Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a very comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One morning Benson went out in the back yard to do some digging, and he saw Aunt Moss walking around, looking at the ground, so he said, “Have you lost something, Aunt Moss? Do you want me help you look for it?”
Aunt Moss said, “No I haven’t lost anything. I’m looking for some leaves.”
Benson said, “Don’t you think you should look in the trees then?”
“I’m looking for the right kind of leaves,” she said. “My friend Rebekah asked me if I’d like to come to morning tea, and I said I’d bring a leaf pie.”
“Don’t you mean a leek pie? Or an apple pie? Everyone likes apple pie, apple pie and custard, apple pie and cream, apple pie and ice-cream. Or blackberry and apple pie, or apple and raspberry…”
“No, Benson, I’m going to make a leaf pie, and you can help me, if you’d like to. I need the right sort of leaves. Soft, green juicy leaves, not tough hard leaves, or old brown ones.”
Benson picked some nice green juicy leaves, some off a wattle tree and some off a gum tree. Aunt Moss put them on a plate in a round pile. “Perfect. Now I’m going to make my famous grevillea icing.”
She picked grevillea flowers, red and pink and some yellow ones, and sprinkled them all over the leaves. Benson thought she must be going bananas. “Aunt Moss, why would you make icing out of little flowers? Icing is meant to be made of sugar and stuff and spread out over the cake and then you lick the bowl.”
“Haven’t you ever tasted grevillea nectar?” Aunt Moss asked. “It’s very sweet. Here, try some.” She took one of the little red flowers. “Open your mouth,” she said. Benson opened his mouth. She squeezed a tiny drop of nectar out of the flower. Benson closed his mouth and tasted it carefully. It wasn’t as bad as he thought. Actually, it was quite sweet.
Aunt Moss said, “Why don’t you come to morning tea with me? Rebekah’s grandson Ralph will be there. You might enjoy playing with him.”
Benson went to Rebekah’s house with Moss. He carried the leaf pie with grevillea icing. Aunt Moss brought two old mushy bananas that she had been keeping in the freezer and brought them. Benson was thinking that Aunt Moss’s friend Rebekah was going to be surprised, but when they got there, Rebekah was very excited to see them.
“Bananas! They’ll be perfect!” she said. “And a lovely leaf pie. Thank you, Benson. Just put them down on the picnic blanket.”
Benson put them down on the picnic blanket. He wondered where all the food was. There were lots of flowers, daisies and bottlebrush, but no cake, no sandwiches, and only a leaf pie that really didn’t look delicious at all. There was a plate of fruit, but the strawberries were squashy and old, and the apples had rotten brown spots on them.
Aunt Moss said, “This is Ralph, Rebekah’s grandson. Maybe you boys would like to collect some milkweed?”
They said hello to each other. Ralph was little and roly-poly and a bit shy. Benson was seriously thinking he should have stayed home. They found some bits of milkweed, nasty smelly stuff, and brought it back.
Rebekah said, “Be very careful of the sap, boys, it can burn your eyes. Go and wash your hands very thoroughly, and hurry up, they’ll be here any minute now.”
Benson and Ralph washed their hands. Benson wondered who was coming, more crazy people with mouldy cake and weedy pies?
He and Ralph went outside again, and found the picnic blanket was covered with butterflies, hundreds and thousands of butterflies, blue and yellow and white and red.
“Here they are!” Aunt Moss said. There were butterflies everywhere, in the garden, on Aunt Moss’s shoulders, on Rebekah’s hands and on her head. A large blue and black butterfly landed on Benson’s nose.
“Oh, it’s a monarch!” Ralph said.
Benson stared at the butterfly with his eyes crossed. It was beautiful. He held out his hands and more butterflies landed on them, green and white and black and pink. The picnic blanket was covered in them, drinking up the nectar in the grevillea icing, sipping delicately at the bananas and nibbling at the fruit. Ralph knew all their names and keep telling Benson what they were and where they were from and what they liked to eat.
Ralph knew all about butterflies and caterpillars and moths. Benson didn’t know anything and didn’t really listen all the time. He wandered around through clouds of butterflies, being careful not to step on any, looking at the colours and the patterns on their wings.
“When I get home I’m going to paint them,” he said to himself. He imagined his walls covered with paintings of butterflies, like the picnic blanket was. He went over to Aunt Moss and said, “Thank you, Aunt Moss. This is the best morning tea I’ve ever been to.”