Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a tidy, cosy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
It was a hot day in the middle of summer, and everyone was down at the creek. Benson was paddling in the shallow water near the bank while his mother was sitting under a tree, reading a book. Arlette and her sister Twiss were playing tea parties under another tree, and Mick was making mud patties to throw at them.
Benson found an old banksia cone and he was throwing it up and down, when it slipped out of his hand and fell into the water.
There was a stirring in the mud at the bottom of the creek and a funny-looking head popped up, with a beak like a duck, soft brown fur all over its head and dark brown eyes. It was balancing the banksia cone on the end of its beak.
“Are you a princess?” the animal asked breathlessly.
“No, I’m Benson,” Benson said. “I’m just a regular wombat. What’s your name?”
The animal said, “My name’s Myron. I’m a platypus.”
“Were you expecting a princess?” Benson asked. “Do you get a lot of princesses around here?”
“No,” said Myron, “not yet, anyway. It’s just, well, I heard a story about a princess who dropped her ball into a pool and a frog brought it back to her and she let him eat from her plate and sleep on her pillow and in the morning she kissed him and he turned into a handsome prince. I’ve always dreamed about turning into a handsome prince,” he sighed.
Benson asked, “Why do you want to be a handsome prince?”
Myron said, “Well, look at me. I’ve got a face like a duck and a body like a flat wombat and a tail like a tennis racket. I’m so funny-looking, I hide at the bottom of the creek all the time where no-one can see me. I just wish I could be handsome.”
Benson thought for a minute. “Wait here,” he said. “I think I’ve got an idea.”
He went over to where Arlette was sitting on her nice, pink picnic blanket. “Can you come over to the creek for a minute?” he said.
“What for?” Arlette said.
“There’s someone I think you might be able to help,” Benson said.
Arlette’s sister had gone off to practise her backstroke, and Arlette was bored with playing tea-parties by herself, so she got up and followed Benson down to the creek. He gave her the banksia cone and said, “Just drop this into the water.”
Arlette dropped it into the water and waited. There was a stirring at the bottom of the creek and Myron’s head popped out, with the banksia cone balanced on the end of his beak.
“Are you a princess?” he asked eagerly.
Arlette considered. “I might be,” she said. “My mother says I am.”
“Can I eat from your plate and sleep on your pillow and in the morning you can give me a kiss?” Myron asked hopefully.
“Euyewwww! No way!” Arlette said.
Benson said, “Just wait, Arlette. Would it be okay if Myron and I played tea-parties with you?”
Arlette was shocked. Usually boys hated tea-parties. “Okay, if you want to,” she said, “but don’t mess everything up.”
Myron climbed out of the creek and waddled over to the picnic blanket with Benson. Arlette gave them both tiny cups with pretend tea in them and tiny plates with pretend cookies on them. Myron and Benson pretended to eat the pretend cookies. Benson said quietly to Myron, “Why do girls do this stuff?”
Myron said dreamily, “She’s letting me eat from her plate!”
Benson asked Arlette, “Myron’s a bit tired. Can he have a nap on your blanket?”
“Okay, if you want,” Arlette said. She pretended to wash up the pretend plates and cups. Myron put his head down on the blanket and shut his eyes. He was so happy he could hardly lie still.
Then he opened his eyes and said, “Now will you give me a kiss?”
“Euyewww! No way!” Arlette said. “Get off my blanket, you slimy thing!”
Myron was very disappointed. He waddled sadly back to the creek and swam down to the bottom.
Benson said, “That wasn’t very nice. All he wanted was one little kiss to turn him into a handsome prince.”
Arlette said, “What? You mean like in that story? Where the princess lets a frog eat from her plate and sleep on her pillow and then she kisses him and he turns into a handsome prince?”
“How did you know?” Benson said.
Arlette said, “Why didn’t you tell me, you idiot?” She got up and grabbed Benson’s hand and dragged him after her. “Come on, now we have to try and fix it.”
“Where are we going?” Benson said.
“We’re going to look for a princess,” she said. “Bring that banksia cone.” She pulled him along the bank of the creek for what seemed like miles, peering into the water as they went. Then she stopped.
“Here. Drop the banksia cone in,” she said.
Benson did what she told him to and dropped the banksia cone into the water. A sleek brown platypus head popped up out of the water, balancing the cone on her beak.
“Are you a handsome prince?” she said to Benson.
“No, he isn’t,” Arlette said, “but we know where you can find one. Follow us.” She dragged Benson back along the creek, and the little platypus followed them.
When they got to the place where Myron lived, Arlette dropped the banksia cone into the water again. Myron’s head came up, looking around eagerly. When he saw Arlette, he looked disappointed. “Oh, it’s you,” he said. “I thought maybe it was a princess this time.”
Arlette said, “Actually, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.” She pointed to the other little platypus.
Myron smiled all over his duck-shaped beak. The other platypus said breathlessly, “Oh, a handsome prince!”
“See, I told you!” Arlette said to Benson happily, “and she didn’t even have to kiss him!”