Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a nice comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One morning his mother was out doing the shopping and when she came home Aunt Moss was waiting for her by the door, looking very worried.
“Is everything okay?” she asked Aunt Moss.
“Benson’s friend Zali came over to play, and they’ve both come out in spots!” Aunt Moss said.
Aunt Lillibet was reading her favourite plant book. She looked up and said, “Spots? It could be measles!”
“Or a heat rash,” Aunt Moss said.
“Or mumps,” Lillibet said.
“Or hives,” Aunt Moss said.
“Or chicken pox,” Lillibet said.
“Chicken pox?” Aunt Moss said. “Oh no!”
“It’s all right, Moss, don’t get upset,” Benson’s mother said. “Where are the spots?”
“All over his tummy and his face, and all over his arms and his legs,” said Aunt Moss. “And poor little Zali has them too, all over her poor little body!” She started to cry.
“All right, try and keep calm, Moss,” Benson’s mother said. “It’s probably best if you keep away from them, in case you catch it. You too, Lillibet.”
“Oh no!” Aunt Moss said. “Lillibet, what if you catch the chickenpox too?”
“Not me,” Lillibet said. “I had them when I was a little joey. Didn’t you?”
“I don’t remember,” Aunt Moss wailed. “The poor little things!”
“Now, Moss, try and keep calm,” Benson’s mother said. “It might not be chickenpox at all. Does he have a fever? Is he hot?”
Aunt Moss nodded. “His face is very red and he’s very hot.”
“I’ll go and see him,” said Benson’s mother.
She went into Benson’s bedroom. Benson and Zali were running around the room, leaping onto the bed and jumping off onto the floor, roaring as loudly as they could. Benson had big red spots on his face and his hands and his tummy, as well as his arms and his legs. Zali had some spots, but she had some stripes as well, all down her tummy and on her back.
Benson’s mother said, “Benson, you’ve got spots on you.”
Benson stopped roaring and so did Zali. His face was very red from all the running and leaping and roaring. “I’m being a leopard,” he said. “Leopards have spots.”
“And Zali?” said his mother.
“Zali was a leopard, but now she’s a zebra,” Benson said.
“How did you make the spots?” his mother asked.
“I was reading in my library book about how the leopard got his spots and it sounded easy. You just go dab, dab, dab. We tried mud, but it fell off, so I got some beetroot juice.”
“Did you make Zali’s stripes too?”
Benson nodded. “It was easy. I just joined up the spots.”
Benson’s mother said, “It’s just about time for Zali to go home. I think maybe she should have a bath first, and see if we can get those stripes off.”
In the bath, some of the red came off, but not all of it. Zali had pink stripes, and Benson had pink spots.
Benson’s mother said, “I don’t know what Zali’s mother will think. Zali used to be a wombat and now she’s a zebra.”
Benson already had an idea. “We could fill up the bath with beetroot juice, and it would cover up the stripes. She wouldn’t be a zebra any more, she’d be a pink wombat.”
So that’s what they did. Zali’s mother was surprised, but Zali loved it.