Once there was a young wombat called Benson, who lived in a very nice wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One day Benson was out by himself, just doing stuff, when he came up to a fence. It wasn’t a tall fence but it was too high to climb over, and it was made of out wire so he couldn’t climb through it. He decided to go under it. He set to work and dug a hole under the fence. He went through the hole and came out on the other side of the fence.
There was a nice open paddock, and some cute little rabbits nibbling and jumping little jumps like baby rabbits do when they’re practising. Two of the little rabbits came up to him and looked at him, as if they had never seen a wombat before, which they hadn’t. Then they ran past him and scampered through the hole Benson had made.
Benson started to wonder why there was a fence. Usually a fence is there for a reason. Maybe the reason was to keep the rabbits in. Benson had made a hole under the fence and the rabbits were getting out. He thought about it a bit but not for long because the rabbits were little and they were fast.
He clambered back under the fence and scooped up the first rabbit and put it back into the paddock. It ran straight back through the hole. He reached out fast and scooped it up again. The second rabbit was already way out of sight. Lots of the other rabbits in the paddock were coming over to find out what was happening. Benson imagined them all getting out through the hole he had made. He imagined trying to scoop them up one at a time while rabbits ran everywhere. The problem was, rabbits are fast, and wombats are slow.
He carried the little rabbit back through the hole under the fence and sat down in the hole, big and wide, so no rabbits could get past him. The rabbits gathered around and looked at him as if they had never seen a wombat before, which they hadn’t, except for the first rabbit, who climbed up into Benson’s lap.
Benson thought about the second rabbit, running away on the wrong side of the fence. How was he going to get it back? Rabbits are fast, and wombats are slow, especially when they have to sit in a hole under a fence to stop the other rabbits getting out. He could only think of one thing. He said as nicely as he could, “It’s story-time, everyone. Sit very still now, and listen. Once upon a time there were three foxes, who were very hungry. They lived in a box under a table, and at night they went out to hunt for moonbeams.”
Benson had never told a story to a group of small rabbits, but it seemed to be very easy. The rabbits sat up and listened with their eyes open wide, and Benson made up the story as he went along. “One day a giant caterpillar came and said, ‘Where is my pudding bowl? I’ll eat you up if you don’t give it to me.’ The first fox gave him a nip and said, ‘What have you done with my tail, you big mean caterpillar? Did you take my tail?’ The caterpillar started to cry.”
Benson kept on telling the story, although it wasn’t really a story, just some ideas that came into his head and he said them out loud to see what they sounded like. Every now and then he peeped over his shoulder to see if his plan was working, and it was. The runaway rabbit had hopped slowly back and was sitting on the other side of the fence, listening like all of his brothers and sisters. Benson kept telling the story and at the same time he was thinking about how to get a very small rabbit back through a hole which was being blocked by a big, solid wombat without letting all the other rabbits out.
He kept telling the story. “The second fox said, ‘I’m hungry. What’s for dinner? I want eggs and eggplants, and tomatoes and tomato sauce and tomato pies and tomato toes.’ But the third fox said, ‘Stop thinking about eating. There’s a big storm on the way. A big, scary storm, with lots of thunder and lightning, and hailstones like rocks that will hit you on the head and make you cry.’”
The rabbits looked very worried when Benson got to this part of the story. That gave Benson an idea. He said, “So the foxes all ran away into a hole in the ground. Then a big storm started. The thunder was really loud -” Benson made loud growling noises, “really, really loud and scary!” He growled as loud as he could, and made flashing noises and waved his hands like lightning flashes.
The rabbits put their hands over their ears and ran away into their rabbit holes. As soon as they were gone, Benson got up out of the hole under the fence. The runaway rabbit ran past him, straight back to his own rabbit hole. Benson quickly filled in the hole all the way up to the bottom of the fence, and patted it down really hard. No more escaping rabbits!
He was very pleased with himself. All the rabbits were inside the fence, and there was no hole under the fence any more. Then he noticed something. He was on the inside of the fence, the rabbit side, and the way home was on the other side of the fence.
He thought about it. He wasn’t going to dig a hole under the fence again. He decided to keep going and see if there was another way out.
He walked along the fence a long way, and after a while he came to a gate. He opened the gate and went through quickly, and shut it tight, in case there were any rabbits around.
Then he walked all the way home, thinking about tomato pies and tomato toes and wondering what they were.