Nils and Nella

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

Benson’s mother had to go and look after her grandmother who was feeling a bit poorly, and Aunt Lillibet had a library committee meeting, and Aunt Moss was having morning tea with her folk dancing group, so Benson went to spend the day with his friends, Nils and Nella. Nils and Nella were twins, and they were possums. They loved climbing as much as Benson loved digging.

They took Benson to their favourite adventure playground. It was amazing, full of things Benson’s regular playground didn’t have. In the middle there was an enormously high climbing frame made of ropes and cables. It had little platforms here and there that you had to swing out and jump to. Nils and Nella raced each other to the top, and swung from their tails and played trapezes.

Benson couldn’t even climb onto the first rope. His hands were the wrong shape for holding on tight, and he was too heavy to lift himself up. He stayed on the ground and watched his friends swinging and flying.

“Hey, Benson, let’s go on the flying fox!” Nils said. The flying fox was a kind of metal hook on a long cable stretched between two trees, way off the ground. “Like this,” Nils said. He scampered up a pole, grabbed the hook with his tail and pushed off with his feet. The hook sped along the cable like a rocket, all the way to a platform at the other end.

“Your turn,” Nils said.

Benson couldn’t see how he could. He couldn’t climb up the pole, and he couldn’t hang onto the hook thing. “Umm, maybe I’ll just watch,” he said.

Nella was climbing on the high ropes that stretched between the tops of the trees. There was a long rope ladder reaching up from the ground. “Benson, do you want to come on the high ropes with me?” she said. “I’ll help you if you like.”

Benson put his feet on the bottom of the rope ladder and tried to climb up. The rope ladder twisted and swayed, and Benson’s hands got stuck and his stomach kind of swirled around and he couldn’t go up or down. Nella tried pulling him up but he was too heavy for her. She tried pushing him but that didn’t work, even when Nils came over to help. Benson’s hands finally slipped off and he fell ‘plomp’ onto the ground.

“Umm, maybe not,” he said. Nella ran up the ladder and disappeared among the tree tops, leaping between the branches and singing.

“How about rock-climbing?” Nils said. There were some really high rocks with bumps and knobs you could hold onto while you climbed.

Benson thought about it. He didn’t think so. “I think I’ll go over to the sand pit for a while,” he said. He felt left out and disappointed because he couldn’t do any of the things his friends were doing. They were having so much fun, and he wasn’t having any fun at all. He wished he could go home.

The sand-pit was full of baby possums who were too small to go on the equipment by themselves. One of them looked at Benson and started to cry.

Benson was surprised to think he looked scary to a small possum. He tried to think of something to make the little possum feel better. He smoothed out a section of the sand and patted it flat. With his finger, he drew a smiley face. The little possum stopped crying and looked.

Benson smoothed the sand out again and drew a birthday cake with candles. The little possum smiled. Benson got a bucket and started making sand castles, lots of them in rows for the baby possum to smash. The other little possums gathered around and everyone had a good time smashing Benson’s castles.

He built an enormous castle and the little possums climbed up it and jumped off the top. He dug a hole and covered himself with sand and pretended to be a dragon in the dungeon poking his fingers out to get the baby possums. They jumped on him and pulled his ears and played all over him. He had a great time.

When Nils and Nella came over and said it was time to go, he said, “Do we have to go already? This is a great playground!”

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