Benson Says No

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

One day Benson was digging in the backyard. He had a new idea for a hole that was bigger at the bottom than it was at the top, and he had been digging for ages, making it nice and round and roomy. Aunt Lillibet was in the kitchen, cooking her favourite curried leek and parsnip soup. When it was ready, she went out and called Benson.

“Benson, lunch is ready. Come in and wash your hands.”

Benson had found a big tree root in the bottom of his hole and he was trying to dig it up out of the way. It was very strong, and he was struggling hard with it. He called up out of the hole, “In a minute.”

Aunt Lillibet thought Benson should come at once when he was called. She said, “Not ‘in a minute’, young man. Come in and wash your hands right now!”

Benson was pulling hard at the root. It slipped out of his hands and sprang back and smacked him on the head. The root and Aunt Lillibet shouting at him made him really mad and he yelled, “No!” suddenly.

Aunt Lillibet was shocked. She said angrily, “I beg your pardon, young man! When I ask you to come and eat your lunch, I expect you to come at once! I’ve never heard anything so rude in my life! I’ve spent hours preparing a nourishing meal for you and I don’t expect to be treated in this manner! Now do as you are told immediately!”

“NO!” The word jumped out of Benson before he could stop it. As soon as he said it, he knew he was in big trouble. He could hear Aunt Lillibet breathe in suddenly as if she were completely shocked. Then she started talking more angrily than he had ever heard her in his life.

She went on and on about rude young wombats and how shocked and horrified she was, and how what he’d said was the worst thing she had ever heard. Benson crouched down low in his new hole and didn’t listen to all of it, but when she said, “We’ll see what your mother says when she gets home,” he heard that.

Lillibet went inside, still fuming, and Benson tucked himself down at the very bottom of his hole, waiting and feeling worse and worse.

After a while he heard his mother come home and go inside. Then she came outside.

She sat down under a tree nearby. Benson could hear her humming, the way that she did when she was knitting, and he could hear little clicks from her knitting needles.

He stayed scrunched up in his hole, thinking. After a while he thought it was pretty uncomfortable scrunched up in the bottom of a hole. He stood up and peeked out. His mother was sitting comfortably under the tree, knitting and humming to herself. He looked at her, and she looked at him. He said, “I did something.” His mother nodded and waited.

He said, “I was rude to Aunt Lillibet.”

His mother put her knitting down. “Aunt Lillibet is very upset. You hurt her feelings.”

Benson said, “Well, she… I was just… there was…” He stopped. His mother was still looking at him. She didn’t seem to be mad with him. “I should say sorry to her.”

His mother nodded. She gathered up her knitting, and came over to the hole and held out her hand to Benson. He climbed up out of the hole, holding on to her hand.

His mother said, “That looks like a pretty interesting hole.”

Benson explained the hole and what his idea was, and the problem with the root in the bottom. His mother listened, and they talked about what he was going to do with the root. When they got to the kitchen, Benson went straight up to Aunt Lillibet and said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been rude to you.” He always thought it was better to get the ‘sorry’s over with as soon as possible.

Aunt Lillibet sniffed. “I should think so. I’ve never heard anything so rude in my life. When I was a young wombat, I would never have dreamed of speaking like that to my aunt or my mother.” She talked for a while, and Benson waited until it was over. Then they all sat down and had soup together. It was delicious.

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