Pineapple Jam

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.

Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss went to the fruit shop, and Benson went with them. “First of all we need a nice, ripe avocado,” Aunt Lillibet said. There were stacks and piles of fruit and vegetables everywhere in the shop. Aunt Lillibet found a pyramid of shiny green avocados and gently squeezed one to see if it was ripe.

Mr Pretty, who worked in the shop, came over and said, “No handling the produce, please.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “How can I tell if the avocado is ripe if I don’t squeeze it?”

Mr Pretty said firmly, “No handling, please. All fruit that is handled must be paid for.” He noticed Benson leaning close to the rows of oranges, breathing in their lovely orangey smell. “No touching, young man!” he called loudly.

Benson stood back. “I wasn’t touching,” he said.

“And no smelling, either,” Mr Pretty said. “Move away from the fruit, please!”

Aunt Lillibet didn’t want to buy an avocado that was too hard, or too soft. “I’ll have some celery instead, please,” she said.

Mr Pretty gave her a bunch of celery. “There you are,” he said.

“I only want half a bunch, thank you,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“We don’t have any half-bunches,” Mr Pretty said.

Aunt Lillibet grasped the bunch of celery and snapped it in half. “You do now,” she said. She put the half-bunch of celery in her basket. Mr Pretty’s mouth dropped open.

“And we would like some eggs, please,” Aunt Lillibet said. She moved over to the shelf where there were boxes and boxes of eggs. There were boxes of small eggs, and boxes of medium-sized eggs, and boxes of large eggs.

Aunt Moss said, “Benson usually has a large egg for his breakfast, but I only want a small one. But we need medium-sized ones to make a cake.”

Mr Pretty said, “Then you’ll need three boxes of eggs.”

“But that’s too many eggs!” Aunt Moss said. “Three whole boxes!”

Mr Pretty said, “You can’t buy eggs one at a time, you know. You have to buy a whole box.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “We’ll see about that.” She picked up a box that was marked ‘X-Large Eggs’ and took some out. She put in some small eggs, and some medium eggs from other boxes. “There. One box of eggs.”

“You can’t do that!” Mr Pretty said.

“I have done it,” Aunt Lillibet said. She plucked the pen out of Mr Pretty’s pocket and crossed out ‘X-Large’. Mr Pretty tried to grab his pen back. They tussled for a minute, then Mr Pretty’s elbow bumped a big stack of rockmelons. They rolled everywhere, and unbalanced a wall of watermelons that Mr Pretty had spent the whole morning stacking up. The watermelons thundered down like a green avalanche, tumbling across the floor, heading straight for Benson.

Benson backed away but the largest watermelon hit him right in his middle. He fell over backwards, into a huge crate of pineapples.

Rough, scaly pineapples scratched him, and poked sharp, spiky leaves into all his soft parts. “Ow!” he said. “Ow – help – ow!”

Aunt Moss said, “Benson! Are you all right?”

Mr Pretty was furious. “Would you kindly remove that young wombat from my pineapples?” he said to Aunt Lillibet.

Aunt Lillibet said, “If Benson is hurt, I will hold you completely responsible! What sort of shop do you call this? I should report you for unsafe displaying of fruit!”

“That young wombat is completely out of control,” shouted Mr Pretty. “Coming in here, interfering with the displays, and now playing with the pineapples!”

“Playing?” yelled Aunt Lillibet. “Your pineapples could cause him a serious injury! First you assault him with watermelons, and now he’s trapped in a crate of dangerous fruit!”

They all looked down at Benson in the middle of a sea of pineapples. He was lying very still, because whenever he tried to move, another pineapple spike poked him. There was a tiny scratch on his ear already.

“He’s bleeding!” Aunt Moss screamed.

“There, I told you!” Aunt Lillibet said. “Those pineapples are a danger to customers!”

“If that young vandal gets blood on my pineapples, I’ll never be able to sell them,” Mr Pretty said. “You’ll have to pay for all of them.”

“Pay for them?” Aunt Lillibet bellowed. “You’ll be the one paying, for medical treatment and for psychological damage! He may never be able to look at a piece of fruit again!”

“Could someone help me out?” Benson asked quietly.

Everyone stopped yelling. “How are we ever going to get him out?” Aunt Moss said. “If we try to move one pineapple, the rest will fall on him. Oh, poor Benson!”

“There’s only one thing to do,” Mr Pretty said. “We’ll have to take the sides of the crate off.”

He took hold of one side of the crate and Aunt Lillibet got the other one and they both pulled. The sides came off the crate, and pineapples rolled everywhere. Benson lay on the floor. “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!” he said, but he wasn’t really hurt. He pulled a pineapple spike out of his shoe, and rubbed his nose carefully.

“Benson, are you all right?” Aunt Moss said, checking him all over.

“I think so,” Benson said.

“All my pineapples!” Mr Pretty moaned. “Bruised and battered, every single one!”

Aunt Lillibet was looking at the pile of pineapples consideringly. “Have you got any jars?” she asked.

“Jars?” said Mr Pretty, looking at Aunt Lillibet as if she must have gone crazy.

“Moss, don’t you have a recipe for pineapple jam?” she asked.

“Oh, yes!” Aunt Moss said. “And pineapple relish, and I believe you can make a very tasty chutney with pineapple skins.”

It was a lot of work, peeling and chopping so many pineapples, not to mention the cooking and boiling and stirring, but in the end they had jars and jars of shining, golden jam and delicious relish. Benson made labels for them all, with a picture of a wombat juggling pineapples on the front.

Mr Pretty lined them up on his shelves, and everyone who came into the shop wanted to buy some. He said it was because of his excellent pineapples, but Aunt Lillibet said it was because the jam was so good. But Benson thought it was really because of the cute labels.

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