Benson’s Kite

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 rummaging around in the recycling bin while Aunt Lillibet was trying to have breakfast.

“What are you doing, Benson?” she asked. “I’d like to have my breakfast in peace, if you don’t mind.”

“I need a big piece of coloured paper,” Benson said. “We’re going to make kites at the library today, to celebrate Children’s Day.”

“Kites!” said Aunt Moss. “How lovely!”

Benson said, “Miss Evangelina said we all had to bring a big sheet of coloured paper, and some sticks.”

Aunt Lillibet put down her spoon and thought. “I’ve got just the thing,” she said. She had a big box under her bed that was overflowing with scraps of fabric that she was going to make something out of one day, or left over from something she had made another day. “Here!” she said, pulling out a piece of shiny fabric. “This will be perfect.”

The piece of fabric was a kind of browny green, with purpley-maroon swirls on it. It looked like a pool of slime at the bottom of a muddy creek. Yuck, Benson thought. He said, “Miss Evangelina said to bring paper.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “This will be much better than paper, trust me.”

Benson remembered the last time Aunt Lillibet had said, “Trust me,” when she had made beetroot burgers with rhubarb and fish paste and said they would be delicious. They weren’t.

He said, “Um, do you have a red piece? Or white?”

Aunt Lillibet said, “This is the only piece I have. It’s silk. I’ve been saving it for something special. It will be absolutely beautiful, trust me.”

Benson’s mother called from the door, “Come on, Benson, we’re already running late!”

Horrible as it was, it was better than nothing. Benson grabbed the piece of silk and ran to catch up with his mother and they set off.

When they got to the library, everyone else had already started making their kites. Mick had a big piece of red paper. Arlette and Twiss had plain white, but then Arlette got out her Young Wombat’s Scrap-booking Kit and started gluing sequins and glitter and party bows all over hers.

Benson’s cousin Elmer had brought a big sheet of bark instead of paper. “Dad thinks it should be all natural,” he said.

Benson brought out his piece of silk. Miss Evangelina said, “Oh, that’s… unusual. I’m sure it will be fine, Benson.”

Arlette snickered and said, “What colour do you call that, sludge?” Twiss laughed. She was gluing bits of painted pasta onto her kite.

Everyone had to cut their paper into a diamond shape and sticky-tape their sticks on. The piece of silk was hard to cut because it was slippery and it kept sliding everywhere. Benson used miles of sticky-tape to try to get the silk to stick on to his kite-sticks, but in the end, he tied it on with pieces of string. When he finished, it was floppy and saggy like a dead cabbage leaf.

Miss Evangelina said, “You’ve all done an excellent job! Umm, even you, Benson. Now we’re going to line them up on the table against the wall, and Hazel is going to judge which one is the best.”

Hazel came in and walked up and down in front of the row of kites. Arlette’s was pink and glittery, and Twiss’s had a yellow smiley face made out of pasta. Mick had had an accident with the scissors, so his was more like a triangle than a diamond. Elmer couldn’t cut his piece of bark at all, so it was shaped like a piece of bark. Benson’s stood at the end, droopy and sludgey. He was so embarrassed he wanted to sink through the floor.

Hazel said, “I can see you’ve all put a lot of work into your kites, but the problem is, they won’t fly.”

“Fly?” said Miss Evangelina. “What do you mean?”

“You know, fly! Up in the air!” Hazel said. “That’s what kites are for, they fly!”

“Do they?” said Miss Evangelina, completely surprised.

“But none of these will,” Hazel said. “The pink one and the smiley one are too heavy, and the red one is the wrong shape, and this piece of bark – is this meant to be a kite, or a canoe? But this one,” Hazel said, picking up Benson’s, “with a bit of work, this one might actually fly.”

“Really?” Benson said, getting excited.

“First of all, it needs a tail,” Hazel said.

Everyone helped make a tail for Benson’s kite out of the scraps of silk he had cut off. “And now we need a long kite string,” Hazel said. Miss Evangelina got some very strong string out of the library cupboard and Hazel showed Benson how to tie it on to the kite-sticks.

“All we need now is some wind,” Hazel said. They all went across the road to the park, where the wind was stirring the lavender bushes.

Hazel showed Benson what to do. He had to lift the kite high above his head, as high as he could reach, and wait for the wind to catch it. Then he let it go, but he kept holding on tight to the string. The wind lifted the kite up and up, until it was sailing high in the sky, tugging at the string in Benson’s hand. With the sun behind it, the green silk glowed like the bush at sunset, and the purpley swirls danced like flames.

“Ohh!” everyone said. “It’s amazing! Incredible!”

Benson thought it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

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