Augustus

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

One morning Benson was just going into the kitchen to get a drink of water when he saw Aunt Moss sitting at the table by herself. She looked sad and upset, so he went over and asked her, “Aunt Moss, are you okay?”

She shook her head, and said, “Augustus is very sick.” Augustus was the oldest of all the turtles. He was lying in a box on the floor beside her, with a small pile of lettuce, and he wasn’t moving at all.

“Did you take him to the vet?” Benson asked.

Aunt Moss nodded. “The vet said he’s very old and tired, and the best thing I can do is try to make him comfortable.”

Benson said, “Do you mean he’s not going to get better? He’s going to die?” Benson was shocked. None of the turtles had died before. He couldn’t remember any of Aunt Moss’s friends dying. He thought about it for a minute. Aunt Moss must be feeling very sad.

He asked her, “Is Augustus frightened? Is it going to hurt?”

Aunt Moss said, “I don’t think he’s frightened. He’s mostly asleep now. Sometimes he stirs a little bit but then he just goes back to sleep again. He doesn’t even want to eat. I think he’s just very tired.”

“Maybe he’ll feel better after he’s had a rest.”

“No, I don’t think so. He’s so old, I think he’s just worn out. He’s older than me and Lillibet put together. It’s just time for him to go, that’s all.”

Benson put his hand on Aunt Moss’s hand. She looked so sad. Augustus was one of her oldest friends.

Aunt Moss patted his hand. “Thankyou, Benson. He’s not in any pain, that’s the main thing. I’ll just sit with him, so he knows he’s not alone.”

Benson sat with them for a while, and then he went and got his drawing pencils and some paper. He sat beside Aunt Moss, and started to draw a picture of Augustus. He put in the greeny-brown shell, and the wrinkled old legs, and the black shiny eyes, and he drew a cool green river for Augustus to swim in, and lots of shady grass.

Then he remembered the time that Augustus and his friends were swimming in the bathtub, and he drew a picture of that, and then he drew another one of Augustus and his friends having a picnic with Aunt Moss, and the time when the earthquake happened and Benson and his mother rescued them. He went on drawing, remembering the stories that Aunt Moss had told them about the turtles and their home near the river, and when the baby turtles hatched, and how they were learning to swim and how one of them tried to swim to Africa and Augustus brought him back when he got lost.

Aunt Moss looked at Benson’s drawings, and started to cry, thinking about how Augustus would never do any of these things again, and how much everyone would miss him. But the more she looked at the drawings and remembered, the more she started to think about his life. She stopped crying and talked to Benson about Augustus and the adventures he had had, and his friends and his family, the places he had travelled to, and all the things they had done together.

After a while Benson packed up his drawing things and went outside to play. Aunt Moss stayed with Augustus, until gradually he stopped moving and then she knew he had died. She wrapped him up carefully in some cool green leaves, and she and Benson, and Benson’s mother and Aunt Lillibet, took him down to the river and let the water carry him away. Aunt Moss cried, and Benson’s mother hugged her, and Aunt Lillibet blew her nose for a bit, then they all went back home and had milk and cake and told stories about turtles for the rest of the afternoon.

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