Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a happy, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson and his mother were going to visit his mother’s friend, Dellie, who lived by a big lake. It was a long, long way so they were going to catch a train. They got up very early and walked a long way to the train station. It was so early that there was nobody else there. They waited on the platform until a big train came hissing up to the platform.
The doors opened with a whishing noise, and Benson and his mother stepped in, very carefully because there was a bit of a gap between the train and the edge of the platform and they didn’t want to fall down into it. The doors whished shut behind them and the train set off.
Inside the train, it was bright and clean. There was hardly anyone else in the carriage at all, just a man in a bright orange vest who was asleep in the corner. Benson’s mother thought that was a very good idea, so they found a cosy spot under the seat at the very end of the carriage and snuggled up and went to sleep.
When Benson woke up a while later, there were a lot more people on the train. They were all being very quiet, looking at their phones. Every now and then the train stopped at another station, and one or two people got off and two or three got on and sat down and started looking at their phones.
After a while, someone got up and came down to Benson’s end of the carriage, where there was a door that Benson hadn’t noticed before. She pressed a green button on the door, and it opened. Benson wondered what was on the other side, so he got up and followed her through the door. There was another door, exactly the same, and they both went through that one too. Then both the doors shut with a solid thunk.
Benson was in another carriage exactly the same as the other one, but much more noisy. A mother and a father and a boy were sitting on the seat near the door. The mother and the father were drinking coffee out of plastic cups and the boy was yelling that he wanted a drink. His mother gave him a can of something, and the boy stopped yelling to drink it, but then he dropped it. Benson ducked under the seat so the can didn’t hit him on the head. The can rolled back and forth on the floor, spilling sugary drink everywhere.
The boy stood on the seat and cried because he had dropped his drink, so the mother gave him a biscuit. The boy sat down, kicking the seat while he ate the biscuit. Biscuit crumbs showered down on Benson’s head and fell into his ears. He decided he’d go back to the nice, quiet carriage where his mother was. Then he realised he had a problem. The green button was too high for him to reach. How was he going to get the doors to open?
Above his head, the boy was standing on the seat looking out of the window, eating a packet of chips. Benson was thinking he seemed to be a very hungry child and then the chip packet, still half full of chips, fell on his head. He brushed chips off his head and out of his ears, and then he thought he’d better squash back further under the seat in case anything else was going to fall on him. It was a good thing he did, because a minute later nearly a whole apple with just one bite taken out of it dropped on the floor right where Benson’s nose had been.
The apple rolled around on the floor. Benson was starting to feel hungry himself, and the apple, even with a bite taken out of it, looked delicious. It looked like nobody wanted it, so he reached out to catch it as it rolled past. Just then the train stopped and a crowd of people piled into the carriage. Two ladies with shoes with long, pointy heels stepped dangerously near Benson’s nose. He pulled his nose and his hands back under the seat quickly, so they didn’t accidentally get stepped on.
The ladies with the pointy heels started to sit down, but when they felt their nice shoes sticking to the floor where the boy had spilled his drink, and saw all the rubbish on the floor, they got up again and went to another part of the carriage.
Benson peeped out. The mother and father were looking at their phones and the boy was pestering them for some chocolate. The mother gave him a chocolate bar out of her bag, without even looking up from her phone. The boy peeled the wrapping off it and dropped it on the floor. The apple rolled back towards Benson. He waited until it was nearly within his reach and then he made a grab for it. Clopp! A nearly-empty coffee cup hit him on the head.
The mother said to the father, “You shouldn’t just drop your cup on the floor like that.” Benson silently agreed, rubbing his head.
The father said, “Why not? The floor’s already filthy. They keep these trains in a disgusting state. Anyway, we’re getting off here.” The train stopped. The mother brushed some crumbs off the boy onto the floor and dropped her own coffee cup and they all got out.
When the train started again, Benson looked around at the rubbish everywhere. Even the apple was covered in bits of dirt from rolling around the floor so much. It looked disgusting. Someone should do something, Benson said to himself. There was too much to pick up, so he spread his arms out like a small bulldozer and gathered it all up. Then he pushed it in front of him towards the door, so that when the train arrived at the next station and the doors opened, he could push it out.
He waited by the door, and the train stopped. As soon as the doors opened, he gave a big push and all the rubbish fell out. Then the train jerked suddenly. Benson felt himself falling into the gap between the train and the platform. He could see a dark space, and giant, metal train wheels.
Luckily for him, his tummy and his feet were glued to the sticky floor. Instead of falling, he stopped halfway, with his head out of the doors and the rest of him inside the train. There was a sharp hiss and the doors started to close. Benson pulled his head in like a snail backing into its shell, just in time before the doors shut. He sat there, panting and feeling himself all over to make sure that all of him was safely inside the train.
Then he heard a shriek. Two women were standing behind him in the carriage. They screamed and pointed at him. “Euyywwwwhhh! A dirty, disgusting wombat!” They ran to the connecting door and pressed the green button. The door to the next carriage opened and they ran through.
Benson wasn’t going to miss this chance. He scampered through as fast as his legs would carry him. He made it through just as the door whished shut behind him. “It’s a good thing wombats don’t have tails,” he said to himself.
His mother was still curled up in the corner under the seat. She said sleepily, “Where have you been?” She sniffed. “You smell like… biscuits, and chips, and… coffee!”
“Tell me about it,” Benson sighed. He snuggled up against her and closed his eyes.