Mikey truly was the Greatest Little Hero. Although at the meagre age of nine years he didn’t always know it, until he was reminded in the most unexpected way.
He lived in an ordinary house on an ordinary street in an ordinary suburb. His life was considered…well, ordinary. He went to a boring school and he felt all his school friends were pretty dull. The teachers never smiled, the students all wore the same grey uniform and the classrooms were equally uninviting. The only thing that Mikey enjoyed was the quarter past three school bell, which meant he could begin his next adventure.
Every day on his way home, Mikey would walk past Mrs Crabbly’s house. She didn’t live in a boring street, Mikey thought, as the houses were all different. One house looked more like a farm barn, one resembled a tepee and another was on stilts! However old Mrs Crabbly’s house was the best; according to Mikey.
She lived in a tiny cottage with tiny doors, and the whole house was covered in tiny pebbles. Mrs Crabbly loved being close to the beach and over the years she had collected so many pebbles that she had to find somewhere to put them. So after many hours and a hundred pots of glue, her house was complete. Mikey always thought it should belong to a gnome or an elf.
He strolled along the path to find Mrs Crabbly pruning some of her many colourful roses, when she spotted him. They both stopped and stared at each other. She lifted up one of her bushy brows, slowly shook her head and began to make that ‘tut tut’ noise with her false teeth; which often moved in a different direction to her mouth.
Mikey just stood there and crossed his arms as if to say, so what? as she lifted up her grubby hand and pointed her crooked finger at him.
‘Where’s your cape?!’ she barked.
Mikey just lifted his head and tilted it slightly away from her.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ he replied cheekily.
‘Is that right?’ she grunted. Now both her bushy brows were so high on her wrinkly face that Mikey thought they could fly away if they wanted to. ‘Then you’re just going to have to come inside and find it!’
Mikey sighed and dropped his arms. ‘If I have to.’
Mrs Crabbly slowly opened her creaky little gate and he trudged through, with an even bigger sigh. As he passed, their eyes caught each other’s and they both tried not to smile. He always enjoyed this routine with Mrs Crabbly and thought he got better at it every time.
The inside of her gnome-like cottage was a land of the unexpected. Mikey had seen it dozens of times as his mother would usually ask Mrs Crabbly to watch him after school while she was still at work. Every time he came over he would always find something new. All over the walls were things he couldn’t even explain, but knew they had come from different countries. Long colourful feathers, crystals that would shimmer in the sunlight, funny wooden statues and odd looking pictures were just a few to mention. And like many old ladies she had the most impressive collection of spoons. But Mikey wasn’t here to gawk at the ornaments that surrounded him…he had a job to do.
‘So what’s my mission today Mrs Crabbly?’
‘You know I can’t tell an ordinary boy as its top secret. This information is only for the ears of the greatest super hero of all time.’ she said with a crooked smile.
Of course Mikey knew that, he just enjoyed hearing how big and colourful her voice would get when she said it.
He stepped into the lounge room and there it was. Hanging on an old wooden coat rack, was all a superhero would ever need. A bright green cape with the big letter M stitched on the back; a little crooked, but close enough.
Mikey took a deep breath, dropped his boring grey school bag on the floor and walked over to it. He lifted it gently from the hook and placed it carefully over his head. Beside the rack was a tall thin mirror that Mrs Crabbly just happened to have for such an occasion. Mikey looked up and down at himself, making sure the cape was sitting right and then gave a gentle nod.
‘Perfect.’ he said.
‘Indeed.’ Mrs Crabbly observed from the doorway. ‘Now you know what to do.’
Mikey nodded again and with big strides and hands on hips, he made his way to the kitchen.
Moments later he was pouring milk into a big glass as Mrs Crabbly placed two freshly made biscuits on a small plate. After all, the bravest of heroes usually need an energy boost before taking on the world. As he munched on the first biscuit, she explained the details of the task ahead.
‘So today my dear we have a dilemma.’ she began with a worried look on her face. ‘And it’s possibly the hardest mission you’ll ever be asked to do.’
Mikey smiled to himself as Mrs Crabbly would always say it’s the hardest mission ever attempted.
‘Mister Tumbles…has gone missing.’
Mikey stopped chewing and a few crumbs fell onto the table without him realising. He was in shock. Maybe this was going to be the hardest yet!
‘Mister Tumbles? How?’
‘That’s what I need you to find out.’ she replied. ‘He never came in for his morning snack and I’m worried he might be in trouble.’
Mister Tumbles was a stray tabby cat that visited Mrs Crabbly’s cottage every morning without fail; amongst several other creatures that liked her company…and her treats.
Mikey finished the second biscuit, drank some more milk, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and eagerly stood up from the chair.
‘Then leave it to me!’ he said with a booming voice. ‘I’ll find Mister Tumbles!’
As Mikey pumped his fist into the air, like all superheroes have to do, he accidentally knocked his glass, tipping it over on the table with a clunk. He just looked at the milk dribbling through the lace placemat and scrunched up his face.
‘Sorry.’ he muttered. ‘Maybe I’m not having a good enough day to be a super hero.’
Mikey was often clumsy and would always feel bad if things went wrong because he tripped on something or knocked something over; which usually happened every day. However Mrs Crabbly knew this about Mikey and was always prepared. She quickly dabbed at the milk with a tea towel she just happened to have in her hands.
‘Nonsense!’ she said sternly. ‘Now you know every super hero has their faults. Otherwise, how else can they blend in with the ordinary people?’
Mikey smiled, of course, and began to feel excited again. Mrs Crabbly always had a funny way of saying things that would make him feel better, and now he was ready to find that cat! So off he strode towards the back door.
Mikey stood outside looking onto the largest yard you could ever imagine. You couldn’t really call it a yard as Mrs Crabbly didn’t like fences. It kind of blended in with the thick scrub that lay behind her house; there were trees everywhere! There was a little wooden windmill with a ladder attached to get some great views. Fruit orchards and vegetable gardens. There were fallen down logs that were as big as cars and a small creek that ran through the middle of it all with a couple of tiny bridges. Mikey loved this place and loved helping out Mrs Crabbly even more.
His first thought was…where would I hide if I were Mister Tumbles? He wandered over the first little bridge and looked around. He knew that mischievous tabby didn’t like the water very much so he wouldn’t be there. He crossed to the other side of the creek and towards the windmill.
‘Mister Tumbles?!’ he called out.
No response. Sometimes he would play with the daisies that grew around the bottom of the windmill and Mikey would have fun watching; but this time there were no daisies today and definitely no Mister Tumbles.
Then he suddenly remembered his powers! Of course! He had super sight!
Mikey activated his special power the only way he knew how; he squinted with all his might. It was a little hard to see but he thought it might just work…until he accidentally looked towards the sun and it made his eyes sting.
‘Ow!’ he cried.
Then he thought of another way to solve the mystery. Perhaps I could hear his paws trotting on the ground!
Mikey plonked himself on the dirt and pressed his ear to the earth to activate his next power. Although that didn’t last long when he suddenly felt a tiny ant crawling inside his ear! Lucky for him he flicked it out just in time, so it didn’t affect his super hearing.
Then he noticed the wind had picked up and the trees began to blow around a bit more than before. I wonder. He thought to himself. Mikey began to walk around the big trees looking up into the branches. Perhaps Mister Tumbles has got himself stuck in a tree, and because it’s windy he might be too scared to come down!
He searched one tree, then the next, then another and a few more but no sign of the elusive tabby cat. A part of Mikey was glad not to find him up there for he might have to climb one to get Mister Tumbles down; and Mikey wasn’t the best at climbing trees. Previous bruises, scratches and tears proved this to be true.
He was starting to get a little worried because in his former super hero adventures he would usually be able to fix any problem Mrs Crabbly set out for him. One day he had to find her favourite watering can which she had left under the pumpkin patch, or count how many butterflies on her rose bushes so she could work out which ones not to prune; the roses, not the butterflies, she had to clarify for him. However this time Mikey was ready to give up. Perhaps he wasn’t so super after all. But then he spotted something.
Underneath one of the big lavender bushes near the fruit trees where Mrs Crabbly would let Mikey pick the peaches every summer, was a bushy tail that wriggled back and forward like a flag. Mikey crouched down low, crept slowly towards the bush and pounced! Unfortunately the tail disappeared before Mikey even got close and he felt a painful sting on his knees which started to bleed.
He raced back towards Mrs Crabbly’s back door, crying.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked, and then spotted the red knees of her super hero. Ready with another cloth she used to clean them up.
‘My super powers aren’t working, I hurt my knees and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find Mister Tumbles!’ he pouted as he wiped away the tears. ‘I should just hang up my cape and never put it on again!’
Mikey often gave up quickly on his tasks but once again Mrs Crabbly was always prepared. As she neatly placed a band-aid on each knee, she looked at him with a huge frown. ‘Are you trying to trick me?’
Mikey sniffled a bit more and looked back. He was feeling quite confused and just shook his head.
‘I think you might be.’ she smirked and pointed behind him.
Mikey turned around to see Mister Tumbles trotting over the little bridge that crossed the creek, bouncing all the way towards him. As soon as he got close to Mikey, he began sniffing around his legs.
‘See? You’ve just found a new super power.’
‘Really?’ Mikey said, gasping at the idea that he had a power he didn’t even know about.
‘Of course. You can make lost cats find their way back!’
Whoah! Mikey felt mighty proud as he bent down to pat Mister Tumbles who clearly wasn’t going anywhere.
Back inside, Mikey hung up his super hero outfit on the coat rack. He giggled at Mister Tumbles who was still hanging around and now chewing on the bottom of the cape.
‘Silly cat.’ Mrs Crabbly spurted.
Mikey laughed. He gave Mister Tumbles another rub around the head, grabbed his boring grey school bag and waited for what he knew was coming next.
‘Now wait for me at the gate, I’ll just be a minute.’ she said as Mikey happily headed towards the front door.
As soon as the door closed behind him, Mrs Crabbly returned to Mister Tumbles who was still sniffing around madly. She unstitched a tiny hidden pocket at the bottom of the cape and pulled out a small cat treat she had placed there earlier.
‘Yes, yes you can have it now.’ she grumbled.
Mister Tumbles knew he could smell something when Mikey was out looking for him, and he wasn’t about to give up until he found it. He gently took the treat from kind Mrs Crabbly and bounced out the window to return to his favourite lavender bush.
Mikey was waiting patiently by the little creaky gate for Mrs Crabbly, when she appeared at the front door. She hobbled up the path holding something in her hand like it was a ceremonial crown. She then made the formal presentation of giving her little superhero another biscuit for a job well done. Although Mikey knew very well that even if he couldn’t finish a task Mrs Crabbly set for him, she had this funny way of always finding a reason to give him an extra treat. Of course he would happily accept as they tasted so good.
‘Well my dear, thankyou for finding Mister Tumbles.’ she said with her eyebrows raised. ‘You truly are the greatest little hero.’
Mikey smiled as she opened the gate for him to leave. He’d only got a few steps out when he heard…
Mrs Crabbly cleared her throat trying to get his attention. Mikey turned back to see her pulling a funny face. He pulled one back but knew she was so much better at it because he truly believed her face was made of rubber. He giggled and started walking away, eating his biscuit.
As he headed for home he thought not only did he save the day for Mrs Crabbly and Mister Tumbles, but it made the rest of what was going to be a boring day, a lot less ordinary.