Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a warm, dry wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One day Aunt Moss made a salted butterscotch beetroot cake, to have after dinner. It looked as if it was going to taste delicious. After dinner, everyone sat around with the cake in the middle of the table and Aunt Moss cut the first slice. Inside it was a beautiful pink colour.
Benson started eating his slice and it was even more delicious than he had imagined. The cake was soft and spongy, and the icing was thick and slightly crunchy, thick enough to bite into and then it melted away slowly in his mouth with a sort of golden caramel flavour. It was possibly the best cake he had ever eaten.
He ate up every bit, even the crumbs left on his plate. In a sort of cake-haze, he said for no particular reason, “Is salt good for you?”
His mother said, “Yes, and no.”
Benson said, “How can it be yes AND no? You always say, ‘When I say no, I mean no!'”
“Sometimes it’s not that simple,” his mother said. “It depends. For instance, we all know that it’s hot in summer and cold in winter, right? But if someone asked me if it was always cold in winter, I’d have to say, yes and no. It’s much colder than summer, but if you go outside and lie in the nice sunny spot just outside the door, with the sun on your face and your tummy, even on a winter’s day it’s beautiful and warm.”
Benson wasn’t really thinking about the sun, he was thinking about cake, and wondering about the best way to get another slice. He said, “Aunt Moss, did you learn to make this cake from your mother?”
Aunt Moss cut some more slices of cake while she thought about it and tried to remember. She put one on Aunt Lillibet’s plate, and one on her own, and when Benson held up his plate she absent-mindedly put one on his plate too. Benson yummed it down quickly before his mother could notice.
“Yes, and no,” she said. “My mother used to make a wonderful buttermilk date cake with bananas, and she taught me how to make it too, but over the years I changed it bit by bit. One day I had no bananas so I left them out, and then Aunt Lillibet said she didn’t like the dates in it, so I left them out and put beetroot in instead. Then one day I thought I’d try butterscotch instead of buttermilk and there you are.”
Benson had finished his second slice, but he was sure his tummy still had some space left. He looked at the soft, pink cake with its thick golden icing, and he thought how terrible it would be if he went to bed and Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss and his mother went on eating it, and the morning when he got up there was no cake left. He asked his mother, “Could I have another slice, please?”
His mother said, “You’ve already had two whole slices. I think that’s more than enough for a growing wombat.”
“Couldn’t I have just half a slice?” he pleaded. “That’s not much, is it?”
“Well, yes and no,” his mother said. “Half of this slice -” she cut a very small sliver of cake, “- isn’t very much, but half of this slice -” she pointed to the rest of the cake that was left on the plate, “- is way too much. Anyway, it’s time for bed. Have you cleaned your teeth?”
Benson said, “Well, yes and no. If you mean have I ever cleaned my teeth, yes, I cleaned them this morning and yesterday morning. But if you mean have I cleaned them tonight, then no, I haven’t.”
His mother looked at him, and he knew there wasn’t going to be any more arguing, and probably no more cake. He looked at the cake and decided to have one last try. “Do I really have to go bed now? Can I have just one more tiny piece of cake?”
“Yes,” she said, kissing him on the top of the head, “and no.” She took him by the hand and took him straight off to get ready for bed.