Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a clean and tidy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Once a year all the wombats got together to have Wombat Picnic Day. There were games and races and competitions for everybody, with prizes, and watermelon and ice cream and baked turnips and jelly in five different colours.
This year Benson was going in the Fastest Young Digger race again. He’d been practising for weeks and he thought he was pretty good. Aunt Lillibet was entering the Traditional Lamingtons competition, which she always won, and Aunt Moss had a secret plan to win the Exotic Lamingtons prize.
Benson’s mother was too busy making jelly and making sure there were enough chocolate bars for prizes, to enter any competitions.
“I might go in the seven-legged race,” she said, “if there’s time. That’s always fun.”
“You should go in the Egg-on-the Nose race,” Benson said. “Your nose is the perfect shape.”
The picnic ground was a big, wide open space, flat in the middle for all the races, with lots of trees around the edges for the spectators to keep cool.
“I hope these jellies don’t melt before lunchtime,” Benson’s mother said.
“We could eat them now, if that would help,” Benson said hopefully.
“No, I’m sure they’ll be fine,” his mother said.
They went to watch the judging of the Traditional Lamingtons competition. Mr Fenn was the judge. Benson thought that must be the best job in the world. Mr Fenn looked at every lamington to make sure it was perfectly square and nicely covered in coconut, and the chocolate icing was not too runny. He tasted every one carefully, rolling it around in his mouth and looking up at the sky.
Uncle Elmer’s came last every year. The icing on his lamingtons had all run off into a puddle, and they were such odd shapes that Benson wondered if he had dropped them on the way to the picnic ground.
“Sorry, Lillibet,” Mr Fenn said. “Yours are perfectly square but they taste like cardboard. Did you forget to put the sugar in?”
Aunt Lillibet glared at Aunt Moss. “There wasn’t any sugar left!” she said.
“This year’s winner is… Genevieve!” Mr Fenn announced. Everyone clapped except Aunt Lillibet who muttered, “So much coconut they look like a polar bear in a snow storm.”
“And now the Exotic Lamingtons,” Mr Fenn said.
Aunt Moss held her breath and crossed her fingers.
“Highly Commended to Moss for her Peppermint Cream lamingtons!” Mr Fenn said. Aunt Moss looked very pleased. Aunt Lillibet muttered, “Green lamingtons, I ask you!”
“First prize goes to Babette, for her very unusual Mushroom and Prune lamingtons,” Mr Fenn announced. Everyone clapped.
Aunt Lillibet said to Babette, “Oh, are they lamingtons? I thought you were entering the Make-Your-Own-Meteorite competition.”
Benson’s mother took Aunt Lillibet away before Babette could squash her lamingtons all over Lillibet’s hat.
There were races for the mothers, which Zali’s mother Teresa won, and races for all the little ones. Bonnie Lou won a prize for Scariest Scarecrow although she really meant to enter Beginner Flower Arranging. Gordon won the prize for Roundest Wombat, and little Zip won Cutest Baby Wombat, but only because Alejandro’s baby brother Quentin bit the judge.
Then it was time for Fastest Young Digger. Benson was really excited. They were all good diggers, except Elmer who was hopeless and came last every year. Ralph usually got distracted by a worm or a slater he found. Arnette was a good digger, but Alejandro and Mick and Benson were the best. Mick was usually superfast, but this year he had eaten so many brussel sprouts in the Brussel Sprout Eating competition that he could hardly move.
Mr Fenn said, “Ready, set, go!” Benson started digging as fast as he could. The dirt was just right, not too wet and soggy and not too dry and hard. He ran into a root and quickly dug around it. He dug faster and faster, until his arms and legs hurt. Then Mr Fenn yelled, “Stop!” Benson stopped and dug upwards out of his tunnel. He looked around.
Mick was way behind, puffing. Alejandro had banged his arm on a rock and stopped a long way back. Arnette was just behind Benson. He had won! He was just about to give himself a big cheer when Mr Fenn announced in a loud voice, “And the winner is… Elmer!”
Elmer? Benson couldn’t believe his ears. He swung around. Elmer was metres ahead of him.
Benson was very disappointed, but he tried hard to smile and went up to shake Elmer’s hand. Then he noticed Elmer’s tunnel. It was starting to sink a little bit. Benson looked harder. The tunnel sank a bit more. Holes were starting to appear all along it.
Elmer had dug his tunnel through sand! No wonder he had been so fast. But all the wombats knew that if a tunnel collapsed, the digger was disqualified.
“Excuse me, everyone,” Benson said, but then he noticed Uncle Elton’s face. He looking at Elmer so proudly, there were tears in his eyes. Elmer had never won anything before, not even Jolliest Joey. Elmer was jumping up and down for joy.
Everyone turned to listen to Benson. Benson suddenly imagined how Elmer was going to feel when his tunnel was disqualified, and how Uncle Elton would feel. Benson would be the winner, and somehow that made it worse. Benson looked at everyone and said, “Um, good work, Elmer.” He shook Elmer’s hand.
Mr Fenn gave Elmer the prize, and Benson cheered just as loud as everyone else. He really didn’t mind not winning. He had dug a really good tunnel and he had loved digging it. Besides, there was always next year.
On the way home, his mother gave him an extra special hug, so special that he wondered if she knew what he had done, but she didn’t say anything so he didn’t either, just hugged her back.