Authors: Frances Watts
Ernie watched anxiously as the balloon’s basket hit the earth with a gentle thump. Clementine was moving efficiently around the basket, pulling ropes, while Maud appeared to
be in deep conversation with—not a chicken, but a thin, shamefaced young man with bright red hair.
The young man leapt from the basket, then turned to give Maud a helping hand.
Valiant Vera, who was the fastest of the Baxter superheroes, arrived at Ernie’s side just as Maud did, with Housecat Woman, Super Whiz and Amazing Desmond close behind.
Vera threw her arms around Ernie as Desmond threw his arms around Maud, then Vera gave Maud a big squeeze as Desmond gave Ernie a hearty hug. Super Whiz patted them
both vigorously, and Housecat Woman curled around all of them affectionately.
what I’m afraid of,’ panted Vera, when she had got her breath back. She was speaking as if they were still at the roadside restaurant talking about their fears. ‘I’m afraid of bad things happening to the people I care about.’
Ernie thought it was one of the most noble fears he’d ever heard.
Just then he noticed that the expressions of relief coming from the crowd of watching superheroes had turned into dark muttering. Then someone said loudly, ‘He’s not so tall.’
And someone said even louder, ‘His teeth don’t look so big.’
And a third person called, ‘He’s not even a chicken!’
The crowd surged forward and Ernie could hear furious cries of, ‘Where’s Stupendous Sue’s speech?’ and ‘What’s the big idea of stealing The Daring Dynamo’s
balloon?’ and ‘Why do you call yourself a chicken?!’
The red-haired man standing near the Baxter Branch superheroes began to look frightened as the angry crowd drew nearer.
Suddenly, Maud leapt in front of Chicken George and held up a hoof. ‘Wait!’ she shouted.
Still muttering, the assembled superheroes stopped.
‘This is George,’ said Maud, waving her hoof at the frightened young man. ‘And he lives here in Thomastown. All his life, people have mocked him because of his sticking-up red hair. Because it looked like a chicken’s crest they called him Chicken George—and they said he must
‘Oh, that’s harsh,’ said one red-haired superhero standing near the front of the crowd.
There were a few murmurs of sympathy.
‘Finally,’ Maud continued, ‘all the teasing and taunting became too much and George decided to act. When he heard that the National Superheroes Conference was being held here, he thought he’d show everyone that he wasn’t a chicken by outsmarting the fastest and fleetest and bravest and cleverest people in the country: the superheroes.’
A few of the superheroes snorted indignantly, but others were nodding their heads.
‘It’s true,’ said one. ‘We are fast and fleet.’
‘Though not as fast and fleet as Chicken George,’ another pointed out.
‘Come here, George,’ said Maud, beckoning. Chicken George shuffled forward to stand beside her. ‘Now George knows he has behaved badly, don’t you, George?’ Maud nudged the young man.
Chicken George nodded.
‘And he has something he would like to say.’
Chicken George cleared his throat, and when he spoke Ernie was surprised to hear that his voice was quite ordinary, without a hint of a cackle.
‘I’m very sorry,’ Chicken George mumbled. He looked over at Maud, who nodded encouragingly. ‘I did a stupid thing. I know now how foolish I was—Marvellous Maud has helped me to see that I was hurting the very people who would have helped me. I’m sorry,’ he said again.
Stupendous Sue stepped forward. ‘Well, I accept your apology, George,’ she said, and the crowd murmured their agreement. ‘Now,’ she announced, ‘it’s time we all made our way to the hall to hear The Daring Dynamo’s speech. Thank you, Marvellous Maud,’ she added, turning to address the sheep. ‘You’ve done well. Very well indeed.’
Ernie thought he would burst with pride as Maud trotted over to join him and the members of the Superheroes Society (Baxter Branch).
Strolling slowly across the field towards the assembly hall with the others, Ernie caught a glimpse of a duck talking animatedly to a tall, dashing man dressed all in red standing at the edge of the field. The duck was gesturing with her wings to George, and once her left wing seemed to point at Maud, then at Ernie.
The dark-haired man nodded thoughtfully, then glanced in the direction the duck was pointing.
When Ernie caught a look at the man’s face, his heart almost stopped. It was The Daring Dynamo!
It felt strange to Ernie to be sitting back in the same seat in the front row of the assembly hall after everything that had happened since Super Whiz’s speech. It felt especially strange to be so close to his hero, The Daring Dynamo. He had always seemed like a distant figure who only existed on TV—but no, he was real, and he was so close Ernie could almost reach out and touch him.
‘Good afternoon, fellow superheroes,’ The
Daring Dynamo began. ‘And what an action packed afternoon it has been.’
Many members of the audience murmured their agreement.
‘On witnessing the happy resolution of what looked like a certain tragedy, I have started to question the nature of heroism. What, my dear colleagues, is a hero? Is it the bravest, strongest and fastest among us?’
As The Daring Dynamo stood up straight, his muscles bulging, Ernie began to nod, as did many others.
‘Or is a hero the most intelligent and wise among us?’
Ernie saw Super Whiz nodding.
‘I think not,’ said The Daring Dynamo simply, provoking gasps from the audience. ‘Let us consider the actions of Marvellous Maud of Baxter Branch,’ he continued, gesturing to the front row, where Maud sat dumbstruck. ‘Did not this heroic sheep transform a vicious,
terrifying chicken monster into an ordinary young man?’
The superheroes in the audience had to admit it was so.
The Daring Dynamo was right, Ernie realised. The Chicken George who had stolen Stupendous Sue’s speech and The Daring Dynamo’s hot-air balloon was a far different character to the young man who now sat between Maud and Clementine in the front row.
‘And how did she do that?’ The Daring Dynamo asked. ‘By listening!’
A hush fell over the crowd.
‘When face to face with this young man who had been hastily condemned as a villain,
Marvellous Maud did not judge him. Instead, she sought to uncover the nature of his problem. And when he spoke, she listened.
‘Now, thanks to Marvellous Maud, we understand young George’s actions. Although he has behaved very badly, I propose that we should also recognise his achievements, for he has proved himself to be faster and fleeter than the fastest and fleetest! As such, I think we should also consider the fact that he has much to contribute.’
‘Hear, hear!’ came scattered cries from the audience.
‘But wait!’ The Daring Dynamo held up his hand. ‘I would now like to turn your attention to another hero to emerge from today’s incident.’
To Ernie’s utter astonishment, The Daring Dynamo was pointing at him!
‘It was Extraordinary Ernie,’ The Daring Dynamo informed the audience, ‘who clung so bravely to the rope of the balloon as it sailed above the treetops. Was he afraid? Yes!’