Reading Aloud

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

One afternoon Benson was sitting at the table in the kitchen reading a very exciting book he got from the library, about pirates and a kangaroo and an elephant called Jade.

He’d just gotten to a very exciting part where a big storm was coming when his mother came into the kitchen to get dinner ready.

When she saw the book he was reading, she said, “Oh, I love that book! Can you read it to me while I’m cooking?”

So Benson started reading it aloud. “’The waves got bigger and bigger until they were so enormous that…’”

“I love this part!” his mother said. “Can you go back a bit, just to the beginning of this part?”

Benson turned back to the page before and starting reading again. “’By midday, storm clouds were gathering. The pirate captain called to his first mate and whispered – ‘”

Benson’s mother called out, “What did you say? I can’t hear you.” She was chopping potatoes so loudly it sounded like dinosaurs galloping over a wooden bridge. “Can you read a bit louder?”

Benson read loudly, “’The pirate captain called to his first mate and whispered, ‘Don’t breathe a word to the others, but the treasure is hidden in- ‘’”

“What?” said his mother. “I can’t hear you!”

Benson shouted, “’Don’t breathe a word to the others – ‘”

Just then Aunt Lillibet walked in. “Don’t breathe a word about what? Oh, I remember that book. In the end the elephant gets the – “

“Don’t tell me!” Benson said.

“Yes, don’t spoil the ending for him, Lillibet,” Benson’s mother said. “Go on, Benson, you were just getting to the exciting part.”

Benson read, “’Don’t breathe a word -’”

“It doesn’t make any sense starting in the middle of a chapter like that,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Go back to the start of the chapter.”

Benson sighed. He turned back six pages and started to read again. “’The pirate ship sailed for weeks through shark-infested waters, through tropical monsoons and cyclones, until they came to the fabled Antimacassar Islands. The sailors caught sight of a huge grey beast on a tiny island, the most fearsome creature they had ever seen. They took their harpoons – ‘”

Benson’s mother put some carrots in the blender and turned it on. A noise like a million hailstones filled the kitchen. Even Benson couldn’t hear himself.

“Can’t you read any louder?” Aunt Lillibet said.

Benson raised his voice. “’They took their harpoons and crept up behind it. ‘Shhh, said the captain, don’t make a sound or – ‘’”

“Louder!” shouted Aunt Lillibet. “I can’t hear a word you’re saying!”

Benson shouted at the top of his voice, “’’Shhh,’ said the captain, ‘don’t make a sound or – ‘’”

The blender stopped. Aunt Moss came into the kitchen, and asked, “What’s all the shouting about?”

“Benson’s reading to us,” Lillibet said, “but he’s reading much too quietly. You have to try harder, Benson.”

Benson started again. “’’Shhh,’ said the captain, ‘don’t make a sound or – ‘’”

“Oh,” said Aunt Moss, “is this the part where the pirates come to the island where Jade the elephant has build a hospital over the cave where the treasure is buried and the captain sends the sailors to burn it down and then the monsoon comes up – or is it a hurricane?”

“It’s just a big storm,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“No, I think it was a hurricane,” Benson’s mother said. “Or a cyclone.”

“Can you read that part again, dear?” Aunt Moss asked Benson. “Just so we know.”

Benson started again, “’’Shhh,’ said the captain, ‘don’t make sound or – ‘’”

“No, no, go back to the start,” Lillibet said.

Benson’s mother said, “There’s no need to go all the way back to the start. Just go on, Benson.”

Benson started reading, “’’Don’t make a sound or you may enrage the beast and it will turn on us. And if the beast turns on us, none of us will escape with our lives. We must get close enough-’’”

“I love this part!” Aunt Moss said. “Just after this Jade meets the young cabin-boy who – “

Benson’s mother turned the blender on again. Aunt Lillibet started chopping turnips. “Louder! I can’t hear a word you’re saying,” she yelled over the noise.

Benson shouted, “’Enough!’”

Everyone stopped and looked at Benson. He cleared his throat with a small cough. “I think my voice is getting tired,” he said. “I think I’ll read in my room for a while.”

Aunt Moss said, “What a shame. The next part is my very favourite, where Jade is struck by a giant coconut during the storm – “

“Oh no, dear, that’s much later,” Lillibet said. “First they have to hunt for the treasure -”

“But don’t you remember, dear, the treasure isn’t where the captain says it is because the first mate -”

“No, it isn’t the first mate,” Lillibet said, “it’s the cabin boy who was hiding in the kangaroo’s pouch all along.”

“But that’s after the hospital burns down, isn’t it?” Benson’s mother said.

The three of them went on talking, and didn’t notice Benson putting his hands over his ears and going quietly to his room and shutting the door.

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