Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a happy, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One morning just before lunch, Benson went for a walk down to the creek. His cousin Elmer was there, digging.
“Hi Elmer,” Benson said. “What are you doing here?”
Elmer said, “I’m digging a burrow.”
Benson looked at the hole Elmer was digging. It wasn’t very big, and it was right in the bank of the creek.
Benson said, “You know, if the water comes up, it could easily flood.”
Elmer kept on digging. “It’ll be fine,” he said. “It’s not going to rain, and even if it did, the water won’t come up very far.”
Benson watched him dig. Elmer really wasn’t a very good digger. The hole was too wide and not deep enough, and the dirt was going everywhere. After a while, Elmer stopped, panting.
“Are you just going to stand there and watch?” he asked Benson.
Benson said, “You should dig upwards for a bit, and then dig down deep. That way there’s a bit of a hill to keep the water out. And you should put your shoulders into it, not just scratch with your paws like that.”
Elmer said, “Well if you’re such a great digger, why don’t you do it?”
Benson said, “Sure, I’ll help if you like.” He thought it was the worst wombat hole he had ever seen, but he didn’t want to say so, in case it hurt Elmer’s feelings. He set to work and did some really good digging. The soil was soft and sandy, perfect for digging. In no time he had dug a nice, tidy hole just big enough for one smallish wombat.
“There,” he said, brushing off his paws. “What do you want a burrow for, anyway?”
Elmer said, “To live in. I’m moving out of home.”
Benson was amazed. Elmer was even younger that he was. “Why?” he asked.
Elmer had a look on his face that was partly angry, partly stubborn, and partly embarrassed. He said, “I had a fight with my dad, so I’ve decided to live somewhere else, by myself.”
Benson thought about it. It didn’t seem like a good idea to him. Why would you move out of a warm, safe, comfortable wombat hole with your dad to go and live in a small, damp hole in the side of a creek?
“What did you fight about?” he asked.
Elmer looked even more stubborn and angry. His face was red and he was frowning. “We were going to make some of my favourite bread, you know, with oats and blueberries, but my dad did something to the oven to see if he could get it to add the blueberries automatically, and now it won’t work properly so we couldn’t cook the bread.”
“So why didn’t you just have ordinary bread?” Benson asked. “Or a banana?”
Elmer lifted his chin up. “I wanted bread with oats and blueberries,” he said stubbornly.
“You had a fight about what kind of bread you wanted to eat?” Benson asked.
Elmer put his head down. He mumbled, “I yelled at him.” His face was very red.
“You yelled at your father?” Benson said. He was amazed. He knew Elmer loved his father, and his father loved Elmer more than anything in the world.
Elmer nodded. “I yelled at him and I told him the oven was stupid and HE was stupid. And I kicked the oven and the door fell off.”
Benson was shocked. “Then what did you do?”
Elmer said, “I told him I was leaving, and I left.” His voice wasn’t angry any more. It was kind of sad and sorry. Benson thought that now maybe he wished he hadn’t.
“Why don’t you go back and say you’re sorry?” he said.
“I’m not sorry!” Elmer said. “I’m going to live by myself and do whatever I want.”
Benson looked around. “What are you going to eat?”
“Grass,” Elmer said. “Maybe some roots, or some creek-slime.” He went inside his little wombat hole and curled up with his back to Benson. Benson figured he didn’t want to talk any more.
Benson went home and told his mother all about it.
“He might change his mind when he’s had a chance to think about it,” his mother said.
That night it rained and rained. In the morning, Benson’s mother said, “I’m worried about Elmer. His burrow doesn’t sound like a safe place. Why don’t you go down and see, and take him one of your toasted broccoli sandwiches?”
Benson went down to the creek. Elmer’s wombat hole was full of water and mud. Elmer was standing beside it, dripping and shivering. His fur was soaked and muddy, his ears were dripping, and water was running off his nose. Benson thought he had never seen anyone as wet and muddy as Elmer in his whole life.
Benson said, “Do you want me to help you dig another burrow?”
Elmer opened his mouth and wailed, “I want my Dad!” Big tears rolled down his face.
“Why don’t you just go back home?” Benson said, crunching thoughtfully on his broccoli sandwich.
Elmer said, “I can’t! I said terrible things, and I broke the oven!”
“Just say you’re sorry,” Benson said. “Even if he’s still mad, he might let you live in a dark corner somewhere near the back door. Anything’s better than this!”
Elmer wiped his nose and said, “Okay.”
They started off together. Water sprayed off Elmer with every step he took.
When they got close to Uncle Elton’s place, Benson could see Uncle Elton outside the burrow looking very sad. As soon as he saw Elmer, he ran towards him. He picked up Elmer in his arms and hugged and hugged him.
Elmer cried, and said in a snuffly voice, “I’m sorry, Dad, I didn’t mean it.”
His father said, “I know, son, of course you didn’t. I’ve missed you so much! I was so worried about you.”
They both hugged some more, then Uncle Elton said, “I fixed the oven, and I made your favourite bread, with oats and blueberries. How about we wash all this mud off you and put some warm, dry clothes on, and you can try it?”
Elmer was very, very happy. “Yes, please,” he said.
Uncle Elton said to Benson, “Benson, do you want to come and have some with us?”
Benson absolutely did, so they went inside together and ate until they couldn’t eat any more.
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