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

Benson was playing with his friend Mick at the playground when Arlette came up, with her sister, Twiss. Arlette was another wombat that Benson knew, but they weren’t really friends.

“Do you boys want to play a game with us?” Arlette said.

“Okay,” Mick said. “What sort of game?”

Arlette said, “Let’s play wolley-ball.”

“Wolley-ball?” Mick said. “What’s that?”

Arlette said, “I’ve seen people playing it before. You have to have two teams, and a net and ball. I’ve got a rope we can use for a net, but we need a ball.”

Mick said, “I’ve got one I can bring.”

“Good,” said Arlette. “You bring your team to the big park and I’ll get my team and meet you there.”

They all met at the big park, Mick and Benson, and Elmer and Alejandro, and Mick’s little sister, Bonnie Lou. Arlette tied a rope between two trees to be the net.

Mick had brought a bowl with a crack in it. Arlette said, “What’s this? You were supposed to bring a ball!”

“Oh, I thought you said a bowl,” Mick said.

Arlette looked at it disdainfully. “It doesn’t matter, we can play it without the ball. All you do is take turns jumping up off the ground and punching the air.”

“Is that all?” Mick said. “Easy.”

“Your team stands over there,” Arlette said, pointing.

Mick and his team went and stood on one side of the net, and Arlette and Twiss stood on the other side of the net and told them all what to do. “We all take turns jumping up and punching the air, my side first then your side, okay?”

Alejandro was very excited. He started doing warm-up jumps. He was very good. Elmer tried hard but he tripped and crashed into Benson and they both fell over.

Mick said to Arlette, “Where’s the rest of your team?”

Arlette said, “My friends, Junie and Rusty, are playing too.” Two wallabies came bounding out of the bush. They bounced up and down on Arlette’s side, way higher than the net.

“Hey, that’s not fair!” Mick said. “No wallabies! They should be disqualified.”

“I’m the referee,” Arlette said. “I do the disqualifying, and they’re not disqualified. Let’s start.”

She jumped up as high as she could, and punched the air and said, “Whuh!” Then Alejandro did one of his spectacular leaps, then both the wallabies jumped, then Mick, and then Elmer fell over again.

“Yes!” yelled Arlette and Twiss.

“Your turn to start,” Arlette said. Mick jumped up and went, “Umph!” then Twiss gave a little jump, not really trying, then Mick, and then Junie jumped over the net and landed on Benson’s head.

“Yes!” said Arlette. “That’s two points to us.”

“What?” Mick said.

Arlette said, “When I say ‘yes’, that means we get a point.”

Mick yelled, “Yes, yes, yes, yes! That’s four points to us.”

Arlette looked down her nose at him. “It’s two points to us, none to you. I’m the score-keeper.”

Bonnie Lou said, “I want to join the girls’ side.”

Elmer said, “Me too.” Benson went and lay down on his back under a tree. Junie and Rusty jumped back and forth over the net and over Alejandro and over each other.

Mick said, “This is a stupid game. I’m going home.” He stamped off.

Arlette called after him, “Wait! I know another game we could play.”

Mick turned around. “If there are wallabies in it, I’m not playing,” he said.

“No, it’s completely different,” she said. “There isn’t a net, just a bat and a ball. You hit the ball with the bat, and you run.”

“Do you know any bats that want to play?” Mick asked.

“Not that kind of bat,” Arlette said. “It’s a bat like a flat stick.”

“Have you got a ball?” Mick said.

“No, but you can play it without the ball,” Arlette said. “You just swing the bat and go, Whack! It’s called ‘whacket’.”

Mick said, “All right, but this time I’m being the score-keeper.”

Arlette said okay, and they got a nice, flat stick out of the bush. “Ready?” Arlette said. “You bowl first.”

Mick picked up his bowl and started to throw it.

“No!” Arlette said. “Not that kind of bowl!” She took the bowl away from him and gave it to Twiss to hold. “Just pretend you’re throwing a ball.”

Mick took a big run-up and threw an invisible ball as hard as he could.

“Whack!” said Arlette. She started running backwards and forwards and counting, “One, two, three, four!” Junie put the bat in her pouch and bounded off into the bush. Mick scratched his head. He went and sat down under the tree with Benson.

“Is it over yet?” Benson asked.

“I don’t know,” Mick said. “But I think I know who’s going to win.”

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