Giraffes and Geraniums

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 day Benson spent the morning making a skipping rope and practising his skipping. It was very tiring work, and after a while he came in and made himself a sandwich with celery and macadamia butter.

Aunt Moss came into the kitchen and he said, “Aunt Moss, would you like me to make you a sandwich too?”

“No, thank you, Benson,” Aunt Moss said. “I’m just going to Bernice’s to get some geranium cuttings so we can grow our own geraniums. Would you like to come too?”

Benson remembered that Aunt Moss’s friend Bernice made excellent ginger brownies. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll bring my sandwich and eat it on the way.”

On the way to Bernice’s, they went past Nils and Nella’s place. Nils and Nella were playing in the big gum tree in their front yard. Benson waved to them and they yelled back, “Hi, Benson! What are you doing?”

Benson had his mouth full of sandwich but he yelled anyway, “We’re going to get some geraniums.”

The words didn’t come out exactly the way he meant, because of the sticky macadamia butter and the crusty bread.

Nils said to Nella, “What did he say?”

Nella said, “He said they’re going to get a giraffe.”

“No,” said Nils, “that’s not right. I think he said they were going to get a gymnasium.”

“A gymnasium? What’s that?” asked Nella.

“You know, a gym. A place where you do lots of exercises, like with a trampoline and climbing ropes and beams you can balance on and stuff like that. A gymnasium would be cool!”

“A giraffe would be better,” Nella said. “I’ve never seen a giraffe. How about we go over to Benson’s place after lunch, and see the giraffe?”

“You mean the gymnasium,” Nils said.

Straight after lunch, they went over to Benson’s place. They were so excited, they told everyone they saw on the way, and by the time they got to Benson’s place there was quite a crowd.

Benson came out, and Nella said, “Where’s the giraffe? Can I see it?”

Benson said, “What giraffe?”

Nils said to his sister, “See I told you it was a gymnasium!” He said to Benson, “Can I go on the trampoline?”

Benson said, “What trampoline?”

Nils said, “You said you were going to get a gymnasium!”

“No,” Nella said, “he said he was going to get a giraffe.” They both looked very disappointed, and so did the crowd of friends they had brought with them.

Benson’s mother came out to see why there were so many sad people in the yard. Benson explained about the sandwich and the macadamia butter.

Benson’s mother said, “Let’s see what we can do. Benson, pop in and get the air-bed – that will make a nice trampoline. Nils, there’s some rope that Benson was using this morning. Do you think you could tie it up between the trees to make a climbing rope?”

Nils said he could. He was an expert at climbing ropes.

Benson’s mother found a long straight branch to be a balance beam, and Aunt Moss brought out her yoga mat so everyone could practise their handstands and cartwheels.

Everyone had a great time, climbing and bouncing and balancing and doing handstands, except Nella.

“What’s wrong?” asked Benson’s mother.

“I thought there would be a giraffe,”said Nella.

Benson’s mother thought. She didn’t want Nella to be sad. “Let me see what I can do,” she said.

Everyone went on playing on the gym equipment and having a great time, and then suddenly everyone stopped and looked. Something came out of Benson’s house that was yellow with brown spots with a long, long neck, and a face with brown eyes and a long purple tongue.

“A giraffe!” Nella said.

The very youngest possum, who was called Wilbur, started to cry.

Benson’s mother poked her head out of the giraffe costume and said, “It’s only me, Wilbur. Don’t cry!” She was wearing Aunt Lillibet’s big yellow jumper with brown spots painted on it, and she was carrying a long broom handle with a face drawn on a paper plate at the top.

Benson said to his mother, “That’s a really good giraffe! Can I have a turn?”

His mother said, “Of course you can.” She let him put the jumper on and she gave him the broom handle. He gave Wilbur a ride on his back, and then everyone wanted a turn.

When it was Nella’s turn, she walked all around the yard pretending to eat the highest leaves on the trees with the broom. “Yum, yum,” she said, waggling the purple tongue so that it licked Nils at the top of the climbing rope.

“Why does it have to have a purple tongue?” Nils said.

“Because giraffes have purple tongues,” Nella said. “Don’t you know anything?”

She climbed up the rope and chased Nils all the way to the top of the tree.

Benson said to his mother, “I’ve never seen a giraffe climb a tree before.”

His mother agreed. “It’s not something you see very often.”

They all had snacks and then they climbed and bounced and chased some more and then it was time to go home. Wilbur, the smallest baby possum, started to cry again.

Nella took his hand and said, “Don’t cry, Wilbur. I’ll make you a giraffe of your very own when we get home.” And she did.

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