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 and his friend Roly both belonged to the Library Lovers’ Club. One Thursday when they went to the library, all the Library Lovers were busy cutting and gluing and colouring and drawing. Miss Evangelina, the library lady, said, “Everyone’s making posters for Diversity Day. The very best poster will go right here beside the front door, where everyone can see it.”
Roly asked her, “What’s Diversity Day?”
Miss Evangelina said, “It’s a day when we remember that it’s good to be different, like all sorts of different plants in one garden. Some of us are tall trees, some of us are pretty flowers, some of us are prickly cactuses, some of us are climbing vines. We’re all different and that’s what makes the garden beautiful, and fun to be in.”
Benson wondered what sort of plant he was. A watermelon? Roly was more cactusey. Miss Evangelina was definitely a willow tree, all droopy and drapey.
She gave them a big piece of cardboard to make their poster. They took it over to an empty table and Benson started drawing as many different animals as he could think of. He drew a dinosaur and a water dragon and a gibbon and a walrus and four mice holding hands, and a flying possum and a sneaky Arctic fox. Roly helped with the colouring, and putting expressions on the animals’ faces. After a while he nudged Benson.
“See those girls over there?” he said. “They’re covering their poster with glitter glue and sparkles.”
Benson looked over at the girls. “That’s Arnette and her sister. She doesn’t like me.”
“Why doesn’t she like you?” Roly asked. He thought Benson was wonderful.
Benson shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. He kept on drawing.
Roly kept watching the girls. “They’ve got piles and piles of stickers and stuff. Maybe they would let us use some?”
Benson said, “Maybe.” They went over to the girls’ table.
As soon as they got near, the girls covered all their stuff with their hands. Arnette said to her sister, “Watch out, Twiss, boys steal things all the time!”
Benson said, “We’re not going to steal anything! We just thought you might want to share some of the stuff you’re not using.”
Arnette said, “We don’t share with stealers! Go away!”
Benson said, “You’re just being mean. I don’t steal things.”
Arnette said, “Oh yes, you do! You stole my orange scrunchie!”
“What?” said Benson. “I did not!”
“Yes, you did!” Arnette said. “In the playground one day. I was in the sandpit and you came up and stole my scrunchie.”
Roly said, “Benson would never do a thing like that!”
Arnette said, “He did! You ask my sister.”
Twiss said, “Yeah! I saw you! My mother says not to play with you because you take things.”
Benson said angrily, “Come on, Roly, they’re just making it up. We’ll come back and finish our poster tomorrow.”
When he got home, Benson went to his room and thought about what Arnette had said. He knew that taking other people’s things was wrong. He would never do anything so mean and horrible.
His eyes wandered over his shelves, especially the top shelf where all his old toys sat. In the middle was his furry lion that he used to love when he was a baby. The furry lion had a big orange mane. The more he looked at it, the more he felt something stir in the back of his mind.
He climbed up and got the lion and looked at its mane.
It wasn’t a mane, it was an orange scrunchie.
He felt hot and cold all over. He really had stolen Arnette’s scrunchie. How could he have forgotten all about it?
Right then his mother knocked on the door and came into his room. Quick as a flash, Benson hid the lion behind his back.
“I’m not doing anything,” he said.
His mother looked at him. His face was all red and he was hiding something behind his back.
She sat down on the bed. “Benson,” she said, “I think there’s something you want to tell me.”
Benson felt completely awful. What would his mother say if she knew what he had done? But if he lied to her, it would be even worse. He didn’t know what to do.
His mother looked at him and waited.
Slowly he brought his hand out from behind his back. “It’s Arnette’s scrunchie,” he whispered. “I…took it.”
His mother took the scrunchie and looked at it. “I remember this,” she said. “You were just little, and there was a little girl at the playground with an orange scrunchie and you kept wanting to grab it. I didn’t know you had taken it.”
“I think I grabbed it when you weren’t looking and I hid it until we got home,” Benson said. “I didn’t remember until I saw it just a minute ago.”
His mother said, “You were very little. You probably didn’t realise what you were doing.”
Benson swallowed. “What should I do?” he said.
“Well, first you should give it back and then you should say sorry,” his mother said.
Benson felt sick. Everyone would know what he had done. Roly would know, and Mick and all his friends. Arnette would tell everyone and no-one would want to be his friend any more.
“Can’t I just… forget about it again?” he said.
“You can’t forget now that you’ve remembered,” his mother said. “It would be the same as telling a lie.”
Benson looked at the scrunchie and he tried to tell himself he didn’t really steal it, but there it was.
He took a big breath. “Can you come with me?” he said.
“Of course,” his mother said.
The next day he and Roly went to the library again, and his mother came too, holding his hand. He made himself go up to the table where Arnette and Twiss were. He held out the scrunchie. “Here,” he said. “I took your scrunchie. I’m sorry.”
Arnette looked at the scrunchie and she looked at Benson. “It’s not as nice as I remember,” she said. “You can have it if you want.”
Benson said, “I don’t want it. I don’t even remember why I took it.”
Twiss said, “I’ll have it!”
Arnette said, “I’ve got a better idea.” She looked over at Benson and Roly’s poster. “You’re pretty good at drawing. Why don’t we all make a poster together?”
The four of them sat down together and drew and coloured and pasted and glued, and they made the best poster by far, covered with animals of all shapes and sizes with glitter and sparkly stickers everywhere. And right at the top in the middle was a bright orange sun made out of a scrunchie.