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.

One day Benson’s cousin, Lance, came over. “I’m thinking of renovating one of my old burrows,” he said to Benson, “and I was wondering if you would like to give me hand.”

“Sure,” said Benson. He didn’t know exactly what renovating meant, but generally whatever cousin Lance was doing was interesting.

The old burrow was down by the river, a long way from Benson’s place, in country he had never been to before. It took them a while to find the old burrow, because bushes had grown over the entrance.

“Here it is,” said Lance, finally. The old burrow was dark and inside there were cave-ins in lots of places. “It’s a bit of a mess now,” said Lance, “but once we dig out a couple of new bedrooms and a new bathroom, and re-do the kitchen, it will be a lot better. Then if there’s time, I’d really like to put in a gym. “

“Where is everybody?” asked Benson. He was expecting a team of big, strong wombats with shovels and safety helmets and maybe even a small truck to take all the dirt away.

Lance laughed. “The two of us will get it done in no time,” he said.

They set to work digging and clearing out the old passages. “This is the way to the back door,” Lance said. He dug along an old tunnel and then he stopped suddenly. “Oww!” he said, rubbing his head. There was a great big chunk of concrete in the middle of the tunnel. “Who put this here?” he said. He tried digging under it, but that was no good, so he tried digging over it, but that didn’t work. “We can’t go through it,” he said. “We’ll have to go around it.”

He and Benson dug around the side of the chunk of concrete, and then they followed the tunnel up to the back door and out into the sunshine. Lance said, “I see what’s happened. That lump of concrete is to hold a fence post. Someone’s built a fence right through my tunnel.”

They both looked around. In front of them was a cleared yard, with a clothes-line and a water tank and a very large kennel.

“Uh-oh,” said Lance. “A kennel usually means…”

“Rarrrfff!” A big black-and-white dog sprang towards them, barking at the top of his voice.

“Look out, Benson!” Lance said. He pushed Benson back into the hole and scampered in after him. They heard a human voice shouting at the dog, and then they heard a loud thump and everything went dark.

“What was that?” Benson said.

Lance went closer to where the back door was supposed to be.

“Someone’s pushed a log into my doorway,” Lance said. They both pushed and shoved at it, but it was too heavy for them to shift.

“No problem, my emergency exit is over this way,” Lance said. He led Benson around through another tunnel and they climbed out into the yard again. Lance took a few careful steps and looked around.

There was a galloping rush and then, “Rarrff, rowffff, rufff, rufff!” The dog was right on top of them.

“Quick!” shouted Lance, “get back into the tunnel!” Benson scrambled back into the hole while Lance faced the dog who came charging up, barking loudly. Lance whapped the dog on the nose and then ran into the tunnel.

The dog put its head into the tunnel and barked and yelled, while Lance and Benson huddled inside with their hands over their ears. Lance turned around so his tough, thick rump was facing the dog.

They heard more human shouting, and then another thump.

Everything went quiet. Lance felt around where the emergency exit used to be. “They’ve blocked it up with another log,” he said.

“That’s not fair,” Benson said. “How are we supposed to get out?”

“Just a minute,” Lance said, “let’s think about this. A fence is usually there for a reason, right? Maybe this fence is to keep the dog IN.”

Benson thought. “We don’t really want to go back out into that yard, do we?”

“No, we don’t,” Lance said. “I don’t think this dog likes wombats much. And we don’t want the dog to get into my wombat hole, do we?”

They both thought about the dog squeezing its way into the wombat hole. Definitely a bad idea.

“We’ve got one small problem,” Lance said. “There’s a side door.”

“Why is that a problem?” said Benson.

“It comes out in the yard too, right near the dog’s kennel.”

“Oh,” said Benson. “What if the dog finds it?”

“Exactly,” said Lance. “We need to block it off, and then dig another one somewhere safer. But it’s a lot of work, filling in a hole, especially with a big, unfriendly dog right beside you.”

Benson smiled. “I’ve got an idea,” he said.

Lance smiled back. He said, “I think I’m thinking what you’re thinking. Let’s go.”

Lance led the way around through a lot more tunnels until they came to the side door. Benson said, “Can I do it?”

“Let’s do it together,” said Lance. They both went up to the doorway and popped their heads out. The dog was lying in its kennel, licking its sore nose. Benson and Lance went out just a little bit further, and started waggling their ears and pulling faces at the dog.

The dog leapt up, really mad. Benson and Lance scampered back into the hole and hid. The dog ran over, barking and yelling. Lance called out a rude word, and the dog got even angrier. They waited and then they heard the human voice again, and thump! a big heavy lump of wood crashed into the hole, blocking the doorway.

Lance brushed his hands. “Good, that’s done. Let’s go and see where we’ll make the new back door.”

They dug a new tunnel and made a new back door that came out close to the river, and they sat there in the sun and ate their lunch.

“This is a really peaceful place,” Benson said. “I can see why you would want to live here.”

“I’m not planning to live here,” Lance said. “When the bush fires come, a lot of the animals come down to the river to escape the flames, and a wombat hole is a safe place to wait until the fires are gone. That’s why I wanted to make it bigger.”

“Is that what the gym is for?” asked Benson.

“That’s right,” said Lance. “Sometimes families have to stay in here for days.”

Benson imagined being stuck inside the wombat hole while bush fires raged outside. “You know what would be good?” he said. “A big cupboard with extra food in it, and games for everyone to play.”

“Great idea,” Lance said. “I was thinking we could put in a bowling alley.”

“And a ping-pong table, and maybe a cricket pitch,” said Benson.

“We’d better get to work,” said Lance. And they dug and cleared and built for the rest of the day.

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