Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a safe, happy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One day Benson was outside trying to work out the best way to put up a flag in a tunnel, when he heard a great clattering and banging coming down the track. He looked out to see if it was maybe an invasion of metal triceratopses, but it was his friend Mick, in a big, metal contraption with wheels and gears and air foils and a steering wheel the size of a cartwheel.
The contraption stopped and Mick got out. So did his little sister, Bonnie Lou, and then Arlette and Twiss, who were two kind-of friends. “This is my new super-dooper solar-powered billy-cart!” Mick said, nearly bursting with pride. “I made it myself!”
“It’s …..amazing!” Benson said. Words couldn’t describe how magnificent it was.
“I made it with parts from my old bike and and Hazel gave me some bits too, this gear-stick and the sun-roof,” Mick said, pointing out his favourite parts. “I’m thinking of getting air-conditioning, too, but I need some more bits.”
Benson walked around the billy-cart, admiring the hubcaps and the mudguards. Mick said, “It’s got a top speed of… I’m not sure, but really fast, anyway. When it’s only me. It’s a bit slower when there are four of us.” He leaned forward and whispered to Benson, “Arlette and Twiss were playing with Bonnie Lou, and my mum made me bring them too.”
Arlette came over and said, “It’s SO much better than riding a dusty old bike. The seats are really comfortable. But Mick, you should definitely get a GPS.”
Mick rolled his eyes and shrugged.
Benson’s mother came out to admire the billy-cart too. “Solar-powered!” she said. “What a good idea!”
Twiss said, “We’re going over to the gully to pick some passionfruit.”
“Passionfruit?” said Benson’s mother, frowning.
Just hearing the word ‘passionfruit’ made the thought of summer explode in Benson’s mind, warm days, golden juice and the most incredible smell. “Can I come too?” he asked eagerly.
Arlette said, “There’s only enough room for four, and we thought of it first.”
Benson was really disappointed. He said, “The gully’s not that far away anyway. You could probably walk there just as fast.”
“No way!” said Arlette.
“Do you want a race?” said Bonnie Lou.
“All right,” Benson said. “First one back here with a bag full of passionfruit is the winner!”
Mick and Bonnie Lou and Arlette and Twiss piled back into the billy-cart. Mick started it up with a loud bang. Benson ran inside to get a big bag for the passionfruit. His mother said, “Benson, I don’t think…” but he was in too much of a hurry to listen. He put on his hat and sped off, over the back fence, through the bush and down by the creek.
Mick’s billy-cart trundled down the track, speeding along. “Turn right here,” said Bonnie Lou. “That’s the track to the gully.”
“It’s not wide enough,” Mick said. “The billy-cart can’t make it down there.”
“Go left,” Arlette said. “We can go around behind the library and get to the gully that way.”
They went left but when they got closer to the gully, that road got narrower too. “Go left again,” Arlette said.
“That’s not the way to the gully,” Bonnie Lou said.
“Yes it is, if we go across the park and over the bridge,” Arlette said.
Mick turned left. The track got bumpier and bumpier. Two of the hubcaps came off, and one of the reversing mirrors. The gears made loud complaining noises. When they got to the park, the ground was muddy from weeks of rain. Mick stopped the billy-cart. “I’m not driving over that,” he said. “We’ll get bogged.”
“We should go back, and round the other way,” said Bonnie Lou.
“I think we should keep going,” Arlette said. “It doesn’t look that muddy to me.”
“No, we need to turn left,” Twiss said. “It’s definitely drier over there.” They all started arguing.
Mick folded his arms and said loudly, “Who’s driving this billy-cart?” Everyone stopped.
“All right, you are,” Arlette said, “but I think we should definitely keep going.”
Mick sighed, and kept going. The front wheels got bogged straight away. Bonnie Lou and Twiss got out and pushed while Arlette gave directions. Then the back wheels got stuck. By the time they got the billy-cart turned around, they were all covered in mud, and exhausted. Then the sun went behind a cloud.
“Why aren’t we moving?” Arlette said.
“Solar-powered,” Mick said glumly. They all got out again and started to push.
Meanwhile Benson went along the narrow track until he got to the gully where the passionfruit vines were. But there wasn’t a single passionfruit on the vines. “Oh no!” he said to himself. “Mick must have been here first and picked all the passionfruit.” He hunted around everywhere but all he could find was one wizened-up old passionfruit way under the back of the vine. He put it sadly in his bag and set off for home.
When Benson got back, he found Mick and the others there, looking very grumpy. “We had to walk all the way back,” Arlette said. “Solar-powered, huh!”
“I suppose you won, then,” Mick said to Benson. “Where are the passionfruit?”
Benson showed him what was in the bag. “Only one?” Mick said. Everyone’s faces fell. One passionfruit among five hungry young wombats isn’t much.
Benson’s mother said, “Perfect! I’ve made a lemon cream sponge, and all it needs is some passionfruit icing on top.”
“Really?” said Benson. His tummy suddenly felt a lot happier.
His mother nodded. “One passionfruit is plenty to make icing with.” Everyone had a turn at stirring the passionfruit into the icing, and then they all helped spread it all over the cake, and licked the bowl and the spoons afterwards, and the only thing better than that was eating the cake.