The Stick

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

Everyone was going to Nanna’s place for a quilting bee.

“What’s a quilting bee?” Benson asked his mother.

“It’s when everyone gets together and helps make a quilt,” she said. “You know, like the quilt that Nanna made for you.”

Benson had a beautiful quilt on his bed that was made of squares and triangles of all sorts of different coloured materials. “Why would they put bees in it?” he asked.

“They don’t put bees in it, they work like bees, you know, all busy and buzzy,” his mother said. “Anyway, this quilt is not for a bed, it’s for the library.”

“There’s going to be a bed in the library? That’s a great idea!” Benson said. He loved going to the library, and sometimes he really did wish he could sleep there.

“No, there isn’t going to be a bed at the library,” his mother said. “It’s to decorate the wall, in lots of different colours for Harmony Day.”

“Can I help?” Benson asked.

“No, you cannot,” Aunt Lillibet said very firmly. “Quilting takes years of practice. We’re not letting children with sticky fingers spoil it.”

Aunt Moss said, “Aunt Lillibet is an excellent quilter. She likes things to be perfect.”

“Quilting is for experts,” Aunt Lillibet said, “not for people with three thumbs who don’t know one end of a needle from the other.”

Aunt Moss sighed. “I’m not allowed to quilt. I’m only going to help choose the colours,” she said.

Benson’s mother said, “I’m only going to help with morning tea.”

Benson said, “What am I going for?”

Aunt Lillibet looked at him. His hands and feet were grubby from digging a hole before breakfast, and there were sticks and leaves in this hair from chasing a lizard out of the compost heap, and there was a dribble of cranberry yoghurt on his tummy from breakfast.

“You’re going to keep out of the way,” Aunt Lillibet said.

They set off together, Aunt Lillibet carrying her needles and thread, and Benson’s mother bringing a basket of lentil and cucumber sandwiches. Benson was lagging behind.

Aunt Lillibet said, “Hurry up, Benson, you’re holding everyone up.”

Benson had found a long straight branch that had fallen off a gum tree. “I found a stick,” he said. “I think it might be useful.”

“A stick?” Aunt Lillibet said. “Put that dirty old thing down. It’s just going to get in the way.”

Benson didn’t say anything. It was a very good stick, smooth and not too long or too short, just the right size.

His mother called from up ahead, “The creek is pretty full. It might be too deep for us to cross.”

Benson said, “I’ve got a stick we could use to measure how deep the water is.” He gave the stick to his mother and she stood it up straight in the deepest part of the creek.

“It’s not as deep as I thought,” she said. “It will be okay to cross here.” She gave the stick back to Benson and they crossed the creek.

Aunt Lillibet sniffed. “Throw that muddy old stick away, Benson! Your hands are filthy.”

Then Aunt Moss said in a worried voice, “There’s a big spider’s web right across the path.”

Benson said, “Don’t worry, Aunt Moss, I’ll take care of it.” He swooshed his stick through the air and swept the spider’s web out of the way. “There you are,” he said. “All safe now.”

Aunt Lillibet snorted. “Sticks, huh! A complete waste of time!” Then she tripped on a rock and fell over. “Ow, my ankle!” she said.

Benson’s mother helped her up. “Will you be able to walk all right?” she asked.

Benson said, “You can use my stick for a walking stick if you like.”

“I’m perfectly all right,” Aunt Lillibet said, but she wasn’t really. Her ankle hurt and she couldn’t walk very well.

Benson said, “If you get tired, you could hold on to the end of my stick and I could give you a tow.”

“No, thank you, I’ll be fine,” Aunt Lillibet said, limping along slowly.

It took them so long to get to Nanna’s that the quilting was nearly all done by the time they got there.

“Poor old Lillibet!” Nanna said. “Why don’t you sit down and have a nice cup of tea? Moss can help me finish the last bit of quilting.”

Aunt Moss was very pleased to be allowed to help with the quilting. Benson’s mother got the sandwiches out of the basket and made camomile tea for everyone. When it was finished, Nanna said, “All it needs now is a nice, straight stick to hang it up with.”

Benson gave a little cough. “Actually, I happen to have a very nice stick that I brought with me.” He got his stick and showed it to Nanna.

“Hmm, it’s a bit muddy at one end and there are cobwebs at the other end, but if we clean it up, I think it will do very nicely,” Nanna said.

She and Benson gave the stick a good scrub. Then she tied a piece of string from one end to the other and hung the quilt over it carefully. It was perfect.

Everybody stood back and looked at it. “I think that will look very nice hanging on the wall at the library,” Nanna said.

Benson agreed. Aunt Lillibet sniffed.

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