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Issue 61, October-December  2014
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
About My Tenth Year as a Human Being
by Emma Bolden


First Place: Flash Nonfiction

Our Judge, Dinty Moore, had this to say about Emma Bolden's essay, "About My Tenth Year as a Human Being":

The author tells a complex, compelling coming of age story with humor and surprise primarily though a listing of intimate details. Clever, original, and emotionally-charged, with a distinctive voice.
I had witnessed the deaths of over twenty goldfish in the tank in my bedroom. I ranked among the five percent of Caucasian girls who had breasts and the eight percent who had pubic hair. I kept a 4.1 GPA and a monthly place on the Honor Roll. I received all of my inoculations. I received the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation once a month and attended mass every Friday and Sunday. I started having monthly periods before the average age for American girls, which is 12.77 years. I knew my multiplication tables up to the number 12. I ranked in the top ten percentile on Standardized Achievement Tests relating to math and spacial reasoning, the top five percentile on SATs relating to history and science, and the top one percentile on SATs relating to reading comprehension and vocabulary. I did not know that the word for a first period was “menarche.” I knew all of the capitals of the fifty states in the United States of America and I could sing a song about it, too. I could convert decimals to fractions and fractions to decimals, though I did so very slowly. I ran very slowly in PE, and when I ran, I experienced stabbing pains in my side. My PE teacher required a signed note with a diagnosis from my pediatrician. My diagnosis was “A Stitch In Your Side.” I made a salt-dough relief map of the state of Alabama and a popsicle-stick replica of Arlington Historic House in Birmingham, Alabama. I wore a uniform pinafore. I was allowed to carry a purse because I had to carry Kotex feminine hygiene napkins on my person at all times, just in case. I experienced stabbing pains in my side when I ran and when I walked. My new diagnosis was “Abdominal Abnormalities.” I was required to wear underwear and shorts under the skirt of my uniform pinafore. I was required to remove my pinafore and wear only the shorts during PE class. I was allowed to wear red, navy blue, or white knee socks. I experienced stabbing pains in my side when I ran and when I walked and when I sat in my desk. I received my first pelvic examination. My new diagnosis was “Problems Related To Her Menstrual Cycle.” I was referred to my mother’s gynecologist. I confessed to Father Mullen that I was jealous of my cousin because she got a Lite Brite for Christmas. I had not yet begun to shave my legs. I carried a larger purse to school because my Kotex feminine hygiene napkins had to be very large, very thick, and very absorbent. I refused to remove my pinafore during PE because I was afraid that Neal could see the Kotex beneath my shorts. I received a punishment of twenty Hail Marys. I told Mrs. Miles that I planned to give up giving things up for Lent. I received a punishment of fifty Hail Marys. I threw up in the first graders’ bathroom due to stabbing pains in my side, and because the toilets were so close to the floor, I threw up all over my uniform pinafore. I had not yet had the chicken pox. I knew the difference between a noun and a verb. I did not know that the actual word for my vagina was “vagina.” I believed Amanda Lee when she said a girl was mauled by a pack of wild dogs because she was on her period. I fainted in English class due to blood loss. I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books. I believed in mermaids and the Virgin Birth. I sat on my mother’s lap and prayed the rosary while we watched Operation Desert Storm on TV. I was afraid of hermit crabs, death, and goldfish. I learned to circle the days I bled on my mother’s calendar. Circle, circle, dot, dot, I gave myself a cootie shot. Once I passed out while vomiting and I shat myself and bled through two overnight Kotex and my pants and every Friday and Sunday mass I thanked God, I thanked God, that it happened in my own bathroom. I circled and circled. I used a red pen. I circled, almost every day.




Emma Bolden is the author of Malificae, a book-length series of poems about the witch trials in early modern Europe, published by GenPop Books, and medi(t)ations, forthcoming from Noctuary Press. She is also the author of four chapbooks of poetry: How to Recognize a Lady (Toadlily Press), The Mariner’s Wife (Finishing Line Press), The Sad Epistles (Dancing Girl Press) and This Is Our Hollywood (The Chapbook), and a nonfiction chapbook, Geography V (forthcoming from Winged City Press). Her work has appeared or in such journals as The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Conduit, the Indiana Review, the Greensboro Review, Redivider, Verse, Feminist Studies, The Journal, Guernica, and Copper Nickel.