(or The Third Drawer )

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.

It was a cold, rainy day and Benson was drawing an octopus. His green pencil needed sharpening, so he went to ask Aunt Lillibet if he could borrow her pencil sharpener. She was in her room, pushing something into a drawer that was already overflowing. When Benson came in, she jumped, and shoved the drawer closed and stood in front of it.

“What are you doing?” Benson said. “What’s in that drawer?”

“Nothing,” said Aunt Lillibet. “What drawer?”

“The one that won’t shut properly because it’s too full of something,” Benson said. He pointed. “That one.”

“Oh, that one,” Aunt Lillibet said airily. “It’s just full of odds and ends. Junk, mainly. Nothing really.”

“Can I see?” asked Benson.

“No!” said Aunt Lillibet.

There was the tip of a brown stripy sock hanging out of the drawer where it wouldn’t shut properly. “It’s socks, isn’t it?” said Benson. “Have you got a drawer full of dirty socks?”

“Certainly not!” said Aunt Lillibet, outraged. Then she said, “They’re socks that aren’t socks. Socks I knitted that aren’t quite right. Socks with mistakes, if you must know!”

Benson said, “Everyone makes mistakes. Aunt Moss says that mistakes are just finding out what to do next time you try.”

“She would,” said Aunt Lillibet.

Benson reached around Aunt Lillibet and pulled on the drawer handle. The drawer sprang open and socks of all colours and shapes and sizes sprang out and scattered themselves all over the floor.

Aunt Lillibet looked embarrassed. “I made them all a long time ago when I was trying to learn how to make socks but it was too hard. I could never get them perfect. It was hopeless, so I gave up.”

“You gave up?!” Benson said. “If you made this many mistakes, you must have been just about to get it right!”

He picked up a pair of black socks with red dragon teeth on them. “These are great!” he said.

“I made a mistake in the pattern, here.” Aunt Lillibet pointed to a spot where two teeth were too close together.

“That doesn’t matter,” said Benson. “You can hardly see it.” He pulled the socks on his feet. They were lovely and warm. He started thinking Viking thoughts straight away.

There was another pair that were yellow with brown fuzzy stripes on them. “These ones look like honeybees. You should give them to your friend, Shelley,” he said.

“One of the stripes is too fat, and some of the others are too skinny,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“But they look more like real bees like that,” Benson said.

Benson pulled out more and more odd socks, some pairs with one longer than the other, some with one shorter than the other, and three socks knitted in all different rainbow stripes. “These are really good,” he said.

“They don’t match, and besides, who has three feet?” Aunt Lillibet said.

“They would be perfect for Uncle Elmer,” Benson said. “He’s always losing one sock.”

He found a long pink sock with no toe. “This one isn’t really a sock, is it?” he said.

“I ran out of wool before I got to the end,” Lillibet said. “I was going to throw it away.”

“You know what it looks like?” Benson said. “A tail-warmer for a brush-tailed possum. I bet Nella would love it.”

Benson pulled out a pair of bright purple socks.

Aunt Lillibet grabbed them and hid them behind her back. “Don’t look!” she said, embarrassed. “They’re a complete failure. I made them before I knew how to make heels.”

“They can’t be that bad,” Benson said.

Aunt Lillibet brought them out from behind her back and they both looked at them.

“You’re right,” Benson said. “They’re terrible.” They had big lumpy bits on the front, and big holes in the back, and one had a great big wart at the bottom.

Aunt Lillibet looked at them sadly, and then Benson saw a little spark spring up in her eyes. “You know,” she said, “if I joined these together along here, and glued on some feathers and a big red flower, it would make an adorable hat.”

Benson didn’t think so at all, but Aunt Lillibet was so pleased, he didn’t want to say anything to spoil it for her.

Aunt Lillibet took one last pair out of the drawer. They were soft and green and very very small. “These were my first try,” she said. “I counted the stitches all wrong, and they came out too small. They’re no good for anything.”

“They’d be perfect for someone with small feet,” Benson said. He thought for a minute.

“Roly!” they both said together.

The drawer was completely empty. “I’m glad all those socks are gone,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“Why?” said Benson. “Because they’re going to make lots of people happy?”

“No,” said Aunt Lillibet. She dragged a big heavy bag out from under the bed. “Now I’ve got a place to put all these terrible gloves I made!”

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