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ALWAYS WANTING SOMETHING ‘Huh, here she comes, that Budgie; like an animal, always wanting something, that one.’ Kirric can be so negative at times.

‘Get y’self a drink, Kirry. Sweeten up. It’s time we talked about Budgie. Another scorcher of a day in the rat hole. Need to hog the shade when it gets like this. Temp over


Six-two and rising past noon. That’s noon for Azur, the blue-tinge sun; not Solly, the smaller yellowy-white one.

Gang of us supping under the parashelter, middle of the square, surrounded by the little dust sprites that whirl all round this time of year. So green and beautiful, the rest of the year, but come the big-sun-time, she scorches everything.

I looked where Kirric had pointed. Yes, Budgie was heading in our direction.

‘Kinda waddles, dun she?’

‘What d’y expect, legs and feet like them? I’d waddle.’ Yeah, we had a bit of discussing to do today. On the subject of Budgie. So we were fixing to oil up for the co-mune BBQ and P-up, just the few of us. The cleek, the in-gang, us with the influence one way or another, round Desert Hole. We’re like, the unelected hand on the dish for the community. And we all got fingers in the pie.

And today, our little part of the community would have a minor discussion – kind of an interview – on if she’s allowed to settle here. Or not. Likely might approve; we let all sorts come here. Even me. You think Budgie looks weird? You should see me.

Always the way. Not everybody can come here and settle, just like that. Need to be approved. And Budgie’s asked if she can. If she can stay. ‘She asked real polite.’ ‘That’s a positive beginning,’ the others agreed. Mostly.

Less positive was Kirric, but he’s had his antennae in a twist over something for a couple of octos. ‘Yeah,’ he was chuntering as Budgie hesitated half-way across the square, ‘she only comes to me when she wants something.’ He put a sneer on like only Kirric can – him and the other beeties. Now, they’re a peculiar bunch if ever there was one.

‘Okay, so Kirric isn’t keen on having her accepted, now it’s come to her formal meet-talk.’ Well, of course it’s not actually formal and official – no such thing as official round here. And formal’s not in the vocab for Desert Hole. Like when I tossed the prickle-pear at Lazzy and he tried to head it back to me – big mistake. Huge laugh – twollopped up the bidding process at the beer-brewing contract council.

‘Best not be too casual,’ I said, ‘Budgie’ll expect us to be at least a touch serious here for her application. Not that she exactly applied, of course, except to say she’d like to stay around over the Nor-wind season.’

‘Okay, that’s fine. It’s about as official as things get round Desert Hole.’ Dusty Bisty cleared his throat – his tongue is just too long to keep in there when it gets dry. Needs a bit of a clear-out sometimes, too. Needs a wash-down with beer, quick scrape with a lizzy plate.

Nope, this is far more important and final than the other sorts of crap. Somebody turns up here, drifts in, settles for a time… maybe they fit in, maybe they don’t. Got to be careful who joins us. Big demand to come here, you know.

Budgie was the latest. First one for three years – demand’s that big, see? So it’s an occasion. Have to be serious about it. And let’em see we’re considering things right.

Dusty Bisty waved his tongue round a bit, and Budgie mistook it for a come-on over. And here she came, duck-waddling across to the cantina’s parashelt. We hung out under here most Kolday and Fourday peridians in the season – that’s the drinking season, which stretches from the First, all through the year to the next First. Kind of a joke round here.

‘Yeah,’ Macksy agreed and slid a hand towards my full jar. Risky kind of thing to do. ‘You’re right, Kirric. Always wanting… She only comes to me when she’s got some good news she wants to share.’ I flexed a couple of claws, so he felt obliged to wave for a refill from barkee.

‘And me,’ comes Lazzy, ‘same sort of selfish thing. I was the first person she wanted to tell about the new births in the family.’ He had this sorta fond smile at the memory and kind of appreciated that with her. Not many of us share anything with Lazzy, so he appreciates it more than most. ‘She came to me wanting,’ Joysso stuck in. ‘She wanted to invite me to the celebration for the de-egging. And yippsy-loo! Was that something. Never been to anything so, sort of – holy – as that. Still gets me. That like soaring music, and the twittering—’

‘Budgie’d have a job to soar more than table-height, with wings shorter’n Kirry’s idea of sex.’ ‘It was a shoulder to weep on that she wanted when she came round our place; said she didn’t know anybody else…’ Mittsi Matushka kinda wiped a tear away, I thought, ‘when her chick died after getting caught in the windmill gears. Feathers everywhere. Helped her pick’em up.’ ‘She wanted to borrow my craft… so she could fix it for me after she’d seen me with the motor stuttering when I landed.’ Jacko nodded. But then, he’s always nodding. Can’t help it. Not since the accident with the metronome.

‘Yeah… she came to me wanting… wanted to express her appreciation for what I’d done for her. I mean, like, I done nothing – ten minins to clear out a rattle-bug. ’s nothing.’ Sidlid did like his smile-grimace look, and waved a hand round. Nicely. ‘Everybody drink up, there’s a new round coming.’

‘Budgie? She wanted to come round to us during that cold spell, knew we’d be alone at a time like that. Wanted to share her heat and food with us while we were stuck in. Really wanting, she was then.’ Jessie tossed a card in the cashpot to cover the round, nodding nearly as much as

Jacko. ‘

Wanted to give us drinks unlimited last time I saw her. Our water tank was punctured and she wanted to share. Couldn’t see neighbours going dry when she had plenty, she said. And she din’t got a lot, actually, I found later – went short herself.’

Ferty wiped a sweat-trickle out his eyes before it washed the thick dust off his cheeks in twin wet-lines. ‘Wanted me to clip her wings. Shuffle me backwards! What an honour that was… letting a human do it.’

‘She opened her wings up… wanted us to shelter under there during the hail-rage storm. Must have got concussion from some of the hail balls coming down. Saved us, though. All she wanted, that was, make sure we din’t get hurt.’

‘Strikes me,’ I, like, summed it all together just as she waddled up close – all feathers and prayers, ‘that all she wants is to fit in round here… wants to make it her community.’ ‘Going the right way about it.’

So yeah, we all sneered back at Kirric. ‘She only wants to know us when she wants something, huh? Wonder if that says something about you, more than her?’

I waved her in, ‘Interview and discussion over. Welcome, Budgie. It’s your round.’


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