Baking Clay

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

Benson went over to his friend Mick’s place to play. Mick’s little sister, Bonnie Lou, wanted to play too, but Mick said she was too little. “Go and play with your stupid doll,” he said.

Bonnie Lou said, “She’s not stupid! She’s the most beautiful doll in the world.” Benson thought Bonnie Lou’s doll was pretty stupid too. It had blonde wavy hair and long plastic legs and a plastic head with a plastic smile.

Bonnie Lou said to her doll, “Come on, Valda, we don’t want to play with the stupid boys anyway.”

Mick thought it would be funny to tease Bonnie Lou. He grabbed the doll out of her hands and tossed it up into the air. “Whee!” he said. “Valda can fly!”

He threw the doll to Benson and Benson threw it back.

Bonnie Lou screamed, “Give her back!”

Mick held the doll up out of Bonnie Lou’s reach, then he threw her across to Benson. Benson went to catch it, but he missed. He made a grab and there was a loud crack. Valda’s head snapped off in Benson’s hand.

Bonnie Lou screamed and started to cry. Mick tried to jam the doll’s head back on again, but it was broken right off.

Benson felt terrible. Mick felt even worse. Bonnie Lou was screaming and crying, holding her doll with its head snapped off.

Mick’s mother came in. “Oh dear!” she said.

“It was an accident!” Mick said.

Bonnie Lou cried and cried. Valda was her favourite doll. Benson went home feeling very bad.

He told his mother what had happened.

“Poor Bonnie Lou!” she said. “She really loved that doll. I remember when you were just a little wombat and you had a toy reindeer called Ralph that you loved. You used to take it everywhere. You wouldn’t go to bed without it.”

Benson crept away down to the creek. He tried not to think about poor Bonnie Lou and her best friend with its head snapped off.

He sat down on the bank and thought. While he was thinking, his hands dug lumps of clay out of the side of the bank, and squished them into different shapes. Little by little the clay started to turn into a shape. It had four stumpy legs, a stumpy head, two little ears and a round soft nose.

He looked at what his hands had made. It was a little clay wombat.

It fitted just nicely into his hand. He carried it home and showed his mother.

“Oh, Benson, it’s beautiful! It’s so… wombatty,” she said. She held it in her hand and smiled. “You know, Aunt Moss’s friend Marigold could bake this for you in her kiln.”

Benson said, “Why would you want to bake a piece of clay? We’re not going to eat it.”

His mother said, “No, but the clay is a little bit like bread dough. If you don’t bake it, it dries out and gets all crumbly and breaks easily. If you put it in a kiln – that’s like an oven for clay – then it gets very strong and hard to break.”

They took the little clay wombat to Marigold’s place and she put it in her kiln. When it came out, it wasn’t soft and squishy any more. It was as hard and smooth as a stone.

“It’s beautiful,” said Marigold. “Would you make one for me?”

“And me too,” said Benson’s mother.

“If you like,” Benson said. He knew exactly what he was going to do with his little wombat. He went over to Mick’s house and gave it to Bonnie Lou.

“I’m sorry I broke your doll,” he said. “I made this for you.”

Benson wasn’t sure if she would like it. It didn’t have wavy blonde hair, or long plastic legs or a plastic smile. It was just a stumpy brown wombat with a soft round nose and two little ears.

Bonnie Lou held it in her hand. It fitted exactly.

Her mother said, “You should say thank you to Benson, Bonnie Lou. He made it himself out of clay from the creek. You can even see his thumbprint on its tummy, see?”

Bonnie Lou looked at the little wombat and smiled, and the smile spread over her whole body. “Thank you, Benson,” she said. She held the wombat tightly in her hand and said, “I’m going to call him ‘Benson’, after you.”

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