Santo

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a comfortable wombat hole in the ground, with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

Benson loved to dig. He loved reading, and cooking and playing with his friends, and visiting his grandmother, but most of all he loved to dig. One morning it was a spectacularly good day for digging, so he decided to dig a really really big tunnel, all the way to the creek. He chose a good spot in the back yard and started digging.

It was the greatest fun. The dirt was just right, soft and damp, with some hard spots here and there. Sometimes there was a rock or maybe a big root from a gum tree but he just went around them, or under them. He dug for hours, and then he decided it was time to stop for lunch.

When he came up out of the tunnel, the back yard looked different. The compost heap had somehow spread itself around so it was all over the yard. Aunt Lillibet’s vegetable garden was a mess, with young carrots lying on top of the dirt instead of under it, and leeks and kale squashed flat. Benson wondered if there had been a big wind while he was in his tunnel, or maybe an earthquake.

He went inside and Aunt Lillibet said, “So there you are! That was very naughty of you, Benson!”

Benson blinked. “What?” he asked. “I was only digging a tunnel.”

Aunt Moss looked at him sadly. “You made a terrible mess of the compost heap, Benson, but don’t worry, Lillibet, I’m sure he’s going to tidy it all up again.”

“I didn’t do anything!” Benson said. “I was just digging a tunnel.”

“And those carrots,” Aunt Lillibet said. “And my strawberries! Every single one with a hole in it! Really, Benson, I’m very unhappy with you.”

“It wasn’t me!” Benson said. “I didn’t do anything! It was the wind or something.”

Aunt Moss looked sad, and said, “Don’t argue with your Aunt Lillibet, Benson. We know there was no wind. I think you should just go and fix everything up, before you have any lunch. Off you go now.”

They both pushed him outside, and shut the door.

Benson was really upset. No-one would listen to him. He went over to the compost heap and started piling up the vegetable scraps, all the time talking to himself about how unfair it was, and how hungry he was. Then a banana skin flew over his head.

“Hey!” Benson turned around. There was a small animal on top of the compost heap, kicking bits everywhere. “Hey, stop that!” Benson said.

The animal was small and furry with a pointy nose like a rat, and a long tail, and red and brown stripes on its body. He smiled a sneaky smile at Benson and kept on kicking. Mango skins and avocado seeds flew into the air. Benson went to grab him, but he ran off as fast as a rat.

Benson gathered up all the compost and heaped it up tidily again. Then he heard a scritching sound from the vegetable garden. He turned around and saw the small stripy animal scratching up the parsley.

“Leave that alone,” he shouted. The animal grinned at him, and ran over to the strawberry patch. A long, sticky tongue shot out of his mouth and poked a hole in one of the strawberries. “Don’t!” Benson yelled. The speedy tongue shot out again. Zap, another strawberry. Zap, zap, two more strawberries. Benson picked up a long stick and went after him. The animal grinned at him again and ran away into the bush, as quick and quiet as a snake.

Exactly at that moment, Benson’s mother came home, and saw him holding a pointy stick right next to a whole lot of strawberries with holes in them. “Benson! What are you doing!” she said. “Go inside right now and stay in your room until I call you!”

Benson couldn’t make anyone listen to him. It didn’t matter what he said, no-one would believe him. He had to go to his room and stay there, hungry and angry and smelling of compost.

After a long time, his mother opened his door and said, “Come out now, Benson, and behave yourself, please. Mrs Carlos is here, and she’s brought a friend who is visiting from another part of the country.”

Benson went out to the kitchen with her. Mrs Carlos was there, and a small furry animal with a pointy face like a rat and red and brown stripes. He grinned at Benson.

“This is Santo,” Benson’s mother said. “He’s just about your age. I’m sure you’re going to be great friends.”

Benson opened his mouth to say all the things that were piled up inside of him, but Aunt Moss was patting Santo’s soft fur and Aunt Lillibet was saying how neat his little stripes were, and his mother was chatting with Mrs Carlos. He shut his mouth again. No-one would believe him before, why would they believe him now?

He went over to the fruit bowl and got a big, red, juicy strawberry. He held it out, and said, “Here, Santo, would you like a strawberry?”

Zap, zap-zap, zap.

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