Down to the River to Swim

Once there was a young wombat whose name was Benson, and he lived in a nice hole in the ground with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One day Aunt Lillibet said, “Benson, I’m going to take you down to the river, and you can practise your swimming.”

Benson put on his swimmers and his swimming t-shirt. He got his goggles and his flippers and his face-mask and his snorkel. He put his sun-screen on.

“Ready?” said Aunt Lillibet.

Benson thought for a minute, then he went back inside for his hat, and a sandwich. “I’m ready,” he said.

They went down to the river. It took a long time. Flippers are slow to walk in.

When they got to the river, Benson stopped. It was a dry riverbed. There was no water at all in the river, only sand, and some small rocks.

“Off you go,” said Aunt Lillibet. She sat under a tree and read a book.

Benson stomped into the river and sat down in the sand. He dug a hole with his flippers and then he used them to smooth the sand out and make giant frog footprints. He put his face-mask on and peered at the ants and the beetles and the bugs that were busy catching things and eating things in the river bed. He dug a long tunnel and pretended he was in a submarine, with his snorkel for a periscope.

Aunt Lillibet said, “It’s nearly time to go, Benson.”

Benson said, “I haven’t had my sandwich yet.” He climbed along a dead tree and ate his sandwich at the very top. Then he lay down in the river bed and made sand-angels with his arms. He collected pebbles and filled up his goggles with them.

Aunt Lillibet said, “Time to go home.”

“Already?” said Benson. He picked up his flippers and his face-mask and his snorkel and his goggles and his pebbles and they went home.

Benson Plays the Piano

Once there was a young wombat whose name was Benson. He lived in a nice little hole with his mother, and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One day Benson sat down at the piano. Aunt Lillibet came along. ‘You can’t play the piano,’ she said.

‘Sure I can,’ said Benson.

‘You’ve never played the piano in your life,’ said Aunt Lillibet.

‘That won’t stop me,’ said Benson.

Aunt Lillibet called Benson’s mother. ‘Benson says he’s going to play the piano.’

‘Lovely,’ said Benson’s mother. She sat down to listen.

‘He’s never had a piano lesson. He doesn’t know the first thing about playing the piano,’ said Aunt Lillibet.

‘It doesn’t look hard,’ said Benson.

Aunt Lillibet called Aunt Moss. ‘Benson is trying to play the piano and he doesn’t know how. He’s going to make a mess of it,’ she said.

Moss said, ‘Why don’t you show him how?’

‘Me?’ said Lillibet. ‘It’s years since I played the piano.’

‘You can play the piano?’ said Benson. ‘Would you like to go first, Aunt Lillibet?’

‘I’ve forgotten all my music. My fingers are too stiff. I’m out of practice,’ Lillibet said.

‘Okay, me first, then’ said Benson. He raised his hands over the keys.

‘Stop! You CAN’T play the piano. It takes years of practice and hundreds of lessons. Don’t touch that piano!’

Benson brought his hands down on the keys. He played a chord. He played some of the notes of Twinkle Twinkle and some of the notes of Happy Birthday. He played loud and he played soft. He ran his fingers up and down the keys and played rivers of sound. He played some high notes and some low notes and a whole bunch of notes in between. When he finished, he lifted his hands off the keys and smiled.

‘Lovely,’ said his mother, smiling. Aunt Moss clapped. Benson bowed.

‘That’s not playing the piano,’ Aunt Lillibet said.

‘Sure it is,’ said Benson.

Benson Gets his Hair Cut

Once there was a young wombat whose name was Benson, who lived in a very nice wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One morning Aunt Lillibet said, “Benson, you need a haircut.”

When Benson was happy, his hair stood up on end all over.

“Moss, you’d better come with us. I need a new hat, and you can help me pick one out,“ Aunt Lillibet said. Benson’s hair lay down all over. Buying hats with Aunt Lillibet was worse than having bull-ants in your socks.

Aunt Moss got her boots and her umbrella and they set off.

At the hairdresser’s, Aunt Lillibet said, “This is Benson. He needs a haircut. I’m just going over to the hat shop but I’ll be back in ten minutes.”

“Are you going to get something new and different, Lillibet?” said Aunt Moss.

“Oh, yes,” said Aunt Lillibet. “My old hat is too low on the top, and much too wide. I want something that stands up higher on the top, and comes in more at the sides.”

“Oh, higher on the top, then, and shorter at the sides,” said Aunt Moss.

“High on the top and short at the sides,” said the hairdresser.

“With some trailing bits down the back, I think,” said Aunt Lillibet.

“Oh, yes, trailing bits down the back would be lovely!” said Aunt Moss.

“Trailing bits down the back,” said the hairdresser.

“What colour are you thinking of?” asked Aunt Moss.

“A nice red, or bright maroon,” said Aunt Lillibet.

“Red or maroon,” said the hairdresser.

“I’ll be back shortly,” said Aunt Lillibet.

She and Aunt Moss went to the hat shop. They were there for a long time. They looked at hats, they tried on hats, lots of different colours, lots of different shapes. Aunt Lillibet bought a hat that was shaped like a letter box. It was blue, with black spots on it that looked like squashed mice.

They finally came back to the hairdresser’s to get Benson. His hair was very short at the sides, and very high on the top, with some trailing bits down the back. It was a nice maroon-y shade of red.

Aunt Lillibet couldn’t say a word. Aunt Moss said, “I wonder what your mother will say.” Benson was so happy that his hair stood up all over.

About the Benson stories

Telling stories to children is a way of connecting your world to theirs, opening up the space between you to new possibilities and different ways of looking at the world. Writing down the stories you tell means that the ephemeral becomes something you can go back to and remember all over again – but the live story, the story that changes every time you tell it, is still out there, still living. Never stop telling stories, the old ones and new ones all the time.