The Medal

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.

Everyone was going up to the Community Centre, because Aunt Lillibet’s friend, Gordon, was getting a very special award.

“Do we have to go?” Benson said. There were sure to be speeches, probably long speeches.

“Yes, we do,” Benson’s mother said. “Gordon is being presented with a medal. It’s a great honour, so we’re all going to be there, to congratulate him.” They all got ready and set off.

Aunt Lillibet and Benson’s mother were helping with the morning tea, so they went on ahead and left Benson with Aunt Moss. Aunt Moss was walking slowly, carrying a big bag, and a heavy basket.

Benson said, “Do you want me to carry the basket for you, Aunt Moss?” Something inside the basket smelled delicious.

“Oh, yes, thank you,” Aunt Moss said. “It’s a baked pumpkin casserole for Mr Fenn. He was very kind, bringing us lots of lemons off his big tree, and I wanted to thank him.”

They stopped at Mr Fenn’s place to give him the casserole. He was very pleased. “My favourite,” he said. Benson was hoping Mr Fenn might invite them to come in and taste the pumpkin casserole, but he was getting ready to go to Gordon’s medal presentation too, so Benson and Aunt Moss kept going.

A little further along the track, Aunt Moss said, “I just want to give this bag to Mrs Dunnart, if you don’t mind, Benson.”

They turned off down the track to where Mrs Dunnart and all the little dunnarts lived. The bag was full of tiny little hats and jackets that Aunt Moss had knitted for the little dunnarts.

Aunt Moss said to Mrs Dunnart, “These are for the children. I know you were worried about them getting cold, now that winter’s coming.”

Mrs Dunnart was very happy. She called all the children and they had a great time trying on the hats and jackets, before Aunt Moss and Benson had to hurry off. “Oh dear, I hope we’re not going to be late,” Aunt Moss said.

As they were going past Nils and Nella’s house, Nella’s mum called out, “Oh, Moss, I was hoping I would see you! Nils has hurt his ankle and I’m worried about it. Could you have a look at it?”

“Of course,” Aunt Moss said. Nils hopped over and showed her his ankle.

She look at it carefully and felt it all over. “I think it’s probably just a bad bruise, but keep it bandaged up firmly. I’ll bring some comfrey ointment over this afternoon.”

Benson was beginning to think that if it got any later, they’d miss out on the morning tea. “Come on, Aunt Moss,” he said, “we’ll be late.”

They hurried along the track. When Aunt Moss wanted to pick some gum blossom for Aunt Lillibet, Benson said they didn’t have time, and when she found a bush covered in speckled midyim berries, they only stopped long enough to fill up Benson’s pockets.

In the end they had to run the last part, and they only just made it to the Community Centre in time. Gordon looked very fine in his best clothes, with his hair brushed smoothly all over. There were lots of long speeches, but Benson ate his midyim berries and didn’t mind too much. Then Gordon came forward, and someone important put a big medal around his neck. It was gold and shiny, with a blue and red ribbon. It had his name on it and it said, ‘For Services to the Wombat Community’. Everyone clapped and cheered. Gordon made another long speech and finally it was time for morning tea.

Afterwards, on the way home, Benson asked Aunt Moss what ‘Services to the Wombat Community’ meant. She said, “It’s all the things Gordon does for the community, like organising Hairy Nose Day, and the Historical Committee. It’s a great honour. I’ll never achieve anything like that.” She gave a little sigh.

“What do you mean, achieve something?” he asked.

Aunt Moss said, “I mean when you do something important, that everyone knows about. Like Aunt Lillibet winning all those trophies for Scottish dancing and karate, and your mother writing papers and being asked to give talks and things.”

Benson thought about it. “I don’t think I’ll ever achieve anything either,” he said. “I’m just going to dig, and probably do lots of drawing. And maybe one day, I’ll grow lots of oranges. How do you grow oranges?” he asked her.

“You just plant a little orange tree, and you water it and look after it,” she said. All the rest of the way home they talked about growing oranges.

That afternoon Benson thought about how Aunt Moss had been feeling sad, and he thought about what he could do. He found a nice piece of bark and he made a hole in it and threaded one of his stripey shoe-laces through the hole. Then he got his favourite blue pencil and wrote a message on the bark.

After dinner, he stood up and said, “I would like to make a presentation.” He thought about making a long speech, but he decided not to. Nobody liked speeches. So he just said, “Aunt Moss, this is for you.”

He hung the piece of bark around Aunt Moss’s neck. His mother and Aunt Lillibet clapped and cheered. Aunt Moss was very surprised, and very happy. Then she read what it said on the piece of bark, and she cried.

Benson said, “I’m sorry it’s not gold and shiny.”

Aunt Moss blew her nose and said, “It’s beautiful, Benson. It’s the most beautiful thing anyone could ever give me.”

It said, ‘For Aunt Moss, who loves everybody.’

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