Zali’s Rock Garden

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

Aunt Moss got out her paints and sat down at the table ready to do some painting.

Benson said, “Can I do some painting too?”

Aunt Moss said that he could, and Benson said, “Do you want me to get some paper to paint on?”

“I’m not painting on paper today,” Aunt Moss said. “I’m going to paint these nice little rocks. Your friend Zali is making a rock garden, and I thought it would be nice to paint some special rocks for her, to make her garden look nice.”

Benson said, “Why would you paint rocks?”

Aunt Moss showed him some of the rocks she had. “See how this one is smooth and round? It reminds me of a wombat, so I’m going to paint it to look like a little wombat. And this one is square around the edges, so I’m going to paint it like a little car.”

“Okay,” Benson said. He sat down and started painting.

After a while Aunt Moss said, “What are you doing, dear?”

He said, “I’m painting this rock.” He had painted a rock brown and grey. It looked like a rock.

Aunt Moss said, “Oh. I think it’s more interesting if we paint the rocks to look like something else.” She showed him the rock she had painted to look like a wombat. It was brown all over, with a tiny black dot for an eye, and tiny black claws. “See?”

“Okay,” Benson said. He painted his rock green all over instead.

Aunt Moss said, “What are you painting this time?”

He said, “It’s a green rock.”

Aunt Moss sighed. She took Benson’s green rock and painted black lines back and forth across it. “Isn’t this more interesting?” she said.

“It looks like a turtle!” Benson said.

“That’s right,” Aunt Moss said.

Benson took another rock and painted it white all over.

“What is that, dear? A white rock?” Aunt Moss asked.

“It’s an egg,” Benson said.

Aunt Moss took the white rock and painted a face on it.

Benson said, “Why did you paint a face on my egg?”

She said, “I thought it would be more fun this way. Besides, what if an animal saw your rock and thought it was an egg and tried to eat it?”

Benson rubbed out the face, then he drew a zigzag line down the middle of the rock to look like a crack and painted a very small dinosaur popping out of the crack. “No-one would want to eat it now,” he said.

He took another rock and painted it red all over.

Aunt Moss said, “What if someone thinks that’s a ball and throws it at someone else?”

Benson said, “I haven’t finished yet.” He painted a sign on the red rock that said, ‘This is not a ball, it’s a rock.’

When the paint was dry, they took all the rocks over to Zali’s place.

“Oh, they’re lovely,” said Zali’s mother. “Benson, why don’t you take them outside and give them to Zali? She’s in her rock garden.”

Benson went to find Zali. She was sitting beside a pile of rocks, staring at something. “Hi, Zali,” he said.

“Shhhh!” Zali said, still staring.

Benson looked to see what she was staring at. There was something scaly under the rocks, that slithered a bit. “A snake!” he yelled. He grabbed Zali’s hand and tried to pull her away.

“Shhh!” Zali said, pulling her hand back. She pointed at the rocks.

Benson looked closer. The scaly thing lifted up its head and poked out a long blue tongue.

“Oh, it’s a blue-tongue!” he said, very relieved. He sat down next to Zali to watch.

The big, fat lizard scratched a bit under the rocks, and snapped up an insect.

Zali smiled. “Lizard,” she said. She poked her tongue out and in again.

Benson said, “Well, Uncle Lizard, I’ve brought you some things to play with.” He put the painted rocks on the ground in front of the lizard. “This one is a little car, and this is a tiny little wombat, and this is a kind of turtle and this is an egg but I wouldn’t eat it if I were you.”

Zali picked up the red rock and went to throw it. “NO, Zali!” Benson said. “It’s not a ball. See? It says right here.”

Then Zali tried to bite it. Benson said, “It’s not a tomato either.” He took the rock and rubbed it in the dirt to get the red paint off. “It’s just a rock,” he said.

Zali smiled and put it in the rock garden for the lizard. The lizard poked out his tongue to smell the rock, and then he went back to sleep. Zali picked up the tiny little wombat rock and gave it a kiss and put it in her pocket.

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