Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a warm, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One week it rained and rained every day. Benson had to stay inside all day. It was too wet to dig and too wet to ride his bike. It was too wet for Aunt Lillibet to work in her garden, and too wet for Aunt Moss to walk over to her friends’ places or practise throwing her boomerang. Benson’s mother complained because the washing wouldn’t dry, and it was too noisy with everyone inside for her to get any work done.
By Friday afternoon everyone was getting very grumpy. Benson was trying to play his saxophone and Aunt Moss was doing tai chi and kept bumping the music stand. Aunt Lillibet said she couldn’t concentrate on her embroidery with all that noise, and then Aunt Moss bumped Aunt Lillibet and she pricked her finger with her needle and Aunt Lillibet started to say mean things to Aunt Moss, and suddenly Benson’s mother said, “I know!”
Everyone stopped and looked at her.
“I know something we can all do together and have a lovely time,” she said.
She went into her bedroom and brought out a big flat box. “This is a jigsaw puzzle that Benson’s Uncle Elton and I used to do on rainy afternoons when we were young. I think it’s still got all the pieces.”
“I hope it has,” said Aunt Lillibet. “There’s nothing worse than a jigsaw with a piece missing.”
She put away her embroidery and Benson put away his saxophone, and Aunt Moss got changed out of her leotard and they all sat down together at the table.
Benson’s mother tipped all the pieces out. Aunt Lillibet said, “Edges first.” She started sorting through the pieces to find all the edge pieces. “The blue ones are the sky so they go at the top, and the green ones are the grass so they go at the bottom.”
They all set to work, trying to fit all the pieces together, but Aunt Lillibet loved making the nice straight sides of the puzzle so she grabbed all the edge pieces and kept them in her hand, and the others had to just wait.
Benson didn’t mind doing jigsaw puzzles, but what he really liked was putting the very last piece in. There was something very satisfying about putting in the last piece, so that suddenly the jigsaw stopped being a puzzle and started being a picture.
He had a sneaky idea. While no-one was looking he took one of the pieces and held it tight in his other hand. His idea was that at the very end, when the jigsaw puzzle was all done except for one piece, he would have the last piece and he would be the one to put it in.
This jigsaw puzzle was a picture of a boat and a lake and some grass and sky, and pink and red flowers and a lady with an umbrella. Benson found a piece of the umbrella and started going through all the pieces looking for the piece that went next to it.
Aunt Lillibet complained, “Benson, you’re messing everything up! I just sorted out all the sky pieces, and you’re mixing them up with the boat pieces!”
Benson’s mother said, “Benson, why don’t you help me with the grass down here at the bottom?” She gave him all the green pieces she had found, and they worked happily together making the grass.
Aunt Lillibet kept looking over their shoulders, going, “That piece doesn’t go there, Benson. Try it over here.” And then she took the green pieces out of their hands and start working on the grass.
Benson and his mother moved around to the other side of the table and started putting pieces of the sky in, but Lillibet said, “Don’t do that! I’m doing the sky, as soon as this grass is finished.”
“Well then, Benson and I will do the boat,” Benson’s mother said.
Benson picked up some brown pieces and started fitting them together.
“No, Benson, you’ve got it all wrong,” said Aunt Lillibet. “That piece is upside down, and that piece is backwards. I’ll do it.”
She took the brown pieces away and quickly joined them up and made the boat.
Benson thought it was much more fun doing the puzzle than watching someone else do it.
Suddenly Aunt Lillibet said loudly, “Moss, what do you think you’re doing?”
Aunt Moss had lots of pink and red flower pieces and she was putting them together with pieces of sky.
Aunt Lillibet said, “Those pink flowers don’t go in the sky!”
Aunt Moss said, “But they make such a nice pattern, Lillibet dear.”
“It’s not about making a pattern,” Lillibet shouted. “It’s about getting the picture right!”
Benson’s mother could see that everyone would soon be getting grumpy again. “I think it might be time for snacks,” she said. She went into the kitchen and filled up a bowl with carrot chips and celery sticks. “Here we are,” she said.
Aunt Lillibet was too busy to eat. “There, I’ve finished the grass,” she said. “Give me all those flower pieces, Moss, they go just here.”
Aunt Moss gave her the red and pink flower pieces, and starting making a nice ladder using the sky pieces and the grass pieces. “Moss!” shouted Aunt Lillibet. “I just finished that section. What are you doing?”
Aunt Moss said, “There’s no need to shout, Lillibet. I think this looks lovely.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “You’re ruining the grass I just made. Just leave it alone!”
“Now, Lillibet,” said Benson’s mother, “we’re all working on the puzzle together. Let Moss have some pieces.”
Benson said, “Aunt Moss and I will do the lady with the umbrella.” He got some pieces with lots of different colours that looked as if they would make a nice umbrella and he and Aunt Moss had a lovely time. They didn’t exactly make an umbrella – it was more like a squashed pizza.
Aunt Lillibet finished the flowers and the boat and the grass and the sky, and she looked at what Benson and Aunt Moss were doing. “You two are hopeless,” she said. “You’ve got everything mixed up.” She took all the pieces away from them and put them into the right places in the puzzle. Aunt Moss wanted to do some too, but Aunt Lillibet said, “No, I think you’ve done enough, Moss.”
She was up to the last few pieces, and Benson and his mother and Aunt Moss got so excited that they were eating the carrot chips without even looking at them.
Finally Aunt Lillibet was down to the very last hole in the puzzle. She looked around. “Where’s the last piece?” she said.
Aunt Moss and Benson’s mother looked all over the table and under the table, but it was nowhere to be found.
Aunt Lillibet started to get very angry. “This is terrible!” she said. “A puzzle with a missing piece is the worst thing in the world.”
Benson smiled. “Actually,” he said, “I happen to have a piece just here.”
“Benson, have you been hiding the last piece?” said Aunt Lillibet.
Benson said, “Not exactly hiding it. More like keeping it safe.” He opened his hand, and then he stopped. There was nothing in his hand.
He looked all over the table and under the table and in the puzzle box and in his pockets. He couldn’t find the last piece anywhere. Then he remembered and his face went very red. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I think I must have thought it was a chip, and I ate it.”