Benson and the Box

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

One morning Benson woke up early and went out to the kitchen before anyone else was up, to get a drink of water. In the middle of the kitchen there was a box.

It was a big box, just bigger than Benson. It was brown cardboard, with no writing on it. Benson wondered what was inside it. Maybe it was a puppy. He put his ear up against the box and listened hard. It was completely silent. Not a puppy then, he thought, sadly, unless it was a very quiet one, or it was asleep. Maybe it was a new piano, or a cupboard full of books. He gave the box a little push. It slid along the floor lightly and easily. Not a piano then, Benson thought, and not books.

Maybe it was a whole box of chocolate buttons, or oranges! Benson put his nose up to the box and sniffed hard. It smelled like cardboard and plastic. Not oranges then, or chocolates. He sighed.

He stood on tippy-toes to see if there was anything on top of the box. He could see something white that looked like a label. He went and got a chair and climbed up so he could see what the label said. It said, FOR AUNT MOSS.

Now Benson knew that you should never ever open someone else’s packages or letters. He would have to wait until Aunt Moss came out and opened it herself. On the other hand, he could see a tiny little hole right on the corner. He put his eye up against the hole and peered in. All he could see was small white things.

Maybe someone had sent Aunt Moss a whole box of snow! he thought. He wished Aunt Moss would come out before it melted. They could make a snowman, or have snowball fights.

He noticed that the sticky tape across the top was unpeeling itself just a little bit. If someone gave it a little pull, not a big strong pull, just a bit of a tug, it might unpeel a bit more, and then he could see inside a bit more.

He took the end of the sticky tape and pulled it just a little bit. Nothing happened. He pulled harder. The sticky tape came off in his hand and Benson fell head-first into the box. The flaps fell shut on top of him. He was inside the box, completely in the dark.

It wasn’t full of snow, he could tell that straight away. Snow was cold and wet. These small white things were warm and soft. There were also a lot of them. There was a whole boxful, and they didn’t leave much room for a sturdy young wombat. Benson couldn’t move his arms or his legs or his head. He couldn’t turn himself up the right way. He was stuck upside down in the box.

“Help,” he said quietly.

He didn’t really want Aunt Moss to come and find him in the box. He hadn’t exactly opened it, but in a kind of a way he had, even if it was by accident. Maybe he could burrow his way out, he thought.

He started to dig. Bits of plastic went everywhere, up his nose and into his ears, but every time he moved some of the bits out of the way, more fell in to take their place. He was deeper into the box, and jammed tighter.

“Help!” he said, a bit more loudly. He heard a noise, and he stopped to listen.

His mother and Aunt Moss had come into the kitchen. “This box was delivered for you yesterday evening,” Benson’s mother was saying to Aunt Moss.

“My friend Shelley said she would be sending me a surprise,” Aunt Moss said. “I wonder what’s in it?”

Benson thought to himself that it was a bigger surprise than she was expecting. He gave a little cough and said, “Hello? Could somebody give me a hand, please?”

Aunt Moss said, “There’s something talking inside the box! Do you think Shelley sent me a talking parrot?”

“I don’t think so,” Benson’s mother said.

“It could be a lyre-bird,” Aunt Moss said. “Lyre birds can mimic all sorts of sounds.”

“I don’t think it’s a lyre-bird,” Benson’s mother said. She lifted up the flap and peered into the box. Benson’s feet were sticking up out of the white plastic packing pieces. “Benson, is that you?” she said.

Benson wriggled his toes to say yes. His mother said, “Are you coming out?”

Benson wiggled his toes sadly, to say he had tried but he couldn’t.

“I suppose we’d better get you out, then,” his mother said. She took one foot and Aunt Moss took the other. Benson wriggled his toes wildly. He was very ticklish.

“One-two, pull!” his mother said. She pulled and Aunt Moss pulled, but Benson was too heavy and the sides of the box were too high. They stopped pulling. “This is going to take some thinking,” she said.

“We could push the box over,” Aunt Moss said.

“Yes,” said Benson’s mother, “if we were very strong and we didn’t mind whatever is inside getting broken. I’ve got another idea.”

She tore a hole in the side of the box. Lots of small white pieces of packing plastic poured out onto the kitchen floor. Benson poked his head out through the hole. “Hello,” he said. “Is it time for breakfast?”

“It will be, once you’ve swept up all these pieces of plastic,” his mother said. “What are you doing inside Aunt Moss’s box?”

“Nothing,” Benson said. “Just waiting around for breakfast, I suppose.”

“Did you climb up on that chair and get into the box?” his mother said.

“I climbed up and the box sort of opened up and swallowed me,” Benson said. “Anyway, it was a nice surprise, wasn’t it, Aunt Moss?”

“Yes, dear,” Aunt Moss said, “but not the surprise I was hoping for. Are you all that’s in the box?”

“I don’t know,” Benson said. He figured that the mess in the kitchen couldn’t get any worse, so he tipped the box up. Hundreds and millions of pieces of plastic went everywhere all over the kitchen. The mess in the kitchen got much, much worse.

At the very bottom of the box there was something small and round. Benson picked it up and gave it to Aunt Moss. “Oh!” she said. “How lovely!” It was a snow-globe. She shook it, and tiny pieces of snow inside the snowglobe started swirling around.

“Is that all?” Benson said. He sighed. He looked around the kitchen and sighed much louder. Then he had an idea. “Before I clean all this up, can I go and get Roly so we can play snowglobes in it?” he asked his mother.

“No,” his mother said firmly. “No, no and no.” She could imagine little pieces of white plastic spread all over the house. “But you could dig a big square hole in the back yard and pile all these pieces into it and pretend it’s a swimming pool.”

So Benson did. He dug a square, shallow hole outside, and then he carried buckets and buckets full of the plastic pieces out and tipped them into the hole, and he and Roly spent the whole morning playing in it.

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