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.
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.
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.
Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a turn
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.
Prompt: Write a 53-word story about something melting
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.
Prompt: Write a 53-word story about independence
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.
Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a bug
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.
Prompt: Write a 53-word story about a ride
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.
Prompt: Write a 53-word story about Nature giving life a twist
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.
Prompt: write a 53-word story about madness
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?
Prompt: write a 53-word story about something sweet
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.
Prompt: Write a 53-word story about something cold
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.