Henry has trouble with Tommy Travis

 

Henry and Ho-Ho were sitting under the damson tree drinking their orange juice. It was Saturday, and Henry did not go to school today. The two friends hardly needed to talk, as they often knew what the other was thinking, but today something was definitely different.

"Have you got a secret?" asked Ho-Ho.

Henry looked sad. "Well, sort of yes and sort of no," he replied.

"But if there is something worrying you, perhaps I can help?" suggested Ho-Ho. Henry remain silent for a while and then suddenly blurted out:

"Have you ever been bullied, Ho-Ho?" He thought for a few moments and then added, "of course not! Who could bully a huge elephant?"

"Yes, I have been bullied," nodded Ho-Ho encouragingly. "I really have been bullied."

Henry was fascinated to hear how a naughty mouse called Fletcher had discovered that Ho-Ho was afraid of mice and kept sneaking up on him to frighten him. He had threatened Ho-Ho and made the big elephant bring him food. Ho-Ho looked really solemn as he recalled his awful experience, and though it seemed funny to Henry that a huge creature like Ho-Ho could be scared of such a small thing like a mouse, he really did feel quite sorry for him.

"How did you get rid of Fletcher in the end?" asked Henry.

Ho-Ho thought for a moment, smiled mysteriously, and winking at Henry said: "I made friends with a cat called Sophie."

Henry was impressed that bullying could be so easily taken care of.

Sadly, that technique was certainly not going to work for his own problem.

Tommy Travis was two years older than Henry and a lot bigger and stronger. He took great delight in pushing Henry around and stealing from his lunchbox, and generally making life a misery. Henry did not know what to do; he was completely downcast.

"Perhaps we can find out what Tommy Travis is scared of?" suggested Ho-Ho. As Henry had no better ideas, it certainly seemed worth a try.

 

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

 

That night, as soon as it was dark, Henry signalled to Ho-Ho in his tree. Ho-Ho was soon sliding down the tree trunk and ready to go.

Tommy Travis lived about a mile from Henry on an old run-down farm, and before long the two friends were turning into the quiet lane that led to his house. They moved very quietly and slowly towards the lights ahead of them, careful not to be seen. Soon they were peeping through one of the windows and could see the Travis family - and what a sight it was! The house looked in such an awful mess and two of the windows were broken. There were five cats, as well as seven children, all crowded together in the tiny front room and everyone looked very unhappy.

"He certainly isn't scared of cats," whispered Ho-Ho.

Tommy's father was a very big man, unshaven and with his sleeves rolled up. He had grasped Tommy by the front of his shirt and was shouting very loudly at him.

"I can't trust you with anything," he yelled. "I wanted top prices for those eggs, and you bring me this!" He picked up a handful of money and threw it angrily onto the floor.

"Now you listen to me, my lad, if you don't get the money you owe me by next week, I'll give you a beating like you've never had before."

Henry and Ho-Ho were horrified; they had never seen anyone shouting quite so violently, and in spite of recent events, Henry felt quite sorry for Tommy.

"And another thing," continued the irate father, “you can stop having your light on a night. A boy of your age, frightened of the dark...it's daft!" he spat. The look of fear on Tommy's face became much more intense.

'So Tommy is afraid of the dark,' mused Henry, finding it quite strange that a terrifying boy like Tommy could be scared of something so ordinary.

As they moved away from the house, Henry saw what he thought were giant moths flying in the moonlight. "Look at those moths!" he whispered to Ho-Ho in amazement.

"Those aren't moths," said Ho-Ho shaking his head, "they are bats - sort of like mice that fly, except that they don't scare me as much as mice do."

Ho-Ho told Henry all about these strange flying creatures, and how they managed to fly around in the dark so fast without bumping into things. As they carried on walking they came to a huge tumbled-down barn on the edge of the Travis’ farm. The bats were flying in and out of an opening high up in the roof of the barn.

"Please Ho-Ho, give me a lift up and let me see where the bats live."

Henry was soon in an old loft, high above the floor of the barn. He could hear the Travis’ hens clucking down below, but everything was in total darkness. He reached down into his pocket for his little torch. Although the battery was very weak, he could pick out these amazing flying creatures fluttering around in the gloom, and even more amazingly, hanging upside down! Henry was captivated and would have stayed for longer if Ho-Ho hadn’t whispered for him to come back down. As the two friends walked home together, Henry had forgotten all about his problems with Tommy Travis. He was so excited to have discovered these magical creatures called 'bats' and he certainly wanted to go up to the loft another time when he had a proper torch.

 

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

 

"Henry, I kept you behind the others, so I could speak to you on your own," his teacher was saying, "I know that there is something bothering you at the moment, and I think I know what it is."

Henry liked his teacher a lot and she liked Henry because he tried so hard at school. He didn't know what to say now that he knew more about Tommy Travis and how Tommy was so unhappy at home.

"I think someone might be bullying you and if they are you must tell me. Bullies always threaten you and say they will do awful things to you if you do tell; but believe me, Henry, it is by far the best way."

Henry knew that his teacher was right; she would sort it out for him. But something was stopping him...

"When I was a little girl, I was bullied at school and it made my life such a misery I promised that I would never let it happen to a child in my care," she continued.

His teacher was so nice trying to help him and she had been bullied too so might understand. Henry felt so confused and close to tears, he put his arms round his teacher and hugged her.

She smiled. "Are you going to tell me who it is?" she asked. Henry shook his head. "I have very special friend and I think it will be alright," he said finally.

 

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

 

In the playground, Tommy was looking for Henry with a new determination. He finally caught up with him and grabbed him by the collar. "I need money - and fast!" he said menacingly to Henry. He had never asked Henry for money before, but Henry remembered the threat of Tommy's father and quickly understood. Now Henry was not at all afraid, in fact he would have tried to get the money for Tommy anyway!

"Let me think," said Henry, stroking his chin in thought and puzzling Tommy by his calmness. He had some money in his money box, but if he was seen giving the money to Tommy, then Tommy would be in deep trouble and Henry did not want that to happen.

"I will have to give it to you in complete secret," he said. Tommy nodded, after all that made sense. Henry racked his brains for somewhere secret and then remembered those amazing creatures in the barn - the bats!

"I'll meet you in the loft of your barn tonight at 10 o clock," said Henry.

Tommy's mouth opened wide with astonishment and some fear as he felt his head nodding in agreement.

 

Although there was a full moon it was a cloudy night and the wind sent the clouds roaming across the sky, painting ghostly shadows across the landscape. Henry had put his money box in a big white pillowcase. The sound of him emptying his money box in the house would certainly have aroused suspicion with his mother, so he sat with Ho-Ho in the bushes by the barn counting it out.

 

Tommy was already terrified just being out in the dark and the shadows made it even worse. Combining this with the faint light coming from the shrubs and what sounded like a huge animal grunting made him even more scared. He rushed into the barn and up into the loft, panting and petrified.

 

Finally, Henry and Ho-Ho had finished counting out the money so Ho-Ho lifted Henry up to the opening where the bats were still flying ready to meet Tommy. Henry clutched the money, leaving the empty pillowcase with Ho-Ho. Henry seemed to appear from nowhere to the terrified Tommy, who could now scarcely even speak.

"I'm sorry I'm late," said Henry very matter-of-factly, "but I had a little bit of a hold-up." Just then there came a very strange noise indeed as Ho-Ho began sneezing. Nobody knows why Ho-Ho started to sneeze. Perhaps it was the hens in the barn, or the mouldy straw, or perhaps some cats had been around, or maybe Ho-Ho was allergic to bats. But one thing is certain – Ho-Ho began to sneeze uncontrollably, and if you have never heard an elephant sneeze, you would be most astonished by the sound it makes.

No one knows either what Ho-Ho was trying to achieve by putting the pillowcase on the end of his trunk – most likely he was just trying to dampen the sound of the sneezes. But one thing is for sure; the sight of a pillowcase on the end of a sneezing trunk, waving past the opening in the loft would have chilled the heart of the bravest man alive, and Tommy was certainly not the bravest man alive. Henry thrust the money into Tommy's hands and the boy was gone, falling quickly down the steps of the loft and back to the safety of his home.

"Funny," thought Henry, who had not noticed Ho-Ho waving about, "I thought he would have been pleased!"

Henry took out his torch with the new batteries and watched the bats in fascination until Ho-Ho, bored and tired insisted they go back home.

click to see picture

 

Tommy did not appear at school for two days and when he finally did appear, he seemed quite scared of Henry. He finally plucked up courage, came up to him and gave him a brown package.

"Thanks!" said Henry, without realising that the contents of the package were in fact his money being returned. "Are you alright?” Tommy nodded - pale and speechless.

"Why did you rush off so quickly when we met in the barn?" Henry asked. At the mention of that fateful night, Tommy turned even paler, his mouth dropped open and the hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up like the prickles on a porcupine. In the blink of an eye he was gone.

"That’s a pity," thought Henry, "I wanted to tell him all about the bats."

 

"Yes," said Henry's teacher to the headmaster, "I was very worried about Henry. I was convinced that he was being bullied by Tommy Travis, but I have been watching them carefully and now Tommy seems to be actually avoiding Henry. In fact the only time I did see them together Tommy gave Henry a present. Anyhow, Henry seems back to his old self, so the matter is now closed. I’m giving some more attention to Tommy though, as I think he and his family might need some more help. Tommy is certainly a very vulnerable child.”

The headmaster nodded in agreement; the matter of Henry was certainly now closed, and Henry was certainly his old happy and resourceful self.

 

For his own part, Henry didn't even know what 'resourceful' meant; he just knew that things tend to work out if you try hard and trust yourself. Tommy obviously had a lot more problems than Henry did, and Henry actually ended up feeling rather sorry for him. In fact one day in the future he would even help Tommy overcome his fear of the dark, but that is another story.

 

Author’s Note: Many children suffer from being bullied and maybe just knowing that the bully is probably also quite vulnerable just might be helpful to the bullied child!

 

©bernard shevlin

click here for next story

click here to go back to index of stories