Benson Buys a Duck

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

One day Aunt Moss was cleaning out her cupboard and Benson was helping her, when she found some coins in an old shoe at the bottom of the cupboard. She gave them to Benson. “You can have these if you like. I didn’t even know I had them.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “One dollar and fifty cents. What are you going to buy with all that money?”

Benson said, “I think I’ll buy a duck.”

“A duck?” said Aunt Lillibet. “What on earth would you do with a duck?”

“I could tie a rope to it and take it for walks. Or ducks can fly – I could ride on its back and fly everywhere.”

Benson’s mother said, “I think you’d be a bit heavy for a duck to carry.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Benson said. His head was suddenly full of ideas. “I could collect its eggs, and I could eat them, and some of the eggs would turn into ducks and I could sell them to people, or I could keep them and have more eggs. And I could pull their feathers out and make pillows and quilts and sleeping bags. And they could dig up worms and grubs and I could get them and go fishing and then I could eat the fish and you could make fish stew and fish pie, and when it was my turn to wash up, I could get the duck to wash up instead of me…”

“Benson!” his mother said sharply. “I think you need some fresh air. I think you and I should go for a walk, down to the creek.”

Benson went and got his hat, still thinking about ducks and feathers and fish stew. He kept the money tight in his hand, while he and his mother walked down to the creek. It was a beautiful sunny day, and Benson paddled in the water and dug a big hole to make a dam across part of the creek. Two frogs were playing in the water, and a turtle swam past.

After a while Benson lay on the bank and watched the leaves reflecting in the water, making patterns with the ripples the turtle had made. He said to his mother, “If you had millions of dollars, what you would buy?”

“I’d buy this whole creek and all the bush around it,” she said.

Benson sat up. “What would you do with it?”

His mother said, “I wouldn’t do anything with it. I’d let it be exactly the way it is, cool and beautiful, home for the fish and the ducks and the turtles and all the birds. I’d come down now and then and clean it out a bit, and dig out the weeds and take away any rubbish that floated down. And I’d come and sit here from time to time, and I’d watch you paddling.”

Benson thought about it, and it sounded exactly right to him. He imagined the creek living for a long time, cool and green and full of fish and frogs and turtles, all safe and healthy. Just then, two brown ducks came swimming along, and started digging in the mud with their beaks, looking for worms and grubs.

“If I had piles and piles of money,” Benson said, “I think I’d buy a duck just like those brown ducks, and put it here on the creek and it would paddle around and eat worms and stuff, and get little ducklings and hang around with the other ducks. Or maybe I’d buy a great big enormous sky so all the birds could fly around, and lots of trees for them to sit in.”

“Mmm,” said his mother. “Time to go home?”

“I have to do something first,” Benson said.

Later on, when he got home, he was holding something behind his back. He brought it out and gave it to Aunt Moss. It was a little cup with a picture of a green and blue duck on it. “It’s for you, Aunt Moss,” he said. “I thought you might like it.”

“I love it,” said Aunt Moss.

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