Benson and the Time-Travelling Spaceship

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

Benson decided he was going to build a time-travelling spaceship.

He asked his mother, ‘Can I have some string?’

She said, ‘What do you need it for?’

‘I’m going to build a space-ship. A time-travelling space-ship.’

‘Then you’d better have the strong brown string. It’s in the second drawer.’

Benson took the string outside. Where Aunt Lillibet’s tomato patch used to be, there was a pile of tomato stakes, long grey sticks with a point at the bottom. Aunt Lillibet hammered them into the ground beside the tomato plants, and the tomato plants grew up and around them. Now the tomatoes were all finished, and the stakes were just lying in a pile.

Benson got four of them and pushed them into the ground as hard as he could, one at a time, in a kind of square. Then he got some banana leaves from the ground beside the banana tree. They were big and soft and green, so big that Benson could imagine rolling himself up in one like a green caterpillar.

He wrapped the big green leaves around the four stakes, and tied them on with the brown string, until the leaves reached up as high as he could reach, so it was like a tent with no roof. He dug a tunnel from the outside to the inside under the banana-leaf wall. He crawled along the tunnel and came up inside the banana-leaf tent.

He sat on the floor and looked up and around. It was like being inside a green underwater bath. Benson imagined being grown-up and exploring deep, dark, green oceans with a snorkel and flippers. Outside, the branches made patterns on the banana-leaf walls. Benson imagined swimming past stripy fish and wavy octopuses.

Aunt Moss came out to see what Benson was doing with the old tomato stakes. ‘Benson, what are you doing?’ she called.

‘I’m in my time-travelling ship,’ he said.

‘Can I come in?’ she said.

‘If you like,’ Benson said.

Aunt Moss went down into the tunnel and came up on the inside, next to Benson. She sat down and looked around. It reminded her of when she was a girl, walking through a rainforest with her father, smelling the wet moss and staring up at the giant trees. When the branches outside moved and made patterns on the banana-leaf walls, she remembered the long green pythons with dark lines along their long bodies, sliding between the trees of the rainforest.

She said to Benson, ‘This isn’t really a time-travelling machine, is it?’

‘No, Aunt Moss,’ Benson said. ‘It’s just pretend.’

They sat together and thought their separate thoughts.

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