Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a comfy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson and his mother were out shopping. They went past a big paperbark tree and Benson stopped. “What’s that noise?” he said.
His mother looked up into the tree. “Rainbow lorikeets,”she said. “Sounds like they’re having a meeting.”
Benson looked up. The tree was full of brightly coloured birds, green and yellow and orange with bright blue heads and red beaks. There were hundreds of them, all talking and arguing at the top of their voices. It was so loud, Benson had to put his hands over his ears.
“Why are they having a meeting?” he shouted to his mother over the noise of the birds.
His mother listened. “I think they’re talking about possums,” she said. She took Benson’s hand. “Come on,” she said, “they’re always having noisy meetings about something or other. It’s probably nothing.”
But it wasn’t nothing, it was something.
When they got home, Nils and Nella, Benson’s possum friends, were waiting for them. They were very upset.
“What’s wrong?” Benson’s mother asked.
“The lorikeets said we’re stealing their eggs!” Nils said.
“We’d never do that!” Nella said. “Yuck, who’d want to eat a slimy bird’s egg?”
Nils said, “They’re telling everyone we steal their eggs and drop them on the ground and break them.”
Benson said, “That’s really mean. Who would do a thing like that?”
“It wasn’t us!” Nella said.
“No, of course not,” Benson’s mother said. “I think we should go and have a talk with the lorikeets.”
They all set out together and went to the tree where the lorikeets were having their meeting. They were still shouting and yelling, except for one lorikeet who was sniffing sadly, and another one who was patting her on the shoulder and saying, “There, there.”
Benson’s mother raised her voice over the noise. “Could someone tell me what’s going on, please?” she said.
The lorikeets stopped talking and looked down. Then they started all shouting, “Possums! Possums! Get away! Nasty possums!”
Benson’s mother shouted, “Quietttt! If you please!” The lorikeets hushed and listened to her. “Now, would someone please tell me what’s going on?” she said.
One of the lorikeets spoke up. “Nasty possums have been stealing our eggs and eating them!”
“It wasn’t us!” Nils and Nella said together.
Benson’s mother said to the lorikeet, “How do you know it was possums that took the eggs?”
“We saw them! We saw them!” all the lorikeets shouted.
The first lorikeet nodded and said, “That’s right, we saw it. It climbed up the tree and ate our eggs. And now it’s eaten one of Thellie’s babies.”
Everyone looked at the lorikeet who was crying.
Thellie dried her eyes and said, “She was just tiny – she had only just hatched out. I flew off to get her something to eat, and when I came back there was a horrible possum in the tree and it ate my baby!” Thellie started crying again.
Her friend Mavis said, “There, there,” and patted her shoulder.
Benson’s mother said, “What did the possum look like?”
Mavis said, “Like them,” pointing at Nils and Nella. “It had fur and a long tail, and its nose was pink and it had shiny brown eyes.”
“Are you sure?” Benson’s mother said.
Mavis said, “Of course I’m sure! I saw its horrible spotted tail myself!”
“Spotted?” Benson’s mother said. “Did you say it had a spotted tail?”
“That’s right,” Mavis said. “It had brown fur all over, with white spots on its tail.”
“That’s not a possum,” Benson’s mother said. “There’s only one marsupial in the whole country that has a spotted tail, and that’s a quoll.”
“Quoll! Quoll! Oh no! Danger, danger!” shrieked all the lorikeets.
Benson’s mother nodded. “Danger for all of us,” she said. “Quolls don’t just eat eggs and baby birds, they eat frogs and even baby possums and echidnas!”
“Oh no!” gasped Benson. “We’ve got to do something!”
“Save us! Save us!” yelled all the lorikeets at once. Benson put his hands over his ears again. The noise was deafening.
“I’ve got an idea,” Benson’s mother said, “but it might be dangerous.”
“Tell us, tell us!” shouted the tree-full of lorikeets.
Benson’s mother explained her idea to them. They talked and argued among themselves for ages, and then Mavis said, “We’ll do it!”
“We’ll do it! We’ll do it!” shouted all the lorikeets.
Benson and Nils and Nella went down to the creek and collected lots and lots of small white pebbles, and gave them to the lorikeets. The lorikeets hid all their real eggs and put the white pebbles in their nests instead.
That night they waited silently by their nests, pretending to be asleep. As soon as it was dark, they all heard a scratching noise, like claws climbing up a tree. The quoll was coming!
Everyone stayed very still. The quoll went to the first nest and picked up what he thought was a small white egg, and bit into it. “Ow!” he said. “That hurt my tooth!”
He dropped it and went to the next nest. He bit another one, and another one. “Ow! Ow!” he said. “What’s wrong with these eggs?”
All together, the lorikeets shouted, “Go away! Go away! Bad quoll! Bad quoll!” They got the stones out of their nests and threw them at the quoll.
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” the quoll yelled. He scampered down out of the tree and ran away as fast as he could, and he never came back to that part of the country again.
Subscribe to Benson’s own podcast and hear stories from the beginning of the series read aloud by the author at https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/stories-of-benson-the-wombat-his-family-and-friends/id1573140393