Playing Possum

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

One day Benson was making a sandwich – spinach and parsnip – when Aunt Moss came out of her room, limping.

“Did you hurt your leg, Aunt Moss?” asked Benson.

“I might have twisted my ankle,” Aunt Moss said.

“Which ankle did you hurt?” Benson asked.

“I can’t remember,” said Aunt Moss. She sat down looking embarrassed. “Actually my ankle is fine. It’s just that Lillibet wants me to go to a concert with her, and I thought that if I said my ankle was sore, I wouldn’t have to go.”

“Why don’t you want to go?” Benson asked.

Aunt Moss said, “It’s a concert with strings and wind instruments. That means boxes with vines stretched across them, and hollowed-out gourds that you blow into. I just hate it!”

Benson said, “Why don’t you tell Aunt Lillibet you don’t want to go?”

“Oh no!” said Aunt Moss. “I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

Benson said, “Why don’t you go anyway? There’s probably afternoon tea after the concert.”

Aunt Moss said, “I just can’t bear it. The strings are twangy and screechy and all out of the tune, and the gourds sound like a cow mooing down a vacuum cleaner hose.”

Benson thought it sounded kind of interesting. He started thinking of the noises he could make if he hollowed out a big pumpkin or a snake gourd or a watermelon. Boom, boom, bam, whoonk, hooonk!

Aunt Moss said, “I think I’ll sit here and pretend I’m asleep. Then she’ll have to leave without me.”

She leant back and shut her eyes.

Aunt Lillibet came out with her going-out hat on. “Come along, Moss,” she said, “it’s time to go.”

Aunt Moss lay still, with her eyes closed.

“Wake up, Moss,” said Aunt Lillibet. “We don’t want to be late.”

Aunt Moss gave a little pretend snore.

“Moss!” said Aunt Lillibet loudly. She gave her a little prod. “Wake up!”

Aunt Moss snored louder.

Aunt Lillibet shook her by the shoulder and said, “Moss! Wake up!” loudly.

Aunt Moss squeezed her eyes very tight and snored hard.

Aunt Lillibet put her lips right up to Aunt Moss’s ear and shouted, “Wake up!”

Aunt Moss jumped and her eyes opened wide. “There’s no need to shout, Lillibet,” she said.

“Hurry up, we’re going to be late,” Aunt Lillibet said.

Benson stepped up. He said, “Aunt Lillibet, Aunt Moss doesn’t really want to go to the concert.”

“Why not?” Aunt Lillibet said. “Are you too tired, Moss?”

Aunt Moss said in a small voice, “I’m sorry, Lillibet. I just don’t like the music.”

“Why didn’t you say something?” Aunt Lillibet said. “I could have asked Elton or Shelley instead. You’re such a silly, Moss. I must go or I’ll be late.”

Aunt Lillibet hurried off.

Benson went into the kitchen and came back with a big spoon.

“What are you doing, Benson?” Aunt Moss asked.

Benson said, “I’m going to get the biggest pumpkin I can find and scoop all the insides out and make a big drum or a honk-a-phone – whoonk, bam, bam! Boom, boom, moooo!”

Aunt Moss said weakly, “I think I’ll lie down and take a nap.”

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