(The Last Story)
Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a warm, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson said to his mother, “Will you remember me when I’m not me any more?”
His mother said, “How do you mean?”
Benson said, “I mean when I’m grown up, will you remember ME, the me I am now?”
“Of course I will,” she said.
Benson said, “Only I was thinking about Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss. I was thinking that maybe they were young once but nobody remembers.”
“I would say they were definitely young once,” his mother said.
“They weren’t old when they were young, were they? I mean, what were they like when they were like me?” Benson said.
Benson’s mother said, “Let me think about this. You mean, were Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss the same as they are now when they were young, right? What were they like then?”
Benson nodded. His mother said, “That was before I was born, so I don’t remember, but I’ve heard lots of stories. I tell you what, let’s talk about it at lunchtime.”
Benson’s mother made everyone’s favourite soup for lunch, leek and potato, with fresh cornbread, and everyone’s favourite cake, carrot and banana.
As soon as everyone was sitting down and enjoying their soup, Benson’s mother said, “Lillibet, do you remember Moss when she was little?”
“I remember when she was born!” Aunt Lillibet said. “I remember the first time she came out of her mother’s pouch. She was just a tiny round ball of fur. The very first thing she did was smile at everyone, and then she went to sleep.”
Aunt Moss said, “I remember that you were always so good at everything, Lillibet. Skipping, drawing, arithmetic – and colouring in. Lillibet was famous for her colouring in,” Aunt Moss said to Benson’s mother. “She never, ever went outside the lines.”
Lillibet said, “And your colouring in was always a mess. I remember one time when you coloured in the sun blue and the grass black. And that time we had to draw our families, and you drew dozens and dozens of smiling wombats. We had that drawing hanging on our wall for years.”
Benson went and got some paper and his pencils.
His mother said, “What was Moss like when she was little, Lillibet?”
Aunt Lillibet said, “She was always happy for no reason. She made friends with everyone. I remember when she was just a little joey, sitting on a blanket under a tree and clouds of butterflies came and sat all over her, and she just smiled and laughed.”
“I don’t remember that!” Aunt Moss said.
Aunt Lillibet said, “Do you remember Lionel trying to teach you how to ride a bike, and you didn’t know how to steer and you drove straight into the compost heap?”
“I remember that,” Aunt Moss said. “The smell of mouldy cabbage and dead oranges didn’t wear off for weeks, even after my mother put me in the bath and scrubbed and scrubbed. But that was nothing compared to Lionel and the rock-melon!”
Benson’s mother brought the cake over the the table and cut it into pieces. “What did Lionel do with the rock-melon?” she asked. Benson was busy drawing, but he stopped for a minute to have a piece of cake.
Aunt Lillibet said, “Lionel absolutely loved rock-melons when he was little, and one day he hid one under his pillow so he could keep it all to himself, and it gradually went rotten. The smell!”
Aunt Moss said, “Everyone thought there was a dead rat in the house. It took weeks to find it, and then it was just a ball of slime.”
“Lionel tried to say it must have rolled under his pillow by itself,” Aunt Lillibet said, “but it had his teeth-marks all over it.”
“Speaking of teeth-marks,” said Aunt Moss, “I remember the time that you…”
“Stop!” said Benson. “I’ve run out of paper.”
“Paper?” said Aunt Lillibet. “What are you doing with all that paper, Benson?”
“Look,” said Benson. He held up what he had been drawing. “This is Aunt Moss when she was a baby, and this one is her with the butterflies. This is Aunt Lillibet colouring in, and this is them riding bikes with Uncle Lionel.”
He had drawn three wombats on bicycles, and then one of them crashed into a compost heap.
“And this is the rock-melon,” he said, holding up the last drawing. Everyone looked at it.
“It was much worse than that,” Aunt Lillibet said.
“Much, much worse,” Aunt Moss said. They both picked up the brown and green and black pencils and made a much bigger, slimier mess of the drawing of Lionel’s rock-melon.
Benson’s mother said, “The cake is all gone. I think it’s time to do the dishes.”
Benson said, “But what about you? I don’t know any stories about you.”
His mother said, “Tomorrow. We’ll go and see Nanna, and you can take lots of paper and your pencils. Right now it’s time for the washing-up.”
Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss were still reminding each other of all the things they remembered, so Benson and his mother did the washing-up together.
When they were finished, Benson said, “What about me? Who will tell stories about me when I’m old?”
His mother said, “I will.” She went into her room and brought back her journal. She showed it to Benson. “See? I write about you all the time.” There were even some tiny drawings.
She showed him some of the pages. “This was when you got me tulips for my birthday, and this was when there was a quokka at the playground. And remember the time you dug a hole so deep you couldn’t get out? And when little Zip got lost?”
They sat down and looked at all the stories she had written down, and they read their favourite ones together.
“I remember this!” said Benson. “Will you read this one to me?”
“I’d love to,” said his mother. And she began. “Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a warm, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.”
And what comes after that, you will have to read for yourself.
This is the final story in the series of stories about a young wombat named Benson. A new series, Stories for Another Day, stories of imagination and adventure for children of all ages, is coming soon. Check out the ‘News‘ page to find out when new stories will be available.