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 day when Benson went to the playground, someone new was there. He was a young wombat like Benson, but he didn’t look the same. Benson went up to him and said, “Hi, I’m Benson.”
The other wombat said, “Hi. My name’s Rodney.”
Benson said, “Is there something wrong with your nose?”
Rodney felt his nose and looked worried. “I don’t know. Is there?”
Benson said, “It’s kind of hairy.” It actually looked a if he had run into a wall and squashed it flat, but Benson didn’t say that.
Rodney said, “Maybe it’s because I’m a hairy-nosed wombat.”
“Oh,” said Benson. “Do you want to come and play in the sand-pit?” They both went over to the sandpit and started digging a tunnel to the North Pole.
Arlette, who was another wombat Benson knew but they weren’t really friends, waved to him from the other side of the playground. “Come over here,” she called. “Twiss and me want to tell you something.” Twiss was her sister.
Benson left Rodney at round about Iceland and went over. Arlette came up close and whispered, “You shouldn’t be playing with that strange wombat.”
“Why?” Benson said.
“Because he’s not from here,” she said. “He’s different.”
“You’re different,” Benson said. “You’re a girl.”
Twiss said, “His face is different. Look at his hairy nose.”
Benson said, “Mr Fenn has hair sticking out of his nose and his ears. What’s wrong with having a hairy nose?”
Arlette folded her arms and said, “How do you think we get all those diseases and stuff? From wombats who aren’t from here, that’s how!”
“What diseases?” Benson said. “Are you crazy? He’s just a wombat, like us.”
Arlette was angry. “Just you wait!” she said. “When your nose goes flat and giant hairs spring out of it, and you get the mange and die, then you’ll know I was right!”
Benson ignored her and went back to the sandpit.
The next morning when he was having breakfast, his ear was really itchy. He rubbed it and scratched it all day. By dinner time both his ears were itchy and it was driving him crazy.
“Why are you scratching your ears like that?” Aunt Lillibet asked.
“They’re itchy,” Benson said. He shook his head, trying to shake the itchy feeling off.
“Let me have a look,” his mother said. She looked carefully into his ear. “Ear mites!” she said.
“Oh no!” Aunt Lillibet said.
“What’s wrong with my ears?” Benson said. “Am I going to get sick?”
“It’s all right,” his mother said, “don’t worry. Ear mites are just little tiny bugs that get inside your ears and bite them and make them itchy. They don’t hurt you, and they don’t make you sick.”
“My ears aren’t going to fall off?” Benson asked.
“No, Benson,” his mother said. “We’ll get rid of these in time. It’s just a bit of a nuisance, that’s all.”
“A bit of a nuisance?” Aunt Lillibet said. “We have to wash all the sheets and blankets and pillows, and all his clothes and his hat in hot water and then we have to vacuum all the floors and all the furniture.”
“There’s no use complaining,” Benson’s mother said. “We just have to do it. But first we’ll deal with the ones in Benson’s ears.”
“Do you have to wash my ears in hot water too?” Benson said.
“No, Nanna’s got a special mixture for getting rid of ear mites,” his mother said.
Nanna came over with a bottle of her special mixture. “It’s mostly olive oil,” she said, “with a few drops of peppermint to kill any germs, and calendula for healing, and lavender to soothe your poor scratched ears.” She rubbed his ears gently with the oil. It didn’t hurt at all. Benson thought it smelled lovely.
His mother and Aunt Lillibet washed everything that could be washed and vacuumed everything else. Aunt Lillibet sat down, exhausted. “That’s that!” she said. “Please don’t bring any more ear mites home again!”
The day after, Benson went to the playground again. Rodney was in the sandpit and Benson was just going over to play with him, when Arlette yelled out from the other side of the playground, “Don’t go near him! He’s got bitey-mites! You’ll catch mites if you play with him!”
Rodney went all red. He got put of the sandpit and went over to his mother and they both left.
Benson went over to Arlette and said, “What did you say that for?”
“It’s true!” she said. “Everyone keeps getting ear mites since he came.” She leaned over and said in his ear, “He gave them to you, didn’t he?”
“I don’t know where I got them from,” Benson said. “Maybe I got them from you!”
Arlette sniffed. “No way!” she said. “My mother says I’ve got beautiful clean hair.”
That night at dinner-time, Benson’s ears were itchy again. His mother had a look at them and said, “Oh no! Not again! Ear mites!” She went and got Nanna’s special mixture and started rubbing and cleaning Benson’s ears again.
“Arlette said it’s because of Rodney,” Benson said. He told her all about what Arlette had said. “And Rodney got upset and went home,” he said sadly.
“So you didn’t play with Rodney at all yesterday?” she asked. “Then you couldn’t have caught them from him. Ear mites can jump from one wombat to another, but you have to be really close, about as close as two wombats whispering.”
Benson’s eyes opened wide. “You mean I caught them from Arlette?”
“Probably,” his mother said. “I’d better go and see her mother.”
“You’d better take some of Nanna’s special mixture,” Aunt Lillibet said.
The next day when Benson went to the playground, Rodney was in the sandpit but when he saw Benson coming, he got out and went over to his mother. Benson went over and said, “Hi, Rodney. Do you want to come and play in the sandpit?”
Rodney said, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get mites if you talk to me?”
Benson said, “No, I’m the one who had the mites. I hope you didn’t catch them from me.”
A smile spread over Rodney’s face. “No, I’m okay. No mites here.”
“Me neither,” Benson said. “Come on!” and they went off to dig in the sandpit together.