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Unique Specimens

Our seventh annual fiction issue.


They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Well, for the second year in a row, we decided to keep our prompts short and our stories shorter. With a 1,000-word limit for entries — and a minimum of 25 words — we delved again into flash fiction, forcing our writers to be succinct, compelling and unusual.

Naturally, some stories hit closer to the mark than others. We became familiar with a mysterious fellow named Carl in the spirited “Memo to Carl” and the classic but venomous “Carl's Potato.” We discovered unusual interpretations of the fiction genre in the form of letters of resignation, job applications, gratuitous restaurant reviews, press releases for bridal shows and even a love letter to author David Baldacci.

We learned that we can try to feng shui a crack house but there's no way to peaceably rid our own homes of an infestation of fairies. We fought off zombies and vampires, gawked at road kill and sadly shook our heads at numerous bloody murders, suicides, breakups and love matches gone awry.

We guffawed, we whimpered, we paused and reflected. Then we went back through all of them, sifting through Richmond's collective unconscious to find the hidden themes, secret messages and truths humming beneath the texts. We named winners and will award cash. And we also gathered our favorite lines, ideas and images, and present them here to cast further insight into the mind of the Richmond writer, and the culture that spawned us. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did. — Valley Haggard

FIRST PLACE: From the Museum of Lost Smells


RUNNER UP: Dad's Blue Chevy

RUNNER UP: Visiting Day

The Judges

The Objects

BONUS CATEGORY: Freudian Slipstream

BONUS CATEGORY: Tiny Pulitzers

Man of Few Words