Author’s Note: Have you ever had one of those days that starts off quietly enough but ends changing your life forever? These next five chapters take place in the course of one of those days for our two best friends. Things learned, things admitted, things accepted without fear. And life continues on.
Tassh waved excitedly for Diwa to come over from his stroll across the central green. The aanoupii was standing in the middle of a freshly tilled patch of the community garden, surrounded by various tools and bags of fertilizer, ready to fill this blank canvas. His allotment was small, but he’d already broken it down into individual sectors and added narrow raised beds up against the mesh fence, each already labeled and dated. He was beaming and humming quietly to himself as if he’d been placed in the most heavenly place on earth.
“Good morning, young Diwa!” he said, showing off his large teeth in a wide smile.
“Good morning, Tassh!” he said, leaning up against the fence post. “I see that Samuel gave you a good patch to work with, and you found the leftover frames I told you about. This section was left bare for a few seasons, so you should have a lot of good luck here. What are you growing?”
He pointed down at his feet with his trowel. “Right here, I am about to grow inashikraw squash,” he said proudly. “It is an aanoupii specialty, and I have not had it in years! This is the perfect time of year to grow it.”
Diwa cocked his head, unfamiliar with the name. “Don’t think I’ve heard of it.”
Tassh’s stubby ears twitched excitedly, and he even let out a quick squeak of a laugh. “Oh! You’ll be in for a treat, my young friend! It’s quite sweet for some, but I love it. Once they’re ready for harvesting, they have a thick rind so you can store them away or keep them on a table for a long time and they’ll never go bad. And you can serve it with pretty much anything. I like making soups out of it myself. Best thing to serve come winter. Here, come and help.”
He looked down at his clothes and figured he would be fine in getting these dirty. He didn’t have much to do right now, it being a quiet weekend, and he wouldn’t be working with Samuel on the office cleanup until tomorrow. “Sure,” he said, and entered through the gate, rolling up his sleeves. “What do you need me to do?”
He pointed across the way with his trowel at a bag leaning up against one of the raised beds. “Fertilized soil. Inashikraw squash grows anywhere, but this helps. I need at least three trays, one for the raised beds and the other two just here at the end of the rows. And mind where you step, I just planted fresh seedlings. Though I hear you know these walking boards quite well already.”
“Word gets around,” Diwa smirked. He opened one of the soil bags – and quickly closed it again as the smell overwhelmed his senses and made him gag and tear up. “Gyaaawwh…! Eiyah, Tassh, what the heck is in this?”
Tassh snorted a laugh. “Pure kleeat manure! And a few other organics added in as well. Good nutrients for sturdy plants. Unlike the weak soil that you humans usually like to use. You don’t go far enough!”
Diwa winced, glancing worriedly at the bag. He didn’t want to be rude to Tassh and not help, but gods, did this stuff stink! He would definitely need a long, hot shower after this. Probably at least three of them to get rid of the stench! He steeled himself and tried once more, gingerly opening it back up but keeping his head as far away as he could, hooking his shirt collar over his nose, and started scooping it into one of the trays. “Human olfactory senses are a little different than yours, Tassh,” he coughed. “Just saying.”
Tassh bared his teeth, greatly amused. “I’ll grant you that.” He pointed at a bare spot at the end of one of the rows. “Right here is fine. I’ll spread it out as need be. It won’t be as condensed once I’m done with it, so it won’t smell as bad.”
Diwa spent most of the morning assisting Tassh with the gardening, and to his surprise he found it quite enjoyable and relaxing, even despite the stench. The aanoupii was quite forthcoming with the ins and outs of his planting style, giving as much detail as possible to ensure he caught it all. Diwa did the best he could to remember it, though he’d already explained that his best method of learning was through experience. Tassh seemed to genuinely appreciate that, which meant dedication in his eyes. Diwa wasn’t going to be a pro at gardening by any stretch, but that wasn’t his aim to begin with. He liked learning different things from the other tenants, whether it was a craft or an errand or anything in between. It didn’t matter if the tenans were highly active or mostly sedentary, he just wanted to be a part of their lives. Tassh had taken this to heart early on and was more than happy to let Diwa join in, especially where gardening was involved. This was going to turn out fine.
“Phew!” he heard from above, an hour or so into their garden work. “Eiyah, I can smell that from up here!”
Diwa glanced up; Kaffi was coasting high above them in a lazy figure eight pattern. “Hey Kaff,” he said.
“Dare I ask what you’ve been rolling in?”
Diwa laughed and grabbed a fistful of soil. “Want to come down and find out?”
Kaffi chittered in amusement and dipped his head at him. “Nah, I’ll pass. Are we still up for our group meet tonight?”
“Of course! I’ll text you when I’m ready, after I eat and shower.”
“Please!” Kaffi said. “You’re not going to get that stink on me.”
“Strong words!” Kaffi said, flapping his wings and swirling around in a quick loop. “Tonight, then!” He swung away and flew towards Building C.
Tassh watched the two of them teasing each other and smiled as he returned to work. “Kaffi is quite an excellent flier, Diwa,” he said. “I watch him when I’m out here on the green sometimes. He’s a good kid. A bit reckless and quite unlike Graymar, but he seems dedicated.”
Diwa watched Kaffi land on the roof. He had a peculiar way of doing it; unlike Graymar, who would usually just decelerate and drop down to land, Kaffi would come close to his landing spot, swoop up, then drop down. An odd but poetic affectation that he’d never seen with other tintrite.
“He is,” Diwa said, watching Tassh for a moment before getting back to digging once more. The aanoupii seemed to have taken a liking to Kaffi early on, which made him happy. “We haven’t flown yet, but we’re planning on it soon. Once we’re both properly trained. I’m looking forward to it.”
“I watch him do laps sometimes,” Tassh said, swirling his trowel back and forth in the air. “He’s born for it. He’ll take good care of you.”
Diwa blushed, though he wasn’t quite sure why. “He’s…he’s a smart flier, sure,” he said, his voice a bit small. “He does take some reckless chances, but he’s never dangerous about it.”
“Graymar is the same with Samuel, I’ve seen,” he said. “Are the two of you bonded?”
He spluttered again, his entire face hot. “N-no. Not yet anyway.” Not yet? Why did I just say that?
The look in Tassh’s eyes meant he completely understood Diwa’s mortification, and thankfully chose not to tease him further. “The two of you will bond well together,” he said instead, giving him a wide smile. “By the looks of things.”