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.
Aunt Lillibet was sitting at the table knitting beanies for homeless possums when Aunt Moss came out of her room. Aunt Lillibet dropped her knitting and thirty-seven stitches fell off the needles.
“Moss!” she shouted. “What have you done to your hair?”
Aunt Moss’s hair was a kind of greeny-pink around the ears, and on top of her head it was gone!
She said, “I just shaved it a little because…”
“It’s ridiculous!” said Aunt Lillibet. “I’ve never seen anything so ridiculous in my life.”
Aunt Moss said, “I’m sorry, Lillibet. Everyone is shaving their hair…”
“Just because everyone else is doing it,” Lillibet interrupted, “there’s no need for you to do it too. You’ve done a lot of silly things in your life, Moss, but this is ridiculous! You look like a silly old wombat.”
Aunt Moss started to cry. “I’m sorry, Lillibet,” she said between sobs.
Benson’s mother heard her crying and hurried out. “Moss, what’s the matter?” she said. “What did you say to her, Lillibet?”
Aunt Lillibet said, “Only that she’s the silliest wombat on the planet. And you’re not much better! What’s gotten into everyone?” Benson’s mother had long pink zigzags shaved into her tummy.
Benson came out, wondering what all the noise was about. “Didn’t you hear?” he said to Aunt Lillibet. “We’re all shaving or dyeing our hair for Tucker, only I can’t decide.”
“For Tucker?” said Aunt Lillibet. “What do you mean, for Tucker?”
Benson explained. “Tucker is sick and his hair is falling out but he doesn’t like taking his medicine, so everyone decided they’d shave their hair, to try and make him feel better about it.”
Aunt Lillibet went red, and shut her mouth with a snap. She got up and went to her room.
Benson and his mother and Aunt Moss looked at each other.
Aunt Moss said, “It’s my fault. I should have known it would upset Lillibet to see me like this.”
Benson’s mother said, “She has no reason to be upset and she certainly has no reason to say things like that to you.”
Aunt Moss shook her head. “She does. Her mother – our mother – had the same thing as Tucker, with terrible itching and her hair falling out, but there was no medicine in those days and she died of it. It still makes Lillibet upset to remember it.”
“Oh,” said Benson’s mother. She was thinking of how Aunt Lillibet must be feeling, upset and embarrassed, and sad and angry, all at the same time.
Then they heard Aunt Lillibet calling from her room. “Benson,” she said, “could you come in here a minute, please?”
Benson went along to her room. “I need your help,” she said to him.
They were in her room for a long time. Aunt Moss and Benson’s mother waited and waited. “I should go and see if she’s all right,” Aunt Moss said.
“Maybe she needs some time by herself,” Benson’s mother said.
Then Aunt Lillibet and Benson both came out together. Benson had the sides of his body shaved in wavy swirls, and a long ridge down the middle of his back. Lillibet had a great big smiley face shaved on her back. They were both smiling.
Aunt Lillibet said, “I’m sorry I said those things to you, Moss. Will you forgive me?”
“Of course I forgive you,” said Aunt Moss. “You look amazing. I wish I’d thought of that.”
They all went together to visit Tucker. Benson’s mother said quietly to Aunt Lillibet, “Maybe you could knit a beanie for Moss. Her head might get very cold like that.”
“I’d love to,” said Aunt Lillibet.