The Quandong Tree

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

One morning Benson was making himself a sandwich with macadamia butter and celery and lettuce. He took it outside to sit in the sunshine where his friend Roly was zotting ants with his speedy tongue. Nils and Nella, the twin possums, came racing up.

“The quandongs on the big tree are ripe,” they shouted. “We’re going up to get some. Do you want to come?”

The big quandong tree was very special. Every year everyone waited for the fruit to be ripe and then they went and ate as much as they possibly could, and carried home as much as they could possibly carry.

“Sure,” said Benson, “as soon as I finish my sandwich.”

Nils and Nella looked at the delicious sandwich. “Can we share your sandwich?” they asked.

Benson considered. “You can have half,” he said.

Quick as a flash, the sandwich was gone.

“Hey, where’s my sandwich gone?” Benson asked.

Nils and Nella looked everywhere. “I don’t know,” said Nils. “We only had half.”

“You both had half,” Roly said. “A sandwich only has two halves.”

“How do you know?” Nils said. “You think you’re smart, don’t you?”

Benson said firmly, “He is smart.”

He went inside and quietly made another sandwich, but this time he ate it in the kitchen. He asked his mother if he could go with Nils and Nella.

His mother thought that was a good idea. “If you bring some back, I’ll make quandong ice-cream.”

Everyone loved quandong ice-cream.

His mother gave him a big bag to put the quandongs in. Benson got his hat and his water-bottle, and they all set off.

There was so much fruit on the big quandong tree that the branches were weighed right down. Benson and Roly ate the ones that had fallen on the ground, and Nils and Nella roamed all over the tree, stuffing themselves with quandongs until they were so full they fell out of the tree.

Benson filled up the bag his mother had given him and they set off for home.

When they came to the creek, Nella said, “I’m too full to swim. Benson, can you carry me over?”

Nils said, “Me too! Can you carry me too?”

The creek wasn’t very deep so Benson could wade over easily, but he couldn’t carry two possums full of quandongs at the same time. He said, “I’ll carry Nella over first, and then I’ll come back for Nils.”

He put the bag of quandongs down and picked Nella up. Straight away, Nils opened the bag and started eating the quandongs.

“Hey!” Benson said. He dropped Nella and grabbed the bag away from Nils. “I’m taking these home to make ice-cream, remember?”

Nils said, “Sorry, I forgot.”

“I think I’d better take you first,” Benson said.

He picked Nils up and stepped into the creek. In a second, Nella opened the bag and started eating the quandongs.

“Hey!” Benson shouted. He dropped Nils and grabbed the bag away from Nella. “What are you doing?”

“Sorry,” Nella said. “I couldn’t help it.”

Benson said, “I think I’d better take the bag over first.”

He picked up the bag of quandongs and carried it safely across the creek and came back. “Okay,” he said, “now I’ll take Nella over.” He picked up Nella and then he stopped. If he left Nella on the other side of the creek with the quandongs while he came back to get Nils, he knew for an absolute fact that there wouldn’t be one quandong left by the time he carried Nils across. They would all be in Nella’s tummy. And if he took Nils across, it would be just as bad. The quandongs would end up in Nils’s tummy.

He looked at the possums and they looked at him. They looked across the creek at the bag of quandongs. Benson could see them getting hungrier.

He turned to Roly. “Do you have any ideas?” he said.

Roly said, “Can I whisper?”

Benson whispered, “Why do you want to whisper?”

Roly whispered, “I don’t want Nils to say that I think I’m smart again.”

“There’s no use pretending you’re not smart,” Benson said. “Everyone knows you’re really clever.” He said in a loud voice, “Roly’s got an idea.”

Roly went pink.

Nils said, “Roly always thinks he’s so smart,” but Benson looked very hard at him and he stopped and muttered, “Sorry, Roly.”

Roly said, “You should take Nils over first.”

“Yes!” said Nils.

“But he’ll eat all the quandongs,” Benson said. He didn’t think it was such a good idea.

Roly said, “Not if you bring the bag of quandongs back with you. Then you leave the bag here with me and you take Nella over, and then you come back and get the bag of quandongs.”

Benson thought it over. A smile spread over his face. “That’s a great idea!” he said. “How did you think of it?”

“Oh, I read it in a book somewhere,” Roly said.

“There’s only one thing,” Benson said. “How will you get over the creek?”

“Easy, I’ll just swim over,” Roly said, and he did.

Everyone got across the creek safely, including all the quandongs. There were enough to make heaps of quandong ice cream, and everyone had plenty. It was delicious.

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