Benson at the Lake

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.

Benson and his mother went to visit an old friend who lived a long way away, near a big lake. They went in a train, but that’s a story for another day. The friend’s name was Freda-Louise but Benson’s mother always called her Dellie.

Dellie lived in a very small wombat hole all by herself. There wasn’t really room for anyone else to stay, but Benson’s mother found an old wombat hole nearby nearby that no-one was using, and she and Benson tidied it up a bit so they could stay there.

It rained and rained the whole time they were there. Benson’s mother and Dellie talked for three whole days without stopping but Benson had nothing to do. He couldn’t go outside, there were no books, no pencils, no games, nothing to do but sleep or count the worm holes in the ceiling or dig, so Benson dug out a new kitchen and two bedrooms and playroom with nothing in it. Then he dug a kind of maze that twisted around and came back to the kitchen, and then he dug himself an indoor slippery slide. Finally, on the day they were going home, it stopped raining.

Dellie said, “Would you like to go down to the lake this morning?”

Benson’s mother said that would be nice but they had to catch the train home straight after lunch.

They went down to the lake. Benson was amazed. The shining blue water stretched out as far away as he could see, until it touched the sky. He had never seen so much water in his life.

Benson said, “Can I touch it?”

Dellie said, “You can go for a swim in it if you like. It’s not deep at the edges.”

Benson walked into the water. It was clear and clean but the bottom was all long straggly weeds, and under the weeds was mud. His feet sank into the mud and oozed up between his toes, and the weeds wrapped around his legs and waved cold fingers along his tummy. “Uggh,” said Benson.

He backed slowly out of the water. The weeds clung to his legs, cold and slimy, and the mud stuck to his feet. “Ugghhh,” he said.

He looked at the shining blue stretch of the water and suddenly the most wonderful thing came sailing past. It was a young man standing on a floating board holding onto a big sail. The wind blew the sail and the board flew along the water.

“Right,” said Benson. He started to think straight away of how he could make one just like that.

Dellie said, “Aren’t you going for a swim, Benson?”

Benson said, “I need something to make a boat out of to float on the water.”

His mother said, “I saw some old junk on the side of the road as we were coming along. Why don’t you go and have a look?”

Benson went off to look. There was a big pile of stuff, old furniture and all sorts of things that the people in the house were throwing out. There was a big sign that said, “FREE”.

He found a big sheet of cardboard at the bottom of the pile and dragged it out, and carried it to the lake.

His mother said, “Benson, I don’t think…” but Benson wasn’t listening.

He laid the piece of cardboard on top of the water, and then he jumped right into the middle of it.

The cardboard folded up and sank straight to the bottom. Benson was wet, the cardboard was soggy and there was mud all over his bottom.

He pulled the soggy cardboard out of the water and dragged it back to the junk pile.

He hunted around for something stronger and less folding. He found an old cushion, just big enough for a wombat to stand on.

He carried it back to the lake and threw it out onto the water. It floated nicely.

His mother said, “Benson, I don’t think…” but Benson wasn’t listening.

He made a big jump, right on top of the cushion. For a moment he was standing on top of the cushion floating on the lake. Then the cushion tipped and Benson fell into the water and sank into the mud at the bottom.

Benson pulled the cushion out of the water and dragged it back to the pile of junk.

This time he found an old metal cooking pot. He figured it would be big enough to fit in a young wombat with his feet tucked in. He carried it back to the lake and put it in the water. It bobbed around on the surface nicely.

His mother said, “Benson, I don’t think…” but Benson wasn’t listening. He was too busy climbing into the pot, first his feet, and then his bottom, then the rest of him squashed in on top.

The pot, full of young wombat, sank slowly to the bottom of the lake. Water came in at the top of the pot and filled up all the space that wasn’t already full of wombat. Benson sat in the pot with just his head above the water.

“Help,” he said quietly. There wasn’t room to move his arms or his legs and he couldn’t get out.

His mother and Dellie waded into the water and dragged the pot and Benson out of the water. They tipped the pot over, and Benson and a whole lot of lake water fell out.

Dellie said, “I think you should stick to dry land, young man. You’re not a successful sailor.”

Benson’s mother said, “I think it’s time for lunch, and then we have to get the train home.”

They all went and had lunch together, and then Benson and his mother caught the train home. Benson was still a bit soggy, and there was mud between his toes that was going to take a good scrubbing to get out, but all the way home he dreamed of how he was going to sail on the lake one day.

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