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 morning Benson woke up with a brilliant idea. “I’m going to write a book!” he said to his mother.
“That’s nice, dear,” she said. “Make sure you have plenty of breakfast.”
Straight after breakfast Benson set to work. He got lots of paper and his pencils and started drawing. He was very good at drawing fish and things under the sea, so he decided to make it about a squid.
He wrote on the first page, “Once there was a squid.” He drew a beautiful squid. Then he drew all kinds of seaweed, and lots and lots of fish, so many fish that they took up pages and pages.
It took all morning. By lunchtime he was exhausted. His mother made him a macadamia butter and banana sandwich, and a glass of watermelon juice.
“Writing a book takes forever,” he complained.
Aunt Lillibet came over and looked at what he had been doing. “What about the plot?” she said.
“What’s that?” Benson said.
“It’s what happens in the book,” Aunt Lillibet said. “You know, a problem or an adventure, the things that happen. Every story has a plot.”
“Oh,” said Benson. “I suppose I’d better get one then.”
He thought and thought about what might happen to a squid. Were squids afraid of spiders? Did they go to the playground? Writing a book was much harder than he thought.
Aunt Moss came out to make herself a sandwich. She got a jar of jam out of the pantry, but she couldn’t get the lid off. “This lid is stuck,” she said.
“That’s it!” Benson said. He got his pencil and wrote, ‘The squid wanted to open the lid of a jar but it was stuck.’ He drew a beautiful jar of jam, and had a lovely time drawing his squid trying to get the lid off, with his long tentacles winding around it and a determined expression on his face.
He said to Aunt Lillibet, “Now I’ve got a plot, what else do I need?”
Aunt Lillibet said, “You have to decide what happens in the end. Does everyone live happily ever after? Does the hero win, or does the baddie?”
Benson decided he liked happy endings better. He drew another squid helping the first squid, all their tentacles wrapping around the jar and getting the lid to come off. Two squids are definitely better than one, he thought. Then he drew them scooping the jam out and putting it into their mouths with their tentacles and getting jam all over themselves.
He drew and drew and drew, until finally he was finished. He showed it to Aunt Moss. She thought it was wonderful. “I can almost see the seaweed waving,” she said.
Aunt Lillibet looked at it and said, “It’s very short. And the groper looks exactly like Uncle Elton.”
Benson took his book to the playground to show his friends.
Alejandro said, “I don’t really like reading,” and he went back to practising his dancing.
Mick said, “Are there any sharks?”
Benson said, “No.”
Mick said, “Why not? The shark could eat the squid, and there’d be blood everywhere. You should put a shark in.”
Bonnie Lou said, “Does it have a princess?”
“No,” Benson said, “but there’s an angel-fish on page six.”
Bonnie Lou looked on page six. “She’s beautiful,” she said. “But where are her wings?”
“Don’t you want to read the story?” Benson said. “It’s got a plot and everything.”
“No, I can’t read, you know,” Bonnie Lou said.
Arlette read every page, and when she got to the end, she laughed and laughed and laughed.
Benson said, “It’s not meant to be funny.”
She stopped laughing. “Oh, I thought it was,” she said. Then she said, “It doesn’t say ‘The End’ at the end.”
Benson said, “It doesn’t need to say ‘The End’. The end is where it ends.”
Arlette said, “All the best books have ‘The End’ at the end.” She flounced away.
Benson sighed. He thought about what Mick had said about the shark. He got his pencils out and turned over a new page and wrote, “A shark came, so they hid.” He drew a big, scary shark swimming around the jar, and the two squids squashed together inside it, trying to pretend they were green cucumbers. He showed it to Mick.
“Where’s the blood?” Mick said, and went back to sliding down the slippery slide.
Bonnie Lou stopped swinging and said, “Are you going to put wings on the angel-fish?”
Benson said no, but he drew a little seahorse for her, with a tiny crown and fairy wings.
Arlette called from the roundabout, “What’s the name of the book?”
Benson said, “I thought I’d call it ‘The Friendly Squid.’”
Mick said, “Why don’t you call it, ‘Deadly Danger in the Deep Dark Sea’, or ‘The Terrible Shipwreck and the Hungry Shark’?”
Bonnie Lou said, “You should call it ‘The Angel-fish and the Fairy Sea-horse.'”
Arlette said, “Why don’t you call it ‘Boring’?”
Benson took his book home. He said to his mother, “Writing a book is hard work, and even when you’re finished, no-one really gets it.”
His mother sat down and read his book from beginning to end. “It’s very good,” she said, “but it’s missing one thing.”
“What?” Benson said. “A helicopter? An explosion?”
His mother said, “It doesn’t say who the author is.”
“The author?” Benson said.
“You know, the person who wrote it,” she said.
Benson got his pencil and wrote on the first page, ‘Written and Illustrated by Benson.’
His mother smiled. “Perfect,” she said.