Louisa Alexandra

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

One morning Benson was in the kitchen with his mother, talking about times tables and how they didn’t really help you tell the time at all, when they heard a loud, growling, grungily noise outside.

They all ran out to see what it was.

Aunt Lillibet was sitting on a big red scooter. It had black handlebars and a big, black, cushiony seat, and a red basket at the front for carrying things, and a big, loud, noisy engine. It was so noisy that everyone put their hands over their ears at once.

“Look at my new scooter!” Aunt Lillibet shouted proudly. She had to shout at the top of her voice so they could hear her over the noise of the engine. She turned a knob on the handlebar and the engine roared even louder, and thick, black smoke came out of the exhaust pipe at the back. Aunt Moss coughed. Aunt Lillibet turned the knob backwards and forwards and the engine roared up and down, and more black smoke poured out. Benson could feel his eyes stinging.

His mother went over and turned the engine off.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” Aunt Lillibet said. “I’m going to call her Louisa Alexandra.” She was still shouting because the engine had made her ears a bit deaf. “No more walking everywhere, no more getting tired out and wearing out my shoes, and no more carrying heavy bags. I’ll be zooming everywhere at top speed from now on!”

“Where did you get it?” Benson’s mother said.

“My friend Babette gave it to me,” Aunt Lillibet said. “She’s upgrading to a newer model.”

Aunt Moss whispered to Benson, “That means she’s getting a more expensive one.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Jump on, Moss. I’ll take your poor tired old bones for a spin.” She turned the scooter on again. The engine snorted and huffed, and the smell of petrol filled the air. Benson’s mother sneezed, and Aunt Moss started to cough again. She didn’t seem to be able to stop.

“No, thank you, Lillibet,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “I don’t think I’d better.”

“I will!” Benson said eagerly. He climbed onto the back of the scooter and Aunt Lillibet took off. Clouds of black smoke poured out and made Benson’s eyes water, and the smell of petrol made him feel sick.

Aunt Lillibet stopped the scooter and turned the engine off. She was coughing so hard and her eyes were watering so much, she couldn’t see where she was going.

Benson’s mother said, “Lillibet, I don’t think this is a good idea. The smell is just terrible, and Moss can’t breathe properly.”

Aunt Lillibet looked very disappointed, but not for long. “I know!” she said. “If she had an electric motor, she would be much quieter, and there wouldn’t be any smoke at all! You’d love that, wouldn’t you, Louisa Alexandra?” She patted the scooter just between the handlebars.

The next day Uncle Elton came over and took the petrol engine out of Aunt Lillibet’s scooter, and put an electric motor in instead. He screwed it down tightly, and did up the bolts.

“There you are, Lillibet!” he said. “All ready to go!”

Aunt Lillibet jumped on. “Let’s go, Louisa Alexandra!” she said, patting the scooter. She turned the engine on, and it started up with a purr. She smiled a big, wide smile. “No smoke, no noise – perfect!”

She turned the knob on the handlebar and Louisa Alexandra started to move forward. Very slowly. Benson walked alongside them. “Are you going to go fast now?” he asked.

Aunt Lillibet wasn’t smiling so widely now. “This is as fast as she will go,” she said.

Aunt Moss came up and walked beside the scooter too. “Do you want us to give you a little push, Lillibet?” she asked.

Aunt Lillibet opened her mouth to say something rude when suddenly the scooter stopped. Aunt Lillibet turned the engine off and on again, but nothing happened.

“What’s wrong with her?” she asked Uncle Elton.

“I’d say the battery’s flat,” Uncle Elton said. “You need to plug it in and charge it up again.”

“Oh, is that all?” Lillibet said. “How long will it take to charge the battery up?”

Uncle Elton scratched his head. “About twenty-four hours, I should think,” he said.

“What!?!” Aunt Lillibet said. She got off the scooter and stood there with her hands on her hips. She wasn’t smiling any more.

Benson said, “If you like, we could get a rope and we could pull you along.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “That won’t be necessary, thank you, Benson.” She said to Uncle Elton, “You can take the electric motor out. I won’t be needing it after all.”

Uncle Elton undid the bolts and took the electric motor off again.

Benson’s mother said, “You’re not going to put the petrol engine in again, are you, Lillibet? Think of that horrible smell, and all that black smoke making the air dirty. Moss could hardly breathe!”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Benson, I’d like you to give me a hand pushing the scooter, please.”

Benson said, “Don’t you think walking would be easier than me pushing you everywhere on the scooter?”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Less talking, more pushing, please! This way!”

She and Benson pushed the scooter into the middle of the garden. She put some nice pot plants on the front mudguards. Then she went inside and came back with a cup of tea, a book and a piece of coconut banana bread. She put them in the basket at the front. “There you are, Louisa Alexandra,” she said, patting the scooter. “You’re going to be the most comfortable garden seat anyone’s ever had.” She climbed up and sat on the black, cushiony seat and took a sip of her tea and started to read her book.

And she was right.

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