Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a very comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One morning when Benson was having breakfast, his mother said, “I think we’ll go and visit Nanna today.”
Benson said, “Can I make something special for her?”
His mother said, “That would be lovely. Do you need some help?”
Benson said, “No, I don’t think so.” He set to work in the kitchen, chopping and mixing and stirring.
When his mother came in later and said it was time to go, he held up a big jar. “I’ve made mushroom marmalade!”
“Mushroom marmalade!” his mother said. “How did you make it?”
“I got some mushrooms and I mixed them up with some marmalade,” Benson said. “It’s going to be a surprise for Nanna.”
His mother said, “Hmm, it will definitely be a surprise.”
After the kitchen was clean again, they got their hats and their water-bottles and set off to see Nanna. It was a beautiful day, and they talked about all sorts of things as they walked along.
All of a sudden, Benson grabbed his mother’s arm. “A bear!” he said, hardly breathing.
“A what?” his mother said. “You mean a koala?”
“No,” Benson said, “a really truly breathing giant black bear! Over there!” He tried to point over to a spot in the bush and hide behind his mother at the same time.
His mother said. “Benson, I don’t think there are any bears in the bush. In fact, I’m sure there aren’t.”
“Look, just beside the big rock!” Benson said. “It’s a big black bear, and it looks hungry and mean. We should run home again, now, fast!”
His mother peeled Benson’s fingers off her arm and said, “Just wait here a minute.” She walked over to the big rock and looked closely. “It’s just an old burnt tree,” she said. She tapped the bear on the shoulder, plok, plok, plok. “See?”
Benson peeked out from behind his fingers. “Are you sure?” he said.
His mother said, “Yes, absolutely certain. Come and see for yourself.”
Benson went over slowly, ready to run if the tree turned out to be a bear after all. Up close, it was just a broken-down tree that had been all burnt on one side.
Benson said, “It might have been a bear, and then I would have saved us.”
“It might,” said his mother. “It all depends on how you look at it. Anyway, I’m glad it wasn’t.”
They kept going along the track, and Benson kept thinking of what he would have done if it had been a bear, and wondering how fast bears can run and whether they were afraid of wombats.
Nanna was very happy to see them. “The only thing is,” she said, “I haven’t had time to do any shopping, and all I’ve got for morning tea is bread. I can make some nice bread sandwiches, if you like.”
“What’s a bread sandwich?” Benson asked.
“You get two pieces of bread and you put a piece of bread in between them,” Nanna said. “It’s very nice, if you like bread.”
Benson said, “It’s a good thing I brought you a surprise, then!” He held up his jar. “Mushroom marmalade! I made it myself!”
“Thankyou, Benson, that was very kind of you,” Nanna said. She looked at the jar. “Mushroom marmalade!” she said. “Well, that’s something I’ve never had before.”
“No-one has,” said Benson. “I invented it. I think it will be great. Everyone loves marmalade, and everyone loves mushrooms, so why not have them together?”
“Sounds like a great idea,” Nanna said. “Let’s try some.”
She made mushroom marmalade sandwiches for everyone and they started eating.
Benson took a great big bite, then he stopped. It was not a great sandwich. In fact, it was probably the worst sandwich he’d ever tasted.
He put the sandwich down. “It tastes like lumpy orange slime with bits of gooey sponge in it. It’s terrible!” He felt really disappointed. “It wasn’t a very good surprise, was it?”
Nanna said, “It depends on how you look at it. It was a lovely surprise that you made something for me.”
Benson’s mother said, “And it actually tastes surprisingly bad.”
Nanna said, “And think of how surprised the chickens are going to be when I give them these sandwiches!”
There was a kind of hole in Benson’s tummy where he was hoping morning tea would have been, but he really didn’t want to eat any more mushroom marmalade. “Maybe we could have a bread sandwich?” he asked.
Nanna said, “I’ve got a better idea.” She picked the bits of mushroom out of the marmalade and wiped the marmalade off them and she made mushrooms on toast that only tasted slightly weird, and then they had toast-and-marmalade for dessert.
“The best thing is,” she said, “now we know what NOT to have with marmalade.”
“Oh, I can think of LOTS of things not to have marmalade with,” Benson said.
“Well, that’s no surprise,” his mother said.