The Bath Plug

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.

Benson was playing with his friends, Nils and Nella, when they found something unusual. On the ground in the middle of a patch of dirt in the bush, was a bath plug.

“Come over here and look at this,” Nils called to the others.

“It looks like a bath plug,” Benson said. It looked exactly like an ordinary bath plug.

Nils went to pick it up, but Nella said, “Don’t!”

“Why not?” said Nils.

“Because you don’t know what it’s there for,” she said. “It could be covered with poison to trap foxes or orangutans.”

“I’m fairly sure foxes and orangutans don’t eat bath plugs,” Benson said.

“You never know,” said Nils.

Nella said suddenly, “I know what it’s for! It’s for a dust-bath!”

“Oh, a dust-bath,” Benson said. Then he remembered that he didn’t know what a dust-bath was. “Who takes a bath in dust?” he said. “Isn’t that the opposite of what a bath is for?”

Nils said, “Some animals like to roll around in the dust, like horses, and pigs, and chickens and stuff. It looks like they’re having a bath.”

They all looked at the dust-bath. Then Benson said, “But why does it have a plug?”

Nella said, “Because that’s what baths have, to keep what’s inside them inside.”

Nils said, “That can’t be right. The dirt isn’t going to disappear down the plughole.”

Benson imagined pulling out the plug and all the dirt pouring down a big hole in the ground, and then the grass and the bush sliding in too, and then all the trees, until there was nothing left but hard ground and a hole.

He said, “Maybe it was a real bath and someone pulled the plug out and all the water ran down the plug-hole.”

“Then why is the plug still in?” said Nella.

“Besides, if it was water, it would have turned the dirt into mud,” Nils said.

“Then we could have had a mud-bath,” Benson said. He imagined rolling in a pool of mud, throwing handfuls at Nils, and blowing mud bubbles. He imagined what his mother would say when he got home. “I think it’s just a plug that someone dropped when they were out for a walk,” he said.

“Why would you take a bath plug with you when you were going for a walk?” Nella said.

“In case you wanted to stop somewhere and have a bath,” Nils said.

Benson said, “Maybe someone like my uncle Elton was inventing something to pull the plug out of their bath, like a fishing rod that hooked onto the plug and flung it out, but the fishing rod was too bouncy and it flung the bath-plug way over here.”

Nils and Nella thought about it. “Why didn’t he just pull the plug out of the bath with his hand?” Nils said.

“Because he doesn’t like putting his hand in when the water is cold?” Benson suggested.

“Then why didn’t he pull it out while the water was still warm?” Nella said.

Benson couldn’t think of any reason. “I’m going to pick it up,” he said. The other two looked serious, as if they thought just about anything might happen.

Benson reached out and picked up the bath plug.

Three things happened at once.

A grasshopper that had been hiding under the plug jumped out.

A kookaburra that had been sitting on a branch waiting for the grasshopper to jump out swooped in, low and fast.

Benson caught the grasshopper in one hand, put it up to his mouth and swallowed.

The kookaburra landed on the dirt and looked at Benson with a mean yellow eye. Then it flew off, angry and disappointed.

That very moment, Benson’s friend Philip came running up, shouting, “Mirabelle! Mirabelle!”

He came up to them panting. “Have you seen Mirabelle?” he said. “She’s a grasshopper. I left her here under this bath plug…” He noticed the bath plug in Benson’s hand and he went very pale.

“What was she doing under a bath plug?” Nella asked.

“She was hiding so the kookaburra didn’t get her,” Philip said.

“But why was there a bath plug here, anyway?” Nils asked.

“I always take a bath plug with me,” Philip said, “in case there are kookaburras.”

Nella looked serious. “There’s something very sad we have to tell you,” she said to Philip.

Philip looked as if he was going to be really upset. “Did the kookaburra get her?” he asked.

“No,” said Nella. “Benson ate her.”

Philip went completely white. “Benson ate Mirabelle?” he said, horrified.

Benson said, “I didn’t eat her! I only pretended to, so the kookaburra would go away. She’s fine.” He unfolded his hand, and a small, green grasshopper peered out.

Philip took her very gently. “Don’t worry, Mirabelle, it’s all right now. The nasty old wombat isn’t going to eat you,” he said, stroking her head.

Benson said, “I wasn’t going to eat her!”

Philip didn’t look convinced. “Can I have my bath plug back?”

Benson gave him the plug and he put it in his pocket.

“What do you want the plug for?” Nils asked. “The kookaburra’s gone now.”

Philip said, “Sometimes Mirabelle likes to have a dust-bath under it. She likes a little privacy,” he explained.

“See? I told you so!” said Nella.

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