A Good Listener

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 and Aunt Moss had a friend called Shelley, who lived with her mother and looked after her. When Shelley’s mother got very old and died, Shelley was very sad.

Aunt Moss said, “Poor Shelley! I feel so sad for her! She loved her mother so much, she must miss her very much.”

Benson’s mother said, “Why don’t we ask Shelley to come over and have lunch with us? It might make her feel a bit better.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “That’s a very good idea. I’ll make a potato bake and some fennel cutlets – Shelley likes those. And some tomato and lentil soup, that will be nice and warming.”

“I can make a cake,” Benson’s mother said.

“No, I’ll do it,” Aunt Lillibet said. “I’ll make a pineapple upside-down cake – real comfort food.”

Benson said, “What’s comfort food?” Nearly all food made him feel comfortable, except chokoes, which were just disappointing.

His mother said, “Food that people find comforting. Some people have favourite foods that always make them feel good. Sometimes it’s food that reminds them of home.”

Benson started to think of all the foods that reminded him of home. He started to feel very hungry.

Aunt Lillibet put her apron on and started cooking. She chopped and she stirred and she fried and she boiled and she baked. The kitchen and the whole house smelled wonderful.

She set the table with the best table-cloth and put out the best plates and bowls, and polished the forks and spoons until they shone. She got Benson to pick some fresh carrots, and she made carrot and apple juice. She had everything ready when Shelley came.

Shelley was so sad her whole body looked sad. She didn’t smile when she came in, and when Aunt Moss hugged her and said she was sorry about her mother dying, Shelley started to cry so hard that Benson wanted to cry too.

Aunt Moss sat next to Shelley and they talked and talked about Shelley’s mum and how sad it was. Shelley cried some more, and Aunt Moss cried too and held her hand. Benson ate his lunch really fast and went outside to play so the grown-ups could cry as much as they wanted.

He dug a nice big hole and thought about how you would make a pineapple upside-down cake the right way up, and why you would put the pineapple in upside-down anyway. After a while he started to feel hungry again and he went inside to see if there was any more cake.

Shelley and Aunt Moss were still talking. Aunt Lillibet was in the kitchen washing up piles of dishes. “Benson, you can come and give me a hand,” she said. “I’ve done all the cooking, and now I’ve got to do all the washing up too,” she grumbled.

Benson said, “I thought you liked cooking!”

“That’s not the point,” Aunt Lillibet said, banging the pots in the sink. “After all that, Shelley hardly ate a thing.”

“Don’t worry, Aunt Lillibet,” said Benson, “I ate heaps and heaps.”

Benson’s mother came out to see if Aunt Lillibet needed any help.

“Why are they still talking?” Benson asked.

His mother said, “When someone is sad, it helps to be able to talk about it. Aunt Moss is a good listener.”

Shelley and Aunt Moss came out when all the dishes were done and everything was put away. Shelley said, “Thank you for asking me to come. I really feel much better. Moss is so kind.”

Benson’s mother gave her a hug. “I’m glad,” she said.

When Shelley was gone, Aunt Moss said, “Lillibet, I’m so sorry I left you to do all the dishes. You had to do all the cooking, and then the dishes too. I was no help at all.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Don’t worry about it, Moss.” She gave her a kiss on the head. “You’re a darling.”

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