The Perfect Chicken

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

Benson was lying on his tummy on the floor, drawing elephants. He asked his mother, “Do you think I’m perfect?”

“Mmm-hmm,” she said. She was knitting a chicken, and she was just up to the part where she had to slip one stitch and knit two stitches together five times, and she was trying to count.

Benson said, “Alejandro says I can’t do pirouettes because I’m fat. Do you think I’m fat?”

“I think you’re beautifully wombat-shaped,” she said.

“Are you saying that just because you’re my mother, or do you really think it?” Benson said. “What if I grow up to be huge and lazy like a polar bear? Would you still think I’m perfect?” he asked. The elephant he was drawing had a long, long trunk that was holding a pink flower.

“I don’t think polar bears are lazy,” his mother said. “I think they lie around a lot to save energy because it’s so cold in all that snow and ice.” She cast off some stitches and did some tricky decreasing around the chicken’s underneath.

“What if I grow up to be cranky like… some people are, or mean, like a rat?” he asked. He rubbed out the pink flower and drew a nice daisy instead.

“You’d still be perfect,” she said.

Benson drew a swimming pool around his elephant and gave him a ball to play with. “Arlette says I’m horrible,” he said.

“Why does she say that?” she asked.

“She thinks Mick is horrible too, and Alejandro. Even Elmer,” Benson said.

“I don’t think Elmer’s horrible at all,” his mother said.

Benson drew a stripey roof over the swimming pool so his elephant didn’t get sunburnt, and he drew a big bowl of soup for the elephant’s lunch.

“Mick said I was stupid,” he said.

“Did he?” his mother said.

“I broke his new invention for seeing around corners on his bike,” Benson said. “How was I supposed to know it would snap if you bent it?” The soup bowl went a funny shape, so he scribbled all over it and started a new page. “Do you think I’m stupid?” he asked.

“Not at all,” his mother said. “Everyone makes mistakes. ” She tied off the last stitch, and put some stuffing inside to make it chicken-shaped. Then she sewed it up and cut off the yarn.

“Some people make mistakes by mistake, and some people make mistakes because they’re stupid,” Benson said in a low voice.

His mother got some red wool and threaded it through a needle. “What do you think?” she said.

He drew another elephant, with a big bottom and tiny legs. “I suppose I’m stupid about some things,” he said. He rubbed out the tiny legs and drew nice sturdy legs to hold up the elephant’s big bottom properly. “Nobody’s perfect,” he said.

“That’s where you’re wrong,” his mother said. “Everybody’s perfect.”

Benson looked up from his drawing. “How can everybody be perfect? Alejandro is really mean sometimes, and Mick gets mad at me, and Arlette is never, ever, ever nice to me. Even Zali bites sometimes.” He drew a smile on his elephant. “But she doesn’t mean it. Zali’s pretty perfect, I guess.” He smiled at his elephant and his elephant smiled back. “I’ll never be perfect,” he sighed.

Benson’s mother finished sewing a little red beak on her chicken and two little red dots for the eyes. She put down her needle and said firmly, “I’m your mother and I know you’re perfect.”

Benson stopped drawing and looked up at her. “How can I be? I’m terrible at climbing and I can’t do pirouettes, and I make mistakes in my drawing all the time. And sometimes I’m even mean to Mick. I didn’t even say sorry when I broke his new invention.”

His mother said, “Benson, do you see this chicken I’ve made for little Zip?” She held it up for him to see. It was a little brown chicken with two odd brown wings. It had funny red eyes, and its beak was crooked. “What do you think?” she said, putting it in his hand.

He looked at the little chicken. Its beak was too small as well as being crooked, and one wing was bigger than the other, and the eyes didn’t match. But then he noticed how it seemed to cock its head on one side, and its wings looked like it was clucking about something, and it had a look on its face that made him feel happy inside. It felt warm and exactly shaped to fit his hand.

He smiled at his mother. “It’s perfect,” he said.

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