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.
It was a beautiful day and Benson was playing outside with his friend, Philip.
After a while he came in and said to his mother, “I need a piece of string.”
“Do you mean thread or twine or wool or yarn or wire or rope or just plain string?” his mother said.
“Oh, just ordinary string,” Benson said.
She got a ball of string out of the kitchen drawer. “How much do you need?” she said.
Benson thought. “About this long,” he said. He showed her with his hands.
His mother cut off a piece of string about that long and gave it to him and he went outside again.
“I wonder what he wants it for,” his mother said to Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss.
“It could be a hundred different things,” Aunt Lillibet said. “I bet I can think of three things you can do with a piece of string faster than you can.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Benson’s mother said.
Aunt Lillibet said, “I could use it to tie up my tomato bushes when they’re falling over, to tie up a parcel, or to tie between two posts to make a straight line when I’m planting my lettuces.”
“That was quick,” Benson’s mother said. “Let me see. You could knit a string bag – I’ve seen lots of shopping bags made out of string. You could use it to hold up your pants if you haven’t got a belt. And I could use it to re-thread the beads on Aunt Moss’s necklace which has broken again.”
“Oh dear, has it?” said Aunt Moss. She felt around her neck, and sure enough, her necklace had broken and fallen off. “You know, you can make some beautiful artwork with string. If you cover it with paint and lay it inside a fold of paper and pull it out quickly it makes some lovely patterns. Or you can make a holder for a hanging plant if you make lots of knots in patterns. Or you can weave a whole set of place-mats with different coloured strings.”
Benson’s mother said, “I don’t think Benson is making place mats, or planting lettuces.”
Just then Benson came in again, and said, “Do you have a button I can have?”
His mother fetched her button jar where she kept all her odd buttons. “With two holes or four?” she asked.
Benson thought. “Four would be good,” he said.
“What size?” asked his mother. “A big black one like this, or a little white one like this?”
Benson peered into the button jar and pointed. “That green one there,” he said. “That should be just about right.”
He took the button and went outside again.
“A piece of string and a button?” Aunt Lillibet said. “What could he possibly do with them?”
“Maybe he’s going to tie them to a stick and go fishing,” said Benson’s mother.
“What sort of fish do you think he would catch,” Aunt Lillibet said, “a leatherjacket?”
“Maybe they’re making themselves a bull-roarer,” Aunt Moss said.
At lunchtime Philip went home and Benson came inside and washed his hands. His mother said, “What did you need the piece of string for?”
Benson started eating his kale-and-apple sandwich. “Oh, Philip was worried that Kendall might be getting sunburned,” he said between bites.
“Do snails get sunburned?” asked his mother.
“Philip thinks so,” Benson said. “We tried making Kendall a hat out of a leaf tied on with string, but there was no room for his little horns, and he kept trying to nibble on the leaf.”
“So you thought of a button,” said his mother, “with four holes.”
Benson nodded. “Mmhmm,” he said, “two to tie the string through and two for his little horns to poke through.”
“And did Kendall like his hat?” his mother asked.
Benson finished his sandwich. “I think so. Green is his favourite colour, Philip says.”