Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a nice, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One morning after breakfast Benson was outside trying to make a sundial out of banana leaves when Nils and Nella came rushing up.
“We’ve found something…” Nella panted.
“…in a tree,” Nils said. “Come and have a look.”
Benson told his mother where he was going and then he went to see what Nils and Nella were talking about.
They went into the bush, until they came to a big woolly blackbutt. “Look,” Nils said, “up there.” Up in the branches of the tree there was a ragged, rolled-up carpet.
Nella said, “It’s a carpet. We think it got blown into the tree in the big storm last night, and got caught in the branches.”
Benson was staring up at the carpet. “Or,” he said slowly, “maybe it’s a flying carpet, and someone was flying it and they crashed into the tree.”
“Huh? What’s a flying carpet?” Nella said.
Benson said, “Don’t you remember the story Pascoe told us about a flying carpet?” He could still remember Pascoe’s voice telling the story, and for a moment he was back by the camp-fire, listening to the story unfold. “‘A king in a far-off land had a magic flying carpet. Whenever he wanted to look out over his kingdom and see what his subjects were doing, he would sit on his magic carpet and say a magic word, and the carpet would rise up into the air and take him wherever he wanted to go.'”
Nella listened with her eyes wide, but Nils said, “If the king wanted to look out over his kingdom, why didn’t he just climb a tree?” He scampered up to the very highest branches and hung on by his tail. “See?” he said. “I can see everything from here.”
Benson said, “Not everyone can climb trees, Nils.”
“Oh yeah,” Nils said. “I forgot.”
Nella said, “If it’s a magic carpet, what happened to the driver?”
“I suppose they climbed down and went away,” Benson said.
“Do you think it still works?” she asked, excitedly.
“Let’s get it down and have a try,” Nils said.
He and Nella got on one end of the carpet and pushed and pulled but the carpet was jammed tight.
“It’s too heavy,” Nils said. “Come and give us a hand, Benson.”
Benson thought Nils must have a very bad memory. “I’ll go and ask Mr Fenn if I can borrow his rope,” he said.
Mr Fenn was happy for Benson to borrow his rope, but he came along to make sure they were doing something safe with it.
Nils tied the rope around one end of the carpet. Mr Fenn and Benson got the other end of the rope and they pulled as hard as they could, but the carpet was really stuck.
“I’ll go and get some help,” Benson said. He went and got his Uncle Elton and his cousin Elmer, and his friends, Mick and Philip. Mick’s sister Bonnie Lou came along too, to see what was going on.
“There’s a flying carpet stuck in a tree and we’re trying to get it down,” Benson explained to everyone.
“If it’s a flying carpet, why doesn’t it just fly down?” Mick asked.
“It would but it’s stuck,” Benson said.
“Maybe it’s the starter motor,” Uncle Elton said. “I had a washing machine like that once. I put in a new coil and it was right as rain.”
Mr Fenn said they should stop talking and just pull.
The carpet still wouldn’t move. Uncle Elton went home and got another rope and Nella ran off to ask Whipple, the sugar glider, to come and give them some technical advice. By now, Benson’s mother and Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss had come along to see what was happening. They all got hold of the rope and pulled as hard as they could.
The carpet moved just a bit. “We need more manpower,” Mr Fenn said.
“More wombat power,” Benson said. He went and got Alejandro and his mother, and Zali and her mother, Teresa. Even cousin Lance heard what was going on and brought his special friend, Wilma, along to help. Nanna came too, and brought some cranberry cookies she had just made.
Mr Fenn said, “Now, one-two-three, pull!!” Everybody heaved and strained and pulled, and then thwunk, the carpet let go of the tree and thudded down to the ground.
Benson’s mother said, “Good work, everyone! I think it’s time for a picnic, don’t you?” She and Aunt Moss went home and got some pecan and blackberry muffins, and some orange juice, and Aunt Lillibet brought the picnic blanket and the cups. Mr Fenn brought a whole bag of oranges from his tree. Cousin Lance had some cinnamon and apple buns he had just made, and Teresa brought some funny-looking spinach scones that she had been teaching Zali how to make.
When they were all sitting on the picnic blanket, eating and talking, Cousin Lance said, “What do you want a disgusting old carpet for, anyway?”
Nella said, with her eyes shining, “Benson thinks it might be a magic flying carpet!”
The grown-ups looked at each other and smiled, but Benson thought that grown-ups don’t always know everything. He gave the carpet a big push and it unrolled itself. There in the centre of the carpet was a picture of a red dragon.
“Oohhh,” everyone breathed.
Benson said, “All we need now is the magic word.”
“Let me, let me!” Mick said. He sat down in the middle of the carpet and said, “Abracadabra!”
Nils said, “Let me have a turn!” He sat on the carpet and said, “Alley-kazam! Alley-kazoo!” Nothing happened.
The grown-ups smiled at each other again and went back to eating muffins and drinking orange juice, but after Benson and Nella and Elmer and Alejandro and Bonnie Lou had all had a turn sitting on the carpet and trying to think of the magic word, all the grown-ups had a turn too, except for Mr Fenn who said that even if he got the magic word right, he would be too heavy for the carpet to lift, and Nanna, who said that a flying carpet would probably make her seasick.
When it was time to go home, Benson’s mother and Mr Fenn helped carry the carpet back to Benson’s place. He spread it on the floor of his room where the dragon glowed fiery red. And every morning for a long time afterwards, he would sit on it and try a new magic word.