“I hope this doesn’t take too long. I’d rather see the penguins then listen to people talk about them.”

“Maybe, Rhys. But Park Rangers have first-hand knowledge that’s sure to be interesting.”

“I suppose … As long as they’re real Rangers.”

Along with quite a crowd, the friends were at a gathering area where basic information was given before access to the viewing places was allowed. Kieran smiled at the press of children and young people near the closed gate with looking, rather than listening, very clearly on their minds. The general murmur quietened when three smartly uniformed people moved to a low platform and smiled and waved for attention. That was instant and the lady and an older man pointedly turned to the dark featured younger guy.

“Welcome to Country, people. We give our respect to our elders, past, present and future. We give our respect to the land which is our mother and the Creator spirit which is our father.”

An exultant yell, in a language everyone there recognised but didn’t understand, turned every head and Woorawa, seeing all the surprise, called again.

“Thank you! Thank you! It was my proper thank you for the fine Welcome.”

The three Rangers looked startled but when they nodded their appreciation someone else called a thank you and started a chain reaction. The lady Ranger took over and in five short minutes the gate opened and eager visitors hurried to choose viewing spots.

“Where do you want to go, Woorawa? The lady Ranger suggested the beach viewing for a start and then the Penguin Highway to get closer.”

“I’m happy wherever, but …”

Rhys’s nudge interrupted.

“The young Ranger guy’s heading this way, Woorawa. I bet he wants to meet you.”

Woorawa followed his gaze and his smile lit up.

“Hi! I’m Michael. We loved your thank you. Mandy gets me to make Welcome every evening but we usually just get a few nods. Is this your first visit to the Island?”

“Hi, Michael! I’m Woorawa and this is the first time for all of us.”

Woorawa made introductions but the young Ranger’s focus was so much on Woorawa they hardly registered.

“Have you travelled far?”

“Not today, but my home is in Mparntwe which is in Central Australia.”

Wow! … Um … Would you like me to guide you round? Mandy wants you to get the VIP treatment.”

Rhys made everyone jump when he laughed and grabbed Woorawa’s shoulder.

“How d’you do it? A few embarrassing words in your funny language and we end up with our own guide.”

Woorawa’s response was lost when their new acquaintance’s manner stiffened in disapproval.

“That language has been alive and passed down for thousands of years and you shouldn’t make fun of it. I’m sorry, Woorawa. I’m not prepared to guide anyone who treats you like that.”

He really meant it and turned to leave.

“But! …”

Rhys’s spluttered attempt to explain petered out and Woorawa darted to intercept the offended Ranger.

“Rhys is a goose, Michael! He says the opposite of what he really means to get an effect. He is my true brother and our Elders honour him.”

Michael turned to stare at Rhys.

“Sheba, Kieran! I really mucked that up. What do I do?”

“Nothing till he speaks to you. He’s taking in what Woorawa said and realising he didn’t read you right.”

“A ceremonial brother?”

“Yes, and he’s like a real brother too.”

Michael silently took in this rather powerful statement.

“I’m sorry … Rhys. When you said the words were embarrassing I thought you were being rude.”

Rhys draped his arm across Woorawa’s shoulder.

“Don’t be sorry. You were standing up for Woorawa and that makes you one of the good guys.”

He paused while everyone showed their agreement, then his quiet and serious manner collapsed.

“And my name’s Goose, not Rhys, and that’s what you call me if you can still give us your special treatment.”

Mr B clapped his hand on his head, Tan rolled his eyes, and Woorawa reached to cover Rhys’s mouth.

“See what I mean, Michael. He’s serious one second and bonkers the next.”

Behind Michael’s bemused look a smile was lurking.

“I’ve never known anyone called Goose. It feels strange to even think of saying it.”

Rhys abandoned Woorawa and knelt as if seeking a pardon.

“I am your humble servant.”

“Get up, Rhys. People are starting to look and you’re embarrassing Michael.”

“No I’m not, Mr B. He’s smiling.”

Michael looked at the groveller and then at Woorawa.

“We should get moving. Is he like this all the time?”

Michael stayed close to Woorawa, mostly talking about penguins, while they walked several hundred metres to what he said was the best viewing spot.

“I really like him, Kieran, but he seems to be nervous.”

“I like him too. He’s embarrassed because he snapped when he’s not meant to.”