The Greatest Sheep in History (7 page)

BOOK: The Greatest Sheep in History
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Ernie cringed, waiting for the cries of horror and disgust. But The Daring Dynamo wasn’t finished.

‘Yes, he was afraid. But did that stop him? No! When he saw his partner in trouble, he didn’t stop to think of himself—he acted to save his friend. And that, my dear superheroes, is the action of a true hero.

‘And so, as our national conference draws to a close for another year, I would ask you to join me in celebrating the superheroes of tomorrow: Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud! Hip, hip …’

‘Hooray!’ called the crowd.

‘And a cheer for the superheroes of Baxter Branch, who are doing such an excellent job of training tomorrow’s heroes,’ cried The Daring Dynamo. ‘Hip, hip …’

‘HOORAY!’

EIGHT

There were no arguments in the van on the way back to Baxter that evening. In fact, everyone was remarkably quiet.

Super Whiz was talking in a low voice to Valiant Vera and Amazing Desmond.

‘So you’re sure my speech was all right?’ he asked.

‘It was super, Whiz,’ Desmond assured him.

Housecat Woman was stretched out along the back seat again, snoring softly, and Maud was reading about the sheep who had piloted
the first-ever hot-air balloon in
The Greatest Heroes in History.

Ernie, who had the window seat this time, was still thinking over what The Daring Dynamo had said in his closing address, about how heroes weren’t necessarily the strongest or fastest or smartest or even bravest people (or animals). Heroes didn’t just save people or catch wrongdoers; they also took the time to understand why people became wrongdoers in the first place—which was like saving them in a different way, Ernie supposed. He thought too about what The Daring Dynamo had said about him. Being a hero wasn’t about being fearless, as Ernie had always supposed; it was about overcoming your fears. He felt a glow of pleasure as he remembered The Daring Dynamo leading the cheers for him and Maud.

At the roadside restaurant where they stopped for dinner, everyone had extra-cheesy macaroni except Maud, who just had a salad.
She had been feeling a little queasy since her hot-air balloon flight.

‘You know, Ernie,’ she confided, as they stretched their legs (and hooves) in the car park, ‘I don’t think flying really agrees with sheep. But that’s okay. There are lots of ways a sheep can be a hero.’

A couple of hours later, the van pulled up at the edge of Mackie’s Meadow to let Maud out, and a few minutes later drew to a halt outside Ernie’s house. ‘Bye, Ernie,’ the superheroes called. ‘See you tomorrow.’

The next afternoon, Ernie and Maud arrived at 32 High Street at the same time for their regular weekly superhero training session.

‘I wonder what topic Super Whiz will be speaking about this week,’ Ernie said.

Maud’s answer was smothered by the handle of her straw basket.

As they pushed open the shabby brown door of the headquarters of the Superheroes Society (Baxter Branch), they saw Super Whiz, Valiant Vera and Amazing Desmond sitting at the large table in the centre of the room. Housecat Woman was curled up in her usual armchair.

‘Ah, here are our two heroes now,’ said Super Whiz, sounding much more jovial than usual. ‘I was just saying to the others that, instead of our usual training session, I think we should share our memories of the conference.’

‘That means he wants you to say nice things
about his speech,’ Desmond whispered behind his hand.

‘Shush, Desmond,’ said Valiant Vera as she stood up. But she was smiling as she said it. ‘Since it’s a special occasion, I think we should treat ourselves to some lemonade.’

As Vera reached for the old chipped mugs lined up on a shelf above the sink, Maud set her basket down on the table. ‘I have something for you all, Valiant Vera,’ she said. One by one, she pulled six brand-new mugs from her basket.

Each mug was different, and its owner was obvious.

Ernie’s mug was fluorescent green with a gold lightning bolt.

Super Whiz’s mug was blue with SW stamped across it in red.

Valiant Vera’s mug had a cheerful flower pattern.

Housecat Woman’s mug had a striped tail for its handle.

Amazing Desmond’s mug had pepperoni shapes stuck all over it.

And there was a plain pink mug that was clearly meant for Maud.

‘Wow, Maud!’ said Ernie. ‘This is great!’

‘Why, these are all wonderful!’ exclaimed Valiant Vera. ‘Where did you get them, Maud?’

‘I made them,’ said Maud shyly. ‘My art class did pottery a couple of weeks ago.’

Housecat Woman, who had risen from her chair to see what all the fuss was about, sniffed at her mug appreciatively.

‘You really are a most remarkable sheep,’ said Super Whiz thoughtfully, examining his mug in wonder.

Maud beamed.

Amazing Desmond poured lemonade into each of the mugs, then said, ‘What about a toast then, eh, Whiz?’

For once, Super Whiz didn’t snap at Desmond. ‘Good idea,’ he said instead. He held up his mug and said, ‘To Ernie and Maud, the superheroes of tomorrow.’

‘To Ernie and Maud,’ the others repeated, holding their mugs aloft.

‘So have you decided who to write your school project on?’ Maud asked Ernie as they sipped their lemonade. ‘We certainly met some amazing heroes at the conference, like Stupendous Sue and Lion-hearted Lakmi.’

‘I have decided,’ said Ernie. ‘But it’s not someone I met at the conference. It’s YOU, Maud.’

‘Me?’ Maud was momentarily speechless. ‘Me, Ernie? Really?’

‘Yes,’ said Ernie firmly. ‘The Daring Dynamo called you a hero, and he was right.’

‘Thanks, Ernie,’ said Maud sincerely. ‘And if you like, I could illustrate your project with a self-porpoise.’

‘That would be marvellous,’ said Ernie.

About the Author

Fearless
Frances Watts
is the author of
Kisses for Daddy
and
Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books.
She also works as an editor, and as the servant of a lazy cat. Frances likes travelling, cheese and ducks, and dislikes ferocious dogs and having cold feet. Although her natural superpower has not yet emerged, she did once rescue a horse from a fire.

About the Illustrator

Jittery
Judy Watson
has been a chicken all her life. She has illustrated several books for children, some of them quite terrifying. Her most frightening project so far was drawing the fearsome tiger for the Aussie Nibble
Tim & Tig.
Drawing the pictures for
Extraordinary Ernie & Marvellous Maud
sometimes caused her hand to tremble. This may explain many of the wobbles in her illustrations.

By the way, she is very impressed that Fearless Frances has rescued a horse.

BOOK: The Greatest Sheep in History
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