned around and gasped. "Flam, look!"
Behind them stood Pinkie Pie-occhio.
"Well, actually," mused the little pony, "I was born last night. Does that count as yesterday? Or is that too close? Was it after midnight? 'Cause that means I was born this morning! I think. I don't know that much yet, see. That's why I'm going to school, so I can learn more and more and more and more and more!"
Flim and Flam stared in awe as the pony babbled on. This was either a miracle or some very dark magic. Either way, one didn't see a talking puppet everyday. Or ever, for that matter. They glanced at each other, then smiled. It was exploitation time.
"School, you say?" Flam said sweetly. "Now, now, you don't need to go to school."
"I don't?" said Pinkie. "That's good. Spike made it sound kinda boring. He's my-"
"Yes, yes," Flam cut her off. "As I was saying, you don't need school to be smart. You need…"
"A self-help class!" finished Flim.
Flam and Pinkie looked confused. "A what?"
"Iron Will is back in town," Flim whispered to his brother. "He loves finding new ways to attract suckers."
Flam gave his brother a knowing wink and then turned back to Pinkie. "Yes, my little wooden friend, a self-help class! Our nice friend, Iron Will, teaches little ponies to be strong, tough, smart, and assertive! The kinds of things you'd learn in school, only more FUN!"
"Fun?!" cried Pinkie. "Oh, I just love fun! Can we go see him?"
"Of course," chorused the Flim-Flam Brothers.
"In fact," added Flim, "you can even help him if you wish!"
Pinkie jumped up and down happily. Here she was, already helping other ponies! The Purple Fairy would be so proud!
"Come along, miss!" called Flam. The brothers hoisted Pinkie up and began to dance down the street.
(To the tune of "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee" from Pinocchio)
FLIM: Self-help is the key
To making history
You'll benefit all your fellow colts
But you're so modest, you'd never gloat
FLAM: Self-help is a tool
That you won't learn in school
But we know that you'll get quite a thrill
When you're alongside Sir Iron Will
FLIM AND FLAM: You'll learn and learn and learn more until
You've mastered all the rules
Spike, finally running in the right direction, dashed right by the trio, who were heading the other way. He screeched to a halt and turned around. "Hey! Pinkie!"
"Hi, Spike!" waved Pinkie.
"A dragon," observed Flam.
"Think Iron Will could use one of them?" asked Flim.
"Nah, they grow up to be too big," said Flam. "Run along, little one."
"I'm not that little," Spike said indignantly. "And where are you going with my friend?"
"We're going to help ponies!" grinned Pinkie. "Won't the Purple Fairy be happy?"
Spike was a little flustered. "Uh, yeah, I'm sure she'd be happier, though, if you went to school. As your conscience, I…"
Flim and Flam laughed.
"What's so funny?" glared Spike.
"We might not have had any schooling as foals," said Film, "but anypony knows that a conscience isn't a tangerine—"
"Tangible," corrected Flam.
"…tangible thing. Now, run along."
"Bye!" called Pinkie as they danced away. "They're grown-ups! They know what's best for us kids! Besides, they say this is better than school, anyway!"
Off the three of them went, singing all the way: Self-help is the key
To making history…
Spike, left behind, sputtered angrily. "I oughta tell Granny Smith on her! Nah, that's no good…if she won't listen to me, why listen to her? I'm gonna have to follow her myself!"
The first thing anypony noticed about Iron Will was his huge size. The second thing they noticed was that he was not a pony at all, but a Minotaur. The third thing they noticed was his group of goats that were constantly following him. All in all, it made for an intimidating combination.
Spike peered through the crowd of ponies that had gathered at Iron Will's stage, on the outskirts of the village, near the mountains. Having a hard time getting a good view, Spike climbed up a lamppost and managed to make out the Flim-Flam Brothers leaving with a small sack of coins.
"There's something fishy about this," Spike thought to himself.
A little while later, Iron Will walked onstage.
"Welcome, all!" he boomed. "I am Iron Will, the greatest creature to walk the earth! Do you wish you too could be as great as me?"
The crowd cheered.
"Well, you can't," Iron Will said simply. "But you can come semi-close. Iron Will can teach you how to be the most assertive, persuasive ponies you can be! Anypony will listen to me and do what Iron Will says! Not just ponies, even! Why, Iron Will had a puppet made and just by shouting at it and using my own assertion tactics, I brought it to life!"
Pinkie Pie-occhio poked her head out of the curtains. "Really? Is that how it happened?" she asked innocently. "That's funny, I remember something about a fairy and a dragon…"
"GET BACKSTAGE!" Iron Will shouted at her. With a squeak and a salute, she quickly ducked back. The crowd gasped.
Iron Will, suddenly remembering the audience, laughed a bit. "Heh, she's cute, right? C'mon out, Pinkie, and show these nice ponies what you can do."
The curtains opened and Pinkie danced out.
(To the tune of "I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio)
PINKIE: If you need help
Don't look no more
Just listen to
He helped me
He told me so
And what he says will go
I was a lifeless hunk
Of wood propped against the wall
Having no life sure stunk
But Iron Will changed it all
If you need help
Then we'll help you
Me, Iron Will,
And the goats, too
You can be
The best, you know
And what you say will go
As Pinkie danced wildly across the stage, doing moves no normal pony could do, Spike and the audience stared in awe. Even the dragon had to admit that she was pretty impressive. When the song was over, everypony cheered as loudly as they could.
"Gee," Spike said to himself, "she does look pretty happy up there. Maybe Iron Will isn't so bad, once you get by the temper. Maybe he'd make a better conscience than me…maybe this is where Pinkie really belongs…"
That night, Pinkie sat backstage with Iron Will. "Was I good?" she asked.
"You were decent," said Iron Will. "Iron Will doesn't give out compliments that much. Why compliment when you can criticize?"
Pinkie's face fell a little. "Oh."
"It's alright," said Iron Will. "Iron Will knows that you'll do even better next time…or else."
"Next time?" repeated Pinkie. "Or else?"
"That's right," said Iron Will, calmly tossing Pinkie into an old cage. "Now get some sleep. Iron Will commands you!"
Laughing, he stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Bewildered and shocked, Pinkie began to cry.
It was at that moment that Spike entered through the curtains. "Pinkie? What's going on? I was just coming to say goodbye to you. Why are you in a cage?"
"Oh, Spike," sobbed Pinkie, "Iron Will is bad news! The worst news you could ever get! He doesn't treat me like a pony at all! You have to get me out of here! I don't know what he's planning, but I don't wanna work with such a meanie anymore!"
"Yeah, of course," said Spike. "Just keep your voice down, okay? We don't want him to come back. Now, let's see…"
Spike tried to pick the lock with his claws and his tail, but it was no use. He couldn't seem to break the cage, either.
"Hmm…" he pondered. "I might have to get some help, but I'm afraid Iron Will might take you away while I'm gone…"
Pinkie suddenly gasped and pointed to a window that showed the night sky. Down came a glowing star. "Look, Spike! It must be the Purple Fairy! She'll save me!"
"Hot diggity!" cheered Spike.
"Wait a second," Pinkie realized, "I'll be in so much trouble when she finds me like this! Spike, do something now!"
"There's nothing I can do," said Spike, "'cause she's here!"
It was true—there was Rarity, standing before them.
"Oh my goodness!" she cried. "Whatever happened here, Pinkie Pie-occhio?"
"Better tell the truth," urged Spike.
"Well," said Pinkie, "I was going to school…when there was this awful earthquake! And it flung me through the air, and my voice sounded real silly, cause I was shaking a whole lot, and I landed in front of this huge monster who said, 'I think I'll eat you up!' And then he put me in this cage while he went to go look for truffles, because everypony knows that monsters absolutely adore truffles, and that's why I'm in this cage. Oh, and Spike was there."
Spike's eyes were bulging at this point. Not because Pinkie had dragged him into this mess, but because every time her lie got bigger, her nose grew longer!
"What happened to my nose?!" gasped Pinkie, when she realized her strange transformation.
"Well, it's certainly not your style," fussed Rarity. "It simply does not suit you at all. You see, Pinkie, when you tell such lies as those, they are as plain as the nose on your face."
Pinkie blinked. "Meaning…?"
"It means," sighed Rarity, "that lying is bad and you shouldn't do it." She leaned over to Spike and whispered, "Honestly, Spikey-Wikey, she does not grasp subtlety at all. Something else I suppose you'll need to cover."
Spike was in a grinning stupor after hearing the "Spikey-Wikey" bit, but quickly shook himself out of it. "Uh, if it pleases your grace, Miss Rarity, could you turn Pinkie's nose back to normal and let her out of the cage?"
"Indeed I shall," said Rarity, "but only if she tells the truth. It shall set you free, you know."
Pinkie sighed deeply. "Okay…these two ponies told me not to go to school and to be a performer here instead. Honest, Miss Fairy, I thought I was doing the right thing, helping other ponies and all, but I guess I learned not to trust just anypony, huh? I'm really sorry for not going to school."
Just as her nose had grown with each lie, with each truth it shrank down to its original size. Rarity smiled, and with a zap of her horn, the cage door opened.
"Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!" cried Pinkie.
"Just let that be a lesson," smiled Rarity. "Now, then, Pinkie, I think it's time you and Spikey-Wikey here should be getting home."
"You're right!" cried Spike. "Pinkie, Granny Smith must be worried! We have to go!"
"Yeah," agreed Pinkie, "and before that big jerk Iron Will comes back!"
They turned to thank Rarity, but found that she had vanished, leaving a bit of sparkling dust behind her. With a shrug, Pinkie and Spike fled from the awful stage and headed back towards the village.
"Easiest job we've ever pulled," Flim bragged to a plump, blue pony at an old bar. "We worked that little puppet like she was a…well, you know."
The blue pony chuckled a bit and took a drink of cider.
"And," Flam added, "we got a hefty sum for it, too. Iron Will knows how to treat us Flim-Flam Brothers right, I assure you."
"Now then, Mrs. Cake," said Flim, addressing the blue pony, "you called us here for a reason, you said?"
"Oh, yes," smiled Mrs. Cake. "You see, boys, I heard you were the slyest ponies in town, and if your story is true, then you know how to speak to stupid little children."
"Do we ever!" the brothers grinned.
Mrs. Cake laughed. "Oh, good, good, good. I was certainly hoping that would be your answer. But what I have to offer you will be ten times the amount Iron Will gave you, so long as you follow my instructions."
Flim and Flam looked at each other, then back to Mrs. Cake with great curiosity.
"You see," continued Mrs. Cake, "I want the stupidest little ponies you can find. The kind who never go to school and never obey their parents."
"Sounds like us as kids," remarked Flim, before Flam gave him a smack to the back of his head.
"Well," Mrs. Cake said sweetly, "then you know exactly who to look for, don't you? Anyhow, my boys will take them all down to Pleasure Island—"
The Flim-Flam Brothers gasped upon hearing the dreaded name. They looked around the bar, but since it was almost empty, nopony seemed to notice.
"Pleasure Island?" Flam finally whispered. "But what if the children tell the law on us? You know what goes on there!"
"Of course I do," chuckled Mrs. Cake. "I built it, after all."
Flim and Flam gulped.
"Besides," Mrs. Cake continued, "they're not quite themselves when they come back…"
At that moment, the Brothers could have sworn they saw her face…change a little bit. But a second later, she was back to her normal, bubbly self. She took another gulp of cider and smiled kindly at them.
"Now then," she said in a syrupy tone, "I'd get out there if I were you and round up my little ponies."