ARCHIVES

 

PAST WINNERS OF THE PRIME NUMBER MAGAZINE 53-WORD STORY CONTEST

SEPTEMBER 2015 – JULY 2017

 

July 2017

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about something hot

Judge: Kate Hill Cantrill, author of Walk Back from Monkey School

In the Oven by K.C. Mead-Brewer

Texas, July, a busted AC, and now this—a rustling, skittering sound. Mice. The idea alone made her itchy as hell, but scratching only clogged her nails with sweat. Hot air piled in her throat like mulch. Mice in the walls. Trembling, she touched her growing middle. Mice crawling all through the walls.

 

June 2017

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a break

Judge: Gerry Wilson, author of Crosscurrents and Other Stories

How Amelia Earhart Comes to Understand Gravitational Pull by Joanna Thomas

To the roof of the shed, she cobbles a ramp, then rides an apple crate down the slope. The wooden box splinters upon impact. Split lip, ripped bloomers, and a snoot full of exhilaration, she exclaims, "Oh, Pidge, it's just like flying!" Later, over the Pacific, the flap, flutter, thrill of another plummet.

 

May 2017

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a flower

Judge: Kevin Morgan Watson, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Press 53, Prime Number Magazine

Daisy Chain by Aamna Kaul

You meet a girl and want to fall in love. Her name is Daisy so you give her some. She puts them in a vase and introduces you to her brother. His grip is tight. A wasp hovers over the daisies, then stings you. Daisy lasts a week. You never forget her brother.

 

April 2017

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a shower

Judge: Chauna Craig, author of The Widow's Guide to Edible Mushrooms

Jackpot by Peter Wise

They placed their bets—he lost, she won. Spent her jackpot on a shower of glass, marble and gold. Each day now, they return from work caked with dust, and she leads him up the creaking stairs of their farmhouse into her Las Vegas oasis, where sulfur-tainted well water rains like silver coins.

 

March 2017

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a march

Judge: Kelly Cherry, author of Twelve Women in a Country Called America

Chamomile by Sharon Louise Howard

It was the march of sugar ants that dismantled the world as she knew it. It was early. She’d wanted to surprise him. The unexpected ants led to a used cup in the sink. Lifting it, she smelled dregs of chamomile tea. A tea she hated, but a favorite of their neighbor’s daughter.

 

February 2017

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a full moon

Judge: Wendy J. Fox, author of The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories

Waiting by Katherine Schurk

Just like I have awaited the full moon, a pearl high in the sky illuminating the dazzling shore, I have awaited your return. For thirty days and nights, I have left the front porch light on, I have eaten each meal by your empty chair, and I have filled only half my bed.

 

January 2017

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a penny

Judge: Gerry Wilson, author of Crosscurrents and Other Stories

Fair Trade by Claire Foxx

“Some rock” was his initial appraisal. 

“I always thought so,” she said.

He inspected the ring, reached into his mustache for a real number. 

“Tough break. Give you 350.” 

“How much for that?” She pointed to one of a dozen revolvers shelved under the glass countertop. 

“349.99?”

“That's a deal. Keep the change.”

 

December 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a chill

Judge: Clifford Garstang, author of What the Zhang Boys Know

The Last by Greg Hill

From his sparse pile of twigs, he looked up at her and surrendered a sigh. “That was our last match.” A chill brushed the back of her neck. She shifted her weight and folded her arms. In all directions, the desert offered no promise of rescue lights, just the cold flicker of stars.

 

November 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about stirring

Judge: C.D. Albin, author of Hard Toward Home

Nine O’clock Evening News by Laura Hunter

“Don’t be stirring me up now.”

“I’m not meaning to, Mama. I’m needing to tell you something.”

“You slammed that door again. Turn and face the corner.”

“But this is important.”

“Nothing more important than doing what I say.”

The kitchen light flickered.

“Daddy’s in the barn, stobbed by the bull,” Carol cried.

 

October 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-Word Story about an anniversary

Judge: Dennis McFadden, author of Jimtown Road, winner of the 2016 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction

Cosmic Birthday by Ryan Riggs

Thirteen point eight two billion years: that’s all we know. 

No day. No month. No decade. No century. Not even some millennia to narrow it down.  

If you want a date you'll have to guess. Or choose.

I guess today’s as good as any.

Happy birthday, reality.

I hope you like chocolate cake.

 

September 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a turn

Judge: Curtis Smith

Victorian Blue Jeans by Scott D. Anderson

The turn of her ankle interests me. This girl, no Victorian, not bustled to hide her features, wears jeans, close fitting, comfortable in her own skin. She doesn't hide, she knows this ankle, enough to tempt, will draw others to more prominent features. I envy Victorian men, how much they had to discover.

 

August 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about something melting

Judge: Jeffery Hess

Gettysburg, July, 1863 by Theresa Wyatt*

One soldier took a bullet which shattered his femur. The next day he woke up in a cellar with a woman leaning over him picking wax from his beard. She apologized, said the doctor needed light to amputate in the dark. Candles melted down to nothing were stuck everywhere, even in her bonnet.

*This story was selected for inclusion in MICROFICTIONS: Exceptionally Short Stories to be published by W. W. Norton in 2018.

 

July 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about independence

Judge: Jen McConnell

Self-Reliant Animals by Leigh Ward-Smith

First, make them dependent on you. But know: you're building a discrete organism. One atom at a time. Little by little, you change the covenant. Push when they cling. Make them walk. Until the membrane between you and them almost bursts. Then you let them go. Ribs uncaged, hearts exposed to the world.

 

June 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a bug

Judge: Jodi Paloni

Altar Call by David E. Poston

“Why will you not turn from your wicked ways?" asked the preacher, as the choir sang about the precious blood of the Lamb.

    I laid my head in Mama’s lap and gazed upward.

    High above me, moths kept circling, endlessly battering against the globes of light hanging from their rusty chains.

 

May 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a ride

Judge: Steve Mitchell

Circle of Life by Tripp Reade

There’s a carousel at the mall, a merry-go-round, with all the usual suspects: horses, zebras, unicorns, etc. She adored it. And yes, Heraclitus has that saying about no one rides the same carousel twice, so I was warned. But she climbed on when she was small, and now she’s not. Now she’s not.

 

April 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about Nature giving life a twist

Judge: Hedy Habra

In Passing by Skip Keith

The iceberg felt the fracture then a split second later she fell away from the glacier. A sense of sorrow and dread filled her. She would float south to warmer waters and grow smaller and smaller. The one bright spot in her journey would be the night she felt the Titanic rub her.

 

March 2016

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about madness

Judge: Joseph Mills

Snow Angels by Bill McStowe

Out the slider they go, excited for winter’s first snow.

My hunt begins for hot chocolate, mugs, and marshmallow.

The slider opens. Closes. A mitten needs fixing.

Opens. Closes. Snow in the boot.

Opens. Closes. Opens. Closes. Opens. Closes.

Where is our hot chocolate, they want to know. Where is our hot chocolate?

 

February 2016

Prompt: write a 53-word story about something sweet

Judge: Kathleen McGookey

Honeybees by Peter Wise

The stonemason, hands hard as granite, knelt before the hive and gently pushed aside the bees. Later, as he spooned honey from a jar into his wife’s mouth, she discovered the stings, red and swollen like pomegranate pips. Slowly, she kissed each wound, tasting the bees, while her husband’s heart hovered and droned.

 

January 2016 

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about something cold

Judge: Wendy J. Fox

Warm Heart by Teena Shields

I much prefer hearth-side to outside, but my little guy loves snow. Schussing down the hill in the yard, the crisp air steals his breathy, joyous cries. Red-cheeked and needing to pee, he comes in and brackets my face with snow-clad mittens. Cherishing that sweet contact, before he outgrows it, I flinch anyway.

 

December 2015

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about something slipping away.

Ancestry by Mike Tuohy

A month after the stroke, Mama started getting names in the photo album right.

“That’s Reverend Kelso with Mr. Echols, holding the beagle. There’s your daddy and Mrs. Tate. She had the diabetes.”

“Hold on, Mama. That’s Dr. Stotts, not Daddy.”

Seeing her horrified expression, I felt half of my ancestry slip away.

 

November 2015

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about something dreaded that becomes a gift

Diamondback by Martha Petersen

The first time I spotted you—rattling, uncoiling—I’d have hacked you into sections. I was young, with tranquil pale skin. But now. You stretch against the asphalt, absorbing November’s last heat. I have no need for the axe. We live. You, with your sun-darkened scales, me, with my sun-cancered arms. 

 

October 2015

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about falling

Junior, the Bastard by Ty Stumpf

Dad stayed long enough to call me Junior. Now, I’ve got a chemo pill bottle with his ashes. His wives got remains in whatever I found with a top in his bent-up trailer.

    I about flushed mine, but I’m gonna pour them off the overpass and watch them fall. Like he did me.

 

September 2015

Prompt: Write a 53-word story about labor

52 Breaths by Cory Metzinger

Sweat dripped from my nose. My breath was short. My heart raced so fast I could hear it in my ears. 

I’d practiced every day for this moment, but nothing could ever prepare me for the overwhelming pressure I now felt. 

“Please, don’t fall over,” I whispered to the growing house of cards.