Fairy Cakes

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

Aunt Lillibet’s tomato vines were covered with fat, red, shiny tomatoes. There were so many that Benson’s mother said to him, “Let’s take some of these tomatoes to Nanna. There’s nothing like a fresh tomato still warm from the sun.”

Benson loved visiting Nanna. She always had lots of interesting stories and things to talk about, and there were usually really nice things to eat. They got their hats and their water bottles, and filled up a big basket with tomatoes and set off.

Nanna loved it when Benson came to visit. “Benson!” she said, giving him a big hug. “It’s so good to see you!”

Benson hugged her back, breathing in her warm, friendly smell. Then he stopped hugging and sniffed. “Are you cooking something?” he asked.

Nanna smiled. “I’m making little cakes,” she said. “I’ve just taken them out of the oven. Would you like to help me make the icing?”

Nanna got the bowl ready, and the sugar and butter, and Benson’s mother squeezed the juice out of a lemon, and Benson did the stirring. They spread the icing on the little cakes, and Nanna let Benson put the coloured sprinkles on them. “Just a light shower,” she said, “not a downpour.”

They decided to eat them outside in the sunshine, so Benson got the picnic blanket and his mother cut up some carrot sticks and radish flowers and they took them outside while Nanna put the little cakes on a plate.

After a minute, Benson went back inside to see what was making Nanna so slow. She was putting two of the little cakes in a bag. She tied the bag up with a ribbon and sprinkled gold dust over the top of it.

“What are you doing?” Benson said.

Nanna jumped. “Nothing,” she said. She put the bag behind her back.

“Why did you put those cakes in that bag?” Benson asked.

“What bag?” Nanna said.

“The one you’re hiding behind your back,” he said.

Nanna brought the bag back out. “It’s kind of a surprise for someone,” she said.

Benson said, “Who are they for?”

“Well, I don’t know, exactly,” Nanna said. “This is how it is. There’s a special tree right in the middle of the blue gum forest with a hole in it just big enough for a small wombat’s hand. And sometimes I leave a little surprise in it, like a flower or a drawing, or a little message.”

“Or a cake,” Benson said.

“Yes,” Nanna said, “and when I go back the next day or the day after, it’s gone, and there’s something there instead, like a beautiful leaf, or an interesting shaped stone.”

“Who puts them in the tree?” Benson asked.

“I don’t know,” Nanna said. “But it makes me think of when I was a little girl and we used to pretend there were fairies in the bush.”

“Fairies?” Benson said. “You know that fairies are made up, don’t you, Nanna?”

“I know,” Nanna said.”But maybe whoever finds my little surprises might think that a fairy put them there.”

“You think that someone thinks that you’re a fairy?” Benson said. “Do they know fairies are supposed to be tiny and sparkly, not big and brown and hairy like a wombat?”

“They never see me,” Nanna said, “and I don’t see them. It’s just fun to think they might imagine that fairies do it.”

“Why?” Benson said.

Nanna said, “That’s what your imagination is for! Thinking of impossible things, and making up things that you’ve never see before. Like dragons. Flying hippopotamuses. Custard mango trees. Magical creatures that make little cakes with fairy dust on them.”

Benson said, “I suppose so,” but he didn’t really understand why she didn’t just give them the cakes.

The next day, he went for a walk in the blue gum forest, to look for the special tree that Nanna had talked about. When he found it, he hid behind a bush and waited.

After a while, Bonnie Lou came skipping through the forest. She got to the special tree and stopped. She looked around to make sure no-one was watching, and then she put her hand into the little hole and got the bag out. She looked inside and smiled.

Benson popped out from behind the bush and said, “Hi, Bonnie Lou. What have you got there?”

Bonnie Lou jumped. “Nothing,” she said, hiding the bag behind her back.

“What’s in that bag?” he asked.

“What bag?” she said.

“The one you’re hiding behind your back,” he said.

She went pink. “Just some little cakes,” she said.

Benson said craftily, “How did they get there? Do you think maybe a pink, sparkly fairy came up and put a little bag of cakes in the hole in the tree, and then sprinkled some fairy dust on it and flew away?”

Bonnie Lou said, “A fairy? Don’t be silly, Benson, fairies are just made up.”

“How do you think those cakes got there, then?” he said.

“I don’t know,” Bonnie Lou said. “I know somebody put them there. I don’t know who it is, but sometimes I imagine it’s a cute, furry orang-utan that comes along and puts little surprises in the tree for me, so I leave her little messages and surprises too.”

“An orang-utan?” Benson said, amazed.

“Sure, an orang-utan,” she said. She looked at Benson and shook her head. “You really need to learn to use your imagination, Benson,” she said. She held out the bag. “Do you want an orang-utan cake?”

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