The Umbrella

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

Aunt Lillibet had a new umbrella, which her friend Marigold had given her. It was very beautiful, with drawings of Canada geese all around it, and a smooth, carved wooden handle. She called Aunt Moss into her room to show her.

“See, it has these beautiful drawings of geese all over it,” she said.

“I can’t see them properly,” Aunt Moss said. “Can’t you open it?”

Aunt Lillibet was very pleased to be asked to open her umbrella, even though it was inside the house, and it wasn’t even raining outside. “It’s automatic, you know,” she said. “You just push this button here, and it opens by itself.”

She pushed the button near the handle and foooop, the umbrella suddenly opened. It was bigger than she expected. In fact it took up nearly the whole room. She and Moss were pushed up against the bed, and the umbrella took all the rest of the space.

“Oh, it is very beautiful,” Aunt Moss said. “I can see all the geese flying around now.”

“Never mind the geese,” Lillibet said, “help me get it folded down again. It’s poking into my leg, and making holes in the walls.”

“How does it fold down again?” Aunt Moss asked. “Is there another button?”

“I don’t know,” Lillibet said. “Help me pull on the handle.”

They pulled on the handle together, but the umbrella just twisted around and swept everything off the shelf onto the floor.”

“Look out, Moss! Try to be more careful! You’ve knocked over my bedside lamp now.”

“There’s a spring up near the top of the umbrella. Why don’t you try to pull that down? I’ll hold the bottom of the handle and you reach up,” Aunt Moss said.

“I can’t reach it!” Lillibet said. Pulling on the handle just made the umbrella jam harder against the sides of the doorway. They both stopped, and tried to think of a way around it. The two of them were squashed into one corner of the room, and the umbrella filled up every other piece of the room.

Just then Benson walked past and stopped. It looked like a very big balloon was filling up Aunt Lillibet’s bedroom and coming out the doorway. He gave it a gentle poke.

“Benson!” Lillibet shouted. “Are you out there?”

“Yes, Aunt Lillibet,” he answered. “Are you playing with a balloon in your room?”

“Oh, Benson, can you help us?” Aunt Moss cried. “This silly umbrella won’t go down and we’re stuck in here.”

Benson looked at all the umbrella he could see, and tried to imagine all the umbrella he couldn’t see, inside Aunt Lillibet’s room.

He said, “It won’t fit through the doorway, and I can’t get in with it in the way. I could get a knife and poke a hole in it?”

“No!” said Aunt Lillibet. “It was a gift from my friend, Marigold. You don’t poke holes in gifts with knives.”

“I think I remember Marigold saying she always had trouble with this umbrella,” Aunt Moss said. “She often had to leave it outside because she couldn’t fold it up.”

Aunt Lillibet didn’t say anything, but Benson could imagine her getting very upset.

“I can only think of one thing,” Benson said.

“What?” said Aunt Lillibet. It really was getting very tight in that room. There was far too much umbrella for comfort. The umbrella seemed to have more pointy parts and stabby ends than umbrellas usually have.

“You could lift the handle up, and hook it around the light in the ceiling, and then you might be able to climb out underneath it.”

“What a good idea!” said Aunt Moss.

“I suppose it’s worth a try,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Come on, Moss, lift your side. Stop poking me – ow!”

Benson could hear them struggling and pushing, and then the part of the umbrella that was bulging out through the doorway disappeared into the room. He put his head inside to have a look. The umbrella was hanging upside down from the light in the middle of the ceiling. Aunt Moss and Aunt Lillibet were sitting on the bed, panting.

“It’s not much use as an umbrella up there,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“But it does make a pretty light-shade,” Aunt Moss said.

Benson switched on the light. Beautiful Canada geese floated around the ceiling.

“Ohh,” Moss said. “How beautiful!”

And even Aunt Lillibet was pleased.

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