Ho-Ho goes missing

 

One morning Henry woke up. The sun was shining through his bedroom window and the sky was a beautiful blue, but something felt wrong. For a while he lay there staring at the ceiling, trying to think what it could be. Then it struck him: “Shouldn’t Ho-Ho be here by now?” he wondered. He went downstairs where his mother was making some coffee.

               “You’re late this morning Henry,” she said. “Would you like some breakfast for a change?”

“No thanks,” said Henry, “just a very big glass of orange juice please. I’ll drink it under the damson tree.”

Henry went out with his huge glass of orange juice, and sat under the tree and waited. And waited. And waited. But nothing happened. Or rather, a certain elephant did not appear. “Ho-Ho,” Henry whispered loudly up into the tree, “Ho-Ho, come on down.” He peered up into the branches, but there was no sign of any movement, and no sign at all of a tiny pink elephant, hanging upside down.

Then he smelt it – the smell of freshly mown grass. The lawns had been cut with a motor-mower! Henry panicked; what if Ho-Ho had come down from his tree and been torn to bits by the lawnmower before he became his full size? Henry was in a panic. He ran into the house.

“Mummy! Mummy! Have you mowed the lawn? And where have you put the cut grass?” he cried out.

“Henry, do calm down,” said his mother. “I can’t imagine why you want to know but it is on the compost heap in the usual place.”

Henry dashed out of the house to the compost heap and began sifting through the grass cuttings, expecting at any moment to find the damaged body of his friend Ho-Ho. He must have gone through every single blade of grass in the compost heap at least three times but there was no sign of Ho-Ho.

He dashed back to the damson tree and shouted up into its branches:

“Ho-Ho, Ho-Ho; come on down, please, Ho-Ho?”

Henry kept calling until his voice became hoarse. Finally he just sat down and cried. He cried until the tears ran down his cheeks and onto the lawn. He cried like he hadn’t cried since he was a baby. He cried the burning tears of someone who has lost their dearest friend.

Finally he stopped and stared sadly at the tree:

“Oh Ho-Ho, where can you be?” he whispered in despair, “If only you were here, we would know what to do,” he thought out loud.

It seemed such a long time since he had been forced to think completely on his own, without Ho-Ho’s help.

Suddenly he had an idea; he decided to pretend that Ho-Ho was really there and to imagine what he would say. As hard as he could, he imagined himself saying, “Ho-Ho, I can’t find Ho-Ho, and I want to find him more than anything else in the world. Where should I look?”  Henry thought back to the times they had sat together trying to solve a problem. He pictured Ho-Ho’s wise old face, thinking and then saying something really simple which time after time had led to the answer. Then he heard in his mind the voice of Ho-Ho saying:

 “Well Henry, he does live up a tree.”

“That’s it!” thought Henry, “he must still be up his tree! Perhaps he got stuck or something! That must be the answer!”

Henry dashed over to the tree. His mother had told him never to climb the damson tree as the branches were quite slippery and not very strong even for Henry’s weight; but this was an emergency and Henry was a very good climber. The damson tree was even more dangerous and slippery than usual and Henry resolved to be very, very careful indeed. He very cautiously climbed the bottom branches and then felt confident enough to try the higher, more dangerous part. “Ho-Ho!” he whispered loudly as he started the climb. Then as tears came gushing uncontrollably once again into his eyes, everything went black.

 

                        ***********************

There were sirens and people shouting and saying strange things like: “Is he still breathing?” and his mother beside herself, crying:

“My little boy… will he be all right… I told him never to climb that tree….please save him!” Then there was a bumpy journey in an ambulance and so many people trying to help and a mask over his face to help his breathing, and a real bad pain in his head. But none of it mattered a jot to Henry; all he wanted was to see his friend again. When they arrived at the hospital he was moved onto some kind of trolley and taken to a very safe ward where they could watch over him and treat him. Then came the tears and the blackness once again; he just wanted to be home under the damson tree with Ho-Ho.

 

 

When Henry finally wakened, there was a beautiful lady dressed in blue holding his hand. Henry stared at her:

“Who are you?” he asked timidly, confused and having no idea where he might be.

The nurse smiled sweetly:

“My name is Angel” she said.

“Am I in heaven?” Henry asked almost to himself, “And is my friend Ho-Ho here?” he added becoming more cheerful.

“You are in hospital,” explained Nurse Angel, “You have had a nasty fall and bumped your head. We are going to help you get better.”

Henry was downcast again: “But I have to go home and find my friend Ho-Ho” explained Henry.

“Tell me all about your friend, please” said Angel in such a lovely soft voice, that Henry could not resist. Normally Henry would not talk about Ho-Ho to a stranger, but this was somehow different and he could tell that Angel was a very special person. Henry told her everything, though perhaps not very clearly as his head hurt a lot and some bits of the story were a little confused.

“I just want to see Ho-Ho” he finally said, tears gushing down his cheeks.

When he finally looked up at Angel, she too had tears in her eyes:

“Some day, Henry I would love to have a little boy like you…… your friend Ho-Ho is very lucky to have such a wonderful friend.”

“No!” said Henry raising his voice, “No!” and added very quietly, “I am so lucky to have had Ho-Ho as my friend” and sank into a deep sleep.

Through her tears, Nurse Angel wrote her notes for the doctor.

 

****

 

“We are still very worried about him,” said the doctor in the white coat to Henry’s mother. “At first we thought he was recovering quite well from his very nasty fall, but he keeps talking about some elephant that lives up a tree. The nurse’s report makes very interesting reading indeed. He really seems upset and cries all the time he’s awake. It’s almost as thought Henry doesn’t want to get better”

“Is there anything I can do?” asked Henry’s mother.

“Nothing at all I’m afraid,” sighed the doctor, “you did everything just perfectly. When you find someone unconscious, you must make sure they are breathing alright and then call an ambulance. I’m afraid it is out of your hands now. I just wish I could see into his little mind and understand why he is so upset.

 

                        ****************************

After a while Henry woke up. It must be nearly midnight; the hospital for once was fairly quiet which was nice. His head still hurt a lot from the accident. That would teach him not to climb! Everything about his fall and the journey to hospital was jumbled and confused and had there really been an Angel there when he had first woke up in those stiff white hospital sheets? But where was Ho-Ho? The very thought of Ho-Ho missing, brought tears to Henry’s eyes once more.

“Where could he be?” wondered Henry. If only he could know that his friend was all right. Henry could not sleep; he could not bear the thought of his friend being in some kind of trouble. Suddenly there was a tap, tapping at the window. Henry could not believe his ears! It was Ho-Ho’s special tap! He dashed over to the window and sure enough, there was Ho-Ho, looking at him, smiling as though nothing had happened. “Ho-Ho,” whispered Henry, hardly able to contain himself, “are you alright?”

click to see picture

“Yes,” replied Ho-Ho, “when are you coming back home?” Henry would have hugged his enormous friend, but the windows were kept strictly locked. “Where were you Ho-Ho?” cried Henry, “I couldn’t find you anywhere!”

“I couldn’t sleep with all that noise of grass cutting,” said Ho-Ho, a little upset by his friend’s tone of voice, “so I moved into the pear tree next door. I must have over slept,” he added sheepishly. “I was so worried about you Ho-Ho. I thought you might be in trouble and need help so I was climbing the tree and then everything went black and I think I bumped my head – so I’m here in hospital and…”

Henry had to stop as the thought of his friend being injured brought tears to his eyes again.

“You risked hurting yourself to help me?” asked Ho-Ho in a puzzled voice. “But why Henry? I’m only an elephant.”

“You are the very best friend that a boy could have,” said Henry simply. “Besides, there are lots of boys like me, but there is only one Ho-Ho.”

As Henry promised to get well and meet his friend ‘tomorrow’, the darkness hid the large tears that welled up in Ho-Ho’s eyes.

 

*******************

 

“Yes indeed! A most remarkable recovery,” the doctor explained to Henry’s mother. “A most remarkable recovery. We had planned to keep him in here for at least a week, but after seeing him this morning, I’m sure he will be OK to go home today. However,” he added looking very serious, “do make sure he rests a lot and bring him straight back if you are worried.”

“Oh yes!” said his mother, overjoyed at having Henry back. “I will do anything you say. It is just wonderful to be taking him home. Do you get many surprises like this?”

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” replied the doctor wearily, “for instance, last night I had just stitched someone’s arm and was going back to bed shortly after midnight, when,” he lowered his voice and moved a little closer, “I could have sworn I saw a huge elephant looking into one of the hospital windows!”

The two grown-ups laughed together. What an absurd idea!

 

©bernard shevlin

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