Judging has concluded for the Worst Love Poem/Flash Fiction contest! Everyone who submitted should have an e-mail response from us in their inbox. We received several excellent submissions, and judging was difficult. If you didn't place this time, please submit for future contests! To our four winners: congratulations and enjoy your free one-year subscription to HFR!

The winner in the Flash Fiction category is Hannah Gambel. Congratulations Hannah! Enjoy reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the third place winner in the Poetry category!

Sitting by This Pond With You, Valentine, Even My Heart of Stone Skips.

Nutmeg was not only the first girl I ever kissed, she was also the first girl to put her hands down my pants. Her father, Mr. Tim (of Mr. Tim’s Party Town Palace), bought one of the greeting card messages I had been composing since age 11: It’s your birthday! Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get everything you want—presents are just things that will probably break and lost their original colors if you leave them sitting in the sun. But my love for you is un-harmable, un-fadable, and completely mysterious, even to me.

Mr. Tim proposed that this would be the first in a series of cards which we could call Heartbeats by Bradley. Nutmeg would design the outside of the card, he said. I was thrilled, until the next week when I saw the card that she had designed for my birthday ode; the front of the card was a patchwork of burnt sienna foil, mint green waffle paper, and purple feathers. If my 14 year old self had been familiar with the bead and booze-centric spring-time rituals of the deep, neglected South, I might have written in my journal later that the card looked like a 300 lb man ate Mardi Gras and then vomited it up into a 5x7 inch mold.

I didn’t see Nutmeg again until she showed up at my house the next summer, while my parents ran a parenting conference in Colorado. I didn’t understand why she was suddenly in my living room, and she didn’t explain. When she began to undo my pants, I froze, having no idea what to expect. Only once had I attempted self-stimulation and I had been unaware that a certain sub-equatorial rigidity was needed if my bedroom was to become the den of perpetual pleasure that I had hoped it would be. Wondering what ecstasy would be like, I had prodded and fondled, trying not to be distracted by the strangeness of having something so like a dejected, relatively under-evolved sea-creature attached to me. Eventually, I’d given up, and never touched the thing again.

Nutmeg waiting, I considered what I was. Bradley Williams: an appropriator of British phraseology, a salad dressing snob, a fearful self-disciplinarian, someone indiscriminately seeking validation…For the first time, I wanted to be something other than what I was. I remember thinking that perhaps I would have to learn to be unafraid. On the spot, I composed a greeting card: Valentine, sleeping on this bedazzled rug with you, I feel safe even though you are a dangerous creature. Far from extinction is the Egyptian Plover, which lives in the mouth of the crocodile, earning his stay by picking debris from the gleaming teeth. I reject the safe, fluorescently-lit world I thought I once wanted. My eyes are adjusting to the dark. It’s much like how the caves of central Bolivia are dangerous, but they’re also protective aren’t they?