Once there was a young wombat who lived in a nice, roomy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One morning Benson’s mother took him to the park. His friend Alejandro was there, playing with someone Benson hadn’t seen before. “Hi, Benson,” he said. “This is my cousin, Errol.”
“Hi, Errol,” said Benson. “Do you want to come and dig in the sandpit?”
Errol said, “I can’t. I’m not very good at digging. My arm got hurt in a bushfire.” Benson hadn’t noticed it before, but one of Errol’s arms was hanging down at his side.
Benson felt sorry for him. “I’ve got a friend who was hurt in a bushfire too,” he said.
Errol said in a soft, sad voice, “It was so terrible. My whole family was burnt up.”
“That’s awful!” Benson said. He felt really bad for Errol.
Errol said, “I tried to rescue them but a burning tree fell on me and now my arm will never work again. I’ve got no family left in the whole world.” A tear ran down his face and dripped off his nose.
Benson felt very sad for him. He wondered what he should say.
Just then Alejandro called, “Errol, do you want to go on the swing?”
Errol jumped up, not sad at all any more. “Sure,” he said. He jumped on the swing and started swinging higher and higher.
“Hey!” Benson called. “I thought your arm didn’t work!”
“It’s better now,” Errol said, swinging really high.
Benson felt confused. He went over to the sandpit to dig with Zali. Zali was happy to see him and little Zip said, “Huh huh,” and climbed into his lap and tried to pull his nose off.
After a while, Errol got off the swing and came over towards the sandpit. There was an old paddle-pop stick lying on the ground. “Look what I found!” he shouted. “A troglosaurus bone!”
“It’s not a bone, it’s a paddle-pop stick,” Benson said. Maybe it was Errol’s eyes that got hurt in the bushfire, not his arm.
“No, it’s a bone,” Errol said. “I know because my mother is a famous scientist and my father has the biggest collection of dinosaur bones in the world!”
Benson said, “I thought you said all your family was burnt up in a bushfire.”
“That was before,” Errol said. “They’re better now.”
Benson was so confused he didn’t know what to think. He went over to where Alejandro was pushing himself on the roundabout. “Does Errol have something wrong with his memory?” he asked him. “Did he get hit on the head in the bushfire?”
“What bushfire?” Alejandro said.
“He said all his family was burnt up in a bushfire,” Benson said.
“I’m his family,” Alejandro said. “Do I look like I’m all burnt up?”
“Why did Errol say that?” Benson said.
“I don’t know. I suppose he likes making things up,” Alejandro said.
Benson asked his mother about it when they got home. “I think Errol is the biggest liar I ever met,” he said.
His mother smiled. “He certainly has a very lively imagination,” she said.
Benson said, “What does that mean?”
His mother said, “You know how when you want to draw something, you imagine it in your head first? I think Errol gets mixed up between what he imagines and what is real.”
“Like he can’t tell if something really happened, or if it’s something he made up?” Benson said.
“More like when he hears a story, he imagines it happened to him, and it’s so exciting, he thinks about it as if it really did happen. Then he hears another story, and he forgets about the first story and he gets caught up in the new one instead,” his mother said. “Some people have very powerful imaginations, so powerful that they take over.”
Benson imagined his imagination like a giant monster taking all his pencils and paints and drawing things without him. He shook his head. That could never happen.
His mother said, “You just have to remember that when Errol tells you something, it may be his imagination talking.”
Benson said, “Pascoe is a storyteller, but she’s not like that. She never pretends it happened to her.”
His mother said, “No, Pascoe is a story-teller and a story-keeper. She remembers stories and tells them. She never gets mixed up between what is real and what isn’t.”
Benson said, “Do you know when I’m telling a story, or when I’m telling the truth?”
“Every single time,” his mother said, with a smile.