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.
Benson loved to dig. He loved reading, and cooking and playing with his friends, and visiting his grandmother, but most of all he loved to dig. One morning it was a spectacularly good day for digging, so he decided to dig a really really big tunnel, all the way to the creek. He chose a good spot in the back yard and started digging.
It was the greatest fun. The dirt was just right, soft and damp, with some hard spots here and there. Sometimes there was a rock or maybe a big root from a gum tree but he just went around them, or under them. He dug for hours, and then he decided it was time to stop for lunch.
When he came up out of the tunnel, he saw a funny-looking animal in the strawberry patch. It was small and furry with a pointy nose like a rat, and a long tail, and red and brown stripes on its body. It smiled a sneaky smile at Benson.
Its long, sticky tongue shot out of its mouth and poked a hole in one of the strawberries. Zap. While Benson watched, the speedy tongue shot out again. Zap, another strawberry. Zap, zap, two more strawberries. Benson shouted, “Stop it! Leave the strawberries alone!” The stripy animal grinned at him. Zap, zap, another two strawberries. Zap, zap, zap.
“Don’t!” Benson yelled. Benson went to grab him, but the animal ran off as fast as a rat, over to the compost heap.
The animal grinned at him again and picked up a banana skin and threw it at Benson. Splat, right in Benson’s face. Then it picked up an avocado seed and threw it at Benson. Plock, right on Benson’s head. “Hey, don’t do that!” Benson shouted.
The animal picked up a rotten potato and some apple cores and some really old orange peel and some mouldy mushrooms and threw them at Benson. Benson jumped out of the way but the mouldy mushrooms hit him right on the ear, smoosh.
Benson picked up a stick and started to chase after the creature. It ran into the herb garden and scratched up the coriander and crushed the new parsley leaves. Benson shouted and waved his stick, but the stripy animal grinned at him again and ran off, quick as a snake, under the fence and out of sight.
Aunt Lillibet came out to see what all the noise was about. “Benson! What have you done!”
There was compost all over the yard, and the herb garden was a mess. “Look at this mess!” she said. “What have you been doing?”
“It wasn’t me,” Benson said.
“Look at my parsley, and the strawberries! Benson, that was very, very naughty! “
“I didn’t do it,” Benson tried to explain.
Aunt Lillibet was very angry. She wasn’t in the mood for listening. “Don’t try and tell me that you didn’t do it, Benson! Every one of my strawberries has a hole in it and I can see the stick in your hand! Of course it was you! Go inside right now and go to your room! I’m extremely angry with you!”
Benson was really upset. No-one would listen to him. It didn’t matter what he said, no-one would believe him. He had to go to his room and stay there, hungry and upset and smelling like mouldy mushrooms.
After a long time, his mother opened his door and said, “Come out now, Benson, and behave yourself, please. Mrs Carlos has come for a visit. She’s brought a little friend who is visiting from another part of the country.”
Benson went out to the kitchen with her. Mrs Carlos was there, with a small furry animal with a pointy face like a rat, and red and brown stripes. He grinned at Benson.
“This is Santo,” Benson’s mother said. “He’s just about your age. I’m sure you’re going to be great friends.”
Benson opened his mouth to say all the things that were piled up inside of him, but Aunt Moss was patting Santo’s soft fur and Aunt Lillibet was saying how neat his little stripes were, and his mother was chatting with Mrs Carlos. He shut his mouth again. No-one would believe him before, why would they believe him now?
He went over to the fruit bowl and got a big, red, juicy strawberry. He held it out, and said, “Here, Santo, would you like a strawberry?”
Zap, zap-zap, zap.