The Three Turtles

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

One morning Benson and his mother were in the kitchen making strawberry jam. They chopped up lots of strawberries, and put them in a pan with sugar and water and lemon juice. Benson’s mother was stirring it very carefully because it was very very hot, when she noticed something odd near the doorway.

“Benson, there are three turtles trying to get into the kitchen. Can you take them outside, please?” she said.

Benson picked up one of the turtles. Its little legs waved in the air. He carried it outside and put it down near the garden. He went back inside and picked up another turtle. It was quite heavy, for a small turtle. He carried it with two hands, and took it outside.

He went back in and picked up the third turtle. By now, the first turtle was coming in again and climbing up the curtains. Benson hurried up and took the third turtle outside. The second turtle was coming in again too, biting the table-cloth. Benson grabbed the first turtle away from the curtains and ran outside with it. The third turtle was already inside again, walking up the kitchen table legs.

Benson picked up the third turtle and put it on top of the second turtle but they were too heavy to carry both together. The first turtle came waddling back in and started nibbling on Benson’s mother’s toes.

“Benson,” said his mother, “get a box.”

Benson ran to his room and got a box. He put the first turtle in the box. He put the second turtle in the box. He picked up the third turtle. The other two turtles were already climbing over the side of the box. He put the third turtle into the box and grabbed the second turtle. The first turtle was in the saucepan cupboard, looking around. Benson put the second turtle in the box, and started chasing the first turtle.

“Benson, get the broom,” said his mother.

Benson ran and got the wide, soft broom. He got the first turtle out of the cupboard and carefully pushed it towards the other two with the broom. He pushed the three of them along gently, past the box and towards the door. The first turtle slid around the end of the broom and started to eat the carpet. Benson ran after it, and the other two turtles starting toddling away towards the bathroom. Benson sat down and put his head between his hands.

Just then Aunt Moss came along. “Oh, look at those turtles!” she said. “Come along, little fellows, come on.” The three turtles came up to Aunt Moss, and followed her in a straight line down the hall.

Benson looked at his mother. He felt exhausted. “I think this jam is ready,” she said. “I think we deserve a sandwich.”

Benson and the Caterpillar Socks

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

Benson was in the kitchen doing some painting. He started painting a caterpillar, but it didn’t come out right. The paintbrush made it too smooth and he wanted it to be hairy. He went into the bedroom and got some socks. He put one sock over his hand and dipped it in the green paint, then he dabbed the paper in big blobs. It looked exactly like a big green hairy caterpillar.

The sock was big, though, so the caterpillar overflowed the paper and went on along the top of the table. Benson got rid of the paper and made a lovely long green caterpillar on the table. Then he got another sock and dipped it in the brown paint, and made a beautiful brown caterpillar curving around the other end of the table.

He still had another sock, so he dabbed it in the red paint and painted a cheerful red caterpillar winding around the other two. They were very good caterpillars.

Aunt Lillibet came in and gave a scream. “Benson, what have you done to the table?”

Benson suddenly felt a bad feeling in his stomach. He had painted caterpillars all over the table.

Aunt Moss came in, singing times tables in her head, and saw what they were doing. “Oh, I love those caterpillars!” she said.

“He’s put paint all over the table!” Aunt Lillibet said. She picked up a wet cloth. “Benson, clean it up at once.”

“Oh, no, not those beautiful caterpillars,” Aunt Moss said. She grabbed the wet cloth away from Aunt Lillibet. “You’re not just going to wipe them away!”

“Give me the cloth!” shouted Aunt Lillibet.

“No!” shouted Aunt Moss. They started fighting over the cloth, trying to get it away from each other. Benson stood there, with a red sock on his hand, feeling terrible.

His mother came in. “Girls, that’s enough,” she said. She took the cloth away from them and gave it to Benson. Benson wiped all the paint off the table.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“The table is fine,” said his mother, “but I don’t think we’ll ever get the paint out of those socks.”

They never did get the paint out of them, so Benson wore them like that, sometimes one red and one brown, sometimes one brown and one green. He didn’t mind at all.

Autumn Leaves

Once there was a young wombat called Benson, who lived in a comfortable hole in the ground with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

In the autumn Benson liked to pile the brown and yellow leaves up in big piles and jump on the them and roll in them. Once he made a pile so big that it was taller than he was. He had to climb onto a chair to jump into it. He decided to gather all the leaves up and make lots of enormous piles like a mountain range of leaves in the backyard. He was in the middle of building the most enormous pile he had ever seen when his mother called him in for lunch.

It was pea and pumpkin soup, orange with green dots. He picked up his spoon and Aunt Lillibet picked up hers and Benson’s mother said, “Where’s Moss?”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Did you call her and tell her lunch was ready?”

“I called her, but she didn’t answer,” Benson’s mother said. “Was she outside with you, Benson?”

Benson said, “I was busy with my leaves. I didn’t see her anywhere.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Maybe she’s been taken by wolves. Wolves get very hungry in cold weather. Maybe they sneaked up and caught her in their mouths and took her away to eat her.”

Benson’s eyes grew round. Benson’s mother said, “There are no wolves around here, Lillibet.”

“Maybe she fell down through a time vortex and is swirling around and around in all those yesterdays and she’ll never be in today again,” said Aunt Lillibet.

“Don’t be silly, Lillibet,” said Benson’s mother. “There’s no such thing as a time vortex.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “There is such a thing as quicksand. Maybe she was sucked into quicksand and we’ll never see her again. Poor Moss.”

“We don’t have any quicksand,” Benson’s mother said. “We should go and look for her.”

Benson said, “Maybe she fell down and hit her head. Maybe she went for a walk and got lost. Maybe there was a snake!”

“Benson,” his mother said, “we’re going to stop maybe-ing and go and look for her. Lillibet, would you go and look in Moss’s room, please? Benson, could you go and look outside?”

Benson went outside. He felt worried and shaky in his stomach. He went over to his leaf mountains. In the middle of one mountain, there was a rustling noise like a snake. Benson shouted for his mother in a squeaky kind of voice.

His mother came out at once. “Have you found her?” she said.

“I think there’s something in the leaf pile,” Benson said. He took his mother’s hand. There was a bigger rustling in the leaf pile.

Benson’s mother went over to the pile and poked it. Aunt Moss sat up from the middle of the leaf pile.

She yawned. “I’ve been having the loveliest sleep,” she said. “The leaves looked so soft, so I sat down, and it was so comfortable and warm, I just went off to sleep. Is it lunchtime yet?”

“Yes, it’s lunchtime,” Benson’s mother said. “It’s pumpkin and pea soup.”

“My favourite!” said Aunt Moss.

Benson’s mother pulled some leaves out of Aunt Moss’s hair and they all went inside and had their soup.

The Meeting

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a nice little hole in the ground with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

Benson’s mother was going to a council meeting.

“What’s a council meeting?” asked Benson.

“It’s when a lot of wombats go to a meeting and argue a lot and then they go home,” said his mother.

“Can I come?” Benson asked.

His mother thought about it. “You aren’t old enough to be able to vote, but you can come and watch if you like.”

They both walked to the meeting together. Benson’s mother sat at the top of a table and looked very stern. She said, “Let’s begin the meeting. We need to decide whether we should plant more trees.”

Everyone started to argue and talk at the same time.

Benson said, “Excuse me.”

“Yes, Benson?” said his mother.

“I’m thirsty. May I please have a glass of water?”

“Of course,” said his mother. “What beautiful manners.” She gave him a glass of water.

Everyone else stopped talking and looked at Benson. They looked at his mother. Then a fat wombat in the front row put his hand up.

“Yes, Malcolm?” said Benson’s mother.

“I think we should plant more trees,” the wombat said.

“Thank you, Malcolm. Who else thinks we should plant more trees?”

Everyone raised their hands. “Good,” said Benson’s mother. “We’ll plant more trees, then. Now we need to decide who is going to help keep the waterhole clean.”

Everyone started to talk at once.

Benson put his hand up. Everyone else stopped talking and looked at Benson.

Benson said, “This is very good water. I would like to help keep the waterhole clean, if I can.”

“Of course you can. Thank you, Benson.”

Everyone else put their hands up. “Do you all want to help clean up the waterhole?” Benson’s mother asked.

Everyone nodded their heads.

“Good. Everyone will help. Now we’ve finished the meeting.”

Benson and his mother walked home together. “That was a good meeting,” Benson said.

“Thank you, Benson,” said his mother.

The Spider

Once there was a young wombat called Benson who lived in a hole in the ground with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One morning Aunt Moss was peeling apples at the kitchen bench. Benson was at the table, colouring dragons. All of a sudden Aunt Moss gave a kind of scream and jumped back, with the peeler still in her hand.

“Benson!” she said. “Look!”

She pointed with the peeler. On the bench there was an apple, and around the apple was a brown hairy spider.

Benson jumped up and went over. “It’s all right, Aunt Moss. He won’t hurt you. He’s got a friendly face.”

Aunt Moss didn’t move. She was afraid of spiders. She wasn’t afraid of snakes, and she wasn’t afraid of the dark and she wasn’t afraid of burglars, but she was afraid of spiders.

Benson said, “I’ll take it outside, don’t worry.” He carefully lifted the apple up by its stem, and took it outside. He carried it over to the fence where the long grass was and put it down. Then he saw a long green snake in the grass.

“Help!” he shouted. “Help! There’s a snake!”

Aunt Moss ran out. She picked up Benson in her arms and held him tight. “Shoo,“ she shouted at the snake. She stamped on the ground with both feet and shouted. The snake slithered away, under the fence and into the bushes way on the other side of the paddock.

“It’s all right, Benson, it’s gone now,” she said. Benson opened his eyes again.

“It was a snake,” he said.

“I know,” Aunt Moss said. They gave each other a big hug.

Sticky Tape

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

One day Benson got some sticky tape stuck in his hair.

‘Oh dear,’ said Aunt Moss, ‘you’ll have to soak your head in eucalyptus oil to get it out.’

‘Just when I needed some sticky tape to wrap a parcel!’ said Aunt Lillibet.

Benson’s mother said, ‘Stand still, Benson, and I’ll pull it out. One sharp pull and it will all be over.’

Benson didn’t want a sharp pull, and he didn’t want to smell like a koala. He jumped onto his bike and rode away.

A long way down the road, he stopped and got off his bike. He tried pulling the sticky tape out slowly, bit by bit, but it hurt every time he pulled it.

Then he thought he would push his head into a bush, and the branches would scrape the sticky tape out. He found a sharp, scratchy bush, and put his head into it, but the prickles and leaves and bits of stick all stuck to the sticky tape too, and he had a big, prickly lump of sticky stuff on his head.

‘Maybe it will wash out,’ he thought to himself. He found a cool, green pond on the side of the road, and he put his head down into the water. He waited for a long while, but the sticky tape didn’t wash off. Instead, bits of weed and mud and dragonfly wings and old paper boats stuck to the sticky tape. The big, prickly lump turned into an enormous lumpy sticky clump of mucky mess.

Benson sat down and thought, until he knew what to do. He got on his bike and rode back home.

Aunt Lillibet said, ‘Benson, is that you? What have you done to yourself?’

Aunt Moss fainted.

Benson said to his mother, ‘Do you think one sharp pull will still do it?’

Benson’s mother nodded. She took hold of the lump of sticky stuff. ‘One, two, three,’ she said, and gave a short, sharp pull.

‘Ow,’ said Benson. The sticky tape and all the mucky, messy stuff came out of his hair. It hurt for a minute and then it stopped.

‘That’s better,’ said Benson.

Benson Goes Fishing

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

One day Benson decided to go fishing. He took his dark green fishing rod, and a bucket of worms and went down to the river.

He got his fishing rod ready, and he picked up the first worm to put on the hook. The worm wriggled on his hand and surprised him, and he dropped it on the ground. It wormed away.

He took out the second worm. This one wriggled along the palm of his hand and curled itself around his finger. He put it down on the ground and watched it squirm away into the dirt.

He got another worm out of the bucket and held it in his hand. It was kind of pink and brown, and very shiny. He watched it stretch out and scrunch up. After a while he put it back in the bucket. He lay down on his tummy beside the river and watched the fish dart in little sharp moves, under and over each other, and sometimes into each other.

After a long while, he picked up his fishing rod and the bucket of worms and walked home again. His aunt Moss was in the garden digging. “Oh, Benson,” she said, “you’ve got a whole bucket of worms! How lovely! I was just thinking how the soil here could do with some good, healthy worms.”

They tipped the bucket out onto the bare dirt, and watched the worms set to work.

Aunt Moss said, “It must be lunchtime. Are you hungry?”

Benson was hungry, and so was Aunt Moss. They picked some carrots out of the garden and took them inside. Aunt Moss gave them a wash, and Benson chopped the tops off for the compost.

Benson’s mother came into the kitchen. “Carrots for lunch?” she said. “Lovely!”

Benson and the Saxophone Lesson

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in quite a nice hole in the ground with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet, and Moss.

One day he was just finishing his lunch – cutworms and spaghetti, when his Aunt Lillibet said, ‘Time for you to do the washing-up, Benson.’

She filled up the sink with nice hot water. ‘First the plates.’ Benson washed the plates.

‘Now the glasses, and the knives and forks.’

Benson washed the glasses and the knives and forks.

‘Now the pots and pans. Mind you scrub right into the corners.’ The pots and pans were dirty and greasy. Benson washed very slowly.

‘Now the table-cloth,’ said Aunt Lillibet.

‘The table-cloth?’

‘Yes, the table-cloth. Look at it! It’s covered in spots. It needs a good wash.’

‘Yes, Aunt Lillibet,’ said Benson. She stuffed the table-cloth into the sink. It was way too big. Suds went everywhere.

‘When you’ve finished that, you can do the curtains. It’s ages since they had a good wash.’

Aunt Lillibet pulled the curtains down and piled them next to the sink. Benson couldn’t see over them.

‘The table and chairs could do with a good scrub, too,’ she said. She pushed the table over to the sink and stacked the chairs on top of it.

‘When you finish those, there’s the stove,’ she said. The stove was very heavy, but Lillibet was very strong-minded. Once she had an idea in her head, you couldn’t talk her out of it. She dragged the stove across to the sink and heaved it on top of the stack of chairs.

The chairs started to wobble. Benson got ready to run.

‘And the fridge!’ Aunt Lillibet said. ‘Anyone can see that the fridge needs a wash.’

She pushed and dragged and shoved the fridge over to the sink. She wrapped her arms around it and got ready to lift. The stove on top of the chairs on top of the table on top of the curtains next to the sink started to sway.

Benson held his breath.

Benson’s mother walked into the kitchen. ‘It’s time for your saxophone lesson, Benson,’ she said. ‘Aunt Lillibet can finish the dishes for you.’

‘Okay,’ said Benson, and they scampered off together.

Flower Seeds

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a nice little hole in the ground with his mother, and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One morning Aunt Lillibet said, “Benson, I don’t like the look of your fingernails. I don’t think they’re up to any serious digging.”

Benson had spent the morning digging an extension for his bedroom to put his books and his microscope in. He didn’t say anything.

Aunt Lillibet said, “After breakfast we’ll go down to the garden shop and get you something you can dig with properly.”

After breakfast they went to the garden shop. Aunt Moss needed some flower seeds so she came too.

Aunt Lillibet found a very pretty trowel, with purple and pink flowers painted on it. “This is just the thing,” she said. Benson’s heart sank.

Aunt Moss said, “It is very nice, but do you think it will be big enough, Lillibet?”

“You may be right, Moss.” Aunt Lillibet picked up a handy little spade. “This is better.”

Aunt Moss said, “Yes, much better, but is it big enough for really serious digging?”
Aunt Lillibet picked up a shovel that was three times as big as she was. She could hardly lift it. “This is more like it!” she said.

Aunt Moss said, “Perfect. But if there are any rocks in the soil, will it be big enough?”

“Definitely not,” said Aunt Lillibet. “Come with me.” Outside there was a row of shiny new bobcats. Benson started to get excited. “Climb aboard, Benson,” she said.

Benson scrambled up into the driver’s seat. He pushed the levers and turned the wheel, and made digging noises.

“It’s lovely,” said Aunt Moss, “for the smaller rocks, of course. If you don’t want a really big hole.”

Aunt Lillibet wrinkled up her forehead. She called the salesman. “Do you have anything bigger than this?”

The salesman went away and came back driving a huge, shiny yellow excavator. It was a big as a house. Benson was so excited he was jumping up and down. He imagined scooping up giant rocks and buckets full of dirt.

Aunt Lillibet said to the salesman, “That’s more like it. How much is this one?”

The salesman showed her the price-tag. Aunt Lillibet went purple. She huffed, “Come along, Benson, come along, Moss. We’re going home. Those nails of your look perfectly all right to me.”

“I always say there’s nothing like a hole dug by hand,” said Aunt Moss. “Now, what about my flower seeds?”

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.