The Label-Maker

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a warm, tidy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One morning Aunt Lillibet came in, quite excited. “Look what I found!” she said. “It was by the side of the road with a sign that said ‘FREE’. It’s a label-maker.”

“What’s a label-maker?” Benson asked.

“It makes labels, obviously,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Like this.”

She typed ‘B-a-t-h-r-o-o-m’ into the label-maker. It went tchk-tchk-tchk and a little label spat out the front, that said, “Bathroom.” She stuck it on the bathroom door.

Benson’s mother said, “That’s a good idea. If any visitors come, they’ll know where the bathroom is.”

Aunt Lillibet typed into the label-maker again and tchk-tchk-tchk, out came another label. This time it said, ‘Benson’s Room’. She stuck it on Benson’s door. “Isn’t it great?” she said.

She printed out another label, tchk-tchk-tchk. It said, ‘Library’. She stuck it on the wall.

“We don’t have a library, Lillibet,” Benson’s mother said.

“We do now,” Lillibet said.

“Ooh, a library of our own,” Benson said. He tried to go into the library, but there was no door and no handle.

“It’s not a library,” said his mother, “it’s just a sign.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “No, this is just a sign.” She printed out a sign that said, “This is a sign,” and stuck it on the ‘Library’ sign.

Aunt Lillibet printed out another sign, tchk-tchk-tchk, and stuck it on the door to her room. It said, ‘Lillibet’s Room. Do Not Enter. Beware the Hippopotamus.’

Benson’s eyes got bigger. “Can I see the hippopotamus?” he said.

“No,” said Aunt Lillibet. She printed out another label that said ‘Angry’ and stuck it between ‘the’ and ‘Hippopotamus’.

“Maybe not, then,” Benson said.

Benson went outside to find his friend Roly. He was sitting by the big ant-hill with a label that said ‘Roly’ stuck over his nose.

Benson peeled it off carefully.

“Thanks,” said Roly, now that he could breathe.

“This isn’t good,” Benson said.

“No,” said Roly. “She tried to label the ants, but they were too quick for her, so she labelled the ant-hill instead.” He showed Benson a label on the ant-hill that said, ‘May contain nuts, dairy and ants. Serving size: one ant.’

Benson went back inside to talk to his mother. She was looking at her hands. There was a label on one that said ‘Left’ and one on the other hand that said ‘Right’. She said, “Lillibet put the label that says ‘Right’ on the hand on her right, so it’s not right at all. Unless maybe I fold my arms.”

“Or you look in the mirror,” Benson said. He picked up an apple out of the fruit bowl that had a label on it saying ‘Fruit bowl. This way up.’ He bit into the apple and stopped. “There’s a label on my apple,” he said.

“I know,” said his mother. “Look at the bananas.” Every banana had a label on it saying ‘Banana. Open this end.’

Aunt Lillibet came out of her room and said, “Benson, could you give me a hand please?” She was trying to stick a label to her face that said, ‘Care instructions: warm water only. Do not tumble dry. Do not iron.’

Just then Aunt Moss came home from visiting her friend, Shelley. “Look what Shelley made for me!” she said. “Beautiful recycled earrings and a bracelet!”

She was wearing silver dangly earrings and a pretty blue bracelet. When Benson looked closer, he could see that the earrings were made of old teaspoons, and the bracelet was made of bottle caps strung together.

“No, Moss!” said Aunt Lillibet. “Those are spoons, not earrings.” She took Aunt Moss’s earrings and put labels on them: ‘a spoon’, ‘another spoon’.

Then she looked at the bracelet. “This isn’t a bracelet,” she said, “it’s only a pile of old bottle caps. See?” she said. She took the bracelet and labelled all the bottle caps one at a time: ‘Please recycle thoughtfully’. Then she put the earrings and the bracelet into the recycling bin.

Aunt Moss looked disappointed. Then she smiled. She took Aunt Lillibet’s label-maker and made a label that said, ‘Bracelet’ and stuck it around her wrist. Then she made two labels that said, ‘Earring’ and stuck one on each ear. “Is this better?” she said.

“No, Moss!” Aunt Lillibet said. “You can’t… they’re just… oh, I give up!” she said, throwing her hands in the air.

Benson’s mother took the label-maker from her gently, and printed out one more label that said, ‘Free’. She stuck it on the label-maker and she and Benson took it outside and left it by the side of the road.

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