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 had a cold. He felt awful. His nose was all stuffed up and he couldn’t stop sneezing.
His mother had just finished weeding the garden and cleaning the bathroom, and she was chopping up vegetables to make some soup. “You poor thing,” she said. “Why don’t you snuggle under a blanket and read a book?”
“I want you to read to me,” Benson said. “My eyes are all fuzzy.”
His mother made him a lemon and honey and ginger drink and she was just sitting down to read to him when there was a knock at the door.
It was Nils and Nella. “We saw a monster in the bush!” they said. “A big, green, hairy monster!”
“A monster?” Benson’s mother said. “What sort of monster?”
“It was big and green and hairy, all over,” Nella said.
“With little short arms and long, sharp claws,” Nils said.
“Are you sure it wasn’t just a wombat hiding behind a bush?” Benson’s mother said.
“It was much bigger than a wombat,” Nils said. “It was growling and making horrible noises.”
Nella said, “It’s down by the grass trees! You’ve got to come!”
“All right, I’ll come and have a look,” Benson’s mother said. “I’m sorry, Benson, you’ll have to read by yourself for a little while, until I get back.”
Benson didn’t want to read by himself. “You said you’d read to me,” he said.
“I know, I’m sorry,” she said, “but I won’t be long.”
Benson kept sneezing and snuffling, until his mother got back. “Was there a monster?” he asked.
“No, we looked everywhere but there was nothing there,” she said.
Benson gave a big sneeze and said, “My head hurts and my nose won’t stop running.”
His mother said, “I’ll make you some sage and peppermint tea.” Just then there was another knock at the door. This time it was Benson’s cousin, Elmer. He looked very small and frightened.
“I can’t find my dad!” he said.
“Tell me what’s happened,” she said.
Elmer said, “He went out to get some honey, and he hasn’t come back. It’s been ages. What if the monster got him?” He started to cry.
“There’s no monster, Elmer,” Benson’s mother said. “It’s just a story someone made up.”
“Yes, there is!” Elmer cried. “Nils and Nella saw it! It’s green and hairy all over, and it’s got enormous teeth and big claws and it tries to eat you if you get close. What if it got my dad?”
Benson’s mother put her arms around him and gave him a cuddle. “Your father is big and strong. He wouldn’t let any monster get him. He’d fight, and he’d run away, wouldn’t he?”
Elmer nodded tearfully. “But maybe it bit him and he’s bleeding and he can’t walk,” he said.
“Would you like me to come and help you look for him?” she said. She helped him dry his eyes and blow his nose. “I’ll be back as soon as I can, Benson,” she said. She and Elmer set off together.
Benson felt extremely cross and grumpy. Aunt Lillibet came out and said, “You don’t look like a happy wombat. What’s the matter?”
Benson said angrily, “She said she would read to me! She was supposed to make me some peppermint tea. She’s always helping other people – what about me?”
Aunt Lillibet sat down next to him and gave him a tissue. She said, “Lots of people need her. When people need help, they come to her. That’s just how it is.”
“It’s not fair!” Benson exploded. “I need her!”
Aunt Lillibet looked hard at him. “Benson,” she said quietly, “you’re not feeling well, I know, so maybe that’s why you’re only thinking about yourself. Have you ever thought about what your mother needs? She’s always busy looking after other people. Who looks after her?”
Benson stopped. He thought about everything his mother had been doing all morning, cleaning and cooking and getting him drinks and looking after him, in between helping Nils and Nella and Elmer. Maybe he was the one being unfair, he thought. Then he thought of something else. “What if there really is a monster?” he said. “She’s all by herself, with only Elmer to help her.” He got up and took off his dressing-gown. “Aunt Lillibet, we have to go and find her,” he said.
They hurried down the track. Just as they got to the grass trees they saw it: a big, green, hairy monster! It was roaring at Elmer and Benson’s mother, and waving its long, sharp claws at them. It was bigger than the biggest wombat Benson had ever seen, and it was covered in green, hairy fuzz, with bits of sticks and leaves and dirt stuck all over it. It didn’t have any eyes or mouth, just a big, hairy lump for a head.
Benson ran up and stood in front of his mother. “Go away! Leave her alone!” he yelled, waving his arms. The monster stopped. It lifted up its head and howled.
“Listen!” his mother said. “I think it wants something.” She walked very slowly up to the monster and put her hand on its shoulder. The monster jumped around and tried to grab her. Benson ran up to the monster and shouted and tried to push it away. Some of its green fuzz stuck to his fingers. It smelled strangely of honey.
His mother didn’t move. She stood very still with her hand on the monster’s shoulder, and spoke quietly to it. The monster shook its head and growled. She stood back, and put her fingers in her mouth and whistled really loudly.
A whole flock of cockatoos suddenly appeared, and started diving at the green monster, pecking and pulling at its green hair.
“Look!” Elmer said. As the cockatoos pulled away the hairiness, a medium-sized wombat started to appear. “Dad!” Elmer yelled joyfully. He ran up and hugged his father.
“Thank goodness!” his father said, as the cockatoos flew off with the last of the green fuzz. “I was beginning to think I would never get out of that horrible, woolly mess!”
“What happened?” Elmer said. “Did the monster get you?”
“What monster?” his father said. “I went to get the honey from Shelley’s, like I told you, and she gave me a big bag of green wool that she didn’t want. On the way home, I dropped the honey, and somehow it got all over me and the wool stuck to me and got all tangled up. The more I tried to untangle it, the more tangled it got. I couldn’t see and I couldn’t hear. I kept bumping into things and falling over – it was awful!”
“Don’t worry, Dad, you’re all right now,” Elmer said, hugging him. “Let’s go home and get some warm milk and cranberry cookies.” They walked off together.
Benson’s mother said to him, “We’d better get you home too, so I can read you that story.”
Benson took his mother’s hand. He said, “Why don’t we go home and I’ll read you a story, and you can have a rest, and maybe some nice vegetable soup?”
“That sounds lovely,” she said, smiling. So they did.