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
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
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
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.

*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.

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PO Box 30314,
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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 
September 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. 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.

September means school, students with pencils and paper still untouched from last-minute shopping the day before. Students will be schooled by teachers, coaches, and sometimes bullies. Young students may take care of schools of fish in their class’ aquariums. School typically has four semesters, but we all know that school really happens year-round.

Write a 53-word story about school

Our guest judge for September is Kelly Kathleen Ferguson, author of the often humorous memoir My Life as Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself. Our winner for September will receive a copy of Kelly’s book plus publication of 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 August 2017
Prompt: Write a 53-word story about something a dance
Judge: Howard Faerstein, author of Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn

Dance on My Grave by Hannah Ambrose
The silence was cut by the squeaks of a few old office chairs and the uncomfortable shifting of uncomfortable clothes. Aunt Millie, shocked straight out of tears, took it upon herself to ask:
“The will reads, ‘Cause I’ll be dancin’ up there in heaven, and hell if I’m gonna do it alone.’”

Author's 53-word bio
​Hannah spends most of her day studying astronomy and French as a Junior at the University of Arizona. She was last published at age ten, when her Charlotte’s Web-themed crossword puzzle appeared in Creative Kids’ Magazine. A proponent of concision in writing, she was excited to discover Prime Number Magazine’s 53-Word Story Contest.