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

It was a beautiful day to be outside and Benson’s mother invited all the other mothers over to have a cup of tea and they brought all their children to play.

Mick’s mother Delia brought pumpkin cake with wattle sprinkles, and Teresa, who was Zip and Zali’s mother, brought date and oatmeal cookies. Philip’s grandmother brought a bag of mandarins for everyone to share, and Benson’s mother made sassafras tea and carrot sticks, and watermelon smoothies for the children. They all sat on a big picnic blanket under the red gum tree.

Benson and Mick and Philip played chasings, and Mick’s little sister, Bonnie Lou, played tea parties with Zali and little Zip, who was only just big enough to be out of her mother’s pouch.

Then they played hide-and-seek, and Bonnie Lou helped Zip hide. Benson counted up to a hundred while everyone hid, and then he yelled, “Coming, ready or not!” and started looking.

Philip was the easiest to find because he had found a red-triangle slug and he was so busy watching it he forgot he was supposed to be hiding. Benson tipped him and raced back to the red gum. “Philip, you’re in!” he called.

Philip counted as high as he could, which was about forty-one, then he called “Coming, ready or not!” and started looking. Benson and Mick were hiding together behind the big lavender bush, and as soon as they saw Philip go over to the compost heap, they ran home to the big gum tree. Philip kept looking but he couldn’t find anyone. Zali was hiding behind her mother, and Bonnie Lou and Zip were hiding in the washing basket. Then Zip started to go, “huh-huh” calling for her mother, so Philip found them straight away.

Then Zip was in, but Bonnie Lou had to help her because she was too little to count. Bonnie Lou counted up to ten twice because that was as far as she could count. Then she said, “Come on, Zip, say ‘Coming ready or not!’”

Zip said, “Huh-huh,”and they started looking.

The boys were all hiding together on top of each other in a hole Benson had dug extra fast while Bonnie Lou was counting. Zali was still hiding behind her mother, sneaking cookies when no-one was looking. Bonnie Lou held little Zip’s hand and they looked for ages and didn’t find anyone. Bonnie Lou found an old bird’s nest and Zip found a stick.

After a while Benson got tired of being squashed under Philip and Mick so they all crept out and watched Bonnie Lou and Zip looking for them. Then Benson noticed something moving in the grass right where Bonnie Lou and Zip were searching.

“Snake!” he shouted at the top of his voice. There was a brown snake wriggling in the grass right beside Zip.

The mothers all jumped up. Bonnie Lou’s mother, Delia, shouted,“Don’t move!” but Zip was too little to understand. She kept poking the ground with her stick, right beside the snake. Bonnie Lou tried to pull her away but Zip saw the snake and wanted to poke it with her stick. The snake hissed and slithered closer.

Benson’s mother clapped her hands and shouted, “Now we’re going to play Statues! Everybody freeze!”

Benson and the boys stood as still as they possibly could. Bonnie Lou said, “We have to be statues, Zip! Like this!” She stood as still as a statue and didn’t move a muscle. Little Zip saw what Bonnie Lou was doing, and she thought this was a good game, so she stood still too.

The snake, who was in a very bad mood and didn’t like having a stick poked at him, hissed fiercely. Bonnie Lou held her breath and stayed absolutely still, holding Zip’s hand. The snake waited in the grass, and then he decided that no-one wanted to hurt him after all, and he slid away into the bush.

As soon as the snake was gone, Benson’s mother yelled, “Go!” and all the children ran back to the gum tree.

The mothers hugged all the children and asked them if they were all right about a hundred times, and hugged Bonnie Lou and told her that she was wonderful, and hugged little Zip until she got tired and snuggled back into her mother’s pouch and went to sleep. Benson’s mother made some more tea and they ate the rest of the cake and all the cookies that Zali hadn’t eaten, and after that the children played Snakes and Statues for the rest of the afternoon.

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