The Greatest Sheep in History

For Valiant Christa and Courageous Cath,
and to Jittery Judy for her services
to superheroes.


FW

For Bel and Sass


JW

ONE

Ernie Eggers hurried along High Street on Thursday afternoon, his bright green cape billowing behind him. When he heard the clock on Baxter town hall strike four, he gave a sigh of relief. Phew! He’d been worried that he’d be late.

Further up the street, he could see his sidekick, Maud, already waiting outside number 32, the headquarters of the Superheroes Society (Baxter Branch). When Ernie had first won the competition to become a trainee superhero,
he’d been disappointed to learn that his sidekick was a sheep. But that was before he got to know Maud. Now that they had been working together for several months, patrolling Baxter’s High Street after school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and all day Saturday, Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud were such great friends that sometimes Ernie almost forgot she was a sheep.

Drawing closer, Ernie noticed that Maud looked different. As well as her usual short pink cape, she was wearing an enormous floppy velvet hat.

‘Hi, Maud,’ he said, on reaching her. ‘Nice hat.’

‘Thanks, Ernie,’ said Maud. ‘It’s called a beret. Artists wear them.’

Ernie nodded his understanding. Maud had recently begun taking art classes. ‘How are your classes going?’ he asked, as they started to stroll along High Street towards the town hall, on
the lookout for wrongdoers and mischief makers.

‘Oh, they’re great, Ernie!’ said Maud enthusiastically. ‘Today I started work on a self-porpoise.’

‘A self-por—?’

‘A self-porpoise,’ said Maud. ‘It’s when you paint a picture of yourself. Maybe when I’m done I could do a porpoise of you, hey, partner?’

‘Er, yeah,’ said Ernie. ‘That would be great.’

‘Anyway,’ said Maud, ‘how was your day? Busy? I thought you were going to be late.’

‘I had to stop at the library on my way home from school,’ Ernie explained. ‘I’m doing research for a school project. We have to write about our heroes.’

‘Oh wow, that sounds really interesting,’ said Maud. ‘Are you going to write about The Daring Dynamo?’ The Daring Dynamo was a TV superhero, and Ernie never missed an episode of his show.

‘No,’ said Ernie sadly. ‘My teacher told me I’m not allowed to do any more projects on The Daring Dynamo.’

‘Oh, that’s tough,’ said Maud sympathetically. ‘So who will your project be on then?’

‘That’s the problem,’ said Ernie. ‘I don’t know. But I’ve borrowed a book from the library called
The Greatest Heroes in History,
so there’s bound to be someone in that.’

‘The Greatest Heroes in History
…’ said Maud. ‘That sounds fascinating. Are there many sheep in the book?’

‘Um, I don’t think so,’ said Ernie doubtfully.

‘Oh, I see, the sheep are in a separate book, are they? Maybe one called
The Greatest Sheep Heroes in History?’

‘I didn’t see a book like that,’ said Ernie.

‘Oh,’ said Maud. She looked dismayed. ‘Isn’t there anything at all about heroic sheep in the library?’

Fortunately, Ernie was saved from answering
when Maud suddenly trotted briskly up the pavement to throw her woolly bulk in front of a toddler who was about to run onto the road. The child’s grateful parents thanked her profusely, and by the time Ernie caught up, Maud was smiling again.

‘Do you know what, Ernie?’ she said, as they crossed the road and began to walk down the other side of High Street towards the park at the end of the block. ‘I’ll bet we see lots of heroes at the conference!’

Ernie and Maud wouldn’t be patrolling High Street as usual this Saturday. Along with the four original members of the Superheroes Society (Baxter Branch) — Super Whiz, Valiant Vera, Amazing Desmond and Housecat Woman—they were going to spend the weekend at the National Superheroes Conference in Thomastown.

Ernie could hardly wait. He and Maud would get to see hundreds of superheroes, and even meet other trainee superheroes and sidekicks. Plus there were all kinds of interesting courses and classes. But, best of all, Super Whiz, the president of the Superheroes Society (Baxter Branch), had been invited to give a speech.

Of course, Ernie and Maud had heard Super Whiz give speeches many times before, as he held regular Monday afternoon training sessions for the two new recruits. Ernie had to admit that some of Super Whiz’s speeches were just a little bit dull. But he was so proud to think that their very own president would be speaking in front of all the other superheroes in the country that he would have gladly listened to a hundred speeches on ‘Ideal Cape Length: Below the knee or above the knee?’ or ‘Perfect Patrol Pacing: Brisk walk or energetic amble?’

It was a slow afternoon on patrol—though Ernie twice had to rescue Maud when her beret slipped over her eyes and she walked into a bush—and the two trainees spent the rest of the afternoon talking excitedly about the conference. When they got back to 32 High Street to report in at the end of their patrol,
they found that the superheroes were also talking about the conference.

‘Maps,’ Super Whiz was saying importantly as Ernie and Maud pushed open the shabby brown door. He, Valiant Vera and Amazing Desmond were sitting around the long table in the middle of the room. Housecat Woman was asleep in her usual armchair. ‘Since I am the brains of the Baxter Branch, I suppose it will be up to me to navigate all the way to Thomastown. And if I am to do that successfully, I will need
very
detailed maps.’

‘And snacks,’ broke in Amazing Desmond, tipping Ernie and Maud a cheery wink. ‘If I am to drive all the way to Thomastown successfully, I will need very detailed snacks.’

Super Whiz sighed in frustration. ‘Can’t you
ever
be serious, Desmond?’

‘Sorry, Whiz!’ said Amazing Desmond, who, as far as Ernie knew, had
never
been serious. Then, noticing Super Whiz’s furious glare,
Desmond corrected himself. ‘I mean Super.’ Super Whiz hated to be called Whiz.

‘Hello, you two,’ said Valiant Vera, waving at Ernie and Maud. ‘Are you looking forward to the conference?’ Valiant Vera was not only incredibly brave and strong, she was also one of the kindest people Ernie had ever met.

‘We sure are!’ said Maud happily.

The two trainees gave their patrol report then bid the superheroes goodbye.

‘Remember,’ Super Whiz called after them, ‘we leave at nine o’clock sharp on Saturday.’

‘And bring snacks!’ chimed in Desmond.

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