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.
Benson was very excited. It was Library Lovers’ Day and there was a special celebration at the library, with morning tea, and a visit from a famous author named Marguerite. Marguerite had written one of Benson’s favourite books, about animals, and she had drawn all the illustrations herself. Benson had gotten it out of the library heaps of times.
Miss Evangelina, the library lady, was organising a drawing competition, and Marguerite was going to choose the winner, and present them with a gold trophy. Benson knew he was very good at drawing. He really wanted to win the trophy, then everyone would see it high on a shelf in the library, with Benson’s name on it: Benson, Winner, Best Drawing.
His mother and Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss set out early because they were helping with the morning tea, putting out the plates and cups and things and making sure that nobody started eating the cakes and tarts and sandwiches before it was time. Benson stayed behind to clean his shoes and brush his hair, and sharpen his best pencil. At last he was ready. He grabbed his hat and his water-bottle and sped off. He didn’t want to be late for the drawing competition.
He was hurrying along the track when he heard a voice calling, “Excuse me! Excuse me, young man!”
Benson looked around. There was an old, old lady sitting in a heap on the side of the track. She had dirt on her face and her hands and her clothes were filthy, and her hat was squashed in on one side.
“Young man!” she called, “I need some help here. I’ve lost my shoe!”
“Where did you lose it?” Benson asked.
“If I knew that, I’d know where to find it!” she snapped. “I tripped over, and my shoe flew up into the air, that’s all I know. Now hurry up and find it for me!”
Benson searched in all the bushes and on the ground, all up and down the track. He finally found the shoe in a tree, caught on a branch.
He got a stick and got it down for her. “Here it is,” he said, and turned to go.
“Don’t run off!” she said. “I’m going to need your help getting my shoe on. I don’t bend over as easily as I used to.”
Benson sighed. He was going to be late, he knew it. He pushed the shoe onto her foot, and tied the laces firmly. Then he tied the laces on her other shoe, just to be on the safe side.
“Thankyou, young man,” she said. “What’s your name?”
Benson said, “It’s Benson. Actually, I have to go now. There’s a thing I don’t want to be late for.”
“Oh, well, don’t go until you’ve helped me up,” she said. She gave him her hand and said, “Pull!” Benson pulled her hand, but all that happened was that she pulled him over. He heard a loud crack. He looked in his pocket. His pencil was snapped in half.
The old lady said, “Let’s try that again, with two hands this time.”
Benson took both her hands, and tugged and tugged until he thought his arms would be stretched out to twice their normal size, until finally she was standing up again.
“Okay, bye then,” he said quickly, and started off.
“Wait!” she said. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“I’m going to the library for Library Lovers’ Day,” he said, hopping from foot to foot, wishing she would stop talking so he could go.
“I’ll walk along with you,” she said.
“No, don’t bother, I’ll be okay,” Benson said, and ran off.
“I could really do with a hand, young man, “ she called after him.
Benson sighed. He went back and let her grab onto his arm. She limped along slowly, slower than a snail. “Um, do you think we could hurry a bit?” Benson asked.
“At my age,” the old lady said, “I never hurry anywhere.”
Benson gave up. By the time they got to the library, the drawing competition would be over, and besides his pencil was broken. He wished the old lady had wheels so he could push her, or that he knew how to fly, but she didn’t and he didn’t so they kept crawling along.
When they finally got to the library, Miss Evangelina opened the door. “Marguerite!” she said. “Look, everyone, Marguerite’s here at last.” She took the old lady’s arm, and the door fell shut in Benson’s face.
Benson couldn’t believe it! So this was the famous author that he’d been dying to meet. All this time she’d been right there in front of him, and she hadn’t said a word.
Benson felt depressed. He went inside the library and nobody even noticed he was there. The only food left on the table was a plate of curled-up cheese sandwiches. The drawing competition was over and all the drawings were pinned up on the walls. Miss Evangelina was walking around with Marguerite, looking at the drawings. They stopped in front of Arlette’s drawing and Marguerite announced, “This is the one. This is the winner!”
Arlette came forward and Marguerite presented the gold trophy to her. Everyone clapped. Arlette smiled wider than a crocodile. Benson felt even worse. Arlette walked over and held the trophy in front of his face. “Look, I won the trophy for best drawing,” she said, gleefully. “It’s going to be in a glass case, where everyone can see it.”
“That’s nice,” Benson said, trying to sound as if he meant it. It was so unfair. He could have done a much better drawing than Arlette’s. Then his mother came over.
“You were so late, you missed everything,” she said. “What happened?”
Benson sat down with a heavy flump. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
“Time to go home?” his mother said.
Benson nodded sadly. He got up and headed towards the door. Then he heard a loud voice. “Where are you hurrying off to, young man?” Marguerite came over and took his arm. “Evangelina’s been telling me all about your drawing,” she said. “Why don’t I see any of it here?”
Benson said, “I broke my pencil.”
“I have a spare one,” she said. “Come and sit down and show me what you can do. Besides, I need some help eating all these cakes that Evangelina saved for me.”
Benson felt much, much better. “Really?” he said.
Marguerite smiled at him. “Really,” she said.