Superpowers

Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a warm, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

Benson’s friends came over to celebrate Hairy Nose Day. They sat under the big gum tree and had special pink lemonade that Benson’s mother made, and so many different kinds of fruit they couldn’t count them. Benson ate figs and guavas and strawberries and watermelon until he was so full he couldn’t move. Nils and Nella climbed up and down the tree, eating plums and spitting the seeds at each other.

Benson watched them leaping from branch to branch, hanging on by their tails, and he started to think. “You know,” he said, “you two are so good at climbing, it’s like a superpower.”

“Huh?” said Alejandro. “What do you mean, a superpower?”

“It’s something amazing that normal people can’t do, that makes them really special. And they can use it to save people and stuff like that,” Benson said.

“Like my perfect pirouettes,” said Alejandro. Alejandro was an excellent dancer. He had been practising his pirouettes all afternoon until he could spin around on one leg while he balanced a cup of lemonade on his head.

“You can’t rescue people spinning around in a circle on one leg,” Nils objected.

“What if you had a bomb or something smelly that was stinking people to death and you needed to throw it as far away as you could?” said Benson. “He could swing it around and around faster than the speed of sound and then let it go and it would zoom out of the atmosphere and save the world!”

Alejandro got up and did some more practising, this time with two peaches balanced on top of each other on his head.

Nils hung down by his tail for a minute to pick up a nectarine and toss it to Nella. He said, “Mick’s got a superpower too. He can set fire to things with his glasses.”

Everyone looked very impressed. Nils said, “I saw him once. He took his glasses off and held them up so the sun shone through them the right way, and it made some dry grass start to burn. We had to stamp it out really fast before it started a fire.”

“Wow,” said Benson. “That would be amazing. Imagine the people you could save if you could set fire to things. Like if someone was freezing to death, you could start a fire and warm them up.”

Roly stopped nibbling on his feijoa and said, “Mr Fenn is like a superman. He’s really strong.”

Benson nodded. “Not only that, he can burp louder than anyone in the whole country. Sometimes I’ve heard him burp when I’m in bed, all the way from his house.”

“But that’s not really a superpower,” said Nella.

“Sure it is,” said Benson. “You could scare away giant frogs if they were attacking you.”

Everyone nodded, imagining giant frogs. Benson said, “And Roly’s got a superpower, haven’t you, Roly?”

Roly went pink.

“What’s his superpower?” Alejandro said. Roly looked like a funny little echidna to him.

Benson said, “He can find people in the dark.”

“Really?” said Nella. “Show us.”

Roly said, “It’s nothing really.”

Benson said, “Just watch this.” He took off his hat and pulled it right down over Roly’s head. “Now everyone hide, and be really still and don’t make a noise.”

Everyone hid. Alejandro got behind the pile of pawpaws, and Nils and Nella pretended they were a tree-snake stretched out silently along a branch. Benson dug a hole and got into it, and covered himself over with a big bunch of bananas.

When everyone was absolutely quiet, Roly said, “Benson is over there, under some bananas. Nils and Nella are up in the tree, lying on the second branch. Alejandro is behind the pawpaws.” He took the hat off and looked around. “Was I right?” he said.

“Wow! Amazing!” everyone said.

Alejandro said he must have peeked, and wouldn’t believe it until Roly had found him seventeen times in a row, even when he hid under Benson. “That’s amazing,” he said. “That’s an amazing superpower. You could find people at night, or in a big fog, or if they fell into a mudpit and no-one could find them.”

Nils swung down and grabbed some grapes and threw them into the air and caught them in his mouth. He said,”We are so incredible, we should form a club and be superheroes.”

Benson looked uncomfortable. Nella said, “What’s the matter, Benson?”

“I don’t have a superpower,” he said.

“That’s okay,” said Nella. “You can be the normal one. You’re so normal, it’s amazing. You’re super-normal!”

Benson thought about it. “No,” he said, “I don’t think I’m that normal. Maybe I could learn to go invisible.”

He shut his eyes and concentrated on being invisible. When he opened his eyes again, everyone was still looking at him. “Well, I’m really good at digging. I’ll practise a lot and then digging will be my superpower!”

“I can dig faster than you,” said Alejandro, “and Mick can dig faster than both of us.”

“No you can’t,” said Benson. They had digging competitions for the rest of the afternoon, until they’d eaten all the clementines and apples and starfruit and peaches and it was time to go home.

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