A great, toothy grin spread wide across Barnaby’s maw. Today was a special day—and there was still so much to do—but the brass dragon wasn’t worried.
“Friends don’t mind if every detail isn’t perfect,” a dung beetle had told him once.
Harriot was a very smart beetle.
It is hard to plan dinner in the middle of the desert. Harder still to find a proper table, but Barnaby made due. The great slab of granite he carried from the southern mines was deep cobalt and flecked with silver that sparkled in the noonday sun.
Barnaby gathered limestone boulders and arranged them in a semicircle, blasting them with his firey breath until they glowed red-hot. He then set about scooping away clawfuls of molten stone until he had made several shapes that were similar to, but not entirely, chairs.
He gathered cacti, shrubs, bitterroot, and desert stars for the centerpiece. He uprooted a dead tree and sliced off inch-wide sections with razor-sharp claws, scraping at the center of each to form plates.
“Humans cannot eat without them,” Harriot had explained.
The settings set, Barnaby prepared a feast. He piled the table high with apricots, figs, and pomegranates. For the main course, he roasted a giant sand boar.
“Skin the flesh and coat it in salts from the dead sea first,” Harriot instructed. “Humans need them to digest meat.”
When all was done, Barnaby pulled back several scales on his underbelly. Behind each, the brass dragon had tucked a small gem. The stones matched the colors worn by his new friends when they met.
Harriot rolled them to the center of each plate, nodding with satisfaction.
Then Barnaby waited. He seemed to wait for an awfully long time. As the sun sunk toward the mountains he looked worriedly at Harriot. She scuttled up his shoulder, dismissing his concerns.
“Humans are always late because they are afraid of being alone,” she reassured.
When the sun dipped below the mountains and the sands were bathed in crimson, a quiet fell over the pair.
“Humans are always getting lost,” Harriot tsked, waving her antenna as she paced back and forth across Barnaby’s back.
The great brass dragon hung his head and nodded. As the night stripped the desert of warmth, Harriot nuzzled in Barnaby’s ear.
“They said they would be here,” he whispered, his voice cracking slightly.
The beetle roused. “Humans are…”
“Humans are mean.” Barnaby finished, stomping off to his cave for the night.