Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a safe, warm wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson and his mother were going to the big park to have a picnic. Benson made some sandwiches with almond butter and watercress and celery, and his mother made some cheese sticks and cut up some watermelon. They put everything into a big basket and they got their hats and water-bottles and set off.
It was a beautiful day. Zali and her mother and little Zip were at the big park too, and Arlette and Twiss, and Mick and Bonnie Lou and their mother as well.
Mick said to Benson, “Look what I found.” It was a ball the size of a small watermelon, and it had a word written on the side, that said ‘soccer’.
“Wow,” said Benson. “What’s it for?”
“You play soccer with it,” Mick said. “I saw some people playing a game once. You kick the ball and run a lot.”
“Sounds great” said Benson. “Let’s do it.”
Mick kicked the ball and they both ran after it. They kicked it some more and fell over it and ran into each other. “This is great,” Benson said, panting. “You’re really good at soccer.”
“I know,” Mick said. They both stopped to get their breath back. “But I think we should have a goal.”
“I thought the goal was to kick the ball,” Benson said.
“But you have to kick it somewhere, like between two trees, and then you have a goal,” Mick said. They looked around and picked two trees far enough apart. Mick took a run-up and kicked the ball right between them. “Goal!!” he said. Benson cheered and gave Mick a pat on the back. Then Benson had a go. He kicked the ball seven times and missed every time.
Bonnie Lou came over to see what they were doing. “Can I have a go?” she asked.
“No, this is a boys’ game,” Mick said.
“Awwrrrr,” Bonnie Lou growled. She grabbed the ball away from Mick and gave it a big kick. It went right between the trees, first go. “Goal!” she yelled.
Mick said, “Go away! It’s my ball, and I say you can’t play!” He kicked the ball to Benson and Benson kicked it back. Bonnie Lou ran in between them and kicked the ball back the other way, all the way to the other side of the park,
She picked two trees close together and said, “This is my goal,” then she kicked the ball between the trees and yelled, “Goal!”
Mick went and grabbed the ball back. “You’re not playing! Go away!” He kicked the ball back towards his two trees. But Zali was walking between the trees, and the soccer ball bounced off her bottom.
“No goal!” Bonnie Lou said. “It didn’t go in!”
“Not fair!” yelled Mick. “Zali was in the way!”
Bonnie Lou told Zali to stay between Mick’s trees and every time he tried to kick the ball in, she should stop it going in. “Zali’s my bottom-stopper,” she said. “She’s going to stop you getting goals.”
Mick said, “Well, Benson’s going to be my bottom-stopper, aren’t you, Benson?”
Benson wasn’t sure about this. “Why can’t you be the bottom-stopper?” he said.
“Because I’m better at kicking than you are,” Mick said, which was true so Benson didn’t argue any more. He went and stood between Bonnie Lou’s trees.
Bonnie Lou said, “Awwrrrrr,” and kicked the ball really hard towards Benson. Benson saw it coming and jumped out of the way. “Yay! Goal!” yelled Bonnie Lou, dancing around.
Arlette and Twiss came over to see what the dancing was about.
“No girls!” Mick said, grabbing the ball.
Bonnie Lou said to Arlette, “You two can be on my team, if you like. We have to get the ball away from Mick and kick it at Benson.”
“Okay,” said Arlette. She grabbed the ball away from Mick and ran towards Benson. Mick tried to get it back from her, but she threw it to Twiss. Twiss passed it to Bonnie Lou, and Bonnie Lou put the ball down and kicked it hard, right at where Benson was standing between the trees.
Benson didn’t have time to run. He just curled up with his hands over his head. The ball hit him right between the ears and bounced out again.
“No goal!!” yelled Mick.
“Awwwrrrrrrr,” growled Bonnie Lou. She tackled Mick and threw him onto the ground and jumped on top of him.
Arlette said, “Where’s the ball gone?”
Bonnie Lou stopped jumping on Mick and they both looked around. Zali was sitting in the middle of the field, taking big bites out of the soccer ball. “No, Zali!” Mick shouted, but it was too late. The ball wasn’t a ball any more.
Arlette said, “It was a stupid game anyway.” She and Twiss and Bonnie Lou went to see if there was any watermelon left.
Benson thought that was a very good idea. He and Mick got some leftover cheese sticks and mushroom patties, and sat under the tree to eat them. Mick said to Benson, “We need to find another ball. Maybe we could use a coconut?”
Benson imagined Bonnie Lou kicking a coconut at him and shook his head fast. “How about a nice soft pillow?” he suggested.
“No way,” Mick said. “Maybe a watermelon?”
“That could work,” Benson said, imagining the watermelon hitting the ground in front on him and breaking open and pieces of juicy watermelon going everywhere. “That could definitely work.”
Listen to Benson stories read aloud by the author at https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/stories-of-benson-the-wombat-his-family-and-friends/id1573140393