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

One evening while they were eating dinner, Aunt Lillibet was looking around the room in a thoughtful kind of way.

“You know,” she said, “I think this room would do with a new coat of paint.”

“Oh no,” said Benson’s mother, “not again!”

Aunt Moss said, “It’s not that long since last time you painted it, Lillibet dear.”

“Oh, it’s ages ago,” Aunt Lillibet said. “It really needs freshening up.”

“What colour will it be this time?” Benson asked.

“The same as it is now,” Aunt Lillibet said. “A nice neutral colour goes with everything. Last time we discussed colours over and over, and this was the best we came up with.”

“Oh yes,” Aunt Moss said. “I remember trying to decide on a colour last time. I wanted green, and you wanted white, Lillibet.”

“I wanted orange, didn’t I?” said Benson. Orange was Benson’s favourite colour.

“Yes,” Benson’s mother said. “But I was never happy with this colour.” She looked around the room. The walls were a kind of pale brown-grey beige, like a very dirty old bone. She put her head on one side, considering. “What about blue this time?” she said.

“Oh yes,” said Aunt Moss. “A lovely greeny tealy blue like my dressing-gown.”

“No, no, no,” said Aunt Lillibet. “In a room like this you need a very pale blue, nearly white, otherwise it will make the room seem much smaller than it is.”

Benson’s mother said, “I was thinking of a deep purpley blue, almost like blueberries.”

Benson said, “What about orange?”

“No, not orange,” everyone said together.

They went on talking about colours while Benson washed the dishes, read his book, and had a bath. They were still talking about it when he kissed his mother goodnight and went to bed.

In the morning he woke up early, and he had a great idea. He got out his paints and set to work.

A while later his mother came out to get breakfast. “Benson!” she shrieked. “What have you done?”

Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss rushed out to see what was wrong.

“Oh my goodness!” said Aunt Moss.

“Benson, that was very naughty of you,” said Aunt Lillibet said.

The wall behind the table was painted in big wide stripes in all different colours, pale blue, dark purpley blue, green, white, yellow, red, and orange. The orange stripe was a bit wider than the other stripes.

Aunt Lillibet said sternly, “You’ll have to clean it all off, and then I think you should spend the rest of the day in your room.”

“I was only trying to help,” Benson said. “Aunt Moss said that you can’t really tell what a colour will look like until you see it on the wall.”

“Benson, this is not really what I meant,” Aunt Moss said.

“Wait a minute,” said Benson’s mother. “You know, I like this green. It’s very calming.”

“I know what you mean,” said Aunt Lillibet. “But I think it’s got too much blue in it – it looks cold.”

Aunt Moss said, “I love this red! It’s so bright and cheerful.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “No, it’s much too bright. Imagine coming out to have breakfast every morning with this colour red on the walls! But this yellow would be fine, it were a lot lighter.”

Benson said, “What about this nice orange?”

“No, not orange,” everyone said. “It’s too bright, and too loud, and too… orange.”

Aunt Moss and Aunt Lillibet and Benson’s mother started talking about the colours that Benson had painted on the wall. After a while Aunt Lillibet said, “Benson, go and get your paints again.”

Benson got his paints, and Aunt Lillibet mixed some white with some blue and painted another stripe on the wall. “Too light,” Benson’s mother said. “It looks like a dead jellyfish.” She got the blue and the red and mixed up a bright purple.

“Too purple!” Aunt Lillibet said. “I would have to wear my sunglasses inside.”

Aunt Moss mixed a little bit of blue into a big blob of yellow and painted a greeny yellowy stripe. “Ugh, horrible!” everyone said. “It looks like a mouldy turtle.”

Benson gave up and got himself a banana and read his book. They kept on talking about colours, and trying different ones on the wall.

“This one’s too green!” Aunt Lillibet said, “like someone has squashed peas on the wall.” She had a spot on her nose and her fingers were green like long beans.

“And that one’s too white, “ said Aunt Moss. “I’d feel as if I were living in a refrigerator.” She was waving her brush around and getting spots on the floor and on Benson’s mother.

After a while Benson went outside and dug a big tunnel under the clothes-line and out the other side. He put a little chimney at one end, and a verandah at the other end. It took a long time, and when he went inside again, they were still talking about what colour to paint the room. All the walls were covered in stripes of every colour he could think of.

He made a sandwich and looked around. “I like it like this, with all these colours” he said. “It’s bright and calming and cheerful and relaxing and interesting. Especially the orange.”

Everyone stopped talking and looked at all the stripes. Then they said together, “Not orange!” and went back to discussing.

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