Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in an ordinary wombat hole, with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson had a best friend called Zali. As soon as he met her one day in the playground they became friends. They loved being together and talking and doing things. Benson liked digging and Zali loved sitting in holes. Zali loved climbing trees and Benson liked making piles of leaves for people to jump out of trees into. Benson loved mucking around in the creek, and Zali liked making bridges and crossing back and forth.
They spent lots of time together for ages and then Zali stopped coming to the playground. Benson didn’t see her for weeks and weeks, and he wondered what had happened to her. Sometimes he looked at her favourite spot in the sandpit and he felt an empty hole in his middle. He missed her very much.
After a while he got used to not seeing her and he nearly forgot her. He had lots of other friends.
Then one day he went to the playground with his mother and there was someone who looked exactly like Zali. She was sitting by herself in the sandpit. He went up closer to the sandpit and he was pretty sure it was Zali, but she looked different somehow.
Benson’s mother was sitting on the mothers’ bench with Zali’s mother. Benson went over to her and said, ‘Is that Zali?’
Benson’s mother said, ‘Yes, it’s Zali. But I’m not sure if she remembers you, Benson.’
Zali’s mother said quietly, ‘Zali had a very serious accident and she hurt her head badly. She doesn’t remember things very well any more.’
‘Is she sick?’ Benson asked. Zali didn’t look sick. She just looked… different. Kind of lost, and quiet.
‘No, she’s not sick,’ Zali’s mother said. ‘She was sick for a long time, but she’s better now. She just doesn’t think as quickly as she used to any more.’
Zali’s mother looked as if she was going to get upset, and Benson’s mother took her hand. Benson decided it was all confusing and the best way to work it out was to go and see Zali for himself.
He went over to the sandpit and said, ‘Hi, Zali.’ Zali looked up but she didn’t smile or say hello.
Benson said, ‘It’s me, Benson.’ She still didn’t smile or say anything. Benson sat down beside her and started to dig. It felt weird, being with Zali who wasn’t like Zali any more, but digging he knew. He dug a pretty big hole, then he said, ‘Hey, Zali, you want to sit in this hole?’
Zali didn’t do anything for a while. But then she slowly got up and climbed into the hole. She smiled then. Benson dug a bigger hole for himself, chatting to Zali all the time. Zali didn’t talk back to him, but she kept smiling so Benson knew it was all right.
He sat in his hole, and Zali sat in hers and he talked about what they used to do together, and after a while he asked her if she wanted to go down to the creek and muck around in the water. Zali looked at him and said, ‘Yes.’
So they got out of their holes and starting toddling down towards the creek. Benson looked back at his mother and Zali’s mother, sitting on the bench together, and they were both crying, and he thought going down to the creek and leaving them by themselves was a great idea.
‘Come on, Zali, let’s run,’ he said. And they ran down to the creek together.