Five Corners

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

It was a cool winter’s day. Aunt Lillibet was weeding her carrot plants, Aunt Moss was sitting in the sun, knitting and dreaming, and Benson was digging and thinking about exactly what was underneath all the dirt on the earth.

Suddenly a big gust of wind plucked Aunt Moss’s hat off her head and swirled it away, up over the trees and out of sight. “Oh!” she said. “My favourite hat!”

Aunt Lillibet said, “That’s one hat you’ll never see again. The wind could have taken it to the four corners of the earth.”

Benson said, “I thought you said the earth was round like a ball, not square. How can it have corners?”

Aunt Lillibet said, “It’s just what people say. It just means the wind’s taken it as far away as it possibly could. It would be a complete waste of time looking for it.”

Benson thought about it. He saw how sad Aunt Moss was looking. He went inside and got his hat and his water-bottle. His mother, who was working on some papers and wishing she was outside in the sun, said, “Where are you going, Benson?”

“I’m going to the four corners of the earth to look for Aunt Moss’s hat,” he said.

“Make sure you’re home in time for lunch, okay?” his mother said.

Benson said he would, and he set off.

He walked along the track, looking everywhere for the hat. After a while he came to a sharp bend where there was an old wombat hole. There were two little dunnarts in the hole, with their noses just peeping out.

“Are you okay?” Benson asked.

The first dunnart said, “We were playing, me and my brother, and a big fox came along. We ran away as fast as we could, but he chased us after us. We hid in here, but we could hear him panting outside, looking for us. Then there were these giant, heavy footsteps like a great big animal coming along the track, and the fox ran away.”

The other dunnart said, “We were in a really tight corner. If it hadn’t been for those footsteps scaring the fox away, he might have got us!”

Benson said, “This must be one of the four corners of the earth!” He looked around. It didn’t look any different from the rest of the bush. The little dunnarts scampered off and Benson went on his way.

The track kept winding on and on, and the bush got thicker and thicker. He heard some noises just up ahead where the track turned to the right. He hurried up and he saw an old brown fox, just about to eat a baby possum.

“Hey, you leave him alone!” Benson shouted. He stamped his feet and waved his arms. The fox dropped the possum and ran off.

“Are you all right?” Benson asked the possum.

The tiny possum was so frightened he could hardly speak. “I’m okay,” he squeaked. “That fox sneaked up out of nowhere and grabbed me! I tried to get away but he had me cornered. Thank goodness you came along!”

“Another corner!” Benson said to himself. The little possum ran off, and Benson went on his way. Only two corners to go, he thought to himself.

The track wound around beside a deep gully and came out at a wide, sunny spot sheltered by an old bunyah tree. There was a bright red-and-yellow picnic blanket spread out, and a family of dunnarts and a family of possums were gathered there, chatting and nibbling on carrot sticks and grevillea flowers. Benson said to them, “This is a nice place for a picnic.”

“We love to come here,” the mother possum said.“It’s such a beautiful sunny corner. We’ve just been talking about the huge, savage animal that’s been terrorising everyone.”

Benson looked around nervously. “A huge, savage animal?” he said.

The mother dunnart nodded. She said, “It nearly got my youngest ones, Perky and JP, but a big, strong wombat came along just in time and frightened it off.”

“It attacked my little Curtis,” the mother possum said, “but a big, brave wombat came out of the bush and roared at it and chased it away through the bush.”

Benson wondered who the big, strong wombat could be. Maybe it was Mr Fenn, or Aunt Lillibet’s friend, Gordon.

“You’d better be careful,” they said to him. “It’s probably hiding in the bush somewhere.”

Benson went on, hurrying a bit. He didn’t like the idea of a huge, savage animal hiding around the next corner, ready to jump out at him. Maybe three corners is enough, he thought. I’ll look for the fourth one another day.

Then he remembered that Nanna’s place was just around the corner, and he thought that it would be a nice, safe place to visit.

When he knocked on the door, Nanna opened it with a big smile. “Benson, how lovely to see you!” she said. “I was just going to have a nice glass of milk and some lemon myrtle cookies. Would you like some? We can take them outside and sit in my favourite cosy corner in the sun.”

The cookies were delicious, but Benson felt disappointed. “I’ve been to the four corners of the earth, and I still haven’t found Aunt Moss’s hat,” he said. Just then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a dark shape slinking towards Nanna’s vegetable garden.

“It’s a fox!” Nanna said. “He must be the one who’s been digging up my potatoes!”

Benson ran towards the fox, yelling and waving his arms. The fox took one look at him and ran off as fast as his foxy legs would carry him. “Wombats!” the fox said to himself. “Every time I turn a corner there’s another one! I’m getting out of here!” And no-one ever saw him again.

But in a corner of the garden, caught among the rhubarb, Benson saw something. “Look!” he said. “It’s Aunt Moss’s hat!”

He took the hat home, and gave it back to Aunt Moss. She was very happy.

His mother said, “Did you have to go to the four corners of the earth to find it?”

Benson said, “Five, actually.”

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