A Light on the Hill

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

Benson was cleaning his teeth before bed one night when he saw a light outside, a long way off, on the top of a hill. He watched it for a while, and then he went and got his mother. “Why is there a light shining at the top of the hill?” he said.

“I don’t know,” said his mother. “It looks like someone is up there with a torch. Shall we go and find out?”

Benson was very excited to be going out in the dark when he should have been going to bed. It was so very dark that he couldn’t see anything at first, but in a little while his eyes got used to it and he could see quite well.

The light on top of the hill was tiny but it was so bright, they could see it from far away and they found it easily. When they got to the top of the hill, there was Nanna, sitting all by herself, holding a big torch.

“Nanna, what are you doing up here in the dark?” Benson said.

Nanna gave Benson and his mother a big hug. “I’m glad you came,” she said. “You can help me look.”

“Did you drop something, Nanna?” Benson asked. “Is that what you’ve got the torch for?”

Nanna said, “No, I haven’t lost anything, but I am looking for something.”

“What?” Benson asked.

“Shh!” Nanna said suddenly. “Did you hear that?”

Benson listened. There was a faint squeaking noise. His mother said, “Could I borrow the torch, please, Nanna?”

She shone the beam of the torch around among the trees. It stopped on a hole high up in the trunk of a gum tree. Inside, there was a nest with three little green and yellow parrots. They were huddled up close to each other, frightened and crying.

“Look!” Benson pointed at the branch beside the hole. A furry animal with a long tail was creeping along the branch of the tree, sneaking up to the hole in the trunk.

“It’s a sugar-glider,” Benson’s mother said softly. “I wonder what he’s up to?”

The sugar-glider came up to the hole in the tree, and he started trying to push the little chicks out. Benson’s mother pointed the torch right at him and said sternly, “What do you think you’re doing?”

The sugar-glider stopped what he was doing and froze. Benson said, “I know who that is. It’s Whipple! Why is he doing that?”

“He wants to have the nest to himself,” Nanna said. “Some of the birds came and told me there was a sugar-glider pushing their eggs and their chicks out of their nest. That’s why I came up to look.”

Benson yelled at Whipple, “You leave those little birds alone!”

Whipple’s eyes shone red in the torchlight. “Why should I?” he said. “It’s my nest! I was here first!”

The little parrots cheeped, “No, you weren’t! We were!”

Whipple said angrily, “I found this hole in the tree, and I made it a nice comfy nest. I went out to find something to eat, and when I came back in the morning, it was stuffed full of parrots!”

“We were here first!” cheeped the parrots. “We found this hole and we moved in, and the next morning this big, fat sugar-glider comes and tries to throw us out! You meanie!” they yelled at Whipple.

They all started yelling at each other, and calling each other names.

Benson asked Nanna, “Who does the nest belong to, the birds or the sugar-glider?”

Nanna said, “It’s always like this when the gum trees start to blossom. The sugar-gliders want the holes in the best trees so they can eat as much as they want, and the parrots do too.”

“Why can’t they just share?” Benson said.

His mother said, “Can you imagine three hungry, noisy chicks and a mother and father parrot and a sugar-glider all trying to fit into one small nest? No, they need their own nests.”

Nanna said, “The trouble is, there aren’t enough nests or holes to go around.”

Up in the tree, Whipple was yelling at the birds and pulling their feathers. The little chicks were pecking at Whipple’s head, peck, peck, peck.

Benson’s mother shone the torch on them and said firmly, “Stop that right now, all of you!” They all stopped and looked at her. She said, “If you can’t share, someone is going to have to move out.”

“No way, it’s ours! I was here first! It’s my nest!” they all yelled at once.

Benson’s mother said sternly, “That’s enough! This is what we’re going to do. The parrots can sleep here tonight, while Whipple goes off eating gum blossom as usual. In the morning, the parrots will be moving out.”

“What? That’s not fair!” the parrots shrilled. They cheeped and screeched and complained until Benson had to put his hands over his ears.

His mother shouted, “Quiet, I’m not finished! Tomorrow, Benson and I are going to make you your very own nesting box, and put it up in the tree for you, all right?”

“Ooh!” said the chicks. “A nesting box just for us, that doesn’t smell like nasty sugar-gliders!”

Everyone was happy. Nanna and Benson and his mother went back down the hill and went home. “Come on, Benson, time for bed,” his mother said. “We’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”

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