The aim of Henshawpress is to encourage the writing of short stories and in particular we would like to encourage young writers. Our Quarterly Competition provides a vehicle for adults but, until now, we have not found a suitable means of encouraging younger writers. We have explored the idea of competitions for young writers through schools and Local Councils but without success.
So instead of a competition we are offering to critique stories, of up to 2000 words, free for stories written by anyone under12. For anyone aged 12 to 16 there will be a nominal fee, please contact us for more information.
Stories can be sent to us either by post or e-mail at the addresses on our main competition page.
With any story please ensure that the writer’s name and age is included. There are no other rules, any topic any style. We would aim to return a gentle critique within a maximum of two weeks.
We will, at our discretion and with the agreement of the author, occasionally publish the stories on our website.
I commend these stories to you.
The Chicken Dog
BANG! The front door slammed shut. “Wait for it...Wait for it..." Meowed Wispa. Vvvrrrm "There it goes, going...gone!" The loud engine noise had finally disappeared into the distance. “So, what shall we do today Munchie?" questioned Wispa.
Wispa was a gorgeous Ragdoll kitten, with bright blue eyes, like the sky on a summers day. Her coat was a luxury, soft, cream coloured blanket of fur with chocolate brown markings on her ears, face, tail and legs; it made her look like she was wearing stockings! Long tufts of fur poked out of her cute, little ears. Cheekiness, playfulness and endless love were stored inside just one look, but oh how mischievous she was...she just couldn't help herself!
Munchie, a sleek, chocolate brown Burmese cat, yawned and stretched lazily in front of the comforting fire place, the heat gently warming him through from the tip of his brown tail right to his ears. Not wanting to move a muscle and wondering why on earth Wispa had to include him in her impish plans of naughtiness. "Why don't you play with Lauryn's 'ipawd'? You can chase that pesky mouse and bat the ping pong ball. Or, why don't you put the TV on and watch 'Romeow and Juliet? That George Michael song, what's it called? 'Careless Whisker’ You could put that on. I like that, mmm, relaxing, helps me snooze."
"BORING!" protested Wispa, as she wiggled her bum from side to side ready to make an enormous pounce on Munchie's tail, which was moving, ever so slightly.
"WISPA! ouch! Stop it!"
"Chase me, chase me", chanted Wispa as she ran, clawing her way along the back of the luxurious, leather corner settee.
"You know you are not allowed to do that", hissed Munchie.
"Stop being such a 'fun spoiler' yelled Wispa, swinging from the top of the silk patterned curtains. "MEEYOOOOOOOW," shrieked Wispa as the curtain slowly began to rip under her weight. She was falling! Down. down. Thud! Wispa had landed, on her feet of course. " Awesomeness of Awesome, purrrfect landing! That was soooo much fun, I'm gonna do it again and again and again!"
Munchie's eyes were as wide as saucers, he just could not believe what that little rascal was doing. What would his mum say? She would be so upset. "Look what you've done, Wispa, those curtains are totally ruined! You've torn them into shreds!"
"It's OK I've finished now, that was such a meownificent game. I'm sorry you didn't get a go."
"Seriously", meowed Munchie, in disbelief.
"Calm down now," he demanded, "You've done enough damage for one day!
But, oh no, Wispa still had a few tricks up her sleeve! She strolled into the hallway. "Hmmm What's this?" she meowed. "Silver steps! I've not seen these before, I wonder if they lead to the Mewseum, I've heard about that place and I've always wanted to go there to see my Egyptian cousins!" With that, she clambered up. "Meow, M m m my head's stuck, I can't get any higher", she cried, pushing hard with her head against the hard, flat thing above her. "One more push, should do it." She pushed with all her might, "Ooh there it goes," BANG! CRASH!
Wispa peered down from the top of the stepladder only to see Bella the dog, sitting there with white paint all over her. "What's happened to you?" giggled Wispa. "Why are you all wet? Come up here and play with me, I'm going to the Mewseum."
"Woof, count me in," grinned Bella as she scrambled to the stepladder. "Help, I'm jumping but I'm not moving up."
"Come on," beckoned Wispa, impatiently, "I can't wait all day! Things to do, places to go, you know!"
But try as hard as she could, Bella just could not get up those steps. After what seemed like forever, she gave up and wandered off.
Wispa climbed to the very top of the stepladder, "Wait a minute, what was this? I've run out of steps, where have all the rest of them gone? What about my Mewseum?" Wispa stood on her hind legs searching for more steps, but no, she couldn't see any, not even one! "Rubbish!" hissed Wispa as she decided to see if she could do a massive leap from the top of the stepladder onto Munchie's back, as he lay quietly by the fire.
"WISPA, Don't you even think about it!" snapped Munchie
How did he even know what she was thinking, thought Wispa to herself.
"Pft, I'm going for a wash and a lie down in mum and dad's bedroom, where I am far away from YOU old Grumpy Groo!" So off she went with her tail in the air, leaving poor Munchie with a frown on his face.
Contentedly, after licking herself clean, Wispa decided that it was time for a little snooze. She stretched out as far as her little legs could go and as she turned to settle, Wispa realised that her claws were caught in the soft, white pillow. "RRRIIPPP" went the pillow, as her sharp claws dragged down it. Oooh, that felt meowvellous, she thought, as she did it again, and that purring, ripping sound! All of a sudden, she noticed a little white thing floating above her head, and another and another. "What on earth were they?" One landed on her nose, it smelt amazing. Within minutes, there were thousands of the little floaty things. "It's snowing, It's snowing", purred Wispa in delight.
"What on earth?" meowed Munchie as he bounded up the stairs to see what all the noise was. Munchie stood at the door and couldn't believe his whiskers. Wispa was jumping as high as she could causing clouds of white feathers to float up in the air and surround her. They were everywhere, turning mum and dad's bedroom into a winter wonderland snow scene.
"Come and play, its tremeowndous and it's not even an itsy witsy bit cold"
"You've got to be kidding me!" hissed Munchie.
Bella, the dog, scampered in to see what all the fuss was about, she was still covered in white paint from before. "YIPPEE!", she woofed, as she did a huge jump and landed right in the middle of the bed. Boing, Boing, as Bella jumped, watching the feathers flying everywhere.
Minutes later, "Where has all the snow gone?" exclaimed Wispa, "Watch me, when I jump now, nothing, no floaty fun bits, it must have all melted!".
"Are you both fur real?" protested Munchie, "Just look at yourself in the mirror, Bella."
Bella leapt off the bed and stood in front of the mirror, "I can't see myself, where am I?" she whined, spinning round and round in circles. "Who is that chicken creature?" she questioned, jumping backwards in alarm!
"It's you silly" scolded Munchie, "Unbelievable!"
"ME!" yelped Bella, "What...what has happened to me? Why have I turned into a chicken?
"Well, what do you expect, you got covered in sticky white paint and then you go and jump around in a pile of feathers. They are obviously going to stick to you." lectured Munchie.
At that precise moment, they all heard mum's key turning in the lock...Bella scampered downstairs as fast as she could go, to greet mum, like she always did. Whilst Wispa decided to go and hide under Hannah's bed. Munchie crept downstairs and curled back in front of the fire. He was not getting involved, nope, not this time, not any time!
The door swung open, as mum walked inside."Oh my!" gasped mum, "What has happened here?" Bella wagged her tail, energetically, showering mum all over with sticky feathers. Mum's eyes grew bigger and bigger. "What have you done?" cried Mum with gritted teeth.
"Upstairs! Now! You need a Bath! Mum ran after Bella and was absolutely horrified at all the mess, white paint and feathers all up the stairs. She didn't even want to look in her bedroom, through the open door, she could already see a trail of feathers leading to paint paw prints all over the beautiful black duvet. "Oh dear me, you have been a bad dog, haven't you," scolded mum. "There will be no treats and you can stay in your bed for the rest of the day!"
After a while, Bella emerged smelling of dog shampoo, although she still had a stripe of white paint on her head and back where the paint roller had landed. She padded slowly over to her bed, head down, tail between her legs, ashamed of what she had done. Wispa was nowhere to be found but can you blame her?
Age 12 .
Dear One: An Explanation
I am glad to have you here. It is so nice to see you again. I feel I must explain my rudeness.
Forty years ago you were walking down my street. It was odd, for although you were on the other side, you crossed the road when you saw my house. You examined it for a while, peaked through the windows even; I remember drawing the blinds and you laughed. I did not see you for some time after that.
One day at my doorstep I found a bracelet that you had woven by hand. It was purple and blue; beads in flower patterns set in the middle. It would have taken you hours to create. I pinned it to the memory board above my bed to keep it within sight. That is where I meant to keep it. But then there was the strawberry tart. I bit in hesitantly. The filling was thick yet melted in my mouth. The strawberries sweet and sugary. My smile was radiant. A while after that there was a book: A Dream of Mind: Poems by C. K. Williams. It was beautiful; overflowing with philosophical and challenging thoughts. And then there was you.
You asked if you might come in. I said, ‘Yes, please. Step inside for you are welcome here.’ And so you did.
We chatted about nothing and laughed at everything. Yours was a sweet laugh, and your talk was pleasant.
I remember clearly the day I asked you into my living room. The way you let out your true smile and how bright it was. You talked more often and said more absurd things as we sat on the sofa. We smiled.
I offered you a drink. You accepted gratefully. You were longing for refreshment. After a time, I offered you some gingerbread biscuits but you declined. You seemed to change. Your smile slowed and your speech dimmed. You sat rigid and composed. You checked your sentences before they escaped.
And then you were gone. I never saw it coming and I did not see it happen. But you left the door open behind you and I did not close it. I set the biscuits aside on my favorite tray. I played with the curtains everyday as I passed by the windows; ready to catch sight of you turning my way again.
As time passed, I let others in. The carpet became trampled and worn and someone broke a few pieces of china. I refurnished the house. Most items were secondhand, but it was home. Gradually, my supply of biscuits dwindled and I forgot to keep watch out the window. The door now merely ajar as I and others brushed passed. In and out.
My neighbors moved away. Maybe I pushed them away, maybe they simply moved on. There were house fires on my street. Some spread to others. A few robberies, and a few deaths. A few days became a few weeks. A few weeks became a few months. And a few months became forty years.
And now... I’ve found you in my doorway again. You pushed it open like you belonged and asked to come in. What else was I supposed to do? I said, ‘Yes. Step inside, for you are welcome here.’
I never saw you coming and I did not see it happen. I never had time to replenish: I’m out of biscuits and all sorts of refreshment. My furniture is worn and everything needs to be dusted. I have bones in my closet that I need to clear out. I have rats in the basement and mice in the cupboard, and I need some time to fix a few things and replace some more. I need a new outfit and to straighten my hair. I should shine my jewelry and cutlery and buff the silver teapot.
Just give me some time to walk down the stairs. I find my legs are not so strong anymore.
Just give me some time to tidy up. I find that the house has gone to shambles. Just give me some time to look my best. I fear the years have not been kind.
Just give me some time to prepare. I wasn’t ready for any guests, and I certainly was not expecting you.
Signed, Yours truly