Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a warm, welcoming wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
It was the middle of summer. Benson spent the morning digging and riding his bike and helping Aunt Moss turn over the compost heap and picking beans with Aunt Lillibet. In the afternoon he couldn’t think of anything to do.
Aunt Moss said, “When we were young, we used to spend days playing cubby-houses in the back yard.”
Benson thought that was a good idea. “But we haven’t got anything to build a cubby-house with,” he said.
“We always built our cubby-houses out of whatever we could find,” Aunt Moss said. “We used to recycle all sorts of things. “
“Like what?” Benson said.
“Just look around and see what you can find,” she said.
Benson went outside and looked around. He found some branches that had fallen down in the latest storm, and some big sheets of bark that had peeled off the paperbark tree. He leaned the branches against the fence and tied them up with some vines and some string he had his pocket, and he put the bark across the top to make a roof.
He crawled inside. It was great, his own private cubby-house.
Two seconds later, Nils and Nella came bounding up.
“Hey, Benson, can we come in your cubby-house?” Nils asked.
“How did you know I was building a cubby-house?” Benson said.
“Everyone knows,” Nella said. “We made some pillows for it, see? It’s just old pillow-cases stuffed with bits of possum fur that’s always falling out of my tail.”
The pillows were very comfortable, and it was nice sharing a cubby-house with friends.
Then Elmer turned up, dragging an enormous piece of wood. “Hey, Benson,” he said, “don’t you think your cubby-house needs a door?”
The piece of wood made a perfect door. Benson said, “Now all we need…”
“Brinnggg!” Mick was outside with Bonnie Lou. He had brought the old bell from his bike. “What’s a door without a doorbell?” he said.
Everyone had a turn going out of the door and ringing the bell and letting each other in. With everyone inside it was pretty crowded.
Then Arlette and her sister Twiss arrived. “Can we come in?” they said.
“No girls allowed!” Mick said.
“Bonnie Lou is in there,” Arlette said.
“She doesn’t count,” Mick said.
“That’s not fair!” Twiss said.
“If you don’t like the rules, get your own cubby-house house!” Mick said.
“All right, we will!” Arlette said. “Come on, Twiss.” They marched off together.
Then Snippet and his friend Snickle turned up. “This is the best cubby-house ever!” they said, wriggling inside. Benson was squashed up into a corner. There isn’t much room in a small cubby-house for eight friends when two of the them are echidnas, he thought.
Mick was thinking the same thing. “You know, I could make a cubby-house twice as good as this one,” he said.
He climbed out and started collecting a pile of long, straight sticks. He got Benson to hold them together while he tied some strong lawyer vine around one end. Then they stood the sticks up and spread the bottoms out, like a tall, pointy tent.
“Brilliant!” Mick said, going inside. “All it needs is something to wrap around it.”
Just then Zali and her sister Zip arrived, with their mother Teresa. “Can you use an old table-cloth?” Teresa said.
“Perfect!” Mick said. He wrapped the old red table-cloth around the sticks and clipped it on with some of Aunt Lillibet’s clothes-pegs. “Brilliant!” he said.
Arlette and Twiss came back again, dragging an old fold-up picnic table. She opened it up and she and Twiss sat under it. Arlette said to Mick, “Your cubby-house has got chocolate sauce on it. Ours is much nicer.”
Just about the time when Benson was starting to feel hungry, Aunt Lillibet came out with a big plate of chopped up apples and watermelon, and a small tin box. “This used to be Moss’s button box, but I thought it would make a nice letterbox,” she said.
Benson tied it onto the door, and everyone started writing letters to post. They didn’t have any paper, so they scratched notes on leaves with sharp sticks and put them in the letterbox. Arlette told them they couldn’t post letters without a stamp, so they brought them over to her before they posted them, and she stamped her foot down hard on them.
When Benson took the letters out of the letterbox, they were hard to read because sticks aren’t very good for writing with, plus there was a wombat footprint right in the middle of every letter, but they all said, “Hi Benson,” or “Is there any more watermelon?” so that was okay.
They played cubby-houses all afternoon and all the next day. Then that night there was a big storm and all the bark and a lot of the sticks blew away. Arlette’s mother wanted the picnic table back, and Teresa took the table-cloth home to wash it, and Mick decided he wanted the door-bell for his room at home. The birds had pecked most of the possum fur out of the pillows to make nests with, and Elmer had taken the door home so his father could make a surfboard out of it, so when Benson came to look at the cubby-house, there wasn’t much left of it, just the letter-box, really. There was a note inside it. It said, “Dear Benson, I really miss my button box. Can I have it back, please? Love from Aunt Moss.”
Benson took it inside and gave it back to her. “Did you have fun playing cubby-houses?” she asked him.
“It was brilliant,” Benson said. “Tomorrow, we’re all going over to Mick’s, and Nils and Nella are going to make a cubby-treehouse, and Bonnie Lou and Twiss are going to make a cubby-flower-shop, but Mick and I are going to make a cubby-space-station!”