Animal, Vegetable or Mineral

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

It was one of those grey winter days when it seems to get colder and colder as the day goes on. It was raining, and it was so dark inside that they needed the lights on to see what they were doing. Benson was reading his library book, Aunt Lillibet was looking at the plants in her favourite plant book and trying to work out how she could fit a peach tree and a banana tree and two kinds of apple tree into her vegetable garden, and Aunt Moss was knitting and dreaming. Benson’s mother put down the papers she was working on and said, “I think I’ll make some soup.” She went into the kitchen and chopped up lots of carrots and leeks and potatoes and corn and capsicum and put them on to cook in a big pot of water. The smell of delicious soup started to fill the air.

Just then the lights went out.

“Oh, the lights have gone out!” Aunt Moss said.

“It may be just for a few minutes,” Benson’s mother said.

“It may be for the rest of the day,” Aunt Lillibet said.

Benson’s mother said, “I’ll get some candles.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Um, now that you mention it, I may have used up the last candle on Tuesday. Remember when the light bulb in my room went out? I used some candles so I could finish the book I was reading before I went to bed.”

“ALL the candles?” Benson’s mother said.

Aunt Lillibet said, “It was a very scary book. There are a lot of dark corners in my room.”

They sat in the dark, with the quiet growing around them. The only sound was Aunt Moss’s knitting needles.

“I know, let’s play a game,” Benson’s mother said.

Benson said, “Let’s play I Spy. I spy with my little eye…” He thought for a minute, then he said, “…something beginning with D.”

“Darkness,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“How did you know?” Benson said.

“There’s nothing else to see,” she answered.

Aunt Moss said, “Why don’t we play Animal, Vegetable or Mineral? It must be years since I’ve played it.”

Benson asked, “How do you play Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?”

She said, “You think of something, and everyone has to guess what it is. They ask you if it’s animal or vegetable or mineral. If it grows in the ground or it used to grow in the ground, it’s vegetable, and if it’s something like a rock or a chemical, something not alive, then it’s mineral.”

Benson’s mother said, “I’ll go first, so you can get the idea. Guess what I’m thinking of?”

Aunt Moss said, “Is it animal or vegetable or mineral?”

“Animal,” Benson’s mother said.

“A kangaroo,” said Aunt Lillibet.

“No,” said Benson’s mother.

“A koala,” said Aunt Lillibet.

“Yes! That was very quick, Lillibet,” Benson’s mother said. “How did you guess?”

“Everyone always thinks of either a kangaroo or a koala,” Lillibet said. “Now it’s my turn. Guess what I’m thinking of?”

“Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?” Benson asked.

“Mineral,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“A rock,” Benson said.

“No, that’s too easy,” Lillibet said.

“Sand,” Benson’s mother said.

“No,” Lillibet said.

“The wind,” Aunt Moss said.

“No,” Lillibet said.

“A table,” Benson said.

“No, that’s made out of wood so it’s vegetable,” Lillibet said.

“Not if it’s a glass table,” Benson said.

“It isn’t,” Lillibet said.

“Is it Aunt Moss’s knitting?” Benson’s mother said.

“No, wool comes from animals, so it’s animal,” Lillibet said.

“What about the needles?” Benson said.

“They’re wooden – vegetable,” Lillibet said. She sounded very pleased with herself for thinking of something that was hard to guess.

Benson was still thinking about glass, and what glass might have in it. “Is it water?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s right,” Lillibet said. “Very good, Benson. No-one usually gets that one. Your turn.”

Benson thought and thought. He wanted to think of something that no-one would guess.

Aunt Lillibet got tired of waiting. “Well, what is it, animal, vegetable or mineral?” she said.

“It’s all of them,” Benson said.

“What? It can’t be,” Lillibet said.

“Well it is,” Benson said.

“I think I know what you’re thinking of,” said his mother. “It’s soup, isn’t it?”

“That’s vegetable,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“The vegetables are,” Benson said, “but what about the water? And if you put cheese in it, cheese comes from cows so it’s animal. Animal, vegetable AND mineral.”

Aunt Lillibet humphed in the dark.

Benson said to his mother, “It’s your turn.”

She said, “I’m thinking of something that’s not animal or vegetable or mineral, but it’s something everyone has and everyone does and everyone wants more of and everyone wants to give it away.”

“That’s easy,” Benson said.

“Everyone knows that,” said Aunt Lillibet, and they all said together, “Love!”

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