​February 2017
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
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. 
“That's a deal. Keep the change.”

December 2016
​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.

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.

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PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
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Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
53-Word Story Contest
It's free, it's fun, and the winner gets published here and receives a free book from Press 53
(Winning stories appear here one week following the end of the contest month)

Your Prompt 
April 2017!
Guidelines and Information:

–53 words—no more, no less—titles are not included in the word count. Stories not meeting this rule will be disqualified. Please note that hyphenated words count as one word. Send only stories or prose poems; poetry with line breaks will not be considered.

–1 submission per person.

–Email your submission directly to by midnight Eastern Standard Time on the last day of the month. The winning story will be announced by the 7th day of the following month and will be published in Prime Number Magazine.

–No attachments, please. Paste your story into the body of your email.

–Please title your story as follows: Title of Your Story by Your Name. If story is Untitled, please use Untitled as your title. This will save us a lot of time. Thank you.

–Be careful of word count. If you use ellipsis… or em-dashes— make sure the ellipsis or em-dash is attached to the previous word but has a space before the word that follows. If not, your word counter will show these two words as one word. Hyphenated words count as one word, so do not add a space on either side of hyphen.

—All rights revert back to the author upon publication.

​Submissions to Prime Number Magazine

Prime Number Magazine is also accepting general submissions for poetry and short fiction for future issues. To get all the details, click on SUBMIT in the menu bar to the far left.

April showers. Rain. Lightning. Thunder. Spring has arrived and everyone here at Prime Number Magazine is ready for warmer weather the return of greenery, flowers, and mushrooms (yum!), thanks to those nourishing April showers. April is also when weddings begin ramping up, which involves another kind of shower. So let’s play with that.

Write a 53-word story about a shower.

Our guest judge for April is Chauna Craig, author of her debut short fiction collection, The Widow’s Guide to Edible Mushrooms. Our winner for April will receive a copy of Chauna’s book, plus we’ll publish the winning 53-word story along with the author’s 53-word bio in Prime Number Magazine, Press 53’s online literary journal.

Winning 53-word story for 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.

Author’s 53-word bio
Sharon Louise Howard earned a BA in English Literature and a MA in Liberal Studies (Creative Writing) at the University of Central Florida. Her stories and poetry have appeared in Cricket, The Formalist, Stonecutters, Revelry, and Branches, among others. She is retired and currently living in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.