Luke pounded the last grains off the ancient vaporator with a grimace. The lubricant was necessarily greasy, attracting the abrasive vomit that the desert was happy to blow into moving parts. He glanced at the setting suns. It was just as well he’d managed to finish while it was still light out.
Not the way he had planned to spend his birthday. But Uncle Owen had rolled his eyes and delivered one of his snappy proverbs about work and time, and that was the end of that discussion.
Kurī panted softly at his feet. He looked down at the tiny dog—a birthday gift from his aunt—and laughed as it snuffled its black nose in the sand. Although he’d never had a burning desire for a pet, the fact that his uncle was so obviously against the idea was enough for Luke to be completely on board with it. And Kurī had turned out to be pretty good company on this maintenance trek around the farm. He padded along happily and didn’t complain or nag. Excellent traits, to Luke’s way of thinking.
They were far away but Aunt Beru’s voice carried easily in the Jundland Wastes.
“Coming!” he yelled back, setting off at a jog. Kurī kept pace, and soon they were descending the steps into the homestead.
His uncle was waiting in the courtyard. Holding a small bowl. Luke raised an eyebrow, surprised, as Owen thrust it at him.
“Here, for the dog. You make him kibble from Hubba husks and mushrooms from now on. Mash it with bantha milk until he’s got all his teeth.”
“His name’s Kurī,” Luke reminded him, taking the bowl. “Thanks.”
“So feed Kurī,” Owen relented, “and get cleaned up. Your aunt made supper special tonight.”
The teenager grinned and set the bowl down in front of sand-covered paws before heading to his room to wash.
After dinner and birthday cake, Luke went back to the courtyard. The puppy was lying down, tongue hanging out. The bowl was still full.
“You haven’t even touched your food. What’s going on?”
Aunt Beru came out, wiping her hands on her apron.
“He’s a pono hound, Luke. Didn’t you read the datacard I gave you this morning?” He hadn’t had time, too many chores, but his aunt probably guessed at the answer. “They only eat after they’ve seen their masters eat. You get priority.”
“That’s crazy!” Luke exclaimed. She laughed and disappeared for a moment as he pet the dog, feeling guilty that it was hungry because of him. A minute later, Beru was back.
“I think you can have an extra piece of cake tonight,” she winked, “for Kurī’s sake.”
“Thank you!” He squatted and took a big bite, making sure it was in full view of the puppy’s brown eyes. Immediately, the dog started eating. Luke saved a small piece of cake, and when the bowl was empty, he offered it to Kurī. The dog ate it quickly, and then leapt at Luke’s face, covering it with kisses and knocking him off his feet.
“I think he likes me,” Luke said, laughing.
“That’s puppy love, Luke,” smiled Beru. “Unconditional and true.”