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
An Adventurous Trip to the Forest
“Hurray!” exclaimed the three best friends of grade seven of Gayatri Devi Public School, New Delhi.
It was the most joyous moment for Jack, Sandy, and Veeir when the athletics teacher, Miss John announced that the school was organizing a camping trip to Dhikala, Jim Corbett National Park. Jack, Sandy, and Veeir were on cloud nine dreaming about freedom and four spectacular days of unimaginable fun and excitement. They would return with tales of adventure and thrill. Dhikala was one of the few locations in the country that allowed visitors to spend a few days in the heart of the forest nestled between the outer foothills of the Himalayas and the Shivalik Hills, blessed with freshwater flora and alpine together with lovely weather, its beauty was unrivalled. The national park has been divided into six ecotourism zones: Dhikala, Bijrani, Jhirna, Sonanadi, Durgadevi, and Dhela. The most famous denizens of this forest were the Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Elephant. The place was considered to be a phenomenal spot for campers and “Lovers of diverse wildlife”.
The bus was scheduled to depart from school for the campsite at 7 am on Sunday. Veeir, Jack and Sandy were excited to pack their backpacks. Veeir started packing his stuff right after he reached home from school on Friday afternoon. He connected over the phone with Sandy and Jack late evening to check their packing status.
Veeir asked Sandy and Jack: “Hey guys! Did you finish packing your bags? I kept a lifevest, long boots, and a river-rafting track. The tees for rafting were missing so I ran to the nearby store to grab a few!”
Jack said from another side: “Veeir, did you pack the soccer ball? I am carrying my favourite one.”
Veeir said: “Oh! no! My soccer ball was with Timothy.”
Sandy from another side: “I am done with my packing. Thank God! I have my soccer ball with me.”
Veeir said: “Guys, we are all set to fly high. See you the day after at the meeting point.”
Sunday morning was what they desperately waited for. Each one of them was excited to fly high in the sky like birds who escaped from a cage.
Veeir confessed to Jack and Sandy: “I feel relaxed and refreshed already. The mundane school routine was getting on my nerves. At home, mom and dad wouldn’t spare me. I was fatigued.”
Jack and Sandy chorused: “Absolutely!”
The rest of the children arrived, completely delirious. They said their goodbyes to their parents and grabbed their seats on the bus. Every child was brimming with energy. There was mirth in the air.
The children boarded the bus, waving out to their parents. The driver started the engine and there was an outburst of joy. The bus finally moved and the school diminished in the background. Within no time, packets of wafers and biscuits were pulled open. Children pierced tetra packs of juices with straws, sipping and slurping; laughing and chuckling and simply having a whale of a time. The journey had just begun.
“Hey, would you try some?” Veeir extended his lunchbox towards Sandy and Jack.
It was filled with some delightful sandwiches stuffed with tender chicken, lettuce, cucumber and creamy mayo. Veeir’s mother was famous amongst his friends for her culinary skills. The three of them had their fill and discussed the itinerary for the enthralling days ahead. The journey seemed long but it was worth the wait. They crossed fields dotted with yellow flowers, narrow lanes, rocky roads, busy cities but most of all every moment a memory was created for a lifetime.
On the way, some children read their favourite books while others were either playing mobile games or watching a movie on their tablets. Sandy was quite popular for his jokes in the class. His hilarious jokes made Jack and Veeir laugh till their stomachs hurt. It was truly a rollicking journey to the campsite. The children arrived early in the evening, the rays of the sun still falling crisply all across Dhikala. The weather was invigorating, unlike Delhi which was stuffy and polluted.
The view of the campsite was splendid, tiny camps in green and white were erected in a row. The colour of the tents matched their uniform. A central camp was erected in between tiny camps dividing the entire campsite into two zones, white ones for girls and green ones for boys. The river Koshi was flowing in the backdrop of the campsite making the view an artist’s delight. The weather was bright and breezy. The aroma of flora and alpine was fresh and welcoming.
Miss John counted the heads and matched them with the list she was holding in her hands and announced “Boys and Girls, move and occupy your respective camps, finish your lunch, and rest today. Be ready with your lifevests by 6 am next morning and assemble at central camp to head for the river rafting site. Mr. Cook along with two lifeguards Mr. Sangma and Miss Alpena would be your friend, mentor, and guide for the activity. Each raft would have five boys and five girls in. The teams would be divided and identified by their house colours. Is that clear? Anyone with doubts or any questions may contact me in the coach office behind central camp after 5 pm today. The next assembly would be at 6.30 pm for dinner in the central camp. Let’s disperse for now.”
The three boys were as happy as pigs in mud. Jack got into a playful mood and wanted to have fun and enjoy his freedom. He was captain of the Junior soccer team and
was a hero amongst the schoolboys.
He hollered “Hey friends! Let's play soccer.”
Sandy and Veeir immediately agreed: “It would be fun!”
They tiptoed out of their camps to a nearby field. It was a lush green big field that looked like a cattle farm adjoining the core zone of the national park. Jack drew a line on opposite sides of the field to mark a goalpost. Jack said, “Each one of us would hit the ball from one end of the field to the other end. The player with the maximum number of goals would be a winner.”
Jack hit the ball. It went to the far end of the road connecting to the national park. The road was steep, rocky, bumpy, and more like a slope thus the ball rolled away and got out of sight.
Perplexed, the boys hunted high and low bushes, inside the holes of colossal trees. Every spot was investigated. They felt like detectives at a crime scene. Alas! The effort was futile. The ball had disappeared like dinosaurs became extinct from earth.
Sandy said: “Guys, we walked as long as we could. No more energy to go any further. Let’s sit down for a while and think, how shall we get out of here”. their feet were all wet with sweat, heads spinning and water dried up from their bodies like the desert.
Just like the ball, they were lost in the national park. A sense of worry engulfed them. Fear and trepidation were ruling their thoughts.
Veeir said to Jack and Sandy: “We need to be courageous and consciously alert. Cannot allow fear to rule over our thoughts and mind. It is not safe to stay here for long. Let’s get up and look for a safe shelter hurriedly.”
There were tall, thick, and dense trees all around them. Dried leaves were scattered all over. Delicate purple flowers grew around the barks of the trees. The darkness of the forest was intimidating. The children were petrified thinking about the sounds of growling lions and tigers, hungry wolves, hooting owls, and many other animals that sent a shiver down their spines. The more they tried looking for their way out, the more stuck they were. The boys desperately looked for a place to hide and keep themselves safe from the wild animals. They were famished too so started searching for food and shelter both.
Astonishingly, Sandy shouted: “Guys! look at that structure, it appears to be a secluded house. Let us walk up there”.
The place looked quite old, haunted, and abandoned. It looked like it might have been a resting place for a rich hunter long ago. The house had hunting equipment all over the living room, one bedroom upstairs, one at ground level, and one machan in the backyard.
Veeir spotted mushrooms being grown in the backyard of the house and a small pond full of fish. The place seemed apt to save their skin from the wild creatures. They collected mushrooms and caught a few fish from the pond. They made an arrangement for bonfires from the rocks and grilled the fish and mushrooms. At night, before going to sleep, they took off medieval helmets, body armours, mace, antique swords, spears, knives, daggers, medieval shields from the living room and kept those with them in the upstairs room where they planned to sleep together. They locked the door carefully and slept like the dead till midnight.
Howling sounds of “owoooooo! was scary enough to make them alive again. In a split second, they jumped off the bed as if they had never slept and put on body armours, helmets and took the position like warriors with swords in their hands. A pack of wolves was sensed near the house. They stood behind the door for about a fraction of a minute and double-checked the door and windows in case wolves manage to come inside the house. Veeir was the lion of the squad. He assured them and kept them in high spirits.
Veeir encouraged Sandy and Jack: “The chances of wolves attacking is least possible as we are on the first floor of the house. There is no way for them to get inside the house without climbing a tree. Wolves can't climb trees.”
Sandy murmured with a straight face: “What if these ones do?”
Annoyed at what he just heard, Veeir replied to Sandy: “Let's be serious and listen carefully: “The wolves hate smoky campfire and generally attack the face, neck, and throat of its prey.”
Jack curiously asked Veeir, “What is going to be our attacking strategy?
Veeir elucidated Jack, “We will attack them on face and nose. You and I would attack them with swords, spears, daggers, and knives on their faces and noses. A well-placed blow on their sensitive faces and noses can stun them.”
Sandy will make arrangements for a smoky campfire.”
The howling stopped after a while.
Jack said: “No more howling, it seemed the wolves were passing by in search of their hunt.”
Sandy said, “Let’s take off the helmets and body armours and go back to sleep again.”
The Boys were about to undress from those heavy body armours, helmets, and swords. Then again, the loud roaring sounds near the house frightened them that their hearts were hammering and palms sweated. They broke out in a cold sweat. They all clung to each other in despair. They were numb with fear! They prayed. They chanted. They peeped out of a small hole between two stones of the wall and an ambush of tigers were drinking water from the pond. Their hearts skipped a beat. This was the most frightening moment of the night.
Veeir chanted his magic mantras and composed himself. He silently watched the tigers’ movement. Each moment passed by like an hour. The tigers drank water to their hearts’ content. They moved around like they were on an inspection. Beads of perspiration trickled down Veeir’s face. Sandy’s heart thumped while Jack gasped noisily. At last, the tigers retreated and disappeared into the jungle. They realized lately the wild animals generally come to the pond for water here. No wonder! The hunter built up the structure close to the water body to hunt wild animals easily. They felt secure in the house so decided to sleep back again.
Around 3 am, Sandy was quivering with fear and anxiety. He woke Jack and Veeir also up and pointed towards the door. He was almost dumb and held Jack’s hand tightly. Veeir guessed, he might have had a horrible dream of a wild animal but what was that! Jack started screaming with his eyes shut too, “Go away! leave us! Get out of here! They bathed in sweats and had goosebumps all over. They shook like the withered leaves of autumn.
Veeir also felt claustrophobic. He remembered his grandparents telling him that flashlights could scare the negative energies away. Immediately, he pulled out the torch and switched it on with his trembling hands. Its light beamed brightly. He heard a “whoo-oo-oo-oo'' sound which was similar to a creepy weeping ghost sound. Jack and Sandy held onto each other tightly, praying with all their faith. The boys were in a state of complete chaos.
Veeir said: “Guys, was it a hallucination or ghost attack?
They questioned themselves and reached the conclusion, “It had probably become a dead house for ghosts and negative energies. We were uninvited guests to their place so they tried to throw us out of their property. Luckily! We had a flashlight to make them run and disappear.”
The chirping of the birds woke them up in the morning. They could not believe they survived the eerie night. Hurriedly, they gathered their few belongings and scuttled their way out. On the way back, they found their ball covered with mud all over just like they were. The boys were talking to each other,
Jack said merrily to Veeir and Sandy: “It was a lifetime experience to visit a forest and stay overnight there.”
On reaching the camp, their school staff looked devastated. They were shocked to see Jack, Sandy, and Veeir were marching to camp joyfully. Miss John called their parents to report they were missing from the camp last night.
The police were informed about Veeir, Jack, and Sandy who had disappeared from the camp mysteriously. The other students at the camps asked the three boys to share their experiences of the jungle. The witty Jack and outrageous Sandy pranked them and cooked a story.
“We encountered wolves, bears, and tigers.” One of our fellow campers Smith exclaimed “My! My! I wish I had accompanied you! I could have clicked pictures” Simon agreed too. Natalie added “Do you plan to run away tonight as well? Let me know if I could join you.” Peter couldn’t stay silent and asked them questions which made them chuckle.
The children believed every syllable the three boys spoke. In the wink of an eye, they were regarded as superheroes. Miss John was looking suspicious.
She enquired “Were you really lost or decided to sneak out of the campsite?” Pointing her finger at Jack, she said “Your smile was like the glowing sunshine.” It looked more like you came back from wonderland rather than a horrifying place”.
Jack answered smartly, “No, Miss John. On the contrary, we were sad to lose the opportunity of the river-rafting fun and not spend a night at the beautiful surroundings here.”
Sandy and Veeir smirked!
Sandy, Veeir, and Jack understood that everyone at the campsite and back home was worried for them but they were completely ecstatic after their great adventure!