Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a safe, warm wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
It was the middle of summer and one evening there was a big storm, with lots of thunder and lightning. Afterwards, when the rain stopped and all the thunder and lightning were finished, everyone sat around the table drinking hot chocolate and eating tomato sandwiches and telling stories.
Benson said, “When Pascoe hears about what happened tonight, she’s going to make a great story out of it.”
Pascoe was the story-teller. She listened to everyone’s news and stories and passed them on to everyone else.
Aunt Lillibet said, “What do you mean? It was a perfectly ordinary evening.”
Benson said, “No, it wasn’t. What about when you were hiding under the bed screaming ‘Help! Help! A rat!’?”
Aunt Lillibet said, “Excuse me, young man, you seem to have gotten everything all wrong. I think it would be much better if I told the story.”
“How would you tell the story, Lillibet?” asked Benson’s mother.
“I’d say exactly what happened,” Aunt Lillibet said. “There was a very big storm and I decided that it would be a good time to clean under the bed – I was certainly not hiding!
“While I was under the bed checking for dust, I felt a small, wet nose press up against me. I certainly did NOT scream, ‘Help! A rat!’ I knew straight away that it wasn’t a rat, it was a bandicoot who had come in out of the storm, so what I DID say, very calmly, was, ‘Hello, where are you at?’”
Benson said, “If you weren’t scared, Aunt Lillibet, why did you run into the kitchen and hide in the pantry?”
Aunt Lillibet said, “IF you would let me tell the story, Benson! I went to the kitchen because I thought that our young guest might be hungry. While I was looking in the pantry for something to eat, the door accidentally shut behind me.”
Benson’s mother said, “And that was when you ate all the raisins and the turnip crisps.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “While I was in the pantry I thought I would do a little tidying up. The raisins were past their best and the turnip crisps were starting to get stale so I tidied them up.”
“Into your tummy,” Aunt Moss said.
Benson said, “So when I opened the pantry door, why did you yell, ‘You dirty rat, get away from me!’ and throw a tomato at me?”
“Who’s telling this story?” Aunt Lillibet demanded. “When the door opened, it was very dark and I didn’t recognise you at first, so I said, ‘Who is that? Would you like a cup of tea?’ The tomato I was holding may have slipped out of my hands and it may have fallen onto your face, I couldn’t really say.”
“So then why did you run into Aunt Moss’s room and climb on top of her cupboard?” Benson asked.
“This is exactly why I am telling the story, to straighten out all these misunderstandings,” Aunt Lillibet said. “I didn’t run into Aunt Moss’s room, I went in to ask if she would like a cup of tea. And then I noticed something on the floor.”
Aunt Moss said, “Arnold and Leslie are turtles, not rats. When you shouted, ‘Rats! They’re everywhere!’, they were very upset.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “I wasn’t shouting. I raised my voice because I thought you were asleep and I thought I saw a bat in your hair. It wasn’t my fault there were turtles all over the floor and I had to get onto the cupboard so as not to step on any of them.”
“Really, Lillibet,” said Aunt Moss, “it was only two turtles, and Leslie is very small. There was no reason at all to start throwing my cactuses at them.”
“They slipped!” Aunt Lillibet said. “I was trying to make myself comfortable on top of the cupboard and the cactuses slipped off! Why you would want to keep cactuses on top of your cupboard is beyond me. Anyone trying to climb up there is bound to sit on them, and they’re extremely uncomfortable.”
“Is that what made you fall off the cupboard?” Aunt Moss asked.
“I did not fall off the cupboard, Moss, I stepped down, gracefully and elegantly,” Aunt Lillibet said.
Benson said, “And then you ran into the bathroom and slammed the door and yelled, ‘The rats are everywhere! Save yourselves!’”
“I don’t know why everyone seems to have such bad memories!” Aunt Lillibet said. “Naturally I wanted to wash my hands after being on top of that dusty cupboard. I was just calling out that the bathmat was in there, in case anyone was wondering, and then I thought I should remind everyone that we should all save water. ‘Save water, please,’ is what I said.”
“Really, Lillibet!” Aunt Moss said. “Do you expect anyone to believe that that’s the true story?”
“Of course,” Aunt Lillibet said, “and the next time Pascoe comes for a visit, I will tell her exactly what happened, just the way I remember it,” she said.
Benson thought about it. He asked his mother, “When someone tells a story, are they saying what really happened, or just what they think happened?”
“I think it all depends on your point of view,” she said. “Sometimes it’s what they wished had happened. Anyway, it all ended happily, that’s the main thing. Would anyone like another sandwich?”
“Yes, please,” said the bandicoot, holding out his plate.
“I’d love one,” said a rat, peeping out of the pantry.
Aunt Lillibet screamed and fell off her chair.