Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a warm, safe wombat hole with this mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson’s friend Mick came over to play, and his sister, Bonnie Lou, came too. It was hot, so Benson asked his mother if he and Mick and Bonnie Lou could go down to the creek.
His mother said, “Yes, but be careful. There are a lot of snakes around just now. I’ve heard there’s a big brown snake along the main track to the creek, so don’t go that way. Take the long way around, along the old bush track.”
Benson said he would remember. He got his hat and his water bottle and he and Mick and Bonnie Lou set off. His mother called after them, “Remember what I said – don’t go down the main track. Use the bush track!”
Benson called back, “I will!” and off they went.
After a while they came to the crossroads, where the main track went straight ahead and the old bush track crossed over it. Then the trouble started.
Bonnie Lou was hot and she’d drunk all her water. “I want to go this way, ” she said. “It will be faster.”
Benson said, “We can’t go that way. There’s supposed to be a snake down that way.”
Bonnie Lou said, “If there is a snake, it’s probably asleep in the shade by now. Anyway, if we see it, we can run past it.”
Mick said, “Snakes can go faster than you can. It’d catch you and bite you and you’d be dead in two seconds. We’re not going that way. “
Bonnie Lou said, “I don’t have to do what you say. You’re not the boss of me. “
Mick said, “I’m the oldest and you have to do what I say!”
Bonnie Lou stuck out her chin and said, “I’m going and you can’t stop me!” and she went off down the main track.
Benson shouted, “Come back, Bonnie Lou! Don’t be stupid!”
Mick shouted too, but Bonnie Lou kept going round the corner out of sight.
Mick said to Benson, “We have to go and get her.”
Benson said, “No, we can’t! Maybe she’ll come back when she sees we’re not following her.”
Mick said, “But what if the snake gets her?”
Benson didn’t know what to do. His mother had said not to go down there, but then what if something happened to Bonnie Lou?
Exactly at that moment, Bonnie Lou started screaming.
Mick didn’t stop to argue. He set off running as fast as he could towards Bonnie Lou’s voice.
Benson didn’t know what to do. His feet wanted to run after Mick and help Bonnie Lou but his body kept pulling him back.
Then he heard Mick shouting for help.
Benson didn’t wait any longer. He turned around and ran home as fast as he could. He came running in the door, panting so hard he couldn’t get any words out.
“What’s happened?” his mother said sharply.
“The snake’s getting Bonnie Lou!” he panted. “Bonnie Lou screamed and Mick went after her. I tried to stop them but I couldn’t.”
His mother grabbed the compression bandage out of the first aid box and then she ran. Benson ran too, but she was much faster than he was, especially since he was already tired. When she got to the crossroads she kept going straight ahead, and Benson ran after her. When he ran round the corner, he found his mother holding Bonnie Lou up off the ground, and Mick hiding behind her. In front of them was the biggest snake Benson had ever seen.
It was dark brown all down its back and its front part was lifted off the ground, waving at them. Its mouth was open and you could see its fangs.
Bonnie Lou was sobbing and crying, and even Mick was crying a bit.
“Benson,” his mother said very quietly, “stay where you are. Don’t come any closer.”
“Bonnie Lou, hush,” she said. “We need to be very still and be as quiet as we can.”
Bonnie Lou was still sobbing and hiccuping. Benson’s mother started to hum very quietly and gently. Bonnie Lou stopped crying, and so did Mick. Benson stayed as still as a rock.
The snake swayed a little from side to side, but everyone stayed very still and quiet, and it gradually sank its body back down onto the ground. After another minute it slithered away into the bush.
Benson’s mother waited until she was sure it was gone, and then she scooped Mick up in her other arm and hurried them all back to the crossroads as fast as they could go. Then she put them down.
Mick said in a very angry, frightened voice, “It was all her fault. I told her not to go down there!”
Bonnie Lou started to cry again, and Benson’s mother said, “That’s enough, Mick. Everyone’s all right, that’s the main thing. I think I’d better take you both home.” Benson walked home by himself, while she took Bonnie Lou and Mick back to their place.
When she got back, Benson was curled up in a corner of the lounge. “I didn’t know what do to,” he said. “I was so frightened.” And he started to cry.
His mother gathered him up into her arms. “It was really scary, but we’re all safe now. You made a very good decision. If you had gone after Mick, the three of you would have been in danger.”
“Mick was shouting for me to help him,” Benson said.
His mother said, “You did the best thing you could do: you ran and got help.”
“What if the snake had bitten Mick and I wasn’t there to help him?” Benson said.
“What could you have done to help him?” his mother asked.
He stopped crying and shivered a bit. “I did get help, didn’t I?” he said.
“You did what I told you to do,” she said, “and that was exactly right.”