by Toby Corballis
Benjamin’s mum and dad were busy doing the sorts of things that grown-ups like to do, like drinking yucky wine and eating stinky cheese. That meant they were being boring so Benjamin decided to go exploring.
Although he didn’t tell them what he was doing, mum must’ve used the invisible eyes she had in the back of her head because she called out to him, ‘be careful, darling,’ as he wandered off over to the edge of the field and deep into the woods. That’s when he came across the Wrong-Way Round tree.
He’d never seen anything quite so big and gnarly; so wrong way up, before. It was all brown and green with branches at one end and giant spikey splinters at the other. There could be no doubt, it was a whole tree and it was lying down as if it was having a sleep.
Detective Ben knew exactly what had happened: a really nasty mean elf with a nasty face had broken the tree because at its base there were toadstools and everybody knows that elves live under toadstools. The elf must be very strong because long spikey bits of wood where the tree was broken went all the way from Ben’s knees to his nose.
Then Ben remembered that elves were nice, not nasty, so it must have pushed the tree down to make a bridge over the dark green forest swamp to escape from a nasty goblin that was chasing it with an axe. The elf, Benjamin realised, could still be in trouble.
He decided to walk across the tree bridge, and save the elf. He might even get a medal from the Elf King and be a hero.
Climbing on to the trunk was hard. He had to use part of the broken stump as a kind of stepping stool, taking extra special care not to jab his feet on the wooden spikes, even though he was wearing his special jungle sandals.
He managed to hook his left hand onto a knobbly bit of trunk and haul himself up.
Being clever, Benjamin knew that tightrope walkers always put their arms straight out and pigeon-stepped one foot in front of the other between really tall buildings – he’d even seen Sylvester doing it across a washing line trying to get Tweetie Pie; so he knew exactly what to do. However, once he was on top of the trunk he saw that it was much higher than even the tallest of tall buildings so he decided instead to crawl: tightrope walking would just have to wait until after he was awarded his medal.
He knew the goblin would still be looking for the elf so hugging the trunk was a very sensible and grown-up thing to do and, anyway, he knew that if he lay very flat whilst he crawled then, well, he would be invisible.
Stretching his arms right up to his fingertips and making sure his legs were pressed against the trunk, he ‘caterpillared’ his way along the tree. As he zigged and zagged he used his magical caterpillar eyes to study the very small creatures who were tracking haphazard paths across the elf bridge: tiny beetles carrying bits of leaf; an army of ants who ignored him outright as they marched past; and a spider that crawled so close to his nose it made him sneeze, before scuttling below the trunk.
He came upon a hole in the trunk that was all slimy round the edges. Maybe the elf was hiding in it, scared, or worse, the goblin might be crouching in there, ready to jump up and grab him. Summoning his courage, he peeked inside and pulled his head back very quickly, just in case. He thought for a moment and then, his curiosity pulling him forward, peeked again.
‘No elf,’ said Benjamin, disappointed.
‘No goblin,’ said Benjamin, relieved.
The hole just had lots of strange creatures that were wriggling and squirming around on gooey stuff.
It was very stinky so he crept on.
After a very long time, he came to where the branches began to fan out from the trunk. Detective Ben knew at once that the elf would have gone along the biggest branch because that had more ‘hiding leaves’ and it’s important not to be found if you’re being chased by a goblin with an axe.
The branch jutted slightly upwards away from the tree and he was just wriggling on to it when he fell on to the soft, wet, forest floor.
He knew right away what had happened. The goblin had found him and pushed him off, so he ran as fast as he could back to his parents, who were still picnicking in the clearing next to the tree, not once looking back in case the goblin turned him to stone.
‘Oh Benjamin,’ sighed his mum, ‘Look at you. You’re all grubby. Honestly.’
He tried to tell her about the elf and the goblin as she wiped him down but she just kept saying, ‘there, there, pet’.
Grown-ups, decided Benjamin, were all broken. He was determined he would never become one.
Toby Corballis is from North London and blogs here.