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.
One morning, Benson ate his breakfast in a hurry: cold mashed potatoes and nettles. He was meeting his friend, Philip, down by the creek and he didn’t want to be late. Philip was bringing his friend Kendall, and they were going to build a new bridge and play Battles and Castles. He hurried outside and grabbed his bike. He was just about to get on when he saw there was a snail on the seat of the bike.
He picked it off and dropped it on the ground. He lifted up his foot ready to crunch the snail when Aunt Lillibet came out and said, “Benson, what are you doing?”
Benson stopped. “Um, nothing. Just getting a snail off my bike,” he said.
“Well, you can’t put it there. Someone might step on it and slip and hurt themselves,” she said.
Benson picked the snail up. It shrank inside its shell, which made Benson feel a bit better. He felt funny about snails, the way their bodies were made of jelly and kind of slimed along. It was easier when they were folded back into their shells.
“I’ll put him in the garden,” he said.
“I don’t think Aunt Moss will be pleased to have a snail in her garden eating the kale and the lettuces,” Aunt Lillibet said.
“Okay, I’ll put it in the compost heap,” Benson said.
“The old goanna will like that,” Aunt Lillibet said. “I often hear him down there, crunching away on the snails he finds.”
Eeuuwww. Benson didn’t like that idea. “I’ll just put him on the grass then, and he can go wherever he likes.”
By now the snail had started to unfold itself, and put its weird jelly head out of its shell, and poke its slimy wavy horns out. Benson really wanted to put it down. He picked a wide open place in the grass and put the snail down.
Immediately there was a rustle in the trees and a kookaburra swooped down. Benson picked up the snail again quickly, and the kookaburra flew past.
Benson didn’t know what to do with the snail. He stood there holding it, and its snail horns started reaching out to touch his fingers. He put it down quickly on his bike seat. It waved its horns and started sliming along, leaving a shiny trail on the seat.
Benson sighed. “I’ll just wait till it gets off and goes somewhere else,” he thought. The snail moved along slowly. Benson thought of Philip, waiting for him down by the creek, and wished the snail would hurry up.
Just then Philip rode up on his bike, looking worried.
“I can’t come down to the creek with you, Benson,” he said. “Kendall is lost. I have to go look for him.”
“That’s okay,” Benson said. “I was going to be late anyway. There’s this snail.” He pointed to the snail sliding along his bike seat.
“Kendall!” Philip shouted. “You found him! Benson, you’re amazing!” He picked up the snail and lifted it up so the wavy horns were touching his nose. “Kendall, I was so worried about you,” he said.
Seeing the snail touching Philip’s nose made Benson feel eeuuwwwy. “How do you know this is Kendall?” he asked.
“Of course it’s Kendall,” said Philip. “See these curvy lives on his shell, this big brown swirl and the little grey lines? And see how one of his horns is a bit shorter than the other one, and he waves it kind of funny? It’s always been like that, ever since he was little.”
Benson looked closely, but it just looked like a snail to him.
“Do you still want to go down to the creek?” he asked.
“Sure,” Philip said. “Kendall loves it down there.” He put Kendall on his handle-bars, they got on their bikes and rode off.